To Front Royal & Back

May 29th - June 22nd 1862

Main Street Front Royal, Looking west

Pictured is Main Street, Front Royal, 1910.  The view is looking west.  The Strickler Hotel, a prominent building in town is on the left.  This building served as General Banks' Headquarters.  The town hadn't changed much from Civil War days.  Image is courtesy of the Warren County Heritage Society in Front Royal;  used with permission.

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General Stonewall Jackson     Stonewall Jackson attacked and routed Colonel John Kenly’s small Union outpost of 1,000 men at Front Royal on May 23rd.  That afternoon seven hundred of the surprised Federals were captured.  Union Commander General Nathaniel P. Banks, situated at Strasburg, 12 miles west of Front Royal, was in danger of being cut off from his supplies and an escape route if Jackson’s force moved north to Winchester 18 miles away.  Banks was loath to fallback but his small force was greatly outnumbered.  The next morning he was in full retreat on the Valley Pike headed towards Winchester.  Jackson moved toward Winchester on another road but stopped after 3 miles to await word from his scouts on Banks' movements.  He didn’t know the strength of Banks' force or if he was  indeed moving to Winchester or if Banks would mount a Union counter attack at  Front Royal.  The delay saved Banks’ column.  After a long wait a courier reported to Jackson that Banks’ was moving north.  Jackson sent part of his force on to Winchester then traveled east and caught part of Banks’ column moving up the turnpike.  The Federals were an easy target for Confederate artillery and bloody hell broke loose in the crowded road as grape and cannister tore into the powerless Yankees.  But it was the tale end of Banks’ army.  Farther up the turnpike Jackson found the pursuing Confederate Cavalry had stopped to plunder supplies left in the road by the skedaddling blue coats.  Banks’ barely slipped away but he made it to Winchester in tact.  Jackson was furious.

     On May 25th Banks’ tried to make a stand on the high ground south of the town of Winchester.  Jackson had quartered in the town the previous winter and knew the lay of the land.   He planned accordingly.  And, he had the advantage in troop numbers by 2 to 1 over General Banks.  (Edwin Forbes sketch of the first battle of Winchester, May 25, 1862).

Edwin Forbes sketch of 1st Winchester Battle

     After a brief fight early next morning the Union line broke and the Federals didn’t stop retreating until they reached and crossed the Potomac River at Williamsport, Maryland,  35 miles north.  Confusion as to the whereabouts of Confederate Cavalry allowed the Yankees to get a good head start.   The pursuing Confederate infantry was too exhausted to follow very far, the Calvary's whereabouts unknown,  and so Banks got away again.

     It was in this situation that President Lincoln urged General John C. Fremont in the west and General Irvin McDowell in the east to make haste and form a junction of troops at Strasburg, behind Jackson’s line, thereby cutting him off. 

      Jackson had been ordered north by Confederate authorities to demonstrate against Harper’s Ferry.  On the morning of May 30th,  Jackson decided it was time to withdraw to Winchester, and then Strasburg, before the approaching Federals cut off his escape route.  That afternoon he received word en route to Winchester, that General Shield’s division of 10,000 men (with McDowell's Corps) had arrived at Front Royal, 12 miles east of Strasburg.  It was now a race against the clock to consolidate his scattered forces at Winchester and move south to Strasburg before Federals formed a junction and cut him off.

General James Shields     But Shields (pictured left) did not push on to Strasburg, he was waiting for his support, General Ord’s division of 10,000 men,   to come up, and he was waiting for Fremont to arrive from the west.   Fremont dallied.

     Fremont lost valuable time taking an erratic route to Strasburg and then halted 4 miles from the Valley Turnpike on May 31st.   He seemed to be in no hurry.  The weary Confederates crammed on the turnpike moving south would have made an easy target.   By morning, June 1st, Jackson’s full force had made it to Strasburg, securing his escape route, but just barely. 

     General Fremont & General Shields pursued Jackson up the valley, on the east flank & west flank respectively, but they never formed a junction.  They were divided by the Shenandoah River.  Jackson took advantage of geographical barriers to keep them apart.  The cunning Jackson defeated Fremont at Cross Keys,  June 8th, then reversed direction and defeated Shields at Port Republic the next day.

    The 13th Mass participated in McDowell's race toward Strasburg, but they remained behind near Front Royal in reserve, to protect the route to Washington.  To make matters more unpleasant for everyone involved, it was the rainiest week of the year. - Brad Forbush; Feb., 2010.

Picture Credits.
The Warren Heritage Society of Front Royal, Va. generously provided historic photographs and  information for this page.  I am grateful to Archivist Judith Pfeiffer for her assistance, and information about Lucy Rebecca Buck and the Buck family.  Other images are from the Library of Congress; the Army Heritage Education Center at Carlisle; and Century Publication's Battles and Leaders of the Civil War.  Artist John Paul Strain gave permission to use the image of his painting of Turner Ashby, "The Black Knight."  The N.C. Wyeth Illustration is from Mary Johnston's book "Cease Fire" now in the public domain.  The portrait of Gen'l Shields and depiction of the battle of Port Republic are from the book "The Life of General James Shields," also in public domain.  Photo of John Fuller (and other members of Co. B) was provided to me by a private collector. 

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battle map

Race (?) to Front Royal; May 28 - 31.

This battle map of the action at Front Royal, Va., May 23d, 1862, is credited to Nathaniel Michler, United States War Department, 1895.

It was downloaded from and is in the public domain. 

It shows the two forks of the Shenandoah River, the town of Front Royal and the road to Strasburg.

Jackson surrounded and surprised the small Union force at Front Royal which retreated across two bridges towards Nineveh where they turned and made a stand out of necessity.   Seven hundred men  were captured.  Then Jackson dispatched his cavarly towards Strasburg to see if Federal troops stationed there would come up to counter-attack. 

From "Three Years in the Army" by Charles E. Davis, Jr.

Wednesday, May 28
     Orders received that shovels, pickaxes, etc. were to be carried by the men instead of the wagons, as heretofore. This caused a good deal of grumbling. In additions we were to carry sixty rounds of cartridges, fifty in the boxes and ten in our haversacks. Our prejudices having been excited against McDowell, we promptly placed this disagreeable order with the others, to his credit.

May 28, 1862, 5:40 P.M.

GENERAL McDOWELL, Manassas Junction:

I think the evidence now preponderates that Ewell and Jackson are still about Winchester. Assuming this, it is for you a question of legs. Put in all the speed you can. I have told Fremont as much, and directed him to drive at them as fast as possible. By the way, I suppose you know Fremont has got up to Moorefield, instead of going to Harisonburg?



General OrdThursday, May 29.
     At 6 A.M. marched to Hay Market, twelve miles, arriving about 10 A.M., when we took cars and rode to Thoroughfare Gap, where we left the cars and marched through a rough crooked defile to the west side of the mountains and camped in an orchard.  While marching to-day, General Ord (pictured right) borrowed a pipe from one of the boys whom he saw smoking ; being suddenly called away by an aid, he took it with him.  There was not a man in the Thirteenth who wouldn’t have been glad to contribute a pipe, or anything else he had, to the comfort or pleasure of General Ord

Friday, May 30.
     Started at 5 A.M. and marched through White Plains and Salem, halting three miles from the latter place, making a distance of fifteen miles for the day’s march.  We were overtaken in the afternoon by a severe thunder-shower which lasted all night, in consequence of which we were completely drenched.  Some of the tents were washed away by the rain.

The following dispatch was sent by General McDowell to the President :

      I am pushing forward everything to the utmost, as I telegraphed the Secretary of War last night. Major-General Shields did not think we could make Front Royal before to-night. I sent him your telegram and asked him what could be done by extraordinary exertions to accomplish your wishes that the advance of my force should be at Front Royal by noon to-day.  I informed him of the position of affairs, and how necessary it was to get forward.  He fully appreciated the case, and said he would go without supplies, except what the men could carry themselves, and would place two brigades at Front Royal by noon and two other brigades within five miles of Front Royal by the same time.  It will require driving to accomplish this, and the day is hot.

     I am urging General Ord forward with all the physical force of the railroad and moral power of a strong representation of the urgency of the care.  He will be beyond Rectortown to-night.

At 5 P.M. General McDowell sent a telegram from Piedmont to the Secretary of War of which the following is an extract :

I was disappointed on arriving at this place at 12 M. to find General Ord’s division here, only five miles from its camp of last night (although I had ordered them to leave their knapsacks), and in much confusion.   I reproached General Ord for the condition of his command and for its not being farther ahead.  He pleaded sickness, and that he had not been well for several days, and was now unable to hold command, which he turned over to Brigadier-General Ricketts.   I have told General Ricketts to have his division at Front Royal by to-night.

Friday, May 31.
     Started at 5 A.M. and marched to Piedmont, five miles, where we drew rations of hardtack and coffee.  We then left our knapsacks, taking only our blankets and equipments, reforded the river and took up the line of march to Front Royal.  It rained hard nearly all day, so the wetting we got in fording the rivers and brooks didn’t count for much.  As we marched through Manassas Gap the water was knee-deep in the highway in some places, and the storm so rough that we took to the railroad. Finding the track encumbered with cars, we enjoyed the boyish sport of dumping them over the precipice,  a distance of eighty or a hundred feet, to the valley below, where they were completely destroyed.  We arrived within a mile or so of Front Royal at 1 A.M., after a march of twenty-five miles, in good order, though uncomfortably wet and tired.  It rained very hard, it was very dark, and the boys were not very affable when we finally halted for the night.  Rail fences soon supplied us with fuel, and very soon we were standing round cheerful fires, drinking hot coffee, and thinking how blessed is he who expects nothing, for he will not be disappointed.

General Irvin McDowell

General Shields Presses On; Rain & More Rain

Sunday, June 1.
     About noon we marched two miles on the road to Strasburg, where we were turned into a field for a halt, in line of battle.  While we were here Generals Shields and Ord rode by.  Being under the impression that it was to General Shields we were indebted for the rations we drew at Piedmont (though the fact is that it was McDowell’s thoughtfulness, who, anticipating our arrival at that point, had made the provision),  the brigade cheered him as he rode along.  General Ord received a share of the enthusiasm, but when General McDowell rode by there was none to do him reverence.   He must have felt this very keenly.   There was a good deal of gossip about a quarrel between McDowell and Ord. General Shields, at the head of his division, with his wounded arm in a sling, made quite a picturesque object, and the fact that he was on the way to cut off Jackson a part of whose force we could see in the distance trailing along the mountain-side, made him considerable of a hero, and no doubt added a fervor to our emotions.

     We were very much disappointed that we were not to join Shields in the pursuit of Jackson.  The following was telegraphed by General McDowell at 3 P.M. to the Secretary of War :

Heard firing this A.M. in the directions of Strasburg.  Ord’s division could not be got up last night, but  came up this A.M., and is considerably aroused by the excitement of an approaching battle, and is now moving forward, replacing Shields’ division, who is on the march to Strasburg with that part of his division nearest this place.  I am directing General Ord’s division (now with Ricketts) to move on the Winchester road, supporting Bayard’s cavalry brigade, and sending strong detachments on the Luray road.   There has been no firing for some time.

     It soon began to rain, which continued during the night. We found it much easier these days to put our trust in God than to keep our powder dry.

Picket Duty & A Poisoned Breakfast ?

walter tabor sketch of picket in the rain Monday, June 2.
     At noon we marched about five miles on the road to Strasburg, and bivouacked in a pine grove.  We had scarcely reached the woods when it began to rain as though it hadn’t rained for many months, and was now making up for lost time.

     Some of the boys were sent out on picket duty; to think of anybody, even an enemy, being out such a night, seemed ridiculous.   The boys were posted in  a wheat-field, without umbrellas, the wheat the height of a man’s head, while the darkness was as densely black as Egypt is said to be, except when the lightning revealed how impossible it was to distinguish the points of the compass, after five minutes in such a place.   Indeed, several of the boys, when daylight did come, found themselves facing the St. Lawrence River, instead of the Gulf of Mexico, so bewildering was the darkness and the heat.  When daylight came and the sun chased away the black clouds, it brought with it a feeling of gladness, in spite of the unpleasantness of their position. 

(Artist Walter Tabor sketched this picket sentry for Century Magazine's publication "Battles and Leaders of the Civil War.")

     A half-mile beyond the picket line was a large white house surrounded with out-buildings of a similar color, giving notice that the owner was a prosperous person.

     “Who can cloy the hungry edge of appetite by bare imaginations of a feast?”

Delicious Coffee graphic     A half-starved soldier couldn’t gaze on such a scene without longing to investigate the possibilities of a breakfast.  To go out beyond the picket line was a dangerous experiment in those parts, but quite a number of the boys set aside apprehensions of danger.   One of the party was made spokesman to negotiate for a breakfast at a price not exceeding twenty-five cents each.  There was much surprise evinced at our appearance, and some hesitation about gratifying our wishes, by the lady of the house.   It was evident our presence was not wanted, but we put on our best manners, assuring her we had no intentions of disturbing her peace except so far as putting some one to the trouble of preparing a breakfast.  

    After some further hesitation she consented, and very soon the boys had the pleasure of eating a breakfast of fried ham, boiled potatoes, good bread and butter and coffee.  As they raised the coffee to their lips their hostess expressed a wish that it might poison every one of them.   There was some hesitation about drinking it, but as the boys looked at her and saw a faint smile on her face, they concluded she was not of the poisoning type, ands so took their chances.  She refused their offered recompense, like the true Southerner she was, and so they distributed the money among the servants, and marched back to camp with renewed strength.

Jackson Slips Away

General Shields offers the following report on why he didn't push his division to Strasburg to intercept Jackson.

     Rations getting short.  The whole corps was suffering for want of food, which was being delayed because of the inefficiency of the railroads and the bad condition of the highways.  The condition of affairs is so well depicted in the following communications of General Shields of this date to the Secretary of War that we are tempted to make a liberal extract from it :

Jackson passed through Strasburg Saturday and Sunday.   Fremont has not been heard from yet.  There was firing at Strasburg yesterday – supposed to be Banks in the rear.  My poor command were without provisions twenty-four hours.  We would have occupied Strasburg, but dare not interfere with what was designed for Fremont.  His failure has saved Jackson.  I will force my way down to Stannardsville to cut him off, but the railroad is miserable, and miserably managed.  Cars are running off the track and coming in collision.  I never saw anything like the want of efficiency and skill in organization.  Our telegraph line ought to be in operation, but it has no working party.  I let them have my pioneers, whom I need now.  General McDowell has done everything to mend matters, but not much can be done with such means.  We have too many men here, and no supplies.  How I will get along I do not know, but I will trust to luck – seize cattle, live on beef – to catch Jackson.  I could stampede them to Richmond had I even supplies of hard bread and a little forage.  I have no fears of their numbers.  Which have been ridiculously exaggerated by fear.

Tuesday, June 3.
     Early in the forenoon we advanced across the north fork of the Shenandoah River, about two miles, where we halted, drew fresh beef and flour, after which we moved into a piece of woods near by and bivouacked for the night.  It began to rain hard in the night and before morning the camp was inundated with water, and a sorry mess we were in as the water poured around us.  The only thing we could do was to grab our things and run for the railroad track, which afforded us a temporary resting-place from the water.

Iron Post War RR bridges of Front RoyalWednesday June 4.
     As soon as possible we were formed in line and marched rapidly back across the river.  We had a narrow escape from being left on an island formed by this freshet, which would have cut us off completely from the rest of the corps, without food, or the hope of getting food until the waters subsided, as we had barely crossed the river when the bridge was carried away, leaving a dozen of the Thirteenth on the other side.  We marched back toward Front Royal and bivouacked in a piece of woods on a hill, a mile back and overlooking the town.

     The river crossings played an important role in the military history of the town.   This photo by A. N. Carroll of Front Royal, shows the first iron bridges built after the war.  Until these were built the townspeople depended upon a ferry to cross the river.   Judith Pfeiffer of the Warren Heritage Society wrote me:  "During the battle the pontoon bridges had been set on fire; the old wooden bridges had been burned much earlier.   They were made of green wood and so did not burn well.  The fire was put out by the Confederates, but the usable part was too narrow to allow all of the troops to pass quickly.  Some of them discovered the railroad bridge still standing and made their way across it with great difficulty, some unfortunates falling to their demise in the river below."

Thursday, June 5.
     Our knapsacks, which we left at Piedmont, on the 31st of May, reached us to-day, soaked with rain and mud.  We were glad to get our “shelters” again.  After our experience of the last five days we no longer despised them.   The boys were getting ragged and seedy from overwork and exposure.  We had reached that period of our service when pork was eaten raw with pleasure.  This was quite an advance in our educations as soldiers.  Slowly we were being hammered into veterans.  This was the kind of service that prepared us for the campaigns of 1863 - 4.   It told on the men pretty severely, as our number was now reduced from 1,038 to 600 men for duty, and 94 men in the hospital.

Letter of James Ramsey, Company E

Camp near Front Royal Va June 5 1862

Dear Mother
          This is the first opportunity I have had to write for a week and all the prospects look to be that it will be the last for some time to come and I beg of you not to worry if you do not get a letter.       At Piedemont we had to leave our knapsacks and march as quick as possible to cut of Jackson   that day we had marched 4 miles with them and after we left them we had to march 17 miles to within to miles of Front Royal     Gen Shields was 12 hours ahead of us trying to get to Strasburg before Jackson and cut off his retreat from Winchester as Fremont was following him up      but he was to late and he took another road to head him off 
     you will see by the papers how he has succeeded.  To day we got our knap sacks and every thing was spoilt inside      some lost theirs all of my stamps are spoilt.  And my portfolio is spoilt,  so I will have to throw it away and I cant  carry writing materials till we get to a place where I can get one       I do not know how long that will be.  I do not want you to send a box to us because I can never get it we don’t get any thing not but a mail and the last mail was ten days ago  I do not know as I will try to write for a week   I think by that time I may have a chance.  There is a report that Richmond is evacuated and we will have to go back to Fredricksburg.       I hope Ella will get that letter I wrote her at Manassas.  We left there the next day.  I am well so are the rest of the boys  

Give my love to all  kiss Hugh for me

From your son 

P.S.  Excuse this short letter     it is not a very pleasant day today.

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Austin Stearns Memoirs; Front Royal; 

From Three Years with Company K; Fairleigh Dickenson Press; 1976;  p.74-76.  Used with Permission.

     At Piedmont on the east side of the Blue Ridge and at the entrance of Manassas Gap, we were ordered to pile up our knapsacks and leave them under guard and go through in light marching order.  How well now I remember that march through the mountains, for I was not feeling well and thought at one time that I should have to give up, but the thought that there might be work ahead for us buoyed up my spirits and I hung to and came out all right.  It was a cold, raw day and it commended to rain in the afternoon, which added much to our discomfort.  We came out of the Gap and bivouacked in some small pines near Front Royal, the rain coming down in torrents, and our knapsacks, with blankets, twenty miles away on the other side of the mountains, but we made our coffee and passed the night away.  In the morning, which was bright and clear, we sat in the sun to dry ourselves and await events; we only moved a short distance where we remained all night.  General Officers were as thick as bees around a hive.  The next morning we marched down and crossed the north fork of the Shenandoah on a temporary bridge, going along the railroad some four or five miles towards Strasburg; the weather was very warm and showers were of hourly occurance.  Our rations also were running very low and we were getting very hungry.  Some beef was found and killed, which was eaten before it was hardly dressed.  Col Coulter of the 11th P.V. found some flour, which was distributed amongst the Brigade, a pint or so to a man.

     I saw a house about a mile away and with a comrade started for it, thinking that we might find something that we could buy or take that we might eat, but how vain were our hopes, for when we got there, there was so many ahead that they had confiscated everything that was eatable.

     When I asked the long, lean, and lank girl of about twenty if she hadn’t a chicken she could sell, she put on such a smile or grin and answered,  “If you Yanks should stay here a week there wouldn’t be a chicken left in all Clark County.”   I turned away, satisfied that if I wanted chickens I must travel in another direction.  Dan Warren of our mess was more fortunate than all the rest for he returned with the carcass of a lamb, a genuine lamb this time and no mistake.  (Stearns  is alluding to the lamb Cleary caught at Snickers Gap)  We procured a mess kettle and commenced to boil it to make a soup, each one contributing of his flour to make the thickening.John Sanderson  How eagerly we stood around the fire and watched the process of boiling with the thickening being put in:  how savory it smelt, and how our mouths watered for the delicious morsel that we thought was in store for us.  We had invited Lieut. Sanderson of Co. C to share with us in our feast and he had come with his dish, but alas, how vain are all earthly expectations, for when it was pronounced done it was quite dark and those having it in charge, when taking it off and setting it down quickly, set it on a stub and over went the kettle spilling about two thirds; the Lieut. seeing what happened ran quickly to his company, [and] what remained was divided around, a few mouthfuls to a man. 

John W. Sanderson, Co. C, was an original Lieutenant of Company K, (raised in Westboro).   He was replaced at Ft. Independence by William Bacon, and offered a Sergeant's commission in Company C, which he accepted.   He was quickly promoted to Lieutenant.  Sanderson finished his military career as a Captain in the 57th Mass.  AHEC photo.

Edwin Forbes A cozy Shelter     During the afternoon I went with two or three comrades out to an old church that was fast going to decay and secured all the boards we could bring in, and fixed us up a comfortable shelter with use of boughs at the ends, laying a floor as well.  Most of the boys preferr[ed] to lay down on the ground rather than work to prepare them a place.  During the night the rain fell in torrents; it actually poured, fairly drowning out those who were not so well provided as we were; our little place was crowded full, there was no chance to sleep, neither lay down, and so we huddled together and sat the night way.   It still continued to rain in the morning and the water was at least two inches deep where our regiment lay.  Being so short of provisions and the water in the creeks and rivers rising so rapidly and Stonewall having slipped back up the Valley, the Gen’l, fearing that the bridge would be carried away over the Shenandoah (which was only a temporary structure), ordered us back at once, and we taking the railroad track moved at a quick step; the creeks that but yesterday were only of the ordinary heights were now as large as rivers.  When we reached the bridge we found it weighted down with great stones, and with the weight of the troops and Artillery had been kept in place; the river was rising rapidly and running like a race horse, [but] the troops all passed over safely but about one hundred that stragled from the Brigade; before they came up the force of the water carried away the bridge leaving them behind.  The next day two of them, men from Co. B, undertook to cross in a boat, but the current was then so strong that it took them down stream; the body of one was found several days after, impaled on an Oak in the vicinity of Snickers Gap, or Ferry; the other was never found, at least we never heard that it was.  We were taken into the woods about a mile from the river on an elevated piece of ground where there was no danger of being drowned.

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Fremont & Shields' Pursuit of Jackson

Fremont crosses the Shenandoah at Mt. Jackson     General Stonewall Jackson’s successful Shenandoah Valley Campaign is detailed in many books devoted to the subject.  This summary is offered merely as background to events surrounding the 13th Massachusetts Volunteers.  I’ve relied heavily on author James I. Robertson’s masterful biography; “Stonewall Jackson; The Man, The Soldier, The Legend.”   Also, "The Life of Major General Shields" by William Henry Condon, (1900). Other observations are mine. - Brad Forbush 2010

War Correspondent Edwin Forbes followed the advance with General Fremont's Army.  This sketch shows Fremont's troops crossing the North Fork of the Shenandoah River at Mount Jackson; dated June 5th 1862.

The Chase; June 2nd – June 6th
     Anxious to get away from the approaching Federals, General Jackson spurred his weary troops south from Strasburg the evening of June 1.General John C. Fremont  Fremont was close on his heels and Shields was across the Shenandoah river coming up the Luray Valley to the east of Massanutten Mountain; the mountain that concealed Jackson’s movements from Shields.  There were only two bridges close by where Shields could cross the river to link up with Fremont and they were at New Market.  Jackson ordered them burnt and dispatched a cavalry squad to do so.  The river couldn’t be crossed because it was swollen with the heavy rains.  Shields force couldn’t link with Fremont until they reached a bridge further south.

     The rain helped stall Fremont’s pursuit even as the exhausted Confederates  slowed to a crawl on June 2nd.  Jackson himself had to clear a jumble of wagons and men to get them moving again.  Fremont was delayed again on June 3rd when Turner Ashby’s cavalry burned the bridge at Meem’s bottom after Jackson’s army crossed.  Fremont’s engineers attempted to span the water with wagons but high water washed them away.  Across the Massanutten Shield’s force slogged up the narrow Luray Valley slowed by incessant mud; his supply wagons followed 20 miles in the rear. 

     Shields dispatched Colonel Samuel S. Carroll’s cavalry with infantry support, and four pieces of artillery to take and hold the next bridge up the valley at Conrad’s Store.  Carroll’s force arrived on June 4th but Jackson’s cavalry had already destroyed the bridge that afternoon.  The Federal raiders decided to continue south toward the next bridge at Port Republic.

     The next day June 5th, Jackson passed Harrisonburg and moved toward Port Republic.  It was tough going in the rain and frustration was running high when darkness brought the line to a halt.  His main force reached Port Republic the next day, the first sunny day in a week.  (Illustration by N. C. Wyeth; from the  Mary Johnston Novel, "Cease Firing.")The Road to Vidalia by N. C. Wyeth

     On June 6th, Ashby’s cavalry remained at Harrisonburg, waiting to ambush lead elements of Fremont’s troops.  General Ewell’s division moved to Cross Keys, and Jackson’s main force set up across the river from Port Republic.  Here, the tired Commander rested and planned his next move.

The death of Turner Ashby: June 6th
      The men of the 13th Mass lost an old adversary this day when General Turner Ashby, the dashing “Black Knight of the Confederacy” was killed in action against Union Infantry.

     Ashby’s cavalry ambushed the 1st New Jersey Cavalry in woods just outside Harrisonburg about 2 p.m.   More of Fremont’s lead cavalry rode  out and attacked Ashby.   His horse was shot out from under him.  Ashby then lead the charge on foot, up a hill through the woods shouting “Charge Men! For God’s sake Charge!”  In a few moments he was shot dead.

     The 13th were well acquainted with Turner Ashby.  It was his cavalry militia that attacked them at Beller’s Mill, Pritchard’s Mill, Bolivar Heights, and Hancock.  The aggressive raider did a good job disrupting traffic on the C&O canal and the B&O railroad, and helped to make things lively for the 13th while they picketed the Potomac River in the autumn and winter of 1861-62.  One night in March, a few months earlier, at dress parade, they were falling into line on the double-quick when a Winchester woman shouted “Ashby will make you run faster than that!”

Black Knight by artist Paul Strain     General Ashby’s death was a severe blow to Jackson.  Ashby’s aggressive cavalry screening and reconnaissance contributed a great deal to the Valley Campaign’s success.  Jackson learned of the death at 9 pm the evening of June 6, at the Kemper House, his headquarters in Port Republic.  Ashby’s body arrived the next morning and was placed in the parlor of the home.  Jackson mourned the loss, and wrote many months later, “as a partizan officer I never knew his superior. His daring was proverbial.  His powers of endurance incredible.  His tone of character heroic, and his sagacity almost intuitive in divining the purposes of the enemy.” 

(A Little Cold Water)
     Just a few nights earlier, on June 2nd, when Colonel John M. Patton of the 21st Virginia expressed regret his men had shot and killed 3 brave Union Cavalrymen who charged his regiment,  Jackson asked him,  "Colonel, why wouldn’t you have shot them?”

     “I should have spared them because they were men who had gotten into a desperate situation,” replied Patton.

     Jackson replied, “No, Colonel, shoot them all, I don’t want them to be brave.”

"The Black Knight" by artist John Paul Strain   2006; Used with Permission; depicts the dashing and daring cavalryman Turner Ashby on a scout.

June 7th
On the 7th Jackson considered the situation and tried to work out a strategy.  Fremont and Shields were close by and had the opportunity to inflict a serious blow to the Confederates if they could co-ordinate an attack.  Fremont was closer than Shields.  General Ewell's 3 brigades set up defensive positions at Cross Keys facing Fremont's advance.Fremont pursues Jackson by Edwin Forbes  Three miles east, another large concentration of Confederates with artillery, occupied high ground opposite Port Republic waiting for signs of Shield's advance.   Cavalry scouts screened points west, north and south of Port Republic.  In the afternoon a Union brigade doing reconnaissance approached Ewell's position at Cross Keys but retired when shots were exchnged.  Author James Robertson asserts Jackson and his staff got sloppy with the final troop dispositions for the evening, particularly regarding Port Republic.  Jackson's headquarters were unguarded, across a river and 1/2 mile away from his army.  Then, only a light guard was placed at the two bridges into town from the direction General Shields was approaching.  Perhaps Jackson was relying on his cavalry scouts to warn him of any approaching Federals.  The loss of General Turner Ashby would be keanly felt the next morning.

Pictured at right is Edwin Forbes sketch titled 'March of General Fremont's army through the woods in pursuit of Jackson; June 7th.'  

Union Cavalry Raid at Port Republic, June 8th
Colonel Samuel S. Carroll     In the early morning of June 8th, Col. Samuel S. Carroll’s Cavalry burst into Port Republic and sent the Confederates scrambling.   The loss of the late Turner Ashby’s vigilant reconnaissance was already having consequences.  General Jackson was headquartered  at the end of town mile away and across the river from his own troops.   He and his staff dashed across the North Fork bridge spanning the Shenandoah river and barely avoided capture.  Two Federal canons took position at the bridge and started shelling  Jackson’s men on the hill opposite.  Meanwhile, on the south end of town, a very small but determined contingent of Rebels made a stand against the charging Federal Cavalry at the Kemper House, Jackson’s headquarters. The plucky Southerners were tenacious in their defense because directly behind them, in an exposed position, was the parked Confederate wagon train of supplies.  These Rebs were successful in holding back the attackers.  (Col. Samuel Sprigg Carroll pictured left; photo touched up in photoshop; Lib. of Congress photo.)

     Across town on the hill opposite the village, Jackson ordered one of his batteries to return fire at the two Federal canons posted at the North Fork bridge.  Then up came a brave band of Virginia infantry who charged the battery at point blank range and captured the guns; but they took heavy casualties. valley mapThe Federal raiders were quickly overwhelmed and driven out of town.  Carroll’s men retreated 3 miles north of the town and connected with their infantry re-enforcements.  Carroll’s action at the bridge would later bring criticism from General Shields.  Following this attack at Port Republic, Fremont’s army started against General Ewell’s position over at Cross Keys, 3 miles to the west.

Battle at Cross Keys, June 8th
     Fremont thought Jackson’ entire force was at Cross Keys when it was only General Ewell’s division* of Confederates.  Fremont’s force outnumbered Ewell’s perhaps 2 to 1 but were in poor condition from exposure and 143 miles of marching in horrible conditions.  Around 10 – 10:30 A.M.  a weak flank attack by the Federals was driven back by Confederate General Trimble’s Brigade.  That ended the Federal offensive but the adversaries skirmished throughout the day.

     Jackson remained at Port Republic.  He expected another attack from Shields after the morning Cavalry raid, but it never came.  In the evening, after thinking things over, Jackson decided to take the initiative and attack Shield’s force the next morning.  He correctly reasoned Fremont would remain inactive at Cross Keyes.  Jackson hoped for a quick victory over Shields followed by a return to Cross Keyes to finish off Fremont.  As long as the Confederates held the bridges at Port Republic, which prevented Shields and Fremont from uniting, a concentration of Confederate troops could outnumber the divided Union forces.  Jackson planned to bring 4 of his 5 brigades against Shield’s 2 brigades.  Confederate General Isaac R. Trimble’s reinforced brigade would remain on the west side of the river and demonstrate in front of Fremont at Cross Keys, then, slowly fall back toward Port Republic. 

 Battle at Port Republic, June 9th
     Jackson’s plan proved a bit too hasty and he ran into serious trouble during the morning assault, north of Port Republic on June 9th.  The narrow Federal line was strong and supported with 16 field guns.++  Shield’s 2 brigades commanded by Brig. General Erastus B. Tyler and Col. Carroll, put up a good fight, and Jackson was hard pressed to prevent a Confederate defeat.  Jackson had impetuously attacked before all his troops were up.  

Genral Taylor charges General Winder's Brigade

Federals under General Erastus B. Tyler defend against Confederate General Winder's attack.  The Confederates repeatedly charged and eventually captured the batteries on the hill in the background to win the field, but at a heavy cost.

     Desperate for reinforcements, Jackson hurried in his reserves that saved the day just before the start of an impending Federal counter-attack.  The key to the battle was the Confederate capture of six well placed field guns on a hill to Jackson’s right that had blasted the Rebs all morning.  A desperate charge by Confederate Brigadier General Richard Taylor’s brigade took the pieces after 3 attempts of bloody hand to hand fighting.  As this Union flank collapsed,  Southern reinforcements just arriving on the field,  charged the Federal Center and broke the Union line.  Jackson chased Shield’s retreating army 3 miles up the narrow Luray valley.  Shield’s men were battered and tired but they had inflicted heavy casualties on Jackson’s army considering the numbers involved.   Jackson’s army fell back to Port Republic, and headed away to Brown’s Gap.

     Meanwhile General Fremont cautiously advanced from the west toward Port Republic during the 4 hour battle.  By the time his troops arrived, Jackson’s only remaining brigade had crossed the river and joined the rest of the retreating Confederates.  The bridge was burned behind them, thereby preventing Fremont’s pursuit.  Stuck on the west side of the river, Fremont ordered his artillery to fire on Jackson’s now retreating army.  Jackson reported Fremont’s shells only fell among ambulances and parties attending to the dead and wounded of both sides.

 General Shields at Port Republic    On June 10th both Fremont and Shields withdrew; their pursuit ended.  Both of their military careers would also soon end. 

     The brilliance of Stonewall Jackson was demonstrated in this campaign.  He made some mistakes at Port Republic but he was lucky that his adversaries couldn't exploit them.  

     General Shields was a brave man; a Mexican war Hero. His troops defeated General Jackson at Kernstown, March 23rd.** A shell wounded Shields in the arm at this engagement.  He was quickly recommended for promotion to Maj. General but the recommendation stalled in congress.  It was later withdrawn after the defeat at Port Republic. 

     Nonetheless he performed poorly in this campaign.   He was not even up with General Tyler during the fight at Port Republic.  He blamed Col. Carroll after the fight, for not having the good sense to destroy the North Fork bridge at Port Republic; (presumably to prevent Jackson from escaping the valley).  Thus he blamed his subordinate, Colonel Carroll, a brave and aggressive fighter for Jackson’s escape and I think it was a blemish on an otherwise admirable record.  When Carroll was dispatched June 2nd his orders from Shields were to secure a river crossing until re-enforcements arrived. 

     Thinking nothing could be gained, Lincoln suspended the pursuit of Jackson June 9th and  General McDowell eagerly forwarded the order to Fremont and Shields.  McDowell was eager to return to Fredericksburg and link up with McClellan’s army for the Peninsula Campaign. 

*Ewell’s force at Cross Keyes.  Robertson claims 4,500 infantry.  The Civil War Almanac claims 6,500 & Fremont with 10,500.   The Nat’l. Park Service records  11,500 U.S.;  5,800 C.S.;  total estimated casualties: U.S.: 664; C.S.: 287.

** Former Captain of Co. I, 13th Mass., &  Infamous fraud,  Captain R.C. Shriber, was one of Shield’s staff officers  in this engagement and his glorified battle report on Kernstown  is in the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion.

++Port Republic National Park Service Estimates; 3,500 U.S. Troops engaged; 6,000 C.S. troops engaged.  Estimated Casualties: 1,002; U.S.; 816, C.S.

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Meanwhile...Back at Front Royal...
While Shields & Fremont were making history with Jackson, the 13th waited at Front Royal, cold, wet & miserable.

The Drowning of Fuller, Cushing, and John Brown; June 6th.

Friday, June 6.
     A beautiful day. So disciplined had we become by marching, bad weather and fasting, that we were happy if it didn’t rain, but when the sun appeared, our feelings became ecstatic.

     The sutler arrived with stores, and no longer we hankered for the “flesh pots of Egypt.”  The country was full of guerillas, making outpost duty dangerous and undesirable.  The escape of Jackson was a topic of conversation and, as usual, we wrongly credited McDowell  with the responsibility.

    Fuller"God's Blessing"

     One of the boys who was left on the opposite side of the river when the regiment crossed on the 4th inst., was drowned to-day while attempting to cross in a  skiff in company with a rebel.  When about midway of the stream the boat capsized and both men were dumped into the angry flood.  The current was so strong that our man, who was probably unable to swim, was carried out of sight in no time. He was a man over six feet in height, well-proportioned, and an excellent solder.  He was born in Maine, but had come to Boston, where he was employed when the war broke out.  He was the man whose letters from home had written across the entire top of the envelope in a bold, round hand “WITH GOD’S BLESSING.”  It was the custom of the chaplain, who acted as postmaster during his stay with the regiment, to stand on a box, or stool, in front of his tent, and call off the names on the letters. Whenever he came across one directed to our friend he would hold it up above his head, and in a voice of deep feeling, would say, “WITH GOD’S BLESSING !”  and the owner would at once step up and take it, so that very soon he became known in the regiment as “God’s blessing.”

Sergeant John Fuller, Company B, was the soldier nicknamed 'God's Blessing.'

Letter of Edwin Rice; 13th Mass Band

Front Royal, Virginia
June 7th 1862

    I received yours of the 28th yesterday morning.  Also one from Mother. Should have written you sooner but for the past two weeks we have been on the move nearly all the time, and guess that we shall have all the marching we can do.

    We left Falmouth on the 25th, marched to Aquia Creek and took steamers for Alexandria and cars from there to Manassas Junction.  Had a very pleasant trip.  Arrived at the junction Monday night and left Thursday morning at 4 o’clock for this place; marched all the way.  Should thought we might have come by rail as the road was in running order up to this side of Manassas Gap.

    We were to be used as a reserve force for General Shields who was in the advance and after General Jackson.  We arrived here Saturday night after marching 25 miles that day.  When we camped at night the rain came down in torrents and we had nothing except our rubber blankets to shelter us from the storm, our knapsack, blankets, and tents having been left at a station on the railroad to be brought along on the cars.  And you ought to have seen them when we got them day before yesterday.

    They were thrown off of the cars into the mud and laid there overnight in the rain storm. Everything was completely soaked.  My blanket was all mud, tent wet and mildewed, writing case all wet, paper and envelopes wet, stamps all stuck together.  The pills which I carried in it were dissolved.  All that I lost out of the lot was a bunch of envelopes besides the pills.

    Sunday was quite pleasant.  Our division marched out two miles on the Strasburg Pike to support Shields who had gone on towards Strasburg to prevent Jackson from coming down this way.  We camped there that night and Monday went 3 miles further and Tuesday went to within 2 miles of Strasburg and Wednesday came back to the place where we are now camped.

    Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights it rained very hard all night long, and all we had to keep us dry was our rubber blankets and fires which we built.  It rained a little during the daytime but not much, and during that time we had nothing to eat but hard bread and coffee, not very substantial food.  But since we have been at this camp we have fared a little better.

    Front Royal from camp is distant about a mile and the view of it from camp is splendid, situated at the foot of some mountains belonging to the Blue Ridge. It is not a very large place and not laid out with any regularity.  It is a regular secesh hole.  Today is the first real pleasant day we have had since we have been here.

    Sergeant Fuller of Co B and Cushing of Co C were drowned yesterday while attempting to cross the Shenandoah in a boat, the bridge having been washed away by the rise of the river occasioned by the late rain.  The current was swift and strong and they were unable to save themselves.

    That letter of Elishas’ was very good.  Wish I could write as good.  I mailed it to Henry today.  When we left Manassas, Gassett and Moreton stopped behind as they were not able to march and there were not any ambulances for them to ride; they having been taken away from the regiment while at Falmouth.  Have since heard that they were in the hospital at Alexandria.

     Don’t know what is the matter with them.  The rest of us are all very well.  I was not intending to mail this today but as there are reports in camp that we are to march tonight, I shall finish it and put it in the mail.

                   Edwin Rice

The John Brown Song

John Brown Song Sheet MusicGeorge Kimball, a veteran of the 12th Massachusetts Volunteers, told the following story at the 13th Mass  50th anniversary  dinner, June 29th, 1911, in Boston.  John Brown of the 12th Mass was drowned like Fuller and Cushing on June 6th 1862 at Front Royal.  James Ramsey of Company E, 13th Mass, who was fond of music, was at Fort Warren at the time refered to in this story and he knew John Brown which he mentions in a letter home. 

     The tune of “John Brown’s Body” was not original to Massachusetts, and antedated the war.  According to accepted tradition, it was composed by a Philadelphia musician, on order, for a Charleston, S.C., fire company, that desired a “chantez” to sing on a picnic.

     There were sundry rude verses to accompany this original music, the first line being:

“Say, Bummers, will you meet us?”

     There was so much “ginger” in the tune that it was quickly adapted as a revival hymn, the first line being:

“Say, Brothers, will you meet us ?”

     As a source of inspirations in camp-meetings, the tune was highly successful, and at the beginning of the war it was well known as a camp-meeting melody.

     The story of the adaptation of the tune to the words of “John Brown’s Body” has been well told in a small book, ...printed…in a private edition of a hundred copies at Philadelphia by James Beale, a veteran of the Twelfth Massachusetts.  The text had formed a paper read by Mr. Beale before the United Service Club at Philadelphia.

     This authority stated that “John Brown’s Body” originated with the Second Battalion of  Massachusetts Infantry, known as “The Tigers” – stationed at Fort Warren in the spring of 1861.

Fort Warren

Fort Warren, Boston Harbor, Library of Congress Photo

     There were a number of singers among the troops, and a quartet was formed, one of whom was John Brown, a Scot, who because of his name being the same as that of the abolition zealot, was the butt  of many good-natured sallies, which he did not always take with good grace.

     It was the custom of the quartet to have an hour’s singing after a hard day’s work.

     The story goes that when two of this quartet were returning to the fort – John Brown and the other being seated near the sallyport – the query was shouted,  “What’s the news?”   Promptly came the retort,  “Why, John Brown’s dead.”   Some one answered, having in mind the John Brown then before him, “But he still goes marching round.”

     This idea tickled the fancy of the regimental wits, and shortly a “John Brown” song was being put together, to the Southern tune, and “The Tigers” were chanting:

John Brown’s body lies a-moldering in the grave,
But his soul is marching on.

     The first line was repeated three times, and there was a chorus of “Glory, Hally, Hallelujah,” also repeated three times and followed by “His soul is marching on.”     Such was the origin of the song.


     “The Tigers” left Fort Warren May 26, when the Twelfth Massachusetts had already been there more than two weeks.  The men in the original “John Brown” quartet enlisted in the Twelfth Massachusetts, and carried their song with them.     It soon became the fashion after dress parade for the regiment to strike up the song, and march around the parade ground.  This marching suggested the second verse:

William J. Martland, 12th Mass Bandleader

 John Brown’s knapsack is strapped upon his back,
As we go marching on.

      It was a favorite figure of speech with army chaplains to characterize the troops as “soldiers of the Lord,” and from this the song-makers of the Twelfth drew an idea for another verse, thus:

He’s gone to be a soldier in the army of the Lord.

     Still another verse was suggested by a nickname the regiment had been given, which was, “Webster’s cattle.”  This verse was begun with:

His pet lambs will meet him on the way,
As they go marching on.

     The Twelfth had an excellent band, which was instrumental in popularizing the new song.     “The air was whistled to the band master, William J. Martland,” writes Mr. Beale, “and written down by one of the band, S.C. Perkins, (pictured bottom right) and soon the tune was played on dress parade as accompaniment to the 1,100 voices of the regiment.”  

William J. Martland, Bandmaster, pictured left;  Under whose leadership "John Brown's Body" was first performed by a military band at Fort Warrren, May, 1861.  S. C. Perkins wrote the first score of "John Brown's Body" for a brass band, - the 12th Mass.  Photos from AHEC, Carlisle, Massachusetts MOLLUS Collection.

     A copy of the song was given to the leader of a celebrated local band, Gilmore, and he helped popularize it in Boston.  Not long after that the words and music were offered to the public by an enterprising Boston publishing house.  Other publishers also brought it out.  The favorite form being a penny dodger, with a border of red, white and blue, and the stars of the flag.  These versions closed with the verse:S. C. Perkins, 12th Mass. Band

Now, three rousing cheers for the union !
Now, three rousing cheers for the union !
Now, three rousing cheers for the union!
As we go marching on!

Glory, hally hallelujah!  Glory, hally hallelujah
Glory, hally hallelujah.  Hip, hip, hip, hip, hurrah!


     In the regiment that popularized it the song fell into disuse and eventually became unpopular.  Possibly the end of the regiment’s John Brown, who was drowned on June 6, 1862, at Front Royal, may have had something to do with this.

     Two months before the regiment had stood at Charlestown, Va., on the spot where old John Brown, of Osawatomie, went to the gallows, and there had sung

His soul goes marching on!

     It might be said to have been the last time the regiment publicly sang the song with the original spirit.  When in 1864 its thinned ranks returned to Boston a feeble effort was made to start the old war song of the regiment, but it was frowned down, and the men of the Twelfth marched silently through the streets that had rung with their fresh voices when, full of enthusiasm, they had marched away to the war to the tune of “John Brown’s Body.”

Letter of James Ramsey, Co. E

Front Royal Va June 12th 1862.

Dear Father
I received a letter from you the other day and this is the first opportunity I have had to answer it. You have probably seen enough in the papers to know where and how I am situated and about our late marching.  We are encamped in a piece of wood about a half mile to the west of Front Royal we do not know how long we are to stop here but by the time you get this letter we may be a great many miles away probably somewhere south of Richmond.  Every thing looks now as though the war will last but a short time  I hope I look at it in the right light   every day brings good news    God grant that it may continue so.  To day I received a letter from Georgie I am glad to hear from home  I also received a letter from mother the other day   she spoke of Hugh and if I am not mistaken he will be three years old the 22nd of this month   here is a gold dollar of 1862   I got pay to me by the pay master day before yesterday as that day was pay day and I wish you to give it to Hugh on his birthday as a present from his Jimmy.  I think I shall keep the rest of my pay as I may need it before next pay day

 I hope next pay day the war may be over and we may be mustered out of the U S service

 There were two of our regiment and one of the 12th drowned in the Shanendoah last week.  In our regt Fuller of Co B sergeant of Pioneers and Cushing of Co. C.  In the 12th Brown of Co A  he used to belong to the same company with me in the 2d battalion

 I knew him well.  They were in a boat trying to cross the river and the boat was carried down stream by the current and run against a rope and upset, the day before both bridges the railroad and foot bridge were carried away by the freshet. The whole of our brigade crossed the foot bridge 12 hours before it was carried away.  Here is a letter from the Philadelphia Inquirer.  Bayard’s brigade is the first brigade in our division.  (Gen Ord’s)  We halted at Front Royal while Bayard kept on. 

I must close with a good bye
Give my love to all kiss Hugh for me

From your son

 PS  I do not know when I will have a chance to write again

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A Southern Perspective; Belle Boyd & Lucy Rebecca Buck of Front Royal

The Warren Heritage Society in Front Royal provided the following material.  I am very much indebted to archivist Judith Pfeiffer specifically for her assistance.  You may visit their site here:  Warren Heritage Society 

view of main street Front Royal looking east      The town of Front Royal probably hadn't changed much from Civil War times when this photo of Main Street looking east was taken in 1910.  Locals call the slow pace of life,  'Valley Time.'  

     The Strickler hotel is on the right.  It was used as army headquarters when the Federals were in town. (view looking east).

     Sentiments in the area were very strong for the Confederacy.  Young men of the town enlisted in the 17th Virginia Infantry.  Family members left behind naturally disliked the invaders from the north.

     13th Mass historian Charles Davis wrote:
 Many of the women in the town increased their incomes by the sale of pies to the soldiers.  They could not endure the sight of a Yankee except when he was buying some of their badly-cooked food.  Some of the young women who had nothing to sell were very “sassy.” And turned up their pretty noses.  The older ones, being in the commercial line, and married, had more sense, bent on “Making hay while the sun shines.”

     Two woman who lived in Front Royal at this time were Belle Boyd and Lucy Rebecca Buck.  Both kept records of the war.  

The Strickler Hotel, Front Royal, Va.     Belle Boyd was a young 17 year old woman anxious to assist the Confederate cause whenever she could.  She was living in a small cottage with her aunt behind the Strickler hotel in the Spring of 1862.  The cottage has since been moved and restored and is now the home of the Warren County Heritage Society. (Strickler Hotel, pictured right).

     One of Belle's more famous exploits came when General Jackson’s army appeared in the hills above the town May 23rd, and prepared to attack the small Federal Garrison.    Members of Stonewall’s staff saw the young lady frantically running along a fence line trying to gain their attention.  Henry Kidd Douglas was sent to speak to her. “She told him there was only one Regiment in the town – the Federal 1st Maryland & 2 companies of another regiment.  He got General Jackson to ride to her.  She repeated to him her news, begged him to push on & he could take them all & then ran back to town.”  Quote of G. Campbell Brown; Gen'l.Ewell’s staff; (Tenn. Library and Archives) as noted in James I. Robertson's book "Stonewall."  

Belle Boyd     Belle was twice captured and imprisoned briefly, before being released both times.  In 1864 she was arrested en route to England carrying messages from President Davis.  She later married her captor and embarked on an acting career.  In 1886 she began giving lectures of her life as a spy.

Belle Boyd; a true Southern Belle; Library of Congress Photo.

     Lucy Rebecca Buck was another passionate young diarist living in Front Royal at this time.  Young Lucy was eldest daughter among 13 children of William Mason Buck and Elizabeth Ashby Buck.  The Buck family was wealthy and risked losing everything during the war.  To help preserve the family property they opened their stately home "Bel Air' to the Union Commanders who wished to board there.  This was almost intolerable to young Lucy who wrote on May 3rd, 1862:      "I am so weary and exhausted with rage that I could scracely drag myself up to my room tonight.  Ma tells me it is so wicked to alow my passions to get such an ascendancy over my better feelings, but I cannot help it - it seems as if I am possessed of an evil spirit as well as surrounded by them."

     From, "Shadows On My Heart," p. 62, The Civil War Diary of Lucy Rebecca Buck of Virginia.  The following diary excerpts are from this same book.

     She was elated when the Jackson's Confederate army took the town back for a short while beginning May 23rd, but forelornly recorded the return of the loathsome Federals a week later.

Edwin Forbes Union troops entering Front Royal"May 30th
      Our cavalrymen in squads were dashing out of town just as the Yankees appeared on the hill.  There was some pretty brisk firing for a time, and suddenly a horrid shell came shrieking and whizzing over the house.  They had planted a piece on the hill next to the orchard, and as they had threatened to shell the place we concluded that they were fulfilling their threat.  All took refuge in the basement, the little children screaming and all confusion and uncertainty.  Worse than all Father was still in town and we did not know whether they would permit him to come out or not any more.  However, there were only a few shells sent on their errand of death, when the hills seemed to be overcast with dark clouds of the enemy’s columns.   They poured in from every direction, infantry, artillery and cavalry, through the waving wheat trampling it under foot, over the blooming clover crushing out fragrance and beauty there as remorsely as they would have crushed out life and hope in our bosoms.   The horrible beings poured in from all sides looking all the more so since our eyes had grown accustomed to seeing our dear Southerners.  When Jackson entered the town although the cannonading was of much longer duration and far heavier I rather enjoyed it, but during the firing today I was really sick of heart – every report was an insult – a demoniacal roar of triumph, each boom probably the death knell to many a brave spirit.  Until Father came in about two o’clock we felt very unprotected with the ruffianly fellows careening through the yard, but he appeared at that time much to our joy and told us the storehouse and all other buildings save the depot were uninjured – that was of course consumed"  . "Shadows of My Heart,"  (p. 91-92). Edwin Forbes sketch of Union Troops entering Front Royal from Manassas Gap on the right.

Bel Air the Buck Family Estate 'Bel Air' the estate of George Mason Buck and Elizabeth Ashby Buck pictured, left.

June 1st 1862
     Awoke quite early feeling very little refreshed.  Father at first thought it doubtful as to whether we would go to Bellmont today owing to want of conveyance, the horses having strayed off in the night.  It had ceased raining, and the first sound I heard on going downstairs was a band playing to an advancing regiment – playing “Gay and Happy” in the most unsabbath manner.  It was Ord’s division going by and while standing there looking they commenced discharging their guns again and the balls actually struck the front of the house a few inches below the window of Father’s room.  Horrid wretches!  As they pass by for sheer amusement they kick the water gate to atoms.  While they were passing Frank came out and stood near the door – he remarked to Grandma that General Kimball had detailed him to act as escort should we wish to leave today and now for the first time in my life I entered into conversation with a Yankee soldier.  I enquired if it were not dangerous to leave the house for fear it should be plundered – I knew that deserted houses generally suffered from such a proceeding.Laura & Lucy Buck  “Oh no, not at all!”  He would promise “it should not be so” and from this we entered into a regular discussion which I really enjoyed for I made him acknowledge the superior generalship displayed by our “Stonewall,” made him own up to the “Banks panic” etc.  Laura & Lucy Buck, respectively, pictured right, circa 1860.

     (The family packed their bags and left town for a week)   En route, later that day, Lucy wrote:
     "When we got to the mountains we found they had a guard-among them a young Bostonian Clapp, a very polite but saucy fellow, when Frank went away I could not forbear giving him my hand and well wishes for his individual safety.  After giving him my hand I vented my spleen on little Clapp and talked him quiet – tis so refreshing to abuse someone when you’ve a heart full of bitterness."  From "Shadows of my Heart," p. 96-97.

     The Buck family managed to save their property from War's destruction.  Lucy's diary and Belle Boyd's exploits illustrate the passion young women of the south had for the Confederacy.

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Summary; June 8th - 14th  

General James Ricketts      On Sunday June 8th, The order to march to Warrenton was countermanded.  The 13th would continue to hang around Front Royal until the 17th.  It was on this day, the 8th, that General Ord was relieved from command of the division and replaced with General James Ricketts.  Ricketts (pictured at right) would lead the division through Major-General John Pope's  summer campaign. 

     Also on this day General McDowell received instructions from the War Department to move as speedily as possible toward Richmond to co-operate with General McClellan.  There was a caveat however;  first provide for the adequate defence of Washington and the Union position at Fredericksburg.

     General McDowell wrote General McClellan telling him the same.  "I wish to say that I go with the greatest satisfaction, and hope to arrive with my main body in time to be of service."  McDowell heard through McClellan's friends that McClellan questioned McDowell's earnestness in joining forces.  Poor General McDowell, no one had confidence in him.

     On the 9th, they received another order delaying the move to Warrenton.  On the 10th the regiment was paid off.  Davis wrote:   "Though it rained hard all day and the camp was very muddy, the world seemed bright and pleasant to us, as it apparently did to the thrifty wives of Front Royal, who, regardless of the rain, brought their pies to camp to exchange for the filthy lucre of the “miserable Yankees.”

     Company I was sent to the town of Front Royal on June 11 to act as provost-guard.  Meanwhile General McClellan wrote the War Dept. that McDowell should come by water because the railroad bridges were out, the roads were bad, and it would ruin his plans to extend his right flank to meet McDowell's advance by land.  Events changed rapidly however, and McDowell never did join McClellan near Richmond.

    On Friday, June 13th the regiment reported 600 men on duty.  Davis commented that "forced marches, exposure, short rations, and malaria were the influences that reduced our number."   Still it seemed the Union was making great progress in the war effort as evidenced in Lt. Fox's letter home.

Letter of Lieutenant Charles B. Fox, Company K

Lt. Charles B. FoxLetter of Lt. Charles B. Fox to Rev. Thomas Bayley Fox, letterbook, 12 June, 1862, Fox Family Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.  Used with Permission.

Front Royal June 12th/62.
Your note in pencil and enclosures of printed matter arrived to-day.  I was glad to get the Official report of Gordon’s Brigade as it was rumored here, that the Second, or part of them rather, showed the white feather.  So far as we can see Jackson is getting his reward.  It seems as if judicious Management might soon end the fighting part of this rebellion, How long it will take to settle its various effects no mortal can tell.  It seems to me that a whole generation at least, must die out, before this settled hatred of the North which is without doubt the sentiment of a majority of the Southern people, will pass away.  Don’t wonder at northern people who once pass the line going to extremes.  They must for their own salvation.

Photo of Charles B. Fox from Mass. MOLLUS Collection; AHEC, Carlisle, PA

Letter of John B. Noyes, Company B

Ms Am 2332 (53) "By permission of the Houghton Library, Harvard University."

Camp Near Front Royal Va June 13th 1862.

Dear Father
Your letter of June 2d, and George’s of the 30th ult reached me yesterday.  I had already dispatched on the day previous a lengthy but rambling letter upon my march to Front Royal.  It was not to be expected that the brigade should have undergone the exposure and fatigue attending upon the march without injury to its affect.  Most of the men were practically without meat for about two weeks, for small rations of fresh meat without salt, semi occasionally did but little good. We left Falmouth without meat in our haversacks, and obtained nothing till we were at Manassas, when previous to marching a small allowance of poorly cooked salt-est  horse beef and raw salt pork was given us.  On the first of June, previous to crossing the river fresh meat was issued, but our Company was on picket, & when we were called in the regiment was gone.  The meat for our company was a loss.  The next day we had some fresh meat, too new and tough to be scarcely eatable, without salt.  Some more salt horse on the 7th.   

The exposure, & meager diet had very much reduced the men, and many were unwell from rheumatism and other causes.  There was a real scarcity of salt when we were across the Shenandoah.  None of that article had been dealt out to our company at Piedmont Station where we filled our haversack and left our Knapsacks, probably owing to the negligence of our orderly, as other orderlies dealt it out to their men.  But even had it been dealt out many would have probably thrown it away, as we have never before experienced the want of it.  We have now been here a week doing nothing, and the men are gradually regaining their old spirits. 

Uncle Sam can scarcely be said to have done much to produce that desirable effect in me at least.  I am rather indebted to the industrious foraging of one who was temporarily in my tent, & whom I favored with salt when the article was scarce. To be sure on the 9th inst 3 days rations of fresh & salt beef and pork were drawn, but orders to march being received the salt horse was cooked and distributed and the pork and fresh meat delivered raw.  Half an hour after we had struck tents and were in line our tents were repitched, so that for the next two days we were without meat save a little salt horse, as the small harversack is insufficient to hold three days rations of bread, and coffee & sugar, not to speak of pork & fresh meat.  The fresh meat is cooked immediately and ate.  The salt pork is carried by few.  

sow with pigletsWhile we were on picket here June 1 / 2, a well to do sow, with 10 young ones had been seen in a neighboring field.  My temporary tent mate lessened the number of sow followers by two on the morning after our arrival.  When these pigs had been discussed, he with a friend brought in four more, leaving the porcine quadruped with but one offspring tugging at its teats.  This was brought in during the afternoon by one of the mess.  The pigs weighed perhaps seven pounds when cleaned, and were very nice fried or stewed.  For two or three days past I have been helping consume a fine calf of about 120 lbs weight which was also foraged.  I expect to make my last meal off of it to day at dinner, as a broth is being made of what is left of the hind quarters. I had an excellent veal stew yesterday, and veal cutlet the day before.  I have gone somewhat into detail respecting matters of diet because you have no means of being informed upon that topic, and because it may interest you to know how soldiers are fed on long marches.  Rations have sometimes been short.  Thus yesterday we drew but half rations of sugar. We cook our own coffee now ourselves, each one being his own cook.  The occasion of our doing our own cooking is because we are stinted in wagons, so that we cannot have rations carried on a march.  Over & over again we have been obliged to leave crackers and such stuff behind, and at times even coffee.  This is indirectly an imposition upon the men.  The commissary Sergeant and quartermaster having no transportation deals out his rations to the companies, and they in turn having almost none are obliged to throw away almost everything, fortunate even in carrying a few Kettles to cook with.

     The excessive rains which prevailed during our march after leaving Piedmont Station, as the papers have informed you, were very destructive to property.   We crossed the Shenandoah Bridge just in time, as during the night it was carried away.  The river is said to have risen 25 feet during the flood.   Perhaps a hundred of our men were across the river when the bridge was carried away, whether detached or stragglers who did not wish to camp out another night in the rain.  One of these Private Fuller, of our company, acting Sergeant of the pioneers, who attended the baggage train, which was behind was drowned while attempting with three others to lay a cable across the river.  He was last seen struggling manfully in the current going down the stream.  Exhausted in attempting to get out of the current and reach the shore he probably sunk.  His body has not been recovered.   He was a native of Maine, by trade I believe a carpenter and of quiet deportment.   At the time our regiment crossed piles of stones had been heaped upon the bridge to keep it down, and the river raged furiously, bringing down in the current rails, stumps of trees &c. and even horses.  

  Illustration Man Shouting with Rebel Flag   You can scarcely imagine the effect that severe storms have upon the face of the country here.  Little creeks, a yard or two across, become little rivers and small streams appear in every direction.  The R.R. track on which we marched back to Front Royal was covered with water for hundreds of yards, & the meadows in some places one sheet of water.  The Shenandoah which seemed but an insignificant stream on the 2d of June at 12 o’clock, was on the 4th a broad, unruly, irresistible river. 

     To return to the subject of diet.  I cordially approve of the resolution adopted by congress to the effect that the army should support itself as far as may be on the country it occupies, if rebellious, and hope the President will adopt the resolutions as his settled policy.  Although the subsistence department of the army could not thus be made self supporting, yet beef & forage could thus be obtained as well as wood in the winter season.  Even now the policy of protecting rail fences has been abandoned in our brigade, and we have excellent firewood.   It is just that the rebel states should bear some part of the burden of the war while it is yet raging.  Without this the people will not be brought to their senses.   In every article that we purchase of them they cheat us, and are extortionate.   They take our hard money and yell for Davis.  Let them suffer.  Prices are higher here than ever before.  Small pies & small loaves of Bread are 25 cents each.  A loaf not quite so large as mother’s 2 quart dish loaves sells for 50 cents, and sometimes unsalted at that.  Very small biscuits 4 for 10 cents.   When the government forages, perhaps private foraging when rations are short will not so hardly be dealt with.

     I wrote in my last letter of the bad conduct of the campaign in this department of McDowell. I have not changed my opinion.  McDowell is now absent from his post.  It is said he is in Washington.   It is possible we are to be transferred to Gen’ Banks’s Division, but uncertain.  We shall probably remain here for sometime to come.  I wrote home in my last for a couple of blue or grey shirts, one pair of drawers, two pair of stockings.  I should like to have Martha make me a small portfolio of pasteboard, large enough to hold merely two quires of Commercial note paper.  Those will be light, and answer all purposes.  

     I should like to have you buy me a couple of quires of that water marked paper I have been using, quarto size. “N” is stamped on one half the sheet.  Loring may have the paper, if not, he can get it, or it can be procured at the paper stores.  It will cost but 20 cents a quire, and each quire is the equivalent of two quires of commercial note.   The two quires can be rolled up in a sheet of common letter paper carefully, the ends tucked in or pasted and sent to me for three cents.  It was thus I obtained the paper before, a present from Hinckley.  I should like to have a little money purse made of wash leather, say an inch and a half wide, big enough to hold half dollars, and four inches deep, to close by a string drawn at each end.  I intend to reduce my bills to hard money.  I should also like a rubber blanket poncho, i.e. a rubber blanket, with a hole in the middle to put the head through, 6 feet by 4 or 4 or even 5 inches, not to weight less than 2 or more than 2 lbs.  Color black.  Not a rubber cloth poncho, that is rubber and cloth mixed as it were, but a pure rubber blanket poncho without seam.  The cost will not be in any event over $3.00, probably not over 2 .   Alfred Hale in School Street is said to be a fair man to deal with.   Perhaps George could make a good bargain.  When you inform me of these articles being ready, I will provide safe way of transmission.  I send you a ten dollar bill.  Next pay day I may come down heavier.

       With love to all, Yours Truly

John B. Noyes.

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Clarence H. Bell.
Boston, June, 1884

     The following story is composed of two excerpts from an article of reminiscences by 13th Mass. soldier Clarence Bell in the military magazine "Bivouac."

cards While checkers and chess contributed in a slight degree to the amusements of the camp, cards formed the chief enjoyment for those requiring mental recreation.  Usually the mere pleasure of playing was sufficient; but at times, financial motives became entangled with the manipulation of the pasteboards.  “Bluff” always had its devotees, but actual money on the table was sure to be confiscated by the officers of the guard.  This only happened a few times, when the subterfuge of using ammunition – that is caps – to be redeemed after the game was ended – was adopted.  An ignorant passer-by might hear a ringing voice issuing from a shelter tent, exclaiming : “I’ll chip a cap.”  For a while he might be puzzled to know just in what manner a cap might be chipped; but if he desiredcardplayers knowledge, he could readily secure it, and perhaps be invited to take a hand at the game, to find out how expensive “chipping a cap” might become.

    Very often the past time would be prolonged into the night, and candles be kept burning long after “taps.”  Of course, this was against authority; and the patrols were vigilant in securing the extinguishing of the lights.  But the tricky gamesters were often keen, cunning individuals, who would continue at their work, under the very eyes of the law, but covering the tent with rubber-blankets, and keeping the candle hidden in a box, thus escaping detection until they were surfeited.   

     At a camp near Front Royal, Va., soon after a visit from the paymaster, a party of card-players established themselves in a small grove, somewhat isolated from the regimental camps, but rather near to the brigade head-quarters.  This party formed the nucleus about which gathered all the followers of chance.  The grove became the paradise of the money-gainers, and the purgatory of the money-losers.  All sorts of games were in progress from dawn to sunset, - bluff, props, dice, sweat-boards, wheels of fortune, and many others.  It was estimated that nearly two thousand men were congregated there at one time.  This might not be an exaggeration, as they came from other brigades and divisions, attracted by the opportunities for making or losing a dollar.  

soldiers run away     General Hartsuff, the brigade commander at the time, was one afternoon sitting in front of his tent, and noticing the crowds at the edges of the wood, strolled down there to see what the attraction could be.  A near approach revealed the situation in a single glance.  He was rather stout, but it did not take him a great while to get back to headquarters, at which place considerable activity was immediately displayed.  Aides and orderlies saddled in hot haste, and were sent flying with dispatches to the different regiments, while a body of troops was deployed completely surrounding the grove.  The panic-stricken gamblers fled between the sentries; but many were captured and marched up for a reprimand, which was the only punishment meted out to them.  At the dress-parades that evening, a vigorous address was read to each regiment; and, as the boys had a profound respect for the old man, they never openly transgressed again.  The second offence would have been hazardous.

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Major General N. P. Banks

Transfer Back to General Banks' Corps ?

Saturday, June 14.
Thermometer 95
We were told by the colonel to-day that our transfer to General Banks’ corps would soon take place.  This information had a very pleasing effect on the boys.  We were also told that Maj.-Gen. Ord, commander of our division, was to be transferred to Corinth, Miss.  We had become very fond of General Ord, and we were sorry he was to leave us.

(Major-General Nathaniel P. Banks, pictured, right.)

Sunday, June 15.
  General McDowell sent the following to President Lincoln:

So much has been said about my not going to aid McClellan and of his need of reinforcements that I beg the President will now allow me to take every man that can be spared.  I make this request in view of what I have just learned from Front Royal of an intention to have my second division broken up and Hartsuff’s brigade transferred to General Banks’ department.

Fremont’s and General Banks’ commands are now superabundantly strong for all purposes, in the valley.

     In a  communication to the Secretary of War, he further says that he learns

There is a plan on foot for having Hartsuff’s brigade transferred to Banks’, who is on his way to Washington.  I regret to have to trouble you in this matter, and beg that I may not be deprived of Hartsuff.

     He also wrote to the same purpose to Secretary Stanton, The reply which he received from the Sectary of War was as follows:

You need be under no apprehension about your force being broken up.   Banks wants Hartsuff’s brigade, but the President refuses to let it be taken from your command.  Banks comes here by my invitation, in order that the President may see him and urge prompt compliance with his arrangement.

     We might have been saved a good deal of headache about our transfer to Banks if General McDowell had invited us into his tent, and while extending the hospitalities of his sideboard, quietly informed us that his love was too overpowering to admit of the change; but this kind of forgetfulness was common among corps commanders.

Letter of Warren H. Freeman, Company A; June 15th

FRONT ROYAL, Va., June 15, 1862.

DEAR FATHER, - I received two letters from home last Thursday, also one from Uncle Washington ; for these repeated favors you will please thank him.   I also received two Boston papers and a copy of the “Bridgton Reporter.”   

     We still occupy the same camping ground as when I last wrote.  When we change we are in hopes of going back to General Banks’s Corps.  Our colonel has been to see him upon the subject; and he returned last night and said it was “all right.”   I tell you the boys will be mighty glad to get away from McDowell’s command :  a few more such marches as I wrote you about in my last would entirely use up our brigade ; 140 men have been sent to the hospital, and one man fell dead in the ranks, all in consequence of the fatigue and exposure.  I mentioned in my last letter that two of our boys were drowned ; they belonged to the Pioneer Corps, and got left behind when our brigade crossed the river, and they tried to cross over in a small boat which got turned over, and as they had their equipments on they went down and did not rise again ; there was a member of the Twelfth Regiment drowned at the same time.  We are still in General Hartsuff’s Brigade. 

     When the Thirteenth left Boston, eleven months since, they numbered 1,011 men ; now we have not more than 600 fighting men, - a great many are sick, some have been discharged, but few have been killed in the skirmishes that we have had with the rebels.  At this rate, how many original members of the Thirteenth will return home when our three years are up ?  It must be apparent to every one, I think, that we have been in the hands of incompetent generals. 

     Among the many excellent young men in the regiment, I have become more particularly interested in Charley A. Drew.  We have messed together for a long time, and I like him very much.  I speak of him now, because if any accident or disaster should befall me he will write to you, and you may put confidence in what he may say in regard to my situation, etc. 

     Some of our boys were across the river yesterday, and fell in with some of the Maine Tenth boys ; one inquired of our boys if they had a member named Warren H. Freeman, and on being answered in the affirmative, they were requested to bring a note to me.  It was from John Webb, saying that they were all well, and inviting me to come over and see them ; they are encamped about three miles from Front Royal.  If I can get a pass I shall go to see the Bridgton boys. 

     I understand that General Banks is to have command of a large force – sufficient to control the whole valley of the Shenandoah ; and that he has said that after the affair at Richmond is settled the most active operation of the war will be transferred to this valley ; and this appears very reasonable, as the rebels depend mainly on this section of the State for their supplies. 

     Some of our officers express the opinion that, let the impending battle at Richmond terminate as it may, they see no indication of the war being over at present, but rather that we are now fairly in the midst of it. 

     Prisoners are being brought in every day, and they are almost daily sent away ; the officers are well dressed, but the privates are dilapidated specimens of humanity. 

     Please excuse the writing :  I am now seated in the woods, and the ants, and other insects that I know not the names of, have half eaten me up.  It is also just beginning to rain, and I must close in a hurry.  I am as well, that is, as you might expect, under the circumstances.  


Monday, June 16.
    General Shields’ division returned to-day from Cross Keys as ragged and dirty as ourselves, but the fighting they had seen made them heroes in our eyes.

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Back to Manassas

Tuesday, June 17.
     At 11.30 A.M. we took cars for Manassas, fifty miles.  Left the cars about 6 P.M. and marched two miles and went into camp about half-way between the junction and the Bull Run battlefield of July, ’61, and on the rode to Blackburn’s ford.

The following information was sent from Manassas by General McDowell to General Banks on this date :

     I beg to acquaint you that General Hartsuff’s brigade has moved here to-day; that General Ricketts will follow to-morrow, and that General Shields’ division is now in Front Royal, where I will thank you to support him in case it should be necessary, until he can be withdrawn.

Wednesday, June 18.
     In camp at Manassas Junction, where we remained until July 4.  In our childhood we were taught that “God is everywhere,” but after seeing this place we concluded that there were exceptions to this statement.

13th Mass at Manassas

13th Mass at Manassas; Carlisle Military History Institute; Massachusetts MOLLUS Collection

     Some of us made ourselves quite comfortable by building up sides with boards and pitching tents on top, so as to make it high enough to walk in without stooping.  By putting two tents together, it looked like a hut with a canvas roof.  We built narrow seats against the sides, about eighteen inches from the ground, extending the whole length of both tents, serving the double purpose of a seat by day and bed by night.  As boards were scarce, this idea was not suffered from the first rain-storm. Manassas being situated as though at the bottom of a bowl, every time it rained all the water collected from the surrounding hills, and as it did not soak away very readily, the result was an inundated camp.

     Four to five hours daily were spent in drilling. Rations were in abundance and sutlers numerous, so on the score of food we had little reason for complaining.

Letter of Warren H. Freeman

MANASSAS JUNCTION Va., June 22 1862.

DEAR FATHER, - Here we are back at old Manassas again ; this makes the third time we have been here.  We are encamped about two miles from the Junction, with wood and water handy ; the place has very much improved since we were first here.  There is a Government Bakery in operation ; you can purchase a loaf of bread for five cents, - quite as cheap as you can buy bread in Boston.

I received your letter of the 15th last Friday.  You draw my attention to letters and statements from members of our regiment, printed in the “Journal” and inquiring if they are correct ?  They are not strictly correct ; there is much exaggeration in some of these I know.  We have enough to eat of wholesome food, besides good coffee and sugar ; but when on a forced march, and two or three days’ rations are served out at the same time,  they will sometimes come short on account of their improvidence in the care of their rations, or perhaps eating up or wasting in two days what has been served out for three days.  In my last letter I spoke of our scant fare during a forced march of eleven days.  But this could not be guarded against on account of severe storms, rendering the roads almost impassable for baggage trains.  What we complain of was that we were compelled to make the march at all in such weather.

We left Front Royal on the 17th of June by rail, on platform cars.  The ride, if it had not been very dusty, would have been pleasant.  I think the army has all left there.  Shields’s Division came in yesterday ; we are now 20,000 strong.   I suppose we are to be held here as a reserve, this being a central point, and troops can be sent off as reinforcement by rail in several directions.

John Webb, with the leader of their band, came across the river to see me last Monday.  Of course I was glad to see them; John and his brother are well.   He said there was no truth in the story about their losing their instruments when pursued by the rebels a few weeks since.

Those rings that I sent home, you will dispose of as you please.  I wrought them out with my pocket-knife ; though you seem to doubt my ability to do it.  They are chiefly valuable from the fact that they were wrought from the root of the gorgeous laurel taken from the battle-field of Bull Run.  The laurel is found growing by most all the streams here ; it has a beautiful white, bell-formed blossom.

June 29. – We are still at Manassas – faring very well, as we have been paid off, and can buy pies, cake, eggs, cheese, etc., of the sutler.  We have two drills a day, - battalion drill in the morning, brigade drill in the afternoon ; we do not have much idle time.  We are now in the “Army of Virginia,” under General Pope.  I am glad he is over McDowell ; I do not think he was the right kind of man to have so important a position as he held, but I may be mistaken ; we are still under him, but he does no have so much power as formerly.

I see by the papers that cousin George Brown’s regiment has been in a severe battle ; I was glad not to see his name on the list of killed and wounded.

We had a smart shower here one day last week ; our tent did not leak much from above, but a stream three inches deep and the whole width of the tent came through it.  I had to prop my knapsack and other things up on a stick to keep them from being swept away.  After the shower we started off after rails then made a large fire to dry our blankets, etc.  I tell you we slept bully that night ; it was the softest bed we have had for a long time.  We sank into the mud about two inches, but our rubber blankets kept much of the dampness out.

On a march, in a rain-storm, we pin our rubber blankets over our shoulders, letting them fall below the knees ; this affords considerable protection from the weather.  When we halt for the night, if there is a rail fence in sight, you ought to see a regiment of boys break for it : it takes just five minutes to level half a mile of Virginia rail fence. Soldiers look upon them as a perfect godsend ; besides using them to cook our suppers, when the ground is wet we can lay upon them, or make a little frame-work and throw our blankets over them to protect us from the weather, etc.

But here comes a rumor that we are to pack up immediately and start for Richmond to reinforce McClellan.  If this proves correct, I may not be able to write again so soon as usual, so I bid you all farewell. 


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Page Updated February 28, 2010.