Camp Jackson, Williamsport, Maryland

January 1st - March 1st 1862

Reveille on a Winter Morning by Henry Bacon

Reveille on a Winter Morning by Henry Bacon

This painting is also described as "a scene of the 13th Reg't. Massachusetts Infantry"; oil on canvas, c. 1865.  Courtesy of the West Point Museum Art Collection, United States Military Academy, West Point, New York; used with permission.

Corporal Henry Bacon, (1839-1912)  belonged to Company D of the 13th Mass.  He was a war correspondent for Frank Leslie's Illustrated Weekly and his sketch of the fight at Dam No. 5 was published in that newspaper in December, 1861.  He would also sketch scenes in camp on some of the soldiers' letters home.  Bacon, as described by his friend drummer Sam Webster, was "the artist with black curly hair and handsome eyes that lots of girls are falling in love with."  Bacon was wounded at the second battle of Bull Run and subsequently received an honorable discharge from the military on December 19, 1862.  In 1866 he traveled to Europe to study painting.  He became quite accomplished there, and spent his later years travelling the Nile River Valley in Egypt with his 2nd wife, painting watercolor desert scenes of bedouins and caravans.

This painting is featured in a book of Civil War Art.  The authors commented that the men looked too handsome, and that the painter may have been trying to portray a 'symbolic awakening of American Greatness'.  The authors however were not familiar with the 13th Mass.  The red blankets are a unique characteristic of the regiment.  So are the men, who were noted for their neatness, their health, their manners and their high standing in society.  I am under the impression that Bacon was painting his old comrades.  The question is - did he use models for the faces, or paint his old comrades either from memory or photographs ?  Is that Sam Webster standing to the right ?  Sam was the young drummer boy of Company D, a Unionist refugee from Martinsburg, Va., who joined the 13th Mass at Williamsport in January, carried a rifle and cared less about "rattling on a government fiddle."

Table of Contents


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

     Among the duties that required our daily attention was the ferry which was run across the river, daily at one o'clock, unless circumstances prevented, or there was no one on the other side to avail themselves of this convenience.  Of course this was attended with consideable risk, as it was very well known on the Virginia side that it was being done.  It almost always happened that some one was on the bank waiting for an opportunity to come across. Some of the farmers' wives and daughters were allowed to cross with eggs or poultry to sell.  Of course they were closely questioned.  No toll-rates had been fixed, so the guard used his discretion, and as the toll was graduated according to what they brought, it frequenly hapened that the table of a private soldier was ornamented with something besides silverware and flowers.

    Hagerstown, the place where we first landed on our jouney from home, was only six miles away, and was the shire town of Washington County.  Many were the visits we paid that place, and many the acquaintances we made among the people.  The provost marshal of the town was an officer detailed from the Thirteenth, and his administration of martial law was liberal as it was sensible, though when occasion required he could be as inexorable as circumstances needed.  Company D was also stationed there part of the time, therefore no lack of inducement existed to make it a pleasant place to visit. 

   Our service in Williamsport formed an epoch in the history of the regiment.  Advantage was taken of the liberty allowed us, to become acquainted with the people, and many pleasant acquaintances ripened into strong friendships.  Calls were frequently made for the services of our glee-club, while the band was often heard in its streets.  The homes of the people were opened in friendly hospitality, and the prejudice against "Massachusetts abolitionists," as we were called, gradually disappeared, so that when the time arrived for us to cross the river, the crowd to see us off was great enough to remind us of home.

Picture Credits:  Charles Roundy's illustration of a Sibley Tent, the photographs of the Camp Stables and Library are from the Carlisle Army Heritage and Education Center (AHEC) in Carlisle, Pennsylvania; Edwin Rice is from Civil War Letters of Edwin Rice, Edited by Ted Perry, 1975;  Retreat from Hancock is from "History of the 39th Volunteer Infantry" by Dr. Charles M. Clark, 1889;  Graphic of General Lander (Harper's Weekly) is from;   The image of James Ramsey's letter was shared with my by descendants of James; Photos of the 13th Mass Glee Club, and soldiers Mayo, Armstrong, Mecuen & Leland were shared with me by private collectors and dealers; Photos of the John Brown Bell and Elisabeth Ensminger are from the Marlbrough Historical Society Publication "The Story of the John Brown Bell" by Joan Abshire, (these images originally appeared in a 1910 publication, "The Story of the John Brown Bell," by direction of John A. Rawlins Post 43, G.A.R.)  Thumbnails of 13th Mass officers were given me by a friend, and came from a commercial site, a soldiers database, originals are at AHEC;  All other images are from the Library of Congress.  All images have been altered in PHOTOSHOP.

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Charles Roundy’s Manuscript, (Company F)

Charles Roundy's Manuscript; "Reminiscences and Recollections of the Civil War, 1861-1864," is in the collection of the U.S. Army Heritage & Education Center, Carlisle, Pa. 

On Provost Guard at Hagerstown, Md.

    I was one of 21 detailed from the left of my company to report for Provost Guard duty for the winter in Hagerstown, so I saw but little of the regiment while there.

    But when spring came we were ordered back to the regiment and we found that nearly every company had attached a colored man.  Our own company with the rest, had one.

Back in Camp.

   When we arrived back in camp after our camp from Hagerstown we were very willing to “Line up for” Sugar and Coffee.  This was distributed by the Corporal in charge of each mess with a spoon – then round again if it would go round, each man had a rubber or cloth bag for his Coffee and his sugar.

    Twice during my army service I can remember the Surgeon issuing a ration of whisky to each man, and as I had no earthly use for the damned stuff I had plenty of applications to trade my ration for sugar, and as the stuff was never given me for I would not go and draw the ration but each time found a quantity of sugar on my bunk, I knew that some one had put my ration down his guzzle and then rolled his eyes for more.

How we passed the winter and Spring of 61, at Williamsport.

         On our return from Provost duty at Hagerstown where we passed the early winter we found that our tent had been raised about two feet and nicely fixed for winter.  The regiment had Sibley-tents, they were tall and round, and would sleep 20 men, by raising the tent we had much more room. 

Sibley Tent drawing

     We had a fine camp -Each man had a cotton mattress filed with straw.  While at this Camp the different companies of the regiment were more or less away on detail for  guard duty up and down the Maryland side of the Potomac, and until the spring campaign opened, each and all had their individual experiences.

A Long Rifle Shot.

     Gunner Brigham of my Company, (formerly in the navy) saw far away across the Potomac, nearly as far as the eye could reach, a person on  a white horse riding down the hill towards a farm-house, with the exclamation “Watch me fellows” he elevated the sight of his Enfield rifle to its limit, aimed long and carefully and fired.

     Far away the White horse was seen coming down the hill, when suddenly the horse turned and galloped back up the hill minus his rider.  I never knew whether he was killed or not but there was much commotion at the farm house.

     It was a tremendous shot, for that bullet had to describe a great arc of a circle - cross the Potomac and many fields to its mark, it was a vicious thing to do for those people may have been as good union people as ourselves but lived on the Virginia side of the river.

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Letter of Edwin Rice; 13th Massachusetts Band

Willis and Edwin Rice       Twenty-two year old Edwin Rice joined the regiment at Fort Independence as a musician, a member of the band.  Rice's grand-nephew Ted Perry, published Rice's war time letters for family in 1975.  Mr. Perry turned over extra copies of the booklet to the Edmund Rice Society to be sold for fundraising purposes, while copies lasted. A copy of the booklet is in the collection of the library in Marlboro Massachusetts.  The letters add depth to the chronicles of the 13th Mass. The band followed its own itinery in camp and Rice was able to observe and comment on things other soldiers couldn't. The band followed the fortunes of the regiment until the musicians mustered out in early September, 1862, immediately following the 2nd battle of Bull Run.  Whenever Edwin mentions 'Tom" he is writing about Tom Richardson; bandleader.  Pictured are Willis and Edwin Rice probably taken in the 1860's.  Willis was 15 years old in 1861, Edwin was age 22.  The letters are addressed to his older sister Viola.

January 7th 1862

     I received your letter of the 29th last Wednesday evening.  Haven’t received a letter since.

      New Year’s Night we had the supper that we were invited to.  It was given us by Mrs. Anderson of the Globe Inn.  It was a very good supper.  After we had got thru the supper we went to the Potomac House to see a Ball that was going on there. The hotels here do not have any halls in them.  The two rooms at the Potomac House were about the size of Union Hall in South Berlin.  I would think that there were about 20 couples present besides the solders.

     When the Ball opened there were 4 black fiddlers, but when we were there three of them were so drunk that they had to be carried out, and if the other one had not been sitting in the corner of the room he would not have been able to keep in his chair.  He did not play any tune, but kept sawing away on his violin and beating time with his foot.  I did not see them dance anything but cotillions. There were not more than 6 or 8 chances that they went through one of the dances properly.  They would commence and dance about 3 minutes and the black would have to stop to drink some whiskey.  It was the most amusing thing I have seen since we have been out here.  Some of them could not dance any more than a hog upon ice.

      Thursday the Companies, A, B, E, and H who have been up the river came back to camp. They were gone from here just 5 weeks.  Co’s A and B were at Hancock. Another was at Sir John Run in Virginia 8 miles from Hancock which was occupied by a company of rebel cavalry which Co E drove out and then occupied the place themselves.  During the first week that they were there, they had two or three skirmishes with the rebels and had one man wounded in the leg.  The last three or four weeks that they were there the rebels kept out of the way and did not show themselves. The companies were relieved by the Illinois 39th.  Saturday evening and all through the night we heard very heavy firing in that direction and Sunday morning we heard that General Jackson with a large force of rebels had attacked the town, and drove the Illinois regiment out of it and captured all of their guns, equipment, tents, and baggage wagons.  And in fact everything except what they had on, and then set the town on fire. That was the report.

     Companies D, I, C, and K were ordered up there on a forced march and they got up there about 1 o’clock Monday morning.  4 pieces of this battery went up with them.  Last night we heard that General Jackson took so large a force with him from Winchester that General Reynolds, who has command of Kelly[s] forces now, had made an advance upon Winchester and that General Jackson heard of it and left Hancock for Winchester on the run leaving all of his captured baggage and most all of his own.  He was in such a hurry to get to Winchester to prevent an attack upon the place. This morning the report was confirmed and there was another one that a part of General Rosecrans had cut off Jackson and prevented him from going to Winchester.  If it is all true we shall hear more of it.  There are so many stories in camp and in town that it won’t do to believe them all.

     We heard last night that a regiment and a battery were at Hagerstown quartered in the Court House. They were on their way to Hancock. And this morning that two regiments and a battery passed through  town on their way to Hancock.  If all the reports are true, there will probably be some fighting done somewhere within our hearing.

     Friday night we had about an inch of snowfall.  It was cloudy all day Saturday and it looked as though we might have some more. But it cleared up at sunset, and that night was the coldest night that we have had yet.  Our bread froze so hard that we had to take our wood saw to cut it, and every morning when we got to wash in the brook we have to break a hole through the ice. Sunday night we had about two inches more of snow which makes it look quite winterish.  I went downtown last night. It was a little windy and the wind whistled a round the corners and the snow flew so that it made me think that I was in some New England village instead of one in Maryland. When I was coming over the flat between here  and town the snow flew so that I was glad when I got into the tent.

     The Lieut. Col. has gone to Hancock and when he comes back Tom is going to see if we can quarter down town during the rest of the cold weather. It is so cold now that we cannot play but a little. The snow that we bring into the tents on our boots makes me work with the straw.  The snow has not thawed a particle yet.  It is tip top sleighing on the pike between here and Hagerstown.  If I had any money I should have taken a ride up there last night. The Paymaster is expected here the last of the week.

     There are none sick now except those with colds.  Sunday morning I stopped and washed myself and got a cold. Not anything serious though.

       I hear that the wind made bad work in Marlboro New Years Night. Our cloth houses stand the wind better than the wooden ones.  The canal is froze up now and if there was not any snow on it, there would be a first rate chance to skate.  There are not any ponds in the vicinity. I haven’t seen a pair of skates since we have been here.  I don’t think the folks know much about skating.

           All the requisitions that the Quartermaster has made for lumber is enough to build sheds for the homes.  The teamsters are drawing it now from Hagerstown.

     If I had anything else to do besides play cards I should not write as many letters as I do. I have played cards so much that I had rather be licked than play.

     I have got all the things that I need for comfort.  When we come to move, I shall have all I can to get my things into my valise.

                       Good Bye, Edwin Rice.

Note:  Tom is Bandleader Thomas Richardson; Lieut. Col. Batchelder was in command of the regiment while Col. Leonard commanded all the troops at this post.

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Two Letters;  New Year's Eve at Hancock & Trip Back to Williamsport

Letter of John B. Noyes; New Year's Celebration in Hancock

     On January 2nd Companies A, B, E, & H, returned to the camp at Williamsport from Hancock where they had been detached since November 26th.  Stonewall Jackson was already advancing on Hancock but they had no idea.  Ever observant John B. Noyes of Company B, gives the following account of his festive experiences at Hancock on New Year's Eve in a letter to his younger sister Martha.

MSAm 2332 (25a).  By Permission of the Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Williamsport Md. January 4, 1862

Dear Martha
       My last letter home, dated Dec 31st was sent to Aunt Rebecca.  This letter may be considered as one answering yours of the 26th ult, and Fathers of the 31st. 

     You perceive I am again at Williamsport after an absence of about 5 weeks and a half.  On the 2d inst Co’s. A & B at Hancock, and Cos. H & E which were respectively at Orleans & Sir John’s Run came down the canal by boat to this place.  We passed Dam No. 5, Four locks, Etc. but were not fired upon by the enemy.  They probably had no information of our purpose.  We put up for the night, my company, at our old barracks in the town, but were ordered to start for the camp the next morning.  Arrived at our Company street the scene was anything but enchanting.  Fire had been applied to the straw left in our tent grounds and the stakes all round the tents had been burned.  Add to this the embankments had to some extent been thrown down.  The ground was frozen hard, and the prospect of refitting our tents and rendering them habitable was not promising.  Nevertheless by dint of hard labor we succeeded in making our tents nearby as comfortable as before.  The frost was not more than four inches deep and the ground was soon turned up.  Stakes were made, the tent pins fixed in the ground, straw stuffed between pins and stakes, bank made anew, nice straw for bedding brought, stove re-erected; in short our habitation was completed.  At night shortly after our work was finished, snow began to fall fast & the ground was soon covered with a white mantle.  This morning but an inch or two of snow lies upon the ground.  Every thing looks bleak without & there is little outside of the tent to attract us.  With the stove before us, warm as I want to be, the tent seems more comfortable than the barracks at Hancock.  There is a difference however. There we had the freedom of the town & seemed least at home when in barracks.  Here there is no society, no exchange; we are simply at home. 

     Ten of our company were detailed for guard this morning, but were dismissed at guard mounting. This looks as if we were to do no guard duty here.  I mean our company alone.  The Provost Guard in town & a detachment from our Co. do all the guard duty that is required from the whole company.  Without guard duty I do not see why wintering here may not be quite endurable.  We can easily keep warm & shall have little to do.  Were we only allowed to go to Williamsport when we pleased we should be satisfied.  Whether we are to stay here any length of time cannot be told.  The Col. it is said does not advise the soldiers to lay much money out on the tents; and it is rumored with some degree of probability that the whole of Co. B is to return to Hancock.  But amid the numberless rumors daily set a going by Chaplain, sutler, and eves droppers of every sort, who shall select one as more probably than another ?  The principal reason I have for thinking we may go back to Hancock is that it is about the only place our Company has not returned to after leaving it as we supposed for good. Fates would therefore point to Hancock. If we were to be sent back to Hancock I should be resigned to the change.  My last days in Hancock were passed quite as pleasantly as the first.  In fact I may be considered as having had a six weeks vacation, with just enough to do to keep my hand in.  Toward the last we had no drill or dress parade.  In the morning we answered to our names and looked out for the guard detail.  During the day we stayed in quarters, or discussed the news at the various stores about town.   Little did we seek the eve’g roll call if we wanted to be elsewhere than in quarters.  Little did we care for “taps” either. 

     Thursday Evening the 31st, New Year’s Eve, was the occasion for a taffy party at Mr. Hendersons.  I had a hand in making the egg nog myself, as also the taffy, and it was none the worse for that.  We played different games, among them blind man’s buff & crooked pear tree.  At Eleven o’clock I was obliged to leave to stand guard from eleven to one at Post 5, a bridge which leads out of the town.  My friends came down to see me during the night, and supplied me with cigars of course.  I watched the old year out & the new year in.  Seated before a comfortable wood fire I deemed it no hardship to be on guard from eleven o clock at night Dec. 31st ‘61 to 1 Am Jan’y. 1, 1862.  I thought of Cambridge & wondered if any daring Sophomore was dancing around the Rebellion tree to keep the ancient custom. Here abouts a great many people see the new year in especially the Methodists who have what is called a watch meeting.  

     A great many people were about town, & I was scarcely left alone at my post for a moment.  The New Year rose warm to greet us; mud in the streets ere long to be dried up by a driving wind.  A happy new year you were probably wishing all your friends, I wished “New Year’s gift” to those I wished to catch.  I did’nt know but Mothers was “a merry new year” to me far away from home in order to balance the “happy Christmas” she sent me in her last letter.  I had a happy Christmas and a merry new year.  The new year merry in spite of the fact that I was to leave warm friends on the next day.  I came off guard at 9” Am, and laid my plans for the spending of the day.  I proposed to dine in Pennsylvania, at Kirke’s, sup in Md. & Penn. at the Brosius’s & close the day at Henderson’s;  but as fate would have it I received a note from Mrs. Henderson requesting Sanborn, Chandler and my humble self to take “high tea” with her.  This invitation was not to be disregarded.  I accordingly was obliged to decline the pressing invitations I received to dine in Penn. and reached town at 3 o’clock just in time to go to “high tea."  High tea here is equivalent to a tall dinner, and at the table of course all the luxuries of all seasons were bountifully dispensed.  Lieut. Johnson of the 39th Ill. & Mr. Miller the telegraph operator over the river were at dinner who afterwards enlightened us somewhat on military movements.  I intended to spend the Eve’g. at the Brosius’s, but as Miss Mary & Johnny Brosius were at Henderson’s I concluded to accept Mrs. Henderson’s invitation to spend the Eve’g there.  Accordingly I went to the barracks and packed my valuables in readiness to march at 4 o’clock the next morning.  I found at Mrs. Hendersons on my return Army (Armistead) & Bob Zwingle,  Alph Byers, J. Brosius, Misses Brosius, Kirke, Thomas & the two Miss Byers “right pretty girls I reckon.  With Chandler and Sanborn we formed a very cozy party.  Great was the fun we had playing blind man’s buff.  Right excellent was the egg nog we drank.  One of the ladies gave me a Philippine almond. Neither she nor I could get caught at the entertainment til as “we were leaving I innocently offered her my arm which she took.  “Philippine” I of course remarked.

       The party broke up about midnight I afterward went to Henderson’s store where Zwingle sleeps and had my cigar case filled up to last for the morrow.  There is no end to Hancock hospitality so far as I am concerned.  I said some time ago that I was very near going out after a slave.  The circumstances were this.  Perry, a smart boy about 20 years old who had done nothing of any consequence for two or three years was about to be hired out by Mrs. Brosius.  He concluded to run away & was obliging enough to take her best horse with him.  The folks wanted the horse but did’nt care much for the contraband.  Johnny Brosius was going after the horse & Perry, if he should be with the horse. Having the worst post of all, and a night one at that I did not attempt to get any body to take my place.  Chandler blest with a better post exchanged with another and went on the expedition. He was gone two days, found the horse, and brought it back, riding nearly 40 miles the last day.  The slave was not thought worth spending any money in catching. He had always been tenderly treated.  I suppose however he wanted his freedom, & he got it.

     We got our army blankets a few days ago. Mine weighs 5 pounds & 5 ounces.  I now sleep very comfortably. Mother wants to know if the lost dog has been found. Indeed she thinks dogs not as much out of place after all in a camp.  Perhaps not, but some people would think them more limited for private families.  Father will not renew my subscriptions for the New York World. The news is old before I get it. My package went sour??? ago by Adam’s express.  It left Hagerstown Dec. 31st & goes to Cambridge direct. It is sent express paid.  I had not heard that Haskell was settled at Salem.  Whose church is he settled over ?  Is it a desirable parish ?  I have heard Foote so little that I cannot say I am surprised even at this call to King’s Chapel.  He is universally liked, and I am rejoiced at his success, though I do not know whether he judged well in accepting so arduous a post at the commencement of his ministerial career. He is cautious and doubtless knows very well what he is doing.  I have no doubt he can conduct the liturgical service in a manner more creditable to human nature than any minister of the church in Boston.  I hope he may show his semi-episcopal hearers how impressive the liturgy is when properly conducted.  I trust he may show the people of Boston the beauties of the liturgy, and the beauties of a pure & rational faith.  Congratulate him for me on his enviable success.

     I am glad to hear mother is improving so much in health.  I always thought she worried too much about me and you and I don’t know but my absence from home has had a good effect on her.  Now that she is so well, she must write a whole letter to me occasionally.  Tell father he need not buy me a rubber blanket.  I want you to make me a nice thick pair of mittens with a fore finger attached.  Cousin Sophia offered to make me a pair but perhaps you would prefer to.  I want them very heavy & long wristed.  These mittens and my scarf can be sent at a fitting opportunity.  How does Charles do ?  I haven’t heard from him lately.  Do you ever ride in his buggy ? 

     At the end of this long letter I have little room for your trip to Lowell.  Do you know whether Cor’t Welles is to have a Major’s commission in his Regiment.  I understand he is first Captain with a good chance for it.  You didn’t tell me much about your trip, where you went, whom saw, what they said.  Why not ?  I should have liked to have been at the dramatic entertainment at Mechanic’s hall.  My regards to friends.

With love to all     Your Aff. Brother
    I send you a shinplaster.      John B. Noyes.

Letter of Warren H. Freeman, From Hancock to Williamsport by Canal  Boat

WILLIAMSPORT, MD., January 4, 1862

      Dear Father, - Our detachment, consisting of companies A, B, E, and H, left Hancock January 2d, at ten o’clock A.M., in two canal-boats, and arrived here at eight o’clock in the evening; had a pleasant trip down the canal; the weather was rather cold, though the sun was out clear; we made the twenty-six miles without any serious accident; four or five of the men, while fooling and trying to jump on shore, fell into the water.  One man made a jump from the stern of the boat and struck the edge of the tow-path, lost his balance, and made a back somersault right into the canal; he looked comical, I can assure you.  Another man lost his rifle in the canal and could not recover it again. We passed old Fort Frederick:  this is quite a large fort, and was built during the Revolution, I think.  Arriving at Dam No 5, we expected an attack from the rebels, as at this point we leave the canal, enter the river, and pass a point of land, then enter the canal on the other side.  Although our boats were very much exposed, the enemy did not attack us. This is the place where the fight took place alluded to in my last letter.  We landed and visited the contested ground.  I counted twenty holes made by shells in one brick house, so you will judge the fight was rather severe, but we did not lose a man.  Judging from the newspaper accounts of what is going on here, you must think the rebels have not allowed us much rest since I wrote last.  Hancock, Dam No. 5, “and the d----d Thirteenth” (as the rebels style us), are objects of their especial hatred; and Dam No. 5, they say, they are bound to destroy yet.

     My previous knowledge of canal-boating, as you are aware, was in the capacity of deputy cook, during a few trips made with my cousin, Captain Sam. Holt Brown, on the canal between Bridgton and Portland; but here the canal-boats and dams are on a grand scale, throwing the Cumberland quite into the shade.  As it was about eight o’clock when we arrived, we took up our quarters in the Lutheran church; next day went up to the head-quarters of our regiment, which is about a mile from town, and there pitched our tents.  It is quite a job to pitch tents on frozen ground:  stakes are driven within about a foot of each other, leaving them about three or four feet out of the ground; then weave in straw, and bank up with earth all around; then pitch your tent on the top of that; in this way we get more room and the tent is much warmer.

     I have not heard anything of the Webb boys since I came here, but presume they have gone into winter-quarters at the Relay House.  I shall certainly like very much to meet with them and Captain Bailey. . . . .  Just finished my dinner; had beefsteak and rice, not cooked as mother would have done it, but nevertheless it was quite good.  Notwithstanding all the grumbling that we hear, I think we live quite well in the army:  we have sugar in our coffee; milk of course we do not expect.  While at Hancock, some of our boys went over into “the land of Dixie,” and borrowed nine sheep; they lasted us for two days, and we lived high.

     I am perfectly well; have gained in flesh seven pounds since leaving home, and weigh 147 pounds in my thin coat.  But I will close by wishing all the dear ones at home a “Happy New Year,” or, as a Marylander would express it, “New Year’s Gift.”

Kindly remember me to all who may inquire after Warren, and believe me to be,
                     Your affectionate son,


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Stonewall Jackson, Attacks Hancock

    Since taking command of Confederate forces in the Shenandoah Valley, November of 1861, General Thomas J. Jackson, headquartered at Winchester, worried about the build up of Federal troops along the Potomac River 30 miles to his north, and at Romney, Virginia, 43 miles to his west.  Romney was then reported to have a garrison of 4,000 Union soldiers.  Winchester was vulnerable to attack as long as the Yankees held Romney.   Jackson immediately requested more troops from the Confederate command and the Virginia State Militia to augment the meager 1,700 men he had at hand. By November 20, Jackson had come up with a plan to attack Romney.  The plan was approved by the Confederate Authorities but required more troops.  While he waited for re-enforcements to arrive at Winchester, Jackson twice sent out wrecking parties to destroy Dam No. 5 of the C & O canal along the Potomac River, to disrupt Union supply lines going from Ohio to Washington D.C.  Jackson led the second expedition himself, Dec. 18 - 22.  The two attempts to destroy Dam No. 5 failed and Jackson returned to Winchester. Colonel Leonardof the 13th Mass., was responsible for the successful defense of the dam. By January 1st Jackson’s re-enforcements had arrived, and the Romney campaign was ready to begin.

      He planned to capture Bath (Berkeley Hot Springs) and then Hancock, directly to the north, scattering Union forces, and breaking communication between Romney and Hancock.  Then he would march his army west to Romney without fear of Union troops following in pursuit.  Jackson's army, now 11,000 strong, set out January 1st. On January 2nd, four companies of the 13th Mass garrisoned at Hancock started back to camp at Williamsport.  They had no idea Jackson was marching toward Bath and Hancock.  It was balmy weather when the march got under way, but conditions changed soon enough.  The weather turned bitter cold and Jackson's troops suffered the worst for it. 

     Temperatures below 20 and heavy winds & snow whipped the soldiers during the 3 day march to Bath.  Icy roads and storms delayed the supply wagons.  The rebels suffered severely from exposure and hunger most of the way.  Sickness reduced the effective fighting force to around 8,500 men.  Jackson had expected to take the town by surprise the evening of the 3rd but didn’t bother telling anyone.  His subordinates stopped to rest and eat just on the edge of town.  A small skirmish tipped off the 39th Illinois the enemy was nearby.

    The morning of January 4th it was easy for the huge attacking force to overwhelm the 1,700 Union men guarding the B&O railroad at this place. The Federals set to running for safety on the north side of the Potomac.  They were greatly out-numbered, but they did manage to escape.  They lost about two dozen men - captured.  Jackson had deployed a brigade of ‘green’ troops to cut off the Federal retreat but they lost their way in the mountains.

Retreat of the 39th Illinois across the PotomacThe Retreat From Alpine Station the Night of Jan. 4th 1862.  From a sketch made at the time by Dr. Charles M. Clark.  "History of the 39th Illinois Regiment Volunteer Infantry By Dr. Charles M. Clark, 1889.  The sketch depicts members of the 39th Illinois retreating across the Potomac following Stonewall Jackson's attack of the same day.

     Jackson’s artillery shelled the town of Hancock for 3 hours the afternoon of January 4th.  The next day Col. Turner Ashby, famous Confederate cavalryman, crossed the river to Hancock to parlay with Union General Frederick West Lander, in command.   Ashby conveyed Jackson’s note to Lander demanding the surrender of Union forces in the town; if not Hancock would continue to be shelled.  Jackson intended to cross the river with 15,000 men.

     Lander replied, "Colonel Ashby, give my compliments to General Jackson and tell him to bombard and be d----d!  If he opens his batteries on this town he will injure more of his friends than he will of the enemy, for this is a d---d secesh place, anyhow."

     Thinking twice, about what he said, Gen’l Lander decided to reply with a respectful note.  He sent Col. Ashby away with this admonishment: “General Jackson and yourself, Colonel Ashby, are gentlemen and brave men, without a question, but you have started out in a God d—d bad cause"! and shaking hands with him, Ashby departed.  (History of the Thirty-Ninth Regiment, Illinois Volunteer Veteran Infantry (Yates Phalanx) in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865, by Charles M. Clark, M.D.). [General Frederick West Lander, pictured.]

General Frederick West LanderAshby returned safely across the river.  Two hours later a couple of shells fell in town but did little damage.  The Federal artillery in turn, bombarded Jackson for an hour. Jackson called off his offensive on Hancock.

Re-enforcements arrived from Cumberland and Williamsport.  Companies C, D, I & K of the 13th Mass were a substantial part of those re-enforcements.  The next day, Jan. 6th the Confederates withdrew.  They marched south halting at Unger’s Store for 4 days.

The pride and animus of the men in the 13th regiment was enough to make them think it was their absence that caused Jackson to attack and their presence that caused Jackson to retreat.  There is some truth to this in that the rebels feared them for their large numbers of men and the range and accuracy of their guns.  But there were thousands of other Union troops present.

On January 14th Jackson marched into Romney, Virginia, his true objective.  The Federal troops had abandoned the town; probably because they over-estimated Jackson’s force.

Roxbury City Gazette, January 9th 1862

Letter transcription taken from the now defunct web-site "Letters of the Civil War".
Roxbury City Gazette;  January 9, 1862. p. 2, col. 8.

  Camp Jackson,
      Williamsport, Md., Jan. 5, 1862.

Mr. Editor : - Not having written to you for two weeks, I thought I would drop you a few lines to keep you posted as to our whereabouts.  We received orders on last Wednesday to prepare to return to camp, and on Thursday, at 8 o’clock, we left Sir John’s Run, for Hancock, where we were to join the rest of the detachment.  We started at 11 o’clock on some canal boats, and rode all day, arriving at this place at 9 o’clock, P. M.  We passed, on our way down, those places where the rest of our regiment had had some brushes with the rebels, the four locks and dam No. 5.  And we were informed on leaving Hancock, that the rebels would open fire on us on our way down, but they did not make their appearance.

We left in our place, at Hancock and Sir John’s Run, the 39th Illinois Regiment.

When we arrived at Williamsport, it was so late that it was decided to put the men in the churches in the town, as it was very cold and the men had been quartering in houses since they had been away, and it would be too severe to put them in tents the first night.  The next morning we marched on to the field and pitched our tents; but it is rough to sleep in a tent now.  It is very cold here at present.

Last night we heard heavy firing in the direction of Hancock, and about half-past 9 we saw a large fire in that direction.  This morning we received the news that the rebels had come down last night and drove the regiment stationed there over to this side of the river, and had torn down the telegraph wire, and commenced to tear up the railroad track for about six miles, and shelled the town of Hancock, burning it half up.

 The Illinois troops never drilled much, and have rather poor officers; the report is, that they did not stand it well; but it is only on account of not knowing how.  So you see in a few hours the rebels have destroyed what the government has been five weeks upon, and what we have been taking care of; and I honestly believe it would not have been done if they had let us stay there.  Immediately on the reception of the news, Col. Leonard and Gen. Lander went up to Hancock.  The Col. came back this morning, and Gen. Lander remained; he has been detailed to take command of that portion of the rail road and rebuild it.

We have just received orders for four companies to march immediately to Hancock, and companies D, C, I and K, will start this afternoon.  There will be no rebels there on their arrival, - it has been so always.  It is too bad to keep men trotting about so.  We are on the go all the time.  There have been times within the last two weeks, that we had no men on the field at all; some in one place and some in another.  We have heard heavy firing from the direction of Hancock all day, and the whole of us may have to go yet.  I do not think of anything more at the present, and I will close.

Yours,  Rocket.

[Digital Transcription by James Burton]

The Staunton Spectator, January 8th 1862

     Here is  a newspaper account of the action with the Southern Perspective. The Staunton Spectator wrote from the political perspective of the whig party.  This transcription was retrieved from the website "In the Valley of Shadow,"  a project of the University of Virginia.

January 8, 1862

     Operations of the Stone-wall Brigade

     The multiplicity and contrariety of rumors in reference to the operations of Gen'l Thomas J. Jackson's forces are so great that we find it impossible to give anything like a satisfactory account of them. From the Winchester Republican we learn that when our forces were within a few miles of Bath, in Morgan county, on their onward march, a skirmish ensued between our advance guard and the enemy's picket, in which we lost one killed and five or six wounded. The loss of the enemy in killed and wounded could not be definitely ascertained. Eight prisoners were, however, captured. Brig. Gen Meem was then sent around with his militia to prevent the Yankees, 1,400 strong, from retreating from Bath by a narrow defile in the mountain, the only way of escape left them. Upon the closing in of our lines; confident that the enemy was in our grasp, it was found that the Yankee rascals were too smart for the militia, and had made good their escape. Seven additional prisoners were, however, secured, with some five hundred Overcoats and from 800 to 1,000 Rifles. The rail road bridge at Capon River, just completed by the enemy, was also destroyed, with the loss of several killed and wounded. The loss to the enemy other than the burning of the bridge we could not learn. (Our entire loss so far is five killed and fifteen wounded). This we believe to be the sum total of the damage done to the enemy. 

     On Thursday week it appears that the Yankees, some three thousand strong, left Romney and surprised the militia, 600 in number, under Col. Monroe, at Hanging Rock, one mile from Col. Blue's, and 14 from Romney, the enemy capturing two of our guns, and securing what has been regarded heretofore as an impregnable position. We lost none in killed, wounded or prisoners. After taking possession of this position, the enemy next visited the farm of Colonel Blue, killing all of his stock and burning his barn and all of his out buildings. Some report his dwelling as burnt also, but this lacks confirmation. On their return toward Romney, old Mr. Reed, a worthy and loyal citizen, was shot, fortunately not mortally, and then locked in his house, which was fired and burned to the ground over his head. Some two thousand of these desperadoes still hold possession of Hanging Rock, whilst Romney is occupied by about 6,000. Whether they will be suffered to winter there time will tell.

     From the Rockingham Register we learn that two of the sons of Rockingham were killed--John Berry (son of John K. Berry near Edom) and Jacob Nisewander, son of Samuel Nisewander near Antioch. They were members of Capt. Arch. Taylor's company of militia.

     From a correspondent of the Lynchburg Republican, we learn that on the evening of the 4th inst., Colonel Rusk, of Arkansas, proceeded up the road to the west of Bath, to burn the Capon bridge, in command of a brigade consisting of four regiments and a battery. When near the bridge he saw the camp fires of the enemy, and advanced to attack them. It seems that the enemy were aware of his approach, and had taken position some distance to the rear, so as to ambuscade his command. Before the Col. was aware of the position of the enemy he was fired into. Finding himself thus ambuscaded, Col. Rusk halloed with all his voice as if to forces yet in his rear--"bring up the 16th and 18th Mississippi regiments, the 6th Texas brigade, and hurry up that battery." This command to ideal forces had the proper effect, and immediately the enemy broke and ran like sheep. Rusk, however, from the first attack lost four men killed and eighteen wounded.

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To Hancock & Back

     From Three Years with Company K; by Sgt. Austin C. Stearns, 1976 Fairleigh-Dickenson Press; P. 46-48; edited by Arthur Kent;  Used with permission.

     Four of our companies went to Hancock, Md., thirty miles up the river, where they stayed two or three weeks (6 weeks) and were then ordered back to camp.  One Sunday morning, after they had been back a week or two, (they were back only a few days) I was down at the brook washing, when two of Co. A men came down and commenced to talk.  One said: “Of course we shall go, it would be a disgrace to us if the Col. should send any other companies.”  The other expressed a doubt about their going.  What it was I did not know then, but on going back into camp I found that Stonewall Jackson had turned up at Hancock and threatened to burn it.

     Reinforcements were called for, and Col Leonard, who commanded all the troops then on the Upper Potomac, was requested to send help immediately.  Four companies from the 13th were ordered to start at once; they were all different ones, and K was one of them.  We started, on as pleasant a Sabbath afternoon as one could wish to see on a thirty miles tramp.  We arrived at a place called Clear Spring about dark, where we halted and rested about an hour.  After leaving it began to cloud up, and before reaching Fairview a snowstorm was upon us – a regular storm, one that would do honor to old Massachusetts.

     Dan Warren and myself stragled ahead of the rest of the command arriving there sometime before the others.  We sat down on some door-steps [and] I went to sleep, but woke up in season to join the company when it came up.  The different companies were assigned to their quarters; ours were in a fine house in the center of the village. As there was no one in the house, all having left on the arrival of “Stonewall,” the doors were fastened. We had no key, and not knowing where to call for it, we took a panel out of the door with the butt end of a Musket.  The first thing on entering was to search for eaterables. We found a very little [supply of] preserves in the cellar. Nothing of bread kind could be found. One of the boys, in his eagerness to find some goody, found an earthen pot with something in it; fearing that others might come and claim a share, he took it and started out, but thought he would taste and see what it was. He did so, then dropped the pot, not caring for a second taste; it was soft soap.  After a thorough search we rolled our selves up in our blankets and slept till morning.  The wind changed and it blew bitter cold over the snow-clad mountains of Penn.

     I went up back of the house on the hills to see what there was over the river.  Stonewall’s men had some big fires over in a ravine, I should think, by the way the smoke rolled up.  This was all I could see.

     We were as hungry as bears, having left camp in a hurry, taking only one days rations with us and eating that on the march up.  Some flour was procured, and some of the boys were detailed to cook flippers.  I think we had three apiece for the first installment, eating them without butter or sugar.

     The call came from the kitchen, “more flippers,” and the Sergeant went down to get them while we waited with breathless anxiety to receive them.  Report says that he got the large number of three and started back, but thinking that three would go a good ways with one and not very far with twenty, he ate them on the stairs in coming back.  A few beans were found and they were stewed and served out to the men.

     The Sergeant [knew] Billy Jones did not eat his beans in camp and thought he would not now,  so he asked him for them. Billy looked at him with a face as black and fierce as a tornado and roared out “What do you think I am going to live on, air?”  A shout from the boys, and Billy ate his beans.

     The ration wagons came up the next day and we had plenty to eat.  While there I saw Gen’l Lander, who was the commander of the forces in West Virginia. He died soon after.

     Some of the boys went into a neighboring house where there was an old lady; she wanted to know where they all came from, asked what regiment and State.  They told her the 13th Massachusetts.  She laughed and said there were some soldiers there before we came, who said when she asked them, “that four companies were from Boston and the rest from Massachusetts.”  That was a home thrust for the “Fourth Batts,” and it was a long time before they heard the last of it.

Letter from Company K

Westboro Transcript
January 25, 1862

A letter from Co., K., giving an account of the late march of four companies to Hancock (in anticipation of a brush with the rebels), says:

     “on our arrival we were ordered to quarter in the houses.  The one which was demanded by our officers for a part of our company, was refused by the inmates, and their key turned upon us; but the application of the breech of a gun to the door panels soon rectified that.  We found eight beds in the house, each of which was in a very short time affording rest to three or four weary soldiers.  One man composed himself to sleep on the top of a fine piano; and the rest roosted where they could get a chance.  There was a fine large library in the house, which furnished reading for all who desired it.  Good carpets were on the floors, but the Maryland mud soon did the business for them.  Thank God the war is no nearer home; its ravages are almost inconceiveable to those who have not witnessed them.

“I send a copy of a note which we found nailed to a tree.  It was written on a piece of pasteboard, by the rebels, and directed to the captain and sutler of an Illinois regiment, which had retreated before them, and allowed its camp equipage to fall into their hands.  It is as follows:

     ‘To Capt. A.G. Kennicott, Co., 39th Illinois volunteers.
     ‘Dear Sir – Having come in possession of a trunk and contents which is supposed to be yours, we will take it along with us for a two-fold reason:  First, your blockade has caused the price of fine clothes to advance, which makes it very hard to get them; secondly, to effect some part of our Laurel Hill losses.  Should you call at the office, No. 131 Whitehall Street, Atlanta, Ga., as you pass through with your “Grand Army,” you will find some of us ready to make the matter right with you. – Yours truly,
‘Jeffs. Boys.

Compliments of Daniel Boone (formerly of Petersville, Frederick Co., Md., at present of the Macon Rangers, Ashby’s Cavalry), to the very prudent sutler, lately of Alpine, may he never want for beef junk or crackers.

‘Mr. Sutler, lately in business at this place: having taken charge of your stock on hand and disposed of the same, and not being able to obtain an interview with you for the purpose of settlement, please make our your bill, and present it for payment at the captain’s office, Atlanta, Ga. – Yours truly,
1st Regt. Ga. Vols.

Note: the Westboro Transcript dated Feb. 8th corrects this article stating it was a member of Co. I that found the note.  [digital transcription by Brad Forbush]

     Austin Stearns concludes:  "After doing guard duty for four days, a brigade of troops arrived and we took up our line of march for camp Jackson, gong back in the daytime.  A thaw having commenced, the snow melted freely. We were two days coming back, stopping overnight at Clear Spring, and sleeping in a church, some of the boys taking the pews, but I chose to sleep in the open space at the left of the desk. We arrived at camp just at night of the second day."

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Life In Camp - 3 Letters

Camp Stables

     Ninety-five horses and twenty baggage wagons accompanied the regiment to Maryland from Massachusetts.  An interesting fact is the horses were nearly all grey in color.  The 4th Battalion Militia were dubbed the 'Boston City Greys'.  The grey horses were selected as a design statement.  Probably the regiment's unique red blankets were selected for the same reasons.  In a letter dated January 14th John Noyes wrote his brother that the stables for the regimental horses had been built.    This photo of the stables at Williamsport, probably taken by photographer George Crosby, comes from the Carlisle Military History Institute.  The picture has been enhanced in photoshop.

Letter of James F. Ramsey, January 12th

     James Ramsey of Company E had beautiful penmanship and was often asked to direct letters home for others in camp.  In this letter he gives the cost of building houses for the winter, which many of the boys were doing about this time.

Williamsport Md Jan 12

   Dear Father
      I received your letter Last night and was glad to hear from you  I dint know as I have expressed myself as being homesick in Georgie’s letter  I am healthy and enjoying myself although I would like it well enough to be at home this winter but I think it would be to[o] dead around the south end in summer   I am bound to stay and see it through   I think it will be settled soon by the looks of things although I am no judge.  The weather is pretty cold we have had snow enough to run a sleigh  I believe the thermometer was 3 above zero  the coldest day we have had.  I have written a letter to grandmother and just sent it  I should be glad to hear from Vermont  I have seen no Vermont regiment yet  I should like to see one.

      I am back to the regiment   after we left Hancock and been in camp two days  the rebels came down to the river opposite Hancock and drove the Illinois 39th regt across the river they fired shell into Hancock Companies D, I, C, K were dispached to Hancock they did not see the rebels they are afraid of the 13th.

     Our mess have erected a house with 12 bunks in it  it cost us $32  we have got 3 first class carpenters in the mess by the way we have got a barber in the mess.  The dinner has just come in.  I cannot think of any more news

Give my love to all   Kiss Hugh for me
Good bye

                        From your son

    Direct Williamsport Md. Please excuse this short letter   I have written 4 to day and directed about 30 for the boys.

Letter of Warren H. Freeman, January 19th


     Dear Father, - I received your kind letter of the 14th this morning, and will try to improve this time (as it is quiet for a wonder) in answering it.  It is rather difficult to keep one’s mind sufficiently collected to write where there is so much talking and laughing; and quite impossible for me to write a long letter at any time, though some of the boys will get off four or five sheets.

     I am sorry you object to my smoking.  I don’t think I could give it up now; it is one of the greatest comforts I have.  I can’t see as their is any harm in it unless indulged in to excess.  Every man in our mess smokes, and our chaplain – why I have never seen him off duty (at home I should say, “out of the sacred desk”) but what he had a pipe in his mouth, and the boys all call him a most excellent man.

   Since I wrote last our mess have put up a small house, twelve by fifteen feet; it is rather close quarters for eighteen men, but we are getting used to it; we have also got a “contraband,” on low wages, to cook for us, and are really beginning to live in quite good shape.

     On account of the mud, drilling is omitted altogether.  Guard duty is about one day and night out of eight: there are seventeen posts, three reliefs to a post, so that each man has two hours on and four off. It is rather tough these cold and stormy nights, but a solder is expected to stand it without flinching – that is duty.  Visions of home, and the loved ones there reposing, during these solitary hours, of course spring up in the imagination, and if a tear comes unbidden to the eye, it only shows that in becoming soldiers we do not cease to be men.

     Yesterday they signed the pay-roll, and the pay-master is expected along to-morrow. They make quite a sell out of this affair; somebody will start the cry, Pay-master! Pay-master! when it will be taken up and echoed through all parts of the camp; then the boys will all rush out of their tents into the mud, but to see that they are sold.

     This is the kind of life to stretch a fellow out, sleeping on boards.  I am in Mess No. 1, which is the head of the line, where the tall fellows are. There is one six feet four, two six feet three, and four more over six feet; and though I am only eighteen years old, I am fast being drawn out among the six-footers – only lack one inch of it now.

     The Potomac at this place, I should think was between two and three hundred yards wide; the water is rather shallow, as there are ripples in many places; the rebels at Dam No. 5, that I shot at, were on the opposite side, and about one third of a mile off, but as our sights were elevated for a range of 900 yards, they were within range – at  least  they gave me palpable evidence of being within reach of their rifles.

     January 26. – Mud, nothing but mud.  I hope my boots will arrive soon so that I may have dry feet once more. We cannot leave here until the earth is in better condition for marching, and drilling is out of the question; so we have much idle time on our hands, and the boys say, “Tell your friends to send on the papers; we shall be thankful for anything to read.”

 Baked beans for breakfast this Sunday morning, first I have seen since leaving Boston, and the way the boys went into them, and the vast quantities they put out of sight, would have astonished my Bridgton cousins, I am sure. I certainly never saw anything like it while I officiated on board the canal-boat.

But I must close. Letters will find me at Williamsport for some weeks to come, I think.


Letter of Edwin Rice, January 26th

     The 13th Mass Band moved its quarters into the town of Williamsport on Tuesday, January 21st, and set up quarters in the same building John Noyes described in his letter of  November 1st.  (see 'Williamsport 1861' page).

January 26th 1862

     I suppose you have been expecting a letter from me before this reaches you, but we (the Band) have been a moving.  Last Tuesday we moved to town. We board at the Globe, that is get our meals there and lodge around at private houses.  We have a large room to rehearse in and if we could have got another room with it we should have boarded ourselves. We get our rations and $1 each per week for our board, and as good as I want.  Better than what I was used to having at home.  We had ought to get boarded for our rations alone without having to pay anything, but I have no fault to find for if we boarded ourselves we should spend more than a dollar a week for butter, cheese, etc.

     Gassett, Ward, and I sleep in the Band room.  The room is about 16 x 20 feet, and a part of Co B was quartered in it and they used it pretty hard. They tore up the mop boards and a window casing to build fires with, and about a third of the plaster and the lathes are off overhead. We have got a large old cook stove in it and by keeping it full of wood we can manage to keep the rooms comfortably warm.

     We got the stove on Tuesday and had to wait until Thursday before we could get funnel enough. After we had got that we had to wait until last night for the wood, and that was so green that Gassett and I went out and stole some dry wood to kindle the fire with. The Provost Guard quarters in the same building with us. The marshal’s office is the next door to us.

     The chaplain, wife, and two children board at the Globe. There are not any services today. That is the fourth Sunday that there has not been any.

     This is the pleasantest day that we have had for along time.  It is clear and cool, and not a cloud in the sky. It seems the most like Sunday than any day I have seen since we left Massachusetts. Everything is still outside and we can hear the church bells ring and see the folks going to and from church.

     If the canal should freeze up now it would make first rate skating. The river rose 30 feet but now it is no higher than usual.

     The Paymaster has been coming tomorrow for two weeks past.  We signed our pay rolls yesterday and the adjutant told Tom that he was expected today and if he came we should be paid off tomorrow.

     I  received another letter from Eunice Tuesday night.  Dexter Pratt wrote me that George Millsgay was in the 23rd Massachusetts Regiment. I guess he can do his country more good there than he can anywhere else.

     Gassettt had a letter from his wife last night.  She wrote that May Pratt had her arm caught n a belt at Boyd, Corey & Company, while putting it onto a sewing machine wheel. It tore the flesh some but not so but what the doctor said she would get over it in a week or two.

                                  Yours &C
                                          Edwin Rice

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The Old Corporal

By Clarence H. Bell.

     The following aritcle appeared in the military magazine Bivouac; December, 1883.  Author Clarence Bell remembers an early recruit.  Other members of the 13th Mass mention 'Old Corporal' in their memoirs.  Austin Stearns wrote "Among the oddities was an old dog that came to camp, so old that he had not a tooth in his head. He was a white dog with black spots.  A regular bull, with nose so short and turned up so, one had to look twice to see that he had any."   The memoirs of Samuel Webster, Company D, were used as a reference in writing the regimental history.  In a forwarding note written to the history committee, Sam wrote:  "Don't forget to mention somewhere the dearly beloved "Old Corproal" of the Guard.  I believe I can remember him with us down as far as Cedar Mtn, but  am not sure at the moment."  Sadly, "Old Corporal" is not mentioned in the final history of the regiment.  This artilce corrects that oversite.

     Survivors of the Thirteenth Massachusetts regiment will recognize in the above title one who, in the latter months of 1861, attached himself to their organization, and for nearly a year shared in their rations and vicissitudes.  To other readers of this article explanation is due that the "Old Corporal" was a dog.

Bull Dog Picture  The first few months of our campaigning are vivid in our memories for the numerous marches over the roads of Western Maryland, where we were, so to speak, getting our "land legs" on, and becoming accustomed to army life.  The offal from the camps attracted the canine inhabitants from the farms along the routes,and the proneness of the soldiers to bestow their affections on the dumb animals, attached these to the vagabond life, and thoroughly weaned them from their former homes. The Old Corporal was one of the earliest of our canine recruits, and his motives for leaving the quiet life of a farmer's dog to follow the fortunes of a military command, cannot be divined - perhaps, in his new sphere, he received caresses instead of kicks; but, more likely, the plenty of the camp kept his hunger well satiated, and gave him more leisure for the exploration of the dog's paradise, the realm of sleep.

     He was very old - for a dog.  Estimates of his age ranged from twelve to twenty years.  Bull dog vinetteHis teeth, from constant service, either in the pursuits of war or peace, were worn close to the gums, and were distinguished only by gray discolorations on the pinky surface of his jaws.  His ears were marred by ragged, irregular spaces, whence the flesh had been torn during the numerous conflicts of his eventful life, and his hide betrayed further evidences of his valor, in the callosities and corrugations the hand encountered in caressing him.  His eyes were watery, and his gait was chronic lameness.  There has always been a doubt as to whether he was lame of one leg or all four. On the smoothest road he galloped along as if traveling over ploughed ground.  He dipped and rose, as if his bark was ever on a stormy sea.  In color he was the dingiest white, of the shade of the cast off canvas of a whaler.  His breed, no one dared to guess; but the shape of his head, the toughness of his constitution, and his pertinacity in a fight proved him to be principally of the bull-dog persuasion.

      He was the acknowledged ruler among his kind, and every addition to our group of scavengers owed allegiance to his autocratic sway.  Did any dare to dispute his authority, the matter was settled then and there.  The question as to which was the “boss" never came up again.  Once "licked" the vanquished remained licked, and avoided a second contest.  The defeated ones never combined to rebel against the authority of the Old Corporal, nor did they in any way aid the audacious new-comer, that confident in his youthful vigor, dared to growl a defiance to the interviewing veteran.  The conflict was always short, sharp and decisive, affording much amusement to the entire camp; the blue-coated spectators rallying at the cry of "Dog-fight!" and forming a close ring around the combatants, encouraging their special champion with stimulating outcries.  dog fightThe intruder would assail the Old Corporal with a vim, before which it would seem that the latter must succumb, as his worn out teeth gave him no grip on the hide of his antagonist.  His vain endeavors to "catch on" would bedaub the unfortunate cur all over with slimy froth, and by the time that the old fellow was done with him he looked as if he had been lathered for shaving.  But the end of the fight came, when in an unguarded moment, the veteran captured his opponent's ear. This was his best hold, for his powers of suction were remarkable— he literally swallowed the ear and drew the skin taut from the tip of his nose to the end of his tail.  With eyeballs starting from their sockets, and with toe-nails half an inch longer than when he began the conflict, the victim would shriek out his defeat, yelping piteously for mercy.  Magnamity was one of the chief traits of the victor, who would release the conquered cur, while he himself retired to some secluded spot to lick his wounds, and to sleep from the fatigues of the tussle.   His opponent would walk on tiptoe for half a day while his skin was settling back into position. 

     From his human friends the Old Corporal ever received the most kindly treatment.  The military life is of itself a vagabond one, and the fact that this aged mongrel had spurned the ties that bound him to the home of his puppyhood, to cast in his lot with those who were here to-day and there to-morrow, can alone account for the kindness with which he was treated, and for the encouragement given him in his encounters.   His ugliness (in the English sense) was repellant of sympathy or admiration, but his voluntary vagabondage made him a kindred spirit with the volunteers of '61.  He was never known to snarl or snap at any of his army protectors, yet, though often caressed, he never acted as if he appreciated the gentle stroking of his fur. His manner seemed to say — "Well, I can stand it if you can"— and he received the caress as if it was a necessary accompaniment to his food. 

three dogs     After the regiment had entered winter quarters, and a guard-house was built, the Old Corporal with his followers took up a location behind the stove where the straw was thickest, passing the season in comparative tranquility, save when a drowsy soldier, roughly awakened to go on guard, the sleep still in his eyes, stumbled over the slumbering dogs, on his way to his post. No one disputed the right of the old fellow to his snug quarters in the straw; in fact, it was a pleasure to the returning guardsmen to contemplate the satisfied slumbers of their canine champion.  After a while the guard-house got a bad name, in that it was stoutly asserted that the straw was teeming with fleas, and the most fastidious rigidly abstained from sleeping in the bunks that had been fitted up on the sides of the building; yet no one thought of resentment against the dogs for their share in the infliction.

     On the march, at the very outset, the Old Corporal would take his place at the head of the column, followed closely by all his canine clan, who seemed to recognize his superior wisdom and sagacity.  His place was at the front, and while his strength lasted, he retained that position.  Sometimes, in our imperfect knowledge of the country, the regiment would stray upon the wrong road, necessitating a countermarch, often reversing the movement by a simple “about face."  At such times, when the voice of the grumbler was loud in the land, good humor would return, and a ripple of pleasant laughter would pass through the ranks, as the platoon of "curs of high and low degree" would go galloping past, led by their limping commander, to secure the place in front, even when marching by the left flank.  One could imagine the supreme effort the veteran would have been compelled to make, had his military career opened a few months earlier, at Bull Run, to have got into Washington ahead of the Fire Zouaves.

     But every Napoleon has his Waterloo, and the Old Corporal was not exempt from the bitterness of fate.  Either the campaign was too severe for him, or he had reached the end of his career, for he abandoned the regiment to take up with the wagon-train, while we were in the Shenandoah Valley, in the spring of 1862. For a few days, we were separated from our supplies, but when connection was again made, we learned that the Old Corporal was dead.  In an encounter with a sturdy Virginia cur he had been worsted and left so mangled that the wagon-master had put an end to his sufferings by a pistol-shot.  We regretted his untimely end for a time, and then the stirring events following made us forget him almost altogether.

     In the hope that his memory may be rescued from oblivion long enough to cause a smile of pleasant recollection to pass over the faces of the Old, Thirteenth Massachusetts regiment, this article is written.

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Life in Camp - 2 Letters

Library in Camp

The small building in the middle, just left of the tent, is the 13 Massachusetts' library.  Few other regiments could boast such an establishment.  The original of this image is at Carlisle Army Military History Institute in Maryland.  This image was created from a photo-copy.  Dr. Allston W. Whitney is recognizable, standing to the right.

Letter of James Ramsey, Company E; Cooking for 24 Men

As mentioned above, James Ramsey had beautiful hand-writing and was often asked to direct letters home for his tent-mates.  It is no wonder he was complimented by the officer when he signed the pay-rolls.  He was good-natured and it seems like he would do anything for his comrades.  For a short while he was elected cook for his mess.

Camp Jackson Jan. 27th
Williamsport Md

Dear Mother

Sample of James Ramsey's handwriting    I am well as usual and enjoying myself    I have got no news to write  I am cook for the mess  I am making soup for dinner   we have plenty of fresh meat all of the time  I like cooking pretty well although it is pretty hard for one to cook out doors for 24 men   I have to get up early morning and go out in the cold and get break fast    I don’t know how long I shall cook  I can cook all of the time if I wish to.  I don’t hardly think the army will go forward this winter the roads are so bad all though they talk of it most of the time   I hope they will our regiment is the advance guard of the right wing of the army.   I think Banks will cross the river at this place   A U.S. survayor has been measuring the distance across the river and getting the soundings.  Lieutenant Fox of co. K has been drawing a map of Va between this point and Martinsburg all of the roads and by ways every little detale.  You spoke of sending a box with sock and shirts and drawers   I would like to have them as soon as possible – I don’t think there is any thing that I need   if you have any little luxury   I would like to give it to one of our boys in the hospital     on the whole most of the boys are very healthy.   day before yesterday we signed the pay roll  I was complimented on my writing the lieut said “good Jim hard to be beat.”  I have to direct most of the letters for the boys.  Last night was the stillest sabath night we have had for some time     most of the boys were reading the bible two or three commenced to read it through    I have read the testament most through  I cannot think of any thing more to write  give  my love to all    Kiss Hugh for me
            from your son

Letter of Warren H. Freeman, Company A, February 3rd

        WILLIAMSPORT, MD., February 3, 1862.

Dear Father, - I received yours of the 29th ult. yesterday; the box from Boston was received at the same time.  I can assure you it does seem good to get these things from home. The box “opened rich,” as they say.  There was a roast turkey, fat and plump, from Aunt Susan; two loaves of sponge-cake from mother; a box of figs from Albert; half a peck of seed-cakes, etc.; also a worsted under-garment and prime pair of boots, and kind remembrances from Susy and Georgy. The rule of our mess is that all eatables that come in this way are common property; so they were spread upon the table, and after the boys had partaken freely they pronounced the sponge cake tip-top, and the turkey A No. 1.

     I have been troubled some with a cough lately; should an opportunity of sending to me occur I should like some cough candy.   It is snowing to-day, rained yesterday, and was awful muddy the day before – that is the average run of the weather out here in the winter; the snow never collects to the depth of more than two or three inches.  Company G struck their tents this morning; they are going down to Falling Waters to relieve Company F, which is there on picket duty.

     We had religious services in the open air yesterday for the first time since I have been here; they seemed very appropriate, but quite short on account of the weather over head, and mud and “slosh” under foot.  Our chaplain expressed his belief that we were soon to see more active service and meet the rebels face to face.

     February 9. – I received a copy of the “Boston Journal” of the 5th inst. This morning, and as it was the latest Boston paper in the mess it has been in constant demand all day:  other papers have been received for which I thank you, also for your kind letter of the 5th, received to-day.  Mother asks if I should not like to have her send me a pillow.  When I read that to the boys they shouted and said it was a capital joke – a “soldier with a pillow!”  Why, the knapsack is a soldier’s pillow the world over; and then I could not carry it about with me; we have enough to carry as it is.  When a boy carries his trunk upon his back he must discard all superfluities.  I have already the following articles which I wish to take with me, and if we leave in heavy marching order, I suppose I can carry them, namely:  four pairs of socks, two extra pairs of drawers, and under-shirts, extra pair of pants, one heavy army blanket weighing six or seven lbs., one rubber blanket, haversack with two or three days' provisions, canteen, and writing material, with numerous little et caeteras; then there are those absolutely necessary articles, as rifle, cartridge-box, with forty rounds of ball cartridges, belts, etc.  A soldier thus loaded down, in the mud as deep as it is now, would present a sorry picture; still we could move on, make several miles a day; but our baggage train, loaded down with camp equipage, stores etc. and our heavy battery of twelve- pounders, with solid shot, shells, and other ammunition that must accompany a well- appointed army, -  think of these things, you stay-at-home bodies that are continually crying “Onward! Onward!” and tell us what we should do with our wheels sunk to the hub in mud, and horses and mules floundering in the mire.  No it will be better to leave these matters to the brave officers in command; when the great day of battle shall come, I trust they will be equal to the emergency.  As soon as the earth will permit us to move over it with safety we shall embrace the opportunity.

     We had considerable excitement in our camp on Thursday last.  At four o’clock P.M. we had orders to move in light marching order at seven o’clock.  We went to the captain’s tent and received forty rounds of ball cartridges; as there was no time to cook beef, each man was served with a loaf of bread – this, with one blanket and equipments, was all we were to carry.  Seven o’clock came and no order to march; at nine o’clock all lights were ordered to be put out, and the men allowed to sleep if they could; the night wore away without our being called out, and the alarm subsided.  We afterward learned that it was intended to send us over to Martinsburg.  It seems that General Lander had made an attack on Jackson’s forces and were driving them down in the direction of Martinsburg; but Jackson burnt the bridge over the South Potomac River.  This put an end to the pursuit by Lander, and Jackson and his army escaped. Had not this taken place we should have crossed over and attacked Jackson on his retreat, but as he was an army of from 8,000 to 10,000 men, it would not be prudent to attack him with the few regiments that could be thrown across the Potomac from this point.

     To the question about the loyalty of the people about here, I would observe, that they seem to be for the Union while we are here, but secession when we are away. There are not many slaves here, and but few free negroes; the free negroes, I think, come from neighboring towns to seek employment about our camps.  Private soldiers can get a pass to visit Williamsport (one mile distant) about every week; it is quite a pretty place of at least, I should think, 1,000 inhabitants.  There are a number of women and children around our camp with poyes, as they call them, at a levy, twelve and a half cents, a piece; they also have different kinds of cakes, and what they call pones, a kind of apple turnover.

     We are about thirty miles from Colonel Fletcher Webster’s regiment; they are near Frederick.

     There is a photograph artist about the camp, but he has such a crowd about his saloon all the time that I have not been able to get a picture yet.

     I would renewedly thank our kind friends at home for the substantial comforts and luxuries furnished us in camp.  I not only speak in my own behalf but also for the boys, whose happy countenances express how  much gratitude they feel for those mothers, aunts, and brothers and sisters who fill those boxes with creature comforts, etc.  But I must close.  Do write often to your undutiful son.


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Charles Roundy Manuscript;  "A Secret For 16 Years"

     On Thursday February 6th the regiment had orders to march as mentioned in Warren Freeman's letter above.  They were to assist General Frederick Lander, an agressive Union general in the east, a rarity at this time, in his pursuit of Stonewall Jackson's troops.  Jackson was actually back at Winchester emboilled in a controversy over his intended resignation.  Charles Roundy recalls what happened one evening when the regiment was under marching orders.  Roundy's entertaining manuscript often confuses dates.  I think the correct time frame for this story is the night of February 6th, and the morning of February 7th, 1862.  In a letter dated Feb. 9th 1862, Private John Shaw of Co. A wrote home "Nite before last one of the tents belonging to Co. E caught fire and burnt up, but there was no one in it at the time."  Ramsey was in Co. F and the tent was occupied, so my guess may be incorrect, but an explosion in camp would warrent some kind of comment and this is the only mention I have of such an event.

      The day finally came for Bank’s Division to be ready to move on receipt of orders, and we were all ready and eager enough – some were so very eager that they took down their tents.

     We in Mess 5 had been all day long burning up our letters, and we had stacks of them.

     Look at the picture 5 pages ante [picture of the sibley tent above] and picture us sitting on our mattresses and burning or awaiting our chance to burn our letters and everything else that would burn that we did not intend taking with us.

     How the little stove roared and grew red at the love stories and secrets it was consuming. 

     Then the boys fed all our wood to the little stove just to hear it roar, and the result was the sheet iron stove was warped all out of shape and full of hot coals.

     The day passed – night came and no orders yet.  We straightened up our tent easily but some others had the fun of pitching tent and hunting straw to sleep on.

     The evening passed with more burning and the bottom of the stove was so warped up that there was quite a space between the stove and the blacked earth beneath.

     Nine o’clock roll call came then we had an hour before “Taps” (lights out)

     I went visiting Co. K and on my return I found every one was in bed but myself and all seemed to be asleep.

     As I crawled to my place I found my blanket completely covered with cartridges – old ones that had been carried quite a long time and were shop worn, and 40 rounds – the capacity of our boxes was newly issued to each man – So Mess 5 had been busy while I was away since roll call, fixing up their boxes and taking out all the old ones and they had thrown them all on my bed.

     - I sat there without speaking. -

     At last I broke the powder from the ball, put all the powder in a paper – tied it up - then – what to do with it ?  At last I felt sleepy, and seeing the opening under the stove – the fire seemed to be all out, so, rather than crawl over the boys – untie the tent and be growled at, I pushed the bundle of powder – well tied up – under that Stove and fixed my blanket and lay down and was soon asleep.

    Some time in the Night a tremendous explosion occurred in Mess 5.  That stove went to the height of the tent and fell on one of the boys (hot coals falling everywhere) who instantly gave it a pitch onto his neighbor and so around til it had been the grand circuit – each kick scattering the live coals all over our blankets until some one untied the tent door and it went out into the Company Street.

     Meantime we were all busy putting out the fire in our blankets, my own with the rest, when, looking out we found the officers and most of the Company in the Company Street – trying to understand the situation and to find out what piece of spite or whatever it could have been that had done this thing.

     I kept as mum as a Hippopotamus, and mourned over the holes burned in my blankets.

     I never knew that our officers had located the culprit and fixed the blame on any one until

     About the year 1877 or 1878 and it came to me in this wise –

     At this time I was one of the proprietors of the “Red Front Livery and Sale Stable in Hutchinson, Kansas, (Stimwell, Roundy and Co.) ( And this stable has a unique history also) Farmers came from far and near and put up at the “Red Front” and we had quite a competition. We were a Sober, jolly crew and had music at our Stable while others handed out Coffee but the music generally won.

     One evening after supper I was sitting in front of the stable, with a lantern burning, when a team drove up and stopped.  I immediately got up, said Good-evening, and helped unhitch one of the mules.

     I led my mule into the stable, and set the lantern down for the man to use with his mules. He took up the lantern – held it up to my face and exclaimed –

     “Charley Roundy – whatinthunderare youdoingherein Kansas ? :   

     At the same instant I exclaimed

     “Henry ExleyareyoulostWhat in thunder are youa first class machinist doing here pulling a line over a pair of mules in Kansas ?

     Exley was our Orderly Sergeant there at Williamsport and so on through the Campaigns in Virginia, and was always a first class comrade.

     What a meetingwe talkedthe Companythe Regimentthe war – and among other things we got back to Williamsport and out Winter Camp of 1861 -1862.

     The blown up stove and the anxious mourners inscant clothing - very busy putting out the fire and Kicking the stove and hot contents flashed into my mind - And I asked Exley if he remembered it.

     He said - he surely did - for it had given the officers many an hour of thought and study. 

     I asked - did they find out how it came about ? -

     Oh yes. - they finally agreed that some rebel put ---- or else a shell was shot - into the stove pipe at the apex of the tent intending to kill as many as they could of the boys.

     - And there you have it -

     I told Sergeant Exley that I did it and how it was done, he looked at me in astonishment.

     I told him it had always seemed strange to me that the thing was not more closely looked into but our breaking camp the next day gave us other things to think of - and it was perhaps just as well for me.

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The 13th Mass Glee Club

Glee Club of the 13th Mass

13th Mass  Glee Club:  Standing left to right: John H. White, Hospital Steward; Private John W. Green, Co. E; Corporal Michael J. Dagney; Osgood W.Waitt, Co. D.  Seated left: Lieutenant Edwin Frost, Co. E;  Seated right: Sergeant Walter H. Wentworth, Co. E.

Feb. [8th?] 1862

     The gallant 13th, as we glean from a programme kindly furnished us by Mr. G. Balcom, are charming the people of the towns in the vicinity of their camp, ‘with concord of sweet sounds, as well as executing the harsher and discordant notes of war.  A Regimental Glee Club has been formed from the ranks, in which the following named individuals are the artists, Messrs O.W. Waite, M. J .Dagney, J. W. Greene, J. Nicholson, J. Klenert, - known familiarly in M. as little Johnny --- and E.S. Downing.  One concert was given at Hagerstown, and the people of that place are promised in the Bill before us, a second, with an entire change of programme.  The success of the first had emboldened a second attempt, which we hope will be like unto it in that respect.  We always look with interest, to the doings of the 13th, and with much of anxiety for their welfare in Camp, and success when they shall be called to battle.  Massachusetts may well be proud of such sons as she has sent to the banks of the Potomac.

[digital transcription by Brad Forbush]

     The Glee Club performed at a small hall in Hagerstown on Wednesday January 15th.  Band member Edwin Rice attended but wasn’t impressed with the singing.  He did note however, that “there was a very fine fresco painting in the hall.’

      It must have been somewhat successful for a second performance was offered the evening of  Tuesday, February 4th.  Edwin Rice wrote home from Williamsport where he was quartered in town :   “It commenced snowing Sunday night and snowed all the time till this morning.  There is now about 3 inches of snow on the ground and it is very fine sleighing.  All the horses and sleighs in town are hired to go to Hagerstown tonight to a concert given by the 13th Massachusetts Regiment Glee Club.  …Since noon it has been very pleasant and the sleigh bells have been on and jingling right merrily.”  James Ramsey and some of his friends attended the 2nd concert which he wrote was 'splendid'.

     The Regiment’s long stay near Hagerstown and Williamsport provided opportunities for the soldiers to socialize with the locals.  On February 10th the ‘non-coms’ of Company I, had a dance at the Globe which Edwin Rice describe. The success of the Glee Club performances in Hagerstown inspired the ‘Grand Concert of the Young Ladies of Williamsport’ on the 14th & 15th of February.  John Noyes gives a detailed report of that event in his letter of February 22nd further down on this page. The close association of the regiment with the people of Williamsport and Hagerstown brought out a large population from the towns to see them off when they crossed the river into Virginia to start the spring campaigns a few weeks later.

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Letter of Edwin Rice, Camp News

February 10th 1862

     Not having anything in particular to do, thought I would commence a letter to you if I did not finish it.

     The weather has been pleasant for 4 or 5 days past. Yesterday and today it was quite pleasant though pretty cool.  Last night was the coldest night that we have had yet, and it promises to be pretty cool tonight.

     We are having a very easy time now. We have not rehearsed for nearly a week.  Had to play at dress parade Thursday, Friday, Saturday and tonight.  Friday night the ‘non coms’ of Co I had a dance at the Globe.  There were about 20 couples present and they seemed to enjoy themselves hugely. The ladies were very well pleased with it, though the music was good considering it was furnished by Tom Viles and Lieutenant Howe.

     Had services again yesterday and should judge from what the Chaplain said that there is a chance for some of the men in the regiment to mend their ways.

     I am not going to lodge in the Band room after tonight if I can get lodging elsewhere, as I don’t care about having a lot of persons playing bluff and poker and other games of  a like character in the room when I want to read or write.  Since Co B has been here there has been a good deal of it done. Am going to get a room for myself if I can.

     I weighed myself this morning and much to my surprise found that I weighed 175 pounds.  My health continues to be as good as ever.  Am not as anxious to be discharged as I was.

     I see by my diary that it is over two weeks since have written to you. I did not think it was so long.  I never knew the time to pass away as fast as it does now when I have so little to do. I received a letter from you on the 29th.  There has not anything transpired in this vicinity since I wrote you. We were paid on the 29th.

     There are 13 men belonging to our regiment in the guard house awaiting a court marital for being drunk.

     Captain Pratt of Co. E and Lieutenant Chamberlain of Co H have resigned their commissions and have got their discharge from the army. I don’t now what their notion is by resigning. If they stayed a few weeks more, they might have had a chance to fight.

Tuesday Morning
     It is very pleasant this morning.  I am going to Hagerstown today to get a pair of pants.  The quartermaster has not got any long enough for me. I haven’t had but one pair since we have been out here.

     A dispatch was received here last evening saying that a fight had been going on between General Jackson and General Lander at Ballou's Bluff, 5 miles this side of Romney. Did not say which was victorious.

     I see by last night’s papers that General Burnsides expedition has been heard from at Roanoke Island.

Yours &c
Edwin Rice

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Colonel Leonard Does Some Early 'Spring Cleaning'

Essay by Brad Forbush, 2009.

     The army was preparing to move - the long awaited advance into Virginia.  It was time for a shake up of officers in the 13th Mass.   Private John Noyes, Co. ‘B’ wrote home in a letter dated Jan. 27th: “There has been some trouble among the officers of our Regiment. At least Col. Leonard during his long stay here has been turning his attention to the character and conduct of the officers.”  The first to leave the regiment was the captain of Company A.

Capt FoxOn Sunday Feb. 2nd 1862, Captain James A. Fox left camp for Boston to recruit for the regiment.  There must have been something bothering Fox because some soldiers were under the impression he had resigned. He was gone 6 months. John Noyes wrote of Captain Fox:  “He is a very good officer, but his ambition has been the Majority which he thinks he may never obtain.  He is a man of property and likes a life of ease better than tent life.”  Fox had been acting Major of the four company detachment at Hancock.  Major Gould returned about this time from Washington D.C., which may have played a part in Fox’s departure.  With Captain Fox away 1st Lieutenant Samuel Neat took command of Company ‘A’.  It was six months before Lt. Neat was finally commissioned captain on August 16th, just after Captain Fox officially resigned.

     Captain Pratt of Company ‘E’ was forced to resign the end of January.  He left the regiment for Roxbury February 10th.  John Shaw, a private in Company ‘A’, wrote that Pratt was accused of selling company rations and pocketing the money.  That at least was the story in camp.  His dismissal/resignation angered most of the men in Company ‘E’.  Private James Ramsey wrote in a letter home February 10th:

     “I feel pretty bad about Captain Pratt  we will never get such a good Capt. again      I almost cried when I shook hands and bid him good bye   I gess that was the feelings of most of the boys  they cant find words to express  their feelings.  I wish good luck to him   he starts for home to day   he said that he would see us on the common when we got home.”

     (The general opinion in camp at this time was the war would be short).

John G. Hovey First Lieutenant John G. Hovey, of Company ‘B’, switched companies and replaced Pratt as Captain of Company ‘E’.  John Noyes wrote of Hovey:  “He is a very gentlemanly officer and I am afraid is to be appointed Captain of Co. E.”  Noyes was sorry to lose a good officer to another company.

Joseph ColburnHovey’s appointment did not go over well with the Roxbury boys.  Joseph Colburn, the 1st Lieutenant of Company E, tendered his letter of resignation to Col. Leonard when John G. Hovey was appointed captain.  Colburn wanted the position for himself and he had the support of his men.  Colburn gave up his business to help organize the Roxbury Rifle Company, and it was through his efforts the company was kept together when the initial organization failed.  Colburn’s personal interest was with his company.  Thinking a chance for promotion in another company of the regiment improbable, he chose to resign.  All this he explained in a respectful letter to Colonel Leonard.  Leonard must have made Colburn reconsider because Colburn did not resign, and continued to serve as 1st Lieutenant of Company ‘E’ under Captain John G. Hovey.  (Hovey is pictured at left; Colburn at right).

     Hovey’s move created a vacancy in company ‘B’ for 1st Lieutenant.  Second Lieutenant George Bush of Company ‘A’ was promoted and took Hovey’s former position.  It is unclear who replaced Bush, but it was probably Jacob A. Howe who was promoted 2nd Lieutenant, Company ‘A’ on July 23, 1862.  A soldiers letter of February 10th 1862  refers to Lt. Howe.  The official paper work for commissions seems to have been a long time coming in many instances.

Elliot C. PierceNext up for dismissal was 1st Lieutenant Perry Chamberlain of Company ‘H’.  His particular offense is unknown but he resigned February 6th 1862.  His replacement, Sergeant Major Elliot C. Pierce, pictured at left, was a surprise to everyone.  Pierce was Col. Leonard’s particular friend.  Col. Leonard ran an express business with his brother, and Pierce’s father also ran an express business, which is perhaps how they were acquainted.  Pierce joined the 13th Mass. as Sergeant-Major shortly before the regiment left Fort Independence for Maryland. Sergeant-Major was a good rank to hold with respect to obtaining an officer’s commission.    Leonard must have promised Pierce a quick promotion as soon as an opportunity arose.  Chamberlain’s resignation provided the opportunity.

Pierce’s appointment as First Lieutenant, Company H, rankled the emotions of the men in the rifle company from Natick.  They preferred to have someone from their home-town advanced to fill the Company ‘H’ vacancy caused by Chamberlain’s resignation.  There was another reason this appointment was controversial.  It broke the regular line of promotion as established in the regiment.

     “There being no difference in date of commissions at the start, the seniority of officers, instead of being established by lot, was taken by the Company letter – “A” being first “B” second, and so on.  This gave the seniority to the 4th Batt. Officers, and the first vacancies to them.  Then two sergeants, good men, but no better than others, were jumped over the whole line of 2d Lieuts. and made 1st Lieuts.”  So wrote 2nd Lieut. Charles B. Fox to his father in a letter dated June 28th 1862.  Elliot C. Pierce was the second of  two sergeants to break the line of promotion.  The first was Sergeant John Sanderson of Company C.

John W. Sanderson      Soon after arriving in Maryland Captain John Kurtz of Company ‘C’ resigned to accept a higher commission in another unit.  First Lieutenant William H. Jackson was promoted captain. Jackson’s place was filled by Sergeant John Sanderson of the same company.  Sanderson, pictured at right, of Westborough, Mass., was one of 4 original lieutenants in the Westborough Rifle Company when it was raised in April 1861.  When that company mustered into federal service as Company ‘K’ at Fort Independence, the original lieutenants were replaced with officers from Boston.  Lieutenant Sanderson was offered a sergeants commission in Company C, and he accepted it.  He was quickly promoted to 1st Lieutenant, Oct. 16th 1861 to fill the vacancy made by Jackson’s promotion to captain.  So Sanderson and Pierce jumped over the line of ten second lieutenants, to be appointed first lieutenants.  Sanderson had the benefit of being promoted within the ranks of the company he mustered into at Fort Independence.  Pierce was considered an outsider by the Natick men in Company H; - and he was from Boston.

     In a letter to his sister Elliot C. Pierce wrote “you have no idea what a feeling exists in the country companies toward the four city Companies – All the country Companies are jealous and do not like it if an officer from the city company is assigned to their company.  Consequently Captain Clarke had a deal of trouble when he took command of Company H. Supposing me to be a city snob, they were very indignant when I was assigned to the company and even wrote to influential friends at home about it. They spoke to Gov. Andrew who wrote to Col. Leonard who showed me the letter.” 

     In a short while however Pierce was accepted as one of their own.  He would play an important role in the chronicles of the 13th Mass.  Another important officer was appointed captain of Company K.  He was also a Boston man, but his appointment was warmly received.

     The original captain of Company K, William Blackmer, a Methodist Minister from the home-town of Westborough. was a bit of an imperious wind bag.  Regardless of whatever his recruiting cababilities might have been his leadership abilities were doubtful in the field.  When he hurriedly resigned, the day following Company K’s first real engagement with rebel troops at Harper’s Ferry, the company as a whole was glad to be rid of him.  Company K was given a choice between two officers for its new captain.

William Howard CaryWhile at Fort Independence some of the boys noticed an officer with exceptional military abilities.  That officer was 1st Lieutenant Charles H. Hovey, of Company D. [no relation to John Hovey of Co. B].  Hovey’s conspicuous ability, especially at teaching raw recruits the fundamentals of military drill, were credited to his long service in the militia prior to the war.  The boys in Company K were jubilant to have the choice of Charles Hovey as their new Captain.  Hovey was commissioned captain on January 31st.  2nd Lieutenant William H. Cary was bumped up to First Lieutenant of Company ‘D’ to replace Hovey.  I am unsure who replaced Cary as 2nd Lieutenant but I have evidence it was Sergeant-Major Thomas J. Little on March 16th. Lieutenant William Howard Cary, pictured at left, served along side his two brothers in the 13th Mass;  Captain Joe Cary, and Sergeant Sam Cary.  Sam was commissioned 2nd Lt. in 1863.

     Rounding out the officers, mysterious Captain Shriber of Company ‘I’ was away from the regiment at General Bank’s Headquarters since late October, worming his way into a Major’s commission with the First Maryland Cavalry.  First Lieutenant Moses Palmer of Company ‘I’ was acting captain, assisted by the very capable 2nd Lieutenant David L. Brown.  Palmer signed his official correspondence prior to the date of his commission "1st Lieutenant, commanding Co. I."  Palmer had a long wait before his official commission as captain materialized on August 15th, 2 weeks before the battle of 2nd Bull Run.

For those trying to keep track, the 13th Mass., had the following officer line-up in the spring of 1862:

Company A - Captain James Fox (away on recruiting duty); 1st Lieutenant Samuel Neat (commanding company); 2nd Lieutenant vacant, (to be filled by Jacob A. Howe ?).

Company B - Captain Joseph Cary; 1st Lieutenant George Bush; 2nd Lieutenant A. N. Sampson.

Company C - Captain William H. Jackson; 1st Lieutenant John Sanderson; 2nd Lieutenant Walter H. Judson. (Judson may have been seriously ill at this time).

Company D - Captain Augustine Harlow; 1st Lieutenant William H. Cary, (brother of Capt. Joseph Cary); 2nd Lieutenant Thomas J. Little (?).

Company E - Captain John G. Hovey; 1st Lieutenant Joseph Colburn; 2nd Lieutenant Edwin Frost.

Company F - Captain Henry Whitcomb; 1st Lieutenant Abel H. Pope; 2nd Lieutenant Charles F. Morse, (Morse would become Captain, (commissary of subsistence) and remain with the supply train at Winchester, during the regiment’s campaigning).

Company H - Captain William L. Clarke; 1st Lieutenant Elliot C. Pierce; 2nd Lieutenant Francis Jenks, (Jenks resigned the end of April).

Company I - Captain R.C. Shriber, (away at HQ); 1st Lieutenant Moses P. Palmer (commanding company); 2nd Lieutenant David L. Brown.

Company K - Captain Charles H. Hovey, 1st Lieutenant William B. Bacon; 2nd Lieutenant Charles B. Fox.

After this point in time it becomes difficult to determine the line-up of officers present in any one company without the complete muster rolls.

NOTES: For more information on Captain Shriber and Captain Charles Hovey, see the Harper’s Ferry page of this website. [1861 > Harpers Ferry].
References used for this article include Massachusetts Adjutant Generals Report, 13th Regiment; Letters of John B. Noyes Ms 2332 (27 ) & (28); Diary of Sam Webster, Huntington Library; Charles Barnard Fox to Rev, Thomas Bayley Fox, letterbook, 28 June 1862, Fox Family Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society; also notes from a letter of Elliot C. Pierce to his sister, 3 August 1862, Thayer Family Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society; Gilder-Lehrman Collection, GLC03393.35 Joseph Colburn to Colonel Leonard, 27 February 1862.  Letters From Two Brothers Serving in the War for the Union, (Warren H. Freeman); Three Years with Company K, Austin C. Stearns; Three Years with the Army, Charles E. Davis, Jr.; 13th Regiment Association Circulars, 1888-1922; correspondence with Richard Humphrey, historian of Co. I; and several soldiers letters in the collection of the author.

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The Williamsport Ladies Grand Concert

Letter of John B. Noyes, Company B, February 22nd

      The following interesting letter gives news about town and describes some characters found thereabouts.  Mentioned are the following members of Co. B; Corporal Charles H. Mayo; age, 28, conductor; Private Joseph Chandler; age 32, farmer; Private George E. Mecuen; age, 19; jeweler;  Lt. Elliot C. Pierce, friend of Col. Leonard;  Adjt. David H. Bradlee, age 34,  (a man who apparently knew his duties well, but Noyes thinks very little of him).  Captain Joseph S. Cary, age 29; merchant tailor;  2nd Lt. Augustus N. Sampson, age 22, clerk, (Provost Marshall of Williamsport);  Corporal Charles F. Russel; age 32, mechanic, Co. A;  Corporal Robert Armstrong, Company B;.  (Charles E. Davis, Jr. wrote extensively about Corp’l Armstrong in the circulars.  He apparently had a wonderful bass singing voice, was a man of culture and had the ability to charm anyone out of money or anything else that he wanted.);  Dick White is Hospital Steward John H. White; age 23; born, Boston; apothecary. Co. B; (White led the 13th Mass Glee club);  Lt. Hovey is John G. Hovey, age 33; now Captain of Company E.  The concert given in town was not too well attended by the soldiers as they were under marching orders and couldn't get a pass from camp.  Only those from Company B, posted in the town were able to attend the concerts.

Ms Am 2332 (28a) "By permission of the Houghton Library, Harvard University."

Sharplers Store, about 3 miles above
Williamsport Md., Feb’y 22d 1862

Dear Martha,
Corporal Mayo       Last Thursday I came to this store with Corpl. Mayo, Chandler & Mecuen to do night picket duty.  Tomorrow I shall again return to Wmport. Your undated letter, with mothers of the 17th reached me yesterday.  I had been expecting it for a fortnight as Father intimated in his letter of the 5th inst. that you were about to write.  I had just concluded to wait no longer when I received your interesting epistle.  In a letter to George of the 13th inst. which he may not have shown you I stated that as there was nothing of importance in fathers note I would answer it in my letter to you.  But as your, and, mother’s letters are so full of interesting matter I am at fault.  The next time I will answer father’s note promptly, and let other notes take care of themselves.  A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. 

     The staid town of Williamsport is still as staid as ever.  There is little or no gayety at this place as in Hancock.  There friends were friends and were seen in each other’s houses.  Here although the people are very cordial, still you never meet them at each other’s houses; and this although the best families in the place are nearly related to each other.  The nearest approach to gayety, which I have seen here took place last week.  There are two or three quite pretty churches (for Md.) in this town which are not in the best financial circumstances.  

     The Rev. Mr. Lepley discourses to the Lutherans.  Of late the most spirited, if not the most telling portion of his discourses has been devoted to drumming his congregation. Now it so happens that Lepley, rather a dull preacher, not young, somewhat straitened in means, was a Unionist from the start.  This alienated from him the richest portion of his congregation who were secession sympathizers.  Hence Mar lachrymas.  

     The Rev. Mr. Russell of the Presbyterian Church raised a company of cavalry.  Father will recollect him as making a masterly retreat when Jackson advanced upon Hancock.  This church wishing to raise the wind determined upon having a concert which was managed by the younger portion of the congregation.  A few men in the Reg’t. styling themselves the 13th Glee Club had given a couple of concerts at Hagerstown which were very popular and successful.  How would a concert do in Williamsport ?  Nothing but the grand concert by the young ladies’ was talked of for a week !  Of course I was for it.  

     There was a rehearsal at Dr. Weissels on the 12th inst. at which all the “top” was present.  I was somewhat surprised to find that one lady was the only representative from Williamsport in the ladies’ grand concert !  As Lt. Pierce; late Sergt. Major, was one of the principal performers, Col. Leonard his particular friend was of course present with Adjt. Bradley, Capt. Cary, a minor performer & Lt. Sampson of Co. B.  These were the big bugs.  Two or three of my company, beside the performers made up the male company.  A Corporal Bob Armstrongpleasant time of course for all hands.  The next Eve’g. a rehearsal in the Presbyterian Church, the company the same.  Next night to that the grand concert !  Of course the band discoursed sweet music.  Miss Laura Shoop sang one or two pieces with Lieut. Pierce, Corp. Russel Co. A., Corp’l Armstrong Co. B. & Dick White Co. B. who were the chief performers.  Among other pieces the “Murmuring Sea”  “The Sexton” “The Moon behind the hill” & “Mother dear” were particularly noticeable.  A medley to the accompaniment of a guitar by Lt. Pierce & Yankee Doodle by Miss ---- of Hagerstown, an instrumental piece solicited great applause.   The “Spanish Retreat” by the band was also capital.  After the concert an onset was made upon the bountifully supplied tables.  Roast pig, fowl, oysters & ice cream stood but a poor show before the members of our Company who par excellance understood the town ropes.  I forgot to say that the church was decorated, which of course could not have been done without hands.  The next Eve’g. Saturday, 2d night of the festival closed the performances.  Then all was still in Warsaw.

     The town has been very quiet of late.  February 4th ‘Lamon’s Brigade’ that nominated nothing left Williamsport for Baltimore & now the “brigade” is no more.  The four companies or parts of companies and the two cavalry companies which constituted it are now attached to other brigades.  Kennedy’s roughs & Capt. Carne’s company, dreaded company on the Virginia Border, and the cavalry away, there was peace in the streets of Williamsport, which has not since been interrupted.

     On the 12th inst. I was transferred to the picket guard of our Company which came to town about the 1st of the month.  To explain matters about 20 men are on headquarter guard, about 32 men on provost guard, and about the same number on picket duty.  Those guards are distinct from each other.  As you may infer we do about three times as much duty as any other company in the Regiment.  This is from the force of circumstances.  I go on picket every other day straight alone, Four hours duty in the day time, and four in the night, either 2 or 4 off, or 4 hours on, 1st eight hours off.  At this post up the river, away from barracks, I go on but 3 hours every night, between 9 P.M. and 6 A.M.  In camp you have to do guard duty but about once a week.  There is little poetry about picket duty, in winter, especially when it comes so often.

     Some excitement was created in our camp about a week ago when it was rumored that a part of our Regiment was to be transferred to a Mass. or N.E. Regiment organizing to take part in the Mississippi Expedition.  Only about a dozen men left which I believe included was the limited number for our Reg’t.  Of those volunteering to go, it somehow happened that the choice in almost all cases fell upon confirmed “rummies” who had often enlivened the usually dull guard house.

     Camp and town have hardly ceased to talk about the mysterious flotilla of some 50 empty canal boats which were towed down the canal last Tuesday.  All that is known by the boatman is that they were in the employ of the Government.  Whether the boats are to be used to construct bridges, or for purposes of transportation – and at what place a bridge is to by built & if any, these are the questions propounded at the corner of the streets and the pot houses.  These questions unsettled, the town is again thrown into a hub bub as to whether there are 400 rebel deserters in Berkely Co. Va., who are coming over to our side to fight our battles.  Who shall decide when doctors disagree ?  Our Co. & Reg’t. are now particularly exercised as to whether we are to move to Dixie before the middle of next week.  It is said that the Col., a cautious man, has expressed an opinion that we shall be in Martinsburgh by that time.  Vague rumors of 5 days rations, started perhaps five days too soon, are current, & the Col’s calculations and surmises may after all be knocked into the middle of next week.

     Meanwhile content to leave or stay I’ll let the world wag day by day.

     Again it is reported and perhaps with some truth, that we are to lose Lieut. Hovey who is  to take command of Co. E, Viz(?) Capt. Pratt resigned, and the men are anxious lest an old sergeant of our Co., now Commisary Serg’t., never much liked, should oust our orderly sergeant, the choice of the men.  This anxiety is probably not much lessened when they go George E. Mecuento draw the two pair of warm woolen socks sent to us by Hovey & Co, and knit by the ladies of Boston(?); for faith they are big enough for those Maine giants the papers talked of and would make passable drawers.  Speaking of socks that last pair of mother’s, and indeed all the others fit to a t , which stands for tippet, alias scarf which agrees very well with my neck these damp nights.  And talking about the way to keep warm I want you to thank Martha Brattles again for her mittens which are ne plus ultra.  They are my vade mecum.  And mecum suggests Mecuen to whom I gave her other pair of mittens, which I notice are on the desk before me indicative of his likeing them well.  I see that I have got to the end of my second sheet, and I seldom trespass further on anybody’s patience; but as I haven’t yet got to your letter I suppose I shall have to blot another sheet; and as I have now plenty of room before me I will tell you how I got this paper and “them envelopes.”

I have quite a stock of large size French paper left, but I was hard up for envelopes, when the 25 (cents) portfolio  package venders came round.  Each package contains 18 sheets paper & 18 envelopes & “one beautiful article of jewelry.”  I bought one package containing “one [extraordinarily beautiful ] beautiful article of jewelry “which I immediately exchanged with a by-stander for his package minus the expensive jewelry, and while I am about it (when shall I get to your letter) I will tell a story.

     I was on guard at the Potomac Hotel.  One Gen. Olvert occasionally comes there to moisten his tongue now dried by years sixty and five.  A man stood on the porch of the hotel selling packages of paper without jewelry, the purchaser drawing his jewelry , if lucky by lottery, with a chance of drawing a five dollar bill, which was of course never drawn.  Olbert drew paper & a breast pin. He carried that breast pin home, told his wife he had drawn it in a lottery and asked her to give it to his daughter.  His wife thought it was pure gold, and gave him a quarter to try his luck again.  He drew a box of blacking & sleeve buttons; sold the buttons for 20 cents, and the blacking for a glass of apple brandy.  When he got home he told his wife who asked him what he drew that he only drew a blank that time.  Olbert was crowing over the men minus their quarters risked for the five dollar note, saying that instead of losing anything he had made a quarter by the operation.   The quarter was of course soon gone.

     I am glad to hear you have been enjoying yourself so much lately.  I should have liked to have been at Sarah Reid’s.  Her parties are always so sociable.  Give her my regards when you see her again.  I haven’t had a sleigh ride this winter; the snow melting here as fast as it falls, serving only to make mud.  Else I should have taken a trip to Hancock before this.  You must read “love and skates” by Theo. Winthorp in Jan. & Feb. Atlantic.  I should like to read Cecil Dreeme, & John Brent. (two other books by Winthorp) But good books don’t penetrate these remote places. Not a Harper or Atlantic even is probably taken in Williamsport.  “Great Expectations” has been floating round the messes of our company but I have not read it.  I am glad to see you are taking some interest in polite literature.  A portion of a young ladies spare time spent in good novel reading is not ill spent.  Henry Gardines has gone to Ship Island then I should hardly like to go there.  Did you see his Regiment ?  They are reported to be a fine looking set of men.  I am sorry to hear of Lizzy Coyman’s sickness.  What is her illness  ?  Does the Dr. Despair of her ?  I hope the Dr. will be poor judge then this time, & that she may be saved.  Annie is engaged to Wolcott is she not ?   I am not sure whether she is or not.  What could have possessed Holland and Gannet to go on such a wild goose expedition as theirs to Port Royal.  Men in these parts who teach grammar school and are considered very good teachers, say “thence apples are sweet” straight a long.  Are darkies better than white men ? that these cultivated scholars should waste their talents on such barren soil?   I have seen enough of Southern darkies, free slave, and contraband to say no to any such journey.  Perhaps however the journey may be for the best.  Experience is a good teacher.  It may save them from future similar actions.  I will try to have my photograph taken before long.  Has yours been taken yet ?  Is Emily Greenough, late daughter of the late Alfred Greenough of Boston Fannie Greenoughs cousin, & the girl we used to know.  Hoppen will of course know.  A handkerchief would go with a Journal for two cents.  As I had some extra expenses this winter, such as boots &c I concluded to remit no money this time.  I am now largely in funds, and shall remit a portion of my net two months pay, if nothing intervenes.  I do not know Rice of Co. K.  Letters from Uncle John and Stephen lately received.  Both well.

     With Love to all the Family
                            I am Yours Affectionately
                                 John B. Noyes.

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The John Brown Bell - Revisited

Mrs. Elisabeth Ensminger

     When at Harper's Ferry, members of Company I secured from the grounds of the ruined Federal Arsenal, the bell from the little engine house known as "John Brown's Fort."  They intended to ship it home to the Marlboro, Mass. Volunteer Fire Department, Torrent Engine Company #1.     They brought the bell to Williamsport when they re-joined the regiment on October 31st.   Here they made the acquaintance of William Ensminger, who with his wife, owned and managed two or three canal boats.   Lysander Parker continues the story: 

John Brown Bell "Mrs. Ensminger, being an excellent cook, we engaged her to bake the bread for our comany while we remained.  Opinions there as well as at Harper's Ferry concerning the War, were about equally divided.  The Union and Confederate armies were constantly being recruited from both centres.  The war spirit was in the air and something must be done with the bell. Unlike the ark of the covenant, it was too heavy to carry in our wanderings.  Our salaries, eleven dollars per month, were hardly sufficient to enable us to ship the bell to Marlboroough, and at the same time meet the demands of the sutler when pay day came around. We finally madea a trade with Mr. Ensminger to care for the bell until called for."

     Company I crossed the river, and in the hard campaigning that followed they forgot about the bell, or assumed it had been disposed of.  The bell would remain with Mrs. Ensminger, who protected it, for 30 years.

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News In Camp

     Good news was well received in camp.  On Feburary 12th Major Jacob Parker Gould called the brigade together to announce the latest success of General Burnside's expedition in North Carolina.  Burnside's Federals took Roanoke Island Febrary 8th causing 2,000 Confederates to surrender.  On February 10th the Federals fought successfully at Elizabeth City, North Carolina, destroying a rebel fleet and capturing the head of an important inland waterway to Virginia.  Major Gould assembled the men and called for 3 cheers to celebrate. The fall of Fort Donelson was reported in camp on February 17th.  The long roll was beaten, and again the men assembled to hear the good news. Two or three guns were fired in celebration.  The Union successes "fill the hearts of the troops and the Union men here, refugees, and others with joy and satisfaction;" so wrote John Noyes to his brother.  In the town of Williamsport, the band assembled and played a few national airs. Members of Company B cheered as did the townspeople gathered about.  Some expressed their belief the war would be over by July. 

     On February 14th about a dozen men of the 13th Mass left camp to be transferred to the Navy. "Of those volunteering to go, it somehow happened that the choice in almost all cases fell upon confirmed 'rummies' who had often enlivend the usually dull guard house."  Clarence H. Bell wrote about the event in an 1883 article for Bivouac Magazine, "there came a call from the Capitol for volunteers to man the gunboats on the Mississippi.  This call was especially designed to weed out the seamen from the army, and to assign them to their proper sphere of duty, on the water.  About a dozen were accepted from the regiment...'  Bell speculates that the men were coaxed into transfering if not outright threatened.  The superiors "must have heaved a huge sigh of relief as the little squad of military sailors disappeared down the road."  

     On February 20th a soldier from Company G, Charles Holmes, died at Williamsport.  On the 22nd the regiment celebrated George Washington's Birthday.

Letter of Warren H. Freeman, Washington's Birthday

  WILLIAMSPORT, MD., February 23, 1862

Dear Father, - I have just received the large box you sent me from West Cambridge; the contents of apples, doughnuts, sponge-cake, mice-pies, snaps, cough-candy, raisins, etc., and one quart currant wine (for the sick I suppose) were all in good order.  The boys praised mother highly for her skill in making doughnuts; they said they were the best that had been received yet; everything relished finely, and I thank you many times for this acceptable present.

      We celebrated Washington’s birthday yesterday by firing a salute of thirty-four guns, part of them from the thirty-two pounder that we captured at Bolivar;  also fired two shells from this gun; they were cut with ten-second fuse so as to burst in the air; they exploded over the Potomac.  We then formed a battalion and marched to the centre of the town for a drill; it was very muddy, but we had quite a number of double quick movements that started the sweat out freely; after this we went though with dress parade.  We have a very fine band, one of the best in the service.

     It is very uncertain when we shall move from this camp; you probably know as much about it as I do. When we do leave, it will probably be at short notice; but I shall leave my letter open for a day or two for some more news to write, as it is evident there is something in the wind.

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Preparing to Advance

     On February 22nd Col. Leonard indicated the regiment would be in Martinsburg by next week.  Col. Leonard was not a man to start rumors. The 12th Indiana Regiment was in town ready to cross with the 13th.  Everything looked like action.  The soldiers made preparations and eagerly awaited orders to advance. General Banks's forces re-occupied Harper's Ferry on the 24th.  But there were delays.  A severe storm the night of February 24th swelled the river and may have held up the advance from Williamsport. On the 25th Lt. Sampson took a squad of 25 men from Company B across the river to scout for Confederate Cavalry seen on the hills opposite Williamsport. They learned a party of about 20 Rebel Cavalry had come down the Pike from Martinsburg.  The squad continued on until they learned the Cavalry force had drove off the stock of a Union man now seeking refuge in Williamsport.  The Confederates had 2-3 hours start, so the 13th Mass squad returned to quarters; (well supplied with chickens and turkeys consfiscated on the march).  The following day, February 26th Company D crossed the river to Virginia on a reconnaissance. They scoured the countryside but found no Rebels and returned to quarters.

Letter of Charles Leland, Company B, February 27th

Charles Leland

     Charles E. Leland of Chelsea, enlisted with several of his school-mates into the 13th Massachusetts Volunteers in 1861. His letters home appear on the internet now and then, for sale at auction houses.  The roster lists his age at 18, but records accompanying the letters state Leland was 16 when he enlisted. I have made transcriptions of as many of his letters as possible.  I own the original of the following letter.  Corporal George Worcester, age 22 was Charles' friend, and a friend of Charles' father.  Worcester kept an eye on young Leland for his dad.  In the following letter Charles describes what he will carry on the impending march.

Headquarters Co B 13th Regiment Mass
February 27th 1862

Dear Father
     I received your welcome letter this Am, and will try to answer it.

     I wrote you a short letter the other night, telling you that we should probably move but we did not and are here still. We shall move anyway within three days or so, and it will be for Martinsburg.

     They are fixing the bridge over the Canal and are gravelling the road down to the ferry boat.  We cannot draw any more rations, and we have got everything that we do not actually need, in our knapsacks thrown out, and packed away.  I have got an over shirt under shirt, one pair of drawers, and that small rubber blanket that you gave me, that I carry in my knapsack.

     My gray blanket, and a big rubber blanket is what I carry on the top of it.  My red one is packed away.  Towels tooth brush &c in my haversack with my rations. Around my waist I carry a knife, a revolver forty rounds of Cartridges, and a Cap box.  I also carry a canteen.

     The 22nd was observed here some, but the Marylanders did not seem to know what it meant.  The band came out and played several patriotic airs;  The weather cleared off here about four days ago, with a thunder shower, and it has been cold, and  windy ever since.  The roads are in a good condition to march.  Co D went over the other day scouting, but did not see any thing.

      I presume that we shall see fighting, soon, and I shall try to do my part.  We are taking lessons in the bayonet exercise, and can use our rifles very well.  I received my “True Flag” but it came a little late that was all.  I answered Mothers letter a few days ago, and presume that she has got it by this time. You speak to me about smoking. I do not indulge in that habit but a very little indeed, only when any one offers me a good cigar I like to smoke it.

     George Worcester sends his respect to you as also does Clark who I saw this Am.
I got an illustrated this Am, and expect the rest of them to day or tomorrow.  Write soon and direct as before and oblige your affectionate son 

     Chas E. Leland.

      I am on guard today it is windy cold, The Indiana 12th are here and have got orders to pack up, and be in readiness to march to night.
     Love to all.

      Write soon and oblige.

Letter of Edwin Rice, 13th Mass., Band

February 28th 1862

Sis Viola,
     I thought I would improve the few spare moments that we shall have before entering ‘Dixie’ by writing a few lines to you.  We have been under orders to march since Monday and expected that we should have been in Martinsburg if not Winchester before now.  Tuesday night we expected to march as much as could be, the Colonel hinted as much. But this afternoon Tom received orders to be ready to march tomorrow with two days’ rations.  Some of the teams are to follow on after us with three days more. All unnecessary baggage is to be left behind.  The Band are not to carry anything except blankets.  The soldiers are not to carry but a very little in their knapsacks.

     Some of Co B have just come in from monthly inspection and say that the colonel told them that they had got to march tomorrow certain and perhaps before morning. The weather is pleasant, cool, and very windy.  The wind has been blowing very strong since yesterday morning.

     The 12th Indiana Regiment is here and is to cross the river with us and it is reported that two companies of cavalry and one of artillery are to cross too, but I don’t know as it is true or not as I have not seen any of them.  The cavalry and artillery that have been here, were ordered away two or three weeks ago.

     Workmen have been repairing the road today down to the ferry boat, which is the only thing to cross with, and that will not carry only a company at one time.

     Wednesday evening the Band played at a concert in the Lutheran church for the benefit of the society. The 12th Indiana band was also there, and the glee club from our regiment.  Did not have a very full house.  The getters up expected there would be a great many soldiers present, and there probably would have been if they could have got passes but as they were under orders to march, none were given.

     Monday evening we played a few pieces at a lecture in the Methodist church. The lecture was a very fine one and was delivered by a gentleman from Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania.  The subject was ‘Shall the Union be Perpetual’.  It contained some very strong union sentiment but did not say anything at all of politics.

     Have not received a letter from you for two weeks. Don’t suppose you have much time to write. Received one from Mother last evening. My health continues good and hope yours does, but am afraid that you work much too hard from what you write. I weighed this morning 180 pounds.

     I send with this a photograph of Colonel Leonard.  Crosby had some full length of him but they were not as good as this which I think is a very good one.  After you have looked at it enough you can send it to Mother or keep it till you go home. The writing on the back is mine not the colonel’s.

   The weather now is just right for a forward movement.  It would be better if the wind did not blow so strong.

   The fight at Fort Donelson seems to have been pretty severe on both sides. I read this morning an extract of a letter in the Baltimore American written by a captain in one of the Illinois regiments to his father.  He wrote that out of his company only 8 could be accounted for and only 140 out of the whole regiment.  The rest were killed or wounded. This is the dark side of a brilliant victory.

      I don’t think of anything more to write this time.
                    Yours Truly,
                              Edwin Rice


From "Three Years in the Army" by Charles E. Davis, Jr.; Boston; Estes & Lauriat, 1894:

     "It seems proper at this point to say a word or two about our experience in Maryland. We found the people cordial in their greeting and very hospitable, except in cases where the sentiment was against the Union. It meant a good deal to express Union sentiments or do acts of kindness to soldiers as they marched through the country when some watchful person stood ready to turn infomer as soon as the enemy approached.  Many were the acts of kindness done to soldiers worn out with fatigue or overcome with the heat of the sun. Though thirty years have passed, we have not forgotten how much the Union people of Maryland did to lessen the hardships of solders.  When we crossed the river we entered the land of our foes, where the cheers and kind wishes of the people were reserved for those who had their love and sympathy."

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Page Updated February 5, 2011.