On The Rappahannock

Part 3; The Consequences of Deserting

August - September, 1863

A.R. Waud's sketch of the execution of 5 deserters.  1/2 panel missing.

The Army of the Potomac - Execution of Five Deserters, near Beverly Ford, August 29, 1863.  Sketched by A. R. Waud.  One half of this sketch is missing, but the engraving from the entire sketch appears in the text below.

Table of Contents


There really wasn't much going on in the infantry camps of the Army of the Potomac at this time.  The army sat tight along the line of the Rappahannock River while newly drafted men arrived at the front to swell the ranks.  This introduced an unruly element into the Army of the Potomac, and desertions surged.   What followed was a slew of military executions by firing squad, as a deterrent, but it seemed to be ineffective.  The veterans were certainly stirred by the gruesome display, yet regardless, the bounty jumpers continued to desert hroughout the autumn months.

Taking advantage of the lull in the war, General Meade's old Pennsylvania Division decided to honor him with a beautiful presentation sword made at Tiffany's in New York City.  President Lincoln was invited to the ceremony but did not attend.  Lincoln's ambiguous feelings toward Meade are reflected in the following brief correspondence between himself and Major-General Oliver O. Howard.


Headquarters Eleventh Corps, rm
Army of the Potomac

Near Berlin, July 18 1863.

To the President
                    of the United States


Major General Oliver Otis Howard

                                     Having noticed in the newspapers the certain statements bearing upon the battles of Gettysburg and subsequent operation which I deem calculated to convey a wrong impression to your mind, I wish to submit a few statements.  The successful issue of the battle of Gettysburg was due mainly to the energetic operation of our present Commanding General prior to the engagement and to the manner in which he handled his troops on the field.  The reserves have never before during this  war been thrown in at just the right moment, in many cases when points were just being carried by the enemy a regiment or brigade appeared to stop his progress and hurl him back.  Moreover I have never seen a more hearty co operation on the part of the General officers as since General Meade took the Command.

As to not attacking the enemy prior to leaving his stronghold beyond the Antietam, it is by no means certain that the repulse of Gettysburg might not have been turned upon us; at any rate the Commanding General was in favor of an immediate attack but with the evident difficulties in our way the uncertainty of a success and the strong Convictions of our best military minds against the risk, I must say, that I think the General acted wisely.

As to my request to make a re-Connoisssance on the morning of the 14th which the papers state was refused; the facts are, that the General had required me to reconnoitre the evening before and give my opinion as to the practicability of making a lodgment on the enemy’s left, and his answer to my subsequent request was, that the movements he had already ordered would subserve the same purpose.

We have, if I may be allowed to say it, a Commanding General in whom all the officers, with whom I have come in contact, express Complete Confidence.  I have said this much because of the censure an do fate misrepresentations which have grown out of the escape of Lee’s army.

Very Resp’y                                 
your ob’t servant
O.O. Howard
Maj Genl

President Lincoln, photographed 8-9-63

Abraham Lincoln to Oliver O. Howard, Tuesday, July 21, 1863.

Executive Mansion

Washington, July 21, 1863.

My dear General Howard

Your letter of the 18th is received — I was deeply mortified by the escape of Lee across the Potomac, because the substantial destruction of his army would have ended the war and because I believed, such destruction was perfectly easy — believed that Gen. Meade and his noble army had expended all the skill, and toil, and blood, up to the ripe harvest, and then let the crop go to waste — Perhaps my mortification was heightened because I had always believed — making my belief a hobby possibly — that the main rebel army going North of the Potomac, could never return, if well attended to; and because I was so greatly flattered in this belief, by the operations at Gettysburg — A few days having passed, I am now profoundly grateful for what was done, without criticism for what was not done — Gen. Meade has my confidence as a brave and skillful officer, and a true man.

Yours very truly
A. Lincoln 

General Samuel Crawford, who led a brigade in a gallant charge at the Battle of Cedar Mountain, August 9, 1862, who was wounded at Antietam, and who led the Pennsylvania Reserves (Meade's old command) in a crucial charge at  Gettysburg, invited the President to a sword presentation in camp.

Brigadier-General Samuel Crawford

Headquarters Penna. Reserves,
 Camp near Rapck Va
August 24, 1863

To the                           

Dear Sir

I have been requested by the Committee of Presentation to solicit the honor of your company at the presentation of a sword by the Officers of the Pa Reserve Corps to Major Genl. Meade on Friday next at five bells at these Hd. Quarters

I have the honor to be
              Very respectfully your ob servant
                                                      S.W. Crawford

The sword presentation celebration made a big impression, for better or worse, for those who witnessed it.

And so, presented here, is an eclectic narrative of this brief period of rest along the Rappahannock River.  Reports from the newspapers set the scene while news from the “13th Mass,” comes steadily from the reports of correspondent “CLARENCE.”     A few varied letters from “13th Mass” soldiers, Corporal George Spaulding,  Charles W. Manning, and Warren H. Freeman, add a personal perspective to the details.

PICTURE CREDITS:  All images are from the Library of Congress Digital Images Collection with the following exceptions. The cartoon sketch of Gen. Grant, by Wallace Tripp, Marguerite, Go Wash Your Feet, Houghton Miflin Co., Boston, 1985;  Portrait of Alexander Boteler from Wikipedia;  Women reading a letter, Sword Presentation to General Meade, Execution of 5 Deserters, from Harper's Weekly, September 26, 1863;  accessed digitally at [sonofthesouth.net];  General Meade's Presentation Sword from Civil War Museum of Philadelphia, www.civilwarmuseumphila.org];   Illustration of school teacher [Mrs. Fogg, section] is by Frederick Steele Dorr from Library of Congress, Cabinet of American Illustration Collection; Sketch of the Running Soldier is by Adolf Metzner is from The Civil War Sketches of Adolf Metzner, (1861-64) at The Public Domain Review, [publicdomainreview.org];  Portrait of Charles Manning, Company B is author's personal collection, courtesy of Mr. Scott Hann; Portraits of Colonel T. F. McCoy, Captain Augustine Harlow, Company H, and Captain Jacob A. Howe Company A, Captain Morton Tower, Company B, and Colonel Samuel H. Leonard, are from the Mass. MOLLUS collection of digital photographs at the Army Heritage Education Center, AHEC, Carlisle, PA;  Post-war Portraits of Lieutenant Robert B. Henderson, Sergeant Warren H. Freeman, & Sergeant Charles R. Drew, all of Company A, are the authors personal collection courtesy of Mr. Tim Sewell;  Frank Leslie's illustration of the Adam's Express Company Office is from Frank Leslie's "The Soldier in Our Civil War," Stanley Bradley Publishing Co., New York, 1893;  accessed digitally at the internet archive, [archive.org/details/soldierinourcivi01lesl]; Photograph of the Allegorical Figure History, is by Stephen A. Floyd;  Portrait of Confederate Exchange Commissioner Robert Ould is from The Photographic History of the Civil War in Ten Volumes, [Vol. 7, Prisons & Hospitals, p. 101] edited by Francis Trevelyan Miller, The Review of Reviews Company,  New York, 1911. Allnthe contemporary photographs are by Bradley M. Forbush;  ALL IMAGES have been EDITED IN PHOTOSHOP.

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Poem:  On The Rappahannock

War correspondent “CLARENCE” suddenly appeared in the pages of the Boston Transcript between July and October, 1863, then just as suddenly disappeard again.  The pages of the post-war Circular publications of the 13th Regiment Association, included a number of poems by veteran member Clarence Bell.    Bell recited these poems at regimental re-unions and they were later printed in the pages of the Circulars.  I think the two Clarences are one in the same, but have no proof of this.   I have geneally refrained from including poems on the website but this one seems to fit in quite nicely with this period of the regiment's story.

The subtle photographic background image is Beverly Ford on the Rappahannock River.  Once, it was the busiest river crossing of the war.  Today the road leading to the Ford is gone, and the place is inaccessable without special permission.


By Rappahannock's flowing stream,
No more the glistening bayonets gleam;
Where once the picket held his ground,
The voiceless stillness yields no sound.

No blazing camp-fire lights the wood
Where martial throngs impatient stood;
The migrant duck in peace doth feed,
Where oft the warrior reined his steed.

No bugle-call salutes the dawn,
No shot resounds at early morn;
Around the bend the eddies play-
The bubbles form and float away.

An easy task to fill the scene;
From vanished years doth fancy glean,
And memory needs no magic art
To wake its echoes in the heart.

The brazen cannon on the ridge;
Upon the flood the pontoon bridge;
While down the slope, with step so fast,
The flying columns hurry fast.

Of countless feet I hear the tread
Upon the planking stained with red;
Above the muskets, flowing free,
The banner's silken folds I see.

Again the squadrons quick advance;
Once more the chargers restless prance;
While in the air the shrieking shell
Is answered by the dying yell.

Again the youthful comrades stand,
All clad in blue, a noble band;
Again they face the leaden storm; ů
Then drinks the earth their life-blood warm.

Why should my fancy choose to roam?
My wandering thoughts I summon home;
Fair, smiling peace holds gentle sway,
Where met in strife the blue and gray.


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A Looseness in Camp

The title for this brief section, “A Looseness in Camp,” is derived from one of Charles E. Davis's comments in the “13th Mass” regimental history.  The play on words seemed to provide a common theme for a disparate goup of subjects.  A decided war-weariness could be read into all of these writings, if one consideres the common soldiers' point of view.


The New York Times expounds on the difficulty of writing history....

August 25, 1863.

The War And Its Originations.  The difficulties of writing history could hardly be better exemplified than by a comparison of the versions of the origin of the war, given by Mr. Donnell, the Speaker of the North Carolina House of Commons, and published in our columns on Wednesday, and that which is daily put forward by the rebel sympathizers at the North.  According to Mr. Donnell, who had personal cognizance of most of the steps taken “to precipitate the South into revolution,” the secession movement was due to a determination of certain Southern leaders that the South should be independent at any cost, grievance or no grievance; that they tried to convert the tariff into a pretext for separation, and, failing, fixed on Slavery as “the only question on which the South is likely to unite;” that they then agitated and intrigued in such a manner as to make Mr. Lincoln’s election a certainty; and as soon as he was elected, dragged the Southern people into a revolution upon a series of pretenses which the progress of events have all proved false, and foremost among them was the depreciation of Northern courage and tenacity.  He denies, from first to last, that the North had any share in bringing about the war, beyond the fact that it existed and furnished something to separate from, and something to fight with.

The Copperhead version of the matter is, however, that the revolution was planned by Horace Greeley, Henry Ward Beecher, William Lloyd Garrison, and a few other lecturers and editors of country newspapers; that these people found Yancey, Toombs, Davis and Wise, et hoc genus omne,  peaceably reposing on their plantations, intent upon growing cotton and leading a quiet life, and occasionally enlightening the country by a speech; that they proceeded willfully to goad these good men to madness by discourses on Slavery, delivered in New England, and articles upon it written in New York, and which nobody in the South ever read or dared to read; and that, after long and patient endurance of the infliction, these gentlemen called their countrymen to arms, as the only mode of deliverance.  [ N.Y TImes.

Lincoln on Grant; Summer, 1863

August 25, 1863.

THE RIGHT KIND OF LIQUOR.  At the late temperance convention in Saratoga, a gentleman took occasion to utter a word of caution as to the circulation of evil reports concerning the loss of battles by the intemperance of commanding generals.  He said that shortly before Vicksburg was taken, an anxious patriot went to the President to urge that General Grant should be removed from command, because he “drinks.”  Mr. Lincoln calmly inquired of the visitor if he could tell what liquor General Grant drinks.  The man could not tell what it was.

“I am sorry you can’t inform me,” said Mr. L., “for I should like to recommend some of the same kind of liquor to some other generals.  [New York Independent.

When asked about this quote, Lincoln laughed and said,  “That woud have been vey good if I had said it; but I reckon it was charged to me to give it currency.”*

Wallace Tripp sketch of General Grant

“I only know two tunes.  One of them is Yankee Doodle and the other isn't.” [Illustration by Wallace Tripp, from Marguerite, Go Wash Your Feet].

*Lincoln's response to the comment is found in Stephen B. Oates book, “With Malice Toward None,” p. 354.  Harper Collins Perennial, 1994.


GLC 2293 # 46  “Benjamin F. Cook  to Commanding Officer, 24 August, 1863.  (The Gilder Lehrman Collection. Not to be reproduced without written permission.)”

As mentioned on page 2 of this section, if you have not seen it yet, Lt-Col. N. Walter Batchelder, who was at this time commanding the “13th Mass” in the field, was not a man to be fooled with.  In the following note, three deserters are returned to the regiment by way of the military police.  Two of these  deserters were imediately sent to prison in the Tortugas Islands !  How the company D man escaped this fate I can only wonder.

Head Quarters 2d Division 1st A.C.        
August 24th 1863

Commanding Officer
                      13th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers

I have the honor of forwarding to you under Guard, three Prisoners Members of your Regiment.

Yours Respectfully,

Benjamin F. Cook    
Captain & Provost Marshal
2d Division 1st Army Corps

John Williams K
        Frank Marvis    K
        George Curtis  D

Records of these deserters from the official roster printed in the regimental history:

FRANK MAUVRIS ;  age, 27; born, Greece; mustered in as priv., Co. K, July 28, '63; deserted, Aug. 22, '63; arrested and sent to Tortugas; dropped from rolls.

JOHN WILLIAMS;  age, 32; born, Liverpool;  sailor; mustered in as priv., Co. K, July 29, '63; deserted, Aug. 22, '63; arrested, sent to Tortugas, and dropped from rolls.

GEORGE CARTIZE;  age 23; born, Corsica; ship-carpenter, mustered in as private, Co. D, July 27, ’63; transferred, July 13, ’64, to 39th Inf.

A Letter From CLARENCE

Once again, correspondent “CLARENCE” reports on the goings on in camp and at head-quarters.


1st Brig., 2d Div., 1st Corps,    
Rappahannock Station, Aug. 19th.

Charles Reed illustration of Cavalry Trooper

From the 13th Regiment.   There has been a rumor that the First Corps was to be sent to Charleston, but it has subsided, and we will probably remain where we are, for the present.  The conscripts for the Twelfth and Thirteenth regiments arrived a week since.  The regular course of daily exercises has been instituted, and the substitutes are being put through, so as to fit them for duty, on the next advance.  Many of the cavalry regiments have been allowed to visit Washington, where they procured new outfits, including horses, &c.  As the riders are unaccustomed to these new animals, they feel inclined to test their speed and racing abilities.  We have been much pleased, throughout the day, by squads of cavaliers dashing past at little short of lightning speed, amid the yells of delighted soldiers and contrabands, the first mentioned class, regretting that it was their misfortune to enlist in the pedestrian branch of the service.

All of the camps have been laid out with a view to comfort, and extensive shades of evergreens have been put up around them.  Large numbers of sutlers have arrived, and together with the Paymaster, have caused quite an accumulation of “tin ware,” which is evidence of the daintiness and prodigality of the Potomac Army, after a long campaign.  We have been enabled to procure many luxuries.  Ice has been brought down, and some enterprising individuals have opened soda water establishments.  Fresh bread is now issued daily, and also the full Army rations, which we have not had since leaving Falmouth.

Charles Reed sketch of summer camp with shaded canopy

Col. P. S. Davis, of the 39th Mass., is in command of our brigade.  About a dozen of the substitutes, belonging to this regiment, have “vamosed the ranch,” so a strict surveillance is kept over the remainder.  A few days since, at roll-call, about 40 of them were missing, but were nearly all discovered in the woods, engaged in gambling.  One of the squad, belonging to the Twelfth regiment, burst into Gen. Baxter’s tent, on the night of their arrival, and offered him two dollars of  “good square drink.”

A member of the 16th Maine was drowned yesterday, while bathing in the river, and the funeral services were very impressive.  In the procession which accompanied the body to the grave, were three negroes, and the genuine sorrow which they exhibited could not fail to be remarked.  Gen. Baxter is now in command of this Division, as Gen. Robinson has gone to Washington.

 The “detail” for conscripts left yesterday for Boston.  All the sick are to be sent to Washington, and knapsacks are to be issued.  The late marches have been so severe that very few men have any surplus clothing, and nine out of ten have but the clothes on their backs.  When these become soiled, it is customary to wash them, and while they are drying in the sun, to adopt the costume of Adam.  We have great confidence in Gen. Meade, and have no doubt but that he will finally lead us on to victory and Richmond.  He is our man now.  The health of the regiment has been much improved.



Alexander Boteler

The soldiers of the 13th Mass,  first encountered Mr. Alexander Boteler in August, 1861, when they were picketing the Potomac River opposite Shepardstown.  The eager soldiers had been at the front less than a month.  They arrested Boteler at his home, taking him forcibly, on August 11th.  Colonel Leonard kept him under a arrest for a day, then released him according to war policies from higher ups.  His release riled the gung-ho recruits of Company E, who had made the arrest.  James Ramsey wrote home:

“When we had taken Alexander Boetler and had exposed our lives doing so and then to see him set at liberty the men all felt like going home two of them have gone already.  He is the biggest rebel leader in Virginia.  When the people heard that our company had captured him they were all glad of it.  In Sharpsburg the people raised the stars and stripes.  Everybody said we had got the right man.  He had ordered the bridge across the Potomac river at Sheppardstown to be burnt.  All of the people in the vicinity dislike the Col. for giving him his liberty.  Our company all hate him.” — James Ramsey, letter to his mother, August 15, 1861.

Boteler's sentiments were opposed to Secession, but feeling he should support the cause of Virginia, he became a Confederate Colonel, and congressman.

From the Regimental History, Three Years in the Army” by Charles E. Davis, Jr., Estes & Lauriat, Boston, 1894:

Our old friend Boteler, whom we captured in the summer of 1861, and who we thought was not particularly interested in a prosecution of the war, seems to have acquired considerable sanguinary animosity after his release by General Banks, at Sharpsburg, August, 1861, according to the following letter:

Headquarters Cavalry Division,     
August 19, 1863.

Hon. James A. Sedden, Secretary of War:

Sir:  In a conversation with Major Mosby, the partisan leader, I suggested to him the use of Rains’ percussion torpedoes on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad.  He cordially approved of the suggestion, and requested me to write to you for a supply of the explosives in question.  If, therefore, you concur with us in thinking that much damage may be done to the enemy by means of these bombs placed beneath the rails of that particular road, which is used exclusively for the transportation of troops and army supplies, you will confer a favor upon Major Mosby by ordering him to be supplied with them immediately.


P.S. — General Stuart suggests that some one acquainted with the use of the torpedoes be sent up with them, as they are dangerous things in unskilful hands.

The war years were hard on Mr. Boteler.  Soldiers of Company E, burned his mill the night of August 18, 1861, to prevent enemy sharpshooters from using it for cover.  In June, 1864, Union General David Hunter burned Boteler's home to the ground.


From the Regimental History:

In an order received from brigade headquarters to-day [August 27] occurs the following paragraph:

II.  A looseness and carelessness has been observed by guards and sentinels.  Officers on duty are particularly required to correct every departure from the Regulations.  Sentinels will not be allowed to sit, read, or talk on their posts, or bring their pieces to an order; but will habitually walk their posts, always vigilant, strictly observing and enforcing orders.  At “retreat” the Officer of the Guard will parade and inspect his guard.

Edwin Forbes Sketch of soldiers walking picket

Charles E. Davis, Jr., concludes:

We did observe a “looseness and carelessness,” as the brigade commander says, though it was in brigade orders, of which the paragraph just quoted is a sample.


This curious letter of Company D Corporal George Spaulding, came to me by way of an auction house.  The entire letter consists of Spaulding flirting through the mail with the unknown friend of a friend. Why not?  I'm sure it added a bit of interest to the passage of time.  Perhaps more correspondence from George will come my way one day, and add another dimension to his character.

The writing style is sometimes a bit difficult to follow.  But then again, the resolution of the letter scans was low, so any ambiguity in the interpretation was difficult to reconcile.

Camp Hd Quar Guards 1st A.C.
Near Rappahannock Station Va
August 27th 1863

Miss Searles,

Harper's Weekly Valentine illustration, two women; one has a letter

Through the kindness of our mutial friend Miss Stone, I was favored a few days since with a letter from your pen. Though unknown to me except that you have the confidence of one with whom I have long been aquainted is assurance enough for me that after receiving your kind favor to justify me in a reply.  Had you furnished me with your name I should addressed this to you by mail, but as you thought best to do as you have I shall return my reply in a similar way, I having writen Miss S last evening, shall enclose this with hers.  As I have said you were unknown, but your sympathy for that class of persons with which I am at present associated has in part prompted me to answer your's.  I do not as many do thinck, that the soldiers life is the worst one that a person can engage in though at times their sufferings and privations are very great, and not as the saying is  — “always gay” but do not thinck I should ever chose it as my ocupation for life.

  It is now two years and more since I entered the service, for the purpose of aiding to the extent of my ability, in putting down this 'rebelion',  so far I have done my duty as far as I know it,  during that time I have experienced what I have not a heart to again.  I have been in five battles besides several skirmishes, so far have escaped unhurt for which I thank God, and now I think I can see the end of this strife and that ere this winters frosts shall be upon us, we shall all be made happy by seeing that emblim of our happiness thrown to the brease, from every state which once comprised our glorious union, and once again We shall all stand side by side in the defence of our nations honor against any power who may chose to array them-selves in oposition to our government.

Gettysburg, Vicksburg and Port Hudson have given the signal for justness and now Charleston is ready to recho the cry when it will be left this army (the ridicule of the world) to close the scene.  We are now being strengthen daily and when the hour shall arrive, (God speed it) that the order is to be given for us to meet the enimy again in battle, may it prove the finishing stroke of this rebelion.  I should not object in the least if your wish in regard to the weding could be granted,  but as it is the custum now adays to have that only when some young lady axcepts the hand (not heart) of some gent “for better or for worse, till death do us part”

I fear that I shall not get the cake without some one will to accomidate me will go and throw themselves away.  perhaps you are meditating some such rash act if so, I hope you will think of me when it is time for that part of the ceremony, that is serving the cake.

Honey Polka Girl

I hope you will not have “No cake” if you dont have, “No Cards.” I have faith that I shall be in your favor.   as Blue is my color at present & No straps grace my shoulders, so far though I have thought them a prise, still if to gain them I lose your favor, I should hesatate — sure.   I can hardly sympathise with you as regards your brother, though I have one,  but tell him one is enough for Johnnie Reb to shute at out of one.

I am sorry to hear that Miss S cannot appreciate your goodness: or your graces. I can judge better weather she is to blame or not I thinck if you will be kind enough favor me with your “card de visite” so that I have a view of the day/dog who is so misjudged by her companions.  Speaking of pictures, we out here are oblige to put up thos as an excuse for a real one and therefor prise them highly for the reality is not to be found out here with us. I have only seen one lady since we left Md last month so you can judge what kind of beings we must be  — remaining in that state constantly, for all admit that the society of the fair sex is necessary to the refinement of the rougher portion of humanity.

This letter is a faire example of the wild fellow that I am  — but should you feel so disposed, I should be happy to continue this correspondence with the hope that we may at no distant day meet when we may become better acquainted.

And with thanks for your kindness I remain a friend to thoes who are friends of my cause and thoes who uphold it.

Geo R. Spaulding

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General Meade's Sword Presentation, August 28, 1863

General Samuel Crawford aranged a gala sword presentation to general Meade from the officers of his old Division, the “Pennsylvania Reserves.”  President Lincoln was invited, but did not attend.  His son Robert was there, however.

Captain Roath of the 107th Pa, and Major Abner Small of the 16th Maine mention this ceremony, but the soldiers of the “13th Mass” have nary a word to say about it.   Perhaps because as “13th Mass” drummer Sam Webster once put it,  “They don't blow, now for anyone unless he earns it, and scarecely, then.”

Illustration from Harpers Weekly of Gen'l. Meade's sword presentation

The setting of the sword presentation as represented in Harper's Weekly, October 3, 1863.  Major Abner Small of the 16th Maine seems to have attended and recalls the festive scene through a dreamy gauze,  — with one poignant exception.  Staff Officer, Colonel Charles Wainwright, splashes cold water on Small's vision.

The entries for the 16th Maine Regiment come from “The Sixteenth Maine Regiment in the War of the Rebellion, 1861 - 1865,”  by Major A. R. Small, B. Thurston & Co., Portland, Maine, 1886.

Aug. 28.  There was a brilliant assemblage at General Crawford’s headquarters to witness the presentation of a superb sword to General Meade.  Governor Curtin, Generals Heintzleman, Pleasanton, French, and Meiggs, and the Presidents’s son, were present.  The surroundings of the camp were tropical, and beautiful to the eye beyond descriptions — almost oriental in display.  The pillars of the stately arches were tastefully festooned with evergreens, wild flowers, flags, and guidons, in all their bewildering variety of emblems and colors.  The streets were enchanting, the officers gorgeous in brilliant uniforms and decorations; the national colors floated from the roofs of rebel houses, and numerous bands enlivened an occasion that must have been exquisite torture to the five deserters, sentenced to be shot on the morow. While the delicious sensations of a rare gala day were traveling down the backs of men, while the officers hung up their swords in a dreamy maze, and just as men were forgetting where they were, orderlies rode down those same streets, and scattered throughout the corps compulsory orders for every command to be present and witness the execution.

From “A Diary of Battle; The Personal Journals of Colonel Charles S. Wainwright, 1861-1865” edited by Allan Nevins. (p. 277- 278).

AUGUST 29, SATURDAY.  The quiet of our life here was disturbed yesterday afternoon and evening by a grand sword presentation to General Meade by his old division, the Pennsylvania Reserves.  The sword, belt and sash were very handsome, as they should be for $1,000 — what they cost.  The arrangements, too, were very well got up, and the supper wonderfully good for the field.   From what little I have seen of General Crawford,* I should think he was just the man to enjoy getting up such a thing.

General Meade's Presentation Sword

The division headquarters are dressed with evergreens and flags; a large ornamented stage erected for the presentation, and a number of tents put up for the supper.  Crawford presented the sword in a rather highfaluting speech, and Meade replied lamely.  He need not have asserted that the reserves did not run away at Grovetown, for every one knows that most of them did; many of their own officers acknowledge it, and General Meade has cursed them for himself often enough.  But at the time he probably saw all their behavior through the jeweled hilt of the sword.  Afterward Governor Curtin and other politicians took the stand and went in on the spread-eagle order; the Governor made  a strong bid for the soldiers’ vote at the approaching election in October.

After the speeches, the supper tents were opened.  An attempt was made to get all the invited guests seated first but without entire success.  I looked at the crowd pushing and hauling to get near the tables;  saw that it was a regular scramble, and gave up all the idea of getting anything to eat myself.  As the next best thing I amused myself wandering around to watch the others, and take this opportunity to judge of the social status of our volunteer officers.  There must have been 500 officers present.  Of these, perhaps thirty were actual gentlemen; one hundred more may have had some pretensions that way; while the rest appeared little better than street blackguards.  It must be remembered, however, that by far the greater part of them were from Pennsylvania regiments, and Governor Curtin has disgraced his state by commissioning a worse class of men than any other governor.  Champagne as well as whiskey was in abundance, and soon began to tell:  such a drunken scene as ensued I never saw before.  A number of privates who had been brought in as guards were hobnobbing with their captains, holding each other up or hugging most affectionately.  The Governor’s staff of friends were no better:  an old grey-haired, baldheaded man royally drunk was standing on one of the tables singing ribald songs.  I was so disgusted and so ashamed of my uniform that I soon cleared out and wandered over to some of the staff’s tents a little removed from the center of gaiety.  Here I found one or two officers who recognized me, though I have no idea what their names were, but finding I had had no supper, one of them belonging to Crawford’s staff, and the only sober one among them, kindly went off and brought me some boned turkey and a bottle of champagne.  I left early with the orgy still going on.  Heard and Bache got home soon after; they had fared even worse than I had, not having tasted a thing.

I presume the drunkeness could not be helped, so long as the liquor was there, and men's nature will come out when they are drunk.  That being the case and the discipline of our army being what it is, the best thing to do is to have no more of such presentations until the war is over.  Livingston tells me today that there was any amount of pilfering of knives, and forks, plates, and so on (officers supplying themselves with mess furniture!), and one man with shoulder straps on was seen carrying off half a dozen bottles of champagne.

*Editor Allan Nevins' note on General Crawford says:  Samuel W. Crawford, a Pennsylvania physician by birth and training, had commanded a battery at Fort Sumter during its bombardment.  He was later promoted to be a brigadier general and commanded the Pennsylvania Reserve (thirteen infantry regiments constituting a division of three brigades) at Gettysburg.  Despite Wainwright's animadversions, these regiments fought well;  one with 394 men at Fredericksburg lost 211 killed and wounded.

Mrs. Fogg

Charles Wainwright continues to provide a counter-point to the sentiments of the 16th Maine.  Maybe it was just Wainwright, who was the crank.

From the 16th Maine:

Frederick Steele Dorr Illustration of a school teacher

Mrs. Fogg, one of the brave and self-sacrificing women of the war, visited camp today, and added to her former popularity among the men, by distributing a liberal supply of delicacies to the sick, towels and shirts to the needy, and kind and cheering words to all.

From Wainwright:

We have had a good deal of fun about a Mrs. Fogg, who is down as an agent of the Maine Sanitary Commission.  We have but one Maine regiment in the corps and two batteries;  still the woman seems to have taken them under special protection.  Lieutenant Twitchell she has made a pet of, and brought him over here to Smith’s house, where she herself was stopping.  Our doctors curse the old woman up and down as a meddling pest, doing ten times the harm that she does good.  Her bringing Twitchell over here at last excited the General’s ire, so that yesterday he ordered her out of the corps.  The sanitaries no doubt do some good — perhaps a great deal in the general hospitals and just after a big battle — but when they send women down to poke around the camps with an unlimited supply of jam and sweet cakes, they are mistaken in their zeal.  When their agents go still farther than this and attempt to run against regulations, they become a nuisance not to be borne.

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The Execution of Five Deserters

  The grim execution mentioned by Major Small ocurred on August 29th.   A soldier in the 44th New York describes the event, after which follows some comments from the “13th Mass” boys, and General Meade himself.

Charles Davis' narrative continues:

This method of exit might be called going to heaven — cross-roads.  In accordance with the following communication five deserters were shot:

Headquarters Army of the Potomac,  
August 27, 1863.

His Excellency Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States:

Walter, Rionese, Folancy, Lai, and Kuhn were to have been executed yesterday.  Their execution was postponed by my order till Saturday, the 29th, that time might be given to procure the services of a Roman Catholic priest to assist them in preparing for death.  They are substitute conscripts who enlisted for the purpose of deserting after receiving the bounty; and being the first of this class whose cases came before me, I believed that humanity, the safety of this army, and the most vital interests of the country required their prompt execution as an example, the publicity giving to which might, and, I trust in God will, deter others from imitating their bad conduct.  In view of these circumstances, I shall, therefore, inform them their appeal to you is denied.

Major-General Commanding.

Adolf Metzner Illustration of running man

Charles Davis'  continues:

If they enlisted for the purpose
of deserting, then it was their vocation.

As Falstaff said,
“Tis no sin for a man to labor in his vocation.”

The execution of these men didn’t deter
our festive cutthroats
from leaving as soon as opportunity offered.

The following newsclipping is found at the website of The New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center;  www.dmna.ny.gov.  It is also found in the regimental history of the 44th NY Volunteer Infantry, p. 335. (with some slight variations in the transcription).

Friday Evening, September 4, 1863.

Execution of Deserters. — The following letter, written by a soldier from Buffalo, and giving an account of the recent execution of five deserters will be found of melancholy interest:

Camp of the 44th N.Y. Vols.,                     
Beverly Ford, Va.,  Aug. 31, 1863.

Eds. Commercial: — Other and better pens will undoubtedly give you earlier accounts of the military execution which occurred in our Division on Saturday last;  but, knowing that no “special” occupied the “standpoint” from which these “observations” were taken, and thinking some of them may not be altogether uninteresting to you and your readers, I subjoin the following account of the shooting of five deserters from the 118th Penn. Regiment, First Brigade, First Division and Fifth Army Corps.

About a week ago it was reported through all our camps here that five conscripts or their substitutes, from Pennsylvania, had deserted on their way to the regiment to which they had been assigned, had been apprehended, tried by a court martial, sentenced to be shot, and that the sentence, approved by the President, was to be executed on Wednesday.  But Tuesday evening it was rumored that their execution had been postponed till Saturday afternoon, to give them more time for preparation.  Ours is a merciful administration, surely;  but let none, because of its lenity, contemplate or encourage desertion, for the wages of that sin in the army is death.

About noon on Saturday, the several drum corps connected with our Brigade began beating a Dead March, for practice, in the woods near by, and so unconsciously gave to us a sense off sadness and solemnity, which ere long increased as flocks of soldiers from other Corps commenced passing through our camp, or were seen going along the various roads that led to the ground, or were already observed in groups collected there, reminding us painfully of the fact that we were on the eve of another occasion not soon to be forgotten.

Our regiment was ordered to be formed at half-past one P.M., as were the others of the Third Brigade, and the other Brigades must have had the same order, for scarcely had we formed on the color line when from beneath the white ponchos that crown nearly every hill top in sight, and where but a short time before their were few soldiers to be seen, there merged long lines of blue, trimmed with rows of shining brass and gleaming steel glittering in the sunlight.  Soon came the General’s orders, repeated by a hundred voices along the lines, and followed by the heavy, regular tramp of armed men marching to the notes of martial music.  Having reached the spot at which we were to report, there was the usual amount of halting and fronting, of right and left dressing, till the whole was in line, Division front, and closed in mass.  There was now an opportunity to look about, which disclosed to us boys perched in tree tops, men located upon old buildings, of which there happened to be two or three remaining, and an immense number seated in saddles, or occupying, in one way or another, most places available for a good sight for a long way about.

Edwin Forbes sketch of the Procession of 5 Prisoners to Their Execution

Correspondent Edwin Forbes sketched the solemn scene.  Click image to view the entire illustration.

The band has begun the sad notes that form the requiem it has selected.  It is a touching strain, and as you look toward the spot whence the sounds come a sorrowful sight greets your steady gaze.  The Division Provost Guard, with loaded pieces and bayonets fixed, follow in the footsteps of the buglers, and are in turn followed by the prisoners’ spiritual advisers, who are apparently reading or repeating Scripture or prayers.  In their rear are six men, the pall bearers, carrying a coffin, behind which there walks, with his hands pinioned and still closely guarded, the first victim, whose snow-white shirt is in striking contrast with the darker colored clothes of those about him.  His heart is undoubtedly hopeless; his looks are downcast; and thus, one after another the criminals follow their coffins to their graves.  It is an impressive scene; the most impressive, I think, that I ever saw.  Tears come stealthily, yet perceptibly and forcibly into your eyes as you look, while long-drawn breaths evince the deep and earnest thoughts of those about you.

Seems to me that none there could suppress an appeal to Heaven for the Great God of Mercy to save their souls and spare all others their fate.  And thus, that all might see and take warning, were they marched the whole length of the Corps and about half way back, to their graves, before which that part of the guard whose duty it was to shoot them were halted, and faced towards the prisoners, who passed the length of their line and up to their posts of death — seats upon the ends of their coffins — placed along the sides of their graves, into which they must have looked as the soldiers seated them there.  Ten or fifteen minutes, I should think, were now given the clergy in which to complete their admonitions, their counsels, and their prayers for the doomed.  To us, merely “quiet observers,” the minutes seemed long.  To them how brief, how momentous, the last second of life — sealed prematurely by rashness and folly.   In the meantime, the meagre paces are measured off, and the marksmen are stationed.  There were fifty of them, and in their guns are but five blank cartridges, and none of them know in which pieces they are, for their sergeants loaded their guns for them, that they might never know that they had shot a man.  The officers step forward to blindfold those seated.  One of them rises, and walking past the one at his left, approaches the third, kisses him fondly as a brother, and returns to his seat.  The last words are spoken and the clergymen retire;  the white cloths are bound before the eyes and about the heads of the prisoners;  the guard at the grave is ordered away;  the officer commands “ready,”  “take aim,”  “fire!”  and when the smoke of the volley, — as one gun, — has passed away, four lifeless forms appear resting upon the coffins as they fell backward in death, the other, in a brief contraction of the muscles, had fallen to the ground;  but his deeds were done and his life had departed.   I believe, “they shed no tears, they heaved no sighs, they uttered no groans,”  but perished thus, — without a struggle — a fearful warning to all cowards or merely mercenary men in the service -- the lives of five men who might have lived to do worthy work, to perform valiant deeds, and to win honor to themselves and their names.

Execution of Five Deserters, sketched by A. Waud, engraved for Harpers Weekly

Correspondent Alfred Waud sketched this dismal scene and wrote:  “They died instantly, although one sat up nearly a minute afer the firing; and there is no doubt that their death has had a very salutary influence on discipline.”  In spite of this grim pageant, the conscripts in the “13th Mass” continued to desert.

Sam Webster's Diary

Excerpts of this diary (HM 48531) are used with permission from The Huntington Library, San Marino, CA.

Friday, August 28, 1863
        During our stay at Rapppahannock Station saw five men of the 118th (Corn Exchange, of Phila) Penna Regt, “bounty jumpers,” shot for desertion.  It had but little effect on those who were left, however, for in a few days they were leaving again.  Numbers of ours are gone, Bro. Ike, who has got back was with me.  Saw Abert Dietz, of Philadelphia, a cousin, who is in the 118th.  They are in the 1st Division, 5th Corps.

Letter of Charles Manning, Company B

Charles Manning, Company B

I always like to add additional voices from the regiment to the content of this website.  In May, 2017, about 24 letters written by Charles Manning, came up for sale at auction.  The auction house did not offer scanned images or full transcriptions of the letters, only partial scans.  Contacting them in hopes of getting some transcripts or full scans proved fruitless.  I was invited instead to bid on the letters.  I considered buying them for the content, then re-selling them, but this would have meant an outlay of over $2,800.    Consequently, I had to settle for the partial transcriptions the auction house provided.  -- Sorry Charles.

Afterwards I found 53 of his letters had been offered a month earlier, the entire collection for between $1,000 - $2,000.

I don't like posting partial transcriptions, but in this case, the content is too good to pass up, so I offer it incomplete, as it is.  Charles Manning, Company B, pictured, right.

Head Quarters 1st Army Corps.
Rappahannock Station, Va.,
Aug. 31, 1863

Dear Brother —

I received your very kind letter dated Aug 23d and was much pleased to hear from you and more, but was sorry to hear that you had been sick again.  I tell you what John, it seemed good to get a good long letter from you and I hope that it will not be so long again that I have to wait for a letter from you.

…the execution of 5 fellows belonging to the 5th Corps…took place day before yesterday near Beverly Ford about 3 miles from here.  I did not go to see it for I saw one fellow shot and that satisfied my curiosity but several of our fellows went and saw it.   I will give you the same as thorough; as near I can remember as they gave it to me.

…it seems that they were all conscripts but had been out here before and deserted from their Regts…then when they were conscripted they were put into the same Regts again.  They had not been here but a few days when they tried the same thing over again, but this time they were not so lucky…

they were Court Marshalled and sentenced to be shot.  They were marched from their quarters in irons with a strong guard, each man following his coffin and the sappers and miners behind them.  The band playing something like a dirge.  When they got to the field the coffins were placed along in a row and the men seated on them.  Then after the chaplain had got through talking the bandage was placed over their eyes and the orders were given.  There was 36 men that fired and the whole 5 fell over into their last resting place.  This is the deserters portion and I think they deserved it.  One or two of them felt pretty bad but the others did not seem to care but very little about it.

Chas. W. Manning

General Meade's Own Comments On The Executions

The following letter from General Meade to his wife, appears in “The Life and Letters of General Meade,” Volume 2, (p. 145).  The last part of the letter is of primary interest, but the whole text is presented.

August 31, 1863.

Major-General George G. Meade

I send you to-day some scraps from the newspapers.  The first, is an extract from the London correspondent of the Presbyterian, which Ben Gerhard sent to me, and which I consider very flattering;  for if there is any reputation I aspire to it is that of a gentleman.  The next is the account of the sword presentation from Forney’s Chronicle, which is the best and most accurate account I have seen.  The speech is accurately reported, with one exception, and that is where  I am made to say, “I hoped the people of Pennsylvania would re-elect Governor Curtin.”  I said nothing of the kind, and made no allusions to elections.  Just before I went on the stand, ——— came to me and said:   “If you can say anything in favor of Curtin, it will help us greatly.”  I replied:   “I don’t know, Mr. ———, what you mean by helping you.  You know I have nothing to do with politics; but it was my intention before you spoke to me to allude to Governor Curtin and his services in behalf of the volunteers from Pennsylvania.”  “Well,” said he, “that is all we want.”   I did say all that I am reported to have said, except the allusion to his re-election, which was put in by ———  This was bad enough; but in to-day’s paper ——— comes out in an editorial (which I send you), puffing Curtin and quoting my speech in italics.

The more I examine my sword the more I am delighted with its beauty.  It is really most chaste and artistic.  It seems a pity, though, to waste so much money on an article that from its great value is actually rendered useless.

We are having a little excitement to-day, in an expedition that has been sent down the river, to attempt to destroy two gunboats which the enemy recently surprised and captured at the mouth of the Rappahannock.  The expedition was ordered from Washington, and I hope it will prove successful.

The conscripts are coming in now pretty fast.  To-day for the first time over a thousand arrived.  They are generally pretty good men, and I trust the example made of the five deserters, who were shot on Saturday, will check the evil of desertion.  This execution was witnessed by a very large number of soldiers, and I am told the only remark made was, “Why did they not begin this practice long ago?”  Not a murmur against the justice or propriety of the act was heard.  Indeed, the men are the most anxious to see this great evil cured, as they know their own security will be advanced thereby.

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Camp Life; Early September, 1863

The regiment remained at Rappahannock Station through September 16th. 


The 13th Regiment.  The 13th Mass. Regiment, Lieut. Col. Batchelder in command, has 274 men present for duty;  159 on detached service;  26 present sick; 144 absent sick, in parole camp, 41.  The regiment received 192 recruits (conscripts) Aug. 15th, and since that date, up to August 22d,  40 men deserted.  George A. Atkinson, Co. F, died of wounds Aug. 19th.  Capt. Augustine Harlow was discharged for disability Aug. 3d.

Captain Augustine Harlow, orig. capt. of Company D
Captain Jacob A. Howe
First Lieutenant Robert Bruce Henderson

Left to right:  Captain Augustine Harlow, Company D; perhaps the last remaining of the original Captains;  Captain Jacob A. Howe, Company A, 1st-Lieutenant Robert B. Henderson, Company A.


Commissioned.  The following commissions, among others, have been issued during the past week, by direction of His Excellency John A. Andrew, Governor and Commander-in-Chief:

Thirteenth Regiment.  First Lieut. Jacob A. Howe of Boston, to be Captain, Aug. 4, 1863, vice Harlow, discharged.

Second Lieut. Robert B. Henderson of Boston, to be First Lieutenant, Aug. 4, 1863, vice Howe, promoted.

[Other Massachusetts promotions are listed in this column for the 21st, 35th, 54th, 56th, 59th, Infantry.]

Another Brigade Commander; Colonel Thomas Franklin McCoy; 107th PA Vols.

Colonel Thomas F. McCoy of the 107th PA, [pictured] assumed command of the First Brigade in September.  Here is a brief synopsis of that regiments's history to this point in time.

Thomas A. Ziegle, a veteran of the Mexican War from York County, PA was granted authority to raise two new regiments in the fall of 1861.  Robert W. McAllen of Franklin County was granted the same.  Not enough men were organized for two regiments so the two commands were merged into one, the 107th PA Vols, on March 5, 1862, at Harrisburg.  Ziegler was Colonel, and McAllen, Lt.-Colonel.  The unit immediately moved to the war front.

Colonel T. F. McCoy

It was assigned to Duryea’s Brigade, of Ord’s Division, subsequently attached to McDowell’s Corps.  Thus it served in the same arena as the “13th Mass,” who were then with Hartsuff’s Brigade of Ord’s Division.  The regiment remained in the rear of McDowell’s lines picketing the Alexandria Railroad from Manassas to Catlett’s Station.  In late May it joined the rest of Ord’s Division at Front Royal, but subsequently returned to the Warrenton area in mid June.   Colonel Zeigle took sick and died in camp on July 16, 1862.  The Lt.-Col. was in poor health so the line officers requested Governor Curtin to appoint Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas F. McCoy, another Mexican War veteran in his place.  The request was granted.   McCoy left his post as Deputy Quartermaster General of Pennsylvania and assumed command of the 107th.

Colonel McCoy and the Major of the regiment both took sick following the disastrous Summer campaign of General John Pope, that ended with his route at Manassas on August 30, 1862.  Captain James MacThompson assumed command of the unit during the Antietam Campaign.

Between the battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, Lt.-Col. McAllen resigned, and was replaced by then Major MacThompson.  Colonel McCoy return to the regiment, in November.  Following the campaigns of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, he was again severely ill.  As the Gettysburg Campaign began, the 107th PA was now part of Paul’s Brigade, Lt. Col. MacThompson commanding.  In late August, Colonel McCoy returned and took command of the brigade superseding temporary commander, “Old Bowells,” Colonel P. Stearns Davis of the 39th Massachusetts.

Letter From CLARENCE


Rappahannock Station, Va. Sept. 2, 1863.

From the Thirteenth Regiment.  Everything still continues the same, and nothing in the shape of army movements disturbs the quiet of the numerous camps hereabout.  Winslow Homer sketch of a Surgeon examining a patientConscripts continue to arrive for the various regiments, and by the time that a forward movement is undertaken, we shall have an irresistible force to bring against Gen. Lee.  We have had a change of commanders.  Col. Davis, of the Massachusetts 39th, who formerly commanded the brigade, has been relieved by Col. T. F. McCoy of the 107th Pennsylvania, he being the senior colonel present.  It is believed that the troops will again be paid early this month, and we trust that our expectations may soon be realized.  The execution of five deserters took place at the Fifth Corps a few days since, and it was a very affecting and impressive scene. Several of the substitutes have deserted to the enemy, and one of them has been captured, so we are likely to have an execution in this neighborhood before many months. A strict medical examination of all drafted men has been made, and about fifteen or twenty have been found to be physically unfit for military duty, and several had been previously discharged from the United States service.

Almost all of these are substitutes, and this shows that there is a screw loose somewhere.  Some one should be held responsible for this, and the men who have been discharged from the service should be charged with swindling.

Chaplain F. D. Ward

Monday evening, Chaplain F. DeW. Ward, [pictured] of the 104th New York Regiment, delivered a lecture upon India.  He was at one time a missionary to that country, and is perfectly familiar with the manners and customs of the Hindoos.  He is a fine speaker, pleasing his hearers and keeping them in good humor by his many pleasantries.  He is much beloved by the members of his regiment, as well as by those of the others of the First Brigade.  He deserves great praise for his disinterested and noble endeavors to inaugurate a series of meetings, which, while relieving the monotony of camp life, are instructive and inoffensive to all.  The meeting was held beneath a large oak, near the camp of the Thirteenth, and was largely attended by both officers and men.  Viewing the assemblage from a distance, with the many lights twinkling and flickering amid the darkness, I was vividly reminded of the days when, a stripling in jacket and pants, I dodged among the crowds, attending the evening concerts on Boston Common.

The lecture continued till tattoo, at 9 P.M., and adjourned at that hour; all of the audience were in good spirits, well pleased with the entertainment, but none more satisfied than Chaplain Ward at his success in pleasing.   Just as the meeting was breaking up, an aged Hibernian stepped into the circle, which had formed around the chaplain, and in the brogue peculiar to that nation  corroborated the statements made.  “Ah!  then you have been there, my good friend,” said the chaplain.

“Yes, I was there for twelve years, sir,”  “Then you could have caught me tripping.”  “Ah!  I had me eye on ye, all the times, Chaplain,”  responded “Hibernia.”  This short conversation, of course, excited considerable mirth, and we then departed to our “canvass halls among the hills.”  The weather here is now cool, and two blankets are not uncomfortable during the night.


Rappahannock Station, pictured.

Camp of the 50th NY Engineers, Rapp Stn., March, 1864

Photographer Timothy Sullivan captured this image (cropped) titled, “Camp of 50th N.Y. Engineers, Rappahannock Station, Va., March 1864.”  Although “Rapp-Station” would change hands several times between  the Summer of 1863, when Gen. Robinson's 2nd Division camped here, and the time the 50th NY moved in, the picture gives a good idea of the lay of the land, and what the camps of the 2nd Division may have been like.  Notice the men standing in the company streets, (center) and down in front, (bottom right).   The pontoons are parked adjacent to the winter cabins.  To the left of the pontoons  (cropped out) was where the regiment's wagons were parked.

Letter from CLARENCE

Edwin Forbes sketched the signal station at Rappahannock Station, dated September 20, 1863.  The “13th Mass” had pulled out a few days earlier and marched across the river into Culpeper County to the line of the Rapidan River.  Correspondent “CLARENCE” mentions the build up of defenses at Rappahannock Station, and the continuous monotony of camp life in this report home.

Signal Station at Rappahannock Station, sketched by Edwin Forbes


Rappahannock Station, Sept. 6, 1863.

From the 13th Regiment.  Present operations seem to indicate a longer stay, as the old forts, which have been temporarily occupied by batteries, have been remolded and assumed a more durable appearance.  All along the north bank of the Rappahannock rifle-pits have been constructed, and where the elevation is higher, or commands any stretch of country on the south bank, substantial forts have been built, and these are all occupied by artillery.  By a late order from the Division Headquarters a court martial has been assembled to try numerous deserters and other offenders against military law.  Most of these deserters are substitutes, and as some are very aggravated cases the extreme penalty of the law will be visited upon them.  While we have been at this place the trains have remained at Bealeton, three miles to the rear, as that point was more convenient for water for the animals, beside being near the railroad station, making it also convenient for forage.  Yesterday the trains were all ordered from there, and arrived here at dark, where they are now parked.  A station for supplies will probably be established near this place, as it would be unnecessary to have the teams sent to Bealeton every day for commissary and quartermaster’s stores.

Charles Reed sketch of Garibaldi Guards drilling

The Adams Express Company have established agencies at Warrenton and Bealeton, and boxes are forwarded direct from Washington.  Everything with us remains as usual, the same monotonous life day after day, the same drills, horse races and parades, and the return of deserters, convalescents and conscripts.  Another death by drowning occurred on the 4th inst.  A member of the Second Regiment Pennsylvania Reserves, while bathing near the railroad bridge, got beyond his depth, and before he could be rescued he sank for the last time.  Religious services are now held regularly every Sunday afternoon in front of the brigade headquarters, all the chaplains of the brigade taking part in the exercises.  Sunday evening a meeting is also held near the camp of the Thirteenth, and at least twice during the week similar gatherings take place, which are largely attended.  We are expecting to receive our dues from Uncle Sam, as the Paymaster General has made his requisition upon the Treasury.  The cool weather still hangs on, and the rusty overcoats and blankets of last winter are beginning to make their now welcome appearance.


Frank Leslies Illustration of an Adam's Express Office

From Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper:  “The Adams Express Company Office Receiving Soldiers' Letters and Packages From Home.” Correspondent “CLARENCE” wrote that offices were set up in Warrenton to service the Army at the front.

From the Regimental History:

An order dated Sept. 11, 1863, was received from Washington, that

After the expiration of ninety days (June 25), volunteers serving in three years’ organizations, who may reenlist for three years, or the war, in companies or regiment to which they now belong, and who may have, at the date of reenlistment, less than one year to serve, shall be entitled to the aforesaid bounty and premium of $402, to be paid in the manner herein provided for other troops reŽntering the service.

Letter of Sergeant Warren H. Freeman

We're lucky that Warren Freeman's father chose to publish the letters of his two sons to memorialize their service during the American Civil War.  Warren's letters span the length of the regiment's service between January, 1862 and July, 1864, and even somewhat beyond that.  Even Captain James A. Fox (original captain of Company A)  read from them at the dedication of the regiment's Gettysburg Monument in 1885.

Warren rejoined the regiment at Rappahannock Station, after his sojourn as a prisoner of war, spent at the parole camp in Westchester, PA, following the battle of Gettysburg.  He must have been as shocked as Melvin Walker was, upon his return, to find the ranks suddenly filled with dangerous draftees, who out-numbered the veterans 2 to 1.

Sergeant Charly Drew, Company A
Sergeant Warren Freeman, Company A

Post-war images of Sergeant Charley Drew, left, and his friend Sergeant Warren Freeman.

From “Letters From Two Brothers Serving in the War For The Union,” Cambridge, Printed for Private Circulation, 1871.

In Camp Near Rappahanock Station, Va.,
September 13, 1863.

Dear Father and Mother,  — Well, here I am back safe and sound to the regiment, but not to the regiment I left, for two thirds of the men are conscripts, and a rough looking set at that.

We did not arrive in New York till about ten a.m. Tuesday, owing to the thick fog.  We had to lie outside Hell Gate two or three hours;  we lay near the Great Eastern for some time.  When the fog lifted we steered for Jersey City and took the train for Philadelphia, were Eugene left me.  We arrived in Baltimore in the evening; remained till ten a.m. next day, and arrived in Washington about noon, where we were detained for want of transportation till the next morning.  Colonel Leonard got us a pass from the provost-marshal’s office, so we could go round the city without being picked up.   Louis K. Harlow Illustration of Artillery advancingStarted Thursday morning and got to Bealton Station in the afternoon.  We then footed it about four miles to the regiment;  on arrival found Charley Drew had got back two weeks before me. 

I think about all the boys that took French leave of the parole camp, as well as those that did not, have returned to the head-quarters of the regiment.  The camp here is fixed up in good shape, but we are not to remain in it long.  There was a strong force of cavalry, artillery, and infantry crossed the river this morning, and there has been considerable artillery firing during the day, some six miles distant I should think.

On my way out here I found a gentleman’s traveling shawl and sent it home by express. The boys brought most of the things of any value I left at parole camp.  The condensed milk I buried in the earth;  I suppose it is there now.  But I will close with a kind remembrance to Susie, Georgey, and all friends.


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Aftermath of Gettysburg:  Hospitals & Prisoner Exchanges

The repercussions of the colossal Battle of Gettysburg continued to reverberate in the daily newspapers for months after the armies departed.  The following Boston Transcript newsclips address the losses of  the Massachusetts troops engaged, and the ongoing problem of what to do about the large numbers of captured men on both sides, who had been hauled off to prison camps.  These camps, became increasingly over-crowded with prisoners from the big summer campaigns of 1863, and in most cases, especially in the south, they were unprepared to provide for so many captives for any extended  period of time.  This proved fatal to many men.

The photograph included in the text, is the allegorical figure “History,” on the National Soldiers Monument in the Gettysburg Cemetery.

Massachusetts Losses at Gettysburg

August 20, 1863.


Massachusetts Military State Agency,
Corner 7th av. and Pennsylvania av.,        
Washington, D.C., Aug. 15, 1863.

His Excellency Governor Andrew:
       Sir — Enclosed please find a list of the casualties in the 20th Mass. Regiment and 9th Battery, at the battle of Gettysburg, Penn.  This completes the returns from all the regiments excepting the 11th, of which regiment I have furnished you an incorrect list.

Accompanying it is a complete tabular statement, showing the number killed, wounded and missing in the eighteen regiments and three batteries engaged.

The number of officers and men who went into these fights did not exceed 7000 (seven thousand), but probably fell short of that number.

Allegorical Figure "History" on the National Soldiers Monument at Gettysburg Cemetery

The casualties were as follows:  Officers killed, 19;  men killed, 182; officers wounded, 76; men wounded, 927; officers missing, 8;  men missing, 280.  Total loss, 1492 — one fifth of all engaged.

An aggregate of eight regiments shows that two-thirds of the loss was sustained by them, or two-sixths of their numbers.  The loss in some of the regiments was more than fifty per cent.  The 20th, for instance, took into the fight 288 men and 13 officers, and made a loss of 127.

The character of the fight, and the success attending it in the various regiments, may be seen by comparing the number of missing with the number of killed and wounded.  The 2d Regiment had 24 killed, 101 wounded, 4 missing; the 15th, 28 killed, 87 wounded, none missing; the 20th, 31 killed, 93 wounded, 8 missing.*  Thus through all the regiments the figures exhibit a proud record.

This return shows a greater aggregate, and a greater per cent., of loss than at either the battles of Fredericksburg or Chancellorsville.

The number who have died from wounds since the battle, so far as ascertained, is 35 (thirty-five).

Although furnished late, I think this full statement may be valuable.

         I have the honor to remain,
                                   Your obedient servant,
                                             Gardiner Tufts
                                                                Mass. State Agent.

A tabular Statement showing the number of Massachusetts men killed, wounded and missing at the battle of Gettysburg, July 2d, and 3d, 1863:

No. Reg't
3d Battery
5th Battery
9th Battery


(The 20th Mass. monument states 30 killed--BF).

The Prisoner Exchange Commission

The facts from this essay came from the essay titled, “Exchange of Prisoners” by Holland Thompson, in “The Pictorial History of the Civil War in Ten Volumes,”  Vol. 7,  (p. 98 - 122)  Edited by Francis Trevelyan Miller, The Review of Reviews Co., New York, 1911.

The sketch below, by artist Arthur Lumley, is titled, “Union and Rebel Officers Taking the Last Drink After Signing the Papers of Exchange & Parole, Goodbye.”  Inscribed above image: scene on the beach Fredericksburg Va. Friday.   A note on the back from an unkown source says, Sketched by A. Lumley and probably quite untrue.

Arthur Lumley illustration

Early in the war prisoners were paroled, their exchanges arranged much later.  The first apparent formal exchange of prisoners was in Missouri when 4 officers from each side met to exchange 6 privates, 3 on each side.

To prevent any formal recognition of the Confederate States Government, the Federal Authorities allowed commanding officers on both sides to exchange prisoners unofficially with the governments concept for several months.  When this activity demanded too much of the officers time, due to the increased number of captives, political pressure was brought to bear upon Washington Officials to arrange exchanges.

“The Confederate officials, conscious of their deficient resources, were eager to escape the care of prisoners, and welcomed the announcement of General Wool, February 13, 1862, that he had been empowered to arrange a general exchange.”

An agreement was reached, February 23rd for the delivery of all prisoners.  Soon after Gen’l. Wool announced his instructions had changed ad he could exchange man for man only.

The Confederate representative, General Howell Cobb refused, claiming the Union capture of Forts Henry and Donelson gave the advantage in number of prisoners to the North.

  The Confederate Government then halted the practice of case by case individual exchanges, claiming it was unfair to prisoners without influential friends.

Confederate Exchange Agent Robert Ould

During the Peninsula Campaign, personal correspondence between commanding Generals George B. McClellan and Robert E. Lee arranged for the wounded of both sides to be released on parole.

Commissioners were appointed to negotiate the details of the exchange and reached an agreement on July 22nd, 1862.  Two Agents each, one in the East and one in the West were appointed to carry out the “stipulation of the contract,” and the exchange was completed.  Colonel Robert Ould was immediately appointed the Confederate agent for the exchange and subsequently remained in charge of all questions relating to the exchange to the end of the war. [Col. Ould, pictured].

The exchanges continued for a while “and the prisons were practically empty for a time.  Confederate prisoners were returned to their respective units.  Northern prisoners were sent to parole camps to await formal exchange. The question then became what to do about paroled soldiers who refused to do any duty in these camps claiming it violated the terms of their parole.  Not a few deserted raising another question for Northern authorities about the wisdom of further exchanges.

Quite frequently the actions of the Federal Government, the Emancipation Proclamation specifically, and the actions of its Generals, Ben Butler at New Orleans in particular, irked Jeff Davis who responded with increasingly vitriolic pronouncements and policies.   On Dec. 28, 1862, Secretary of War Andrew Stanton responded by suspending the exchange of Commissioned officers.  The exchange of enlisted men, and some specially arranged exchanges continued until May 23, 1863.  General Henry Halleck ordered all exchanges stopped when the Confederate Congress endorsed Jeff Davis’s proclamation that “all negro slaves captured in arms and their white officers should not be treated as prisoners of war but should be delivered to the States to be punished according to their laws.” Secretary of War, Edwin StantonIf carried out, these officers would be put to death on the charge of inciting negro insurrection.

“In spite of the suspension of the cartel, exchanges went on in the East by special agreements for more than a year longer.

“Meanwhile, … the custom of parking prisoners at the point of capture had grown up by common consent.  On the last day of the battle of Gettysburg, Secretary Stanton  issued General Orders #207, declaring that all such paroles were in violation of general orders, and therefore null and void; declaring further that any soldier accepting such parole would be returned to duty and punished for disobedience of orders.”

Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, pictured, left.

Here a dilemma of self-preservation presented itself to Union captives at Gettysburg.  Prisoners  were offered a parole.  Some accepted it, even being told by their officers that it was invalid, others followed orders, and went south to Rebel Prisons.  They endured immeasurable suffering and many died in service of their obedience to orders.

This bit of narration brings the prickly concept of prisoner exchanges up to date concurrent with the following news reports.  The whole process completely broke down later in the war.

September 2, 1863.

Exchange Of Prisoners.  The Richmond Examiner, of the 28th ult., says that an interview was to have been had in that city between Commissioners Ould and Meredith. It remarks:

An interview will be had today between Commissioner Ould and the Yankee Commissioner, Meredith, at City Point.  Our commissioner left the city yesterday evening for that point.  This will be the first interview of the commissioners since the appointment. The question of negro equality with white soldiers will arise in the interview between the commissioners, and all the imbroglio of the cartel will probably be reviewed.

Commissioner Ould will denounce the recognition of negroes, especially those stolen from us, as prisoners of war, and there will be a flare-up and an end to the cartel. Our government, we are glad to learn, is prepared for this.

Boston Evening Transcript
September 10, 1863.

Exchange Of Prisoners.  The President was interrogated Tuesday upon the subject of the exchange of prisoners, by the father of a New York officer of one of the colored regiments, who is a prisoner in Richmond.  Colored Soldier sketched by A. R. WaudMr. Lincoln said he would do all in his power to effect the release of these officers, and all others now prisoners, but he was not prepared, nor would he consent to make the release of officers of colored regiments an indispensable condition to a renewal of exchanges.  The Government was prepared to exchange man for man with the rebels, even should they refuse to release the officers of colored regiments.

This would be done, because the Government considered it unfair to make the case of a few officers a test question, when a much larger number would be benefited by a resumption of exchanges, and the question of exchanging these officers left open for future consideration.  He wished sincerely that they could be released speedily, but Jeff. Davis was a party to be consulted, and they could not be exchanged unless by some agreement with the rebel authorities.  The question arising in regard to these officers was not covered by the cartel, and the officers of these regiments knew, when they entered the service, the peculiar risks incidental to their position, and for the present must endure the disagreeable consequences.  The President, however, assured the gentlemen that any unusual or barbarous treatment of such officers, or of colored soldiers, would cause retaliation.

Some of the soldiers of the “13th Mass,” languishing in Southern prisons at this time included, Lt. Sam Cary, Lt. Morton Tower, Lt. David Whiston, Sergeant John Boudwin, Corporal Albert E. Morse, E.A. Boyd, John Clark, Fred D. Locke, Chris Magraw, among many others. Boudwin lost 30 pounds during his 42 days of captivity.  When the nights turned cold in late August, conditions worsened, especially at Belle Isle Prison in Richmond.  The inmates, exposed to the elements struggled to survive.  While authorities negotiated formal prisoner exchanges, the added days of captivity, was a death sentence for many.   Life at Libby Prison, for the officers, was a little better.

I highly recommend you read about these men here if you haven't already.

September 15, 1863.

The Exchange Of Prisoners.  So far as can be learned, the report that the President is disposed to yield a point on the important question of protecting and exchanging colored soldiers is quite incorrect.  Certainly not the least official intimation has been made to that effect, for at the last meeting of Gen. Meredith and the rebel commissioner, this very question — the only one of difference — came up, and our commissioner was as unyielding as ever, while Mr. Ould did not believe that the rebels would ever change their position. Thus the matter stands at present.  If the President intends to change his views, he has not given them any official form, and the story will be improbable until he does do so.  [ Washington Correspondence of the N.Y. Commercial Advertiser.

September 19, 1863.

Why Not Exchange Prisoners According To The Congressional Representation, and propose to the rebels to give us five negro soldiers for three of their white trash?  “It is a poor rule that will not work both ways.”

Lieutenant Morton Tower

Lieutenant Morton Tower, Pictured.

September 19, 1863.

A letter was received from Lieut. Morton Tower, by his relatives, last Tuesday. He is still a captive, is in Libby Prison, and has been sick. He is now better. He has been there as long as he wishes to stay, he says, and it is easy to believe that.

(Randolph Transcript; September 19, 1863; pg. 2, col. 1.)

Gettysburg Hospital

The Boston Transcript, on July 8, 1863,  estimated the  number of Federal wounded from the battle of Gettysburg at 12,000.  More recent estimates place that number around 14,500 men, wounded and mortally wounded.  Most of these that could be moved, were sent to hospitals in Baltimore, New York and Philadelphia.  But, it said about 1,000 wounded remained behind at improvised hospitals in Gettysburg.  It also states between 3,000 and 4,000 rebel wounded were left behind when the Confederate army retreated.

A better estimate is given by Army Medical Director Dr. Johnathan Letterman.  On October 3, 1863, his calculation was 6,802 wounded Confederates were left in the care of the Federal Army.  Letterman estimated the total number of wounded, (North & South) at 20,995 men.

Camp Letterman General Hospital, Gettysburg

Camp Letterman General Hospital was established as a central location to care for the severely wounded.  It remained in operation through November 17, 1863.   In August, the hospital held about 1,600 patients, half of them Confederate.  Several wounded men were still scattered about the town in private hospitals.

Source:  “A Strange and Blighted Land” by Gregory A. Coco, Thomas Publications, Gettysburg, 1995.

Sept. 10, 1863

Wounded At Gettysburg.  About fourteen hundred wounded still remain at Gettysburg.  A large number of them are cases of compound fracture of thigh.  It is expected that in the course of the present month all the patients will be removed, and the hospital broke up.

Colonel Leonard Detached

The Transcript article below reports Colonel Leonard as having been “severely” wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg.  Although the Colonel fell early in the fight, soon after Brigade Commander Brigadier-General G.R. Paul was shot.   I was under the impression that Col. Leonard's  arm wound was not serious.  Perhaps it was slow to heal.  This newsclipping fortells that Lt.-Col. N. Walter Batchelder would remain in command of the “13th Mass” for a while longer.

Colonel Samuel Haven Leonard

Colonel Samuel H. Leonard


Col. S. H. Leonard of the 13th Massachusetts regiment, commanding a brigade in the 1st army corps, and who was severely wounded at Gettysburg from the effects of which he has not yet recovered, has been detailed for duty in Boston Harbor.

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Page Updated November 18, 2017.

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