The page starts off with a roster of company officers, several newly promoted. Then, Charles Leland discusses morale in the army, and laments the need for a draft to get good men. A short essay on desertions in the 13th Regiment follows. Charles Adams mourns the loss of one of his amiable tent-mates, Amos Bronsdon, who took ill during the last campaign and died in a field hospital. Then he describes his time on the picket line; improved rations in camp; and the poor living conditions of some of the residents in the neighborhood. In February, Private John B. Noyes returns to the regiment, the first of the wounded from the Battle of Antietam to come back. His 3 letters predominate this page with a travelogue through Washington, and a detailed look camp life and picket duty. The page ends with Warren Freeman's reports to his father, regarding his return to active duty as soon as he recovered enough from the breakdown of his health in December.
PICTURE CREDITS: All images are from the Library of Congress digital images collection, with the following exceptions: The happy pigs sketch, by Albert Hurter; from his book "He Drew As He Pleased" accessed via the Internet. Photos of Robert B. Henderson & Silas Pinckney Holbrook, & Lt. Case of Mathews Battery, are from Mr. Tim Sewell who shared these images from his ancestor James Lowell's scrapbook. Ice Skaters, is from Sonofthesouth.com (Harper's Weekly) Lt. Charles B. Fox, Captain Samuel Neat, Lt. J. A. Howe, Capt. George Bush, Lt. O.F. Morse, & Capt. William Cary, are from from Army Heritage Education Center, Digital Image database, Mass. MOLLUS Collection; Charles W. Manning is from AHEC; Photograph Collection; O.C. Livermore, William B. Kimball & William Damrell, shared with me by various collectors, notably Scott Hann; Corporals Duren & Vorra are courtesy Scott Hann; Most of the drawings were done by Civil War Correspondent Edwin Forbes. ALL IMAGES have been edited in photoshop.
In February General Hooker set to work re-organizing the Army of the Potomac. He did away with General Burnside's cumbersome 'Grand Divisions.' Rations were improved and furloughs granted for soldiers on a rotating basis. General John F. Reynolds took command of the First Corps. The Federal Cavalry was organized into a corps with Brig-General George F. Stoneman in command. The US Senate passed the Conscription Act, making way for a military draft. The government of France made overtures to mediate a peace between the North and South which Secretary of State Seward refused.
Charles Davis wrote in the regimental history:
"During the winter we had the same variety of weather as prevails in New England – snowing and freezing followed by rain and thawing. When the ground was not frozen it was mud more than ankle-deep, making the roads almost impassable. On the 22d of February we had a severe snow-storm, the snow being three feet deep in some places. The horses suffered more than the men."
Colonel Leonard was acting commander of Taylor's Brigade. Within the '13th Mass.' there were many new officers appointed from the ranks between January & March, to replace the original officers who resigned, or moved on to new opportunities. It seems the officers in camp would fill in wherever needed at this time, even if they had regular company designations. It is not always clear who was in command during active campaigning without examining the monthly reports. The following was compiled to the best of my ability using materials found in the Elliot Pierce Papers and the Mass. Adjt. General of Massachusetts final report for the 13th Mass. [This list of officers is not complete. Company designations are missing from many of the reports.]
Line Officers & promotions, as of February, 1863.
An essay by webmaster, Brad Forbush, January, 2013.
Captain Samuel Neat, Co A resigned, February 1, 1863. Neat had replaced original Captain James A.Fox, in June of 1862. Fox had been away from the regiment most of the time, recruiting in Boston. 2nd Lieutenant Jacob A. Howe, age 30, pictured left, was promoted to 1st Lieutenant January 10th, 1863 and commanded the company. (Howe started out as a Sergeant in Co. A.) 2nd Lieutenant David Whiston was promoted to 1st Lieutenant, February 14, 1863.Morton Tower, Co B, age 22, was promoted 1st Lieutenant February 3, 1863, & had command of Co. B. Sgt. Tower, also came up through the ranks, promoted to 2nd Lieutenant after the battle of Antietam. Sergeant Robert B. Henderson, age 26, was promoted 2nd Lieutenant, January 10. To the right is a post-war image of Robert B. Henderson, from the scrapbook collection of comrade James H. Lowell.
William H. Jackson was still Captain until he resigned in March, 1863. Oliver C, Livermore, Co C, age 24, was promoted 1st Lieutenant December 30, 1862. Sgt. Livermore came up through the ranks, promoted to 2nd Lieutenant, June 28, 1862. O.C. Livermore, pictured to the left.
Augustine Harlowe, Co D, age 29, was the original Captain of Co. D, and still remained in charge. 1st Lieutenant Henry Washburn, age 29, received his commission, March 22, 1863; and 2d Lieutenant William Damrell, age 24, on March 6, 1863. Washburn and Damrell both started service as sergeants in Company D. Pictured to the right, is William Damrell.
Joseph Colburn, Co E, age 29 received his captain's commission February 2nd, 1863. Colburn was the original 1st Lieutenant of Company E, and one of its principle organizers. He nearly resigned in January, 1862, when the the original captain resigned and he was not promoted to the position. Col. Leonard instead, placed a Boston officer (John G. Hovey) in command of the company. Leonard persuaded Colburn to stay on. Sergeant Michael J. Dagney, age 23, received his 2nd Lieutenant Commission on February 2nd, 1863.
George Bush, Co F, age 31, pictured, left, mustered into the regiment as 2nd Lieutenant, Company A. He was promoted 1st Lieutenant, January 31, 1862 and Captain February 27, 1863. Captain Whitcomb, original commander of Company F, was wounded at the battle of 2nd Bull Run and resigned, November 28, 1862. First Lieutenant Abel H. Pope was promoted to Captain, Co. F, November 29, 1862, to replace Whitcomb. But, Captain Pope was already badly wounded at Antietam, 2 months before his promotion. He died at home about 1866. According to the memoirs of John S. Fay, Captain Bush was away on furlough, during April, perhaps also in March, getting his new uniform, etc. He was killed April 30, 1863. Newly appointed 2nd Lieut. William Cordwell, age 32, was killed the same day. Cordwell started out as 2nd Sergeant of Company K. He was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant February 14, 1863 and transferred to Company F. More about the deaths of Bush and Cordwell will be posted on a future page. Sam Cary, age 22, was promoted 2nd Lieutenant, February 27, 1863.
William Cary, Co G, age 32, pictured to the right, promoted to Captain, December 30, 1862. Cary was the original 2nd Lieutenant of Co. D. He was promoted 1st Lieutenant in February 1861, and Captain of Company G at the end of 1862. The original Captain of Co. G, Eben W. Fiske was sick quite some time during Pope's Summer campaign of '62. He resigned December 29, 1862. Whether he was present at the battle of Fredericksburg is unknown to me. The original 1st Lieutenant of Co. G, Loring Richardson resigned January 9, 1863. John Foley, age 23, was still 1st Lieutenant. Samuel C. Whitney, age 34, was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant, December 30, 1862.
Elliot C. Pierce, Co H, age 31, had been captain since July of 1862, when his friend William L. Clark resigned. Captain Pierce received a position as Captain with the ambulance corps in 1863, but would return to the 13th in 1864. Oscar F. Morse, pictured at left, was promoted 1st Lieutenant, Co H, on February 2, 1863 and probably commanded the company while Pierce was on special duty. Joseph Stuart, age 21, was promoted 2nd Lieutenant March 30, 1863.
Moses L. Palmer, Co I, age 31, was an original Captain of this Marlboro Rifle Company, but he was replaced by R. L. Shreiber who was appointed to the regiment by the Governor of Massachusetts just before it left Boston. First Lieutenant Palmer was finally promoted Captain, August 15, 1862. John Noyes reported Palmer was acting Colonel on February15th 1863. David L. Brown. age 35, was still 1st Lieutenant of the company, but was promoted to rank of Captain, March 6. I do not know if Brown changed companies. Charles Whitcomb, age 22, was 2nd Lieutenant since November 29, 1862.
Charles Hovey, Captain of Co K, was appointed Brigade Inspector for General Taylor, January 15th. On May 7th during the retreat from Chancellorseville Hovey was appointed Division Inspector on the staff of General John C. Robinson. Hovey would also return to the regiment after recovering from wounds received at Gettysburg. William B. Kimball, pictured at right, was appointed 1st Lieutenant of Co. K on February 3, 1863, and probably commanded the company at this time.
Major J. P. Gould is Commanding the regiment.
Lt.-Col. Batchelder is temporarily commanding the 11th PA Volunteers.
From Three Years in the Army; by Charles E. Davis, Jr., Boston, Estes & Lauriat; 1894.
A great improvement was noticed at this time in all our rations. In addition to this, we had condensed milk and other luxuries from the sutler, and occasionally boxes from home. Fresh meat was provided, and if you could make a deal with the butcher, you might secure a beef’s liver or a heart; but as these were his perquisites, only the wealthy – men successful at poker – lived on liver, as the demand far exceeded the supply. The last week in February the chaplain arrived from Boston, bringing news and letters. As he came into camp the boys crowded round him shouting, “What came ye out for to see?” It amused the chaplain that we should recollect his old text. His joyous nature always brought a lot of sunlight into camp when he returned from one of his trips away. [Chaplain Noah M. Gaylord, pictured.]
Whether or not it was due to General Hooker, we are unable to say, though he was credited with it, an improvement in the quantity and quality of our rations was noticeable upon his taking command. The harsh criticisms that were excited under Burnside by the tormenting pangs of an empty stomach were now undergoing the mellowing influence of abundance, which added very much to Hooker’s popularity, always strong in the Army of the Potomac, with whom he was very much of a hero.
The Army of the Potomac, while under Burnside, had become so demoralized by short rations and the severity of the “Mud March” campaign, that desertions were of daily occurrence, as we noticed by the list of names that were read at dress parade. To offset this complaint a liberal number of furloughs were granted and with better rations confidence was soon restored.
started the rumor the 13th would be relieved from front lines but
combat experienced veterans like those in the 13th were too valuable to
for them to be put into the reserves.
I am grateful to archivist Jennifer Coleman, Archivist of the Pearce Museum for permission to use this letter transcription from their collections.
From the collection of the Pearce Museum, Navarro College, Texas. Used with permission.
Bell Plain Landing
Feb 8th 1863
I received your kind letter day before yesterday, and was very glad to hear from you.
I presume you have heard of General Hookers last order viz to divide the army of the Potomac into different Corps as it was at first.
I think myself that this is a good plan, and will work full as well as it does when by Grand Division.
There is nothing new here of any consequence with the exception of a number of rumors about going to Washington DC. The reserves (Penn) started for some place, probably Washington, and General Burnsides old Corps (9th) started for North Carolina this Am. Rumor says that this Division goes to Washington and the new regiments around that place take the position in front.
I hope that it will prove true.
Our Division is the smallest in the army of the Potomac.
We have to go on picket about once every two or three days.
I was on yesterday and as it was quite pleasant had a good time.
We expect Harry Laselle our messenger up to day with boxes, and I will write and tell you whether the box comes through all safe and sound.*
You in speaking of the army seem to think that they had not ought to be discouraged, but just look at the people of the North when the government plainly told them, that they wished for more men to help fill up the ranks of the old regiments, thinned by battle and disease. What is their answer; they refused the draft and now government is compelled to call on the negroes for help. Shame on such a people. Look at the South. “Did they refuse to come when drafted”;
I don’t believe they did.If our government should make a law for drafting and try to enforce it I presume that they would resist it. And then talk about shooting every deserter who is lucky enough to get away. If he can enjoy peace of mind after deserting the flag of his country let him do it. From what we hear from those who have been home and come back they say that patriotism is played out. I hope not.
I hope Uncle John will do well in his new business.
You must give my love to Uncle Henry and Aunt Kate and be sure and remember me to Grandfather and Grandmother and all my friends in So Walpole. My love to Aunt and Laura You must kiss little Ada for her soldier brother and tell her that he wishes he was at home to do it himself
You need not be afraid but what I will keep up good spirits but you know a fellow will have the blues once in a while.
[ the rest of the letter is lost ]
*NOTE: Harry Lazelle, who was the messenger for the division, delivering boxes from home via the supply base at Aquia Creek Landing. Private John Noyes ran into Lazelle on his return to the regiment, February 4th:
"Harry Lazelle had a large amount of express matter on board for our Division, but was obliged to leave the boat at Alexandria, as a horse under his charge had not been placed on board. With Chandler I accordingly took charge of the Division boxes & saw that they were safely deposited in one pile in the warehouse at Acquia Creek. The business was new to me, but conducted satisfactorily to the messenger who arrived at the Creek about 6 o’clock P.M."
Transcribed by: Joyce Horsefield; Digital Transcription by Brad Forbush
Desertions in the '13th Mass.'
An essay by webmaster, Brad Forbush, January, 2013.In contrast to what was written by Charles Leland and regimental historian Charles E. Davis, Jr. only a few men are recorded as deserters from the ranks of the 13th Regiment at this period of their service. Studies of the regimental rosters1 indicate a few distinct 'waves' of desertion.
The first wave occurred when the regiment started out for the war front to begin service in Maryland. Some deserted en-route during the trip from Boston to Hagerstown. Other tentative recruits deserted two to three weeks later in mid-August, 1861, as things got difficult.It was a rude awakening to army life, - marching great distances on an empty stomach, and bivouacking without tents. The supply wagons couldn’t keep up with the ranks that marched from Hagerstown to Boonsboro to Sharpsburg. James Ramsey’s letters from this time record the grumblings of Roxbury men in Co E who threatened to quit if things didn’t get better. The volunteers with second thoughts about enlisting probably assumed they still had the right to go home if the government didn’t properly meet their needs. Several did. Eight men deserted between Boston and Hagerstown, en route, and thirteen left about mid-August when the regiment was picketing the Potomac at Sharpsburg. One of these, poor recruits, John 'Percy' Bemis, obviously despaired over his actions, for he fled to Canada, and committed suicide shortly after deserting.2 Another was captured a year later and sent to make up his time.3 The next big 'wave' of desertions occurred in the summer of 1862.
The hard-knocks under General McDowell’s leadership probably inspired the 19 men who deserted during these months. Four left in mid-June after the disastrous Front Royal campaign. Eight men of Co. E, and seven men from Co. I, deserted throughout July, 1862, when the regiment was camped near Warrenton, Va. Surprisingly, not many deserted from the bloody battles of 2nd Bull Run and Antietam.
Three men deserted before the fight at Chinn Ridge, Aug. 30, 1862. Three more deserted while marching through Maryland in mid-September, and four men left in late September or early October after Antietam.
In August, 1863, 180 recruits arrived to fill the depleted ranks of the noble 13th, and this sparked the greatest wave of desertions. Some excerpts from Charles Davis’s history describe these men:
“August 14, 1863. One hundred and eighty-six recruits arrived in camp to-day. …This lot consisted of substitutes, bounty-jumpers, and one unfortunate conscript. Most were thieves and roughs who were engaged in the draft riots, and were obliged to leave New York and Boston in self-defence. … The pride which we felt in the membership of the Thirteenth turned to bitterness at sight of these fellows. …During the first night after their arrival forty deserted. …Of the one hundred and eighty-six, one hundred and fifteen deserted. Of those remaining, six were discharged for disability, twenty-six transferred to the navy, and one was killed in battle.”3
Under the circumstances, I generally disregard the service of all but two of these men.
In the winter of 1862-1863, when morale was low and desertions in the army were high, I only find a few of the 13th who deserted. Many men were absent sick for a long time, some were missing and dropped from the rolls, though they were actually mustered out. There may have been a stronger perception in camp that many deserted. But most of these men, as much as they wanted to get out of the service, would do anything short of desert, in order to obtain an honorable discharge. Perhaps more men from the 13th attempted to dessert but were caught or dissuaded.
The final report from the rosters of the '13th Mass.' list the following men who deserted the ranks between December, 1862, and April, 1863.
Charles F. Bulfinch, Co C, was promoted to Corporal before he deserted from a hospital in New York, January 20th 1863.
Marshall N. Smith, Co. C, deserted February 16th, 1863 from Fletcher’s Chapel.
Augustus Wilmarth, Co. C, is listed as deserting February 28th, 1863 from Waterloo, Va, which doesn’t make sense. The regiment was at Waterloo, a rural area west of Warrenton, in August, 1862,
Samuel Nutt, Co. H, didn’t return from furlough. Date of desertion is listed Dec. 1, 1862. This is after the battle of Antietam but before the battle of Fredericksburg. Samuel was the brother-in-law of Adna Hall, Co. H, KIA at Antietam. Sam’s sister Martha Nutt, (Adna’s wife), died in Nov. 1861. The Nutt family of Natick were strong abolitionists. Samuel left Natick for Kansas after deserting. The family had ties to Lawrence, when the state was embroiled in the 'Kansas War.' It must have been difficult to desert, since Sam’s brother William fought with the MA12th and ended up as a colonel with the MA 55th. a black regiment.4
Henry J. Callahan, Co. I, deserted April 23, 1863, at Frederick, MD.
James E. Bradford, Co. K, deserted March 2, 1863, he also did not return from furlough.
For an interesting look at some of the less soldierly men in the regiment, see the article "Shirks & Heros" on this page.
1. Massachusetts Adjutant General's yearly reports & the roster Davis compiled for the regimental history, with corrections printed in the 13th Regiment Association Circulars.
2. See Letter of John B. Noyes, October 2nd, 1861, on the 'Darnestown page of this website.
3. "Three Years in the Army" Charles E. Davis, Jr., 1894; p 263-265.
4. Information on the Nutt family from Al Gurney, Adna Hall's descendant.
Charles writes his sister about the death of his friend and fellow recruit of '62, Amos H. Bronsdon, age, 38, born, Milton Mass.; painter; mustered in as priv., Co. A. Bronsdon died Jan. 20, 63 at Acquia Creek Landing. You can read about the horrible sufferings of the wounded at Acquia Creek by accessing Warren H. Freeman's letters on the "Fredericksburg" page of this website.
In addition to the resignation of popular Co. A, Captain Samuel Neat, Adam's letter mentions that Lt. Charles B. Fox, (pictured left) has temporary command of the company. Fox would leave the regiment one week later to take a position with the 2nd Mass. Cavalry. John Noyes mentions this in his letter of February 15th below. This was short-lived for Fox was very soon appointed Lt.-Col. of the 55th Mass., a newly formed black regiment. So many men responded to Massachusetts Governor John Andrew's call for black enlistments to enroll in the 1st black regiment, that a second regiment was created from the overflow. It was Fox's long desire to do more for the war effort. He was a conscientious soldier who believed in the good of the Union cause and the President's Emancipation Proclamation. Seeing little chance for promotion in the 13th he left. His journal written while with the 55th, was used as the basis for that regiment's official history. Several of Fox's earlier letters can be found on this website.
Charles Adams also mentions another hometown friend in Company A. Pinckney Holbrook of Dorchester had a good record: Silas P. Holbrook; age 28, born, Dorchester Mass.; clerk; mustered in as priv., Co. A. July 16, ’61; clerk at headquarters, 1st & 5th A.C.; promoted to 2d lieut., 45th US Colored Troops, Sept. 6, ’64; mustered out as 2d lieut., 45th US Colored Troops, April 25, ’65; residence, Dorchester, Mass. Pictured at right, is a post war image of Pinckney Holbrook, Co. A, from the scrapbook of Company A comrade, James H. Lowell.
Adam's tent mate is Walter S. Fowler; age, 19; borne Dedham, Mass.; machinist; mustered in as priv., Co. A, July 6, ’62; mustered out, Sept. 15, ’63; wounded at Antietam, Sept. 17, ’62; appointed 2d lieut., Co. F, 5th Mass. Regt.; detailed from 5th to command garrison at Fort Canal, Md; residence New York City.
Camp Near Belle Plain Feb 8th 1863
Dear Sister Hannah,
I received your letter night before last and thought I would answer it tonight as you answered my last so promptly, but as the Adams’ are all great for “putting off” I will excuse you if you will do better in future. You must remember we have a mail every night + consequently have to turn away disappointed, time after time at not having a letter from home. There has not been much news stirring about here since I wrote last, excepting the removal of Burnside, Sumner + Franklin, the latter you will remember, had command of one of the ‘grand’ divisions of which we were a part. I suppose “Fighting Joe” will put through a course of sprouts as soon as the state of the ground will permit, and will either give the Reb’s a “warmer” or get awfully “licked” himself, in my opinion. You spoke of the death of Amos Bronsdon in your letter he was one of my tent mates when he left for the hospital + had been ailing for some time + when we left our camp (last advance) he with the rest of the sick were taken to the hospital where I understand he had to sleep on the ground, which was the finishing stoke of his sickness as he swelled up in the night + died the next morning. He was a nice man, generous + accommodating + we miss him very much. He said he was going down with Warren to see you when he got home + seemed to think he would get well if
he could only get home + doctor himself up. I had a letter from Wallace the other day, he said it was the first letter he had written for 5 months. I was glad to hear from Ira + mean to write to him soon, + should think that we might keep up a regular correspondence with him, amongst us. I was surprised to read the death of G. Boynton of the 44th he was a tiptop fellow. I suppose that was the reason he died as they always go first. You spoke of Ida’s letter that she wrote to Walter + I . I was in such a hurry when I wrote that letter about recieving the box (As we were just going to march) I forgot it at the time. Tell her that Walter + I think she is getting along very fast + she must must write me another, as I have saved that one to remember her by. Everything in the box kept first rate + we lived high while it lasted. Those apples went to the right spot + we are much obliged to you + Em for them. Pinckney Holbrook came back to the company today as his services are no longer required at headquarters. Our captain S. N. Neat has resigned + gone home to Boston taking with him two Contraband (one man and little boy) pretty smart chaps they are too. We are sorry to lose him as he was liked very much by the boys. (Samuel Neat, pictured, above). Chas. B. Fox of Dorchester has temporary command of our company + is also acting Adjutant.
Thursday I went on picket. I woke up in the morning to find
cold + blowy + to cap the climax it began to snow. I had to
pile out +
start + march about 1 ½ miles where we put up in the woods.
made a house of
boughs + just as we finished it it commenced to rain so the boughs did no coot. We rigged our rubber blankets up to shed off the rain + had to grin + bear it. I stood from 10 ½ till 12 ½ A.M. raining like time + nary umbrell, It was very interesting I can tell you, but I survived without catching cold which I guess all that went out cannot say. We had 2 large ovens come up to headquarters the other day + we expect to have fresh bread soon if they can be made to work, which we sincerely hope. I had my hair cut today
(being the first time since I left home)
They have been baking to day in those ovens that I spoke of + we expect fresh bread in the morning which will be a rare treat to us who have lived on hard bread so long. I went over to a house which is near our camp the other day – to get some clothes washed, the folks in this part of the country seem to be a shiftless set take them right through. There were two women in this house one was squatting down by the fire place smoking a pipe + while I was there a pig came in and laid down by the fire just as a dog would at home. Three or four dirty, ragged children were running around + dogs + pigs in profusion, so much for F. F. V’s. who live worse than the Paddies at home. I cant think of anything more interesting so I will
give you my autograph + put this letter in the P.O. Give my love to all the Folks + tell them to write often + I will answer promptly when I can.
From Your Militious Brother
Hannah W. Casey
Care of Gen. Fowler
Private Noyes long descriptive letters taken alone, could tell the history of the regiment. He was soon commissioned an officer in the 28th Mass., Vols, never to return to the 13th. His gain is our loss. In the following letter he details his return to the regiment, the first of the wounded from Antietam to return. On February 4th he wrote in part to his sister Martha:"Very astonished indeed were the men to see me, the first returned of those wounded at Antietam. They congratulated me on not being back in time to join them in the late advance of the Army – of which they still had very shuddering recollections.
I am now the guest of my old friend & chum Buffum in his mud-log tent-hut, about 7 foot by 7, & three feet deep. The logs are not yet cut, tent pieces provided or chimney built. I can’t tell how soon the habitation will be ready for its possessors, myself and Sam Townsend, brother of Percy Townsend of my class, who has just been relived from special duty at headquarters.
It was bitter cold last night, about the coldest of the season thus far so they tell me. Tolerable comfort is here sought, and in part is obtained. Very few war-shriekers at home would wish to exchange places, say for a week, with the boys here; or wish for an advance after being in the quarters, say three days, even by way of variety. People at home have no conception of camp life on the Rappahannock. Still the men bear up very well, and are quite cheerful. The talk now is about furloughs, as Gen’l. Hooker has ordered that two out of every 100 be allowed furlough ten or fifteen days, as the case may be. The men are asking when their turn may come, but I am afraid the order will be rescinded before many see their homes."
Letter of John Noyes, February 15th, 1863
In this letter, Private Noyes gives the news in camp.
By permission of the Houghton Library, Harvard University.
Near Fletcher’s Chapel Va,
As father’s note of the 9th inst spoke only of the reception of a letter to Martha, I would say that I wrote from Brooklyn to father January 16th, from Harrisburgh to Martha January 21st, from Washington to Mother January 28th to Father Feb’y 2d, to Martha Febry 4th and to father February 14th. I have received a letter from Father dated January 15th, letters in the package sent to me, and yours and fathers of the 9th inst. I tell you to direct simply to Washington D.C. because at that place letters of all Regiments are assorted and sent to the Headquarters of the Corps, in which the several regiments are assigned. The 13th is attached to Gen’l Nelson Taylor’s Brigade, Col Leonard now commanding, of Gen’l Robinson’s Div. of Gen’l Reynold’s Corps. The three grand divisions, right left and centre have been abolished. The placing of the Brigade or Div. or Corps on the letter is useless and might in the event of our transfer to a different brigade be productive of delay.
Mr. Gaylord is not now attached to the Regiment. I am inclined to think there are now very few Chaplains with the Division. Their occupation seems to be gone. The band left last spring, & what church even at home can be sustained without music? When I passed through Washington Mr. Gaylord was working for a chaplain in a hospital. Speaking of the Chaplain you will recollect that Mr. Gaylord raised $2000.00 to invest in clothing for our regiment, some time last November or December. That clothing and underclothing has never been received by us – not a dime’s worth of it. I believe Mr. Gaylord is not at fault, but could you not enquire in the Boston Post what has become of the $2000.00 raised for the 13th Reg’t. Into whose whose pockets has the money gone? I obtained free passes through to Washington & Reg't., save from N.Y. to Harrisburg.
I went to
Washington with Lieut Piper of the 11th Penn. I missed my
bag some what at Harrisburgh, though not so badly as I might
have. I borrowed a shirt and a couple of handkerchiefs
collars from Stephen, so that I had a change. I had a very
pleasant time at Harrisburgh although it was so wretchedly muddy all
the time that I had only one poor ride all the time I was
I only regret I did’nt stay a few days longer although I suppose those
days would have been worse still to judge from my experience in
Washington. As it was when I arrived at the Regiment I found
I had been reported absent without leave for more than a month.
my papers were with me that matter was squared up. However
next time I am similarly placed I shall know how to act. Lt
the Provost Marshall at Harrisburgh would have protected me for a
month, had I remained there so long, and then given me a pass to the
Regiment which would have protected me in Washington. Indeed
obtained a pass to remain in Washington three or four days, by showing
Case’s Pass. (Lt.
Case, pictured right).
Washington is a miserable hole. Blanchard with whom I chummed at Washington at Markham’s Hotel saw your friend Salisbury of Delaware about two hours after that drunken exhibition of himself and pistol in the Senate fall from his chair in the lobby on his face and belly dead drunk. He was carried to a less exposed place by two or three of the doorkeepers. I did not see old Abe. I saw his house however about 4 P.M. one day when four inches of snow having fallen the previous night. The walk in front of it had not been shoveled, and a paltry path four feet wide led up from the snow of the street to the palatial mansion. What is the use of having a fine house if you can’t keep the paths free from snow during the winter? The public buildings of Washington are half of them unfinished, and their grounds are in miserable condition. The grounds of the War Department are an eye–sore to the city. I do not speak of the Capitol.
Our men talk more of the unsuccessful move preceding Burnside’s withdrawal from the Army than of the Fredericksburg fight. Two or three days of misery and mud and then a return to a desolated camp in a rain storm, half the log huts burned down, and the cellars full of water, all the conveniences of a long stay “gone up” – such a march is only second to a disastrous battle.
The N.Y. 9th however have not forgotten Fredericksburg. I know men of Co. D only. That Company lost 18 men at Fredericksburg and have now but fourteen left for duty. Scarcely any old officers are left. Their Major was formerly a corporal in one of the Companies. I saw the 9th on inspection a few days ago but I should never have recognized that Regiment as the gay 9th of fifteen months ago, or indeed of eight months ago.
Dress Parade is the most important Camp duty. No one should be absent except for very urgent reasons. When the parade was dismissed yesterday afternoon, but three officers, one of them the adjutant, and all new 2d Lieutenants saluted Capt Palmer the acting Colonel. Lieut Fox left for home to day. W. F. Blanchard of my Company may call at your office before long. He is a smart one. The mysterious indici rubber is the mate of one lost in a snow drift on my return from Prof. Cooke’s spread in the winter of 1857.
It is raining here to day. Nine of my Company left for picket for 48 hours this A.M. I just escaped the detail and go on camp guard tomorrow. With love to all
John B. Noyes.
Lt. Charles B. Fox was eventually commissioned in the 55th
Mass. Vols., a colored regiment. The history of that unit is
based on Fox’s journal.
John Noyes commented tersely in the letter above to his brother George, "Washington is a miserable hole." His impressions of the city while passing through on the way to re-join the regiment are recorded in an earlier letter to his sister Martha. I posted some contemporary images of the city with excerpts from John's letter dated February 4th, 1863. Imagine those wide dirt roads during and after a heavy rain.
"Wednesday I met Blanchard of my company who had his shin bone shattered at Fredericksburgh, and chummed with him during the remainder of my stay in Washington. It snowed and rained during most of the time I remained in the City so that the traveling was not all to my mind. Was ever such a muddy city as Washington?"
Click on an image to view it larger.
|General Pleasanton's HQ, Washington, D.C.||Commissary General's Department, Front St. & 20th|
"The very spaciousness of the avenues seemed a defect, so vast became the receptacle of mud." I lost myself several times in the big, unfinished Capitol, hunting for the hall of Representatives and Senate Chamber."
"I did not see old Abe. I saw his house however about 4 P.M. one day when four inches of snow having fallen the previous night. The walk in front of it had not been shoveled, and a paltry path four feet wide led up from the snow of the street to the palatial mansion. What is the use of having a fine house if you can't keep the paths free from snow during the winter?
The Public buildings of Washington are half of them unfinished, and their grounds are in miserable condition. The grounds of the war Department are an eye-sore to the city. I do not speak of the Capitol."
|Sanitary Commission Storehouse, 15th & F Streets||Sanitary Commission Lodge for Invalid Soldiers|
|Capitol Building, June 28, 1863||Capitol Building, Opposite View|
In a similar letter dated February 19th, John Noyes describes his tent & tent-mates, Private Sprague, & Corporals Duren and Vorra, to his brother Stephen.
Fletcher’s Chapel Va, near Belle Plain Landing
Camp 13th Mass. Vols. Thursday Feb’ry 19th 1863
The 27th ult I informed you that I had expressed to the care of George R. Noyes a package for you. I suppose you received my note containing the receipt for the package sent. After a very pleasant week spent at Harrisburgh where I was the guest in turn of J. McCormick Jr. Esq. and Mr. Coverly I took the 5”20’ train for Baltimore on the 26th ult, in company with Lieut. Piper of the 11th Penn. The next day found me in Washington where I remained till the 31st ult, stopping part of the time at the Metropolitan and part of the time at the Markham Hotel. I visited the Capitol, Smithsonian Institute and particularly Grover’s where Mr. & Mrs. Barney Williams were playing, for the streets were terribly muddy, and I was decidedly blue. I was glad to leave Washington for the regiment. Twice I endeavored to get a pass, and twice I was ordered to the soldier’s retreat. I could not ‘see’ the reporting as the soldiers say, and started without a pass. The guards were very strict in inspecting the passes of those who went on board the boat for Acquia Creek, ditto with regard to the boat for Belle Plain Landing. I was too smart for them however, and no one offered to vise my pass.
A baggage wagon ride of three miles or so over roads not less than a foot deep with mud brought me to the camp on dry ground, on the brow of one of the hundred hills here rising on every side. A more hilly or perhaps high Knolly country, I ought to say, I never beheld. Perhaps thirty or forty hills lie between here and the landing over which baggage wagons have to be drawn.
We live in log huts, roofed over with shelter tents. My hut is about seven feet by eleven the fire place and door on the north end. On the fire all our cooking is done, from steaks and soups to coffee, and a good fire is kept all day to warm the inmates, Corporals Duren and Vorra, private Sprague and myself. “Heaps” of wood are burned and occasionally we have to cut a foot or two to replenish the pile. Trees are getting scarce near camp and for a week past wood parties have been organized and wagons furnished for their use.
Your Aff. Bro.
John B. Noyes.
Freeman H. Duren's record from the roster: age, 23, born, Portland, Me.; clerk; mustered in as priv., Co. B, July 16, 1861; mustered out as sergt., August 1, 1863; promoted to Corp., Oct. 18, 1862, and sergt., May 1, 1863; detailed as sergt headquarters guard, May 9, 1863. Co. B comrade, L. L. Dorr, described Duren as modest, but good with a gun. After the war, Duren never missed a re-union of the regt. 40 years strait.
Charles W. Manning; (pictured, right) age, 18; born, Ashby, Mass.; hatter, mustered in as priv., Co. B, July 16, 1861; mustered out, Aug. 1, 1864.
Edward A. Vorra; age, 23, born, E. Hartford, Conn.; bookbinder; mustered in as priv., Co. B, July 16, 1861; died of wounds May 5, 1864.
By permission of the Houghton Library, Harvard University.
Near Belle Plain
The Sunny South, February 24th 1863
Your letters of the 11th & 18th arrived respectively on the 15th & 23d instants. I also received a letter from father on the same date as your last. The newspapers come regularly to me, very welcome now that we are unable to obtain New York, Philadelphia & Washington papers. My letters to George of the 15th & to Charles of the 19th inst have probably by this time been read by you. A more exclusively political letter may perhaps be found in the Daily Advertiser, written on the 18th & signed “Miles.” If so send me a copy and preserve one.
So you have spent three weeks in Salem, and very happy ones I should judge from the tenor of your letter. Dissipation over, you are now in the quieter spot commonly denominated Cambridge. I am glad to hear you have not neglected skating this winter. I found that a year’s absence from skating grounds had not diminished my love for ice and skating. I had a fine days sport at Harrisburgh on poor ice and poorer skates. How does Sophie compare with the demoiselles of Salem with respect to skating ? She ought to have strong ankles. I suppose Uncle Edmund was laughed at by the whole congregation, that is if he had the courage to put on skates. As a teacher I should think Sophie might succeed especially with the male tribe who have already learned the alphabet, provided she makes good use of the rod. Otherwise they might get on too fast.
Your stamps did not suffer by reason of our visit. Your collection must now be quite large. I sent you several stamps, a few days ago in an envelope containing a picture of the Soldiers’ return home. Your ring came safely, and fits my left hand little finger admirable.
So you shook hands and conversed with General McClellan, I think he is a better lady Killer than General to command the army of the Potomac. As a rebel Killer he had no marked success. I hope the time may come at the close of the war, when the enemy are overwhelmed, you may shake the hand, and exchange a word with Gen’l Hooker. You may then say “I had a brother in your command.” The Army of the Potomac can do very well without Gen’l McClellan for its leader. Those who are now most eager for his reinstatement are certain politicians who think that it is essential that he should again be in command of the army for their plan of making him the next President of the United states. I repeat what I have said before that Hooker commands the confidence of the army, and there are those who admired McClellan who believe that we are more likely to achieve marked success, and destroy the rebel army of the Rappahannock, with the present commander in chief than under any one who has preceded him. Having touched upon all the points of your letter save that relating to my sleeping cap, I will simply say that I gave the duplicate to my chum Vorra, who was very much pleased with the present.
I have told you in previous letters that I was very comfortably situated here in camp, neither freezing nor starving, nor fretting myself to death because the Government does not behead the only general in the East who has won his high position by successful military operations, and who hopes with the blessing of God to perform what his predecessors have utterly failed in achieving even under better auspices.
Many persons at home asked me if I did not dread to go out on picket. I gave them all the same answer that I rather preferred picket to camp duty, that the danger attending picket duty did not trouble me, and that it was often pleasant to escape from the monotony of camp to the freedom of life on picket. I was thinking of Warrenton Junction, of Waterloo, & Warrenton. Nor had I forgotten picket duty on the Potomac which I had to perform every other day a year ago. But when the actual post duty was performed then, we could be sure of a warm room day & night. It fell to my lot to go on picket for forty eight hours last Saturday. The going out of the last picket from our regiment six days before in a severe rain storm and its return in a blinding snow storm had not rendered me perfectly resigned to leave my comfortable quarters for the untried felicities of picket. However I packed my Knapsack, filled my haversack with rations and constituted one of the complement of seven privates and two corporals detailed from my company.
First we were marched out on the parade ground where a hundred men each from the 13th Mass, 88th Penn, 97th New York and 11th Penn, were obliged to wait about ¾ of an hour for the rest from the 9th N.Y. to arrive. We then, after being inspected, marched about a mile when we halted and waited forty minutes for the Brigade officer of the day to make his appearance. The men were in no laughing mood, you may be assured, although it was pleasant, and received the officer of the day, a popular man by the way, with no very flattering remarks. The soldiers do not now pardon the delinquencies of officers or submit readily to the requirements of red tape. The lagging officer must make up his mind to bear meekly remarks he would once have resented and which once would have been considered indicative of insubordination. Another mile we marched when we reached the picket line where the 400 were split up into squads of 36 each, commanded by a commissioned officer, and sent to different portions of the line. At the head quarters of a squad or reserve the Lieutenant stops with two of the three reliefs of nine each into which the squad is divided. The relief again had three head quarters at which two men and a corporal remained while the third man was standing guard at the outpost. Consequently my time on picket was thus decided, as I was on the first relief of the squad, and the third of our sections of that squad and guard duty commenced at Eleven Am. Of Saturday – from 11” to 11 o’clock to 3 o’clock at the picket post with the corporal, from 3 to 5 P.m. on the out post alone, actually standing guard. From 5 Pm. To 5 A.m. Sunday with the Lieut of the Guard, part of the reserve. From 5 A.m. to 9 A.m. with the Corporal, from 9 A.m. to 11 A.m. at the outpost gun in hand; from 11 A.m. to 11 P.m. with the Lieut.; from 11 P.m. to 1:40 A.m. Monday with the Corporal; from 1:40 to 3 A.m. at the outpost, and lastly from 3 o’clock to 11 A.m. again with the Lieutenant.
Eighteen men consequently with corporals were always with the Lieut. two men and a corporal at the relief section, and one man each at three outposts. The actual guard duty was consequently easy being two hours on and 16 off.
Five hours and 20 minutes
instead of 16 hours in the 48 hours, we were
on the outpost.
The day of Saturday passed off pleasantly enough. We constructed bowers for shelter out at the reserve and picket stations and warmed ourselves at immense fires of pine and cedar logs. At night we turned in. A fire on which 12 pine logs, six feet long and six inches in diameter were blazing served to warm us, & the pine and cedar boughs which formed the thatch of our shelter kept out the cold wind. At about 10 P.m. I was aroused from my first sleep by the snow which beat through the boughs into my face. A rubber blanket was placed about us and my coat cape kept the snow from my face. Broken sleep till morning, the fire getting low and our feet cooling off. Five A.M. arriving we jumped out of our blankets covered with snow, emptied out our boots and sallied out to our picket station. About eight inches of snow covered the ground which became twelve in the course of the day. Between warming ourselves at the fires, and cutting down trees with which to replenish them the day passed. Towards evening we made a flooring to our bowers with logs split once, and a roof of rubber blankets, having removed the boughs & snow lying upon them. At 7 ½ P.m. we turned in after piling the logs of two or three trees onto the fire. At 11 P.m. after a few hours sleep we again sallied out to our picket fires and sat by the fire till 3 A.m. when we again repaired to our old sleeping places, dried or feet, and turned in. It was now star light. At about 10 A.m, having been relieved we set out for Camp, about two miles distant, through snow a foot deep on the average. Such is life on picket.
Half the time is spent in getting wood to burn, the other half in drying our feet before the fire. It was impossible to read or write so thickly fell the snow. Had the weather been pleasant we might have had a moderately pleasant time. As it was we thought of the good times we had passed elsewhere. We envied those who were snugly housed in our once detested shelters. Give us shelters we said and we will not ask for Sibley tents.
Sunday was Washington’s birth day, but we could not muster up much patriotic fervor. Great guns sounded through the flaky air, but we could not tell whether rebel or union. Ours to drive dull care away and count the remaining hours of picket duty. Still who shall say we did not have a jolly time on picket? The Lieut was a jolly boy, a foot under, under the snow till Sunday noon, when he concluded to leave his warm quarters to cook his breakfast. We certainly fared as well as he. We were all in the same sea of snow, and in the same boat. No picket for ten days, happy thought. Have father send me a lot of postage stamps, as it is impossible to get them here.
With love to all, I am as ever,
Your Aff. Brother
John B. Noyes.
Freeman left the ranks due to severe swelling of his feet from all the hard marching & exposure, November - December. He recovered in a new hospital camp at Windmill Point. Eventually, those men that could go, were ordered back to their respective camps.
Near Bell Plain, January 16, 1863.
Dear Father, - I have not got out of the hospital yet, but my feet are much better. The hospital is quite comfortable; we have good brick fire-places, and wood fires make the tent quite warm and pleasant. I hear that we are to march very soon. Chase has come up, he sells his apples at two and three cents each; he has got cake, butter, cheese, etc., but at pretty good prices. I never got the letter with the $1.15 in it that you say was sent to me.
Windmill Point, Va., January 21, 1863.
On Saturday the order came for all those not able to join their regiments to be sent to Aquia Creek, so Sunday morning we started for Pratt's Landing; there were some 600 or 800 of us. While waiting to get on board the steam transport I was so lucky as to get my box, just as it was about being sent to the regiment. I tell you it came just in good time, as the hospital is just being established, and we did not get any rations the first day. The hospital here is on a large scale, intended to accommodate 6,000 or 7,000 men; it is for the whole Army of the Potomac.
I am feeling well; and the boys tell me I am getting fat as a pig. My feet do not trouble me but little, unless I walk some distance, say half a mile or so, when they begin to ache. We are very much exposed to the wind here : I thought the tent would fall down last night; part of the roof of the cook-house was blown off.I am very much obliged for the box; everything was very nice but the grapes, which were spoilt.
January 30. - I am truly grateful to Uncle Washington for interesting himself so much in my behalf in regard to a furlough.
My feet, from outward appearance, seem to be all right, but there is a kind of numb dead feeling yet. I think come to march a mile or two they would swell up again; I have some touches of rheumatism.
I have not run across Eugene* yet; I shall try to get a pass and go up to Aquia Creek and see if I cannot find him.
Love to all at home. WarrenP.S. I heartily thank you for the intimation that I may expect another box soon.
NOTE: Warren's brother Eugene was in the Federal Transport Service, and his ship, the steamer Uncle Sam, frequently docked at Aquia Landing.
Hospital Camp, Thirteenth Regiment, Near Bell Plain, February 16, 1863.
Dear Father, - I have just arrived back to the hospital of the regiment. All those that were able to rejoin their regiments were sent off in ambulances, the others I think are to be sent to Alexandria, and the hospital broken up. I am not on an allowance of food now. I have eaten my ration of raw park and cooked food, so I think I shall do; and after the surgeon has been round and pronounced me "all right," I shall go into the ranks again.
I believe there is nothing more worth communicating at this time; so I will close with a kind remembrance to mother, Susie, George, and all others that may inquire.
Dear Father, - Your letters, Nos. 61. 62. and 63, came duly to hand – the last about a half hour since. I am doing full duty in the regiment now and feel quite well. I was out on picket Saturday; the day was very pleasant until near night, when it clouded in, and at ten o’clock P.M. it commenced snowing very fast, and kept it up till the next night. It was a regular Downeaster; the snow was about fifteen inches deep, and of course we had an uncomfortable time of it. I feel very grateful to you and Uncle Washington for your endeavors to get me a furlough to come home – although you were not successful. I think it will be in vain to try again, especially as I am now in good health.The contraband you met in Boston, that said he was acquainted with me, came to us when we were in Williamsport, and our mess hired him for a cook; his name is Warner Cunningham, and he is quite a likely fellow; he served us well.
But I must close for to-day; I have a bad headache, it is very cold, and our hut is full of smoke.
March 6. Nothing worth mentioning in the way of news. When off duty we have been busy getting in fuel for some days past. We live well for soldiers now; since we have been under Hooker there is a decided improvement in this respect; we have had warm bread for some time; the bakery is close by our tent.
I saw a balloon off in the direction of Falmouth yesterday; I suppose they were taking a view of the rebel camp in that vicinity.
It is very cold, and we have had flurries of snow for some days past. It is rather rough for the boys on picket; they go off about two miles towards the river – are absent forty-eight hours. I am feeling first-rate, weigh over 150 pounds. My box has not come yet; I feel quite anxious about it.
Love to all. Warren.
© Bradley M. Forbush, 2013
Page Updated April 14, 2013.