Year End, 1863

“Send Me A Box”

December 4 –– December 31, 1863.

Thomas Nast illustration of Santa distributing boxes to soldiers

Thomas Nast illustration from Harpers Weekly, January 3, 1863, (cropped closely) shows Santa distributing Christmas boxes to the soldiers in camp. “Santa is entertaining the soldiers by showing them Jeff Davis's future.” The harsh reality of Christmas 1863 for the soldiers in General John Robinson's Division of the 1st Army Corps was quite different.

Table of Contents


The weather turned very cold during the dismal Mine Run Campaign, (November 26 - December 3) so building comfortable winter quarters was foremost on the minds of soldiers when they re-crossed the Rapidan River and returned to camp.  The 13th MA settled into some abandoned Rebel huts near Paoli Mills on December 4th, but there were only enough to house half the men of the regiment.  Lt. Charles Horne says soldiers in Confederate General Robert Rhodes’ division built the finely constructed huts.  Those unlucky chaps who didn’t claim a hut pitched their tents on the cold ground.  Among the soldiers, the desire to build houses was debated against the chance of soon having to move again.  There was no official word from on high, that the troops would remain here throughout the winter.  But, the men hoped they would.  Boxes in the Quarter Master Department Aquia Creek February 1863Knowing that campaigning was at an end for the year, boxes from home were wanted, as mentioned by all the soldiers quoted on this page.  They desired little things from home to make life more comfortable in the field, but by far, a new pair of well made boots was the most requested item.  Frequent hard marches over muddy and frozen ground ruined everyone’s footwear.  Socks and suspenders were also in demand.  Warren Freeman wrote to his father on December 18,  “There are twenty wagon-loads of boxes for our division came in at the same time.”

The Recruits of August 1863, who had not yet run away as most of them would, were disruptive, as usual, and the running commentary on their bad behavior continued into December.  The veterans watched with interest the steady reduction of their numbers by desertion.

Three weeks passed. Some soldiers built their huts and others who had remained in tents finally decided to follow suit, when guess what? On December 23rd orders were received to be ready to march at 5 a.m., Christmas Eve.  Well, Thanksgiving was ruined with a march, why not Christmas too?

Mitchell’s Station, a few miles south of Culpeper Court-House along the Orange & Alexandria railroad was their destination.   A hard 17 mile tramp without halts, over frozen earth, brought them to a low flat camp ground with swampy water.  They pitched tents here and spent a dreary Christmas Day, ––unless of course, they were out on  picket duty.  General Wesley Merritt’s Cavalry Brigade was camped in a field to their front, a short distance away.  This contingent constituted the U.S. troops closest to the Rapidan River, across which was the enemy, about 6 miles distant.  It was their job to picket the river and keep watch on General Lee's Army.  On the last day of the year, camp changed again, and the regiment moved a short distance to high ground on a ridge over-looking Mitchell’s, not far from Cedar Mountain.  The regiment was stationed less than a mile from where they camped in mid-August 1862, back when General Hartsuff commanded the brigade. So much had transpired since then that it must have seemed like a hundred years in the past for the few men still with the regiment who remembered it.

Thus ended the eventful year of 1863 for the 13th Massachusetts Volunteers.

Whats On This Page

This page starts off with a soldier’s letter  printed in the Worcester Spy  December 2nd, stating that 280 men were with the regiment present for duty and of that number about 150 of the “original boys” were among them.  Using data from various sources I tried to discern the identities of the “150” “Boys of  '61.”

Next up, from the regiment, Lt. Charles Horne’s letter home touches upon several interesting topics including re-enlistment bounties, the drawbacks of military service, especially in the infantry, furloughs, which were then being granted in limited numbers, and the fall-out General Meade is receiving for the faillure of the Mine Run Campaign.

After Lt. Horne's letter, we come to the closing entries of Calvin Conant’s 1863 diary.   His daily diary entries recorded one Company G soldier's routine of army life, which was a welcome addition to the website narrative.  Conant will be missed, as I have no continuation of his journal into 1864.   Sam Webster's diary entries do the same, but Sam's entries will continue whereas Calvin's commentary ends with December 31st.   Next up, Sergeant Austin Stearns gets a furlough home, and his experiences traveling to Massachusetts from Virginia make interesting reading.  This is followed by Lieutenant John B. Noyes' letter in which he  pays a brief visit to the 13th MA camp near Kelly's Ford.   Noyes only comments briefly on how few original members are present now, and how only 2 of the 20 conscripts assigned to Company B, to which he once belonged, still remained in the ranks.

The scarcity of primary source material from the 13th MA is once again supplemented with the narrative commentary found in two other regimental histories.  The 39th MA, was still a relatively “green” regiment, with 8 months service in the field, and they had not yet seen battle.  Many of the hardships encountered during this period were still somewhat novel to them.  By contrast, the narrative from the veteran  “9th NY” regiment  (Baxter’s Brigade) evinces a tone of resigned acceptance to the disagreeable discomforts of soldier life.

Haddon Sundblom Santa

Once again 9th NY recruit, James Ross’s descriptive letters, provide the most noteworthy content on this page even though he belongs to Henry Baxter's Brigade while the 13th Mass., belongs to Colonel T. F. McCoy's Brigade of the same Division.  James expressively conveys the necessity of having a well made pair of boots.

A few comments from Colonel Charles Wainwright, Chief of 1st Corps Artillery pepper the page.  I realized late, that I had forgot to consult the crusty colonel, but was able to fit in some of his noteworthy comments in a few appropriate places.  His journal entries are lengthy and somewhat of a distraction from the main narrative so I didn't quote him nearly as much as I thought I would.  I'm saving the material for another page, particularly his frequent digs at lazy Corps Commander General Newton.  He still gets in some caustic comments about President Lincoln and others.

Images of Santa Claus, depicted by Thomas Nast, (one of Santa’s earliest promoters) and F.O.C. Darley, another Santa adherant, are whimsically sprinkled throughout this page to bring some levity, to what by contrast was a very dreary Christmas for the troops of General John C. Robinson’s Division.  Nast’s fantasy is in marked contrast to the reality of soldier life.  (Haddon Sundblom's iconic Santa from the 1930's depicted, right.)

A few choice "location-specific" photographs enhance this page.

This milestone page finally brings the regimental experiences of the year 1863 to a close.  The respite from campaigning which winter camp would bring increased expectations among the old soldiers (those that chose not to re-enlist) that with just 6 ˝ months to serve, and the majority of that time spent in winter camp, they would soon be home.  They could eagerly anticipate the time when they would leave the military service with all its trappings and all its sufferings behind.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!   What else can I say?

PICTURE CREDITS:  All Images are from the LIBRARY OF CONGRESS DIGITAL COLLECTIONS with the following exceptions:    Group shot of Henry Battles, etc., from the Sudbury, Mass. Historical Society;  1913 Gettysburg Group Shot curtesy of private collector Jeff Kowalis.  Portraits of George McKay, Sanford Goldsmith, Frederic E. Rogers, Bill Cary, Oscar F. Morse, Lt-Col Batchelder and Colonel Leonard are from, U.S. Army Heritage Education Center, Carlilsle, PA, MASS MOLLUS Collection; Portraits of George T. Raymond, & Dan Warren are from the author’s private collection; Snapshots of Mine Run Confederate Earthworks & the Yeager House by the author; Walter Humphreys was downloaded from the internet, source now lost; Portraits of Austin Gill & Joseph Sawtell, are from the book:  History of the Town of Berlin, Mass. by William A. Houghton, 1895;  Portrait of John Best courtesy of Nancy Martsch, descendant; Portrait of John T. B. Green courtesy his granddaughter Helen Hayes;  Portrait of David Sloss, courtesy of James Perry, Descendant; Portrait of Charles Comstock from the Westboro Historical Society; Portrait of Ira H. Felch courtesy of The Excelsior Brigade, dealers in CW artifacts; Portrait of Nathaniel M. Putnam courtesy of the MA Historical Society; Portrait of Theodore H. Goodnow from Findagrave Memorial, posted by Matthew Sargent; Portrait of James Gleason is from the John A. Rawlins G.A.R. Post 43 Publication “The Story of the Bell” (1910) author’s collection; Portrait of Herbert A. Reed & William M. Hilton from Digital Commonwealth at:; The image of actress Joan Blondell was a screen grab from the 1931 movie, “Blonde Crazy” posted on the Internet Archive; Edwin Forbes sketch of soldiers building a chimney, from the New York Public Library Digital Collections:;  Other Edwin Forbes illustrations including, “Inspection” and several vignettes of soldiers struggling in the rain and mud,  are from his book, “Thirty Years After, An Artist’s Memoir of the Civil War” Louisiana State University Press, 1993;  The Charles Reed sketches on this page can be found at the Library of Congress under “Charles Wellington Reed Papers.”; “Buglar” illustration by Walton Tabor is from “The American Heritage Century Collection of Civil War Art” ed. by Stephen Sears, American Heritage Publishing Company, New York, 1974.; Images from Harper’s Weekly including “Furlough” (December 26, 1863) and “Santa” January 3, 1863) are from ; Images from Frank Leslie's Illustrated History of the Civil War; accessed digitally on the Internet Archive at [];  Painting by Gilbert Gaul, of Solider on guard, lighting a smoke;  Portrait of Austin C. Stearns is from his memoir, “Three Years With Company K” ed. by Arthur Kent, Assoc. Univ. Press, 1976; Santa by F.O.C. Darley is from “A Visit From Saint Nicholas” found on Project Gutenberg; Portrait of William Blanchard was received from CW artifact dealer Steve Meadows; Portrait of Chaplain Edward Beecher French was found at Findagrave Memorial, posted by Peter Preble; The “Stephenson’s Rocket” train image from Buster Keaton’s 1917 motion picture “Our Hospitality” was found at [];   Illustration “Christmas in Camp” by A.C. Redwood, accessed on-line.  The colorful painting of soldiers marching in winter, “Mud March” is by artist Giovanni Ponticelli, no date, West Point Museum, US Military Academy.   ALL IMAGES HAVE BEEN EDITED IN PHOTOSHOP.

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150 of the “Old Boys” Present for Duty

The letter quoted in the Worcester Spy, must have been written just before the Mine Run Campaign began.  It proved to be the  catalyst for a “deep dive” of research.

The Worcester Massachusetts Spy December 2, 1863

The Thirteenth Massachusetts Regiment.  –– A letter to the Boston Journal from a member of this regiment, says that the 13th at present numbers 280 men on duty, and that about 150 of the “old boys” or original members are among them.  The regiment has little more than seven months of its period of enlistment to serve; and it appears that, with the view of giving the men opportunity to re-enlist and keep up the old organization, they will be sent home to Massachusetts to recruit.  At least this is positively stated and hoped for among the men, but probably on no better foundation than rumor.  Other Massachusetts regiments indulge in a similar hope.

The 13th is now doing duty on the railroad between Rappahannock bridge and Alexandria.  Col. S. H. Leonard, its gallant and able commander, is at present (as he has been almost always for a considerable time past) acting brigadier general.  His command includes his own regiment, the 39th Mass., 107th Pennsylvania and the 94th New York. The Massachusetts boys are represented to be in good health and spirits and anxious ––mud or no mud ––to have early opportunity to pay a triumphant visit to Richmond.

Who Are the 150?

From the time I first read the regimental history of the 13th Massachusetts Volunteers, I wondered who were the original members of the regiment that made it all the way through the 3 years service, and were still  present on the front lines near Petersburg, when those men  packed up and left Fort Davis on July 14, 1864, to finally make the journey home to Boston.  Only 70 of the original boys were still present.

The letter above, printed in the Worcester Spy, suggested that about 150 of the original men were still in the ranks in December 1863.  To determine who they might be I turned to the 1865 Massachusetts Adjutant General's  Report for the 13th Regiment.  This report listed the names of men who mustered out August 1, 1864.  I started my research with this document.  But many of the men on that list had been on detached duty.  To determine who was present  for duty in the 1864 Spring Campaign I began with casualties.  Obviously, if a man was wounded or killed in battle he was there, and these names were usually placed on my list as “Definitely Present.”  But because some of these casualties re-joined the regiment from detached duty, just before the campaign began in May 1864, not all of them were present in December 1863, and more sources had to be consulted.  Others who were mentioned in comrades diaries or letters are also listed as “Definitely Present.”  From here, I looked at any relevant source material I could find to determine the record of any soldier who might have been present.  The genealogy site Family Search has digitized several original Company Books for the 13th Massachusetts Regiment and made them available on-line. These books were returned to the State at the end of the war.  They  used to be stored in the Worcester Military Museum but are now stored with the State Archives.  The collection of Company Books, is incomplete, yet the rosters therein provided more clues as to who might be present and who might be detached.   A Regimental Order Book from this collection was extemely useful in clarifying the records of several men.

Obituaries, and letters in the 13th Regiment Circulars, 1885 - 1922 were also consulted for additional information on a particular soldier's record when possible.  Town histories were consulted when available.  They often include the military records of resident volunteer soldiers.

The categories included on my list are not consistent, but they mean exactly what they state; “Very Likely Present” means there is all reason to believe a soldier was present, yet I have no definitive document to prove it.  This is a notch above the category “Likely Present,” or “Probably Present.”  Some Company's records contained more comments than others.  Company K, for instance, was probably one of the most complete, especially with the addition of  Sergeant Austin Stearns' memoirs to help identify the men still in the ranks.   The ambiguity in some of the middle companies is apparent by the categories I used on the list.    The names of men who re-enlisted, shown on this page, helped verify, to a small extent, my educated guesses.  I was able to change one soldier from “Very Likely Present” to “Definitely Present.”

I have separated out the recruits, even the early ones, from original members, who mustered into service in July 1861.  Every source I had available was used to check this list and it is as accurate as I can make it at present with the materials I have on hand. It is a work in progress.  I refrained from giving each soldiers complete record or fate.  This is just a list of who may have still been present in the ranks in December 1863. Officers are listed on the next page, “Part 2”, of this section.––Bradley M. Forbush, January 6, 2023.

Photo of Henry Battles, George T. Smith and John Moore of Sudbury

Pictured left to right are Private Henry S. Battles, Private George H. Curtis and Private John H. Moore.  Curtis was from Worcester and in Company I.  Battles and Moore were from Sudbury, Mass., and  in Company F.  Battles deserted the regiment September 14, 1862;  Curtis mustered out with the regiment in August 1864, ––wounded at Gettysburg.  John Hayward Moore is briefly reported a deserter, September 8, 1862, but records in the town of Sudbury state he was wounded in the hand at the Battle of Antietam.  He was back with the regiment in December 1862 and did detached duty as a driver for the Division Supply Train.  On January 30, 1863 he was officially detached as a driver for the ammunition train which position he seemed to maintain through the end of service.  Moore mustered out August 1864.  Image courtesy of Sudbury, Mass. Historical Society.

Tabulation of Men Present in the Ranks, December 1863.

                        Company A

Definitely Present:

Sergeant Warren H. Freeman, age 19. (December  1861 Recruit.)
Color-Sergeant Dennis G. Walker, age 24.
Corporal John Brightwell, age 18. (August 1862 Recruit.)
Corporal Henry J. A. Hebard, age 18.
Private George W. Hyde, age 20.  (August 1862 Recruit.)
Corporal Charles D. Kimball, age 28.
Corporal Nathaniel M. Putnam, age 22. (Detailed Color Guard Feb. 3, 1864.)
Corporal George Spencer, age 22. (August 1862 Recruit.)
Private Walter Humphrey, age 20.

Definitely Present Total = 9.
        (5 Original Men, 4 Recruits.)

Very Likely/Likely Present:

Sergeant Charles A. Drew, age 21.
Corporal Rollin T. Horton, age 17.
Private Edward A. Boyd, age 25.
Private John C. Clark, age 21.

Very Likely / Likely Present Total = 4.
        (4 Original Men.)

*NOTE:  At least 4 more Company A men were definitely present in the ranks for the Spring Campaigns. They were:

Private Albert F. Brooks, age 26.  (Brooks was Court Maritialled for being AWOL from Aug. 1862 - Dec. 24, 1863.  He was ordered to make up time from August 5, 1862 - July 1863.)

Private Herbert A. Reed, age 22. (Private Reed was court martialled, for being AWOL between Sept. 23 1862 and Dec. 24, 1863.  He was acquitted of all charges due to the careless manner in which they were brought against him.  Reed was wounded at the Battle of the Wilderness.)

Private Joseph W. Fiske, age 34.  (August, 62 recruit.) Returned April  29, 1864, from detached duty with the Ambulance Corps.)

Private Allen D. Whitman, age 25.  (Buglar, Brigade HQ. Transferred from Co. G to Co. A, May, 1863. He was ordered back from the Ambulance Corps, April 29 1864 and assigned Special Duty, detached at Head Quarters the next day.)

Present Not Counted Total = 4.
        (3 Original Men, 1 Recruit.)

                        Company B

Definitely Present:

1st-Sergeant William M. Coombs, age 20.
Sergeant John MacMahen, age 21.
Color-Sergeant David Sloss, age 22.
Corporal Henry Bates, age 21.
Corporal Herbert Bent, age 21.
Corporal Thomas J. Buffum, age 20. (August 1862 Recruit.)
Corporal John B. Curtis, age 19.
Corporal George H. Hill, age 20.
Corporal Charles D. Kimball, age 28.
Corporal Albert E. Morse, age 20.
Corporal Edward A. Vorra, age 23.
Private Brainard P. Blanchard, age 18. (August 1862 Recruit.)
Private William F. Blanchard, age 23.
Private Charles K. Collins, age 18.
Private Albert Lynde, age 20.
Private George E. Mecuen, age 19.
Private William H. H. Pierce, age 18. (August 1862 Recruit.)
Private George B. Stone, age 24.
Private Jeremiah Stuart, age 21.
Private Isaac Lee Webster, age 15. (Very early Recruit, about Dec., 1861, although not mustered into service officially until Feb. 11, 1862.)

Definitely Present Total = 20.
        (16 Original Men, 4 Recruits.)

Very Likely Present:

Private James A. Young, age 18. (Prisoner at Gettysburg.  Returned  August 17, 1863.)

Very Likely Present Total = 1.
        (1 Original Man.)

Present but Maybe Detached:

Sergeant Freeman H. Duren, age 23.  (Likely Detached Brigade HQ)
Private John Edson, age 38, (Likely Detached Brigade Cattle Guard.)
Private William H. H. Howe, age 20.  (Detached Sept. 25, 1863, by Gen. Robinson.)

Maybe Total = 3.*
     (3 Original Men.)
*(Not included in regimental totals.)

Company C

Definitely Present:

1st-Sergeant James L. McCoy, age 18.
Sergeant Albet W. Dyer, age 18.
Sergeant James W. Kennay, age 24.
Sergeant Edmund H. Ross, age 21.
Sergeant Edward W. Schuttee, [Shute] age 21.
Corporal Charles R. Gardner, age 23.
Corporal Joseph A. Keeting, age 19.
Corporal Thomas C. Restarrick, age 29. (August 1862 Recruit).
Corporal Samuel C. F. Seabury, age 20.
Private Algernon S. Auld, age 21. (August 1862 Recruit.)
Private Spencer Chamberlain, age 34.
Private Michael B. Doherty, age 24.
Private Ira H. Gates, age 29.
Private Sanford K. Goldsmith, age 19.
Private William M. Hilton, age 23. (February 1862 Recruit.)
Private Alfred Johnson, age 19.
Private Horace E. Renfrew, age 21.
Private  A. Maynard Richardson, age  18.
Private William F. Stoddard, age 18.
Private Charles W. Sears, age 24. (August 1862 Recruit.)
Private Julius F. Kraitzer, age 20.
Private George F. McKay, age 21.  (August 1862 Recruit.)

Definitely Present Total = 22.
        (17 Original Men, 5 Recruits.)

Likely Present:

Private William G. Johnson, age 23. (August 1862 Recruit.)
Private William P. Miles, age 18.

Likely Present Total = 2.
        (1 Original Man, 1 Recruit.)

Company D

Definitely Present:

Sergeant Joseph O. Miles, age 21.
Sergeant Walter C. Thompson, age 21.
Sergeant Edward H. Whitney, age 18.
Corporal Selah B. Alden, age 31.
Corporal Edwin A. Blonde, age 30.
Private Darwin F. "Duchy" Bartlett, age 30.
Private Seth K. Cushing, age 21. (September 1862 Recruit.)
Private Eben Pratt, age 22.
Private Thomas Prince, age 23.
Private Frederic E. Rogers, age 18. (March, 1862 Recruit.)
Private Bourne Spooner, age 20.
Private John M. Watts, age 24.
Private Sam Webster, age 16. (Mustered in Feb. 1862, although he had already been with the regiment 2 months.)

Definitely Present Total = 13.
        (10 Original Men, 3 Recruits.)

Likely Present:

Private Alfred M. Burton, age 21. (Sept. 1862 Recruit.)
Private Samuel A. Hildreth, age 31.

Likely Present Total = 2.
        (1 Original Man, 1 Recruit.)

Uncertain, Maybe Present:

Private Frank B. Hastings, age 21. (Hastings was wounded & captured at Gettysburg.)
Private George M. D. Reed, age 25. (August 1862 Recruit.)

Uncertain Total = 2.
        (1 Original Man, 1 Recruit.)

Company E

Definitely Present:

1st Sergeant Freeman J. Cook age 19.
1st-Sergeant Henry Dove, age 23.
Corporal Edwin R. Jenness, age 19.
Corporal George F. Jones, age 30.
Private Orlow Austin, age 20.
Private William H. Briggs, age 18. (August 1862 Recruit.)
Private Jospeh S. Donnell, age 19.
Private Henry Epple, age 24.
Private John T. B. Green, age 18. (July 1862 Recruit.)
Private Samuel H. Griffin, age 22.
Private Samuel A. Langley, age 18. (October 1861 Recruit).
Private Fred A. Libbey, age 19.
Private Andrew J. Lloyed, age 28.
Private Joseph W. Macrae, age 19.
Private John Schnell, age 27.
Private George A. Springer, age 32.  (August 1862 Recruit.)

Definitely Present Total = 16.*
        (12 Original Men, 4 Recruits.)

*NOTE:  Five more Company E men were definitely present in the ranks for the Spring Campaigns, but they returned after the above article appeared in the newspaper.  They were:

Sergeant Jeremiah P. Blake, age 28.  (Sergeant Blake went to the Hospital Sick, in September, 1863.  He returned to his Company on December 29th.)

Private Lewis F. Clough, age 19. (August 1862 Recruit. Missing in Action & Wounded at Gettysburg. Brought back to the regiment as a deserter November, 1863. Aquitted of desertion charges and returned to duty, January 4, 1864.)

Private John E. Cook, age 23.  (Missing in Action at Gettysburg.  Returned to the Regiment, December 16, 1863.)

Private Henry Reimbach, age 21. (Wounded at Gettysburg.  Returned to the regiment December 11, 1863.)

Private Alden Winslow, age 19.  (Was ordered back to the Regt. April 26, 1864 from Detached duty in the Ambulance Corps.)

Present Not Counted Total = 5.
        (4 Original Men, 1 Recruit.)

Likely Present:

Sergeant Samuel P. Hadley, age 18.
Corporal Samuel B. Arnold, age 24.
Private Edward F. Trask, age 18.
Private Bartlett C. Waldron, age 24.
Private Alonzo J. Wells, age 18.
Private Nelson Waterhouse, age 19. (August 1862 Recruit.)

Likely Present Total = 6.
        (5 Original Men, 1 Recruit.)

Uncertain, Maybe Present:

Private George White, age 29.  (White was serving with the Ambulance Corps. He may have returned to duty in November 1863.)

Uncertain Total = 1.
        (1 Original Man.)

                        Company F

Definitely Present:

Sergeant Joseph M. Sawtell, age 21.
Sergeant Zoheth E. Woodbury, age 19.
Corporal William F. Brigham, age 19.
Corporal Spencer Smith, age 20.
Private Austin Gill, age 19.
Private Charles E. Haynes, age 24.
Private Mortimor Johnson, age 19.
Private Rolla Nichols, age 24.  (November 1861 Recruit.)
Private Lewis Roberts, age 24.
Private George T. Smith, age 19.

Definitely Present Total = 10.
        (9 Original Men, 1 Recruit.)

Likely Present:

Corporal George L. Willis, age 18.
Private Abraham F. Gay, age 34. (March 1862, Recruit.)
Private Francis M. Kimmens, age 19.
Private Andrew J. Mann, age 20.
Private James McCarron, age 23.
Private William A. Newhall, age 24.

Likely Present Total = 6.
       (5 Original Men, 1 Recruit.)

Uncertain, Maybe Present:

Sergeant Henry J. Brigham age 25.
Private Eugene E. Rogers, age 26. (March 1862 Recruit.)

Uncertain Total = 2.
        (1 Original Man, 1 Recruit.)

                        Company G

Definitely Present:

Sergeant David L. Jones, age 18.
Sergeant Michael Matthews, age 21.
Corporal John Best, age 25.
Corporal Calvin H. Conant, age 21.
Corporal Albert Jenkins, age 26.
Thomas E. Bancroft, age 22. (Aug. 1862 Recruit.)
Private Charles F. Drew age 24.
Private Stephen W. Lufkin, age 18. (August 1862 Recruit.)
Private Lewellyn Jones, age 20.
Private James T. Norris, age 34. (August 1862 Recruit.)

Definitely Present Total = 10.
        (7 Original Men, 3 Recruits.)

Very Likely Present:

1st-Sergeant John W. Spencer, age 24.
Sergeant Thomas F. Trow, age 25.
Corporal Charles H. Lang age 33.
Private James McKay (August 1862 Recruit.)
Private William E. Foster, age 31.

Very Likely Present = 5.
        (4 Original Men, 1 Recruit.)

Probably Present:

Private George E. Bates, age 19. (August 1862 Recruit.)
Private Samuel Berry, Jr. age 24. (Maybe detached.)
Private Orne Green age 23. (August 1862 Recruit.)
Private Edward A. Lewis, age 22.

Probably Present Total = 4.
        (2 Original Men, 2 Recruits.)

Uncertain, Maybe Present:

Sergeant Josiah Q. Crosby, age 28.
Private William Briggs, age 21.
Private John F. Cook, age 18.
Private Peter Garvey, age 19.

Uncertain Total = 4.
        (4 Original Men.)

Company H

Definitely Present:

Sergeant Sylvester Frost, age 20.
Sergeant Charles E. Gerrold, age 24.
Sergeant Joseph W. Mann, age 24.
Corporal Francis Coolidge, age 28.
Corporal Myrick A. Wentworth, age 27.
Private Charles E. Colburn, age 18.
Private John Fitzsimmons, age 24. (July 1862 Recruit.)
Private Daniel B. Gray, age 25. (August 1862 Recruit.)
Private Daniel A. Lovering, age 38. (August 1862 Recruit.)
Private Azariah Proctor, age 23.
Private George W. Stoddard, age 31.   (July 1862 Recruit.)

Definitely Present Total = 11.
        (7 Original Men, 4 Recruits.)

Likely Present:

Sergeant Abraham Bigelow, age 24.
Private Nathaniel F. Berry, age 30. (August 1862 Recruit.)
Private Chester A. Bigelow, age 18. (February 1862 Recruit.)
Howard A. Staples, age 21.  (February 1862 Recruit.)
Private Edward A. Blake, age 36.
Private Rufus C. Moore, age 35. (February 1862 Recruit.)

Likely Present Total = 6.
        (2 Original Men, 4 Recruits.)

Uncertain, Maybe Present:

Corporal Edson C. Davis, age 25.
Private George A. Blake, age 30. (Maybe Detached.)
Private James Currier, Jr., age 21.
Private Ira H. Felch, age 18. (March, 1862 Recruit, Maybe Detached)
Private Zibeon Hooker Gould, age 24. drummer.
Private Leander A. Haynes, age 30.
Private George V. Kemp, age 25.
Private Edward F. McLain, age 32.
Private Francis A. Morse, age 28.

Uncertain Total = 9.
        (8 Original Men, 1 Recruit.)

Company I

Definitely Present:

Sergeant Charles H. Cotting, age 20.
Sergeant Lysander O. Parker, age 19.
Corporal Albion L. Jackson, age 18.
Corporal John P. Peebles, age 24.
Private Theodore H. Goodnow, age 18.
Private Charles W. Mosher, age 18.
Private George T. Raymond, age 18. (July 1862 Recruit.)
Private James M. Gleason, age 17.
Private George Brown, age 23.
Private George M. Cuthbert, age 37.
Private William P. Farquerrson, age 18
Private Ellery E. Goodwin, age 18.
Corporal George O. Grady, age 23. (Reduced to the. ranks at his own request.  Personal servant  to Asst. Surgeon Hixon. Returned to duty Nov. 2d. 1863.)
Private Albert F. Holmes, age 22.
Private Michael Murphy, age 26.
Private George H. Murray, age 24.  (July 1862 Recruit.)

Definitely Present Total = 16.*
        (14 Original Men, 2 Recruits.)

*NOTE:  Four more Company I men were definitely present in the ranks for the Spring Campaign, but they returned after the above article appeared in the newspaper.  They were:

Corporal Dennis J. Donovan, age 19. (Donovan returns Dec. 10, 1863.)

Private Charles T. Love, age 19. (Private Love is listed as detached at Head-Quarters, but he would be present at the Battle of the Wilderness.)

Private George H. Moore, (1st) age 27.  (Private Moore is listed as detached with the Quarter Master Dept., but he is wounded June 1, 1864.)

Priv. James Ryan, age 19. Private Ryan will return to the regiment in February, 1864, after recovering from wounds received at Gettysburg.

Present, Not Counted Total = 4.
        (4 Original Men.)

Very Likely Present:

1st-Sergeant Warren I. Stetson, age 17.
Private Edward H. Atkins, age 18. (July 1862 Recruit.)
Private Austin D. Brigham, age 25.
Private Thomas B. Winters, age 21.

Very Likely Present Total = 4.
        (3 Original Men, 1 Recruit.)

Uncertain, Maybe Present:

Private George H. Curtis, age 18. (Wounded at Gettysburg.)
John F. Childs, age 21. (March 1862 Recruit. Wounded at Gettysburg. )

Uncertain Total = 2.
        (1 Original Man, 1 Recruit.)

                        Company K

Definitely Present:

Sergeant William Rawson, age 18.
Sergeant Alfred L. Sanborn, age 26.
Sergeant Austin C. Stearns, age 24.
Sergeant Melville H. Walker, age 19.
Sergeant Frank P. Wilson, age 20.
Corporal George W. Clifford, age 18. (August 1862 Recruit.)
Corporal George F. Emery, age 19.
Corporal John M. Hill, age 32. (February 1862 Recruit.)
Corporal Samuel Jordan, age 24. (August 1862 Recruit.)
Corporal James Slattery, age 18.
Corporal Henry C. Vining, age 24. (August 1862 Recruit.)
Private John F. Bates, age 26.
Private Edward C. Dockham, age 23.
Private Charles M. Fay, age 17.
Private George W. Hall, age 21. (August 1862 Recruit.)
Private Lyman Haskell, age 23.
Private Walter S. C. Heath, age 29.** (August 1862 Recruit.)
Private Charles F. Rice, age 19. (August 1862 Recruit.)
Private Appleton L. Sawyer, age 20.
Private Dan Warren, age 36.
Private Stephen Warren, age 27.

Definitely Present = 21.*
        (14 Original Men, 7 Recruits.)

*NOTES:  Five more men would re-join the company from detached service in time for the Spring Campaigns.  They were:

Corporal Dexter A. Chamberlain, age 25. (Rejoined the Company May 1, 1864.)
Corporal Charles W. Comstock, age 25. (Rejoined the Company May 13, 1864.)
Private Edward Lee, age 30.
Private Michael Lynch, age 20.
Private George H. Seaver, age 25. (August 1862 Recruit.)

Present, Not Counted Total = 4.
        (3 Original Men, 1 Recruit).

**Private Walter S. C. Heath, would re-enlist, take the bounty money, and desert while on furlough.

Veteran Re-Union, Gettysburg, 1913

Many of the veteran volunteers in the picture below are on the above list.  They returned to Gettysburg in 1913, for the 50th Anniversary of the battle and posed in front of the 13th Massachusetts monument on July 1st.  I've cropped in tight and excluded the statue from the image.  Although the resolution isn't great, all the men are identified, and in some cases, this is the only image I have of them.  The photo was taken by George W. Swift of Detroit, Michigan, whose father George L. Swift was a member of Company F, and had been taken prisoner at the battle.  Image courtesy of Jeff Kowalis.

1913 Gettsyburg Veteran Reunion

Reading from left to right:  Rear Row:  Bartlett C. Waldron, Company E;  S.W. Lufkin, Company G;  Rollin T. Horton, Company A;   A.C.H. Law, Company B;  Frank P. Wilson, Company K;  J. W. Fiske, Company A;  Herbert Bent, Company B.  Middle Row:  Sam D. Webster, Company D;  W.K. Pratt, Company G;  A.C. Stearns, Company K;  Dennis G. Walker, Company A;  John Callahan, Company E;   Front Row:  Wm. H.H. Pierce,  Company B;  George H. Hill, Company B; Wm. H.H. Howe, Company B.


The Author of the letter to the Boston Journal stated there were about 150 of the “old boys” or original members of the regiment present on duty. The totals for the above tabulations come pretty close to that number.

Definitely Present Total = 111 Original Men &  37 Recruits (1861 & 1862).

Likely/Very Likely Present Total = 28 Original Men, & 12 Recruits (1861 & 1862).

Sum Total = 139 Original Men & 49 Recruits Present or Very Likely Present.

Total Uncertain/Maybe Present = 19 Original Men & 4 Recruits (1861 & 1862).

If I add the 19 Original Maybes to the total of  Original Men Definitely Present and Likely Present, the sum total is 158.

There were at least, 14 additional Original Men & 3 additional Recruits who would be present when the Spring Campaign opened in May, 1864.

Selected Portraits

I've posted here images of volunteers on the list, many of whom have not yet appeared on this website. All the images have been edited in photoshop.

George F. McKayGeorge T. RaymondWalter C. Humphries

Private George F. McKay, Company G;  Private George T. Raymond, Company I; &  Private Walter C. Humphries [Roster says Humphrey] Company A.

Sanford K. GoldsmithAustin Gill Company FJohn Best, Company G

Private Sanford Goldsmith, Company A; Private Austin Gill, Company F, & Corporal John Best, Company G.

Private John T. B. Green, Company ECharles Comstock, Company KIra Felch Company I

Pictured right to left are:  Private John T. B. Green, Company E, Corporal Charles Comstock, Company K, & Private Ira H. Felch, Company H.   Recruit Green would re-enlist, Comstock, like Austin Stearns served his whole 3 years at the front.  Private Felch may have been one of the men detached, who was still close to the front.

Fred E. Rogers, Company FAlgernon AuldPrivate Bourne Spooner, Company D

Private Fred E. Rogers,Company D; Private Algernon Auld, Company C; & Private Bourne Spooner, Company D.

Thomas Herbert GoodnowN. M. Putnam, Company AJames Gleason, Company I

Private Theodore H. Goodnow, Company I; Corporal Nathaniel M. Putnam, Company A, & Private James  M. Gleason, Company I.

Joseph SawtelleWilliam H. Hilton, Company CHerbert A. Reed

Sergeant Joseph M. Sawtelle, Company F; Private William M. Hilton, Company C;  & Private Herbert A. Reed, Company A.  Private Reed was acquited at an April 9, 1864 court-martial for being absent between September 23rd 1862 and December 17, 1863.  The court ruled, that although it is evident he was away for a long time, the charges were brought against him in a careless manner and  no evidence could be brought forth to support them.  Reed was acquitted and released from confinement.  His record states he was wounded at the Battle of the Wilderness.  He is frequently mentioned in the letters  of Albert Liscom, featured on this website.  Both he and Liscom were piano-tuners.  Reed's younger brother Edgar, a recruit of 1862, suffered from mental problems. He is mentioned in the letters of Warren H. Freeman.  [Source:  Regimental Order Book retrieved at Family Search, Albert Liscom Letters, 13th MA Roster, Warren Freeman letters.]

Charles H. LangColor Sergeant David Sloss, postwarDan Warren Company K

Corporal Charles H. Lang, Company G;   Color-Sergeant David Sloss, Company B; & Private Dan Warren, Company K.

Return to Table of Contents

Settling Into Camp at Kelly's Ford, December 3 - 17;

From “Three Years in the Army, The Story of the Thirteenth Massachusetts Volunteers” by Charles E. Davis, Jr. (Boston, Estes & Lauriat, 1894.):

illustration from Alphabet Militaire

Thursday, December 3.  Marched to a point near Kellly’s Ford on the Rappahannock River, where we took possession of some rebel huts, built for winter quarters and where we remained until the 24th, attending to the usual duties of camp life, watching with interest the steady diminution of our comrades, the substitutes and bounty-jumpers, who returned to their native hearths to reënlist in accordance with the earnestly expressed wish of the government, that all veterans should do so.*

Complaint was made by General Newton, our corps commander, that our regiment did not have recitations from the Army Regulations.  There were four hundred and eighty-three pages, containing, in all, sixteen hundred and seventy-six regulations.  We were grateful to our officers for this deviation from the strict line of their duty.  There were inflictions enough without this one.  The busybody that informed General Newton of this neglect deserved to be choked, we thought.

Section 500 of the Army regulations says;  “The sentinel at the colonel’s tent has orders to warn him, day or night, of any unusual movement in or about camp.”  The most unusual thing that ever happened in camp is the prompt relief of the camp guard on duty at 3 A.M.  According to this regulation, therefore, it was the duty of the sentinel after such an occurrence to wake the colonel and let him know the fact, though we belive it was never done, because life was sweet, even to a private soldier.  Then again, the ninth article of war forbade a soldier using any violence to his superior officer.

*Davis is joking about the fact that many of the recruits who deserted, re-enlisted in other regiments to collect the bounty money being offered by the government for "veterans" to re-enlist.  They would then desert again, and repeat.

Circular from Colonel T. F. McCoy

Headquarters First Brigade,
Second Division First Army Corps,

Dec. 14, 1863


    I.     As one of the aids to a proper attention to guard duty is to have comfortable guard quarters, the commanding officers of the different regiments of this brigade will, without unnecessary delay, have such quarters prepared.

    II.    As the moral and conscientious soldiers are among the most faithful and devoted to the service, it is desirable that the best means be used for cultivation and promoting the highest moral influence amongst the troops.  T. F. McCoy, Brigade CommanderIt is, therefore, recommended to all officers, particularly to commanding officers of regiments, to extend all facilities in their power to the chaplains in the performance of their high and sacred duties.  Every regiment should have a suitable building or tent in which to hold their religious meetings.  Every regiment not having a chaplain should adopt the speediest means for obtaining one.

III.  The colonel commanding does not feel himself authorized to issue any orders on the duties of chaplains, for prescribing any form for religious services, although the religious orders of the President, repeated by several commanders of this army, might warrant it, yet he would most earnestly recommend that the commanders of regiments require their chaplains, or in their absence, some suitable person, to have a short and appropriate religious service on the occasion of the evening dress parade, believing , as he does, that it would be a dutiful recognition of that Almighty Power that has preserved us, blessed our nation and flag, blessed our arms, and that is rapidly leading us into a long-looked for haven of peace and prosperity.

By command of
                            Col. T. F. McCoy,
                                                Commanding Brigade.

Davis, continued:
        The reading of this order reminded us of the utter darkness into which we had wandered by the loss of our spiritual guide, the chaplain.  The Bibles which we had discarded in the streets of Philadelphia, under the impression that the presence of a chaplain would supply their place, might now be useful in regulating our conduct so as to fulfill the enunciation of Colonel McCoy, that “moral and conscientious soldiers are among the most faithful and devoted to the service.”

We were certainly among the breakers, ––house-breakers, as our last August recruits appeared to be, ––and needed, if ever, the services of a chaplain, or a jailer, though the latter was the officer we felt would be most useful.

The chaplain left us about Fredericksburg time to take charge of a hospital in Washington, [The Campbell Hospital ––B.F.] and we are free to say that we missed the cheering influence of his amiable presence.  Surrounded as we now were by a brawling set of recruits, it looked like a travesty to remind us of cultivating morals in soil so destitute of good.  There were some things we could do to be saved without the aid of a chaplain:  we could pray, sing a psalm, take up a collection, or take a bath.

Most of us chose the latter, for its proximity to godliness, and felt purer and happier for doing so.

Joan Blondell bathing, from Blonde Crazy, 1931

Actress Joan Blondell taking a bath, from the Warner Bros. picture, “Blonde Crazy” 1931.

The Brigade Camps Near Paoli Mills

When General Meade's army re-crossed the Rapidan, Brigadier General John C. Robinson's 2nd Division of the 1st Corps camped near Paoli Mills on Mountain Run as noted in Sam Webster's Diary.

From the Diary of Sam Webster, Company D, [Drum Corps]:

Thursday December 3rd, 1863
        Cross to the road to Kelly's Ford;  and at Viola Mills, [Paoli Mills ––B.F.] on Mountain Run, go into huts vacated by the rebels; scarcely enough for half the men and evidently the former quarters of a battery  Our mess was left in the cold, but raised boards enough from an adjacent camp to build a house, in time to come.

Friday, December 4th, 1863
        Spend great part of the day building house; drive stakes down at the corners to confine the boards.  About the same size as usual but door and chimney on opposite sides, and beds at each end, leaving considerable space in the center.  Received four letters.  3rd Division arrives from Rappahannock station.

Saturday, December 5th, 1863
        Move into the new shanty –– will have one night in it, although orders have come to move again.   XXX countermanded.

Tuesday, December 8th, 1863
        Have fireplace and chimney finished –– “cross-logged,” and filled in with mud, as usual. Eked out the chimney with boards –– draws admirably.

Edwin Forbes sketch of 3 soldiers building a winter hut

“Going Into Winter Quarters” by Artist Correspondent Edwin Forbes.

Journal of Colonel Charles Wainwright, Chief of 1st Corps Artillery

Wainwright is much more specific in explaining the disposition of the 1st Corps Troops around Kelly's Ford, following the Mine Run Campaign.

Kelly's Ford, December 6, Sunday
        I suppose that this is the best designation for me to give to our present location, as it is a point supposed to be held by our corps;  though in truth the house around which General Newton’s and my own headquarters are pitched is jut about halfway between the ford and Paoli Mills.  I have not yet learned what was intended by the orders to move at four o’clock on Friday morning; whatever it was, it came to naught; we only changed the position of headquarters and stretched the Corps out from the Mills to the ford.  I left 3 Batteries at the Mills with Capt. Cooper, but brought them up here yesterday.  Our 2d Division still remains at the Mills;  the 1st is at the Ford;  while the 3d has come up from the Railroad & gone into camp close by this point.

Steward, Mink Cooper & Stevens are camped along the edge of the wood near here; Reynolds & Rigby are nearer the ford, about half a mile off. The 6th Maine I am rejoiced to say has been ordered back to the Reserve.  On Monday, at Mine Run, Capt. Dow was as drunk as a fool; he was constantly riding up to me, and asking permission to have his Battery fire; he wanted to fight the rebels die for his country & all that sort of thing; until he was so much in the way that I threatened to put him in arrest if he came again. They say that the Captain is really a brave man, differing from his brother, General Neal Dow,* as much in this respect as in temperance.

Many of the infantry are already at work building log huts; the sight of the half finished Rebel structures around here seems to have inspired them not to wait for orders.  If things continue to look like a settlement for the winter here I shall begin putting up huts and stables.  We passed a partially  dismantled steam saw mill the other day about 3 miles out from here, which I hope to be able to fit up & run so as to get boards enough for roofing.  Mink is a steam engine builder by trade, so can doubtless superintend the whole concern.

The country hereabouts is not good for camping being flat & wet; much like my own Meadows at home during a wet spring.  If we remain at the ford I should like to go onto the sand hills across the river, where there is beautiful camp ground, high & dry.  At present I have only a very small stove to add to the comfort of my tent; what is called a “Monitor”; it is but little bigger than a beaver hat; but I got it because it packs into a foot square box, & can always be put up with my tent.  In our last move it was a great comfort; so soon as we appear settled I shall build  me a hut, meaning to do something for my own comfort this winter.  Bricks as well as timber are very abundant around here; the old chimneys of burned houses.  Kingsbury has had a chimney built to the back of his tent to day; which, the weather  having come off cold again we are all anxious to examine.  (The rest of this entry is not relevant to this website.  It speaks of his staff and the fights out west in TN ––B.F.

*General Neal S. Dow (1804––1897) was raised in Maine in a Quaker family and carrying those convictions.  He was successful in business and turned to a temperance crusade, causing in 1851 the passage of the famed “Maine Law” banning liquor in that state.  He was commissioned Colonel in the 13th Maine, November 23, 1861 and commanded in the Dept. of the Gulf District, West Florida (Oct. ’62 ––24 Jan. ’63) and 1, 2, XIX (26 Feb.––27 May ’63)  when he was twice wounded at Port Hudson. While recovering, he was captured and sent to Libby Prison in Richmond.  Later exchanged for W.H. F. Lee, 14 March ’64.  He resigned 30 Nov. ’64 because of health. Source: The CW Dictionary, Mark M. Boatner III, David McKay Publishing, NY, 1959; (p. 245).  General Dow was 59 in 1863.  I cannot find any reference to a brother.––B.F.

Letter of 2nd Lieutenant Charles E. Horne, Co. G, Dec. 6, 1863

Lt. Horne points out at the end of his letter that soldiers blamed General Meade for not moving the army to Fredericksburg, where a shorter and safer supply line was available. General Meade proposed this idea in October, but President Lincoln refused it.  The President conjured up images of the previous Union disasters at Fredericksburg  when last the army occupied that town.  To Lincoln's way of thinking, Lee's army was the objective. So Meade's Army camped opposite Lee's Army, across the Rapidan River.

Camp 13th Regt Mass Vols December 6th, 1863

Dear Parents:

I received a letter yesterday, also the stockings. I was glad to hear that you were well. Also that you had got the money safe. I am very much obliged for the stockings. They will be very comfortable. We are still encamped near Kelly’s Ford. I hardly think we shall do much more this winter, unless Lee should attempt a flank movement on our left. If he should, we have to move and stop him. I wish that we might have a go at him this war.

Volunteering seems to be going on briskly through the Country. I am glad of it. I think it much better than drafting. There were never before such liberal inducements held out for procuring enlistments as now. It makes pretty large pay but a man must recollect that when he enlists, he binds himself hand and foot for the term of three years, and he also runs a great risk of getting killed or perhaps maimed for life in the time. It will come rather rough on new men to come out at this season of the year. They will find it very different from living in houses or having beds of down to lie on.

If Harvey is determined to enlist, of course, he will. I should advise him to go in Heavy Artillery by all means if possible. The next best is Light Artillery. The third is Cavalry. Last of all is Infantry. A private in the Infantry arm of service has rather hard time. He has in the first place, his gun and equipment to carry with 40 round ball cartridges always (sometimes 60) he has his rations to carry (never less than 3 days on hand) and then all his clothing: rubber & woolen blankets, shelter tent which makes a big load I tell you. Altogether, weighing not less than 50 lbs.

Charles Reed Illustration of terrified soldier scratching

Another great drawback to soldiering in the field (or would be to me) is the great abundance of body lice. No Regiment is free from them and very few men are. Tis true that there is no need of keeping them on you. But here there are so many nasty fellows who do not care. You are very liable to get them again. I have had them quite a number of times and have thrown away many a suit of clothes in order to get rid of them. I don’t know of anything I loathe so much as a body louse. I have as great a dread of them as Mother ever had of bedbugs or spiders. Our mess, consisting of Capt. Kimball, Lieuts. Whitney, Wells and myself all got lousey during our last advance. The result was we had to have a wash all over, and a regular boil of clothes in warm weather. They are most prevalent and after a march in a warm summer’s day, you would very likely see almost half the men stripped, hunting “grey backs”, as they term it. I had no idea of enlarging as much on the subject of “lice”. I have, however, only told you simple facts, and a part of it I am sorry to say is my own experience.

Near where our camp is, Rhodes (rebel) Division had fixed up their winter quarters. They were made very nice indeed. I think they beat us “Yanks” on building quarters. Those near here are built mostly of pine logs from 4 to 6 inches they are built about 6 or 8 feet high. The roofs are covered with shingles (southern style) which they split out of oak, a hole is cut for a door, another for a window.   At one end is built a chimney, rocks at the bottom, and then sticks thickly doubled with mud.

They have large fireplaces around which they cook and warm their grey hides. The space between the logs are also plastered up with mud.  Bunks are built and altogether, they are very comfortable. The Johnnies must have felt bad at being driven out so suddenly. They left evidently in a hurry. I should like a couple thousand feet of your cheapest boards to make us a house of some kind.  Walton Tabor illustration of a buglarThe great difficulty is you never know whether you are going to stay in one place more than the present hour, oftentimes you are aroused at midnight by the blowing of “general” which means pack up and be ready to march in one hour. It has a peculiar doleful sound and every man and boy in the Army knows it.

It seems to me that all the old people living around you are dying off. What did you do with that money, or what do you propose to do with it?

I must close. I should like you to send me some more postage stamps. I will renumerate you for all the stuff you have sent me when I get home. And should I never get home, of course you’ll have the whole.

Our Conscripts have nearly all deserted.  Just as soon as they stopped shooting for desertion, they commenced to leave. I am glad of it. If we are minded to be lenient with such a class of men, let them go.

I see by the papers that Gen Meade is pretty strongly censured in some quarters. Most likely he will be removed. For my part, I think he acted wisely. Just look at it. Suppose he whipped them then as we probably should with a lose of 10,000 men. Then they have a stronger line of fortification to get behind at Orange Court House well we might have whipped them then with the loss of 10,000 more men. Then what have we before us. Why the strongest works yet, the defenses of Gordonsville. Then had we (as I have supposed) been successful at both other places. We never could have taken and it would have been out of the question to have remained there, so far from our base of supplies with so long a line of communication to keep open. All we are disposed to blame Meade for is that he did not fall back on Fredericksburg as he might have done. Gen. Meade has a growing popularity. That maybe, however owing to his extreme caution. Write soon.

My love to all.

Yours Chas. E. Horne

Settling into Camp; “9th NY” December, 1863

The History of the Ninth New York, written by George A. Hussey, picks up the narrative of their regiment at Kellysville, VA near Kelly's Ford, immediately following the Mine Run Campaign.   The men in this strongly re-enforced regiment prepare to settle in to winter quarters.

The following is from, “History of the Ninth Regiment N.Y.S.M.––N.G.S.N.Y. (Eighty-third N.Y. Volunteers.) 1845-1888”, by George A. Hussey, Edited by William Todd, 1889. (p. 306-310).

Charles Reed water color of Soldiers cooking over camp-fire

At half-past three the next morning, (December 5th) the men were turned out, tents were struck, and after preparing a cup of coffee to wash down the hard-tack, line was formed and the regiment waited for the order to march;  but no orders came, and the tents were again set up.

Shortly after daybreak the men went into the woods near by and began cutting logs for winter huts. During the day quite a number of these were erected, the logs being laid up about four feet high, and the shelter tents stretched over a ridge pole formed a very good roof ––during pleasant weather.

The next day, Sunday, the 6th, the regiment was inspected by Colonel Moesch, and from all indications that the rank and file could observe, the army had settled down for the winter.  Those skeptical fellows who had been waiting to see whether or not it would be  worth while to go to the trouble of building huts, finally made up their minds that log huts, with raised bunks, would be more comfortable than lying on the ground, and by the 13th the whole regiment was comfortably installed in their quarters, on which day, Colonel Moesch, Quartermaster Burtis and Lieutenant Van Alst, Jr., left for a visit to New York city, a short absence having been granted.

Many of the domiciles were as well built as the cabins of the poorer Virginians, and much ingenuity was manifested in the erection of the chimneys and fire-places; bricks were scarce, but with sticks and mud ––the latter was quite plenty, and equal to any demand that might be made upon it ––the boys managed to build as good chimneys as were necessary.

Harpers Graphi illustration of a Christmas Furlough

During the absence of Colonel Moesch the regiment was in charge of the Lieutenant-Colonel.  And now that active operations were suspended the men were congratulating themselves upon a long season of rest.  Day by day the quarters were made more comfortable, as this, that and the other convenience were added to the furniture or bedding in the huts.  On the 16th the regiment was inspected by Lieutenant-Colonel Allen, U.S. A., Division Inspector.  The ground was too soft and muddy for general drilling, but the recruits were put through occasionally, while guard-mount, dress-parade, guard and picket duty kept the men generally quite busy.

Letter of Private James Ross, “9th N.Y.” Dec. 7, 1863.

James Ross describes soldier life with an army on the march.  The wonderful letter transcriptions by Nancy Saunders Brantley and Lucille Barrett Campbell in 2012,  contained all of James' crossed-out words.  I have eliminated these for simplicity.  The illustration of bivouacked soldiers is by artist James Fuller Queen.  It is tightly cropped.  More of Queen's fascinating work can be viewed on-line at the Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

From: “Willing to Run the Risks; Letters from the Civil War, Private James Ross, 9th N.Y.S.M., Co. G, August 1863 –– May 1864.”

 Kellys Ford Dec. 7th 1863

Dear Willie

Your long interesting letter came to hand last Friday just after we came into camp from our trip from the “front”  You may be sure that I was glad to hear from home  My last letter having been recd. I think Nov. 9th. I sent father the next day a long letter containing a history of our campaigning and told him most of that was interesting so that I fear that I will not have much to tell you. if I could see you I could tell you a great many things that I am unable to write all that we see here is very different from anything at home and many things are constantly occurring which it would interest you much to see

colorful graphic of soldiers marching

You are right in supposing that the sight of an army in motion is a grand one it is certainly the grandest thing that I ever beheld to see so many men moving on in solid masses An army marches in four ranks that is the men are four abreast  Each regiment marches by  itself the field officers riding at its head and the company officers marching on foot each man in his place There are over ten thousand men in our corps Some of the other corps have more others less I have seen as many as three entire corps in motion at once with all their artillery long moving lines as far as you can see. Each man carries his gun at a right shoulder shift, and sometimes in going up a long slope you will see the sun flashing on the long line of riffle barrels ahead till it would seem that there was not end to them.    when we wish to camp for the night a place is first selected the regiment is marched to the spot and the order comes “halt”  Then comes the command to dress and the regt. forms a perfectly straight line next we stack arms and it is a fine sight to see the long row of glistening bayonets  Then the regiment is dismissed and in an hour hundred of fires will burning behind the stacks and the men sitting around them cooking and eating if it threatens to rain we put up tents but if not no matter how cold it may be we make a bed of boughs or leaves if they are to be had and lie down without covering.

James Fuller Queen watercolor of men bivouacked on the ground

During our late advance I did not sleep in a tent once and part of the time the weather was quite cold. I send you enclosed a map of our position which I cut from the New York Herald.  It is very accurate you may have seen it before but I daresay that it will interest you to have me describe it now   In my letter to father I described the position as well as I could I did not know the name of the run at that time   it is a narrow little brook but they say that the rebels had dammed it up to make it deep   The skirmishers on either side were about half way between their respective lines and the brook. We lay at the point marked 1st Corps Saturday night Sunday and Tuesday or Monday we occupied the position mention in the [illeg] which I send with the map.  There is a house indicated in the map which was just in front of our position  When we came to the place there was plenty of pigs and cows on the premises and two large cribs full of corn but before we left not an animal or an ear of corn remained 

Illustration of cattle being butchered from Frank Leslies Illustrated

The men ate the pork and beef and the horses ate the corn. Two of the cows were killed by the men of our company.  I never saw beef butchered so quickly not ten minutes elapsed between the time that the men were chasing them past before they were broiling before the fires.

The rebels built all their works after we came a long line of red earthworks extended along their whole front. They did not fire much at us but once in a while they would throw a shell at any squad of men who got together and whenever we came out of the woods we were in range of their sharpshooters. They generally did not meddle with men who were looking on but sometimes a chance shot would hit a man and once in a while if a man got in a good position they would fire at him. One day they took it into their heads to prevent anyone from approaching the house and shot every man who tried to enter it.  The skirmishers lay on the ground behind bushes and stones shooting each other when ever they saw a chance.  I stood by the battery one evening and saw a good many shots fired but no one chanced to hit while I was looking.  The weather was so cold that some of the skirmishers were frozen on both sides.

Picture of Confederate Earthworks from Mine Run Campaign

Photo of Confederate Earthworks from the Mine Run Campaign, north of the Orange Turnpike.

You may think from what I write that we live hard and so we do on the march but there is much that is pleasant in our life as well  I hope now that we are done marching for the present. The first division recd. orders today to quit drilling for three days in order to give the men a chance to build huts  We may  change camp yet but I hope that in a few days we will be established also and then picket and guard our main troubles   We get used to our mode of life here and much that would seem uncomfortable to you at home we do not mind   The only thing that I actually dread is marching at night    the roads are very bad and we are always tired and cold and hungry.   It is easier to march two hours before daylight in the morning than half an hour after dark. One thing we learn out here and that is not to grumble no matter what we are ordered to do no one demurs, for we have learned that it is no use to do so.

Leslies Illustrated engraving, soldiers around a campfire

The weather here is very cold just now the ground is frozen hard all the time and we live out of doors by our fires all the time for it is too cold to stay in the tents   I was up this morning before daylight and had breakfast just as the sun was coming up  The days are clear and bright  This is the most pleasant climate that I have every seen.  If we were living as we are at home I would not ask a better.

I hope that this letter will find father and you at or near home. Work will be plenty enough somewhere but I know it will be to have father away. I wish he would make a move to leave Plattsburg altogether it will come to this sooner or later for I shall never live there after I come back. That is to make it my home nor will you or Johnny.  I suppose we will have a homestead somewhere by and by I hope but not in Plattsburg. There are other places where we can see pleasanter days than we have seen there   The great trouble will be in making the move.   I hope to come home next year some time to find you all settled and comfortable.  I believe for one thing that Annie’s health would be much benefited by a change in place and perhaps you would be better.   In short I think that this will be the best thing that could have happened all round though hard to bear just now perhaps father and Rodee have come to an arrangement again if so the peace will not be lasting and the sooner that a change is made the better.  At any rate I hope that work will be found this winter near home for of course you can’t move till spring.

Christmas will soon be here now I find it hardest to be away from home this season of the year I suppose that about Christmas I will have an answer to this letter I hope that I will have an easier Christmas than I had at Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving night I was completely worn out and as we lay down on the frozen earth I could not help thinking of the nice cozy time that you were probably having in the parlor at home.

But I am in for the war and bound to stay till it is over.  I expected to be in a big fight last week and though I dreaded the idea I hope that the rebels would be defeated and the rebellion finished by it.  However we will see what story next spring will tell   Mean while I think that this letter is long enough and I must close it   I wrote to Dect. & Jud two weeks ago.  Please answer as soon as you can I am waiting anxiously for another letter from father that I may know how you get along. I hope his next letter will contain good news for I would rather march to the Rapidan again than have another letter like the last.   Please send me some paper and envelopes as soon as you can also some thread for I can get nothing here.

I send my love to all
                            Your brother
                                        James Ross

Santa Claus by artist F.O.C. Darley

Santa illustration by F. O. C. Darley

The New York Herald, December 5, 1863

The map James Ross sent to his father was printed on page 7 of the December 5th issue of the New York Herald.  Despatches from one of their war correspondents accompanied the map.  The War-Correspondent for the Herald sent back scintillating weather reports with keen observations about the loud noises cannon make when in use.  He apparently remained far behind army lines.  Click on the map to view an enlarged version.  James said it was very accurate.


Successful Progress of the Army of the Potomac.

Heavy Cannonading Heard on Friday.


Lee’s Forces Moving Towards Orange County Court House,  &c.  &c.  &c.

Mr. William Young’s Dispatches.

Rappahannock Station,  Nov. 28––1 P.M.

The progress made by General Meade is highly encouraging and successful.

A new basis of supplies will be established in a very few days, from which the army will operate with most damaging effect to the confederacy.

We are having a heavy and disagreeable rain.

Rappahannock Station,  Nov. 28––7 P.M.

The Army of the Potomac has finally severed its line of communication with Washington, and nothing has come through from it since yesterday morning.

New York Herald Map of Mine Run Campaign

If there had been a general engagement yesterday the wounded would have been sent to the rear and conveyed to Washington by the railroad from this point.  As no wounded men have been sent here, it is certain that no battle has been fought.The heavy cannonading of yesterday was probably of no greater importance than artillery firing frequently is, which makes a great deal of noise, but does little execution.

This morning cannonading was heard, fainter than that of yesterday, but during the day it has been perfectly quiet.

The rain ceased before dark, and it is probable that the quantity which fell to day will not interfere with the movements of the army except for a few hours.

In emancipating itself from Washington, the Army of the Potomac is in a position to operate most disastrously against the rebels.  Should it also emancipate the Union prisoners now enduring ages of misery in a single month at Richmond, it will accomplish one of the greatest achievements performed by any army during the war.

New York Herald Map 2 Mine Run Campaign

Some time since it was intimated in this correspondence that movements were contemplated which would give joy to the heart of every loyal man in the country and plunge the rebels into the deepest depths of grief.  Are to the hopes of the people being realized?  and does not every day develop something new relating to the purposes of General Meade?

General Ingalls, Chief Quartermaster of the Army of the Potomac, complimented Colonel Devereux, the super-intendent of the Military railroad, which has transported supplies to the army, by sending him a despatch assuring him that the Commanding General and himself, and other officers of the Quartermaster’s Department, were under great obligations to the superintendent for the promptness and efficiency of his transportation department, which has foraged and rationed a large army, sufficiently not only for its daily supplies, but for such a number of days ahead as to enable it to start out on a long march, and all this on a single track railroad.

The train this evening will take down nine guerillas, captured between Catlett’s Station and Fairfax Court House last night.  Four of them were captured in one house, and were all in one bed.  One of them had three thousand dollars in greenbacks in his pocket.

The Press Despatches.

Washington, Nov. 28, 1863.       

No intelligence respecting the Army of the Potomac has been received to-day at army headquarters up to two  o’clock this afternoon.

The Star says that yesterday morning our cavalry pushed forward as far as Locust Grove, where they met the advance of the rebel cavalry, and the latter were driven across Russell creek, or river, and afterwards across Mill run.  A body of rebel infantry was posted between that point and Orange Court House, and the whole rebel force moved off in the direction of the latter place.

Locust Grove is four miles south of Germanna Ford, in Orange county, and within a short distance of the wilderness where Hooker fought his battle.

Mill run is two miles from Locust Grove, and from thence to Mountain river, where the rebel General Early, with Ewell’s old corps, is said to be in force, is about six miles.  Orange Court House is ten or twelve miles further on in a southwest direction.

Journal of Colonel Charles Wainwright, continued.

Wainwright once again gets in his digs at the laziness of 1st Corps Commander, Major-General John Newton.  Its a regular feature of his commentary, ––as well as criticisms of just about everything else he encountered in a volunteer army.  More interesting are his comments on General Meade's struggles with President Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton.

December 10, Thursday.  Everything now so strongly indicates our remaining where we are that I have told my commanders to go to work and hut their commands.  Most of them have already nearly got their men covered.  Stewart has looked to his horses first, being lucky or rather energetic enough to secure slabs for his roofing.  He and Mink went over to look at the sawmill one day:  the lumber, of which there was a large pile when we passed a week ago, was all gone, save a lot of slabs.  I told them they had better secure these; Mink put it off for a day, but Stewart borrowed wagons all around, armed a lot of his men, and had his party off by daybreak the next morning; thus securing them all.  Mink reports some of the castings of the engine gone and all the belts.  Ingalls, Chief Quartermaster, tells me he will get them for me if I will fix the mill so that it an be run for the army.  If Newton had any snap he would be glad to make the necessary arrangements and so secure boards for his own corps first.

 I have rather allowed than directed the huts to be put up; few of them are built as I would have them.  When visiting Captain Reynolds’s battery this morning, he showed me his men’s work with pride, which was considerably lessened when I pointed out to him that his lines of huts were not straight, nor were they all of a size.  He thought I was very particular and that the men should be allowed to suit themselves; but gave in when I pointed out how much easier it would be to keep in order a regularly laid out camp, to keep an eye on the men if there was one main street on which all at the huts opened, and above all, that the men  themselves would take more pride, after it was built, in a really military looking camp which would attract the commendations of passerby.  It is the same old story with all our volunteer officers, no real pride in being a soldier; –– Mink has it but he has much to learn.  My Q.M Cruttenden has begun putting up huts for my H’d Qts, about 400 yds from here I mean to have one similar to what I had at Bud’s Ferry. He is also building dining room & kitchen, so if my French cook comes along ( one is actually engaged) I shall be greatly to be envied. I say if he comes for he was to have started on Tuesday night; in which case he should certainly have been here before this.

Charles Reed illustration of stockaded tents

“Stockaded Tents” sketched by Charles Reed, from “Hard Tack and Coffee” by John D. Billings.

Wainwright, continued:
         ...There are rumors about camp of Meade’s removal, Pleasonton, Hancock, and Sedgwick being talked of as his successor.  I trust that there is no foundation for them, and that Meade’s report of the “Mine Run” campaign, as it is called, will induce the President to maintain him in his command.  Since I have become fully acquainted with the history of this movement, I think more of General Meade than ever; especially of his not fighting.

Major General William H. French

His plan, which I have already mentioned, was excellent, as were all his dispositions.  Its failure was no doubt mainly owing to General French, (pictured) who I find it generally believed was drunk.   I cannot vouch for the truth of this, however, and hope it was not so.  He certainly lost his way twice, and appears to have acted very queerly.  Had Meade been supported by a good staff (which it is impossible to get) of officers regularly educated to, and throughly understanding staff duties, I believe that everything would have gone well. It would then have been their duty to conduct each corps to its proper position, and on them would have fallen the blame of failing to be there in time; certainly that of missing the road.  As it is, we plunged blindly into an unknown densely wooded country with no guides except perhaps an old county map, or a stupid contraband.  After the failure to divide Lee’s army or to turn the right entrenchments, the only thing left was an attack in front of his lines. Meade believes that he could have carried the works at Mine Run, but after a heavy loss which would have totally unfitted the army to follow up their first advantage, as he ascertained that they had another and much stronger line of works already erected in the rear of Mountain Run about two miles back, thus making it a mere victory without actual advantage gained.

Patrick tells me that on Wednesday night, when Meade got back to his old camp, he was very much dispirited.  Patrick’s tents being up, the General came to his quarters, and talked very freely to him.   He told Patrick that on laying his plan before the President, Mr. Lincoln approved it, telling him:  “Only be sure to fight; the people demand it of the Army of the Potomac.” Stanton told him he “had better fight and leave 18,000 men on the field, without result than to come back without a battle.”  After repeating this conversation, Meade said:  “I expect to be deprived of my command; but my men’s lives are too valuable to be sacrificed for popularity.  I could not do it.”  The radical papers are of course finding much fault with Meade.  But I can already see that the men of the army are beginning to understand the matter, and that their confidence in the general is increasing.  When it gets out that he was ordered to lose 18,000 men any way, as such things always do get out, his not fighting will do as much for him in gaining the confidence of the army as if he had won a victory.

Diaries of Sam Webster & Calvin Conant, 13th MA; December 8 – 17, 1863

Diary of Calvin Conant, (Company G), 13th MA:

        Tuesday, 8.  Cool day I am on guard to day  got our house fixed up warm cut a good pile of wood we drawed Soft bread  Beans & Pork to day

Gilbert Gaul painting of soldier on guard

Wednesday, 9  I am off guard the air is Cool  we drew 2 days rations one of Soft-bread.

Thursday, 10.  I am on guard to day first relief  cool day our Adjt. starts for home this morning

Friday, 11.  I am off guard Snows a little and rains some our Sutlers has come with ordered goods.

Saturday, 12.  Rainy day I am on guard the boys are getting loots of goods of Sutler.

Sunday, 13.  Rainy day I am off guard  Went over to Division Head Quarters to look for Boxes found none

Monday, 14.  Cleared off cool and windy went off to Division Hd Qts to look for Boxes found none I am on guard to day

Diary of Sam Webster, continued:
        Monday December 14th, 1863
        Letter from Lyford stating that he started a box for me on the 8th. preserves, clothing, etc.  Pies spoilt.    Received a box from home.  Some nice dippers (that won’t look so bright after a few times on the fire to make coffee, ) cakes, preserves, clothing, etc.  Pies spoilt.

Diary of Calvin Conant, continued:
        Tuesday, 15.  Cool day  We are engaged corduroying our side walk I am off guard to day  got a letter from home.

Wednesday, 16.  Cold.  I am on guard the boys are cleaning up camp and getting ready for Inspection  We had Bake Beans for breakfast and with my box I had a good meal

Thursday, 17.  rainy day the Inspection was put off I am off guard the camp is very muddy I am not feeling well to day.

Letter of Charles Barber, 104th NY

Charles' letter reminds us how fortunate those captured men of the 1st Corps at Gettysburg were, who got parolled from Richmond prior to the winter months ––men like 13th MA soldiers George Hill, of Co. B, and John Boudwin, of Co. A.  Their ordeal is documented on the Gettysburg “Fate of the Prisoners” page of this website.  It also re-inforces how arbitrary was the fate that awaited the soldiers. The lucky ones captured at Gettysburg who disobeyed official orders from Washington, D.C., and accepted the illegal Confederat parole, as Warren Freeman of Co. A did,  marched to a Parole Camp in West Chester, PA.  It was uncomfortable, but the soldiers remained on friendlly ground and hardly risked death like they would have had they gone south to Confederate prisons.  Or, men like Calvin Conant and Bourne Spooner who disobeyed strict military orders while on parole, and went home for a spell to wait out their official exchange.  The obedient ones went to Southern prisons where many of them died.

Charles' letter also emphasizes the random fortunes of a volunteer soldier at this point in the war.  In one sentence he says there are only 9 months left to serve, and it will pass quickly;  in another he states his children may never see him alive again.

 Camp near Kelleys Ford Va Dec 13 –– 63

Dear wife and children  I am well   we are fixing up for winter quarters so you may send me a box now; direct it just as you do a letter  send me a pair of boots size 8 wide toes  my instep is size 20 and heel 28   put a pair of taps on the outside soles make the upper out of heavy kip skin without lining.   let Amory and Elliot read this they will understand what I want for boots   send me some sugar and butter and cakes and green apples a tin pepperbox full of black pepper a pair of suspenders but no clothing nor dried apples   I have plenty of them here   send some other dried fruit with a good lotto butter and sugar and half a pound of tea and what else your convenience or judgement or feelings may suggest   send it soon for I want the boots;  put in some pins needles and black thread.  look well to the stove pipes in both houses.  take any papers you want to take  tell C to see to my taxes and other business west and write to me

as for war news I suppose you know well I let Franke and Charles each wear a five cent piece strung around their neck and tell them pa wants them to wear it

has Persons paid George yet

two of our company that was taken prisoners at Gettysburg have died in Richmond and probably more will die there as there is 8 more there that belong to our company and 60 more that belong to our regt   some of our officers gone home on furloughs   I do not know whether any privates can get furlows or not.  but I have only about nine months longer to serve and that will soon run away so I hope to be home before long and then I will see where duty calls me next and probably it will be at home for a while then perhaps to Ill to finish up my business there but time will tell    let us wait hope and trust with patience all may be yet well    tell A and B I would like to have them write to me  I may never see them again in this world   good by for this time

Charles Barber

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Who Wants to Re-enlist?

The Demands of the Service;  General Meade to General Halleck

Headquarters Army of the Potomac   
December 12, 1863.

Maj. Gen. H. W. Halleck,

General:   I desire to call your attention to an important question, requiring immediate action on my part, but which I am undecided what measures to take first without ascertaining more definitely your views in regard to the position and movements of this army. The question I refer to is the re-enlisting of veteran volunteers.  General Orders No. 376, confers upon me the authority to grant a thirty days’ furlough to all volunteers re-enlisting as veteran volunteers under General Orders, No. 191, whenever the demand for the same will best permit. It is in deciding the demands of the service that I am in doubt.

I inclose a statement of the number of men in the infantry regiments whose term of service expire by next fall.  These amount to over 21,000 officers and men present.  It is believed that more than half of them, or over 10,000, will re-enlist provided they can have at once a furlough of thirty days to spend at their homes.  It is calculated that over 5,000 of the cavalry will also re-enlist on the same terms.

Much, however, depends on the furloughs being granted immediately, as it is feared if any system of volition is adopted, only those who at once benefit by the act will re-enlist.  I would therefore like, if practicable, to let the whole go, to be absent say the month of January and part of February.  The expedience of permitting so large a part of this army [to depart], 15,000 men, equal to the largest corps now in it, is a question I do not like to decide in ignorance of your views as to future contingencies.  If nothing more is to be done, and I have already reported that in my judgement nothing more can be done this season, the force can be spared provided the enemy remain quiescent.  The present position of the army however, invites an advance from the enemy in case he deems one justifiable.

His position is very different from mine.  To move against him I have to make a détour of over 50 miles, abandoning my communications and carrying my large wagon trains over impassable roads.  If he advances, however, he has only 8 or 10 miles, with his communications intact in his rear, and hence by picking out a favorable moment, when the ground is frozen, he could get his artillery, all he would care to bring, and could make the advance with comparative safety.  In this view, I should not like to weaken myself to the extent proposed above;  but would rather propose taking up the line of the Warrenton Railroad, holding in force the covering of the Rappahannock at the railroad bridge.

Another advantage in occupying this line would be that the troops could be suppled from the depots on the railroad, and much of the difficulty of hauling supplies and the labor of making roads now encumbered be avoided.  If the army can take up this line, I would send away all willing to re-enlist; but should it be deemed essential to maintain the present position south of the Rappahannock, I would only permit portions, say one-third, or 5,000, to be absent at a time.

I should be pleased to have your views upon these points at your convenience.

Respectfully, yours,

GEO. G. MEADE,      

General Halleck's Response (one week later).

War Department,          
Washington, December 17, 1863––2.30 p.m.

Maj. Gen. George G. Meade,
                                Army of the Potomac:

The subject-matter of your letter of the 12th instant was laid before the Secretary of War immediately on its receipt, but I have not been able to give you an earlier answer.  The policy of furloughing now a part, at least, of those who re-enlist, is approved.  Perhaps the number who so re-enlist may not be so great that you cannot spare them all.  General Orders, No. 376, leave that to your discretion.

If you deem a position on the line of the Rappahannock more favorable than that you now occupy, no objections are made to the change.  I have received no intimation in regard to future enterprises.  If any should be made, I will immediately communicate them.  General Kelley seems to apprehend a movement from Lee’s army into the Shenandoah Valley, and asks that your attention be called to the subject.

H.W. HALLECK,      

The Commanding General's Circular to the Army

Headquarters Army of the Potomac,      
December 17, 1863.

Circular to Corps Commanders:

The commanding general directs that you send to these headquarters, in the course of to-morrow, if possible, a statement showing the number of men that will re-enlist in your command, under the provisions of General Orders, Nos. 191, 305, and 376, of the present year, from the War Department, upon the condition that the men so re-enlisting are at once allowed the furlough of at least thirty days provided for in the last-mentioned order.  The statement will be arranged by regiments and show the number of men that will re-enlist in each regiment, as well as the number that will not re-enlist or do not come within the provisions of the orders applicable to the subject.

No man can re-enlist at this time who has more than a year to serve.

By command of Major-General Meade:

S. WILLIAMS,      
Assistant Adjutant-General..

Response to the above Circular from the 13th MA Regiment

The following communication is found in Colonel Samuel H. Leonard's Papers, Gilder-Lehman Institute; GLC 3393 Item #12 p. 1-2.  The above circular from Headquarters was copied by hand into the order book with this hand-written response below.

Head Quarters, 13th Regt. Mass. Vols.
December 18, 1863.

We the undersigned Non Commissioned Officers and Privates in the 13th Regt. Mass. Vols. and having less than one year to serve, in consideration of the Bounties Offered, and liberty to leave on Furlough for a period of not less than thirty days, at once, do pledge ourselves to re-enlist for Three Years, or during the War.

Name                                    Company

Corpl. A. Jenkins                            G

C. F. Drew                                      G

Llewellyn Jones                              G

W. F. Blanchard                              Billustration of 18th century soldier at ease

Jos. A. Keeting                                C

Daniel A. Lovering                         H

G. W. Stoddard                                H

F. E. Rogers                                     D

John T. B. Green                              E

George H. Murray                             I

George Browne                                 I

George H. Moore                              I

Walter S. C. Heath                            K

George Spencer                                A

James T. Norris                                 G

David L. Jones                                  G

Sergt. C. H. Cotting                           I

J. F. Kratzer                                       C

Henry A. Hebard                               A

Jas. W. Kennay                                  E

Comment from Colonel Wainwright

I found Colonel Wainwright's  comment below about the low number of re-enlistments in the 1st Corps to be interesting. I added the emphasis.

[Sunday December 20.]  Day before yesterday we received an order requiring an immediate return of the number of men who were willing to reenlist; & promising that such should have a furlough of 35 days immediately.  As only a few hours were allowed to send in the return there were comparatively few names sent up in my command: 11 in “L” Co; 3 in “E”;  9 in the Maryland Batt’y; 14 in Coopers; & 9 in the 5th Maine, all of whom are attached infantry from the 94th N.Y. who want to go to “H” & “L” Companies.  This makes only 46 in all.  When the thing once gets started, many more will no doubt conclude to try it; especially when the first lot return from their furloughs.  The matter has not as yet been much agitated among the Batteries: the officers not being very anxious about the matter.  The returns from the infantry, I understand, show a much larger proportion: though this Corps is said to be behind all the others.

Circular from Major-General John Newton; Commanding 1st Army Corps

Headquarters First Army Corps,   
Dec. 22, 1863.


graphic of hand holding money

For the information of those concerned, the following facts are furnished in regard to bounties paid by the different States, collected from the Adjutant-General’s office:

Massachusetts pays $325 cash, or $50 and $20 per month.

New York pays $75.

New York City pays $300, provided the men were enlisted in the city, provided the men were originally enrolled there, no matter whether the men reënlisted in the city or army.

Wisconsin pays $5 a month to families of volunteers.

Michigan, $50 bounty; also township and county bounties are paid in some localities, varying in amounts.

By command of                                       

picture of a unidentified soldier in the 4th battalion uniform

From Three Years in the Army:

After printing the above circular in the Regimental History, Charles Davis, Jr. made the following comment.

A noticeable change had taken place in the business of enlistment since we hung round No. 344 (old number) Washington street, patiently waiting to learn if we had been voted in and accepted.

Pictured is a volunteer in the militia uniform of the 4th Battalion of Rifles, from which the nucleus of the 13th Massachusetts Volunteers was formed in 1861.

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Austin Stearns Gets a Furlough

It was rare for a soldier to obtain a furlough yet Sergeant Austin Stearns did it.   He received ten days leave, but it took two days of around the clock travel time to reach home.  He descibes in detail his  journey to Massachusetts.

From “Three Years in Company K” by Sergeant Austin C. Stearns, (deceased), edited by Arthur Kent, Associated University Presses, 1976.

Portrait of Sergeant Austin C. Stearns

The next morning, [December 3rd] we marched for Kelly's Ford.  Arriving there, we were assigned to some log huts that the rebs had commenced to build.  Our tents were used for roof and we were soon comfortably housed.  Here an order came to give furloughs of ten days to some of the best men to go to Massachusetts or anywhere else.  I put in my application and in a few days it was returned with granted upon it.  It was 12 o’clock at night when an orderly from the General brought it to camp and it was dated to commence then; the Col. sent his orderly to notify us so we could be away.  Hastily packing my traps and leaving them in charge of the boys, I reported to the Captains tent, received my papers, and with nine others started about one o’clock under the charge of a teamster who was to pilot us to Brandy Station nine miles away on the Orange & Alexandria Railroad where a train was said to leave at six for Washington.

We tramped along over the frozen ground without a thought of rest, in time to take the train if there had been any to go, but there was none and we could not find anybody who could tell where there would be one.  When the Gen’l got ready was all we could learn.  So we must wait, and making ourselves comfortable as we could, [sat] around the fire of the guard in front of the tent of the Provost Marshal of the Army.

Just after daylight an officer rode along and attempted to ride between the guard and the tent of the Gen’l.  The guard stopped him and told him he could not pass there.  The Officer said “that no d––d guard should stop him” and tried to ride by, when the guard brought his gun down on the horses nose.  That stopped him.  The officer with an oath attempted to draw his sword, when the guard brought the point of his bayonet at the officers breast, [and] cocking it told him to “stop or he was a dead man.”

General Marsena Patricks Headquarters, Brandy Station

How it would have ended I do not know, for Gen’l Patrick, who was dressing in his tent and hearing the rumpus stepped out and told the guard to shoulder his gun and turning to the officer asked his name and rank, told hm he should know better then to try to force a guard, [and] ordered him to report at such a place under arrest.

We reported to the Gen’l, showed our furloughs and were given permission to board the train that was now getting ready.  We loaded ourselves on some platform cars and at about nine o’clock started.  Pictured: General Marsena Patrick, center, at his headquarters, Brandy Station.

At Rappahannock Station we waited for a train that they said was coming from somewhere, [and] after an hour or more of waiting we went on to Bealeton.  Here, after more waiting, the train went by; we again started.   The morning was very frosty and sitting on those platform cars––for we could not stand up over that rough road with the smoke from the engine so thick at times we could hardly see each other, sitting down and holding on when there was nothing to hold on to––we bumped all over the car, [which] made it a not very enjoyable ride.

Railroad from Buster Keaton's Our Hospitality

At Manassas more waiting for a train, and after that had passed a clear track for Washington.  It was now past  3 p.m. when we reached the office of Gardner Tufts,* to get Soldiers tickets at reduced rates for Boston.  Mr. Tufts told us that we had just fifteen minutes to buy our tickets and get to the depot in.  $14.00 and some cents were quickly counted out, and we started on the run down the street to catch the train with our furloughs in our hands.  We arrived there just in time.

The officer of the Provost-guard looked at the first furlough, and seeing we were Massachusetts men, told us to get aboard, as the train was then moving out.  At the lower station in Baltimore a soldier came aboard and after looking at our tickets gave us some very useful information.  He said we had paid our fare to Boston but that when we reached New York we should take seats in a certain line of coaches and they would transport us across the city, but the driver would demand two dollars apiece, but to keep our seats and, if he still refused, call the Police.  At the upper station he took us to a restaurant where we bought fried pies, doughnuts, cake for our supper.  Our stop was short, and we were away for Philadelphia, reaching there about midnight.  It was snowing hard when we crossed the city.  New York was reached about four A.M. and the coaches were there in waiting;  we took seats and the driver asked for his pay, which we refused.  He became angry and threatened to call the Police;  we told him we wished he would and if he didn’t we should.  After a few oaths he jumped on his seat and we were soon in the other part of the city.

Colonel Samuel H. Leonard, 13th MAChaplain Noah Gaylord

Colonel Samuel H. Leonard, and Reverend Noah M. Gaylord, 13th MA.  At this time Chaplain Gaylord was in charge of Campbell Hospital in Washington, D. C.

A train was in waiting with a car fitted up expressly for soldiers, with bunks and other conveniences and in charge of a Hospital steward.  At South Framingham I left the train, promising to meet the boys on a certain day in Boston.  On going into the depot I met Col Leonard and Chaplain Gaylord going up to Marlboro to attend a war meeting; they urged me hard to go up with them, said they wanted to exhibit a soldier just home from the front.  I asked the Col. if he thought it wise for me with a furlough of ten days, two already gone, to go around on exhibition.  He said “No,” and advised me to go on my way.

I took the next train for Ashland, where I staid all night with my sister Mrs. Clark, and the next morning Mr. Clark carried me up to Mothers.  I remained about a week, and on the morning of the day agreed upon with my old comrade Henry Gassett, went to Boston to meet the boys.  To say I enjoyed my stay but feebly expresses it, and so I will pass it by in silence.

Austin Stearns boyhood home

The house pictured above is purported to be the boyhood home of Austin Stearns in Massachusetts.

*NOTE:  Gardiner Tufts was the Massachusetts Agent in Washington, D.C. appointed by Governor John Andrew to see to the care and proper treatment of  Massachusetts soldiers in hospitals around the city.  He communicated with soldiers' families and visited hospitals to supply all proper wants of the men.  He was responsible for shipping bodies home for burial when requested to do so.  He also aided soldiers with money to return home if they had not sufficient means themselves as in this case. SOURCE:  ( Massachusetts in the Civil War by William Schouler, p. 299.)

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Meanwhile, Back in Camp, December 18 - 23;

Picture: A Corduroy Road in a Muddy Camp

photo of a corduroy walkway in camp

This image shows a corduroy sidewalk, similar to what Calvin Conant and Warren Freeman said was being built in their own camp, to make it easier to get around through the excessive mud.

Letter of Warren Freeman, December 18, 1863

In Camp Near Kelly’s Ford, Va., December 18, 1863.

Dear Father, –– I should have written some days since, but there is no news, and we have been very busy fixing up our camp.  We have made a corduroy sidewalk all up and down the line in front of our huts; it is about ten feet wide, and we receive great benefit from it in muddy weather.

I have recently met several times with Charles Gould, an old playmate of mine, son of Deacon Gould of North Bridgeton; he is in the Sixteenth Maine, and in our brigade; he is in good health.

There are rumors in camp that the whole army is to fall back across the Rappahannock, but I hope they will not prove true, as we are very comfortably situated where we are.

illustration of a wagon full of boxes and barrels

They had an inspection yesterday;  they are giving out furloughs now; in some regiments ten days, and in a few regiments for fifteen days according to the kind of inspection they pass. Two men out of every hundred in the regiment are allowed to go.  I do not think I shall try for one;  I could not be at home more than six days, and it would be quite expensive.

I got my box about a week since;  everything was in good order but the grapes; they were badly jammed and spoiled; the box must have been roughly used as the cover was half stove off.

There are twenty wagon-loads of boxes for our division came in at the same time.

Diaries of Sam Webster & Calvin Conant, 13th MA; December 18 & 19

The diary entry of Sam Webster on December 19th verifies what 39th MA Historian Alfred Rowe wrote, (a little further on down this page); namely that there were people in the army robbing the contents of the soldiers' boxes.

Diary of Calvin Conant, Company G:
        Friday, 18.  pleasant but cool I am off guard to day  Brigade Inspection Capt. Livermore.

Edwin Forbes sketch of soldier on picket in bad weather

Saturday, 19.  Cold day wind blows I am off guard this day  Jones Drew & Jenkins re-enlisted to day.

From the roster of the 13th MA History, the 3 soldiers Conant Mentioned are:

Albert Jenkins; age, 26; born, Bradford, Vt.; shoemaker; mustered in as corp., Co. G, July 16, '61; reenlisted, Jan. 4, '64; transferred to 39th Mass.

Lewellyn Jones; age, 20; born. South Solon, Me.; painter; mustered in as priv., Co. G, July 16, '61; reenlisted, Jan. 4, '64; transferred to 39th Mass.; promoted to corp.

Charles F. Drew; age, 24; born, Holderness, N.H.; shoemaker; mustered in as priv., Co. G, July 16, '61; transferred to 39th Mass., July 14, '64.

Diary of Sam Webster, Company D:
        Saturday, December 19th, 1863.
        Received box from Bob Lyford, and minus a shirt, plum-pudding, other edibles and some usefuls.  Get my boots o.k. though.

Letter of John B. Noyes, December 18, 1863

On December 18, former Company B private John B. Noyes visited his old regiment at Kelly's Ford. While he was there Lieutenant Noyes (28th MA) saw Lt-Col. Batchelder, (left) Captain Bill Cary (center) and William B. Blanchard, (right) as well as Adjutant David Bradlee.  Blanchard is the soldier he refers to who “gave the scamps the slip” ––with his brother in tow, after being captured at Gettysburg.

Lieutenant Colonel N. W. BatchelderCaptain Bill CaryWilliam B. Blanchard

The 2nd Corps, of which Lieutenant Noyes was a member, was camped around Stevensburg about 7 ˝ miles distant from Kellysville.   His friend Major Rice, referred to in this letter, was Edmund Rice of the 19th Massachusetts Volunteers. Rice was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at Gettysburg, July 3rd, when he helped fill a breach in the 2nd Corps line, during Picket's Charge.   Colonel Devereux, also mentioned in the letter, is Arthur Forrester Devereux of the same regiment.  This was the organization that John B. Noyes had hoped to get an officer's commision in when he first enlisted back in 1861.  Because the 19th Regiment was not yet fully organized, he decided to stay as a private and go with the 13th MA to the front, which had already been ordered forward on July 30th 1861.  The 19th MA Vols was formerly organized August 28, 1861.  It was ordered to Washington on August 30.

Letter of John B. Noyes, 28th MA

Near Stevensburg Va  December 18th 1863

Dear Father
         Your letter and Mother’s of the 14th inst. reached me last evening.  By this time doubtless you have quite a stock of goods on hand for me.  Dr. Francis’ Estate is somewhat  larger  than I expected.  George & Alice are the only heirs are they not ?  Quite a nice sum they have, certainly I suppose.  George will remain in the present family mansion.  He could hardly find a more comfortable house, or one better suited to his means.

Nothing of import has occurred here lately.  It was believed generally a day or two ago that our Corps was to move back of the Rappahannock.  The report was current at the head quarters of the 1st & 2d Division.  Seven days rations were given out to the men the day after the report was circulated.  There is less talk of a move now.  It would be rather discouraging to abandon the houses erected with so much labor in which the men are now living in comfort.

Major Edmund Rice, 19th MA Vols

Major Rice [Edmund Rice, 19th MA Vols. Pictured] called on me last Sunday Evening, and I returned the visit Tuesday.  After dinner he proposed a ride over to the 1st Corps to call on Mr. Bishop a former officer of his regiment.  I acceded.  We had quite a long ride to the 1st Corps, which is encamped near Kelly’s Ford.  I saw Col. Batchelder, the Adjutant & Capt. Bill Cary who are the only old officers now left with it.

I stopped at the 39th Regiment, and also at the Brigade Headquarters.  Only a few men of Co. B. were left, and most of them had visited Richmond since I last called at the Regiment.  I asked one man who had nearly died of a pistol shot at Williamsport and who had been severely wounded both at 2nd Bull Run and at Fredericksburgh what he thought of Richmond.  He answered  “I did’nt go there; I gave the scamps the slip and found my way back to the lines in two or three days.”  His brother escaped with him.

Of twenty conscripts that had been assigned to the company, but two were left.  Four had disappeared during the late operations.  On the whole I passed a very pleasant day, though I am suffering from the effects of it now.

Major Rice is in command of his regiment, Col. Devereux commanding the Brigade.

I do not know but that in my late letters I had mentioned most of the articles I need.  I believe I have not mentioned a nice shirt, over shirt, one of the fancy kind, checked of nice wool etc.  They ask $5.00 for a nice one here.  Perhaps $4.00 could buy a good one in Boston.  Durable colors.  I want a watch chain also, iron, painted.  Don’t forget the pen knife, and a table knife or two.  The spoons may be small Nails, too, some board & some smaller, as well as hasp to lock door with and hinges & catch.  If you see a nice pair of warm gloves, leather, say at $2.00 or less, I should like a pair.  My hand is a very little smaller than yours, but I want a good fit while you are rather careless on that point.  A pair of suspenders also and some twain and tape and thread.  A few screws.  A couple of sets of small hinges besides the door hinges & screw to match for cracker box bureau.  A bottle of good gum Arabic and brush.

I believe I have mentioned about all the articles I stand greatly in need of in this and former notes.  A few large tacks however would not be out of the way. The box will be larger than the one you sent before.  If you find any difficulty in filling the box, buy anything edible you please, as articles here are twice as high as they are at home, especially can stuff.  Butter is 65 cents and cheese 50 cents per pound.

It has been very rainy for a day or two past, and the camp is very muddy in consequence.  Indeed the camp will be muddy all winter.  But with plenty of wood about us we shall not mind the mud much.  This afternoon another deserter, I do not know his Regiment, is to be shot in the presence of the Division.

You need not wait to receive another letter from me before sending the box.  The direction as I have before written is “Lieut J.B.N. 28th Mass. Vols, 2d Brigade, 1st Div. 2d Corps, per Adams Express.

With love to all, I am as ever, Your Aff. Son

                John B. Noyes

Letter of James Ross, 9th NY

James explains the importance of soldiers having a good pair of boots or shoes.

 Kellys Ford
                                            Sunday Dec. 20th 1863

Dear Mother

I suppose before you get this letter that you will be anxious to hear from me again. My last letter home was written on the 12th of this month in answer to one which I recd. from father the same day I got his and Willie’s and Johnnie’s letters yesterday also the paper and envelopes. I had looked anxiously for those letters for I wanted to know how Jessie was and also what father was doing   Of course father is in Hartford before this time and you must feel very lonesome at home for him today but keep up your courage and hope all will turn out well  Although we are separated this winter we look forward to being united again and as it is we are all comfortable and well in our respective places. There are thousands who are worse off than we and if you could only see the poor families here who have lost all that they ever had and are separated never to come together again you would not feel like complaining.

Harpers Illustration of Southern women making corn meal

There is not a single family in the south that is as it was before the war  The sons and fathers are dead or off in the army and the women and children are suffering for the necessities of life. They live almost entirely on indian corn and hard work to get enough of that. They are barefooted and almost naked. The children are dressed in clothes made from the cast off garments which the soldiers have left behind in their old camps and the women wear old faded dresses patched and torn and sun bonnets on their heads.  So you see that we are not badly off as they are nor are we as badly off as might have been for I might have been killed in our last campaign as hundreds of others were or father might be out of work with no chance of getting any or a hundred things might have happened, that have not happened

I sent home word not to send a box because I thought you could not afford it, but if you think that you can send me one of course.  I will be glad enough to get it.  The socks I will need but I can do for shirts.  There is one thing however that I must have and that is a pair of boots. Mine are all used up. They would have lasted me a year at home, but home and here are two places   Marching through the mud and over stones soon wears out leather.  Some men wear out a pair of shoes in a couple of weeks on a march and at best a pair of shoes last no one much longer than a month. When a hole is working a pair of boots or shoes here or the soles are worn off them they are useless for  there is no one to mend them   The soles of mine are gone    I will be on the ground in a few days and with the mud over your ankles a good part of the time at this season  that will not be pleasant    I could get a pair from the suttler when I am paid again but that will not be till the middle of next month and then they would cost much more than they would at home    So I will have you send a pair in the box and be sure and send as soon as you can for the sake of the boots.   You will not have the money for them but Drown will let you have them for me and I will send him the money as soon as I draw my pay.   I want a pair of good course cowhide boots with good heavy soles and good legs that I can put my pants in to tramp through the mud and water with   If you were to wait to have them made it would take too long. I think that you can get a pair ready made from him that will answer. Eight is the number that I wear.   Dont mind about putting too much in the box It will take at least a week to come perhaps two or more.

Now that we are done marching I hope that boxes will come direct but boxes that were sent a month or two since in many cases have not come to hand till now and of course all such things as pies and cakes were spoiled.   some people pack the boxes loosely and carelessly and everything gets jotted together on the road.  Pack the things in mine so that they will lie tight together and not shake.  Put in whatever you like. I know that what ever you will like I will.   I want the boots most and the sooner I get them the better.  Please put in also a pair of suspenders and a few apples  If you have them a good apple here costs ten cents.

Direct to

James Ross
                Ninth Regiment
                        New York State Militia

1st Corps, 2nd Division, 2nd Brigade

You will have to pay the express charges and they will be considerable.  If I had the money I would send it to pay them with, but as it is I can not.  Please to put in a good knife and table spoon and a couple of forks also a good tin cup that holds a quart or a little more with a bail and a good cover, and good stout cup and moreover a good deep stout tin plate. dont forget either of these things for they would be more to me than all the dishes in your pantry are to you and if a small frying pan would not cost too much nor weigh too heavy in the box I would like one too for mine is worn out   but do as you think best about the pan.  Well I have no news to tell you.  I have not build my shanty yet and it is getting cold living in a little tent, but I hope to have a cabin of some kind with fire in it before my box comes. composite image of various tinwareI shall write to father as soon as I hear from him and get his address   I forget to say that there were some stamps in the letter that I was very glad to get as I was out.   It costs me a good deal for stationery.   I have paid for paper pens ink nearly four dollars since pay day.  I had a chance to buy paper since sending home and went into debt for five quires so I wont be out soon again.

  Your son J. Ross

From, “The Thirty-ninth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers”, 1862-1865, by Alfred S. Rowe, 1914.: (p. 133-134.)

The following paragraphs are from Alfred Rowe's regimental history of the 39th MA. Rowe gives a good descripton of life in camp during this 3 week period at Kelly's Ford, which if you hadn't already guessed consisted of routine camp duties: picket, guard, drill, & inspections.


Edwin Forbes engraving titled Inspection

For three weeks there is little variation in daily routine:  drills, inspections, parades and the regular off and on for picket and guard duty.  Meantime everyone finds time to try to retain whatever heat his fire may induce, but in spite of his efforts, as one boy writes, “We suffer with the cold every night.”

On the 5th, came orders to move, but happily they were soon countermanded.

The 6th brought the sutler again and opportunity to invest money for creature comforts at exceedingly high rates.  In these days, men are able to exhibit their mechanical ability, or the want of it, in their efforts to make comfortable and presentable the cabins in which they expect to pass the winter.

Drills are suspended on the 11th that more time may be given to work on the huts.

For the 12th and 13th there are records of the arrival of boxes from the North;  in one case, “The provisions are all spoiled”; in another, “All right, except the shirts and drawers which are missing.”  Had the latter case arisen while the men were in rebel prisons, the enemy would have had to bear the blame;  it would appear that there were pilferers also among our own people. The regularity of the arrival and departure of mails affords these letter-writing soldiers no little pleasure.

Chaplain Edward Beecher French, 39th MA

The weather is not so cold as that of New England at this time of the year, but it varies from bright sunshine to points away below freezing with an occasional flurry of snow, but however disagreeable it may be, all realize that it is harder still for the Confederates, since they are not so well clad as we are.  It is also a time for furloughs and, on the 19th, seven men from the Thirty-ninth start on a ten days’ visit to the northern homes, the time spent there to be the very happiest in their entire lives.

The 21st had special mention in the diaries, in that the chaplain attended two funerals of as many men belonging to the Regiment and that Colonel Davis began a ten days’ leave of absence for a trip to the Bay State.

Note:  One of the funerals mentioned above, was for Private Abel Henry Dakin.  Information from the history of Sudbury states:   Abel Henry Dakin, enlisted from Natick in Company I, Thirty-ninth Regiment, Mass. Volunteers.  He entered the army as a drummer, but afterwards held the position of bugler.  He died of consumption near Kelly's Ford, Dec. 20, 1863.  In the Wadsworth Cemetery is a stone bearing the following inscription: ––

Member of Co. I, 39th Reg't Mass. Vols.
Aet. 31 Years.  “Rest Soldier, Rest.

From the roster of the 39th MA, the Chaplain is Edward Beecher French, a graduate of Harvard Divinity School, 1859. According to the history, he did his duty well, and was up at the front-lines to comfort a dying soldier during the Battle of the Wilderness.  He was the first man from Chatham to enlist as a private in the 39th, and was promoted Chaplain from the ranks.  He died in 1907.  Source: 39th MA Regimental History (p. 338-339).

[The picture above is supposed to be Chaplain French, found at the website, Findagrave––B.F.]

Diaries of Sam Webster & Calvin Conant, 13th MA; December 20 – 23

Captain O.C. Livermore, 13th MA

Calvin Conant, continued:

 Sunday, 20.   Cold day I am on guard the Col. is on Picket So I get the benefit of his tent and a warm fire    their was an Inspection this fore noon.

Captain O. C. Livermore, pictured, was frequently conducting inspections at this time.

Monday, 21.  Cold day I am off guard to day  got my Pen(?)  from NY  Wrote to J. E. M this day cut down the big oak in front of our house.

Sam Webster, continued:
        Monday, December 21st, 1863
        Two of 39th Mass buried.  Visited Lt. Jo Webster, at 7th Maryland.  As the weather is very cold cut down and split a large tree for firewood.

Calvin Conant, continued:

Kettle of baked beans

Tuesday, 22.  Cold day I am on guard today we made a pot of baked beans for breakfast this morning  with soft bread.

Wednesday, 23  Cold day  I am off guard this day orders to lie ready to move at a moments [notice].

Conant's last diary entry portends a change of camp and dreary prospects for Christmas Eve & Christmas.  This is the only journal entry I have from the 13th for the date December 23rd. ––B.F.


Special Orders,
        No. 331.

Hdqrs. Army of the Potomac,      
December 22, 1863.

The First Corps will move to Culpeper and post one division near the line of railroad, well toward Mitchell’s Station, to support the cavalry picketing from Raccoon Ford to the right. With this object in view, the division will throw forward a brigade close up to the cavalry at Mitchell’s Station (the infantry will move at the same time as the cavalry).  The infantry brigade will picket the open ground in its front, and connect with the cavalry pickets on its right and left.  The duty supporting the cavalry will be performed by the divisions of the First Corps in turn.

A special guard around the town of Culpeper will be maintained by the First Corps.

By command of Major-General Meade:

S. WILLIAMS,      
Assistant Adjutant-General.

Journal of Colonel Wainwright


December 23, Wednesday.  The cold spell still holds on; it is really severe, equal I think to anything we had during the whole of last winter.  Today has been the coldest of all, not thawing at all even in the sun. I expected to move into my new quarters this afternoon, but a new order has put all notions of that kind to flight.  This corps  is ordered to move to Culpeper tomorrow, and go into winter quarters there.  Consequently the whole corps is engaged today in one big swear.

It is very hard men, who have jut got themselves comfortably hutted, to be obliged once more put up with the poor comfort of a shelter tent for a fort-night or so until they have once more built shanties for themselves.  My own men will have another three weeks work to get up huts and stables, for which I pity them.  So far as my own comfort is concerned it does not matter much.  All last winter I lived in a tent, and in two hours can make myself as well off as I have been here.  Then there are certain advantages in the move, first and foremost of which is that all the country around here is low and very wet, while around the Court House we shall have high and dry ground.  This alone I think will fully compensate for the move before the winter is over. I hope, too, to get all my batteries together where I can look after them more closely.  I fully mean that this time they shall lay out their camps and build their quarters in a way that will do credit to the command.

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Christmas Eve; A Hard March

A Cold March to Mitchell's Station

Charles Davis, Jr., the historian of  the 13th MA doesn't describe the misery of this Christmas Eve march to Mitchell's Station.  Davis drew on the account of Sam Webster for his history at this time period, and Sam didn't say much.  Some of Davis's entries are simply re-phrased statements from Sam.   Because Sam was so acclamated and resilient to the hardships of the service, which he seemed to confront with a youthfull vigor,  hardships are a given.  “We marched hard” is as descriptive as Sam gets, and Sam's account is Davis's account.  Calvin Conant of Company G, doesn't add any details about the march, other than it is cold, ––and he is tired.  Warren Freeman of Company A, another seasoned veteran didn't comment on the march either.  In a January 3rd letter to his father, he only mentions that the regiment changed camp from Kelly's Ford to Mitchell's Station.  It was recruit James Ross of the 9th New York, a soldier in a different brigade, but in the same division, who chronicled the difficulties of the long trek to Mitchell's Station. Having been drafted in the Summer, and determined to do his part for the country, James post-poned his entrance into college and went into the army instead.  The hardships of the soldier were still novel to him, even after several difficult months in the field,  he writes how uncomfortable a hard march can be with poor shoes, a heavy load, a toothache, diarrhea, or any other physical discomforts.  The narrative of George Hussey of the 9th New York, strikes the appropriate tone in his history, and it is used to introduce James' letter.

Alfred S. Roe, the historian of the 39th MA, the same brigade as the 13th, but still a green regiment, ––they haven't “seen the elephant” yet, tried to add a light touch to his narrative.  This account starts things off.

From the history of the 39th Massachusetts Regiment, by Alfred S. Rowe:

The 23rd carries the record of wintery weather, made all the more so by having the ground covered with snow, the first time in the season, also the surprise for all, in that they are ordered to have everything in readiness to move tomorrow at five o’clock in the morning.  Sad looks on soldierly faces follow this announcement, “for it is such a good place to spend the winter in.”

Though awakened at 3 a.m. and formed in line at 4, it was 8 a.m. before the orders to march were heard.  Not a little grumbling accompanied this departure on a cold wintry day from semi-comfortable quarters for new camping places.  One man’s observations come down to us thus:  “Why couldn’t they let us sleep a while longer and then let us prepare and eat our breakfast, rather than make us stand in line on such a cold, cheerless morning?”

Painting by Giovanni Ponticelli of soldiers marching in winter

"The Mud March" by artist Giovanni Ponticelli.

Had all kept diaries the entries would have differed in no essential from the foregoing.  The day proved to be a good one for marching and after reaching Brandy Station, the course was along the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, through Culpeper Court House to a point possibly four miles beyond, when it was found that the Regiment had lost its bearings, thus necessitating a bivouac in a convenient stretch of woods.  The burden of extra winter necessities and the frozen earth made the eighteen miles’ march a trying one.

Though it was “The night before Christmas” and many thoughts wandered northward to far away homes where the loved ones dwelt, there was little of the divine flavor to the night which settled down and enfolded these armed men, on the very outposts of the Union Army.

Christmas dawned as expected, but it did not seem just as it would under other circumstances; the “Merry Christmas” that passed from mouth to mouth seemed to lack some of the home fervor, yet all put the best foot forward and, determining to make the best of it, there was more than one expression of wonder as to whether “We’ll be here a year hence?”

Santa delivers boxes to soldiers in camp, Harpers 1863

Luckily, boxes from home came to cheer some of the men, a real demonstration of Santa Claus, and all the more welcome for this reason; the entire First Corps was included in this movement and the many campfires, that lit up the night, gave a gloss to what otherwise might have been cheerless; song and story made the evening pass rapidly away, and the ever melodious “taps” set those patriotic North men to slumber and the sweetest of dreams.

army encampment at night

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

Thursday, December 24.  Marched about 8 o’clock to Brandy Station and on to Culpeper Court House and along the railroad to within a mile of Mitchell’s Station.  Snow on the ground and cold.  No rests were given us.  The distance marched was seventeen miles.

Diary of Calvin Conant, Company G:

Thursday, 24.  Reveille at 3 o’clock this morning  marched at 9 o’clock went to Brandy Station then to Culpeper and about 3 miles beyond went in the woods to camp for the night  I am on guard   cold and frosty slept very well.

View of Culpeper, Va showing the railroad depot

Culpeper, August, 1862 by Timothy Sullivan, (cropped).  A locomotive with troops on flat-cars is visible in the center, as is the courthouse in the right background.  View to the west.  The image was taken from the modern day National Cemetery.

Diary of Sam Webster, continued:

        Thursday, December 24th, 1863
                Move to Brandy Station, thence to Culpeper Court House and along the railroad to woods on the hill overlooking, and a mile or two short of, Mitchell’s station.  Snowed yesterday morning and very cold this a. m.  Were marched hard and no attention paid to “rests.” ( Thought coming through Culpeper of how “ye 13th cleaned out” Edwards (or Williams ) see page –– August 29, 1862 –– who was acting as sutler during Pope’s retreat.  He was asking 8 1.3 cents* each for ginger cakes;  and the boys thought it exhorbitant.  He held up to view a bottle of liquor, in a tantalizing way, and I don’t think he had anything left when they got through with him. They pried off the top of the wagon with a pole or rail, broke the tongue off, and sacked the entire outfit.)

*[This is the typed number in the transcript, and I am not sure its meaning, whether 8 1/2 cents, or 81 cents, etc––BF]

Map of the March

Map of Christmas Eve March

The map shows the approximate start and end points for Gen. John Robinson's march on December 24th.  According to Charles Wainwright, the 2nd Division of the 1st Corps, was camped closer to Paoli Mills on Mountain Run.  General John Newton's Corps Headquarters were located in a house about half way between the Mills and Kelly's Ford.  A house labeled "Shackford" is indicated on this map where I placed the HQ.  The 3rd Division was camped close to headquarters, while the 1st Division of the Corps was camped around Kelly's Ford.

illustration of soldiers packing up camp into wagons

Illustration:  “Breaking Up Camp” by Arthur Lumley.

History of the Ninth Regiment N.Y.S.M.––N.G.S.N.Y. (Eighty-third N.Y. Volunteers.) 1845-1888, by George A. Hussey, Edited by William Todd, 1889.

Author George Hussey suitably describes reactions to the marching orders.

The old members of the regiment had been in the service long enough not to be surprised ––or, at least, to conceal their surprise ––at any order, however disagreeable, that might be received;   so, when early on the 24th, ––just as the boys were talking over the matter of properly celebrating Christmas,––orders having been given to “pack up and be ready to march,” the only outward manifestations from this class were simply looks of disgust ––and half-smothered maledictions upon the man that turned them out at mid-winter from their comfortable huts.

The recruits were more demonstrative, and talked of getting up a petition to be allowed to remain where they were, but the veterans soon convinced them of the futility of any such nonsense, and, with a great deal of swearing ––if we must tell the truth ––the men began to pack up.  At eight o’clock brigade line was formed, and the column was soon on the march, headed west.

Illustration of soldiers around a fire in winter

After passing through Culpeper the column followed the line of railroad south to a point near Mitchell’s Station, where, late in the afternoon, the men bivouacked for the night upon the “cold, cold, ground,” of a swampy piece of woods.

Christmas was anything but  a “merry” one to the members of the Ninth.   The camp was laid out ––after a fashion ––but the nature of the ground was such that no comfort was to be expected.  “Military necessity,” ––the excuse for many of the discomforts and privations of army life ––was answerable for the condition of the regiment in the eyes of the “Powers,” but this did not satisfy the men who were obliged to endure ––blindly ––the annoyances caused by the “exigency of war.”  Some men are sent out on picket duty, guards were posted;  there were crackers, coffee, “salt-horse” and fat pork for rations; but the boys did not starve, nor freeze to death, but that was all.  So Christmas passed with the Ninth.

The original caption to the gloomy scene illustrated above was, “Christmas Eve Around the Camp Fire.”  It seems a perfect match for what the men of Robinson's Divison experienced this Christmas Eve, of 1863.

Letter of James Ross, “9th NY"

In December 1863 James Ross's father and brother Willie, left Plattsburgh,  New York for greener pastures, and went to Hartford, Connecticut to seek work as coopers.  James comments on this move hoping things will work out for the family at home, all scattered about for the holidays, but then relates in matter-of-fact detail the awful difficulties of a soldiers' life.

 On Picket near Mitchells Station   
Dec. 26th 1863                             

Dear Father

Yours of the 20th was mailed on the 21st and came to hand on the 23rd. It came through sooner than any other letter that I have received from the north. I would have answered it immediately but you will see by the date of this that we have moved since I rec’d it and therefore I have been busy and unable to write   Your letters written before leaving home came to hand also the paper envelope and stamps  The stamps I am greatly obliged for I was in great need of them.  I had made a raid of paper and envelopes the day before receiving yours but the quire will not be wasted.  I ran across a paper peddler in camp who knew me and went into debt to him till pay day for a package of envelopes and a quarter of a quire of paper. The quire which you sent makes six quires that I have now on hand so I dont expect to be out soon again.

I answered your letter by writing mother and I daily expect an answer.  I hope that you will write to me as often as you did from home as I expect that I will not hear from them as often as I did.  I hope that Jessie will get better.  I believe that she will and then perhaps her humor will leave her too.  I am sorry that you do not find things more agreeable in Hartford but you must make some allowance. You will hardly ever find a job ready made when a man goes into a new place or a new shop it is always a while before he can do as he did in the old one  You remember how discouraged you were in Montreal for a week or two after getting there and also how long it took to get started in Plattsburg. I hope by the time this letter reaches you that things will be going on more smoothly than they were and that your wages will come somewhere near the figure they did at home.  I am not sorry that you did not get work in Sciota. It would have been more pleasant to have been near home this winter but it is well to be quit of Rodee & Co. They will respect you for your conduct and I hope that it will be for the best in the long run  If you find that your present job does not pay it may be the means of finding you a better one, and though it will be hard to be separated from the family for a while,  matters are not near as bad as they might be. You wont starve if you have your health and this month I can send home at least pay thirteen dollars every pay day and that will help some  So dont be cast down Look on the bright side for a bright side there is  If you saw the condition of families in this section you would not think that we were so bad off.  Then I hope too that Willies health will be benefited by the change of residence. I wish that you would make him go out some this winter so that he may not mope nor be lonesome.  If he had not many acquaintances to spend the evening with it wont hurt him to go to the concerts and one thing and another.  He must get better and in order to do so he wants to mix with other people. When I was at home he had no company but me and I was not much company for him.  Of course he knows what he likes better than I do but I think that he would enjoy himself better and be better for mixing up with other people.

Edwin Forbes sketch of various tents and huts in camp

I will tell you now how I happen to be here.  I hoped when we waded the Rappahannock last that it would end our marching for the winter but in this I was disappointed   we lay at the ford nearly a month.  Some of the men put up winter quarters but I neglected to do so because I was not certain that we would remain.  I lived in my shelter tent all the time and I tell you that we saw some cold weather.  The report would be one day that we were to remain and the next that we were to move. At last it seem to be settled that we were to remain and we went over into a splendid piece of wood and picked out a splendid place for a permanent winter camp.  We laid it out into streets and cleared them and then fell to building our huts.

  There was to be ten in our company each one to be eighteen feet long and eight feet wide to be covered with our shelter tents. We worked with a will and looked forward with a good deal of satisfaction to getting into our houses in a few days   But alas in the midst of our work the orders came to suspend operations and return to camp.

On getting there we recd. orders to pack up and be ready to move   This was on the 23rd  The weather then was very cold and my foot was sprained besides which I had the diarrhea and toothache and all the buttons had burst on my breeches and I had no means of sewing them on.  So under the prospect of moving I felt miserable enough.

Charles Reed sketch of soldiers marching in winter

Orders to move did not come that day but at night fall we were notified that reveille would sound at half past three and that the marching line would form at five precisely.  So on the strength of this information we crawled into our tents. We were comfortable enough under the blankets but the idea of the reveille worked on our minds so that we would not sleep very well.  But as it happened reveille did not sound till nearly five and we did not move till sunrise    we marched seventeen miles & traveled very fast.  The men had loads heavier than usual as they did not expect more marching and had extra clothing and bedding   as for myself my boots were all gone so that part of the way my feet were on the ground and when we got in I was so lame that I could barely limp and it was a hard  task between the cold weather and my lameness and tired condition generally to get up a tent but we managed to get up one and made a nice bed of boughs in it    I then got a little supper and was anticipating a good sleep to sleep away my fatigue when my name was called for picket   this seemed hard but it was my regular turn and I could not complain.

So I limped off with the rest. And have been since I passed my Christmas Eve by the picket fire.   I had no blanket but one of the men let me a rubber which I spread before the fire when I was off post   and lay down on it under a piece of tent cloth and dozed for a few hours in spite of the cold.

Charles Reed watercolor of soldier on guard in winter

Yesterday was Christmas.  I was out all day and stood three times from seven till nine in the morning, from five till seven in the evening and from one till three at night. The thermometer must have been down near zero last night and when men live out of doors, entirely without shelter in weather as cold as that and sleep on the frozen ground on a rubber blanket you may imagine that they do not see easy times.

Since commencing this letter the picket has been relieved.  I came into camp and found there a letter from Dect  and also one from Annie and one from Johnny. Annie’s and Johnny’s letters were without date. They had not heard from you when they wrote.

I feel pretty well but my feet still very sore   I have made a raise of a pair of old shoes on credit which I hope will last me till my boots come.  I sent word to mother to send me a pair in the box. I don’t know when we will move again but it will be soon as this is no place for a camp    we keep packed up all the time waiting for orders.  I have not had one quiet hours rest in three days nor one good hours sleep but I hope to be able to sleep all night tonight.  We are here within three or four miles of the Rapidan and about the same distance from Cedar Mountain.  All the rest of the army is in winter quarters between here and the Rappahannock   our luckless corps alone wanders up and down on the march by day and on picket by night. When we will go into permanent quarters the Lord only knows perhaps not at all this winter. What I fear most is the wet weather and mud which will ensue when this frost breaks up on my feet. Then we will have snow soon   We have only had a little layer so far but the ice is several inches thick.

We lead a hard life.  It makes the men old   no one takes me to be any younger now than I really am.   All the men who could get whiskey last night celebrated the day by getting drunk. We heard the uproar on our post. The captain brought us out a canteen, but I did not imbibe. I close this in a hurry to be in time to mail it today.

Will write to Willie soon,   James Ross


General John Newton is not pleased.

Hdqrs. First Army Corps, Army of the Potomac,      
December 25, 1863.

Brig. Gen. S. Williams,
                Asst. Adjt. Gen., Army of the Potomac:

Major-General John Newton

General:   I cannot conceal my astonishment that General Merritt should have reported to headquarters that “General Newton tells me he does not know what is expected of him,” a sentence calculated to give an entirely wrong interpretation to my views.  All the specifications of Special Orders, 331, and circular of December 22, were carried out.  The picket line was established, and one division sent to the neighborhood of Mitchell’s Station yesterday.  The brigade directed to advance close on to Mitchell’s Station may not yet have done so, but its commander conferred with the officer commanding cavalry here (as directed), and if it has not, the fault is not with the infantry.  The brigade of infantry and the cavalry were by the order to advance at the same time.  The cavalry division starting out this morning were ordered back.

It will thus be seen that I clearly comprehended the instructions given me, and have acted on them to the utmost of my power.  The only sense in which I am ignorant of the object of my being sent here is this, that I am uncertain whether our coming here is a premonitory sign of an advance against enemy, or whether it is intended as a precaution against his advance.  I think General Merritt has been led into his mistake by the expression of some such views as the above on my part.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Major-General, Commanding.

Sam Webster, continued:
       Friday, December 25th, 1863.  Christmas
        Slept sound last night, but feel unwell today.  Get water by breaking ice in a swamp. Signs of snow.  Supposed rebel pickets visible on the banks of Cedar Run.  Cavalry Brigade under Merritt occupy the hill just in front of us –– “right hard on a swear.” not much like Christmas.

Calvin Conant, continued:
        25 December, Cold day We are in the woods  side of the rail road  this is a bad place for water and the land is very lowe.  I am off guard.

Alfred S. Rowe, 39th Mass., continued:
        There was an inspection in the forenoon of the 26th and orders to be ready to march in the afternoon.  Starting at 3 p.m., the trip was only about two miles still nearer the Confederacy, along the railroad, halting at or near Mitchell’s Station, the very last before reaching the Rapidan; here in a large field the brigade encamped in column by regiments.  Rain falls on the 27th and this, coupled with the marshy character of the fields in which the Regiment is camped, makes moist beds for the men, though they try to obviate the situation by tearing boards from an unoccupied house and by the use of boughs and branches in getting the bunks off the saturated ground.

Charles Reed sketch of picket shelter in rain

Letter of Charles Barber 104th NY, Dec 27

Charles letter describes the wet gloomy conditions of the Brigade's current camp ground.

Michel Station Va  Dec 27 –– 63

Dear wife and children   I am well   we have moved again on south near the Rapidan;  the river is now our picket line   I don’t know how long we stay here   I saw Edson yesterday he is well and hearty   his regt is camped near us.   It is two weeks to day since I wrote to you which is the first opportunity I have had since then.  I wrote for a box then   send it on if you have not already.   I have no particular news to write   I feel rather dull to day as I am broke of my rest as often as every third night on guard or picket   Frank Beard illustration of soldier sleeping on the groundI am troubled with rheumatism probably caused by exposure and sleeping on the wet ground   it is raining now and looks gloomy

we have been on short rations again  my Christmas days rations was only three crackers two oz of meat and coffee with salt in it instead of sugar   I thought of the happy Christmas I had at home two years ago with my family and the good hearty victuals and the good supper we had at Joe Coopers.  It is two years this morning at two o clock that I left home the last time taking that old bed quilt which has long since been destroyed by the incidents of war.  time especially in war time brings round rapid changes   8 or 9 months more I hope will bring me safe home again and the months are speeding by fast as the untiring wheels of time can roll on

I am glad you have got Georges pay  we muster again for pay this week and probably shall be paid in three weeks  get that money from Buffalo soon as you can if you have not or it may be lost     I rec Chandlers short but good letter.  tell B to write to me   tell C to tell Taylor to keep a good look out at my timber this winter and keep off trespassers and find out what my timber lot would sell for now   also my Savanna lots and be sure that the taxes are all paid

how is Mary and aunt B now  do you hear from Caroline and Mary Willey lately  how does A Willey get along now   tell him I would like to have him write to me and all my relatives and friends there   Edgar Fancher has just got back to the regt   he looks well

a great many think the war will end this winter;  two thirds of the old troops of our regt have reenlisted again for three years but I shall not reenlist at present as I have other duties and interests to see to after my three years are up   I think I shall have done my part of soldiering when my term is up  if Chandler looks at it as I do he will not enlist for he is needed else where where he can do more good and probably he would have the rheumatism so he would not be fit for duty.   so I shall not advise him to enlist and this veteran army now enlisting is to serve three years even if this war ends this winter   let C read this    good bye

Charles Barber

Notes:  Taylor is probably Alonzo Taylor, husband of Charles Barber's older sister Diana Barber.

Return to Table of Contents

Change Camp Closer To Mitchell's Station

Once again the excellent narrative from the 39th MA creates the setting.

Alfred S. Rowe, 39th Mass., continued:


        In the matter of residents, it could not be said that Mitchell’s Station was exactly densely inhabited, but where was there ever a girl whom someone did not admire and, if possible, make here acquaintance?  One family, with the staunchest of German names, in which the sons had gone into the rebel army, had a father, mother and three grown-up daughters.  When sober, the “old man” claimed to be a good Union man; when drunk as was sometimes the case, he was an out and out Secesh; as to the girls, it made no difference what their affiliations were;  they were girls and that was enough.  One evening, three officers called at headquarters and asked the privilege of calling on the Y––– girls; [Yeager]   “Umph,” exclaimed Colonel Davis, I verily believe half the officers in the Regiment are there already, but you may go if you think it will do you any good.”

Photo of the Yeager Home

Photograph of the Yeager Home, against the eastern ridge of Cedar Mountain.  The Battle of August 9, 1862, was fought on the other side of the mountain.  Mr. Yeager had 3 “very passable looking” daughters, according to Sam Webster, who visited them frequently.  Mention of the family will continue through the winter encampment of the army.  A Union signal station was located on top of this ridge not far from this site.

39th MA, cont'd:
        With the 28th comes Sutler Pullen again and until afternoon the rain continues;  the 29th does not bring the change of camping place that so many wish.  During the day, Colonel T. F. McCoy (One Hundred and Seventh Penn.), commanding in the absence of Colonel Leonard, compliments the entire brigade on the cheerfulness and fortitude of the men and their endurance in marching in the cold and stormy weather; he also calls attention to the exposed position of the brigade, being the nearest the enemy and warning every one to be on the lookout constantly.  [See Col. McCoy's General Orders below on this page.]  On this day also was promulgated the plan to secure reenlistments of the men, with the promise of a thirty days’ furlough and a large bounty.  The proposition did not appear to find much favor with the Thirty-ninth, although all of the men would appreciate that month at home.

Note:  Contrast author Alfred Rowe's take on Colonel McCoy's circular, with the attitude of 13th MA author Charles E. Davis, Jr., below.

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

Saturday, December 26.  About 3 P.M. we moved to our camp down the hill to Mitchell’s Station in a field to the west of the station.   Our camp of August 17 and 18, 1862, was less than a mile away, towards Cedar Mountain.

Charles Reed sketch of soldier in a poncho in the rain

 Sam Webster, Company D:
        Saturday, Saturday, December 26th, 1863
        Moved to Mitchell’s station, camping in a field to west of it.  Camp  of Aug. 17th and 18th, 1862 is over the hill toward Cedar Mountain about ˝ mile or more.

Calvin Conant, Company G:
        Saturday, 26.  Quite pleasant we moved up the R R about 2 miles  this afternoon and stoped out in the open fields.  Plenty of rails and some wood but it is quite a ways off   our rations have come up now    it is dark and looks like rain or snow  I am on guard to day

Sam Webster, continued:
        Sunday, December 27th
        Libby and I went across to Mr. Yeager’s, towards Cedar Mountain, and near Slaughter’s Chapel, to grind our axe.  Old gent was very affable, insisted that he had seen me, in ’62, and, a shower occurring, took us in the house.  Has three daughters –– very passable looking girls.  Wants one of us for house guard.

Calvin Conant, continued:
        Sunday, 27.  Rainy day we are out in the wood it is knee deep in our camp I am off guard did not sleep any last night and on the account of Wet & mud

Sam Webster:
        Monday, December 28th, 1863
        Visit Mr. Yeager’s again, and have a very pleasant time.  still rainlng and very muddy.

Calvin Conant:
        Monday, 28.  Still continued to rain  the mud gets deeper and we are a wreched lot of boys    I am on guard to day  every body is wet & blue.  Lieuts  Horne & Whitney come back to day we drawed half ration of Whiskey.

1st Sergeant Samuel C. Whitney, Company G2nd Lieutenant Charles Horne, Company G

Oddly, with very few pictures in my files of Company G men, I happen to have images of the two men Calvin mentioned in his diary entry for December 28.  They are Samuel C. Whitney and Charles E. Horne, respectively.

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

General Orders,
         No. 56.

Headquarters First Brigade, Second Division, First Army Corps,   
Dec. 28, 1863.

This brigade now occupies one of the extreme outposts of this army.  It is a position of honor as well as danger, and as such requires much more than the ordinary degree of vigilance and faithfulness on the part of officers and men.

The colonel commanding would, therefore, call upon all to manifest their appreciation of the important service devolving upon them by a prompt and cheerful response to every duty.

In view of an additional precaution against surprise, when firing is heard on the picket line, the commanding officers of regiments will at once have their commands under arms, without waiting for any orders or signals from these head-quarters.

graphic of soldier with an american flag

The safety of the camp being more particularly in the keeping of the pickets and guards, the necessity of intelligence, vigilance, and promptitude with them are of the most essential importance.

The colonel commanding the brigade deeply regrets the necessity for the late movement, involving so much inconvenience and suffering, and most heartily sympathizes with the troops in their extraordinary fatigues and exposures.  Knowing, however, that the noble and righteous cause in which we are engaged is worthy of and demands the highest services and the greatest sacrifices, he feels assured that the brave and patriotic officers and soldiers of this brigade will, with renewed determination, if necessary, sustain their own high name, won upon so many battlefields, and honor of the old flag, by a prompt and willing compliance with every duty, however arduous, the exigency may require.

By command of                                  
COL. T. F. McCOY,               
Commanding Brigade.

Davis, cont'd:
        We had an opinion about this Colonel McCoy. The “old flag” which has come thundering along down the oratorical highway of the last thirty years probably got its start from this order.

Tuesday, December 29.  We were formed in line of battle to meet an advance of the enemy, but the alarm proved to be a false one.

From the History of the 9th NY, (p. 309-310) George A. Hussey:
        As the year closes ––for the Ninth,  amid somewhat gloomy and unpleasant surroundings ––the cause the men cherished in their hearts had made great progress.  The Union arms had been generally victorious during the year, and the people of the South were beginning to realize ––after nearly three years of war ––that their revolt against constituted authority had led, and was still leading them, towards the gulf of despair.  In its last issue of the year ––December 31st ––the Richmond Examiner no doubt voiced the feelings of the majority of the southern people in these words:

To-day closes the gloomiest year of our struggle.  No sanguine hope of intervention buoys up the spirits of the Confederate public as at the end of 1861.  No brilliant victory, like that of Fredericksburg, encourages us to look forward to a speedy and successful termination of the war, as in the last week of 1862.  Meade has been foiled, and Longstreet has had a partial success in East Tennessee;  but Meade’s advance was hardly meant in earnest, and Bean’s Station is a poor set-off to the loss of the gallant men who fell in the murderous assault on Knoxville. • • • Meanwhile the financial chaos is becoming wilder.  Hoarders keep a more resolute grasp than ever on the necessaries of life.  Non-producers, who are at the same time non-speculators, are suffering more and more.  What was once competence has become poverty, poverty has become penury, penury is lapsing into pauperism.

Letter of James Ross, December 29th 1863

James keeps as good an attitude as possible through his sufferings in the army and loses patience with those who complain about their situations at home, including his father.  By contrasting the difficulties of his life in the army and that of the poor women he encounters in Virginia with family life at home, he points out that things aren't nearly as bad as made out to be.  He even reprimands the dour wife of a surly comrade!

Mitchells Station         
        Dec. 29th 1863

Dear Annie:

Yours of the 23d came to hand last night and I expect that we will either move today or that I will be sent on picket   I take this chance of writing a few lines in reply.

Edwin Forbes engraving, soldier mired in mud

The receipt for the box came enclosed. I wrote to you on the 18th or 19th asking you to send a pair of boots in the box. You did not mention anything about them in the letter and I fear that you did not receive the letter in time to send them.  If you have not sent them and it will not cost too much please send a pair as soon as you can for I need them badly  indeed my feet have been wet all the time for several days and shoes are no protection for in any part of the camp the mud is over our ankles at almost every step. I mentioned the boots in a letter to mother mailed about the 18th and in one to Johnny a day or so later.

We have had a dreadful time with the wet and the mud.  It rained for forty eight hours and we lie in a place which is almost a swamp at any time  Yesterday and today have been clear and bright and as warm as days in the early part of May at home. But in a day or two it will freeze up again & then how cold it will be.

I hope that my box will not come till we get established somewhere for I could not enjoy having it in such a place as this and if we move I could not carry it a rod. I hope when we leave here we will go into camp somewhere but don’t much expect it  We are so near the enemy here that it seems as if we could not have much rest this winter.

However as soon as I get my boots I will feel independent and whatever the rest of the army can stand I can. There is one thing respecting the box that I am sorry about and that is Bill’s tobacco.  he has been talking about the pipe and tobacco that he expected from Baker for a long time. And it would have been sent in his box but for the things that were put in for me. Tobacco is [illeg] of more consequence to him than anything else that can go inside of a box as it is to all other men [who] use it here but it can’t be helped now. When the box comes you will hear just how good the things in it seemed to us. Bill expects his box up on Thursday boxes come up every Thursday and at no other time.

Edwin Forbes illustration of heavy rain and men marching

You said that you felt lonesome Christmas eve I wrote you the other day how I felt my feet were so sore that I had to limp along slowly through the wood after the rest of the guard & I was so tired that it seemed as if I must drop at every step.  We were out in the woods two hours before we had permission to build a fire after we got one going we did very well.

I am sorry that father takes such a gloomy  view of his affairs   I had a letter from him on the day that you got yours. he would make a poor soldier   There are plenty of men here who have been drafted away from their families.  I wrote a good many letters for one who used to despond just as father would.  I had to read his wife’s letters in reply and it was a contest between them who could write worst.  It used to disgust me to read and write such letters so much that at last in one letter instead of writing as he told me I gave the wife a most flourishing and cheerful account from him and abused her roundly for being so despondent bidding her trust in Providence &c.  and when I read this letter to him I left all the part that I had put in out and he never knew the difference.  Charles Reed sketch of soldier writing a letterIf father was away from you in this place he would have some reason to complain, as it is while we are well and Willie and he are both earning money he is not so very badly off after all.

I must finish now. As I look out of the tent the mud as far as I can see is as bad as ever it was between the block houses and the corner of Broad Street.  As soon as I step out it will be splash, splash up to the tops of my shoes at every step. I forgot till now that New Year will be along by the time you get this letter.  I hope that you will have a happy one at home how I will spend it I cant say  We were talking about New Years out on picket the other day and the captain said that he was on picket that day too.  It was the day on which the Proclamation of pardon was issued and he said that the Negroes came pouring through the lines all day.  One old man took his master’s wagon and a yoke of oxen and put all his family eight in number inside of the wagon and in this manner came inside of our lines in triumph.

I am glad that Jessie is so well and I am glad too that the news about enlisting is so good. Next summer will see three hundred thousand new troops down here and next fall will I hope see them home again. It is rumored that part of this army is to be sent west into Tennessee and Georgia. They sent away two corps last summer if another portion is sent I hope that our corps may go for I am tired of traveling up and down this railroad and wading the river at any rate whether we go west or stay east I hope if spared to spend next Christmas with you at home

James Ross

Annie's Response

Wensday Evening Dec 30th 1863

Dear Father

… Jimmes box is to go tomorrow we would have sent it before but Mr Drown did not have the boots redy he has made him a splendid pair of boots the price of them is six Dollars Ma had to borro three Dollars from Dect to pay the expres charges on Jimmes box she promist to give it to him when Jimmie got his pay …

good by Annie

A.R. Waud sketch of a wet encampment with water in the streets

Letter of James Ross, New Years Eve

*The colporteur James mentions is a peddler of books.

Mitchells Station      
        Dec. 31st, 1863

Dear Mother;

This is the last night of the old year I do not know how you are spending it at home but I presume you are cozy and comfortable around the fire   You are thinking of Willie and father and me.  It is raining here tonight and has been all day we have had a hard struggle to get our food cooked today. We are lucky in having a candle  We have lit it and have spread the blankets in the tent and are going to make ourselves as comfortable as circumstances will admit till bedtime.

Rogers lies by me on the boughs as I am writing.  Bill is out on picket and I will go out tomorrow. Neither of our boxes have come yet and I hope that mine will not until we move. Things look as if we were going to go into camp  They give us camp rations and the sutlers are all up and  colporteurs also  One of them offered me a testament yesterday and when I said I had one he gave me a hymn book instead.  They come up to us when we are in permanent camp and deal out books and tracts.  We had visits from them when we lay at Rappahannock Station, but as soon as we began to move they disappeared for the government will not allow them to come up when the army is moving

We were mustered in for pay today. The ceremony of being mustered consists in going up to the adjutants tent and answering to your name as he calls it out. This is to see how many men are in the regiment to be paid   When the troops are to be paid first the pay roll is made out   it contains the names of all the men with the am’t. due to each one. Then the men are mustered to see that they are all present.  About two weeks after the rolls are made out the paymasters come up.  And each man receives the amount put down for him on the roll  We were promised an advance bounty of twenty five dollars which we have not yet received.   It is down on the roll this time and if we receive it, the whole amount coming to us will be fifty one dollars.

photo of civi war era boots

I recd. a letter from Annie the night before last and mailed one in reply yesterday   I wrote a letter to you about the 18th of the month but have heard nothing from it   I wanted you to get it in time to put a pair of boots in the box   Annie said nothing about the boots and so I concluded you did not get the letter which is strange as the box was not started till the 23rd  I have written about the boots in every letter since so I need say nothing about them in this one.

I have not much to write tonight. I have nothing to read and it is so wet that I cant go outside of the tent.  I cant help thinking about you at home and as I suppose you will have no objections to receiving a letter from me I have resolved to spend a little in writing one. I wrote a letter today to the person at whose house I spent last last New Years Eve  You will remember that I was not at home but I was a good deal more comfortable than I am tonight   None of us knew then what would happen to us before the coming year was over  I think we have reason to be thankful that we have all lived to see its close   We are separated at the close of the year but we may hope to be together again at the close of the next.

Note:  Sadly, James' boots did not reach him until January 15, 1864.––B.F.

Diary of Calvin Conant, continued:

Tuesday, 29.  Cleared off and the sun shines bright but the mud is very deep our sutler come up last night with loots of goods  I have spent $5.00 all ready   Edwin Forbes engrving of soldier at a sutler's counter I am off guard.

Wednesday, 30.  Very pleasant day the mud is drying up fast  I am on guard to day only  boys buisy to day making out our  peg roads   talk of moving our Camp to a dryer place.  Got my reglar drink of Grain[?] this night.

December 31,  Revile at 6 ˝  o clock this morning  moved our camp about 80 roods up in the woods and commenced to build log Houses.  To day we are mustered for 2 months pay  November & December   Wood is not very plenty such as is required to build but we have struck out to a Shantie   rains hard all day  everything all wet  Col Batchelder has got his furlow  every body looks blue.  Carried over to Diary 1864

Sadly Calvin Conant's 1863 journal comes to an end with this last entry.  We have been following him for a good part of 1863, but alas, I don't have anything from him for 1864.  There are a few pages of memoranda that follow this last entry, including a note that the diary carries over into an 1864 volume.   The names of Company G comrades listed in memorandum on the back pages of the diary, (associated with small dollar amounts of money), include, Sergeant Llewellyn Jones, Corporal John Best, and Privates James McKay, Sam Berry, Hiram S. Thayer, William E. Foster and William R. Briggs.  I am very thankful to Seth Kaller for sharing the scans of Conant’s diary with me in 2018.  Very few auction houses have been as generous as he was in sharing for this website. ––Brad Forbush, January, 2023.

Sam Webster, Continued:
        Thursday, December 31st, 1863
        Move camp to slip of woods on top of the hill toward Yeager’s.  104th N.Y. on our right flank and 39th Mass on theirs –– Left, the 16th Maine and 107 Pa on a slight ridge nearer to the station. Mustered on pay-rolls.

General Orders, Colonel T. F. McCoy

General Orders
            No. 58.

Headquarters First Brigade,                                 
Second Division First Army Corps,
Dec. 30, 1863.

For the health and comfort of the solders of the First Brigade, it is of great importance that especial attention be bestowed in the construction of huts and the laying out of grounds for convenience and beautifying. For the purpose of ensuring uniformity in the accomplishment of these objects, I heareby, with the advice of the medical officers of the First Army Corps, direct that the walls of the huts shall not be less than five feet high, the length not less than ten feet, and the width between the walls not less than six feet and one half, the roofs being covered with shelters in the usual manner.  The doors of the huts shall all face the street, and the chimneys should not be erected in the front.

A choice may be exercised by the regimental commanders whether the huts be end to the street or side to it, though there should be uniformity in adopting one mode or the other.

The streets should not be less than twenty-five feet in width, and the space between huts in the rear shouldn’t be less than eight feet. The streets will be graded in the usual manner.  The draining will be thorough.

By command of                                
COL. T. F. McCOY,            
Commanding brigade.

Charles E. Davis, Jr. concluded:

Thursday, December 31.  Changed camp to high ground, half a mile to the westward, and proceeded at once to build huts for winter quarters.  Six months and sixteen days more before “Johnnie comes marching home.”

(The song sheet below, links to a Library of Congress recording of the song.)

Edwin Forbes watercolor of Union Soldiersong sheet, when johnny comes marching home

Next Up:  Massachusetts Adjutant General Shouler's 1863 Summary Report for the Regiment.

graphic of a rifle and canteen laid down

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Page Updated January 10, 2023.

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