Winter Encampment at Mitchell's Station, 1864

Outpost Duty: Army of the Potomac
PART 1:   January, 1864.

Army of the Cumberland building Winter Quarters, 1863

From the New York Public Library Digital Archives, is artist Frank Schell's sketch of Army of the Cumberland soldiers preparing winter camp in 1863.  The tasks depicted in this illustration  graphically represent much of the activity described in the several regiments of Colonel Thomas McCoy's First Brigade during the month of January, 1864.  And considering they were building their camps on  an elevated plateau overlooking Mitchell's Station on the Orange & Alexandria Railroad, with the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance, this scene is quite reminiscent of the real thing.

Table of Contents

 Introduction; Establishing A Signal Station on Cedar Mountain

Brigadier-General John C. Robinson

When Major-General John Newton, commanding the First Corps, Army of the Potomac, was ordered to break camp at Kelly’s Ford and march his 3 divisions to Culpeper Court-House on Christmas Eve, 1863, one division was selected to continue forward south of the town.  They would perform outpost duty, close to the enemy lines, throughout the winter.  General John C. Robinson’s two brigades of the 2nd Division, (his smallest division) were assigned the task and ordered to Mitchell’s Station along the Orange & Alexandria Railroad.  Part of Brigadier-General Wesley Merritt’s Cavalry Division was camped in a field to their front, a short distance away.  Cedar Mountain was a mile to the west.  The August 9, 1862 battle was fought in the fields north of the mountain’s forward peak.  The Winter Camp location was less than a mile from where the 13th MA camped in mid-August 1862, back when  General George L. Hartsuff commanded the brigade. So much had transpired since then that it must have seemed like a hundred years past, for the few men still with the regiment who remembered.

[Brigadier-General John C. Robinson, and his beard, pictured.]

The First Brigade, which included the 13th MA, 39th MA, 16th Maine, 104th NY and 107 PA, temporarily commanded  by Colonel T. F. McCoy, settled into quarters on a slight ridge overlooking Mitchell’s Station.  (Colonel Adrian Root and his regiment the 94th NY, left the 1st Brigade and transferred to the District of Annapolis in December, 1863.)

The Second Brigade commanded by Brigadier General Henry Baxter, 12th MA, 11th PA, 88th PA, 90th PA, 83rd NY & 97th NY, would move a couple of miles further south and established their camp, (for the month of January) on the back ridge of Cedar Mountain on January 2nd.  Army Headquarters ordered a Signal Station be established there which was to be protected by patrolling cavalry and the two brigades of Robinson’s Division.  The purpose of the Signal Station was to help keep watch on enemy activity along the Rapidan River just 5 miles to the south of the station.  It was one of a network of Lookout stations strategically placed throughout Culpeper County.

The opposing armies were divided by the Rapidan River.  The distance from the 1st Brigade camp to the village of Rapidan Station, along the river, was 5.9 miles.  The distance to Raccoon Ford along the river to the east, was about the same, although traveling by road it was 7 or 8 miles to get there. The 2nd Brigade was even closer to the Rapidan.  The banks on the south side of the Rapidan were much higher than those on the north side, and gave the Confederates a defensive advantage, which they accordingly strengthened with earthworks, rifle pits and gun emplacements dug into the hills along the river's length.  The pickets of each side were very close to one another.

The shared responsibility of protecting the Signal Station and picketing this advanced position of the army closest to the enemy, at times created some friction between the Cavalry and the Infantry commands, as can be seen by some of the correspondence on this page.

January 1, 1864;  Sample Report on the Rebel Lines from the Lookout on Pony Mountain

 Pony Mountain,  January 1, 1864 ––1.20 p.m.  

Captain Norton,
                Chief Signal Officer, Hdqrs. Army of the Potomac:

There seems to be less smoke between Raccoon and Morton’s Fords.  All else about the same.  No unusual stir.  Heavy smoke back of Raccoon Ford.

Signal Officer.  

Contemporary View to the Rapidan from Pony Mountain

 Location of the Signal Station on Mount Pony, looking south. 

This contemporary photo shows part of the broad horizon visible in the distance, looking towards the fords along the Rapidan river from the site of the Union signal station atop Pony Mountain (peak elevation 782 feet).  From here, on clear days, the Union signal men could keep a sharp watch on any visible Rebel activity on the high ground across the Rapidan. Were the trees not obstructing the view, Clark's Mountain would be distinguishable on the far horizon.  Clark's elevation at 1082 feet, is the highest peak in the area.  Nestled on the south side of the Rapidan, it provided Confederates with a clear broad view of the entire Culpeper Valley and beyond.

Establishing a Signal Station at Cedar Mountain. (Or, at least trying to...)

Two of the three divisions of the 1st Corps went into winter quarters around Culpeper Court-House.  Major-General John Newton had placed the 2nd Division of his Corps in an advanced position south of the village to support the cavalry patrols picketing the river across which lay the Confederate army.  The 1st Brigade was at Mitchell's Station, (east of Cedar Mountain)  along the Orange & Alexandria Railroad.  The 2nd Brigade had just marched there on Jan. 1, from their low marshy camp south of Culpeper.  They would continue to Cedar Mountain the next day, and be ordered to establish a guard at a new look-out station atop the back ridge of Cedar Mountain.

Orders to co-operate closely with the Cavalry patrols.

Headquarters Army of the Potomac,         
January 1, 1864.

Major-General Newton:

Instructions have been issued to the commander of the Cavalry Corps to have the cavalry pickets advanced beyond Cedar Mountain, to have every avenue of approach to Cedar Mountain to the right and left carefully watched, and the commander of the guard at the signal station and the commander of the division near Cedar Mountain warned immediately of the approach of any party of the enemy.  There should be constant communication with the commander of the division near Cedar Mountain and the commander of the cavalry brigade near Cedar Run, and they should arrange between them every detail necessary to the execution of the duties assigned each.

By order:

A.    A. HUMPHREYS,         
Major-General, Chief of Staff.

Gen. Newton's Reply

Culpeper,  January 1, 1864.  

Maj. Gen. A. A. Humphreys,
                                            Chief of Staff:

There is as yet no signal station on Cedar Mountain.  The detachment of 100 men to guard it have accordingly not been sent.  The cavalry pickets are north of Cedar Mountain, and only one-fourth mile in front of the front brigade at Mitchell’s Station.  I request you to specify when I shall advance the brigade now in rear to Cedar Mountain, because I think such movements should be simultaneous with the new arrangement of the cavalry pickets demanded by such change.

JNO. NEWTON,       


Headquarters Army of the Potomac,
January 1, 1864.

Respectfully referred to Major-General Pleasonton, commanding Cavalry Corps.

The major-general commanding directs that the cavalry pickets be advanced beyond Cedar Mountain and that every precaution be taken to watch the approach to Cedar Mountain from the right and left, and that instructions be given that in the event of any party of the enemy advancing toward it the guard at the signal station of 100 infantry be immediately warned, as well as the commander of the infantry brigade and division at or near Cedar Mountain.

Major-General, Chief of Staff.

The above orders to General Pleasonton were forwarded to Brigadier-General Wesley Merritt, Commanding the First Cavalry Division,

Cedar Mountain Back Ridge

Pictured is the back ridge of Cedar Mountain taken from the east side.  The signal station was positioned on the fourth knoll closest to the viewer. There is a long saddle ridge between the 3rd and 4th peaks.  The battle was fought on the other side of the high peak in front.  There was no fighting on this side of the mountain during the 1862 battle, although afterwards the Union Army camped near here.

General Humphrey's Reminds General Newton Of His Own Proposal

 Culpeper, January 1, 1864.

Major-General Humphreys,
                                        Chief of Staff:

Do you intend all of Robinsons division to occupy Cedar Mountain, or one brigade only?

JNO. NEWTON,           


Major-General Newton,
                        Commanding First Corps:

The major-general commanding directs me to say that whether one or both brigades of Robinson’s division are posted near Cedar Mountain is left to you.  It was thought to be your proposition to take both brigades there in the personal interview on Wednesday,  because the brigade near Cedar Run had a wet camp-ground as well as the brigade near Mitchell’s Station. The exact posting of the brigades of the division is left to you, so that they accomplish the objects of the advanced position of the division.

Major-General, Chief of Staff.

  Orders to Provide Headquarters a Map of the Picket Posts and Patrol Routes.

Part of this map may be found below on this page in the section titled, “Conscripts, Pickets, Wiggins, Deserters, & Oysters.”

Headquarters Army of the Potomac,
January 2, 1864.

Major-General Pleasonton,
                        Commanding Cavalry Corps:

The major-general commanding directs that not less than 100 cavalry be stationed as guards to the signal office on Cedar Mountain in addition to the 100 infantry ordered  from the First Corps.  They should be concealed as far as practicable from the view of the enemy.

The major-general commanding desires to have the position of the cavalry pickets, vedettes, guards, &c., designated on one of the printed maps, together with the camps of cavalry brigades, regiments, or detachments, and the map or maps forwarded to these headquarters.

    A. A. HUMPHREYS,         
Major-General and Chief of Staff.

P. S. ––The number of cavalry on picket duty should likewise be noted on the maps, as well as the roads that are patrolled, the distance out which they are patrolled, &c.

    A. A. H.  

General Newton Complains:  We're Here; Where is the Cavalry?

On January 2nd the 2nd Brigade of Robinson's Division, [Baxter's Brigade] advanced to the back ridge of Cedar Mountain.

 Headquarters First Army Corps,           
January 3, 1864.

Major-General Humphreys,
                                        Chief of Staff:

Sir:     I inclose herewith sketch [not found] showing position of the Second Division, together with a note [not found]  from General Robinson.   I received one last night complaining about the non-establishment of the picket-line, as directed by you, and immediately wrote to General Merritt on the subject.  Unless the cavalry can be so posted as to give General Robinson adequate notice of a hostile approach, I should respectfully recommend the withdrawal of the infantry division from Cedar Mountain, as the risk would then counterbalance any advantage to be gained by occupying such position.  The cavalry pickets have not advanced beyond Cedar Mountain.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,                                             
JNO. NEWTON,                        
Major-General, Commanding.        

Failure to Play Well with Others

 Mitchell’s StationJanuary 4, 1864.  

Major-General Newton, Commanding First Army Corps:

Lieutenant-Colonel Allen has just returned from re-establishing the picket-line.  My pickets cover the whole front for a distance of 4 or 5 miles, and are 1 mile from camp.  The cavalry connect on the left, but no cavalry pickets can be found on the right.

Brigadier-General, Commanding.

Answer:  We Were There, But They Weren't !

Buddy Secor Photo of Cavalry Re-enactors

Photograph by Buddy Secor.

General Wesley Merritt Responds

When the great Cavalry General John Buford passed away from Typhoid fever in December, 1863, Brigadier-General Wesley Merritt replaced him and was appointed to the command of the First Cavalry Division.  He had large boots to fill.

 Hdqrs. First Cav. Div., Army of the Potomac,                
January 5, 1864.  

Col. C. Ross Smith,
                Chief of Staff, Cavalry Corps Headquarters:

General Wesley Merritt

Colonel:     In answer to the inquiry of the major-general commanding as to why I “suspended the execution of a positive order” sent me on the 2d instant in reference to posting 100 men as guard to a signal station on Cedar Mountain, I have the honor to reply:

The order was given and carried out  (as far as possible) on the 2d and also on the 3d instant, details of the force required being sent both days.  On the third day it was reported to me that there was no signal station on the mountain, when I authorized the commanding officer of the Reserve Brigade, who furnished the detail, not to send any more parties to the mountain until the signal party arrived of which he was to keep himself well informed, when the detail would be resumed.  This, I took it, would be carrying out the spirit of the order, and saving men and horses for other duty.

I notified headquarters of the corps of the change in time, if it was ill-advised, that it might be rectified before any change was made, which it was.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

W. MERRITT,               
Brigadier-General of Volunteers, Commanding.  


Headquarters Cavalry Corps,   
January 5, 1864.

Respectfully forwarded, with report as required.

As soon as it was known at these headquarters that General Merritt had suspended the order he was directed to execute it at once.

Major-General Commanding.

Whats On This Page

This page attempts to chronicle the 13th MA Regiment for the month of January 1864.  Their Brigade established  camp on a slight rise of ground northwest of Mitchell’s Station, Virginia on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, and remained there through the end of April doing advanced out-post picket duty for the Army of the Potomac.

        I am very excited to add letter excerpts of Sergeant George Henry Hill, Company B,  to my list of primary sources.  His family descendants have provided me with  transcripts of 8 of George’s letters written between January and April, 1864.  George was an experienced soldier.  He was articulate, and opinionated like many of the soldiers in the 13th MA and I am grateful to have this material.  In addition to George Henry, we have the usual primary sources, Warren Freeman, Austin Stearns, Sam Webster, and Charles E. Davis, jr.  Other exciting special items on this page include a letter full of camp gossip from Captain Bill Cary to Colonel Leonard which was found in the collection of Colonel Leonard's papers at the Gilder-Lehrman Institute in New York.  Another intriguing new source of information within the regiment comes from the brief 2 month journal of Mary Ellen Pierce, wife of Captain Elliot C. Pierce.  Mary Ellen kept the journal when she traveled in January from Weymouth, Massachusetts to Culpeper Court-House to spend some time with her husband.  He was soon to be promoted Major of the 13th MA Volunteers.  Harper's Weekly, reported the week of February 6, 1864, that there were nearly 1,000 ladies visiting the camps of the Army of the Potomac. 

To fill things out in the narrative here, I’ve turned to the “more expressive” regimental histories from the brigade, namely the 39th MA, and  the 16th Maine.  And, as usual, the journal of Colonel Charles Wainwright, Chief of 1st Corps Artillery, (though in a class (and camp) by himself), is a source of abundant news and rumours, circulating amongst the higher ups within Army Headquarters.   A couple of Charles Barber’s letters are included from the 104th NY, which regiment fought alongside the 13th at Gettysburg.  I lucked out at the last minute and found some excellent correspondence from the 104th, to the Woburn Townsmen, newspaper.  The writer signed his name “Alpha” and kept up a regular series of letters through the winter keeping folks at home up to date on the fortunes of that regiment. The first letter in the series is dated Janauary 31st.   The 13th MA has “Clarence” its regular correspondent to the Boston Transcript, but he did not send in letters as frequently, my next letter (and last) update from him is dated February 29th.  The “Alpha” letters come from the once great, now defunct website “Letters of the Civil War” fortunately still accessible on the Internet Archive.

Edwin Forbes sketch of Union Signal Men

More material is gleaned from the excellent detail filled letters of Private James Ross, a drafted man in the Ninth NY.  Although James is in a different brigade, he is doing similar duty in January, not far off from the 13th MA.  His letters are so good I have included four of them on this page.  I  risk becoming the “Letters of James Ross website” because of it.  But readers will see and know why they are posted.  Relevant excerpts from the excellent history of the 9th NY set the stage for James’s correspondence.

As shown in the Introduction, a Signal Station was established at Cedar Mountain, and the infantry pickets of the 1st & 2nd Brigade were posted to help protect it.   The lack of men in the smaller regiments, such as the 13th, caused picket duty to come around more frequently for those still in its ranks.  The pickets and lookouts frequently reported numbers of rebel deserters and contraband coming into Union lines from across the river.

As this page is eclectic and long, I will list the included subject matter under the various website headings posted in the Table of Contents.

                                                                        Building A New Camp
        The narrative on this page begins with a few anecdotes from the end of 1863.  These include an account of Colonel Wainwright’s interesting guest for Christmas dinner, and, the inebriated march of the 16th Maine band at parade, on New Year’s Eve.  From here the building of winter huts is addressed in the narratives of 13th MA regimental historian, Charles E. Davis, Jr., and others.  Charles reflects on the changes in the regiment caused by 2 years of hard service. The 13th MA conscripts, continue to garner attention with their novel behavior amidst the old veterans.  Their colorful language causes Davis to reflect on the subject of profanity in the army.  The early days of the month were devoted to the construction huts in the various regimental camps, but that was often interrupted by the constant picket duty required of the men due to their advanced position.

                                                        Sergeant Austin Stearns Returns From Furlough
        While the regiment is in the process of building camp Sergeant Austin Stearns returned from his 10 day furlough home.   His journey to the regiment  is told here ––and yes, he did bring presents.

                                                                    The Destruction of the Brandt Farm
        The next section is a series of post-war depositions from Culpeper County citizens who testified to the destruction of the Dr. Logan Brandt Farm at Cedar Mountain during the war, especially during the 1864 occupation of Culpeper county by the Army of the Potomac.  Troops of the first brigade, are specifically named in one of the  depositions given by Dr. Brandt’s neighbors.  All the farm buildings and fences were pulled down, and a considerable portion of Dr. Brandt's timber was taken.

                                                                    Camp Rumours & Brigade Gossip
        Colonel Charles Wainwright drops a big rumor in the next section:   Will the First Corps be dissolved?  The idea floats about camp for a long while.  Then, a short notice that original officer Captain John G. Hovey resigns.  Following,  is one of the most interesting items pertaining to the 13th Regiment found on this page; the letter from Captain William Cary to his absent friend Colonel Leonard.  Cary, who is temporarily in command of the 13th MA, tells the colonel, what officers are present in the different regiments and at Brigade Headquarters, complete with snarky comments.   He then takes a swipe at the quality of the officers in the  59th MA Vols., then organizing in Boston.  The 59th is commanded by Colonel Jacob Parker Gould, formerly Major Gould of the 13th. For whatever reason, Cary didn’t seem to have much faith in the military knowledge of its line officers, and he assumes in his letter Colonel Leonard feels the same way.  A photo gallery of officers of the 59th follows, many of whom were former 13th MA soldiers, with a look at their record.

                                                           Conscripts, Pickets, Wiggins, & Oysters
        Map of the Area around Mitchells StationA rather long eclectic section is next.  Charles Davis, starts off with a commentary on the drafted men sent to the 13th MA last August; –– the ones still left who didn’t desert.  George Hussey, historian of the “9th NY” elaborates on the subject, as does a letter from Warren Freeman, Company A.  Then some short communications from the new Cedar Mountain Signal Station, Lt. J. Wiggins, commanding, kept everyone alert to enemy activity across the river. A detailed map of the cavalry picket posts, their strength, and patrol routes, as well as the area covered by General Robinson’s Infantry is included here.

Map of the general area where the 13th MA Camped for 4 months in 1864.  The other two divisions of the First Corps were camped around Culpeper.  Click here to view larger. 

Charles Barber, 104thNY, wrote a letter to his hometown newspaper, in Nunda, New York, which chronicles the fortunes of that regiment, since its inception.  The 104th is as depleted of original men as is the 13th MA, whom they fought with side by side at Gettysburg. The two regiments are in the same brigade and camped side by side at Mitchells.  Some more reports from the Signal Station are posted next, followed by an un-related short entry from Sam Webster’s diary.  Then Charles Davis, Jr., resumes with an explanation as to why most of the veterans in the 13th MA chose not to re-enlist, when the government was strongly pressuring them with various incentives to do so.  Sergeant George Henry Hill expresses his very personal views on the matter, perfectly in line with what Davis would write in the regimental history in 1894.  Davis will continue later with excerpts from letters of General Robert E. Lee, showing what dire conditions the soldiers of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia were facing in January 1864.  Preceding Davis’s quotes are entries from several sources that reveal the great number of deserters encountered by the Infantry pickets along the Rapidan.

In mid-January Captain Charles H. Hovey returns from furlough and assumes temporary command of the 13th regiment relieving Captain Bill Cary.   Hovey will soon be promoted Lieutenant-Colonel of the 13th MA when long time original  officer, Lt.-Colonel N.Walter Batchelder resigns his commission in March. Other resignations and promotions will be forthcoming through April.

In a lighter vein, it is happily announced that oysters are available for purchase at the commissary.  Charles Davis characteristically remarks, “it took the government two and a half years to learn that oysters, and not pork, went with crackers.”  Charles Wainwright happily agrees, and the lengthy section comes to a close.

                                                                    Camp Surgeons & Army Hospitals
        Private James Ross, 83rd NY, and Major Abner Small, 16th Maine, recount the dreadful perception of brigade hospitals, and camp doctors who seemed to prescribe by routine, treatments number six, nine or eleven, ––for whatever ails you.  Their commentary on this subject is preceded by 9th NY historian George Hussey’s chronicle of the “Ninth NY.”   Hussey reviews the regiment's movements from New Year’s day to the establishment of camp on Cedar Mountain.

                                                                        Cedar Mountain South & North
        James Ross’s second of four letters is posted here, reporting from the south end of Cedar Mountain, and a letter from Warren Freeman in the 13th MA, reporting from the North end. Both letters are dated January 23rd.  James compares the wasteland that is the landscape of Culpeper County after two years of hard visaged war.  In that interval both armies contended for the same ground.  He compares this with what he observed of the farms  south of the Rapidan during the Mine Run Campaign.   Warren Freeman says a reporter from the Boston Journal has stopped a while to spend some time with the 13th Regiment in camp, and quotes from the reporter's resulting article.  The 1862 battlefield of Cedar Mountain is just around the corner from camp and it is visited by the reporter, ––and many others during the course of winter, including Warren Freeman, Sam Webster, and Mary Ellen Pierce.

                                                                           Uh Oh ! General French !!
        I always like to add a little humor to a page if I can.  This is just a short silly little ‘time-out’ throw-away section of “filler”  found in the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion.  Brigadier General Henry BaxterGeneral Newton unsuccessfully attempts to co-ordinate a rendezvous of pickets with the 3rd Corps.   It doesn’t work out.  Is it a communication problem or could it be the indolent personalities of the two generals involved?  Both would soon be without an independent command.

                        Splendid Weather & Contrabands
        This section belongs totally to James Ross (83rd NY, General Henry Baxter's Brigade).  George Hussey sets the scene by quoting from another soldier’s letter about the splendid weather experienced in late January and the number of Contraband and Rebel Deserters crossing into the Union Picket lines.  James Ross adds his own personal encounter with a group of escaping slaves, and gives an amusing observation about a particularly large female refugee.  He details the comfort of having  a snug little cabin and how it benefits his life and the life of his cabin mates.  In between James's two letters, is a short letter between James's father & sister, which shows the concern they have at home for his welfare, and the means they will go to in order to help him out.  James’s fourth letter discusses the soldiers complaint, and randomness of life in the army.  This section closes with George Hussey's narration from the regimental history.   It’s  camp at Cedar Mountain is abandoned and the “ninth” is ordered to Culpeper to establish their fourth camp of the winter.  James would remain on the mountain as part of a 100 man detail posted to guard the Signal Station.

[Pictured right, Brigadier-General Henry Baxter, commanding 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, 1st Army Corps.]

                                                                        Domesticity In Camp
            Transcriptions of a very interesting artifact is commenced here.  It is  the journal of Mary Ellen Pierce.  She arrives in Culpeper to spend several weeks with her husband, Elliot, soon to be Major Pierce of the 13th Mass. Volunteers.  During the rejuvenating winter break from active campaigning the wives of many officers came to the army to visit their husbands.  Col. Wainwright comments on January 7, “Officers wives are beginning to arrive;  one meets them out on horse back all over the country” and by the end of January he writes, “There are lots of women in the army now.”  Being a pretty young woman surrounded by soldiers, her daily diary entries record the many callers she has, and the various rambles and entertainments she has with them and her husband.

                                                            More Gossip ––This Time With Cavalry
        This page nears a close with Colonel Gibbs, the officer in charge of the connecting cavalry patrols, grumbling about the ineffective infantry men of General Robinson’s 1st & 2nd Brigades, and, Lt. Wiggins and his “bind signal officers” at Cedar Mountain.  Oh well, everyone grumbles. Two more letters from the 104th NY follow.  Charles Barber is tired and unwell from excessive picket duty while newly discovered correspondent “Alpha” writes an informative letter to the Woburn Townsmen giving a descriptive account of his regiment.  As January yields to February,  Alfred Roe of the 39th MA eloquently brings the former to a close.

Twin Mountains, view looking east

Just for kicks... Pictured is a view of  "Twin Mountains" looking from west to east.  The mountains are indicated on the map above.  The soldiers called these twin peaks, "the bubbies."  The mountain on the left is conical in shape, but we are only seeing the tip of a high long ridge with the mountain on the right.  Its length is hidden from view.   Following this road along the ridge of that mountain will lead to Somerville Ford.  The edge of Clark's Mountain, on the south side of the Rapidan river is seen  on the right edge of the photo.  Photo by Brett V. Johnson

PICTURE CREDITS:  All Images are from the LIBRARY OF CONGRESS DIGITAL COLLECTIONS  with the following exceptions:    British Band photo from The Mirror,;  Mark Twain Quote from az;  Bandleader Frank Richardson from Worthpoint; Annie Louise Cary from Maine Memory Network; Remington Illustration of line of soldiers firing guns is from CW Times Illus.; Videttes Illustration From Feb. 1964 Cover Illustration CW Times, accessed on the Internet;  Quotes; Col. Leonard & Wife, courtesy of private collector Jeff Kowalis.  Portrait of Samuel M. Morgan from "In Memoriam, John Cleveland Robinson 1817-1897, NY State Monuments Commission, 1918, Albany; Lt.-Col. Pierson, & Colonel Phineas Stearns Davis, 39th MA, both  from the Regimental History cited iin the narrative; Major Henry V. Colt, 104th NY from "Elmira Prison Camp Online" [] Lt. James P. Mead, from Findagrave, posted by Dale B.;  Charles Barber's portrait taken from a digitzed copy of his letter book cover found online;   Engravings of Confederate Deserters, & Soldiers Dream  (Nov. 7, 1863) from; Walruss & Carpenter illustration found at finartamerica; Portraits of Jacob Parker Gould, Sanford Goldsmith, Bill Cary, Joe Cary, John G. Hovey, John Hodges, Joseph Colburn, Horace Warren, James Gibson, Samuel Bean, Charles Lang, William W. Davis, Charles H. Cotting, John Foley, Colonel Thomas McCoy, Surgeons Allston Whitney and J. T. Heard, Charles Wainwright at Headquarters are from, U.S. Army Heritage Education Center, Carlilsle, PA, MASS MOLLUS Collection;  Photograph of Surgeons Whitney & Heard at Williamsport, MD, 1862 is from the author’s private collection;  Snapshots of Mitchell's Station, Clarks Mountain, Thoroughfare Mountain, Cedar Mountain etc., by the author, Bradley M. Forbush; The illustration of the Brawling men, [Miners in Camp] is from the New York Public Library, accessed via "Story of the Great American West" p. 194,  Reader's Digest Association, Inc., 1977, Pleasantville, NY; Portrait of Mary Ellen Pierce courtesy of the MA Historical Society;  Edwin Forbes sketch of soldiers building a chimney, and the illustration "Soldiers Depot" are from the New York Public Library Digital Collections:;  Other Edwin Forbes illustrations including, “At Home,”  “Contraband,”  “Washing Day” & “Signal Men”  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.”;  “Camp Gossip” 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 Frank Leslie's Illustrated History of the Civil War; accessed digitally on the Internet Archive at [];  Photos of the Rixey house in Culpeper, VA provided by John Christiansen, Executive Director Culpeper Museum of History;  Portrait of Austin C. Stearns is from his memoir, “Three Years With Company K” ed. by Arthur Kent, Assoc. Univ. Press, 1976;     Portrait of Col. Leonard with the two Hoveys was received from CW artifact dealer Steve Meadows;  “Reveille on a Winter Morning” is by artist & 13th MA Veteran Henry Bacon, West Point Museum, US Military Academy.  Envelope of James Ross Letter from the cover of his book of letters, (pdf file) Willing to Run the Risks, Civil War Letters, Private James Ross; 9th N.Y.S.M., 2012.   ALL IMAGES HAVE BEEN EDITED IN PHOTOSHOP.

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Building a New Camp


We are going to back up a bit and let Charles Wainwright describe the house he found for his headquarters after the march from Kelly's Ford.  He describes once again the laziness of General John Newton, commander of the First Corps, (who in a relatively short period of time, would be out of a job).

The Village of Culpeper, 1863

Timothy O'Sullivan photograph of Culpeper-Courthouse in 1863.  The village was called "Fairfax."  After the war the town changed its name to Culpeper.  The old Court-house is on the left.  The building on the left of the court-house at the edge of the photo, is the boy-hood home of Confederate General A. P. Hill.  The Baptist Church is the large structure on the right, and it still stands to-day.  The war-time Court-house is gone.  The A. P. Hill home has been modified but still stands.


From, “A Diary of Battle, The Personal Journals of Colonel Charles S. Wainwright, 1861-1865”;  Edited by Allan Nevins.

Culpeper Court House, December 27, Sunday. We had a fine day for our short march to this place on Thursday.  It was very cold, still and bright:  the road was frozen hard, so there was no sticking in the mud.  I walked a good part of the way to keep my feet warm.  We reached the Court House soon after noon, but, as usual, there was no General Newton along to tell us where we were to camp;  we therefore had to hang around all the afternoon waiting for him.  Headquarters were to be in the village; that was all that anyone knew. General John Newton About a couple of hours before sundown the General arrived, expressing surprise that somebody had not put the men in camp.  He hates the labour of looking up positions for his corps;  both the bodily labour of riding around to view the country, and the mental work of how best to locate his troops.  As, however, he had to do it, he took Bankhead and myself and went out onto the hills south of the place.  Should such a thing happen as Lee’s crossing to attack us here, the high ground behind Mountain Run is the line to be taken up by the army;  the duty of this corps would be to hold the enemy in check until the line was formed there.  With this view I had to camp my batteries in such position as would enable me easily and rapidly to move them onto the knolls south of the town.

Very fortunately, that position proved the most desirable for a camp in other respects of any around.  I saw it from the heights lying snug and dry, well sheltered to the north by pines, a few hundred yards from the water, and about three-quarters of a mile from the station.  I did not like to point it out, for there was a house in the centre of it, and I feared that the general might think it was that I was after.  I find that the commanders who like most to get into houses themselves often make the most fuss about their subordinates doing the same thing.  The spot was however, so clearly the best for my camp that Newton could not help seen it himself; when he pointed it out and told me I might camp there I moved off at once and took my batteries  over to the neighborhood.  On arriving I found the wood where I meant to put my batteries occupied by a cavalry brigade, the colonel commanding it having his headquarters in the house.  As it was near dark I had my men bivouac for the night, under the lee of a hill; while my own tents were pitched within the dooryard of the house.

After seeing them all located, I returned to the tavern in the village, where headquarters were, in search of some supper.  The night was very cold, and the idea of one of Ben’s beefsteaks eaten in a cold tent was by no means agreeable, when I knew that I could beg something better in a warm room. I stopped at headquarters for some time so as to give full opportunity for them to get the tent and stoves up.  When I returned, about ten o’clock, I found a body of infantry bivouacked close to the railroad.  Oh, how cold and miserable the poor devils looked crouching around fires no larger than a tin pan, for there was no wood near. The ground was frozen too hard for them to pitch their little bits of canvas; and when they looked back upon the warm huts they had left at Kelly’s Ford how they must have cursed someone.  As I rode along thinking how it was Newton’s love for his own ease that had prevented these poor fellows from providing for their fires tonight, I was cheered up by the  sight of my own men.  Close behind where I had located them lay a large amount of pine and cedar brush, fresh cut; this they had hauled together; each detachment building for themselves a semi-circular wall of it four or five feet high. In the centre of each semi-circle was a roaring big fire, around which the men lay, well wrapped up in their blankets and paulins.  I could not help stopping to congratulate them being battery men; the whole picture was one of such absolute comfort.

On reaching my headquarters, I found that my staff had cozened with the cavalry officers in the house, and had fared well.  I went in to see the colonel myself, and to express the hope that I was not intruding by pitching my tent in his dooryard for the night.  He was quite polite about it, but evidently felt very grumpy at the prospect of having to move farther to the front, now that the infantry had come up. Orders to which effect he got the next day.

The House Wainwright made Headquarters

Pictured is the house Colonel Charles Wainwright made headquarters.  The house was raised in the 1980's and no longer stands.  Courtesy of Clark "Bud" Hall.

Yesterday morning the cavalry moved off out to the front leaving me in undisputed possession. I wish that they had not been here for they have made the wood where I wanted to place my command so dirty that it would be an endless job to clean it up. However I am delighted with my location, & more than reconciled to the change of quarters  Wainwright's Camp DiagramAs we shall doubtless be here now for three or four months it is worth describing in full.  The diagram will give some idea of where it is, though not of the play of the land.  “a” indicates Head quarters, “b” Stewarts; “c” Mink; “d” Rigby “E” Reynolds; “f” Stevens, & “G” Cooper, Stewart got the south side of a dense growth of young pines where he will have some good shelter  for his horses until he gets his stables built; his land outside the pines lays well & is clean.  Mink has the north side of the same clump, between it & the wood; not quite so good ground.  Rigby went into the wood itself, where he will have a great deal of work to clear up the stumps, & the cavalry dirt; he promises to do & so I consented.  Reynolds is on the eastern edge of the wood but will build outside of it under the lea of the hill.  Stevens is on his right; with the protections of the hill which is quite steep; he has also a small clump of pines in rear of where he means to put his huts.  Cooper is over the first ridge, in a hollow.  I wanted to place them all in one line, & within view of H’d Qts, but found the ground was so broken that it could not be done, & so was obliged to scatter.  They are all however within a few hundred yards of me.  I have allowed the Batt’y commanders to arrange their camps to suit themselves only requiring that their huts shall be aligned, & uniform; & that the stables shall not be covered with brush & shall be floored.

Colonel Wainwright and his officers

Pictured is Colonel C. S. Wainwright on the steps of his winter quarters home. The home was a bit to the east of the village of Culpeper Courthouse, near the base of Pony Mountain.   The key to the photo identifies:  Cranford (in the white pants on the left); Colonel Wainwright on the steps, Lieutenant Matthews behind him on the steps, Captain Crittenden on the right, in the officer's hat, and Lieutenant Morris to the left of Crittenden.  The picture was taken in April, 1864.

I would prefer being in a hut myself with a canvas roof; but my men have enough to do to rebuild for themselves & this house stands in exactly the right place.  It is a square building of red brick, finished, just before the war began about the most absurdly planned house I ever was in.  It is very nearly square; has a high kitchen cellar; on the first floor are two large rooms, looking west down the valley, & meant to open onto a piazza which has never been built.  A wide hall runs the whole width of the house on the west side, taking up a full third of the room, to no accountable purpose.  Up stairs the arrangement is just the same with the addition of a small room off one end of the hall.  The house is two full stories hight; with flat roof.  Mr [blank] to whom the house belongs, emigrated to Richmond a year ago, taking all his furniture as well as his family with him.  In the house is a family of poor whites, who occupy the basement, & one room on the second floor. The rest of the establishment I have taken possession of;  & spread myself.  I occupy the south east room; which has a warm pleasant out look, & a good fire place;  but the furniture which made my tent look so cozy is lost in a hight, 20 foot square room, with its bare floor, & hard white walls.  Matthews, Morris, & Canfield occupy the other room downstairs; while Crittenden & Crawford have one upstairs.  The rooms were pretty dirty when the cavalry gentlemen went out; the walls & fire place being well bespattered with tobacco juice; in the cleaning of which the poor folks in the house had a chance to earn a little something. But enough of quarters for to night; when it rains hard as it has all today there is great comfort in having a room big enough to turn around in.

...On Xmas day we dined with a very jolly native, who lives in a little bit of a house near by to Coopers Batt’y.  His dwelling house was burned last year, & he now occupies one of his out houses.  Mr [Blank] is evidently a character, not at all strong in his political bias one way or the other; a lumbering (?) drinking, good natured devil-may-care sort of a fellow; good natured, open handed & mainly solicitous  for somebody to keep him company.  Confederate General Wade HamptonCant Cranford, my Commissary was stoping with him then, & gave me the invitation: we had a real Xmas turkey, & a glorious bowl of milk punch.  Cranford supplied most of the wine, our host only furnishing the milk.  He  said that he had not tasted any beef for six months before we came: his family living in Richmond he had lived on fish & game.  He amused us with many stories about the rebel officers.

Jeb Stuart, of whom he claims to have won $500 (Confederate money) one night at cards he likes as little as any of the residents hereabouts.  In talking with an old man, by the name of Shackleford, while we lay at Kelly’s ford; he said that there was very little for the inhabitants to choose between the two armies as to respect for their property. But that Stewart was unmerciful: he did not leave them a thing.  Wade Hampton he described as a gentleman; behaving like one at all times.

The cold spell broke up to day with rain. We shall now have a sufficiency of mud, which will make our teamsters & mules thankful that they have not the five miles to Kelly’s Ford to haul everything.

Confederate General  & Gentleman, Wade Hampton, pictured.

PRELUDE:  A New Year's Eve Parade with the 16th Maine Band

The following is from, “The Road to Richmond”  By Major A. R. Small; (pictured below) University of California Press, 1939.

When we turned up on our calendar the last day of the year, we were still stuck in the mud, in a cheerless and exposed position on the extreme front of the army.  It was a stated day for our being mustered for pay. Major Leavitt was assigned to muster the 39th Massachusetts, and Lieutenant-Colonel Peirson of that regiment was to muser the 16th Maine.  Our men frozen and muddy, were not in temper for ceremony,  but regulations required an inspection before the muster and a review before the inspection.

I had the bugler sound the call; our companies turned out under arms;  but the band, which should have assembled, was nowhere to be seen.  I had the call repeated; still no band. Then I went up to the right,  found the trouble, and fell into temptation.

Major Abner Small, 16th Maine Vols.

“Mr. Shea, did you hear the call?”

John Shea was always a gentleman.  He doffed his hat and managed to say slowly and politely:

“A’jutant, I hope you’ll ‘xcuse me;  I’m drunk.”

“How’s the B flat, Mr. Shea?”

“He’s bad off’s I am.”

“And how’s the bass?”

“Dre’ful tired; ’s lain down.”

“Are any of you sober?”

“Well, I’d say, A’jutant, we simply shouldn’ play.”

“Oh nonsense!  There’s a cold spring of water down there.  Send for a pailful or two, bathe your heads, and drink a quart of it, every one of you, and you’ll be all right.  Hurry up!”

I returned to my quarters, thinking of what would happen when the water should get warm.  A few minutes later I heard the notes of  “Adjutants’ Call,” clear and correct.  The band, all present, played the companies into line.  On notice from me, the captain of the first company stepped a pace to the front and gave the command:

“Order––arms!  Parade––rest!”

From captain to captain down the line the order was repeated, and smartly obeyed by the men.  All right so far.  But now the band was to march, playing, down the front of the line and back again.  With some misgiving, I ordered:

“Troop––beat off!”

British Band with one member prostrate

Away went the band, and the ground seemed very uneven under its feet; and now and then the leader would lose a note and, trying to catch it, would clash into the B flat; and the bass drum persisted in coming down heavy on the up beat; and the cymbals forgot to clang when they should, and closed with a crash when they should have been still.  The musicians, counter-marching, started in quick time together; but now the water was warm, and somehow the orders of Mr. Shea were not understood, and half the band struck up one tune, the other half another.  This was too much.  I heard above the discord a loud and angry voice;

“Parade is dismissed!”

I received a reprimand, but the show was worth it.  The band had enjoyed the performance, and I think everyone else had, too, from the smile that went down the line.   The men of my regiment soon burst out laughing, and laughed so loud and so long that the other regiment took it up; and so the good nature spread; and I was forgiven.



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


January 1, 1864.
        We were given to-day a half-ration of whiskey.  With the thermometer at ten below zero and fifty per cent reduction in the quantity of whiskey, there was indeed cause for anxiety.  The substitutes appealed to their goddess –– “Helen Blazes” –– for interference, and some of us felt like joining in the chorus.  The significance of reducing the allowance of whiskey on the first day of the year was very striking, and suggested that perhaps the annual fever of reform which occurs on New Year’s day had attacked the government, though we hoped it would not be more lasting than it usually was with mankind.  The life of a common soldier is such an irksome grind, that it is not to be wondered that he welcomes anything that will put a polish on the hard surface of his daily duties.  There was nothing that so effectually removed the wrinkles from “grim-visaged war” as a noggin of old rye, although we allow that its absence was no excuse for profanity.  Of all men who served in the army, the private soldier could afford the least to indulge in the luxury of profanity, as will be seen by the following extract from the “Articles of War:”

Major General George G. Meade

Article  3.  Any non-commissioned officer or soldier who shall use any profane oath or execration, shall incur the penalties expressed in the foregoing article (one-sixth of a dollar) ; and a commissioned officer shall forfeit and pay for each and every offence, one dollar, to be applied as in the preceding article.

“That is, applied “to the use of the sick soldiers of the company or troop to which the offender belongs.”

According to the “War Records” the man who did the most swearing was the distinguished commander of the Army of the Potomac, but perhaps he thought he could afford it;  we couldn’t, even at the low price fixed for the rank and file.  If General Meade chipped in a dollar for every profane word he uttered, the amount of money so collected would have supported all the hospitals in the army, unless he has been grievously maligned.  It must have bothered him to keep the count unless he left that to his private secretary.  In the heat of battle, or when stupid soldiers tried their patience, some other officers, following his extravagant example, believed the expletives of our language acquire additional force if garnished with profanity, and we fear they often exceeded the limit allowed even by the army in Flanders.

But, as we have already said, war is not a Sunday-school picnic.

Now we were settled in winter quarters, we had plenty of time to reflect on the perils through which we had passed, and the fact that thirty months of our three-years’ service had been wound off, hoping our luck would hold out until July 16, when we could, with honor, turn our backs to the foe.

mark twain quote about swearing

As we sat on picket, watching the stars, our minds would go back to January 1, 1862, when we were quartered in the hospitable town of Williamsport, where we celebrated the day with “apple-jack,” a decoction which many of us became acquainted with for the first time, and which discretion suggested ought to be the last.  We recollected how much fun we had seeing the old year out –– way out.  There were singing and dancing, darkies’ praise-meetings, and entertainment at houses where the hospitality was supplemented with the stirring words of “Maryland, my Maryland.”

In those happy days we were a thousand strong, but now a small band welded into veterans by the perils and hardships we had encountered.

Detail from "Reveille on a Winter Morning"

Henry Bacon Painting "Reveille" cropped

Fond Memories of the 13th MA camp at Williamsport, painted by Artist Henry Bacon, formerly of Company D.

Brigade Orders:  Be Careful Out There !

Colonel T. F. McCoy, commanding brigade, issued orders for picket duty, and for one regiment to be under arms at all times, which orders are reflected in the letters of Private Charles Barber, 104th NY to be found on this page.

General Orders,
No. 2.

Headquarters First Brigade, Second Division
First Army Corps,
January 2, 1864

As an additional measure of precaution for defence, and to guard against surprise, in the position now occupied by the brigade, there will be one regiment designated daily as an inlying picket, to go on duty at the hour of guard-mounting, Stacked Arms illustration by Louis K. Harlowat which time, by the same calls, it will assemble on its regimental parade ground, under its own officers, have roll-calls, inspection, and stack arms, its commanding officer to report in person at these headquarters immediately thereafter.  This picket will always be in readiness to fall in at a moments notice, to march to any point that may be threatened, and will be under arms at daylight.  The officers and men will, therefore, remain in camp and quarters, with their accoutrements on, and if deemed necessary by the brigade commander, patrols under a commissioned officer will be sent out at proper intervals, part of whose duty it will be to arrest all soldiers found beyond a proper distance from the camp, besides any suspicious characters that may be found in the vicinity.

That this duty may be as light as possible upon the different regiments, the two larger regiments (the Sixteenth Maine and Thirty-ninth Massachusetts) will be divided, five companies at a time being designated for this duty.  It will be necessary that the regiments upon this duty be subject to the usual details.  They will be relieved from drill.

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

“Three Years in the Army,” continued:

Our brigade, consisting of the Thirteenth Massachusetts, the One Hundred and Fourth New York, the Sixteenth Maine, the One Hundred and Seventh Pennsylvania, and the Thirty-ninth Massachusetts, was now encamped for the winter at Mitchell’s Station, on the Orange & Alexandria Railroad; the remainder of the division being stationed near Culpeper and Pony Mountain.  We remained in this camp doing outpost duty for the Army of the Potomac until April 26.

As soon as our position was fixed we proceeded to make ourselves comfortable by building log huts, using our “shelters” as a roof, and a very comfortable camp we made of it.

After the huts were completed we proceeded to build corduroy streets in and about the camp, that we might get about when the ground was softened by thaws, without wallowing in the mud.  This work was accomplished by piece-meal, during the hours when we were relieved from picket duty.

Camp Ground, Mitchell's Station

The 13th Mass. Vols. camped on this plateau above Mitchell's Station from January through April, 1864.  The church in the distant center background, is Mitchell's Presbyterian.  Photo taken February, 2012.  The ground is frozen from a bitter cold patch of weather.

Letter of Sergeant Warren H. Freeman, January 3, 1864

The bitter cold weather hastens the work of building winter huts.

Near Mitchell’s Station, Va., January 3, 1864.

Solidier with an axe by A. R. Waud

The rumors of a removal of our camp proved to be correct, so we left our comfortable quarters at Kelly’s Ford on the 24th of December and marched to this place; we lay along side the railroad for two or three days, when we moved down to within one fourth of a mile of this place –– where we are now lying;  then we had a rain-storm set in that lasted three days; the sun shone one day, and two days more of rain, when it cleared off bitter cold, I tell you.

We are now building us some huts as fast as the weather will permit.  To-day is quite pleasant, compared with yesterday, but my fingers are nearly frozen now.

When you send me another box I want you to put in a good axe.  I have got a small hatchet, but there is so much wood chopping to be done that I need an axe.  But I must stop writing now for I am about frozen.


The 16th Maine Band was an important component of the 1st Brigade's Winter Encampment, and Major Abner Small, the author of the regimental history,  is such a good writer, his entries are worth sprinkling across the page in appropriate places.

The following is from, “The Sixteenth Maine Regiment in the War of the Rebellion 1861-1865.”  By Major A. R. Small; B. Thurston & company Portland, Maine 1886.

Illustration of the Sun

After a week of cold storms, the sun rose bright on New Year’s morn and shed its welcome rays on as dirty, despondent, and disgusted a brigade as could be found on duty, and yet after rollcall, when men had drunk their hot coffee and thawed out, something like good humor began to prevail.  Men took an inventory of their surroundings and the distant perspective, and settled at once into the belief that the regiment was located for the winter.  The shrewd ones had already made requisitions for rails, and unsightly piles covered the camp-ground, and yet no order to camp.  The brigade machine began to work about nine o’clock, and at ten the regiment was ordered to change direction to the left, in line running parallel to the Orange and Alexandria Railroad a few rods distant, and go into camp.  Like magic tents went up, streets were policed, the parade-ground graded, and before night the Sixteenth was again at home.

Cabins of logs were ordered to be erected as rapidly as possible for the whole brigade.  Regrets at being compelled to  abandon our fine quarters at Kelly’s Ford were all banished, and later we fully appreciated our good fortune in being on an out-post of great strategic importance;  for in all the movements made by the army, our brigade was not once ordered out.  Our position was one of peril, and realizing it, the regiment daily excelled in discipline and improved in soldierly qualities.  With regular duties the health of the command improved and the winter months passed pleasantly.  Assistant Surgeon Eaton received leave of absence for sixty days, and left for Maine.

Frank Richardson

Jan. 2.
        Frank Richardson, of Maine, joined us to-day.  He was engaged by the officers at a salary of one hundred dollars per month, to reorganize and drill the band.  Mr. Richardson was an accomplished musician and had a thorough knowledge of his business.   Under his direction the band improved rapidly, and subsequently was pronounced the best band in the division by General Robison, and one of the best in the corps.  Doubtless some of its members will recollect (I know Frank does) the invitation to serenade the division commander, and play for a ball at Culpeper.  In anticipation of a supper or treat of some kind, the boys, armed with brass, walked six miles, stood outside an hour or two playing their best, when they were invited into an entry-way where they played as long until the entertainment closed, and then a little fellow with spectacles and high-top boots, told them they could go back to camp.  I won’t say he forgot to thank them, but he didn’t.  The band was indeed an honor to us.  We were better men and slept sweeter for its presence and good music.

Pictured at left is Franklin Richardson, circa 1905.  Note the violin hanging from a line at the right edge of the photograph.  Franklin Richardson (1825-1915) joined the 16th Maine as bandleader when he was 39 years old.  Post-war he became a famous citizen of Canton, Maine, known for the violins he made.  One of his children, daughter M. N. Richardson became a well known Maine artist.  This picture of him comes from a website called ""  Other articles on the internet incorrectly state that Richardson was 'bandleader of the 10th Maine, in 1863 during General Grant's campaign."  This is un-intentionally wrong on both counts.  The 10th Maine, a two year unit, mustered out in May 1863.  Its veterans re-enlisted and returned as the 29th Maine. General Grant's campaign would naturally be the Overland Campaign of 1864.  Richardson's affiliation was entirely with the 16th Maine.


The following is from, “The Thirty-ninth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers, 1862-1865”, by Alfred S. Roe, Worcester, Mass., Regimental Veterans Association, 1914.

January 1st the day dawned bright and cold, the weather having cleared in the night; the mud and the streams have taken on the repose of winter, but, if any protection against the inclement season is to be had, the men must get to work at once and this they do, cutting down trees to fashion therefrom the primitive habitations that the early settlers of all new countries have had to make.  Though the men do not know it, and though there will be many rumors of departures, they may even pack up at times yet, until the last of April, Mitchell’s Station will be the P. O. address of the Thirty-ninth Regiment, but winter in camp is no trifling matter with a regular routine of camp duties, besides the necessity of maintaining the utmost vigilance towards the foe.  Hence the building of quarters cannot be effected in a day or week, in the meantime the ordinary shelter tent affords only slender protection against the wind and cold.  It is to be a second winter’s experience with our Regiment, hence the building of log huts is not an innovation; all that is needed are time, tools and material.

Photo of Soldiers Building huts for winter

        For several months the Rapidan is to be the most generally named stream in the eastern part of the Union, for along its northern banks are to camp the several corps which make up the Army of the Potomac and, every day thousands of letters to far away homes will tell the people there what is doing down in “Old Virginny.”  For four months a thin line of blue will patrol its shores for more than twenty miles and equally vigilant men in gray, will keep their watch upon the south side.  With the Second Corps on the extreme Union left, with headquarters near Stevensburg, the Union army stretches to the westward till it terminates with the First Corps, which will furnish infantry pickets on a line of cavalry outposts.

South of the river, the Confederates are guarding an equal distance, yet there will be very little indication of hostility, something like an armed neutrality, each line of sentinels quite content to be let alone; there is however this difference between the two armies, one has all that boundless means can supply to make its soldiers comfortable, the other wanting nearly everything that would contribute to personal enjoyment.  The lack of clothing and camp outfit had become such that winter with its rigors became far more the object of fear to the enemy than any army the Yankees might send against them.

From the Diary of Samuel D. Webster, Company D:

Sam's usually reliably detailed diary entries are a bit sparse for January, 1864.

Sam's Cabin as drawn in his memoirs

Friday, January 1st 1864
        Axe needed grinding again –– so we visited Mr. Yeager’s. [Note: Nathaniel Yeager, whose farmhouse stands on the east side of Cedar Mountain. He had three grown daughters who captured the attentions of countless 1st Brigade officers during the winter encampment;  and also Sam's brother, Isaac.  More on this later. ––B.F.]

Saturday, January 2nd 1864.
        Commenced work on  a shanty to be 6 x 12 feet.

Monday, January 4th 1864.
        Snow.  Regiment under arms.  (This got to be a common thing.  We were the extreme right and front of the army really facing south-east, and with the cavalry to our left piqueting for several miles our line covering “Bald Pate” (the extreme of Cedar Mtn) on our right and extending to the left until connected with the rest of the corps lying around Culpeper –– 7 miles off.  Covering so much front required many men, or a great deal of duty from a less number; and instead of large reserves at the line the camps were used as reserve  and different regiments took turns “under arms;”  i. e. they were ready at call to turn out.)

Sam sketched the "Winter Palace" in his diary; pictured above.

Picture of the Nathaniel Yeager Farm today

Pictured, the Yeager Farm today.  It is nestled into one of the middle peaks of Cedar Mountain.  View looking west.

Sam Webster, continued:

Tuesday, January 5th 1864
        Have the house up.  It is made of pine logs, 8” to 13” in diameter, split (so as to have a flat side to turn in) and notched at the ends.  It is about 12’ x 6’ and about 5’ 6” high at the eaves.  Too cold to plaster so we stuffed the cracks with long, dry grass temporarily.  Built fireplace of stone on the north side:   door on south side.  Two beds to be built:  Ike and Libby in the west end, to the left of door, and Sawyer and I on the right. [Note: Ike is Sam's younger brother Isaac.  Libby is Fred Libby, Company D, Sawyer is Drum-Major Appleton Sawyer.––B.F.]


Thursday Jan’y 7th.
        Built a door out of some of the weatherboarding of a house on the old battlefield. (Note: This may be from the nearby Brandt Farm; (see below)––B.F.)

Saturday, January 9th, 1864
        Picked up a fine little black and tan terrier at the station yesterday.  Fix a mantelpiece and case the door today.

Sunday, January 10th
        Work hard, and build up my chimney.  Can’t help it if it is Sunday. Box arrives for Sawyer.  Doughnuts, pies, cakes, apples etc –– bully.

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Sergeant Austin Stearns Returns From Furlough

Sergeant Austin C. Stearns

Sergeant Stearns was granted a furlough of ten days on Christmas Eve, his trip home of which is described on a previous page of this website.  He returned to camp on January 2, 1864.  When he left for home the regiment had been encamped near Kelly's Ford for three weeks. The camp was south-east of Brandy Station, where the returning soldiers of the 13th MA intended to get off the train and proceed to walk back to Kelly's Ford.  When the train arrived at Brandy Station, Stearns former tent-mate Lieutenant William R. Warner ran up to the box cars in which the boys were riding and told them the regiment had changed camp and was now at Mitchell's Station.  He instructed them to stay on the west-bound train to Culpeper Courthouse.  From there they walked the rest of the way, following the train tracks of the Orange & Alexandria Railroad south to Mitchell's.  This route can still be traced today, and the photo below, of the creek they crossed at night, is in the same location where Stearns would have followed it before crossing on a log.  Frost is likely Sergeant Sylvester Frost of Company H.  Unfortunately I have no further information on him, though he served three years.  The same is true for J.Q. Crosby, Company G, who is the other likely traveling companion of Austin Stearns.

From "Three Years with Company K" by Sergeant Austin C. Stearns, (deceased) Associated University Press, 1976, edited by Arthur Kent.

Return to the Army

At Natick comrade Frost boarded the train and we went together, failing to meet any of the other boys.  We returned by the Norwich route; the boat touched the Jersey shore to land passengers.

train in west Philadelphia

Passenger train on the west side of Philadelphia.

We saw a train standing there and asked an employee “what train it was.”  He said the express for Philadelphia.”  We said “Thats our train” and were going aboard when he stopped us and said “soldiers don’t ride on that train.”  We said “We didn’t know as they did but we were,” and got on.  Nothing was said and before we reached Philadelphia half the passengers were soldiers.Soldiers Depot, New York

At one of the stations a squad of colored soldiers got aboard and a more happy set of men it would be hard to find.  They kept singing a song, the chorus of which ran thus:  “New Jersey, Oh!  that the place for me, for there a pretty colored girl kept company with me.”

It was raining hard at Philadelphia and continued all the way to Washington, which we reached just at dark.  We went to the Bureau of Information and were directed to a place to get supper and breakfast, and to another place to sleep.

In the morning when we went to take the train, a corporal with a file of men were there to search us to see if we had any liquor, which was “contraband” with soldiers.  whiskey bottleWe each had a small bag filled with goodies contributed by friends, and when in Boston Henry Gasset had purchased a pint of Whiskey and sent it to the boys.  I had it in the top of my bag, and when the corporal stopped us, he asked Frost what he had in his bag and told hm to open it.  Frost did, and the first thing he found was a pint of liquor, which he with a  grin put in his pocket. I in the meantime had turned and, stepping behind Frost, had opened my bag, taken the bottle out, and placed it under my left arm.  I stepped boldly up holding my bag wide open. He put his hand in and turned some of the things around, [then] told me to pass on. I think he was in a hurry to get to quarters to have a drink of that which he had seized.

We took seats in box cars for Brandy Station. I thought to have a smoke and took out a pipe, a genuine Ox horn, for I had purchased six in Boston to give to the boys as a reminder of home.  I had just got it well under way and  was letting the smoke out by the mouthful when a Sergeant Major of  a Penn Reg’t who had been watching me and could stand it no longer came up and said, “Pardner I’ll give a quarter for that pipe.”  I told him the pipe was not for sale but if he wanted that kind of a pipe I had one in my pocket I would give him.  He urged me to take the money, saying he was more than willing to pay for it, and he knew how short a soldier sometimes got. I told him to do a good turn to some other soldier and I would be paid.

When we arrived at Brandy, before we had hardly stopped Lieut. Warner ran along side to tell us the reg’t had moved and to stay on the cars until we reached Culpepper.

Edwin Forbes sketch of Brandy Station

Brandy Station sketched by Edwin Forbes, September 1863.

He told us the reg’t was near Mitchell's Station.  He was on his way home on a furlough. We reached Culpepper late in the afternoon and after making some enquiries started, three of us (for we had found Crosby on the train down), for the camp some six or eight miles away.  We went down the track and before we had gone half way it was dark.

Railroad Station at Culpeper

The Railroad Station at Culpeper-Court House, view south, by Timothy O'Sullivan, August, 1862.  Austin Stearns and his party would have entered the village on the train from Brandy Station just as the trains in the picture are oriented.  The building on the left is the Wager Hotel.  It was used as a hospital after the battle of Cedar Mountain in August, 1862.  It was raised in the 1970's.  Click to View Larger.

Railroad Bridge over Cedar Run at Mitchell's VA

The Railroad bridge today, where it crossses Cedar Run, near Mitchell's Station. Photo by Brett V. Johnson.

We came to a creek.  The bridge being gone [and] we wishing to ford it, went up the bank hoping to find a favorable place.  We came to a tree blown over and not knowing whether it reached to the other side, for we could not see, we mounted the trunk and crawling on all fours reached the other side.

Cedar Run West of the Railroad Bridge

Picture of Cedar Run, west of the railroad bridge near Mitchell's Station. This is where Austin Stearns found a tree across the run at night upon his return to the regiment.  Photo by Brett V. Johnson.

We soon saw some fires and going to them found them to be teamsters.  We enquired for our brigade but they didn’t know anything about the brigade but told us there were troops camped over the hill in the woods.  We went on as directed and after many stumbles we came in sight of the fires, and soon the camp was reached, which was the 16th Maine.  Our reg’t was the next line of fires.  Reporting at headquarters, we were told to go to our respective companies.

To say the boys were glad to see us is expressing it mild. Walker & Slattery made me a cup of coffee and from the contents of their haversacks I had a meal.  As it was late they offered to share their blankets and we were soon sound asleep. The contents of my bag I distributed amongst all the boys.

two soldiers smoking pipes in camp

The pipes I gave to the boys, passing them out without any thought of partiality for I had only four besides the one I smoked. The pipes were very popular, and some of the boys thought I had ought to have given them one instead of the ones I did.  I told them I meant to be fair, and if I had known or thought they all wanted that kind of pipe I would have bought enough to go around. This satisfied all but Henry Vining.  He felt bad and I offered to give him mine, he said he had just bought a “brick Wood” and paid fifty cts for it, and that he would swap even for the one I had paid two cts,.  I laid the pipes along side and told him to take his choice.  He took the clay.  That would have been my choice also.

Building houses were now the order of the day, [and] Walker, Slatery, Sargent* and myself built us a double house, that is, we put our tents together and made a splendid one.

As we thought to live here all winter, we would commence and built one both comfortable and convenient, so stakeing out our lot, we cut the timber the desired length, notching the end and fitting them tightly together and plastering with mud––the walls were about four feet high ––over the whole spreading our tents, tacking them tightly to the logs.  On the opposite side of the door was the fireplace, built of stones with a chimney of sticks, plastered outside and in with a thick coating of mud.  On each side of the door we made our beds by driving four crotched sticks into the ground and placing one across.  On these we placed poles, and on top of these we placed wild grass, which made a very nice bed, [and] they served for our seats in the day time.  Under the beds we stowed our wood.

We went to a house about a mile from camp, and got some board and layed a floor between the beds. [Possibly the Brandt Farm––B.F.] We made a bench about three feet long, for a seat for the two who slept at the backside of the beds to sit up to the fire in cold weather.  Lloyd Hixon Assistant SurgeonWith an extension top to [it], this bench served as our table.  We bought a coffee pot and a frying pan, [and] over the fire-place we had a shelf on which we placed our curiosities.  It took us several days to build the house, but we never regretted the labor in those three months that we passed so comfortably there.

Our brigade was the out-post of the Army, the main body being encamped at Culpepper and Stevensburg  our duty was principally picket; occasionally, if the weather was fine, we would drill.  Books and papers were in abundance, and we spent a good portion of the time in reading.

We had a library, the assistant Surgeon being Librarian, and the library in his tent.  All were allowed the privilege of taking out books, and if any of the boys had books sent them, after reading, they would place this in the library for the benefit of the others.  Occasionally, when tired of reading or visitors were in, we would have a game of Old Sledge, or Euchre.

Pictured at right is Dr. Lloyd Hixon, Assistant Surgeon of the 13th MA.  Surgeon Hixon was an educator at heart and operated a boys school after the war.  During the war he encouraged the soldiers to further their education.  It was Dr. Hixon who kept the camp library.

*Walker, Slattery, and Sargent are:   MELVIN H. WALKER; age, 19; born, Barre, Mass.; farmer's son; mustered in as priv., Co. K, July 16, '61; mustered out as sergt., Aug. I, '64; promoted to Corp., Jan. 10, '63; sergt., Nov. 1, '63; residence, Westboro', Mass.JAMES SLATTERY ; age, 20; born, Clare Co., Ireland; shoemaker; mustered in as priv., Co. K, July 16, '61; appointed Corp., March I, '64; mustered out, Aug. I, '64; residence, Worcester, Mass.   Sargent may be: AMOS P. SARGENT; age, 18; born. Concord, N.H.; painter; mustered in as priv., Co. K, July 16, '61; mustered out, Aug. 1, '64; on detached duty as brigade hospital steward a great part of time; residence, Brighton, Mass.

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The Destruction of the Brandt Farm

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

Illustration of soldiers around a camp fire in camp

During the early January days, all the time that could be secured from regular duties was devoted to house building, and every man worked with a will, since the weather was extremely cold, the amount of clothing possessed being insufficient, in the open air, to maintain warmth;  some of the men resorted to the old fashioned practice of putting a heated stone at their feet to help make them comfortable, every one thus getting a notion of what it meant to build homes in the wilderness as so many pioneers had done.  Because of so many of the men in Company C having been ship carpenters when at home, a large part of the company was detailed to work on the houses, though the Woburn delegation (K) was not far behind with its thirteen men selected to use axe, saw, hammer and plane.

The arrival of packages from home, from time to time, did much to lessen grumbling and the coming in of seven deserters on the 6th, barefooted and telling pitiful stories of the conditions across the Rapidan, made the Yankees more nearly comfortable just by way of contrast.  With big fires burning, we were sure of one side being warm, even if the other was almost freezing.  However, song and story wiled away many a long evening before trying to woo the goddess, sleep, in comfortless shelter tents.

In the demands of picket, camp, regiment and brigade guard there was something in the guard-way for nearly every man, every day, so the houses did not grow any too rapidly.

Edwin Forbes sketch Building a Chimney

Such entries in the diaries of the period as, “mudded our hut to-day,” would mean little to the novice unless told that this meant the stopping of the spaces between the log cob-pile which constituted the walls of the habitation, with real old Virginia soil, properly mixed with a certain amount of water and, when plentifully applied, was warranted to stand indefinitely, keeping out the much dreaded wind.  The same material judiciously mingled with sticks, staves, boards or boxes made the chimney-exit for the smoke produced in the fireplace, which was a necessary feature of every cabin.***

Making the quarters for the squad that was to hold and occupy did not end the enlisted man’s duties, for he had also to take a hand in the fabrication of similar structures for his company officers and then to do his part in behalf of the care and comfort of the Field and Staff.  Nor did the chain end here, since there must be places for the retention and protection of commissary and quartermaster stores and, never to be forgotten, were all the important, superlatively useful yet ever railed at, “The good old army mules,” and who should build their shelters, if not the men for whom they had drawn through so many miles the supplies which fed and clothed the soldiers?

***Note:   Long years intervening, General Peirson [Lt.-Col. Charles L. Pierson, 39th MA] recalls the existence of a certain church edifice, out Slaughter Mountain way, which in a former campaign had afforded cover for a rebel battery and that the same, issuing from its concealment, had done no little harm to the Second Massachusetts Infantry, even wounding several of his good friends.  Lest it might be used thus again and with a certain feeling of resentment as though the building had been particeps criminis, he suggested to the builders of the winter quarters that the siding of the house and its foundations might help out their own building schemes.  “A word to the wise” was sufficient, and ere long the structure disappeared, to reappear as flooring and chimneys for Yankee comfort.  The story does not end here, since many years later the officer was introduced, at the home of a Boston friend, to a Virginian lady whose mission North was the soliciting of funds for the rebuilding of the very edifice whose destruction he had suggested.  The General’s memory seemed defective when asked whether he responded liberally or not.

The Dis-mantling of the Brandt Farm - Introduction

Divine Life Church

While routine as it is for the regimental histories to discuss the building of huts for the winter, and making lite of the use of “Rebel” property, the army's presence in the winter of 1864, did indeed cause much ruin among the Virginia citizens throughout the broad boundaries of Culpeper County.   For Instance, the church mentioned above by Alfred Roe, of the 39th MA, is the little Episcopalean Chapel errected by Reverend Philip Slaughter on his property at the base of Cedar Mountain.  (Its indicated on the map of Mitchell's Station above).  It didn't provide shelter to any Confederate Batteries during the battle because it sits on the opposite side of the mountain, but Confederate Artillery were posted on the ground in front of Rev. Slaughter's home.  On April 14, 1864, Sam Webster of the 13th Mass., observed, nothing but the foundation is left of the little Episcopalian Chapel which used to stand in the pines at the foot of the mountain.”  [Sam Webster marked this church on his hand-drawn map of the area in his post-war journal.]

  Today, a new structure sits on the site of Rev. Slaughter's Chapel.   It is the Divine Life Church pictured above.  Colonel Crittenden of the 13th VA, who fought in his mother's front yard during the 1862 battle lies buried  in the little cemetery behind the church, along with some other local Confederate Veterans. His sister Anna G. Smoot, whose deposition on the Brandt Farm is given below, lies here with him.

Its not often this website can address this issue, but in this particular instance, I have some depositions that mention regiments from the First Brigade, and their culpability in pullng down buildings and fences on the nearby Brandt Farm.  The documents came my way through the director of the Culpeper History Museum and fellow Cedar Mountain Battlefield Foundation board member Karen Quaintance.  Karen and I transcribed the documents.

No date is given for the depositions which are probably Southern Claims Commission filings.

Deposition of Nathaniel Yager concerning property of Dr. Logan Brandt of Culpepper, viz

    My name is Nathaniel Yager.  I am 62 years old, a farmer, live one mile from Mitchells Station near Cedar Mountain.  I am not related to the Brandt family and have no interest in their claim.  My farm joins the Brandt estate which I am well acquainted with.  The farm contains 333 acres I think.  About 53 acres was in timber when General Meade’s army came to this country in the fall of 1863.

    It was all enclosed except the timber land and divided into 5 fields with a good rail fence. There was on it a good dwelling house with 6 rooms well finished off, a good sized barn with sheds for slaughtering, a tobacco house, a corn house, smoke house, and several small houses for servants.  There was on this farm a good stock of horses, cattle and hogs and a quantity of grain always on hand.  The house was in plain view from mine.

    Soon after the war began the Dr. joined the Confederate army and left his place in charge of Charles Stewart, a distant relative of my wife and I used frequently to go and see him.  Dr. Brandt had lost his wife before the war and his two children with his own mother remained on the place until after the battle of Cedar Mountain in August of 1862 soon after which she went with the children to Alex. [Alexandria, VA––BF]  and has never returned here.  After the battle of Cedar Mountain a portion of the army of General Pope were camped on and around the Brandt farm for some 10 days during which time most of the personal property on the place was appropriated by the army.  I was at the house every day and my attention was called to the fact of the property disappearing from day to day by Mr. Stewart and I noticed it myself as some of my property was taken at the same time.

Cedar Mountain 1863

Photograph of Cedar Mountain, attributed to the year 1863.  Reverend Philip Slaughter's home sits high up the mountain on the left side of the image.  Confederate Artillery positioned on the ledge in front of the house rained down destructive fire upon the General Banks' opposing artillery during the 1862 battle. During the Winter of 1864, the Sutler of the 13th Mass., Mr. William H. Brown, lived in the house with his wife for a time.   I believe the Brandt Farm and its out-buildings are visible in the center middle-ground of the photo.  The house is nestled in the trees on the left. The fences and  buildings were dismantled by soldiers of Robinson's Division in 1864 and used to build their camps.

Deposition Continued:

Items 1, 2, & 6 Horses
        I know that Dr. Brandt had 3 good horses and 2 good mules which were on the place when General Pope’s army came there and were not there when it left.  I did not see these horses taken but I missed  them after the army left, and was told by Mr. Stewart the army had taken them.

Items 3 & 4 Corn
        I don’t know about the taking of the corn taking in named in items 3 & 4 but presume it was some  taken from the corn house.

    I know there was a field of at least 40 acres of most excellent corn taken by this army while in the wasting ear state.   I could see the troops gathering it from day.  I think the field would yield at least 5 bbls per acre.

Item 5 Hay
        I don’t remember about the hay.  I know the farm produced good crops & hay every year but  don’t remember where any was secured tho I have no doubt the hay was secured and taken by the army which was there soon after haying time.

Item 7 Oats
        I don’t know the quantity of oats taken nor the going of them.  I know there was a crop grown that year and saw none after the army left.

Item 8 Cattle
        There was quite a large stock of cattle on the place and many of the best ones were butchered and eaten by the army but I can not tell the number of them.  The cattle were not all killed a good number were left still.

Item 9 Wheat
        There was a crop of wheat grown also I should think there was about 20 acres.  It was not a good crop however not over 100 to 120 bushels.  I saw it growing but did not see it taken.  It was all gone when the army left.

Item 10 Hogs
        There was a large stock of hogs on the place when the army came there and many were killed of the best ones.  I don’t know how many.  I saw some of them being butchered.

Item 12 Wood
        There was a large quantity of timber cut.  There was 53 acres of heavy timber that would yield at least 25 cords to the acre, and I should say about of the timber was cut down out. 

    I  saw the timber taken every day.

Item 13 Fence
        The farm had 280 acres well fenced and cross fenced with good oak rails.  I saw them taken and used daily.  There could not have been less than 30,000 destroyed.

Items 14 to 20 inclusive Buildings
        All the buildings on the place and named in the petition were pulled down by the army and used for building Winter quarters.  I saw them taken down and hauled aways and further deponent saith not.

    (signed) Nathaniel Yeager

Brandt Farm

Close up of the above image showing what I believe to be the Brandt home & fencing nestled in the trees at the base of Cedar Mountain.

Deposition of Garnet Hudson concerning property.

 My name is Garnet Hudson.  I am 47 years old, a miller by occupation live in Culpeper County near Cedar Mountain adjoining the farm of the late Dr. Brandt where I was living most of the time during the war.  I was near by and saw a large portion of his property taken.

Items 1, 2 & 6 Houses
        In the Summer of 1863 [1862 ] when General Pope’s army came to this country Dr. Brandt had several horses and mules which were missing from the place when the army left there and it was reported by Mr. Stewart who lived on the place that they were taken by the army.  I did not see any of them taken and can’t tell the number there was on the place.

Cedar Mountain Battlefield, 1862

Cedar Mountain Battlefield, when General Pope's Troops Camped There; 1862.  The Brandt Farm was not visible in this image perhaps due to the undulations of the ground or trees blocking the view.

Items 3 & 4 Corn
        I did not see the corn taken but I know they had corn and that they reported it as taken by the army.  They had a field of corn taken besides that taken from the corn house.  I have no idea as to the quantity taken from the place.  I can’t say that I saw the troops take the corn but they were camped all around it and the whole of it was gone when the army left.  The troops laid around there 9 days after the battle.

Item 5 Hays
        The farm usually produced a large quantity of hay and I know there was a good lot gathered that year, a little before the army came there and that it was taken and gone when the army left.  I did not see the troops using it however.  There was a small

Item 7 Oats
        There was a small crop of oats grown but I can not tell what quantity nor what became of them,  they disappeared while the army was there and I suppose were used by the army.

Item 8 Cattle
        I cannot tell about the cattle only that there was a large stock of them on the place when the army first came there and but few of them when it went away.  I was told by Mr. Stewart and others that they were used by the army.  I don’t know the number of them.

Item 9 Wheat
        I know there was a good sized yield of wheat grown that year and I think it was in stacks when General Pope’s army came but there but there was none when the army left.  I saw the troops using this wheat for feed and for bedding.  I don’t know how many much wheat the stacks would yield probably 225 to 250 bushels.

Item 10 Hoggs
        I know there was a large stock of hogs on the place when the army came there, which were all missing when it left but I have no knowledge of their number nor quality and I did not see many of them killed.  I have no doubt but the army used them however.

Item 12 Wood
        There was a tract of 50 to 60 acres of heavy timber land on the place which was cut by the army of General Meade in the fall and winter of 1863-64.  It was not cut off clean probably not over half of the wood was cut off but the best of the timber was cut.  It was used for building winter quarters and for firewood.  The 16 Maine, the 39 Mass. the 104th N.Y. and one or two Penna. Regiments,* were camped very near the timber and used it during the Winter.  The timber was very heavy and I should think would yield from 20 to 25 cords per acre –– about the timber was cut from the whole tract.

Item 13 Fence
        The farm was well fenced and divided a good many fields with good rails.  These were all used by the army during the winter 1863 – 64.  I saw the rails being hauled away in army wagons many times they were used for firewood and to build a corduroy road to Mitchells Station.  I should suppose there are at least 25,000 to 30,000 rails taken from the place by the army.

Items 14 to 20 Buildings
        There was on the place a fine large dwelling house, a large barn with sheds around it, a tobacco house, a corn house and some quarters for servants.  All these buildings were pulled down & used for building winter quarters by the troops of General Meade’s army in the winter of 1863 - 64 and further deponent saith not.

(signed)  Garnett Hudson

[NOTE:  *These regiments are in the First Brigade, Brigadier-General John C. Robinson's Division, 1st Army Corps:  16th Maine; 13th Massachusetts; 39th Massachusetts; 94th New York; 104th New York; 107th Pennsylvania.]

Major's School House

Pictured is a family group in front of what is believed to be the Major Family's School House.  But that is not verified.  Confederate General Charles Winder died at the schoolhouse following his mortal wounding at the August 9, 1862 battle of Cedar Mountain.  The people are un-identified, although I wonder if Anna Smoot, the daugther of Mrs. Crittenden, and the lady herself might be present too.  They were present during the battle. The picture was taken by photographer, Timothy O'Sullivan, a few days after the fight.  He was working for Matthew Brady at the time.

Deposition of Mrs. Anna G. Smoot concerning property––

    My name is Anna G. Smoot.  I am 34 years old  live at Culpepper C.H. Va.  I am not related to the claimant and have no interest in the claim.

    I am the daughter of Mrs. Catharine Crittenden and lived with her until June 1863 on her farm near Cedar Mountain, adjoining the estate of Dr. Logan Brandt.

    I was there during the battle of Cedar Mountain and witnessed the taking of a large portion of the property from the place by the troops of General Pope’s army both before and after the battle.  Our house was in plain view from Dr. Brandt’s and we were very intimate neighbors.

Item 1 Horses
        I was present when the horse named in this item was taken and saw it taken, he was taken by a cavalry man of General Pope’s army before the battle.  There were 3 men in the party.  One of them took the horse and left his own in his place which was broken down.  The horse of Dr. Brandt’s was a very fine one and highly prized by him.  Mrs. Brandt was sent for when the soldiers came there.

Items 2 & 6 Horses
        I know that there was a mule and several horses taken from the place while General Pope’s army was there but I did not see either of them taken.  I was on the place almost every day and knew when any of the property was taken but can not give dates.

Items 3 & 4  Corn
        I know that corn was taken from Dr. Brandt’s corn house to feed the horses of the pickets at various times but can not state quantities.  There was a picket post near the house and generally 8 or 9 men and horses were there.

Item 5 Hay
        There [were] three or more  stacks of hay used by the pickets and some hauled away to headquarters.  I don’t remember seeing the hay taken but I missed it from day to day and I know the army used it for no one could get to it but the troops.

Item 8 Cattle
        I know Dr. Brandt had 13 head of cattle and I saw them all driven away by the troops of Gen. Pope’s army before the battle.  I suppose they were taken for beef as the army was without supplies and foraged on the country.  His cattle were all good.  He kept improved stock.

Item 9 Wheat
        The wheat I did not see taken, but I know that they had wheat and that it disappeared while the army was in the vicinity.  I don’t know what quantity they had nor where it was.

Item 10  Hogs
        I did not see the hogs taken but I was on the place the day after I saw the cattle taken and Mrs. Brandt told me the army had taken every hog she had and I saw they were all gone from the lot where they were kept.  I had previously noticed the hogs all being a very fine stock and in excellent order.  I cannot tell the number, There were 20 or more I am sure,  good sized ones.

Item 11 Bacon
        I saw a quantity of bacon taken from the meat house by some cavalry men about 9 in the party.  They were camped there.  They put a guard over the meat house and came for it whenever they wanted it.  Mrs. Brandt had made bacon from 22 large hogs weighing from 150  to 200 lbs each, and I should judge there must have been fully half of it on hand in August as she had sold none.  The troops took all she had except three hams she had hid in a barrel.

Item 12 Wood
        The wood named in this item was standing timber which was cut by the  troops of General Meade’s Army in the fall & winter of 1863.  If I am not mistaken there was 53 acres of timber on the place and all the best was cut off during the winter by the army.  I was not present to witness the taking of any property by General Meade’s army as I left there in June 1863 and returned immediately after the army left in the Spring of 1864.  On my return in the Spring of 1864 all

Item 13 to 20 inclusive
        On my return home in the Spring of 1864 all the fencing on the place of Dr Brandt was destroyed and no traces of any left.  All the buildings on the place were removed also and nothing remained of them but the chimneys.  When General Meade’s army came there in the fall all the buildings and most of the fences were destroyed standing and when it left all the buildings and fences were gone and all the best timber was cut off ––And further deponent saith not.

            (Signed)  Anna G. Smoot

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Camp Rumors & Brigade Gossip

Col. T.F. McCoy recommends target practice.  Capt. John G. Hovey resigns his commission. Col. Charles Wainwright hears rumors that the 1st and 3rd Corps are to be desolved. And, Capt. William Cary of the 13th Regiment, writes Colonel Leonard a gossipy letter.

Frederick Remington Sketch of soldiers firing in line

General Orders, January 9, 1864

General Orders, No. 3.

Headquarters First Brigade,
Second Division
,  January 9, 1864.

It is believed that the troops would be more efficient in battle if opportunities were afforded them an occasional target practice.

From 11 o’clock to 12 is now allowed, during which the relieved guards and pickets may fire off their muskets.

In order that we may profit by this privilege, it is directed, under the general supervision of the commanders of regiments respectively, that the pieces of their men be discharged at a target daily, Sundays excepted, between the hours designated.

Great care should be taken to select a perfectly safe locality for this practice, to prevent accident, and in every case it must be under the directions of a commissioned officer.

By command of      

1st Corps to be Broken Up?  Diary of Colonel Charles S. Wainwright;  January 7, 1864

On January 7th, the first part of Col. Wainwright's journal entry is concerned with completing Brigade and Regimental Reports for November and December, 1863.  He is also tallying up the number of men in his regiment.  (The regimental companies in his battery were spread out and did not serve as a cohesive unit).  He was also concerned with recruiting at home to fill up the ranks.  When he finished addressing this work, he recorded the following interesting comments.

Charles S. Wainwright

There has been no news stirring for some time now.  In want of it the army is full of camp rumours.  One of these is of importance, and coming down from Washington may very likely have some foundation.  It is to the effect that the First and Third Corps are to be broken up, and consolidated with the Second, Fifth, and Sixth.  It would be a good move in my opinion, as a corps d’arme of 15,000 men is simply absurd, causing a vast increase in the amount of writing to be done, and the time necessary to get orders to their destination.

Were all the companies reasonably full, and the army not stronger numerically than at present, two thirds of the writing could be dispensed with, two-third of the clerks returned to the ranks, and one-half the officers dispensed with.   If any consolidation does take place, this corps and the Third are the ones most likely to be broken up, for the commander of neither of them is popular at the War Department;* and if there is any difference in the excellence of the different corps in this army, I think these two are the poorest. –– Sedgewick, Couch & Hancock are the Generals named to command the new Corps, if Meade is retained in command of the army.  If Meade should be ousted, Hancock is to have his place, & Augur the 2d Corps.

There are other rumours to the effect that General Sickles has sworn to oust Halleck, and Governor Curtin has done the same as regards Secretary Stanton.  Much ill feeling and some high words have doubtless passed between the parties;  but such a thing is most too good to be true, for “when rogues fall out, honest men have their due,” and these are not the days for anything so good as that.  If these men have done any such swearing, the Secretary and Commander-in-Chief have two strong opponents who are not likely to stick at trifles in order to carry out their designs.

*[The Corps Commanders he is referring to are Major-General John Newton of the 1st Corps, and William French of the 3rd Corps.]

John G Hovey, 13th MA, resigns January 7, 1864.

Captain John G. Hovey

Captain John G. Hovey was a good officer, of whom John Noyes, former private in Co. B, wrote, “Capt Hovey is one of the most gentlemanly and competent officers in our Regiment.” [Waterloo, Va.;  July 29. 1862.]  He mustered into the 13th Regiment as 1st-Lieutenant of Company  B, July 16, 1861.  Six and a half months later, January 31, 1862 he was promoted Captain, and served in that capacity since then.  Col. Leonard must have thought a lot of the two Hovey's who were officers in his regiment, for he took at least two different pictures of the three of them together.

I don't have a lot of information on Captain J. G. Hovey.

This handwritten order was found in the Regimental Order Book, a copy of which I downloaded from the Genealogical Website Family Search.  The originals reside in the Massachusetts National Guard Archives.

Head Quarters 1st Army Corps
January 7th 1864

Special Orders
                No. 7            “Extract”

                          10.          The following named Officers having tendered their resignations are hereby honorably discharged the Service of the United States, on Surgeon’s certificate of disability, on condition that they shall receive no final payments until they had satisfied the Paymaster’s Department that they are not indebted to the Government.

Capt. John G. Hovey, 13th Mass. Vols

x x x

By command of Brig. Gen. Robinson
                    Signed J. L Bliss
                    Capt and A. A. A. G.

The Cary Brothers; William, Joseph & Sam.

Captain William Cary

The following interesting letter from Captain William Cary to Colonel Leonard is found in the collection of Colonel Leonard’s Papers at the Gilder-Lehrman Institute in New York.   The personal papers are an eclectic, and seemingly random assortment of orders, reports, court-martials and letters.  In this letter Captain William Cary who is temporarily in command of the 13th MA, gives the absent Colonel, a run-down on the various officers present in the regiment, brigade and division.  It is apparent from the familiar tone of the letter that Cary is on close, friendly terms with the Colonel.

William (age 31 upon enlistment) enlisted with his two brothers Joseph, (age 29) and Samuel, (age 21) in the 13th Regiment in 1861.  The Cary’s were from Wayne, Maine.  A little bit of family information comes from brief biographical notes about their famous opera singing little sister, Annie Louise Cary.

“…The youngest child of six of Dr. Nelson Howard Cary and his first wife, Maria Stockbridge, Cary came from a highly musical family. Her father's family, wrote a New York Times article in 1882, stated that Annie's older brothers and sisters all had fine singing voices, and Dr. Cary himself was a “noted bass singer.” The article reports that “when the Cary family came to Durham they created a great increase in the musical interest of the town. Durham was then the pinnacle of musical fame.”
Opera Star Annie Louise Cary
     “Cary attended the female seminary in Gorham in 1862 and once her vocal gifts became apparent, went on to study in Milan, Italy under the direction of Giovanni Corsi. She made her debut in Italian opera as a contralto in Copenhagen in 1868. Cary later sang with the Royal Swedish Opera, studied in Paris and London, and was constantly engaged for opera or concerts in Europe or America with a variety of companies until the early 1880s. In 1882, she married Charles Monson Raymond and settled into retirement, only performing for charity or private functions. At that time, she was one of the most popular singers in the United States.” #1

From the start the Cary brothers, especially Joseph and William, were prominent in the hierarchy of the “4th Battalion of Rifles” the Boston Militia Company that formed the nucleus of the 13th MA Volunteers.

Sam, the youngest Cary, began his service with the 13th, as a sergeant and rose to the rank of 1st Lieutenant in October 1863.  Captured at Gettysburg he was in prison at the time of his promotion.  His official records in the roster and adjutant General’s Report are incomplete, ending with his promotion to 1st Lieutenant.  No muster out date is listed.  That is partially corrected in Volume II of Massachusetts in the Army & Navy, (page 254) which gives, March 22, 1865 as Cary’s muster out date, ––but provides no further detail.   The 1865 date corroborates family descendants' oral history which says that after his capture at Gettysburg, he spent the rest of the war in Southern prisons.

Lieutenant Samuel E. Cary

A descendant of the Cary's tells me what little she knows of his life. From a book titled “John Cary, The Plymouth Pilgrim,” Sam got a fairly complete tour of  Southern prisons during his captivity.  The record states he was incarcerated, at the following:   Libby Prison, Richmond, VA; Salisbury Prison, North Carolina, and a prison in Charlotte, North Carolina; also, prisons in Augusta, Macon, and Savannah, Georgia; Charleston, Columbia and Florence, South Carolina; and Raleigh, North Carolina.  He was released at Wilmington, North Carolina on March 1, 1865, seven months after his term of enlistment had expired.

Whatever his experiences in prison, he was thankfully able to successfully resume civilian life and live to age 87.  His descendant believes he ran a men's clothing shop in New York City.  Samuel Edwin Cary, pictured right.

Brother Joe Cary, was the original captain of Company B.  He was a member of the elite  “Fourth Battalion of Rifles” the Boston Militia Battalion organized by Colonel Leonard just prior to the outbreak of war and was a popular officer with his company.  Joe was responsible for some of the early traditions which gained the regiment an early  reputation for discipline and neatness in camp.  His health declined in the service and caused Joe to muster out of the regiment February 28, 1863.

William's letter suggests he and Joe took pride in their military knowledge and discipline.  Soldier's letters home indicate Colonel Leonard shared that sentiment.

Captain Joseph Cary

Harvard Educated Private John B. Noyes wrote of the Colonel,  “It has been said of him that he remarked of his regiment that he had a hundred men more fit to be commissioned officers, than the majority of those who came out as officers of the Regiment.” #2

Lt. Charles B. Fox of Company K, who was not a fan of his fellow 13th MA officers, wrote of the Colonel, “…one word as to Col. Leonard.  As a drill officer he has few equals, and he also commands the respect and confidence of the men, but the climate affects him seriously, and that, combined with a natural feeling that other officers should know and do their duty, makes him sometimes neglectful of details.” #3

As to officers understanding their duty, I have one quote from the Colonel himself, suggesting he was aware of the fact that not all the original officers were up to the job their position required of them, ––but he put up with it.  In a letter to Massachusetts Governor John Andrew dated March 22, 1864,  Col. Leonard commented on Captain David L. Brown’s resignation, “I was pleased to have him do it, as I have always known him to be incompetent to fill the position he held…  I only mention his name as he has but just been Discharged, but I know of others.” #4

This suggests he admired efficient officers, and his apparent closeness with William Cary suggest the latter was an efficient officer, at least according to Col. Leonard.  Certainly from the familiar  tone of his letter, Bill Cary agreed.

A hint of the opinions the two held of some of the officers mentioned in Cary’s letter to the Colonel can be gleaned from the colorful sobriquets applied to each.

Lt. Col. David Allen, Jr., 12th Mass.

“Fred” Morse is Captain Charles F. Morse, 29 who mustered into service as a 2d Lieutenant in Co. F, and was then promoted to Captain in the Commissary Department.  He held a responsible position in the Army of the Potomac throughout the war.  His supply of “cold tea” alludes to whiskey, and its capabilities to warm one's insides, especially on a cold wintery day.

Brigadier-General Henry Baxter is in temporary command of the Division while Major-General John C. Robinson is absent.

With some outside help I have identified the 3 division staff officers mentioned in the letter.

They are, Lieutenant Samuel M. Morgan, Ass’t. Adjutant Gen’l., 2nd Division,  Lt-Col. David Allen, Jr., 12th MA, and Lieutenant James P. Mead, formerly of the 90th PA Volunteer Infantry.  Cary refers to him as Lt. Mead, “that pink of an officer.”

Pictured right is Lt-Col. David Allen, Jr., 12th MA Vols.

Lieutenant S. M. Morgan, as he signed his name, joined the staff of General Robinson in May 1862, when Robinson, a career military officer was assigned to the command of a brigade.  It was Lieutenant Morgan who spoke at the dedication of the Robinson monument at Gettysburg in 1917.  Morgan gave a summary of Robinson's life and military career.#5

Lieutenant Samuel Morgan, Robinson's Staff

Pictured left, is Lieutenant Samuel M. Morgan, Assistant Adjutant-General, 2nd Division, First Corps.

Col. T. F. McCoy is referred to as the “Pious Patriot.”  Charles E. Davis, Jr., the regimental historian of the 13th MA, wrote that Col. McCoy exercised  a kind of parental care over them.

Cary mentions several officers in the 104th NY Vols., camped beside the 13th MA at Mitchell's Station.  Captain Porter is Captain Byron Porter, 104th N.Y. Infantry and Assistant Adjutant General of the 1st Brigade.  His signature can be seen on several of the orders issued by Col. McCoy.   “Casey” may be a reference to "Casey's Tactics" a manual of instruction and maneuvres for infantry, publlished by Silas Casey in 1862.  Colonel Gilbert Prey commander of the 104th NY is mentioned as well as  Quarter-Master Colt, who “has hatched himself a major.”    He is Major Henry Van Shaick Colt, brother of the famous Samuel Colt, inventor of the revolving breech pistol.  Major Colt was the first commander of Elmira Prison in upstate New York in the Summer of 1864.  An early prisoner Anthony Kelley, described Colt as a “gentleman, fair and fat, of not quite forty, five and a half feet high, with a florid complexion...a very prepossessing appearance and manner, a jaunty way of cocking his hat on the side of his head, and a chronic attack of smoking cigars, which he invariably holds in his mouth at about the angle at which mortars are fired.”#6  Pictures of Colonel Prey and Major Colt  are posted below on this page with a letter written by Charles Barber of the 104th NY regiment.

Cary mentions the 94th NY leaving for Annapolis, Maryland to join its commander Colonel Adrian Root. Root was ordered to Annapolis in December.  His regiment joined the 8th Army Corps during winter.   They would later move to the 5th Corps at the end of May.   Cary’s comment “Peace to their ashes” seems to have a tone of “good riddance” about it, although that is just my impression of its use here.

“Col P. Stearns Davis has returned and his Lt.- Col. is as vigilant as ever.”  Cary is writing about the officers of the 39th MA.;  Col. Davis and Lt.-Col. Pierson.  From the 39th regiment’s history they describe Col. Davis, thus:

    “Perhaps no man though-out the strife entered the service with higher motives than those which prompted Colonel Davis.  Possessing as high an ideal of discipline and drill as he had of morality and patriotism, he proceeded to enforce them with the result that few if any organizations in the volunteer service excelled the Thirty-ninth in true soldierly qualities.”
Lieutenant Colonel Charles L.  Pierson, 39th Mass Vols

[Colonel Davis is pictured lower down this page.]

Lt-Col. Charles L. Pierson (pictured, left) of the 39th, has quite a record.

A Harvard Graduate, 1853,  Pierson participated in the Massachusetts militia.  He was later commissioned 1st-Lieutenant and Adjutant in the 20th MA.  He was taken prisoner at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff and suffered three months’ confinement in Libby Prison.  Upon returning to his regiment he was detailed for special service on the staff of General N. J. T. Dana, and  later upon the stafff of General John Sedgwick, thus passing through the Peninsula campaign; it was while on sick leave from such service that he was notified of his appointment to the 39th Regiment with the commission of Lieutenant-Colonel.  Under recommendation of General G.K. Warren, Pierson would be brevetted Brigadier-General for meritorious service at the battle of the Weldon Railroad in August 1864.#7

The 13th MA officers Cary mentions are, Lt-Col. N. Walter Batchelder, who would soon resign his commission, Adjutant David H. “Davy” Bradlee, Captain Oliver C. Livermore, 1st Lieutenant Thomas R. Welles, for whom I have not yet found a picture, (although he is frequently mentioned),  Captain William B. Kimball, Captain David L. Brown, whom as mentioned above would soon resign his commission;  Lieutenants William R. Warner,  Edward F. Rollins, Joseph Stuart and William S. Damrell.

Hobbs,  Josiah Brown and Uncle John mentioned in the letter, must be colored servants of the Colonel.

1.   Biography of Annie Louise Cary, contributed by Durham, Maine Historical Society, Accessed October 15 2023; at
2.  Private John B. Noyes to Father, Near Warrenton, July 11, 1862.
3.  Lt. Charles B. Fox to Father, Manassas Plains, June 28th 1862, Charles B. Fox Letters, Massachusetts Historical Society.
4.  Colonel Samuel H. Leonard to MA Adjutant-Genl. William Schouler, March 22, 1864, Executive Correspondence Collection, 13th Regiment; Massachusetts State House, Boston.
5.  In Memoriam, Abner Doubleday, 1819-1893, and John Cleveland Robinson, 1817-1897, NY State Monuments Commission for the Battlefields of Gettysburg, Chattanooga, and Antietam, J. B. Lyon Company, Albany, 1918.
6.  Information on Major Henry V. Colt is from
7.  Page 335; The Thirty-ninth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers, 1862-1865, by Alfred S. Roe, Worcester, Mass., Regimental Veterans Association, 1914.

Adjutant David BradleeCaptain William B. KimballWilliam S. Damrell

13th MA Adjutant David H. Bradlee, Captain William B. Kimball, and Captain William S. Damrell.  They are all mentioned in Captain Cary's letter.

Letter of Captain William Cary to Colonel Leonard, January 11, 1864

The following letter is found in the Gilder-Lehrman Collection of the New York Historical Society, Colonel Leonard's papers, GLC 3393 #15, William Cary to Col. Leonard, January 11, 1864.

Hd. Qrs. 13th Regt. Mass. Vols.
Mitchells Station, Va.
January 11th 1864.

Civil War era flask

Dear Colonel,
                            As you are aware we left our camp at Kellys Ford Dec. 24th ult. and marched to this point with orders to throw out a picket and connect on the right and left with Bufords Cavalry.  The day was very cold but notwithstanding all the difficulties in our way we accomplished the march some 15 miles before dark with only one pleasant or reviving feature, namely – the appearance of  “Fred Morse,” Just this side of Brandy Station with several bottles of  “cold tea” which was soon dispatched by the officers.

Taking a major's privilege (of doing as you have a mind to or nothing)  I tarried a few moments with Captain C. F. Morse and warmed myself outwardly and inwardly.

Christmas spent in waiting for Gen’l  Robinson to return to "fix his Division" and in eating and drinking the contents of sundry boxes just received from home.

Our site for a camp is a little better than any regiment has in the brigade and when completed will reflect credit upon the remnant of the 13th.   We occupied this ground Dec. 31st the same day Lt. Col. Batchelder went away for “ten days.”  I in course support the dignity of regimental commander.  In the absence of Gen’l  Newton, Gen’l. Robinson commands the Corps and Gen’l  Baxter1 the Division.

Lieutenant James P. Mead

Lt. Morgan,  Col. Allen  and that pink of an officer Lt. Mead, are all there are present on the Division Staff.   Col. T. F. McCoy the “pious patriot” commands the 1st Brigade in his usual quiet manner issuing no whiskey to officers.  [Lt. James P. Mead, pictured.]

“Davy” is now acting A. I. G. in the absence of Capt. Livermore who I trust is having a pleasant time at home.2

Capt. Porter has returned and is now prosecuting a study of “Casey.”  The 94th N.Y. has been detached in spite of the protestation of some people and gone to Adrian at Annapolis – “peace to their ashes.”   Quarter Master Colt of the 104th has hatched himself out a major giving the 104th a full compliment of field officers.

1st Lieut. Thomas R. Welles (the modest) is our acting Adjutant.  The officers are all well except Capt. Kimball who is suffering from an attack of tonsilitus which I hope will retreat in a few days.  Capt. Brown3 is building bridges guard houses and the like.

P.  Stearns Davis Col. 39th has returned and his Lt. Col is as “vigilant” as ever (see Freddy)4

Col. Pray has also returned from his leave.

I expect Lieuts. Warner and Rollins to-morrow when Stuart and Damrell will leave.

Capt. John G. Hovey sent his resignation to me which was forwarded approved and I have received notice of his discharge.

I hear that there is a prospect of filling up our regiment which will make room for the promotion of deserving and competent men.  I hope no effort will be made to thrust outsiders upon us. When we are not capable of finding men suitable for officers in our old 13th let us sell out to Lt. Gen’l  Politics who desires to rule the roost.  He may rule the roost but he can’t rule no cock like me.  There are non commissioned officers here whom I could cheerfully recommend for promotion and leave a plenty for the 59th whom the Major would prefer.5

The selection of officers for the 59th has been made with a great deal of sagacity (over the left).   Just look at them from Colonel down, as far as we know, all sadly deficient in military and executive knowledge.

I was quite surprised night before last at the reception of a leave of absence for Lt. Col. Batchelder on account of disability.  If I go home at all this winter it is quite necessary that I should do so this month, but I am now knocked out of it certain.

Your man Hobbs came up in place of Josiah Brown with Chase6 and the Regimental Commander picked him up, and I do not feel at liberty just now to allow him to return.  Uncle John is taking care of your horses, so they will be all right.

I shall be glad to see you return and assume command of us.  If those new men should be sent to the front immediately, many of them will become sick and of no use to the government. [The drafted conscripts]  I think they should be placed in a camp of instruction for the present.  Why not have some officer detailed from the regiment to see that they are properly instructed for a time before coming to the front?   I would not object to taking the job –– Joe never writes to me but I hear by the by that he thinks of going into the colored service.7

Please write to me on the reception of this,

I am Col.                                                
Your obt servt                            
And sincere friend           

William H. Cary Captain        
Commd’g 13th Regt Mass. Vols.

1.    Brigadier General Henry Baxter.
2.    Adjutant David H. Bradlee, 13th MA, acting as Assistant Adjutant General due to the absence of Capt. Oliver C. Livermore, 13th MA
3.    Captain David L. Brown, originally of Company I
4.    This looks like he spelled "Iuddy."   I would like it to be a name that makes sense, like "Freddy" possibly for Fred Morse, but the handwriting is mostly clear and Iuddy is what it appears to be.  I put Freddy in the letter for sanity's sake.
5.    This refers to Major Jacob Parker Gould, who received promotion to Colonel and his own command, the newly organized 59th MA, Veteran Volunteers.
6.     William Moody Chase, Sutler of the 13th MA.
7.     William's brother Joseph Cary, former captain of Company B.

illustration of soldiers sitting around gossiping

Illustration from Century Magazine titled "Camp Gossip."  It seemed fitting to place it here.

Officers of the 59th Massachusetts Veteran Volunteer Infantry

  At this point in time, January, 1864,  Jacob Parker Gould still retained the rank of Major in the 13th MA.  But since September, 1863 he was involved in recruiting a new Veteran regiment in Boston.  He received his Colonel’s commission April 24th, to take command of the 59th Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.  Major Gould, who had up to this time led the 13th MA through 13 battles, in the absence of superior officers, had finally got a command of his own.  He was called “The Fighting Major.”  But he still seems to not have earned the respect of some of his fellow officers in the 13th. He was initially unpopular with the Boston clique, during the early days of the regiment.  As late as June 28, 1862, when the regiment had been in the field a year, Lt. Charles B. Fox wrote of Major Gould,

“Our Major, a gentleman, and theoretically a good soldier, is because he is a little slow and nervous, systematically insulted and misrepresented, by officers no better qualified, to say the least, for their posts, than for his.  Un willing to take severe means to oppose a feeling of this clannish kind against him, Major Gould lives by himself, in the regiment.”1

Whatever the feeling of the Boston officers, J. P. Gould was a popular officer in the 59th.  Several loyal members of the 13th received commissions and joined him as subordinate officers in the new organization.  When his regiment went to the front it was brigaded with the 56th, 57th, and 58th, Massachusetts Veteran Regiments, assigned to General Ambrose Burnside’s 9th Corps.  The Brigade would see extremely brutal service in the coming Spring campaign.  And, unfortunately it was ill-used when the decidedly worst officer in the Union Army, Brigadier-General James H. Ledlie, was assigned to command their Division in early June.  It would prove fatal to many of the brave volunteers, ––but more on this later.

For some reason Captain Cary did not think the officers in the 59th MA maintained enough military knowledge to be good officers.  At least that is what one of his comments in the above letter says.  Yet no-one could deny these were the bravest of officers, who led their men from the front.  By the end of August, many of them were dead or wounded.

With the exception of Lieutenant-Colonel John Hodges, Jr.,  and 1st-Lieutenant Horace M. Warren, all of the officers pictured below were veterans of the 13th Massachusetts Volunteers.

Traveling in the ranks, but not pictured, was George S. Cheney, formerly private, Company E, 13th MA. Cheney who mustered out of the 13th MA due to disability, in May, 1863,  had rested and healed, and re-enlisted as 1st Sergeant in Colonel Gould's regiment.  He was now Sergeant Cheney, Company A, of the 59th.  He continued sending letters home to the Roxbury newspaper under his  nom-de-plume "AZOF" or "ASOF.'  Perhaps this is an  achroym for "A Soldier of  Fortune," or, "A Zouave of Fortune."

Colonel Jacob Parker Gould of Stoneham Mass.Lieutenant Colonel Hodges 59 MAMajor Joseph Colburn 59 Mass

Colonel Jacob Parker Gould, Lieutenant-Colonel John Hodges, Jr., and  Major Joseph Colburn.  Gould and Colburn served together in the 13th MA. Colburn would rise to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel and survive the war.   Lieutenant-Colonel. Hodges record to date is: Private, 8th Infantry, M.V.M., in service of U.S., May 18, 1861, Mustered out, Aug. 1, 1861.  First-Lieutenant, 19th Mass. Infantry, Aug. 22, 1861.  Resigned June 19, 1862.  Major, 50th Infantry, M.V.M., in service of the U.S., Nov. 11, 1862.  Mustered out, Aug. 24, 1863.  Lieutenant-Colonel, 59th Mass. Infantry, Feb. 2, 1864. Both he and Colonel Gould died from wounds received at Petersburg.

Major Warren 59 Mass1st Lieutenant James GIbson 59 Mass1st Lieutenant Samuel Bean 59 Mass

First-Lieutenant Horace M. Warren, First-Lieutenant James Gibson, & First-Lieutenant Samuel Bean, 59th Mass.  Gibson & Bean served in the 13th.   Horace M. Warren's record is, First-Lieutenant, 50th Infantry, M.V.M., in service of the U.S., Sept. 19, 1862, Mustered out, Aug. 24, 1863.  First-Lieutenant, Adjutant, 59th Mass. Infantry, Nov. 19, 1863.  He died of wounds  received in battle at the Weldon Railroad, August 19, 1864.  Samuel Bean mustered into the 13th MA as a corporal in Co. H, July 19, 1861.  He mustered out as a Sergeant to accept promotion, July 1, 1863.  That much is in the roster of the 13th.  The two volume set, Massachusetts in the Army and Navy, 1861-1865 skips his service in the 13th and just says, First-Lieutenant, 59th Mass. Infantry, Jan. 1, 1864, & Captain, April 19, 1864.  Bean was mortally wounded at Petersburg with the 59th.  He died June 22, 1864.  James Gibson was the original Color-Sergeant in the 13th MA.  He mustered out of the 13th as a Second-Lieutenant and mustered into the 59th as First-Lieutenant.  He would survive the war.

1st Lieutenant Charles H. Lang, 59th Mass2nd Lieutenant William Wallace Davis, 59 Mass

Second-Lieutenant Charles H. Lang, & Second-Lieutenant William Wallace Davis, 59th Reg't., M.V.I.  Lang began his service as a Private in the 13th MA.  He was promoted Corporal Sept. 1, 1863 and later,  Second-Lieutenant, 59th Mass. Infantry, April 19, 1864.  He would survive the war.  Davis was a recruit of  '62, joining the 13th MA, Aug. 12, that year.  He Mustered out August 22, 1863, after a year's service with the 13th.  He was commissioned Second- Lieutenant, 59th Mass. Infantry June 21, 1864.  He luckily missed the severe battles of the Overland Campaign in May, 1864.  Still he was wounded and lost an arm, and mustered out of the 59th Dec. 17, 1864.

2nd Lieutenant Charles H. Cotting, 59 Mass2nd Lieutenant John Foley, 59th Mass2nd Lieutenant Sandford Goldsmith, 59 Mass

Second Lieutenants Charles H. Cotting,  John Foley, & Sandford Goldsmith; 59th Reg't., M.V.I.  Cotting's record states, Sergeant, 13th Mass. Infantry, July 16, 1861.  Second-Lieutenant, 59th Mass. Infantry, December 16, 1863. Mustered out of the service January 1, 1865.  John Foley rose to the rank of Captain in the 59th and was discharged May 15, 1865.  Sanford King Goldsmith was a Private in the 13th Mass. Infantry, July 16, 1861. He was wounded at Gettysburg. He was discharged to accept promotion to Second-Lieutenant in the 59th, Jan. 6, 1864.   He was breveted captain, March 25, 1865.  He mustered out, May 15, 1865 as 1st Lieutenant.

1.  Charles B. Fox to Reverand Thomas Bayley Fox, June 28, 1862, Fox Family Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.

Return to Table of Contents

Conscripts, Pickets, Wiggins, & Oysters

As the heading implies, there is really no single cohesive theme to this eclectic section.

Our Old Friends, “The Conscripts”

Captain Cary mentions in his letter to Colonel Leonard above, that the "new men" should be sent to a camp of instruction.  Otherwise if sent out on duty many of them well get sick and be of no use to the government.  From what Charles Davis observed, that was generally the case regardless.

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

As drilling was dispensed with we had some leisure moments which were spent in listening to the wonderful exploits of the out-laws sent out by the old Bay State in August last.  illustration of ruffians fightingThey never tired of relating the mysterious uses to which a “jimmy” could be put by a man of nerve, and how easy it was to crack a bank or filch a purse.  They robbed each other as freely as they did others.   We noticed on their arrival that nearly every man had his pocket cut.  Their mouths were full of oaths and mottoes, such as “God helps those who help themselves,” and “All men are born free and equal,” and that “No man is entitled to more than another unless he has the sand to get it.”

Of this band of one hundred and eighty-six only about forty did any duty at all, and what they did was not very reliable.  The others deserted, went into hospitals, or shirked.  Every time any of them deserted we felt glad they were gone. From the moment of their arrival until they departed we had no peace or continuous sleep, so turbulent and noisy were they.  Two or three times a week the woods near the camp were witness to fights, frequently of terrible brutality.  The disputes which arose among them as they gambled their money, made one’s life a misery.

We often talked over, among ourselves, this business of filling up a decent regiment with the outscourings of humanity;  but the more we thought of it the more discontented we became.  We longed for a quiet night, and when the day came we longed to be away from these ruffians.  What with hollering, and swearing, and threats to knife each other, these fellows made our lives anything but enjoyable.

The regimental history of the 9th New York Militia, (83rd NY Volunteer Infantry) elaborated on the subject of the conscripts.   They had some things to  say about those sent to the 12th & 13th Massachusetts Regiments, in August 1863, as well as the batch they received some days later. The 9th received nearly 600 conscripts, several hundred more than the 13th MA, and though they had their share of  bad apples, their drafted men included  James Ross, who proved to be an exceptional soldier.  There must have been others, but they must have been the exception.

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).

On August 1st [1863] the regiment marched to Rappahannock Station, crossed the river and threw up intrenchment's at the same place occupied by it the year before, and which was so stoutly defended for two or three days.

,,,The Army moved on the 9th but Baxter’s brigade was left to guard the bridge.  On the 14th the first conscripts––or drafted men––the Ninth had seen arrived from Pennsylvania, and were assigned to the Ninetieth regiment, from that State, and on the 15th the Twelfth and Thirteenth Massachusetts received accessions of the same kind of material.  The rank and file of the army looked upon this class of recruits as a very undesirable addition to the army.  Socially, they were almost ostracised, and to this fact was doubtless due the numerous desertions, which commenced at the date of their arrival.

…On the 20th two hundred conscripts arrived for the Ninth,  and the next day the work of making soldiers of them began.  They were divided into squads, and drilled from six to eight o’clock in the morning, and from four to six in the afternoon.  It was too much for some of the greenhorns, for on the 23rd the surgeons examined a few who were found totally unfit for military duty, and they were sent home–– rejoicing, no doubt.  Ninety-four more were received on the 27th, and by the 29th arms and equipments were supplied, and the recruits took their places in the ranks. The weather during the month had been very hot, fortunately the men had not much marching and there was but little sickness.

On the 1st of September the weather was delightful.  The days were not so warm nor the nights so cool as during August.  Daily drills were making the recruits quite proficient in the manual of arms, and in company and battalion movements.

Illustration by Keppler of Puck Magazine, Various Nationalities as militia

…About this time [Sept 20] the conscripts began to disappear rapidly.  How they could make their way–-undetected––to the north side of the Potomac is a mystery explainable only by the supposition that guard and teamsters were bribed to favor their escape.  On the 28th Lieutenant-Colonel Moesch, other officers and Sergeant Browne, with a detail for guard, who had been sent to New York for the purpose, arrived with three hundred and sixty-five conscripts.  What a medley!  A number of them could not speak English.  Many of them were French Canadians, and had doubtless been sent on as substitutes for drafted citizens.

One  of the men in writing home about this time said:

“The new men are from all parts of the world.  We have got blustering Englishmen, canny Scotchmen, jolly Irishmen, jabbering Frenchmen, slow and go easy Dutchmen, and a lot of mongrel Canadians.  There is a Chinaman in one company, and an Indian in another.  We have also got a lot of countrymen who glory in being called “Yankees.”  Take them all together they will make good soldiers, if properly handled.”

When it was afterwards learned that among the recruits were criminals, who had been induced to enlist in the army in order to escape incarceration in jail, the old members were justly indignant.  It is a fact that judges of petty courts gave the convicted prisoners the chance of going to jail or enlisting in the army or navy !  Is it to be wondered at, that when the three years for which the regiment enlisted had expired, the original members refused to reenlist, as a body, in the old regiment ?

Letter of Sergeant Warren Freeman; Jan 12, 1864.

In this letter home Warren Freeman elaborates upon the subject of the conscripts, and how many of them have deserted to date.

January 12, 1864. ––I am in receipt of letters from home and from Uncle Washington, and I cannot but feel grateful to you all for writing so often, for, amidst all our sufferings here, there is nothing that cheers the heart so much as these assurances that we are held in constant remembrance by those we hold most dear at home; you will also please thank Miss J. for her handsome present.

Composite image of soldier's hut

We have been in our hut three or four days, and it is quite comfortable; it is ten feet long, about six feet wide, and the walls are five feet high, our shelter tents forming the roof;  it is built of logs, with the corners notched together  ––the cracks are plastered over with mud.  The fire-place is opposite the door, against the wall, and is a frame-work of logs with stones laid up on the inside, well plastered over with mud, which when dry keeps them in their places;  this fire-place is about five feet high –– the chimney is carried out through the roof, and is made of sticks of wood plastered on the inside with mud.  Four of us occupy this hut.

To your inquiry about the conscripts and substitutes, I would say, that last August our regiment received 190 odd.  We have now about sixty of them left.  Some of these men are sick, but nearly all the absent ones have deserted.  Our company had twenty of the number;  six have deserted.  Company B had twenty men; all have deserted but two –– profitable business this for Uncle Sam.

Mitchell’s Station, where we are now encamped, is within about two miles of the Rapidan River, and about seven miles south of Culpepper on the railroad.  It is a very cold place; there are mountains on the right, and very high hills opposite on the other side of the river.  We had a snow-storm a few days since, and the weather has been quite cold till to-day, which is very comfortable and pleasant.

I do not think of anything more that would interest those at home, so I bid you farewell.


Mitchells Presbyterian Church

Picture of Mitchell's Presbyterian Church, view west.   That would be interpreted as to the 'right' in Warren's letter above.   I believe the brigade was camped on the rise of ground, on the  right edge of the photo.  Blue Ridge Mountains in the background..

Cavalry Picketing the River

Signal Officer John C. WIggins

The New Signal Station was established on the southern most peak of Cedar Mountain. It was sometimes called Garnett's peak, named for the prominent family that lived on adjacent land surrounding the knoll, or Bald Pate, for the barren rock outcropping where the Signal Station was located.  Lt. J.C. Wiggins (pictured) was the Signal Officer placed in command. His crew  kept an eye on Confederate activity along the Rapidan River a few miles off.   The village of Rapidan Station on the Orange & Alexandria Railroad is located just on the north side of the river.

Here are some of the early reports from the signal station, and the response of the cavalry troopers patroling the region.  The map depicting the route of the cavalry patrols and picket camps is posted below.

January 9th

 Garnett’s Signal Station,      
January 9, 1864––10 a.m.

General Robinson: 

I can see no change nor any life about the enemy’s position this morning.  Small camps along the railroad toward Orange Court-House.  No officers on Clark’s Mountain.  No station in sight.

Lieutenant and Signal Officer.

January 10th

The railroad bridge referred to is at Rapidan Station.

Bald Knob Signal Station,      
January 10, 1864––1.30 p.m.

                Chief Signal Officer:

Camp of one regiment of enemy’s cavalry at railroad bridge seems deserted this a.m.  One regiment of enemy’s infantry came down to railroad bridge to relieve pickets.  All quiet.  No other change in enemy’s camps.

CAMP and WIGGINS,         
Signal Officers.

General Merritt's Response

 Culpeper, Va.,  January 10, 1864.

Lieut. Col. C Ross. Smith,
                                        Chief of Staff:

Colonel:    Everything is reported quiet along the line of pickets  The Reserve Brigade report signal lights seen last night.  A sharp watch has been kept and the patrols sent out on the right.  The signal party report nothing except that the enemy near Rapidan Station and other side of the river seem busy building huts yesterday.

W. MERRITT,           

Illustration of Night Signaling by Alfred R. Waud

“Night Signaling” by artitst correspondent Alfred R. Waud.

Message to First Corps Commander, January 12th

Frequent reports like the one here caused Colonel Alfred Gibbs, who was in command of the cavalry patrols in this sector to complain that the Signal Officers were blind.  See the last section on this webpage for more of Col. Gibbs rant.

 Bald Knob Signal Station,      
January 12, 1864––12 m.

Commanding Officer First Army Corps:

    Too misty this a.m. for reliable observations.  Some rebel drums just heard.

Signal Officers.

January 14th

 Hdqrs. Army of the Potomac––Signal Department,      
January 14, 1864––1.10 p.m.

Major-General HumphreysChief of Staff:
             General:   The following report has just been received, and is respectfully forwarded:

Signal Station, Garnett’s Mountain,   
January 14, 1864.

Captain Norton, Chief Signal Officer:
        The enemy’s line as seen from this station is as follows:   About a division of infantry extends along the hills from Clark’s Mountain to Rapidan railroad bridge.  At that place is a small artillery camp and two guns in position.  Farther down the road, leading along the river, two more are in position.  Heavy smoke in direction of Orange Court-House, indicating that the bulk of the enemy’s force is there.  Also a considerable activity in their railroad trains in that direction.  So misty that no perfect observation can be made.

Lieutenant and Signal Officer.

Very respectfully, &c.,

CHAS. L. DAVIS,            
Captain and Acting Chief Signal Officer.

Close Up Map of the Picket Line Near Mitchell's Station

Below is a section of the map depicting the route of cavalry patrols and picket camps from Raccoon Ford in the east, to Wayland's Mill, west of Cedar Mountain.  The infantry camps are not indicated, but the Infantry Picket Line south of Mitchell's Station, is shown.  A few more reports from the signal station are posted after the letter of Charles Barber below.

Map of Cavalry & Infantry Pickets near Mitchell's Station

Pictured is a close up map of the cavalry pickets between Wayland's Mill, (a couple miles west of Cedar Mountain) and Raccoon Ford on the right side of the map just below the Church with 20 men indicated.  The note on the left of the map states 600 men of the 1st Cavalry Division picketed the broad area shown, and beyond.  General John C. Robinson's 1st Brigade of infantry picketed the 1 mile  stretch of the line indicated  just above the Scale at the bottom of the map.  The camp of the First Brigade was just west of Mitchell's Station indicated on the map.

Letter of Charles Barber; Condition of the 104th N.Y. Volunteers

Colonel Gilbert Prey, 104th NYMajor Henry V. ColtLieutenant-Colonel John R. Strang

Colonel Gilbert Prey & Major Henry V. Colt, and Lieutenant-Colonel John R. Strang, of the 104th New York Volunteer Infantry

The 104th New York Infantry fought along side the 13th Mass. Vols. at Gettysburg on the afternoon of July 1, when Gen. John C. Robinson ordered these two regiments forward to repulse the attack of Eugene O'Neal's brigade of Alabamans.  Their winter camp was "next door" to the 13th MA, on the same ridge above Mitchell's Station, and they shared in the same amount of picket and guard duty as did the other regiments in the First Brigade.

Charles Barber

In a letter to his wife on December 27th, when the brigade was camped a mile or two away on flat wet land Charles Barber [pictured, left] wrote, “We have moved again on south near the Rapidan;  the river is now our picket line.  ...I feel rather dull to day as I am broke of my rest as often as every third night on guard or picket.  I am troubled with rheumatism probably caused by exposure and sleeping on wet ground.  It is raining now and looks gloomy. Christmas days rations was only three crackers two ounces of meat and coffee with salt in it instead of sugar”

On January 7th, he sends his wife a copy of a letter he wrote to the Nunda, N.Y. newspaper stating,  “It is printed just as I wrote it not a word is changed except in the verse the word freemen should have been foeman   probably a mistake in the printer.”  The letter to the newspaper is dated January 16, 1864.  One of these two dates is way off.  I think the letter was likely printed January 6, 1863.  Regardless of the dates, here is the letter, which describes the fortunes of the regiment and its original recruits since it left home for the seat of war on March 22, 1862.

From “The Civil War Letters of Charles Barber, Private, 104th New York Volunteer Infantry” edited by Raymond G. Barber & Gary E. Swinson, Gary Swinson, Torrance, CA, 1991.

Letter of Private Charles Barber, January 16, 1864

Camp of the 104th Reg’t.
Mitchel Station, Va Jan. 16, ’64

Friend Sanders: ––As many of your readers have friends in the 104th Reg’t. and in Co. A, in particular, I thought perhaps they would like to hear from us though your paper, and as I have been with the Reg’t. all the time I can perhaps give some facts that may interest your readers.  Our Reg’t. has been in ten battles, and have been twenty days under the fire of the enemy.  Co. A, first had over one hundred men, and fifty seven of them have been in battle, and forty three out of the fifty seven have been killed or wounded, leaving only fourteen unhurt that has been in battle, seven have died from the effects of wounds, two legs and one arm has been amputated and one man lost an eye.  There is only four men now in Co.. A, that has been with the company all the time since its organization, and those four are Serg’t John Satterlee, Charles Barber, (the writer) George Thomas and Hiram Passage.  ––All the rest have been absent on account of sickness, wounds, death and desertions and other causes incident to the ravages of war.   Fifteen of the old troops are now here with the company, and nine of them have re-enlisted in the “veteran army” for three years longer.   They expect furloughs soon for thirty days.   I have given a few facts concerning our Reg’t. and your readers can make their own comments.   At the present time we are quietly resting in comfortable winter quarters about two miles from Cedar Mountain, where we were in battle the first time.  Colonel Prey, is still in command of the Reg’t and he in spite of his jelous enemies gets along first rate, and reminds us of a good tree bearing good fruit, and as a matter of course gets many clubs thrown at it.  Lieut. Colonel Strong* is here, and goes in for good discipline having every thing done just right and at the proper time;  Major Colt is here and with his deep thinking head he has an easy way of doing a great deal of good for our Reg’t. and without making any noise about it, he never sounds a trumpet before doing his good deeds.

Ten or our line officers are here and they are like the rest of mankind having both good and bad traits of character.  Sergeant John Satterlee, has re-enlisted and is again appointed orderly Sergeant of Co. A. and he deserves a Lieutenant’s commission more that many others that now hold that position.  Our boys have all done their duty in all places.   I have been in every fight but one which our Reg’t. has engaged and I never saw one of our boys act the cowards part, and now they have most all re-enlisted, may God bless them.  Justice with eagle eyes is closely watching the conduct of our noble soldiers and in due time they will be fully rewarded for all they have done and suffered.  ––While speaking of the living we must not forget the noble dead of our Reg’t. alas their manly forms lie buried on the bloody battle fields of Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania, and we feel to say with the poet,

“We sigh for our country, we mourn for our dead.”

Who fell in eager strife upon a well fought field.

From their red wounds poured their life where haughty freemen [foemen] yield:

The Archangels shade was slowly cast upon each pallid brow

But calm and fearless to the last they sleep securely now.

*NOTE:  Colonel "Strong" as printed in the paper is listed in the rosters as Colonel John R. Strang.  I have also seen a sketch by artist A. R. Waud, labeled Col. Strang.

Diary of Samuel Webster, 13th MA

The following is from the Diary of Samuel Derrick Webster, Company D.
    Excerpts of this diary (HM 48531) are used with permission from The Huntington Library, San Marino, CA.

        Thursday, January 14th.
                Have built a house with fireplace and chimney for Lieut Stewart in the last three days. We are doing a great deal of duty, being “out-post” piquet in connection with Merritt’s Cavalry Brigade from away off towards Raccoon Ford around Cedar Mountain to Robinson's River.  David H. Bradlee, 13th Mass AdjutantWe are entirely separated from the rest of the Corps which lies back near Pony Mountain and Culpeper.  Deserters come over to us from the rebels, on the opposite side of the Rapidan, in great numbers, –– some-times a dozen in a night. [Sam's next journal entry is January 21.––B.F.]

From Alfred S. Roe,  39th MA:
        Everyday life in these winter-quarter days of the Army of the Potomac are a practical illustration of the old maxim, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty”;  for, despite the efforts given to hut building, all the men are really under arms or the next thing to it.  “Men are obliged to wear their equipments for twenty-four hours” and an immediate response is expected to every order.

After a deal of policing and general slicking up, the 16th brings the monthly inspection, conducted by Lieutenant Bradley of the brigade staff.  The habits of the far off homes are fixed and in the evening of Sunday, the 17th, might be heard the sound of many voices as they joined in singing the songs and hymns of childhood; “a splendid and moonight evening.”

Pictured is David H. Bradlee, 13th Mass. Vols., Acting Brigade Inspector General while Captain O. C. Livermore was on furlough.

More Reports from the Signal Station

 Garnett’s Mountain Signal Station,            
January 16, 1864––5 p. m.

Captain Norton:
        Enemy’s force on range of hills extending from Clark’s Mountain to right of Rapidan railroad bridge seems to have increased.  Can see camps capable of containing from 12,000 to 15,0000 troops, while heavy smoke rises from behind some of the ridges.  Smoke still very heavy in in the direction of Orange Court-House.  A few cavalry patrols on Robertson River.  Too misty to see Lieutenant Thickstun’s station.

WIGGINS and CAMP,      
Signal Officers.

Frederic Ray Illustration of Confederate Videttes

The Videttes, by artist Frederic Ray.

January 17th

Culpeper, Va.,      
January 17, 1864––11.30 p.m.

Major-General Pleasonton,
                    Commanding Cavalry Corps:

General:    The following has just been received and is respectfully forwarded:

Garnett’s Mountain Signal Station,
January 17, 1864.

Captain Norton:
        Contraband just came in says that the troops around Orange Court-House have been and are moving toward the river, which may probably account for the increase of camps in our front.  Cavalry pickets discovered this p.m. this side of Rapidan.

J. C. WIGGINS,      
Lieutenant and Signal Officer.

A. A. HUMPHREYS,      
Chief of Staff.

Sketch by Artist Correspondent Edwin Forbes, titled, “Contraband Escaping” dated May 29, 1864.

Edwin Forbes sketch of Contraband on the move

Contraband and Confederate Deserters crossing the river and coming into Union lines seemed to be a pretty regular occurrence throughout January.  Its mentioned several times in letters home, and in the regimental histories.  Col. Wainwright comments on it too in his journal. See the essay that follows the letter of George Henry Hill below.   James Ross of the 83rd NY wrote home in late January, that the last time he was on picket, recently, when the weather was warm and pleasant, 14 Contraband came over the river into their camp.  See his letter dated January 25th, later on this page.

 CulpeperJanuary 17, 1864.  

Lieut. Col. C. Ross Smith,
                Chief of Staff, Cavalry Corps:

My pickets at Somerville Ford report increased firing of the enemy’s pickets and more camp-fires of the enemy near Rapidan Station.  I have ordered increased vigilance on that front and for the patrols and scouts on the right to move out.  Will forward any information of any event that this demonstration may be intended to mask.


January 18th

 Headquarters Cavalry Corps,          
January 18, 1864.    

Brigadier-General Merritt:

It is reported that the troops around Orange Court-House are moving toward the river and that the enemy’s cavalry pickets are this side of the river.  The major-general commanding directs that you will gain all the information you can of the enemy’s movements and have your command in hand for any emergency, and foward all the information you can gain.

C. ROSS SMITH,      
Lieutenant-Colonel, Chief of Staff.

Somerville Ford

Somerville Ford

Pictured is a contemporary view of Somerville Ford along the Rapidan River.  The high ground is on the South side, or Confederate side of the river.  The river runs through the tree line in the middle-ground. During the Civil War the road here ran close to the north bank of the river.

 Mitchell’s  January 18, 1864.  

Captain Bacon,
                    Assistant Adjutant-General:

All quiet on the picket-line.  The firing of the enemy at Somerville Ford has ceased.  Signal lights seen about 10 p.m. across the river.  Enemy’s camp-fires not wholly visible, as they extend over the hills out of sight.  Nothing unusual observed except the signal lights.  A sharp watch is kept by my pickets.

ALFRED GIBBS,               
Colonel, Commanding.

Alfred Waud sketch of Somerville Ford, September 1863

Artist Correspondent Alfred R. Waud did this sketch of Union Pickets at Somerville Ford in September, 1863. The contours of the landscape match those in the contemporary photograph above. This shows the old Somerville mill dam on the Rapidan River.  Old Somervalia is on the far right in the grove of trees.  The manor house accidentally burned during the war. A new one eventually replaced it. Notes from Patricia J. Hurst, Soldiers Stories, Sites and Fights Orange County, Virginia, 1861-1865 and the Aftermath. Self published, 1998. The late Miss Hurst lived directly on the south side of the Rapidan River and made a study of the Clark's Mountain area for many years.

We Were Asked to Re-enlist

From “Three Years in the Army, The Story of the Thirteenth Massachusetts Volunteers” by Charles E. Davis, Jr.; continued:

During this time we were asked to reenlist.  The commanding officer of each regiment was instructed to make an effort to this end.  We were drawn up in line, and had explained to us that the country needed men; that it was a critical period; that old soldiers were worth so much more than new ones, etc; to all of which we listened with respectful attention.  It was very sweet to hear all this, but the Thirteenth was not easily moved by this kind of talk.  The boys knew too well what sacrifices they had made, and longed to get home again, and, if possible, resume the places they had left.  Four times we were addressed as to our duty about reenlisting.  On two or three of these occasions there was an unusual amount of grog floating about.  Who the mysterious benefactor was, we are unable to recall, but it was evident to us that some one was interested in putting a halo of attractiveness on the service that didn’t seem to fit.  On one of these occasions, eleven men yielded to the influence of oratory or rum, though some of them afterwards said it was the rum and were given thirty days’ furlough.  Seven of this number succeeded in obtaining commissions in other regiments so that only four returned.

About this time one of the boys in another regiment, whose wife had died, requested leave of absence to attend her funeral, and the application was returned from headquarters with the indorsement,

“This man can have thirty-five days’ furlough by reenlisting.
        “(Signed)                           Gen. S. Williams, A.A.G.”           

When this came to our ears a good deal of feeling was expressed in terms not very complimentary to the government.

Letter of Sergeant George Henry Hill, 13th MA, Company B

Sergeant George Henry Hill

When we last heard from Sergeant George Henry Hill he had recently been released from captivity where he was held prisoner at Belle Isle Prison in Richmond.  He described in a long letter home his arduous journey to Richmond after his capture at the Battle of Gettysburg on July 1, 1863, and his miraculous early release on August 2nd.*   Many of his comrades including Lt. Sam Cary were never released due to the break down of prisoner exchange negotiations between the opposing Governments in 1864.  Taking some time to recover at Annapolis,  he was able to return to the regiment in the field on October 6, 1863.**

The regiment was fairly in-active up until the time he re-joined.  They were then picketing the Rapidan river over near Raccoon Ford.  The 13th were camped in a low marshy area of Culpeper County called the flats. Then, on October 9-10 the Bristoe Campaign began with the regiment enduring two consecutive night marches. George would participate in the continued long marches north to Centreville.  Then, they marched over to Thoroughfare Gap, then back south to Kelly's Ford in November.  After a time camped at Licking Run, spent repairing the O & A railroad near Warrenton Junction, the regiment moved to Rapp Station.  The cold wintry Mine Run campaign was next, interrupting celebratory preparations for the very first National Thanksgiving November 26.  At Mine Run, the regiment was ordered to make what would certainly be a deadly charge for many, but fortunately, after a long overnight wait for the word to go in, the advance was cancelled at the last possible moment.   So George saw some difficult service,  before and after his return to the ranks.  His letter below discusses his reaction to the Government's desire for the veterans to re-enlist for another 3 year term.  We also find out in this letter that George turned down offers for an officer's commission.

I am extremely grateful to have partial transcriptions of all of George’s Mitchell’s Station letters, from January though April.  They were provided to me by family descendants.  George was eloquent and, like most men in the regiment, strongly opinionated.  These letters from Mitchell’s in particular are a decidedly positive addition to this website.

*Letter to his Father, dated Aug. 4 from Annapolis
            **Original Regiment Descriptive Book (downloaded from Family Search).

The only snippet I have from his January 5th 1864 letter is this:

“We left our beautiful quarters near Kelly Ford on the 24 of last month and have been “looking up a camp” ever since.  Meantime it has stormed nearly all the time and as you can imagine it has not been very comfortable in shelter tents.”

By the time he sent the next letter home winter quarters were well established.

Letter of Sergeant George Henry Hill,  January 17, 1864

Camp of 13th Mass         
Near Mitchell's Station,
Sunday Jan 17 1864

Dear Father

I have just returned from the picket line where I have been on duty for the past two days; during which time there has been six Johnnies come in, deserters from Lee’s Army.  This is nothing unusual for we get more or less of them every day.  One day, which was quite warm, we got forty.  Cold days we get fewer on account of their being obliged to ford the river nearly neck deep.  All tell the same story of want and dissatisfaction and all say that if it were not for the extreme danger of failure very many more would come cross.  Those who came in yesterday were from the 9th & 11th Alabama Regts. 

You say “do not be overpersuaded to reinlist”.   Do not give yourself the lightest uneasiness on that score.  When I felt it to be my duty to offer my service to defend my country’s honor I did so;  neither asking nor wishing for “extra inducements” in the way of bounties or promises.  If I live until the 16th of next July I shall have served her faithfully and honorably for three years during which I have received many hard knocks and (not to speak in a spirit of whining) have endured much suffering.  Under the same circumstances viz a time of real necessity, I would undouptedly again enroll myself under the “old flag” but now there is not money enough coined to tempt me to endure another three years like the last,  No I shall not reinlist.  Had I have intended such a thing I should have taken advantage of one of the offers of Commissions which I have received.

I was surprised to see in camp a day or two since, three citizens from the “patriotic state of Mass” (?) who had been sent by said patriotic (God save the mark) state to induce us soldiers who had been working hard through the “heat of the day” to reinlist and thereby prevent the necessity of some of their “cream”, “fartter to act”, snobish, & –– yes cowardly “reserves” exposing their precious bodies to the dangers and experiences of a life in camp.  Fortunately they did not ask me to reinlist for I fear they would have received answer more expressive than polite.  Not that I consider it an insult to be asked to reinlist.  Not at all but to be asked by a citizen who has not spunk enough to try it once himself, “theres the rub”.  If I was to reinlist tomorrow I should try and not have my name credited on the quota of Mass.  No let them all try it on once and then if more are needed I’m their man.

...Who is to be the Republican nominee for President?  The Army says Lincoln and I must say I think he is the man for the place.  I hope he will be nominated and if so I think his election a matter of certainty.  Much depend upon who is to hold the reins of government for the next term and I think now we have a man who we know to be honest, just, not too easily convinced but when convinced decided.  A man who has proved himself not to radical but yet firm in his judgements and merciful in his acts, when we know him to be, if not perfect, yet far from imperfect, we would do our Country and our cause great injustice by removing him just as he is about to complete his work and substitute one of whom at best we could only hope would serve us well.  No now we have found an honest man let us keep him, so say I and I am confident a large majority of this army will second me.

With much love I am as ever
Your affect Son
Geo H.

Desertions From the Confederate Army

George Hill wrote that six Confederates from Lee’s army came into the Union lines while he was on picket duty between January 15th & 16th.  And, on one warm day forty surrendered.  Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army was plagued with desertions at this time.  His letters throughout January express constant frustration at the inefficiency of the Rebel Government to get badly needed necessities, like food and clothing, to his men.  On New Year’s Day he wrote Jeff Davis, his soldiers were receiving pound salt meat and have only 3 days supply of that.  General Jubal Early was scrounging for cattle in the Shenandoah Valley.  Many of the infantry were without shoes.  General Lee wrote on January 5th to Colonel Lucius B. Northrop, Commissary General in Richmond, “I have been mortified to find that when a scarcity existed this was the only army in which it is found necessary to reduce the rations. 

“I understand at this time the army of Gen. Johnston is receiving full rations of meat, bread, rice, molasses, and some whisky, while in this army only a quarter pound of salt and of a pound of fresh meat are being issued.  We have also had in addition half rations of sugar and coffee, one day’s issue of fruit, and some lard.”

To his wife he wrote on January 10th, “Our rations are very scant, & shoes, blankets & over-coats few.” #1

The problems of General Lee’s army were well known.  The daily occurrence of Rebel desertion is duly noted in letters and diaries.  Colonel Charles Wainwright  wrote, “The papers too state that there is a great deal of disaffection growing in the rebel armies;  the men are beginning to get tired of it.  There may be some foundation for these reports, as deserters are beginning to come into our lines. On Monday [Jan. 4] four men from an Alabama regiment came over, and on Tuesday [Jan. 5] seventeen more from the same regiment.  This is a large number, but they may be from the north of that state, where the people have never gone heartily with the disunionists.” #2

Alfred Roe of the 39th MA wrote, “the coming in of seven deserters on the 6th, barefooted and telling pitiful stories of the conditions across the Rapidan, made the Yankees more nearly comfortable just by way of contrast.” #3

A week later 13th MA diarist Sam Webster wrote, “Deserters come over to us from the rebels, on the opposite side of the Rapidan, in great numbers, –– some-times a dozen in a night.” #4

J. Queen illustration, "Old Southwork  Guard" "Picket Duty"

 General Lee’s pleadings to the hapless Confederate Government continued through the month.  Charles Davis, Jr., includes Lee’s General Order No. 7 in the 13th MA history.  Its posted below.  On the same date as the orders, January 22nd, Lee wrote to James Seddon, Confederate Secretary of War,  “A regular supply of provisions to the troops in this army is a matter of great importance.  Short rations are having a bad effect upon the men, both morally and physically.  Desertions to the enemy are becoming more frequent and the men cannot continue healthy and vigorous if confined to this spare diet for any length of time.  Unless there is a change, I fear the army cannot be kept together.  I am granting fuloughs at the rate of 16 for each company of one hundred men, and eight for every company of fifty men, and other companies in proportion.  This  alleviates the matter to some extent, but these furloughs cannot be continued with safety longer than the opening of spring, nor increased without embarrassing the railroads in the country.  It is absolutely necessary that the army should be properly fed.”

On January 30th he wrote to Alexander R. Lawton, Quarter Master General in Richmond, “The army is in great distress for shoes and clothes. Every inspection report painfully shows it, artillery, cavalry, & infantry. The requisitions sent in are unanswered.”

The desertions continued unabated. Alfred Roe of the 39th MA said it was reported in the Confederate camp there was a changing of the guard on the night of January 28;  “apparently fresh troops are replacing those long on guard, possibly through fear that all of the latter will desert.” 

Illustration from Harpers Weekley, Rebel Deserters

George Hussey, historian of the 9th NY closed out the month of January by writing:  “Deserters from Lee’s army were numerous, and it is recorded that during the week ending on the 29th, over two hundred entered the Union lines in front of the Army of the Potomac.  Cold weather, short rations, and possibly a conviction that the Southern cause would soon be on its last legs, no doubt induced many of the faint-hearted to abandon the sinking ship.”

The final word comes from a soldier in the 9th NY who toward the close of the month wrote, “Rebel deserters are brought in from the picket line every day.   …Last night (Jan. 28) there was a firing in the rebel camp.  A few deserters came in to-day and said there was a mutiny in some Tennessee regiment, but these deserters tell so many lies it is hard to believe any of them.   Last winter deserters said the rebs were starving.  In the Spring we found them just as fat and ready to fight as ever.” #5

He proved to be prophetic.

It is remarkable and a testament to the devotion and courage of those who did remain loyal to Lee’s army, that they fought so hard and so well in the imminent Spring campaign.

1.  All quotes here, from Gen. Lee's letters, are from "The Wartime Papers of Robert E. Lee, Edited by Clifford Dowdey and Louis H. Manarin, Da Capo Press, 1961, New York.
2.  A Diary of Battle, The Personal Journals of Colonel Charles S. Wainwright, 1861-1865; Edited by Allan Nevins, Journal Entry for January 7, 1864.
3. “The Thirty-ninth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers, 1862-1865”, by Alfred S. Roe, Worcester, Mass., Regimental Veterans Association, 1914.
4. Diary of Samuel Derrick Webster, Huntington Library Manuscript,(HM 48531) Huntington Library, San Marino, CA.
5  All quotes from the Ninth NY, 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).

Captain Charles C. Hovey, Returns & Assumes Command of the Regiment

The following hand-written order was found in the original Regiment Order Book, archived at the Military Museum in Massachusetts.  Digitized copies of the book can be downloaded from the Genealogy Website, Family-Search.

Head Quarters, 1st Brigade  January 19, 1864

Special Order
            No. 9

II Captain Charles H. Hovey 13th Mass. Vols, by virtue of seniority of rank will relieve Captain W. H. Cary 13th Mass. in the command of that Regiment.

By Order of                     
            Col. T. F. McCoy         
Comanding Brigade

Signed Byron Porter,
            Capt  & A.A.A.G.

Charles E. Davis, Jr., Continued:

Occasionally the monotony of camp-life was relieved by our brigade commander, who exercised a kind of parental care over us, as will be seen by the following order:

Colonel T. F. McCoy, Brigade Commander

General Orders,
        No. 5.

Headquarters First Brigade, Second Division,
First Army Corps,
 January 17, 1864.

Regimental commanders will cause by inspection to be made of the haversacks of picket details before they leave camp, and will be held responsible that their details are fully supplied with the necessary rations.

By command of COL. T. F. McCOY,
Commanding Brigade,
Captain and A. A. A. G.

Charles Reed sketch of haversack and dipper

If we had known of the existence of this order at the time, we should have taken mighty good care that our haversacks were empty when the inspection took place.

We find among the orders issued at that time the following:


Headquarters Army of the Potomac,
Office of the Provost Marshall-General,

January 20, 1864.

Assistant Adjutant-General of Corps, and other independent commands, are respectfully requested to notify officers and men connected with their commands that they can be supplied at Brandy Station, daily, with fresh oysters, at the following prices:

Per gallon in bbls, or tubs,         $1.55
       “     “   in cans,                     .90
       “  quart, in cans,                     .45
        Shell oysters in bbls., per bushel,           1.70

Mr. John Tyson, of Baltimore, Md (who has the contract), announces, that having supplied the hospitals, he will hereafter be able to meet all demands for oysters made upon him by officers and men.

        Provost Marshal-General.

It took the government two and a half years to learn that oysters, and not pork, went with crackers;  so we were well pleased to see this kinship re-established.

The following interesting order is from the pen of General Lee:

General Orders,                         Headquarters Army of Northern Virginia,
                No. 7                                                                                             January, 22, 1864.

General Robert E. Lee

The commanding general considers it due to the army to state that the temporary reduction of rations has been caused by circumstances beyond the control of those charged with its support.  Its welfare and comfort are the objects of his constant and earnest solicitude, and no effort has been spared to provide for its wants.  It is hoped that the exertions now being made will render the necessity of short duration;  but the history of the army has shown that the country can require no sacrifice too great for its patriotic devotion.

Soldiers !  You tread with no unequal step the road by which your fathers marched through suffering, privations, and blood to independence.  Continue to emulate in the future, as you have in the past, their valor in arms, their patient endurance of hardships, their high resolve to be free which no trial could shake, no bridge reduce, no danger appal, and be assured that the just God who crowned their efforts with success will, in His own good time, send down His blessing upon yours.

R. E. LEE,      

In a letter to General Lee from the Quartermaster-General of the Confederacy, under date of February 5, 1864, occurs the following paragraph, which shows the straits to which the Confederate States had been driven:

You desire to be informed in regard to the prospects for the future.  As to the article of blankets, we are entirely dependent upon the foreign markets for our supply. There is not a solitary establishment within the limits of the Confederacy where they are made, nor is there one, since the destruction of Crenshaw’s at this place (Richmond) by fire, that possesses the appliances for making them.  In view of this, would it not be well to require the men to turn them in for reissue just as soon as approaching summer will justify, as at that season these articles are wasted?  The Department is also, owing to the great scarcity of wool, somewhat dependent upon the receipts from abroad for the heavy woollen clothes essential for winter wear.  In the important item of shoes, I believe we are now laboring under our greatest difficulties, and that the coming spring will bring great relief.  I do not allude so much to the relief incident to the season itself as that which will result from our increased resources.  Besides the shoe establishment here, there are two other larger ones in Georgia, at Columbus and Atlanta, and minor affairs at other points.  Arrangements have been recently entered into for the introduction of machinery, which, with limited details, will enable two of these workshops to turn out one thousand pairs of shoes each daily.  Major Dillard has also in hand a very large number of hides that have been for some time in the vats, and which he reports will be available in the spring.  A small portion of that material would relieve, if available now, the wants of the army.

Journal of Colonel Charles S. Wainwright; January 21, 1864

Col. Wainwright mentions the oysters for sale, as well as many other interesting things.

From, “A Diary of Battle, The Personal Journals of Colonel Charles S. Wainwright, 1861-1865”;  Edited by Allan Nevins.

Thursday, January 21st. –– I am staying at home to day to get up my work here.  Monday & Tuesday night I spent at Army H’d Qts, for it rained all day Tuesday making it too unpleasant to come back. Gen’l Hunt* has not nearly as comfortable quarters as I have; simply two wall tents floored & opening into one another.  These are very cramped  accommodations, especially as Worth has his bed as well in the rear tent.  I tried sleeping under a Buffalo robe one night, but could not stand it; it kept out all the air.––  Our rain the newspapers say has been snow at the north; enough to cause great detention to the trains.  Here it did not take quite all the frost out of this ground; which has now been frozen for 4 weeks; a remarkably long time for this latitude.  At this time last year we were on Burnside’s Mud march, when there was not bottom to be found in all the country round.  I think that that march pretty well cured our masters at Washington of attempting winter campaigns.

Walrus & the Carpenter illustration

Everything continues quiet here.  On Monday reports were brought in that Lee meant to try another move of some kind to this side of Rapidan; but either the reports were without foundation or the rain induced him to keep quiet:  at any rate nothing came of it.––  Rumors from Washington say that all general Officers & those aspiring to such rank will hereafter be expected to use their influence politically for the benefit of the party in power; otherwise they need not look for any promotion.  Fortunately for me I do not look for any, or I fear I should stand but poor chance of getting on such terms ––

We are to have as many oysters down here as want, hereafter, by paying for them.  A man from Baltimore, who contracts to supply the H’d Qts where he offers them wholesale & retail. This will be quite a luxury, in addition to the mutton & poultry which our sutlers bring down us.

We have no more news as Corps consolidation; that is, nothing more decisive than the first report.

Burnside has permission to raise his corps to 40,000 men.  He is working for it in the different states himself very hard, and with good success, as I learn through the Talbots.  They are to rendezvous at Annapolis and are probably meant for some expedition south so soon as spring opens.  It is astonishing how a man who has shown himself so utterly unfit manages to continue getting independent commands.

Hancock, who is just recovering from the wound he received at Gettysburg, is also trying to raise his corps to a like number.  He has entire sway in Pennsylvania, that being his own state and he hand and glove with the Governor.

The journal entry continues with a vast amount of detail regarding the annual returns of his New York Battery for its 3 years of service.

          *Brigadier-General Henry J. Hunt, Chief of Artillery, Army of the Potomac.

Return to Table of Contents

Camp Surgeons & Army Hospitals

Coming up are several letters  from James Ross, a 22 year old drafted man serving in the Ninth NY Militia,  (83rd NY Vol. Infantry), part of Brigadier-General Henry Baxter's 2nd Brigade. Baxter's Brigade followed a somewhat differnt itinerary during January, than that of the First Brigade.  James's letters are always full of wondrous detail and commentary about a soldier's life in the army, so several are included in this section.  The introduction to the letter is from the regimental history of the Ninth.  It will get us up to speed on their movements since January first.

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).

When the New Year, 1864 opened, it found the Ninth  still “Stuck in the mud,” near Mitchell’s Station.  But a change was in store for the men.  During the day, the welcome orders came for the regiment to pack up and be ready to move.  They cared not where, even a New Years’ call upon the enemy would have been acceptable.  But this was not exacted of them.  A march of two miles towards Cedar Mountain brought the command upon high ground, on a hill, at the foot of which ran a stream of clear water.  Thinking that this was the Mecca of their pilgrimage, the boys set to work at once, and from the neighboring forest soon cut logs enough to build comfortable quarters.  But their happiness was short-lived, for at two o’clock the next day the familiar–-and now disagreeable––orders to prepare for the march were received.  At five o’clock the summit of Cedar Mountain was reached, a distance of three miles from the starting point.  The enemy were reported close by; in fact, their bivouac fires on the opposite side of the Rapidan were distinctly seen at night, and ordinary precautions required a strict watch and ward to be kept along the whole line.

The men realized that they could not get much nearer the enemy without a fight, and inasmuch as the nature of the ground at this season of the year precluded an active campaign, they reasoned that they would remain for a while at least.  But they thought best to bivouac for a day or two before engaging for the third time in house-building.

On the 4th Chaplain Alford C. Roe reported for duty.  He had been commissioned to succeed Chaplain Phillips, who resigned a year before.  Snow fell all day.  Many of the men visited the battle-field, where, on the 9th of August, 1862, they had first witnessed a general engagement.

On the 5th the camp was regularly laid out, and the men busied themselves in cutting and hauling the logs from the woods near by to build their huts.  The Twelfth Massachusetts and Eighty-eighth and Ninetieth Pennsylvania were sent into Culpeper.

Cedar Mountain Battlefield covered in snow

Pictured is Cedar Mountain Battlefield after a typical Virginia Winter Snow, taken February 21, 2021.

The Crittenden Gate Cedar Mountain Battlefield

Another picture of the battle-field in winter.  This is the area of the location of the Crittenden Farm Gate, where Confederate General Charles S. Winder was mortally wounded during the artillery duel.

Letter of James Ross, January 20, 1864

The following letter finds Private Ross comfortably settled into a winter hut at camp.  The topic of conversation is medical care in the army.  Following James's informative letter regarding soldiers' maladies, Major Abner Small, of the 16th Maine, (First Brigade) embellishes the subject further.

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.”  Transcribed and compiled by Nancy Saunders Brantley, Lucille Barrett Campbell; 2012.

 Cedar Mountain,
                            Jan. 20th 1864

Dear Father:

Yours of the 10th rec'd a week since and still remaining unanswered.  I would not have delayed replying to it till this time if I had not written to Willie a few days since and I know that you are aware that I have rec'd. yours. I have had rather a tough spell of the dysentery lately and have felt unable either to write or do much of anything.  And luckily I have been off picket since it has been on me and camp duty does not amount to any thing these times.  I feel somewhat better today and hope that my sickness is over but cannot be sure for dysentery is a terrible clinging disease. in the army a person here even when healthy is so loose that he would consider he had a fair diarhoea if at home and when once he is really taken with it it is no joke to get rid of it.

Fever, Rheumatism and dysentery are the three diseases to which soldiers are subject  the two first have not troubled me much thus far but I dread the other terribly   it never attacks a man on the march but always in camp   a soldier will start on a tramp who has been sick with it for several weeks and in a couple of days will be a well man.  I especially abominate going near the doctor when I am sick here for he never really knows what ails you and don’t much care.  If you complain of the dysentery he gives you opium.  If of fever quinine and the more of his drugs you swallow the worse off you are. The ceremony of being doctored here while a man is able to walk is carried on as follows.  Shortly after reveille in the morning the doctors call is sounded.  The men translate all the calls into english:  The doctors call thus rendered is as follows  “Quinine, quinine, and blue pills too, and blue pills too, and blue pills too”

Edwin Forbes sketch, Sick Call

Edwin Forbes titled this sketch, “Sick Call, Come and get your Quinine.”

as soon as the calls is sounded a sergeant detailed for the purpose calls out the sick in each company and takes down their names and then files them up to the doctor’s tent he calls off the names on the papers one by one.  each man answers as his name is pronounced the doctor asks him a question or two shoves him a quinine pill or an opium and packs him off to his quarters.  When a man is so ill that he can no longer go to the doctor he comes to him. This is the way in which we are doctored generally. Some doctors care for the men others only care for whiskey.

Winslow Homer illustration of a surgeon

We have had a very nice young fellow with us for a week back.   he has taken an especial interest in Bill’s case, excused him from all duty and dosed him up to the handle and the consequence is that Bill has picked up in a wonderful manner though I guess that the fact that we have lived in a house and ourselves in  a manner like human beings has had more to do with his recovery than any thing else.

Camp life agrees with Carlisle but one or two marches or a couple of times on picket will fag him out.  Our shanty is not very spacious nor very grand but you can not imagine the degree of comfort which we take in lying at night and hearing the wind whistle round the corner of our house instead of blowing over our bodies as it used to do or in listening to the rain patter on the roof and then turning over and going to sleep again not fearing to wake up in the morning in three inches of water.  then in the evening we sit before our fire in our shirtsleeves read, write, chat or pop corn as comfortable as if at home very differently from sitting out under the sky in our overcoats till bedtime.  Some of the men still live in their shelter tents and they look comfortless enough but I fear after all that we all will have to come down to them again before many days for the report is that the first division is coming up from Culpepper to relieve us here and we are to go there to take their places   you can’t think how we dread the idea of the change but I suppose that it must come.

  Charles Reed picture, Inside a Log Hut

We have just commenced to live like men and soon we will have to [illeg] along out of doors again and exist as we best can.  We get full camp rations here and can not eat all our supplies.  We have at present on hand in our mess of four, nearly twenty loaves of bread, plenty of meat salt and fresh, beans, dried apples &c &c    We have got from home frying pans, and stew pans, and knives and forks, and plate and boiling pots   also pepper and mustard, and butter and tea, so we spread a table like this.  For breakfast, tea and toast, and meat, for dinner; a snack these short days for supper:  potatoes boiled and flour gravy, tea or coffee, meat boiled or fryed, apple sauce &c. &c.   the bill of fare is varied by the introduction of very good pork and beans, bean & beef soup  &c. &c.   We have just got some flour from the commissary and Bill is now getting up some flour pancakes for tea  and we have all the materials for making them very respectable cakes, indeed,  but once we move all this is changed almost all our cooking utensils must be left behind and we will look forward again to living on scant rations of pork and hard tack but such are the fortunes of war.

The rebels seem to approach their camps near to us every day. Some state positively that they are in considerable force on this side of the river others deny it.  Their camps are in full view from our position that is some of them are.  The Rapidan runs through the woods and we can not see it but we trace its position course by the hills on the other side and it is on these hills that the camps which we see are situated.  from some points of the picket line the long lines of camp fires at night look very handsome indeed, views of this kind form some of the very splendid illuminations to which we soldiers are often treated free of cost.

I remember one night on our retreat from the Rapidan that our corps encamped on a side hill;  our brigade marched in as is always our luck after all the rest had built their fires and the effect of the hundreds of fires gleaming over the side of the mountain and covering it from base to summit was most splendid.  That night all the men slept on empty stomachs but we expected rations in the morning when morning came we got a small portion of pork meat a mere taste and ate it up in five minutes after getting it.  Then came the call to pack up and march and when it sounded the men yelled like hungry beasts.  We marched all the morning stopping once in a while to rest.  When the cry “Attention” came after resting the men instead of leaping to their feet and grasping their knapsacks as they normally do would turn over on the ground and then slowly and reluctantly as if each man was a hundred years old proceed to buckle themselves up and the officers never said a word to bring[?] them.  Then the first division went into camp, but we traveled on our weary way and wound up by crossing the river.

The men blame Robinson our division general for that march and will always remember it to him.  He is very unpopular with the division and for all the evils which befall us in the shape of hard duty and scant rations   he is invariably blamed whether justly or not I cant say.  He is a long-bearded good looking chap and he sets on his horse as straight as a ramrod.

Gen. Baxter commanding our brigade is a white bearded old man looking somewhat like Robinson but older.  but Baxter Newton commanding the corps is a common looking man with a close cropped brown beard not half as distinguished looking as plenty of second lieutenants.  I guess it is time that time that I wound this letter up.  I did not intend to make it such a length when I commenced.   But I have had a good fire and no interruptions and so I have run on.  I only hope that you will have patience to read it all.

 I wish that you would send me a box of Brandreths Pills.*  I think that I would often use them beneficially[?] when I would not dare to trust the doctors trash   it will not cost much to send them by mail and they will last me some time and wont weigh to much in my knapsack

Your affectionate son James Ross.

*Brandreth's Pills were advertised in the May 17, 1862 issue of Harper's Weekly, p 320.  Brandeth's Pills contain resin of podophyllum, inspissated juice of poke berries, saffron, cloves, oil of pepperming."  "Amercian Journal of Pharmacy, Vol. XLIII, 1871."  Henriette's Herbal Homepage. Web. 28 Feb. 2012. <>.


The following is from, “The Sixteenth Maine Regiment in the War of the Rebellion 1861-1865.” (p. 171 - 173)  By Major A. R. Small; B. Thurston & company Portland, Maine 1886.

The “army hospital” was an institution never to be forgotten by a patient.  The “surgeon’s call” at first suggested care for the sick, and certain remedies for nostalgia.  Men were disinclined to heed the call, and shrank from the mysteries of that long, white tent, –– its row of cots so close together that one patient could reach over and clasp the feverish hand of his neighbor.  The whole interior arrangements were horrible in suggesting sickness, suffering, and death away from home, and only a thin canvas between one and eternity, which flapped restlessly in the wind as if impatient to open its loose seems and let some tired spirit through.Hospital Ward

If one took pains to visit the sick, his impressions would be lasting.  The row of fair, boyish faces drawn with suffering, –– how eagerly they scanned each new face as it entered under the raised flap, as if, by some possibility, friends from distant home had come to them !  Here and there would be seen the wrinkled face of an old man (more patriotic than wise) whose seams and lines of age were made more conspicuous by the fading of hair and whisker dye.

If they lived through their first hospital experience, a few months saw them at home with a satisfied consciousness of having done what they could –– and later in life enjoying a comfortable pension from a grateful government.  It did seem strange that some men grew old so rapidly.  A few months since they swore they were only forty-five, and now they are just as ready to swear that they are seventy-five.  Early in the war, “bummers” were unknown.  Only after one or two skirmishes did they develop a wonderful capacity for belly-aches.  The favorite disease was “Diarrhoea“ which became chronic  in a week.  Dr. Pill by Winsor McCayThe general order for “three days’ rations, and forty rounds of ammunition,” was equal to croton oil in its effects;  “winter quarters” was the only antidote, although “numbers six, nine, and eleven” were prescribed as a remedy.

Mingled with pity was a feeling of indignation to see so many able-bodied men fall into line at the head of each company street every morning, at the surgeon’s call, and march to the hospital tent, and swallow, with evident relish, a blue pill, bitter morphine, or quinine, and whisky.  Boys of seventeen would watch this funeral procession, so filled with disgust and anger, that no discipline could prevent the most scientific profanity. The regular prescriptions were numbered, six, nine, and eleven, which were blue pill, quinine, and vinum.  We soon learned that “Vinum” meant either wine or brandy.  I have seen men count from right to left, “six, nine, eleven,”  ––“six, nine, eleven,” –– “six, nine, eleven,” and step into the ranks just where eleven would strike.  It was a sure thing, as the surgeon gave in regular order, as the men filed past him, something as follows:  “Well, what is the matter with you?”  “I don’ know, doctor, I’ve got an awful pain in my bowels:  guess I’ve got the chronic diarrhoea.”  “Let’s see your tongue!  Give him number six!  Next, what is the matter with You?”  “I was took with an awful griping in my bowels –– guess I’ve got the chronic diarrhoea.”  “Give him number nine !  Next, what ails you?”  “I’ve g-g-got an almighty b-b-belly-ache, g-g-guess I’ve got the chronic d-d-diarrhoea.”  “Run out your tongue!  Give him number eleven!”

Cedar Mountain, North & South, January 23, 1864

In this section we have a letter from Sergeant Warren Freeman of the 13th MA and a letter from Private James Ross of the 83rd NY.  Sergeant Freeman quotes liberally  froma  Boston Journal reporter's column about a visit to the camp of the 13th MA.  The columnist took a tour of the Cedar Mountain Battlefield, situated above the northern most prominence of the mountain ridge.

Meanwhile, Private James Ross's letter  of the same date, is written from the southern most prominence of Cedar Mountain.  Ross is picketing the Signal Station at Bald Pate.

Sergeant Warren Freeman, who has been with the 13th MA since January of 1862,  gratefully acknowledges the arrival of a welcome box from home.  His comment in the letter, “They usually open them at division head-quarters to see if they contain liquor” has relevance to a 13th MA story that happened during the Winter Encampment, which will be posted on the future page for March, 1864 of this site.

Lettter of Sergeant Warren H. Freeman, January 23, 1864

Near Mitchell’s Station, Va.January 23, 1864.

Dear Father, ––I received my box night before last, in eleven days from West Cambridge.  Everything was perfectly nice, and apparently as fresh as when they left.  I do not think the box had been opened at all:  you know they usually open them at division head-quarters to see if they do not contain liquor.  Those sausages were excellent.kettle  Our sutler keeps them, but they are nothing extra, and he charges twenty-five cents a pound for them.  The coffee-pot with the nose near the top and handle riveted on, is just the thing.  I could not have been suited better had I selected it myself.  I thank you many times for these very acceptable presents.  It takes the soldier to appreciate them, I tell you.

I saw Charley Gould the other day, and he informed me of the death of his brother Asa.  It was very sad news indeed, for he was one of the best young men that I have ever known.  Charley does not look  hearty, for he has not been very well for some time.  He does not do duty in the ranks; he is attached to the band that belongs to his regiment, so he has quite an easy time.

We have had a visit from a reporter for the “Boston Journal;”  he was in our camp several days, and I  will quote a little of what he says about our war-worn boys: ––

“To the First Corps, and, in that corps, to the Thirteenth and Thirty-ninth Massachusetts, belongs the honor of occupying the advance of the army of the Potomac. The two regiments lie very near each other, with several others near the foot of Cedar Mountain, some seventy miles from Washington, and within four or five miles of the enemy, whose pickets are all on the other side of the Rapidan.  Our pickets are within two miles of the enemy’s, and within full sight of their camps, which occupy the height on the opposite side of the river.

“The Thirteenth Regiment has about 300 men in camp. They are indeed a tough and hardy body of men, with almost no sickness, although in rough quarters, and though they have had a most severe experience.  They have been in almost every battle from Cedar Mountain to Gettysburg, in all of which they have been second to no other regiment.  The Twelfth Regiment is in Culpepper court House, nicely stowed away in rather close but warm and comfortable quarters.  This regiment has gone through nearly or quite all the engagements with the Thirteenth. The record of bravery, endurance, and patriotism of the Twelfth and Thirteenth Massachusetts cannot be surpassed in the army.

“I was able to pass over the historic spot where General Banks made one of the most gallant fights of the war, the battle of Cedar Mountain.  The rebels have possessed the ground since the battle, and the rebel bones have been buried, and the graves inclosed with rails,––in some cases having inscriptions.  But the dogs, the vultures, and the elements have in many places exhumed the remains, and the bones lie scattered sadly around, mingled with remains of clothing and equipments.  J. G. Hovey, Col. Leonard, C. H. HoveySave the tents of our regiments making a city of this lonely valley, on which the Blue Ridge looks peacefully down, it is impossible to realize that here so furious a battle was waged.  It is indeed an event of one’s life-time to survey such historic ground, and have all its details pointed out by a gallant officer who took part in that battle.”

We do not have any drills now;  there is so much guard and picket duty to do that there are not men enough in camp to make it an object.

Captain Hovey has returned and takes command of the regiment till Colonel Batchelder returns.  Captain John Hovey, the commander of our company, is discharged.

I do not think of anything more to interest you, so I bid you farewell.


[Capt. J. G. Hovey, Colonel S. H. Leonard, & Capt. C. H. Hovey, pictured.   This great image unfortunately has a blur filter applied to it and can't be sharpened.  Courtesy, Steve Meadows.]

 View of Cedar Mountain Battlefield

View of Cedar Mountain Battlefield from the 1862 Orange–Culpeper Road.  The edge of the prominence of Cedar Mountain is on the right side of the picture.  The photo shows part of the fields the two opposing armies advanced over,  ––favoring the  Confederate position.   The fence line in the foreground and the dirt path this side of it, is the original road trace, along which the axis of the battle was fought.  The battle lines were perpendicular to the road.  Confederates occupied and advanced over the fields shown in a right to left direction.  The low dark tree line in the distant left edge of the photo marks the most advanced position of General John White Geary's Ohio Brigade during their attack.  Clark's Mountain is visible in the center of the picture.  It is on the south side of the Rapidan River.  The view is looking directly south.  The battle was fought in an east-west orientation.

Letter of James Ross, January 23, 1864

This website could easily become The Letters of James Ross website, or so it seems. He wrote frequently, about every 3 days or sooner, and his letters are eloquent, descriptive and informative.  He could have been a 13th MA soldier...  I have added this letter to the  list, because he accurately describes the contrast between Orange County, south of the Rapidan River, and Culpeper County north of it.  Being a resident here, familiar with both counties, it is with great interest to see him comment on that. Culpeper had been occupied and fought over by both armies for two years.  By the end of the winter encampment it was barren.  Things would change south of the Rapidan however once the Spring Campaign opened and the vast Army of the Potomac moved south for keeps.

On Picket Jan 23d. 1864

Dear Annie,

Private James Ross

I guess by the time this reaches home that you will be looking for a letter from me I am on picket today I have just came off post and will have my time to myself for six hours. It is a most splendid day as warm and pleasant as a day in the middle of May at home. Our picket post is at the house of a Virginia planter, that is, about the house   we sleep in the barn on the cornstalks and consider it rather a nice place and we also use his fences to cook our food by. The owner of the place is absent but there are plenty of niggers remaining who take care of the place for him.

The country about here is full of handsome farm houses each with buildings enough attached to make a small village and all painted white. The negroes shanties are nearly all empty in most houses but one or two servants remain who are either to old or too much attached to their masters to run away, and generally these are as strong rebels as the owners of the place

The men belonging to the place are never to be seen if you ask for them they tell you that they are gone across the river meaning the Rapidan   If you were down here and saw and heard as much of the Rapidan as we do you would come to consider it quite a remarkable stream    it is as wide as the Saranac but deeper and the banks along its course are high and steep    the union army has never crossed it but once and that was when we went down to Mine Run.

There is a great change in the looks of the country north and south of the Rapidan south of the river the people raise their crops or have thus far in no fear of Uncle Sams nephews. They are poor enough in all conscience but they still have houses and cattle and horses, and fences, and a good many negroes.   but north of the river where both armies have marched and fought the country is almost a desert it seems a pity to look at such a beautiful country in such a state when we go out on picket we travel across splendid fields and meadows all grown over with briers and bushes and whereever we settle a post, the fences go off just as fast as we can burn them.

I am on post this time near the top of a high hill from which we can see the country for miles on both sides of the river. Yesterday evening I could hear the cattle lowing, & hear the people chopping wood and see the smoke curling from the chimneys on the other side of the river just like home      all that spoiled the picture was the sight of the rebel camps scattered along the hills between the houses. Their picket line runs near the other side of the river and they have some cavalry on this side.

There is a signal station on top of the hill of which I spoke and sometimes we get a chance to look at the rebs through the operators glass. they are ragged and half frozen looking   the pickets stand on post covered up and blowing their fingers on cold days. They have no overcoats some of them appear to be in their shirtsleeves.   But they make very good fighters for all that I hope however that this is the last winter the poor fellows will have to pass in this way next winter I hope will find them all housed and clad again and under the protection of Uncle Sam once more.

Our own soldiers are well clothed and well fed we have everything that soldiers in the field ever can have and though we see a good deal of hardship we see no more than soldiers in the field always do       perhaps it would interest you to know what clothes I have now. I have an overcoat, dress coat, blouse, vest, two pairs of pants, four shirts, three pairs of socks, a pair of gloves two caps and one pair of boots all my clothing is warm and whole but one pair of the pants are not fit to wear on dress parade so I had to get another pair and I have an extra cap for dress parade also. two of my shirts I brought from home two I got here The old ones are nearly worn out I have also two pair of drawers and two wollen and one blankets and one rubber beside three pieces of tent so you see I am well provided for.

If we were to move I would have a dreadful load to carry but we can at farthest move only a few miles so I guess that I can stand it. When spring comes we must expect hard marching and I shall reduce the weight of my knapsack just as much as I can, but I need all that I have now to keep myself comfortable.

I cant describe to you the comfort which my boots are to me You must guess at that for yourself. I wish that we were paid that I could send home the money for them we should have got our pay ten days since but we look for it now every day. They feed us well now we get potatoes every day just as much as we care to eat at one meal and we have plenty of everything else that soldiers get in the house I have some of the remains of my first box still left.

I had a letter from Mother a week ago and look for another letter from home when we get into camp tomorrow.

Your affectionate brother
                            James Ross

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Uh Oh!  General French !!

General William French had a good day on November 7, 1863, when his troops crossed the Rappahannock River to attack and capture the enemy's position at Kelly's Ford.  But he hadn't been performing well of late, particularly in the recent Mine Run Campaign where a lot of blame for its faillure could be justifiably laid at his feet.   He will lose corps command when incoming General Grant re-organizes the army.  The amusing dispatches here may suggest another example, of his indifferent attitude toward command, ––or maybe he just didn't get the message?  I've posted it here as a lighthearted diversion; another attempt to demonstrate the little irritations evident between officers in their official communications.

Orders for General Newton to connect his pickets with General French

  Headquarters Army of the Potomac, January 24, 1864.

Major-General Newton:

The major-general commanding directs that the left of the picket-line of your corps be thrown forward, connecting with the right of the Third Corps near the Church cross-Roads, and that in this movement you act in concert with General French.  The order to advance his line has been telegraphed to General French.

    A. A. HUMPHREYS,      
Major-General, Chief of Staff.

Orders to General French to connect his pickets with General Newton

 Headquarters Army of the Potomac,   
  January 24, 1864.

General William H. French, October, 1863

Major-General French:
                Commanding Third Corps:

The major-general commanding directs that the picket-line of your corps be advanced south of Pony Mountain, the right of your line connecting with the left of the picket-line of the First Corps near the Church Cross-Roads and that in this movement you act in concert with General Newton.  General Newton has been telegraphed too.

    A.A. HUMPHREYS,        
Major-General, Chief of Staff to Comdg. General.


Headquarters Third Corps,     
January 24, 1864.

Respectfully referred to Colonel Leonard, corps officer of the day, who will comply with the within orders.

By command of Major-General French:
                                                            JNO. M NORVELL,
                                                                    Assistant Adjutant-General.

General French asks, “What Time To-morrow?”

Headquarters Third Army Corps,        
January 24, 1864.

Major-General Newton:

Have received dispatch from headquarters Army of the Potomac ordering me to advance my picket-line south of Pony Mountain, the movement to be made in conjunction with you.  I propose to move to-morrow morning;  will that suit you?   Please answer.


General Newton answers

 Hdqrs. First Army Corps,  Culpeper, January 24, 1864.

Major-General French,  Third Army Corps:

I have been directed to throw forward my pickets, in connection with your right, near the Church Cross-Roads.  If it is not important that it be done at once, I propose that it be delayed until to-morrow morning, when your general officer of the day and  mine meet on the right of your line, say at 12 m. and carry the order into effect.  Please answer.

JNO. NEWTON,             

Picture of the Church-Cross-Roads

Church Crossroads

This is the Church Crossroads referenced in the orders above.  Raccoon Ford Road on the Culpeper side of the Rapidan was directly in front of the church entrance.  It was frequently used by the armies during the war but it no longer exists. The road trace can be seen vanishing into woods to the right of the church, (not shown in photo.).   The 13th MA picketed along here in late September - early October, 1863.  The Rapidan river is about  3/4 mile to the left.

Uh Oh!  General French !!

 Headquarters First Army Corps,
January 25, 1864.

Major-General French,
                        Commanding Third Corps:

My general officer of the day has waited on the picket-line at the point designated until 4 p.m without your officer making his appearance.  I propose the line move at 12 o’clock to-morrow punctually.  Please inform me if your line will move at the same time.

JNO. NEWTON,         

View to Clark's Mountain across the road from the Church

View across the road from the church to Clark's Mountain

These fields are directly across the road from the church.  The view looks south. Once again Clark's Mountain (elevation:  1082 feet) dominates the landscape when looking south towards the Rapidan River.  The river follows the tree line in the distance.

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Splendid Weather & Contrabands

In addition to the numerous Rebel Deserters encountered by the Yankee Pickets, several "Contraband" crossed the Rapidan and came into the Union Lines and Freedom.  A soldier's letter found in the history of the 83rd N.Y. (Ninth NY Militia) talks about the splendid weather, the coming in of contraband, and deserters from Lee's Army. The excerpt is followed by two letters of Private James Ross.

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).

A letter written near the close of the month says:

“I am now sitting outside of my tent in my shirt sleeves, writing.  It is as warm as a summer’s day.  During the past two winters we often had two or three warm days at a time, but now it has been warm and pleasant for two weeks.   An old man over at Slaughter’s house says he has lived here over fifty years, and never before saw such a long spell of warm weather at this season of the year.

“…Every few days there are reports that the rebs, are moving and we get into line ready to meet them, but up to this time they have not visited us;  this is about all the excitement we have to relieve the monotony of camp life.  Some of the boys have managed to get a pair of boxing gloves, and from the noise they are making seem to be enjoying themselves.

“….Rebel deserters are brought in from the picket line every day.  There are also a great many contrabands brought in;  if you were to see them shouting and dancing for joy when they get inside our picket lines you would laugh until your sides ached, as I did.  They say the rebs, are sending all the blacks to Richmond.  The darkies seem to dread going south.  As one of our boys was on picket the other day he saw what he supposed was about a dozen men coming towards him, and two men a short distance behind them on horseback.  He sang out, “Who comes there?”  when an old white-headed darky shouted, “Lor bress you, is you a Union soldier?  I’se old Pete, and I’se got my boys and gals with me.  We is all goin’ to Massa Linkum;  let me in quick, there is two hoss soldiers arter us.”

“…Incidents of this kind occur every night.  Last night there was firing in the rebel camp.  A few deserters came in to-day and said there was a mutiny in some Tennessee regiment, but these deserters tell so many lies it is hard to believe any of them.  Last winter deserters said the rebs were starving.  In the Spring we found them just as fat and ready to fight as ever.”

The letters of James Ross tell of another instance of Contraband coming into the lines, and describes life in camp during the pleasant weather.

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.”  Transcribed and compiled by Nancy Saunders Brantley, Lucille Barrett Campbell; 2012.

Letter of James Ross, January 25, 1864

Cedar Mountain, Va
                    Jan 25th 1864

Dear Annie,

Yours of the 15th with one enclosed from Johnny came to hand last night at the same time I recd. one from father with a Harpers  father's letter was dated the 19th he and Willie were both well at the time of his writing of course you will have recd. from him a letter later than mine before you get this. I am sorry that you have had such a time with your teeth father wrote me that Willie had been troubled the same way. I have had a slight touch of the tooth ache twice since being in the army

I mailed a letter to you yesterday and one to Mother a few days before.  I always think when I send a letter that I put stamps enough upon it but I have to guess for there is only a post bag here and no one can tell whether he has enough stamps or not till the letter gets home.

Envelope from a James Ross Letter

Other men do not put as many stamps on their letters in[?] for postage as I do and they seem to go straight enough     it is not uncommon for men to get letters from home with containing three sheets of paper and envelope & bearing but one stamp.   Either Platt* is more particular than most postmasters or else he has a particular spite against my letters.  Stamps are a very precious commodity here as we have to get them all from home. You have been very liberal in supplying me but I do use a good many and I hate to be out. but we can arrange the matter in this way hereafter. I shall use paper of this size only whenever you have to pay extra postage on a letter write and tell me how many sheets of paper it contained how many stamps were on it and what you had to pay in addition and by this means I shall soon find out what rate postage Platt means to charge on my letters. It is a vexatious thing to have to pay double postage and it is a shame that soldiers letters should be charged with postage at all certainly the government could afford to give us that much.

I have no news to tell you. We continue to have most splendid weather. I  wish that you could see such weather in winter at home.  today it is warm and sunny and no signs of frost either in the ground or in the air. We walk about in our shirtsleeves and it is warm enough to sit and write in the sun. We will have bitter weather again and plenty that is wet and miserable but we see no weather here that you would find uncomfortable at home. You would be astonished at home this time of year to see people living with all their doors wide open and to see the children running and playing bareheaded out in the open air.  As far as climate goes I never desire to live in a milder one than in Virginia. They tell terrible stories about the heat in the summer time but that I know nothing about. Edwin Forbes sketch Cooking in CabinOne thing in which this climate differs from ours is in the coldness of the nights. no matter how warm the day as soon as the sun goes down it becomes chilly and a blanket at any season is comfortable to sleep under sometimes even in the warm weather in the summer two are required.

We are living quite comfortable in our shanties. We keep warm and dry and have plenty of good food. We have six or eight quarts of potatoes on hand now and beans and dried apples, sugar, &c in abundance as I write Kingsley is mixing us some flour pan cakes for dinner he does it with the big spoon that you sent and he has just remarked that “it is a bully thing for such business,”  Rogers is off washing and Bill is on picket.

I do not know that I have mentioned Kingsley’s name he makes the fourth man in our shanty he comes from St. Lawrence Co, is twenty six years old has a wife at home and seems to be a pretty good kind of a chap, but I am not as well acquainted with him as with Bill and Rogers.   We had a nice time on picket the last time that I was on the weather was so warm and pleasant, fourteen niggers came in in one string the last night. I laughed to see them.

The officer of the day passed my post at one oclock that night and an hour after just as I was relieved he came along on his horse again with the niggers following him they were of all ages and sizes the men headed the procession and an old woman to whom in point of fat Mrs Rickerson[?] is a shadow fetched up the rear   the old lady had a baby in her arms and all the rest big and little had immense bundles on their heads done up in bedclothes.   The old woman said they came from a mile beyond the river.  I asked her how they got across and she said that they waded but her old man “toted” her.  I thought at the time her old man must have had a good lug.  She said Mr Rob Loveland used to own them but whenever he got mad he would tell them to clar out and go to de yankees so day tot dat day would come.  She said that provisions were getting scarce on the other side and that the negroes were all running away.

Edwin Forbes Sketch of Contraband

Last week another night a nigger came in with a little boy on his back he said he waded the river and afterwards lost his wife in the woods he spoke feelingly about losing his old woman and said that he would have remained behind to look for her but he feared his old massa would nab him again.

I must close this in haste as I wish to help cook and eat the cakes. I send love to all and will write again soon. You are very prompt in answering my letters I fear that with as little time as you have that you must incommode yourself to do it.  Fathers letters reach me much sooner than yours do his come through often in two days. Please give my respects to all the neighbors & Mrs Ellenwood in particular remember me also to old Mr & Mrs Waterhouse.**

Your affectionate brother
                    James Ross

* William P. Platt, age 31, Postmaster. 1860 United States Federal Census.
**Hannah Ellenwood of Black Brook, NY, mother of James' friend Jud.  and   Probably Cyrus and Mary Waterhouse who lived near the Ross family in Plattsburgh in 1860.  1860 United States Federal Census.

The beautiful thing about the complete book of James Ross's letters is that it includes the return letters from his family as well as correspondence between family members in response to James's letters.  I have not included them for the most part.  But the letter below shows the concern James's father and sister had for him and their efforts to prioritize and fullfil his requests, to alleviate some of the hardships he encountered in the service.

After the receipt of James's January 20th letter, his father make the effort to go out to purchase the pills James requested be sent to him.  The letter shows he is constantly on the mind of loved ones at home.

Letter From William Ross, (James's Father) to Annie (James's sister).  January 25, 1864

Hartford Monday Ev'g Jany 25/64     

My Dear Annie

...I suppose you have rec' a letter from Jimmie by this time acknowledging the receipt of his Boots.  The reason I send the Harpers to him either Willie or I buy it every week it is the only paper we see and here it only costs seven cents, then we may as well send it to him as let it lay round   ...I have to buy a box of Brandreths Pills to night and send to Jimmie he sent after them.

I mentioned in yesterdays letter that he had Dysentry I hope he is better...

your affectionate Father
William Ross

Letter of James Ross January 26, 1864

Cedar Mountain Va
Jan 26th 1864

Dear Annie

Your letter of the 18th was recd. last night.  I have been writing to father and Willie today and mean to finish by writing to you. We are having a nice time today our regiment is under arms to support the picket if it should be attacked but the danger of an attack is very small indeed and as being under arms relieves us from all other duty we like it very much.  Our arms are stacked in the street and we are forbidden to leave camp but we can stay in our shanties and read (write) do whatever we please. Rogers has a tub made from a pork barrel at the corner of the house and is busily engaged in washing he has whittled a wash board from a pine plank.

Edwin Forbes sketch Soldiers Washing

Bill has just come off picket and is lying down on the bed so is Kingsley we have just had dinner we had pork and beans cooked in the pot you sent me. I cooked them and we all ate them together.

The weather continues pleasant the men walk about in their shirts one man has been taking off his clothes for Rogers to wash and has paid us a visit in his drawers. I guess that he would feel chilly in them today at home but they are warm enough to wear for a little while today here. I can not think of much that is new to write today.

I am troubled about our pay.  We have not got it yet and it is pretty certain that we will not be paid now till the middle of March.  I dont want it here but I wish that my boots were paid for as I promised that they would be and also that Deet. was repaid the money mother borrowed. Drown can wait I cant help it & it wont be a killing matter for him but if Mother could spare the money & repay Deet. I wish that she would do it   when we get our pay I will send home enough I hope to make it all right.

food composite, milk, pie, pepper, lemons, suger

In regard to another box of course I would like one by and by but the last one made me sick. As Rogers said it was “too rich” mince pies and puff paste dont agree with pork and hard tack  I had quite a hard time of it for more than a week but am quite well now I blamed my poor shoes for part of my sickness but the box was chiefly to blame though the things did not taste any the worse on that account.

If you send another box by & by dont put anything rich in it ginger bread or something of that kind would not hurt us and would taste very good   sugar is most acceptable to us and so are lemons also nutmeg and pepper and mustard is best of all.  We used your lemons and sugar to make apple sauce for they were too precious to use in lemonade   brown sugar is just as good for soldiers as white.  Saleratus and Cream of tarter come very handy to us for we get flour some times and cook a good many things.  Kingsley has been cook for a shanty he cooks real well. A little jar of syrup or molasses would be good and corn meal or buckwheat flour is better for us than food that is cooked.

I have changed my ideas a good deal since being in the army. I dont care much for butter now except to cook with and generally I like hard tack as well as soft bread if we are on the march I like it better.

It will seem strange to you but it is true that after living for a while on hard tack and pork and nothing else that home cooking will make some men out to be sick but it is true we would give anything for milk but that is not to be had. I have had four pints of milk since being a soldier and paid fifteen cents each time. I got a pint twice when I was sick. Dried fruit is good to send and in fact anything that we can cook here. Charles Reed sketch of a man with a stomach acheI write this because if you send any more pies or tarts I will surely eat them and they will surely give me the diarhoea and then it will be no easy job for me to get rid of it. I was not very badly off this time but so sick that I could not have worked if I had been at home I knew that mother would worry if I wrote that I was sick and I was not bad enough to make a fuss about it so I said nothing but it was a hard job to lug my load out on picket once or twice and one night I found it a hard business to stand on post.

I can not think of anything more to write now.  I had a letter from Willie last night it was dated the 18th he was well and getting better I hope that he will get stout and hearty if he remains where he is or even if he stays out of Plattsburgh I believe too that you would all be better if you were to move.  I hope that some thing may turn up by spring that will suit us all.

A man belonging to our company died in prison in Richmond on the 25th of Oct but we only learned of it the other day his name was Lunt1 & he came from Plattsburgh as a substitute but he was an Englishman who and belonged to Manchester   he was a very smart fine young chap he came into the army for the fun of the thing but the poor fellow came to a sad end.  He was sick with a fever when taken and never recovered. The worst of all is that none of his friends know that he was in the army and no one here knows who to write to so his people will never know what has become of him and they my may look for years for him to return. More of our company are in Richmond but he is the only one that has died.

I am afraid that Geo. Nichols must if alive be in a bad way. I shall not wonder though if he had been used up long ago. I hope that they never will get me if ever they do they will have to chase hard to catch me unless they get me sick.

There is another man who used to tent with Rogers called Tichenor2  he had a wife and child in St. Lawrence Co. he took sick and had to be carried about in the ambulance when the regiment moved. When we went down to Mine Run he disappeared and what became of him no one knows. Some men in the ambulance died and were buried he may have been one or he may have been strayed from the ambulance and been taken prisoner.  His friends feel dreadfully about him but most likely they will never know what became of him.

So you see that while I am well and able to write and contented there is no occasion for worrying about me and I guess that mother dont as much as she used to. I have no more to write now. I hope that Jessie is better I send love to all.

Your brother
                    James Ross

1. Thomas S. Lunt, Enlistment place: Plattsburgh, NY. Enlisted as a private, age 24, in Company G, 83rd Infantry Regiment New York on 07 August 1863. POW on 15 October 1863 at Culpeper, VA. Wounded on 15 October 1863 at Culpeper, VA. Died of wounds while POW on 25 October 1863 in Richmond, VA. American Civil War Soldiers. Web. <>
2. Joseph Ticknor/Tichenor, enlisted 14 July 1863 as a Private at the age of 23. Enlisted in Company G, 83rd Infantry Regiment New York. Died of disease on 02 December 1863 in Mine Run, Va. American Civil War Soldiers. Web. <> Joseph S. Tichenor. widow: Diana Tichenor, G, 83rd NY Inf. Civil War Pension Index: General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934 National Archives and Records Administration. Web. <>

The Regiment would move one more time at the end of the month.  George Hussey's History of the Ninth NY closes the month of January thus:

During the afternoon of the 29th the 83rd NY (Ninth Militia) regiment left its winter quarters and marched to Culpeper, where the men found shelter for the night in abandoned dwelling-houses.  The next morning the march was resumed by way of the Sperryville Pike, and about three miles from town the rest of the brigade was found and another winter camp established. For the fourth time that season, the men of the Ninth went to work to build huts. The weather was cold and stormy, but the men worked cheerfully, and in two or three days were again comfortably quartered.

Private James Ross did not depart from Cedar Mountain when the Regiment moved.  From his February 2nd letter, he writes:   “Four men were detailed from each company before moving for picket we were told. We were marched out to the picket line but found the infantry pickets taken off and cavalry on instead. We have lain here since doing nothing, but have found today that we are to build a log fort for the protection of the signal station* here and are to garrison it for how long a time we do not know –– we may be relieved at any time or we may remain here for weeks."

“Headquarters Army of the Potomac, January 29, 1864. General Gregg, Commanding Cavalry Corps: Directions were given upon the establishing of the signal station at Cedar Mountain 100 cavalry should be kept in the immediate vicinity, concealed if possible, as a permanent guard, in addition to the infantry guard of 100 men. The signal officer at Cedar Mountain reports this morning a station guard of only 100 men. A. A. Humphreys, Major-General and Chief of Staff.” The War of the Rebellion, a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1880.

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Domesticity In Camp

The Diary of Mary Ellen Baker Pierce

The Journal of Mary Ellen Baker Pierce [7 January - 4 April] is found in the On-Line Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society.  It is part of the Thayer Family Papers Collection.1

Mary Ellen (Baker) Pierce

During the Army of the Potomac's repose for the Winter of 1864, the wives of officers were allowed to visit.   Charles Wainwright ended his January 31st journal entry with the statement, “There are lots of women in the army now.”  Harper's Weekly of February 6, 1864 reported, “nearly a thousand ladies, wives of the officers and men, were in camp.”

Captain Elliot C. Pierce's wife, Mary Ellen, traveled by train from Boston, to be with her husband several weeks, in and around Culpeper Court-House, Virginia.  She kept a diary during the trip.

Sunday 17th
        Rode into Boston to-day in a buggy with Elliot.  Called at John Hibbs.  Aunt Anns, Fred Kendalls  Col. Leonards and Capt Clarks. [Col. Samuel H. Leonard, 13th MA.  William L. Clark is former original captain of Co. H, Elliot's good friend. He was working for Boston & Worcester railroad.]

January, Monday 18th
        Left Weymouth in half past 4 train for Boston.  took tea at Aunt Anns’ at 7––  left the Worcester depot at half past 8.  enroute for Washington. Col. Leonard was at the depot to see us off.  passed a very comfortable night.

Tuesday, 19th
        Reached N. Y. at 6 o’clock A.M left in the 8 o’clock train for Washington.  reached Washington at 8 P.M took a room at the Metropolitan.

Wednesday 20th
        Pleasant.  Elliot being busy took a walk.  over to the Capitol alone   visited the Senate and House of Representatives, which, were in session.

Mr. Wm. Hovey & Capt’s Merrit & John Hovey called on me at the Hotel.  went to the Play–– “Ficket-of-leave Man.” 2

Thursday, 21st
        Left Washington at 9 O’clock for Culppepper in company with Gen. Newton and family in special car provided for them, passed through Manassas,  Rap.k Catletts, & Bristoe & Brandy Stations.  crossed the Bull Run & Broad run, and reached Culpepper at 8 P.M.–– Col. Kingsbury & Capt. Cowdry came down.  Capt Hulse & Lt. Malborn commanders of the Div. Ambulance trains called in eve.3

Captain Charles Hulse, 121st Pennsylvania InfantryCaptain Frank H. Cowdrey

Pictured are Captain Charles F. Hulse, 121st PA; and Captain Frank Hull Cowdrey, 95th NY.   Mary Ellen wrote that Hulse was commander of the 3rd Division Ambulance Train, 1st Army Corps.  Hulse, age 20 at this time, shared quarters with Lieutenant Joseph H. Malbon, of the 16th Maine.  Malbon's record in the 16th Maine history states he was “in command of Division Ambulance Corps, 2nd Division, First Army Corps, from 1863 until mustered out, June 5th, 1865.”  As such these two officers would be closely associated with her husband Elliot.  More details about the organization of the Ambulance Corps is posted on the next page of this website, in a Boston Transcript article written by Mr. William Hovey, published in September, 1863. Hovey was a Soldiers’ Agent for the Sanitary Commission.  He would also be a guest of the Pierce’s.  I have not been able to find a picture of Lt. Malbon, but both he, and Captain Hulse would be frequent visitors to Mary Ellen and Elliot Pierce during her stay in Culpeper.  Captain Cowdrey is listed by Mary Ellen in her journal as a staff officer in the 3rd Division of the First Corps.  He and Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Kingsbury were staff officers to Brigadier-General Abner Doubleday, mentioned in his report on the Battle of Gettysburg.  They came to Doubleday, from General John Reynold's staff, when that officer was killed in battle the July 1st 1863.  They continued as First Corps Staff Officers when General John Newton assumed command.  Lt.-Col. Kingsbury and Captain Cowdrey met the General and his wife when their special train from Washington rolled into Culpeper.

 Friday 22d
        Beautiful weather. find Mrs Rixey quite pleasant, my rooms very comfortable––Lewis sick injured coming from Washington.  Orderly Blake does the Cooking.

Saturday 23d
        At home all day––

Rixey Mansion, Main Street, Culpeper

The Rixey Mansion, Culpeper, VA.  The house no longer stands.

        took a walk about 2 miles over the hills.  visited a cemetery where are buried 600 Rebels, 200 Union men––Dr Heard Capt McClure & Lt. Egbert called in eve.  sung to them.4

Captain Charles McClureLieutenant Harry C. EgbertSurgeon J. Theodore Heard

Pictured are Captain Charles McClure, 1st-Lieutenant Harry C. Egbert, and Surgeon J. Theodore Heard.

Captain Charles McClure is Commissary of Subsistence.  Mary Ellen wrote he was Chief Quartermaster of the 1st Corps. He enlisted April 28, 1862 as Captain and commissioned into the U.S. Volunteer Commissary Department.  When the 1st Corps was dissolved he became Commissary of the 4th Division, 5th Army Corps.  At the time of the Winter Encampment, a meeting of officers of the First Corps was held at the Baptist Church in Culpeper.  The purpose of the meeting was to raise money to purchase a memorial to the late 1st Corps Comander, General John Reynolds who was killed at Gettyburg, July 1, 1863. Captain McClure was elected Treasurer of that effort.

Lieutenant Harry C. Egbert, age 25 as of January 3,1863, was a career military officer with an interesting record. More about him is posted on the next page for February, 1864.  For now I will just state he was one of the “Regulars” in General Henry Prince’s brigade, skirmishing with the enemy at the Battle of Cedar Mountain.  He is also a Staff Officer for General Newton at this time.  I will write more about his military record on the next page.  Surgeon Heard of course, is the Military Director of the 1st Army Corps.  On Sunday evening, he brought these two staff officers to visit with Mary Ellen, and I find it charming that she sang for the three of them.

        called at Head Quarters on General & Lady.  [Major-General John Newton & Wife]  did not find them in, took a walk over to Capt Hulse & Lt. Malborn’s quarters––

        Beautiful–– Walked out about a mile on the Sperryville turnpike & went up to see the Dress parade of Brooklyn 14th Zouaves, doing provost duty here––  Lt Wiggin Capt Bliss & Capt Hulse called in eve.5

Captain J. S. BlissLieutenant-Colonel Charles Kingsbury

Pictured are, Captain John S. Bliss, and Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Kingsbury.

Captain John S. Bliss was an Aide-de-Camp to General Wadsworth, 3rd Division of the First Corps. He enlisted November 23, 1861 into the 67th N.Y. Infantry.  He was promoted 1st Lt., June 1, 1862, and Captain, October 19, that year.  He called on Mary Ellen along with Captain Hulse, and Lieutenant John C. Wiggins of the Signal Corps, stationed at Cedar Mountain on Garnett’s Peak.  I have a photo request in for an image of Lt. Wiggins at the Army Heritage Center in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Kingsbury was the Assistant Adjutant-General of Volunteers in the 1st Army Corps.  He enlisted into the 18th Ohio Infantry in April 1861.  In September  he was commissioned into the U.S. Volunteers Adjutant General Department.  He was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel, January 1,1863 on General John Newton’s staff, in the 6th Corps. It seems he remained with General Newton when he assumed command of the 1st Corps after the Battle of Gettysburg.  Lt.-Col. Kingsbury greeted General Newton and his family at the Culpeper Railroad Depot when his special train arrived from Washington.  He must have met Mary Ellen then, and returned to call 6 days later.  These are the only two times he is specifically mentioned in Mary Ellen’s journal, but she may have crossed paths with him again on days she went riding with several staff officers.

Wednesday 27th
         Lt Col. Kingsbury called in eve.  Box & letter came.

Thursday 28th
        Visited Poney Mt.  Capt. Hulse accompanying us rode to the foot of Mountain in an Ambulance.  Walked up.  Capt Pane, signal officer was very kind.  Showed us the objects of interest through the glass––Lt’s Jackson & Carrington assist.6

Pony Mountain from the East looking West

Mount Pony, called by the Yankees, “Pony Mountain” viewed from the east, looking west.  I believe the Signal Station was on the smaller knob on the left of the photograph.

Lieutenant Huntingdon JacksonLieutenant Edward CarringtonLieutenant Jedidiah Paine

Pictured left to right, Captain Jedidiah C. Paine, Lieutenant Edward Carrington, and Lieutenant Huntingdon Jackson.

Jedidiah Paine is stated to have been one of the first officers commissioned by President Lincoln in the newly organized Signal Corps.  He was the signal officer at the Mount Pony lookout station.  He enlisted as 1st Lieutenant, into the 57th N.Y.  Infantry August 14, 1861 at Brooklyn.  He was promoted Captain in the Signal Corps on March 3, 1863.  He would end the war with the rank of Brevet Lt.-Colonel.

Huntingdon W. Jackson enlisted September 9, 1862 as 2nd Lieutenant 4th N.J. Infantry, the same unit as J.C. Wiggins.  He was promoted 1st Lieutenant January 8, 1863.  His name appears with Lieutenant Wiggins on many of the reports that came from the Cedar Mountain Signal Station at Bald Pate, or Garnett’s Peak.  His record says:  Detached, Aide-de-Camp to General John Newton, date not stated.  These are the reports that Cavalry officer Alfred Gibbs complained about in his message to General Wesley Merritt.  (See below on this page.)

Lieutenant Edward Carrington, whom Mary Ellen says assisted her at the lookout station on Pony Mountain, by all accounts was a remarkable and talented young man.  Although this is her only mention of him, some notes from his biography may be of interest. He entered Yale College at age 17 in 1855 and graduated with honors in 1859 as class valedictorian.  His valedictorian address “was of such outstanding excellence it was published in pamphlet form and could be found for many years in several libraries in his home state of Connecticut and adjoining states.  After a year spent teaching he entered Columbia College Law School.”  “Professor Theodore W. Dwight of Columbia law school said of him: “Although I have familiarly known many thousands of young men coming from all parts of the country, I have never been acquainted with one who has so much impressed me by his native gifts as he.”  He graduated in May, 1862.  He began law practice at a New York City law firm.  “Upon hearing of the death of a close friend and classmate, who fell in the service of the nation, he enlisted October 15th 1862 in the 143rd Regiment, New York Infantry, and was commissioned second lieutenant. He was soon promoted to first lieutenant, and on April 24th 1863, was detached from his regiment and appointed aide-de-camp on the staff of Major-General James Wadsworth, commanding the first division of the First Army corps.”  At the battles of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg he served with distinction.  “When Gen. Wadsworth was temporarily retired from active duty, his able aid-de- camp was assigned to the staff of Brigadier-General John Newton, and served with him in all the battles leading to the capture of Atlanta.” His life was cut short just before the war ended.  He was voluntarily accompanying General Newton at the Battle of Natural Bridge near Tallahassee, Florida, when he was killed, March 6, 1865.#7

1.   The journal is found on the web at:  [].
2.   [Probably Capt. John G. Hovey who just resigned from 13th MA Jan. 7th.]
3.    Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Kingsbury, Jr. A.A.A.G. to Major-General John Newton, 1st Army Corps; Captain Frank H. Cowdrey; Captain Charles F. Hulse she identifies as commander of the 3d Division Ambulance Train, 1st Army Corps; Lieutenant Malborn she identifies as his Aid.
4.    Dr. J. Theodore Heard, Medical Director 1st Corps, (formerly of 13th MA); Captain Charles McClure is Chief Commissary, 1st Corps; Lieutenant Harry C. Egbert is identified as an Aid, probably to General Newton.
5.    Lieut. John Wiggins is the Signal Officer at Garnett's Peak Signal Station, She identifies Captain John S. Bliss as an Aid to General James S. Wadsworth, commanding 1st Division, 1st Corps.
6.  Captain Paine, Lieutenant Jackson, & Lt. Carrington are identified as Signal Officers on Pony Mountain.
7.  Notes on Edward Carrington are by BobGrigg, Colchester Historical Society.


From, “A Diary of Battle, The Personal Journals of Colonel Charles S. Wainwright, 1861-1865”;  Edited by Allan Nevins.

Thursday, January 28th. –– If the first part of the month was worthy of a more northern climate we are making up for it now by almost June weather.  All this week so far has been exquisite,  fires have been abandoned even at night, doors & windows have stood wide open; the frost is all out of the ground, & the country quite dried up. -  On monday I made my last trip to Army H’d Qts;  Col. Tompkins arriving on that day.  Burton came down yesterday & superseded him[?] again.

Last Friday I got out my order for drills and other duties. I considered that sufficient time had been allowed for them to complete their buildings though all had not got through.  I do not prescribe the extra time, nor the hours they are to give; only warn them that if any fail to work hard I shall do so.  I require recitations in tactics & regulations three evenings in the week, & drill at least two or three hours each day: when the ground will allow of it, all else is to give place to the Batt’y drill.  Attention is also particularly called to the care of their horses.  I hope to turn out a pretty good command by spring, if we lay quiet as long as I think we are likely to.

 I have completed my inspections of Reynolds’, Stevens’ & Cooper’s Batt’s,  With the first I was very much pleased: few Batt’s in the army, I believe, would pass one equal to in in actual excellence, though a number might be got up in more style.  The bearing of the men has improved very much over what it was when I called them “country louts” last spring.  Reynolds & Breck are most indefatigable officers, carrying out all orders to the letter: Wilbur too does well; but Anderson amounts to very little.  They have just got a new officer in 2 Lt Fuller, promoted from “A” Co.   R’s horses do him great credit. –– Stevens & Cooper past [passed] fair inspections:  the former does not turn out in the style Leppien had the Battery; though in some respects there is an improvement; poor as the care of their horses is now, it is better than it was then.   Cooper’s inspection was the poorer of the two, & yet I know he has the best Battery; so much are appearances deceptive.  Cooper’s men’s quarter were remarkably clean & neat inside, though his camp was not so.  Much of the excelling of this Batt’y is in the personal excellence of the men. ––

On monday I had an extra & unlooked for inspection of the command;  Gen’l & Mrs Newton coming over with her cousins’. The ladies visited most of the camps & went into a number of the huts, with which they expressed themselves much pleased.  The General gave me full credit for the conditions of the command.  After their visit to the camps they returned to my quarters where I was able to offer them cake & wine; not out of tumblers.

Redwood, Headquarters of General Rice

Redwood Estate, Culpeper, Brigadier-General James C. Rice's Headquarters 1864.  General Rice commanded the 2nd Brigade of the 1st Division, 1st Army Corps.   Photo courtesy of noted Culpeper County Historian Bud Hall.

Journal of Mary Ellen Pierce continued:

Friday 29th Jan.
        Attended a review of 1st Division  temporarily commanded by Gen. Rice, [Brigadier-General James C. Rice] took place about a mile out on the Sperryville road, Was very fine Lt. Moss & Capt Livermore called also  Dr. Heard and Lt Egbert.  [Lt. Moss Ass't. Quarter-Master; Oliver C. Livermore, Brigade Inspector.]

Saturday 30th
        Cloudy & Misty, in the house all day.  Col. Leonard’s wife & son, arrived to day taken the room next ours  the Col. goes to his Brigade tomorrow.  leaves Mrs. L. here for the present   invited to attend a Theatre this evening, but the weather prevents

Col. Leonard and Wife

Pictured are, Adjutant David Bradlee (probably) and Colonel Leonard with their wives (presumably) in camp at Williamsport, MD in the first winter of the war.  Mary Ellen Pierce would 'party' with Mrs. Leonard later on during her visit, which she described in a letter home, to be posted later on this website.

Journal of Mary Ellen Pierce continued:

Sunday 31st
        Stormy; chilly––  Dr. Whitney called  he & Col. left together for the Regiment. Dr Heard called in evening.

To Be Continued...

Surgeon Allston Waldo WhitneySurgeon J. Theodore Heard

Both Surgeons Allston Waldo Whitney and John Theodore Heard called upon Mary Ellen at her apartments this day.   Both had come a long way since their earliest days in the service with the 13th Mass. Vols. in camp at Williamsport, Maryland.  Surgeon Whitney is Brigade Surgeon.  He spent 6 months in Libby Prison.  Surgeon Heard, who studied in Europe, is Medical Director of the 1st Corps.

Surgeons Whitney and Heard and Servant, Williamsport, MD

Photograph of Dr. Whitney (Surgeon) and Dr. Heard (Assistant Surgeon) with an unidentified servant in camp at Williamsport in the winter of 1861––62.  The writing on the surgeon's tent is reversed suggesting the print taken by George L. Crosby of Company F was also reversed.  My Great-Great Grandfather, William Henry Forbush had this image with several others tucked into the flap of his 1863 diary.  He labeled the subjects.  The image is cropped.

1.  Mary Ellen's journal is found on the web at:  [].
2. [Probably Capt. John G. Hovey who just resigned from 13th MA Jan. 7th.]
3.  Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Kingsbury, Jr. A.A.A.G. to Major-General John Newton, 1st Army Corps; Captain Cowdry??; Captain Hulse she identifies as commander of the 3d Division Ambulance Train, 1st Army Corps; Lieutenant Malborn she identifies as his Aid.
4.  Dr. J. Theodore Heard, Medical Director 1st Corps, (formerly of 13th MA); Captain Charles McClure is Chief Commissary, 1st Corps; Lieutenant Egbert is identified as an Aid, possibly to McClure.
5. Lieut. John Wiggins is the Signal Officer at Garnett's Peak Signal Station, She identifies Captain Bliss as an Aid to General James S. Wadsworth, commanding 1st Division, 1st Corps.
6. Captain Pane, Lieutenant Jackson, & Lt. Carrington are identified as Signal Officers on Pony Mountain.

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More Gossip –– This Time With Cavalry

January 28, 1864;  Enemy Activity at Thoroughfare Mountain?

First Cavalry Division Commander, Brigadier-General Wesley Merritt is ordered to check out a report from the Garnett's Peak Signal Station, regarding enemy activity on Thoroughfare Mountain.

Headquarters Cavalry Corps,      
January 28, 1864.

Brigadier-General Merritt:

From a report from a signal station at Garnett’s Mountain it represents contrabands arriving last night report Stuart on the western slope of Thoroughfare Mountain.  The general commanding desires that you will ascertain if there is any truth in the report, and be on watch for any movement that might be attempted.  Forward any information as soon as possible.

C. ROSS SMITH,               
Lieutenant-Colonel and Chief of Staff.

View of Thoroughfare Mountain

Thoroughfare Mountain

Pictured is Thoroughfare Mountain, located between Culpeper and Madison, Va., southwest of Culpeper.  Image viewed from the East looking toward West.  Both Federal and Confederate soldiers used the prominence as a lookout station.

Brigadier-General Merritt's Reply:  No. There Is No Enemy.

Culpeper,  January 28, 1864.

Lieut. Col. C. Ross Smith
                        Chief of Staff, Cavalry Corps:

The reconnaissance sent out to Thoroughfare Mountain reports that there is no enemy in that neighborhood, nor is there any foundation for the report that Stuart is in that neighborhood.

W. MERRITT,               

Cavalry Scouts by Edwin Forbes

Edwin Forbes sketch, Cavalry Scouts

Baxter's Brigade Retires From Cedar Mountain

On January 29th, Henry Baxter's Brigade packed up and moved to Culpeper. Col. Alfred Gibbs commanding the Reserve Cavalry Brigade complained of the increased picket line he had to cover.

 Mitchell’sJanuary 29, 1864.

Captain Bacon,
                    Assistant Adjutant-General:

All quiet on the picket-lines except a few shots at Somerville Ford.  The enemy continue the erection of breast-works and rifle-pits at that point.  The brigade of infantry up on Cedar Mountain goes to Culpeper this morning, thus increasing my picket-line considerably.

ALFRED GIBBS                  
Colonel, Commanding Brigade.

I Wish To Complain.

In this letter Colonel Gibbs doesn't seem happy with his picket duty.  He offers up more complaints; General Robinson's men are useless, and the Signalmen are blind!

Hdqrs Cavalry Reserve Brigade,     
January 29, 1864.


Brig. Gen. W. Merritt,
                Commanding First Division Cavalry, Culpeper:

Colonel Alfred Gibbs

Dear General:   Since we have been deprived of the pleasure of judicially assassinating that deserter to-day, I shall endeavor to elevate my depressed spirits by literary composition.  Now, general, when we were ruthlessly thrust out to the front, where we have since been kept at the point of the bayonet, we were promised a division of infantry to protect us.  Well, they have never done it.  These regiments of General Robinson’s have been in Culpeper all the time, and last night about 1 o’clock I was aroused from my nocturnal repose by General Robinson’s dispatch informing me that the Cedar Run brigade was to be withdrawn to-day, and that he wanted his pickets relieved by cavalry.

I understand that another division was ordered to relieve general Robinson’s, but mean time that division had erected a theater in town, and of course it could not be thought of that they should go to the front and leave the theater behind.  Now, we don’t want their infernal old sharp-sticks at all, and I think we will be safer if they will withdraw the other brigade,* so that if we are run back we won’t have to wait until they pack up their duds and skeedaddle back to their present position.

They have left 100 men as a guard to the four blind signal officers on Cedar Mountain.  It is reported that some camp-fires were seen yesterday in the woods north and west of Thoroughfare Mountain;  perhaps that will account for the brigade changing front to rear so suddenly.  The patent-sight man yesterday took four shots while the enemy were firing at Somerville Ford, and says he hit two certain.  Mr. Emmons, assistant adjutant-general, will communicate to you some views of mine with regard to the picket-line on our left which I desire to have changed.   Lieutenant Walker is still basking in the sunshine of beauty.

We still live, move, and have our being;  somewhat muddy.

Very respectfully, yours,

Colonel, &c. 

*NOTE:  That other brigade is The First Brigade, Colonel T. F. McCoy.

Letter of Charles Barber, 104th N.Y.; January 31, 1864

Charles letter does a good job explaining the busy routine shared by all the regiments in Thomas McCoy's First Brigade doing outpost duty at Mitchell's Station ––Regardless of Col. Gibb's opinion.

Cedar Mountain Va
January 31 1864.

Dear wife and children

 I am well except teethache and ague symptoms   I received yours of the 24 to day   I have just come in from picket   have been out two days   we have to sleep  on the ground without tents while on picket duty   I am on two days out of six  we are comfortable in camp   have plenty to eat and warm shanties with eight in our shanty   we have blankets and clothing all we need.   we have to be on the alert all the time as we are near the rebel lines.   one regt of our brigade stands as minute men all the time    our turn comes once in five days.  then we form a line and stack arms with fixed bayonets and keep our equipments on ready to fall into line at any moment ready for action in case the picket line is attacked   we do not drill any but our guard and picket duty and minute men duty keeps us on duty about half the time.   the boys expect to get their furloughs this week   the boys are cooking now and supper is most ready so I will make a short letter this time as I have no particular news to communicate  

how is Susan Ring now  where is her husband and children   tell C to look well to my taxes in Ill    I have got the ague head ache and do not feel like writing so you must excuse me for this time and I will try to write a good letter next time

kiss the children for me.  oh I dreamed of seeing you last night while I was on the picket line asleep at the reserve post   I lay on some pine brush where the pickets sleep when off duty but I awoke before daylight and found it was the soldiers dream.   oh I had a good time with you and the children   well I hope the dream will be a reality in eight months if not sooner.

well let us be patient and hope

Good by for this time

Charles Barber

The Soldier's Dream

Soldiers Dream Illustration, Harpers Nov. 7 1863

Harper's Weekly ran this illustration, titled “ Soldier's Dream” across a whole page of their layout, on November 7, 1863. Click to view larger.

Woburn Townsmen, Letter from the 39th MA Correspondent “Alpha.”

The 13th Mass., had its newspaper correspondent CLARENCE who wrote letters to the Boston Transcript.  But he is a bit irregular in his communications.  His next dispatch, at least the one I have, is February 29, printed in the Transcript March 5th.  In the meantime, I have discovered a more frequent correspondent from the 39th Mass., “Alpha,” who kept his home-town citizens up to date on camp rumours and news from the brigade, with regular dispatches!  His brigade news is applicable to the 13th Regiment as well as the 39th.  For instance, Alpha informs us that Robinson's Division is the smallest in the First Corps.

Letter to the Woburn Townsmen, January 31, 1864

The following was found at the web archive, and is from the once great but now defunct website, Letters of the Civil War.

January 31, 1864

Camp near Mitchell's Station, Va., January 31st, 1864

All hail, Dear Townsman, and a friendly greeting for all as we look forward with eagerness to the perusal of its debu? the newspaper world, sincerely hoping that it will meet the success its Prospectus merits.  But we (editorially) are not "much" on an introductory and assuring your readers that in the Army Department, as far as we are concerned, it will be our utmost endeavor to keep them well informed as to the "Rangers," we will proceed to more interesting topics..

We are at last settled in winter quarters, having been once disappointed at Kelly's Ford, and narrowly escaped it a second time last Friday morning.*  Holding the advance lines of the Army of the Potomac, the duty necessarily comes hard upon our Division, which by the way, is the smallest in the Corps, and this has led the General Commanding to propose relieving us by another Division of larger size, and send us back to Culpepper, and for the past fortnight rumors have been thick and fast, the move being postponed from day to day, as the predicted event did not take place. At last, on Thursday night, soon after taps we were routed out and ordered to pack up, to be ready to start the next morning early. Therefore we were started up about five, and fell into line, with everything but tents which formed the covering of our houses, and waited for the order to "Forward," but as hour after hour passed away and no move, everything soon passed into the regular course of things, and all was quiet in the camp of the 39th, and we shall probably stay here for the rest of the winter without molestation.

The Second Brigade of which only three regiments were here, did move to Culpepper to join the rest of the Brigade, as also did the Division Headquarters and Commissary Department, so that now the First Brigade is all the force here at present. We are now situated at Mitchell's Station, about seven miles from Culpepper and about five from the Rapidan, which makes the duty all the more arduous, the Second Brigade being gone. The front line of pickets is very strong, and this with the other guard details bring us on duty every three days. But even with this duty to be done we have accomplished an incredible amount of work, having finished our log houses, corduroyed through the whole regiment, and graded the streets and parade ground, besides improving the looks of the camp in more ways than one, so that we are proud to say we live in as handsome a camp as can be found in the Army of the Potomac, at least so say high dignitaries!

In spite of this almost double duty, the regiment is in remarkable good health, especially that of Co. K, who are in fact, in better "killing" condition than they were last winter in Poolesville. Though the largest company in the regiment, we report the least sick, there being one occasionally who reports to the Doctor for the unfailing dose of salts or quinine, the inexhaustible staple of an Army Apothecary Shop, and it would be hard to find a healthier, heartier, or happier band of men in the Army of the Union, than the "Rangers" at the present time.

Our ranks have been filled up, since we have been here by the arrival of twelve recruits from Woburn, for having arrived here sometime since, the others reaching here last Monday. The last squad arriving at Culpepper, were marched thence to camp, thus obtaining a slight initiation into a soldier's life, and as they all seemed "able for it" will doubtless make good soldiers. The following are the names of all who have joined us, one of the last squad, Cornelius O'Connor, being left at the Hospital at Alexandria, accidentally hurting himself while at the Soldier's Rest in that city:  Julius F. Ramsdell, Charles H. Colegate, Michael Finn, Robert M. Dennett, Edward Hoskins, George W. Dean, Alonzo L. Richardson, Herbert J. Persons, George A. Sprague, Thomas McCarthy, James McGoff, George H. Reddy.


Owning to some misunderstanding, it was thought at home that our ranks were filled to the maximum standard and that no more recruits were needed in the company thus disappointed quite a number who intended to join us, but were thus compelled to go elsewhere. Such is not the fact, as they are still a few vacancies, thus affording a good chance for any patriotic young man who wish to enter the service of their country, and we would greet any and all who joined us to fill up our ranks full, with a cordial and brotherly feeling.

Last Friday afternoon, a large lot of boxes arrived, among which were "Gage's" last boxes, which were opened and duly distributed, according to name. But our thanks are justly due to the generous donors of those onions, an article very highly prized, but seldom obtained by us, it seeming to be an unknown article in the Commissary Department.

Hoping that the foregoing will be acceptable and promising to try to give a more agreeable dose next week.

I remain yours,   

*The Alarm he mentions was Friday, January 29, when the Second Brigade, [Baxter's] packed up and marched from their camp on Cedar Mountain to Culpeper.

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

Historian Roe, closes out the month of January 1864. Pictured is Colonel Phineas Stearns Davis, commanding officer of the regiment.

Colonel Phineas Stearns Davis

Towards the end of the month, unusual stir is observed among the enemy, apparently fresh troops are replacing those long on guard, possibly through fear that all of the latter will desert; our own camp also has a spell of falling-in according to orders and, on the 29th, we packed up at 5 a.m., stacked arms and awaited further orders, sorry enough at the prospect of quitting the comfortable quarters, so recently completed.  Fortunately for us, it all blew over and the Second Brigade moved instead.  On this same day our eyes were gladdened by the unusual sight of a lady in camp, the same being the wife of General Maj. John Newton, commanding the First Corps, who accompanied the General and Division Commander, General Robinson, and their respective staffs, all on a tour of observation.  A dull, though not stormy day closed the month with regular inspection and we see a Confederate major and three men brought in as captives by the cavalry.

February starts off full of rumors as to the future of the Regiment;  one says it is to join an expedition to Texas; another sends us home to be recruited to full ranks, while still another sends us back to become a part of the Sixth Corps.  Who can explain the starting of so many baseless reports?  The weather, early in the month, is cold yet there are a few breaks in regular routine, parades, drills and inspections can be injected between the many calls for picket duty.  A hospital is in process of erection near the surgeon’s quarters and it is a fine building, considering the circumstances under which it is going up.

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Page Updated April 29, 2024.

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