Life In Camp (J. C. Williams)
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A Grand Review. -- More preparations for an Engagement. -- Dull in Camp again. -- "Onward to Richmond" programme changed. -- Movements of the Army. -- The 14th in front. -- Removal of our Camp. -- Stirring News expected. -- Marching Orders.
A grand review of the troops in this vicinity to-day, by Gen. Stannard, and a very warm day for such business.
There was great expectations in camp last night, that we should have fun before morning. It was ascertained yesterday, that a force of rebel cavalry was within our lines, and might possibly pay us a visit. Accordingly, preparations were made for the expected attack. The line was formed, arms inspected, new rifle pits were dug, roads were blockaded, masked batteries constructed, and everything in readiness for a brush, but no engagement took place, the "rebs" making their escape through some other part of the line. A sudden change in the weather to-day, very cold.
No change in the condition of affairs in our brigade for the past few days. Contrabands are daily arriving at this point, and most of them are very intelligent. They know plainly what freedom means, and in order to secure it are taking leg-bail for the Union lines.
We have received the news to-day of the rebel raid at Catlett's Station, a few miles west of here, resulting in the destruction of a train of cars, and the loss of thirty or forty men. Still warm here.
Nothing new the past week, save that news came a day or two ago, that Gen. Lee was advancing up the Shenandoah Valley with a large force, when Col. Nichols received orders to make this place as formidable as possible. Whereupon new rifle pits were dug, the regiment inspected, roads blockaded again, and cannon placed in favorable positions to give the enemy plenty of grape and canister, but no enemy came that night, although we still remain in readiness for him.
Quite dull in camp. We are signing the pay-rolls to-day, and expect the Paymaster to-morrow.
The Paymaster is in camp this morning, and to-day the regiment will be paid off. Very warm and sultry; there has been no rain for four weeks.
All very dull in camp to-day, and nothing new.
"Onward to Richmond" is still the war cry. But how many more brave men are to be sacrificed, and how many millions of dollars are to be expended, before the goal is reached, God only knows. Our army has acted on the defensive long enough. The latest news is to the effect that Lee has been reinforced to ninety thousand men, and contemplates a movement. If so, there will doubtless be stirring times ere long.
We have assurances that Lee in on the move towards Maryland, and that the army of the Potomac is also on the move.
We are still acting an important part in the great drama. It can be said with truthfulness that the 14th is now in the front. The movements of Gen. Lee have compelled the army of the Potomac to fall back towards Washington. We became apprised of the fact on Sunday, the 14th. This being one of the principal routes to Fredericksburg, a part of the army passed here. The center column of the army, composed of the 2d, 6th and 12th Corps, together with the reserve artillery of forty batteries, passed here. It took four days and nights for the column to pass. The 1st Vermont Brigade passed on Tuesday, stopping here two hours for rest. We had a fine chance to give these heroes of many battles a hearty shake of the hand. The officers and men appeared to be in fine spirits, notwithstanding the forced march they had endured. The brigade halted at Fairfax Station until this morning, when they again moved on. The 14th is now in a very exposed position. There was no picket line between ours and the Rappahannock, which now leaves us in front. I do not know whether it is the intention to keep this picket line here under present circumstance or not. It is my opinion, however, that inasmuch as this is the outer picket line in the defense of Washington we shall not move from here until we are obliged to.
There has been various rumors afloat concerning the movement of the rebel army; but it is evidently a fact that Gen. Lee is advancing in force up the Shenandoah Valley. Heavy firing is heard to-day, in the direction of Thoroughfare Gap. We have assurances that the government is making speedy preparations to check the raid into Maryland, and it is hoped this desperate act of the rebels will result in their annihilation.
The regiments of this brigade have not changed positions lately. The general impression is, now, that the second brigade will have a chance to be tried in battle. If so, we are determined to keep up the good name which the Vermont troops have so nobly earned. The first brigade has won a name which the State, as well as themselves, may well be proud of; and although we have been called by some, "nine monthlings, hatched on two hundred-dollar-bounty eggs, " we understand the use of the bayonet, and if we ever have a chance to meet the foe we shall not falter.
The weather, for the past six weeks, has been extremely dry, not having had any rain during that space of time. The regiment still remains healthy. The boys of the 14th are all in good spirits, and every ready for any emergency, which is the true character of the Green Mountain boys.
This is a busy day for us. Our old camp being too much exposed, situate so near the picket line, it was thought advisable to move it back about a mile. Accordingly, orders were issued to that effect, and to-day they are being complied with.
We are once more in a new camp, and to-day the regiment is busily engaged in pitching tents.
Another members of Company B, by the name of Caleb Fisk, died last night. What greater sacrifice can a man make for his country, than to give his life. To the memory of him, and all others who sacrifice their lives for their country, should be raised monuments which, like the pyramids of Egypt, shall stand to be gazed upon by future generations.
Stirring news expected soon. Firing is heard to-day in the direction of Centreville, which is at present the headquarters of the army.
Marching orders are expected every day now. The present aspect of affairs is very startling. Firing is again heard to-day in the direction of Bull Run.
To-day orders have been received to be ready to march at a moment's notice, supplied with ten days' rations, which clearly shows that a long march is expected.
And thus, the march that has been so long expected is yet to come. But will it be towards Richmond or Harrisburg? The next three weeks will tell. The time has now come when something must be done. The programme is for the present changed, and hope it is to be the closing scenes of the war.