Life In Camp (J. C. Williams)
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Removal of the Camp. -- Capture of Prisoners. -- Plenty of Picket Duty. -- Marching Orders again. -- At Camp Vermont once more. -- History of our March back. -- New Order to go into Winter Quarters. -- The original Plan for building Barracks changed. -- On Picket. -- Orders to march again. -- Leave Camp Vermont for good. -- In Camp near Fairfax Court House. -- Movements of the Army. -- Gen. E. H. Stoughton, our Brigadier. -- A Review
Our camp has been moved about half a mile from our former one. For the second time we have been formed in line of battle, expecting the enemy, and it is fortunate for him that he did not make his appearance, for we should have given him a warm reception.
We hope we were remembered by our friends at home on Thanksgiving Day. Our "hard tack" was greatly in contrast with the tables usually set in Vermont, at that time. Rail fences are very handy here, and if the orders were not so strict about "lifting" things, rebel chickens would come handy also.
It is conjectured that the object for which we come here, is to guard this section of the country, during the passing of an ammunition train, which is being sent to Fredericksburg. A baggage train of three miles in length has passed here today.
A number of prisoners have been captured by our pickets and brought into camp, supposed to be spies, and have been sent to headquarters. We have plenty of picket duty to perform here. Our pickets extend up Bull Run Creek and meet those of the 13th and 15th regiments, which are encamped at Union Mills, six miles distant.
A part of our A tents and baggage have arrived, having been sent from Camp Vermont. I think by present indications, that we are to stop here awhile. Our company has again been out on picket to-day. The picket line is about three miles from camp. We are guarding at present a line of about seven miles.
Eleven o'clock in the forenoon. Our company has just returned from picket duty, and an order has just been issued for the regiment to get ready to march in ten minutes, each man to be supplied with three Days' rations. It has been made known to us that we are going back to Camp Vermont, and shouts of joy are heard all through the camp. It is finally decided not to start until to-morrow. The weather is very fine to-day. We are forty miles from Camp Vermont, and hope it is not the intention to march us through in one day.
We are back again on our old camp ground, and where I hope we shall stay through the winter. It really seems like home here. Our movements to the front did not amount to much, as far as I can see, but I do not profess to know the object of it. I here give a history of our march back to this place. Being relieved by the 125th New York, we broke camp about ten o'clock in the forenoon, and moved off. Before we had marched a great way it began to snow quite hard. The distance to Fairfax Station was seven miles. Col. Nichols ordered the battalion to march in two ranks, and giving the companies the privilege of falling out and resting, commencing at the head of the column, and then fall in in the rear of the battalion on its moving past them. By this means the regiment was to be kept on the move and still give us a chance to rest. But the companies on the right not falling out as often as they should, Companies B and G did not have a chance to rest until we got to the Station, which made it rather hard for us, inasmuch as we had to carry our knapsacks and other equipments.
On arriving at the station we found the 13th aboard the cars, bound for Camp Vermont also. Cars were procured for the 14th. Some of the boys, however, got on the baggage train with the 13th. It was about dark when the remainder of the regiment reached Alexandria, having to wait until after the 13th went through. By this time the ground had become covered with snow. Our tents had all been ordered to Fairfax Station, so that we were left without shelter in case we should go up to our camp that night, the distance being two miles. Some of the boys sought shelter in the city, and others, through the kindness of the boys of the 12th and 16th, were kept over night. By noon to-day the boys were all in, and at the time of noting this (five o'clock in the afternoon) the tents are all pitched. I do not think we shall move again this winter.
The field officers of our regiment are all very much loved. There is not one of the boys but what speaks well of them all. They are doubtless the right men in the right place. The weather is very fine at present.
We again received orders to go into winter quarters here, and still remain in the Reserve Corps, for the defence of Washington. I hear that Col. E. H. Stoughton is about to be promoted to a Brigadier, and to have command of this brigade.
The original plan for building our barracks has been changed, and the regiment is busily engaged in tearing down and putting up. To-day our regiment is on picket, having been sent out yesterday to relieve the 16th. It is very muddy to-day, but quite warm.
Yesterday the regiment returned from picket duty again. The lines have been drawn I, so that they are only two miles from camp.
We arrived in camp all right, save an accident which happened to a member of Company B, who accidentally shot off two of his fingers.
Four o'clock in the afternoon. We have received orders to be ready to march in the morning at five o'clock. The true soldier is ever willing to sacrifice his comforts for the good of his country. Just as our preparations to make ourselves comfortable through the winter are about completed, we have received marching orders, so that the result of our labors will be left for the benefit of others.
Camp Vermont is no more. We are now encamped near Fairfax Court House, Va. The orders which the brigade received on the 11th were complied with the next day. At three o'clock the next morning (the 12th) the bugles sounded, calling us up to prepare for the march, each man to be supplied with two Days' rations. Our camp was again a busy scene. At half past five the 14th was formed in line, this time the men being in heavy marching order; Lieut. Col. Rose taking the command, we were ordered forward, the 12th, 15th and 16th preceding us, and the 13th bringing up the rear. We marched in this order about four miles, when the regiments ahead halted, the 14th filing past them and taking the lead. The day was pleasant and was a very favorable time for a march. We arrived at Fairfax Court House about four o'clock in the afternoon, and camped half a mile north, where we remained that night and till four o'clock the next day, when we moved to our present camp, which is half a mile south of the Court House. The 1st Vermont Cavalry were at Annandale as we passed by. The distance from Camp Vermont to this place is called twenty miles. It was a very fatiguing march, fifteen miles being the average distance which an army moves in a day. Gen. Sigel left here last week with fifty thousand men, and also Gen. Bank's old corps of forty thousand men is passing through here, en route for Fredericksburg, from Harper's Ferry. A part of his corps camped here last night.
I know not exactly the object for which we were sent here, but suppose it is to guard this section in place of Sigel's army.
The army that is passing through here is going to reinforce Burnside, and is commanded by Gen. Slocum.
We found sixteen hundred cavalry here when we arrived, which were guarding the place. I learn that Camp Vermont was occupied by other troops soon after we left, who will have the benefit of our labors in case they should go into winter quarters there. The weather is very fine at present, and the health of the regiment good.
Our camp has again assumed its usual state of quietude. We have not received orders to go into winter quarters here, and hence it is my opinion that we shall not stay here a great length of time. The section in this part of the enemy's country is greatly desolated.
Fairfax Court House to all appearances was once a pleasant place, but here as well as elsewhere has been the theater of warfare, and consequently the land has been laid waste, the property of Union citizens destroyed, and where once were pleasant homes is now seen the ravages of an exasperated war.
Gen. Stoughton is now in command of this brigade.
To-day our brigade was reviewed by Gen. Stoughton, and would have been a proud, as well as an imposing sight, to any Vermonter to witness the parade of five thousand Green Mountain Boys, headed by the brigade band and five drums corps. We hear that McClellan has assumed command of the army, -- if so, I am afraid the war will never end.