Life In Camp (J. C. Williams)
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Army still inactive. -- Hard Drilling. -- Marching Orders. -- The Orders countermanded. -- Stuart's Movements. -- Capture of Gen. Stoughton, our Brigadier. -- Weather still changeable. -- Drilling again dispensed with. -- More Cold Weather. -- Drilling Resumed. -- Evening Thoughts. -- Pass for Washington. -- At the Capital. -- Return to Camp.
Dull in camp to-day, army still inactive, and hope that a movement somewhere will soon be effected to dispel the gloom which is hanging like a pall over our country. The situation of affairs is rather discouraging to contemplate at present. But we must have confidence, hoping that yet our country will be saved from the hellish clutches of treason, and the old ship which is now tossing and rocking upon the stormy billows will at last outride the storm.
There is a brighter side to the scene, which I hope we shall all soon enjoy. This is a rainy day. We were again mustered for pay yesterday, which completes the rolls for six months.
Drilling this week six hours each day. The weather is very mild at present, and our camp still bears its usual quiet state.
A rumor is afloat that old Stuart is again in this vicinity, and marching orders have been received. If this is the case, we shall doubtless have some fun before morning.
The orders of yesterday have been countermanded, and news has come that the programme is changed, and instead of an advance movement by Stuart, he has retreated across the Rappahannock with his whole force.
More wet weather, which makes it so muddy that there is no drilling.
Important news this morning. Another raid by Mosby last night, and the capture of our Brigadier, Gen. E. H. Stoughton, at Fairfax Court House, five miles from his brigade. The particulars of the capture I here relate: Three hundred guerrillas under the command of the rebel Major Mosby, being dressed in our uniform, having obtained the countersign, passed the pickets at Centreville about eight o'clock last night. And having been previously informed of the whereabouts of the General by some of the sympathizing citizens, were led to his headquarters where the General was quietly napping, surprised and captured him. One of the aids taken at the same time, escaped. The General not having any body-guard, could make no resistance, and the telegraph communication being severed to this place and Alexandria, no alarm cold be given soon enough to head off the party. I learn that a squad of cavalry has been sent in pursuit however.
More particulars about the late raid. The cavalry sent in pursuit of the guerrilla party have returned without overtaking them. And thus the General who has been wanting to go to the front so long, has at least had a chance to go, but in a manner least expected to him. I learn that several of the 15th Vermont were captured at the same time while performing patrol duty, but have been paroled.
Nothing important to-day with the exception of the excitement produced by the last raid.
Col. Blunt, the ranking Colonel in the brigade, is again in command. The hard storm of rain and snow yesterday has occasioned plenty of mud.
Eight o'clock in the evening. This is a most beautiful evening. The millions of shining starts in the blue canopy above are proclaiming peace, and the sable curtain of night has for a time shut from our view the desolation of war here below.
Weather still changeable, clear and beautiful overhead, while beneath the mud is almost fathomless. Nothing of general interest since the capture of our Brigadier, which is called the smartest thing of the war.
The mud is so deep that drilling has been dispensed with for the present.
The coldest weather of the season as yet. Fairfax Station is becoming a place of considerable importance in a military point of view, as being a base for supplies to the army, and a depot for Government stores, which we are at present guarding.
Drilling has again been resumed. The regiment is still in good health and spirits, and although we have not been called into battle yet, we are ready when the case demands it, and to nobly sustain the cause.
Have been occupied a part of the day in perusing the newspapers, and it is somewhat painful to read of the grumbling and fault-finding of the Copperheads, who are sympathizing with the rebels in their hellish purposes, but have confidence to believe that, despite their efforts, our cause will finally triumph, and our country restored to its former peaceful condition.
Night has again closed the labors of another day, hiding from our view the desolated scenes of earth. The many silvery orbs which checkers heaven's nightly dome, are shedding their mellow light upon this "war-worn" earth, and exhibiting the skill and majesty of Him who created and rules.
But how different are the two firmaments, the one above bespeaking union and harmony, while below is seen discord and confusion. A country which has prospered in a degree hitherto unknown, is in the grasp of civil strife, with all its dread calamities. When and where it will end, God only knows.
Oh! my country, would that I could do more to disenthrall thee from the grasp of the "hydra-headed monster" secession, which has gained so firm a hold, and is threatening a dissolution.
When we contemplate the effects of civil war in other countries, and witness the many horrid scenes of bloodshed, the desolation of fair homes, -- where is the man, endowed with the common feelings of humanity, who would not put forth every effort to stop such a dire calamity from happening in his own fair land; such will be the result in the North I fear, if this fratricidal strife is not soon conquered.
But "Copperheadism" is too rampant for success. The influence which the black-hearted traitors in the North exert, is very ruinous to the Union cause, and prevents that unity of opinion which is necessary to a vigorous prosecution of the war. But we should not be discouraged, for our cause is a just one, and God is for us. He would never allow a confederacy to prosper, having the Institution of Slavery for its corner stone.
Our camp has been very quiet for the past few days, save now and then a rumor that Stonewall Jackson is moving up the Shenandoah Valley with a large force, -- when orders are received to be ready to march at a moment's notice, supplied with sixty rounds of cartridges and three days' rations. Soon the report is proved to be groundless, and the camp is again quiet.
Cold weather still continues, snowed some the past night. Stories that destitution abounds in Richmond are being corroborated, for car loads of starving and destitute citizens from rebeldom are passing here daily.
After a month of petitioning, an applications for a pass to go to Washington has been granted, and today I start.
Left the Station aboard of the cars at eight o'clock, for Washington, where I arrived about ten o'clock in the forenoon, and will endeavor to give a description of what I saw.
After passing through Pennsylvania Avenue, where my eyes were incapable of beholding the many busy scenes, and my ears become deafened by the clattering of ambulances and baggage wagons, which are continually on the move from morning till night, I paid a visit to the Patent Office, where were presented a thousand and one curiosities.
The building covers two acres, and contains models of nearly every invention known from the earliest periods up to the present time.
It took me several hours to go all over this splendid building, it being built entirely of marble, and ornamented in a costly manner. I saw among the many articles on exhibition, the coat that Gen. Jackson wore at the battle of New Orleans. In a prominent part of the building stands the marble statue of "Pater Patriae." It looks very life-like, and how I wished the old hero could again be on the stage of action, and assume the reins of government awhile. The memory of him who was "first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countryman, " will never cease. In front of the statue, in a large glass case, is the uniform he used to wear, his sword and portfolio, and the cane that Franklin willed him.
I next paid a visit to the Capitol, and what a massive structure! covering three and one-half acres, whose magnificent dome towers over three hundred feet above the ground. I was almost awe-struck with wonder and amazement, as I looked upon the stately edifice. In front of this mighty structure is a beautiful fountain, whose sparkling waters, reflecting the golden rays of the sun, shed beauty and grandeur over the scene.
The picture gallery, filled with beautiful paintings, works of superior attainments, and the statuary hall, exhibiting a degree of skill which is unrivaled in the old world, conspired to produce scenery on the grandest scale. I next visited the Senate Chamber, and Hall of Representatives, and in looking over the names of the Senators, which are marked on the desks, I beheld the name of Jefferson Davis, the vilest of traitors, plotting the overthrow of his government, and who once occupied a seat in the national Senate.
Three hours had passed before I was aware of it, being so absorbed in viewing the different scenes presented. Its ornamental part -- artistical and sculptural -- out rivals the most splendid productions of Corregio, Raphael, or Michael Angelo. It was with great reluctance that I left this imposing and majestic spectacle. I attended the theatre in the evening, and at nine o'clock this morning took the boat for Alexandria.
After spending about two hours in that city, we took the cars for the Station, and arrived in camp all safe, with no regrets for having visited the national Capital.