Life In Camp (J. C. Williams)
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A sad Accident. -- Divine Worship. -- Marching Orders are received. -- In Camp near Wolf Run Shoals. -- History of the March. -- Another false Alarm. -- Preparations for an Engagement. -- Another Promotion. -- More Rain and Snow. -- Expectations of an Engagement with Stuart. --- "Grand Army of the Potomac" still inactive. -- Fast day in Camp. -- Inspection and Muster. -- The Regiment again called out in Line of Battle. -- Sad Intelligence.
A very sad accident occurred on the 18th, which I forgot to note in my journal. The cars in passing from Union Mills to Alexandria, when near the Station, were thrown from the track by runs against a couple mules, and four soldiers of the 125th New York were instantly killed, and three wounded.
Wood for cooking purposes is drawn by teams, but the boys have to "forage" to get wood for their own tent fires, and rails are becoming so scarce in this vicinity, that we are obliged to back them some two or three miles from camp. A severe snow storm to-day.
Major hall of the 14th has just returned, having been absent about six weeks. He went home on a furlough, and was taken sick.
This is the Sabbath, and we are again permitted to attend divine worship in nothing but the blue canopy above, but God will hear the petitions of fervent Christians as willingly under such circumstances as ever.
Marching orders have been received again to-day, and the boys are very much rejoiced, for the camp is getting very dull. We have been in this camp about two months, without having been called out in line of battle once; but have accomplished a good deal in building corduroy roads, and guarding property. We have also been put upon drill most of the time when the weather was favorable for it, with the exception of the last two weeks, which have been devoted to digging rifle pits, with which the Station could be defended, in case an attack should be made.
In camp near Wolf Run Shoals, Virginia. Orders came yesterday to be ready to march at seven o'clock this morning. Accordingly tents were struck, and the regiment in line at the appointed hour, ready to move off. We were hard up for field officers, the Colonel being absent in Washington at the time orders were received. Lieut. Col. Rose was unable to go with us in consequence of bruises received by being thrown from his horse on the previous night. Major Hall was not well, having just returned from home, where he had been sick some time. The command then devolved upon Capt. Gore of Company A, but he being sick, it fell upon Capt. Thompson of Company B (who, by the way, is not worthy of his straps), to act as Colonel. We arrived here at ten o'clock in the forenoon, the distance being seven miles. Our present camp is but a few rods from the one we were in last November while here, and but a few rods from the 12th and 13th.
I learn that the 15th and 16th are at Union Mills, six miles distant, the headquarters of the brigade. The object for which we have come here, is to do picket duty with the 12th and 13th. There will be no rest until the tents are again stockaded, for to-day the regiment is busily engaged.
The 14th has appropriately been styled the stealing regiment; for rail fences, which have been left untouched all winter by the other regiments at this place, are now rapidly disappearing. The boys of the 14th do not intend to suffer from the cold through a lack of tent fires, as long as rails are plenty -- and every night about dusk, may be seen a row of them about a mile in length, marching in single file, each with two rails on his back. I concur in the opinion of Gen. Stoughton, that if the government would permit him to place the 14th Vermont regiment within twenty miles of Richmond, the boys would steal the city.
No storm as yet, as was expected when the orders t march were received, but the prospects are fair for one before we can possibly get comfortably situated.
This is the outer boundary line in the defenses of Washington. We have plenty of picket duty to perform at this place.
False alarms are as frequent as ever. To-day, about noon, firing was heard on the picket line. Soon the long roll was beaten, and the 14th was in line with its usual alacrity. Companies B and G were sent out to ascertain the cause of the alarm. It was found that the firing was made by some stray pickets who had been relieved this morning, and were returning to camp.
Last night, news came from headquarters, that a force of rebel cavalry was lurking in this vicinity, and might attempt a raid during the night. Preparations were made to give them a warm reception in case they should show themselves, but no alarm was given.
Another promotion has taken place in this regiment since we have been in camp: First Sergeant Sheldon, of Company H, to be Second Lieutenant of Company K, vice Fuller, resigned. This place is very strongly fortified by rifle pits and breastworks, behind which artillery is posted, commanding the ford. We could keep three times our number at bay very easily.
The weather is still changeable, rain and snow still continue to fall every day or two. We never have more than one fair day at a time. The health of the regiment is still good, and the boys of the 14th do not intend to be caught napping.
Nothing has occurred of general interest during the past week, save the usual routine of camp and picket duty, there being plenty of that to perform. The 13th has gone to Occoquan city, eight miles below here. No drilling at present.
Another foot of snow this morning, and rail fences are getting scarce. I have often heard of the sunny South, and that the "sacred soil" of Virginia would be a lovely place on which to dwell, but I cannot see the point. One day it will be scorching hot, and the next freezing cold, and such a sudden transition from the heat of summer to the extreme cold of winter, is not very agreeable to me. The snow is melting quite fast to-day, which will raise the creek so high that I do not think the "rebs" will attempt to cross to-night.
No battle with the "rebs" to record yet. The 14th is now the headquarters of the brigade. Col. Nichols is unwell to-day.
Another skirmish between our cavalry and Stuart at Vienna yesterday, and the expectations are that he will attempt to pas our lines at this point. If so, I fear he will have more than he can manage.
Nothing from Stuart yet. He has doubtless escaped at some other point. The brigade is at present guarding a line of twenty miles, extending from Union Mills to Occoquan city, there being no other line between this and the Rappahannock.
The "grand Army of the Potomac" still inactive. How much longer shall the nation be kept in suspense, awaiting the movements of our armies? Must there yet be months of inactivity, before the immense force now in the field shall be ready to deal destruction to those engaged in this sacrilegious outrage upon this hitherto prosperous government, and free the country from the grasp of its hellish foes, who are plotting the destruction of our liberties? I hope that peace, with its many blessings, will soon be proclaimed throughout our land.
It cannot be that our beloved country is doomed to a dissolution by parties warring against her. She has a nobler destiny, and will inevitably sail triumphant from off the troublous sea on which she is now being racked.
Day before yesterday was the day appointed by the President for the nation to fast, and I fear it was not strictly observed in camp, as far as abstaining from eating and drinking are concerned, for our "hard tack" was eaten with as much relish as ever. Some part of the army I think did not have to deviate a great deal from the usual mode of living, to fast.
We were permitted, however, to attend divine worship, so we were not behind, on that point, from the mode usually adopted in civil life on that day. The regiment is inspected and mustered to-day.
The weather is again very fine this morning, and the brass band has been giving us some of its most beautiful pieces. I am getting tired of so much music, and long for the time to come, when the reveille and tattoo shall no longer disturb my rest, when I can go to church, breakfast, dinner and supper, without being drummed there. I wish there was more fighting, and less display of "red tape." The roads are getting very dry and dusty. There was another false alarm given on the night of the 9th, which I will here mention: About ten o'clock, the camp was alarmed by the sentinels discharging their pieces. The long roll was beaten, calling the regiment to arms, but no enemy was near. The cause of the disturbance originated at a farm house near by here, where some soldiers were paying a nocturnal visit to the hen roost, and the guard stationed there had fired his gun at them, thereby giving the alarm. Surely we are getting to be heroes of many battles.
To-day, orders have been received for this brigade to take the field. I apprehend a move is soon to take place.
Gen. Heintzelman and Staff visited this picket line yesterday.
We have just received the sad intelligence of the death of Sergeant C. P. Taylor of Company B., who was left at Fairfax Station, sick with the measles, at the time of our move here. He was a noble, kind-hearted boy, much loved by his comrades in arms, who will ever cherish a fond remembrance of him.