Life In Camp (J. C. Williams)
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Orders to take the Field. -- No longer in the Reserve Corps. -- Seven Days' Rations on Hand. -- Gen. Casey superseded. - The Regiment is again paid off. -- Still under Marching Orders. -- A new Brigadier General. -- The Regiment again called to Arms. -- Mustered for Pay. -- Grand display of "Red Tape." -- The Orders to march are renewed. -- Battle of Fredericksburg. -- Warm Weather. -- Hooker back in his Old Position.
Orders have been received to be ready to take the field at a moment's notice, with seven days' rations. I will here remark, that we have never but once been without marching orders since being in the service.
No move yet, but speedy preparations are being made for a move of some kind. Our A tents are to be taken away from us, and orders from the quartermaster that no more clothing will be issued for thirty days. Officers are to be left with nothing but fly tents, so they will fare no better than their men.
It has been ascertained that the 14th numbers more men, fit for duty, than any other regiment in the brigade. Reports are current that we are to go to Warrenton, forty miles from here, when we move. All the sick, to the number of fifty, have this day been removed to Alexandria, which clearly shows that a moved is expected. A little rainy to day.
We are no longer in the reserve corps for the defense of Washington, but will hereafter form a part of the army in the field. Nothing new to-day; still under marching orders.
No move yet, and mere conjecture where we shall go when we do move. Casey's whole division has been transferred to the field. Our tents have all been turned over, and everything is now in readiness to march, but we may stay here some time yet.
Seven days' rations are still on hand, ready for a move. It will doubtless depend on Hooker's movements, whether we move or not. He is doubtless preparing for another "onward to Richmond" movement. We may be in the rebel Capital before the end of another month -- who knows?
How I wish Gen. Grant had the command of the Army of the Potomac, and would commit one of his blunders, and capture Richmond, together with thirty thousand prisoners, although we have the assurance that when Hooker moves he cannot help being victorious. May it be so.
Drilling as usual. The ground is now all settled, trees are in full blossom, and all nature has assumed a new attire, and I hope that the condition of the country, which has been so dreary for the past few months, is about to assume a new aspect.
Reveille at half past five in the morning, when the voice of the Orderly is heard -- fall in for roll call! Company drill at ten o'clock in the morning, battalion at one o'clock in the afternoon, and dress parade at four o'clock, constitutes the daily programme.
Gen. Abercrombie is now in command of the division, in place of Casey removed, -- headquarters at Centreville. The weather is fine at present.
Col. Stannard of the 9th Vermont is about to be promoted to a Brigadier, and to have command of this brigade. Still under marching orders, and at present form a reserve for the army in the field, consequently shall not move unless needed.
Plenty of drilling at present -- think we shall be well prepared for a march when the order comes.
The regiment is in good spirits to-day, ready for anything which may turn up in the line of marching or fighting. Liberty and justice are at stake. Our country, the best that ever existed, is passing through a fiery ordeal, and the 14th Vermont is ready to manfully sustain the cause.
The Paymaster is again in our camp, laden with "green backs" to pay us off. The weather is still fine.
We were paid off yesterday -- received four months' pay. Recent circumstances indicate that the campaign is about to open, and much confidence is felt in Hooker, and that victory awaits our arms. This is to be an eventful week, and we are waiting very anxiously to know the result of the next movement. We are confident that success will inevitably be secured to our arms. The glorious old Stars and Stripes will yet float over every inch of soil where rebeldom lifts is accursed head, and where thrice accursed traitors trample it beneath their feet. This is a cause which is worthy to be engaged in, one in which al mankind are interested. The preservation of this Union is one of the noblest things to fight for. Not anywhere in the annals of the past ages do we find a government founded upon such liberal principles. America! glorious America! long may she live to be an asylum for the oppressed of all nations, where men of all color can enjoy equal rights and privileges, and freedom the inalienable right of man; a country where the people do not bow to kings or tyrants, but in whose hands alone rests the power to govern, and where people can worship God according to the dictates of their own conscience; where education is unrestrained, and civilization unchecked.
I blush to mention that one foul blot upon our country's fair escutcheon, which has been allowed to exist too long in one part of the land -- I mean "that sum of all villainies, " that evil system, which holds a part of the human race in bondage, which has impoverished the land, and reduced the people to the lowest state of misery and degradation, and has at last culminated in this wicked rebellion. But if slavery dies with this war, than shall we be well paid for the sacrifices that are now being made, and the glorious results which will bless millions yet unborn.
Five hours drill per day, so that we cannot complain of a lack of exercise. Gen. Stannard is now our Brigadier, with headquarters at Union Mills. Six long months have elapsed since I have enjoyed the pleasant associations of the family circle, and long for the time to come when I may be permitted to return to the joys of civil life.
The camp was again alarmed last night. About ten o'clock, firing was heard on the picket line, and soon the long roll-call was beaten, calling the men to arms. But a short time elapsed before the regiment was in line, ready for the expected attack, but none was made, however.
This is the warmest day of the season. The 12th marched to Union Mills this morning, so that the 14th only is left to perform picket duty at this place. Orders have been received for the regiment to practice target-shooting one day in each week until further notice.
We have again been mustered for pay, and what a magnificent display of "red tape." This completes the roll for eight months.
The orders to march are renewed to-day, to be ready to march at a moment's notice, but do not think we shall be called on. The booming of cannon, which is heard I the direction of Fredericksburg, tells us that "Fighting Joe" is at work. He will doubtless strike a hard blow to the Rebellion, the result of which will end the war.
The roaring of artillery at Fredericksburg is distinctly heard in camp this morning. All are anxious to hear the result.
The second battle of Fredericksburg is one of the bloodiest of the war. Nothing official from Hooker yet.
Cheering news in camp this morning, The enemy retreating, and the war cry of Hooker is "onward to Richmond."
The operations of the past few days have been cheering in the extreme. Hooker is the man of the day, but I fear he will not be able to hold his position. Great achievements are expected from Stoneman.
No move with us yet. It is now about one month since we received orders to take the field, for which purpose we were soon prepared. Since then we have held ourselves in readiness to march at any time, and especially for the past week, having been under orders to move at a moment's warning.
We expected to have been participants in the late battle, but in consequence of the important position we occupy here, and the essential duty we are performing in keeping up this picket line, we could not be there. Our A tents having been taken away from us, soon after we were ordered to take the field, nothing was left us but fly tents.
Gen. Stannard and Staff visited us yesterday -- headquarters at Union Mills.
We cannot complain of nothing to do at present, for we are put upon drill every day. The regiment is now learning the skirmish-drill and bayonet exercise, a knowledge of which is invaluable to well drilled troops. Col. Nichols is determined to have us second to none, and so are we. The weather is extremely fine now, and the health of the regiment good.
I still hear, now and then, of people at home who are finding fault with us. They say we are not doing anything -- that we are living too easily. But ignorance only can be the mother of such absurd talk. No sensible person who understood the importance of the duty our brigade was performing, in keeping up a picket line of forty or fifty miles in the heart of the enemy's country, would be heard to utter such words. But we can expect nothing different from those who are determined not to help the cause of freedom, and who are trying, by putting forth every effort, to destroy and discourage all means employed to finish this cruel strife.
It is so warm at present that drilling is performed early in the morning. The line was formed this morning at reveille, which was at half past five o'clock. The regiment is busily engaged to-day in policing the camp-ground. It is generally understood now, that we shall stay here for the present, for Hooker does not desire any more troops in his command whose time will be out so soon as ours, during the summer campaign.
Hooker is back again in his old position, and I am feeling greatly disappointed in the result of his late movements. I begin to think that something is wrong in the management of affairs somewhere. Why is it that this "grand Army of the Potomac" is doomed to suffer so many defeats? Is it through some lack of skill in its commanders, or is it in consequence of too much interference from Washington. I am inclined to be of the latter opinion.
Our brigade is at present guarding a line of about fifty miles, extending from Rappahannock Station to Occoquan City.
Reveille at five o'clock. We have a model camp now -- streets regularly laid out and policed every morning.
Great confidence is still reposed in Gen. Hooker, and that he will yet retrieve the losses which the army has just sustained. The last movement was attended with great loss and no gain. He has just been reinforced by thirty thousand men from this department.
All is again quiet on the Potomac. The battery of artillery stationed at this post was inspected yesterday. In consequence of the weather being so extremely warm, he have only two and one-half hours' drill per day, which is mainly in the bayonet exercise. Picking is getting to be somewhat tedious -- requiring two-thirds of the regiment to perform it, and thereby giving only two days out of seven for rest. Cavalry is sent out every day to patrol the roads in this vicinity, and patrols from the regiment are sent out every night.