Content Page

February 23, 1863. Journal 6: Camp Near White Oak Church, Va. 16th Regiment, N.Y.S.Volunteers.

                                                                                                                                  Camp Near White Oak Ch. Va.
                                                                                                                                                           Feb. 23d 1863.

Own Dear Wify

          Today we celebrated Washington's birthday. The order was to have the regiment & whole army celebrate it yesterday, but on Saturday night down came a most fearful snowstorm which has covered the ground to a depth of from eight to ten inches. Col. Palmer's father came Thursday afternoon & we have enjoyed his visit much. But, I must try & journalize backwards. The Col. & his father rose about half past five, (the Col. (Palmer) sleeping in Dr. Purdy's tent) & they left for Washington, soon after breakfast; it must have been a pretty cold ride for them through the snow up to Falmouth to take the cars. The Col. rode Zollicoffer.
          Well, after our own breakfast, I went to the hospitals & then went to distribute my "Independence," when Col. Howland sends to the regiments, and as I was starting out, Nevins, the Adjutant, called to me to tell me of the order that had just come, to have the 16th & 27th Regt. Paraded together & have extracts from Washington's farewell address read aloud. He wanted me to read them, so I arranged a little plan, had Chaplain Webster make an opening prayer, which he, however, preferred to make from the prayer book. He is Chaplain of the 27th Regt. & an episcopalian. Then I read the extracts & then we sang America. The two regiments were drawn up on three sides of a square, four men deep & presented an impressive sight. After that, I distributed the papers & made several calls (& in the evening, this evening) I had a very pleasant call in Capt. Wood's tent. On returning home after visiting the hospital, I found the Quartermaster & after he went out, Col. Seaver & I sit talking for a little while before the good, warm fire & now he is fast asleep in bed. It is a most beautiful night & starlight & clear & cold & all snow beneath. Somewhat like the North but not exactly: there is no wify here. I will try & commence now, last Monday & write up.
          Monday Morning, the Lt. Col. & I rose & took breakfast early & rode out over to Gen. Brook's head quarters. There had been a snow storm the night before. 400 men had been ordered out from the different regiments of the Brigade to build a corduroy road in front of the Brigade for a mile or so in our command of Col. Palmer & so we rode over together to Brooks' head quarters, passing the detail standing round White Oak Ch. & soon we returned & the Col. dismissed them. The snow storm had so completely blocked all things that they could not commence so we all rode back to the tent & remained there a great part of the day, except when I went out to attend to my usual duties. It is funny but quite a number of the (Plattsburgh ladies' papers) have come; I took them to the Hospital again in a snow storm, some five I think. I have distributed three of them variously among the men of the Regt. I took a little cold a few days before, so I tried to be careful. There came some indication of a boil on the other side of my nose, so I tried some more saltz in the morning for several mornings & finally five grains of blue pill for two nights & salts in the morning & made me prime again. Well, Tuesday, the Col. went off again & had the men go, but as I thought it would be more prudent for me not to go, I remained at home & stayed in a good deal Tuesday & Wednesday, not having any meetings at night, in fact it stormed so that we could not have had them anyway. Thursday, Col. was off again working & the Quartermaster, who has been off on leave up to Ogdensburgh, came back & brought word that Mr. Palmer, the Col. father, was coming in the evening, or else the Quartermaster came Wednesday night, I do not know. However, Thursday night he came & with him Pliny Moore & we certainly did have a very pleasant evening. I went out during part to tend my lecture in the Hospital tent, holding it Thursday instead of Wednesday evening as Wednesday was so unpleasant. Friday the Col. & his father rode over to Stoneman's Station on some business & as I was yet a little under the weather it appeared to me best to keep quiet; had headache & chilliness & c. What I have when I get bilious in spring & Tuesday morning I was better & so took a very pleasant ride with the Col. & his father for several miles down to the pickets & about & over to see the remarkable baby that we have here only four years old & weighs, some say, 120 pounds, perhaps 100. It is a girl of a poor white who also has another child about as much reduced as that is augmented.
          Well, in the evening the order came to celebrate Washington's birthday on the Sabbath. Then came a question of conscience for hubby. The Col. had thought of having me read the extracts & continue it with services. I thought the matter carefully over, & came to the conclusion that I would not deliver a political essay on the Sabbath & I knew that the farewell address is nothing more, as ! read it last year you know (in preparing for the celebration) in such a way as to become pretty familiar with it. I told him that I could not consciously take part in the celebration in any way & of course I could not read the address as part of a religious service. The Col. & the Lt. Col. & Mr. Palmer all became interested & the Col. (Seaver), treating it playfully somewhat but at the same time testing me, I think, asked me if whether if he ordered me to read the address, I would not read it tomorrow. I told him plainly I would have to disobey the order come what would. "Well," said he. "Chaplain, I have not ordered you yet." However, it looked as if it was going to be disagreeable for me, that is in the appearance. If I had no part in it on the morrow, yet I know I was right. And if I had been court-marshaled for it & been dismissed the service. This was a point I would not have yielded. Many things I have done down here on the Sabbath which have been necessary or mercy. We have marched on the Sabbath & c. but that is all different. Here, there was neither necessary nor mercy. The Col. told me I was a hard one. But own little wify, God arranged it for hubby. Sabbath, that is, yesterday, was the day of the awful storm, down came the snow & how it blew. They fired away with the old cannon, but it did not amount to much after all. Few men put their heads out their tents, except to get wood & c., so the trial for hubby did not come. Today it was all right & it went off finely. Of course, with the Col. there could have been no trouble; he treaded playfully, but the appearance would seem to have been bad before the men, (but the snow came). It reminds me of the illumination of St. Peters & God permitting us to see it afterwards. Sabbath evening we had our meeting at night in the Hospital Steward's tent. The Hospital steward has a little mess dog that is a good friend of mine. I go in there frequently to pat him; he is so companionable. The Steward lately has had a fireplace built & it is amusing to see the little dog enjoy it. He comes & sits up right before it & keeps looking at the fire. The other night I had a funny time in the Steward's tent, when there in came an old pioneer of the Regt., by the name of Averill, with a tremendous black beard & mustache that they call Cyclops. He goes by that name among the boys because they say he sits down before a great kettle of beans & downs them all. Well, in he came & on asking him how he was, he said he was not well, that he was the last man to give up, but the fact was that a few days ago he had a cup up between his arm & his side (opposite his heart) & as he run with it, he fell & it was all in here. "What" says I, throwing up my hands, "the cup?" Oh, no, says he. It is so sore in here. Well, he went on to tell how he had been boiling a kettle of beans & c., where upon I told him that beans sometimes were indigestible. "and might cause such pain." However, Latz, the steward, told him he would give him some ointment.
          Wify, my own one, you need not feel troubled about the purchase of a hospital tent, for I could not get one. I felt this way about it. I thought if I was taking pay of the government, I ought to try & use every means to get a church tent. At least, that was my feeling & determined to let God decide the matter for me. I would take the means to get it, but God frustrated all my plans, both for a small tent & hospital tent, so now I feel content & shall not try again for we do not know how long we will be here. Wify, the reason of my commencing the journal so late is this: I had sheets, four I believe, bringing it up to within two weeks of today or thereabouts & I lost it out of my pocket, but I think it was in the wild woods, however there was nothing unseeable in it. I was somewhat discouraged about it & I kept looking, thinking I would find it in my bed or somewhere & did not write for a while. So, I must make it up. I can't feel disappointed for certainly it is for some good purpose. God has been so kind to us. Own one, I sent off to you today, a copy of Mr. Meyer's letter & a copy of my answer, I think & to get it in Friday but missed the mail. Would not put it in Saturday night or Sunday, but Monday. I sent Mr. Meyer's Thursday. And, oh, how I have been retarded in writing that letter, it seemed queer to me. It is difficult during the day to write in the tent & particularly such a letter, but now it is off you must tell me just what you think of it. I did not want to say too much.

Feb. 24th 1863.

         Own Dear Wify. Today (Tuesday) has been beautiful with sun shine, but dismal underfoot. After making my usual visit to the hospitals, I stopped in to see the Quartermaster. Then in the morning, Col. Upton (Upton) of the 121st Regt. N.Y.V. came in & stayed to dinner with us, our little party being the Col. the Major, Col. Upton & myself. We had one of the jars of sweet corn (sent from Hartford) opened & it was so nice. By the by, I wrote a long letter home to the girls, thanking them & telling them what I could that would interest them. I took as much pains with it as I could. I wrote some time ago, don't remember now. Well, what I want to say of Col. Upton is that he is a regular officer, graduated high at West Point, was recommended for the Engineers. We had a long, interesting conversation here this morning with Col. S. & myself. He says at the Point, he was one of the most unpopular men there; had only about six friends who would walk with him, part of a group of Southerners. So he told us of the constraint he was under at last to fight a number & he amused us much with his account of his wupping a South Carolinian, Gibbs, who was the one who fired the second ball in the walls of Sumpter. The point he wanted to illustrate was the meanness of the Southern character. They always, he might say, seem to try in a fight (at West Point) to take some detestable advantage, such as gouging the eyes or chewing a man's finger. Gibbs tried both these experiments upon him, but was trounced. Upton is a Republican, a despiser of McClelland & all treason & is a true man. I commenced last night & wrote up from the 16th to 23d. Now I will try & recall from the 9th of Feb to the 16th.

          Monday the 9th. Having been previously informed by Averill of the Pioneers (Cyclops) of the existence of the fat baby 4 years old & so heavy. The Col. & I thought we would go over sometime & see it. I went down in the camp to distribute my papers & visited the men in the tents, when suddenly I heard some one call me outside of one tent & it was Lt. Col. He wanted to know if I would ride over with him & see the baby. I said yes & leaving the rest of my papers for afterwards, we rode over, guided by Cyclops to see the curiosity. Well, it was indeed a sight worth seeing. The house is of logs filled in between with mud & gravel, or rather a frame house so filled in with an immense chimney & fireplace. The family a good illustration of poor whites. That wicked twang which pretty much all have of day-e-yea-se for yes and other things of the like as we stood by the house under the apple trees to which our horses were tied & Cyclops with us, looking off from the hill through the valley that spread out towards the Rappahannock. I thought how wify would liked to have caught a glimpse of us. Well soon we returned & in the afternoon, I worked some on a problem that Wilson, the Adjutant, gave me to do: x2 + y = 7 & y2 + x = 11. It was a very hard one & took spare time of several days before I found a way to solve it, and even now I find a little flaw in one of my equations. Some time when I have leisure, I will look at it again. The next day, the Col. (Seaver), Col. Palmer, Wilson & Capt. Wood & myself all rode over to see the fat baby a we did have such a droll ride. Col. Seaver afforded us much amusement, especially in his efforts to win the attention of the impressive lump of pork that sat sucking its fingers & would not get up from the floor for any of us. We all came galloping back at last, some one way & some another. Wilson was on a blind horse, Wood on an old nag & altogether there was a good deal of comicality about the expedition, particularly as in this country we came across hill & dale & through fields & over ditches & c. & c. Capt. Wood returned the week before & I was so glad to see him and ask him about wify, my own dear wify, how she looked & what she said. He gave me your dear letter but the box is not yet come. He was obliged to put all his packages into the charge of the express & the government have them in charge, but we hope to have them soon. Well in the evening of the day spoken of, Friday the llth, I proposed to fix Lt. Col. Palmer's shoulder straps for him. He had been wearing all along his Major's straps, which are this:

The two leaves being gold or gilt. Now, for a Lt. Col. the leaves must be silver, so Wednesday morning, the llth, I rose bright & early & bought at the Sutler's of the Jersey Brigade, through Edo, a little, two shilling looking glass & scraped the quicksilver off & then took a little Aqua Regia, which the Col. had for medicine, and taking the little leaves and silvered them all over prettily & taking the piece of velvet on top off came down to bright blue cloth so that the straps looked finely, just the things. He was very much pleased with them. Well that very day it so happened that a Regular Army Officer of a battery near Battery D, 2d Artillery, Lieut. Barrow, came over to muster us into the service, so we were all mustered in, & I was so glad that the Lt. Col. had his straps. Afterwards, as it was a beautiful day, we had a fine game of ball & in the Afternoon the Col. & I took a ride on horseback way off in the woods & came out by an old farmer's house. He came running towards us to see if we were lost. He had a number of children gathered around him. We talked to him awhile & then let our horses bring us back. Coats had taken Zollicoffer off with him when he went to get the milk, so I had his horse. The Col. ran round on his horse in a thick bush & the horse I was riding being very slow, I could not follow in the hide & go seek game & when he finally made his appearance again, my old horse commenced to make a congratulating noise in acknowledgment of his return. We let our horses take their course & they brought us home safe to camp almost in a direct line. This was the day Dr. Murphy returned & Friday, the day following, the Col. (Palmer) & myself rode over with Dr. Murphy to deliver him up to his new Regt., the 12th N.Y., to which he has been promoted. We went up towards Hooker's head quarters & soon in the distance thought we saw a house on fire. At last we perceived it was the fine Phillips house where Gen. Sumner's headquarters had been. We rode on a couple of miles till we reached it & it was a sight to see. It was a beautiful house, originally built of brick, finely finished inside & with piazza & c. round it. Of course, there was no way of putting it out so multitudes looked on & saw it burn. We pressed on to Stoneman's Station & at last brought the Doctor in safely to his new place of surgery. We past a place where crests of horses were buried, mounded over & some not. Passing an old, deserted camp, Frank, the Dr.'s man who accompanied us, picked up a Bible laying in the mud. We were very pleasantly received at the 12th & Ere long bid good by & commenced our return again. In returning, we chose a road for ourselves & came across the country & thus cut off some two or three miles, perhaps. When at Stoneman's Station two trains of cars came in & Capt. Wood was sitting on the top of one, but we did not notice him, nor he us. We did not know of it till we met in the Regt. at home in camp. The weather was so pleasant during this week that my company prayer meeting were held but the next week the weather was so unfavorable that we omitted them. It was well for me too, for I was myself a little under the weather. Saturday, they had another splendid game of ball. If I remember right, I took a fine, warm bath in Dr. Purdy's tent & we also had a new tent for the Col.'s head quarters. He made a requisition for one previously & it arrived that day & we are now enjoying it. It is very clean & bright, both by day & by night, giving us much more light during the day by transmission & by night by reflection from its white clean walls. Sabbath, we had services as usual, the whole regiment turning out & it did present a fine appearance. We had our cheer, too. I have been obliged to draw so upon my memory now in writing this, dear wify, that I hurry to put down facts so as to get them down & catch up. I don't remember the text now. In the evening, our usual Sabbath evening lecture very well attended, Col. Palmer went in with me also. Now, own one, I must try & write up from Saturday evening, the 31st of Jan. (the night I sent off my journal) up to the morning of Thursday, Feb. 9th & I will have completed all. I feared somewhat, I could not do it on starting, but it seems God has enabled me to remember for our dear wify's sake. First, I must say the day I spoke of us having played a game of Ball, Gen. Bartlett came out afterwards a played too & men from nearly the whole Brigade entered into the game. Col. Adams, shortly after Gen. Bartlett was called away & as he past on horse back someone threw the ball & it happened to pass right to his saddle bow. He caught it very gracefully & threw it back.
          Well, I don't recollect anything of intent. The Saturday evening after sending off the journal except selecting hymns for the choir. The next day, we had a fine turn out of the regiment & the choir did it well. In the evening, our usual service in the Hospital Steward's tent. There is one point I left out of Friday, the day we took Dr. Murphy to his regiment. Early in the morning, Col. Palmer & I rode over to White Oak Church to see if we could use it for services, but found the floors torn up & the pulpit gone. So we continued on & had a pleasant ride, & then started at about one o'clock with the Dr. coming back both our horses made some fine leaps over ditches, quite wide ones.


          Feb. 25th 1863: Own Dear one. It is after dinner of Wednesday. After breakfast, & going to the hospital I went to distribute some Independents & Christian Banners. The letter, or several little papers published for soldiers & sailors, as well as Sabbath schools, by the Barton Tract Society. Then I went to see about the Company roles & wanted to get my list of names added too. In the camp this morning, I found our axe helves which a soldier would sell & so I bought it & will save the necessity of chopping one out of a stick. Some one took my axe helve, the other day. Last evening, when I was writing, Pliny Moore came in & stayed some time. He had with him several photographs of ladies & one of Miss Blatchford, a lady who has been staying in Plattsburgh with his sister for some time, whom he spoke of very highly, seemed to be quite taken with her but this is between you & I, own hubby & wify. And here is something more that it will not do to mention. He told us he had two promising opportunities of promotion, Major or Lt. Col. of the Cavelry Regt. of Plattsburgh & also Major of the 118th Regt. (near Washington) But now I must go back & see if I can remember anything of the items from Feb 2d (Monday) up to the morning of the 9th of Feb. I think that week I succeeded in having the company prayer meetings. That is when prevented one evening making up at some other time. John lets me take his lantern now. John is the driver of the hospital ambulance. He has a good lantern, (Jake Bedelle). He cut my hair the other day & I have trimmed my beard some & kept the trimmings for wify. Latz, the Hospital Steward, gave me a lantern today out of which there are two glasses broken. If I can find any glass I will fix it and have a good lantern of my own for our meetings, my paper lanterns take fire. The nice octagon lantern I made I got all ready & put eight candles in & had the paper round & was on my way with it to the prayer meeting when I stubbed my toe & sprawled out, the candles all rolling every way & the lantern taking fire, but I put it out & extinguished all the candles but one & fixed the lantern again so as to have my meetings after all. Well wify, I can not think of what I did Monday, the 2d, nor Tuesday either. They were doubtless days as usual --

          Feb 27th 1863: I must finish up these days I can not think of anything in particular. Wednesday, I had my prayer meeting, Thursday, Friday & Saturday were no more than usual. I do not remember anything particular except that Gilmore tells me that Thursday it snowed very hard & blew terribly & I do remember that we were in doors much & the chimney smoked badly, I think. Friday it rained badly, Gilmore says & Saturday I don't remember much, but Gilmore may, tending a court marshal that had been sitting for some time as he was Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday. But they have faded away from my memory, practically nothing more than usual around. Sabbath, Feb. 8th, was a bad day, muddy & we were obliged to omit service on the parade so I held meetings with the companies during the day, 2 companies at a time, making five meetings in the afternoon & one in the hospital Steward's tent in the evening, so I presented six sermons during the day. The officers went off at about two o'clock to bid Gen. Smith good by & welcome Gen. Sidrich, the new commander of the corps. Col. Palmer had hurt his foot & so he stayed at home. Before they went, Mrs. Somebody, a wife of some Vermont officer & cousin of Col. Seaver's, came over to call on him. How funny it seemed to see a lady down here. When Col. Palmer comes home I will let him look in his note book & see if he can recall to me anything about the day's referred to of the week for 1st to 8th or rather for 2d to 7th. Have I not been permitted to remember much, own dear wify, I have written up from memory except what Gilmore told me about the rain & snow & c. There is Pliny Moore just come out of Best's tent. He is smoking that funny little pipe of his & he always looks so full of fun to me. He is a great favorite of mine now. He has disappeared into the tent again. There is a horse with a red blanket on it, a fine horse belongs to some battery near here & has been ridden over here by a soldier, who is now very drunk. The horse is tied just in sight by one of the officer's tents. Our tent fly is up & no fire inside; it is quite warm today. Well, some time ago the poor fellow mounted & tried to ride off & he did so effectively bodily. The boys put him on again & then he went like John right through a mud hole & gained the top of that hill over yonder where he wheeled round, saying "Lefthalfffa & forward directly into the mud hole suit" & then he pointed to it & rolled about so much that the boys went to him & took him off & they have taken him into some tent to get him a little sober before he tries it again. Col. Seaver's brother's here. He came yesterday. We have had dinner & just before dinner, we returned from taking the regiment out on picket. They went out this morning & we went with them & stopped at Mr. Hay's, an old secessionist. He was dressed in Butternuts cloth of that color. The color the secess. dress in. We talked to him some time. He has lost his niggers & cattle & feels pretty sore. We have a contraband named Sam, who works for Gilmour (used to work for Dr. Crandall). He said he was worth about $2,000, would pay $1,000 for him. He has two daughters. Behind the door was a bayonette on a stick that he said he once fixed for a darky of his; drive away some thieves from his pig pen; offered the darky five dollars if he would bring the robber with the bayonette through his body. He says he is descended from Lord Hay, who had a patent for all the country some where. Oh, what a set they are down here. I must try & give you a description of the house. It was a clap board house, whitewashed, I think. The roof was steep & covered with shingles, rounded

this fashion, a large Chimney, on either side, double house, an old projecting porch & sets under it, very rickety, apple tree & c. round the house. Then an old unpainted palling & the other fences were wicker work, upright sticks & boughs woven in & out his kitchen was a small house out side & several other out houses down a lane for negroes & poor whites, then barns & c. with dogs {hounds) there. In the room were we sit for some time, there was no carpet, three chairs, a table & some daubs of paintings, portraits & a few engravings, including a picture of Solomon's temple. Nell, on our way back, we stopped to see the fat baby & then came to camp pretty hungry. just before dinner the balloon was up for some time. They say that today we have taken some five or six hundred prisoners. They came over on a reconnaissance & the balloon seeing them, they were interrupted. & taken, but since proved a hoax. One of our boys nearly cut his finger off with an axe. Dr. Purdy was all undressed taking a bath & so I went with him to the dispensary & saw to its doing up, sewing the bandage for him & washing his hand & it was really refreshing to see how grateful he was. (We appeared forget with a fellow. The other day grated the piece of his finger off). Wednesday I had my lecture as usual in the evening. Thursday, after breakfast someone outside of the tent cried "Joel." "Hallow" says the Col. It was his brother. He is a very pleasant gentleman, Mr. John Seaver, the other editor of the Malone Palladium. So after waiting a little while, I left them alone to talk, went to the hospital & made some calls & then called on old Chaplain Adams. By the by, we met the old Chaplain as we were coming home today. He was going coming his regiment to distribute papers. On our way home today also we saw the Brigade Bakery, six or seven holes made in the earth or at nine arches covered with dirt thus with birch at the bottom.

& then the top got covered with old beef hides; makes very good ovens though & we have fresh bread. The Col. & his brother have gone up to Falmouth today. They will probably see the prisoners. I did not go for I thought I would stay & write & the roads are so muddy, you get all covered. I was going with Mr. Seaver, if the Col. had not gone, but he finally concluded to go so I concluded not to. We are expecting them back soon. I wrote to you last evening my letter with the checks: two for grandma 32.85 & $18.06 & two of 20 each for wify. I sent the letter off.