Beginning November 25 A.D. 1861.
Dedicated to my dear wife Mary K. Boyington. “Keep this in remembrance of me.”
All the within has been copied verbatim from the leaves of a journal that I wrote day after day, and week after week as opportunity offered, while engaged in the ‘War of the Rebellion’, sending them by mail to my wife who had, I found on my return, all the leaves paged in regular order as they came to her. I shall, if permitted after a lapse of 50 years, it now being A.D. 1911, add as memory serves me, what occured at the hospital, where the 11th day of March 1864, when on stretchers and beds, I was taken to our home at Ringgold Pa.
Robert I Boyington, Carrier Oklahoma, December 8th. 1911.
Wildamae George and Lois George Dolby typed a copy from R. I. Boyington hand written copy. May 5th. 1940. Helen Rahn George retyped this copy from their’s November 8th. 1952.
Blairsville Pa. Nov. 27 A.D. 1861. Wednesday.
We bade adieu to our friends in Worthville on Monday the 25th at 2 o’clock P.M. The day was stormy and we had a cold disagreeable time on our road to Whitesville. At Silvers store we were met by my old time friend Joseph Brown, and the boys of his school, with music and colors flying, and escorted by them to the store where Mr. Silver treated to candies, nuts and crackers. Three cheers were given the boys and bidding them all goodby, we started again, reaching Whitesville at dusk. Joseph Brown walked a short distance with me. I felt as I parted with him that I was leaving a dear friend and true. I trust we may meet again. I spent the evening in my fathers home in conversation and in preparing for my journey. I dreamed of you often during the night and wondered how you rested. All were ready to start at 4;30 the next morning. I remained behind to bid my parents, brothers, and sisters, and the many friends who had at that early hour come to say, perhaps a last, goodbye and take my hand. How hard it is to leave a dear father and mother, kind and loving brothers, sisters and friends whom we may never meet again on earth. Oh how glad we are for the hope, the blessed hope of meeting, ‘where all tears are wiped from our eyes and partings are no more’. God grant that this may be our happy lot and may this hope, dear Mary, strengthen you. The day grew brighter as it advanced, and at 5 P.M. we reached Indiana, to late for the cars. We put for the night at the ‘Exchange’ and rested well. At 6 o’clock the next morning, I walked over to Uncle Stephen Jackson’s, who has lately moved here, to spend the day with them, until 3 P.M. when our train will start for Harrisburg.
Here I am in this our state capitol city. We left Blairsville at 9:35 P.M. and so crossed the Allegany Mountains in the night. I had hoped to have crossed in daylight and so have had a view of the scenery, which is said to be grand in the extreme. The latter part of the night was clear so that I could notice objects at quite a distance. The face of the country appeared wild and much broken. At 4 o’clock in the morning, we reached the depot where I had my first glimpse of solider life awaiting me. Hundreds were lying wrapped in their blankets, fast asleep, on the platform, their heads resting on their knapsacks, packed as close as chickens on a roost. I had taken supper at Uncle Stephen Jacksons, but not a wink could I sleep on our train, which was crowded to the utmost, yet I do not feel at all exhausted. Uncle Martin Shannon has just started for Baltimore, but we must wait till 10 o’clock A.M. Yes, I find we will be detained till 1 o’clock P.M., that we may be mustered into the service in the meantime. It looked hard to me to see the sleeping soldiers as they lay unconscious of the great noise and bustle on every side, but when they arose they seemed so vigorous, so refreshed and cheerful that I came to the conclusion that it was not so hard after all. They all had bread and crackers with them, but their coffee was made in great iron kettles and carried out to them in wash tubs and boilers, then dipped out in tincups with which each soldier was supplied. We had changed cars twice on the way, but I could not tell where. We got our breakfast at the United States Hotel. (price 50 cents). I have been around the city this A.M. I have seen the Capitol and many other splended buildings. Have bought ourselves a tin cup, a plate, and spoon.
November 30. 1861. Saturday. Camp Jemison.
After all we did not leave Harrisburg till Friday. You know the 28th was Thanksgiving, and I had an opportunity of seeing how it was spent in our state Capitol city, and truly I am sorry that I have no better account to give. Although most of the churches were opened and pretty well attended, yet soldiers, almost without exception, we either drunk or drinking, with many of the citizens in a noisy and often helpless condition. Shows and concerts were in full blast and there was a fine exhibition by the fire hose company on Market street. With their steam engine they threw water up a steeple I thought near 200 feet high, with a force that would have sent a man off his feet. We boarded at the National Hotel. We reached Baltimore on the 21st at noon, and walked 1-1/2 miles to the Washington depot. I can tell but little of the city as our stay was very short. We passed the Battle Monument, a large marble structure, and also saw many statues for which the city is famous. The city seemed to be thronged with Negroes.
Taking the cars for Washington, we arrived about an hour after dark and made our way immediately to the “Soldiers relief” for supper, having fasted since breakfast. Now came my first army ration which consisted of a piece of bread about six inches long and two inches thick and four inches wide, with a liberal slice of boiled beef tongue cold, and with all the coffee we wanted, but no plate, knife, fork or spoon and of course without cream or sugar. Hungry as we were, we found our rations sufficient to satisfy us perfectly. We were soon shown into a large room up stairs where we slept on the floor wrapped up in our blankets, and rested well. During the night a company of U.S. regulars, cavalry, came in. They were from Utah Territory and had been in the service over seven years. They were rough looking fellows. In the morning I got another ration, with several hundred others, after which I walked out a short time, but as I was waiting orders did not dare to go far. I had an outside view of the capitol and sat down on the steps. Other public buildings were close in view, all built of white marble, making a beautiful appearance. At 10 o’clock A.M. we started for camp, passing over the ‘Long bridge’, over the Potomac River, which seemed to be three miles in length. Soldiers were guarded either end and no one could pass without a pass from headquarters. We got to camp at 3 P.M., distance 12 miles. On the way we passed through Alexandria, a city of 12,000, and where Col. Ellsworth was killed. I have not seen a Rebel yet and my opinion is that we shall not, very soon.
November 30th. 1861. Saturday night.
This was my first night spent in a soldiers camp. I arose very much refreshed and after breakfast Uncle M.H. Shannon got passes to and from the 11 P.R.C. for 4 days. We reached Alexandria to late for the cars and returned to camp for the night. We started the next morning at 7:30 and got to Blacks 63rd Pa. At 9 o’clock and to the 11th At noon. I found brother Myron and the other boys in good health and spirits. We returned the next day, or rather I did, Shannon stopping at Blacks over night.
It is now December 6th.
And I continue in good health. Other particulars by next mail.
December 7th. 1861.
In going to the 11th Regt. P.R.C., we passed through the 62nd Pa., Col. Blacks Regt., and met some boys with whom I was acquainted, among whom were George Richards, Wm. Depp, Mr. Turner, Jesse Y smith, Mr. Jos. Shick, Lt. Putney and Steck, Capt. Means and Beck, and many others. At the 11th P.R.C. we took dinner with Wm. Kelley, Wm. Coulter, and Mr. Love. I spent the P.M. with brother Myron, visiting old friends which we found were not a few. Supper with Myron which consisted of bread, beef, sausage, coffee, tea, sugar, molasses, and mince pie. Cigars were passed around after we had eaten and having been joined by Andrew Harl, Robinson Coulter and Sam’l Shick. We talked of home and past days till the ‘Means’ boys came in and invited us to an oyster supper which we accepted. It was yet early and we had a merry time. We retired at a late hour, but was up at daybreak and spent the time till 8 o’clock with Myron and with 12 or 14 other Regts., to make a reconnaissance in force. We parted in high spirits, they to their duty and I to return to my own camp, yet we wist not if we ever meet again on earth, but such is the soldiers life, full of uncertainties. I arrived at Blacks Regt. At noon. I ate dinner with George Richards and spent time with friends till 2 o’clock P. M. And started again for the 105th. I missed the cars and had to walk 10 or 11 miles to Alexandria an hour after dark and thus had much difficulty in passing the guards as I did not have the countersign, but I fell in with a Lt. From Maine and he enabled me to reach camp a little before 9 o’clock this, Tuesday, evening, in time to lead in evening worship, they having established it in our tent at my suggestion on last Sunday evening, the majority being members of some church. After this we shall take turns in leading. It seemed to cause a solemn feeling with all present. I felt that God was with us and that he bless our feeble efforts. Our tents are called ‘Syblee’ tents. They at 16 ft. In diameter at the bottom coming to a peak at the top, are circular in form and intended to I 20 men. We have but 16 in ours, the company not being full. We have a sheet iron stove which warms it pretty well. On the morning of December 4th, Wednesday, I got my accouterments for the service, consisting of musket, cartridge box, and bayonet, with haversack, knapsack, blanket, overcoat, frock coat, 1 pair of pants, shoes, 2 pair of drawers, 2 undershirts, 1 knit blouse, with a few other articles of less importance. Our rations consist of a certain quantity of bread or crackers, beef or pork, beans, rice or corn meal, sugar, molasses, coffee or tea, vinegar, soup, salt, and occasionally potatoes. So that we at all times have enough to eat, drink, and wear. On Thursday our brigade was marched down to the Potomac flat, 1-1/2 miles, to have brigade drill. The brigade consists of 6,000 or 8,000 men. We went through the various evolutions and returned at sundown, having been out since noon. It was a magnificent sight to me, unaccustomed as I am to such scenes. We are called out by reveille at 5 o’clock every morning, formed in company line, and the roll is called by the orderly Sergeant, and we drill about 1-1/2 hours, and then breakfast, go out again at 9 o’clock and in at noon, out again at 1 or 2 and in at 4, out again in 15 or 20 minutes for what is called ‘dress parade’, this lasts about ½ hour. We are then dismissed until 9 o’clock in the evening, when we are again formed in line in front of our tents for roll call, then to our beds, to be called again at 5 o’clock in the morning. Our tents are placed in rows, each company forming a row, completing a street about 40 feet wide between each company. There are 5 tents in each row, the Captains tents or quarters at the head. Every Regt. Has a quarter masters dept. Where provisions etc. Are kept and dealt out, by the quartermaster, to each company every day. There is also a Sutlers tent where is kept all sorts of ‘nick-nacks’ and delicacies coveted by soldiers, such as cheese, nuts, pies, raisins, and candies, which are considered injurious to the soldiers. Congress is now considering the propriety of removing them. Apples, oysters, milk, butter, and other things are brought in every day by citizens, to sell to the soldiers, who pay big prices for all. This morning I bade goodby to Uncle Martin Shannon, who has started home. I had expected to be homesick in a week or two, but find myself happily disappointed, true I think of you and my many friends daily, yet there is so much here to divert the attention, that our minds do not long remain on any one thing. Capts. Freas and Dowling of companies G and B have both resigned on account of difficulties with Colonel McKnight who, I think, considers them quite incompetent to fill their positions. Some others are discussing the propriety of following their examples. I must here mention the 7th day of this month as being one of the most perfect days I have ever seen this year. The air is so clear we are able to discern objects clearly at a great distance, and it is warm as midsummer in Jeff. Co. Flies are buzzing around and nearly all kinds of insects are yet alive. The U.S. Capitol is easily seen from our camp, with parts of the cities of Washington and Alexandria, and a most beautiful view of the Potomac is also to be had from our position, with its many ships, sloops, schooners, steam vessels, etc., at anchor or moving on its waters. The same routine of duties come with each day so that it is but a repitition to record them unless something unusual transpires.
December 8th. Sunday.
Another warm pleasant day has passed. The second Sabbath spent as a soldier. How changed. Instead of a quiet Sabbath such as I have spent heretofore, we are aroused from our slumbers by the beating of the reveille, and all is bustle. The soldiers are formed as usual in line in their company streets to answer to roll call. We hear the discharge of pistols and musketry in every direction, and now the thunder of distant cannon comes with its thousand echoes upon the ears. All around you, you hear the shouts and laughter of our fellow-soldiers. Some are singing, others writing, some cleaning their guns and accouterments, and others reading or conversing, yet all serves to remind me of absent loved ones, and the quiet Sabbaths spent with them in their quiet homes. The rolling drum gives the signal for guard mounting. Now the brass band is filling the air with its soul stirring and cheering strains. Old Hundred comes floating to the ear from the distance, or other sacred hymns or melodies, as regiment after regiment are summoned to divine services at different hours of the day. Our hour today was at 11 o’clock A.M. I was among the number and listened with much pleasure to a discourse of Matthew, 14th verse. He was plain but brief, giving much good advice concerning the vices incident to camp life, representing them as the broad way to ruin. At the close, the minister invited all to his tent, that he might distribute tracts and other religious reading matter, and I am glad to say that many, very many, availed themselves of his kind offer. In the after noon we were again called out in line for inspection. Our arms, clothing, blankets, and tents were all closely examined, to see that they were kept clean, which is considered necessary for the health of all. In the evening, prayer meetings were held at different places in the open air and were well attended. Many prayers were offered up and in them the loved ones at home were not forgotten.
Another grand parade on the banks of the Potomac with the capitol and city in plain sight. Today I received my first letter from you and it is needless to describe the pleasure I had in its perusal. There were many ladies, wives of the officers, present at the parade. One of them, with her husband (a minister) and another man were in a carriage and in the evening as they passed our camp the horses took fright and ran away but they became detached from the carriage a short distance below the camp and continued madly down the road. None were hurt but all were badly scared and came back pale and trembling. They day has been lovely but so warm that when we had a chance we doffed our coats. Another brigade today moved ahead of us and they say they have encamped near Mount Vernon, the home and burial place of our loved Washington. This evening while on drill we saw a large balloon sailing high above us, no doubt on a voyage of discovery, it was a pretty sight as it moved from us, falling in the vicinity of Washington. An order just came to have 40 rounds in our cartridge boxes and be ready to march at a moments warning so we may be engaged with the enemy very soon. As I now write we can hear the booming of cannon in the direction of the enemy. It does not disturb us much as it is not an uncommon occurance. A rebel prisoner, the first I have seen, was brought through our camp today. A large man, wore gray woolen breeches, black coat and black slouch hat with old well worn shoes. A rather tough looking fellow. On our right is a long line of earthen breastwork thrown up by the enemy before we captured Alexandria. All of the trees have been cut off the hill tops to give a free sway for the cannon and a view of the country beyond as well as the use of the wood for cooking and warming. I have seen bomb shells thrown over three miles and then burst tearing up the earth, knocking off branches of the trees and playing hob generally. I have my gun in good order and think if I draw sight on one of the causes of our trouble he have a fit of sudden aching. That is what we came for and I trust, God willing, I shall be able to do my whole duty whenever called out. We keep our guns shining bright, ready for any emergency that may occur, and there are bodies of cavalry and artillery near us ready for use whenever ‘secesh’ shows its ugly head. We do not know how near the rebels may be to us but are supposed to be 25 or 30 miles away in any considerable force. We do not believe their batteries near Manassas will be disturbed by us but that we shall turn them by marching around them. I have until today been in the best of health but now have a slight attack of dysentery to which it is said all new recruits are subject at first. As the day closes I feel better and hope to again find myself in usual good heath.
Since last I wrote so many things have happened that it will be impossible to give you a minute account of it all. On Wednesday the 11th, to my great delight, Myron made his appearance in our camp. He reported the other boys as being well and hearty. I spent what time I could with him that P.M. and the next morning I applied for and obtained a pass to Alexandria. Myron and I started early. We went by way of the hospital. It was in a house formerly occupied by a ‘Secesh’. As we entered we saw Peter Slagle busy writing while two of three rude beds with a blanket above and two below were occupied by four men with sunken eyes, countenances pale and haggard. One poor fellow I noticed in particular. He was from Clarion Co. and had been insane for some time and now was not expected to live through the day but no one seemed concerned. All appeared to have lost that sympathy one finds in our homes. No one o hold the aching head or casting up the food the weak stomach could not retain or digest. No cheering word by a near friend to sooth the mind or cheer the dropping spirit. The nurses or waiters perform their tasks as if compelled to do so and not with that cheerfulness that really gives pleasure to the sufferer. The food often improperly cooked and the rooms poorly ventilated. As I left I had concluded it was a horrid place for a sick man.
We went from there to Alexandria direct to have our pictures taken. While in the city we saw a sight I hope we may never have cause to look on again. A man of the 16 Pa. Vol., which is now guarding the city, had deserted his regiment and returned home and then joined another regiment, then wrote his 1st Col. Accusing him of many things couched in very improper language. The Col. Then had him arrested and brought back to his old company and _rummed_rtialed and was undergoing his punishment. A board was bound to his back on which in large letters was the words Deserter And A Coward. He was hadcuffed. His hair in many places shaved from his head and so made to march up and down the street in front of his regiment who were formed in line. It was reported that he was to be finally _rummed out of the regiment.
Having accomplished our object we returned to camp at 2 O’clock P.M. and found Captain Frea’s Co. just returning form picket duty and had made some captures in shape of chickens, turkeys and a few rabbits. They seemed to like picketing very much. I spent the balance of the day with Myron and the boys from Ringgold as my pass cleared me of duty for the day. We spent a few merry hours in talking. Telling of our individual adventures as we gathered around our Co. cooking first and sang the old songs we used to sing and then we retired to our respective quarters to dream of those at home. Myron started early the next morning for his own regiment. I asked him as we parted if he ever swore. He sad; ‘No Rob I pray oftener than I swear’, which made my heart feel glad. Today I heard of a sad affair over at Camp Franklin three miles distant. A man who belonged to the Lincoln cavalry had deserted and gone over to the enemy and who had acted as a spy for them, had been captured by us, was tried and sentenced to be shot. His coffin was placed in a wagon and he was made to walk after it, passing through the Reg. To a square formed by soldiers. He was blindfolded and made to kneel before his coffin. Twelve men had been detailed from the regiment to execute him. They stepped out and eight of them fired but did not kill him. The other four then fired. Their balls freed his guilty soul from his body. It was witnessed by more than 10,000 troops but few of our regiment was there. I believe his name was Johnson. He was deserving of his fate as such men are dangerous to our cause. We cannot but wonder at the continued mild and pleasant weather but a change is predicted soon. This forenoon was given to such of the men as had washing to do and many availed themselves of the privilege. Each Capt. Must give his men one or two half days each week to do their washing. I washed last week and you would laugh to see us rubbing, wringing and otherwise cleansing our clothes. I think you would watch us as close as you thought I watched you the last time I saw you wash.
Sunday Dec. 15, 1861.
The same routine as last Sunday only an additional inspection of arms, knapsacks, clothing and tents by all the Field Officers consisting of Col. McKnight, Major Dick, Adjt. Gray, Q.M. Nickelson, Dr. Heighold and Rev. Steadman. Lt. Col. Corbet being home on leave of absence. Our quarters were decalred to be in perfect condition. Clothes neat and clean. Even our boots and shoes must be blackened or greased once a week, this at our expense. Prayer meeting tonight on the parade ground. A goodly number present among whom I recognized Swisher, Houser, Nickle, Geist, Hillyard, Shaffer our 2nd Lt. Brady and many others that space will not allow me to mention. There is now evening worship in every tent in our Co., (So much for example). How cheering to be thus encouraged. Today our Co. police were excused from duty. A Co. police usually consists of three men who are detailed to cut wood, sweep the streets or other work to be done in the camp. On last Sunday three of our men refused to do police duty. To punish them they were placed on the ‘Bull ring’. The ring consists of a place like that made by horses giving power to a threshing machine. A guard stands in the center of the ring to make the culprits walk round and round for a certain appointed time. These three men had to walk an hour. After they came off, one of them wrote a note to the Col. Couched in firm yet respectful language saying that his vows made a home to his friends and his God would not allow him to toil on that day more than was absolutely necessary. The Col. Called him to his quarters, talked to him respectfully on the subject and dismissed him. Today no extra work was done.
Dec. 16, 1861.
We heard heavy firing down the river last night. Nothing else of interest today.
A letter from sister Minnie. Battalion drill as usual. This evening at 7 o’clock orders were given to prepare arms and clothing for a grand review next day but at 9o’clock orders came to place one day’s ration in each haversack and prepare to march immediately. We were ready in 15 minutes after the order was received and in line and in five minutes more were on the road. We soon found that Poick church was our destination. The night was lovely, the full moon lighting and brightning the way. Our arms gleamed in its beams. Tents, trees, houses, fields and all objects were nearly as visable as at midday. A feeling came over me as we marched along. My position was both new and novel. We knew we were marching against an enemy as strong and perhaps more so than ourselves yet we felt no fear. All were eager for the expected fray. We marched silently. Nothing could be heard save the heavy tramp tramp of the men and horses with now and then a click of guns as they would sometimes strike against one another. After going perhaps four miles in this manner a halt was made. Orders in whispers ran silently along the line to fix bayonets and load. I placed a cartridge in my gun feeling that if opportunity was given, at least one secessionist would be put out of play. After loading we resumed our march going three or four miles farther. We came to a halt at our pickets headquarters. Here scouts were sent out to reconnoiter while the companies took different positions in battle array, ready to receive the enemy. Our company’s position was behind a fence on the right, where we lay down resting our guns on the rails ready to fir. Just before we lay down we heard the enemy. We continued our position for some time but as the enemy had evidently fallen back, we were allowed to break ranks, build fire and lie down around them. Nothing more was heard save the cry of sentinels who as the scouts came in or others with dispatches would hail them at their stations with, ‘Halt. Who comes there.’ And the answer “a friend’, then the command “Advance friend and give the countersign.’ which is whispered in the sentinels ear, when the scout or whoever it may be is allowed to pass on and all is quiet again. We stopped here at 2o’clock and stayed until six, when we ate our breakfast of bread or crackers while some had meat. I only had an hours sleep as the night was cold and we were without our blankets and in a perspiration when we halted. After breakfast two companies were detailed as skirmishers and were scattered out on either side while the balance followed in the road to the church, neither hearing or seeing anything of the enemy, however they were in the neighborhood the day before four or five hundred strong and had driven our cavalry two or three miles this side to Acqua creek, a steam about as large as Little Sandy at Sprangles Mill but deeper. At the mount of this creek the Rebs have what is styled a famous battery. The church to which we marched was built by George Washington. It is apparently a square built building. We dare not leave the ranks and our being sent on ½ miles beyond, I could look upon the outside. The roof was four square, coming to a point at the top. The four corners were of stone all the way from the foundation to the eaves. The bricks are said to come from England. An artillery man went inside and secured one of the bannisters around the alter and gave me a piece which I enclose to you. Our Co. halted after going the half mile and six scouts were sent out in different directions. I asked the Captain to let me go as one but he refused. In the course of half an hour they all returned. Two of them had seen four of the enemy but they were quite a distance away. There was a heavy fog which prevented our view more than a mile in any direction. On the return of our scouts we about faced and marched to the main body and allowed two hours rest. At one o’clock P.M. we formed in line and marched back on another road by way of a little town called Accotinct in which were several fine buildings. We kept a good line for three or four miles, when some of the weaker ones sat down to rest or lazed behind. We kept passing these till our Regt. Had dwindled down to 75 or a hundred men, the P.M. being very warm. When within two or three miles of our camp a halt was made by the Col. And we sat and rested by the roadside till the major part came up when we were again formed in line and marched into camp. About 5 o’clock P.M. a tired and sleepy set I assure you as we had ever been. We had marched 30 miles and with little sleep 34 hours on the go. The country through which we passed was moderately hilly except the Mt. Vernon plantation which seemed generally level. There were many pretty farm houses but not a barn worth the name to be seen only open sheds.
The next morning found me slightly racked up. Feet sore and joints rather stiff but after drilling an hour or so I again felt limbered up.
Wash day. Am getting pretty good on a rub.
Last evening 10 more recruits came in from Jefferson Co. Rev. Wallace of Westmoreland Co. preached a simple plain sermon meeting the soldiers wants well. This evening it began to rain, the 1st we have had since I am here and my washing out on the line. Poor me. I forgot, never mind I’ll do better next time. How the rain sounds as it patters down on our canvas tents. It puts me in mind of the old home song. We look for a rougher time. It is cooler but not so as to sleet. We hear singing and prayer in adjoining tents.
Good news came today of the success of our arms in different quarters and all are indulging in the hope that this strife will soon end.
Monday Dec. 23rd.
Rained all day and I have been engaged making a new roll for our Co. (*) listing the men according to height. The tallest at the head of the list, who is 6ft. 2in. The shortest 5ft. 1-1/2in. My height is 5ft. 7-1/2in.. I am described as follows: Fair complextion, Blue eyes, Brown hair, Born in Olean Cattaraugus Co. N.Y., Enlisted at Brookville Jeff Co. Pa. By Capt. S.J. Martin for three years or during the war, my occupation a teacher. Every man has a similar description made out as soon as they enlist, to better identify them if killed or die by disease.
Last night we had a fearful wind. Several of the tents blew over breaking the guy ropes and chains that fastened them. The day is cold with strong wind.
At 3 o’clock last night I had a vomiting spell but am all right again. My thoughts go back to my home at such times and we with grateful hearts remember the mother and the kind friends that ministered to us '‘hen the fever burned our brow'. I hope and trust our God will give me health while in the army, for the sick have few comforts.
Dec. 26th. 1861.
Christmas has passed, the strangest one to me I ever spent. At 4 o’clock we were ordered to get breakfast and place a days ration in haversacks and be ready to march in one hour. I felt quite unwell but thinking a fight was close at hand my sickness was quite forgotten so that I had my harness on, musket etc. ready at the hour named. Our destination we soon learned to be again the Poick church. It looked like a fight this time sure for we had six pieces of cannon and a Co. of cavalry and near 3000 infantry, but nothing occured of importance.
We ate dinner near the church, saw two or three rebel scouts and sent a few cannon balls two or three miles over a hill beyond where some of the enemy were supposed to be posted. After waiting a couple of hours we started on our return, reaching camp a little after dark, a tired set of boys having marched 26 or 27 miles.
Orders came this morning to propare winter quarters so J.L. Hawthorne, Geo. Vanvliet and myself went to the woods and cut logs 8 ft. long and built a pen 2 ft. high and put a little wedge tent above it and so get quarters to ourselves.
A dose of salts Christmas eve and the prospect of a fight has restored my usual good health. In our absence several ladies arrived from Brookville to act as nurses for our Regt. I have not learned their names. Bro. Jas. K. Shaffer led in worship last evening. The wind is blowing a gale again which prevents us from raising our tent, weather is not cold and we have had no snow as yet this winter. The sun is shining brightly but the gusts of wind often threaten to upset our tents. We are now making out our pay rolls.
I have just been for my mail, no letter, I feel disappointed. We have daily mail and comes in shortly after dinner to the Orderly Sergt. Who calls the names. It is amusing to see them crowd around him waiting to hear their name called. The lucky ones are easily known by the way they draw away by themselves. Some are seen laughing as they read, while others wipe away a silent tear thinking they are unseen by other eyes.
The ladies made their first public appearance this evening at dress parade. Among them are misses Kate Scott, Frier, Allen and McGuffey with Mrs. Gillaspie, Vandervort and Hinderlighter. The young ladies intend remaining also Mrs. Vandervort whose husband of our Co., and the cook, is sick. She will stay till he is better. Miss Rebecca Reed is also with the other young ladies. Mr. James Nickelson, our quartermaster bro., died about an hour ago. He is also of our Co. I and the first that has died. We fear he is not well prepared to meet his maker. My last supper, so some time at least, I took this evening in the tent I have occupied since I came here. We have moved into the small tent. Four of us are generally in a mess (or muss) together. Each mess or tent has a sheet iron stove and pan in which we receive our rations if we wish to cook them ourselves. If not one of us goes to the Co. cook at meal time and draw beans, rice, mush, potatoes or soup as the case may be with the meat. We then bring it to our tent and sitting down around it we take our share out on tin plates and cups and go to work with coffee or tea, bread or crackers. If the meat is tender we tear it between our teeth and fingers. If to tough we cut into small portions with our pocket knives. We often have bean, rice or pea soup but no butter or milk unless we buy it, butter 30 cents a pound - milk 10 cents a quart. Water and all. It takes all the hay for the horses do without.
Have just returned from Alexandria where we have acted as escort with the body of our comrade Nickelson which is to be taken to Brooksville Pa, for internment. The brass band played the dead or funeral march in front of the hearse while our Co. marched in procession behind with our guns under our arms, butts to the front. Nickelson was 5th Sergt. in our Co. I received this day my first letter from Uncle M.H. Shannon.
Sunday Dec. 31st. 1861.
The day has passed and I find myself filling the place of our comrade Jas. Nickelson. I still act as Capts. Clerk besides. Sermon today from Matthew 5th chapt. Selection the words ‘Blessed are the pure in heart etc. The ladies were present, making it seem more social and home like. We still work at our winter quarters between drills, yet we do not know how soon we may move. We know nothing of our future till we hear the command.
Yesterday our messmate. H.M. Steel was taken to the hospital. I do pity the sick and there are yet many cases of fever in camp. Tomorrow begins another year. It is not very cheering as we compare it with new years days of the past. Nice smoking turkey roasts, big apples, old cider, pleasant convers with friends, sleigh rides etc. will intrude on our minds in spite of the glorious privilege of fighting or dying for the Union. Away roasts, apple cider, friends and rider. What are you compared with a soldiers life. Away with such thoughts. We’ll still be gay and happy (if we can) and not cry over spilled milk but I do wish I could have a half dozen letters as a new years gift. We are being mustered out for our pay today and expect it some day this week but nothing definite known. Weather cool. Two days of rain.