Tag Archives: Picket

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Fairfax Seminary ~ Thursday, September 4th, 1862: One and a Half Miles from the Rebels

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Categories: Jamie & Katie, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

This letter was written from Fairfax Seminary, which is now the Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria. The Fort Ward museum is nearby. There’s also a bunch of high schools, Inova Alexandria Hospital, and the Bradlee Shopping Center if that means anything to anyone. Here’s a picture of what it looked like back then. It looks pretty much the same today.

Fairfax_Seminary,_Alexandria,_Va_-_NARA_-_529388-1 Cropped envelope Fairfax Seminary - Sep 4th, 1862 Page One Fairfax Seminary - Sep 4th, 1862 Page Two

Fairfax [Seminary] W Vir, Sep 4 ‘62

Close by Fort Ward, Thursday morning 7 O’clock

My dear Wife,

I now take this opportunity to pen you a few lines to let you know that we are all well. H.J. we have not got our [tents] we sleep on the ground [at] night. I made H and me a hut out of brush, so have some of the rest [have] done the same. Robert and Fred & John day come over to see me yesterday but I was down to Fort Worth about a mile [digging] rifle pits and did not see him. 4 Conn. A.D.F. rifle pits around the fort. The rebels pickets is within a 1 mile & ½ from where we are so they say, I have not seen them yet, our army has fell back to where we are a about one hundred and fifty thousand of them. [Cavalry] artillery and [rifles] by lively times here. At 8 forts & 1.50 thousand men within 6 miles of us all in [sight], I can’t write more now I got to black my boots & [?] for the drill, good morning Katie.

We have guns and ammunition.

Good morning Katie­

Friday [morn.] I now sit down to finish this letter to you. Horace has got a [diarrhea]. I am well and [hardy] except a little cold, we expect to have warm work here soon. The Rebels pickets is in [sight] of our camp 1 mile long we have got lots of contrabands to work on them beside our soldiers. I have not seen Robert since that day but he is well, saw some of his men this morning. I am going over to see him today if I have time. We sleep on the ground yet but that is nothing bad plenty to eat, well [goodbye] at present I must close [for] this to go in the mail this morning love to all from your ever-loving husband,

James

Direct your letters to James W. Peckham Co. I. 16 Reg

Ct Vol

Washington, D.C.

In write soon as you get this I want to hear from you [goodbye]

My R[?] wife

From Fairfax [Seminary] Virg

 

Though James is mostly in good health, poor Uncle Horrace is suffering from an unfortunate gastrointestinal situation. Like most of James’s letters to Katie, he’s primarily just writing to reassure her that he’s okay and to update her on where he is. He may not have been receiving all of her letters due to his regiment moving around. However, he seems to have been in good spirits during the writing of this, keeping himself busy by checking on his friends camped out nearby, tending to Horrace, building more makeshift huts for them to sleep in, and of course by writing to Katie.

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Fort Ellsworth, Virginia ~ Tuesday September 2, 1862: Within Earshot of the Battlefield

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Categories: Jamie & Katie, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Here we find Jamie camped out with Uncle Horrace and their regiment 12 or 10 miles away from the battlefield. I’ll let you read the letter before I say anything else.

Fort Ellsworth - Sept 2nd, 1862 Envelope CROPPED

Fort Ellsworth - Sept 2nd, 1862 Page One Fort Ellsworth - Sept 2nd, 1862 Page Two

 

Fort Ellsworth Virginey 12 miles from Washington

Tuesday Sep 2 , 1862

Morning six o’clock pm

My dear wife                        it is just half past six.

Horrace & I are sitting on the ground beside a brush fire. Horrace is shivering with cold & wet. It rained all night and we all slept on the ground, the Reg and officers & all slept together. I went down into the bushes, [piled] up some brush, spread Horrace’s blanket on them then we lay down, put mine over us & went to sleep until morning. I feel first [rate?] we’d all got wet through to our skin, I expected to have the [rheumatism] but have not. We shall have our tents [today]. We marched from Washington yesterday, we [passed] a train of sick and wounded soldiers some with an arm, leg gone. 8 Oclock I have just been over to Fort Ward the first Lt. Ar. Is there 2 Comp E.L. Cor A.B. is in Fort Blinker about ½ miles from here. They say Robert is there. I am going over there after breakfast if I can to see him.

We are within 10 miles of the battlefield­ where they are [fighting], can hear every gun that is fired, it sounds nearby I tell you but we are ready for them, let them come. The pickets took 3 rebels [Cavalry] last night and brought them in to the fort [within] 50 rods of where I am writing, [goodbye] I am going over to see Robert.

20 min to 4 oclock am. I have been over to Fort Blinker and found Robert, [they’re] all well, he had a letter from Bub Brown last night the first he [knew] about my [enlistment] but he did not that I was so near him. I was glad to see him so was he to see me, he went back to camp with me and [stayed] a hour. He is not so fat as he was when he left home. He wrote home just before I got over there this morning, we are close together now so we can see each other every day if nothing happens.

He does not stand it as well as I do. I am well hope this will [reach] you the same. Tell Mary I will write to her next. Give my love to all. I don’t know as you can read this letter if you can’t I will write the next letter.

Lots of love to you

And good wishes

I was [sorry] that we did not stop to Lyme that night.

Wrote in a [hurry]

[Goodbye] wife.

Direct my letter to

Washington

Co. I. 16 Reg Ct [Val?]

Washington DC

{scrawled message on page 2}

I am in a hurry to get this in the mail wagon.

[Goodbye] O friends at home.


The conditions Jamie describes sound fairly miserable but were probably very typical for a camp that hadn’t even set up their tents yet. The image of Jamie and Uncle Horrace huddled together underneath his blanket on a makeshift bed made out of a pile of brush makes me smile. Sometimes when trying to transcribe these letters, I get really frustrated over his horrible spelling and find myself assuming that he wasn’t the brightest of men, but he clearly had a sense of humor and was very resourceful which are much more important indicators of intelligence, or at least of a more useful kind of intelligence than being book smart. If you threw me out into the woods to fend for myself against the elements, I’d probably end up dead within the first ten minutes because I’d trip over a tree branch and bust my head open on a rock.

Something else here that I found interesting is that Jamie isn’t keeping all of the disturbing stuff from Katie – he tells her that they passed a train full of sick and wounded, some of them missing arms and legs. He also tells her just how close he is to the battlefield, but assures her that they are ready should anything happen. I am happy that he didn’t keep these things from her for two reasons – 1) I wouldn’t have much to write about here if all he said was “yeah, we’re fine nothing too interesting going on don’t worry about it, and 2) it shows that he had enough respect for Katie to want to share the truth with her and to know that she could handle it.