Tag Archives: Sick

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Frederick City ~ September 14th, 1862: Burnside and Rebel Prisoners

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See how he scrawls in the margins? It’s so hard to read, but I’ve done my best and referred to my grandmother’s old transcription.

#8 Frederick City - Sep 14th, 1862 Envelope

#8 Frederick City - Sep 14th, 1862 Page One #8 Frederick City - Sep 14th, 1862 Page Two

 

 

            Frederick City, md

Sunday [afternoon] 4 ½ Oclock

Sept. 14th, 1862

 

My Dear Wife,

I now sit down to pen you a few lines let you know how we get along we are well ex the rheumatism I have it in my right leg so has Horace in his r leg it hurts us to march but we hoble along and keep up Twiss & Macaty as well.

we camped at new market last night started from there this morning at 7 Oclock got here at 12 OC Dis of 8 miles without any Breakfast not a mouth full here I got one loaf of bread about as large as your fist for 15 cent the rebels eat up every thing could get in Frederick while they was here, 500 rebels prisoner here in a brick building I have been down to see them. They look tough I tell you they are fiting 8 miles from here we can hear as plain as day a constant fire of cannon the sick wounded are coming in to this city all the time lots of them. but you need not worrie about me fore we shant have a chance to fight for Burnside drives them faster than we can go Burnside will kill all of rebels and kill us trying to get up with him he is on one side of the river Macll on the other Jackson in a tite place. we are on the ground where they fought Thursday now and then a spot of blood on the ground in the next lot to us. I went [off] after some water just now into the city I stoped to a house and got some dinner the woman was strong union I got two cups of tea some ham tomatoes bread Butter she would not take any pay I took her husband’s name Lewis V. Schole. She took my name told if I ever came this way again to stop her husband is with Burnside fiting the rebels good.

I have just been at roll call now I must close this so it will go to night if possible. we have good news Burnside has just brought 250 Rebels prisoners in to the city by our camp I saw them they looked bad enough they are not two that are dresst alike, dirty & [ragged] barefooted at that

we get along first rate for soldiers so don’t worrie about us I have wrote all about us you wanted me to

They are fiting like tigers I tell you we shall load our guns to night for the rebs.

So good night

we all send love to all

Horace said he did not feel able to write this time you can tell Charlotte

Please excuse this writing for is is in hurri wrote on a plate good by from your loving husband James

 

You may send me stamps if you please they are hard to get

Direct as before C I 16th W.D.C.

 

A couple of brief notes: Ambrose Burnside was a general and I’m pretty sure the “Macll” Jamie refers to is George B. McClellan, who was a major general. Both of them played very important roles in the Battle of Antietam, during which they spent a great deal of the time bickering about tactics via couriers. As you may know, that battle ended up being a huge bloody mess with over 22,000 dead, wounded, or missing. But we’ll get to Antietam later.

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Leesborough, Maryland ~ September 9th, 1862: Running Low on Rations

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Today is my grandmother’s birthday, so I felt that now would be a good time to add another post while I take a quick break from working on finals, since I did start this blog partially in honor of her 90th. I haven’t shown her this blog yet, but I plan to at some point today before the horde of partygoers descends upon us. Here is the letter:

#6 Leesboro, MD - Sep 9th, 1862 Page One

#6 Leesboro, MD - Sep 9th, 1862 Page 2

Leesboro, Maryland Starvation Hill
Tuesday morning September 9th, 1862
My wife and friends at home,
I now take this opportunity to give you the news. Horace is well except a sore foot his
heel is blistered. I’m well, hope this will find you the same. Last Saturday Robert &
Charles Parker & your James went to [Alexandria?] got back to camp at two Oclock PM and
found it all in a heap for a long march to start Sunday morning 5 Oclock but we did not
until 1Pm. Hastied from Fairfax Vir and marched to Washington 9 miles halted for 1/2
hour then marched 5 miles out of Washington halted as was 11 Oclock at night stopped
until morning. Slept upon the ground. At 7 Oclock we started went 6 miles farther to
Leesboro got [there] Monday morning 11 Oclock marched into a field and stopped here
[where] we are now. I have not had sleep under a tent since we left Hartford. Slept on the
ground.
Every night we have got some shelter tents came this morning large enough for two men
Horace and me got our tent together this morning. I have [not] got any cold now, got so I
can stanit first rate. The 8 & 11 Reg Ct. Vol. is here with us, we are in Burnside’s Brigade
now, we expect to go into action soon. We have not had any rations since we left Vir, only
what we bought on our way along the road that was a little we got one [loaf] of bread [a
piece] this morning 10 cents a [loaf]. Horace [and] I got some corn yesterday and [roasted] it. It was good for we was hungry. I [have] got to drill now. [Goodbye] while I get through
[the] drill I have got through [the] drill we have just got orders from the [Colonel?] to [?] to march at ten minutes [notice], don’t know where as yet. There is 10 of our company sick some of them in Virginia some is here with us.
My [knapsack] is in Virginia and all of my things, paper any and all I had. To barrie this of
some of boys. Tell Mary and mother I will write as soon as [I] can get paper to
write on. Give my love to all of my friends far & near I hope they are all well, I am.
Much love and respects to all.
Write soon as [convenient].
From your loving husband,
James W
Starvation Hill
Sunday, Monday, Tuesday
To his wife
Mrs. Greenfield
Lyme Conn.
My dear wife, [goodbye]

When I first read this letter and saw the name Leesboro, or rather Leesborough, I was interested in where that was exactly, because I’m from Maryland and couldn’t recall ever hearing of it. “Oh, I wonder if it’s a nice small town surrounded by nature, maybe with a historical museum or something,” I thought. Yeah, so turns out Leesborough is now Wheaton. If you’re from Wheaton or know it, then you probably won’t have a hard time imagining the expression on my face when I found this out. Wheaton’s only a couple of minutes away from my hometown, and let me tell you, it’s not exactly a picnic destination (all right, this is partially a lie as there is Wheaton Regional Park which literally does have a picnic area). It is, however, known for its mall parking lot stabbing incidents. Leesborough was eventually renamed Wheaton, after General Frank Wheaton who was a local folk hero according to Wikipedia, in 1869. Now when I try to imagine Jamie and his brigade camping out in Leesborough, I can’t exorcise the image of them sitting in Westfield mall across from Hot Topic with cups of froyo.

I can’t find any record of anything really called “Starvation Hill”, so I’m going to go ahead and guess that this was Jamie being hyperbolic. Or maybe not so hyperbolic – they were running low on rations and getting really excited over corn, after all. Horace (or Horrace, he’s spelled it both ways so I don’t know what’s going on), is still having a rough time of it, what with his stomach ailments last time and his blistered foot now. Jamie still seems to be in good health, though he did leave his knapsack in Virginia for reasons that I can’t quite understand. They’re also still sleeping completely exposed to the elements. I can’t help but think that by this point it’s really starting to sink in for Jamie just how challenging and miserable the life of a soldier can be, and that even though his spirit still seems mostly intact, he’s becoming steadily more and more disenchanted.

Also, it might be important to note this mention of Charles Parker. He’ll become an important player later on.

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

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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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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.