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1863 October, The Second Wisconsin

Oct. 11th, march to Stevensburg at Kelley's Ford. 

A party of Sutler who have just returned from Richmond having been partakers of Southern hospitality in the famous Libby Prison give the following harrowing description of the horrors endured by our brave officers and soldiers, who are confined in that detestable place - worse, a hundredfold, than the Black Hole at Calcutta. They say:
"It was impossible to sleep at ease or catch a nap while the vermin were literally devouring us. The older prisoners seemed to sound sleep until morning when our astonishment and disgust was intensified to see every man sitting up in bed hunting for the vermin in what little clothing he possessed. It was the regular order of the morning's work.
Our breakfast in the morning consisted of four ounces of bread and one of beef, including bone, which stunk so badly and was so full of maggots that we, as new beginners, turned from it in utter disgust and threw it away. 
We afterwards learned better manners, and devoured it with as much relish as those who had been in prison longer. What we abandoned was greedily devoured by others.
At sundown we were called to dinner which we ate standing. It consisted of four ounces of bread and a pint of swill, composed of fish-oil, black beans, maggots, dirt. We abandoned our sup on the first taste of it. Immediately the men rushed from the table like a pack of hungry wolves crowding around us and begging us for what our stomachs, as yet unaccustomed to such carrion food, utterly refused. Men of age, wealthy, educated and refined, reared in the lap of luxury, craved and scrambled for the crumbs that fell from our table and offered to do us the most menial service for them. The horrors of the prison cannot be described and could but a faint glimmer of the truth flash upon the people of the North, and especially the War Department it wo'd not be long ere such retaliatory measures were adopted towards the rebel prisoners in our hands as would bring the rebels to some sense of mercy and common humanity in the treatment of Union prisoners in their prisons. Many of the deserters from our side now take the oath of allegiance to Jeff Davis government merely for the sake of being sent to the fortification of Richmond where their condition is immeasurably improved."

Oct. 12th, cannonading in direction of Brandy Station, toward which point we march rapidly. 

Oct. 14th, midnight, we receive marching orders, move rapidly to Warrenton Junction, form a line of battle, break ranks and make coffee, march along railroad stopping at Bristow Station. 
Distance twenty-five miles.

Oct. 14th, march over the plains of Manassas and prepare for action. Cross Bull Run at Blackburn's Ford, bivouac on Centerville Heights. Distance ten miles. Have a fight, capture five cannon, nearly five hundred prisoners. 

Oct. 15th, take position behind entrenchments on Warrenton Turnpike. In the evening make a demonstration at Blackburn's Ford. At an early hour we advance upon Warrenton turnpike, through Gainesville and Hay Market and bivouac.
Our cavalry, under Kilpatrick, advance, become closely embarrassed in a position about Bucklin's Mills and are compelled to fall back through our infantry picket line. 
The Iron Brigade is called out to check the enemy's advance, which they decline, but succeeded in capturing a number of our pickets, thirty of whom were from the Huckleberry Seventh. 
Late in the evening we move back of Haymarket and bivouac in the open plains. 
Distance twelve miles. 

Oct. 20th, on the afternoon we break up and march through Thoroughfare Gap.  
The Second Wisconsin and the Nineteenth Indiana guarding the trains. 
It is one o'clock at night when we camp at the foot of Blue Ridge near the village of Georgetown. 
Distance fifteen miles.

Oct. 24th, march out seven A. M. by Gainesville and Bristow Station; heavy rain. When we camp at night the Iron Brigade is about played out. Distance twenty-five miles. 
Right here Col. Fairchild visited the Iron Brigade. 
We send a detail to the battlefield of Gainesville to bury the remains of our dead comrades killed there in August, 1862, and lying exposed.

Cornelius Wheeler’s diary

Oct. 30th 1863

The reception of your very cordial letter, which was handed me as I was parting from you on Tuesday last, has afforded me more pleasure than I have words to express. After more than two eventful years passed with you through fire and flood, through death and great suffering, it has been one of the most painful acts of my life to part with the “Old 2nd.”

If I have been as good an officer as you deserve, I am more than content. 
My ambition has ever been to do my duty to the best of my poor ability, and where ever I have failed it has not been from lack of zeal. - I know that many of my official acts could have been improved upon but such ability as I have been given has been faithfully used to promote the good of the regiment, and great Cause in which we are fighting. 
I hope and trust that you, or the regiment, may never regret that I have had the honor to be your commanding officer, and I hope that we may all meet again when this cruel war is over, as friends and comrades in arms, and fight over our battles around the peaceful fireside.
You are pleased to say that I have won some reputation — What ever reputation I have, has been won for me by yourselves and the brave men under our command, to you and them is due all the glory, I am entitled only that share due me as your comrade through all our campaigns. 
That you will win new honors, I am confident, and when you shall return to your homes you will receive the applause of the whole state. 
To yourselves, and to the rank and file, I bid an affectionate farewell. 
May each of you receive the honors and rewards you are entitled to, and may you ever kindly remember your comrade.

Lucius Fairchild
To the Commissioned Officers of the 2nd Reg. Wis. Vol. Infy.