April 1862

 

Correspondence of the Sentinel
Letter from Gen. McDowell's Army

The Prospect-Another Move-An Exploration-Col. Hulton-Printing office-County Clerk's Office-A Fullblooded Femining Secesh-Zouave Skulls-Troops Leaving-Richmond Ahead-Another Move-Rebel Depredations-Rebels Retreating-Health of the Wisconsin Boys.
Prince William County, Va.
April 12, 1862

The Prospect.
The "signs of the times," which soldiers watch as closely as the mariner does the needle of the compass, indicate to the minds of our restless volunteers that the prospect ahead foretells the "turning up" of something that will afford work for the remaining forces of the Grand Army now quietly reposing upon the "sacred soil"-
In the dim vista of the future we see looming up the grand spectacle of a dash into the capital of Old Virginia and a "bully" stampede of its present rebel occupants with that prince of thieves, Floyd, far in the advance. Our gallant leader, Gen. McDowell, is now making all the necessary preparations for a "big ready."-
When this is accomplished you may expect to hear of Mac driving before his conquering host the chivalrous fleet-footed first families of the land of gloom at double quick to the tune of the "Star Spangled Banner." Your correspondent now feels safe in predicting that there will be no more back tracks by this Corps du Armee until the flags our Union spreads its broad folds over the rebel capital.

Another Move
Friday, April 4th, the welcome news was announced that we were to pack up and take our second line of march in the direction of Manassas. Various speculations were soon afloat as to whether this second onward was a reality or nearly a military dodge by way of throwing a little sawdust in the eyes of regeldom. After the singular and unaccountable manipulations of the grand army during the past four weeks, it becomes a difficult matter for the soldiers, who by the way are supposed to know nothing, to decide what was about "to be did."
As soldiers and reporters are mere machines subject to the directions of leading spirits, we packed our "duds" and moved off, and not caring, as the Kentuckian says, "a d--n where we went." Feeling as we did like an army of "Perfect Bricks," we moved off, with "Hearts so light and free," towards the deserted strongholds of King Jeff. That night we camped about four miles from the spot we left behind
Saturday.

The fifth- after eating an aristocratic breakfast of hard crackers, fat pork and coffee, we struck our tents and pushed forward to Blackburn's Ford, a place which will ever be memorable in the history of this unholy rebellion, from the fact that it was at this place that the first days battle of Bull Run was fought in which our brave Wisconsin boys took such an active part. Our antiquarian proclivities induced us to explore the battle ground. The limbless trees and the perforated houses plainly marked the course of the dread messengers of death which summoned many a brave soldier of the Union to his long home of "the other side of Jordan." That night we enjoyed a feast of reason and a flow of patriotism while sitting around the sparkling camp fires listening to the vivid descriptions of that memorable conflict between the defenders of the Union and the bastard supporters of the God cursed Southern Confederacy. Had you been present to hear "our boys" recite the incidents of that bloody struggle you would have felt as happy as a "nigger at a camp meeting."

April 6. This morning Old Sol shone forth in all his glory and splendor, instilling a new feeling into the hearts of our gay and rollicking soldiers. The serenity of this morning made us forget that the dread tocsin of war was sounding its terrible notes throughout the length and breadth of our once happy land. The gay "pomp and circumstances" of war caused us to feel as though we were marching after a fourth of July procession instead of an army whose mission was that of death to their rebellious brethren. At three o'clock, p.m. we entered the fortifications of Manassas, which but a few weeks ago were occupied by the rebels. A bird's eye view of this boasted Gibraltar of Rebeldom satisfied us that the grand army had been most gloriously humbugged as to its impregnability. Were Napoleon alive he would laugh to scorn the idea of not being able to successfully storm and carry these mud fortifications and breastworks and thirty thousand of his "Old Guard." The strength of Manassas has been egregiously overrated and our army most beautifully fooled. From Manassas we marched about four miles to a cornfield within half a mile of Bristol Station, where we camped ate a hearty meal and then stretched ourselves upon the ground and rested our weary limbs until morning.

Monday 7th. In company with Lieut. Gigson we started out out for a tramp to see the country, its inhabitants and hunt "hoe cake" and mild, After making a sweep of some five miles and encountering straggling soldiers with secesh turkeys, ducks, grease pigs and bull beef, which they had appropriated to their own use, we returned to camp well satisfied that the people were too mean for a live Western man to "hitch to." At half past two p.m., orders were issued to strike tents and march to a new camping ground, a pine grove some two miles up the rail road. None of us were sorry at the change of location as the one we left was better adapted for hogs to roam through than for white men to dwell upon.
By four o'clock we were the lawful occupants of the pine grove camp where we are now holding forth in all the ease and splendor of a soldier's life, reveling in the luxuries of fat pork, and crackers hard enough to pave the avenues of our camp.

The Weather
This Old Virginia climate is enough to try the patience of Job and wear out the constitution of an elephant. It would be easier to count the stars than to calculate the chances of leaving six hours of fair weather out of twenty-four. Old Sol may rise from his eastern couch in the morning and smile upon the sons and daughters of Eve; but ere noon arrives his bright face is excluded from view by the storm king, who raises his flood gates and drenches the pergrinating sons of Adam with the waters of the terrestrial kingdom. From the afternoon at the 7th until the morning of the 10th it snowed incessantly. The snow fell to the depth of three inches. Our boys say it was the most miserable spell of weather they have experienced during the whole campaign.
Your correspondent, over whose head the frosts of some forty winters have passed, never witnessed a more diabolical season of bad weather. I am informed by residents that this is the most backward spring known in this country for number of years. Were it not for the budding out of a few trees, we should hardly know that winter was reclining in the lap of spring.

An Exploration
Friday, 11th. The storms of rain, hail & snow which had been raging for three days, having subsided we started in company with two of Co. C's boys for Grantsville, the county seat of Prince William. We found the country lying between our camp and the court house well settled.- The land generally was very poor. From an old settler we learned that the land was originally rich and well adapted to the growth of wheat and corn, but it had been ruined through a process of miserable farming. The science of agriculture is as foreign to the minds of the "Planters," as they are called in this region of Virginia, as the principles of astronomy are to the untutored mind of Hottentots. Grantsville, like the generality of county seats in this State, is a "one-horse" village, consisting of a population of about one hundred and fifty inhabitants. The public buildings, consisting of a Court House and jail look as if they were built in the year one; the dwelling houses are mostly old frames leaning up against each other so as to avoid tumbling down. Modern improvements are unknown to the dilapidated chivalry of Brentsville. This county town is situated within half mile of the geographical center of the county. The country around is well timbered, and has excellent water privileges such as the indomitable Yankees would use to advantage. The land is sufficiently undulating to afford good drainage. This is fortunate for these now living in the country, as they are too indolent and ignorant to turn their attention to making improvements where they are needed.

Col. Eppa Hulton
This military son of Virginia was once the occupant and owner of the only hospitable looking mansion in the village of Brentsville. He was what the darkies call one of the "great folks" owing to his being a lawyer, Colonel and wealthy. The Colonel like other blind and infatuated Virginia professionals, played an active part among the ranks of disunion in the contest with the union party which resulted so fatally to the peace and prosperity of the State. Shortly after the inauguration of the war he was "honored" with the position of Col. over a regiment of Virginia traitors. When the rebel army evacuated Manassas he bid adieu to his old homestead and followed the retreating forces of Beauregard, accompanied by his wife and two slaves. While at Brentsville I visited his house, which I found occupied by a number of soldiers, who were taking it easy upon the handsome sofas chairs and lounges.
In the parlor I observed a stalwart Pennsylvania Zouave beating away upon a piano while a dozen others were going it upon a regular "break down." In "my lady's chamber" a squad of soldiers had taken up quarters, where they were cooking and washing. Her handsome mahogany bedstead was holding the elongated forms of four "horrible Zouaves," who declared to me that it was a d---d splendid sleeping machine'-The Colonel's library had been completely stripped of all its books; private papers and letters scattered over the floor; writing desk and book-case partly mashed.- It was sad to see this indiscriminate destruction of property and then reflect upon the causes which had produced it. In the kitchen I came across a sprightly negro woman who informed me that her master had left four of them behind with instructions to follow him as soon as he should send for them. Upon my pointing southward and asking her whether she intended going in that direction she gave me a knowing look and replied, "No, Master, We's gwine norf, whar de white folks don't whip de darkies,"
When asked what she could do to take care of herself, she promptly answered, "Why Master, if we colored folks can take care of da white people in dis country, we can take care of ourselves Norf." The shrewdness of this reply convinced me that these "ignorant darkies," now that the are at liberty to express their sentiments with out fear of the lash are "wide awake," and appreciate the difference between slavery and freedom.

Printing Office
Claiming as your correspondent does a fellowship with the members of the "black art," I make it a special business to pay my respects to every printing office that chance throws in my way. Hearing that Brentsville boasted of such an invaluable institution, I "hun'ted it up," intending if the material was in a right condition to issue a loyal sheet upon my own hook. My fond expectations were soon knocked in a "cocked Hat." Upon entering the grand sanctum sanctorum of the Brentsville Advocate, I there beheld a sight that would make the hardest sinner weep. Instead of finding the office "right side up with care" I found it a huge mass of "pi" and horse manure. Upon the evacuation by the rebels of this part of the State the veritable editor and proprietor was not slow to "cut sticks," leaving his office to take care of itself. From the sanctum we ascended to the garret which constituted the second story then I came across a "black imp," (contraband) rummaging over the personal property of the absquatulated editor. "Darkee," showd his "ivories" when we thrust our head piece through the trapdoor. Thinking to scare him, we exclaimed; "You imp of the Devil, what are you after." After rolling his big eyes at us, and opening his mouth wide enough to take in a pumpkin, he replied "Noting. Massa, I'se only seein if de white printer man leff ahyting dat dis nigger wants."

Not wishing to disturb the "colored individual" in his search after rebel relics, we bade him good morning, and made our exit from the premises, hoping never again to see a printing office converted into a stable.

The county clerk's office
This reservoir of antiquated documents had been entered by our straggling soldiers and ransacked thoroughly. Bushels of deeds, and other valuable papers, together with ledger and county record books lay in heaps all about the floor, The make the destruction more complete, a horse had been quartered a day and night in the office during which time he trampled under his iron bound hoofs the ancient records of Prince Williams county. while gazing upon this scene of destruction, a gentleman entered and informed us that he was appointed to straighten out the mutilated papers and put the office in a good fix." We did not envy the job he had undertaken. The same scenes of wanton destruction of property stared us in the face, as we passed through the court House and out buildings. Such acts of unwarranted destruction of public records is highly reprehensible and should not be countenanced. The loyalists, as well as the rebels, suffer seriously by their wholesale spoliations of documentary testimony of past events, for this reason we deem it unnecessary to "carry the war into Africa" to that extent.

A full blooded feminne secesh
From the acquaintance I have formed with "Virginia's fair Daughters," I am satisfied they  have in the main been more instrumental in firing up the hearts of the junior chivalry and converting them into rebels, than all the "secesh" stump dechimers in the State. These female advocates of treason are bitter in their denunciations of the Yankees, and "Uncle Abe" for the latter they cannot express their supreme contempt. While conversing with one of these strange creatures at Brentsville, she declared "George Washington and Jesus Christ," were both rebels hence she glories in being the bitterest kind of one. As this "Virginia Amazon" was single, I put the question to her whether she would not rather marry a full blooded dyed in the blood Yankee than die an old maid. She reflected for a few moments, and then replied "Nary live Yankee for me." Bitter as this woman was towards the people of the North, she nevertheless treated us with the utmost politeness. Some allowance may be made for these Virginia women as their knowledge of the true character of the northern people is extremely limited owing to the fact that they have never had much intercourse with our people . As a general thing they know very little what is going on in the world outside of the county in which they reside.

Zouave Skulls
During my peramlulations around Brentsville I fell in with a man who had been engaged in peddling among the rebels at Manassas. He informed me that he and seen a couple of wash bowls made from the skulls of two Zouaves upon which was inscribed The last of the New York Zouaves," They were the property of the "Louisiana Tigers," None but a Tiger" would thus have disgraced humanity by an act so revolting.-

From a rebel deserter I learned that these fellows constituted the very official of society. At the breaking out of the rebellion they were turned loose from the penitentiaries and jails of the state and converted into soldiers. These blood thirsty cannibals are now, if reports be true food for worms in the vicinity of Pittsburgh landing. If such inhuman wretches have souls they will meet their reward when His Satanic Majesty opens the gates of Hell and takes them into his dominions.

Friday, 11th.---The last advance of Gen McDowell's command led us to believe that the backward movement of any portion of his corps had "paid out" --

In this we were mistaken, as orders came to Gen. Franklin to march his division to Alexandria, there to ship for fortress Monroe and from thence to join Gen. McClellan.

Richmond Ahead
Never did a body of men feel more anxious to reach a desired spot than de armee to enter Richmond. To get there they are willing to fight every inch on the road between the Rappahannock and James River. When their gallant general mounts his war stead and gives the command  "on to Richmond" he will find his brave lads as willing and ready to follow him as did the war-worn veterans of Napoleon Our Wisconsin troops are positively  "spoiling" for a fight. They burn to crown themselves with laurels glory so that when they return to their homes in the far west they can meet the heroes of Donnellson, fort Henry, Pea Ridge and Pittsburgh Landing and take them by the hand and congratulate each other on having performed their parts gallantly in maintaining at the point of the bayonet and mouth of the cannon the constitution of this Republic.

Another move

Saturday April 12, we struck out tents and marched up the railroad some seven miles to Collett's Station, Fanquier Country where we camped. The Second Wisconsin is now engaged in guarding the railroad.

Rebel Depredations
the vindictive spirit of the rebel army is fully illustrated at this point of the road. Prior to leaving the station they burned up all the rolling stock tore up the track through to Warrenton station, a distance of two and a half miles and burned the bridge over cedar Creek. the bridge, which was 130 feet in length, has been rebuilt. By Wednesday, 16th, the track to Warrenton Junction will all be re-laid.- then we shall make another advance.

Rebels Retreating
from deserters and scouts we learn that the rebels are leaving the Rappaliannock and falling back to Gordonsville where many suppose they will make a stand.-

Should they do so, you may expect to hear of hand fighting when our forces reach that point.

The Health of our Boys
I have made it my especial business to enquire after the health of our Wisconsin troops; and from those who have an opportunity of knowing I learn that very little sickness prevails among them. They are all excellent fighting trim. When the rebels meet them they may as well say their prayers and sing "Hark from the tomb a doleful sound."

Kalorama Hospital
Having occasion to visit Washington a few days since and hearing that several of the 2nd Wisconsin were sick at the Eruptive Fever Hospital, I made them a visit to inquire after their welfare and do them any little service in my power. I found that Henry Scoville, of Co. W. 2nd Wisconsin Regiment was taken their on the 8th of April very bad with the form of confluent small pos, and died on the 11th of the same month. The deceased was sent to Kalorama, from the judiciary square hospital, where he was staying. Joseph H. Gould of Co, A 2nd Wisconsin, was also suffering from the same loathsome disease but is expected to recover. His is a bad case. H. C. White Co. H of same Regiment, had the same Regiment, had the small pox in a milder form, and was convalescing and will be able to return to his Regiment in a few days.
Dr. R. I. Thomas, of Dubuque, Iowa, is the surgeon in charge of this hospital and no hospital that I have visited presents greater evidence of accurate medical police, or as well or kind attentions to the wants of the unfortunate fellows suffering from the effects of that terrible malady the small pos. The house itself is well adapted for hospital purposes-the wards being large and well ventilated. The property is rented by the Government of the present owners, who upon vacating it moved to Washington. The estate was named Kalorada by Colonel Buford a farmer, and it well deserves the appellatais. The conservator attached to the main building is used as a dining room for convalescent's inside of which are some plants beginning to bud, and in many instances already flowering. The grounds are well laid out and ornamented with beautiful trees of rare species, selected and well set out in accordance with the cultivated taste of former owners. Kaloramo, I was informed. was the residence at one time of Joel Barlow, a gentleman well know a among literary men for his varied literary and classical acquirements not the least of which the poem entitled the "Columbiad" equal to Homers Iliad, and in moral influence as a national and historic poem far excelling the productions of the famous heathen. Mr. Barlow died in Zavonak, Poland, at the early age of fifty seven so says an inscription I read on slab attached to an old family vault on the estate in which rests the remains of two families Barlow and Buford, former owners of Kalorama.

ALF.

From the Sixth Regiment
Cutlett's Station, 15 miles south of Manassas, Va., April 17, 1862

Republic:-The Sixth Wisconsin is here-so is Co. A-so are the Sauk Co. Riflemen, "and here they well remain"-a few hours. We came here last Sunday, marching eight miles on a railroad track,-the orange and Alexandria R.R. which McDowell's corps is rebuilding toward its termination in central Virginia. since we left Alexandria, where we lay for two weeks expecting to take the boat Fortress Monroe, we have seen more of Virginia than we ever before expected to. I am much pleased with the country through which we have passed, and I think no place in the united States surpasses the tract of country in which we are now situated in natural advantages for a place of residence. The day after we arrived here I walked out upon a hill which borders a large and splendid meadow before our camp, and looking westward I saw in the beautiful valley of the Rappahannock That which surprised an delighted me more than the discovery of a new California would have done. The first and principal attraction was a field of winter rye, which covered the grateful earth with a carpet of richest green. It was glorious indeed to see this evidence of profit and progress the first we have seen for a long time. The fences about the fields in the delightful nook below, which by some miracle has escaped the storm of war and anarchy, were high and substantial. Away through the gentle fields could be seen numerous water-courses, each winding its quiet way, supplied with bright and healthy water. Skirting the open fields were patches ot timber, mostly oak, and occasionally on the hills were groups of cedars. In the distance and mingling with the clouds, stood the Blue Ridge-covered with snow. I felt a chill run through me as I looked for this is the "Sunny-South" you know, but did not feel as cold as I did a week ago last Monday, when I stood on a bleak side hill where we were to camp, waiting for the baggage wagons with the big snow-flakes falling upon me in mass. Ugh! How memory called to mind the splendiferous periods of modern Jenkmses writing from the sacred soil." The "sunny skies," and "balmy breezes," and life-giving air, and so forth, 'et ectra, "et id genus omne" came to mind, but did not come to the physique.

Whenever in the dim and distant future any traveled human undertakes to instill into my dark mind, any assertion to the effect that the climate in Virginia is extraordinarily good, I can salute him in the vulgar style of childhood and say independently-I don't see it.

But we are having some really fine days now, and on the whole I think the climate here is perhaps as good on the average as one will find any where only I think it would require some time for a northern man to accustom himself to it.

But one does not need to travel forty miles in Virginia as carefully and leisurely as we have done, to know the great want of Virginia.- As I have looked at many a fair scene in this State during our journey, I have asked myself why the picture before me did not seem homelike--that I expected it to look like my home, but I thought it should present advantages for some one, and seem to claim the love and promise, the progress and improvement of some part of the human family, but it does not. there is some great feature left out I could see an attempt at the play of the Prince of Denmark, but no Hamlet appeared. But it does not take long to estimate the want It is shown in the absence of schoolhouses and churches. If a people lived here who would show off enlightened public sentiment by the erection of such and other monuments of Education and Religion, I think no part of our country would present superior advantages for life and its enjoyments.

The whole army of Virginia is at work, if not preparing for fight. They are paving the way for the successful development of peace by rebuilding railroads and bridges, and improving highway. the same cheerful spirit which pervaded the army last fall still animates it for a summer campaign, although the boys dread the hot summer. On our right, about 8 miles distant is the village of Warrenton. the other day I talked with two colored men (free) who escaped from there in the night, to prevent impressment into the rebel service.-They reported the inhabitants to be in very great fright, and all the slaves were being sent off south to prevent their escape. They said the rebel officers deceive their men by reporting every distant battle a victory for the rebel cause. it was told to the rebel army of the Potomac, and to the people hereabouts that all those battles in the west have resulted favorably to the secesh cause, but that the falling back was a matter of choice.

But want of time forbids me to prolong this letter. All I have to say further is that the act of declaring the seeded States to be territories is the only proper plan, in the opinion-the humble opinion of soldiers. Then this country would be filled with a free people, who would establish an enlightened public sentiment, which is a more effectual safeguard against treason than fleets and armies. It is also less expensive.

Truly yours

H. A. L.

 

From Yorktown

Headquarters 2nd B. S. D. 4H. C. H. P.
April 23d, 1862

Editors Patriot:-Nothing of any especial importance has transpired here since I last wrote you, yet we are kept in a state of vigilance and constant activity. We have been strongly fortifying our position bearing upon the rebel works. We have large fatigue parties constantly throwing up entrenchments digging rifle pits constructing gabions and placing abates. In order to protection from the fire of the enemy almost all the work is done at night. Sand bags are filled and gabions made, however, in the day time and to put in place at night. We have twelve guns in position Frequently at night the working parties are saluted with a volley of musketry from the enemy across the creek, doing as yet however no more serious damage then to create an alarm in camp.

Skirmishes are of daily occurrence. From the Third Brigade of this division we have two men killed and two wounded to day. On our side we took one prisoner and killed and wounded several of the enemy.

The rebels are undoubtedly concentrating all their energies for a mightily struggle at this point. Flanked by two large rives and having their front-strongly protected by a continuous rifle pit from the York to the James rivers with ports at frequent intervals along the line beside the natural aid afforded by creeks and marshes their position is indeed a strong one.

"To be forewarned is to be forearmed," and while our army is fully sensible of these strong points of the enemy we are prepared to oppose him with the genius of McClellan, mortars Parrott guns, and a soldiery ready to do as effective fighting as has ever been witnessed under the sun.

The conduct of the Vermont brigade in the action of the 16th has been a subject of universal remark by old army officers. The bravery and daring of the men ant only elicited the highest admiration, but the perfect coolness and determination of purpose they exhibited ever under a galling fire called forth the warmest praise Not a man hesitated not a rank wavered. there was no confusion, no disorder Every command was obeyed with perfect precision. The wounded were borne from the field by their comrades, who again returned and took there places in the ranks. If a deadly shot struck down one, another stepped up to take his place. such men cannot but be victorious and of such is the army of the Potomac. Just As I close although ten o'clock at night two heavy guns have been fired from one of batteries I presume at working parties on the rebel fort.

S