March 1862

Letter from the 6th Regiment

Fairfax, Va. March 11, 1862

Dear Father

Dec 3, 2003
Dear father:-Here I am away down in Old Virginny. We started yesterday morning for Manassas and Bull Run. About 12 o'clock night before last we received orders to march at 4 o'clock on the next morning, and then the d--! was to pay indeed.-
I had to pile out of bed and draw my rations and pack the medicines and instruments under my care in a hurry so as to get under weigh at the appointed time. I worked all night and then concluded I would go to bed and get a little rest, for I have marched several times before, and have always found that, in my case at least the old rule of "the more haste the less speed." proved true. So I waited until after daylight, and then after packing up my duds in the least possible space, I strung my knapsack, haversack and canteen and started on after our Regiment; but I did not know where in thunder to find them, only I knew they'd probably be somewhere near Fairfax, which was 14 miles from our camp, and did not know the way there so you see I was in a fine fix; but I didn't care a darn where or when I found the Regiment, for I am as independent as you please now a days. And as if to add to the pleasantness of my situation, it rained considerably hard most of the day.
However I drove on and about noon came up into Gen. Blenker's division. I then inquired of several if they knew where McDowell's division was; but nobody knew. At last after going on several miles, an old "contraband" told me he thought my part of the army was off two or three miles to the left of Blenker's so off I goes across lots to try and find them. About 4 o'clock I came in sight of the village of Fairfax which is about as large as Hebron, and looks about four hundred years old, and is mostly deserted. When I first saw Fairfax I was about a mile from the village and on the top of quite a high hill on which was a beautiful large brick house and as I came up I thought I would go in and see if I could find out anything about my route. When I came to go in I found it was deserted though the furniture was mostly left. And then I thought I would hang out there over night, so I went into a large and beautiful room which which looked as if it had been originally the family sitting room. It had two nice fire places, a large mahogany sofa, cabinet bureau, rocking chair, and a nice baby crib. The furniture was good deal used up before I got there, and some worse the next morning. I made up a big fire and I found that dry mahogany burned well and made a very warm fire. The only rations that day consisted of half a small loaf of dried up bread, and what water I could drink. I forgot to tell you that before I started in the morning I filled my canteen with forty proof brandy, for I knew I could get anything I wanted with it. At night I made a raise in the shape of a supper for a few swallows of the "crather." I shall remember that day's march all my life as the hardest of the many I have taken.
The next morning I got up and built up a roaring fire with the remainder of a bureau, changed my under clothes and threw away what I took off, as well as a lot of clean clothes, to lighten up my load a little. After I get pretty well warmed up and rested, I started my pipe and myself after the regiment. I went only a mile beyond Fairfax when I came up with the regiment when I least expected it, for I thought it must be nearly to Centreville before I could get up with it.
It was encamped in a little patch of wood, very nearly on the site of an old camp of South Carolina Volunteers. This morning a great many of our boys went our foraging, the result of which was about twenty hogs and a large lot of turkeys and chickens. I luckily got hold of a ham of one of the pigs which was the first bit of fresh pork I had eaten since I left old Wisconsin, and I had no salt for it which improved it considerable you may guess, About forty rods from here is a Secesh grave-yard of the South Carolina troops, who were encamped here.
There are about twenty graves in all, six of which have been opened and the bodies taken out. The old coffins are lying about on top of the ground and in the holes which were left open. Most of the graves have some sort of a headstone to them the more common of which is a rough chunk of granite. I saw one pretty decent stone, of some sort of lime or flint, which bore the inscription roughly cut with a jack knife:
J. C Willis, Died 16th September, 1861, Co. D. 6th Regiment South Carolina Volunteers." Poor miserable fool; he came up here to take possession of some Yankee land, and he got his reward, for he entered a small piece. We are laying over here to-day, for the Secesh have evacuated Manassas and blowed up the bridges, so we have got to lay over until we can build them up again.- Our Colonel says he expects to be in Richmond in less then ten days, for we have possession of the railroads leading there and we can go there in a hurry. This is all the news I think of at present. I write this on top of our medicine chest so excuse had writing.
Yours affectionately,