February 1863

(Correspondence of the Journal and Courier.)
From the 6th Regiment
Near Belle Plain Landing, Va.
Feb. 16, 1863

Mr. Editor:
A foraging expedition, composed of the 6th and 2d regiments, under command of col. Fairchild's of the latter regiment lately most agreeably interrupted the routine of camp life in winter quarters here upon the Potomac.
On the 12th inst., the necessary orders having been received, we quickly found ourselves in light marching order, on board the steamer Alice Price, formerly flagship of Gen. Burnside, and en route upon our enterprise.
Tis true we were a little too crowded for comfort, the weather rather cool, the accommodations for sleeping and cooking our "java" very limited, as we afterwards discovered, for a pleasure excursion still, remembering that we during 19 months service, have become accustomed to all kinks of weather as well as frequent lengthy and fatiguing marches ever on foot, and now for once riding upon a journey, we could well afford to regard only the bright side of affairs and be fully prepared to enjoy the novelty of our situation gliding swiftly along upon the broad and grand old Potomac viewing the numerous vessels going in every direction, and points of importance and interest, many of us viewing them for the first time. At night 30 miles down the river we lay to until morning, and then after a few hours ride passing Port Lookout and obtaining a glimpse of Chesapeake bay we put into one of the numerous creeks or bayous along the shore between the Rappahannock and Potomac rivers known by the natives as the neck, and landing 3 mile from Heathsville, Northumberland county.
Leaving a guard for the boat we at once started for town placing men at every house to guard against surprise and prevent the inhabitants from communicating with any "reb" that might be in the neighborhood, Posting pickets to keep citizens from leaving we stacked arms in the square a neighboring mill with the adjacent fences affording us a fine opportunity to make up for the luxury we could not obtain upon the boat. Dinner over and our pipes lighted we began to explore the town. totally unlike most Virginia town there was not that marked appearance of thrift and decay. Everything was as quiet at Sunday-houses and stores except two of the latter being closed whose few contents speedily found their way to our pockets and haversacks.
Citizens in formed us that they knew of our intended visit almost as soon as we did, and inconsequence many left especially officers on furlough and those looking up conscripts Resting awhile we returned to our landing and found contrabands busily engaged in transferring from ox-carts their own personal effects and the fine old hams and bacon once the property of kind and indulgent masters now food for Yankees. The next morning the good work continued but very much on the increase horse and mules bacon and negroes arriving in such abundance that we soon had all our boat could carry.
Then the negroes, without a thought of grief of their loved masters, started the cattle home, while the yokes and carts were thrown into the water. one of our boys in going to a house, was attacked by three large dogs, and like a good soldier showed fight bringing one dog down at the expense of bending his gun barrel he shot dead the 2d and with a shortened on the left sent the third howling away.-One lady was foolish enough to come to look after several of her servants, and together with several farmers so green as to come with bridles after some splendid horses we had on board, were obliged to return with the assurance that they were taking a quick passage to Yankee land.
Several conscripts who had been hiding from their own men came and talked with us and admitted that we gave them a better insight than they before enjoyed in reference to war. One old lady who had two sons in the rebel army said she had been twice burnt out of house and home by the Yankees, but still did not hate them so fiercely as many southerns profess, yet immediately added that if we molested anything about her premises she would shoot us as she would a chicken.
It is estimated we brought away from 50 to 60 head of horses and mules, four tons of bacon, two hales of cotton, one box of shoes one wagon, and innumerable smaller articles of value besides the contrabands and their effects.
Expeditions were sent out to capture two schooners, but as they were high on beach they were burned, We could have filled two or three schooners with corn and bacon, but for want of transportation left them .
The negroes were invaluable in piloting us from place to place, and informing us of the names wealth and proclivities of their masters and in loading our cargo. In return for their service we take them away from comfortable homes and kind friends, but so spiced with servitude that they resist all entreaties to remain. On our return we examined many places where forage may be obtained at another time, and report says we shall have the opportunity.; We also made some important arrests of citizens engaged in smuggling medicines and in aiding to the best of their ability the rebellion. On the 16th we were back, but a very perceptible change was manifest in the light marching order of every soldier, and a good reason existed for in every blanket was a fine old ham or shoulder. Many indulged to luxury of a chair or pail., others struggling under such dainties as turkey, duck, chicken, &c.
With good rations in our shanties e now look back with profound satisfaction upon our forage, and flatter ourselves that the 6th and 2d Wis. are some on a steal.
L.A. K.

From the 6th Regiment
Near Belle Plain Va.

A Raid Down the Potomac
Editors Republic:-An expedition composed of the 6th and 2d Wisconsin Regiments, having for its chief object, the breaking up of a system of smuggling which has been carried on during the rebellion across the Potomac and Chesapeake bay, is worthy of mention in your columns, as another example of the efficiency of the troops which Wisconsin has proudly sent to the war.
The expedition was conducted by col. L. Fairchild's of the 2d Wisconsin Regiment, and Lient. col. E. S. Bragg of the 6th, and started on Thursday the 12th inst. in light marching order and with six days rations. We proceeded immediately to the landing where the Steamer Alice Price was waiting to convey us to the mouth of the Potomac.
It was the first time that we had ever had the pleasure of riding on this beautiful river, and notwithstanding the boat was much crowded its Captain was a lively interesting gentleman, and we all made up our minds to enjoy the rip. After the freight is all on, and a few mules, that show themselves by no means destitute of the full amount of stubbornness natural with the race, are lead, and pushed, and backed, and carried on board we start. there is noting particularly grand in the scenery on either side, but the Virginia bank has the alternate appearance of an extensive tract of deserted worn out land, and thick growth of small pines. An occasional plantation but feebly relieves its dull monotony, for the buildings are usually of the same style one large dwelling adorned with half a dozen negro shanties. As we approach the Chesapeake however, the country appears better, as the inhabitants seem to be wealthier and to have been less disturbed by the war.
Just at dusk a shrill whistle called us on deck, and we perceived a low dark something on the water, which resembles an eastern shed, except that it has a smoke stack, A little nearer and some frowning "war dogs" reveal the fact that it is a Gunboat guarding the Potomac, and that friend and foe must obtain permission ere they can pass.
We went but little further that night and cast anchor, and as the question whether it would be possible to sleep on board had been discussed and decided in the negative when we first took passage, the boys had nothing to do but commence the night amusements which were, to sing tell stories keep every one awake who tried to sleep and sear. The Captain of the boat aided materially in keeping them interested and did not become vexed even, at finding himself locked in his room and having to climb through the window and come around on the side of the vessel but declared that he had been in almost every state in the Union except Wisconsin and now he was going there &c.
On Friday morning we proceeded in the same course till opposite Northumberland county where we turned into Cone river, which is a small stream and difficult to navigate except by those accustomed to it, there by facilitating the business of smuggling which is carried on extensively in that vicinity.
We soon come to an old wharf which is nearly dilapidated by time, but it is just the place where we desire to stop and the boat is moored and we step upon the sacred soil once more. We spy a plantation and a fine large dwelling in the distance, which bears evidence of the repose of wealth.-Capt. Mansfield with a guard is sent to the residence and soon returns with its owner Dr. J. Smith, as a political prisoner, guilty of smuggling goods for the use of rebels in arms. the doctor is a young man, wealthy and a zealous rebel; to go into the army was the only thing which he seemed unwilling to do for his ideal confederacy and this he avoided by obtaining license to preach. He had probably been more effective however in the capacity of a smuggler which he preferred.
The expedition now starts for the town of Heathsville, which is about three miles off leaving a guard at the boat and one at each house on the road side, with orders to allow no one to leave the premises. The town is a small dull deserted one with but few inhabitants to welcome us or be surprised at our coming. We returned to the boat that night and slept on the river bank Saturday forenoon everything is as lively and brisk as a commercial mart; scouting parties are returning with horses and mules for a raid a part of our programme, understand. Contrabands are flocking in by scores some the families and household furniture ox teams and hauling in bacon and hams a great amount of which has been discovered in a storehouse and the boat is being loaded ready for our return. At this stage of proceedings however, something unusually interesting took place. Dr. Smith had been allowed to go to his house for some purpose previous to his departure for Washington and we were a little surprised to see the guard returning with him accompanied by a young lady. It was the Doctor's sister. She had come to make a plea for her or her brother property, and there was a curiosity to know how she would succeed. They made straightway for the cabin where they found Col. Fairchild's and immediately the court opened. The attack was strong and skillful, but the Colonel was equal to the emergency and kept in view the fact that he was acting for the Government that sent him.
She seemed to understand that we were going to take her slaves whether they wished to go or not; but the Colonel assured her that he did not ask them to leave and that if she could induce them to remain she might do so. She went out to converse with them, and as she hastened through the crowd towards one stalwart African holding a horse here, and another unloading bacon there, it was easy to see that he felt uneasy and wished that "missus" was almost anywhere else. They were evidently attached to their young mistress and she evidently knew now to awaken their attachment, and after she had rehearse to them the "kindness which she had always shown them, and how well she had and would care for them"

And asked the appealing question how john do you wish to go and leave us; The poor victim of cursed avarice and the custom of ages faltered and tried to say no.
Why should he say otherwise?

Has he ever had a taste of liberty to sharpen his desire or appreciation of it?

Has not everything that would tend to uproot the deep settled and only principle of his education, that he is a slave and in his proper sphere, been careful kept from his reach?

Yet but one of those to whom she put this question answered in the negative and he finally persuaded turned his reluctant steps to go back and continue his faithful servitude. He stopped to look bock for the last time on the boat which was to carry off his colored friends What moment he was lost to his mistress, He felt keenly that he had relaxed his hold on freedom which he had just felt within his grasp and turning from his young mistress he came back to the boat it was not that he loved mistress less but that he loved freedom more.

The young lady was escorted home safely by the guard and after burning some boats which had been used for smuggling, we started for home, where we arrived Sunday evening. Aside from the contrabands, the expedition brought away from the enemy about sixty horses and mules, 15,000 lbs of bacon and hams, two bales of cotton, one case of shoes, and will be considered one of the most effective and successful raids of the war.

Yours truly.

H. J. H.

From the 6th Regiment

A few days ago we were drawn up in front of Gen. Meredith's quarters to hear read the resolutions I send you. Gen. M. made a few prefatory remarks explaining the reason of our being assembled, and desired us to lay aside for the moment the character of disciplined soldiers listening to an order from a superior officer, in which as such, we would readily acquiesce  but with the freedom of, American citizens. Mote upon the resolutions, which embodied his own sentiments, and he believed those of his entire command.

"Whereas, certain evil-minded persons in the army and at home have circulated basic and slanderous reports concerning the 'Army of the Potomac, it is with pain and regret we have noticed the unfounded but too universal belief of the demoralization of this army; a report put in circulation by a set of Northern traitors to justify their own wicked designs laying to our charge the imputation that we are in favor of peace on any terms. For the purpose of refuting so base a slander alike insulting to our character as soldiers and citizens we members of the 4th Brigade, 1st division, 1st Army Corps do therefore resolve:

1st. that we denounce all such reports and agitations and declare most emphatically that there are no men to be found in our ranks who would not blush at a dishonorable and inglorious peace, or would not rather sacrifice their all for the maintenance of the constitution, the integrity of our country, and the crushing out of this rebellion.

2d. That wearisome and toilsome as the profession of a soldier's life may be, and as we long for the society of our families and the endearments of home we feel it our duty to carry on this war to the bitter end and what ever the consequence to ourselves may be, the army of the Potomac will be true to its flag, and does not desire peace until the last rebel in arms has vanished from our soil.

3d. We warn our friends at home to beware of traitors in their own midst wolves in sheep's clothing and never forget that the first duty of a good citizen and patriot is the maintenance of his rightful government and submission of all little personal political or social interests to the great common cause. The blood of thousands of our friends and comrades already sacrificed open the altar of out county cites aloud to you to follow their glorious example and to fill the thinned ranks of an army which will never submit to an inglorious peace.

4th It is our sincere belief that the safety of our country lies in rallying around the Government in a hearty co-operation of all the branches of civil lift in a vigorous prosecution of this war the stern resolution to fight until the last rebel is subdued and the stars and stripes are again floating over every inch of the territory belonging to the United States. We invite our friends at home and abroad to join with us in the motto. High the flag of our county, death to traitors south of North, East or West."

5th. We fully endorse the spirit of the last Congressional Militia law and are in favor of enforcing the same throughout all the states and parts of states now under control of Government. The grumblers and fault finders at home; the heroes of the quill and the thundering public orators after having seen the fruitless of the attempts to crush the rebellion with their long range guns, may yet have the opportunity to show their metal to correct errors, and to prove their so often pledged devotion to the country in shouldering to musket and joining their brothers in arms. Let it be truly understood that in the present struggle no neutrality can exist and than they have either to fight pay or emigrate."

6th. That we recognize in the present Administration the Government de facto and cheerfully endorse it. or any subsequent one in all acts or measures having for their object a vigorous prosecution of the war and the effectual crushing out of this rebellion.

The spontaneous and unanimous about that went up at the close of the reading carried the conviction ot every one present that the General was right in his judgment of the sentiments of this brigade. That shout would have cheered the heart of every loyal Wisconsin man making him feel that all the hardships and dangers experienced, all the slights of friends at home all the foul asservations of Copperheads and grumbles, have but added to the firm determination of their troops in this department to stand by our Government to the end and prove true to the state from which they came.

Copperhead sheets, widely circulated by their emissaries have found their way to our midst only to strengthen out hatred of the cowardly  miscreants who while reposing in the security of home would raise their cowardly hands to undermine a beneficent Government. and beget a distrust in the minds of their brothers and friends who like men have left their homes and periled their lives to maintain their principles and crush the rebellion. Too cowardly to join openly and fight for those with whom they sympathies they merit nougat but our heartiest disgust.

Could they have heard our assent to these resolutions they would have felt that it would afford us the highest satisfaction to be called home to squelch their treason to exhibit upon them the proficiency in arms which we have acquired fighting far more honorable toes, and their case would be attended to effectually and with a will.