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1863 January, Seventh Wisconsin

Letter from the Seventh Regiment
Camp near Bell Plain
Jan. 14th, 1863

Mr. Cover! - Having observed in your last Herald of the 30th inst. a short item which I believe to be rather injudicious to the public eye of Grant county and the State of Wisconsin, generally, I offer a few remarks which I hope may be deemed sufficiently appropriate for a space in your next paper. The fighting Second seems to be fated to get in front at every battle. This is, of course, tantalizing to those who have friends in the 7th and other Wisconsin Regiments that the Second was the only Wisconsin Regiment that could be trusted to go in front in a battle, whether the writer intended to convey any such idea or not I am of that impression although I am not prompted by any selfish motive nor do I  wish to excite any feud between the 2nd and the 7th by sending you this but after a tantalization of a similar character, forbearance ceases to be a virtue. Hence arises the propriety, let justice be done to whom justice is due, not wishing to say that the Second is not a good fighting regiment, but wishing to advance the idea that the Seventh and Sixth are as good. This is not from hearsay but from actual observation during five engagements that the Seventh, Sixth and Second have been all engaged in together and at the battles of S,outh Mountain and Fredericksburg of which latter the Second was in the reserve the whole three days, which we were across the Rappahannock. The Seventh and Twenty-fourth Michigan Reg't, which belongs to this brigade, forming the advance line of battle, and in the former place the Seventh and Ninetieth Indiana Reg't formed the advance line. Consequently the idea of "the fighting Second being fated to go in front at every battle" is a rash absurdity which is rather more an injury than a value to the reputation of the Reg't, though the writer might not have been conscious of the fact. I have noticed several pieces in the columns of the Herald written by some member of the Second last winter and occasionally during the summer, which I consider, as the boys call it, blazing on themselves over the other two Regiments in this brigade, of course they had a better chance to show they had been in one battle and the other Regiments had not but now as they have all fought together and neither one have shown the White Feather, why should it be tolerated.
C. B.

Letter from the Seventh Regiment
Three miles from Falmouth
Jan. 22, 1863

Editors Patriot: I promise to keep you posted with regard to the movements of my regiment, but for causes of which I had no control I could not do it. You also promised to send me you valuable sheet, but I have received only one copy. I was in hopes you would sent it, as there is no paper that the soldier receives so full of news and intelligence as yours. So far as I have seen, the most of them are full of advertisements. I always though the Patriot the best paper printed in Madison, and my mind is not changed. Now am going to try a new method of writing. I am going to keep the friends of the 7th posted. If they take your paper they will know of all the movements of the regiment.
I propose to write in journal form each day's events and at the end of each week forward all I may have accumulated for the benefit of our friends and your readers. By writing in this manner I shall be able to keep everything square. As a general thing I can find time to write a few lines each day but to set down and write all the events of a week is almost an impossibility. Therefore I well commence with our first day out, the first day of the winter campaign for the suppression of the rebellion, or the Union (but as the soldiers generally have it "to free the niggers"). It is strange what a reversion of feeling there has been since the first of January. Ask almost any soldier what he thinks of the war; he will answer, I don't like to fight for the d--d nigger. It's nothing but an abolition war, and I wish I was out of the it." You can hear it everywhere, let those deny it who may. It is the truth and why hide the truth. That is the sentiment, go where you will.
The winter campaign of '63 dates from the 20th January. We had orders some two or three days previous to the 20th to have three days rations in our haversacks; everything looked to a move and we knew it must come.
Our brigade took up the line of march at 12 o'clock. The roads were in good condition the air cool and bracing; still our march was slow. Toward evening our pace increased, and for an hour or two we were pushed along faster than we desired. Shortly night set in and our pace was slackened and finally we crossed the railroad about three miles above Falmouth and were told to make ourselves as comfortable as possible for the night. We were taken into a piece of clearing joining the railroad but little wood except brush. To make the night doubly tedious it commenced to rain just about dark a regular old northeaster. We pitched our tents got a little supper, then rolled up in our blankets to dream of home, comfortable beds and get a little sleep, if possible.

WEDNESDAY, January 21st.-This morning broke cold and rainy; rained all night. We could not make fires without great trouble as the wood was wet and green. Finally orders came to pack up, and for the first time since I have been in the service I packed up my tent and blankets wet; generally we have had fire and time to dry them out but this time we packed them up wet, which which made an additional weight of from two to four pounds. Our march lay through cornfields, which were outrageous muddy, brush, over meadows and I was going to say over fences, but there is no fences in this part of Virginia, they are about as scarce as hen's teeth. Finally we went into camp near the old Fredericksburg and Catlett Station road (our old beat) some three miles from Falmouth. I cannot form any idea how far we have marched. Arrived here at 2 p.m., pitched tents and have got good fires, plenty of wood. Still continues to rain. I see 12 mules hitched to our ammunition wagon and they could not move it. Another place I see 10 horses on a caisson and some could not get that out so you can form they opinion as to the state of the roads. The army will have to remain quiet till the roads freeze up.
An order was read to the troops stating that the General was going to move on the enemy, and intended to strike a death blow to the rebellion and desired the hearty co-operation of officers and men. So far as I know there has never been a lack of co-operation so far as the men are concerned; the men have fought well. The fault has been in our high officers, not the men. Give  us a General that we have confidence in, and I guess there will be no trouble with the men.
Although Burnside met with a repulse at Fredericksburg, still the army reposes confidence in him. Yet if the army had a choice in the matter, their choice would be General McClellan - McClellan forever.
THURSDAY, 22d.-The storm continued with unabated fury all night; towards morning it held up, and has settled into a fine mist, wind still N. E.  I was aroused from my sleep by the report of a gun. I listened and heard three more at intervals.  They must have been signal guns, sounded in the direction of the river, which is three miles west of us. One thing I forgot to mention that is the sick were all sent off to hospitals the day we left camp, none but the very hardiest are along. Many reports were circulated as to our destination, some that we are going to our old quarters, some that we are to stay where we are till the roads either freeze up or get settled. I heard one officer express his opinion that the Army of the Potomac would be divided, part sent to Rosecrans, part to Bank, part to Foster, and a portion to protect Washington; that there was no use trying to continue the campaign in Virginia or at least this portion of Virginia and that there must be something done before the middle of May.
It looks quite reasonable, because the time of the two years men will be out in May, as will the nine months men, and then the trouble of another heavy draft will have to be gone through with or else a direct draft on the troops whose time may expire in case the war should be protracted beyond that time.
FRIDAY 23d, -Rain ceased last night and today we had time to dry our clothes, blanket's &c. Orders came about midnight to return to camp; took up the line of march for camp at 8 o'clock, a.m. The roads are in awful condition, but we came cross lots, thereby getting tolerable good footing. When we got within two miles of camp I cut across, got ahead of the regiment; presently one of the general's staff came along and told us (I had overtaken some more of the boys,) that the 4th brigade was going to camp for the night about one-half mile back. All right, says we. We'll take a rest before we go back. On he goes to stop some more of the brigade and as soon as he was out of sight we took to the woods and came on to camp. Our leaving the road made it difficult traveling and when we arrived in camp, behold! the regiment was just coming in. They would not stop over night so far away from the old camp. The quarters were occupied by the 17th Connecticut. of Gen. Sigel's corps as they had received no orders to leave. The regiment were obliged to go off a short distance in the woods and lay out another night.- Marched about ten or twelve mile; hard marching; so soft; came across one of out old camp grounds where we were camped last summer. The country is so changed I hardly knew the place. This army is consuming Virginia. The country will never recover from the effects of the war. The fences are all gone or nearly all and the timber is going pretty fast. It takes the Badger boys to build winter quarters. In all, our march through the right wing of the army (which had not moved, there was no quarters so good as ours and the troops here said our quarters were better than any they knew of in Sigel's corps.
The fact is the Western boys know how to wield the spade and ax.
SATURDAY, 24th - Our quarters were vacated at 1o'clock p.m. and the boys went to work and soon had their tents on again. Some of the huts were torn down for fire wood,- There is no doubt we will remain here all winter now. It is impossible to move this army again.
The winter campaign in Virginia was short and unsuccessful, as has been nearly all the movements in Virginia. Our forces have almost invariably been defeated in this and the western department of Virginia. I firmly believe the Lord is not with our cause at least so far as military movements are concerned on this part of the sacred soil.
The sick were only removed to some barracks down by the Landing and have all returned. Boys are busy fixing up. 
My tent was occupied therefore not destroyed, thus it enables me to write, nothing further to do.
S. J. M.

Letter from the Seventh Regiment
Camp near Bell Plaine

Messrs, Editors Patriot:

SUNDAY, Jan, 25th- I take up with the next day (Sunday); I believe I said we arrived in camp, our old camp- but if I mistake not, I have not stated where that camp is located; it is situated near the mouth of the Potomac creek, 1 1/2 miles from Bell Plaine, near what is called the Lower Landing and about 1/5 mile from said landing. When first our brigade came here the hills were covered with trees, but the busy ax has laid them low and constructed them into huts. Wood is getting very scarce and has to be carried up hills; pretty hard work, yet, as we have nothing else in particular to do, we manage to keep a good fire- rained a little last night and this morning cleared up about 10 o'clock, and the balance of the day was very pleasant. Our chaplain held services this afternoon, but I did not attend, as I had received three letters from home, and they were so anxious there to hear from me that I thought I must write to them first.
I was very sorry it happened thus as I like to hear him. He is a good speaker. I shall leave you the dark as to his name.
MONDAY, Jan 26th.- very much such a night and morning as last night and yesterday morning; only a little colder. I hear our Pay Master has got his money for this brigade. I hope he has for many of the boys are out of money; they ought not to have been, but many are very careless and use their money too freely, thus it soon gives out. I guess there is no danger of our leaving here till the roads are settled in the Spring without we are sent off on some expedition.
TUESDAY, Jan. 27.- Misty more or less all day. Quite unpleasant. The papers brings us the resignation of Gen. Burnside or I ought to have said the report of his resignation. If General McClellan would be put in command, what a thrill of joy would run through the whole army if they could hail him as their commander. The army will not miss Burnside much. He did well enough when he had command of a division or corps but he is not the general that can handle such a vast army as he has commanded for the past few months.
If Gen. McClellan was placed in command of the army again I do not think there would be so many desertions. It is a shame the way the men have been deserting especially on this last march. 
Some of them will be caught and perhaps made an example of. I suppose those who desert have not got confidence in the commanders and do not wish to sacrifice their lives where there is no good to be accomplished. The future looks dark but as the old saying goes "It is darkest before day." so we live and hope. Had our monthly inspection.
WEDNESDAY, Jan. 28.- we are getting our winter in dead earnest now. It rained more or less all night and this morning it turned to snow and snowed unremittingly all day. An awful storm to be exposed in. Mightily glad we are to be back in our quarters. I pity the poor fellows that have to build their fires and do their cooking out in the open air to-day. the snow melts and would soon wet a person through yet the wind is very raw. It is such a day as one would like to hug the fires and keep indoors.
The papers say that Burnside, Franklin and Summer are relieved and that Porter is dishonorably discharged. It appears that the McDowell Court of Inquiry has convicted Porter; and if he is guilty of what has been brought to light he ought to have the hemp process applied to him. He ought to be make an example of, then our Generals would be more careful how they disobeyed orders, or neglected them. It requires that very severe means should be applied before we can have good true loyal Generals. I think each one is having a trial at the helm about as fast as is expedient; and thus far they do not appear to know how to guide the bark. Well perhaps it is best to give them all a trial - it only costs fifteen or twenty thousand lives to take each one on trial; so we may as well try them all, while we are about . Only four or five months are thrown away on each for nothing; and then we have plenty of men in the North who can just as well be spared as not to be killed off in experiments. I suppose it is all right but-I can't se it!
THURSDAY, Jan. 29th-The snow is going off rapidly. It is pleasant overhead, but sloppy under foot.
It appears that Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker is placed in command of the Army of the Potomac. The soldiers generally place great confidence in him and I think he stands next to Gen. McClellan, in the estimation of the army. The papers say he is going to see what the rebels at Fredericksburg are made of; but although he is a brave energetic General yet I think he will hardly hazard such an attempt, at present. Gen. Hooker is known throughout the army as" Fighting Joe"-quite an appropriate appellation. The enemy who confronts him in battle must expect to do some tall fighting. We were under him at South Mountain, and know him. The troops under him must expect to fight and endure many hardships. As soon as the weather becomes so that the campaign can be opened again the war will be pushed vigorously. There has been a want of vigor activity and energy on the part of the North since the commencement of the war, and it is time that a change for the better was made.
FRIDAY, January 30th.- It has thawed very fast today. The boys have bad a good time snow balling especially when they could get sight of a pair of "shoulder-straps," when they seemed to take especial delight in throwing at them.
We were called out on an undress parade (thank fortune there is no room for a dress parade) to hear orders published. Among the orders was that which pertains to the relief of Gen's Burnside, Franklin and Summer; also that of Gen. Joseph Hooker being assigned to the command of the army of the Potomac. The order was received with no demonstration whatever. Once the boys might have given cheers either for getting rid of Burnside or for having Hooker placed over them - but they are having so many changes that the boys don't care how the thing is settled. I have noticed this never so much as since the 1st of January. I cannot help but mark the change and if the war is not more successful I fear at the opening of Spring there will be many desertions. It appears there has been about 10,000 who desert from the army during this last march. That is the number that Madame Rumor has set it down at, how true I cannot vouch. The true number will be kept shady no doubt.
SATURDAY, Jan. 31-Most splendid day - thats all I have got to say about it. Officers held an election this afternoon to see who is to be Major, for which there was five candidates. All I have heard about it is that Capt. Finnicum of Co. H was elected. I may find out how the ballot went to-morrow. Capt. F. is a good soldier and a military man. He has never been tried in the field but he has the confidence of the men. He left us at Cedar Mountain, if I am not mistaken and went home recruiting. -I presume he will make a good Major.
Another change has taken place. Our regimental Surgeon is dismissed from the service for incompetency. The boys are all glad of it and hope they will never see him again. The fact is he has been the means of causing a number of deaths in the regiment by inhumanly making them march when they were scarcely able to stand up. I know of two cases that have come under my own observation. There are at present quite a number of poor fellows languishing in the hospital and many of them will die if they are kept here. It is too bad. It is said he has powerful and influential friends in Washington who will get him reinstated, but we hope to see him no more in our regiment. Perhaps I speak too frank but I do it for the benefit of our friends not for malice.



Camp near Bell Plains, Va., Jan. 27

I will try and give you a short description of our doings and position at present:
On the 18th instant we received orders to draw four day's rations and be ready to march on short notice. On the evening of the 19th we were ordered to strike tents at ten o'clock A.M. and march. At twelve the line was formed the roads and weather being very agreeable. We took the direction of Fredericksburg again expecting to meet the enemy. We marched till four o'clock P.M. and just at dusk we were closed in mass and an order read stating we were soon to meet the enemy. Some regiments gave three cheers at the publication of the order, but our regiment - which is not much on cheering - thought it better to wait till after a victory was won. But we were neither led to battle or victory for some reason unbeknown to your correspondent.

May the glad time soon come when our glorious Star Spangled Banner shall wave triumphant over this once proud Republic! May we be a free and happy Nation once more! May the political factions of the North that are now doing all they can to destroy the army and overthrow the Government by their railings, bickering, murdering thousands meet their just deserts which is hanging higher than Hamen. But I am digressing from my subject and the reader will remember from out the fullness of the heart the mouth speaketh.
I said we took the road to Fredericksburg. We camped at nine o'clock A.M. when it commenced to rain which continued during the night. The 21st we were ordered to strike tents. We marched six miles and camped in a thick growth of pine timber. The dampness of the air and rain made our stay here anything but agreeable. On the 23d we were ordered to strike tents and return to our old quarters which we reached at four o'clock P.M. having marched eighteen miles. Upon our return we found our log houses occupied by the 17th Connecticut under General Sigel.. they offered to give the quarters that night but we consented to occupy them together which we did.
We are now occupying our old quarters and the prospect is that we shall be allowed the privilege of remaining for some time in this vicinity. Muddy roads here are some. I saw upon our return to camp no less than eighteen horses endeavoring to draw one caisson which was struck fast almost beyond extrication. I just received two copies of the Record for which I am truly thankful; they are interesting. More anon.

S. Durkee