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Feb 20, 2003 to Feb 6, 2013

150 Years Ago (1864 7/17)


Six miles from Leesburgh, on the road to

Snicker's Gap, July 17, 1864.

Dear Wife,

Here we are on our march. I wrote to you last from Poolsville. Sent the letter to Washington by Bill Dwyer to be mailed. The day I wrote we laid still. The men were very badly used up by being up nights and the march. We left yesterday morning, followed the river up to White's Ford. The Ford was held by a few rebels. They were quickly shelled out. The cavalry crossed and took a few prisoners. The main force of the rebels crossed there, the day we came to Poolsville. We crossed about noon, forded the river. It was fun, then we came here by a rapid march. Every man that started with us kept in the ranks, I never marched any easier. It is about 16 miles from the ford here and we came about 6 miles before crossing it. It is now about 10 o'clock A.M. And there are no signs of moving yet. Report says that Hunter is on the rebel flank and at dark we were about 5 miles from their rear guard, but their main force is some ways ahead. They have a strong cavalry force. We have but few, just enough to feel the way ahead. There has been a little brush this morning. I judge that we are going no further on this road.

I must say a word about the country. I said nothing about the country in Maryland in my last letter. It is one of the finest places I ever saw, great fields of corn and wheat. The wheat is cut, and some is thrashed, and there is great quantities of fruit. There are some apples ripe, but I have had but one. These stragglers come in well filled. I should like to live in Maryland. This is a fine country on this side of the river. It is very hilly but the soil does not wash. It is pretty stony. We are now on the east side of Loudon Valley on the hills. The Valley stretches off to the Blue Ridge which separates Loudon Valley from the Valley of the Shenandoah. There is no business or life here. We have passed over hills where the herds grass was as high as my shoulders. It was evidently pasture. There is no stock left in the country. There are but few fields of corn. That is very small. The
whole country is parched with drought. The grass is cured like hay on the ground. Have but little dew, and this is a country noted for heavy dews.

We have just formed a junction with Hunter. He has just passed along here within a few steps of where I lie under a tree writing this. That may change our course. I do not have an idea of where we are going, though I have heard amy amount of opinions, and some of them by officers while I have been writing, but I have quit saying anything about the country since Hunter came along. Well, let it go. The water is good, when we can stop long enough to get it. The air is pure. It is one of the finest sheep countries imaginable. I have seen one on a cavalry man's saddle, and that is the only one I have seen in Virginia. I saw one cow last night with a full bag, and the boys were getting her into the drove of our beeves. I think she belongs to a poor negro woman. Well, the boys say the rebs have been taking so much they must pay them back, so they will go on each one growing a little worse at every aggravation.

If you keep these letters I shall be able to tell you where I have been when I get home. The sun has never risen in the wrong place once since I came here. You spoke in one letter of the flavor of the canteen. Was there not two in the box? There was one that a man gave me to go on inspection, with a new one that had whisky in it. Did you get everything in the box that I wrote you was or ought to be in it. You spoke about sending me something. I do not now as there is anything I want. My stockings have just begun to let the toes out. The holes are small yet. If I had a little yarn could fix them up directly. There is not a hole come yet in the heels, though one pair is rather thin. I lost one pair on the boat when I came up from City Point. I do not think it will be best to send anything at present. If mine fail, I will draw some; army socks are but 25 cents a pair, and will be good enough for summer.

Hunter has taken a part of the rebel train and some prisoners. Our cavalry are driving a small squad of rebels a little way on our left. I have new reports every minute, or as often as a cavalry man passes. One thing I know. We do lie on very high ground in an oak grove, and out of shade. It looks very hot. My tent mate is very busy cooking. He has been very unwell for some days and has only been with me nights, and has eaten nothing. Today he is better; has put me up until I have been and got some apples, and he has stewed up as much as two quarts of green apple sauce and he is now fussing away. I tell him he is a good cook, but it takes a good deal more to keep house when he cooks, if I would
forage and he cook we would live first rate, but when anyone catches me in a garden digging potatoes.

I hear nothing about the third division yet. Part of the 19th Army Corps is with us. The Vt. 8th is here. They came about the time we left Washington. Among the prisoners we took yesterday was a pretty smart North Carolina conscript, who was in the skirmish line that went up to Fort Stephens. He did not know what to think. Knew there were men in the fort, and not a gun fired. By the time they had found out
what was there it was too late. They might just as well have gone into the City as not. They were there in very small force. They could not have held it, but they might have raised quite a dust or smoke. There were quite a number of invalids there and hundred days men. The hundred days men fight well in the field, but take them by
themselves they believe all those exaggerated stories of the force of the rebels. I suppose they thought if they made any resistance they would be massacred, and therefore they disgraced themselves and the country. I think if the government have got to keep the 6th Corps bundling about in this way they had better give us some horses. I want to see about 300,000 men in the field. I think Richmond will fall, but it will be much easier to do with a strong force than a weak one and at a saving of life. I hope we shall hear no more about keeping so large a force to guard Washington. Maryland has more surplus food in it now than the whole of Virginia. This rebel raid, if they got safely back to Richmond or Lynchburg, will feed their armies for sometime. If there is not a force sufficient to keep them out of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Kentucky they will find provision enough, They are very short, and the drought that prevails now in the South is awful. There is but little planted in the section where we are now, and of course the best land would be planted, and the land is not poor, as the grass in the pastures shows, but there is but little of the corn that will ever amount to anything. I saw but one field of grain on this side of the river yesterday and that was on fire.  In Maryland the corn is fine, and such fields of wheat, I
scarce ever imagined and the plump kernels stuck out on the ears. It would have done you good to have seen it. The fruit on the trees was large and square. Here it is very small, pinched with drought. There has ben no rain in Virginia since the first of June. There was quite a fine shower the day we came to Washington, but no rain here.
Hunter has re-captured some of the prisoners that the rebs took at Monocacy. I wish I could see some of them, but they are some way from here.

Well, Tinkham has cooked dinner and we have eaten to our hearts content. I do not know when I shall get a chance to send this, but if I wait for a chance before I write it will be too late to, and it is not often I get so good a chance. My health is first rate. My back is nearly well. I only feel it now when I have a little cooking to do. Then I always feel it. It is wonderful to me now well I have stood it. Give my best regards to all inquiring friends. TellMary Ann to write to me. When we stop anywhere long enough to write two letters, I shall write to her when we stop, as we today have had several little jobs to do. One is to find a chance to wash, take off my shirt and look over every square inch of it. I always find some. Never more than two or three at a time. There is no trouble in keeping them down, though they need close watching. This is a kind of skip hop letter, but you can hardly imagine how many times I have done and just shook hands with Alvin Stokes, and he has stopped to chat a little.

Your own,

Charles.

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 #

Posterity

"If you keep these letters…"

I hope she does. : )

 

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