Cambridge Chronicle - February 15, 1862
HeadQuarters Co. D., 22d Reg't Mass. Vols.
Hall's Hill, Va.,
February 8, 1862
Mr. Editor: — There is a small jubilee in our camp, just at the present moment, over the glorious news in this morning's Republican, of our victories in Tennessee and at Fairfax.
The tide appears of late to be setting entirely in one direction, and we hope now that the flood when at the full may wash away all that holds up this fabric of rebellion, and that our country may be purged from its foul corruption.
And this will as surely be as fate, if people at home will only have patience and not try to hurry on any more Bull Runs, — for their feelings are infectious, and many of our troops have caught them. Every day I hear some of the boys grumbling at our being kept so long in one spot, and at times have myself felt discouraged; but when the matter is looked at deliberately, then I find it all right, and easy to bear, and any movement or influence which would have a tendency towards creating dissatisfaction, should be promptly put down.
In regard to any movement, I have cried "wolf" so much, echoing the tone which prevails in our camp frequently, when the animal has not been forthcoming, that I have now almost made up my mind not to say anything of reported changes until they become realities; and then, not until we are some fifteen miles away on a march. I guess then it will be a sure thing.
I have to record the death of our friend and fellow townsman, Quarter-Master Sergeant Daniel F. Brown, who died in hospital last night, of typhoid fever.
He had been off duty for some three or four weeks from debility, occasioned by overtasking himself in his official duties, and then exposing himself to cold.
A slow fever, of the bilious type resulted, and when his system was enfeebled, typhoid supervened and he could not rally.
Sergeant Brown has been a faithful officer, which is proven by the fact that a better position was awaiting him on his return to health. But this was destined not to be, and his work is done. "After life's fitful fever, he sleeps well."
His father arrived in camp in season to attend him in his last moments, and will leave for the east with the body, this afternoon at five o'clock.
Typhoid fever is somewhat prevalent in our vicinity at the present time, several cases being reported in our hospital, and in the camps of our neighbors. Several deaths are reported daily. I have myself narrowly escaped it, and am now confined to my quarters from its effects. But this is not my only escape. A night or two since, just after roll call, when the lodge, with the exception of Orderly Nodine, who is absent on furlough, were all present together with some visitors, among whom was Henry White, of East Cambridge, who is connected with our Sutler Department, we were treated to an explosion. A spark of fire flew from our stove into a pail containing between four and five hundred blank cartridges, and of course the powder exploded. Instantly the whole tent was one sheet of flame and smoke, from which we all tried to escape, three or four rushing in the direction of what they supposed to be the door. White, with great presence of mind, jumped upon one of the bunks in the rear, and wilb his knife instantly cut for himself a passage out. This served as an outlet, and we were all soon out with comparatively little damage. Wingate and myself were the principal sufferers. His left hand was severely burned, and his hair somewhat singed. My right ear was burned, and all my hair, whiskers, eyelashes, and eyebrows; and the clothing I had on was destroyed ; but fortunately I suffered no serious damage beside this, which is almost miraculous, as I was not over two feet from the pail at the moment of the explosion. My loss, in addition to this, is about thirty dollars, in clothing, bedding, &c., but I am perfectly satisfied to have escaped with my life. My comrades also suffered somewhat in the same way. The loss I regret most is that of my comforter, under which I have slept so snugly. Piece to its ashes!
It is about decided upon, I am informed, that our battalion is to do the skirmishing for the brigade, the great knowledge and experience of Col. Gove, rendering him peculiarly fitted to command this important duty; and, accordingly, we are put through skirmishing, in all kinds of ways —squad, company, battalion, and brigade — target prartice usually closing up the day's labors in pleasant weather, dress parade and all ornamental duty yielding place to the useful; and if this is continued, we shall soon be in a condition to face the enemy, as each day's firing shows a decided improvement on the preceding, and the destruction to targets is awful.
The firing commenced at one hundred yards, increasing fifty each day; and this increase is to continue until the distance reaches one thousand yards, - and the boys don't seem to mind the additional fifties, but hit about as often at long as at short range.
Practical joking is now one of the "orders of the day," and "sells" are of frequent perpetration. Our last victim was our honest Corporal Frothy. He is in the habit of straying away from the quarters into the neighboring camps, and thereby missing roll calls — an offence which is troublesome, if reported. Accordingly a night or two since, on his return from a trip of this kind, we gravely informed him that an order, putting him on " knapsack drill for two hours," had come down from head-quarters, for absence from roll call. The next morning he donned knapsack and full equipments, seized his gun, and our " quiet Sergeant" put him through a short drill in the company street, to the amusement of all the boys and the officers, who looked on unseen, not daring to show themselves for fear their grins would expose the fun. It was exceedingly well carried out and Frothy
proposes to treat on the strength of it, and good-naturedly "owns the corn."
The late snowstorm furnished considerable sport to our neighbors of the New York Seventeenth. They built a large snow fort and then the whole Regiment turned out, from the Colonel down, and pairing off, right wing versus left, took turns attacking and defending it. The line of battle was formed, and the men, all armed with snow balls, at the trumpet sounding the charge, with a yell dashed up to the walls amid a perfect hurricane of snowballs from those in the fort. Repulsed, they rallied and used all the tricks and artifices of war with varied success — the mimic fight going on in perfect good nature, until the trumpet sounded the recall, and then reluctantly the attackers retreated, excepting some Warren, who would not retreat, prefering death — which he got copiously, if snowballs killed, for he became a mark for everybody. It was a mimic fight, thoroughly organized, even to the stretchers for the wounded. A soldier threw himself down as if wounded, and instantly a stretcher was sent to him, and he was piled on it, trotted off to the nearest snow bank, and dumped in. Rather a cool way of disposing of the wounded. They had a good afternoon's sport out of it, and some useful practice - I am informed by one of our boys who witnessed the fun, that a whole brigade, near Alexandria, had just such a battle on the same day.
Five or six hundred from our brigade, have been out this morning, putting the roads in order in the direction of Long Bridge.
By the way, in the letter of D. S. B., in the Chronicle of the 24th ult, is a little article which might "make trouble in the family," if not explained.
Among other remittances, I am credited with one to a young lady, to the amount of ten dollars. My share in the transaction was simply handing it to Mr. B. for transportation, for a friend of mine — a stranger to him, who desired to send it in this way, as being more direct, safe, and economical. Had we known of his intention to publish the list of remittances he should have been informed of the true state of the case. However, this will explain all.
F. N. S.