22ndMass / USSC Boston Branch
"Here's a yellow sash for six feet of Virginia soil..."
Captain John F. Dunning, 22nd MVI, Co. D
Cambridge Chronicle - November 30, 1861
Headquarters 22d Reg't Mass. Vols.
Hall's Hill, Near Falls Church, Va.,
Nov. 22, 1861.
Mr. Editor — Having a very few leisure moments, I thought I would appropriate them to writing to you.
The regiment is out on brigade drill this afternoon — a regular afternoon performance of late. This morning we were drilled by companies, as skirmishers, for the first time. We rather like the change. The drill is pretty, besides being very useful, and is to be kept up until we attain something like proficiency.
In looking over my file of Chronicles, I found, this afternoon, under date of Nov. 9, an article which till now has escaped my attention. I allude to the article addressed "To Correspondents," and I immediately felt the force of it. I observe that you have correspondents in nearly all the regiments in which Cambridge is represented — and there are many such — and the labor of selecting and preparing for publication such a mass must materially add to your labors. For myself, I will say that I will lighten your task as much as possible, although I shall still be compelled to he guilty of using a pencil, as I have no facilities, for the use of ink.
As far as any movement is concerned, matters remain much as when I last wrote, our entire news being furnished by our fleet, and, in our own immediate vicinity, by our pickets, who are getting every day nearer the foe.
Several meetings and incidents in picketdom have occurred of late. A few days orders were given that all fires be extinguished at out-posts. The result was good. At night,up came the pickets of the enemy, little thinking that Yankee eyes were on them. Our boys seetng them, "kept shady," and let them come inside our lines, surrounded and took them, four in number, prisoners. On being questioned, they said they were "after pigs."
As an offset, — and we must always lose every little advantage we gain, — a foraging party of the Thirtieth New York were surprised by a , squad of rebel cavalry, who surrounded a house where they were, and took them all prisoners. They had stacked arms and were husking corn, when the foe, who, as usual, had their eyes open, dashed in between them and their arms, and resistance was hopeless — not the first instance of men being captivated at corn huskings. Thanks, however, to the promptness of Maj. Gen. McDowell, who immediately despatched a brigade in pursuit, tbe enemy were driven back, and our party retaken.
The rainy season is setting in, and I am fearful that the health of our hoys, heretofore good, will give way to the climate. The soil is damp, and as the rain lasts, almost without intermission, through a space of about two months, fevers will be the natural result. Several deaths have already occurred in the camps in our vicinity, and quite a number are now in the various hospitals.
The Second Maine, our immediate neighbor, buried one of their men last Sunday afternoon — Augustus Hutchings, of New Portland, a private of Co. H. I shall never forget the tide of emotion that swept over me as the mournful procession filed with funereal tread across our parade ground — their glorious band (and they have the best band on this side of the Potomac) playing Washington's Dead March. I have heard funeral music — have seen military men buried with the usual honors — but never till then did I feel in all its intensity the solemnity of the ceremony; — never did music stir me so deeply.
The grave was dug in the small family burying ground of the Miner family, which our regiment has enclosed in a neat railing. At the grave, the band played our old favorite — Rest, Spirit, Rest! and never did it stir me as then. I saw tears in the eyes of comrades of the deceased who composed the escort; — men who dared the storm of war at Bull Run, and who had seen their comrades falling thick and fast around them, and who had shared in all the dangers of that day unmurmuring, wept; and it was no shame for them so to do. The man, friend or stranger, who could participate in such a ceremony, and under such melancholy circumstances, — who could hear such music, — could hear the solemn words of the chaplain, — could see unmoved the emotion of his comrades, — could realize the solemnity connected with the history of the deceased, a young man who at the call of his country had left friends and all the sacred ties of home, to aid in her defence— who had borne his part faithfully in all the duties of a soldier, in the camp and in the field — who had been denied the glory of a soldier's death amid the grandeur of the noble strife of right against the myrmidons of wrong — to yield to death within the camp — a destroyer none the less sure, but not the death a soldier would covet — it was hard; — a man, I say, who could thinkingly do this — and any man would think — and not add the tribute of a tear, is made of stuff different from mine. There were few present who did not weep. After the usual volleys fired by the escort over their comrades grave (how the voice of the Lieutenant commanding the escort trembled when be gave the necessary orders!) the procession returned to camp, and the last rites were observed. Rest, friend of liberty, of law and country! Rest, spirit, Rest!
The Eighteenth Massachusetts have also lost a man — Private James Tolmann, of Mansfield, Mass., a member of Co. I, died yesterday, of fever. His remains are, I believe, to be sent home. He leaves a family.
The entire force in our vicinity, this side of the Potomac, to the number of about 70,000 infantry, 3,000 artillery, and 3,500 cavalry, were reviewed on Wednesday, by Maj. Gen. MeClellan and President Lincoln. In the escort, composed of about 200 military and civilians, I noticed, among other notabilities, Secretaries Seward and Cameron, Gov. Andrew, and Gen. Wilson.
It was a PONDEROUS sight to sec the never ending line wheeling into view — passing and marching from sight — division following division — squadron following squadron — each in turn followed by, and giving place to others, who in turn yielded to others — the air resonant with strains of melody from the many bands (each regiment has one), the earth shaking beneath the tread of the mighty host, and over all and pervading all, the great and eternal principle which haa called together this mighty force — which has banded together this immense power - uniting as one man, all these patriotic spirits from the North and West — Liberty and Union, One Constitution, One Government, One Flag.
In a former letter, I spoke of our Division review, which at that time was the greatest military display I had ever seen; but that sinks into utter insignificance before this last, which was the greatest review that has taken place in our country. I thank my fortune that I was permitted to take a part in it. The field was about a mile and a half square, and this space was insufficient to admit of all the movements of a Review, and accordingly the trooops merely passed the reviewing officer, Division front, and filed from the field; the line occupied ahout four hours in passing. From early morning until noon, the troops kept filing into the field, and till long after dark a part of them were still waiting their turn to pass in review. I shall never forget the occasion.
On our return to camp at dark, we were visited by an airy visitor — reconnoitering balloon Intrepid with its two investigators, bound on an expedition to the outposts; but their
Thanksgiving day, was quite a holiday with us; duty was entirely suspended beyond the necessary quarter-guard, and the boys passed the day about as they pleased. Some procured passes and made visits to friends in other camps, and to Georgetown and Washington ; others passed the day in their quartets, writing letters, and indulging in sport in various ways — at meal times devouring the contents of their boxes forwarded by thoughtful friends at home, not forgetting to share with their less fortunate comrades, who received none, and closing the day with a mock Dress Parade, and after dark with a grand Soiree on the Barrack Ground, the Band furnishing the music. We lacked but one important item — ladies, to make our ball a perfect success; however, we enjoyed it very well, and so closed the day. For myself, I passed the day with a friend in Washington, having obtained a furlough for that purpose, and took my Thanksgiving dinner in the Capitol, and a capital dinner it was.
I returned to camp in season for the Dress Parade and Dance, and received four invitations out for the evening, to aid in making way with divers eatables; and, accordingly, in company with Drum-Major Pike, I went the rounds - visited first Geo. Avery, of Co. B, remained a short lime, then passed on to Co. G, when I found Capt. Whorf just opening a large box of clothing — gloves, stockings, towels, &c. — the liberal gift of the ladies of the First Universalist Society of Cambridge; and I was desired by Capt. Whorf, in his own name and that of his command, to tender to them, through your columns, their warmest thanks for their timely gift, and to assure them of their gratitude therefor, and their determination to prove themselves worthy of their interest. I lingered long enough to learn that Co. G owned ALL the contents of the box, and then passed on to the quarters of the Sergeants of Co. A, where, in company of Capt. Sampson and his Lieutenants, the non-coms., and some others, we passed a pleasant evening, in discussing a plentilul collation, and in singing.
F. N. S.