Cambridge Chronicle - December 21, 1861
HeadQuarters, Co. D., 22d Reg't Mass. Vols.
Hall's Hill, Near Falls Church, Va.,
December 12th, 1861
Mr. Editor, — At the risk of having my communication figure among the "respectfully declined," I pen a few lines, although I observe nothing from Camp Holmes, in the Dec. 7th No. which reached me last evening.
Matters remain in much the old position, although we occasionally see a little excitement derived from the usual source — pickets. But for them, we should stagnate.
Skirmishing at the outposts has become a matter of almost daily occurrence, varying in its incidents and results, sometimes successful, and then not so much so. A day or two since, McDowell's pickets were driven in, reinforced, and reestablished at their old posts; and now, the vanguard is said to be only two miles this side of Fairfax Court House, and some reports place our own Stars and Stripes over that place. Whether true or false, this is of no great consequence, except as a post for our pickets — the place being but weakly fortified, and living entirely at our disposal when matters shall seem to demand its occupation, in order to keep open the road to more important places.
In a former communication I alluded to the fact that I had been out "picketing." While off duty, I took a stroll around our lines, and in the course of my ramble found myself in the almost deserted streets of Falls Church, and while walking through the place, I was convinced that Goldsmith had that or some other war stricken village in mind when he wrote "The Deserted Village." But for the passing of troops, grass would grow in the streets; houses, shops, and fields alike wear the signs of mourning for the absent, particularly the latter, which are clothed in weeds.
We entered the yard and ancient chapel from whence the place derived its name. The chapel, which is built of brick, is a large structure of a somewhat ancient style of architecture, and designed more for use than ornament; — if not, it is a failure. The interior is in one apartment, 30 by 40 feet, without ornament, — the pews being of the old box pattern, and the rest of the furniture consisting of a reading desk and pulpit — inclosed in a wooden railing of a style severely orthodox and plain. The only departure from this Puritanic plainness, is the presence of two tablets inserted in one of the side walls, one of which, it seems to me, must have been a constant reproach to any disloyal eye which might fall upon it. I carelessly omitted to copy it, but if my recollection is correct, it is "In Memoriam" to Henry Fairfax, one of its founders, a somewhat prominent Virginian, and a patriot, who proved his right to both titles, by giving his life to his country on the field of Saltillo, in the Mexican war. But what gives it its greatest halo, is the fact that our own immortal Washington often worshipped there, and it is said, one of his marriages was solemnized within its walls.
I was pained to observe that the restless fingers of our countrymen had been at work — tbe "relic" mania having set in, even in this sacred spot; and seeing this, I could not resist an attack of the disorder myself, and, almost before I was aware of it, the epidemic seized upon me with such resistless force, that I was obliged to apply as a remedy sundry pieces off the pulpit and divers fragments of the carpet and window curtain If you are fond of abstruse calculations, figure up how long it will take to remove the entire building, if each visitor does as much in the good work as I did. Another pleasant incident of my visit to the chapel, was, that I met therein Mrs. John C. Willey, of East Cambridge, and a meeting at such a time and place with an old familiar home countence, is no small pleasure.
The health of our regiment is still good, but one man, John Casey, of Co. H, having died since our first funeral. But we have since buried another one — a victim to the carelessness of a comrade. I allude to private Wm. Heath, of Co. I, who was accidentally shot by Corporal L. S. Stevens, of the same Co. They had just come in with me from the pickets, and were cleaning their pieces, when Stevens, who supposed his gun to havo been discharged, put a cap on, to clean out the barrel, snapped it, and the ball passed completely through poor Heath, who stood near by, killing him almost instantly. His remains were forwarded to his friends in Dedham.
Let me turn to the bright side once more, and as offset to the sombre pictures I have been painting, show you some of our more pleasant ones.
We are having some glorious evenings just at present, and of course we improve them. For a few evenings past, at the request of the Colonel, the Band with our Glee Club as a nucleus, have assembled at the flag staff, and the whole Regiment joined in singing our national airs. The j Colonel and in fact all our Field and Staff, are lovers of music, and always assist on these occasions.
By invitation of Col. Gove, we serenaded our Brig. General Martindale, a few evenings since, and had a glorious time. We had for auditors, Brig. Gen. F. J. Porter, acting Major General of our Division, and Brigadier-Cenerals Martindale and Butterfield, with their staffs — quite a military party. Serenading the Colonel is of almost nightly occurrence — and now, a pleasant evening without its promenade concert is considered thrown away.
Once in a while we get the countersign, and go outside our lines, and pass an evening with some of our friends.
Boxes continue to arrive, and almost every day finds some of our company in receipt of home luxuries, which are generally divided with comrades. In our tent, whatever is received in the way of eatables becomes common property. As I write, the boys are devouring the contents of a box received by one of them.
Last Sunday was quite an era in this respect. By invitation of certain members of the Band who had been liberally remembered by friends at home, I sat down in the Band Quarters, to as bountiful a repast as I ever wish to assist at. Roast turkey and all the little et ceteras of mince pies, with home-made bread and butter, &c., made up a repast fit for a king — or, what is still greater, "a soldier in the army of" — Uncle Sam. Permit me space, Mr. Editor, to acknowledge at this time, my indebtedness to certain members of the Band for this as well as certain other acts of kindness and courtesy. Without wishing to particularize to the exclusion of any when all are kindly remembered, I wish to mention Messrs. Elbridge Harrington, Charles Knowlton, and Gilman L. Allen, of Shrewsbury; John Bond, E. J. Taft, C. C. Nichols, and Austin Wallace, of Westborough, and wish them a long life plentifully interspersed with just such pleasant reunions as that we enjoyed over the contents of their boxes on Sunday last.
You are somewhat of a lover of fun, if my memory is not treacherous on this point, and would enjoy a laugh it you could look in on our quarters at any time when we are off duy. Fancy us sitting on our traps around the tent, a candle stuck into the shank of a bayonet in the ground, and everything pleasant and agreeable, and you can easily imagine that in such a company there would probably be some fun.
Some of our boys are pretty cute and perpetrate some good things. One day while out on brignde drill, one of our companions made a bull in this wise. The order came, Ready-- Fire-- and straightaway they began stripping awway without
any regard to concert. Observing this, one of our boys exclaimed,
"What the deuce are they doing?"
"I should say," said our man, placing himself in an attitude a la Shakespeare,
"a deed without a name" — an aim.
At another time he propounded the following conundrum:
"Why is an estimate like certain royal marriages?"
"Because it is approximated" — a proxy mated.
"A storm is brewin'," said one of the boys.
"Well," says incorrigible, "we can bear it."
Should either of tbe above be adjudged worthy of tbe P. R.'s, pass themn to his credit.
F. N. 8.