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Sergeant Nathan W. Haynes - Diary of December 1862


December 1, 1862

Turned out at the usual time. After breakfast the captain took eight men to go after wood. Immediately after he departed the bugle sounded for us to pack up. There was considerable bustle and confusion in getting the company all together but were ready however to march with the Regiment. The first question of a soldier upon being ordered to pack up is," what's up now", but he very seldom gets the question answered. He has to find out by his wits and observation. In the present instance it appears our brigade was bound out on a reconnaissance. We marched steadily and at a quick pace until three o'clock pm when we halted near a camping ground that we occupied about ten days ago. We got back in the woods and prepared to encamp. A detail was made to go out in advance on picket. The remainder pitched their poncho tents and cooked their coffee. By the time our supper was finished it was dark. All quiet at nine pm.

December 2, 1862

Turned out at the usual hour without having been disturbed during the night as many supposed we should be. Got our breakfast and were flattering ourselves with the idea of passing a quiet day in the woods when orders came for us to pack up with all possible dispatch. Some of the boys made the remark that" old Betty Barnes" as he is called had got frightened and was going back to camp and as it proved for we were hurried out of the wood and marched at an almost double quick pace for four miles when we came to a halt. Then marched the whole distance to camp without another halt. Many were the curses and expletives that were showered upon Betty's head but he would not stop until he was safe inside the camp. We arrived soon after noon ready to drop down with fatigue. A savory dish of baked beans cheered us; they were cooked for us during our absence. We pitched our tents and huddled up around the fire waiting for coffee and trying to dry and warm us.

December 3, 1862

This is a cold and disagreeable day. Everybody seems cross and uncomfortable. The men have been disposed of in different directions, some in the woods chopping, others clearing up camp. More duties seem to be required of this company then belongs to them it seems to me but the day is almost gone and I am thankful if ever mortal was. All quiet as ever on the Rappahannock.

December 4, 1862

Rather cold but with all a splendid day. We have had no drill and most of us have been engaged in fitting up our camps tents. More signs of rain.

December 5, 1862

This seems the beginning of winter in Virginia. It commenced to rain about nine o'clock this forenoon but soon turned to snow and continued throughout the day making it sloppy, cold and wet inside the tents and very disagreeable. Generally weather to make the soldiers sigh for home or more comfortable quarters although the prospect for either is poor at present.

December 6, 1862

Found two inches of snow on the ground this morning. It had frozen some during the night but it soon thawed so as to make it wet underfoot. About three pm it began to grow cold and at dark we had the pleasant prospect of freezing before morning. We had the choice of freezing one side at a time or turning into our tents and congealing all at once. Fortunately for me I had got my tent raised up and constructed a fireplace but perhaps I have gained these comforts at the expense of my eyes for what with the smoke and working out in the glare of the sunshine upon the snow I am almost blinded. It makes the tears flow fresh to write these lines.

December 7, 1862

Coldest today of the season. Long before daylight the men were marching up and down the company street trying to keep warm. Heard during the day that three belonging to other regiments had during the night froze of exposure. If that be the case what must we expect if we remain here. Our men have been getting wood all day but do not gain much on the many fires we have to keep.

December 8, 1862

Very cold. Another death from exposure last night in a New York Regiment. This weather begins to tell on the men fearfully. The surgeons call is well attended. Getting wood seems to have taken the place of drill yet there is no indications of a move to any better quarters.

December 9, 1862

Milder, has thawed some today. We have been out for drill three times today and twice for wood. There are so many on the sick list that it takes most of the men fit for duty for guard duty and fatigue duty leaving but few for drill. No move today.

December 10, 1862

Was awakened by a commotion at my side early this morning and upon ascertaining the cause found my tent mate to be in a spasm. Arose and called in the surgeon. We worked over him until near daylight before he recovered so that we could leave him. The ever busy dame rumor says we are going into Fredericksburg tomorrow and the entire day has been spent in preparation for a move somewhere. Troops have been passing us nearly all the day but we have no orders to move yet. Expect the order to pack up to come in the middle of the night but it will find us ready to move at any moment.

December 11, 1862

Was called up about three o'clock this morning to assist my tent mate to get to the hospital. Got him disposed of and then the reveille sounded for us to turn out and get our breakfast and prepared to take Fredericksburg. Just before daylight the cannonading commenced, then we got orders to pack up. Were on line and commenced our march at sunrise. Marched about three miles and halted on a level flat of ground where we remained the rest of the day. It thawed so much that the mud was two inches deep all over the place. The cannonading until after dark with slight cessation, could not learn the results as we were back so far that we could see nothing. After sunset our brigade moved back about a mile into a piece of woods where we encamped for the night. As wood was plenty we were not stunted as to quantity. Sat by our fires and dried our feet. Everyone who came along had some story to tell as to the result of the battle so that there were about as many different reports as there men in the Regiment. At nine o'clock pm all was quiet and we spread our blankets and turned in without pitching our poncho tents.

December 12, 1862

I woke up this morning with my feet almost frozen. There was a thick frost on our blankets and it was not at all strange that it should strike through. Found it more comfortable by the fire then under the blankets, so spent the time till daylight. The first news that was brought into camp was by a boy selling tobacco which he said he brought from Fredericksburg. Said our troops were in the city last night. Very likely we shall soon learn the truth of the story as we now have orders to pack up. Got in line and marched to the front about a mile and halted. The artillery opened about nine o'clock but has not been very spirited during the day. While lying here we found the boys story to be correct. The town is full of our troops. The enemy are a mile and a half beyond the town on the surrounding heights strongly entrenched. The men have been going back and forth across the river some bringing articles taken from the houses and others tobacco taken out of the river. It is said that large quantities of tobacco are in the River sunk by the rebels as our troops approached. Our men were very glad to avail themselves of cast-off rebel property. We remained here till sundown expecting to cross the river when we got orders to spend another night in the open air. Think there was no great movement made by our troops today across the river.

December 13, 1862

Woke up this morning about daylight, quite cool. Got our breakfast quite liberally and were ready for orders. The first gun was fired at nine o'clock am and with the report came the order to pack up and be in readiness to march at a moment’s notice. The cannonading was very spirited for the rest of the day. We were ordered across the river about noon. Got across without any difficulty and advanced to the front. Quite a number of the Regiment fell in the streets by the explosion of shells and while advancing across a very exposed part of the ground four of our company fell wounded. Myself being among the number my leg being broken. I could not crawl off so I had to lie three hours exposed to a most terrific fire of musketry and artillery but fortunately I was not hit a second time. After dark some of my comrades came after me and took me to the ----- where I lay till two o'clock at night before an ambulance could be obtained to convey me to a hospital. After I was loaded they put a man with me who was wounded in the head. Before we reached our destination I was lying beside a corpse. I was taken into a building up a flight of stairs and place among the dead, dying and wounded. There has been a severe battle today but not much gain.

December 14, 1862

Woke up this morning from a short nap to find myself in a building completely riddled by shells and rifle balls. Have been very kindly treated by the nurses but did not get my wound dressed until late in the afternoon because the surgeons had as much to attend to. Still they were very kind and careful of me and assured me that I should not have to lose my leg. Should like to be present with the company but as I left them on the ground they occupied yesterday thought I should not be present with them again very soon. There was some firing early this morning but it soon ceased and has since been very quiet all day. Many of the wounded died during the day. So is now nearly dark and I suppose I shall have to pass another sleepless night. Have seen two of my company back here in town.

December 15, 1862

I was rejoiced to see daylight, was in distress all night. Another poor fellow died beside me during the night, he died quite calmly. We had orders to prepare to leave the hospital in all haste. I was tumbled into an ambulance and brought to the Falmouth side of the river and left until they could pitch tents to receive us when we were taken in and of very comfortably were crowded to overflowing, but it was the intention to send off the wounded as fast as possible. It rained during the night but the tents were of good stock so that we did not get wet. Heard that McClellan had once more taken command and ordered the troops to recross the river.


To Capt. L. E. Wentworth
December 23, 1862


After arriving at this hospital the surgeon found it necessary to amputate my leg. Am very comfortable under the circumstances. It has been very painful and after an examination it was found to be much more shattered then was supposed when I left you. Am obliged to lie flat on my back from morning till night and from night until morning. It is not a very pleasant condition to write in but I want to let you know my condition and other matters as soon as possible, not knowing what may happen any day. Any communication that is sent to me at the Regiment can be forwarded to me at the hospital. Ezra kept with me until we got to Aquia Creek where I last saw him. I suffered some on board the boat but am amply repaid in finding such good quarters as have been furnished us. I have suffered horribly since it was amputated. It was taken off 3 inches below the knee. Is George D. Pond with the Regiment? Please send a list of the wounded in our company. If that box comes you will please forward it to me. If I can get an envelope large enough I will send those records. Please send my daguerreotype I got the first of January.

Remember me to all the boys,

Truly yours

N.W. Haynes

The foregoing records were written by Sergeant Haynes of this Co. He was wounded in action on December 13, 1862 in the leg. Was sent to the hospital at Georgetown D.C. where his leg was soon after amputated and on January 12, 1863 news came that Sergeant Nathan W. Haynes was dead.


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