Woburn Weekly Budget - May 21, 1862

 

Headquarters 22d Reg. Mass. Vols.
Lipscomb's Farm, Va.
May 21, 1862


Just after mailing my last letter the "assembly" was blown, and orders given to fall in as soon as possible, in light marching order. Various were the conjectures in regard to the movement, but the reason seemed to be that we were going out to fight. The whole division was soon in line, and we then learned that it was to be a review of the troops in honor of the visit by Secretary Steward. A light rain was falling, but the gloom of the weather was compensated for by the varied sights to be seen on the plain, which was covered with encampments. Gen. Martindale introduced the Secretary to each regiment as the suite rode by, and he was greeted by cheers throughout the lines. Little Mac was with him, but the men hardly knew their favorite general as he was muffled in a great coat, and his face was covered with a new growth of whiskers, which alters his appearance very much. The rain continued all night, and at half-past six next morning we struck tents and got ready to move off. The rain of the previous day, however, had rendered the roads so bad tat it was with great difficulty that the wagons were moved, and as we must wait until the baggage trains of teh advance division had gone by it was after noon before we left Cumberland. The road was toilsome indeed; passing through the woods, down its deep ravines, and over rapid streams, barely made passable by logs thrown down, making an extempore corduroy, it was so bad that a mile an hour was a high rate of speed. We marched about two miles and camped in pine woods, built large fires and steamed ourselves. The rain continuing to fall, made it no use to put on dry clothes, so wringing out some of the water, and adding fresh fuel to the fires, we turned in and considering the circumstances, passed a very comfortable night. Next morning the rain had about ceased, and during the forenoon we had a chance to partially dry our damp clothes. I wish the readers of the Budget could have looked into that grove on that morning. Coffee rations had been given out raw to te men as also were rations of bacon and pork, and the men were busy in every direction around the fires cooking coffee in their dippers, and toastaing salt pork and ham on pointed sticks held in the blaze; blankets and overcoats hung upon trees to dry, here and there a careful soldier scouring the rust from his weapons, all busy, and for the most part cheerful. You would say it looks hard, and it is hard, but we learn to take hard things out here, and he who makes it easiest is teh best fellow.

Our camp was on the estate of a Dr. John Mayo, one of the F.F.V.'s. His residence is situated on an elevated table land, commanding a beautiful prospect for miles around. From the back piazza may be seen the Pamunky river, winding through the woods, its waters covered with gunboats and transports, and the field at Cumberland covered black with troops. From the front of the house troops may also be seen, in a large field not far off, where last week there was a skirmish. Numerous small buildings surround the house, built for slaves, of which the Dr. has a number. They say he left for Richmond on the previous Saturday, and told the Yankees would get all they wanted at Bottom Bridge, where the rebels would make a stand. The farm was planted with wheat and corn, of which he raised large quantities every year. A short distance from the house was a little enclosure planted with cedars, in which were buried two rebel officers who were killed in the skirmish on Saturday. One of the slaves said "the Yankees popped 'em out ob der saddles mighty quick". The slaves all remained and there was "a heap" of little piccaninnies about the place. The negroes did not believe the Yankees would kill them, though the Dr. had told them we would. They said when he heard we had landed at West Point "he hadn't got time to tarry", so seceded from one of the finest places we have yet seen.

 

White House - Col. Rooney Lee Residence - 1862



About noon we left our camp and started for White House. The roads were bad the day previous, but they were horrid now. We marched most of the way single file, it being impossible to march any other way. How the teams ever passed through the slough it was our ill fortune to wallow in, is as yet a mystery to me. But they did, and although it took us the best part of the afternoon to go three or four miles, they came that distance in about twenty hours. We used to see Virginia mud at Hall's Hill, but that was dry travelling compared to this. There is one consolation, however; it takes but a few hours of sunshine to make the mud passable, and then the going is comparatively good until another rain. At White House is the residence of the rebel Col. Lee., a fine house with beautiful grounds surrounding it; the estate contains three thousand five hundred acres. Along the river bank is a village of negro huts for the accommodation of the slaves of which there are about three hundred. There are large barns and granaries for the storing of the corn and wheat, which the estate produces in large quantities. The river is deep enough so that the gunboats and transports come up to the landing, and commissary stores are brought in this way for the use of the army. Just above the house the railroad crosses the river, and the bridge which the rebels burned in their flight. The plain on which the troops encamped is a large clover field, watered by several small "runs" and made a very pleasant camping place. I walked along the river on Sunday afternoon, and seldom is there better opportunities for studying in its different phases than were there presented. In the stream were the gunboats, black and rakish, but trim and neat as possible, their crews in holiday rig gathered in knots upon the bow or around the guns, with officers in their boats visiting each other, and all looking down on the common sailors of the transport fleet as beings of inferior order. Nearer the shore where schooners laden with goods for the sutlers, which their crews were busily engaged in landing, or selling to soldiers who, having a turn for speculation, were purchasing pies, cakes, cheese, etc., at wholesale, that they might retail them to their comrades.

White House Landing - Unloading Schooners and soldiers Bathing - 1862



All along the shore were soldiers taking a bath, and near the principle landing they were casting a seine, which when drawn gave a good haul of fish. Farther up the bank was a tent surmounted in the familiar sign "News Depot", the proprietors of which were doing a brisk business, not exactly in newspapers, but in periodicals, stationary, etc. Near at hand was the telegraph office, and above that was the post office. This last is an institution, and does as much business as the office in mnay large towns, for all letters which come and go from Little Mac's army have to pass through here. The letters for the various divisions are sorted here, and sent to their respective headquarters, from which they are sent around to the regiments. The railroad bridge is now only a blackened mass of ruins, but the railroad beyond is uninjured, and very likely it will be made useful before long. On my way back I saw a large crowd gathered in the rear of one of the negro huts, and going up to it found that a funeral was taking place. A plain pine wood coffin was being lowered into a grave only about three feet deep. On inquiry I learned that the wife of the carpenter belonging to the estate had just died, and they were burying her in the negro cemetery. So thickly was this planted with graves that in digging up the last, a skull and bones of a body were thrown up, and lay at the foot of the grave until the body was lowered in, when they were thrown back with the dirt to cover up the new comer. There were no services, not even the name of the departed was mentioned, but the tear of sympathy for the breaved husband and his motherless little one which he held in his arms given by the simple friends of the deceased, was more genuine and consoling than the grandest pageant. Turning away, a few steps brought us to scenes far different, full of life, and activity, and the soldiers whom curiousity had drawn into the enclosure, were soon seeking other sights. Passing the Stockton Regiment, another novelty presented itself; a chaplain was preaching to soldiers who were sitting on the ground around him. Most of the army chaplians about us, resigned and went home near the time of our advance last March, and a sermon in these parts is a great rarity. We had a parade Sunday evening, when a batch of orders were read to us, the most interesting of which was that Porter's Division was temporarily detached from the third corps (Heintzelmen's) and with Syke's reserve would form a Provisional Reserve Corps under the command of Brig. Gen. F.J. Porter. The division will be temporarily under the command of Brig. Gen. Morell, of the 2d brigade.

About four o'clock Monday morning we were ordered to pack up for a move. Before starting, new tents were given us, cotton and linen ones, the D'Abri patent, which will be very much better and comfortable during the warm weather than our rubber cloth ponchas which drew the heat. We marched through the woods most of the way, and the road though muddy, was not so bad as we found it on Friday. When we march in wet weather we generally find the road so full of wagons that it is difficult to move, and long periods of waiting are the consequence, so that the march is generally very tedious. About one o'clock we reached a large field, through which the Richmond and York R.R. runs, and pitched camp. There is a depot there and two buildings used as stores. The road is a single track witha turnout at the depot which is named "Station No. 20" and "Tunstall's", and a large tank there is arranged for supplying the engine with water. It is twenty miles to Richmond, and some negroes which were left, say a train ran into Richmond from there last Saturday night. The depot and surrounding buildings are very good, and Tunstall's has doubtless been a depot of some importance. The ground in this part of Virginia is very springy, so much so, that our boys on coming to a halt seldom spend much time in looking for water, but digging down three or four feet generally find a good spring which supplies all the water needed. All around us now are the evidences of fertility of the soil, and on our march of Monday we passed through a wheat field in which the grain was more than waist high. The bridge across the creek at Tunstall's had been destroyed, but this formed but a slight obstacle as the pionerrs threw over a bridge on which the troops crossed to the camping plac eon the table land above. On the hill above our camp is McClellan's headquarters, near a house belonging to one Wm. Temple. I had a conversation with him, and he informed me that we were twenty-four miles from Richmond by the road. His estate consisted of three hundred acres on which he raised corn and wheat; and some early vegetables, of these latter he supplied the troops, they buying what he wanted to sell. He has eighteen slaves of all shades, from the deepest black to almost white, affording as he said a good chance to study the mixed races, adding by explanantion "such things will happen where there is no meeting-house"! His house and land was very neatly kept, and he seemed a well-to-do farmer. From the house a splendid view of the encampments was had, and several artists were taking advantage of the situation.

Tuesday night we had a little rain, but it held up next morning so that we got under way about eight o'clock with the prospect of fair weather. A mile upon the road we passed the estate of Dr. Webb, a Union man as long as possible for one to remain so here, and a relative of Col. Lee, of White House. It was here that Mrs. Lee took refuge for a short time after leaving her own estate, but our continued advances caused her to continue he flight and she is now in Richmond. We made a halt of an hour or so, near the house of a half-breed Indian, named Winn, who is a blacksmith. He is a free man, but had been employed on the works of Yorktown, and when the rebels came to his palce here, he shod a large number of their cavalry horses, among them the horse of Magruder. They told him we would kill him, and that at Williamsburg we had slaughtered indiscriminately and committed every outrage. When our cavalry first advanced he was alarmed, and ran to the woods, but finally came out, and had found us thus far, the reverse of the rebel ideal. The boys purchased from him some early vegetables, and teh cause of the delay having been removed we moved on. The road was excellent, with the exception of a few mud holes, and we got on quite well. Just before noon we reached our camping place on the farm of Mr. Lipscomb, five miles from Tunstall's, and our canvas city was soon built, and we settled in our quarters. This is Hancock County. Adjoining this place is the farm of Mr. Joseph Parsley, where Gen. Morell has established his headquarters. In his garden green peas were nearly ready for the table, and other vegetables were in an advanced state. He has but few slaves and these mostly old men and their wives who say they mean to stick to the old place. I tried to get some hoe cake of them, but the troops who had preceded us had purchased all their meal, and as we could not furnish the material to make it, we "had to let the hoe cake be". Our marches are begining to tell on some of the men, and teh sick list in all the regiments is daily on the increase. When a man is unable to travel we have no convenience for taking him along, so he is obliged to stay behind, and several of our company have been sent home on account of sickness. When we left White House four of our number went to the hospital, or home, and four more were left at Tunstall's. It may be that as we become more accustomed to the warm weather the health of the regiment will be greatly improved. When we get to Richmond we are expecting a short rest, and as the sickness is mostly caused by fatigue we shall then be more healthy.

John Lord Parker