12th Vermont Infantry
Army Life in Virginia
OFF TO WASHINGTON
Oct. 10, 1862.
Dear Free Press:
The camp of the Twelfth, at Brattleboro, presented a busy appearance last Tuesday morning. The thousand operations preparatory to breaking up of camp were in active progress. The quarters were full of friends of the soldiers, many of them ladies who were seated here and there and plying busy fingers in taking the last stitches for their brothers and friends, before bidding them a final good bye. The men were generally in good spirits, and anxious to be off. By eleven o'clock every knapsack was packed and the regiment in line, and at half-past eleven-the time set, to a minute-it marched from Camp Lincoln.
The day was a very hot one, and the sun blazed down with midsummer power. The Thirteenth, Col. Randall, escorted the Twelfth to the railroad station. Col. Stoughton, commanding the post, took the head of the column, and in order to show the regiment to some of his Brattleboro friends, took it by a circuitous route through the streets to the station. The march of two miles in the hot sun was a pretty hard one for the boys; but in the little party of stragglers, perhaps twenty in all, who fell out on the way and brought up the rear, there was not a man of the Howard Guard. Through some misunderstanding or neglect on the part of the railroad companies, though the day and hour of our departure had been set for nearly a week, no cars were in readiness, and we had to wait until they were brought from below. The regiment was accordingly marched half a mile down the river to a shaded meadow and allowed to lie off for the remainder of the day. A barrel of good things, sent from Burlington by Mr. Beach, supplied our company with all they could eat and some to spare to the rest, and the afternoon passed comfortably away. At six o'clock, a train of empty cars arrived, and the work of embarkation commenced at seven. The cars were too few in number, however, and some freight cars had to be rigged with seats manufactured on the spot. I believe our officers considered themselves fortunate in not having to wait until cars and all were manufactured for the occasion. It was ten o'clock before we were fairly under way. Before this, our kind friends who had come to Brattleboro to see us off, had taken their leave, and the actual departure was as quiet as that of any train of thirty loaded cars could be.
The delay in getting away was a fortunate thing for the men. Had they been packed into the cars as they came heated from the march, and compelled to ride all the remainder of that hot day, they would have suffered. As it was, they lay around in the shade during the afternoon and took the rail in the cool moonlight. The night was a splendid one, and the ride down the beautiful valley of the Connecticut, which seemed doubly beautiful in the liquid moon-light, was a notable one for every man who had a particle of sentiment in his soul.
At Springfield, Mass., where we arrived about one o'clock, we were received with a salute of fifty guns. On the supposition that we should arrive about supper time, preparations had also been made to supply refreshment to the troops; but the delay upset the kind arrangement. We made little stop there or any where, but swept on down the river. We reached New Haven at 5 o'clock, A.M., spent an hour in changing the men and the baggage from the cars to the "large and splendid" steamer Continental, and were off for New York. The boat barely touched at Peck Slip, and then went on to Jersey City, where we debarked about noon. Col. Howe* had provided soup and bread, which was served promptly, and we were off again by rail for Washington.
I can give little time and space to the thousand times told story of the passage of a regiment from New York to Washington. We had the customary wavings of handkerchiefs and flags, all along the way, and the usual---and it is all the more praise-worthy because it is usual----substantial welcome, in the hope of hot coffee, good bread and butter, and other substantials, served by the kind hands of the ladies and gentlemen of the Union Relief Association, in Philadelphia. Up to our arrival at Baltimore we made steady and reasonably rapid progress, reaching there at six o'clock Thursday morning. Then came a march of a mile and a half across the city, and six hours of tedious standing with stacked arms, near the Washington depot, varied by breakfast at the Relief Rooms. Then we were stowed away in freight cars and started out of the city. The train took 600 other troops besides our regiment, and numbered thirty-four heavily loaded cars, the men covering the tops of the cars as well as filling them inside. We made slow progress, waiting three or four hours at Annapolis Junction, and reached Washington at 9 o'clock Thursday night. Supper was given us in the not sweet or savory halls of the "Soldiers' Rest," near the Capitol, and in the huge white-washed barns attached thereto, the boys finally laid themselves down to sleep as best they might, on the hard floors, many preferring to take their blankets and sleep on the ground outside. To-day we are to go into camp somewhere about Washington.
The behavior of the regiment throughout the whole journey, elicited expressions of surprise and praise from the railroad and steamboat men and the citizens of every place at which we stopped. One of the managers of the Relief Association at Philadelphia said to me: "We have a good many regiments through here-thirteen this week, and on an average two regiments a day, now-a-days-and I think I have never seen a regiment of a thousand such universally well-behaved, orderly and gentlemanly men."
I must close this hurried letter. Our company is all here to a man, and all are well.
*The State Agent of Vermont at New York.