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14th Vermont Infantry

Life In Camp (J. C. Williams)

Chapter V

New Year. -- Another Brigade Drill. -- Orders to go into Winter Quarters. -- Letters from Home. -- Sick Soldiers sent to Brattleboro. -- "All quiet on the Potomac." -- More Letters from Home. -- Again in a new Camp. -- Another false Alarm. -- Have received a Box of Delicacies from Home. -- Orders to march.

January 1
A happy New Year to all. But alas! this cannot be to all, for too many houses are desolate. A nation is mourning the loss of her sons who have fallen in battle. There are many families, which one year ago were joyous and happy, now mourning the loss of some of its members. How many mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and wives, are involved in the deepest affliction, for the loss of those they held dear -- and who perhaps but a short time ago were buoyant and gay, as they went forth with high hopes to do battle for their country. Oh! how I long for this strife to end, that no more mothers shall receive the sad intelligence that her darling son has been slain, and no more wives or sisters shall be called upon to separate forever from those they hold dear, by means of this cruel civil war.

This year has not been ushered into existence under very auspicious circumstances for the nation. The defeat of our army at Fredericksburg, with the loss of fifteen thousand men, had left the nation in gloom.

This will be a memorable day for history to perpetuate, as being the one on which the President's Emancipation Proclamation takes effect, which declares three or four millions of bondmen to be free.

January 2
All quiet in camp to-day. But my mind had been busily engaged in reviewing the state of the country for the past year. The "Grand Army of the Potomac, " upon the success of which the nation has so earnestly relied to strike the finishing blow to this accursed rebellion, had been doomed to suffer defeat after defeat, and whose "onward to Richmond" plans have cost the lives of one hundred thousand brave men, without making any progress the past year.

The attention of the nation has also been turned, most anxiously, to the operations of the army in the southwest, expecting to hear the glorious news of the opening of the Mississippi, but no such achievement has been accomplished. But little has been done in other parts by our armies.

But the year 1863 will be an eventful one. By spring our armies will be augmented to such numbers that, with skillful commanders, success will surely come. Vigor and promptness, with the present means, cannot but help to bring about an early closing up of this war.

January 3
Another brigade drill to-day, and if our Brigadier possesses the necessary qualifications for a General, then drinking and swearing are the chief requisites. The weather is very fine here now, which is in striking contrast to the weather in Vermont at this season.

January 4
A fine day for the Sabbath. Inspection and Church services to-day.

January 5
Have received orders to go into winter quarters here, and I begin to think that we shall soon receive marching orders.

January 7
Letters from home again to-day. What a blessing it is to those who are far away, to receive letters from home and friends. How welcome are these white-winged messengers, as they come to us laden with friendship, reminding us of home with its many pleasant associations. Surely this is a great source of happiness.

January 8
Quite cool this morning; ground frozen hard, and has snowed slightly during the night. The Medical Inspector has visited our camp this week, and sent thirty-six of the regiment, who were unable to do duty, to Brattleboro, Vermont.

January 9
Not much snow has fallen as yet. The weather to-day is extremely fine. Our camp is getting to be very monotonous. No excitement save now and then a rumor that Stuart or Mosby is in our vicinity. Our tents are all stockaded, and we are again well prepared for winter. Unless some further movement of Burnside should render a movement necessary, we shall probably stay here for some time.

January 11
"All quiet on the Potomac, " in the principal news of the day. But six have died out of the regiment up to this date, which is less than either one of the other regiments in this brigade has lost.

January 12
More letters from home to-day, and what a tendency it has to cheer me up and keep me in good spirits. How cheerless must be a soldier's life without this privilege. It is a boon which is of inestimable value.

Eleven o'clock in the forenoon. Just as I expected: orders have come to move our camp to the west side of the Court House. After receiving orders to go into winter quarters here, and preparations accordingly made so that we are comfortably situated for the winter, we are ordered to change our camp for a new one. But this is one of the beautiful phases of a soldier's life, and it is his duty to obey and not to dictate.

January 13
We are again in a new camp, two miles west of the Court House. The order to change our camp was complied with yesterday. The regiment was formed in line about nine o'clock I the forenoon, in heavy marching order. We were not long in marching to this place, the distance being only two miles.

To-day our camp presents a busy scene. The sound of two hundred axes are heard, preparing timber for stockading. Logs are being backed about a quarter of a mile, which shows that there will be no rest until the regiment is well provided for the winter.

Another false alarm was given by our pickets last night: About midnight the long roll was beaten, calling the regiment to arms, and, with its usual alacrity and promptness, was soon in line, ready to receive the enemy; but fortunately for him he did not show himself. We were kept up about two hours, when the party sent out to reconnoiter returned with the intelligence that the alarm was a false one. It was not a very favorable time for a skirmish, the night being exceedingly dark, so that friend or foe could not have been distinguished.

January 14
We are now but one mile from the Chantilly field, where a picket line has been established. A regiment of cavalry is stationed but a short distance from us. The weather to-day indicates a storm of some kind.

Another members of Company B died this morning, by the name of McInlear, making seven that have died out of the regiment.

January 15
We cannot find much time to stockade, for we are put upon drill six hours daily. For the fourth time we have received orders to go into winter quarters.

January 16
Nothing if importance to day. Drilling as usual.

January 18
Our camp had again resumed its usual quiet state. There has been on other brigade drill this week.

Present affairs indicate that we shall remain here until spring, but there is nothing certain in military operations. Gen. Stoughton's attempts to get us transferred to the field have proved unsuccessful. Gen. Casey has denominated this brigade as the best in the division, and is determined to retain it in the defenses at Washington, and we are at present guarding the outer lines.

January 19
I have just received a box of delicacies from home, and fear that I shall be very much indisposed to do duty if I indulge in eating much of it, for such a sudden transition from "hard tack" and coffee to the luxuries of home will not be beneficial.

Marching orders have been received by the brigade to-day, to be ready to march in the morning to Fairfax Station, to take the place of Slocum's division, which has been ordered on to Fredericksburg to join Burnside. And thus another week of hard industrious labor has been in vain, for we are not to enjoy its benefits.

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