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2nd Vermont Infantry

Francis Finnegan



DEAR FRIEND: --- It is with pleasure that I sit down to answer your kind letter of last week, which came to hand on Thursday. I would have answered it immediately if my position would have permitted it. But we have been in such close proximity to the rebel camp, that our time has been closely occupied in watching the movements of the rascals, and protection our men, who are cutting down the timber about here to make range for our guns and cannon.

My health continues good and although I slept in the open field part of the time and held on guard, when it rained, I have not taken cold, and I don't fret about anything as I consider that there are responsible parties over us, who know what they are about. Our Division, under command of Gen. Smith, left the camp on Wednesday morning, and advanced through Langly, in the direction of Lewinsville, a distance of nearly five miles. Our artillery was placed on the summits, of the highest hills, and the infantry and cavalry, were placed in position to support it, but the rebels instead of giving us the chance to try our new rifles retired before our advance, but still they show halting disposition whenever we stop they do the same, then turn to look us over. When they do this it causes a temporary excitement in camp, particularly among the newly arrived regiments. Our camp equipage followed us on Thursday, to the great gratification of all as it has rained that night and we all felt thankful to the officers, for their promptness in getting our tents along.

Our picket lines are nearer the enemy than ever before, at least they show themselves more than usual. Considerable numbers of their cavalry were in sight of the outer posts of our pickets, and I have, and I have heard that they held the same position today. Our outer line is about half a mile from Lewinsville and our pickets can hear their drums every day, and night, but so far nothing serious has taken place but squads of cavalry ride out from both sides, and sometimes a skirmish takes place, yesterday there was a little brush between a few of our cavalry, and some rebel cavalry, one of the latter was shot, and our men brought his sword and some of his other equipments into camp. This is a most splendid country mostly cleared but on each farm there is a respectable piece of woods mostly second growth oak and chestnut. The land is rich and well cultivated. Crops seem to be excellent and everywhere the hand of labor is repaid with abundance. Weeds don't often grow till the crops are harvested, then there is a weed called hogweed that springs up over the wheat fields, the wheat is generally harvested in July, and by the middle of Sept. there is a heavy crop of hogweed all over the fields which with a thick growth of of young clover makes the land rich for the next crop. There has been no signs of frost here yet, and the leaves just begins to show the presence of Oct. Most of the inhabitants have left their splendid farms of Secesh proclivities have sought a more genial clime, while unionists seek refuge in the cities of Georgetown or Washington. Mr. Smoot on whose farm we are now located is a good Unionist, he has given us his large brick house, to Gen. Smith and taken his family, and some of his servants to Georgetown. A few were left to take care of the hogs, cattle &c. When I was on guard at headquarters I saw quite a squad of them assisting some cooks of the same stamp about cooking. It chanced that a stove had to be set up, and you can guess how it made me ache to see them perform, and hear their various lectures on "stove planting." I watched a long time (being posted at the door) at length I asked a soldier to take my gun and stand on my post, and I went in, and it was but a five minutes job to get the stove in position. You ought to have seen the darkey's smile and show their teeth. They were very thankful and gave me a bowl of hot coffee.

OCTOBER 14: --- It was rather cold last night but we kept a good fire and so kept comfortable. It seemed cold enough to freeze, but no frost was to be seen this morning. Our Regiment is encamped in a grove, and the trees serve to break off the cold wind. Capt. Benton was out on picket last night, and I presume he was not so comfortable as he would be if he had been at home. When we came out here he was left at Fort Marcey; he came out Saturday eve. I have not seen him for more than a week but I mean to call on him this afternoon. My cousin likes and appears to have come expecting to see hard times. He also went on picket yesterday. The officers say that it is now so arranged that we will have to go on picket but once in five days. We are going to have new uniforms soon, we have got our caps already. I just had a glimpse of Col. Hyde Saturday, but did not speak with him; he looked well as usual. I saw Maj. Hyde yesterday. He is well. I saw Capt. Blanchard two days ago; he told me that Oscar Woodward had died in Georgetown Hospital, also another of his company has died, and although they had been dead sometime he was notified of it only a few days ago; he did not tell me the other fellows name, but I think he said that he belonged to Montpelier. I saw Hiram Earle yesterday, he said the boys were all well. There is a prospect of Col. Whiting being promoted to a Brigadier general. I feel thankful to you and those papers which came safe and direct.I hope the time is not far distant when I can quietly return to the shop to resume the care of business. I should like very well to be in Hyde Park this winter to attend those reading clubs, but "business before pleasure." Enclosed you will find a specimen of Southern Oak, chestnut, and cedar leaves. My love to all. Hoping that the rebels will soon come under.

You wanted I should tell you about picket --- 1st the pickets are posted on all sides of the camp, approachable by the enemy, and extend out to the distance of from 2 to 4 miles, they commence to station pickets when they get about 50 rods from camp, they are stationed by the road sides and posted irregularly; but on the out side there is a regular chain; this chain the posts are pretty near each other, about 30 rods, more or less, according to the advantages of the ground: Three men are placed on a post, two must be awake all the time but in the day time one can leave the post to go for water, or anything else, or go to sleep at night; all must keep awake on the outer lines, but in toward camp one can sleep, and two awake. The business of the picket is to watch the enemy, and see that no one crosses the lines, without a pass countersigned by some General and if the enemy should come in force, to strong for pickets to resist, to send in an alarm by firing a gun at each post. There are two or three reserves for the pickets to fall back on, when driven the reserve next to camp is always the longest, the detail for duty is made at night, and at 3 o'clock A.M. are stationed by a Field Officer, with each reserve one or two commissioned Officers stay, the guard is double from the time of stationing till sunrise. We of the 2d go on about once in three days. We have some guarding of persons, and property to do, and we guard, as in camp, 2 hours on and 4 hours off.

With respect, I remain yours,

Francis Finnegan

Submitted by Deanna French.

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