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6th Vermont Infantry

Kimball Collection

Letter to the Editor

From the Vermont Third.
Camp near Newport News, Va., March 28, 1862

FRIEND EARLE: As we have changed the location of our camp somewhat since I last wrote you, I once again grasp the pen to give you a short history of our trip to where we are now encamped.

We left our camp near Flint Hill March 15th, and marched through Fairfax to Cloud's Mills, near Alexandria, where we encamped. The distance is about twelve miles. Never did it rain faster than it did the whole day, and never were soldiers or civilians more thoroughly drenched than we were that night. We remained at Cloud's Mills until the 23d, when we were ordered to pick up our duds and again seek a new home further down in Dixie Land. Soon we arrived in the city of Alexandria, and in a short time were ordered on board the steamer Richard Willing, which was to take us to our new home.

Before proceeding further, I will give you a few words in relation to the city of Alexandria and the country about there. Alexandria is a much more pleasant city than I ever had an idea it was. It is very pleasantly situated on the Potomac, has several very nice costly buildings, and at present presents a very lively appearance on account of the large number of troops which are being sent from that place to Fortress Monroe. Since the evacuation of Manassas, thousands of troops have been sent from the army of the Potomac to fortress Monroe and other places on the coast. The land about Alexandria, and finally all that lies between there and Camp Griffin, especially at Fairfax, was in the past of the very best, but it has been badly mismanaged. The inhabitants have raised upon it, year after year in succession, such crops as they could best with their slave help, and in this way have reduced much of it to the lowest state of cultivation. It needs the care of some good New England farmers. After rebellion is put down there will be a good chance for some of the Northern men to come out here and make some of the prettiest farms in the Union. It shows that the inhabitants here have had other business to attend to besides farming. Slavery and the building up of that cursed institution have been their theme. Had they attended more to their farming and a little to manufacturing, it would have been much better for themselves and very much better for the country. While at Alexandria I visited the hotel in which the lamented Col. Ellsworth was killed. It was on the upper-the third flight-of stairs that he fell, and not one particle of the three flights remain; and many other portions of the house besides the stairs have been cut to pieces and carried away by the soldiers and others who visited the spot.

There are on the Potomac at Chain Bridge and above it, some of the best chances I ever saw for building manufacturing villages. Certainly there are no better privileges in New England than there are on the Potomac, and I can tell no reason why there should not be equally flourishing cotton manufacturing villages there as in the Northern States, no reason only this-their work is performed principally by their slaves, and they would not well do this kind of labor.

As I have said, we embarked on board the steamer on Sunday, and Monday at daylight we started on our trip down the Potomac. Soon we passed Fort Washington, and a little further down the river we passed Mount Vernon, the resting place of the Hero of the Revolution, the Father of his Country, the immortal Washington. I was somewhat disappointed in the looks of this place. Not as beautiful as I expected. Any one passing down the river would not once take it to be the so beautifully pictured place,

--Mount Vernon. Monday night we anchored at the mouth of the river, and at daylight Tuesday morning we again started on our voyage through Chesapeake Bay. 'Twas a little rough, and I think there were quite as many dizzy heads in the Vermont 3d as I ever saw at any time. Soon after noon we neared Fortress Monroe, and to give you anything like a detailed account of this mighty fortress, or to say one word of each of the steamers, gunboats, &c., would give no room for anything else; but I will just mention one gunboat which lay there, the Monitor, or as she is called by the rebels, the Yankee cheese box-a very correct name. It looks as much like a cheese box as anything. Surely no on would suppose she would do any damage to any boat whatever, but she proved quite too much for the Merrimac. Let the rebel steamer make her appearance again and she will lose something besides her captain. There will be no Merrimac afterwards.

About three o'clock we landed at what was once the beautiful city of Hampton, now nothing but a mass of burned and scattered ruins. At the appearance of the Union troops last fall the city was burned by the retreating rebels. In this city, previous to the fire, stood the oldest church in the Union. In the graveyard near by stands a gravestone bearing the name of one who died in 1701, aged 128 years. But very few gravestones are standing in the United States with as early date as this, and fewer still that mark the burial place of one so aged.

We marched about two miles, and encamped where we remained until yesterday morning, when we were ordered to take two days rations and be ready in short order for another march. Soon we were off, and about two P.M. we halted near Big Bethel and encamped where the rebel foe had but the night previous fled, as they are wont to do, at the approach of our troops. 'Tis thought perhaps they will make a stand at Yorktown, but I would sooner think they will retreat to Richmond ere they halt to give us battle. I think the portion of the rebel army which Gen. Banks of late so thoroughly thrashed will fall back to Richmond, and the forces around there will be concentrated at that place to be beaten-as has been the case in every instance where they have made any stop since last October. But still there remains enough of those old secesh leaders to keep up the thing a while longer.

Where we are encamped now, by going a short distance, the soldiers can get any amount of oysters, clams, &c., which go very well with the hard bread and coffee that has been our principal food since we left Camp Griffin.

There are but few sick in the regiment now, and but very few in our company, none dangerously so. Among those who are excused by the surgeon are John McNeal, Wm. Sartwell, and Amos Ellsworth, who are among our best duty men. We have changed our overcoats for the army blue. The cause of the change was that the old ones were the same color as those the secesh have. The country here, as far as the eye can reach, is as level, almost, as the ocean. Nothing which you could call a hill can be seen.

Saturday Morning, March 29.

Regiments of infantry and cavalry in great numbers and several batteries, have arrived here since we came. It begins to look as it did on the Potomac ere the advance upon Manassas. I think soon there will be a strike on Norfolk or Richmond, perhaps both. There are troops enough here to take both places in short order. I must close for this time, so as to have this go out in the mail that leaves this morning, I remain,

Yours &c.

T. Abel Chase.



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