December 31, 1863

Hd. qrs. 11th Corps Lookout Valley Tenn

My dear Mother

I would like to transcribe for you my exact feelings and circumstances tonight – for they are altogether such that if you were to know them accurately you would certainly be relieved from all anxiety on my account – and more – for finding that I am actually contented and in good spirits and I might add the same of Otis and that our health is good – this goodness of God will I trust make you happy.

I am sitting in Otis’ tent by the same table with him. He is writing to Lizzie. It is almost midnight – the last day of 1863. I shall not attempt to review in this letter my life during the eventful year now so near its close. It is too crowded with momentous events. One year ago I was in our Camp of 2nd Divn 2nd Corps near Falmouth Va – Maj. Whittlesey was with us. Sometimes I fear we do not love God and think of Him so much now since we have come to this Corps – but I hope it is not so – And certainly He has manifested His goodness no less abundantly to us since we have been here.

I chose this paper because I have been writing upon it quite steadily all day and I wished to tell you that I have just completed twenty six pages of this kind – a kind of recreation – a sketch of Otis’ life which I have prepared for publication in accordance with the solicitation of a young man – an artist whose acquaintance I formed here recently. If the sketch is published I will send you a copy.

You will not be surprised if my handwriting shows marks of weariness of fingers – or if my fingers make marks indicative of weariness or indeed of my weariness of fingers make illegible marks. But I ought to be more serious as the old year is dying. Continue reading

December 30, 1863

In Camp.  Did not “turn in” till after twelve last night.  Slept well.  Cleaned up somewhat before breakfast, though had cleaned up my gun before.  After breakfast gave away what hard-tack I had left.  Many of our boys got out of rations yesterday.  Mine lasted well.  Relieved a half past twelve.  Corporal Loring and I came in together.  Called at Mr. Bolen’s, but got no cabbage—two S[harp] Shooters getting ahead of us.  Rested at Widow _____’s[!] beyond the brick church.  Saw the only young man I have seen in the South.  All are old men that I find at home, the young ones having taken up arms.  This young man pretended to be sick.  I believe he is a guerilla.  Saw a negro near Mr Rixie’s or Rixey’s 101 yrs. of age last Christmas, an intelligent old darkey.  He wishes to live long enough to see all his children, five of which he has, free. One reply to a remark of mine was quite apt and witty.  In conversation I remarked “Why not you favor the south, your massa does.”  He and me are two colors he quickly and aptly replied.  During his life he had been used well part of the time but not always.  Cut across by Mrs. Bradford’s, of whom I have heard so much lately.  She is secesh.  Her husband is a prisoner somewhere North.  One of her darkies said she did not use them well once, but does better now.  War will make changes in the condition of the negro.  God be praised!  Saw one regular “hoggish nigger.”  Reached camp at four o’clock, having been three hours coming from Mr. Bolen’s here through the mud.  Hungry enough.  Two papers and one letter waiting my arrival.  Expected more.  Don’t see why I don’t hear from home.  Call from cousin George Jones, who arrived last night.  Had a good chat with him.  Glad he has arrived.   Called to see the Dr.  Found him quite sick.  Wrote a letter for Lieut. Richards in regard to the movements of our Co. the past two months.  One of the most beautiful day[s] for this season I ever saw.  Clear, warm, and spring-like, a May-day in December.

Diary of Edwin Emery [Edwin Emery Diaries and Memoir]

December 29, 1863

Picket Reserve.  It cleared up this forenoon, and was very pleasant.  Went up the line this forenoon.  Found the posts very far apart, and the line crooked enough to be military.  Purchased 8 eggs at the Alms House for 25 cts.  Four fried made me a good meal on my return to the reserve.  Just as[i.e., at] dark, returned to the Alms House and got supper.  Cabbage, roast pork, corn cake, hard tack, parsnips, butter and coffee.  Found the family “secesh.”  The old man, the keeper, is naturally despondent, and seems somewhat melancholy.  He is a sincere man, a Christian, but deluded.  We asked the blessing before we eat supper, the only blessing I have heard (I believe) asked since I left my own dear home.  We agreed in this, that differ as we might in regard to other things we must be united in regard to our belief in God.  The “Hard Shells” predominate in this section.  Other societies are found, viz. Baptist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, &c.  Culpepper Co. numbered from 6 to 9 thousand inhabitants, previous to the war.  At his house, he formerly had about 30 paupers, but now he has only 14.  His daughter is secesh all over.  Thinks every man will fight till he is dead.  She is willing to suffer.  Found it dark to pick my way back to my quarters.  Secesh cavalry reported in front today.  Our Cavalry moved out the turnpikes yesterday.  A very beautiful and spring-like day this.

Diary of Edwin Emery [Edwin Emery Diaries and Memoir] 

December 27, 1863

Picket  Reserve.  This morning made preparation for inspection, but just before I got fully ready it commenced to rain, and then I was among the detailed to perform picket duty.  So inspection or my visiting Lieut. W. W. Morrell at Rappahannock Station was up.  There were 150 of our reg’t sent out this morning.  We had a wet, muddy time walking in the rain.  We halted in a piece of woods near a brick house on our right.  After resting several minutes we put[!] along.  Passed Mr. Rixie’s or Rixey’s house on the left, and in the woods beyond a brick church where we saw our Cavalry on our retreat from Culpepper Oct. 11.  Here one of the Zouaves was waiting to escort us to the picket-line, as our right was to relieve the Sharp Shooters on the left of the Zouaves.  Passed the house, in front of which we halted just before drawing up in line of battle ‘in the open field.’  About half past one reached our first post, having been three hours on the road and travelled 6 good long hard rough miles.  Serg. Hobbs, acting Lieut. and my self fortunate enough to get on the reserve, immediately in the rear of the second post on the right.  Lieuts. Green & Graffam had to go farther along.  Our line extends in a crooked zigzag direction between the “pike” called “Mud pike,” leading to El Dorado, and the Sperryville pike leading from Culpepper past our old camp at Culpepper, full three miles, according to all accounts.  On this line we have 18 posts, so that our boys on the left have a long distance beyond the reserve to go.  Found good fires and plenty of wood.  They were needed to dry our wet clothes.  We shortly made quarters to keep us from the rain somewhat.  There were 23 of us in all in the reserve.  It rained all day.  A wet time for out-door work.

Diary of Edwin Emery [Edwin Emery Diaries and Memoir] 

December 26, 1863

West Point

Dear William,

I received your letter of the 18th inst. You asked me to write as soon as I got my box. The box got here today, it contained a turkey cake, apples, etc. also a dressing gown which fits me exactly and is a very nice one. Christmas we had a very good dinner of turkey, etc., at the Mess Hall.[…]

The standing for Nov. is made out. I came out in Philosophy 58, Chemistry 67, in Drawing I had no standing made out. I did not draw any for November.  I have not been well for a few months past. I was taken with a lame ankle, it swelled up and was very painful, there did not seem to be any cause for it. The Doctor called it the rheumatism. I went to the Hospital on 29th Oct. and was there little over three weeks. I was out about a week when I got worse and had to go back again, stayed there over a week, got better and came out for good 8th December. I have not done Military duty since but think I shall be able to return to duty in a few days.[…]

I was sorry you was not promoted to Major but perhaps there will be another chance soon. […] I should like to have you write as often as is convenient.

Malcolm McArthur to his brother, William McArthur [McArthur Family Papers]

December 25, 1863

Today is Christmas, the anniversary of the Advent of our Lord and  Saviour Jesus Christ.  The day has seemed more like the Sabbath than any day I have spent in the army.  Of course work has been done, but we have had no inspection nor review, and divine services have been held.  This morning Hobbs and I went over to Botts’ woods, from which the guard has been taken and ”backed” some wood into camp.  At dinner time our mail due at night came in and I received a letter from Miss Godding containing a Christmas present in shape of a Photograph of Mr. Larrabee of Gardiner.  It was kind and thoughtful in Miss G. to send that letter with the expectation that it would reach me on Christmas.  Such acts or deeds of kindness render our friends dearer to us than costly gifts, or gold.  It afforded me much pleasure to think of the contents of the letter, and to know that friends in the North were thinking of us soldiers in the field.  How many prayers ascend today in our behalf from the loving and loyal hearts of our many dear friends in our northern home as they bow with reverence around the family altars consecrated to our God and Father!!  Continue reading

December 23, 1863

Washington

Dear Father,

I have just received some papers from you for which I am exceedingly obliged. Although I am not idle out here, yet the time frequently hangs heavy upon me and I am glad, in default of other reading matter, to have over the columns of newspapers.

I presume that you must have received some of the letters that I have written you since “Lookout.” Fannie writes me that you have received a letter from General Hooker in which he speaks in a complimentary manner of me. It is gratifying to me to know that I won his good opinion under such circumstances for no one can doubt his judgment of what constitutes good conduct in a soldier.

I called upon Gen. Howard a few days ago, my first opportunity as he had but just returned from the pursuit of Songstreet and he came to see me upon business however yesterday. He wishes me to give you his best regards. He stands very well out here and I think that his corps is fully up to the standard of western troops. He has some wretched officers, men who are not only incapable but who are inimical to him, and do not wish him to succeed. And this fact should be taken into consideration in estimating his qualities by his success. His great trouble is among the Germans who are, as a rule, poor soldiers.

We are rather badly used by the ruling powers of this “ground division.” They make us do more of the fighting, give us little credit, put our men upon half rations and keep outmen hard at work building roads to supply the western troops who are snugly ensconced in Chattanooga.[…]

I am still well and growing fat. My warmest wishes + the compliments of the season,” and I remain With much love Your Son

James D. Fessenden to his father, William Pitt Fessenden [Fessenden Collection]