Description of army on the move near Poolesville
Dec. 30, 1862
William Henry Brown was 28 years old when this was written.
The recipient, Joseph Brown, was 69 when it was received.
William Henry Brown died 46 years, 2 months, 22 days after writing this.
It was written 157 years, 18 days ago.
It was a Tuesday.
Dec. 30 1862
Dear Father, Mother, Brothers, Sisters,
This is a cold dull afternoon and having just been relieved from guard duty. I thought I would write once more to the Old Homestead. The history of 1862 is about finished, the accounts are about squared, and in a few hours the year eighteen hundred sixty-two will exist only in history. I suppose ere this you have received the long letter that I wrote to sister Eveline. Then we were about leaving the old camp at Offutt’s cross roads on a journey we knew not whither that night. I sat up late getting ready to start but by 11 o’clock all was ready and I retired and slept soundly until five the next morning then all was confusing but by nine AM the line was formed and off we started. We soon found out our destination which was to this place, distance eighteen miles.
Our Company was detailed to act as rear-guard with orders from the Col. to force along all stragglers by the point of the bayonet no matter what caused them to fall out. We were to march in the rear of everything, wagons and all, some three miles. The Reg’t arrived at Poolesville at 6 o’clock PM.
The Capt. thought that we had better not attempt to arrive in camp that night so we thought of stopping in the woods over night; of doing that--I had no thoughts, and seeing a barn nearby I proposed to stop there overnight. We did stop there. The night was cold and I thought I should freeze before morning. We were so crowded that I had to lay up edgeways. Our Company including those that had given out on the march from other companies numbered some 80 men. We started by six the next morning and by ten reached the camp; we found the Reg’t quartered in all sorts of places. The place assigned to our Company (now don’t laugh) was a cow yard with a shed across one end. The shed had no floor with the exception of a little corn crib at one end which “hole” was for the officers. It belonged to an old Secesh, a veteran of 1812. The provisions being rather short, the boys took pigs, fouls and in fact everything they could eat or drink. You remember a few Sundays ago the Rebel cavalry crossed to this place and trapped twenty-five or four cavalry and [?] the Orderly Sergeant.
Our Cavalry belonged to the Legion known as the Scott nine-hundred; they are employed as scouts & Orderly all along the Potomac. There are about one hundred attached to our Brigade. On their arrival to this place they heard of a store-keeper by whose instrumentality their comrades were trapped and they clubbed together and completely gutted his store, took or destroyed some $2500 worth of property and they now swear they will burn the village. That is one reason there is a Provost Guard placed in the village. The guard is composed of one Sergt., three corporals, and thirty-six privates, commanded by a Lieutenant. Yesterday I was in command there. I don’t suppose there is hardly a citizen in the place, but what if they considered it a safe operation, would shoot you down in a moment. If there is the least act of violence towards any soldier I think the village would be burned by the already exasperated soldiers. The commander of the Rebel guerillas (Maj. White) was born here and the old home is within 1 ½ miles of camp. Last week, I was in the woods four days in part command of a fatigue party of some seventy men who were cutting wood for stockading, the tents, & for firewood for the Regt. We all go fully armed as we would to battle and a guard set, and the remainder go to cutting. It makes me think of the early colonial days of N.E. The Old Rebel White has got the best plantation I have seen in the South. The boys take almost anything they wish. The woods is the best one. You ever saw my stick [woods] of hardwood. The Brigade is making a hole in it already but there is more than ever shall want this winter.
Last night while on guard the scout made in with the startling intelligence that the Rebels were crossing in large force near Conrad’s Ferry on Harrison Island, the same place where the gallant Baker crossed at the bloody massacre of Ball’s Bluff. Soon the Brigade was aroused and five companies of the 89th, “of which Co. I has one, with one section (two pieces of artillery), started off and up to this time, I have heard nothing of them. It has commenced to rain and if they don’t return soon they will be a ducked crowd. The Me. and Vt. Regts. are on Picket. The NH & the 39th are held here in Reserve. This place is about equal distance from Edward’s and Conrad’s Ferry so we can move to either place as we are ordered. Col. [Robert] Wilson of the NH 14th weighs 244 and rides a splendid chestnut horse of 1250 lbs. together they are a whole team.
If any more troops are ordered to go, I am going. This morning there was a very sudden death in the Reg’t. That of our messenger to Washington, Serg’t [James Dexter] Loker. He arrived in camp last eve and not feeling very well went to bed and never arose. Rumor says our surgeon hints at poisoning. He belonged in Maryland. He belonged to Capt. Graham’s Co. of Roxbury. By the way, did I ever tell you that the 1st Lieut. of that Co. was the husband of Jane Backup. He is a smart fellow, very impulsive, the Capts being like him; they don’t agree very well. But I must close. I often think of you all and hope to meet you all in health & happiness. Please tell me in the next letter from home when you last heard from Charles & what you think has become of him, also of Gust. and his address. My health is tip top my cough has entirely disappeared and I am as fat as a [?] I weighed the other day 165 lbs. troubled a little bit with the dyspepsia. Simons has got it more than I ever had it.
How do you like store keeping & livering in Natick. Tell John Cleland to send me some money immediately if he has not already for I am broke and I must [?] Give my regards to Col. & all the rest of inquiring friends. J. W. Wallace has been sent to Washington to the hospital. Goodbye. Will soon end, oblige your affectionate brother.
W. H. Brown
The companies have all just returned safe.