Destruction around Rapidan and Rappahannock

Date Written

Nov. 12, 1863

Alexander Bowman Chandler was 32 years old when this was written.
The recipient, Mary Ann Bowman Chandler, was 54 when it was received.

Alexander Bowman Chandler died 6 years, 6 months, 9 days after writing this.
It was written 155 years, 6 months, 8 days ago.
It was a Thursday.

Racoon Ford
Nov 12 1863

Dear Mother,

Your letter of the 4th came to hand two days ago after a long interval of silence. It was a very short letter to cover so great a gap, but was very welcome and well furnished. But why don’t John write and Ellen. I don’t get any letters lately except yours. Why don’t father write once in a while? You need not wait for me to come home, for I think it full as likely that the regt will not go to Vt. At all—least of all is it worth while to wait for it.

We are picketing again on the Rapidan and nobody knows anything of what will come to it. Capt. Cushman is in command of the company again and Lt. joined us soon after so now I have comparatively little to do. You need not think however that it is any easier or even possible at all for me to get a furlough on this account. Nothing less than powerful influence in special cases like the death of a father or wife or business connected with the army can obtain a furlough—except at Hospitals through the medical Dept., and on high medical certificates that a change of climate is necessary to save life, or present-permanent disability. Then is the furlough questioned in a nutshell and the great number of officers and men in the army precludes any variation from the regulations.

Since leaving the Rapidan Oct. 10, just a month it is said that the Army of the Potomac has taken 11 pieces artillery and 3000 prisoners without suffering scarcely any loss or having any general engagement. This is told I suppose to console us for a long period of hard service after which we occupy precisely the same position as before it. If anything more had been accomplished anywhere else, along the line of active operations the general “situation” would seem more encouraging. But as ever we are getting ready to do what is going to be done. We want more men in the field. How does volunteering open again in Vt.? I wish that I could be in Vt. Awhile and try and get some men to fill up our co. But there is about as much chance for that as there is for getting a furlough. If anything should be done in that line, some invalid officer as for as it would obtain leave, and such things are generally determined before anything is known of the matter generally. There is always a set of sycophants and lickspittles about every place of authority and the 2nd Brigade Hd. qtrs. and even our regt. do not form exceptions to the general rule.

I commenced on a half sheet to scribble and have just got a letter from Mary of Nov. 9—As she will be at home to read this, I will write-on in answer to her letter. I have received them letters from Meriden but from want of time have written only one. I do not make out from the letter whether it is determined in regard to the school in Plainfield or not yet, however, I should not care a great deal about going there. School teaching is the last business one should look to as a profitable source of income. I know of nothing but pure Philanthropy and Christian charity that can induce one to devote his life to fitting for a “Teacher”—however, as I suppose it would be so much more satisfactory to Ellen and Mary to be teaching, I wish they might secure good schools for this winter if any. Mary asks for that name of N.C. officer. I do not know his name and probably could not now ascertain it. He was well acquainted at Martha’s Vineyard and [?] but I did not make personal inquiries of him. His appearance was very interesting, quite marked, and in great contrast to most of our prisoners.

We lost a man this [?] taken prisoner down at their force. I with part of our co. was relieved at 12 last night by Lieut. Grant and part of Co. I. While most of the pickets at that station were getting coffee between 7 and 8 A.M. about 20 men came over a little below the force and surprised the pickets that were on front taking one what has just returned the second time from Richmond named Thurston, I believe. We at the main reserve, quarter of a mile back, had just sat down to coffee. For an hour or two there was some firing going on at the end of which the rebs held quiet possession of the part which is commanded completely by their artillery and rifle pits on the other side.

I wish either that our army would move on toward Richmond or return definitely near Wash. It makes an immense amount of work to keep a picket line on the Rapidan or Rappahannock, from the Potomac to the Blue Ridge, almost all of which falls on the cavalry.

The country here is very different—conditions from what it was a year ago being now almost destitute of anything to support man or beast. I shall think that two-thirds or three-fourths of the houses were deserted and more or less torn to pieces. The country is a waste and all moveables destroyed or removed, fences gone and chimney stacks standing alone, in sight, almost everywhere. Such is war and it is likely to be carried on to the bitter end.

I wish that John would write on business matters right off, about the work and what is going to be done this winter. Why don’t Ellen write & she must not wait for personal letters from me for I can hardly get time or opportunity to write at all. I have to write on my knee sitting on the ground almost always lately if it is cold or rainy or wind, it is hard writing at all. Then frequently we are off without paper, ink, or anything else and when we get into company where for a day or two, the wagons are some time coming up and there are some reports, returns, or something else to be made out and by as before they are done the order comes to pack up and leave for perhaps a week or two & march or picket duty. We don’t get time to do anything. I am wearing my shirt the second week and have not a clean one to put on. We have not a chance to get them washed. I am hoping that in a day or two there will be some gov’t shirts for the co. to be issued and they will be clean but coarse.

I notice that wool is some higher once there may be some buyers in Vt., if so I hope ours will be sold and the many [?] as I have written before I should think it would bring 75 at least now and I should hope for 80. I don’t know as I would sell for 75 unless strangely advised to do so but if the choice lay between taking that and keeping the wool six months longer, I should of course take it. I wish that list of sheep could be made out in some way by somebody and sent. How many old Sanford ewes are there left?

In the cash acct. you give no credit for “Cash Received” of John although it is reckoned in “Cash Paid Out”. I should think that would make considerable difference. What kind of cow have you fatting? How does the colt look this fall? That colt ought to be worth considerable now, say 75 dollars. Horses are higher. Watch the news about everything and about everybody. I have not heard of the folks for a long time. Write, write, write, write soon, from—

Bowman

Scans of Letter