Effner writes family and describes his interactions with the rebel pickets and describes the mud march of Gen. Burnside


Date Written

Feb. 1, 1863

History Referenced

Thomas Effner McNall was 21 years old when this was written.
The recipient, William McNall, was 56 when it was received.

Thomas Effner McNall died 8 months, 10 days after writing this.
It was written 160 years, 8 months, 2 days ago.
It was a Sunday.

Feb. 1st 1863
Camp near Falmouth Va.

My dear parents, brother and sisters and all,

I rec’d your long looked for letter last night and I will and I will lose no time in answering it. I began to think that you won’t agoing to write any more fer I had not heard a word since the 28th of Dec. and I did not get that till last week when we were in from picket.

My health is good and I am tough as usual. I have not been sick to amount to anything in three months and I can make and to eat my little ration three times a day without its hurting me a great deal.

So you have got back home. Have you well I guess. I would like to have got there that night time enough to eat supper with you. It must seem some odd to have Lucy and the girls there but it will soon seem like old times and especially when I get home which may not be very soon for I guess this awful war is to going to last five or ten years yet or else we will have to acknowledge the southern confederacy. But I suppose now there will be something done because Hooker (fighting Joe) has got command. There. There has to be a change of officers every new moon and he will undertake to make some big strike but will fail and then he will be removed and someone else put in his place and that is the way it runs all the while. There was another movement started most two weeks ago which you have doubtless seen the account of the moment. Up the river well a very heavy rain set in and the mud was knee deep and Oh what roads. Well we had orders to be ready to march with three days cooked rations. The next morning that was two weeks ago next Tuesday. Well the storm came on and we stayed in camp till Thursday, then went up on Picket at the James ford and stayed till last Thursday. I was on Picket on the ford with six men. Two days the Rebs were busy to work on the other side of the river throwing up entrenchments in plain sight of where we were. There was about 200 of them to work both day and night. We could here their picks and shovels as they were too work in the night. They thought we were going to cross there but the biggest force was going too cross at Banks Ford fours miles below if it had not been for the storm. I stood on the bank of the river and some of the fourth Va. Calvary on the opposite side doing picket. I commenced whistling Bonny Eloise. One of the Rebs commenced the same. Then I whistled Dixie and he struck in on that. Then I struck onto the Star Spangle Banner but he couldn’t see that but commenced something that I did not know, then I asked him what Reg. he belonged to. He said Fourth Va. Calvary then he asked me what Reg. I belonged to. I told him then two of them got down into a rifle pit (that they had dug for the sharpshooters to get in and fire on our men when we should attempt to lay the bridge). There heads just came in sight above the bank. I hollered to them and says that is just a fit for you ain’t it. They said it made out. I told them we would soon start them out of there when we get ready to cross. He said he could not see it. Next morning one of the Rebs had his sabre out so I would see if he could drill in the sabre exercise so I spoke good morning to him and he returned the salute. The I told him to come to guard. He done so. Then I gave him the commands and he went through with the drill pretty well but I think I can beat him a little. So you see in what friendly terms the pickets are all. And the Rappahannock before when we were up there two of them came over and ate breakfast with us. They are very tired of this war. They say that they wish that the head leaders on both sides had to fight it out. He thought then they would come to some kind of terms and I think he was about right, for I tell you they will not give up as long as they have a man left.

The troops have all got back again to their old quarters and I guess there won’t be another move right off. But I forgot to tell you what a snow storm we have had. It commenced snowing last Tuesday night and snowed until Wednesday night so that the snow was about eight inches deep. We were relieved from picket Thursday by the 8th P.A. Then we came to camp. Of all the roads I never saw. The mud was up to the horses’ knees all the way and once in a while a horse would get stuck so a rider would have to get off and pry him out. Suffice it to say every man had about a quarter of an acre of Va. soil to clean off when we got to camp. The snow is most all gone but the roads are horrible.

Fayette McClure has just been here. He said he just came from Washington yesterday and that he saw Mr. Harvey there. He could not get a pass to come here. He had taken Hyman’s remains up and was going to take them home. He found Steff’s box there and was going to forward it along to Falmouth. We have not heard from our box yet and don’t know as we ever will, but are in hopes to find it sometime. Every time we get a chance we send to Washington to see if it has got there yet.

We have not been paid since last July. There is seven months due us now. We have been looking for the paymaster for some time but he don’t make his appearance yet. The talk is now that we will get paid Tuesday but no telling. There was an order read to us on inspection today. Their furloughs would be granted for ten days absence. Two out of every 100 enlisted men can have one for ten days and when they get back two more can go. John Muldoon of Belfast and John Grimmel have applied today and I guess they will go, but it is much too short a time to go home in, but I would like to come home next spring first rate.

Then Jim Coaley is married is he Bulley for him. Where does he keep his woman? Tell him he has my best wishes and good luck in the married life. How is Mr. Curtisses’ folks and Jacks and all the folks for Cadiz give my love to all of them and to George Phillip and wife and finally all of the old chums in Franklinville and Cadiz.

I have no more news of importance to write this time so will stop now. Write as soon as you get this. There is so many of you to write you had ought to write two to my one. Pa, I wish you would write a few lines. I guess you can find time can’t you and now Lucy I shall expect to hear from you and Delta and Vista and Nilla, yes and Willie you must write too and tell me what you have to do .


P S Oh say Tat I saw your picture the other day there was a fellow over here from the 154th. He showed it to me. I think it a very good one, but you have growed a good deal since I was home.

Scans of Letter