January 4th, 1863

Sunday night, Jan. 4th, 1863

Dear Wife,

I intended to write you a long letter today but we had a division review today which took most all day. We had one yesterday to prepare us for today. It was a grand sight to see so many well drilled men going through the different field evolutions. There was about twenty thousand men and eighteen pieces of artillery. Each brigade had to so all the others pass by in order, I suppose to give them confidence in their strength. At best it would have that effect, you yourself could not have helped feeling the influence of such a body of men all marching in solid columns with their banners waving and their bright weapons gleam in the sun while gaily dressed officers were galloping round on spirited horses. Taken all together it was a sight not easily to be forgotten.

This has been quite a week for business. Sunday and Monday we were off on a chase after the Rebs1, Tuesday and Wednesday we were building huts, New Year’s day our Regt. did not do much but the 123rd New York Regt. had a burlesque dress parade that deserves a little notice. They came out in dresses that were so odd and grotesque that I nearly burst my sides. Some of the officers had hard bread and some bars of soap for epaulets, some had red shirts for dress coats, and some had their coats wrong side out. The officers were all privates. Everything was reversed, the drummers played with the wrong end of the drumsticks and such drumming you never heard. For arms, they had old rails and sticks and wooden swords, but the best thing was the orders read which were to the effect that rebel property should be carefully guarded if it took the whole Union force to do it, that whenever they were to be attacked due notice should be given them to prepare for us, and that they should not be attacked except behind entrenchments, otherwise, this rebellion cannot be put down.

Friday we had to drill and Saturday and today we had reviews. Tonight after we got in from review we had a dress parade. The President’s proclamation2 [was] read, and after that Col. Ross made a speech and a noble speech it was too. I did not know before that he was an abolitionist. His speech had a good effect on the men who were grumbling because they had to fight for negroes, he showed them the cause of the war and was for having the cause removed. He said he should enforce the proclamation with all his heart. After he got through the Parson made a prayer, during the prayer a man in Co. K shot himself accidentally in the arm, it is thought he will lose his arm.3

Now I have just noted some of the events of the week, I shall have to close this. I have much more to say but must stop now. Give my love to all my friends. Much love and many kisses to you and the baby.

C. A. B.

  1. John Whiting Storrs, in his book “The Twentieth Connecticut”, spoke of a chase during this time that is likely the same one:

    During the stay at Fairfax, some demonstrations thereabout of Stuart’s cavalry, led Gen. Slocum to suspect that an attack in force might be meant as soon as the rebels appeared on his left. So, at once, he put in motion his whole force to meet the enemy, leaving only the invalids and a small force to guard the camp and the stores at the railroad depot. After marching eight or ten miles, it was found that a handful of union cavalry that had been stationed at Wolf Run Shoals, was being pursued by an advance of the rebel cavalry, which latter being met, a volly from a single regiment and a few artillery shot checked the pursuit. The rebel general, declining an encounter with the infantry force so suddenly confronting him, turning off to the right, struck a railroad at a point near our deserted camp, burned a bridge or two, and made a hurried escape from the union lines.

  2. The Emancipation Proclamation

  3. This could be Private William Johnson, who was discharged for disability on January 15th, or Henry F. Wright, who was discharged for the same reason on January 9th.