Letter to the Editor
Headquarters 135th Reg't. Pa. Vols.Ed., Republican
Camp near Belle Plain, Va.
March 2nd, 1863
Doubtless you think me slow in fulfilling my promise I made when I was at home in the winter. The promise was not forgotten, but I could never think of anything to write, or rather I thought of so much that I was afraid to attempt to make a selection.
Our regiment had been in Washington so long that we had come to think we were to remain there until our term of service would expire; but like most castles built in air, this one was doomed to destruction. On Saturday, Feb. 13th, we were relieved by the 153d N. Y. Vols., and, on Monday, the 15th, we left the city to join the 1st Army Corps. The weather was very favorable when we started and indicated a pleaseant move. The men were all in good spirits and the regiment presented a fine appearance marching through the city. Here let me say that our regiment has been complimented on its fine appearance wherever we have gone. I can truly say a finer looking regiment has not left the State of Pennsylvania, within the last twelve months. We left Harrisburt, in August last, with 510 men, rank and file, and we left Washington with 850.
We got on board the "Juniata and and Matameta" at the Sixth Street wharf, between 10 and 11 o'clock, a. m. At 11 we left the wharf and steamed down the grand old Potomac. I have no doubt there is a great deal of beautiful scenery along this river, from the fact that I have been told so, but I failed to see it, because I was in a berth asleep during the greater part of the trip. I was on the deck of the steamer as we passed Mt. Vernon, the resting place of Washington, the father of his country. We could see nothing and only knew that we were near the place where lived, died and now rested "the greatest man the world ever saw." The mention of Mount Vernon and Washington, brought to my mind many strange thoughts, I contrasting the present war with that of the revolution. I thought of the hardships our forefathers endured--of their trials and sufferings. Where we have steamboats and rail roads to transport the troops, they were compelled to march on foot; while our army is furnished with almost anything they can wish for, they were compelled many nights to retire with half enough to eat, and trust to Providence for their next meal. I thought of the devastation of the State of Virginia, the birthplace of Washington, which extended almost to his tomb, and wondered if it were possible that it could be an emblem of the fate of our country. God forbid that it should. But, I really fear, unless there is a change in the feeling and the conduct of a large portion of the people of the North, this will be the result. In the place of the people of the North being united and every man putting his shoulder to the wheel, and doing what he can to help our cause, they are quarrelling and fighting about little matters that would be beneath the contempt of sensible school boys. But now we are a long distance from Mt. Vernon, and I have wandered far from my subject--if I ever had one.
We landed at Aequia Creek, held there a few minutes, and then ran down to Bell Plain, where we were to land. This landing is in the mouth of the Potomac Creek, and is the point of which all the supplies for the left of the army are shipped. The board which Captain Espy's company was in, arrived at the landing a little before dark, and they debarked. Some of the companies bivouacked in the open air, and some secured the shelter of a covered barge nearby. The other boat, in which I happened to be, being a heavy craft, was unable to reach the wharf, on account of of the shallowness of the water. We managed as best we could until morning, and you may guess how much comfort five hundred men, together with all of the baggage of a regiment would have on a common sized steamboat. I took my blanket, wrapped myself in it and lay down upon the deck of the boat, where I rested very comfortably until near morning, when I was awakened by rain dropping gently upon my face. It soon began to snow, and we had rain and snow without intermission for two days and nights.
We remained at the landing until about 2 o'clock, P.M., when we started for camp. By this time the roads were nice and soft. We were near two hours in marching that many miles. We had been told that we were to go into the old quarters of the Penn. Reserves, and we supposed we were going to have good dry tents to go into at the end of our march. Judge then our suprise at finding our quarters nothing but holes dug in the ground, with a few logs or poles laid around them, and entirely minus roofs. Into thse holes we had to go, and it raining and snowing like fury. The men had to use their ponchos for roofing their tents, aeach company was allowed to bring but three wedge tents, and those for the commissioned officers. This was a little rough after soldiering for six months in Washington, but we made a virtue of necessity, and were as comfortably situated as circumstances would permit. Since we landed here we have had all kinds of weather. Now it rains, now it snows, and now we have sunshine. To day as I write the weather is lovely, and reminds me of a May day in old Pennsylvania.
Our regiment is in the first brigade, third division, and first army corps: Col. Porter commanding the brigade, Gen. Doubleday the division, and Gen. Reynolds, the corps. I presume these are all competent officers. Gen. Reynolds and Gen. Doubleday, have proven themselves, and we have no reason to doubt the will or ability of Col. Porter. I do not think there will be a movement for some time. The roads are in a horrible condition at present. Should the weather remain favorable, it will take three or four weeks before the roads will be in condition for the army to move.
The health of the Reg't. is not very good at present. This is no doubt owing to the unfavorable time we had to move. There are quite a number sick, not very many bad cases. So far I like soldering very much. I never felt better than I do down here among the hills of Virginia. The boys from Brookville are generally very well. Our bully big Adjutant seems to be enjoying himself hugely. He certainly should, for he was very anxious to leave Washington, and get into active service. As it is near supper time, I will close for the present. I will let you hear from me again.Company F
135th Reg't. P. V.
© Alice J. Gayley, all rights reserved
Web Space provided by