On the road to Fredericksburg, October 20 – December 4, 1862

The last of October, Lee broke camp and left for Fredericksburg, Virginia.  So we crossed the river, and six days later arrived at Falmouth, a few miles back of Fredericksburg, on the Rappahannock River.

~ Conrad Smith1)Conrad Smith, My Early Life and the Civil War, 1920, page 25

Conrad is not too specific with his dates here but according to Frederick H. Dyer’s Compendium of the War of the Rebellion: Regimental Histories2)accessed here,  Dyer compiled his information from the Official Records,  after the Battle of Antietam, the 139th, with the Sixth Corps, went into camp at Downsville, Maryland from September 23 to October 20, 1862.  Downsville today is an unincorporated locality about three miles south of Williamsport, Maryland along the Potomac River.  

Downsville MD google earth

 

From the 20th of October to the 18th of November, the Army of the Potomac moved south from Downsville, stopping at Stafford Courthouse, approximately eight miles northeast of Fredericksburg.  They remained there until December 4th.

Nov 1862 movements

Detail of map 70 from The West Point Atlas of War – The Civil War, Chief Editor: Brig. Genl. Vincent J. Esposito

 

 

November 2nd

Near Berlin, MD

… An Army pontoon bridge has been placed across the river and we expect to cross into old Virginia again very soon.  Gen. Burnside’s force has already crossed at this point, and we can hear cannon in the distance.  I hope we shall join his forces, and it looks now as if we were at last to attack the enemy.  Berlin is about six miles below Harper’s Ferry.  The cars run on one side of our camp and the canal boats on the other.  The first boat that passed attracted much attention from our men to whom it was a great novelty.

Gen McClellan’s headquarters are near our camp.  … At a place called Smoketown we passed the Army hospitals where our wounded men are treated.  It was a sad sight, and I thanked God that I have been spared.

We crossed the Potomac Monday night (2 Nov) and …3)Bert Hunt Rhodes, All For The Union, First Vintage Civil War Library Edition, 1992, page 79

Last Monday [November 2nd] we crossed over the river at Berlin.  The bridge was made on boats and the boats was [sic] anchored in the river.  There was about a hundred thousand troops crossed that bridge…   It took them from two o’clock in the morning till 7 at night to cross over. 4)Ron Bardnell, Preserve It Reader in Remembrance of Me, page 32

November 4-5

Near Union, VA, Nov. 5, 1862

[We] reached this place last evening.  Fighting has been going on in our front, but the Rebels retire as we advance.  The enemy are at Ashby’s Gap about nine miles from here.  … Oh how cold it is.  …

… Last night when we reached camp we were nearly starved, but we picked up on the road two turkeys and had them boiled for supper.

…After leaving Union we marched to within a short distance of Ashby’s Gap in the Blue Ridge and halted for the night.5)Bert Hunt Rhodes, All For The Union, First Vintage Civil War Library Edition, 1992, page 79

November 6-9

Near White Plains, VA on the Manassas Gap Railroad

On a company, regiment and even brigade level, the uncertainty that surrounded all of the Union soldiers could have important effects on their day to day activities.  Early in November, while the regiment was near White Plains, Virginia, the supply wagons of the Third Brigade were waylaid, leaving the men short of rations.  With little of their own food to consume, soldiers took it upon themselves to find the makings of a good meal.  Robert Guyton described the impact on the neighborhood supply of sheep, hogs and other small, edible animals.

“we have been short of rations this two days on account of the Brigade wagons not getting up with us but I tell you the Sheep and Hogs had to suffer in this neighborhood every one almost had a piece of mutton or Pork or Turkey or chickens we take almost everything that is edible… we expect the wagons will be in today if they don’t there will not be a Sheep Hog Turkey or chicken left in this neighborhood”

There was no hint of guilt in Guyton’s account, as all seemed justified by the fact that, “they are all rank secessionists about here.”6)The Crack Regiment of Pittsburgh, Sam Bartlett, 1996, page 84

White Plains, VA Saturday, Nov. 8th 1862

… We are now only fifteen miles from the old Bull run field.  The next place is Warrenton where we expect to go soon.  How I would like to have some of those “On to Richmond” fellows out here with us in the snow.  The ground is white with snow, and it is too cold to write.  This morning we found ourselves covered with snow that had fallen during the night.7)Bert Hunt Rhodes, All For The Union, First Vintage Civil War Library Edition, 1992, page 79

November 10-15

New Baltimore, Va

We camped on the side of a mountain and have hard work to keep from sliding off.  This has been a sad day for the Army of the Potomac.  Gen McClellan has been relieved from command and has left us.  He rode along the lines and was heartily cheered by the men.  Gen. Ambrose Burnside of RI is our new Commander.  He also rode along our lines and was well received, being cheered as he passed.  This change produces much bitter feeling and some indignation.  McClellan’s enemies will now rejoice, but the Army loves and respects him.  Like loyal soldiers we submit.

…New Baltimore is a lonesome little village at the foot of the hill on which we are camped.  From the hill we can see the deserted Rebel forts in the distance.8)Bert Hunt Rhodes, All For The Union, First Vintage Civil War Library Edition, 1992, page 80

November 16-18

I received your letter Sunday night [November 16] after marching all day. We encamped in the woods in a fair wilderness handy to Catlett Station on the Manassas railroad on the field where General Pope was defeated.  We staid there all night and took our line of march for three days in succession.9)Ron Bardnell, Preserve It Reader in Remembrance of Me, page 34

November 18-December 4

…We are now five miles from Stafford CH, twelve miles from Acquia Creek and fifteen miles from the city of Fburg.  We are encamped with our division in a large field….  It is still raining and we are very uncomfortable and cannot tell where we are to go next.10)Bert Hunt Rhodes, All For The Union, First Vintage Civil War Library Edition, 1992, page 80

Near Stafford CH, Va Nov 23/62

 I am cold, in fact half frozen.  As I write some of the officers who are hovering over a huge fire are singing “Home Sweet Home.”  Well I should like to see my home.  Our blankets are wet and we have had no sun to dry them in some time.  Yesterday our Regiment was on picket.  We struck a new section of country where rail fences were plenty and had good fires.  The roads are in bad condition from mud.  Supplies begin to come from Acquia Creek and we are happy.  I get a little home sick sometimes.11)Bert Hunt Rhodes, All For The Union, First Vintage Civil War Library Edition, 1992, page 80

Near Stafford CH Va Nov 26/62

Still muddy and more rain.  The Adjutant is sick, and I have been acting as Adjutant again.  We have had inspection of the Regiment.12)Bert Hunt Rhodes, All For The Union, First Vintage Civil War Library Edition, 1992, page 80

November 27

Thanksgiving Day in Rhode Island.  Well, I too have much to thank my Heavenly Father for.  He has preserved my life and given me health and strength to do my duty.  For all which I am devoutly grateful.13)Bert Hunt Rhodes, All For The Union, First Vintage Civil War Library Edition, 1992, page 80

December 4

I do not know exactly where we are.  We left our camp near Stafford CH this morning and marched to this place which is twelve miles below Fburg and half way between the Pot and Rapp Rivers.  I know one thing – it is very cold on the hill where we are in camp.14)Bert Hunt Rhodes, All For The Union, First Vintage Civil War Library Edition, 1992, page 80

… We are advancing on the rebbles [sic] at Fredericksburg where we expect to have a fight and a big one.15)Ron Bardnell, Preserve It Reader in Remembrance of Me, page 34

 

Next time – The big picture of the preparations for the Battle of Fredericksburg.

 

 

 

 

References   [ + ]

1. Conrad Smith, My Early Life and the Civil War, 1920, page 25
2. accessed here,  Dyer compiled his information from the Official Records
3, 5, 7. Bert Hunt Rhodes, All For The Union, First Vintage Civil War Library Edition, 1992, page 79
4. Ron Bardnell, Preserve It Reader in Remembrance of Me, page 32
6. The Crack Regiment of Pittsburgh, Sam Bartlett, 1996, page 84
8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14. Bert Hunt Rhodes, All For The Union, First Vintage Civil War Library Edition, 1992, page 80
9, 15. Ron Bardnell, Preserve It Reader in Remembrance of Me, page 34

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