Bygones of Monroe:
Letter from the Seventh Regiment
Just as we were ready for press, the following letter was received from the Seventh Regiment which by a little delay, and the crowding out of some other matter already prepared, we insert, knowing the anxiety which now exists to hear from the regiment.
Harpers’ Ferry, March 20, 1862
Editor Commercial:- The Seventh Michigan Regiment, having been ordered away from its old quarters at Edwards Ferry, is here awaiting orders to join the main army somewhere below Washington. As your readers are aware the Army of the Potomac under the command of Gen. McClellan has been divided into five grand divisions, each division embracing three subordinate divisions comprising from three to six brigades. Gen Sedgwick’s division, (formerly Gen. Stone’s) embracing three brigades, five batteries and one regiment of cavalry, has been attached to Gen. Sumner’s corps, along with the divisions of Generals Richardson and Blenker. Gen. Sedgwick’s division was ordered to Winchester to act in concert with Gen. Banks and Gen. Shields, on the supposition that the rebels under Gen. Jackson would make a stand in that vicinity. But having retreated precipitately to join their main army near Richmond, we were ordered to return to Harper’s Ferry. Here the whole Division – a portion of it encamped in the open field in tents and another portion quartered in the deserted houses on Bolivar Heights overlooking the Ferry – have been awaiting for some days the order to move.
It is a very interesting trip and one which could gratify any of your readers – the trip up the Baltimore and Ohio canal to this place and thence up the valley of the Shenandoah. The scenery along the Potomac, especially from Point of Rocks to Harper’s Ferry, bears a striking resemblance to that among the Highlands on the Hudson. Lofty bluffs of rocks presenting every imaginable shape to the eye of the beholder, arrest the attention as often as the river changes its course. Harper’s Ferry is situated at the junction of the Potomac and the Shenandoah rivers – each cutting their way through bold, rocky hills, on the summits of which you have some of the grandest views that ever meet the eye.
Few places have suffered more from this unnatural civil war than Harper’s Ferry. Until our troops took possession of this place a few weeks since, desolation reigned complete. Where a year ago all was activity and enterprise, hundreds of families and thousands of operatives finding occupation in the United States Arsenal and other public works here – now a mess of ruins, deserted homes, desolated streets, burnt bridges, present themselves to the thoughtful consideration. Some very fine residences here, which a few months since would have been an ornament to any city, are fast going to ruin – doors, porticos, fences in the process of destruction – the rooms filled with soldiers and horses. It will take millions of dollars to restore Harper’s ferry to its former state of prosperity. Such is war!
Ten miles this side of Winchester where we encamped the second night from this place, a runaway slave (and by the way scores of these are flocking into our ranks and following on with our troops) came into our camp and informed Lieut. Shafter of Company I that his master, Major Pendleton, Division Quartermaster in the rebel army had just returned home on a short visit to his family. He lives in one of those noble mansions which adorn this beautiful valley of the Shenandoah – Having obtained permission from Col. Grosvenor, Lieutenant Shafter took two of his men, went to the house of Major Pendleton some three miles distant, and arrested him without any resistance on his part as he was about to sit down with his family to his breakfast table. He courteously invited the Lieutenant and his men to eat with them, which they did; and then having spent a few minutes with his family the major accompanied them to the camp, and was by the Colonel taken to Gen. Sedgwick. He is now confined in Baltimore.
A few days before leaving our old camp near Edward’s Ferry, every way the most comfortable camp on the Potomac we saw across the river the mistakable signs that the rebels were evacuating Leesburg. Dense clouds of smoke rolled up various directions from their fortifications, encampments and from Leesburg itself. Besides this, contrabands came across to our line of pickets and reported that the enemy was moving south towards Manassas. Having for a long time guarded the river and watched the movements of the rebels at this point, shelling their fortifications as often as they were seen to be making any progress in their construction our Regiment felt intensely anxious to cross the Potomac and cut off the retreat of the enemy or at least take Leesburg. But for some strange reason the Brigadier General refused to allow Col. Grosvenor to lead his men in pursuit to his and their exceeding great disappointment. The next day Col. Geary came across the country from Harper’s Ferry, and planted the Stars and Stripes in Leesburg taking from our Brigade the honor of capturing a place which the day before the 7th Michigan could have taken together with the baggage trains of the enemy. Thus twice has this Regiment been prevented by superior orders from capturing Leesburg – once when we were over the river and nearly half way to that place at the time of the Balls Bluff disaster and now again when the enemy had commenced their retreat southward towards Richmond.
The change in the Hospital Department of our regiment has been a most favorable one. Under the admirable superintendence and direction of Dr. Chaddock, who was brought order out of confusion, our Hospital has taken precedence of all others in the division. He has devoted himself with untiring assiduity and energy to his work and has secured to himself the confidence and respect of all as the right man in the right place.
This regiment has become a thoroughly drilled and well disciplined body of men. Col. Grosvenor has devoted his whole energies and time towards perfecting the force under his command; and today no Regiment in this Division appears so well in the maneuvers of the field or on the march as this. And yet, strong and able as it is to cope with this enemy, it looks as though both the Regiment and Division would never be permitted to see the enemy. Nothing would so much gratify both the officers and the men as to be placed where they could make a record for themselves and reflect credit upon the State which sent them here to fight and not to make month after month in inglorious insanity.
Yours very truly,
(Monroe Commercial, March 27, 1862)