Bygones of Monroe:
Our Army Correspondence, Letter from the Seventh Regiment
Editor Commercial—The Seventh Michigan Regiment retains its old position near Edwards Ferry, and is likely to continue in this position so far as the information we now have is concerned. And yet almost every day brings into our camp some new rumor or re-affirms some old one relative to our speedy removal south into Virginia, or still further south on the Atlantic coast or west into Kentucky. For we have reports among us as strange and contradictory as any which are current in Monroe. One day we hear Manassas is taken; the next day is asserted that Charleston or Savannah has surrendered; the third day comes with intelligence which silences all these reports, perhaps diffuses gloom throughout the camp, making us feel sad over such disaster as that which befell our arms at Balls Bluff. Last week it was generally believed in this section that the division of the Army to which our Regiment belongs would soon be ordered off upon some naval expedition south or if not in that direction then certainly to Kentucky. This opinion was strengthened by the fact that Gen. Stone had said that, notwithstanding the cold weather, we had better content ourselves with our present accommodations and make no provision for winter quarters. But this week finds us as ignorant as ever of what is before us, waiting still for orders to move, or for the command to build huts for the winter. The army is impatient for an onward movement of some kind. It seems as though it would have a bad effect if these scores of thousands of men in arms on the Potomac shall be constrained to lie inactive until spring. But the Powers that be at Washington know their own counsels, and we would have, in lively and cheerful exercise, that faith which believes their counsels to be wiser than our own judgment.
My acquaintance with the officers and soldiers of the Seventh Michigan Regiment confirms the opinion which was entertained in Monroe when they were encamped there, and which Gov. Blair and his staff expressed when they were here, that our State has sent forth no better and braver men than those in Camp Benton. I am aware that it is customary for the members of the various Regiments which have gone out from Michigan to defend our imperiled Republic, to speak of themselves with considerable self complacency—possibly with some degree of boastfulness. But, without wishing to make any insidious comparisons I may say that a good degree of harmony and kind feeling pervades this camp—that the company officers and the commanding officers are respected by the men—that Col. Grosvenor has the confidence of his Regiment and also of his superior officers—and that Gen. Stone has given us very evident tokens of his favorable opinion of the men, the discipline and the movements in battalion drill of the Seventh Michigan Regiment. Thus much by way of self congratulation.
We consider ourselves highly favored to having such an excellent Band of music. It is superior to any Band in this vicinity, although there are several Regiments within two miles of us. Playing with fine taste and with a skillful use of their instruments these musicians enliven the monotony of camp life and cheer all our hearts amid its duties and privations.
My own labors as Chaplain differ, of course from those of all other persons in the army, as well as from my work at home as Pastor of a Church. There is associated with them much that is discouraging and also much that is hopeful. There are a thousand men, more or less, living closely together in tents, free from all those family and social influences which are so well suited to restrain and refine, left each for himself to do as seemeth unto him good, provided only he conforms to certain military rules. Under these circumstances there is, I had almost said of necessity, and inconsiderable amount of incivility and rudeness of manners such as would not be seen in good society at home, with, I am very sorry to add, much profanity and Sabbath desecration. Indeed profanity and Sabbath desecration seem to be necessarily incident to a life in the army. And that seems to be peculiarly strange is the fact that officers and soldiers, amid the sick and dying in the Hospital and on the eve of a battle, when they known not what a day may bring forth, can talk and act as though they had no reverence for either the name or the authority of Him in whose hands their breath is, and whose are all their ways. All this is discouraging to one who would gladly see his fellow men fear God and keep his commandments. And yet these same men can be reached and influenced by a kind look and a kind word, an honest appeal to their better feelings, a simple and earnest presentation to them of the truths and motives of the Bible. They listen with a very respectful attention to the preaching of the Gospel. They receive at my hands as I go about from tent to tent, and thankfully too, books, tracts and papers—and hundreds of these have been so distributed since I came here—and they read them with evident interest. At the close of evening Dress Parade the Regiment is formed into a hallow square; in the center of which stand the officers. After appropriate music by the Band, the Chaplain steps forth a few steps when the whole Regiment, officers and privates, silently uncover and reverently bow their heads while prayer is offered to the Most High God in our behalf and in the behalf of much loved friends far away, and a country dear to us all. It is a very impressive scene and service—regarded as such by the members of this Regiment not only, but also by others of adjoining Regiments who have been present with us. Ours is the only Regiment in this region which thus closes the labors of each day. All this is hopeful and augurs good. It is a gratification to me to be able to say that I have less profanity and witness less Sabbath desecration than I heard and saw when I first came into this camp.
(Monroe Commercial, December 12, 1861, Page 1)