Monroe County Library System,  Monroe, MI 48162


Bygones of Monroe:

Letter from the Potomac Army

The following private letter from a Monroe soldier in the Potomac army has been sent us for publication, and we give it a place:

In Camp, Oct. 23d 1863

Dear Mother:

This Summer and Fall our Regiment has been on the move almost all the time so that writing often has been out of the question.  Since I last wrote the army has executed some very strange movements, advancing across the Rappahannock to the Rapidan, and after a few days, retreating back to Centreville, coaxing the enemy after us with our Cavalry, and bringing on engagements with them, in every one of which the Union arms were victorious.  The 2nd corps to which the 7th belongs, was the rear guard of the army and on the 14th of Oct. while marching on the Rail Road near Bristow Station, was attacked by A. P. Hill’s rebel corps, about the middle of the day.  The enemy intending to surprise us and take our forces prisoners, but in this they were sadly disappointed, for we soon formed in line of battle to receive the enemy who advanced out of the woods, upon us, while we were posted behind the Rail Road embankment to receive them.  Two of our batteries were also in position on a ridge just behind us and about the same time one of the enemy’s batteries was placed on a hill to the right of our position; soon the battle commenced.  The enemy advanced in strong force, but was driven back by the heavy musketry and artillery fire of our men and after fighting an hour and a half they retired, leaving many dead and wounded on the field.  Our loss was about hundred killed and wounded, and our wounded were all taken care of; a great blessing compared with the tender mercies of the enemy.  In all the fights I have been in I never have taken such good aim at the Rebs as I did there and I never saw their movements so plain as I did there.  The battery which they placed on a hill, was silenced in half an hour by our artillery.  I saw the gunners leave the pieces and fly to the woods for shelter, and our men afterwards advanced and brought off five pieces of the battery, the sixth was dismounted by a shell from one of our guns and left there.

After the fight we lay along the Rail Road until about eight o’clock in the evening when we rose up and retreated to Centreville, where we arrived about six in the morning, much tired by the perils and hardships of the past week.  In this last engagement with the enemy they lost 450 prisoners, 5 pieces of artillery and a large number of killed and wounded, probably greater than ours, as their men were more exposed.  We had the Rail Road embankment to protect us, while they were obliged to cross an open field to attack us.

Oct. 25 – The next morning after commencing this letter we were ordered to march and this is the first opportunity of finishing as I have had since.  We are having regular Autumn weather here now, although no snow has fallen yet, we are expecting it every day.

Our Regiment is encamped on a hill a few miles from Warrenton Village, where we think of building winter quarters for I do not believe the Army will make many moves this Fall as it will not be long before the roads will be wet and muddy, so as to render it impossible to move Artillery or heavy trains.

With regard to my manner of life here, generally I live on the army rations unless I get a chance to buy something better, which is not often.  Sometimes I buy a chicken at some farmer’s house or a ham at the brigade commissary’s, but if not, I can fall back on Uncle Sam’s table. We do not have many luxuries here in the army, and what we do get are rather costly.  I have done my own washing all the last summer.  My wash house is by the side of some creek or pond where the water is clear.  We are allowed $42.00 worth of clothing by the Government, and if a soldier draws more than that he has to pay the difference out of his wages, but if less he gets the difference.

I would write to Robert if I thought a letter would reach him.  I have heard of instances where money and letters have reached our prisoners confined in Richmond, but I don’t know as I could send a letter through now, because of the scarcity of transportation between that place and Washington.  One of our corporals who was taken prisoner, saw Robert in “Libby Prison” but did not get a chance to speak to him.

Your Affectionate Son,

J. G. Anderson

(Monroe Commercial, November 19, 1863, Page 1, Column 2)


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