Eli Franklin Siverd was born on February 22, 1836, possibly in Pennsylvania, the son of Jacob and Elizabeth.
Eli’s father reportedly deserted his family in Pennsylvania around 1851. (There was one Jacob Siverd living in West Nantmeal, Chester County, Pennsylvania in 1857.) By 1860 Eli, known generally as “Frank,” had apparently moved westward on his own, and was working as a clerk and living in Lansing (his mother having remained in Pennsylvania). Late that same year or perhaps in early 1861, Eli became a member of the Lansing company called the “Williams’ Rifles,” whose members would serve as the nucleus of Company G.
Frank was 25 years old and still living in Lansing when he enlisted as Seventh Corporal in Company G on May10, 1861.
From the moment he first enlisted Frank was a regular correspondent for the Lansing State Republican, writing under the byline “Stray Leaves.” Frank regularly sent in extensive and lengthy reports on developments in the Company G, the Regiment and the war in Virginia.
On May 21, shortly after he arrived in Gand Rapids and joined the Third Michigan Infantry then forming at Cantonment Anderson in Grand Rapids, Frank wrote to the editor of the Lansing State Republican.
Cantonment Anderson is located on the Kent County Fair Grounds, three miles from the Depot of the Milwaukee R.R. Forty acres are enclosed with a high close board fence. The ground is slightly rolling and covered with oak. . . . About ten acres are occupied by the buildings -- ten more have been cleared and leveled for a parade ground -- the remainder is nearly in a state of nature. A fine race track seven eights of a mile long and six rods wide, furnishes excellent grounds for camp drill/ Two, three or four times around this track on double quick step (a short run) before breakfast, sharpens our appetite and gives us a relish for food that otherwise might go untasted.
The men are quartered in Floral Hall, a building semicircular in shape and about 120 feet long, 14 wide and 20 high -- in this, about 700 men find lodging. The building is two stories, and on each floor are two tiers of bunks, shipstyle -- four, and in the case of necessity, five men lodge in one bunk. A straw bed and a blanket to each man is furnished by the State, while many of the men, as in the case of the Lansing boys, have been furnished through the industry and patriotism of the ladies, with a quilt or extra blanket. Without these our men would have suffered very much during the recent cold weather. A temporary building, or shed, for it has neither floor nor sides, about 200 feet long by 18 feet wide, constitutes the boarding hall. Three tables the whole length of this seats the entire regiment. The table furniture, which by some might be considered scant, is all that is necessary, consists of a tin plate, cup, and knife and fork. The bill of fare is not exactly what you might expect at the Lansing House, still it is more and better than we expected to get in camp life. For breakfast we have coffee, sugar, beef steak, boiled or fried potatoes, bread and butter. For dinner we have an indescribable soup, boiled beef and potatoes, beans, bread, butter and water. Supper is varied by tea, sugar, cold beef, fried potatoes, bread and butter. Much complaint, and justly too, was made a few days since about the victuals being cold and not as neat as we might prefer it. This has been remedied to some extent. The officers of the regiment showed their inclination to befriend the men under their care in all cases by the prompt manner in which they inquired into the cause of the complaints, and the means they took to remedy them.
On Thursday and Friday last we were regularly mustered into service by General Whittlesley. At some future time I will give you the names of those who were rejected on account of a disease fortunately called by our Surgeon "as lack of backbone.” Others were found to take their places however, and our ranks are full. Mr. _____ , from the Muskegon country, who resisted the first excitement of volunteering, hearing that some companies were to be disbanded for want of men to fill their ranks, left his place and came on foot sixty miles to join the regiment. Such men will make true soldiers. He joined the Williams Rifles.
Our company all enjoy good health except Nicholas Welch, who has had the lung fever, but is better.
Yesterday forenoon an accident occurred that cast a gloom over the whole camp. The regiment was marched to the river to bathe; while several hundred men were in the water, James Hammond, a cousin of B. F. Hammond, and a member of the Boston Light Guard was seized with a cramp, and in the midst of his comrades, sunk in twelve feet of water. Consternation seized the whole of them and they fled to the shore leaving him to his fate. Allen S. Shattuck, of the Rifles, though at some rods distance rushed to him, and though unsuccessful, certainly deserves credit for the effort made to rescue him, He was the only person that made an effort. -- The body was recovered after a delay of forty minutes, by Mr. George Garner, of the Muskegon Rangers. Unsuccessful efforts were made under the direction of Lieut. Jeffords, M.D., of the Rifles, at resuscitation. Six hundred men went out in the morning full of hilarity and joy, and returned a few hours later in gloom and sorrow. It was surprising what a change the presence of death wrought. Mr. Hammond was from St. Johns. He was universally liked by those who knew him -- his remains will be sent home under a proper military escort.
Religious services were held in the afternoon of the newly appointed chaplain. He will be popular if he always studies the comfort of the soldiers as well as he did this time -- that is by preaching brief sermons. It is not pleasant to stand immovable for an hour.
Tomorrow we receive our uniforms. It is thought we will receive marching orders the latter part of this week -- all are anxious to receive the command. It is now clearly ascertained that Virginia will be our destination. The thanks of the company are due to the Daily Eagle and the Enquirer, of Grand Rapids, and to the Republican, and D. M. Bagley, of Lansing, for papers. All letters and papers should be marked "Company G..” We have been changed from K. A few more men of the right kind can obtain admission to our company.
And on June 2, while still in Grand Rapids, Frank wrote back to Lansing.
This is a beautiful morning, which those of your readers who have experienced camp life will know well how to appreciate. On an average it has rained about every third day since we have been here, and when it does rain, there is some commotion in camp -- arms are stowed away under bedding, next, the bedding must be moved to keep that dry, then it keeps us quite busy to escape the drenching streams ourselves. But then we are told, "this among many other things are incidental to camp life and we must become used to it." For the last few days we have been receiving our uniforms. The whole regiment is now uniformed and presents a fine appearance. The uniforms consists of grey stainett pants, round-about and overcoat, a jaunty little cap and brogan shoes.
We will receive our knapsacks tomorrow. The Regimental colors will be presented by the ladies of Grand Rapids today. It is an exquisite piece of handiwork and reflects much credit upon the patriotic ladies of the Valley City. It is of the size required by the army regulations. The material is blue dress silk bordered by yellow silk fringe. On both sides is embroidered the U.S. Arms, and surrounding the Arms the words, "Volunteers, Third Regiment, Michigan," and on the reverse, "The Ladies of Grand Rapids, to the Third Regiment Michigan State Infantry." The pike is of mahogany, splendidly mounted with a gilt spear head at the top, and a brass knot piece.
We hope soon to be fully equipped, and then marching orders will be gladly hailed. There is an intimation from head quarters that we are to go into a school of instruction, or somewhere in the vicinity of Detroit. That will not be as desirable a locality as Western Virginia. If we are to remain in Michigan, I can see no good reason why we might not just as well remain here, where we have all accommodations as to go somewhere else and prepare them.
The Lansing boys are just now in a state of mind that would render it an undesirable locality for an enemy; indeed it is with some difficulty they can be restrained from "pitching into" some of those who are not generally enumerated under that head. The boys have an idea, and probably it is not unfounded, that we have been the butt of considerable abuse since we have been in Grand Rapids. We thought our troubles should come to an end when we left Lansing, but we discover we were mistaken. When we arrived here we were designated as Company "F,” the next day we were placed on "G,” a short time afterward we were placed by the Adjutant General on the extreme left, "K,” the second post of honor. We were afterwards again returned to "G,” one of the lowest places. the Regiment. Even this did not seem to be a sufficient degradation, and we must have a further stigma heaped upon us. Today our rifles will be taken from us and given to the company that took the position of honor to which we had been assigned. To first take our place and then our rifles was more than we could stand, and though there was no swearing done, as that is against regulations, there was some very strong muttering, some even shed real tears at the thought of the humiliation that awaited us. It is acknowledged by all that there is but one company in camp that is equal to us in the matter of good, reliable men. We would do honor to Lansing and our friends who have so generously aided us, but we cannot do it without a position, and with old percussion muskets.
Of course we will submit, but not without a struggle. Strange as it may seem, but little blame is attached to the officers of the Regiment, but the fault lies elsewhere.
Mr. Chandler and Mr. Armstrong, from Lansing, are with us on a visit. The young men of Lansing will accept our thanks for a pair of boxing gloves. They are much prized. Sutherland, Murphy, Blanchard, Rose, Rose, Case, Gaskill and Cook, are down with the measles. They are well cared for. Surgeon Bliss leaves nothing undone that will contribute to the comfort of the sick. To prevent the disease spreading, as soon as the first symptoms appear, he has them removed to the house of a physician, some three miles from camp.
On June 10 the regiment was mustered into federal service and that same day Frank wrote to Lansing.
I presume we must now consider ourselves soldiers in reality. We were mustered into the U. S. service on Saturday last, by Lieut. Col. Backus of the U. S. Army. It was a very simple ceremony. Each man, as his name was called, marched in common time past the officer, who eyed him closely, and if any imperfections were noticed he was halted and questioned. "Steve,” who is a great favorite in the company, was stopped and his case "taken into consideration.” -- He passed muster, however, much to our satisfaction, and may henceforth be considered a U. S. Soldier. The Quarter Masters department could not afford to lose him.
We afterward took the oath prescribed in the army regulations and the ceremony was over. -- I can perceive no difference in our appearance since we have changed our appellation, but there is a different feeling -- in strolling through the camp you often hear the remark, "There is no use complaining now, it is too late."
The Williams' muskets mustered one hundred and two men, one more than our quota -- about twenty men had previously been transferred to other companies. Not a man in our company has refused to take the oath, notwithstanding we had abundant reason before swearing away our individual rights, to ask redress for some grievances that we have been subject to. But three men in the entire regiment refused to take the oath -- two of these were minors, and their parents objected to their going. I think this not be beaten. About forty good reliable men can find places in the regiment yet, and those who desire to take an acute part in the campaign can do no better than unite their interest with the Third, as we imagine it is going to be a crack regiment.
Some of our Lansing friends think we should have returned home rather than have given up our rifles; they do not appreciate our position. We all volunteered with the idea that we were going to see service, and to have left this regiment would have prevented us from taking any part in the campaign. Our position is again changed from seventh to sixth -- it places us at the left of the colors and on the right of the left wing; quite an honorable position, as it will bring us into the hottest of the battle if we should be fortunate enough to be favored by any such exercise -- this does not, however, reconcile us to the disgrace of losing our rifles. If we do leave Michigan with muskets rest assured we will not return with them if the powers that be but give us an opportunity of helping ourselves. The best the rebel camp afford should be ours.
Today we received orders by telegraph to report to Washington at once. The reply of the Commandant was that we should be ready to march six hours after receiving our pay. Of course it would not do to leave Grand Rapids without an opportunity of leaving behind us the amount of our wages up to date. The citizens of this place have been very patriotic in organizing and subsisting this regiment, and why should they not receive their reward? We will undoubtedly move this week -- some are sorry that our destination is to be Washington instead of Gross Isle, as indicated in my last. There is no telling, however, what changes a week's delay may cause! Canteens and Havelock Caps were distributed today. Tents, Havelocks and cartridge boxes are all that is necessary to fully equip us.
The weather for the last few days has been extremely warm and a general system of ventilation has been adopted. Some fatal disease must certainly make its appearance if the men do not get out of their present quarters. The Surgeon, who thinks as much of keeping men well as he does of curing them when they are sick, was around today directing boards to be knocked off here, and a hole cut there, until Floral Hall (the Barrack) appeared as if it had passed through a siege. Our company built quarters for themselves some distance from the other barracks so that they have plenty of light and air. Rose, Case, Strickland, Butler and Dowell are in the Measle Infirmary, and Carr and Andrew N. Miller are suffering from inflammation on the lungs -- Sergeant Mason is also on the sick list, but is taken care of in our own quarters, and is not subject to hospital discipline. Three who have returned from the hospital report that they received the best of care while there. he friends of those reported sick need not be alarmed by reports that the sick suffer for want of proper care, as such insinuations when traced to their sources are almost universally found to be unreliable. -- Rev. Mr. Armstrong has been with us several days. Judge Pinckney and Mr. Williams visited us Saturday. Mr. Cottrell has been here some time. He likes camp life and has become quite a soldier.Hoping my next may be dated Washington, I remain, Yours, Frank
Shortly after the regiment arrived in their first camp just outside of Washington, Frank wrote back to the Lansing Republican.
A detailed account of our trip hither would be of some interest, but no time can be spared for that purpose. We left Grand Rapids Thursday morning last, and by forced marching arrived at this Camp yesterday (Sunday,) about 7:30. We encamped on the Potomac about four miles from Alexandria, and about midway between the 1st and 2nd Michigan Regiments -- the 1st in advance and the 2d in the rear. No difficulty in passing through Baltimore whatever. A welcome met us everywhere, South as well as North. All well and in good spirits. You should have seen how eagerly we partook of a breakfast of dry bread and raw meat this morning. Major Williams is engaged near us with a detachment of his Regiment in throwing up entrenchments. From preparations being made I should think an attack was anticipated. I might give many rumors, but no definite information as to the position of the rebels. The city is not as well guarded as we were led to think, and a capture by surprise would, I think, not be impossible, though while the Capitol might be destroyed it could not be held.
From their camp on Georgetown Heights, Frank wrote to Lansing.
My last was written and dispatched so hastily that I did not have time to examine it clearly, so that I scarcely knew what I did write. I think however that I made a slight mistake as to our exact location. We are encamped on the Maryland side of the Potomac at the chain bridge, situated about seven miles s. [n.?] w. of the capital. Our tents are pitched on a rocky bluff, commanding the bridge, the river and the road approaching the opposite shore. Our battery, constructed since we came here mounts three columbiads and two howitzers. It is a position of much importance and has been considered the only available point of approach for the rebel army to reach the capital; the Michigan third think however, that should a force not exceeding six times the number of our Regiment move in this direction, they would not find even the point very available; should they by strategem reach the bridge they would find it a trap set for them that not fail to secure its prey. This it is not prudent at present to describe. There are no rebels nearer than five miles, and they are in small numbers. We are kept in a continuous state of excitement -- sleep on our arms every night and have every thing in readiness to either march or fight. The boys are all eager to get sight of a secession camp. Bull Frizzel, a notorious character, was arrested the other night for exhibiting signal lights, and is still a prisoner. Another broad brimmed hat, long-haired chap of the genus F. F. V., was brought into camp and required to give us an account of himself, which failing to do, he was put under guard to await further developments. He attracted more attention [than] old Abe did.
We have visited the Michigan 2d, on several occasions. The Regiment is under excellent discipline. The camp neat -- everything moving with the precision of clock work. Major Williams, who by the way is a general favorite in the Regiment, received us with one of his genial souled welcomes, and invited us to dine with him. We partook of a roast such as would please the palate of an epicure, let alone a person who had been living on pork and dry bread for several days. We are sorry to say the Major is not enjoying the best possible health.
We also visited the Michigan First at Alexandria. This camp we found the most perfect in detail of any we have yet visited. It was noon when we arrived at camp, and sharpened appetites gave us a relish for a most excellent dinner, to which we were invited by Capt. Graves, of Adrian. We had never met him before, but it required but a moment to discover that he had the qualifications of a thorough soldier and gentleman. He gave us much valuable information in regard to their movements in an enemy's country. He also related some amusing as well as daring incidents connected with the occupation of Alexandria. Some massive silver plate and China were upon the dinner table was taken from a rebel camp, indicating that the mess who used such valuable furniture must have belonged to the F. F. V.s. Too bad that it should be disgraced by adorning the table of a Wolverine mud-sill.
Fort Ellsworth, a formidable earthwork fortification constructed by the 1st Michigan and the Zouaves, is situated directly east of the city, on an eminence [?] commanding the river, railroad, and all other roads approaching the city. It mounts twenty-six heavy guns, a number of twelve pound howitzers, and several rifled cannon of very long range. The fortification is under command of Col. Wilcox, of the First, and garrisoned by the 1st Michigan, and a company of regular artillery. The Michigan Regiment, do not remain in the fort, except in case of an alarm. The post is an important one, and shows the confidence reposed in the First by the Government. The position could be held against an army of ten thousand men.
Alexandria is one of the most desolate looking places I ever saw. Four fifths of the stores and full one half of the dwellings are closed. Not a cart, dray, omnibus, or anything of the kind is to be seen in the streets.
We mingled freely among the citizens, and being in citizen dress, they conversed without reserve. Every person I conversed with was a secessionist, some of them very rabid in their denunciation of the U. S. Government. All express a cordial hatred of the Zouaves, and speak in the highest terms of the Michigan First, saying if they must have northern troops over them, they prefer the Michigan Regiment.
We enquired where the merchants, clerks, and other business men were. All gone with the army was the reply. They say that out of a population of 15,000, but a hundred young men could be found in the city. We visited the Marshall House. The stair-way and floor where Ellsworth fell, has been nearly cut away by patriotic yankees, as Ellsworth mementos. From the flag staff floats the Stars and Stripes.
Rev. Mr. Myers, the chaplain, seemed pleased to see us. As his appearance indicates, camp life agrees with him. President Lincoln and Secretary Seward, visited and reviewed the Regiment last evening. The President complimented the Regiment for the fine appearance of the men.
Seward appeared very natural, but there is nothing about the President to indicate that he was the subject of the various cuts and portraits of the last campaign, said to be a correct picture of Old Abe.
Harvest is nearly over in this vicinity. Strawberry season has passed, cherries, currants, etc., are plenty, at good round prices.
There is some diarrhea in camp. The measles have about disappeared. Cook, Case, Perry, McRoberts, N. W. Miller, Carr, and Strickland were left in the hospital at Grand Rapids, under charge of Capt. Price. We have had no official information in regard to them. We heard unofficially that Strickland had died [TRUE]. Gaskill and Butler are in the hospital at this place. Lieut. Jefferds is also under treatment. Michael Donelly deserted in Detroit. Midshipman Griswold, Mr. Russell, and Mr. Goodrich, all former residents of Lansing, have been to see us. The latter was the first Michigan man to welcome us to the city. He pays a good deal of attention to the Michigan troops, and notwithstanding some slanderous aspersions in one of the Detroit papers, no better patriot lives in Washington. Chester, the handsome clerk of the Judiciary Committee, is here in the Quartermaster General's office.
On July 5, Frank wrote from Camp Blair – named after then Governor of Michigan Austin Blair – updating everyone at home on the recent developments in the regiment.
The Michigan Third pursues the even tenor of its way. The excitement incident to our occupation of territory in close proximity to the rebel line has died out, and we scarcely ever think of the presence of an enemy. The National holy day passed off very quietly in our camp. A salute of thirteen guns from the fortifications and a mock parade in the evening was all of the 4th that discovered itself in this direction. Our men proposed having a good dinner in remembrance of the glorious anniversary, but upon an examination of the larder we found it minus all but pork and sea biscuits. The cook was consulted but with a grave shake of the head he informed us that the resources were insufficient for a sumptuous repast.
The Treasurer was called upon for a report and astonished his constituents by reporting an exhausted exchequer. A Council of War was held, when it was decided with great unanimity, that an attack upon the enemy without further delay was imperative. The attacking party was placed command of Sergeant Jerry, assisted by Charlie and Art, supported by Homer, on a flank movement. They soon engaged the enemy and the result was a complete route of the rebel forces. Our 4th of July dinner, on the 5th, consisted of duck, chicken, pudding, lettuce, onions, new potatoes, oysters, with cheese, cake, cherries and blackberries for dessert.
In an adjoining camp of District volunteers a picnic and dance was the order of the day -- most of the officers of our regiment participated and from the appearance of them they must have had a right merry time of it.
In the city the 37th Congress commenced its session, which, with a review of thirty thousand troops, was excitement enough for the denizens of the Capitol. In the evening a hundred bonfires lighted up the banks and hills of the Potomac for miles; each camp was a haze of light; it was a sight that could have gladdened the heart of a Tell in the days when the patriot Swiss lighted their signal fires on the hills and mountains, that were bequeathed to them by a liberty-loving ancestry, as so many snow capped monuments of freedom.
The comet which made its appearance unheralded and without ceremony is the theme of conversation in each little knot of soldiers, and it is amusing as well as edifying to hear the various Philosophical disquisitions [?] on its origins, destination, and what it portends.
Today we receive our new U. S. uniforms, consisting of blue blouse, pants, and caps, all of heavy army cloth. We hope it will not be as much of a swindle as some State contracts. . . .
Capt. Elder, of the Elder Zouaves, made us a short visit. If Capt. Price is not to return, and we little anticipate that he will, an effort will be made by the company to induce Capt. Elder to assume command of the Williams' Muskets. -- Senators Bingham and Chandler spent a few hours in Camp several days since. Hon. E. B. French, of Maine, will accept, as well deserved, the thanks of the company for devoting considerable valuable time to tracking letters for us. -- It was specially an accommodation as most of us were minus the wherewith to pay postage. -- When it was stated to him that some of our Michigan Representatives refused to frank for us through conscientious motives, he desired the messenger to say to the company that he "thought a Scion of Puritan New England was never too honest to serve the men who leave their homes and business to defend the flag and nationality that alone renders home worth having and property worth attaining.
Mr. Bagley weekly teats us to a bundle of State Republicans. Wm. Choates, formerly of Lansing, but latterly of Co C, Grand Rapids, died a few days since of inflammation of the lungs, and was buried with military honors. He was attended in his last hours by his wife, who followed him hither. The funeral procession was a solemn and impressive affair, the Band playing a dirge, the company moving in slow and measured tread, the body supported by his late comrades, the widow in mourning, all tended to cast over the camp a feeling of sadness and gloom. I am sorry to say however that the effect of such scenes are but fleeting.
Mrs. Bryant, wife of Capt. Bryant of the Muskegon Rangers, is the only lady in camp. She moves about as if she were an angel of mercy, daily she may be seen carrying some nice dish to some of the sick members of the company; she has a smile and a kind word for everyone -- many times her presence is worth exceedingly more than a Physician's prescription, and I am sure she can exert as much influence, without speaking a word, as a dozen chaplains can by preaching.
A great many are complaining of Diarrhea and other diseases incidental to the climate, but none of our company are in the hospital except Adams and Halbert -- the former of general debility and the latter a fever.
On July 12 from Camp Blair along Georgetown Heights, Frank wrote home.
All is excitement in Camp this a.m. A happy smile illumines the countenance of every man you meet as they hurry to and fro. Now you see a Corporal, Sergeant, or perhaps a Lieutenant besieged by a bevy of anxious inquiry after truth, or rather, rumor. As soon as they receive the necessary information, they assume a very important bearing, and with great avidity proceed to impart the highly interesting and important information that the regiment has received marching orders. Next to the Paymaster's appearance has marching orders been look for indeed it is hard to tell which would be received with the most enthusiasm.
Knapsacks are being packed and marked so as to be left so as to come in a baggage train. -- We are to march in our shirt sleeves, carry nothing but arms and accouterments, forty rounds of ammunition each, blanket, havelock, with three days rations and filled canteens -- this would indicate hard work or a long march. I should like to prophecy that in a day or two we will be upon the enemy lines, but we have been humbugged so much about moving that I do not like to risk my reputation as a prophet. All are extremely anxious to go, but I must confess the regiment needs a great deal more drilling before it will be fit to meet the enemy.
An incident quite amusing to all save those directly interested, occurred a few days since. -- Lieut. Dorr, of the U. S. Coast Survey, with a party, is engaged in making a Topographical Survey of the valley of the Potomac for military purposes. In order to measure some distances that were inaccessible it was necessary to locate signals. One of these was on an eminence overlooking our Camp, and in close proximity. Notwithstanding the signal was posted at midday and in view of our entire regiment, a suggestion was made that it was a secession flag -- the suggestion soon assumed the proportions of a rumor and the rumor was soon changed to a well-authenticated fact. A portion of Co. K (Grand Rapids) under command of Capt. Pierce, made a sally. Not a single man of that noble band shrunk from the perilous duty before them. -- Though it was their first sight of a secession standard -- the first time there was any probability of their meeting an enemy; they received the order "forward march,” as though it were an invitation to a feast of good things (the great decideratum in Camp life). On they moved across the ravine -- now they ascend the acclivity, watched by a thousand anxious eyes. They reach the position of the bunting. Halting his men at some distance, he proceeded alone and unattended, as did his exemplar Ellsworth, to haul down the rebel flag staff and all, and amid the cheers of his compatriots, carried it into camp and presented it to the Col. to be by him laid up in the archives of the regiment as one of the trophies that are to hand down to future generations the triumphs of the Michigan 3d, in the war of the Rebellion. The flag was composed of two pieces of cambrie, one white, the other black. The next day one of Dorr's assistants came along in no very pleasant mood I assure you. He stated that after placing those signals, they climbed some six miles over rocks and hills in order to make their observations, but when they got to the position were nonplussed at not finding their signals. He requested the officer of the day to protect his flags from the assaults of over-anxious seekers after secession bunting.
The weather has been intensely hot. How high the mercury rose we have no means of knowing, but it must have neared one hundred. It has been moderated however by several successive thunderstorms. These storms break upon us from behind the hills with terrific force. -- The play of Heaven's artillery is sublime, and from the deep mountain gorges burst temporary rivers, thundering and roaring as if they too were maddened by the desecration of "the sacred soil of Virginia by the vandalism of the north." While the cooling influence of these storms is pleasant, they have a decidedly damping upon the camp.
We accepted an invitation a few days since to visit the District Volunteers stationed across the river. Senators Johnson, of Tennessee, and TenEyck of New York, addressed the soldiers present in eloquent and patriotic terms. Johnson has played a prominent part in this war upon the Union. We were surprised to find him a very mild, plain, laborer like looking man, rather below medium height, and until he came under the influence of his own eloquence, you would think it impossible for him to face an audience or a mob with the constitution of the United States in one hand and a brace of pistols in the other, and then fight his way from one of his State to another, through a population maddened by the fumes of rebellion, and led by men who have sunk their manhood in desperate effort to further their ambitious designs by overthrowing a government that has fostered them long and well. When awaked, however, by the wrongs inflicted upon his people by a slave Oligarchy, his quiet eye speaks in thunder tones of the vengeance that awaits the traitor that dares to cross his path. He says as soon as his people have arms furnished them, they will take care of all the traitors in their own State.
The Michigan 2d, and Mass 1st, and N. Y. 12th are formed into the 4th Brigade, under command of Col. Richardson, of the Michigan 2d. -- We were inspected a few days since by Gen. Tyler. Miss Dix, the great Sister of Mercy, visited our Camp yesterday and inspected the Hospital department.
The boys are in good spirits -- we have plenty to eat and but little to do. There are, of course, many complaints about the fare. We have plenty to eat if it is but properly cooked -- almost every day there is as much wasted as would feed half as many men as are now subsisted. We would like to invite you to dine with us. Homer [Thayer] can fix up a nice roast, bake a cherry pie, or prepare a pudding that would be relished even by an epicure under the circumstances. Frank presides as dish washer, and seems well pleased with his post of the culinary art, especially when his task is finished.
The health of the regiment is much improved -- there is now not more than twenty patients in the hospital. Our company is only represented by Adams. A member of Co. K "ran the guard,” made an excursion into Va. on his own hook; stopped at the hospitable mansion of one of the F. F. Vs. and enquired for a drink of water -- he received the water and with it a dose of strychnine, which fortunately was too large and acted as an emetic. He made his way to the house of a Unionist and received such attention as could be afforded him. As soon as it was discovered in camp, a squad of men was sent to bring him, as well as his would be murderer, into camp; the latter could not be found however -- he has probably joined the rebels near by. Another poor fellow has laid down his armor and taken up his long unknown march that must be the fate of all of us. Though moving orders are anxiously awaited, when it comes in this form, though but one of us may receive his sealed orders, it casts a shade of gloom and sorrow throughout the entire camp. He was a member of Co. I, of Georgetown, Ottawa Co -- He was buried with military honors along side his late companion in arms. Company C. has already crossed into Va. and we hope to follow soon.
From the Bull Run battlefield, Frank wrote to a Detroit newspaper on July 18-19 – when the regiment was in action at Blackburn’s Ford near Bull Run,
The telegraph has informed you of the result of the battle, or rather skirmish, of yesterday. The reporter just told me that he had reported to the Associated Press, upon what he considered reliable authority, that the Michigan Third had been cut to pieces. Some of the particulars of the affair may not be uninteresting to your readers.
The Fourth Brigade, composed of the Michigan Second and Third, Massachusetts First, and New York Twelfth, commanded by Col. Richardson, left Camp Blair on Tuesday, July 16th, at 3:30 P.M. We passed over the chain bridge into Alexandria county, Va. We halted for the night at Vienna, the village at which Union troops were entrapped by a masked battery some time since. The rebels doubtless had notice of our intention, as they left the neighborhood the day previous, taking with them all the men they could find, whether Union or disunion. At this point we intersected a column from Arlington Heights.
The advance guard, composed of the Ohio First and Second, under Col. McCook, left camp early on the morning of the 17th, our brigade bringing up the rear. Our destination was Fairfax Court House, and when we arrived in sight we saw the Stars and Stripes waving over the intrenchments. After resting, we moved on at the quick time, intersecting the main column at Germantown, a small village four miles west of Fairfax. This place was on fire. There had been quite a body of secessionists there, but they had left off some hours in advance of our column. While we were forming the bivouac in the evening, about three miles west of Germantown, some of the citizens of Virginia reaped the bitter fruits of rebellion. Most of the soldiers were hungry; consequently they helped themselves to whatever they could find, and that, too, without ceremony. During the night our pickets were frequently fired upon, and at one time the whole column was under arms, expecting an attack. It amounted to nothing more, however, than the loss of sleep.
This morning the Fourth Brigade moved to the head of the column in the following order: Massachusetts 3d, Michigan 3d, 2d, and New York 12th. The column moved at 7 a.m., and after proceeding two miles were informed that two South Carolina regiments were just in advance of us. The information was received with the liveliest demonstrations of satisfaction. We sent our music to the rear, quickened our step, but saw nothing of the rebels.
At Centreville, about 8 miles West of Fairfax, a large body of secessionists had just left their intrenchments. We made a halt here to refresh ourselves, while scouts were scouring the whole country, some looking after rebels and others after a dinner. H. G. Thayer, of company G, 3d Michigan, brought into camp a young man of superior ability, who professed to have full knowledge of the country, and of the position of the enemy; and withal, said he was a Union man who had escaped impressment. He was considered of some utility by the Colonel and retained, apparently willingly, for future use. From information received from this gentleman, and from our own scouts, we learned the position of a large body of entrenched troops at a place called Bull's Run. We were immediately put under way, and at 12:25 p.m. we introduced ourselves to the rebels through the medium of a 6-pounder rifled cannon shot. Guns were fired at short intervals for an hour, each party endeavoring to discover the position of the other. At 1:30 orders to advance were given, and in about 10 minutes there was a general engagement between the skirmishers of each party. Rifle and musket balls, shot and shell whistled by incessantly -- a music that sounded like discord to many of us. The enemy are 20,000 strong and strongly entrenched in a series of ravines. We were exposed to the fire for four hours, while they were under cover. At 5 p.m. were ordered to retire. The Michigan 3d covered the retreat. There was no water to be had, and most of the men were without it for three hours, while the heat was intense. Many of the men fell from sheer exhaustion. We retired two miles and bivouacked for the night. There are not more than 25 killed, with probably 50 wounded. The Michigan 3d lost none, the 2d two -- the Massachusetts 1st losing most of the men, by reason of their wearing red capes. Friday, July 19. -- At an early hour we moved to the scene of action, and the skirmishers soon commenced a brisk fire, which ceased in an hour, and at this time, 2 p.m., we await the developments of the reconnoitering parties and of the movements of the other columns, one of which is moving up on either side of us, endeavoring to flank the enemy. This will undoubtedly be the great battle of the campaign.
And to the Lansing newspaper he wrote from the “Battle Field, Bull Run, Va. July 18 , 10 A.M., 1861,”
I. M. Cravath, Dear Sir: -- It is under no ordinary circumstances that I write. The skirmishers of the 4th brigade are now engaging the rebel scouts. The Brigade, with the Mich. 3d in advance are lying in the woods, awaiting the arrival of Sherman's flying artillery.
We left Camp Blair Tuesday, July 16, 3:30 p.m., passing over the chain bridge in Alexandria county, Va. We halted for the night at Vienna, the village at which the Federal troops were defeated some time since by running into a masked battery. The rebels had left the neighborhood the day previous. Here we met a large body of troops that had come in on another line. The advance guard left camp almost day light. The Brigade composed of the Mich 2d and 3d, and the Mass 1st and N. Y. 12th bringing up the rear, moved about 9 a.m. We halted in sight of Fairfax Court House, when we expected to meet the enemy, but found instead thereof the stars and stripes floating over the entrenchments. After an hour's rest we moved at a rapid rate in the direction of Manassas Junction, leaving Fairfax to the left; we expected to cut off the retreat of the flying rebels. At Germantown a huddle of buildings about two miles from Fairfax Court House, we found the village on fire and learned from some negroes who almost white with fright, that the rebels were several hours in advance of our troops and retreating in good order. There were two rebel soldiers at this place, affected with small pox -- they offered to serve in our ranks after they got well if we would take care of them. The people all along the line professed to be Union in sentiment. No able bodied men were seen whatever -- they having all been impressed into the rebel service. -- We encamped at night about three miles from Germantown. While we were forming the Bivouac, the rebel citizens of Virginia reaped some of the bitter fruits of Rebellion. The soldiers were hungry, many of them neglecting to carry the amount of rations delivered, consequently they took what was to be had and often with little ceremony.
During the night there were frequent collisions between pickets of the opposing forces. -- Once the whole column was ordered under arms. Nothing came of it however, except a slight disturbing of the nervous system of many that had never been so near an enemy before and robbing us of the rest we much needed after our hard march. The column moved about 7 a.m., July 18. The 4th Brigade, Gen. Richardson leading. The regiments were in the following order: Mass 1st, Mich. 3d, Mich. 2d, N. Y. 12th. At a distance of two miles from the Bivouac, we were informed that there were two South Carolina regiments just in advance of us. The information was received with cheer after cheer by our brigade. At Centreville, a small village in Fairfax county, and about eight miles west of Fairfax Court House, a large body of rebels had just left their entrenchments. We made a halt for dinner in a beautiful grove. In the meantime scouts were scouring the whole country, some for rebels and others for dinner. One of the latter expeditions under command of Sergeant Thayer, took in charge a very intelligent young man, who represented himself a strong Union man. He has a good knowledge of the country and of the position of the enemy. He was considered of some importance to the army by the General, and placed under charge of Thayer for future use; from the young man we learned the position of a large body of troops strongly entrenched at a point called Bull's Run. A scout acting on the information reconnoitered the position and soon returned at great speed. We were at dinner, but were under arms in ten minutes after the messenger arrived, and on our way in the direction of the enemy. Sherman's battery of flying artillery soon passed us at 12:20 p.m. The first gun informed the rebels that we were about to invite them to some entertainment, which, to believe their boasting, they have long desired. Guns were fired at intervals for an hour, each part seemingly feeling the position of the other. At this time our brigade moved forward, and in a few minutes there was a general action between our skirmishers and their riflemen. Rifle and musket balls and shot and shell whistled around us on all sides, and I must confess that it was music that was not melodious to our ears. The enemy are strongly entrenched in a series of ravines and are supposed to be 30,000, with the best of rifled cannon, and fire with much precision. While we were in an open field and could see no enemy, they had fair sight of us and made good use of their position. We stood the fire for four hours and then made a retreat in good order -- the Michigan 3d covering the retreat. -- There was no water to be had in the vicinity, and many of the men dropped down from sheer exhaustion. We were at least three hours without water. We returned to Centreville and bivouacked for the night. There were probably not more than twenty-five killed, though it is impossible to ell definitely. The wounded will amount to as many more. The 3d Michigan lost no men. The 2d Michigan lost two during the retreat. The heaviest loss was in the Massachusetts 1st, who wore red caps. Of the Lansing company the following were disabled by heat and exhaustion, and are not in the ranks today: Mason, Stevenson, Broad, Croy, Dowell, J. E. Davis, Goodale, Hath, Ingersoll, C. B. Lewis, Lacy, Maury, Rose, Sutherland, Sickles, Stevens, Church, Price, and Lieut. Jefferds. Capt. Price was taken sick the first night and returned to Camp Blair.
Friday morning, July 18th, we took up the line of march at an early hour, and in a half hour afterwards fire commenced between the skirmishers of both parties; this soon ceased by the retiring of the enemy, and at this hour, 1 P. M., we are lying in the woods while our officers reconnoiter.
Incidents of Battle, or rather, Skirmish: A rifle cannon shot came within a few feet of Col. McConnell's head -- he laughingly remarked "this is pretty warm work boys.” A member of the Mass. 1st was taken sick, and while sitting between a couple of trees receiving some medicine from the Surgeon, had his head removed by a cannon ball. A member of the N. Y. 12th had his rifle shattered into a thousand pieces by a rifled cannon shot. A member of Co. K, Mich. 3d, while retreating on his knees had his jacket ripped up by a rifle ball. Frank helped himself to a first class rifle, and considers it the first installment towards the abolition of muskets.
I must close this, as there is an indication that battle is about to commence. This will undoubtedly be the great battle of the campaign, and we can continually see reinforcements coming to the aid of the rebels. Our army is now probably 30,000 strong. We see digging wells and making other preparations for a hotly contested fight. -- I have just taken a view of a secession flag; the first I have seen distinctly; it is a miserable abortion of red, white and blue.
Three cheers for the Stars and Stripes. Yours, Frank
And on the following day, July 20 still near the battlefield of Bull Run, Frank added in another letter to the Republican,
Dear Sir: We lay on our arms all day yesterday, awaiting the course of events. Last night soon after nightfall, we took up a position within 80 rods of the enemy's lines. We lay there in the dirt all night, constantly anticipating an attack. An almost incessant fire was kept up between the pickets of the opposing forces. We could distinctly hear their officers giving command. We were just below the brow of a hill and looked anxiously for the appearance of the rebels, when we would have given them a warm reception. The Michigan 3d have been kept constantly in advance, and are now nearly worn out. While it is exciting, it is nonetheless amusing to note the action of some of our men under circumstances that try men's souls. -- I have seen men fall asleep while kneeling with their pieces in their hands, momentarily expecting the enemy, so great is the force of nature. -- At the word "attention,” in a loud whisper by the Colonel, the whole column would be on their feet in a flash.
Today some heavy ordinance arrives from Washington, when we will probably salute the Confederate Congress, which associates in Richmond today. From a prisoner just captured we learn that they have over one hundred thousand men on the rebel side. What our number is I have not the means of knowing, but from a tree top view I could see as far as the eye could reach, a continuous line of troops.
Strong, Elliott, Hogan, and some others, whose names I do not recollect, have been exhausted and sent to the rear. Of the 16 officers of our company, we had 8 in the ranks last night.
I send this by the reporter for the Associated Press, and must hasten it as there is a rumor that the action is soon to commence. I learn from reliable information that we are going to cut a road through to the woods, underbrush and ravine so as to take the flank their batteries. If this is so, and I fully believe it, success in two days is certain, but a terrible battle will be fought and many lives lost on both sides.
Men are here from Washington picking up shell, shot, etc. -- had they been here two days ago, they would have had more than wanted.
"Fall in, Fall in," sounds along the line, and though tired out, the men spring actively to the tasks.
I will write you every day during the battle and you will inform our friends of the position of affairs. Good-bye. Yours, for God and Victory, Frank
From the Regiment’s new camp (Frank calls is “Camp McConnell”) near Arlington Heights, Virginia, Frank wrote on or about July 24, to Mr. Cravath of the Republican,
Dear Sir: My last was written amidst the booming of cannon and the rattle of iron ball. Even now . . . I hear the whistling buzz of a shell, or the more shrill whirr of a rifled cannon shot. We have surely passed through a fiery-furnace, and most of us have come out unscathed. From the battle of Thursday to the great battle of Sunday I have given particulars in private letters written daily from the battle field.
Sunday, July 20th, we remained as on Friday, ready for a battle at any moment. There was no interchange of shots except some independent scouting parties, who, fond of adventure, advanced beyond our own lines and into those of the enemy. While we were out on one of these expeditions early in the morning, we discovered the body of a member of Co. B. We immediately took refuge behind a tree, and made a survey of the vicinity, to make sure that no skulking rebel was near whose dastard cowardice would lead him to shoot us as soon as our backs were turned. On examination of the body it was found to be still warm, but life entirely extinct. There were some circumstances to indicate that he committed suicide. I hope, however, that it was not the case as there was ample opportunity to die honorably, if he was particularly anxious to shake off the mortal coil. There were some other incidents of the day worthy of note but they are still overshadowed by the great events of Sunday. Saturday night the Massachusetts 1st occupied the position on the field that we occupied on the previous night while we lay in the road ready for action at as moment's warning, and anticipating an attack momentarily.
Sunday morning dawned gloriously bright and it seemed impossible that the sun, soon appearing from behind the eastern hills, and painting with gold as beautiful a landscape as we ever beheld, should this day light [witness such] a scene of blood and carnage, such as was never known before on the Western Continent. There is nothing in the heavy tramp of armed men, in the movements of artillery, and in the general paraphernalia of war to indicate that this was the Sabbath, Instead of "the sound of "church going bells,” the very earth shakes with the thunder of the cannonade; instead of the mellow tones of the organ, we have the shrill assembly of the bugle.
The Michigan 3d had assigned to them the front of the left column, Mr. Tyler's column. -- We took the field early in the morning and lay there anxiously awaiting the opening of the cotillion, for which ball tickets had been issued to our rebel friends on Thursday previous. The first gun was fired by the column to the right of us at 6:55 -- at 7:30 the first gun was fired in our column, by Green's battery. In our column the cannonade continued during most of the forenoon without any reply from the rebel batteries. About 11:30 the cannon and musketry on our right was heavy and rapid. At 12;15 the battle on our right raged with the greatest fury. At 1:30 there were large reinforcements for the rebel army seen skirting the hills at the distance of 2 miles. A few shots from a 32-pounder scattered them like chaff and sent the column farther around, and out of sight. At 2 p.m., our column failing to provoke the rebels to a reply to the cannonade, sent out several companies of skirmishers to discover the whereabouts of the enemy. They were found in immense numbers in a ravine close by us, and soon drove in our men pursuing us with demon like wills, and it is said, actually bayoneting some of the wounded who could not leave the field. Some grape and canister soon sent them howling back to their den in the ravine, where it seemed impossible to remove them.
On our left are seen a number of litters conveying off the dead and wounded.
4:30 p.m. -- The heavy firing on our extreme right has ceased, and we are jubilantly thinking our army has been victorious. About 5 p.m. the rebels in front of us made the hills ring with their enthusiastic cheers, and we saw indications that they were about to advance on our lines. -- At 5:30 p.m. they had closed into our pickets on three sides; it was only now that we admitted the possibility of the Union forces being compelled to retreat. The mere conception of the idea seemed to paralyze us, and would not admit its truth. The Lansing boys were on duty on the extreme front guarding the colors and quarters of Col. Richardson, At the same time observing the movements of the enemy in that direction. About the time, 5:30 p.m., the entire brigade retired in good order to cover the retreat or rather rout of the Grand Army. We know they had left their position, but we did not have any knowledge of a retreat; we supposed they had merely moved to another portion of the field. We were consequently sole occupants of the field for a considerable length of time. Being almost surrounded we gave the rebel cavalry a farewell shot, tore down the colors and retired in double quick time and rejoined our regiment at Centreville, where we only escaped the shot from our friends by showing a white flag.
At Centreville we saw a sight that chilled our blood and which can never be effaced from our memory. We knew that the right wing of our army were compelled to retire, but that it was utterly routed it was impossible to believe. -- A continual stream of humanity was pouring in from the battle field. Officers could find no companies or regiments, and men could find no officers. They had thrown away arms, clothing and everything that would ease them on the march. Here was one with an arm shot off, another with a bullet through his shoulder, another was dragging himself along with a ball through both legs. Here came an officer, a Colonel I believe, with a wounded man in front of him, and another behind, holding both on the horse; here comes another spurring his horse on, and riding down the poor fellows who had not the strength to get out of his way.
"Here is the N. Y. 13th,” "here is the Maine 5th,” "here is the Pa. 4th,” cry out officers of the respective regiments, stationed at the road side with a bunch of twenty five or thirty men each, and these woe-be-gone, spiritless, unarmed men, represent those splendid regiments of the morning. For three hours I stood by the way side observing these martyrs to the mismanagement of would-be military heroes. Many dropped by my side, and in the broken accents related the horrors of the battle field, and described the manner in which their comrades had been slaughtered. Others begged piteously for water, food, and safety, while a very few spoke out only of the sweetness of revenge that would some time be tasted in the future.
We then sought some supper, though these sights had rendered us appetiteless, still we must eat as we know there was hard work before us. We were about to retire for the night, that is lie on the wet grass without coat, blanket, knapsack or jacket -- all having been lost on the field -- when the bugle sounded the assembly, and we were informed that we must cover the retreat of the fugitive Grand Army.
About 1 p.m. we took up our army march for Washington distant 27 miles. We were already worn out by a weeks incessant marching and watching, and this new order was certainly depressing our spirits, especially as most of us were opposed to a further retreat, but thought we could hold our positions.
We marched all the time in close order and held ourselves in readiness to repel an attack which was momentarily expected from the rebel cavalry. The regiment returned to Washington about noon Monday -- the last of the Grand Army of occupation. We think we did our duty as a regiment. On the days of both battles we were the first on and the last off the field. Col. McConnell endeared himself to the hearts of his soldiers by his gallant and noble conduct on the field of battle. None now doubts his ability.
During the cannonade our regiment was lying on a side hill, some smoking, reading, writing, sketching, while one party were industriously engaged at a game of euchre. "The enemy,” and in less time than I can write it, writing material, papers, pipes, etc., were lying in the dirt, and we were ready to receive the charge. A very few quiet folks might have seen with blanched cheeks and quivering lips indicating a sad want of material called "back bone.” The following is the names of those of the Williams Rifles who were in the ranks and ready for duty on Sunday -- the remainder were either sick or managed to be detailed on special duty: James B. Ten Eyck, Mason, Thayer, Ellis, Jerome B. Ten Eyck, Foster, Church, Price, Newman, Blanchard, Siverd, Wickham, LeRoy, Van Wormer, Patterson, Goodale, Watkins, Charles Shaft, William Shaft, Mathews, McGuire, Benson, Shattuck, Murphy, Ellsworth, Trimmer, Charles Clark, Connally [Canaly], Keits [Keytes], Stall, Marsh, Bissell, Boyce, Weirs, Kent, Badger, Weller, Lackey, Ross, W. H. Davis, Geo. W. Davis, Billing, Chas. Lewis, Higgins, Amasy Johnson, N. L. Johnson, Americus Miller, Alexander, Hammond, Richards, Cottrell, Clays, Crane, Brooks, Case, Halbert and Janes. Of these Mason, Patterson, Keits, Kent, W. H. Davis and Charles Davis left before night.
Our loss is variously estimated at from one to four thousand. I think the former figures are right or nearly so. Some person is responsible for this terrible loss. That our retreat should have resulted in a perfect rout is a disgrace to the American arms and valor, and though we may and doubtless will wipe out the rebels, we can wipe out this stain, let alone healing the broken hearts that may be found in a thousand families throughout the north.
Some eight or ten of our boys have furnished themselves with rifles, and it will not be long ere we can again be called the Williams Rifles, provided they will give is a fight every day or two.
Among the incidents of the day was the capture of Benson, Shaft and Van Wormer, of our company, by four rebel scouts; they discovered the boys, and they showing too much pluck to be marched into the rebel camp, let them go. It is presumed they made pretty good double quick time from that to camp. I am really too tired to write any more. Hoping I may never have occasion to write as above again.
On August 7, the Republican reported that Lieutenant James Ten Eyck of Company G, who had resigned on July 29 and arrived in Lansing on August 2, provided the paper with a detailed report on the status of the Lansing company. He said that during the recent action at Bull Run “He gives the boys great praise for their bravery, and especially commends the conduct of . . . Private E. F. Siverd. Mr. Siverd rendered him valuable assistance as Lieutenant on the field. It is to be hoped [his] bravery will not go unrewarded.”
On August 1 Frank wrote from Hunter’s Farm, near Arlington, Virginia, to Lansing.
The Grand Army of the Potomac, of which the Michigan 3d is a part, is now encamped behind the entrenchments on the south bank of the Potomac. Fearing that the late success of the rebel army might induce them to make an attack upon the National Capitol, the force now here are engaged in throwing up new works or greatly strengthening the old, while fresh regiments are being rapidly concentrated on this side of the American Rubicon. The Michigan 3d sends three hundred men daily on "slashing" duty. Some beautiful groves and parks are being leveled for the purpose of giving range to our guns, and to make room for the construction of new fortifications.
In the new requisition for troops I notice five new regiments from Michigan. Of course the "independent Elder Zouaves" will be with them. We will give them a warm welcome, and hope while they may divide, they may not monopolize the sympathies of our Lansing friends.
We have never made sufficient acknowledgment to the Ladies Military Aid Society. We are under many obligations to them for substantial assistance furnished us when we much needed them, and we notice from the Republican that they are still engaged in patriotic efforts to alleviate the hardships and sufferings of the Camp and Hospital. There is not a company in the regiment that has received more attention at home than ours, and while we will ever be proud of our patrons we hope they may never have reason to be ashamed of us.
The assumption of command of this division by General McClellan has given renewed confidence to civilian and soldier, and the remark is universal, "when we next start for Richmond we will go there."
Camp life has become still more a reality. -- Passes, even to commissioned officers, are hard to obtain, and all officers and men found in the city and unable to give a proper account of themselves are pounced upon by the officers of the Provost Marshal and put in the limbo. This is as it should be. The laxity of discipline had not a little to do with the late Bull Run disaster. Prior to this week drunken soldiers might be met every few rods on the streets and in the most fashionable hotels and saloons, officers from Generals down, squandered the time that belonged to their country, over the fumes of drugged liquors. The new movement must have an excellent effort. We hope when the next advance are made the Michigan 3d may have as honorable a position assigned them as in the last. There is a number of us that would like to pass over a victorious field and retain some of our blankets, jackets, and other property that the rebels stole from us on the 18th and 21st.
The Bull Run affair will teach fiery politicians and impatient scribblers for the press to let the hero of many a well fought battle take his own time and way to throttle these arch traitors. -- The absurd caricatures in the illustrated press furnish much comment to us. There is no similarity whatever between their ideals and our realities.
We think that our regiment should have received a little more notice than it has for its gallant behavior in the last two battles. New York and Massachusetts take the palm, however, because there the writers belong. The praise of Lieut. Col. Stevens is on the lips of every member of the regiment. His commands are ever obeyed with alacrity and zeal. He is a thorough gentleman, and treats his mean as if they were at least slightly related to the family of bipeds called human. I saw him several times on our late fatiguing march and retreat, dismount and insist that some sick or worn out soldiers should take his place; at other times he might be seen caring [sic] the gun or baggage of one of the discouraged or weak member of the regiment. Maj. Williams, of the 2d, had entire command of his regiment at Bull Run, and acquitted himself with great credit. It is rather annoying to him and fills his men with indignation to see him ranked by a man without proper experience. The fatigue and excitement was a little too much for him and he is quite sick, though not seriously so. Had he not undoubted pluck, he certainly would offer his resignation. Nature should have given such men as he iron constitutions.
We occasionally have an adventure on our own hook among the "secesh." The last of the kind occurred recently. We started out on a tour of observation, passed our advance cavalry pickets and into the regions of rebellion. Our party wore the half citizens dress, usually worn by the southern soldiery, and readily passed ourselves for S. C. volunteers, a regiment of which we knew was in the neighborhood. Frank had learned to "reckon,” leave out the r's, and give other evidence of a negro education, hence was appointed speaker for the party. We succeeded excellently, learned where our friends (!) lived, where we could step with safety, etc. Among the most valuable information we gained was learning of a professed Union man, whose son belongs to the celebrated Black Horse Cavalry that charged so fearfully upon us at Bull's Run. The father has one of Mansfield's passes, goes to Washington daily with marketing, and without doubt carries information to the rebels. There are scores of such cases, and as long as the government permits the abuse, we may expect to be entrapped in masked batteries, and in such other deadfalls as a wily enemy, knowing our intended movements can invent. We continued to approach our lines, occasionally taking a view of the country with our glasses until we were discovered and charged upon by our own cavalry, and to our secession friends apparently taken prisoners.
We have a splendid camping ground, midway between Washington and Alexandria. We bathe daily in the pea green waters of the Potomac. -- This adds not a little to our physical comforts. -- The health of the regiment is pretty good, though many have not recovered from the great fatigue of our Bull's Run march. Of our company, McGuire, intermittent fever; Adams, general debility; Rose and George Johnson, fevers, are in the City Hospital, and Badger, inflammation of the lungs; Watkins, fever, and Kelley, effects of a spree, are in the Regimental Hospital.
The following changes have taken place in the officers of the company: Lieut. R. B. Jefferds appointed Captain vice Price, resigned. Lieut. Whitney, Co. I, 1st Lieut vice Jefferds, promoted. Orderly Mason, 2d Lieut vice Ten Eyck, resigned. Other appointments not yet made.
Capt. Price resigned because he could not well do otherwise. He broke down and was really very sick on the first days march. It requires a much stronger constitution than he possesses to withstand the fatigue of a forced march, and we want officers who can always be with us. Price goes to the seashore to recruit. Full one half the officers in the regiment have changed since the Bull Run affair.
The printer made Hendley [Handley] deserter in Detroit, read Donelly. Everybody knows Mike. -- They have also made me say Havelock on several occasions when I mean Haversack. A Havelock filled with three days provisions does not read well.
I am sorry to report A. W. Miller as missing since the first battle. He was taken sick and started for Washington and was last seen near the city, since which time he has not been heard form. I am none the less sorry for the honor of the company to state that Sutherland and Higgins have been reported to the authorities as deserters. They have noted reported themselves since the battle, and yet are known to have been in the city. All of the above may be, and I hope are in the City Hospitals, to which we have not yet had access. Not now "forward to Richmond.”
In August Frank wrote to Lansing,
A thorough revision of the army has been going on since McClellan has been in command and we are now beginning to approximate discipline. From Generals to privates the improvement is distinctly visible.
There is a rumor of that we may anticipate an attack tonight. Extraordinary precautions are being taken, and there may be some truth in the report. There is no doubt but that our lines are menaced by a large body of the rebels, and in the flush of victory they may be spurred on to the madness of an attack. There need be no fears of the result if they presume to attack us when number and position will place us on anything like equality. Our pickets are attacked almost nightly by the outlaw scouts.
The fragments of regiments have about all been collected, and many of the men who were at first reported killed or wounded are now with their regiments alive and well, much to the surprise of their valiant comrades, who "saw them fall horribly mangled or mortally wounded." The presumption in these cases is, that these would-be heroes showed the white feather, and were under the necessity of drawing on their imagination in order to make out that they were in the thickest of the fight.
I paid a visit, during the last few days, to all the Government hospitals in Washington, Georgetown and Alexandria. Everything seems to be in the most complete order. Neatness and comfort gives those generally uninviting institutions the air of pleasant homes. We received an impression from some of the official bulletins issued that none but superannuated females were to be employed as nurses. We were led to believe that at all events homeliness and disagreeableness were to be special recommendations to official favor in this direction. We were happily disappointed, however, and soon discovered why everything around these extensive institutions, filled with hundreds of volunteers in all degrees of disease and wounded, in every imaginable manner seemed so inviting and appeared so much like a home -- it was woman's gentle influence. We saw many that would not by any means come when the call issued some months since by Miss Dix, as they were certainly too young and good looking to meet the requirements therein set forth. In lavishing upon the volunteers in defense of your country & flag a full meed of praise by grateful hearts, the public should not overlook the self-sacrificing heroism that prompts the ladies to leave the comforts, and many of them the luxuries of home, to administer to the sufferings of those who are the unfortunate victims of the diseases and casualties of the camp and field. We made the tour for the purpose of finding those of our company who had not reported themselves since the battle. We found in the Columbia College hospital Adams and George Johnson intermittent fever, and Rose general debility. They are all doing well. N. W. Miller and Southerland could not be found, yet they are known to have reached Washington. Their friends need not be alarmed as to their bodily welfare as we think they have taken care of themselves. If Miller is in Lansing he can have a number of letters forwarded to him if he will send his address. Higgins, who was reported as a deserter, has returned to camp and gives a satisfactory account of himself. Watkins, Murray, McGuire, Kilboy [Patrick Kilby] and [Case] Wickam are in the hospital with fevers.
Our non-commissioned officers have all been promoted one notch. A. S. Shattuck was promoted eighth corporal. He deserved the promotion. He has distinguished himself on several occasions, last particularly on the 21st of July, by mounting to the top of an old building and cutting away the flag staff, thereby preventing the Michigan 3d from wearing the dishonor of turning their backs to the stars and stripes.
On our expedition to Bull's Run our regimental colors were not unfurled from the time we left the Potomac until we retreated. If the same bearer and guard are to be retained the ladies of Grand Rapids need never fear that the colors they presented us with so much pomp and ceremony will ever be taken by the rebels, as there is not the least fear that they will ever get sight of them, nor will there be an opportunity for any of the brave members of the 3d to either distinguish or have themselves extinguished, in defense of our regimental standard.
The affairs of the company move along smoothly. The work of Grand Rapidizing the regiment gets along finely, and it will not be long ere the Valley City will have the proud assurance of having furnished a full quota of officers for the 3d.
A strange hallucination has seized the regiment, to the effect that at the end of three months from the original date of enlistment we will be disbanded, and permitted to go home, notwithstanding there is not a man in the regiment who did not enlist for three years. Many of the men are living upon happy anticipations. They are building castles in the air that I fear will have a bad wreck. While three-fourths of the men would doubtless re-enlist, they nearly all express a strong desire to pay home a visit and then return in a "different shape.”
The excellent sanitary arrangement, by way of bathing, that I boasted of in my last, has been sadly interfered with. For some cause, to us inexplicably, we are debarred the free use of water. Under this new arrangement we only have access to the river twice a week. Should this arrangement continue for any considerable length of time the camp will be alive with vermin.
Col. Miles, who is charged in Richardson's report with drunkenness on the day of the last battle, is out in a letter denying the charge. He is supported by a number of letter writers, who affirm that he was perfectly sober during the whole of the day. We were doing guard duty at Richardson's head quarters and had many opportunities of observing Col. Miles, and it is my opinion that he was indisputably and grossly intoxicated. It is to the conduct of such officers that we mainly owe the disaster at Bull's Run, and it is manifestly unjust to blame the volunteer soldiery, when among our aristocratic regulars we have such dastard conduct as that referred to above.
"Stray Leaves from camp No 7" dated July 18th, should have been dated July 19th, which is apparent from the reading of the letter. By understanding it as being written July 18th an injustice is done a number of the company who are reported absent. They were absent on the 19th but not so on the 18th. Where Sunday and secular days are the same in fact for several weeks at a time it is easy to mistake in a date. W. H. Davis was marked absent by mistake when the roll was called on the night of the 21st, and us consequently wrongly reported. Miller and Foreman were with the band on that occasion. Atkinson was with his company of pioneers, and Hath with his team.
Quite a breeze was stirred up in camp when the last batch of Republicans came to hand. Other than the above names and the wrong date no mistake has been discovered in our minutes of the field of battle.
Strong, Lewis and Eugene Ellis have been honorably discharged for disability and have been sent home.
An accident occurred this p.m. which came near proving fatal to Gaskill, of our company. A musket charged with ball and buckshot was carelessly fired by a member of Co. B. The charge riddled two tents. The ball struck Gaskill on the back part of the head and made a flesh wound several inches long. One of the shot took effect in the elbow of Corey, formerly of our company, but now of B. Corporal Stevens and a number of others were sitting in the same group with G. and C. and their escape is miraculous.
The most thorough preparations are being made for an advance movement, and when it is done it will not be an unorganized mob.
The heat is almost unbearable.
Letters from friends always reach us and are gladly received.
On September 8, 1861, from Fort Richardson, Frank wrote to Lansing,
There is no monotony in camp life now, all is activity and excitement. The occasional sounding of the long roll brings the men to arms and in their places, in very short time. The rebel flag is daily flaunted in our faces, and each successive morning we see it flung to the breeze, and long for the order to advance and rebuke the impudence that thus dares to display the emblem of treason and tyranny in the very presence of the Capitol; but we must curb our impatience as we have already sadly reaped the fruits of too much haste. We have not the least doubt that when the proper time comes, they will receive their just deserts.
Within a few days, strong fortifications have been thrown up by the rebels on Munson's and Upton's hills, within five miles of Long Bridge. -- These fortifications overlook the greater portion of Arlington Heights, and are doubtless strong positions. It is said that back of this is a very large force of the rebel army. These works are probably only intended for the protection of reconnoitering parties and it may be some time before an attack will be made upon our lines, if indeed it is ever done; still every precaution is taken to give them a proper reception, and the action of such officers as ought to be posted on the subject would indicate that an attack was hourly anticipated. Beauregard is too much of a General to make an attack without a sufficient force and appliances to make an impression, and when the attack does come, it will be along our whole line, and a most bloody and decisive battle must be fought. Knowing the strength of our position and the spirit of our troops when in defense of the Capitol, I can have no doubt of the result of the prospective battle, but who is to pass through it to receive the honors of victory, is beyond the ken of human wisdom. Treason will receive a serious if not fatal wound. -- On our advance out posts an almost continual skirmish is in progress. A detachment of our Company under command of Corporal Price had been on the outposts for several days, and a number of them boast of having had a shot at a "secessher.”
Those of your readers who are familiar with still hunting for deer, can realize the flair of picketing, there is this difference, however, while you are anxiously watching for the appearance of your own game, you may yourself be bagged, and your head carried off as a trophy by some rebel sharp shooters. Another method of observing an enemy's movements is by scouts, and these, when not mounted, if seen in a Michigan forest would be taken for squirrel hunters, indeed there is so much similarity between the two that the expression is often heard, "let us go squirrel hunting"; the amusement however, is subject to the slight variation above stated.
The 4th Brigade, commanded by Gen. Richardson, is composed of the Michigan 2d and 3d, Massachusetts 12th and New York 37th the brigade has charge of that portion of the . . . lines which command the direct approaches from Fairfax to Long Bridge and also garrison Fort Albany and have charge of the construction of forts Pennsylvania and Richardson.
At Fort Pennsylvania is a small detachment of the 3d Michigan under command of Lieut. Bogardus of Co. D, this officer is highly complimented by the engineer corps for the efficiency with which he discharges his duty at his post. -- Fort Albany is garrisoned by the Mass. 14th, Col. Green. Lieut. Col. Stevens of the Michigan 3d, with companies C, D, G, H and I has charge of Fort Richardson. I have before spoken of the popularity of this officer and since he has had exclusive charge of this post, he has, if possible, more endeared himself to the men. -- There is scarcely a man in the detachment that would not, if necessary, risk his life to serve his Commander.
Fort Richardson is on the point of Arlington Heights and has until within a week been entirely overlooked by the engineers. The erection of fortifications on this commanding position is due entirely to the persistent efforts of General Richardson to call the attention of the authorities to its advantages as a strategic point in the series of fortifications on the Potomac.
Our flag was raised over the future Fort Richardson several days since, as the glorious Stars and Stripes were flung to the breeze from the highest point on the heights it was greeted by three times three by as enthusiastic a band of worshipers as have ever taken arms in its defense. This is a part of the same stand of colors that were baptized at Bull Run, and which came so near falling into the hands of the enemy, the Lansing boys claim the credit of saving them for this much nobler purpose than being trod under foot by traitors and thieves.
We have already in position two 20-pounder rifled cannon -- range seven miles -- and will soon have ten or twelve more mounted, and then we will be ready and anxious for a visit from our friends (!) on the other hill. Co. D, has been detailed to take charge of the guns -- their position is no little envied by the remainder of the detachment -- Capt. Houghton, Co. D, is second in command of the post, Lieut. Hess, Co. D, acting adjutant, Sergeant Cotton, Co. D, acting Sergeant-Major.
Co. D is from Boston, Ionia county, and from the above record, might be considered a model company.
The entire Brigade is now on daily duty, we neither stop for rain, heat or the Sabbath, but it is chop or dig incessantly. The Michigan 3d have become famous for their dexterity with the axe, and they are almost a matter of wonder to those who have never seen a Western forest disappear before the onward march of the pioneer. The N. Y. 37th (Irish) can beat us up with pick and shovel. A balloon reconnaissance of the enemy is made daily. The reported death of Jeff. Davis is not believed in camp. The rebel flags in front of our lines, being at half mast, is attributed to the death of a field officer who was shot last Tuesday by Col. McCann, of our brigade.
We had a communication a few days since from Michael Handley. He left our regiment at Detroit, by mistake, and Gen. Robertson sent him on with the Ohio 3d, which went to Western Virginia, instead of to Washington. Mike was in most of the battles during McClellan's brilliant career in the West, and has consequently seen more service than we have. It seems to us that he should have been reported to our regiment instead of being reported as a deserter.
The company is indebted to the Hon. R. E. E. Trowbridge and to the Hon. D. C. Leach for franked envelopes.
Capt. Jefferds left for home on a furlough on account of the serious illness of his wife. Lieut. Whitney commands the company, and is deservedly popular, he knows neither fear nor favor, and when he becomes a little better acquainted with the character of the men he has to deal with, will be entirely successful as a commanding officer.
Corporal Blanchard has been detailed as Color Guard; Van Wormer as Teamster; Hogan and Elliott to take charge of horses.
The following members of the Company are sick: Corporal Newman, and privates Rose and Kilboy [Kilby] are at U. S. General Hospital for convalescents, Annapolis, Maryland -- they are doing well. Corporals Stevens and Wickham, and privates Geo. Johnson and Adams, are at the Columbia College Hospital -- they have been suffering from fevers, but are convalescent. McGuire is in the Union Hotel Hospital, Georgetown, he has also had a fever, but is now about the streets. Charles Shaft and [Peter] Canaly are in the Regimental Hospital with slight fevers.
Our present location is very healthy, and with the amount of exercise we have, we may expect even that this limited sick list diminished.
Should the telegraph inform you of a great battle being fought, rest assured the Michigan 3d will not disgrace the Peninsular State, nor Co. G the Capital thereof.
On September 30 and October 2 Frank wrote from Fort Richardson,
We have been under arms for the last twenty four hours, anxiously awaiting orders to move, but as yet the much desired notice has not reached us. We still remain in readiness, and hourly anticipate the order to join our comrades in the advance. Yesterday morning the sun dawned as beautiful as usual upon our hilltop camp, and as its first rays broke from out the sheen of gold in the east, our colors were as usual flung to the breeze and as the lengthened shadow threw itself across the valley, we looked to see it overshadow the rebel colors in the west -- but we looked in vain. The news soon spread through camp that the rebels were in retreat, and the ramparts of the fort were filled with anxious watchers -- spy glasses were at a premium, and when some hours afterward the stars and stripes were descried floating over the rebel fortifications, a cry of exaltation ran through the crowd, mingled with murmurs of regret that we could not have assisted in crowning the rebel works with the National ensign. During the day, many and vague were the surmises that reached us. Now we hear of the rebels being in rapid retreat toward their fortresses in the Bull Run ravines with our forces in close pursuit; again we hear of a determined stand being made and the pursuers at bay. Of course no little anxiety would be felt in camp. The rebels undoubtedly commenced the retreat early Saturday night and have fallen back on their strongholds at Fairfax and Manassas. Various are the conjectures for their apparent retreat. Some imagine that they were in danger of being cut off by Banks in a fire in the rear movement. Others that our own lines were about to close flanks and gripe the enemy, but we think the most reasonable conclusion is that suggested in our last, i.e., that their forward movement and the erection of fortifications were intended simply for the covering of reconnoitering parties; the slight character of their works gives additional credence to this idea. These reconnaissances were made and the desired information obtained, hence there was no further necessity for sustaining this force at so great a distance from transportation facilities and the centre of supplies.
Our outposts now extends several miles beyond Munson's Hill, and no rebels except a few mounted scouts can be seen. The village of Falls Church is being strongly fortified by Gen. Smith's Brigade. A gradual advance may now be expected, but no hurried forward movement need be looked for. Each successive strategic point will be fortified and the country will not again be thrown into spasms by a precipitated retreat upon Washington. Munson's Hill and its fortifications were first reconnoitered by Major Williams, with a detachment of the Michigan 2d. A couple of stove pipes mounted on wheels, and a wooden cannon were all the guns that had been in position, but there were evidences of the presence of considerable field artillery. New York, as usual, is endeavoring to claim the honor of the occupancy of the works.
All day Sunday, thick columns of smoke could be seen rising in the direction of the retreat, and when darkness cast her shadows over the scene, the night was rendered brilliant by the light of many fires that lit up the horizon for miles to the right and left. Either the rebels had been carrying out the original schemes of vandalism by destroying the property of Union men along their lines, or our advancing forces were wreaking terrible vengeance upon the aides and abetters of treason by destroying their buildings, stacks of grain, hay, etc. or which is more probable, both of these causes contributed to feed the flames.
The National fast day was generally observed in the army of Potomac; that is, there was no fatigue parties or drills, and all except those on outpost duty had a day of rest. Our company, under command of Lieut. Masson, were on picket or outpost duty, and hence did not know of such a thing as fast day, except so far as the practical part is concerned. This picket duty is not the most agreeable imaginable. That portion of the lines which we occupied extended through a thick wood, heavily set with underbrush and traversed by deep ravines. The path was marked by cutting out a low brush, and blazing the trees. Along this path, our men were placed in squads of three or four, at intervals of from ten to twenty rods, with instructions to be continually watchful and on the alert, and to shoot any person approaching from the direction of the enemies lines, which were supposed to be from forty to sixty rods in advance of us. Both of these orders seemed to be superfluous, as our boys were too anxious to get a shot at a secesh not to improve every opportunity, and knew too well the character of a wily foe to relax vigilance whenever the nature of the country would enable an enemy to creep almost within reach of our bayonets without being observed.
About 9 a.m., Friday, Corporal Shattuck, Shear and Amsey C. Johnson, ventured beyond the lines, and incautiously leaving cover and appearing in an open lot, they were sighted by a rebel rifleman and Johnson became his victim. He was shot with a minie ball, in the right leg, about half way between the knee and ankle. The ball struck the inner angle of the tibia, and completely shattered both bones. Several pieces of bone come entirely out and lay in his stocking. Shattuck and Shear carried him to our lines and a Surgeon was immediately sent for. Several successive messengers were dispatched for him, and after waiting until 4 p.m. and no Surgeon appearing, he was placed in an ambulance and sent to the hospital. This neglect of the Surgeon, and the subsequent harsh treatment of Johnson is inexcusable, and merits the severest censure -- indeed, the medical department of the regiment is noted for want of energy in almost every particular. The surgeon sent Johnson to the Infirmary at Washington, where on Saturday his leg was amputated immediately below the knee -- he is doing well. He is universally loved in the company, and was ever prompt in the performance of duty -- never "shirking" when health would permit him to work. This sad affair cast a gloom over the whole company, and many swore over him as he lay suffering extreme pain, and yet uncomplaining, that he should be a hundred fold avenged, and he will be. Had any luckless rebel made his appearance near our lines on that day, he would have received no quarter.
Two weeks since we attended Divine Service in Catholic Church, Alexandria. It was the first Church we had entered since we left Lansing. The services were conducted by the Chaplain of the N. Y. 17th Regiment, and the congregation was composed chiefly of officers and attaches of the regiments in the vicinity. An excellent organ of large size furnished fine music, but was poorly supported by the choir. But few citizens of the place attended service, most of them belonging to that class of Christians who would consider it treason to pray for the President of the United States, sinner though they think him to be. There was nothing peculiarly striking about the minister or sermon. The former lacked force and the latter was doctrinal. The church edifice is located in a beautiful grove of Sycamores, Elms and Locusts. It is a substantial brick building of rather antique appearance and has something of an interesting history. We could not discover when it was built, but circumstances place it at an early date. The brick used in the construction were imported from England, and the bell, which is large and excellent tone, was presented by the Mother Church in London, when this was probably a missionary station. The ancient appearance of the inner portion of the building was spoiled a few years since by cutting down the backs of the slips. Probably the obstruction of the view of new bonnets, or the tendency of young America to sleep during service, may have had something to do with bringing about this reform. The pulpit, however, has remained intact since it was first placed there, and seems to be a curious barrel shaped box stuck against the wall. The vestry room is at the opposite end of the church. Washington was a worshipper, and for many years warden in this church. His slip was pointed out to us. It differed only from the others in being of double size. It was occupied during this service by Gen. Montgomery and family. A small building a few squares distant was used by Washington as a lunch room, which would indicate that he remained during the several services of the day. This building was of wood and was destroyed some four years since. Mt. Vernon is seven miles distant. If there is any truth in spiritualism, it seems to me that the spirit of the Great Patriot must have arisen and rebuked the treason that Reverend Fathers have been preaching in this building prior to the occupancy of Alexandria by Federal troops. In the churchyard are many old graves with curious epitaphs -- one of them, dated 1786, reads as follows:
"All you that cums my grave to see,
Prepare yourself to follow me;
Repent and turn to God in time,
You may be taken in your prime."
Another dated 1800 reads:
"Who afflictions sore long time he bore,
Physicus was in vain,
Tll God was pleased death should him seize,
An ease him of his pain."
The "Equinoctial Storm," on the 21st inst., made sad havoc in camp. A furious storm of wind and rain form the south and east lasted 24 hours, and thoroughly drenched the camp. Tents prostrated, and officers and men were turned into the storm together. It closed up with a "cold snap" from the north west, and the wet soldiers were half frozen.
Another of those sad scenes that case a shade over the light hearted, jovial, free and easy manners of the camp, occurred last week. A. M. Gillett, of Company D, Ionia Co., died after a painful illness of only twelve hours. A sad procession was that that passed through the lines, with muffled drums and slow and measured tread. There was no funeral service read, there being no Chaplain at the post, but Capt. Houghton delivered a short eulogy over the remains of the deceased. His comrades performed the last sad duty by firing a salute over the grave. His grave is a fit resting place for one who gave his life to his country. From the Fort on the hill top, dark, angry looking columbiads will look frowningly upon any enemy that dares molest the resting place of the honored dead, while its secluded position will prevent the spot being the scene of any future conflict of arms, and the sighing of the winds through the pines that surrounded his grave will sing unto his memory a lasting requiem.
The Massachusetts 14th has been replaced in our brigade by the Michigan 5th. Lieut. Poe, of the engineer corps regular army, has been appointed Col. of the Michigan 2d. About the middle of September we received our State and United States pay. About $30,000 was paid to the regiment. Of the pay of the enlisted men, about one third found its way into the coffers of the Sutler, who, by the way, gives a very poor return for the money received, and under no circumstances could a man conscientiously give him an order on the Paymaster and included it "for value received." About one half the balance was sent home, and a greater part of the remainder will reach the pockets of gamblers and speculators.
In a recent number of the Republican we notice an article giving Col. McConnell credit for presenting the Lansing boys with a number of rifles. All the rifles we have, were got by the boys themselves, without the assistance of any person. The Col. did, I believe, give permission to a few of the boys to keep the rifles which they picked up in the field or roads where they would otherwise have been left for the enemy. We attribute the error to a mistake in understanding your informant, and not to any desire to give credit where it does not belong.
Stockton's Regiment has encamped within a short distance of us. Some of our boys have paid a visit to Weber's company, and report them in good health and spirits. The Eighth Regiment is on Meridian's Heights, and have not yet received their arms. Lieut. Baker, Capt. Shattuck, and other members of the Michigan Sharpshooters have been to see us. Their company was stationed on this side of the Potomac for several days, but we crossed to Washington last night.
Capt. Jefferds returned last Saturday. He brought many little packages from friends at home for the boys. There was happiness depicted on a good many countenances as one nice little package was displayed after the other and the name thereon read. The health of the regiment is superior to any other from Michigan. There were in the city hospital last week from the Michigan 2d, 41; from the 3d, 21, and from the 4th, 48. Of our boys the following are in the hospitals: Annapolis, Kilby, Convalescent; Columbia College, Washington, Adams, general debility; Regiment Hospital, Murphy, Shear, and McGuire, Typhoid fever -- Cook, Bilious fever; Marsh has been down with Typhoid Fever, but is now convalescent. Lieut. Mason, whose whole system was poisoned by spurious vaccine . . . taken when we first went to Grand Rapids, has only now fully recovered. Besides those in hospitals there are a number of those who are on the complaining list, but not sick enough to go to the hospital.
Thanks are due the Republicans for packages of papers; also, D. M. Bagley, for a week's package of twenty Republicans. We regret very much to learn that he leaves Lansing and will consequently be unable to send us the usual supply, as they are weekly looked for with much anxiety.
October 2, 10 a.m. We are still under marching orders and have everything packed, ready to march at a moment's notice. It is supposed our destination will be Acquia Creek. We are anxious to go.
Sometime in the fall of 1861 Siverd probably attempted to transfer to another Michigan unit then being organized in order to be commissioned as an officer. Charles Church of Company G wrote home on November 16, that “Siverd our 2nd Corporal, the fellow who enlisted us at Williamston is about to leave our command and take a lieutenancy in a command in Colonel Quinn's Regiment if he can go. Siverd and I are great old chums and I shall take the course that he does as to getting off.”
Frank did not leave the Third Michigan, however. On November 27 Frank wrote from Fort Lyon,
Close occupation has prevented me from writing for some time. We are now encamped about two miles South of Alexandria on the road to Mt. Vernon. We are still in Richardson's Brigade, which has the right of Heintzelman's Division. There are thirteen regiments of infantry, fifteen companies of cavalry, and three batteries of artillery in the Division. Heintzelman occupies the extreme left of the Grand Army opposite Washington. Near us is Fort Lyon, the most extensive earthwork fortification on the Potomac. When completed it can mount one hundred guns. Many of those now in position are of the heaviest calibre. This work will command all the approaches to Alexandria from the South and West -- indeed such is its position that it would be impossible for a hostile force to hold Alexandria without first reducing the fort.
The three cities of Alexandria, Georgetown and Washington, the beautiful Potomac, gracefully leaving the base of the heavily wooded hills, the latter clothed in all the beauty of Autumnal foliage and crowned with fortification, the slopes and vales dotted with more than ten thousand tents, and the glorious stars and stripes floating over each camp and fortification, presents from our hill top camp, a scene, at once grand and beautiful.
Our march through Alexandria, once of Secession's doomed cities, was a subject of much comment among the soldiers. Though the fine bands of the Michigan 2d and 3d attracted much attention, with one exception, not a word or motion of welcome greeted us; this exception I am most happy to state, came from a group of most beautiful ladies along the line -- Dixie played in the usual spirited manner by the band of the Mich. 3d brought an occasional of the F. F. Vs. to the door or window, when with a look of contempt and a toss of her head, speaking volumes of scorn, she would turn upon her heel as if she were really disappointed in not seeing her long looked for cavaliers of treason, making a triumphant entry into the nice proud city of the Potomac. Most of the boys saw more negroes during this half hours march than they ever saw before. They were of all shades, from the pure African through the various tints to where it would be difficult, association aside, to discover the negro blood. This, strange as it may seem, is the case wherever we see a number of negroes congregated and would seem to indicate amalgamationists are not strictly speaking a peculiar northern institution as stump orators and a portion of the northern press would have us believe. This state of affairs being so apparent, it is not to be wondered at that a certain advocate of slavery, should in the national Congress express the idea that the working classes should all be enslaved, regardless of color. Now we firmly believe this to be a rational conclusion if slavery is to be sustained at all. Should they retain in slavery only the pure blacks, the institution would soon die a natural death, for in this light there are no greater practical abolitionists than the slaveholders themselves. The Slave Pen, a commodious two story brick building surrounded by a high wall, is one of the institutions of Alexandria. It is now used by the Provost Marshal as a Guard House. "Smith & Brothers, Dealers in Slaves," in large letters on the front of the building, tells its former use. The sign has been whitewashed by some of the Union troops, but like many efforts to whitewash the "peculiar institution,” the blood upon the hand would not stay covered, and the sign remains to indicate to the passer by the spot,
"Where men resemble men, were bought and sold
Accursed or killed, as interest or caprice enjoined."
Nothing especially exciting has occurred since we have been encamped at this place except a reconnaissance in force, in the direction of Occoquan, a river and village about eighteen miles to the South and West of this place. The ranks and file know nothing of the movement until 1 a.m., when we were aroused by the beating of the "long roll,” the signal of danger, and we tumbled out of warm (?) beds, and were in fine glee when informed that in two hours time we would be on a forward movement in the direction of the enemy, with every prospect of a brush. Muskets are examined, cartridge boxes filled, extra pistols loaded and the edge of bowie examined as if they were going to do something. The Division moved with our brigade in advance, the regiments in the following order: Mich 2d commanded by Maj. Williams, Mich 3d, Lieut. Col. Stevens, 5th Col. Terry, 37th New York, Col. Haman. We returned to camp about 9 P.M., after a wearisome march of thirty miles, during which we scoured the whole country from Accotink to Occoquan without discovering more than one secesh, and he was a poor, sickly, dispirited fellow, who was no longer able to keep up with his retreating friends, and was consequently taken in charge by private Billy Hogan, of Co. G, 3d regiment, who now sports a fine Mississippi rifle as a trophy of his adventure. The prisoner belonged to the Maryland 1st, and was clad in a good suit of homespun cotton -- rather cool for the season; he had no knapsack, but carried with him a fine blanket which we recognized as one of those taken from our brigade at Bull Run, in which engagement the prisoner took part. He was entirely uncommunicative, no information whatever was gained from him except the rather stale news that the rebels were going to take Washington and Baltimore in the course of a few weeks. "H. W." of the Detroit Advertiser, in a flighty account of the reconnaissance, claims the credit of taking this prisoner to Capt. Brechsneider, of the Mich 2d. We should not have noticed it but for the fact that "H. W." made a number of mis-statements in his letter, some of them having every appearance of malicious falsehoods. After making the second made a glorious charge upon the deserted village of Pohick, a village that has no existence save in the imagination of "H. W.,” he goes out of his way to malign one of the bravest and most hard working officers in the service. He insinuates that Major Williams is unpopular in his regiment, both with men and officers. Any person who visits the camp of the Michigan 2d and converses with the boys, will find that the Major is universally a favorite -- and if he calls at the Major's quarters he will find him surrounded by a group of officers seeking advice and information. This does not appear as if he were unpopular. Indeed "H. W." gives the lie to his own statement when he remarks, and truly too, the efficiency of the regiment. Nine tenths of the time since the regiment has been in the service it has been in [the] charge of Major Williams, and on every important occasion it has been under his command, hence its efficiency must be due, in a great measure, to his efforts. It may be, and doubtless is true, that there are officers in the regiment that would like to occupy the Major's position -- hence the frequent newspaper reports of his resignation. Unfortunately he does not hail from Detroit.
[The] contrabands made their appearance in camp. They represented themselves as being a part and parcel of the goods and chattels of the late John A. Washington. They were in great glee at having escaped being sent South, which they believed was to have been their doom in a few days. They report all the plantations closely guarded by armed minute or patrolmen, for the purpose of preventing the escape of slaves, or their communication with adjoining plantations. They received employment in camp -- Gen. Heintzelman is too sensible an officer to turn his troops into slave hunters, hence slaveholders find but little comfort when they apply to him for a return of fugitives. A group of newly arrived contrabands attracted considerable attention. Some of their observations are decidedly laughable. One of them, a good looking mulatto, in reply to the question whether he had ever been whipped, said he got tight a little while before, and the owner gave him forty lashes with a stirrup strap upon the bare back, and when he got through remarked, "when I get time I will whip you." Jack concluded that it was but a taste, and the whipping was to follow, "by golly, I had better make tracks for de free army." We asked him how much stock Washington had? He answered, "right smart o mules and heaps o horses.”
The recent grand review of a portion of the Grand Army of the Potomac was unquestionably the grandest military review ever witnessed on this continent. There was about 70,000 troops of all arms on the field. They were formed in Battalions and Divisions closed in mass, and occupied a space of about six square miles. The masses required three and a half hours to pass in review. McClellan and his suit of some two hundred officers made a splendid appearance as they galloped rapidly along the lines. He was received at every point with the most enthusiastic cheers. This immense army, called together almost by magic as it were, was a glorious sight, and one to make the pulse of the patriot quicken with joy to see them thus marshaled, ready to do battle for the Union, the Constitution and the enforcement of the Laws. How many of these brave hearts will lie pulseless in an unknown grave before this war ends, might have furnished a theme for the thinking philanthropist.
The news of the success of the great naval expedition was received with such enthusiasm as only gladdened soldiers know how to manifest.
Our line of Pickets have been advanced to a point four miles beyond Mt. Vernon. The American Mecca is daily visited by numbers of the line soldiers. It is the only really sacred soil in Va., and is duly respected. No armed soldiers visits the Mansion, but all religiously divest themselves of arms before passing the hallowed portals. Those in charge say they were never visited by the rebel soldiers. Of course not -- they would not fail to receive a sharp reproof did they dare enter the halls once trod by the Great Father of the institutions they are now seeking to undermine. The place can have no attraction for traitors. Mt. Vernon and its dilapidated condition has been so often described it is unnecessary for me to attempt it.
Quite a number of promotions occurred in our regiment, all however belonging to Grand Rapids. Col. McConnell has resigned, a procedure necessitated from the precarious condition o his health. So say the papers. We learn he is about to receive a pension from Uncle Sam, on account of the permanent injury to his health brought about by severe exposure on the field, incident to his arduous duties as an officer. We opine, that liberal as our uncle is, he would not grant ninety dollars a month pension to a man who is notorious for never having done the government any service, especially if he could have observed the great accumulation of empty bottles in and around the Colonel's quarters. Major Champlin takes his place and will make an efficient officer -- Captain Pierce promoted to Major, also a good selection. The Grand Rapidites had a fine programme cut out, and actually had it published in the Grand Rapids papers for entirely Grand Rapidizing the regiment. But Lieut. Colonel Stevens, to the great joy of the ranks and file, spoiled it for them by persisting in retaining his position after having been "jumped" by Major Champlin. Of course his conduct was very disgusting to would-be Colonels and Majors, but pleasing to the boys who have ever found in him a firm friend.
We visited the Sharpshooters a short time since and found them in good health and anxious to get rifles and cross the river, where they imagine they can go out every morning before breakfast and bag a few secesh, by way of morning exercise. In the 1st regiment the following Lansing boys hold positions: Jas. H. Baker, 1st Lieutenant; Albert Baker, 2d Corporal; P. Van Etten, 4th Corporal and John Weiser, 6th Corporal. Captain Stuart's company had just been filled to the maximum number by the arrival of Lieut. Calkins.
The sensation papers will claim that the army of the Potomac will soon advance. This may be the case but we see no evidence of it. The weather is anything but pleasant. A recent snow storm makes us think seriously about winter quarters. Those of your readers who think we are favored only by balmy breezes of the South would find it rather difficult to keep the blood in circulation were they here under the influences of a stiff nor-easter, with the mercury below the freezing point, a rather flimsy tent and a single blanket being the only protection to the shivering forms endeavoring to sleep thro` one of these long stormy nights. We have received within a few days new tents, and most of the tents are supplied with small sheet iron stoves or home manufactured "California ovens,” the latter is built by digging a trench across the tent and covering it with a plank or split log to the point where you wish the fire -- here a large excavation is made, brick, stone or sod sides are built up and covered with tin, sheet iron, a large stone, anything that will not burn, and then a covered trench to the outside of the tent, where brick, stone, sod and sticks or a couple of barrels form a chimney and you have a ready-made stove, fire hearth, and oven completed.
We received our pay last week. The enlisted men of the company have received $2,202 -- of this the sutler received $492. An improvement on last pay day. Many of the boys are saving considerable money -- a new thing for some of them. Patriotism aside, there are strong inducements for persons out of employment to enroll their names in the new companies now organizing for the war. Good and certain pay, whether well or sick, food, clothing, bounty and bounty land are not among the least of these.
The Quartermaster's Department in all the Michigan regiments in this brigade, seems now to be well managed. Most of the suffering in new regiments arises from the inexperience of Quartermasters. They have much to learn before the wheels of their department will run smoothly. There would be so much complaint, some lives and a deal of money saved by transferring some of the Quartermaster Sergeants in old regiments as Quartermasters in the new.
The Ladies Military Aid Society of Lansing will accept our thanks for the following hospital stores: five pairs of pillow cases, eight hospital shirts, four sheets, five pair socks, two papers pins, seven pair slippers, three rolls bandages, fifteen towels, four bags of dried fruit, one can jell, ten jars, jell, four dressing gowns, eleven bottles currant wine, one bottle strawberries. Several jars and one bottle was broken; besides the above there was one bottle of pure currant wine, with Stanley Briggs' trade mark on it, marked for Steve Longyear, our efficient Quartermaster Sergeant. Lieut. J. B. Ten Eyck will accept our thanks for copies of the [Lansing?] Journal.
Considering the weather our sick list is small. Butler and Clark, fever; Amsey C. Johnson, amputation, Washington; Case, convalescent, Georgetown; Kent, paralysis, Camp; Patrick Kilboy has been honorably discharged for disability, chronic rheumatism. We drill or dig constantly, and will be ready to do good service if we have an opportunity.
From Fort Lyon, Virginia, on December 10, Frank wrote back to Lansing,
Dear Sir: The severe winter weather that existed at my last writing has entirely disappeared, and we are now enjoying the balmy Indian summer of the South. Today was almost too warm for brisk exercise and we were glad to dispense with the usual quick movements on drill. The roads are in excellent condition and this, together with the fine weather make the army anxious for a forward movement, but we, as well as the nation, are probably to be disappointed. Tomorrow we move out four miles for the purpose of going into winter quarters. An advance of four miles in the direction of the enemy, will of course, necessitate the erection of new entrenchments . . . and the "dirty third" will go on to conquer for themselves new honors in the matter of clearing forests and erecting fortifications. The honorable (?) title above noted, is one of the laurels showered upon us by our Abrahamic Division Commander. It is doubtless a fact, that the faithful have long looked upon the rags of the Third with anxious eyes and longed for the reaping of the harvest, that would ripen when the speculation should commence in the cast off clothing of the Third. The meaning of the above is, that the regiment was publicly censured for their untidy appearance a short time since. We were probably not the neatest looking regiment in the service, yet we think the censure was not merited. It was known to the authorities, that our regiment has not had a full suit of new clothing since we left Grand Rapids; and when it is considered that wet or dry, for the last six months we were in the trenches or in the woods, I should like to know how they expected us to appear on parade, donning a band box uniform? We were justly proud of the newspaper praise we received during the campaign, for our dexterity in clearing forests and throwing up embankments, but we did not suppose we were expected to keep a shoddy uniform appearing as good as new through all this service. Notwithstanding our many colored raiment and the fact that many of us sport a flag of truce to the rear, and that most of our time has been spent in the trenches, we challenge any regiment in the Division to excel us in evolutions of the line, or in the practice of the manual, or what is better still, in facing the enemy.
Though we are nominally going into winter-quarters and there is no sign of a general advance, still this may be a mere "blind.” We cannot fathom the plans of military leaders, and we would not be disappointed if we were ordered to march in an hours notice; nor would we be surprised if the present army of the Potomac saw no more active service at least on this field. Sensation articles are only written to sell the papers.
The day recently observed in Michigan as Thanksgiving, was generally observed by the Michigan troops on the Potomac. There were no details for work on that day, and most of the boys managed to have some extra dish, over, which they discussed Thanksgiving at home -- with its morning service, its afternoon dinner, turkey, plum pudding, its evening parties, and last, were remembered the friends that formed the social circle there, and the whereabouts and occupation of those friends now. The Lansing boys had an oyster dinner, and in the afternoon, the officers and non-commissioned officers of the company had a genuine Thanksgiving feast. The turkey served on the occasion, was prepared by a contraband belonging to a very aristocratic F. F. V of the name of Mason, and certainly no better was ever yet before us, notwithstanding we generally conclude, there are no dinners as good as those at home.
We accepted an invitation a few days since to accompany Major Williams on an important reconnaissance with which he was entrusted. This duty was to examine the outposts and the country and road adjacent thereto. Our excursion occupied two days, during which we traveled not less than seventy miles. Our route lay through a variety of country. Now we plunge into deep forests of towering oaks, again we emerge into "old fields,” through these we wander and think it strange that these broad acres, the produce of which once filled the coffers of some wealthy planter, should be allowed thus to descend to a state of nature. A pile of stone marking the spot where the old-fashioned chimney stood -- the old well, now nearly closed here and there the marks of where a fence once stood, a number of decayed trunks defining distinctly the limits of an apple orchard, all told fearfully of the passage of the great Moloch, which would now destroy the Government that at an earlier day gave to this section greatness and would now, but for the polluting presence of slavery and its twin sister, treason. From this we pass into a dark gloomy pine forest, the trees probably a century old, now standing where once the reapers merry song bespoke rich harvests and a season of plenty; there the presence of civilization, except possibly the trunk of ancient fruit trees, which has defied the ravages of time, is entirely obliterated, the old house, the fence line, the wall, all, all gone. Slavery battled long with nature, but succumbed at last, and the sighing of the wind through the tall pines ever sings of her victory. Passing down what was once a splendid graveled carriage way, we follow this until it is merged in an impassible ravine. Not liking the appearance of the ravine and thicket, we retrace our steps and following rapidly in the wake of the Major soon emerge from the woods and "old fields,” and find ourselves on a beautiful plain. Standing on an eminence, and looking down upon this beautiful plain, we would suppose it the very emblem of prosperity. On little hillocks surrounded by beautiful groves, are the mansions of the planters. A nearer approach however shows the charred, blackened remains of a beautiful residence. Another farm is visited and a few superannuated negroes are all of life that is to be found, the owners, the crops, the stock all gone, the fences destroyed, the plantations a highway and but for the rich soil, this fine plain would soon be overgrown by pines, as the above described. War, with its terrible scourge has been here and left an indelible mark. Such is Virginia. Coming suddenly on a negro shanty in the woods, we frightened a half dozen pickaninnies almost out of their wits. A few pennies thrown on the ground brought them from their hiding places. A girl already in her teens and showing a set of ivory that would please even Evans, was asked where her father was. "I don hab none,” was the reply. "Is he dead?" we asked. "I don never hab any.” We concluded she was a veritable Topsey, and turned away.
Hearing of the presence of the enemy in another quarter, we proceeded to the place of rendezvous, and taking a company of cavalry stated to find them. On nearing the place designated we met a couple of young ladies, who told us there had been no enemy there for a week. A few minutes afterward a scout returned with the information that the enemy had been found. We learned afterward that the father and brother of the ladies were surgeons in the rebel service hence their unreliability. The escort hurried to the front, but the enemy wisely gave us the slip and disappeared in one of the numerous by-roads that fill this country, and lead no person knows where, but which always furnish an outlet for the enemy. We returned within our own lines to spend the night. We stopped with a true Union man, one of nature's noblemen. He . . . traces his origins to the same ancestry as does the rebel commissioner Mason, such is the influence of proper early education, that he has not been tainted with disloyalty, but while surrounded with those who were feasting on the flesh pots of Egypt, he stood a monument of patriotism around whom rallied a whole settlement of loyalists that are now reaping the reward of their devotion to the Union. "Woodlawn,” the name given to Mason's plantation by the Washington family, was originally a part of the Mount Vernon estate. It was inherited by Major Lewis, a nephew of Washington. He erected the splendid brick Mansion that now attracts much attention from the tourist. The site is a beautiful one, overlooking Mt. Vernon, the Potomac, the valleys of Dodge Run and the Accotink, and the plain occupied by the Quaker settlement. The latter shows none of the effects of the war that is so terribly evident in all other parts of the State that we have seen. None of those depredations that have characterized the marching of Union troops through Virginia have been perpetrated in this locality on account of the undoubted Union principles of the inhabitants and they have been unmolested by the rebels through of meeting of Union troops, whom they knew had such firm friends in the loyal Quakers. But though these have suffered little loss of property on account of the war, their intense suffering of mind incident to their uncertain fate, must be indescribable. The father and sons, fugitives within the enemies' line or remaining at home in imminent peril of their lives and fleeing to the woods on each slight alarm, threatened with imprisonment or death by special proclamation of the rebel general, those devoted loyalists had a price set upon their heads and knew not when it might be paid, and their property confiscated to the cause they hated. The promised destruction of their property and homes, the ravishment of their wives and daughter, by published resolutions of armed mobs in their close proximity, were circumstances that would not render their six months' imprisonment between the lines of hostile forces a life of ease or comfort. Some have a life time, in this half year of terror and suspense. Looking anxiously for a "forward to Richmond" movement, that they might be released from this terrible anxiety, they rejoice as only the imprisoned know how to rejoice, when restored to liberty, when the Union masses moves against the cohorts of slavery. In order to realize the intensity of their feeling and suffering, you must sit by one of these moral heroes and hear him tell with what anguish and terror they saw our worn out and dispirited fragments of divisions straggle home from the Bull Run disaster. How husbands and fathers collected together their household goods, and consigning them to the keeping of Providence, take a hasty, and they knew not but a last farewell, and hastened with the retreating Union forces to a place of safety, to return, they know not when. He will tell you too, how they besieged the authorities that they might be protected in their homes, and they would raise a Brigade of loyal Virginians to battle for the Union, even on the sacred soil; how they were promised aid, now and again put off, to some future time, until hope almost gave way to despair. As he passes from one dark scene to another darker still, you catch the fire of the old man's indignation, and though with a knowledge of military circumstances, you involuntarily conclude, the government has not dealt fairly with these patriots, and in fact, your conclusion may not be incorrect.
The Major left us to care for ourselves and of course we took up our quarters for the night at the mansion, where we received a genuine house-like reception, and were pleasantly domiciled in the family, and almost forgot the soldiers life in the pleasures of the house. The evening passed rapidly in pleasant society, and at a late hour we retired to the "Royal Chamber,” . . . The bedstead and some other portion of the furniture in this house were used by Washington, hence the name. There are many things of interest connected with this plantation. A pair of mantles, carved in Italy, of the finest parian marble . . . the finest reproductions of the kind in the country. On each front of the building are twelve niches, in which were tablets, also of Parian marble, representing the various hunting scenes. When the estate passed from the Washington dynasty, these tablets were removed to Fauquier Co., and still remain in the family. Near the house is seen the stone that formerly covered the old tomb of Mt. Vernon. It bears the simple inscription, "Washington Family." We noticed several large cannon balls that were fired at the mansion in 1814, when Admiral Cockburn made a descent upon Washington. Major Lewis, the occupant, was then an officer in the Federal army. In the grounds and parks of "Woodlawn,” are found trees and shrubbery second only in variety, in this section of country to the Mt. Vernon collection. We saw growing for the first time, the great . . . mystle-toe. It crests the mighty oaks that have waved for centuries, and its bright green seems in strange contrast with the dead and dying summer foliage. it flourishes when other vegetation dies, and dies when spring violets begin to shoot.
We took a reluctant leave of our host, and again started on our reconnaissance. Nothing of interest occurred during the day, and we returned to camp well pleased with our excursion. The companies of the Third Regiment sent home the following sums of money respectively: A, $744.00 ; B, $678.00; C, $600.00; D, $742.00; E, $807.80; F, $678.41; G, $699.00; H, $465.00; I, $650.00; K, $320.00; -- Total, $6,784.12. The above includes only that forwarded by the enlisted men. From the data in our possession, we estimate that the officers sent home an additional sum of $4,759.00, making a grand total of $11,234.12. It must be considered that this large sum was sent home out of the savings of the last two months, and that the men had to purchase many articles of winter clothing that are not furnished by the Government, which will reduce the earnings of this pay day much below the average. By the use of a little arithmetic, it can be readily calculated the approximate sum that would be sent to Michigan by the 15,000 of her sons now in the army, and the immense sum that would be sent North by the 600,000 in the service from the loyal States. Surely there is a bright side to this war. Capt. Stuart, Lieuts. Baker, Calkins and Weber paid us a visit. They all appear as if they enjoyed the life in the army. They report their commands in good health and spirits. "Julia,” of East Windsor, Eaton Co., will accept the thanks of a number of the boys, for some excellent mittens. Though we are not personally, particularly fond of receiving the mittens, still in this case we cna put them to excellent use. The following are in the hospitals: Adams, convalescent, general hospital, Annapolis; A. C. Johnson, amputation, E. st. Hospital; Charles Shaft and Americus Miller, typhoid fever, Alexandria; Stephenson has been detailed as blacksmith at Fort Lyon, Thurston as hostler, and Shear as teamster. Case and McGuire have been permanently disabled and have received an honorable discharge. They were excellent soldiers, and the company sustains a heavy loss at their departure. They return to Michigan. Truly yours, Frank
On January 1, 1862, Charles Church wrote home “Eli F. Siverd is our orderly [Sergeant] now.”
During all of his communication with the Lansing newspaper, Siverd virtually never mentioned anything specifically relating to himself or anything directly relating to his situation, keeping his communications as objective as possible and focused on his environment and the men in the company as well as the events in which they participated.
From a camp in northeastern Virginia, Frank wrote on February 11, 1862, to the editor of the Republican,
The most intense enthusiasm prevails throughout the camps of the army of the Potomac. In the far distance we hear the low murmuring of confused sounds -- nearer and nearer it comes as each successive camp receives the joyful tidings and takes up the exultant shout. To the growing thunder of the tornado as it is first heard in the distance and gradually increases until it breaks upon the alarmed hearer with all its terrible fury, can three enthusiastic cheers be compared. We hear the coming storm, but the anxiety is intense to know the direct cause. A courier gallops into camp. The Colonel mounts a stump and reads the dispatch of another Union victory. Then we send up the thunder of a thousand glad voices and the outpost knows that another victory has been won. Our secesh neighbors quake with fear, and soon a contraband enters camp to carry to his master the unwelcome news. The long talked of, but never-observed, "Anaconda" now begins to show his folds. Though he has embraced and gulped down an immense number of rebels, still he seems unsatisfied, and unlike his species generally, and doubtless much to the inconvenience of traitors, it will not become torpid, notwithstanding his gorged condition, but contrary to the natural history of the animal the more he gorges the more active and energetic becomes his contractions. The muscles near the head of the animal still remain unmoved, and as these are the most powerful, what terrible work will be done when these begin to set against the enemies of constitutional liberty. The sensation papers now sing the various changes upon -- "All eyes are now turned toward the army of the Potomac.” it will not dry up the mud. Those of your readers who have seen Harper's Weekly, of Feb. 22d, can form a very good idea of the roads in this portion of Virginia. In fact it is the only illustration I have yet seen that had any approximation of the truth. To some over such roads as these, an army that must necessarily be accompanied by artillery and baggage trains is an utter impossibility. In vain may impatient scribblers for the press tell us "Napoleon crossed the Alps with an immense army accompanied by artillery and baggage." That, though a wonderful undertaking and a project conceivable by a Napoleon, was comparatively easy, compared with the movement of the army of the Potomac. Though one might be able to drag our artillery through the sea of mud, when we appeared before the enemy's entrenchments it would be impossible to perform a single evolution which would be fatal to the effective working of field artillery. It is only but a few days since one of the best teams (four horses) stuck in the mud with but two barrels of beef in the wagon. Though but six miles from the Railroad it requires nearly all the teams of the brigade to draw provision, and the wood, about two cords (four foot) for each company, per day, must be in great part, carried on the back of the soldiers.
Contrary to my expectation and to the custom of the Michigan 3d, we [are] trusting to the mud, the cowardice of our enemy and our trusty rifles for safety. We are all comfortably housed and live much more comfortably than most of our northern friends might suppose. We have "Sibley" tents which are manufactured of the best duck canvas, and in shape like unto a hollow cone with a ventilating apparatus at the apex. The hose [?] is seventeen feet in diameter. They admit light, but are impervious to wind and rain. In preparing them for winter, we put up palisades four feet above the ground, the edges hewed so as to fit closely, plastered the interstices and back the outside. The banks are raised some distance from the ground, and to this we attribute the general good health of the company. There are from ten to thirteen in a tent, which allows ample room for all, though at home we might consider them close quarters. Each tent is furnished with a smart stove, purchased with company funds. Each tent has its title and leader. That these titles are always indicative of the occupants of the tents, I am not prepared to say. No. 1, The "Eagles Nest.” The eagles are supposed to nestle under the wings of corporal Stevens; No. 2, The Comanche Tribe" follow the war whoops of corporal Shattuck; No. 3, The "Lion's Lair.” The lions respond to the roar of corporal Blanchard. The lions have a brick floor in their tent. No. 4, The "Tiger's Den,” I said to be the model tent of the brigade. It was the first tent in this part of the army that was raised on stockade, thus making double the room, besides lending greatly to protect the health of the occupants. During its construction it attracted much attention from the officers, not only of our own but of adjoining regiments. The floor is closely laid with boards which were "appropriated" by the tigers from a fence owned by Col. Mason of the rebel army. Above each bunk is a gunrack, for the guns and accouterments of its occupants, and above this a shelf for books, papers, and the etcs. Along the inner side of the bunks are seats made of nicely planed board, which are supposed to be "sacred,” since they once formed part and parcel of Olivet church, where fashionable secesh were wont to worship the god of slavery before the Yankees came and defiled their house and destroyed their god. Around the whole structure is planted a row of cedars which serves as an ornamental as well as a useful purpose. The "tigers" were formerly represented by Siverd, but he has been succeeded by corporal Atkinson. No. 5, "Lansing Rangers,” commanded by corporal Wickham. No. 6, "Lansing House.” Corporals Church and Newman, proprietors. This is an independent joint stock company, and the Lansing House of Camp Michigan is probably not much unlike the original Lansing House where Jipson finely entertained travelers in the woods bordering Grand River. It is built of logs eighteen by twenty feet -- was first covered with a dirt roof, but the sacred soil has such a propensity to become mortar that the roof only seemed to prolong the storm. It usually rained inside the house for three days after it quit outside, which induced them to put on a roof of hewn logs. The occupants of the Lansing House have an advantage over the rest of the company, as the officer of the day cannot see when the lights are extinguished, hence they retire when they please. They evidently live to eat in this institution. Go there when you will, night or day and you will find some person cooking and others eating. No. 7, "Soldier's Home,” corporal Price Matson. This is also independent; built of logs and covered with an old tent. You enter it and really it has the air of a home. The name is not inappropriate. It is one of the most comfortable institutions in camp. Though they do not eat so often here as in the Lansing House, it is evident to my olfactories and occasionally to my palate, that they do not live entirely on army rations, but many savory dishes are here prepared that "abound not in the commissary's department." No. 8, "Orderly's Quarters.” A small square stockade enclosure, covered with a wall tent and laid with a tight floor. A table, four stools, bench, two beds, stove, several bags of company property, four rifles and accouterments, and desk, is about the quota of hardiness. When the company is not on duty, you generally find the orderly at his desk, pen in hand, and Jerry, George, and Dick, each on his respective stool, reading or playing draughts or chess. No. 9, Cook Shanty. A log house covered with canvas -- a Virginia chimney and fire place built on the outside. Van Wormer and Wm. Clark presides over the edibles, and are in turn cursed by the majority of the company for not furnishing beef steak every day, when the department only furnishes it about twice during ten days. The officers have two small tents and live comfortably. Such are the Quarters of Co. G, 3d Michigan Inf't, whilom [?] "the William's Rifles of Lansing." I have been specific in my description, as I desired that our friends should know that our sufferings are not so very great. In fact the soldiers care, with a little work and ingenuity make themselves quite comfortable even when surrounded by Virginia mud. This too, may meet the eye of some soldier who has not yet learned by experience to help himself. Had there been in our ranks, when we left Lansing, a few experienced men, we would have avoided much of the sickness that afflicted the company. About three hundred dollars has been expended by the company since last pay day for books.
His fellow officers presented Col. Champlin with a fine horse as a new years present. The Colonel is universally popular and will be followed by the boys wherever he leads. Our regiment was recently on picket duty. It rained or snowed almost constantly while we were gone. Hence the three days picket were not the most pleasant imaginable. The enemy are so shy of the yankees now, that there is but little excitement accompanying this duty. There is some interest in the scouting that pertains to picketing, . . . A portion of two companies while on a scout discovered a squad of rebels near Occoquan. They were taking things very cool, not dreaming of the proximity of the yankees. Some were dancing, while another squad were drilling. A volley of rifle bullets, in camp parlance, made them "hunt their holes" in double quick time. The Occoquan River was between our boys and the enemy, hence there was not much danger to either party. The rebels soon showed themselves at the window and around corners of houses and returned our unceremonious salute. Their fire was without effect. Our boys killed four and then retired. Some of the incidents were quite ludicrous. An Irish corporal saw a rebel near the corner of a house -- he called out, "Bejaborn yees better be laving that carner; I'll be a after shootin there!" the corporal shot, the bullet passed the corner of the house and concluding yankee bullets would not stop for one house, gave leg bail. All the time this skirmishing in the direction of Fairfax station, and supposing they had discovered a party of rebels moving in the direction of Occoquan, the circumstances was reported at head quarters and the reserve of each company was ordered to advance in the support of the scouts. Thirty men were selected from our company, and under the command of the orderly sergeant marched with buoyant pride to what they presumed would be a right smart skirmish, if not an out and out fight. They were disappointed however. The scouts that engaged the enemy returned safely before we arrived, and we had to return to our posts. We have exchanged the old muskets for Austrian rifles. The piece lacks finish, but shoots splendidly. A common frame house is not obstacle --the bullets pass directly through and on whizzing into space. The entire brigade is now armed with rifles. If there are any of your readers who have any idea of enlisting, they can do no better than enlist with some of our recruiting officers. Lieut. Whitney and H. L. Thayer, are home on the recruiting service, and would be glad to receive the names of any who are desirous of entering immediately into active service. At the recent pay day, there was paid to the enlisted men two thousand three hundred dollars. Of this the sutler received four hundred and twenty dollars. While the boys at the monthly pay day do not forget their friends at home, so we are not forgotten by them, of which there is ample evidence in the arrival of various boxes and packages from Michigan, laden with the comforts and luxuries that are not attainable in camp. The following persons have received such evidence of the remembrance of their friends. Thayer, Ten Eyck, Ellis, Cook, Foster, Atkinson, Dowell, Stevens, Johnson, Clark, Sickles, Jas. Davis, Geo. Davis, Wm. Davis, Patterson, Rose, Miller, Murphy and Lackey. If those friends had seen the pleasant countenances of the boys, when they received their various donations they would have been amply repaid,, for any time or money they may have expended in preparing the packages. The following changes have occurred in the non-commissioned officers of the company. Siverd, orderly sergeant, vice Thayer resigned; Atkinson, corporal, vice Siverd promoted. The health of the company is remarkable, and notwithstanding the fickleness of the weather and our want of exercise there is none of our company sick in the hospital. Corporal Shattuck fractured an ankle bone by a fall while while on picket. He is doing well. The regimental hospital is a model. It does not have an equal in the division. For the excellent appointment of the hospital we are indebted in great part to the untiring efforts of assistant surgeon Wilson, hospital steward Morrison and orderly Wilkinson. Private A. C. Johnson has received an honorable discharge and is on his way to Michigan. He will carry with him through life a reminder of the sport we used to enjoy at the celebrated Munson Hill. He stops on his way to get an artificial leg, the funds for the purchase of which were contributed by the company. Each enlisted man gave one dollar, Lieut. Mason ten dollars and twenty dollars were appropriated from the company fund, making a total of one hundred and one dollars. Some of your patriotic citizens who could not make it convenient to face the enemy in the field, could not give greater evidence of their patriotism than by offering to this young man the means to procure a couple of years tuition at one of your excellent educational institutions. He will disdain to be a beggar, and I understand his friends are in limited circumstances and he has not now the means of helping himself. He was an excellent soldier, always doing his duty manfully and without murmur. When he was wounded he lay nine hours without medical attendance, and though in extreme pain he bore it heroically and without complaint. Miss A. C. Rogers, of the Michigan Female College, paid our camp a visit. She was, as ever, one [SIC] some good mission. The sharpshooters are enthusiastic in her praises. But for her untiring efforts in their behalf, their suffering would have been unendurable and more of them would have succumbed to the inroads of disease and the want of attention. They are now getting along comfortably.
With the arrival of spring the Third Michigan left their camp, along with the rest of the Army of the Potomac, in mid-March of 1862 and on March were aboard the steamer John Brooks, off Alexandria, Virginia when Frank wrote to the editor of the Republican,
Dear Sir: We have had some commotion in camp since my last writing. The Army of the Potomac commenced moving about the 8th inst.
Great was our chagrin and not a little ill temper was manifested, when division after division moved, and we were left sole guardians of the Potomac. We were already to march and anxiously awaited orders, but none came. Finally, however, we were assured that we held the "second post of honor" -- that is rear guard. We feared, though, that we would be left so far in the rear, that there would be little honor attached to the position. Indeed, the lengthened visages of the boys told plainly that they did not appreciate the honor.
But at midnight of the 13th, we received orders to march the next morning at 9 o'clock. The camp was full of joy. We broke camp at the hour appointed and marched to Fort Lyon, overlooking Alexandria, where we halted and bivouacked for the night. We anticipated going on ship board immediately, but found no transports ready, hence, in a severe rain storm we lay on the unprotected hill top., with no other protection than the small awnings that each soldier carries with him.
With the morning of the 15th came an increase of the storm, now assuming the proportions of a gale. During the night the returning divisions from Manassas had peopled the surrounding hills, and we found our suffering alleviated through the sympathies with our fellow soldiers on the adjoining hills.
All day of the 15th, Saturday, the rain came down, and the camp was drenched. Sunday was passed in much the same way as Saturday, only that two-thirds of the brigade left their regiments and either forced their way to the city or found comfortable quarters in the country.
Had we been in the presence of the enemy, or under circumstances that seemed to necessitate this exposure to the wind and cold, it would have been endured without a murmur; but here, within an hour's march of our old camp, where we had comfortable quarters, it did seem without a cause, and the complaints made by the soldiers, as well as the efforts made to help themselves, were certainly justifiable.
We again packed our knapsacks this a.m. (Monday) and at 1 p.m., the Mich. 3d -- the first to embark -- went aboard the steamer John Brooks, the Mich. 2d and N. Y. 37th on the C. Vanderbilt, and the Mich. 5th on the Arrowsmith. The Mich. 4th and Stockton's Independent are also said to be on the expedition, but of this I am not certain. I am not at liberty to state the number of troops being amassed for the expedition, but can simply state that it is one of the most formidable expeditions that has been massed for the overthrow of the rebellion. There was in one train one hundred and twenty pieces of field artillery. The transports will be accompanied by a number of gunboats.
Gen. Heintzelman, late commander of our division, commands this expedition. Gen. Hamilton, late in command of Banks' column, succeeds to the command of Heintzelman's division. Gen. Richardson has been promoted to the command of Sumner's division, and Col. Terry, of the 5th Michigan, is by seniority, temporarily in command of our brigade. Richardson, or "Fighting Dick" as he is usually termed by the boys, was a universal favorite with his soldiers. We deeply regret having separated from him. The officers of the brigade unanimously petitioned the Department to transfer the brigade to Richardson's division, but we presume that it was not practicable.
McClellan spent part of the afternoon superintending the embarkation of the troops. He was received with intense enthusiasm wherever he went, but it cannot be disguised that there is a growing distrust of the ability of the young chieftain, that will require some decided success in a short space of time, to prevent breaking out in a storm. The slip the rebels gave us at Manassas has not strengthened public confidence in McClellan, and the bloodless victory at Bull Run we very much fear may turn out to be a serious defeat to us, particularly if Johnson's withdrawn troops should suddenly [appear] or some other of our exposed divisions, and cut them off. Such, we hope, may not be the case, but there are many gloomy reflections among the knowing ones.
Where our expedition is going, but few probably know. Some say Norfolk, others Rappahannock, others Roanoke, still others Port Royal and fifty other Southern ports. Of our success, wherever we do strike, there need not be a doubt. We have much greater fear of the other elements than the rather turbulent one of secession. My opinion is that we go to Norfolk.
I am very agreeably surprised this p.m. by meeting on the wharf at Alexandria Hon. D. C. Leach and Col. Jones of your city. The boys were rejoiced to see them. I had the satisfaction of eating probably my last dinner in this part of secessia, with friends from Lansing.
We left behind but two men, Rose and Adams -- both at General Hospital at Annapolis -- the former sick with inflammation of the lungs, the latter convalescent.
Capt. Jefferds was taken sick on the 14th, and is now in General Hospital at Alexandria. His situation at this time must be exceedingly unpleasant. Responsible for the well-being and behavior of the company, and yet unable to be with it, is certainly not a desirable state of affairs.
You may hear from us by telegraph before this reaches you. I will write again from Fortress Monroe.
By the middle of April the Regiment was near Yorktown, Virginia when Frank wrote to the editor of the Lansing Republican on April 13,
Dear Sir: At my last writing, we were on board the transport off Alexandria, bound, none knew whither, yet all were anxious to leave.
A description of the incidents and scenery from thence to Fortress Monroe would doubtless be of interest, but neither your space nor my time will permit the indulgence. Our detachment of the expedition, consisting of eleven transports with a number of barges in tow, commenced moving about 1 p.m., March 18th, our brigade taking the lead.
As each vessel swung around into line, the bands of the different regiments discoursed most soul stirring music, and the troops upon the different vessels greeted each other with cheers of exultation. These were echoed and re-echoed by the many thousand troops still on shore, until the [world] seemed to ring with their joyous chants. "Secesh" in Alexandria scarce knew whether to express joy or sorrow at our departure. They were happy to see us leave their vicinity, yet full of sorrow when they reflected that our departure boded no good to some other portion of their beloved Confederacy.
Fort Washington, nearly opposite Mt. Vernon, a substantial, casemated fortification, saluted us as we swept proudly around the sharp angle of the river and passed under the shadow of Mt. Vernon. The valleys of Dough Run, Accotink, and Occoquan were passed in succession, and many of us doubtless took a last look at the recent scenes of many of our most exciting expeditions. Many of us, too, left warm friends among the loyal inhabitants of these valleys, and as we strained our eyes to catch a glimpse of the well-known landscape, we could not repress a feeling of sorrow that we most probably looked upon it for the last time.
Soon after passing the Occoquan, we came to the rendezvous of the Upper Potomac flotilla. We were now taken under the escort of several gunboats, as we were not yet certain that all the rebel batteries were vacated, or that no saucy little gunboats still lingered in some of the creeks that find their way from secesia into the Potomac. Many of the batteries were distinctly visible, and how boats succeeded in running the blockade, with even an average skill in gunnery by the rebels, I cannot imagine, yet this was done daily and without injury.
In the vicinity of the Aquia Creek batteries, an extensive fore was discovered which was supposed to be the burning of the enemy's wharf and barracks. The gunboat Yankee run in and give them a parting salute, which failed to provoke a reply.
At dusk we came to anchor above Mathias Point batteries, and turned in for the night. At 12:30 a.m., 19th, we weighed anchor and steamed rapidly past the Point without being fired upon, ample evidence that the enemy had decamped. The view from the deck of the steamer was full of beauty. It was a beautiful moonlight night, the waters were as placid as an inland lake, and the differently colored lights of the vessels with the dark, bold outlines of the shore presented a panorama not to be forgotten. We remained on deck to see the sun rise. First the distant hill tops on the opposite shore were gilded, then the rays were dancing over the bosom of the Potomac, here several miles wide, tipping the ripples in the gaudy colors of the rainbow. These scenes cannot be described; they must be seen to be appreciated.
After passing into the Bay a rather severe storm set in, which set adrift some of our barges loaded with troops and munitions of war. The storm also caused many of the land lubbers to grow wondrous pale, then quiet, and finally to cast up their accounts in a most energetic manner. Some pistol and rifle shooting was practiced on the many flocks of ducks that hovered near the vessels.
About 4 p.m. we run under the guns of Fortress Monroe. This place and surroundings has been aptly described by your Washington correspondent. There were several hundred vessels in the harbor, including an English and a French war frigate. Many of Uncle Sam's ships of war floated in the Roads, among which none attracted so much attention as "the little Monitor," appropriately termed by the rebels "a cheese box afloat.” Each successive wave breaks over her deck, and at a little distance all you can see of her is the cylindrical shaped box which contains her guns. As a retreating wave turned up her sides, the marks of a number of the Merrimac's shots were distinctly visible.
The rain storm howled fiercely through the night, and we were glad that we were permitted to remain on board ship. In the morning, 20th, we disembarked and encamped near the site of the once beautiful village of Hampton. The burning of this village was one of the most fiendish acts of the rebellion. The village has been three times burnt -- once by the Indians, once by the English, and last by the outlaws of the so called Southern Confederacy.
An ancient Episcopal Church, said to be the oldest in the Union, was not spared by these vandals. The savage had too much reverence for the house, dedicated to the worship of the great spirit, to consign it to ashes -- the English saw its edifice, built under the auspices of their virgin queen, a connecting link between the mother and her daughter, and protected it; but it remained for the hatred of the Southern savage, maddened by their worship of the "peculiar institution,” to wipe out at one full blow, their own historic land marks. What was to be gained by this wanton destruction of their own property, I, as well as others, fail to discover.
On the east side of Hampton creek, a few houses, including the summer residence of Ex-President Tyler, the arch traitor, was saved by the interposition of our troops. It is now occupied by about a hundred contrabands.
We remained in this camp until the morning of the 24th, during which time it rained almost incessantly. From this storm our small tents were but little protection, and we suffered severely from the effects of wet and cold. We now changed our quarters to the rear of Hampton, and encamped there until the morning of April 4th, awaiting the arrival of troops and stores. Our camp was increased by the addition of some ten thousand men daily.
Many of the boys varied their diet, which was reduced by the Government to salt meat and pilot bread, by securing oysters. The streams and inlets in this vicinity are peopled with the most luscious of bivalves. Hampton was the summer resort of the aristocracy of Southeastern Virginia, and most of the inhabitants have their own oyster beds where then can catch them as they may wish to use them, not depending on the fluctuations of the markets. Of course, the Union soldiers considered all such property as common, and it was quite amusing to see several hundred men, up to their knees in mud and water, delving after shell-fish. We lived on the fat of the land, or rather of the water, for a few days.
On the morning of the 4th [?], we took up our line of march for -- well, we knew not where until we passed the road that would lead us to Norfolk, when we concluded, of course, we were going to Yorktown, the scene of a former splendid achievement of the Federal arms, and soon doubtless to be another. There was an immense army in advance of us, hence our advance was necessarily slow. We halted for the night about 7 p.m., ten miles from Hampton. Our march was resumed the following morning, and about noon we heard the booming of heavy artillery in our front. Our pace was accelerated by the welcome music, but we had got ten miles of heavy road to travel.
About 5 p.m., the dull heavy whirr of a shell from the enemy's batteries, told us we were near the scene of a coming battle. We encamped within sight of the rebel batteries defending Yorktown, where we still remain preparing for the contest.
The route between Hampton and Yorktown lies through a beautiful plain better improved than any other portion of the State we have visited. The plantations are large, the mansions commodious, and the lawns and parks beautiful, and seem to have had much attention lavished upon them. Some of the mansions visited seem to have been furnished with great splendor. -- The inhabitants are all gone save a few superannuated negroes. The balance of the colored population had either made their way within the Union lines or have been carried with their masters into secessia.
A few days after we arrived at Hampton, ten contrabands made their appearance upon the opposite bank of a stream a short distance from camp, pursued by the rebel cavalry within sight of our pickets. Our pioneers built a raft, the bridge having been burned by the rebels, and ferried them over "to the land of freedom.” They told a tale that would [turn] the most abject apologist for the accursed institution.
Twenty of them started from Richmond. Some were retaken, some exhausted by the wayside, and some killed by the outlaws. -- One was shot just as he arrived within sight of our lines, and another died immediately after crossing the stream.
There are probably five thousand contrabands in the vicinity of Fortress Monroe. There are many others employed in various capacities in the army. What will eventually be done with them, is an enigma wiseacres have not been able to solve.
Though peach and plum trees were in full bloom when we arrived here, the weather was very cold. It rained so much that we could not remain by our fires. It was so cold, and the space so small for us to sit in our tents, hence the best we could do was to go to bed, where we remained two-thirds of the time, or until we were drowned out.
The following Michigan regiments are in this expedition, viz.: 1st, Col. Roberts, 2d, Col. Poe; 3d, Col. Champlin; 4th Col. Woodbury; 5th, Col. Terry; 9th, Col. Grosvenor; and Stockton's Independent.
Yorktown, which is now being invaded by probably 80,000 Union troops, and not less than 500 pieces of field artillery, is supposed to be one of the strongest fortified posts in the South. What force they have it is impossible to say, but I have seen, in a little excursion Sunday last, more extensive fortification than any we can boast of on the Potomac. Whether they are effective or not, remains to be seen. The rebels are bold and defiant. Three of their post flags float in plain sight. The 1st Berdan Sharpshooters have rendered themselves worthy of commendation by picking off the rebel gunners thus silencing their guns.
Yorktown is not a very extensive city. It has less inhabitants now than before the Revolution. It is situated on the right bank of the York river, about ten miles form its mouth, and is seventy miles, in a southeasterly direction from Richmond. It is presumed that after the fall of this place our passage to Richmond will be comparatively easy.
All the buildings in this [place]are being fitted up as hospitals, and every preparation being made for a terrible battle, which no one doubts will commence within forty-eight hours. Indeed, even now it may have commenced, as a sharp cannonade has been opened on our right.
Gen. Richardson, alias "Fighting Dick,” has just rode into camp. He was received with more enthusiasm than even McClellan. His division had reached thirty miles beyond Manassas, and then returned to Alexandria and embarked for this place.
That you may recognize is in the various reports you may receive the battle, I append a list of our commanders:
Gen. McClellan commanding in person. 3d Corps -- Gen. Heintzelman. 3d Brigade -- Gen. Birney. 3d Regiment -- Col. Champlin. Co. G -- Lieut. Mason.
We have but one commissioned officer with us. Capt. Jefferds is in Alexandria sick and 1st Lieut. Whitney is in Michigan on the recruiting service. Regiments in the field should have all their officers with them. If recruiting must be done it should be done by officers belonging to the regiments still in the State or acting as home guards.
Of course, officers will get sick as well as privates, and of this no fault can be found, but if an officer is habitually sick, and can never be with his company only when they are in snug quarters, it certainly would be but an act of patriotism, and, indeed, evidence of courage (it often requires more courage to resign than to go into battle) for him to resign, and permit his place to be occupied, and his salary drawn, by some person who has constitution enough to stand a campaign in the field.
The following members of our company are in the hospitals: Rose and Adams, general debility, Annapolis; Butler and Ingersoll, general debility, Fortress Monroe; Corporal Church, Manry, J. E. Davis and Badger, intermittent fevers, hospitals in the field, near Yorktown.
H. W. McRoberts died in the hospital at Fortress Monroe, March 22d. He was taken sick while in cantonment at Grand Rapids, from which he never recovered. He has never been able to do severe duty, but such was his patriotism that he refused an honorable discharge which was offered to him. When we had orders to embark on this expedition, he was again urged to remain, but he was determined to cast his lot with the company, and forfeited his life to his patriotism. The exposure we were subjected to after our arrival at the Fort, was too much for his fragile constitution, and he succumbed. He was sick but one day. Everything was done for him that science or attention could do.
He was buried with military honors in a beautiful life oak grove on the beach, about two miles form the fortress. His ashes will there remain in peace, undisturbed, we hope, by the vandal grave robbers of Manassas. The beautiful, wide spreading branches of the live oak will wave over his resting place, while the waves of the Chesapeake almost lave his feet. Rev. Mr. May, Chaplain of the Michigan 2d, kindly volunteered to perform the funeral services, and while he discoursed most eloquently a practical sermon to the boys, I busied myself in rudely sketching the name, company and regiment of our late lamented friend upon a shingle, which we nailed to an ancient live oak near the head of his grave. He is the first member of the company we have lost since we left Michigan, and his loss is deeply mourned.
At this hour, 10 p.m., it still rains; no fighting except a little skirmishing. God is for the right, and we must be victorious. Respectfully yours, Frank
The Regiment was still at Yorktown, at a camp Frank refers to a “Camp Winfield Scott,” when he wrote on May 2 to George Parsons of the Republican,
Dear Sir: The army of the Potomac is busily engaged surrounding the rebel army of the Peninsula with a chain of fortifications, and each dawn surprises secesh with some new evidence of the daring and skill of the Yankees -- that is, today an exposed and open plain, commanded by the enemy's guns, and possibly by their pickets, before tomorrow's sun rise, may be covered with Yankee earthworks, mounted with Yankee cannon, or bristling with Yankee bayonets. An engineer today views his ground at a distance, or under cover of a cannonade at some other point, makes his plans upon paper, stakes out his work as soon as night sets in, and in an hour afterward, without speaking a word, a thousand men are at work with pick and shovels, their accouterments buckled on, and their guns lying in reach, they work steadily through the night, and before "Old Sol" again makes his appearance, the work is complete, and another foothold is gained upon the sacred soil, by the invincible go-aheaditiveness of the Yankee. That the enemy too is busy, we have daily evidence in the strengthened as well as the new fortifications that appear in our front.
We have more or less cannonading every day. Shells daily explode in the vicinity of our camps and pickets, but there is seldom any person hurt, and we have learned to be most artful dodgers. Strange as it may appear to the uninitiated, it is almost impossible to hit us with a shell or shot, unless there are a large number together so that we cannot get out of harm's way. When the general battle commences, however, it will be different, as a hundred shots, from every direction, will so confound us as to render dodging out of the question.
This is indeed sacred soil. Here Washington conquered the enemies of Republican freedom -- here was decided the fate of the infant Republic, and here will be decided, either in a great feat of strategy or in the most terrible battle of modern ages, the fate of the young Republic now nearing manhood. Some of the old works thrown up by Washington are still visible, and a number of shot, buttons, and other relics of Revolutionary times, have been dug up by our men while throwing up entrenchments.
Works of the greatest magnitude are being projected for the reduction of Yorktown, with its several lines of defences. It is in this kind of work that McClellan evinces extraordinary genius. If he only does not sap and mine, build bridges, throw up fortifications and plant heavy artillery, until the enemy evacuates and precipitates his whole force upon some one of the other expeditionary corps. it will be well with us but desolation to secesh. We trust, however, that nothing of the kind will be permitted to occur, but that we will press upon the enemy so closely that he will not have an opportunity to give another "Manassas victory.” Our pickets are in close proximity to those of the rebels, and frequent are the wordy passes between them. These often end in a sharpshooter's duel, and some pay for their impudence with their life.
Some of the Foreign attaches of McClellan are surprised beyond all measure, at the efficiency of the volunteers in the Union army.
"Why,” say Prince de Joinville, while noticing the Michigan boys on the works, "it is no wonder your army is victorious. You have in every regiment all the parts of a great army. Your sappers, miners, engineers and mechanics, are found in the ranks of each company. Whatever you want done, you find men in the ranks able to perform it, from using a pick and shovel in the trenches, to building bridges and railroads, repairing and running an engine, flying a balloon, or anything else that may be desired in the varied wants of a great army." When we came in front of Yorktown, an old dismantled saw mill was found. It was first fitted up as a hospital but we needed lank and timber for bridges, ways for guns, coverings for magazines, etc. The old mill was examined, fitting it up pronounced practicable, a company of the Mich. 3d [H Company?] detailed to put it in running condition, and in less than two days it was puffing away, and has been running ever since night and day, much toe the consternation of the rebels, who have tried in vain with their shells to silence this powerful adversary.
The country in which the Grand Army is encamped is low and swampy, and consequently quite unhealthy. An insect, not unlike the bedbug of civilization in appearance, is extremely annoying. It burrows in the skin, and can only be removed with the knife, and then the wound always festers. Lizards and snakes, too, are too numerous to render lying down at the root of an old tree in a dark night, very agreeable. Your dreams are not likely to be very pleasant. I had fixed up a bed of bark and cedar boughs, with some rotten wood for a pillow, and thought I was quite comfortably located. A sunny afternoon occurring, I concluded I would give my bedding an airing, when, to my astonishment, under my pillow was a nest of blood-red snakes. I have a special dislike to this class of God's creation, hence my "pheelinks" can be imagined.
Captain Jefferds, Lieut. Whitney and H. L. Thayer arrived in camp recently. The two latter, from Michigan, were most warmly welcomed.
Private Harrison Sickles died in the Hospital, near Yorktown, April 24th,of typhoid fever. He was buried with military honors. Rev. Mr. May, Chaplain of the Michigan 2d, officiated.
Yesterday we were on the outposts. A sharp cannonade was kept up all day. Privates Chas. M. Clark and Alonzo B. Case, were both grazed on the arm by fragments of a shell. Thayer has received a position in the office of the Assistant Adjutant General of the Brigade. Alexander has been detailed as provost guard, and is, I believe, about to be promoted to a position in the Engineer corps. Stephenson has been appointed field guard, Reeves is teamster, Kent, Mathews and Marsh are on the pioneer corps.
He added on May 4, at 5:00 a.m.,
I have just learned that the enemy have evacuated their stronghold and are in rapid retreat towards Richmond. McClellan's hosts are after them. All is hurry and excitement. I too must get ready to march. Now forward to Richmond. Hurrah!
On May 8 from Williamsburg, Frank wrote to Mr. Parsons of the Republican,
Dear Sir: In my last we were just about to depart from our encampment in front of Yorktown in pursuit of the rebel army. The army commenced moving at sun rise, but we did not move until 2 p.m., May 4th. It was a beautiful Sabbath day, but there was little, save in the beauty of nature to remind us that it was God's appointed day of rest. All is hurry and excitement. Here thunders along a battery of artillery. There a squadron of cavalry makes the earth tremble with its heavy tread as they gallop fearlessly to the front. Then in every direction as far as you can see are the long lines of infantry dragging their slow lengths along.
Our outer lines of offensive works are passed, and we tread upon the half mile of disputed plain where but yesterday the rifle and cannon shot sent rapid death to all who were reckless enough to show themselves on either side. The deep ravines covered with fallen timber is passed and we find ourselves immediately in front of the strongest earthwork fortifications I have yet seen. But for our gunboats this position must have been impregnable. We had no time to look about us in the works as we were hurried rapidly onward. Sentinels were placed at irregular intervals to warn stragglers or curiosity seekers of their dangerous proximity to the hell devised torpedo or infernal machines, which were scattered or buried in various places in and around the fortifications. [booby traps?] Earlier in the day a number of our men were killed and wounded by these machines. There was but little evidence of the hasty departure of the rebels. It seems to have been fully considered, and time taken for the consideration of the plans of evacuation. It is true they left all their heavy guns, but these it was impossible to remove. A few tents were left in such position as would lead us to think that the enemy was still there. We halted for the night about two miles beyond Yorktown. May 5th, 1 a.m., rain commenced falling, not in April showers, but in a steady falling rain. We were aroused by the Reveille at 3 a.m., but for want of orders did not move until 8 a.m. About 10 a.m. we had entered the much talked of swamp, and such roads -- they are certainly indescribable. Here is an ammunition train immovably stuck in the mud. There an artillery train, again a provision train, while the infantry, the only among the service that can move, makes its way in a zigzag course through the interminable and almost impregnable swamp. The rain falls heavily, and covered with mud, our clothing soaked with water, many of our troops begin to sink under the exhaustion. Hark! our ears detect the sound of fierce strife waged in the distance. Excited Aid de Camps rush hither and thither -- now urging at this ammunition train -- now doubling the teams on that battery -- then appealing to this Brigade or Division to hurry to the rescue of our almost defeated van guard. A new life inspires us -- the tired, exhausted soldier is refreshed. We no longer pick our way through the labyrinth of mud holes, but rush fearlessly along -- now on the quick, again on the double quick, then on the run. A Regiment of New Englanders is passed, a Brigade, then an entire Division is made to take our rear. One p.m. we have neared the hotly contested field; another appeal reaches us for succor. Ambulances heavily loaded with our wounded are passing to the rear. We halt for a few minutes -- knapsacks are unslung and left by the wayside, our rifles are examined to see that the still falling rain had not injured them. Another double quick dash of two miles through the mud, and the Mich. 2d and 5th, and N. Y. 37th are in a hand to hand combat with the heretofore victorious foe. The 3d was ordered to the support of a battery on our left, the enemy's right flank, hence took no part in the contest, and are entitled to but little share of the honor that the exultant cheers of the balance of the Michigan Brigade told us they had won for themselves and their State. We were ordered into the battle just as night set in, but an impenetrable darkness rendered any further operations for the night out of the question, and we retired to where we had left our baggage, and on the wet ground without blankets in wet clothing, we lay down at midnight and slept soundly until sunrise, the 6th. During the night the enemy evacuated. We soon after moved again, and before noon encamped on the plains in front of the ancient city (230 years old) of Williamsburg. There we are still encamped awaiting the arrival of provisions.
It requires an abler pen than this to depict the horrors of the battle field. The enemy's entrenchments were upon an extensive [line] in front of Williamsburg. A half mile to the front commences the swamp. A strip of timer from ten to three hundred yards wide on the edge of this swamp was felled, or rather slashed, and in this, supported by a ditch on the enterage, lay the concealed enemy, and through this slashing it was necessary to charge the enemy at the point of bayonets. Here the Michigan 2d and 5th, by their impetuous charges covered themselves with glory. Through this charging was everywhere seen the realities of war -- side by side lay friend and foe, their eyes glazed in death -- here is one cut to pieces with a shell, another transfixed with a bayonet, but a great majority were shot in the breast or head with rifle bullets. The enemy were indeed a motley crew. Though all had clothing enough, there was little uniformity; all of them too seemed to have enough provisions. The wounded prisoners are surprised at our kind treatment. They had been led to believe us fiends -- some kind of savage animal that was coming to devour and destroy. They are especially surprised that the bulk of the army, and especially the Zouaves, are men. I can form no idea of our loss, or the number of prisoners; specials for the northern press can form a much better estimate. Of one thing I am certain, the first accounts were atrociously exaggerated. Our friends must not permit themselves to be too much troubled on account of the first reports that reach them in reference to future battles. There will be more fighting within three days.
A very complementary order has just been issued by the General commanding, eulogizing the Michigan troops in the highest terms. I will send you a copy of it if it is possible. We march again tomorrow morning.
Frank was listed as First Sergeant when he was killed in action May 31, 1862, at Fair Oaks, Virginia. Homer Thayer of Company G wrote home on May 31-June 1 that “Siverd was hit three times, and after he was hit the second time he cheered the boys on nobly.” Shortly afterwards, Thayer wrote the Republican that “Sergt. Chas. T. Foster, the Color Sergt. of the Regiment was the first to fall. He was bravely holding the colors, and by his coolness and courage, doing much to encourage the boys to press on. Orderly E. F. Siverd was soon after wounded, but still did his duty and urged his comrades on. Soon after this Corporals Case B. Wickham, John Blanchard and Nathaniel T. Atkinson, and privates Samuel Dowell and Charles T. Gaskill received fatal shots. Atkinson and Dowell were brought from the field before they died. All have been buried, and their resting places marked with aboard giving the name, company and Regiment.” His obituary in the Republican on June 18, 1862, was a tribute to a young man of great promise:
Truly, a friend has fallen! The sad intelligence of the death of Mr. Siverd has cast a gloom over those who were his personal friends. To know, was to respect and love him. He was a young man, of great intelligence; of high toned, religious sentiment, always desirous of keeping the Sabbath, having the bible for his constant companion. He was a self-made, generous, whole-souled man, the embodiment of virtuous principles, one of which was temperance -- we might say he was so in all things. He was one whose memory were shall ever cherish. Frank was always welcome at the fire side, and indeed the home circles seemed incomplete without him. We can now hear the echo of his hearty laugh, and still feel the warm shake of the hand, while we remember his ready wit and kindly greeting. [He] distinguished himself at the battle of Bull Run by relieving the sufferings of the sick and wounded in various ways; while under the fire of the enemy he carried water to those who were fainting by the way, not unlike the good Samaritan. Frank found three of his brothers at this battle who belonged to a Pennsylvania Regiment, and whom he had not seen for three years.
His heroic bravery is manifest by an extract from a letter written just before the army of the Potomac started on its march; speaking of commissions honorably won on the battle field he says, ‘I shall win or die if the occasion offers.’ Again he says, ‘When I entered the service and knew the fatigue and exposures an enlisted man was subject to, I made up my mind it would be impossible for me to live through a six-months campaign, but a return to health changed my mind, and I believe now that nothing short of a rebel sixty-four pounder will send me to the other side of Jordan.’ Siverd's energy and great fortitude did not save him from the enemy's shot, but is life blood has been poured freely out as a sacrifice to this unholy war. We deeply sympathize with his affectionate mother in the loss of so good a son, but what is our loss we trust is his gain.
Truly, a friend has fallen! The sad intelligence of the death of Mr. Siverd has cast a gloom over those who were his personal friends. To know, was to respect and love him. He was a young man, of great intelligence; of high toned, religious sentiment, always desirous of keeping the Sabbath, having the bible for his constant companion. He was a self-made, generous, whole-souled man, the embodiment of virtuous principles, one of which was temperance -- we might say he was so in all things. He was one whose memory were shall ever cherish. Frank was always welcome at the fire side, and indeed the home circles seemed incomplete without him. We can now hear the echo of his hearty laugh, and still feel the warm shake of the hand, while we remember his ready wit and kindly greeting.
Mr. S. distinguished himself at the battle of Bull Run by relieving the sufferings of the sick and wounded in various ways; while under the fire of the enemy he carried water to those who were fainting by the way, not unlike the good Samaritan. Frank found three of his brothers at this battle who belonged to a Pennsylvania Regiment, and whom he had not seen for three years. His heroic bravery is manifest by an extract from a letter written just before the army of the Potomac started on its march; speaking of commissions honorably won on the battle field he says, ‘I shall win or die if the occasion offers.’ Again he says, ‘When I entered the service and knew the fatigue and exposures an enlisted man was subject to, I made up my mind it would be impossible for me to live through a six-months campaign, but a return to health changed my mind, and I believe now that nothing short of a rebel sixty-four pounder will send me to the other side of Jordan.’ Siverd's energy and great fortitude did not save him from the enemy's shot, but is life blood has been poured freely out as a sacrifice to this unholy war. We deeply sympathize with his affectionate mother in the loss of so good a son, but what is our loss we trust is his gain. E. F. Siverd was 26 years old, Feb. 22, 1862.
Frank was buried in Seven Pines National Cemetery: section A, grave 152.
On June 16, 1862, Frank’s mother Elizabeth was living in Christiana, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, when she had someone write a letter to the editor of the Republican informing him that “today I received the Lansing Republican, and find it contains the death of my dear son, E. F. Siverd. My thanks are due you for sending me the paper, also to Mr. and Mrs. Thayer, for the only particulars I have heard of his death. I hope it is not to[o] much for me to ask if you will have the goodness to let me know any further particulars you may have. . . . Your kindness of heart will forgive me for troubling you, but I know of no one else to go to for particulars.”
In 1868 his mother applied for and received a dependent mother’s pension no. 122,820, and was residing in Kansas City, Missouri in December of 1868.
Curiously, there was one Jacob Siverd living in Kansas City’s Second Ward in 1870, and one Jacob Siverd working as a mason and brick contractor and living at 1322 Cherry st. in Kansas City in 1889-91. He was quite possibly the same Jacob Siverd, married to one Esther A. who enlisted on September 5, 1861, probably as a musician, in Company B, Seventy-ninth Pennsylvania infantry and who was mustered out on July 12, 1865 in Washington, DC. If so, he was living in Missouri when he applied for and received a pension (no. 578207. Esther was also living in Missouri when she applied for and received a pension (no. 565960).