Army life in Virginia by George Grenville Benedict.

Ordered To The Field.
Camp of the Second Vermont Brigade,
Near Munson’s Hill, Virginia,
Oct. 30, 1862.

Dear Free Press:

“Change sweepeth over all,” sang the plaintive Motherwell, and we find the line to have as much truth as poetry in the army. Yesterday at this time every man in the Second Vermont brigade thought we were good for a stay of some weeks on East Capitol Hill. The Vermont regiments had been brigaded together. The Fourteenth and Fifteenth, ordered across the Potomac on their arrival, had been ordered back and were establishing themselves in camp near us. It was reasonable to suppose that some time for drill in battalion and brigade evolutions would be granted before sending us forward. All the other troops about us had been ordered away, leaving our brigade alone on East Capitol Hill. Some troops would of course be left there, and we must be the ones. So reasoned officers and men, and the conclusion was easily reached that we should stay where we were for the present. In this conviction the men of the Twelfth began making themselves more comfortable in camp. Lumber was procured at $25 a thousand and upwards. Our little A tents, in which we enacted the daily and nightly miracle of stowing six men, with six muskets and about as much harness as is allotted to so many horses in a well arranged stable, together with bedding, crockery and tinware and goods and chattels all and sundry, belonging to said family of six, in a tent seven feet square on the ground and tapering in a wedge to the height of six or six and one-half feet,—these little tents were elevated on sides built up of boards, by which their original capacity was almost doubled and the comfort of the occupants at least trebled. Shelves were rigged, pegs put in to hang guns and trappings on, floors laid, and various little contrivances to enhance order and cleanliness added. With what satisfaction we looked at our new structures! How we enjoyed a residence in which we could stretch our arms at length above our heads, and sit around the sides without doubling together like so many jack-knives! With what complacency did we think of our own thrift, and look forward to days and weeks of such comparative luxury! Alas for the folly of human expectations! With nightfall came the order to move into Virginia, and here we are to-night, five miles the other side of the Potomac, our new acquisitions left far behind us, and not a saw-mill or lumber yard this side of Washington or Richmond, so far as we know. They may talk of the sorrow of leaving the ancestral roof-tree, the hearth around which boyhood’s days were spent and youth’s and manhood’s memories clustered; —that can be described; but the pangs with which we left our wooden walls and floors, are indescribable. But such is life in the army. We have, however, some consolation; our kind colonel and quartermaster have promised that if the wagons can be procured to transport it, our lumber shall follow us hither.

The five Vermont regiments broke camp at daybreak this morning. The order was to form line at half past seven and march at eight. Col. Blunt, commanding, is a prompt man. At half past seven the line was formed, and at eight the column marched. It swept down Pennsylvania Avenue, as goodly an array of five thousand stout, intelligent, spirited men as eye ever looked on. The march was a very comfortable one for the men, and our present camp bids fair to be a great improvement on our late one, as far as the ground and nearness to wood and water are concerned.

You have heard before this of the death of young Collamer of Shelburne. It is the first gap made by death in the ranks of Company C, and we feel it keenly. He was an amiable and excellent young man, with the making in him, to all appearance, of a stout and hearty soldier. His disease was uncontrollable. For a day or two the doctors thought he might rally, but he did not agree with them. “I shall die in three days,” he said, one night, and in three days he died, peacefully, even happily, for he had made his peace with God.

There are no very sick men of our Company; and I believe we shall find our present camp, on new ground not tainted by the stay upon it of so many successive thousands, a healthier one than the old one. How long we shall stay here no one can say.

Yours, B.

Army life in Virginia by George Grenville Benedict, 12th Regiment Vermont Volunteers.

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