Army life in Virginia by George Grenville Benedict.

Reviews and Battalion Drill.
Camp Casey, East Capitol Hill,
Washington, Oct. 18, 1862

Dear Free Press:

Reviews have been the order of the day with us for three or four days past. On Wednesday, the four regiments temporarily composing this brigade, viz. the 12th and 13th Vermont, and the 25th and 27th New Jersey, were reviewed by Colonel Derrom, colonel commanding. The men were ordered out in “full marching order,” which means with knapsacks packed, haversacks and canteens slung, forty rounds of ammunition in the cartridge box, and arms and equipments all complete. We were in harness about two hours and a half; but the day was cool and it did not come hard on us. The good appearance and behavior of the troops brought out the following general order:

“Headquarters Second Brigade,
Casey’s Division,
Camp Casey, Capitol Hill,

Washington, Oct. 16, 862.

General Order No. 5.

The colonel commanding this brigade, takes pleasure in giving credit to the several regiments of this brigade, for their smart appearance and general good order on review yesterday. The States they represent, as well as our common country, may be proud of them. The material is excellent, indeed cannot be surpassed, and it rests now with the officers of the brigade, whether this material shall be properly moulded or not. To do this, requires much devotion to duty, and a strict attention to the rules and regulations of the United States army, which will be their pride; and it is hoped the officers will be examples of neatness, good order and military efficiency to the men.

A true soldier is the most courteous of men— obedient, firm, systematic, temperate and orderly, trusting in God at. all times and in all places. Soldiers! aim each to be this perfect soldier.

By order of
A. Derrom,
Colonel Commanding.”

Next day the brigade was reviewed by General Casey. This time I was not in the ranks but detailed on special duty, and so had an opportunity to see the display. To the four regiments above named was added the i4th Massachusetts battery of light artillery, six pieces. As I looked down the long line of bayonets, half a mile or more in length, it looked to me like an array of 10,000 men, and I began to have some conception how grand a display a parade of fifty or sixty thousand men must be. Of course I watched closely the marching and appearance of the different regiments, and was proud to find the 12th Vermont, though the newest regiment on the ground the 13th Vermont excepted, second to no other present. This I am sure was not partiality on my part. I tried certainly to be perfectly fair in my judgment, and if I found that we were inferior in drill to the New Jersey regiments, as we might naturally be expected to be, having been in camp days to their weeks, I meant to own it. But it was not so. Our officers were the most spirited in appearance, our men the quickest into line, the most uniform in marching, the most elastic in their step, the promptest in the simple evolutions ordered. And this was also the opinion of far better judges than myself, General Casey having freely expressed his surprise at such proficiency in so new a regiment, and having transmitted to Col. Blunt a written expression of his gratification with our appearance, which was read to us, with the added thanks of the colonel, at dress parade next evening. While we were out on review, the Inspector of Camps, of Gen. Casey’s division, inspected the camps and put a new feather in our cap, by declaring that he was glad at last to find in that of the Twelfth, a camp to which he might point other regiments, as an example of order and neatness.

Yesterday was given to battalion drill, and to-day we have had another grand review, by Gens. Banks and Casey, of the troops of the two provisional brigades of Gen. Casey’s division. These, when the order for review was issued, comprised eight regiments of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Vermont troops, with two batteries, but a sudden order called two of them to the field last night, and but six regiments with the two batteries were on the ground. I wish I had the time to fully describe this review; but I must make it short.

The day was bright and again the Twelfth won high praise. The Fifteenth Connecticut surpassed us a little in marching; but then the Connecticut regiment has been three months in camp, is a particularly good regiment, and its company lines were not over two-thirds the length of ours—an important consideration in marching and wheeling.

We are as proud of our field officers as they are of the men. Col. Blunt always attracts attention by his keen eye, lithe figure, and fine horsemanship. He rides a large dark bay horse, of English blood and training, presented to him by Thaddeus Fairbanks of St. Johnsbury. Our lieutenant colonel, Farnham, with nothing of show in his composition—for he is a very quiet as well as efficient officer—is handsome in face and figure, and the beautiful and fiery bay horse which he rides is much admired. Major Kingsley also rides a handsome bay. Our Adjutant rides a jet black Morgan stallion. Col. Randall of the Thirteenth, rides a splendid chestnut charger; and it was agreed that there were no better looking officers on the ground, from Major Gen. Banks down, than the Vermont officers, or better horses than the Vermont horses.

The troops, after review, were marched down to the city, through Pennsylvania Avenue to Gen. Casey’s headquarters near Long Bridge, and then back to camp, making in all a march of six miles or more. The boys stood it well. They are getting toughened pretty rapidly, although many suffer from diarrhœa and colds. The list of sick men in hospital, however, does not average over twenty, none of them being very sick.

I find on looking over such of my letters as have returned to me in the Free Press, that I have omitted many things of interest to us here, and perhaps, to our friends at home. The advent of our mule teams is one. I ought to remember that, I am sure, for I travelled many a footsore mile, accompanying the officer who was sent to obtain them, over the pavements of Washington, from one army office to another, before we secured them. We have five teams of four mules each. The driver rides one of the wheel mules, and drives by a rein attached to the head of one of the leaders. They were but half broken when we took them, and do not understand English at all. There is no such word as “whoa” in the negro dialect, the monosyllable “yay” taking its place,—and the mules do not always mind that. Their yay is not yea nor their neigh a neigh proper, by any means. The scene was a rich one, when our boys took them up Pennsylvania Avenue, the first day, on their way to camp. They cleared one side of the broad street as effectively as a charge of cavalry, and came within one of riding over one of the street railroad cars, horses, passengers and all. But I cannot tell every thing. If I jot down hastily now and then a circumstance or scene of interest, it is the most I can do.

Yours, B.

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

Comments on this entry are closed.