The letters and diaries of Lieutenant Philip R. Woodcock
121st Regiment, New York State Infantry
"Upton's Regulars"
September 4, 1862-November 9, 1865

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Little History Written

 "I try to keep a sort of memorandum of events so that if I am Lucky enough to get back home I shall have a history already written." P.R. Woodcock

Philip's next letter to Roby was written over a two day period.  Unfortunately, the last page of the letter is missing, so I don't have a complete one but I'm including this one as I found it to be quite humorous as well as enlightening:

                                                                "Oct 9 1862
                                                      Camp on Antietam Creek

My Dear Wife

Having a little time & a postage stamp which cost 5 cents & plenty of paper I thought I would write to you again to day & keep you informed as to our movements ~ We left the river yesterday 10 o'clock & came back to camp ~ we had an exciting time the night before we left [.] I was put on Commandant of the pickets again for the night -- It was nice bright moonlight & was a splendid night ~ about 11 o'clock one of the Pickets sent word to me that the Enemy were posting pickets on an Island in the river [.] I at once dispatched an orderly to the Captain of the Picket Guard & he & I went upon the Heights overlooking the Island & sure enough within a few rods of us they were placing their men [.] The Major just then came in riding in a great hurry & said it was the same thing both above & below the River & in some places they had attempted to cross & ordered me to put on double pickets on a post & I actually believe he expected an attack before morning but we did not get it but it was fun & would have been more so had picket firing not been prohibited but by mutual consent they will not fire ~"

Back in the days of civilized fighting, such as it were...

"It is very hot here to day ~ it wilts us right down ~ it is a good deal more so than our weather does in August [.] One of our Company had his Gun go off accidentally this morning & made a flesh wound in his fingers ~ also one night before last shot his whole hand off accidentally & he will be sent home[.] But Battalion Drill comes on now & will have to go out but its awful hot[.]"

Shot his whole hand off?!  The letter is continued the next day, October 10, 1862, Friday:

"I think I will try to finish this letter now [.] I try to keep a sort of memorandum of events so that if I am Lucky enough to get back home I shall have a history already written ~ it is a little cloudy to day & has sprinkled some but I have my shelter Tent all pitched & am ready for anything ~ We have a great many sick in our regt ~ we hardly muster 800 Effective men now ~ We are expecting to move every day to follow the Rebels & give them fight into Virginia ~ if we do then you will hear of some bloody times for I think it is the intention of our Commanders to fetch them to terms as soon as possible ~ There has been some talk that our Corps was pronounced by Gen McClellan unfit for duty & would be used to guard the River but I guess it was nothing but a camp Story [.] You cannot imagine how many different Rumors we do get here in camp ~ sometimes we hear that Peace is declared & then we all flatter ourselves that we are going right home & about a week we believed that Richmond was taken ~ since then we do not believe any thing we hear ~" Sounds like a good thing. "Orville Parsons was pretty sick yesterday but feels better to day so that he went a mile after water for men & I to cook with [.] I just sent 2 of our company to the Hospital ~ one I don't think will Live -- Jim Van Horne has been pretty sick too but he is getting better ~"

And when you feel like you need that convenient shower?  Think on this:  

" The boys are now cleaning our street & the dust flies so that this letter will be dirty enough but you must make the best of my letters if they are all dirty [.] I can't always keep clean ~ you see water is scarce ~ we have to bring it a mile & only a canteen that holds about 2 quarts at that ~ There is a creek close by [,] but the Old Soldiers all wash above us & they are so Lousy (meaning full of lice) that we can't hardly stand it[.] but we all expect to express to their officers & all are so & it is utterly impossible to keep otherwise but I would rather give $1000 rather than find any on me & so far have been all right though several of our cleanest men have found them [.]"

Not so exciting now...he finishes with:

"But do not Laugh ~ that's what we enlisted for ~ But how I wish you & Father Pierce's whole family could see us ~ you would then know what war is..."

Indeed, but I for one, am thankful for his "memorandum of events".

DEB'S DATE IN HISTORY: June 25, 1864 150 years ago today

"Arose 4 oclock got Breakfast ~ all quiet ~ got a letter from Eld Eastman ~ made out Clothing List ~ policed up our Camp ~ very hot ~ went over to 7th NY ~ found Burney Pierce was wounded & back to Hospital [.] Had orders to lay out nice Camp ~ went & got poles for a bunk &c [.] Saw Frank Wilson 2nd NY Heavy ~ very hot today ~ suffered the most digging a well for the Company [.] Had whiskey Rations [.]"

Well Great-Great Grandfather Philip, it is my hope that on that hot day 150 years ago, you did enjoy your "whiskey rations" a bit...

TOMORROW: A letter from George and the Dress Parade!



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