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

Friday, June 13, 2014

A Soldiers Life

The reunion with George behind him for now, Philip's letter of the 21st turns to the more mundane things of a soldiers life:

"I must get my breakfast ~ a nice breakfast I have had of Coffee & Hard Crackers & a nice stew ~ I can make a nice cup of coffee as you can but such stews as we get up ~ of Crackers & water &c &c (sic) but before I go much further I will tell you where we came from [.] When my letter was sent it was at Burkittsville ~ a few minutes after sending the Letter we had orders to join our bridgade ~ it was a hard march about 14 miles in 4 hours ~ we went to Sharpsburg where the fights [were] ~ we encamped on the battle field but did not have to bury the dead which I was glad of as they were decaying fast [.] I wish you could see a battle field & the desolating appearance it has ~

it had been nice weather here a few days back ~ I guess that the sun does not cross the Line here in Maryland ~ it is the 21st & the weather never betokened better ~ I have just left off writing & been out foraging [.] I got 6 Ears of Corn & 27 potatoes about as large as Grapes ~ I shall have a big Supper of Succotash again ~ I have not had any in a week or more [.] I never was in better health in my Life than now notwithstanding the hard times"

His letter goes on to catch Roby up on various people he's heard from or sees when down there:

"Little Bill Gunnicliff got a letter from Martha last night..."
"Darby Ely & Newbern Armstrong got Letters..."
"Parsons was left behind to take care of the wounded..."   
"I do not know whether Geo is with us here or not...."

Small snippets of home and familiarity to keep himself going. And yet the war beckons:

"I just heard that we had 72,000 Troops on ahead of us ~ what they are agoing to do with them I do not know ~ we come here expecting to fight but the Enemy is gone & appearances indicate no fighting ~ there has not been any to day [.] I know I should not wonder if we had to march after the Enemy all through [Richmond] Virginia & may be farther but I hope that the war will close soon & I think it will" wishful thinking?

"but I mus[t] cook my Succotash ~ how I wish I had a bowl of Bread & milk to night & eat off a plate once more but we make the best of everything[.] I tell you of our hard fare more for the Sake of letting you know what a Soldiers life is ~ not because I do not like it ~ I am satisfied but they have put us through like old Regiments ~ all because their Colonel Brigaded us with old Regts & we have to keep with them & fight with them ~ it has been all through the kindness of Gen Slocum that he keeps us as a reserve ~ he said that he would not have blamed us if we had refused to march from Washington ~ that he had no work for us but now we are Toughened & acclimated so that we can stand anything but I must cook my supper [.]"

He continued his letter the next day, Sept 22, 1862:

"We had a very cold night last night ~ we could not keep warm no way but it is so pleasant now that we have forgot it ~ we moved forward about a mile yesterday & drew in line of Battle & stacked Arms again ~ we never stop any where but we keep in Battle Order[.] I had a nice Breakfast this morning ~ small Potatoes Corn Pork Beef Coffee & Bread or Hard Tack ~ There seems to be no prospect of Skirmishing with the Rebels this morning ~ it is very peaceable ~ There is a good deal of Corn raised here ~ it is all we can see & that got destroyed by the army[.] Peaches & Apples Grapes &c flourish good here ~ but things are not more forward here than in New York[.] 

He goes on to write he: "would like to have been home Sunday & went to church ~honestly we don't have Sundays here ~ it is hard telling when Sunday comes ~ all our hard marches fighting &c comes on Sunday"

Later in the letter he tells Roby: the Captain is agoing to promote me he says the first chance he gets..."  and also "I have just heard Gen Slocum wants to send us back to some camp of instruction & not march us into Virginia ~ I am afraid the news is too good to be true ~ we hear also that we have taken Richmond  but I must close."   

And sounding a bit homesick he closes the letter with: "give my love to all the friends & kiss the Baby for me & teach him to remember his father ~ how I would like to see him [.] I wish you would send his likeness to me ~ you must take care of yourself & remember me ~ write as often as you can[.] write often[.] Yours with much Love...

                                be sure & direct your Letters to Sergeant P.R. Woodcock
                                                                                          Co. E 121 Regt"

Monday I return with a trip to the future (May 1864) and the taking of the Seal of Spotsylvania and its return by my family (1972)!

Have a great weekend! 


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