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 20, 2014

Bayonets! (Bivouac near Fredericksburgh, VA)

History has it that the Battle of Spottsylvania ended on May 21st, 1864. Philip's regiment was "moved up & formed line of Battle on the Right about 8 miles from Fredericksburg". (Taken from his diary entry of the 20th.)  He stopped to write to Roby on the 21st:

                                                       "Bivouac near Fredericksburgh VA

My Dearest wife

Once more while I have the chance I will write you to keep you posted as to our movements. I may not have another opportunity ~ When I last wrote you we were down near the Court House ~ Soon after the Rebs tried a deep game to Flank us on the Right & Capture our Trains ~"  

I don't know about you, but I detected a bit of sarcasm in that...

"they succeeded in getting 21 wagons loaded with Hard Tack but they had to leave them again [,]  our boys aided by the Heavy Artillery drove them back ~ Our Division was ordered up here to guard the Fredericksburgh Pike [.] We had to march nearly all night ~ after getting into line of Battle we laid quiet & last night for the first time in 14 nights we rested all night ~ we was not routed out & this morning we had a chance to wash up a little & we feel better [.]"

A good nights sleep and a bath does wonders for a young man of 24. He continues:

"The Heavy Artillery had a pretty hard fight but their Loss was not heavy [.] They fired into one another made it [illegible writing here] The 7th NY Heavy was Engaged & as soon as we came up I searched for Burney but he was missing I think however as near as I could learn he is safe [.] The Regt at first broke & ran & I guess he got off.  I looked on the Battle Field but could not find his body so I think he must have lost the Regt ~ His Company did not think he was hurt ~ I hope not at least [.] I shall endeavor to find out all particulars as soon as possible ~ I can not find out anything further from George but I think he was only slightly wounded[.] We are now about 8 miles from Fredericksburgh in a good place if they will only let us stay there but if they should hear any Cannonading down on Left we would have to double quick down there ~ We have got a little Sick of it[.] The Rebs have gone back from in front of us but if they should try another Flanking movement we would have to fight some I tell you [.] They would try hard to cut us off here but let them come on [.] I would rather fight them here than to march up to their Rifle Pits[.]"

He goes on to describe with great detail about their fighting:

"I will now try to tell you a little something about our fights[.] On the 5th of May in the Wilderness our Corps was trying to join the 5th Corps~ we first came up with the Johnnie [.] Our Company was sent out as Skirmishers ~ we found nothing but scouts out for some distance finally found them pretty thick ~ They would be hid & let us get up close & fire on us ~ we lost several ~ There Parsons was wounded [,] but he was a dead Johnny in a short time afterward [.] Our Boys pitched into him sharp & killed him ~ The treacherous hounds kept falling back untill we got right in to their Line of Battle when the[y] all pured a tremendous volley into us hitting several. It was a confounded mean trick but we stayed in our places untill our Line of Battle passed over us then we were relieved & we made tall running to get out before the fight became to[o] heavy. This was all in a thick woods called the wilderness [.] The fight lasted all day but we kept out as far as possible. The next day the 6th we were throwing up Breastworks and the Rebs tried to Break our Right. We had to Leave everything & go in a double quick ~ the Johnnies drove us back over but we rallied and some more help came but they fired into us by mistake [.] We did not know where to go for a long while [.] Bullets came into us from 3 sides [.] There was bad management & we lost heavy ~ as soon as it was dark we had to leave that Spot ~ we moved down to the Left towards Fredericksburgh. From that time till the 10th we would march nights & day times did Rifle Pits & get shelled ~ on the 10th our Brigade made a bloody but splendid Charge in a rough Rifle Pit & Battery. We captured everything but could not hold it but a few minutes[.]  this fight was the most horrible I ever saw ~ it was all Bayonets [.] I never want to see another ~ we lost heavy here also ~ we went in with 387 men & only came out with 146[.] We done some tall running here when we were drove out [.] We took 900 Prisoners though and we had about 1000 more but had to leave them [.] On May the 12th the 2nd Corps made a charge & we had to go up & help hold the works ~ they took our Brigade ~ went in a bad place & were driven back with heavy loss but we went in again & fought in the Rain & mud 7 hours [.] The next day we fought on the Skirmish line again but I must stop ~ the mail goes out [.] We are ordered to move back to the Left [.] May be we will have a fight [.] Write soon have courage [.] 
                                                   May God bless you
                                                   A Kiss for you & Baby
                                                  Yours Phil R Woodcock"

Wow.  I need to breathe a little after that...

Next week: Back to 1862 and the GREEN REGIMENT.  I'm also adding a new feature each day, somewhat like a "This Date in History".  I'll have 
an except of his letters and/or diaries from that exact date 
150 years ago in our nation's history.

Have a good weekend and hope to see you then!

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