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 27, 2014

No Coward Here

" never shall be said that I was found skulking.."

Being fairly new and still on the march, Philip drew guard duty many times. The night of the 25th of October was one of which he wrote Roby a lengthy letter which spanned several days.  His paper had an engraved letterhead with a caption that read: "Great Naval Engagement off Fort Jackson".  His letter of the 25th:

                                            Dam no 4 Picket Stop [or Station?]
                                                              Oct 25 1862

My Dearest Wife

As I will not have time to write this letter in the morning I will commence now ~ it is precisely 1/2 past 3 [a.m.] I have been up all night & now my fire is bright enough to see to write ~ I have not been relieved yet no won't be probably untill we go back to camp which will be in the forenoon some time probably ~ It is now Saturday again & it seems as if this week had passed away very quick [.] Time passes very fast to us now ~ it is a little over 3 months since I enlisted & I do not know just how long since I have seen you[.] I did not keep track of the time [.] Our boys took 2 Rebels prisoners yesterday ~ both gave themselves up [.] The Rumor is here that the body of the Enemys troops were falling back upon Winchester ~ as we were making our Rounds last night we saw some of the most curious Signal Lights you could imagine [.] I do not know what McClellan intends doing with us but we are under strict marching orders [.] We expect to go through Virginia every day & how I do dread that march too ~ we have an awful heavy load to carry & it is a poor Country to march in ~ water is poor & Scarce ~ it is very desolate & completely ravaged [.] The people are so disgusted with war they won't look a Soldier in the face but pass him with heads down..I don't know whether it is their secession  proclivities or not but I guess it is ~ we find a good deal of it here in Maryland ~ we probably will have considerable fighting to do should we cross but and fighting that is somewhat harder than our Regt has done yet but it never shall be said that I was found skulking ~ [a term which defined in a dictionary means " to lie in hiding, as out of  cowardice or bad conscience"] this is no useless bragging now for I have passed through one fire & I know what I can stand ~ you don't know how much a coward is detested here & yet there is a great deal of Skulking done in the hour of battle -- I would a good deal rather my bones should lay here in the South than be found in that situation [.]"

I don't need to comment on the absolute need and ability of a soldier to be fearless or the reality of them being quite human in a time of stress.  Philip goes on to describe the scene of his writing:

 "I wish you could see me writing here during the night Serg  another Sergeant is is (sic) with me & we both have our portfolios spread out writing home to our wives [.] The fire blazes up clear & strong & is very hot ~ every 2 hours we have to visit the Pickets posts 5 in number [.] The Enemy are in plain sight [.] I have just been bragging to him about our little George ~ he thinks he must be very smart ~ You ought to have seen [Brother] George when I showed him the babys likeness he was tickled enough on seeing it ~ how he does want one every time I saw him and that was about twice a day he would ask to see it ~ There is a probable chance of George being promoted ~ I hope he will for if any one ever served their Country faithfully he has [.] I think he will get Orderly Sergeant ~ There is a call amongst our Troops to enlist in the regular Service  ~ they give 20 days furlough & $100 down [.] I would like that very well but I don't like the service [.] It is getting daylight now & I can see to write better [.] We have been having very cold windy weather for 3 or 4 days but it is getting warmer now [.] Our Overcoats came the other day & we was glad to get them for we needed them very much now ~ we sleep very comfortable ~ you don't know how much I think of that night cap ~ it is the most valuable thing I possess now [.] I can sleep with my ears warm ~ I hope we shall get back to our old camp to day for the water we have here we get out of the canal & don't taste very good though the Canal here is a good deal cleaner than the Erie Canal in New York State ~ this water is pure like River water but tastes dead & brackish ~ I will tell what we had for our meals yesterday ~ (always sounding much better than my dinner!)  in the morning we had Coffee, Sweet Potatoes and Bread  ~ for Dinner I had boiled Sweet Potatoes & Beef Steak & fried Onions & Bread that Parson & I had bought some days previous for Supper ~ boiled Rice & fried Onions & Hard Crackers soaked in cold water & fried with them ~ they were first rate but is not every day ~ I live so one could spend an immense pile of money here ~ every thing is so high I do not buy anything but vegetables [.] I do not spend much but we do not get any thing in the vegetables line unless we buy it & I think a man in order to preserve good health should have in this country Onions & potatoes twice a week certain we have [.] Parsons & I have them & I think that is what makes me so healthy ~ once in a while we get a Loaf of Bread ~ it is almost impossible for a man to eat it the Hard Army Bread we get but when we get into winter quarters we shall draw Soft Bread ~ the things we suffer the most for are Salt & Pepper & I believe no one can keep healthy without them, we draw about a spoonful of Salt per week & no pepper [.] I bought a 1/4 of a pound the other day & gave 15 cts for it ~ it will last us 6 months but I will finish this some other time [.]"

Well there you have it--fried onions and potatoes twice a week = health!

And now DEB'S DATE IN HISTORY: June 27, 1864

"...had my mustache and whiskers shaved off..."  !



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