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

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Waiting and Watching ~ September 12, 1862

Philip's letter  of the 12th continues today with a description 
of his living conditions:

"It was so late last night that I could not finish this after eating supper so I will try again this morning ~ The rebels Skedadled (sic) yesterday & I do not know where they are now but we have marching orders at six o'clock & now it is 1/2 past 5 ~ we probably will keep following them up now all the while ~ now I want to tell you how we live & sleep ~ In the first place last night we slept out in the open air as usual & it was a rainy misty night [.] I waked up several times during the night & felt it raining in my face ~ we laid on the bare ground no pillow my blanket was wet so this morning when I folded it up the water runs out of it & it is very heavy too & we will have to carry them all day [.] I was wet through but I did not catch much cold ~ "

Imagine a heavy wool blanket, soaking wet, folded up and carried the rest of the day, possibly into battle or tossed nearby.  He goes on to talk about his food supply and the cost of certain items at the time:

"well now about our living ~ when we have liberty to forage & carry out order no 5 we live well but when we live on the rations that we draw I tell you it is poor though I have not suffered from hunger but the Company has ~ my appetite has not been good enough to eat all my rations & consignments [.] I have enough [.] we drawed this morning 1 Gal of [Old or Cold, illegible] Beans apiece which was all the quartermaster had to deal out to us ~ usually though we have 5 or 6 Army Crackers a thing about as large as a northern Soda Cracker & very solid & hard & no salt in them ~ it takes a man a great while to eat them ~"

 These crackers were known as  Hardtack

"~also a small chunk of good pork & when in camp a little beef but it goes pretty good ~ I do not complain a bit ~ it is not much worse than I expected though we have been used like old Soldiers ~ put through the worst kind for a green Regiment ~ yesterday we lived high ~ we had succotash & Roasted Corn potatoes Apple Sauce &c ~ all day we stripped about a 100 Acres ~ every man is his own cook on a march ~ we left all our plates knifes & forks & cups at the Forst so we have had to buy them here [.] I came across a Tin can about the size of an Oyster can & had to pay 20 cts for it ~ I then bought a pint Cup & had to pay 15 cts for that ~ I was offered a dollar for them but I could not spare them [.] I have seen soliers give one dollar for pint Cups but they are nearly all supplied ~ writing of prices ~ I will show you what things are worth here ~"

This is where I had a reality check against today's inflation:

"Cheese 30 to 40 cts per lb [,] Butter 33 cts Tea 2.00 Salt can't get it [,] only from Washington [,] Potatoes 75 cts per bush[el] sugar 30 cts per lb everything in proportion ~ Crackers & Cakes 2/-per lb 20 to the lb [.] "

$.75 cents for a bushel of potatoes? $.30 for a pound of sugar?

"Now I will try & tell you where we are [.] I hardly know where we are myself but we have traveled from Washington north west [.] I think we are in a parallel line with Harpers Ferry & half way between that & Washington ~ we passed & left Poolsville about 5 miles back [.] I think we are expected to leave here every minute ~ just as I am writing our Cavalry scouts have just brought in 2 prisoners Rebels [.] I don't know what they will do with them [.] We have just drawed our rations of Crackers ~ these are pretty good ~ they taste fresh ~ we drawed 23 for 2 days ~ The Captain is putting out orders to march are in hand & I must quit [.]"

By 6 o'clock P.M. they are drawn up in battle order:

"Here we are again drawn up in battle order held as a reserve while our advance is fighting the enemy [.] That is the way it goes ~ when we get up with them & ready the battle is ended [.] I do not know how it is agoing now nor where it is in fact ~ we hear no Guns nor firing ~ still one thing I do know ~ we have about overtaken them [.] They have been ahead of us ~ all the road houses are all deserted & some of their Doors all open & Carpets down pictures hanging & everything loose ~ I presume 200 of our soldiers passed from kitchen to parlor & out ~ nothing was taken that I see except an old parasol [.] We have marched 10 miles to day and are drawn up in the woods ~ we do not know how long we shall stay but I hope all night [.] O.C. Parsons is about tired out [.] I have taken care of him like a brother but he will come out of it all right I guess but I must stop & get supper [.]" 

Tomorrow: The morning of the 13th ~ Forces engage the Enemy! 
Hope to see you then. 


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