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

Saturday, July 12, 2014

November 5, 1862, Snickers Gap, VA

"I tell you a Calf, Hog, Chicken or Sheep...stands a poor sight in this country.."

Philip's letter home from Snickers Gap described the act of "foraging" or "plundering" that took place on both sides of the battle.  Although frowned upon, it was a somewhat common occurrence that he observed.  A dictionary definition of this from Civil War Trust is:  

Bummer:  A term used to describe marauding or foraging soldiers.  Although armies on both sides often had rules against foraging or stealing from private residences, some soldiers often found ways to do so. 

Philip's letter of the 5th:

"Camp near Snickers Gap Va
Nov 5 1862

My Dear Wife

Thinking you would like to hear from me again I now write to you once more ~ we are now at Snickers Gap where they had a terrible fight Saturday & Sunday but our forces are holding it now [.] We have not had very hard marches ~ about 6 to 10 miles a day ~ the weather is fine at present ~ if we are fortunate enough to get such weather as this 2 or 3 weeks we will knock this Southern Confederacy into a cocked Hat [.] "

Not sure what that term means!  He continues:

"We have not come up to the fighting yet ~ the Rebels Skedaddle so fast but they are fixing for a deadly battle ~ we reached here about 4 o'clock last night & encamped [.] We expected to march again early this morning but we have not started yet & it does not look much like it yet ~ in fact I don't think that we can get much farther ~ there are so many troops ahead of us it is completely backed up ~ there is considerable firing going on about 10 miles ahead of us [.] Burnside is engaged I believe [.] The 76th is only a little ways ahead of us ~ they left here about 2 hours before we encamped [.] I got a letter from Burney last night ~ they were all well ~ It is a nice section of country through which we are passing but our Brigade does strip things ~ we appropriate every thing to our own use we find [.] I have not been out much yet foraging but our boys are scouring the country all the while & they supply me [.] I tell [you] a Calf Hog chicken or Sheep or in fact anything eatable stands a poor sight in this country & it is not much use for the officers to say much against it ~ Most of the people are Secesh [meaning part of the seceded states]  through here & we don't have much sympathy for a Rebel if he does lose 20 or 30 sheep in one night --- I went into a house night before last & asked for some but I got the usual answer that they had not got anything ~ finally upon my coaxing pretty hard the old woman said I could have some warm biscuit which were baking [.] I waited 15 minutes had the fun of sitting in a chair & by a stove ~ the first time since leaving home[.] I got 18 biscuit for a pound of coffee but they were very small but good [.]" OK, so he traded some coffee for them...

"One of the boys in our Company wounded himself accidentally last night with a revolver ~ the ball passing through the foot ~ it was Peabody Cook ~ son of Nelson Cook the Deaf & Dumb man near Hollow but we have got orders to pack up & be ready to start & I must close this letter & get ready ~ the boys are all well as far as I know ~ there is but Parsons & Cuppernall here at present with me ~ now write me as quick as you get this & write good long letters ~ have the rest of them all write ~ my health is tip top but I must close so good bye for this time [.] I will write again to keep you posted on fighting affairs ~ take good care of the baby & yourself & remember me [.]

                                                                           Yours devotedly & faithfully
                                                                           P R Woodcock"

So, not a great time to be a farm animal or Southern Secessionist but an honest, first-hand account of what was going on at that time period.

Next week I move into the build up to the Battle of Fredricksburg, VA!

Hope to see you then!


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