"....we are below Fredericksburgh...which is burning..."
Over the next few weeks, Philip wrote five letters prior to being sent into battle. Sometimes they were grouped together into one envelope and sent to save stamps. Because he had not yet been called up for fighting and was still considered "reserve", he was setting up winter camp, but things soon changed...
"Camp in the Mountains
Nov 13th 1862
My Dear Wife
I received yours & fathers Letters last night & was glad to hear that you was well & enjoying yourselfs [.] I expected more than one letter but was very thankful to get that [.] I also received 2 Papers for which I thank you for I tell you a newspaper is a choice thing[.] we read advertisements & all..."
His letter went on, sounding somewhat bored about drilling again without knowledge of what for. The Union army had filled the land with camps and fires were seen throughout the trees at night. After describing that night's dinner: "Pancakes made of
Pulverized Pounded up Crackers soaked up & made into Batter...it makes a good substitute for Wheat Batter", he wrote about singing...
"The colonel has been getting up a nice Glee Club consisting of 2 of the best Singers from each Company [.] The Captain honored me by choosing me as one & for a Leader besides but I did not hardly feel capable so I told him I would sing but not Lead [.] We like our Colonel very much ~ he is a fine man very strict but sound & he takes care of his men[.]"
At this point in his letter he writes that "We don't have but few sick at present", and that "we have Burnside for a Commander now ~ it causes some
dissatisfaction considerable excitement in Camps but we want some thing done by somebody ~ we don't care who but I am afraid they will make us lay around in Camps untill the nice weather is gone & then keep us another Summer but I hope not ~"
Enclosed within that letter, he wrote to his father on the 14th. It was decidedly more formal. He described his dinner, his position in line, N.Y. State politics and told his father "I try to set a good example & live a Christian Life & I hope God will bless me ~ I think coming in the Army has been a benefit to me that I feel more of the Love of God in my heart than I formerly did ~" and he signed that letter "Yours Truly P R Woodcock"
There is a brief letter from November 20th telling Roby that they are still in camp due to bad roads ahead: "The Rebels have Gullied & dug the roads all to pieces ~ the troops have been repairing but they only went one mile yesterday..." and that he had "two attacks of the fever & Ague ~ one last Saturday & one last night but I am feeling first rate now ~ only sore & weak ~ those attacks only last me about 10 hours but I tell you a man cannot suffer much more from fever than I did last night ~"
After going on about his hopes for the end of the war by April 1st, it starts to rain and he goes on to tell her he needs to write "Cuppernall" and he closes in his fashion: "write soon & remember me ~ kiss the Baby for me ~ send some more Waverlys [.] Yours affectionately P R Woodcock"
There is a letter from his brother George enclosed in there written on the 24th which I'm going to skip for now (I plan to have an entire entry devoted to George's letters in the future) and Philip writes Roby on December 1st:
"Camp near Stafford Court House Va
Dec 1st 1862
My Dearest Wife
It seems a long time since I have written to you but I have [been] so busy that I have not had the time to write before ~ we have not had mail here untill yesterday in 2 weeks [.] I got 2 letters from you & one from George also a paper the next day ~ after I wrote you before we had to go 3 miles on Picket duty not the enemy but to pick up & arrest Army Stragglers ~ I was posted with 5 men in an old deserted house ~ we had it very comfortable too I tell you ~ 2 fire places in & we made beds on old boards & Doors [.] I got 2 or 3 meals at a house near by us ~ Spare Ribs & fried pork & Griddle cakes made about 1/2 an inch thick 10 inches in Diameter & made of wheat flour stirred in water with a very little Salt without any Soda or anything to raise it & eaten with Gravy on them ~ the Inhabitants here don't hardly know what bread is [.] I traded my Coffee off & a loaf for my board there & the woman gave me 30 Apples for a Shoe brush while we were there ~ we were only about 1/2 mile from Hookers Corps ~ the 76th was there I suppose but I dare not leave my post without running a heavy risk ~ I sent one of my men over there to tell George to come over but he said he run all over but could not find them though he see the rest of the division ~ you cannot imagine how muddy the roads were then but we have a few days of fine weather now & they have dried up considerable ~we moved our Camp out of the Swamp on a hill in a splendid place for wood & water ~ it has been pretty cool for some time so we huddle around the fire pretty close & have fires in front of our tents nights in order to keep warm...."
I will stop there for today. Come back tomorrow for the continuation of the letter of the 1st and Philip's Thanksgiving of that year and the build-up to the Battle!
Hope to see you then!