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, July 22, 2014

"Zip & Whistle" on the Battlefield

After being called out to fight on December 11, 1862, Philip wasn't quite sure if he would make it home again. (Please see yesterday's post for that letter.)  He wrote to Roby again on December 15th from the battlefield itself.  This was his last letter written in 1862:

"In the field near Fredericksburgh
Dec 15th 1862

My Dear Wife

Again through the providence of a merciful God I am permitted to write to you[.] I am still well alive & sound though we have passed through a great many dangers[.] I wish I could say of our whole Regt but cannot as we have suffered considerable ~ we have several killed & wounded ~ I myself have had several narrow escapes but God has seen fit to spare my life ~ after finishing my other letter that afternoon we were ordered out to cross the Rappahanock ~ it was just about dark when we crossed under the most terrific fire from both sides that you could imagine ~ we crossed on a pontoon Bridge & proceeded about 1/4 of a mile & were ordered back to the woods again ~ what it was for I do not know but undoubtedly it was the best thing for us but the next morning we crossed without opposition & went about a mile ~ then they commenced on both sides since then untill to day we have laid under arms with our trappings all on night & day very near the Enemys lines doing nothing but dodging bullets Shot & Shell ~ 2 days they shelled us continually ~ wounding & killing 2 or 3 of our boys ~ 1 Piece of shell struck the ground 2 feet from me scattering dirt all over me & filling my hair full of dust = yesterday morning we were sent out on picket duty & probably in the whole history of this war there has not been a Regiment put on picket in a more exposed & dangerous position than we were ~ for 24 hours we laid just as close to the Ground as we possible could & not dig holes in & exposed to a terrible picket fire ~ whenever we could we returned the fire ~ several of our boys were killed & wounded ~ it was nothing but zip zip & whistle all day ~" 

Can you hear that sound?  I can imagine what it must have been like.  He next described his close call:

"....all the while whenever we got up a dozen bullets would sing past me but the narrowest escape I had ~ one of their Sharp Shooters fired at me ~ the ball just grazing my knapsack & going in the ground about 6 inches from my head ~ I tell you we had a lively time of it ~"

And surviving that, he wrote about that current day:

" day we are in a ravine out of danger ~ the firing & Shelling on both sides does not amount to any thing ~ in fact there has not been much done ~ anyway the 2 large armies lie here [.] The Enemy is in a very strong almost impregnable position[.] When we try to go to sleep nights we expect by daylight to be called into battle but as yet there has been not much but skirmishing ~ how long this will continue I don't know but to day we are having a good time [.] I have no time to write further and it may be several days before I write again but I shall write as soon as possible ~ maybe in a day or 2 if I live[.]"

If I live?  

"George lies not more than 3/4 of a mile from here ~ we have sent word back and forth several times ~ he is well & hearty ~ day before yesterday they had not been called out though they had crossed the river & Encamped ~ it is warm as summer here which is lucky for us for we cannot pitch tents & when in an exposed position not build & if it was cold we should freeze to death ~ Remember me to all our friends ~ kiss they Baby for me & one for yourself ~ now good bye [.] God will take care of me [.]

With much love

P R Woodcock"

And so ends his letters from 1862!  Still alive and well...

The rest of the week I will give a bit of back story and genealogy of the Woodcocks and the years since.  I've had some time this summer to visit and research near family.  I'll also be posting daily pictures of his letters and diaries from 1863.

Hope to see you then!

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