"...But we will all of us remember the 26th day of January a good while I think..."
Philip returned with his men to the Union's winter camp at White Oak Church (please see my previous post for a link to that). Cold and exhausted, he finally sat to write and tell Roby of the previous days march:
"Camp near White Oak church Jan 27
My Dear Wife
Some day has elapsed since I commenced this letter but there has been no chance of sending it until day before yesterday & then I was so tired & worn out I could hardly stir so I let it go ~ At last we have got back in our old quarters & got settled & I hope to stay until discharge[.] We arrived here after dark night before last & more tired worn out set of fellows you never saw[.] It is impossible for you to imagine how completely used up we were ~ Our Division had to stay back & bring up the Rear guard the Pontoons Artillery &c until they could of got a safe distance from the Rebs [.] Well then our brigade was ordered on Picket & to guard the Wagons the night of the 23rd[.] We had to go up the River 2 miles & lay out in the open air all night in the morning we had to haul the Pontoons back from the River which was a job it took 50 men to draw one Pontoon[.] We had Whiskey Rations dealt to us[.] the Mud was about 18 inches there that day we only got about 3 miles but the next day we started for Camp about 8 or 9 miles at 2 oclock the mud in the meanwhile getting to be in some places 2 to 4 ½ ft deep & in all the hard marching I ever done nothing ever equalled that & there was but a very few of us that weathered it through ~ but I got a little spunky & made up my mind if one man in Co E. reached Camp I would be with him & I did[,] 5 of us came in together[.] We were so tired we could not pitch tents but was glad to throw our Knapsacks & pull a blanket over us & lie quiet[.] But we will all of us remember the 26th day of January a good while I think[.]
Philip had wishful thinking when he wrote that he "hoped to stay till discharge" because little did he know at that time, he still had two long years ahead of him in the war...and then, a little toast to the men:
"But such an Army you never see Our Brigade was strung back for miles & those that fell out & stayed back out numbered those that marched in[.] Gen Bartlett ~ made us all drink a ration of Whiskey as we came in & I sincerely think that if Liquor done a man good it did us that night ~ "
And Philip fixed up his camp:
"The next day was occupied in Pitching our tents &c ~ I did not find many of my things gone that I left except my Cupboard & Cracker Boxes the Inhabitants had carried them away to day however I have been fixing up & have got things in nice shape we have a good tent & fell like living again. I hope & think we stay here now some time & am now waiting patiently for that Box that you are agoing to send[.] I should be sure to get it now all safe & sound ~ Our old Commander Gen Slocum came from Harpers ferry last night to see us we were called out in review with the whole Brigade ~"
He continues with a brief sentence about some visitors:
"Dan Allen was here to see me last night he did not return until this morning he feels pretty good ~ A Great many of the 76th has deserted some of whom got caught Dan saw George Sunday they are in their old Camp again[.]
And his letter stops there until the next day, January 28th which I'll include in tomorrow's post. Seeing I haven't been faithful to my promise of including a small bit about "150 Years Ago today....", I add one entry from his diary today:
On this date, 150 Years Ago today August 11, 1864:
"Arose 5 oclock & marched off without Breakfast pretty rough[.] Halted about 8 oclock & got coffee then moved on to Pepper Creek 6 miles from Winchester & halted on bank ~ threw out Skirmishers ~ remained 3 hours then came back & moved to the Left up the Valley ~ Halted 6 oclock ~ went into camp in good place ~ had some mutton for Supper[.]"
Come back tomorrow to see the rest of the letter!
Hope to see you then!