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, December 2, 2014

Not Really Thanksgiving

"I am permitted by God's mercy to write you ~"

I had foolishly thought I could get an entry in last week during Thanksgiving, but with family, cooking and work, it was impossible.  I also admit to being a little overwhelmed with this next letter as it is a long 4 page one, not only written on legal sized paper, but in Philip's way...he also wrote upside-down in the margins.  But, not only did he do it in the margins this time, he literally turned the letter around and wrote an entire page in-between each sentence! (I'll include the letter in a separate entry so you can see what it looks like.)

This is also one of his most heartfelt ones and he addressed it to "My Dearest Roby".  A different heading from most of them and it seems a turning point to him as you will see how grateful he is to simply be alive and writing this letter.  

Now--Philip's "Thanksgiving" of December 4th, 1863:

"Camp 121st Regt in NY Vols  December 4th 1863
Near Brandy Station  Va

My Dearest Roby 

Once more I am permitted by Gods mercy to write you ~ We have just returned to our old Camp near [illegible] Ford [or field?] again ~ we have had one of the hardest campaigns although short of the war ~ We have been out only 8 days but the troops have suffered more hardships in that time than we did during the whole of Last Summer ~ I have had no opportunity to write you before and we expect a 9 days mail today.  We are very anxious to receive it too as we all expect letters from those we Love ~"

And with that simple statement of "Love", you will see why as he describes what he's just been through:

"Now I will give you a short account of our doing in the Wilderness below the Rapidan it may interest you ~ We started early Thanksgiving morning to give the Enemy one more trial ~ We then heard of Gen Grants successes in Tennessee[.] That cheered us on of course ~ after we got to Brandy Station our Brigade was detailed as wagon guards which we was very glad of as we knew we would not have to be the first to cross the Rapidan ~ We had not gone but a little ways before the teams was stuck in the mud & we had to help them out and so it was untill 12 oclock that night before we got where we could by dawn[,]  we were then 3 miles from the Rapidan & some of the Troops were across ~ Early the next morning we were routed out to start ~ had only a half an hour to get Coffee & Breakfast in to build fires & get water but we had to put up with it[.]  We went down to the River & crossed on Pontoons at Browns [?]  Ford I believe It is usually called Jacobs Bridge ~ We lay on the south Bank all morning but at 12 oclock we could hear the fighting in Front where the 3rd Corps was engaged ~ The Rebs attacked them & we was then ordered to support them in double quicked it up and got in position ~ We were right in the-centre Little Wilderness & it was one of the wildest places I ever saw[,] soon nothing but Hills Stumps & woods filled with underbrush[.]  It was hard work to get our batteries up & it was hard Telling which would carry the day but as night began to draw on and our reinforcements to come up the fighting became less hard[.]  We all expected to get into it but the  it got dark so quick it saved us and we was not sorry either[.] It was a pretty hard fight and but we held our position and the Rebs evacuated the early part of the night~"

I'll stop there for today.  Please come back tomorrow for more of his letter and description of the battle(s) of Thanksgiving week.

Hope to see you then!

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