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

Sunday, December 13, 2015

It's About Time

Please forgive me readers--I left you hanging!  I'll finish up his letter of March 28-30 today and that finishes the month of March 1863!  Finally, another chapter in the book will be done.  Thanks for riding along with me.

And now, March 30th, 1863:

"Mch 30th 1863

Dear Roby

I am well this morning  [illegible illegible] bad headache.  I am sorry to dissapoint you on coming home now as I cannot come no more furloughs are granted.  I tell you it was a great dissapointment to me I was all ready to come when we got the order I had made great calculations on seeing you all this week but never mind.  Nubern & I are coming home next fall or as soon as furloughs are granted again ~ I had company again yesterday.  Bruce and Jim Custer was over to see me and we had a good time.  George was well.  Bill Woolest (?) has been very sick, we did not think he would live but he is better, now Bruce & Jim had their pictures taken I guess before they went home.  The 1st Corps has not moved yet as we  supposed.  Nubern & I are agoing over there this week if we can get a pass ~ Haven't you got my money yet ~ it is too bad if that gets lost but I hope [ink smudge] this you have got it I sent by mail $20.00 to you.  write to me soon, give my love to all & keep your share.  Kiss little Georgie for his papa.  Write soon
From your ever true husband  P R Woodcock"

There is also a post script written upsidedown again.  It's a bit odd ~

"I send you in this my vaccination scab it is a good healthy one & it may do you some good if mother dont want it throw it away.  Small pox is all gone here & the surgeons dont want it"

So of course, I needed to research that.  It seems that when the smallpox vaccine was invented, it was thought that the scabs would protect other people from smallpox when rubbed on the skin.  It was in the hope of transmitting the vaccine through the skin, a person would build up an immunity.  This unfortunately proved fatal to none-other than Benjamin Franklin's 4 year old son.  Please Google "vaccination scabs" for further information.  

So there you have it ~ March 1863 Completed!  Please join again when I start April shortly.

Until next time!


Saturday, November 28, 2015

Continuing On

I'm going to continue from where I left off...

March 28, 1863, Camp at White Oak Church...

"It has been very pleasant for 2 or 3 days but today it is raining hard again with heavy thunder, that will delay us a few days again.  I am glad that my Little Boy points out his fathers likeness & thinks so much of it & it certainly is very flattering to me to have him point out General Sigel as his papa, it shows his good sense he knows his papa will come home a great military man if he lives through the next battles for the Colonel will promote a lot of us Sergeants if we show great bravery and daring in the coming action which we hope to do if we dont get too badly scared at the outset ~ but my good name never has suffered yet in that line no matter how dangerous a spot I was in and I hope it never will~"

That's quite the run-on sentence even after adding some punctuation, but that's how it reads!

"We drill some now again in pleasant weather but we are practicing Target shooting a good deal I have had the good luck to hit the target most every day untill lately my luck has turned.  I cant hit it but it was because it was so far off yesterday ~ it was 900 yards or nearly 3/4 of a mile ~ I have a good deal to do yet though Davidson the Orderly has returned ~ The colonel has made us all get new clothes & we are dressed up gay enough we have to all appear on parades, Inspections and Reviews with white gloves &c ~ I had to get another pair of pants which is my 4th pair in 8 months it has cost me about 42 (?) dollars for clothing besides what I have had to spend out of my own pocket for clothes.  My boots cost me 8 1/2 dollars and sundry other things that makes a soldiers life rather expensive.  I wish I could send home some clothing I have a good Dress Coat, a good Pr of pants & Cap & several other things if I could send home would do some good but which I shall have to throw away if we have hard marching.  I have already throwed away enough to last me a year ~ "

Continuing on his lengthy letter, the writing becomes significantly smaller as he tries to fill the page with all of his thoughts:

"  I got a letter from Millie Fitch the other day and last night I got one from Harry Van Horne. I was glad to learn that Sarah has followed the example of the Saviour in and O my Dear Wife how much happiness it would give me could I hear you had done likewise ~ We have commenced a series of Prayer meetings again the first  we have had since leaving Maryland, we have them twice a week and the attendance is good but our tents are so small that but 8 or 10 can be accommodated but we remember those we left behind us in our prayer.  We hear that Capt Campbell has resigned & we hope it is so.  Our Lieut Colonel has resigned or been dismissed the service I dont know which nor dont care, we shall get some good officers yet in the Old 121st..."

I'll stop there for today.  There is another insert written on March 30th with a post script that I'll post as soon as possible.  I researched a bit on Capt Campbell and found that the 121st had two Campbell's.  A Douglas Campbell and a Cleveland Campbell.  I was curious which one Philip was glad to see go.  According to the "History of the 121st NYS Infantry" in the Army of the Potomac Series, Cleveland Campbell went on to become a Colonel.  Douglas Campbell's fate was slightly different.  Here's a passage from that book:

"These changes had been made at different dates, the last being the resignation of Captain Douglas Campbell on April 28th from the hospital where he, for some time, had been under treatment for sickness."

So that fills in a few blanks.  I'll pick up where I left off in the next post!

Until next time!


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

4 Months before Gettysburg

"...O Roby I cannot bear the thought of never seeing you again..."

This four page letter written over several days makes mention of the upcoming Campaign but mostly is a heartfelt, conversational letter between Philip and Roby:

"Camp near White Oak Church
March 28th 1863

My Dearest Roby

It is with pleasure that I now write you again. I received yours of the 22nd last night and a good letter it was too.  I assure you I wish every soldier in the US Army could have a nice little wife & Boy at home to write such sweet letters, then they would know what happiness was."

(I'll admit to chuckling about the "nice little wife" bit...)

"I am very sorry to learn that my dear boy has got so spunky but I hope he will not get spoiled, I have great [several words are written here and crossed out] confidence in fathers judgement in bringing him up but if my life is spared in 6 or 8 months I hope to come home to stay ~ O Roby I can not bear the thought of never seeing you again.  I earnestly hope I shall come through this next campaign safe and sound & without a scratch ~ but it is agoing to be a terrible one.  There are certain indications that shows that we are agoing to see hard times within a few days ~ I never before saw such tremendous preparations for a great pitched Battle as there is at present, you may expect great things from the Army of the Potomac in a few days and I dont think we are agoing to get whipped either (Old Fighting Joe) is not the man to get whipped if it takes the life of every man he has under his command[.] where the move is to made I dont know as the plans are all kept secret but I heard yesterday the 1st Army Corps left for down on our river Left that is down the river.  We have not got marching orders yet but I think we will get them soon..."

I'll stop here today because of time constraints but after Thanksgiving, I'll be back to finish it up!  Please read my previous posts from last year for Thanksgiving in 1863 or '64.

Until next time...



Sunday, November 22, 2015

No Longer Dreaming at White Oak

"March 24 Thursday

It is very pleasant today the snow is tapering off fast, if there were maple trees here we could make sugar nice, it is just the weather for it ~"

That's how Philip started the next section of his letter of March 23-24, 1863.  Still hunkered down in winter camp he wrote to Roby about numerous things and his happiness at having received his pay is evident in a moment:

"We were paid off this morning.  I believe I will risk $10.00 this [time] now you must write to me as soon as you get it for I shall be anxious to know of its safe arrival ~ I have a nice $20.00 bill it looks so nice.  I would like to send it but I am afraid too. (sic)"

I thought for a comparison, I'd look up the value of $20 in 1863 vs. 2015.  Would you believe depending on the "measuring worth", meaning what it is used for, it came up at somewhere between $309 to over $40,000!  Here's a simple chart: Measuring Worth 

That now makes sense about why he was so anxious to send it via mail.  Continue reading to see what he does about it:

"I dont know whether it is best have to have any Photographs taken or not. I guess I will however I will see tomorrow ~ about selling my Revolver if you get a good chance sell it if you want to ~ I may never want to use it & if I do I can get more ~ you ought to get as much as $12.00 for it but you can get $7.00 or 10.  I [illegible]  will be as much as you think it is worth ~ I have got expert in pistol shooting now. I can shoot an inch cane in a short distance every time ~ I shall keep gaining every day. I have decided not to send my money by mail but I have sent you $20. by check to Capt Chrenkites (?) father. He probably will notify you where you can get it probably at a Bank in Cooperstown ~ should he have have (sic) an opportunity to send it to you he will probably do that ~ But I must close."

 After discussing finances he turns the letter to other things war related:
 "I do not know anything as to the time we shall open a Campaign probably before Aug though.  we are agoing to commence target Shooting again this Spring. That will be fun for us still if I had my own way I never would shoot another cartridge. I dont like it ~ Powder dont smell good to us in cold blood..."

Wise words...he continues with talk of other regiments and his unhappiness:

"I have got to make out a Requisition for Clothing & must close this up ~ The boys that went home  into Colored Regts and still home & maybe wont get back in the field again. I believe I was foolish in not going ~ I could not get in a worse place than I am now. I would rather serve 5 years in a Negro Regt than one here..."

And closes up the letter with:

"Now write me immediately. Love to all ~ A kiss for you Roby.  Tell Georgie that I will shoot all the Rebels I see that shoots at me.                                         Love me as ever,  I remain
Your faithful husband
Phil R Woodcock
Write Soon   
Oh, and that post script written upside-down?  It reads:

"To bring out the color of George(s) Book (?) which I enclose you must oil it or boil it in coffee. That will make it the color of Fathers Pipe it will show the grain by simply wetting it" 

Yep, that's what it says...not sure what he means!

I promise to keep posting if you keep reading...

Until next time!


Saturday, November 21, 2015

A Dream from the Battlefield

"...I dreamed last night that I was home..."

I was gently nudged the other day by a friend and faithful reader that I hadn't posted in a loooooong time, so I'm back at it today.  I've gone back to the cold days in March that I left off with chronologically and found an amazing letter!

The letter is tough to read as it is smudged and the ink shows through from the back of the page so some of the words are illegible.  This one is four pages and also contains his trademark post script
written upside-down on the bottom of two pages.  There is no heading listing where he is writing from, but his previous letter of the 21st indicated that he was at the Camp at White Oak (winter quarters).  Philip launches right in without a salutation....

"I think I shall write to Pernelia Kaisler in Westfield one of these days.  I do not get hardly letters enough but it is getting so late that I must go to bed or I will wake up with a headache tomorrow..."

(As I'm typing this, I'm actually now wondering if this is the continuation of a previous letter, but I've not found a front page.  He next goes on about his dream):

"I dreamed last night that I was home on a 10 days furlough and I stayed over my time 4 days without knowing it[,] all the while I was there you would not sleep with me but made me go on the [illegible here--the word looks like either lorrey, journey or something, neither of which make sense in context] alone. I felt awfull bad you would not tell the reason till the last day just before I started back then you said that you was afraid that Georgie would not know that I was his father & that he would tell around that you slept with a stranger man ~ I remember telling you that it was the most foolish thing I ever heard of & then I woke up glad to get away from home ~ all the while I was there you did not seem to care whether I [should?] kept or not you took it very cool ~ I was glad to find it a dream...but good night..."

I think that last sentence should end with an exclamation point!

I'll finish up the letter tomorrow, I promise ~  Thanks for staying with me faithful readers.  I'll try to keep up my end of the bargain and keep posting Philip's letters a bit at a time.

Until next time...

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

"A Little History Known" and difficult!

When my great great grandfather wrote to Roby that he was keeping his diary and letters so that a "little history" would be "known" and obviously remembered through it--he embarked on a huge journey and with my decision to craft it into a book, so did I.  I did not appreciate the monumental task involved in that though and the time constraints of my own personal life and work.  That being said, I'm still committed to get this into print but I've decided to take a different approach.  Seeing that he wrote about 600 letters over his nearly four years at war and each letter is about 4 pages long on average, well, you do the math...yep--that's nearly 2,400 pages of text we have!  Not to mention the diaries and muster rolls, so in all fairness to you readers and myself, I've decided to go in a different route.  I'm going to put them together by year.  1862-63 will be one book, 1864 another and finally 1865.  This seems so much more manageable and possibly much more desirable for printing purposes. Stay tuned for the progress of this project.

In the meantime, continue to catch up with his letters and story because at the end of the day...that's what he wanted...he kept up his letters so that "a little history would be known"...I hope you'll continue to join me on his journey!

Until next time....

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Independence Day 1864

"...Yesterday was 4th July & one of the most quiet days of our
 operations on Petersburg ~ hardly any firing on either side..."

Last year on the 4th, I transcribed Philip's letter to Roby that was written just a day or so after the famous battle of Gettysburg which was fought July 2-3, 1863.  At that time, he was certain his brother George was either lost, wounded or dead.  (Please see that prior post)

Today, on this, our July 4th celebration, I will excerpt his lengthy letter of July 5, 1864 (he did not write her on the 4th):

"Camp 121st NY 3 [or 8?] miles South Petersburg
July 5th 1864

My Dearest Wife

I received yours of the 24th June last night & was glad to hear of your safe arrival home but sorry to hear my boy was unwell but hope he is better now ~ I am glad you had so good a visit & would like to have been with you but I have just returned from one that had done me a good deal of good. Nubern (and Phil Van Horne) & I have been over to the 76th today to see George & we have had a splendid time ~ they lay about 3 miles to our Right & near Petersburg & only a little below where we laid when we were there ~ It only lacks a few days of a year since I saw him...."  

A whole year since he last saw his older brother George!  The letter goes on to tell about George's command of his small company of 5 and that he is "fat & healthy".  Philip brings back treats of molasses syrup, tobacco & dried apples and also photo albums.  Then there is talk of pay breakdowns:

"It is rumored in Camp that we are not agoing to get our pay after all this time but are agoing to pay all Generals & Staffs. If that is carried out it is agoing to have a very bad Effect on the Army. The men wont do anything. Even now they keep up a constant cry (no pay no fight) it is demoralizing to the men. We have been 4 months without money ~ if the Government cant pay all ~ they had better not pay any ~ there will not be half the grumbling."

That would most certainly shut things down in the military today...

He goes on to describe a trip down on the Petersburg & Welden Railroad to help their Cavalry "out of a scrape".  They arrived too late to help them but destroyed a large portion of the railroad.  The southern troops quickly rallied and rebuilt that portion with the help of the slaves at that time.

His lengthy letter talks about volunteers from the Sanitary Commission that have helped: "The Sanitary commission gave us some Pickles, Sour Kraut & dried Apples a day or two ago ~ enough for one meal ~ it tasted like home. The Soldiers all say God bless the Sanitary & Christian Commission. They both are doing an immense sight of good and the men appreciate it too.  Tell the Ladies that the Soldiers dont allow one of their Teams to remain stuck in the mud long but will help them out quick while a Sutlers or Government Baggage wagon would Rot before they would help them. They relieve more Suffering than the Government ~ They supply all sick tired & suffering ones that the doctors will not help..."

Philip details how hot it is there ("we go with our boots off, sleeves rolled up &c ~ a good many take their pants off & only wear drawers & Shirt." )

And finally, he mentions the 4th of July:

"Yesterday was 4th July & one of the most quiet days of our operations on Petersburg ~ hardly any firing on either side ~ where we are we have no fighting ~ it is only with Burnsides Corps ~ his Negroes will fight & the 18th Corps ~ they are in front of the City where we went today in the 5th Corps ~ our Lines are very close to the Johnnies. It was curious to see them as we passed along ~ we could almost read what was on their Flags & see their dirty faces. We were only a few Rods apart & both looking at one another like fools instead of being at home minding our own business..."

"Looking at one another like fools instead of being at home minding our own business..."  That quote resonates with me today for so many reasons.  

How many times have we (the collective world I mean) poked our noses into other peoples' business and reaped what we've sown?  Thoughts that swirl in my head on this day, the day that we Americans celebrate our freedom.  Something we most certainly should cherish and most certainly...not mess with...

OK, I'm off my soapbox.

I'm back to March 1863 in my next post!

Hope to see you then!




Thursday, June 11, 2015

Guilt of the Union Soldier

 " can read about war & hear it talked about but you cannot form no idea of what it is, it is only by seeing it that you will know what war is ~ "

Now to continue his poignant letter of March 21st, 1863...

"I suppose you have got my money by this time though I am almost sorry I sent it by mail but I thought you might want it. I dont know but I may possibly be home in a few days now though do not put to much dependence on it but I do want to see you so bad. I can hardly wait. I want to come home before we go into another battle if I can ~ but before I close this letter I can find out pretty near what my prospects will be of getting a furlough but it seems to me if I could see my family once more I could go in battle contented ~ O Roby you cannot imagine a mans feelings while in front of the Enemy & while in a post of danger especially when the chances of his escaping alive are against him ~"

Such a strong statement and eloquently written I had to highlight it.  He goes on:

"I have seen many a man die here on the field when his thoughts are of his wife & family and who in their bitter agony would exclaim
'O if I could see my family and expire', and after the strife is over and that bitter hatred is gone which we invarriably (sic) feel towards our Enemy while in battle and when we all feel like brothers then to know that we have caused so many poor wretches to feel such agony then it is that the stern Soldier feels like weeping over the misery and desolation that he has helped make ~ you can read about war & hear it talked about but you cannot form no idea of what it is, it is only by seeing it that you will know what war is ~ "

The letter continues: "I send you in this letter a North Carolina Rebel Shinplaster which Orlando Lane gave me when he was exchanged as a prisoner, he got it in Richmond. It has stopped snowing for a little while now & perhaps tomorrow it will be as pleasant as summer the weather will soon be getting nice & then we will have to start out for the spring Campaign but we hear all sorts of [unintelligible word here] rumors about our brigade or Regiment, one day we hear we are agoing to Staten Island & then the next to Washington or stay here to hold a certain position while the rest of the Army does the fighting but I guess if there is any fighting in Virginia we will have our share of it but now we hear that the war is agoing to come to a close that Jeff Davis has agreed to accept our terms of Peace..." (Which obviously didn't happen)

 "but the latest and last thing is we have a Spring of water here which has a peculiar property ~ just before the opening of a war it commences running & 3 months before the close of the war
it dries up at least it acted so in the Revolution war & Mexican War also the 1812 war and to crown all it dried up 2 weeks ago and of course there is a certain lot of our boys that believes the war is closing because of that circumstance ~ This spring is one mile from Fredericksburgh & 3 miles from here. The inhabitants all believe the thing & I see it is in the papers but I must close now, write soon I am agoing to write to Aby next, those stamps came just in time. George was well yesterday. You may look for me a little this week though it is some doubtfull whether I can come now or not."

Then he adds more the next day:

"Mch 22nd 1863 Sunday

It is very pleasant now to day just like summer. Write soon Love me as ever Yours PR Woodcock"

And upside-down across the bottom a post script:

"George told me when he was here that (?) was agoing in 2 or 3 days home on a furlough but maybe he did not get it. My arm is getting well it has been very sore but I did not get excused from duty. Our small pox cases have got well and came back. Kiss little Georgie for me I hope soon to see him."

And that's the entire letter!  

Please join me for the next post--end of March, 1863!

Hope to see you then!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Unknown Future

"O Roby you cannot imagine a mans feelings while in front of the Enemy & while in a post of danger especially when the chances of his escaping alive are against him..."

Philip wrote that on March 21st, 1863 during a snowstorm in the winter camp. He sounded very concerned and homesick in this letter:

"Camp near White Oak Church
March 21st 1863

My Dearest Wife

I received yours of the 15th last night & was glad enough to hear from you & that you was all well. The first thing I do in receiving a letter from you is to see if you and dear little Georgie are well then I can draw a long breath & feel contented."

He goes on to describe the weather:

"We are having Winter here again in good earnest, it snows and blows hard. I guess we have 3 or 4 in of snow this morning and it is pretty cold, it snowed all day yesterday from the north ~ but if we did not have to get wood we would not care we can manage to keep comfortable if the wind and snow does blow in but to turn out in a storm and get wood is pretty rough especially where we cant get nothing but limbs to burn."

And then something happy and nice happens:

"One thing I must tell you we had a wedding down here the other day ~ One of our brigade teamsters married a girl only about 1/2 a mile from here and as good looking girl as you ever wish to see, she has 2 Brothers in the Confederate Army & now a husband in the Union Army ~ but I suppose she will forsake father Mother Brother & Sister & cleave unto her new husband ~ at least she ought to ~"  (He was a strong Christian man with strong opinions but with a sense of humor too...) "There are 3 or 4 more very handsome girls left whom once and a while we can get a glimpse of but they dont like the Cowardly Yankees  as they term us ~ I tell you Roby we get hard names here the inhabitants dont like a Soldier & where ever the Army goes they dread the sight of it for they have to lock and double lock every stable & animal thing they wish to save but in spite of that the boys will get chickens & milk cows & I have noticed they are very fond of little pigs ~ but every thing is stripped here so while we are in present quarters we cant get any such provisions ~ but we live good yet though our Commissary does not give us as much bread as he used to though I have enough for my own use at present."

(I must stop there today due to time constraints.  More tomorrow!)

Also from his diary on this date in history...

"The troops threw up entrenchment in front of us a heavy Rifle Pit we planted Batteries &c to guard against an attack got a mail. The rest of the Army in camp only our Corps at work..."

That was Philip's day on June 8th, 1863 also falling on a Monday.  How is your day today?

Hope to see you then!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Off to...Texas?

My great-great grandfather's letter of March 18th, 1863 continued with his dinner...

"I had a good Beef Soup for Dinner. I have enough left to feed your whole family. I wish you was here to help eat some. I have not got the box yet ~ I heard it was at Falmouth 4 miles from here & as soon as the roads get better they will send them if there is anything that will spoil it will probably be so now."  Remember all that mud..."I have sealed Aby's letter & shall send it this mail so you will get three letters from me at once. I will not prepay the postage on those Likenesses as I dont know how much they are & they will go safer I think without. I shall send you some money tomorrow. We was mustered in for 2 months pay again yesterday. We shall get paid again before we leave for the time is come when I must tell you we expect to leave here soon to be shipped..."

Shipped?  Where to you ask?....

"Our destination is Galveston, Texas. Now Texas is a good ways off & we possibly shall see hard fighting there & hard times but if I can serve our Country better there than here. I am willing to go but I believe I would rather stay nearer home but the same God who has watched over & taken care of me here will protect me while so far away..."

I can only imagine the uncertainty that most troops felt and probably continue to feel when their futures are unknown, their destinations decided by others, their fates left up to God.

"I would like to come home once more & see you before I go but I am afraid my chance is slim for the first lot that went off have not all returned yet & we can't any of us go untill they all return in the Regts ~ The 1st Corps are going with us their destination is the same ~ we many not go under 3 or 4 weeks yet they are getting out 50 Transports for us ~  when you write again send me a map of the United States you can tear it out of some old Atlas, it will do me considerable good ~ We have no services here to day it is too windy & too muddy. The weather is warm it does not seem like the holy Sabbath ~ it is not very sickly at present except measles & Small Pox, the measles are closing up.  I forgot to tell you that Nubern Armstrong was promoted yesterday to a Sergeant. I tell you he is a good soldier, one of the best in the Regiment. I like him first rate he will do well too & he certainly merits all the praise we can give him. I will do all I can to help him along. If he lives he will come home a Lieutenant he is as brave as you could wish in battle. I saw a shell strike within a few feet of him over the river but he never flinched while Rill fell down on the ground scared to death almost. Rill made a poor soldier, but I will have to close.  My other likeness I will put in a seperate  (sic) envelope. they are too wide to send good but I hope they will go safe. Write me as soon as you get them. Should we make any movement I will post you immediately. now write me immediately & if you have any send me some papers to read dont send me any more writing paper I have a large stock of it on hand now as I bought a good deal. Kiss the Baby. How I would like to see you both. May God Bless you. Love to all. Yours &c
P.R. Woodcock"

That's it for today!

Join me again for the next post!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Keeping My Promise

Back in January, I left 1863 to jump ahead to Philip's letters of 1865 in the hopes of timing it out with the 150th Anniversary of the end of the Civil War...well that didn't work out!  I have decided to go back to where I left off and that was the winter of 1863 in White Oak Church.  The Union troops had settled into their winter camp there and Philip wrote to Roby of his daily activities and the like.  I posted his first letter in the month of March on my January 29th blog entry.  He wrote 5 more letters in that month, each 4 pages long. [Note to readers: I have decided to add punctuation where it seems natural.  Previously I denoted it with a bracket.  That slowed me down considerably, so I have decided to add my own.  Generally, he did not use any punctuation but did start new sentences with a capital letter.

Today I type his letter of March 18th, 1863:

"Camp near White Oak Church
Sunday March 18th 1863

My Dearest Roby

Although I do not hear from you yet I thought I would write you & send you my likeness. They are melainotypes. I had them taken day before yesterday. I had the fun of tramping through the mud about 12 inches deep 2 miles to get them taken. They are considered very good pictures especially the one with the gun that is the most natural. I have the full dress uniform on with equipments and standing at Parade Rest ~ a very easy posture ~ I might have been a little more military had I stood at Shouldered Arms but I thought this would answer (?) The back ground is very pretty and natural except the fences ~ those are played out in this section of country. Those two round tents in front are Artillery & Cavalry tents those little ones farther back are the kind I make my home in though look rather large in the Picture. My Sergeants stripes on my coat sleeve you can but just see they are faded out bad, they denote active service --"

(I'm not sure if this picture still exists as we have so few of them in our possession but after reading this, I am going to check with family for them. 
 The picture I use for this blog seems to be of him at the time of enlistment.)

His letter goes on to describe the weather: "rained all night & this morning but it has cleared up fine but the wind blows a perfect hurricane..."

And he tells of small pox exposure from a young black boy just in from Washington whose "father died with it & now he has got it after exposing us all to it. I hope it wont spread any farther ~ My vaccination does not work. The stuff was not good. I guess I am agoing to try it again as soon as they get some more but the whole Regt may have it before that..." but he reassures Roby that "we are all well here..."

Join me tomorrow for the conclusion of this letter ~ what he eats for dinner, troop updates and a possible deployment to Texas!

Hope to see you then!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Back to the drawing board...

I've taken a longer break than anticipated from this project.  I apologize readers!  I need to get back to the original plan that I started last year and that was to discipline myself to type an entry each weekday and tomorrow--I start back to that!  

Please join me again as we go back to 1863 and continue with Philip's journey in the war and his undying love for Roby...

Hope to see you tomorrow!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Sometimes Real Life Interupts

Please forgive me readers.  My personal life has slowed down my posts, but I promise, more is to come!

My great great grandfather did not stop his letters to beloved Roby, even when called to duty or during his hospitalization. After compiling and sorting through my manuscript, I will resume posting his letters.  Please continue to read and catch up with me.  I've noticed some very important letters/posts that haven't been looked at and there is much to explore!

See you soon!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Last Day in Hospital

"...It is past 10 oclock but it is my last night here and I don't care..."

Philip finished up his letter of New Year's late at night.  After declaring his utter devotion to Roby (see my previous two posts), he concluded with some family details and simple conversation:

"It is bed time but I must finish this ~ I wish you could see my vest & jacket [,] you could not laugh at them they are fancy & gay ~
They will last my time out I guess[.]  Tell Georgie he must improve his time this winter in sliding down hill &c as next (illegible for a few words) home & he must go to school if his Mother is willing ~ He will feel awfull big if he gets a hand sleigh of his own wont he[?]  When do you expect George & Sarah home[?]  I would like to see that new baby of Emmelines & ask her if it hurt her much but I would not dare too (sic) though she is awfull strict in her notions of Propriety ~ I would not care so much for Phebe she can take a joke for fun & not get spunky[.]  I wish you could get acquainted with Phebe she is a sensible good hearted fun loving smart girl naturally romantic but always within bounds[.]  I see I am fast getting this sheet filled up & I would not have written so much but the bosy all said I could not fill it tongiht & I want to show them in the morning that I can[.]  Every one but me is in bed ~ It is past 10 oclock but it is my last night here and I dont care[.] 
When George comes down this way I hope he will come to Petersburg to see me ~ he can come without charge I think but I must close write to me soon to the Regt write often My Regards to all Love & a Kiss to you & Georgie Love me as ever Yours with much love Be sure & write soon
Phil R Woodcock"

His sense of humor was certainly showing in this letter.  I've transcribed the letter exactly how it reads at the end...with no punctuation
and a true sense of urgency to convey his feelings towards her and his young, toddler son, Georgie.  It is almost like a single sentence, only broken up by capital letters occasionally.  

As in his other letters, he wrote a post script upside-down but I also discovered something new that totally excited me!  When reading it,
I realized that he actually connected the two pieces of paper side-by-side and wrote lengthwise across BOTH of them.  I had not realized that until today's post when the sentences did not make any sense.  I lined them up and looked again and voila! Mystery solved!  

Here's a picture of them lined up:

And the P.S. reads:

"I have a long and tedious journey before me in going back I have a couple of days riding on water[,] I wish it was over and I was to the Regiment[.]  The Confederacy is getting rather small is it not the Rebellion looks as if it could not last many months longer & I would warrant it crushed in 4 months for three cents[.]  I may possibly not get away from here untill Tuesday..."  (His prediction came true...4 months it was until Appomattox!)

One more P.S. on the final page:

"Should you see Roselli tell him I shall try & pay him off soon[,] tell him also what I tried to do when I was home & that I meant to tell him all about it..."

I have no idea about that, but sounds like debt is nothing new! 

Please join me again for his return to the regiment letters during this countdown to the end of the war!

Hope to see you then!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Pure Love

Because I started this blog with the intent to show the great depth of love shared between my great great grandparents, I thought it fitting to put a small excerpt from his letter of January 1st, 1865 into a separate post.  Here is the paragraph that stood out to me so much from that letter:

"I have done nothing but think of you all the last week I did have a notion to apply for a Short furlough but it would not pay ~ Maybe Phil Van Horne & I will send for our better halves this winter although it is doubtfull we shall have [action or a clean?] operation[s] all the time probably & I am sorry you are homesick although is a pleasure to know it is on my account, it shows me that you bear an affection as strong as my own ~ Roby I cannot be too thankfull that I ever saw you[,] You have always been a blessing to me[.]  I do not think that no other woman could ever gained the influence over me for my good that you have and by Gods help I will try and keep worthy of you ...I can never regret the fate that brought us together (Instead of calling it Fate I shall call it Providence) I cherish the hope that you Love me and one another will never wear out and I trust that many years of happiness yet awaits us in which a life time of devotion will repay you for the Love you have shown me..."

I have absolutely nothing to add to that speaks volumes.

Please join me again for the end of the letter (that has taken me 4 posts to get done!)

Hope to see you then!

It's a New 1865

"Last night we had a great time in our sleeping room..."

If you had the chance to read my previous post, you most likely saw the first part of Philip's letter to Roby of January 1, 1865.  He was still in the hospital at that time after being wounded back in September 1864.  He described the New Year's celebration of that day:

"Last night we had a great time in our sleeping room[,] I was down town attending the League Council (?) & came in about 8 oclock[.] There are 12 of us sleeping here and so we commenced making those that had gone to bed get up & then tore up our beds & scattered them about the Room & there we forbid anyone going to bed till after 12 oclock ~ Our sheets & Blankets were scattered bad & we had a pleasant time getting things together again & then we had a sit around the stove waiting till midnight struck then we would get to bed but had to get up again right away.  I have not had any answer to my letter telling you of my resolution to go to the front ~ You must not think hard of me for going I sincerely think it is best I should go ~ Nubern is back & has been several days & I ought to have been some time ago[.]  I think I shall send home my Diary today I have no further use for it ~ The last 3 months are pretty dull ~" (Sitting safe in the hospital healing up for three months...dull?)

"We shall have an Inspection today I guess as we had none yesterday[.]  I can imagine what a good time Georgie is having today that is if he got a present last night[.] I trust next New Years I can play Santa Claus with him ~ I suppose ~ you are having fine sleighing now & having Merry time &c &c[.]  It is the time of year for Donations & Mile Societys (sic)  &c ~~"

He sounds homesick again to me in that paragraph.  The letter continues later in the evening:

"9 oclock P.M.

I have been so busy in getting ready that it is now 20 minutes past 9 & a good deal of writing to do yet[.]  I have not got my Transportation though I have not been able to see Dr. Mintzer tonight[.]  I did not go to church as I was too busy ~ I have just been trying to eat a fiver of Bread & Butter & because the rest of the Boys had none thye have been trying to turn my stomach by calling to my mind old Rotten Meals &c &c but I have served too long in the army for that ~ "

The handwriting becomes very difficult to read at this point so I'll do my best...

"I have written (?) to [Chief or Corps Con....] tonight I have also sealed up my Diary to send[.] I shall have to send it without Stamp as I have but 3 or 4[,] Maybe I will put one on ~ It is quite cold tonight ~ I shall not be able to send my Photograph now but there are probably some Artists in the Army & I can then get one ~ I am sorry as I had such a pretty Frame for a large Picture[.]  My (??) I gave away to the Chief Carpenter I had set some Bone in & put a ring of German Silver around it[.]  If we had been paid off I should have sent a box of goods home but as it is I shall carry what Clothing I can to the Regt ~ I have Phil Van Hornes Shirts all safe & he can soon have them ~ This is a pretty long letter & I shall soon run out for something to write.  I am in such a hurry. I am thinking it will be hard to read ~ " (That is an understatement 150 years later!!) 

At this point, the letter turns to a beautiful tribute to Roby and his love for her.  I've decided to put that into a separate post, so please look for that paragraph there.  

Please come back to read the conclusion of Philip's New Year's Eve party of January 1st, 1865!

Hope to see you then!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Keeping Track

I thought I'd start today with a military record of Philip that my grandmother (Roby Woodcock Abercrombie) wrote in 1972.  It's a great record of his career and it has certainly helped me in keeping track of the dates & battles.  After that, there is a small excerpt from his first letter of 1865 with more to follow in the upcoming Countdown to Surrender!

The Military Record of Philip R. Woodcock
b. 1840 - d. 1913
Enlisted as Private July 23, 1862, Springfield, N.Y.
August 1862- Promoted to Corporal at Camp Schuylor Mohawk, NY
February 22, 1865 - Promoted and commissioned 1st Lieutenant 
(Transferred to command of Co. "I", same regiment.)
June 25, 1865 - Received Honorable Discharge by General Order of War Department.

List of Highlights of Engagements:

  • Sept. 16-17, 1862 ~Antietam, Maryland
  • December 1862 ~ Fredericksburg, VA
  • May 3, 1863 ~ St. Marye's Heights & Salem Church, VA
  • July 2-3, 1863 ~ Gettysburg, PA
  • November 7, 1863 ~ Rappahannock Station, VA
  • November 28, 1863 ~ Mine Run, VA (Orange County)
  • May 5 & 6, 1864 ~ Wilderness, VA (Orange County)
  • May 10-12, 1864 ~ Spottsylvania, VA
  • June 1, 1864 ~ Cold Harbor, VA
  • July 1, 1864 ~ Petersburg, VA
  • August 21, 1864 ~ Charlestown VA (Shenandoah Valley)
  • September 19, 1864 ~ Winchester, VA
  • September 22, 1864 ~ Fisher's Hill VA (wounded - 4 months inactive)
  • February 4, 1865 ~ Petersburg, VA
  • February 6, 1865 ~ Battle Hatch's Run, VA
  • April 2-3, 1865 ~ Petersburg, VA
  • April 9, 1865 ~ Present at Surrender at Appomattox
(Also in 14 minor engagements and skirmishes)


As the war wound down in 1865, my great-great grandfather wrote 41 letters home to Roby (at least, that's what we have from that shoebox of letters!)  He wrote on January 1, 1865 from York, PA a long four page, legal sized paper, letter to her.  He ruminates on this being his last New Year's in the Army:

"York Pa Jan 1st/65

My Dear Wife

According to promise I write you again today I dont know but you will receive both of these at one time but I dont care[.]  I saw Dr Mintzer today & he said I coud go to my Regiment tomorrow morning so I will soon bid good bye in Little York Hospital where I have been bumming long enough..." (Please see my post from Oct. 3rd to detail his injuries.  He was in the hospital for approximately 3-4 months.) "It is New Years day & I would a good deal rather spend it with you than here[.]  We had a Stew for Dinner but nothing extra ~ This will be the last New Years I probably shall spend in the Army.  I hope so at any rate but know (sic) one but God can tell how or where we will be next New Years.  I hope we shall have a happy & pleasant one & be reunited again never to be seperated (sic) on earth.  The weather is cool with a little sleighing (not sure if that is the correct word.  It would seem to mean in context "sleeting".) I had no pass & could not go to church today but I shall go to night if nothing serious happens ~ The Doctor did not hardly fancy letting me go but when I made my statement he gave his consent readily ~ They had strange doing here in the street last night[.]  It sounded like 4th of July ~ Everybody was shooting & firing off revolvers to shoot the old year out ~ a practice which is in vogue here to a great extent, it sounded like skirmishing ~ I am agoing to write to Capt Cronkite today to let him know I soon shall be there ~ I hope I shall get that commission imediatly (sic)[.]"

I'll stop there for today.  Come back for the continuation of his New Year and see how the wounded men celebrated in the Sleeping Room!

Hope to see you then!