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

Thursday, January 29, 2015

It's About Time

"...I was interrupted the other day..."

How true that statement is from Philip's continuation of his letter of March 15-17th, 1863.  I have been very interrupted in posting recently due to some internet issues, but I'm back up and running!  I'll finish this letter and then tell you about an exciting new direction I'm taking with this blog in the upcoming months.

Here is the conclusion of his letter written from Winter Quarters, Camp at White Oak Church, March 17th, 1863:

"I was interrupted the other day & now I will finish this ~ Our Lieutenant has returned from leave of  absence & he has command of the Company now though I am acting orderly Sergt.  Davidson has gone home on a furlough & I rank next to him so I am Orderly and I have enough to do too[.]  I dont know but I shall be home soon on furlough maybe next week I shall try hard but I am afraid I will have to wait 20 days longer ~ Sergeant Nubern, Armstrong & myself had our pictures taken yesterday & they were the best pictures out[.]  You must get it copied the first chance you get if you want ~ a good picture of 2 of the best Sergts in 121st Regt ~ but without bragging they were tiptop[,] they were taken in full Dress uniform with no Equipments nothing but Dress Sash[.] We sent it to Rosetta this morning & you must get a copy of it ~ I was vaccinated the other day again and it is working nicely I have a pretty sore arm[.]  The Small Pox danger is all over now I guess ~ We dont hear much about marching though the spring is getting so far advanced that the roads will soon be passable and from appearance & present indications I think we will soon have to "dig out".  Hooker is not the man to let us lay idle longer than he can help and when we do get it will be with a rush and some hard fighting again[.] The last and most current rumor now in camp is that we are agoing to Washington & from there to Staten Island but we of course don't put any confidence in such rumours (sic) as it dont pay ~ but if we go to New York I will let you know. "

(As several of his letters refer to the numerous rumors swirling through camp, I thought I'd research that.  It seems that swirling rumors were a very common occurrence throughout the war.  I tried to pinpoint it to just one battle or situation, but there were so many I couldn't even begin to list them.)

Philip went on to tease Roby gently in his letter about a gift he made for her and where it was obtained from: 

 "I enclose in this letter a bone ring which I have worked a good many hours on & which I hope you will be pleased with ~ but what would you say if I should tell you it was made out of the Shin bone of a Rebel? you must be carefull and not put it in your mouth..."

No worries though: "But you need not be afraid for it is made from a Beef bone and not a Reb[.] "

Then comes family concerns:  "I wrote the other day to Burney ~ Harrison, VanHorne & Bill Craft.  I got a letter from Aunt Nelly yesterday.  She is down on the War question the worst kind[,] she writes that Grandmother is very sick & helpless & would like to see father but she did not know what his business was & whether he could come or not ~ "

And finally, business at hand and updates on soldiers they both know:  "We had Target shooting the other day & as luck would have it I plumbed the Bulls Eye though not in the Center. I was the only man in the company though they all shot close but it was cold and windy & I guess it was accident my hitting it. We each had 3 shots[.] We are agoing out again this afternoon to try it ~ Isaac Whipple & Bob Christman have gone to Rip Raps and confined to hard labor for one year & forfeit all pay & allowances now due & 10 dollars a month while there ~ that is what follows desertions ~ Bill has been home I heard and is now in Canada[.] I hope you have got that money all safe I guess we shall get paid again this week now write soon give my little boy a kiss and one for you[.]

Love to all                                                           PR Woodcock"

A long and newsy letter!  

Now, onto my next blog idea....

The 150th Anniversary of the end of the Civil War is this year--2015!

Philip wrote approximately 40 letters during his final year in the war.  I also have a few that Roby wrote to him plus one from a friend.  There are also those diaries that I've yet to get to!  Much, much more to be explored.

My great great grandfather wrote about the death of Lincoln and the surrender of Lee, so be sure to join me on my Countdown to Surrender journey in this blog!

Hope to see you then!

Friday, January 9, 2015

In Command

I'm back to March 1863 after a brief holiday diversion.  (Please see previous posts from Thanksgiving through the New Year).  The Union Army is still in winter quarters at White Oak Church and all is calm.  Philip wrote a four page letter to Roby that spanned two days, March 15th and 17th.  Here is the first half:

"Camp near White Oak Church
March 15th 1863

My Dearest Roby

I write this to inform you I received yours yesterday morning & was glad to hear that you was all well ~ I also received Aby's letter this morning and a map from you ~ It is not very cold today but it has been for 2 or 3 days outrageous cold & windy ~ I believe we have the funniest weather here in Virginia of any place on the face of the Earth[.]  One hour it will be so very pleasant & may be[,] the next it will storm & Rain & blow like everything ~" 

Then he get's to brag a little bit...

"I tell you Roby I am doing a big business here for a short time and I feel big enough ~ I am left in command of Co. E. 121st Regt & I have my hands full but I like it after all.  I tell you nothing sets a fellow up so much as having a good company left on his hands[.]  [I]t is just what I wanted this good while[,]  to get command of the company long enough to see how it would go ~ Everything goes now just as I say & I have full Authority.  This morning I had Inspection & my Company had as clean tents, Guns, clothes & faces as any in the Regt. The boys seemed to take pride in it too and they certainly did look clean ~ One thing made us look good yesterday we all drew New York State jackets & they looked Gay.  ( I remind readers that terms/words have changed through the years and that in 1863, he was mighty impressed with his new jacket, hence the word "gay".) They are the same nearly as that fatigue jacket of mine in the likeness. That is the way Uncle Sam pays off his troops by making them draw lots of clothing[.] I wish now you could see me I am dressed up gay..."

He seemed quite proud of himself that day and glad to be in command.  I remind you, in 1863, Philip was only 23 years of age.  

Please join me for the continuation of this letter of March 15/17th in my next post.

Hope to see you then!

Monday, January 5, 2015

A Brief Word from Brother George

A few letters from various relatives are in this collection also.  I thought I'd put in one short letter from Philips's brother George today.  It was written to Roby (Philips's wife) on March 7th, 1863.  George's handwriting is beautiful:

"Camp near Pratts Point - Va
Feb March 7th-/63

Sister Roby

     Your kind letter came to hand last night - & I was very glad to hear from you[.] We are as well as..." (not sure of this word here...looks like vaval or several but it's difficult to make out) " 
I received a note from Phil last - night he was well & had just received his box he said it opened good I was first-a-going over to see him today had my pass all right - when it had to rain and my celebrations were all knocked in the head but I shall go tommorrow  (sic) if it does not rain[.]"

That's the entire first page!  Big difference between the brother's content and amount of information.  His second page reads as this:

"Our Lieutenant has just started for home on a furlough.  My Box or the contents were (except the dried fruit - mostly spoiled it was so long on the road & not having any air is what made it - I guess.  There has been a number of the boys belonging to the 76th that have been court-martialled (sic)  they take their pay & bounty away from them[,] it must be fun for them to soldier it for nothing[.]  I guess that they wish that they had stood by the Regiment[.]"

And the third page:

"I presume that by the time that this
reaches you that you will have been & got back from St Johnsville (?)  I hope that you had a good visit.  As I am not acquainted with John Frank or Ben Leeland I have nothing to say with regard to them only ask Sarah if she can not do something for her county by persuading them enlist & help put down this rebellion[.]  But I must close.  My love to all write soon
Yours with much Love
Geo P Woodcock"

And very much like Philip, there is a postscript written up the side of the page:

"What is the matter with Miranda that she does not write to me" [?]

George has a very different tone to his letter and almost a "gossipy" feel to it or perhaps I'm reading too much into it.  He certainly sounds somewhat suspicious of Roby and Sarah visiting with two men that he doesn't know!

I'll include more details about George and his personal life in my next post.

Hope to see you then!