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

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!




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