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, 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...