1863: Unknown Soldier in Slocum’s XII Corps

This letter was undoubtedly written by a member of either Alpheus S. Williams’ Division or by a member of the 2nd or 3rd Brigade in John W. Geary’s Division—both Divisions being members of Gen. Slocum’s XII Corps in January 1863 when this letter was written. Several relatively new regiments who had yet to see any action in the war were a part of Slocum’s Corps.

The soldier signed his name but I am unable to make out the surname. His initials appear to be W. R. and his surname appears to start with the letters “St.”

In any event, the letter contains a great description of what has become known as “Burnside’s Mud March” in which Williams’ and Geary’s Divisions of Slocum’s XII Corps participated, leaving on 19 January 1863 from Stafford Court House on the road to Dumfries, under orders to hook up with the main force of Burnside’s army at Banks Ford. By the night of the 24th of January, they were back to a camp near Stafford Court House, Virginia.

mud-march-nypl

TRANSCRIPTION

Camp near Stafford Court House, Va.
January 25, 1862 [1863]

Dear Brother,

I seat myself this Sabbath morning to drop you a few lines considering it no harm. I am well at present—all but I am bothered a little with sore eyes and a sore tongue but it is nothing serious I think, & I hope these few lines may find you all enjoying the blessing of good health.

We left Fairfax on Monday the 19th and had a very bad march of it through mud and rain. It rained two days and two nights. We got here on Friday afternoon. Some days we did not go more than three or four miles and was on the road nearly all day so you can know that the roads must a been bad. We could a have went further but our artillery and wagons could not get along and we had to keep in a reasonable distance of them.

When we started the roads was froze up. We got along very well the first day but after that we had a time. We had to build bridges across creeks and streams so the infantry could cross but we might as well a waded for we were wet all over anyhow and muddy. You ought to seen some of the boys. You could not tell what kind of clothes they had on for they were mud all over.

Well, we would stop at night and build a fire and make a little coffee and east a hard tack and perhaps then go on guard as wet as a cat and stand in the rain wet to the skin. But all went off first rate—all in good humor—[and we would] start off in the morning again, pouring down the rain and the wind a blowing and some of them cheering and some a singing and some a swearing. I took it all calm and patiently but it went hard for me to march, not having been use to much marching since I left the hospital. But I was always up.

We started with two and some three days rations but a man can’t carry three days rations in a haversack so we marched five days with about 3 days rations. We had only one days rations in the wagons and that was only crackers and sugar and coffee—no meat. The reason we run short was on account of the rain coming on and we were five days instead of three on the road. But we are where we can get rations now. The road was lying full of dead horses and mules that we lost in the march—awful, awful roads. Some places corduroy roads for two or three miles for a stretch but here we are now and don’t know how long we will stay here. I guess we will go west to Fredericksburg.

Slocum reviewed us yesterday and said to us that we had gained as much praise and had endured as much hardships in this march as any battle that we will have to encounter with but I will stand all such marches sooner than go in any more battles for I don’t care about fighting anymore in this war for I am down on it now for I believe it all to be a good deal of imposition and speculation. I thought when I left home I was going to fight for the Union but I think different now. Slocum says we are no longer new troops. We are now old soldiers.

So I must close for the present. I received the letter that sister Martha wrote and was glad to hear from you all. Write soon and let me hear again. I remain your dear brother, — W. R. Stince

I beg an interest in all your prayers.

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