August 1863

LETTER 16

Changes location to Fort Bunker, describes easy life as clerk rather than soldier, laments that unit has not been actively engaged in battle, rumors of move south to Charleston, S. C.

Headquarters, 2nd Artillery Penn. Vols
Fort Bunker Hill
[Washington,] D. C.
August 7, 1863

Dear Annie,

8-7-63-1No doubt that I have had some pretty names from you for not writing before this. I have some excuses, but I am afraid parading them now would make matters worse, so I have nothing to do so as to gain your favor but to prostrate myself before you, and cry for pardon, which – by the by – is not a very hard job for us, to beg of the ladies. So, please hearken unto the prayer of a poor soldier &. I do most sincerely hope you will be graciously pleased to pardon me this once. I shall never do so again. There, that is over. I feel easier now. But you must not do as the Catholics [do and] make me do penance, by not writing me as soon as you possibly can saying your pardon, & I am anxious to hear from you.

8-7-63-3No doubt you will notice that our Quarters is changed. We removed over here on the 13th of July. [Our] Headquarters is in a house of a Mr. Queen, ♠ between Forts Totten & Bunker Hill. [It is an] elegant place. Times are improving with me over here. Times & things go on so smoothly that only when I read the papers I know we are at war. It is going on 3 mos. since I handled a Rifle or cried “Here” to the “Roll Call.” If this is war, what is peace? I am very lucky also in the “grub” part. Being on the staff, I mess with the Commissary & Quarter Master Sgts. of the Brigade. [There is] plenty to eat of good things & a lady to wait on us. Big time, I assure you.

It is going on three months since I handled a rifle or cried “here” to the Roll Call. If this is war, what is peace? It is not fair that some regiments is shoved through in every battle, while others are never shown the enemy.

8-7-63-2Dear Annie, one year today I became a soldier of the U.S.A. I was 10 months of it a “bona fide” “Soger.” I can say now that that’s enough for me in one lifetime. [It’s] not so much [that] I cared of the hard duty & harder life & table, but it is the compulsion to be obliged to take the overbearing of officers, etc., who at the same time are beneath you as a man, & a gentleman. But thank God I am now [out] from under their claws. Well 12 months a soldier & 24 months more to stay — what a beautiful prospect to be sure! But yet this will admit some consolation. The regiment’s time is out in 14 months, when we will all I hope be discharged some time; & another thing the war may be over in another six months. I wish earnestly it would, for the sake of the country & the thousands of precious lives that would be spared. This regiment is the luckiest one in the whole war. All the battles of the war has not seen the bloody 2nd P. V. When every man almost was sent from Washington to help Gen. Meade [turn back the Rebels in Pennsylvania], the 2nd P. V. was left [behind]. But if the Army of the Potomac [had been] defeated at Gettysburg, there was nobody to make a fight on these defenses but us & the 1st Vert. “Arty.”

8-7-63-4There is quite a talk that we are going to Charleston [SC] this fall. If we go, Charleston has but a small show against our batteries. Just think of 1000 artillerists of the 2nd pounding Fort Sumters, etc. This regiment is of splendid material, very patriotic, & well drilled, & it would be a good policy for the government to send us into the field and have some of the old shattered regiments [take] our place. It is not fair that some regiments is shoved through in every battle, while others are never shown the enemy. How many of my acquaintances in Camp Curtin, Pa. left for the field the same day as us, [who] are no more, their lives sacrificed on the country’s altar, & we are spared. But it is very likely that before this terrible war is over, there will out of this regiment many a “Knight to earth be borne, And many a banner rent & torn.” ♣

I am pretty certain of having a furlough this fall & I shall be very happy to avail myself of the glad time to see you. I am just going to lay matters before our Colonel & no doubt after staring me out of countenance will give it with a grunt. You promised me your photograph some time ago. Now I shall expect in your next letter. So, dear Annie, don’t fail to send it for I will be greatly disappointed if you don’t. Give my love to your parents, & my dear Annie, accept the best wishes & tenderest love of — William [Phillips]

Address:

William B. Phillips
Care of Lieut. Grugan, Adjt. ♥
Headquarters 2nd Artillery P. V.
Fort Bunker Hill
Washington, D. C.

LETTER 16 NOTES

♠ The home (called “Chillum Castle Manor”) occupied by the Headquarters of the 2nd Artillery Pennsylvania Volunteers belonged to a prominent Maryland farmer named Nicholas Louis Queen (born about 1777). In the 1860 US Census, his land holdings in Ward 4 of the District of Columbia were valued at $50,000. His household furnishings were valued at half that figure. In 1830, one of Nicholas’ daughters married Jehiel Brooks, a opportunistic lawyer who sought various patronage jobs from the government. He was named Indian agent for the Caddo and Quapaw tribes in Northeast Louisiana, entering various claims against the government during his tenure there for Indian lands he attempted to claim for himself. The Queen and Brooks families were clearly Confederate sympathizers during the Civil War. Afterwards, Jethiel Brooks filed suit for damages done to his father-in-law’s property while it was used by Federal forces; he also entered into a legal dispute with the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad about tracks built on the edge of that same property.

♣ These lines are a variation from Sir Walter Scott’s early 19th century romantic poem “Marmion.” The actual lines read, “And many a banner will be torn, And many a Knight to earth be borne.”

♥ Philadelphia native Lt. Florence W. Grugan, born about 1828, enlisted as a Private with Montgomery Company, Commonwealth Heavy Artillery [PA] in April 1861 with duty at Fort Delaware, but his term of service ended in three months. He later enlisted as a Lt. with the 2nd Regiment, Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery.

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