The “Railroad Guards” return home to Scranton, William Phillips gets job in Adjutant’s office, Fort Lincoln readies itself for attack, news from Vicksburg. This letter was written by William Davis.
[Washington, D. C.]
Evening, June 5, 1863
Dear Friend Mrs. Richards,
Your very kind and interesting letter of the 28th instant came duly to hand. I was very happy to hear from you as it has been some time since we last heard from you personally. I see by your letter that the Railroad Guards ♠ has returned to there peaceful homes and have been received cordially by the friends & citizens of Scranton. It must have been the happiest moment of there lives to meet with such enthusiasm. They certainly deserved a warm reception after a brief but exciting absence having participated in some of the most prominent battles in this war. William B. Phillips, myself, and two others were fortunate enough to get leave of absence on the night of there arrival [here in Washington, D. C.] for to see them. We put up with them all night at the [R.R.] Depot & felt glad of our visit. I never seen men look better after having passed through so much hardship. The boys expressed there wish several times wishing that we were with them on there way home.
I see you have endured a great deal by the way of friends keeping distant from you while suffering but such is the case. There is such a class fond of making matters worse than they are & I believe Hyde Park [PA] is not behind in representation of that kind. It is really disgusting to think what some will do in such cases. I am well satisfied that it was my lot to be taken sick on my return as I received all the attention from friends & strangers that I could wish for.
I am happy to inform you that friend William B. Phillips is getting along fine and has now a very pleasant situation assigned him. He is copyist in the Adjutant’s Office. This will be a permanent situation, I think. The work is very light & he will not have any drilling or unpleasant work to do such that constitutes the work of a soldier about these fortifications. He has got up gradually and found his place and they have got the right man to do the work. Shortly after I came back, the Captain wished to have someone to assist our orderly sergeant to make out the rolls. I was present at the time and recommended Billy & he has been assisting ever since when there was any writing to do. So yesterday he was ordered to report to the Colonel and his place assigned him. I suppose he will get some extra pay. If not, it is a pleasant situation.
We are getting drilled very hard everyday and our time fully taken up learning & practicing the art of war. I think by the way they are putting us through now and the rigid discipline over us, that something is expected to happen near Washington by way of a Rebel Cavalry raid or something of that kind. We are not allowed to leave camp & the officers are not allowed to leave there posts. We have cavalry scouts out all the time from here about 10 to 15 miles out. I should not be surprised if Lee would try and brake through Hooker’s army and attack Washington as they (the Rebs) are getting desperate, no doubt, & think it about time to act on the offensive. ♣
The news from Vicksburg ♥ is not very definite & appear to be on the balance, but there is a great deal of confidence [Page 5 Missing]
[Your friend, — William Davis]
LETTER 14 NOTES
♠ So many Lackawanna Railroad employees from the Scranton [PA] area volunteered for Company K of the 132nd Pennsylvania Infantry that it was called the “Railroad Guard.” Organized in Harrisburg in August 1862, the same time as Schooley’s Battery, the Regiment was soon attached to the Army of the Potomac where it saw heavy combat for nine months and then was mustered out of the service on May 24, 1863. The Railroad Guard participated in the Maryland Campaign (Sep 1862); the Battle of Antietam (Sep 1862); the Battle of Fredericksburg (Dec 1862); and finally, the Battle of Chancellorsville (May 1862). The Regiment lost 3 officers and 70 enlisted men killed or mortally wounded. Forty additional men succumbed to disease.
♣ After turning the Army of the Potomac back at the Battle of Chancellorsville, Gen. Lee took the offensive and began to move his three Corps northward, his flank protected by Gen. J. E. B. Stuart’s cavalry. The intelligence in Washington, D. C. appears to have been accurate as Gen. Stuart did indeed approach and threaten the Capitol city, though his reputation would be irreparably damaged for failing to stay in contact with his commander until after the fighting commenced at Gettysburg.
♥ Gen. Grant’s siege of Vicksburg [MS] would not result in its surrender for another month.
Working as clerk in Adjutant’s office, Colonel Gibson, hears cannon firing from the skirmish at Upperville, Virginia, confederate spy.
[Washington,] D. C.
June 25, 1863
I received your very kind letter last week & as usual it found me, that is, very happy to hear from you. I always await with anxiety for your letters & I must give you credit for being punctual in answering your correspondence, which is not the case with some I know of in Hyde Park. They are up there just now either to lazy or indifferent to drop a line in reply to a fellow, who once had an idea they were friends; but I shall console myself with “When friends fall off & prove unkind, E’en let them go & never mind. Be Cheerful.” But dear Annie if you fall off, why it’s a song that somebody else must sing for me, as I could (not) come down to that indifference as to you, (I missed the “not,” but I stuck her in, double quick). Pretty fellow I would look without that “not.”
I am happy to be able to tell you that my health is good & I hope that you also are enjoying good health. If we have health, we have the first & greatest cause of happiness. Why didn’t you stay longer in Hyde Park? It was too bad [you had] to go back almost before you went there. I am afraid you are too much of a “stick at home.” You better believe if I come up there, I’ll get you out of Carbondale & suburbs and make you believe there’s some other place besides Carbondale. I hope to get a furlough as soon as we shall send those Rebels back to Virginia again.
I must now tell you that I don’t soldier anymore. I was made clerk of the 1st Brigade, Defenses North of the Potomac, some 3 weeks ago & it’s a good berth I can assure you. I like it first rate, & the both of us like each other. There is five of us in the office, the Colonel, the Adjutant, Sergeant Major, myself & another named Sergeant Humphrey. ♠ “Bully fellows.” The Colonel ♣ though is an old sour kraut of the Regular Army, a man over middle age & as sharp as a needle. He is acting Brigadier of this brigade.
Well, dear Annie, I pray you don’t get nervous if the Rebels come up to Carbondale. They are “marching along” up for Pennsylvania but their object is this city & if they attack from the Maryland side, we will have the honor of repelling them. There is great preparations here for them & we do hope they will come. They’ll get something in the shape of a shell shot; that a repetition of it will be “Respectfully Declined.” They say that 100,000 is menacing Washington. We heard the roar of battle ♥ here Sunday [21st] & Monday [22nd] all day. The cannonading was incessant. That was the first sound of rebel cannon I heard yet. But it looks now as if we were to get better acquainted still. They shall have an introduction too if they wish it.
We caught a Rebel Sergeant of Stuart ’s Cavalry yesterday within our lines, believed to be a spy. He was a fine looking young man, very clean & tidy. I pitied him – but yet that man no doubt had none on us, or else he would not be within our lines. You can look out for some stirring news that will end this war, about the next month. This war is going to be closed up this summer I believe. It looks so to me anyhow. Now, my dear, I hope you will give me an answer soon, & be assured of my sincerest love for your dear self.
From Your Affectionate, as ever, — William [Phillips]
Batty “M” 2nd Artillery P. V.
Fort Lincoln, D.C.
LETTER 15 NOTES
♠ Sergeant James Humphrey entered the service as a Corporal in Company D of the 2nd Heavy Artillery, 112th Pennsylvania Volunteers. When his service terminated, he was a First Lieutenant.
♣ The Colonel was Augustus A. Gibson, who commanded the 112th Pennsylvania Volunteers. As one of the most experienced officers, he was made Acting Brigadier over the various regiments that were added to the defenses north of the Potomac in the fall of 1862 and spring of 1863. He had a reputation for strict camp discipline.
♥ The roar of battle was the sound of field artillery exchanged between Alfred Pleasanton’s and J. E. B. Stuart’s cavalry in a skirmish that took place at Upperville on June 21st.