Sightseeing in Washington D.C. with Mr. Richards, contempt for copperheads back in Pennsylvania, predicts Emancipation Proclamation will turn the tide of war, rumors of a move upon Richmond, answers questions from mother in Wales, characterizes the boys of Schooley’s Battery, friend William Davis recovers from illness.
Hospital near Fort Saratoga,
Sunday Evening, March 8, 1863
Dear Mrs. Richards,
When I wrote you last I was so troubled about Billy [Davis] &c. that I could make out no letter at all. So I shall send this as an apology. I was very happy to receive your very kind letter handed me by Mr. Richards. It is easier for you to imagine than for me to describe how happy I felt to see him. It was quite unexpected. Billy had told me how well he enjoyed himself & what good times he had, that I felt rather a desire to take “French leave” & pay you a visit, but that was impossible but I had the next thing to it though to see Mr. Richards.
The captain was kind enough to grant me leave to accompany him to Capitol Hill which I extended to the heart of the city. That evening Mr. Richards & Mr. Howell did their best to make me enjoy himself, and they succeeded so well that I forgot I was a soldier. I tell you I felt sorry to leave them next morning, but I was in hopes then of meeting them after their return from Falmouth, [Virginia]. So you see I felt disappointed to hear they had returned & gone home. They are issuing furloughs to our regiment now & I hope I shall be fortunate enough to get one. They give furloughs to every other regiment. Why not us also?
I spent last Sunday with Mr. Phillips & Hattie & Miss Allen in Washington [D.C.]. Was to church in the Capitol & best of all we saw a marriage ceremony there. It was quite impressing I can assure you. It did my soul good to spend an evening with old acquaintances from Hyde Park & especially the ladies.
I wonder when will the time come when “Grim visaged war has smoothed his wrinkled front” ♠ & peace and happiness restored & grand outpouring of the friends at home to welcome back the defenders & preservers of the Union. I have faith it won’t be long. I think so, but as the old adage is, “The wish is father to the thought.” ♣ But if it is, it is not a bad wish. I suppose by what I hear that at home, they begin to despair. I did not expect this. Surely the feeling of the country in ’61 did not warrant such a feeling as is now manifested. It is true that more was expected than was actually given to the country. The difficulty is we underrate the war powers of the C. S. A. & the North — I am sorry to say today — does not, will not, believe that the South is fighting with great numbers, having beside that a great unity of sentiment & of action. No “copperheads” & no croakers ♥ to weaken the hands of the powers that be.”
It may be that the North will gird their loins & go at it in earnest [only] when Jeff Davis [is] issuing a proclamation dated at the White House appointing a day thanking God for success to their arms. But I am glad to learn the copperheadism is spurned by popular love of country. Manhood has not yet taken its flight from the North. I am sorry indeed to have to say that with you…that the clouds hang thick & heavy making an universal gloom. Yet there is consolation in the poetical & true words of the poet, “Freedom’s battles once begun, though baffled oft, is ever won.” ♦ I date Freedom’s battle began from January 1st, 1863, & God I hope will bless us to be worthy to fight the glorious battles of freedom.
I date Freedom’s battle began with January 1st 1863, & God I hope will bless us to be worthy to fight the glorious battles of freedom.
I see in the papers that gold & certainly provisions is down. That is a great blessing, well worth a great Union victory. I hope Mrs. Richards before the 4th of July to hear from you, telling me of the excitement & enthusiasm over the many and glorious Union Victories. Now mark my words.
There are rumors of our company making a forward movement, but it is merely a rumor. I sometimes believe that we are permanently stationed at Fort Lincoln, but I thought so in Fort Delaware, & you see how it has turned out. A soldier is liable every moment to be ordered to sling his knapsack.
I received a letter from [my former] home [in Wales] some three weeks ago. They are all well. Mother & Father are perfectly satisfied with my enlisting now. Just fancy what questions mother asked me in her last letter, but you must bear in mind she is for the North zealously & detests the South mainly for the “peculiar institution.” Well the questions were first, “Why did not the North admit vessels to the South under the same tariff as themselves? 2nd. Why were certain generals recalled because they avowed their intentions of freeing the slave at the outset of the war? 3rd. Why are the elections against Mr. Lincoln? I could not answer the first but told them that I did not believe such was the case. The two others I answered fully & I hope satisfactory. I suppose she had a debate on it & that they answered her on her points. She said that she believes Mr. Lincoln & his party are to be compared to the apostles, despised while living, afterwards to be praised. They tell me that the majority [of their countrymen in Wales] are for the South, but they say that the South is fast losing ground. Amen.
The Boys of Schooley’s Battery say if they don’t whip the South, they will be ashamed to go home…
The Boys of “Schooley’s Battery” say if they don’t whip the South they will be ashamed to go home & that I believe is the feeling. Together, I believe there is not a better company of men in the army. Besides, we are all mostly young men. The Battery is a model company of men, as to cleanliness & duty. I hope Mr. Richards is able to bear testimony to that.
I am glad to tell you that Billy [Davis] is improving very fast & will be able to go about this week sometime. They keep us by ourselves & are not allowed to go about. We enjoy ourselves the best we can. Today we read a lot of [religious] tracts & last night we finished a splendid story of Mrs. Hall [entitled] “Can right be wrong?” Mr. Richards offered me “Les Miserables” but I had read it in camp. It is a first rate book, but I believe the characters have too much of the impossible about them. But there is some splendid ideas in that book & shows at once that the author is a mastermind. Hattie told me the box was forwarded the Wednesday they left. I suppose it’s in the city. So I shall get it this week.
I am afraid I shall tire you so I shall draw to a close. Give my best respects to Mr. Richards & kisses for my Netty. I was delighted to hear her father say that she continues to remember me. She is cunning, that’s so.
Please remember me to Mr. Roberts. I shall write him a Welsh letter this week. It is too bad, I ought to have done so before. I shall close, hoping to hear again from you soon.
Accept my best wishes & thanks. Farewell. Yours truly — William B. Phillips
Instead of 112th Regt., address to 2nd Artillery P. V.
LETTER 11 NOTES
♠ “Grim-visaged war hath smoothed its wrinkled front” is a line from Act I, Scene I, of Richard III, which begins with the far more popular phrase, “Now is the winter of our discontent.”
♣ “The wish is father to the thought” was authored by English Poet William Wordsworth (1770-1850).
♥ A copperhead was the nickname for Northerners, usually Democratic Party members, who opposed fighting the South. They generally felt the South had a right to secede, and that the war was a waste of lives. They favored a negotiated settlement. Named after the poisonous snake, most opposed President Abraham Lincoln’s reelection in 1864, and supported the Democratic Party nominee, Gen. George McClellan. A croaker is a person who grumbles or habitually predicts evil.
♦ “Freedom’s battles…” is attributed to English writer Lord Byron (1788-1824). President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, in a strategically calculated move to turn the fortunes of war. William Phillips’ characterization of the measure as the beginning of “freedom’s battles” was prophetic.