November 1863


Returns to duty from sick call, proposes scheme for William Phillips to get a furlough that requires Mr. Richards to write a letter saying fictitious uncle is dying. This letter written by William Davis.

Fort Lincoln,
[Washington, D.C.]
November 5, 1863

[Dear] Friend [Mr.] Richards,

I take the pleasure of writing you a few lines this evening hoping it will find you fully recovered from your illness.

Nov.205201863-1I returned to the Battery about a week ago and found my old chums all well. Billy [Phillips] felt very happy in seeing me. He said he felt quite lonesome while I was away. He has been hear several times since I returned. I was over to Headquarters yesterday to see him. I found he was quite anxious to get home on a visit but did not know of what grounds to make his application. I proposed a plan for trial in which he readily concurred. Some men are obtaining furloughs every week from the different Battery’s in this Regiment when good reasons are presented. The simple reason of seeing one’s friends is not sufficient grounds to obtain a furlough in the August presence of the Colonel Commanding.

Nov.205201863-3What I propose for consideration is simply this. Phillips has been absent some time. He has attended to his duty faithfully and has done as much service for the benefit of the Regiment as any one enlisted man in the Regiment and is duly entitled to a furlough in preference to men that are obtaining them now and again, some of them only in the service four or five months, and the only way it can be obtained is by resorting to a principle generally adopted in military tacticks called Strategy.

Nov.205201863-2[It is] very true the duty he now performs can not be filled by any and every one in the Regiment. His service is such that he can not very well be spared, but for a short time it would not make so much difference. I would then suggest to you Strategy and the Modus Operandi to follow in bringing out the object successfully. If successful, we can congratulate ourselves in the result. If not, it will result in no harm. In the little experience I have had of military, Strategy must be resorted to in obtaining favours.

Nov.205201863-4I wish you to write a brief letter to William as a friend informing him of the serious illness of a supposed Uncle, using a fictitious name and a request on the part of his Uncle to see him as the only reliable friend to convey the last words, etc, &c. to his (William’s) Mother. You will also advise Billy, as a personal, to come home if possible as you believe his presence would be a great consolation to him now prostrated on the bed of sickness &c. and that you think it of the utmost importance as his Uncle appears to manifest a great interest in him by setting a portion of what he has acquired through years of toil & industry to his (William’s) personal benefit.

Nov.205201863-5Make it as urgent as reasonable stating no length of time to be absent and as applicable to the point as in a case of reality. On the envelope, it would be policy to mark, “Please forward.” By doing this, I think it will [be successful]; if not, it will be only a confidential failure. [If] you attend to this immediately, it will be more likely to work for if it comes before pay, it will show no disposition on the part of William to wait for money, making the latter only a secondary matter.

My kind regards to Mrs. Richards, love to little Nettie, and accept the best wishes of yours truly, — friend William Davis

P. S. Please destroy fearing the plans for the campaign may fall into the hands of the enemy.


Farcical letter written by William Davis in military jargon declaring success in scheme to obtain a furlough for William Phillips.

Headquarters 1st Brigade
Department of the Lackawanna
D. T. Richards
General in Chief


Davis_Farce_1I have the honor to report to you the brilliant success which we have obtained through the late strategic movement in breaking through the lines of the enemy, and the undisputed control of about 250 miles of railway & the capture of several noted officers among which were Brigadier General Haskins Chief of Staff to Major Heintzleman, Col. A. A. Gibson together with his Adjutant & staff. It was a complete victory. The troops fought bravely and swept everything before them like chaff before the wind.

Nothing could have been better planned for the occasion or better executed and for which I am to you greatly indebted for your aid & approval, the prestige of which I could not have done well without in bringing the insurgents to a sense of duty to there fellow man.

Davis_Farce_2The land taken so far as our troops have advanced is fertile with a range of mountains on the south side sloping down gradually to the valley where the city is situated. Tis said there is a great quantity of minerals such as coal taken out annually from the mines and shipped abroad to foreign ports.

The country is thickly populated and the inhabitants appear to be very sociable & kind, save a few of the insurgents which we keep a strict watch over, better known as Copperheads, but we hope they will yet find out the error of there ways and return under the protection of our flag.

Davis_Farce_3The headquarters of the Brigade will be for the next 10 days stationed at [Hyde Park], to the north of the city of Scranton, on an elevated piece of land suited as it is to all the wants of care worn troops – Veterans after the long and tedious march.

The water is excellent. The minerals from which it runs make it a excellent purifier in restoring and invigorating the system. ‘Tis called Gruber’s Fountain. The country is well adapted for the support of troops. There is abundant supplies on hand daily by the loyal portion & the luxuries we will now enjoy is not a matter of little note, such as “Plum Pudding, Roast Beef, Pies, Cakes, Etc, &c.

Davis_Farce_4The enemy’s dead have all been buried and the wounded fell all in to our hands. On our side, we had no losses save a slight wound received myself in the heel but am happy to say is improving. I have an application of Bread and Milk to the part effected.

I will detail Adjutant [William] Phillips with the reports & cheerfully submit all to your consideration, knowing all will be satisfactorily received, and can assure you I feel perfectly safe in my position against any force of the enemy. Friends for eighteen months more or less.

Davis_Farce_5[William] Phillips can give you all the minute details and is empowered by me to receipt & seal all business by taking the laughter seconded by your honorable self on the Big thing on Ice.

With my earnest wish for the success of our cause and the – benign influence of – good luck – to bring him home gay & happy on a 10-day furlough. Sine die [without delay], Viva Viva [live, live], la Emperor.

Your most old servant,

William Davis
Brigadier General Commanding
1st Division Army of the Lackawanna

B-402 Artillery drill in Fort, defenses of Washington

The Washington Defenses


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