Following the American Civil War Sesquicentennial with day by day writings of the time, currently 1863.

Post image for Army life in Virginia by George Grenville Benedict.

Army life in Virginia by George Grenville Benedict.

December 27, 2012

Army life in Virginia by George Grenville Benedict, 12th Regiment Vermont Volunteers.

Christmas In Camp.

Camp Near Fairfax C. H.,

December 26, 1862.

Dear Free Press:

We have had a very fair Christmas in camp. The day was as mild as May. By hard work the day before our mess had “stockaded” our tent and it is now a little log house with a canvas roof. We have in it a “California stove”—a sheet of iron over a square hole in the ground—and as we have been confined of late to rations of hard tack and salt pork, we decided to have a special Christmas dinner.

We got some excellent oysters of the sutler, also some potatoes. Two of the boys went off to a clean, free-negro family, about a mile off, and got two quarts of rich milk, some hickory nuts, and some dried peaches. I officiated as cook, and, as all agreed, got up a capital dinner. I made as good an oyster soup as one often gets, and fried some oysters with bread crumbs—for we are the fortunate owners of a frying-pan. The potatoes were boiled in a tin pan, and were as mealy as any I ever ate. We had, besides, good Vermont butter, boiled pork, good bread, and closed a luxurious meal with nuts, raisins and apples, and cocoa-nut cakes just sent from home. For supper we had rice and milk and stewed plums. Now that is not such bad living for poor soldiers, is it? But we do not have it every day; though we have had many luxuries since our Thanksgiving boxes came.

We have a pleasant camp ground just now, and if allowed to remain, shall make ourselves quite comfortable.

We had a visit from Dr. Thayer in our tent tonight. It was good for sore eyes to see the doctor and hear directly from home; and he will tell you when he gets back that he found here a right hearty looking set of fellows.

December 27th. We are in quite a stir to-night. Cannonading has been heard to the south all the afternoon[1] and we are under orders to be ready to march at a moment’s notice, with one day’s cooked rations. It is rumored that we are to be ordered forward in course of a week, anyhow.

Yours, B.

[1] This was the first engagement of Stuart’s raid, being his attack upon Dumfries, Va., and repulse by the garrison.

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