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.

March 8, 2013

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

The Capture of General Stoughton.

Camp Near Wolf Run Shoals, Va.,
March 8, 1863.

Dear Free Press:

The Twelfth is now in the seventh week of its occupancy of its present camp,—a longer stay in one spot than it has yet made. We have formed no such intense attachment to our camp at the Shoals that we shall not be pretty well content to leave it, wherever we may be ordered. The region about us is a dreary one; the camp is less pleasant than our former ones; the time we have thus far spent in it has been during the most trying season of the year; snow, rain, frost and mud have told on the health of the regiment, and we have more sickness than ever before, among both officers and men; our picket duty— in pleasant weather the pleasantest duty of the soldier—has been severe ; and though our situation here might be worse in a thousand particulars, we should all be satisfied to run the risk of not bettering our condition by a move.

You are not to understand that we are disheartened—not at all. “The Red, White and Blue,” sung by an extemporized quartette, with a stiff chorus of manly voices, coming to my ear as I write, tells a different story from that. We carry a stiff upper lip under all circumstances. About a tenth of the regiment are off duty from measles, fevers, and ailments of one sort or another. The balance are, I think, more resolute in the great purpose of the war than ever. “There is more fight in me,” said one of our men yesterday, “than ever before. I supposed when I enlisted that nine months in the service would give me enough of war, and I remained of that opinion till quite lately. Now I am in for the war, be it long or short.” The man who said this had no lack of fight in him at the start, mind you, and I believe he represents a majority of the regiment. Fuller acquaintance with the temper and purposes of the rebels, discussion of the issues involved, and especially the news we get from home of the sayings and doings of the miserable “copperhead” journals and their followers at the North, have stirred to the bottom the fountains of honest indignation, and given strength to the purpose and patriotism of us all. The army is unanimous in this feeling, so far as I can judge. Having enlisted to fight traitors, the soldiers as a mass propose to fight them through, and would like to give those at home the same treatment they do those at the south.

March 9.

I was going to complain of the lack of incident here, but since I began my letter, we have been supplied with some of that missing article. You will have heard by telegraph before this reaches you, of Mosby’s dash into Fairfax Court House last night, and the capture in his bed of Brigadier General E. H. Stoughton, commanding this brigade. The camp is humming with the news, but in the uncertainty as to how much that is told of the attending circumstances is truth, I will not attempt to describe this very creditable (to the rebels) occurrence. I beg leave to say, however, that none of the disgrace of the affair belongs to the regiments of the brigade. General Stoughton was not taken from the midst of his command. The Vermont regiments nearest to the comfortable brick house which he occupied as his headquarters, were at Fairfax Station, four miles south of him, while the Twelfth and Thirteenth were a dozen miles away. The risk of exactly such an operation has been apparent even to the privates, and has been a matter of frequent remark among officers and men, for weeks past. How could they protect him as long as he kept his quarters at such a distance from them?[1]

The moral of the transaction is too obvious to need suggestion.

Colonel Blunt has been assigned to the command of the brigade, and is removing his headquarters to Fairfax Station. When he is pulled out of bed by guerillas I will let you know.

Yours, B.

[1] Rev. George B. Spaulding of Vergennes, in a communication to the N. Y. Times, commenting on the capture of General Stoughton, said that his capture had been predicted in a letter from Fairfax Court House, written ten days before the event. General Stoughton’s uncle, Hon. E. W. Stoughton of New York, afterwards U. S. Minister to Russia, took up the matter, avowed his disbelief in the existence of any such prediction, and offered to give $250 to the N. E. Soldiers’ Relief Association for the name and residence of any person who had received a letter containing such a prediction. These were furnished to Mr. Stoughton and he paid over the sum named to the Soldiers’ Relief Association.

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