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

Post image for Fredericksburg.–Letters from Elisha Franklin Paxton.

Fredericksburg.–Letters from Elisha Franklin Paxton.

December 21, 2012

Elisha Franklin Paxton – Letters from camp and field while an officer in the Confederate Army

Camp near Port Royal, December 21,1862.

I wrote to you some days since, informing you that I had passed through the battle at Fredericksburg without damage. The loss in my brigade was seventy-six. We reached the battle-ground on Friday morning, the 12th inst., when everything indicated that we should have a battle that day. We took first one position and then another, all the while expecting the fight to open; but the day passed off quietly, excepting some artillery firing and some skirmishing. That night we slept in our places. The next morning all was quiet as on the day before for a while, but then the artillery and musketry became more rapid in firing, and continued to increase until for more than a mile along the line there seemed a continuous roar of musketry. We were soon ordered forward, and then I made sure we should be in the battle; but when we reached the position occupied by our second line, we were halted, and there one of my regiments became engaged with a body of the enemy which had advanced within our lines. It lasted a very little while, however. The enemy were driven back along our whole line, and not renewing it, the battle closed. That night we slept on the field, among the dead and wounded. The next morning we occupied our first line. We supposed, of course, that the battle would be renewed, but the day passed off quietly; the next day it was the same case, and the next morning it was found that the enemy had left the field and crossed over the river. We then moved down to our present camp some fifteen miles below Fredericksburg. I hear nothing from the enemy. Their pickets are on the other side of the river, and ours are on this. When do you think we will have another battle? Where will it be? Such questions puzzle the minds of a great many people, and yours too, I doubt not. It may be to-morrow; it may not be for months. I hope the Yankees, having practice enough for the year, will conclude to go into winter quarters and let us do the same. Next week will be Christmas, and I hope a happy one to the loved wife and children of my own home. To many, in summing up and looking over their bereavements for the year, it will be sad enough. We have been more blessed, and should feel grateful for it. To the future I look, not in gloom and despondency, but with the calmness and composure of one who feels that his own destiny in a sea of troubles like this is not in any way under his control. The cloud will pass away when God in his righteous judgment wills it, and it becomes us all to bear it in patience. May the prayers which ascend to heaven from so many supplicants, with such earnestness and fervor as they never knew before, soon be answered. They will be when we deserve it.



General Order. General, Orders No. 65

Head Qrs. Paxton’s Brigade,

December 18, 1862.

Regimental commanders will institute a close examination of the conduct of officers and men in the late battle. They will see that merited censure and punishment falls upon delinquencies; that fidelity and gallantry are rewarded with praise and promotion. If any remained behind in camp or fell to the rear without proper leave upon the march, which seemed to all to lead to the field of battle, or when brought to the enemy sought safety in flight, their officers will see that they are arrested and the proper steps taken for their punishment.

Your line, as it moved after long hours of weary suspense to the support of your comrades in front, exhibiting the spirit and determination of soldiers resolved to conquer or die, was witnessed by your brigade commander with a feeling of pride and gratification such as he had never known before. Such a result can never be achieved by men who harass themselves with alternating hope of safety and fear of danger; it is the work only of the soldier who habituates himself to the idea that he must stand to his colors so long as he has a cartridge or a bayonet to defend him; and if he fails in this he deserves to be despised and cast off even by the women and children of his own home. He who moves under such a resolution must of necessity do his duty, win the applause, and a still nobler reward in the conviction which it causes to his own heart that he is what the meanest feels he would like to be —a true man and a true soldier.

He who proves recreant to his country and his cause at such a time merits the just sentence of military law—to die under the colors he disgraced and by the muskets of the gallant comrades he deserted.

(Signed) B. F. Paxton,



Friend C. Cox, A. D. C.

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