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

Post image for Army letters of Oliver Willcox Norton.

Army letters of Oliver Willcox Norton.

December 20, 2012

Army letters of Oliver Willcox Norton (Eighty-third Pennsylvania Volunteers)

Falmouth, Va., Dec. 20, 1862.

Dear Sister L.:—

I have not heard from you since I wrote last, but you will want to hear from me now, so I will write a little if nothing more than to tell you of my safety. We have had a terrible fight, but you have heard of that, and I need not give particulars. I don’t feel like it, for it was nothing but humiliating defeat. I suppose the radicals have got enough of Burnside now and will want another change. I have nothing to say—of course it makes no difference to the country how many of her sons are offered on the altar of this incapacity. Oh, no. If it was Little Mac, thunders would be hurled against him, but no. We have got a man now who will move, no matter what reason he has for standing still. You may think I am talking bitterly. Well, I feel so. I’m sick of such useless slaughter. McClellan never made an attack and failed, and never showed stupidity as Burnside has.

But enough of that. You’ll want to know what “hairbreadth escapes” I had. I always expect you to want a string of them after every battle. I shall not gratify you this time. I think it humors a bad taste, but I’ll merely say I had enough of them, such as a rap on the head with a board thrown by an exploding shell, a mouthful of gravel raised by a ploughing grape shot, running the gauntlet of rebel sharpshooters in carrying a dispatch to General Griffin. I’ll tell you about them some time if I ever get home.

It would have done a person good, or at least given him an idea of war, to have walked through the town of Fredericksburg on Monday last. It was a place about the size of Erie, perhaps larger. On Thursday one hundred and fifty pieces of our artillery played on it, and after we had done all the damage we could the rebs played on it with their “brass bands” and “bass horns” from the other side. Between them both there was not much of it left untouched. It was battered and burnt, the streets were filled with a confusion of all things, splendid furniture and carpets, provisions, bottles, knapsacks, dead men and horses, blankets, muskets, the pomp of war and paraphernalia of peace mingled together. Men were ransacking every house, taking everything they wanted, and baking pancakes in the kitchens. Slapjacks were plenty while we stayed at Fredericksburg. I have heard from Alf. since the fight. He is safe and sound. My orderly sergeant was killed in the charge. That was all the loss in our company. Some few received slight wounds. Captain A. led his company like an officer.

Previous post:

Next post: