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Letters from a soldier

Apr. 1863 - June 1863

Camp Gilpin, April 27, 1863

Dear Wife,

Itake this opportunity to inform you that I am well at present and hope these few lines may find you the same. I would like to hear from you oftener because the money is lost is no reason for your not writing. I have not had a letter from you for some time, so I thought I would not wait any longer. I received one from Mr. Woodel on the 22nd stating that you had not got your money and that you was as well as could be expected and that you should have anything you wanted to make you comfortable. It is a great blessing to have friends to care for us but I feel that we have a still better friend, that is God. Let us put our trust in him. I want you to let me know how many letters you have had from me since Harper was home, for you have told me nothing since of any amount you must recollect that this is no place to delay writing.

The company went out on a scout the other day and brought in some corn and furniture. We have in our tent a beareau and a cane seat chair and looking glass and we have a negro boy to wash for us and wait on us and it makes it lighter on us. There is a detective from Washington down there somewhere trying to find our money or the man that got it, and if he finds him out it will go pretty hard with him. I want you not to say anything about him for nobody else knows it or him, and he does not want to be found out until he finds the rogue. The company has gone out to burn another mill.

Give my love to Johnny and all our friends. We had a good time at church yesterday. The Lord was with us. I would not give my religion for all this world. Let us therefore live faithful. No more at present but still remain your true and loving husband until death.

Signature

On April 18, 1863, Harriet gave birth to a girl, Stephen wrote home on the 29th that she "may call the baby Alleena"

History

Yorktown, VA

Yorktown, Virginia

In early April the 4th Delaware Infantry at Yorktown, Camp Gilpin, was in Busteed's Brigade under Brig. Gen. Richard Busteed with Col. A. H. Grimshaw as their commanding officer. Busteed's Brigade also included the 168th New York, the 169th, 178th and 179th Pennsylvania.

From April 11-May 4, the Confederate Army (the Dept. of Richmond) was trying to reclaim the pennisula, causing Maj. Gen. Dix to call for reinforcements for Williamsburg (Fort Magruder) through to Norfolk. On April 13, Lt. General Longstreet, along with Hood's and Pickett's divisions, advanced with a 20,000 men from Blackwater to overtake Suffolk. The battle was inconclusive, and on April 29, Gen. Lee ordered Longstreet to disengage from Suffolk and rejoin the Army of Northern Virginia at Fredericksburg.

Several more expeditions, skirmishes and reconnaissances occurred during this time. The following is an extract from the "Record of Events" on April 27, 1863: "Lt. Col. Tevis, 4th Del. Vol., with a detachment from his regiment . . . went some distance above Hickory Forks, destroyed a large amount of stores of the rebel army, consisting of grain, cotton, bacon, flour . . . and quinine; also collected and drove within the lines 57 head of horned cattle, 260 sheep, and 8 horses and mules."

History

The Battle of Chancellorsville
On April 27, 1863, Hooker began moving his Army North up the Rappahannock River. Three corps crossed the Rappahannock at Kelly's Ford on April 29th, then crossed the Rapidan River at Germanna and Ely's Ford. Two other Corps of Federals moved south of Fredericksburg with Sedgwick. All were to converge on Chancellorsville.

Stonewall JacksonOn May 2nd, Stonewall Jackson moved with approximately 26,000 men around the right of the Federals at Chancellorsville, leaving Lee and 14,000 men to face off Hookers 70,000. Hooker ignored warnings of the movement, believing that Lee was retreating.

The Federals were taken by surprise by Stonewall Jackson, late on May 2nd. They were pushed frantically down a plank road in retreat. Stonewall was accidentally shot by one of his own pickets while on this road. The following day as fighting continued, Hooker finally ordered the Union troops to withdraw.

ChancellorsvilleSedgwick, still at Fredericksburg on May 3rd, was advancing straight up Marye's Heights to join the battle at Chancellorsville through the quickest route. Unlike December, the federals rushed the stone wall and the Confederates fled. As he reached Salem Church, east of Chancellorsville, he was again stopped by the Conferdate Army. Sedgwick was forced back across the Rappahannock, as were all the other Union Corps by the morning of May 6, 1863.

The Battle of Chancellorsville had ended in defeat for the Union, while it still remains Lee's most brilliant victory in many opinons. Lee's new objective was once again to have a victory on northern soil.

Stonewall Jackson died of Pneumonia on May 10th.


updown

Camp Gilpin, May 10th, 1863

Dear and loving wife,

Itake this opportunity of informing you that I am well at present and hope that these few lines will find you the same. I received your package and letter last night and was glad to hear that you and Johnny was getting better. You do not know how much good it does me to hear from you. This is a nice day here. The hooks and lines suits me as well as if I had bought them myself. As to enjoyment if I knew that you enjoyed yourself I should be perfectly happy for I have nothing else to trouble me. You need not believe half you hear. There is but little danger here for the rebs have got enough to do at other places now.

The cavalry that I spoke of in my other letter has all come in and they done the most daring thing that has been done in the war. They came across from the right of Hooker's army and tore up all the railroads and destroyed everything they could and went inside of the entrenchments at Richmond 1 mile from the town and there is no force there of any amount they say they could have taken it but they could not hold it. There is a great many troops gone up the York river but we have no news of much importance. I see in the papers that Major Daniel Woodel is wounded. I am very sorry for him and the family. If he comes home let me know how he is wounded.

You need not trouble yourself for me for the Lord will provide and the 4th Delaware will be taken care of. I hope we shall soon hear good news. Let us still trust in God and do his will as we do not know what He intends for us to do. Let us do all we can in His service. Write often and as long letters as you can. Tell me all that is going on at home. You must excuse me for I have nothing to write about. No more at present but still remain your true and loving husband until death.

Signature

History

Maj. Daniel Woodall was with the 1st Delaware at the battle of Chancellorsville. The Army of the Potomac moved back to Falmouth, Virginia.

Infantry

Union Infantry

Camp on Rappahannock

Union camp on the Rappahannock, near Falmouth, Virginia

The Department of Virginia was engaged in tearing up the railroad tracks between Suffolk and the Blackwater.

May 22, 1863
Camp Gilpin, Gloucester Point

Dear and loving wife,

Itake this opportunity of informing you that I am well at present and hope that these few lines will find you the same. I received your kind and welcome letter of the 17th this morning and was glad in my heart to hear from one that I love above all others on earth. I have always felt that I was trying to do my duty but I now feel a stronger determination than ever since I received your letter. I am glad that you are able to give me so much encouragement and I believe that the 4th Del. will always do her duty.

I am determined to put my trust in God, let what will or may come I still believe that this war must soon close for the rebs are getting the worst of it. We have made another great raid and come back without the loss of a man. The cavalry had one wounded in the neck but they killed the reb. We left here on Tuesday night in the gun boat and went down to Mobjack Bay and up it to North River and Wednesday went up the River and landed about 10 miles up the river.

Just before we landed the farmers around there were ploughing but took their horses out and hid them in the woods. As soon as we could land our company and Co. F. were ordered out and did not go far before we found 34 horses and mules and then returned to the boat and rested. This is the nicest place I ever seen anywhere. All along the river.

After we were rested the boys went on the hunt of poultry and found lots of it, and found a nice garden and got lots of flowers and onions and honey and after we got threw we went to loading grain. We got about 400 bushels of wheat and then went down the river to the east river and up it and lay there all night. Here the boys made another raid on the rebs and captured a lot of poultry and meat and molasses, and tobacco, and a little of everything.

The cavalry and the drafted men left the camp the same night we did and went up by land and kept close to the gun boat. The next day we came down east river and burnt 2 mills full of corn and flour and several barns and then went up the north river again to meet the other force and there they had a lot of stock and sheep. We took the sheep on board and laid there till night and took the drafted men on board and the cavalry drove the horses and cattle to camp where we all arrived this morning. The cavalry burnt the mill belonging to the rebs. Charly Brown and Bell. It done me good to think we could burn the property of one reb that lived in Delaware. The amount of horses brought in were 550 or 600 and 500 head of cattle and 300 sheep and there is no telling all that was brought in but you may depend all soldiers knows how to provide for theirselves. It is believed the damage done to the rebs
(end missing)

History

The Fourth Army Corps was ordered on a combined expedition into Matthews County starting the night of the 19th of May, with the instructions to ". . . inflict as much injury as possible on armed enemies. . .capture and bring in all animals and supplies needful to our troops that may be found, but will not wantonly burn or pillage anywhere."

Maj. Gen. E.D. Keyes wrote in his report on May 23, "... The expedition was conducted with spirit by the officers, and the men behaved well. Only some straggling parties of the enemy were seen. One guerrilla was killed and 2 of our men were wounded. About 300 horses and mules were captured, besides about 150 head of horned cattle and the same number of sheep. A small amount of grain was brought in, and a large amount of grain and forage collected for the rebel Government was destroyed. Five mills stored with grain and flour were burned."

Col. J. Kilpatrick reported that the two wounded men were from the 2nd New York. Lt. J. H. Gillis, of the U.S. Gunboat Commodore Morris reported having taken on 100 men from the Fourth Delaware volunteers on the morning of May 20th, returning them to Yorktown at 12:30 am on May 22nd.

Gen. DixMaj. Gen. J. A. Dix wrote to Hooker on May 31, 1863, "It has been decided to withdraw from West Point and throw the force there up the Peninsula toward the White House. I can get no satisfactory information as to the enemy's force. There was last week a considerable body massed north of Richmond, on the railroad, ready to support Lee at Fredericksburg or Wise at White House. I can hear nothing of them since Wednesday. I will advise you of all my movements. My force is small."

Camp Gilpin, June 4th, 1863

Dear and loving wife,

Itake this opportunity of informing you that I am well and hope that these few lines will find you the same. I received your letter of the 3rd and was glad to hear from you, but I am sorry that you see so much trouble about me for if you could only get along as well as I do I could enjoy myself very well, considering the circumstances being absent from you and your not having proper means of support is all that troubles me for we do not want for anything, so I hope you will not let me trouble you. I do not say what I do to flatter you. I try to tell you what is true for I do believe this summer will end the war for the government is doing all in its power to bring it to a close, so do not be discouraged for if I do get home we will have the happiness of living under a free government and no one can say of me there is a traitor, and if I fall I fall in a good cause for God and my country, and we shall meet in Heaven, for the Lord has promised that he will take care of His people if they put their trust in Him. Do let us be faither.

The weather is nice here. I have been a fishing several times but have caught nothing but some flounders and trout. There is no news here. Give my love to Johnny, and all your father's people and all the rest of my friends. I am sorry that Harper was drunk for I did not think such a thing. Tell Mr. Woodel that Charley West has been court Martialed for theft and put down in the ranks and had to pay for 2 blankets and to walk two hours of extra guard duty, and tell him that if Mr. William Smithers does not give some more dollars to the best rebel lawyer in the state, and they will be glad to have it to work on. I believe that Smithers knows about it. I want Mr. Woodel to see him for me and tell him what I say, for if men and rob a soldier's family of all the means of support they have they deserve to be hung, and if I can find them out through a rebel I believe I am justified, for I am afraid that there is too many favors shown to men who stick around home in little petty offices when the country needs them for soldiers. I believe that Harper mailed the letter and he is willing to swear to it and can prove it by Robert Collins. Give my best respects to Mr. Woodel for that is all I can do now, but I believe the Lord will bless him. No more at present, but still remain your true and loving husband until death.

Signature

History

On June 3rd, Lee began moving his troops north to Pennsylvania. Hooker was ordered to stay on the defensive and follow.

As Lee moved northward, he gave approvel to Jeb Stuart to move around the right of Hookers' Army, while he stayed to the left. Hookers' Army, larger than Stuart thought, caused him to move more eastward than anticipated, cutting off contact with General Lee for 10 days.

Cavalry on Rappahannock

Union Cavalry on the Rappahannock

Hooker learned of Stuarts' position near Culpeper, Virginia and sent in his cavalry to meet up with him at Brandy Station on June 9th. This day of fighting was the war's largest all cavalry battle. The Federal's pulled back, and Jeb Stuart continued north toward Pennsylvania.

Col. Grimshaw

On June 4th, the 4th Delaware was on expedition from Yorktown to Walkerton and Aylett's, Virginia. They had now been assigned to The Department of Washington. Their Commanding Officer was still Col. A. H. Grimshaw of Delaware.

Stephen believes that William Smithers either took his pay that he sent home with Alex Harper, or that he knows something about it.

updown

Camp Hill Pleasant, June 23, 1863

Dear and loving wife,

As I have not heard from you for sometime, I thought I would write you a few lines to let you know that I am well at present, and hope these few lines will find you all the same. You can direct your letters the same as you did before only elsewhere. We expect to go to Richmond or get whipped, but I believe if they will give us force enough we can go there.

We are well provided for. We have got good shelter tents. I sent your money 30 dollars by express to Dover in the care of Mr. Cannon, and I want to know when you get it. We go on picket every other day. There is no force of rebs here but there is plenty of bush whackers and they have killed several cavalry men but there is none of us been hurt. It seems to me that the Lord does protect the whole regiment. I am still willing to trust him for all that is to come. I want you to live faithful and pray for me for I need your prayers.

Tell me how old Gum Swamp comes on and if Mr. Woodley has come back to his class yet. Give my best respects to all my friends and tell them to pray for me. Tell Johnny I would like to see him and to be a good boy. I have been looking at your likeness and thought I would like to see you all, but it cannot be so now, but I hope it will not be long. First the country around here has gone to destruction. Our advance force is as far up as Diarkin Bridge and Barnhamsville. We have now 5 days rations and we do not know what a day may bring forth. They say there is a strong force below here. The First Del. battery is with them. I want you to give that note to Mr. Woodel and ask him if he thinks there is any chance for me and if there is to let me know what it is, and give him my best respects, and you must not wait for me to write for you see I have to write with a pencil and sit on the ground and write on my knapsack.

Let us be faithful. No more at present, but still remain your true and loving husband. May the Lord bless you all.

Signature

History

Dix's Peninsula Campaign was from June 24 to July 7, 1863. The 4th Delaware was now unassigned, King's Division, 12th Corps of the Dept. of Washington.

Arlington

Arlington, Virginia

General Lee, still moving north to Pennsylvania, did not know where Hooker's Army was located. On the 28th of June, he learned that Hooker had been replaced with Major General George Meade and that the Union Army was concentrated around Frederick, Maryland - on his flank.

White House, June 27, 1863

Dear Wife,

Ireceived your kind letter and was glad to hear from you. I am well and hope these few lines will find you all in the same good health. I am glad you received the money.

We are now at the White House on our way to Richmond and by the help of God we intend to celebrate the 4th of July there. Our cavalry is within 6 miles of the doomed city. We are Jen. Keys bodyguard and have no picket duty to do. Burnet is captain of Co. E and Osmond is our first Lieut. and Harper is second, and I am acting orderly, but do not expect to get the appointment for D. Stevenson friends has been writing to the Colonel recommending him for promotion, and I have nobody to intercede for me, and if I can get a commission in another regiment I shall do it for there is so many good men in this one with influential friends there is little chance for me. Give my love to Johnny and all my friends. Let us still trust in the Lord. May he bless you is my prayer. No more at present, but still remain your true and faithful husband,

Signature

History

White House Landing

White House Landing on the Pamunkey River, Virginia

The 4th Delaware's regiment company muster roll for June 1863 reported that the regiment had been on reconnaissance to Aylett's Station to within 20 miles of Richmond, through Fort Magruder to Cumberland landing, across the Pamunkey River and onto White House, Virginia. Rankins, writing the report, also stated that, "it is raining like the Devil."

Gen. Keyes

Gen. Erasmus D. Keyes

The Battle of Gettysburg began on July 1st, 1863.

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Reference


There are many places to collect information on the Civil War. Since I am in the Washington, D.C. area, I have the great advantage of the Government Archives, in additional to any books that can be found.

But for now, I would like to mention that most of Matthew Bradys' images of the Civil War are in the Public Domain, and can be found at the National Archives Picture Division in Tacoma Park, Maryland, or the Library of Congress, just to mention a few. All of the battlefields that Stephen Buckson mentions are also within the general Washington, D.C. area.

Much of the history written here is from various sources, the regimental history of the Fourth Delaware Regiment is from The Official Records of the War of the Rebellion and also from Institute for Civil War Research thanks to Mr. J.F. Walter.



Institute for Civil War Research
J. F. Walter
7913 67th Drive
Middle Village, NY 11379
ICWRJOHN@aol.com

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