Here is yet another letter written by Henry Augustine Trowbridge to his nephew, William Earl Woodruff. His comment about the flock of birds (placed in bold font by me) is particularly poignant. Note: the abbreviation “inst.” is short for instante mense (Latin for “this month”).
Camp of the 14th Regiment NJ
Near Culpeper, Viriginia
Monday morning, Feb. 1st 1864
My Dear Willey,
I received your Welcom letter of the 24th inst. last evening. also one from Emma [William’s sister Emma Woodruff] at the same time. And was very pleased to hear from you once more. It found me alive well and a kicking as usual, which I hope this may find you and Matte [William’s brother, Matthias Woodruff]. I write to Emma last evening and till the candle burnt out and then I had to stop writing and turn in for the night. Yesterday and last night it rained near all the time, and the mud is getting as bad as ever. tomorrow morning we got to go out 7 miles on picket to stay out 9 days. it is so muddy I think we will have an interesting time getting out there. marching out and back is worse than to do the duty when we are out there is some talk about camp that the 3rd Division of the [????] will be sent to Tennisee. but we cannot believe anything we hear now days. last week there was two regiments of lee’s army tryed to desert. they started off but before they could get to the Rapidan they were over taken by some artillery and cavalry and after fighting some time, they were compelled to go back to there camps. if they act so now, what will they do when the spring campaign begins. then they can desert without much danger. I only wish evry one of them would come over the more the better for us. we expected to get paid off the 1st of January but we did not. so now we will not get it until the 1st of March. Then we will have 4 months pay. Willey, I wish you to ask your father [Francis Woodruff] how much money I have all togeather. and let me know in your next letter. I asked Emma to let me know, but I suppose she has forgotten it. I will send you my picture as soon as I can get it taken. but the muskrat hides I cannot send for I do not have any chance to ketch them. I am sorrow you cannot give me some excuse to get home. for this winter may be my last chance. if I do not get home this winter, I may never get home. It is all chance. it is the same as if you shoot into a flock of birds and those you hapen to hit must fall and the rest go on untill the next time and leave you behind. they may bury you and they may not just as it happens and how much time they have to do it. but there is no use in talking we may as well laugh as to cry and base it as we have done so far. I suppose you will see Sargent Wardell around town. he is to stay 40 days to [???] when he comes on. I wish you would send some fine cut chewing by him. you must not be afraid to speake to him if he is ordaly sargant. our old ordaly George Rhodes is 1st lieutenant in a negrone company. We were all sorrow to loose him. Tell Emma she must send me Phoebe’s picture [William’s other sister]. our Capt. is home you have seen him before this time I suppose. well now I must close hopeing to hear from you again. From your loving Uncle Hen. We’ll hang Jeff if we ketch him on a tree.
This next letter of Henry Augustine Trowbridge’s was written on Thursday, November 12, 1863, from Brandy Station, Virginia. This was 15 days before the battles occurred in which the 14th Regiment New Jersey Volunteers, Company C, first participated: 27 November 1863, Locust Grove, VA, and Jacob’s Ford, VA. This letter was written to nephew William Woodruff who would have been 14 at the time. The letter is in bad shape–faded and hard to read, so I am not scanning it for insertion here. His spelling and punctuation are retained. Note: the abbreviation “inst.” is short for instante mense (Latin for “this month”).
I received your letter of the 8th inst. last evening and was very glad to hear from you once more. it found me as well as ever and sitting by my camp fire warming my shins which I hope this may find you. I sat by the fire and read your letter then I wished I had more to read for yours was so short but how some ever. not withstanding never the less I was very glad to get it and hope you will continue in writing often. this is quite a pleasant morning. the sun shines on us once more. we have just eaten our breakfast and am sitting in my tent writing to you. I wish you were here to eat with us. we had fried hard tack, pork, and coffee. and when we get hard of that, we have coffee, pork and hard tack. when I wrote you last we were near Warrenton Junction on the north side of the river we were there one week. and on Saturday last we pulled stakes at day light and at sun rise the Coloms were on the move toward the river which was 12 miles off. our company was deployed as skirmishes on both sides of the advancing lines. we marched untill in the afternoon and till we came near the river. then our bull dogs began to bark. as we advanced they barked louder and faster. there was a small force of rebels entrenched on the north side of the river. but as the 1st Division of our Corps was on the advance they made a charge on the rebels and drove them over the river through the water 3 or 4 feet deep. they were followed up by the 1st Division and with the help of our baterys on the hill drove them back 2 miles. we layed in the reserve and could see them git up and git 3 shells A mimet wherled in amongst them bursting and scattering them in every direction. we had some 32 pounders at worke on them they throwed some shells near 3 miles we could hear them move over our head like steam from a locomotive. then we would stand up and see them strike and burst throwing the dirt in evry direction. when our boys made a charge on them we could hear them give a yell that would scare anyone. you would laugh to have seen the gray backs run with our black 32 pounders a [?] into them. they captured 400 prisoners and these armies. at dark the firing cleared. then they went to worke at the pontoons and soon got them over in 2 places. then the rest of the 3rd corps crossed went a short distance from the river and halted for the night. the rebels was then in front so we could not have any fire to make our coffee so we had to lay down without our hot suppers. we spread our blankets on the cold and lousy ground and layed down to rest our sore and weary bones. but i was so tired that i could not sleep for the wagons were crossing all night. the Army was all night getting over the river on two bridges. and such a noys you never heard on a Sunday morning. when we got up and found that the rebels had all skedaddled and we could make all the fire we wished to. then we went to the fences and such a chopping and such a noys I never heard. we soon made our coffee and got thawed out. Then we had to storm off after them on the double quick. we went 8 miles when there rebel coloms were seen 2 miles distent we formed a line along the soil and rested for an hour while our batterys went on to give them a few more shells. our batery got in position on the hill in front near the railroad while we layed in the valley they soon opened on the rebels and after they fired 18 or 20 shells at them they were out of sight. then we would advance 2 or 3 miles then halt while they gave them some more iron pills, so we advanced and so we spent sunday untill 3 oclock in the afternoon when we got here to Brandy Station where we are yet. we are within 4 miles of Culpeper the railroad that the rebels tore up is nearly rebuilt to the river. they had no time to distroy the track here. when the track is finished to the Rappahannock then I expect we will advance on to Culpeper to the Rapidan and we may get as far as gordonsville. the weather is getting cold. I had the watter in my canteen freeze solid the other night. we expect the paymaster here soon. you must to have had a good time up to the swamp a hunting. I wished I had been with you. You say that if I was [?] at Washington and you a little older you would be with me. well I would like to have you but you may bee glad that you cannot come for I tell you you are better off home. I got a letter from Hatt (I’m not sure but Hatt may be Hattie, Henry’s sister Harriet Trowbridge) before we crossed the river and wrote one to her and sent it off the same day so I will not answer it. I wrote to Emma [William’s sister] yesterday. so I will close for this time. give my kind regards to all the boys. good by all. You must excuse me for sending with no stamp for I cannot help it. I cant get them.
Categories: Brandy Station, VA, Civil War, Culpeper, VA, Gordonsville, VA, Jacob's Ford, VA, Locust Grove, VA, Rapidan, VA, Rappahannock, VA, Trowbridge, Warrenton Junction, VA, Woodruff