Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Resuming the Story of W. B. Rogers



General Ambrose Burnside
If you know your American Civil War history, you know that General Burnside has by now assumed command of Union forces after McClellan failed to act. Wikipedia yielded some very interesting material about Ambrose Burnside. He was left at the altar by a woman who later became a notorious Confederate spy. He served in Congress and as a state governor. Of course, this is not why all of us remember him. He was noted for his unusual facial hair joining  his mustache to the hair on the sides of his head. These became known at the time as "burnsides" but later the syllables were reversed. We call them "sideburns".
W. B. and his comrades are on the march. They know something is coming, but not quite what. He mentions "chasing the Rebs", which was what they were doing. I'm wondering if the miniatures he mentions were what was in the little "fairy book" I no longer have. It was full of photos, but not one had any writing on it to identify the people.
Camp Forbes       Near Waterford Virginia          Oct 31/62
Dear Wife
I will write a few more lines. I am well today. We marched from the camp where I wrote last the day before yesterday. We started about one o’clock and marched until after dark and camped until morning and then we marched across the road, a low road where we are now. We may be called to march again. We have to be ready to march at any moment. The whole army seems to be on the move and no one knows where we are going or what is to be done except the highest officers. There is a great army moving into Virginia. The regiment that Doc Rood is in is located near. I saw him yesterday to speak to him. I saw him in our camp this morning. He looked rather feeble. He is going to resign. The Holden boys are well except A Tucker. He has not been very well since we left home. I heard that Wm Perry was dead and so they fall one after another. There has been one who died in our Company the three in our regiment but the health of our regiment has been pretty good considering our exposure. Capt. Bailey was left behind sick and Col. Bowman was left behind sick but has come up with the regiment but he is not able to do duty. I feel very anxious to hear from you. It has been a week since I had a letter. This is the third one. I have written since I received one. We have not been able to get that box yet, but hope to soon. We heard that all things sent my express were stopped at Washington without an order from the Quarter Master of each regiment. We have sent an order and presume it is at Harper’s Ferry now and it may be forward the next time our train goes there. I shall be very glad to get them although I have not suffered much yet for the want of the things. It is very pleasant weather again but it begins to look like autumn and will soon be cold if we don’t go south. I suppose you begin to think about Thanksgiving. I wish I could be
At home I think I could raise my heart to God with thanksgiving. Clapp talks of coming home to spend Thanksgiving. Oh if I could see you and the children it would be a great cause for Thanksgiving. I can but think that I shall be permitted to come back to you before many months but God only knows but it is the greatest comfort I have at present to receive a letter from you. I hope all my friends will grant me that comfort. O dear wife write all the particulars just how you feel and how are you getting along. I know your burdens are very great and perhaps I done wrong in leaving you so but I hope God will sustain you. No man has left more behind. I have not much news to write that is interesting. Old Virginia is a beautiful country. It is excellent soil if it could be cultivated by some New England men it would be the most beautiful country that could be imagined but the effects of War are terrible upon every thing in this vicinity. I must bid you good bye for it is getting time for a dress parade. May God’s blessing rest upon you Dearest Wife.
                                                                                                W B Rogers

Camp Forbes    Virginia                                                                                  Nov 4 /62
Dear Wife
We are on the march again. I have a few moments and thought I would improve it by writing to my dearest earthly friend. We have marched some 25 or 30 miles the last two days. I have born the march pretty well. One knee troubles me some. Other ways I am well. We have to lay down on the cold ground with nothing but our blankets to cover us but I sleep pretty well. We have not had any fighting yet. The cannons were heard all day the day before yesterday. We passed where the fighting was yesterday and saw the effects. I understand there was not many killed. The Rebs have retreated and we are following after them. We are within ten or twelve miles of Manassas Gap. Going that way it is verry pleasant weather. It begins to look like autumn. We have cold frosty nights. I have not received a letter from you for some time. I received Joel’s and Ann’s letter. Oh how wish I could be there to see them with you all but am denied that privilege so I send my love to them. Tell them I have often thought of them as I have been wandering among the mountains and hope I shall have their prayers that I may be a faithful soldier of the cross. It is my greatest fear that I shall not be faithful to Christ and his cause. The big guns begin to bang away again at a distance this very moment so I suppose we shall have to be on the trot again very soon. Oh the folks at home don’t know the first about a soldier’s life. The most that I can say is come and try it. There are few men I wish could have just one month’s experience. I hope it will end some day not far distant but the Lord only knows when. Tell Eugene I see Gen Burnside quite often. I saw him twice yesterday. He is a fine looking man. Cap’t Hall was riding in his staff. He is quite popular with the big men. I understand he has been promoted, but don’t know what position he holds but I think he is a smart man. I see Doc’t Rood most every day but I would give more to see the dear faces at home than all the world beside but I have to be satisfied with thinking of them at present and feeling that I am remembered by them. We have not been able to get that box yet and I presume we shall not as we are going away from railroad communication but it is no fault of those dear friends at home. Our quartermaster sent an order to Washington to have them forwarded and sent by the teams to Harper’s Ferry but did not find them. Tell Joel I will see that he has his pay for what he payed the express man. Tell sister Emaline that I was very glad to get a few lines from her. I could imagine just how she looked with Eugene and Ned by her side. Oh if I could see those dear little faces. Tell Warren and Almira to write to me. I saw a letter that sister Almira wrote to Merril Rogers a few days ago. Anything from home seem precious to me. Give my love to Dear Mother and all Brothers and Sisters. The Holden boys are all pretty well. I see Stephen occasionally. Calvin has got back again with us. I have not much news that is important and must stop writing. Write often and I may get them sometime.
Good Bye Dearest
W.B. Rogers

"There are few men I wish could have just one month’s experience. " I thought this was a very telling sentence. W. B. seems like a very kind-hearted sort. This is the first expression of anything resembling bitterness. I love his note to Eugene about General Burnside. Apparently the general caught the popular imagination quite quickly.

Camp Forbes Near Fredericksburg, Virginia                Nov 22/62

Dear Wife,
I have been trying to get a chance to write for a week past but we have been marching so that I have not been able to do so I received your letter and miniatures the night before we started our march. It has been a forced march of from ten to twenty miles a day. Oh Dearest Wife what a treasure those miniatures are. Perhaps you might think me weak but I had a good cry over those dear faces. Oh how I love those familiar features and the Dear little one. How pretty. Shall I ever see him. God only knows. I am in his hands and he is merciful and that is my only hope. He has watched over me and given me health and I feel to raise my heart to him with praise. I am well today and all the Holden boys as far as I know. Tucker has got pretty well again.
(missing page?)some money. I am in hopes they will pay us before long ad I will send you all I think I shall not need. Geo. Davis has a letter from Mrs. Rawson and Emmer and they said you was well Emereth was a little more comfortable. Oh dearest wife it makes me sad to see how careworn and pale and sad you look in the miniature, but I thank you again and again for them. I did not think you was a part of my life and soul so much as I have felt it since I have been separated from you. I feel that we are one. Surely oh Dearest I was not aware that love was so deep and those little ones are bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh and my most earnest prayer is for you Dearest ones. Give me love to Dear Mother and all friends. Pray for me as ever I shall for you.
W. B. Rogers

Camp Forbes in sight of Fredericksburg, Virginia                                Nov 28 /62

Dear Wife
I do not feel very well this morning and I thought it would be the best medicine I could get her to have a little talk with you. Oh my Dearest Wife you cannot imagine how seriously I think of you and pray for you and our Dear children. You are all of life to me. If it was not for you Dear ones I should have no desire to live but I am in the hands of a merciful God and I feel to say his will be done but I do feel my little family is all I care for in this world. Yesterday was Thanksgiving in old Mass. And I was with you all but this poor body and I felt thankful to think that perhaps you could have something comfortable for Thanksgiving. I would not care for the feast if I could have been at home with you. I went to the Doctor for the first time yesterday …but I hope it is for the best. There is one Rebel camp in sight across the river and our pickets and theirs talk with each other. We have expected to have a fight here but haven’t seen any yet and don’t believe we shall at present but I don’t pretend to know anything about it. There are ten thousand camp stories going all the time but I don’t pretend to believe any of them. I wish this war could be brought to a close but want to see Slavery killed at any rate if it takes seven years and feel that God will in his wisdom bring it about sooner or later. What other permanent peace we can expect. I don’t want to see this thing botched up so that my Boys if they should live would have to take my place in the tented field. I feel there is a great deal at stake and I hope it will be settled.
(the rest of this letter appears lost)

Odd to me that he mentions Thanksgiving several times. The popular idea is that it wasn't celebrated until 1863 when Lincoln declared a national day of thanksgiving. Apparently, some people were already celebrating this, since W.B. not only mentions it twice, but capitalizes it. Of course, when you look at the date and the location of this last letter, you know what's about to happen. W. B. seems resolved to do what he must: 
"I wish this war could be brought to a close but want to see Slavery killed at any rate if it takes seven years and feel that God will in his wisdom bring it about sooner or later. What other permanent peace we can expect. I don’t want to see this thing botched up so that my Boys if they should live would have to take my place in the tented field. I feel there is a great deal at stake and I hope it will be settled."  These sentences sum it all up about as neatly as anyone could. It was true during the Revolution. It was true during the Civil War. And today, if you ask anyone in our military, I'm sure they could make a similar statement. My ancestor's resolve is an inspiration to me and should be to us all. Never shirk from doing the good and decent thing, even when it is difficult.

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