Near Fredericksburg, Virginia
January 1st 1863
My dear Father & Mother,
I wish you a “very happy New Year.” Last night was the coldest night we have seen since we left Old Massachusetts and we had to keep fires all night long in our fireplaces in order to keep warm. But today is very warm and pleasant.
It being New Year’s Day, we had whiskey rations given us—a thing which has not happened before since leaving home. Everyone intended to have a happy New Year as Sons of Temperance and all drank their little gill.
Day before yesterday I visited the 15th [Massachusetts] Regiment and to my surprise I found Frank Osgood. ¹ He was sitting in his tent “chawing hard tack.” I had quite a long talk with him and he related his capture, life in Richmond and Annapolis, &c. He looks tough and hearty. Harry Greenwood and George Hunt are now with their regiment. Towards evening I started for home (if so you can call it) and on reaching it, I found three bundles there for me. Dan Bemis had been to Aquia Creek and Mr. Holbrook had sent them by him. Everything was all right. I only wish it had come sooner because I had just been to the expense of drawing new clothes of the government. However, I find that I am not any too warm with two shirts and vest and blouse on. That pie and cake was delicious. I wish I could get one every day. The tea and more especially the pepper are just what I want. You can’t imagine how nice pepper is on beans.
When I saw the tobacco, I felt like shuffling off a hornpipe. It’s the best I have chewed for a long time. I thought I had been having very fair quality but compared with what you sent, it has no taste at all. Many thanks to you for everything you sent. All was most acceptable. You seemed to know just what I needed. Give my thanks to Mrs. Sawyer for the smoking tobacco, thread, &c. and to Mrs. Goodale for the writing paper. I shall consider all as a New Year’s gift.
I do not know of much news to write about. We are in the same old place we have been in for the lat month or more. I cannot account for this inactivity although I think it’s the best thing Burnsides can do to remain where he is. We manage to keep warm nights with both ends of our tent blocked up and a good fire inside, but if we were on the march and had to sleep in the cold ground after being sweaty all day, half of us would freeze to death before a week.
There is some talk of the right of the army swinging to the left and left to the right. That movement would change fronts and the right would be in and about Alexandria while the left would be at Aquia Creek. I can’t see the object of such a move unless they think they have too large an army, for as sure as the army should get within gun shot of Maryland, more than one third would desert. I’ve had many an old soldier say in earnest that if they should ever get into Maryland again, they’d never come back into Virginia. We do not ask for winter quarters but let us stay where we are at present until cold weather is past.
I will not say anything as to Burnsides qualities and abilities as a General, but mark my word, McClellan is not dead yet. He is the only man that can handle this army. We have had no mail for a number of days. Understand that a snow storm up North blocks the railroads. I am well and hearty. Write soon. Hoping to hear that you are all well, I remain yours, — Charley
¹ George Franklin (“Frank”) Osgood (1840-1863) was the son of Samuel Osgood (1800-1874) and Mary Ann Hubbard (1805-1876) of Clinton, Massachusetts. He was a 22 year-old boot maker at the time he enlisted in the 15th Massachusetts. On 17 September 1862, Frank was wounded and taken prisoner at the Battle of Antietam. He was taken to Richmond and later exchanged. He was killed by a gunshot wound at Gettysburg on 3 July 1863.
Next Letter: 16 January 1863