Roswell Farnham to Mary [Farnham]
Just as we had fallen into line to march out of Fortress Monroe this morning three letters were handed to me, all from you. I did not get time to read them all, for five or six hours. One of them was the one you and Laura first wrote, two days after we left home, another written May 15th and the other written May 20th. Of course I felt glad to hear from home altho' rather long delayed.
We were ordered out of our good quarters of "Hygiea Hotel" or "Willard's Hotel" this
morning, and we have now got fairly encamped under canvass. It is said among the men
that this change of quarters is made by Gen. Butler to accommodate some of his
favorite Mass. troops. If that is so he will not be very likely to get the good will
of the Vt. Troops. Just across the road from us is encamped a regiment from Troy N.Y.
of the same number as our own. Further up the road towards Hampton village are
encamped a Regt. came in day before yesterday. They are in for two years. Our three
months commences May 9th as we learned yesterday by
the muster roll. Thursday afternoon we got notice to be ready to march in fifteen
minutes. Of course the whole camp
was in a state of excitement at once. Everybody wanted to know where we were going but nobody knew. The report prevailed that there was a body of secessionist out in Hampton and that we were to go out and drive them off. Every soldier was out that could more, and several left their hospital. Col. Washburn & Maj. Worthen were both side abed, but they could not stay at home. We marched out across the bridge, up towards the village of Hampton the boys seeing a secessionist in every stray nigger or mule that run across the fields. The country is as level as the French country in Canada, and is really a beautiful country, so attractive in fact that Lieut Pickett says that he should like to settle here. As we approached the village of Hampton, the houses seemed to be inhabited and the inhabitants were in a state of excitement. The village is reached by a brigde built upon piles across a branch of the James River. As we came near that, a man rode up to Col. Phelps and enquired his intentions. The Col. told him that we were only making a reconnoisance. He then rode back to the bridge and in a minute after a dark cloud of smoke arose from the center of it. Col. Phelps instantly gave the command to forward at "double guide". The advance guard under Capt. Clark of the Swanton Co. rushed forward upon the bridge, in the face of a cannon pointed at them from the further side of the bridge. The rebels, instead of firing, threw the cannon in the river and run while our men
put out the fire. The fire was soon extinguished and after laying a few planks lengthwise over the burned place the regiment filed over the bridge and soon stood in the main street of the rebel village of Hampton. There were probably fifty white folks out in all, and three times that number of blacks. After stopping a while to rest in the streets, we "about face" and started for home. We got back in about three hours from the time we started, having marched out four miles and four miles home. It was pretty warm, but I did not suffer any, as you know I can walk very easy. We learned today that since we came into camp the rebels have burned the bridge for fear that we were coming upon them.
Our camp is now looking quite lively and picturesque. By order of the Col. the boy have been off and got green boughs and they are now building verandahs in front of their tent doors. The camp looks like May day. I am living on our straw bed tick (not the one I did not get from home) writing while Stearns is getting supper. Pickett sits here reading, while Capt. Andross who has been quite sick for two days is taking his ease. This is the first real hot day that we have had, and I really enjoy it, for I hope it will thaw out the remainder of my cold which has been growing better for the last few days. Except that cold I have been will all the time.
I wrote an account of the funeral of Benjamin Underwood
for the Aurora. It was a sober day for our company. I had a letter from Judge Underwood yesterday and one from Laura.
You did right in paying that money to Mr. May altho' I did not intend to have you. In
my last letter I wrote to you about some money that Mr. Batchelder would get for you
during court - the superintendents money - about $25.00 I believe. I don't know as we
shall get any pay till the end of our three months. If we do not you will have to get
along with paying out as little money as possible. I am continually interrupted so
that it is now nearly nine o'clock. When you write I wish you would not write all the
news about every body. You must remember that all are anxious to know what news from
home when any of us get a letter from home. Laura wrote something about John
Prichard, something that she had heard at home, probably from some of the letters
written from here. You must not put entire confidence in every thing that you hear.
John Prichard is doing his duty well and probably works harder than a great many of
the privates. We have quite a number on the sick list. The boys find that there is
not quite so much fun about it as they at first supposed. The measles first started
the trouble in our company, and that with diarrhoea, colds &c. has kept our
company ailing considerable. Ed. Wilcox of the Newbury boys had a slight sun stroke this afternoon, but
he is now much better. He worked rather hard drawing brush and got heated. That is the first instance of any thing of the kind. As soon as we get our "Havelocks" from home we shall be safer. I bought me one in New York. The Mass. Regts. are receiving things from home every few days. This week they made our Regt. a present of halibut enough for a meal and ten barrels of potatoes, onions, beets, turnips &c. Such things are great luxuries have, for a fresh vegetable is a thing that we have not seen for sometime. Our mess have sent to Boston for some potatoes, onions, beans &c. We have to provide for ourselves and we had a good chance to send to Boston by the purser of the Pembroke, free of expense & we thought we could do better than to pay a dollar a pound for tea & $1.75 for potatoes.
My letter is bound to be interrupted. I had got as far as the word "potatoes" when we
heard a gun, and an alarm from the Troy Regt. Their officers gave the rider to "fall
in" and the "long roll" commenced to beat. We had no orders of first, but soon came
the order "Vt. Regt. fall in", "Blow out the lights". In five minutes our line was
formed and the camp in darkness, one cook throwing a kettle of coffee upon the trench
fire in his haste. Two or three guns were fired by the retreating guard, and some
guns went off by mistake. We stood in line five or ten minutes, our camp as quiet as
our parade, while the Trojans made as much noise as so many wild animals. Col. Phelps
was as cool as you please and Capt. Andross, altho' sick was out in
good season. It proved to be a false alarm, one of the guard having let off his musket by mistake. The Bradford Guards were on the line among the first, quietly, and full. Our town need not be afraid that the privates will disgrace themselves, whatever the officers may do. Some of the boys are rather disappointed that the alarm was fake. The fort was aroused, and the cannon stationed at the bridge in our rear started up to help us, or at least we concluded so from the lights & sound of wheels in that direction. We are now in our tent, the rest of our mess are talking over the affair. There really can be no danger as the rebels have burned the bridge at Hampton, as I said before, & they would not leave themselves this side of the river- I will leave this to be finished in the morning-
Sunday Morning - This is a beautiful morning, a cool breeze tho' it is going to be quite warm. We had not lain down last night, when the alarm was again given by the Troy Regt. and our boys again turned out ready for any thing that might turn up. The moon was up and we could see every thing that was going on. We stood in line about 15 minutes and then were sent to our quarters. Some scouts from the rebel side camp upon the picket guard of the Troy Reg't. and they fired and run in. We have learned this morning that the N. Y. Zouaves made the first alarm by firing near the Trojans for the sake of frightening in the guard and so have a chance to plunder. They succeeded and stole every thing eatable out of the guards tents. We thought we had a hard time but I think we have reason to congratulate ourselves upon our good luck so far.
Today we have inspection and religion services. It will be comparatively a day of rest. I am much better than I have been for some time. My cold is nearly well - I slept well last night, and as it was warm we all undressed, having made up our minds to turn out for no more false alarms. You need not believe one tenth part of the reports you read in the news papers, for not that part of them is true. There are now in & about fortress Monroe not far from four thousand troops. New ones are coming in every day, so that our number is rapidly increasing. If you saw the map of the fort and the account of it in the Tribune about two weeks ago, you can get a very good idea of things about here. When we first came here we were stationed on the upper side of the fort as it is represented in the Tribune, just beyond the end of the water battery. We then moved to the Hygeia Hotel. We are now across the neck of land on the Hampton side. You will continue to direct your letters to Fort Monroe, Va, Care of Capt. D. K. Andross, 4th Co. 1st. Reg't. Vermont Vols.
I wish you & Laura had taken a little more pains with my outfit. My red & black shirts crock every thing. The black thread that you put into my needle case is rotten. I have no straw tick, etc. You see I am a little inclined to find faults, but these little things are of vital importance.
I write you from four to six lines and then have to run to attend to do something. I
just rec'd Laura long letter, and will write her as soon as I get time. We have got
orders to prepare 24 hours rations and
be ready to march early in the morning. Where we are to go we dont know, but from intimations that we got we are to go on ship board, and we shall probably land on Sewells Point and do what we can towards taking the battery on that point. Five regiments, that we have heard of, are detailed to start in the morning, and I have just learned that a new reg't. has arrived at the wharf and they are not to land, but to go with us. We have, of course some anxiety to know our destination. You will probably learn all this by the papers long before you get this. Probably all your letters will reach me and I hope you and Laura will write often. Why does not Charlie Harding write? I have written you a very long letter and you must write me often. It is getting to be pretty warm weather and we shall have to take care of ourselves. We drink tea and coffee and very little water. When we start tomorrow we shall take in our haversacks provisions for 24 hours and a bottle of cold tea or coffee. Tell Laura that I did not have a chance to go any where in N.Y. and of course could not see Dr. Hartley. I stayed with John Richards while in N.Y.- Take good care of yourself, and when I get home I shall know how to enjoy the comforts of a Vermont home I can tell you. See to things as well as you can, I intended to write several letters today, but I have spent so much time upon this letter that I have no time.
Yours affectionatelyRoswell Farnham
P.S. Daniel Johnson talks of going home in a few days.