Roswell Farnham to [C. H.] Harding
Your letter enclosed with the Havelocks came duly to hand with them two or three days
ago. You will hear before you receive this a full description of our present
situation, or if you do not my wife will let you have a plan of our fortifications I
sent her. We are better situated than we have been at any place since we left
Vermont. The weather is warm, but the sea breeze is delightful, and altho' the heat
of the sun is oppressive the air is always cool. From appearances we shall remain
here for some time, but we really dont know any thing about it. The Vermont Regiment
has shown itself so good a working Regt. that it is placed in the front of the
advance guard, notwithstanding the Mass. Regts. have been here for some time: and
should Ben. Butler think he could make a display by trying Richmond you may be sure
we shall "be there to see". We are the last of the three months Regts., and as they
want only three years men they have concluded to make us do the
work of three years in as many months. I dont say this in any complaining spirit for I feel proud of what has been done. We have changed our camp often and worked hard, but we can march tomorrow if necessary. I wrote you in my last how we left Hampton, and you have probably seen various accounts of our landing here. We expected a fight and no mistake. Every preparation was made for one, and the men had got their courage up to the sticking point, and when we landed without a shot it was almost too much for human nature. The whites nearly all run and the darkies were left loose round.
I was appointed Provost Marshall June 1st and have the charge of all who come within the lines, both white & black, and all the property that is confiscated or stolen, when I can get track of it, for the whole brigade. So far, I have had negroes, mainly, to look after. I now have twenty three, including wenches and children. The property consists of mules, horses, carts, furniture, provisions, &c. &c.
I am excused from other duties and have enough to do at that. Whatever has been taken
for the public use is credited to the owner and he will be paid for it at the close
of the war, if he is not a rebel. What will be done with the darkies I dont know.
There is a rumor that they are to be sent to Liberia. At any rate it is touching
masters in a vital spot. The slaves are crowding in here as fast as they learn that they are to be protected.
By the way, do you begin to have an idea how newspapers and telegraphs lie? The papers say that "Gen. Butler made a dashing reconnoisance into Hampton." The fact is that we met Gen. Butler when within about a mile of the Fort, on our return. Col. Phelps lead the expedition and there were no officers or men but Vermonters. The boys faced the music on the burning bridge, expecting to be fired upon by a cannon at the opposite side, and if there is any credit due, the Green Mountain Boys deserve it.
Coming out here, we were first, and landed first and marched up the hill first, and
so far have done every thing first - grumble, among other things. I write in this way
to you and a few friends at home, but would not have to boating a letter published
for the world. You will probably understand that we feel as tho' the reputation of
Vermont was resting upon us, and we are ready to take the responsibility, and will
sustain it. We are jealous of our honor and when Mass. cast any
replication imputation upon us or our Col. they will be properly
resented. The Mass. Regt. are indignant that Col. Packard is not in command of the
post here. His commission as a Militia Col. is older than that of Col. Phelps - that
against twenty five years
experience in the army! Another thing that they are mad at, is that a great many of their men were arrested for stealing, the first two days we were here. Of course it is a great fall for a Mass. Col. to come down to a Vt. Col. - Vermonters are bushwhackers?
We have just rec'd a letter from Mr. Stebbins.
We were glad to hear from him, and Lieut Peckett is going to read a portion of it to the company. I am afraid I said some things in my last letter to you, by way of joke, that have caused save bad feelings. I am sorry, but I read the letter over, here to all the boys in our tent and if there was any fault to be found it should have been done then. But we are getting so familiar here and joke one another so hard upon facts or supposed facts, that we all write things pretty strong with respect to one another.
I ask the pardon of any one that I have offended.
It rained hard yesterday and a part of last night, but we did not get much wet.
Tuesday P.M. I did not get this off in the boat last night as
I intended to do. It commenced raining hard just where I left off above, and rained
all the evening and a part of the night. Our tents are very far from being tight, and
the way the rain sifted thro' them was a caution to delicate men. By the help of our
rubber blankets, we found
in dry place and went to sleep. This morning we were "rayther damp", but I came out well. I sit with a rubber blanket over my shoulder to keep the rain off.
June [4th] Morning. I take a few moments to finish my letter. We have had wet and rainy weather for three days, and are rather uncomfortable. It is so hot that we sweat freely, and so damp that our clothes will not dry. We feel wet all the time. We got a few moments yesterday to dry our clothes a little, but it rained in the night and every thing is damp again.
I am very busy indeed. All the slaves in the country are running to our camp. There have been over sixty received here since Sunday. I sent twenty-four down to Fort Monroe yesterday and shall send a dozen more today. The owners are loosing property fast. It is considered as contraband and as such confiscated.
Yesterday morning we were thrown into a considerable state of excitement by the
Harriet Lane firing into a battery just across the bay, a little more than four miles
from us. The battery replied and a pretty sharp engagement ensued, lasting about an
hour. The first shell of the Harriet struck right in the
midst of the rebels and made things fly pretty generally. We could see shot when they struck the water, and shell when they burst in the sand, with the naked eye. Half of our troops were out on the bank, and the boys cheered every good shot of the Harriet and every poor shot of the rebels. The vessel fired about thirty rounds and the battery twice that number. The Lieut. of the Harriet says that he should judge they had seven guns and one large rifled cannon. The spunky little steamer that only pitched in at first to see what there was there found that she had waked up a hornets nest, and finally bucked out. She got two shots in her wounding five men but killing none. One full went through a port hole between the heads of two men not more than eighteen inches apart. The rebels probably got the worst of it, for Quartermaster Morse said he could see them carting off the dead and wounded, often the action, thro' his glass.
Towards night the Harriet Lane run up under the very nose of the battery and took a little sloop, loaded with sheep, calves, butter &c., intended for Norfolk. When she came over towards us with her little prize in tow, the whole camp turned out and gave her three times three, three times over for her gallant conduct in the morning.
She now lies just outside here waiting for
something to turn up.
You will see the sketch of our fortifications I sent to my wife. That will give you a pretty good idea of our situation.
We are to have another Reg't. here today - Hawkins Zouaves. They will be stationed on the right of the Germans.
We have just learned that the folks in Bradford and in Vermont generally are intending or have sent us a lot of provisions. Of course such things will add to our comfort, but we are not in the state of suffering that many seen inclined to believe.
Our sick are doing better. Those of the boys came up from Fort Monroe yesterday, viz: George Flanders, Charles Woods and McFarland, discharged from the hospital as well.
Let me hear from you again soon.
Yours trulyRoswell Farnham
Direct to Fort Monroe, Care of Capt. Andross Vt. Regt.
The engagement spoken of in the foregoing letter was between the Harriet Lane and Pig Point Battery.