Postcard sent in by Creig Crippen
The Civil War Letters
of James VanZile to his friends in Rutland
Transcribed by LaRue VanZile
TABLE OF CONTENTS
|NO DATE||Rappahannock River, VA|
|October 11, 1860||Colpepper, VA|
|October 14, 1862||Corning, NY (From Henry Vanzile)|
|November 2, 1862|
|December 11, 1862||Corning, NY (From Henry Vanzile)|
|November 18, 1863||Fort Trumbull, CT|
|December 16, 1863||Fort Trumbull, CT|
|January 12, 1864||Fort Trumbull, CT|
|February 20, 1864||Fort Trumbull, CT|
|April 6, 1864||Fort Trumbull, CT|
|April 6, 1864||Fort Trumbull, CT|
|August 3, 1864||Fort Trumbull, CT|
|October 2, 1864||Pittsburgh, PA|
|NO DATE||Fort Trumbull, CT|
NOTE: Henry Vanzile was an older brother to James Vanzile.
1. NO DATE Rappahannock River, VA
As I am now so lame that I cannot do duty at the present time I will endeavor to write a few lines to let you know that my health and appetite is very good at the present time, but my left knee is stiff so I can hardly walk.
Hart’s health is very poor. (William F. Hart, Co. A, 14th Reg. U.S. Inf., was married to Lydia M. Vanzile, a sister to James Vanzile. William died 8/16/1863 and Lydia married William’s brother, Adam Hart on 5/5/1865) The 7th of this month I took him off to the Division hospital and I heard from him yesterday and he was no better. He is crazy as a bear. For four days and nights I was with him. He was so bad in the night that it was all I could do to hold him in the tent when he had those spells of being out of his head.
Well, Rush, I am now seated with my pen in hand. I am going to give you a history of the war, of what I have been through since the fourth of June last. We left our old camp near Falmouth and took up our line of march. The Rebels General Lee at the same time took up their line of march for Pennsylvania and us after them. For may long and warm days we marched day and night we marched. When we were marching some of the days it was so warm that many poor officers and privates fell down and never more to rise again.
One day Finley got sun struck and I was detailed to be out of the ranks to take care of him. At night when it got cool, we started on to catch up with our regiment. When we was going along we could see men lying by the roadside some of them never again to see their regiment. The men would march until they would fall down almost ready to go in their graves before they would fall out because they knew it was death for them to fall out and get behind our line. When we take up our line of march there is always a band of guerillas close to the hind end of our column so if any men fall out they will cut their throats. Many poor men on this march have been murdered with these most cussed and evil bands.
One day I was with a good many others of our men on wagon guard. The mules got so tired we stopped in the woods to feed them and let them rest a while. We sere stopping there and eating our dinner. One of the boys went a little out one side and while he was there he heard someone talking. He heard on of them say, "We are doing more executions than if we were in a battle for we have cut 17 of those Yankees throats today".
He crept up slow so he could see how many of them there was. He came back to where we was and told us the story, and so there was 10 of us took our guns. He went ahead and showed us where they was and we crawled up so we could see them plain. Then we took each one of us a man to fire at. The three other of our men we kept so if any of us missed our man they would have them ready for them when the word was given to fire.
We all fired, every shot but one taking good effect and that one struck the man in the arm. He jumped up for to run, but he soon laid down and went to sleep. When we can catch any of these evil wretches, we have no mercy on them.
Well, in this hard and cruel manner we marched until the 2nd (?) of July. Then we reached the battlefield at Gettysburg where we had a little brush with the rebs. We marched in line of battle over one of the roughest spots of ground in the state. There was a line in front of us a? away. Pretty soon the line on our right broke and run and then that let them in on our right so we fell back. In falling back about 15 or so rods (one rod equals 16.5 feet), we lost 160 men out of our regiment.
We fell back in the brush, a little thicket, and then we fixed bayonets and we expected to have a grand charge, but in came our third division and they gave them two volleys and then charged on them and the way they skedaddled it was fun to see them.
All of our county bucktails are in that division and so is the regiment that Nelson Robbins belongs to. When the rebs see them gray tails on their caps some of them ran toward them and gave themselves up as prisoners of war and some ran back to where they came from. In about 15 minutes they took 200 prisoners.
There never was a better division of troops to fight than the third division of the Fifths Corps. I think they (rebs) got the worst whipping they ever got since the commencement of the war.
When old Lee landed in from Sylvania, he read an order to his men. He told they them had got a few of the militia to whip and then they would go to Philadelphia and he would have his headquarters in Philadelphia for the winter. The breath he spent in reading that order he might better kept until he got to running from Pennsylvania for when he came to face the militia he found that they had their faces tanned too much with Virginia sun to be any very new militia and when the third division drove them back to read a new order to his men.
It did not give them much encouragement of having their headquarters in Harrisburg next winter. He read to them this order. He said, "Fellow soldiers, it is life or death for us for we have got the Army of the Potomac to fight".
But he did not know how General Meade had got his army up there soon. He told his men that we were doing picket duty at camp near Falmouth. He had a great laugh over our army doing picket duty and they was all gone. But, he laughed out the wrong corner of his mouth for we were in Pennsylvania as soon as he was.
They had destroyed everything they could get their hands on. We boys said that when we got to Virginia we would not be so careful of hurting the devilish old south farmers.
Well, we are across the Potomac River once more and landed in Virginia and some foraging has commenced. We marched one forenoon and then went in camp and as soon as we landed we took our guns, four of us, and went instead of going in the woods, we made a mistake and went in an old (?) pasture where there was a nice flock of sheep and in a short time we were seen again in camp with a ham and a leg on our shoulder.
The next day we went out again. We went to a house and asked the man if he had any milk or bread to sell to us. He said he had given the last to our men. Some of the men told him he was stretching it. He said we could go in and search the house. Some went in and found it to be true, but he said there was a (?) lived in the next house and he had got a lot of smoked hams and he was a rotten old "secesh".
He said he wished we would go and take everything from him for he said he had abused him in every shape he could because he was for the north instead of the south. So off we went for they are just the men we like to charge on.
We got there and asked him if he had any milk or bread. No, he had nothing to sell. I asked him if he had got any pork to sell. He had none, he said. We told him if he would let us have some meat we would pay him money for it. He said our money was poison and the Union soldiers a disgrace to the country and he would not sell us anything if it would save our lives.
We stood and listened until he got through and we asked him if he had got through. He said he had and now he wanted us to leave. So we told him all right. So we went down to the smoke house and broke the lock off from the door and went in and there we found about 100 hams and shoulders all smoked nice. We took all we could carry.
Then we pled our hams up put two guards over them while the rest of us went into the house. We got some cake and pies and milk and bread and then off for camp. We had good living for a while.
Well, Rush, I have not told all the story. He said when we first went there he was a Methodist preacher and after we got all we could get we told him we would give a good deal to come across more such preachers on our march.
Before we had gone there came another crowd of men and took the rest of his hams and then he ran down there and called them everything he could think of. One of the men pitched in him and gave him one of the darndest maulings I ever saw a man take in all my life.
Well Rush, as we have to endure so many hardships we must have a little fun. Of course, we are all soldiers together.
Well, you will please excuse all poor writing and spelling and write as soon as you get this.
My paper is very dirty, but it is all I have got and if you can read this you will do well.
It is with a trembling hand that I am seated this morning to write a few lines in reply to the one which we received from you yesterday morning dated September 18th.
I was glad to hear from you for I began to think you was never going to write to me. I have written 6 letters to you and this is the first on I have received from you. I have often though I would give a good deal if I could only get a letter from you.
I was glad to hear your health was good, but it found me enjoying very poor health. I have been sick for over a week and I am not getting any better yet. If I could only have a doctor to take care of me that knew something probably I might get well sometime this year, but as it is it looks rather dull.
Rush, you wanted me to write and let you know if I had heard anything from Finley, but I suppose you have heard before this time that he is dead. He died at (?) in Virginia the 16 of August. It seemed hard to part with him, but we all know where he has gone and what for – in defense of that flag and for the union which has been abused by those cruel traitors which long have been trying to deprive us of our peaceful homes. It is true that they would like to rule both north and south, but they will have to slay a great many of Uncle Sam’s boys yet before they can win that game.
All of us old soldiers that have been in battles with them are not afraid to fight them two to one in a fair field fight, but they always take advantage of us for we have to attack them always in their breast works. At Gettysburg they did not get there? enough to fortify themselves very strongly we were there to help them.
Rush, it showed there plainly that we can ship them anytime in a fair fight for they and three or four men there to our one and we whipped them fair and nice.
Give my love and best respects to your father and mother and Osmer (Osmer Crippen, 1848 – 1908) as I can’t think of any more to write. I will bring my letter to a close. So good-by until I hear from you again.
From your ever friend, James Vanzile
Please write as soon as you get this.
3. October 14, 1862 Corning, NY (From Henry Vanzile)
I take this opportunity to let you know that I haven’t forgot you. I am well and I hope that this will find you the same. It has been a long time since I heard from any of you. I suppose all the young fellows have gone to the war. There was a great excitement here the first of September. Some was afraid that they would draft, but it has died away now. We don’t hear so much about it, but some think that they will draft yet. But, I think they will not draft. If they could draft us, they would before they paid out so much money for volunteers. They paid $150 dollars here to each man - $25 when he put his name down and $50 before they left the city and $75 when they are finally discharged, but I don’t think that many of them will live to get back. But, I have no taste for the war so I don’t go until they draft me. It is getting late so I must quit. Know more this time so good-by.
Direct your letter to Big Flat, Chemung Co., New York
Mr. Henry Vanzile
4. November 2, 1862
Rush, I would have written to you before, but I don’t like to rite much for I don’t have a very convenient place to sit. I have to get a board on my lap and sit down anywhere I can get, but you must not do so for you can have a good place to sit down and plenty of time to write. I want you to rite me a good long letter for I like to read them when they come from good old friends that I have left at home.
Well, no more of this foolish nonsense, but when you go home tell your folks that I have not forgotten them and if they haven’t me, tell them I would like to have them rite to me a few lines.
Well Rush, we have a good time down here. I have had my health better since I came down here than I have had in a good while. I am getting as fat as a hog since I came here.
We had a devilish fool preach here in this place today. When it came time for meeting to commence they drawed us up in line and the Major said that all that didn’t want to go in to hear him preach could step forward. I for one. The Major made us stand at a parade rest all through meeting time. Rush, you may feel that we had a good time while we stood there. The boys raised the devil all the while. It won’t do that preacher any more good to come here than it would some man that cold swear as often as he spoke to the boys through meeting.
Well, no more of this foolish nonsense, but tell your folks I would
like to have them rite to me as often as they can. I rite after meeting.
I can’t rite very good. You must excuse all mistakes and rite as soon as
you get this and I will answer sooner this time. So good by J. Vanzile
I take this opportunity to write you. I am well and I hope that these
few lines will find you that same. Yours was received. I think that Finley
will get waked up if he gets in front of Stonewall Jackson. I suppose that
they have drafted all the men in old Pennsylvania that are capable of doing
military duty. They haven’t drafted any here yet. And I don’t hear nothing
about it now. We have elected a Democrat Governor this fall. I must draw
my letter to a close for it is getting late. So Good – bye from Mr. Henry
6. November 18, 1863 Fort Trumbull, CT/New London, CT
Old Friend Rush,
I have last reached my place of abode. I got here yesterday morning at one o’clock. Rush, I came pretty near getting sent to my regiment. The Sargeant took my furlough and went up to the office and reported me and they told him to give me my breakfast and send me to my regiment, but I could not see it in that way.
I went up to Captain O’Connel and told him my circumstances. "Well, well," says old paddy, "that won’t do. Come with me." So I went with him up to the major and then he told me to go to the barracks and make myself as comfortable as I could. He said I could stay here a while, but if there does not a lot of recruits come here to be sent away to the field, I can stay here all winter.
Rush, give my love and best wishes to your father and mother and tell your Ma that my canteen of cider is not gone yet. Tell your father I would like to have him write to me and I try to answer him.
Rush, Henry Vannocker left here 2 ? weeks ago last Monday. He went to the regiment and the next day after Henry got there our regiment went in a fight and got all cut up. The report is that one-half of our regiment got killed in the fight.
George Wilson did not come here. I do not know where he went, but he lied and that is not all. He used me mean, but alright.
Rush, I would like to have you down here to see this fort. They have got it fixed nice now. There is a good many men here from my regiment. Homer Ripley is here. He is my bunkmate here or I am his for I came here to him. Homer is clerk for Captain O’Connel. He is alright for he won’t need to go to the field anymore.
Well Rush, I can’t think of anything more to write. You must take care
of the girls this winter. No more at present. J. Vanzile
7. December 16, 1863 Fort Trumbull, CT
It seemed to prove a benefit for me to report here instead of going back to the camp. The day I received your letter I was made Corporal and so was Warren Wheeler. If we carry ourselves straight we are all right. Our duty will be a great deal easier now. We are enjoying ourselves very well at present.
Our food is of the right kind here. In the morning we get bread and meat and coffee. At noon we have either beans or potatoes and turnips with mutton or veal or beef. At night sometimes that same as dinner or sometimes as breakfast. And here our meat is cooked in clean water instead of in mud as it used to be in Virginia.
The boys here might enjoy good health if they would let whiskey alone, but every day some half of them are drunk. Then they will go to fighting. Then they get put in the guardhouse. But none of these habits ever troubled me yet.
The weather is warm here. It is raining here very hard today. Rush, there is not much news at present. Rush, you wrote that you were going to school. I am glad to hear that.
I hope none of the young men will do as I have done. I left an unfinished education and went to fight for our country against those cursed traitors who have done all that lies in their power to destroy our peaceful home and country, but I hope and trust they never will.
There is one thing for sure that if they will let Gen. Meade alone in command that in another year that they or we will have to hunt their holes and that in disorder for he is the man and the only man that is a match for that rascal Lee who is clearly doing all he can to come out victorious.
Well, let the case go as it will. We are for the Union still.
8. January 12, 1864 Postmarked New London, CT January 14, 1864
Addressed to Mr. George R. Crippen, Rutland, Tioga County, PA
Mr. George R. Crippen of Rutland
As I have just come off from guard this morning, I will endeavor to write a few lines in reply to those received from you on the 11th, but as I went on guard yesterday morning, I could not get time to write. There is a great many volunteers going and coming from here. Rush, you can now see the object of the President passing that order for all men that would pay 400 dollars would be exempt from the draft and now he is taking the money received and the enormous bounty of 7 or 8 hundred dollars and the way the men are volunteering in this is a caution. Men of almost all ages and description are daily coming in here. Now is the question of which is the vest way to get men – to force them by draft or to pay them and let them join with free good will. If I know myself give me 500 volunteers and I will whip two to one drafted men. So I for one am willing to let Old Abe continue on as he has since he took his seat. I believe in his proclamation to free the slaves. I say let them fight.
Rush, you wrote that is was very cold weather up there. The weather here is mild and pleasant. We have about two inches on snow at present.
Rush, you spoke about the south being whipped in your letter. I must write a word about what I think. I agree with you about them prolonging this war as ling as they can for they well know that the devil or any other king has not got a convenient place large enough to hide them form that great day of judgment which is now awaiting them at Old Abe’s right hand, but if they are ever caught I for one am willing to abide with whatever the President thinks proper to do with them. Well, I now drop the question as I am not much of a politician.
Rush, tell your Father and Mother and Osmer that I send my best respects to them. Tell them that I am now enjoying better health than I have before in 6 or 8 years. I will close by wishing you health and prosperity.
George R. Crippen from Corporal James Vanzile
9. February 20th Fort Trumbull, CT
As I have just come off from guard this morning, I will endeavor to write to you and tell you how I am. I am well and hope these few lines will find you enjoying the same good blessings.
I got here on the morning of the 18 and when I returned I was alright in regard to being over my furlow, but as soon as I got here the same night there was about 60 men went form here to the regiment and I was ordered to pack my things and get ready to go with them, but instead of getting ready I went up and saw Capt. O’Connel about my going and he said I need not go. So I am at the fort, Rush.
Rush, I got here safe and came near not for in Derset City there was 6 soldiers knocked down and robbed and I had just passed them and gone in the depot and they followed my but the policeman was so close to them that they was obliged to retreat in disorder. When I passed them I noticed them as there was about 30 or 40 citizens standing around the soldiers. One of the men that was robbed it was said to have $200 ? dollars as he had just reenlisted.
Rush, you must be a good boy and take good care of the girls and not let them get too noisy as they are apt to be when they dare to.
Rush, I will tell you something about the time I had coming down to Hancock. When I got to Columbia Cross Roads there I found the girl that worked at John Lendington’s ? in the hollow and as I had seen her before she came to the barroom door and asked me to come up in the sitting room. So I went up and sat there until time for the cars. We left there at 12 o’clock Tuesday and when I left her at Hancock it was 4 o’clock on Wednesday morning and you may feel as ? that if we didn’t have a good time it was not because either one of us didn’t know how to make good ourselves useful. You saw me enough when I was home to know that I am not very afraid to talk and she was not any behind.
Well, Rush, give my best wishes to your folks and tell them I would be glad to hear from them.
10. April 6, 1864 Fort Trumbull, CT
Ever Remembered Friend,
It is with pleasure that I now sit down to inform you that I am well. Yours of the 2nd was received yesterday and was glad to hear from you. I began to think you would not write to me, Rush. I wish you had been here to went to the show with me or some of the ladies last evening. We had a good time. I went and took my little woman and I think if you had of been here I could of introduced you to one for there is any quantity of them here, but I have been a long time a finding one that suited me. Two weeks ago last Friday evening I went over to town to a dance and there I found one that suited me to a notch and now I tell you how I became acquainted with her.
There was a young man who came there with her. He was her cousin. When they came to form a set to dance they wanted one more couple to fill up the set. So the young fellow came to me and wanted to know if I would dance. I told him I did not care to dance this time, but he said if I would dance he would give me an introduction to as nice a girl as there was in the room. I says, "I will", and so he did and the way he stepped up to her was with as much cheek as a Methodist preacher could have. I asked her if she would dance with me. She took me by the arm and you had better believe I felt as big as a chicken on a plate of hot dumplings and if I did not go in on my best leaps that time then I am not capable of judging. She would not dance with anyone else that evening, but with me and here the . So as I thought I was on the right terms with her I would ask her if she would accept my company home. She, of course, accepted it so I went and have been with her several times since.
Last night some of the boys were going to find out who I was taking to the show, but they did not. There was some came up so imprudent to find out. It made her mad and came pretty near making me, too.
You spoke about how the soldiers come home they would act around the girls. I think they are the ones that should have the privilege if anyone.
As to the weather it is quite warm here. The wind blows hard today. Give my best regards to your parents and Osmer. Please write soon.
11. April 6, 1864 New London, CT
Mr. George P. Crippen, Sir,
While I am seated in writing a few lines to Rush I will undertake to write a few lines to you. I was glad to hear from you and to know that your health is improving. I am enjoying very good health at the present.
Mr. Crippen, you wished that I was there to drink with you and to eat some of your nice apples. I would like so very much, but cannot come at the present, but am greatly thankful to you for your wishes.
When I get my pay if father is willing to let Daniel (Daniel William Vanzile 6/14/1847 – 4/15/1921) come down here I will send him money to come with. If you will keep some of your apples until then, I will pay you well for them.
Mr. Crippen, I’ve my best respects to Mrs. Crippen and Osmer. There is not much news of interest at present so I will close.
Please write as soon as this is received. Please all poor writing for the paper is poor.
From you ever friend,
12. August 3, 1864 Fort Trumbull, CT
Remembered Friend Rush,
It is with pleasure that I now sit down to inform you that I am once more at the fort where I think I will get a chance to stay the rest of my time. I came back here one week ago.
I went from here to the regiment. I went as far as Alexandria, VA. There I was taken sick in the hospital. I went and I came pretty near giving up the ghost one time. Now I am back here and I am gaining some since I came here, but I have not done any duty yet.
Rush, when I came here I felt bad for I do not know what your father will think of me. I guess he does think I am never going to pay him what I owe him. When I left here I left my overcoat, two blankets, one ? coat, one pair of boots in charge of Homer Ripley to send to your father, but when I came here he said they were all stolen from him. I am sorry, but it can’t be helped. I have not had any pay for four months and will not get any for the next payday for my descriptive list is not here nor will not get here until after next payday, but as soon as I get my pay I will send it to your father.
I would not of let it run for nothing so long. I took the pains of getting two good blankets for you.
Rush, when you write let me know how things are up there in Rutland. I do not know whether I will ever see Rutland again or not. I am some notions of going to Michigan next winter. I have not made up my mind yet whether I will come up there next winter or go somewhere else. I can get a furlow any time now I want one, but I will not take one now.
I would like to see my brothers and sisters well enough. I do not know whether I will come there to see them or not. If I make up my mind to come home I shall not come until January.
When you write tell me all the news up there. Give my best respects to your father and mother.
I am going to write you of my opinions of the war and of the present proceedings of our generals and armies on the next sheet. I will endeavor to write to you what I think of the present times in the armies and hope you will do so in your letter to me telling me of the present opinions of the people of General Grant. I for one do not like him. He is smart, but he is not fit to command an army.
Now, Rush they may talk all they have a mind to about him taking Richmond, but he never will take it in God’s world the way he works. He has now got the worst whipping the army has ever had and if he had all the men in the north they would ? him where he is attacking them.
Rush, he has lost more men than General McClelland had in 61 and now he is not as near as Mac was nor will not get as near this year. If they will give us as many men as Grant had and little Mac will go in Richmond and not lose half of the men. The way Grant has now you will see that Richmond will never be taken in any other way unless the army goes up by the Peninsula where Mac was. He had the army in 4 miles of Richmond and did not lose one third of the men that Grant has lost.
Now if the news is true that Grant has got whipped and driven back that is all that is necessary for him. The soldiers are down on him now and do not care whether it is ever taken. They can talk all they are a mind to about our starving them out, but it can’t ever be done as long as General Lee is alive for he will take 20 thousand men and go where he is a mind to. He will make a raid every year or as often as he has to in Maryland and get all they want to eat for the next year to come.
It don’t make any difference if he had all of the United States turned out under arms he would get back. Old Hunter ? and Seigel were after him with twice the number of men he had and then crawl over the other side of some high hill where they could not see them and then attack him in the rear. We had enough men to drive them off from the face of the earth, but they are afraid of them.
Now look at the men that we have lost this spring. My regiment went in with 750 men. Now we number 50 before this last battle and if we are defeated we have lost nearly all the rest. Some regiments have lost more and some not as much. Now they have called on 500,000 more and that is not more than Grant can lose in attacking them. Where he is now he may fight them there in the breast works until the world comes to an end and they will whip them every time.
There is some talk of old Abe running for next President. I would not vote for him, but for John L. Fremont. He is the man for me and no other, but I do not know as he will run, but I hope so. I feel as though I had expressed my feelings wholly.
I will close hoping to hear from you soon,
13. October 2, 1864 Pittsburgh, PA
It is with pleasure that I now sit down to inform you that I am well. I hope these few lines will find you the same. Yours was received. I was glad to hear from you.
Rush, I have been having easy times here, but now they are all over for we start tomorrow to go back to the fort. Our captain here with us is ordered to the field. I – the rest of us have got back to the fort. The old regiment is all gone up, but we have got a lot of recruits at the fort and they have got to send them to the field. I tell you the captain feels bad for he thought the same as the rest of us that he was going to stop here all winter.
I do not know, but they will send me back to the regiment as soon as I get back to the fort. But, if so alright. There is pretty good news in the papers. Generals Sheridan and Sherman are trying to see what they can do. Now General Grant has commenced his endless fighting again.
I am afraid if the Johnes don’t play their points pretty well they will lose Richmond before they are aware of it for I tell you that if General Grant gets to working again he will not stop short of the city. I should be pleased and not surprised if Richmond should fall before another election. If so, the next President should be General Grant and the only one. He would get my vote in preference to any other.
Now, as I do not think of much more to write unless I tell you my thrilling adventure last evening.
There is a little theater here every evening and there is a girl to work in the hotel where I board and I did not know as there were anyone keeping company with her so I asked her if she would go to the theater with me. She consented. Then I carried my plan out. When we got there who did we see, but the young men whom she had been going with, but for some means or other she had given him the mitten. He asked her early in the morning to go with him. When I got back he appeared to be quite mad. I told him I did not know anything about his keeping company with her. I told him it was my mistake and his treat. He would not consent to that so I left him to growl it out while I went to bed.
Now that I do not think of much more to write I will close hoping to hear from you soon.
14. NO DATE Fort Trumbull, CT
Old Friend Rush,
It is with pleasure that I now sit down to inform you that my health is very good at the present and when these few lines reach you I hope they will find you well.
Rush, we are having good times here. All the duty we have to do is to stand guard once in 4 days. It is as cold here today as I about ever saw it in Mr. Burton’s lane (Daniel Burton?). The wind blows hard as there is so much water all around here. All the boys here is some that have been wounded or sick. They are all old soldiers.
Rush, we had a great time here last night. The third artillery of regulars – it is called Battery G. There is a lot of volunteers in the other part of the barracks. We are in on end and they are in the other. The volunteers are always telling how they were going to clean the regulars out. Last night one of the men in the regular battery got drunk and there were a lot of the volunteers drunk and as we are down on each other they got in a fight and there was not but three of our men in the fight and the way they cleaned us out was a show. There were about a dozen of our men ran to help as soon as the fight commenced, but the volunteers as usual are good in a retreat and being either badly scared or smart on foot they took up their line of retreating so there did none but three of our boys get a chance to have their name inscribed in those pages of great history of the cruel war but it was alright as long as it was a decisive victory and until their faces get well or they get a new pair of eyes they will rest contented that the regulars are not all fools or cowards.
There is a man in the Artillery by the name of Morris Anderson and it would have done you good to see him knock them. When the volunteers all ran he asked me if I could tell him which way the most of them went. I told him in all directions. Well, say when they want to clean us out again send for me.
Well, Rush, as I am about to close here is some verses in here. I will send them to you, but be careful who you let read them for they would spoil some folks, but I guess they will not you.
Submitted by LaRue VanZile January 2002
First off-Kudos on a great site! I am an avid 1860's living historian and many of the diaries provide wonderful background for our interpretations. After reading James VanZile's letters, I believe I can add accuracy to 2 letters whose dates are missing or I think are inaccurate.
Letter #1 - it is my belief the letter was written after July 11, 1863 and before August 16, 1863
Support for this conclusion-
Van Zile Quote -"Well, in this hard and cruel manner we marched until the 2nd (?) of July. Then we reached the battlefield at Gettysburg where we had a little brush with the rebs."
Battle of Gettysburg was July 1-3, 1863
VanZile Quote - "Hart's health is very poor..... The 7th of this month I took him off to the Division hospital and I heard from him yesterday and he was no better... He is crazy as a bear. For four days and nights I was with him.
This could have been July 7 or August 7. I am not sure at this time, but this date could probably be determined from Harts service record which would include hospital admission dates and would fix the letter date after the 11th of either month, since VanZile spent 4 days with Hart after admission to the Hospital.
Inserted text indicates Hart died August 16th and Van Zile's letter indicates Hart is still alive at the time he wrote the letter so therefore it most likely follows the letter was written prior to his death.
Letter #2 - I do not believe the year to be 1860, it should be 1863.
Support for this conclusion
VanZile Quote -" Rush, you wanted me to write and let you know if I had heard anything from Finley (I believe this to be be a reference to William F. Hart ), but I suppose you have heard before this time that he is dead. He died at (?) in Virginia the 16 of August. "
This further bolsters Letter #1 being not later than August 16, 1863 . The previous undated letter discusses troop movements into Virginia given support by the letterhead of "Colpepper" (a reference to Culpepper Court House, Va) and having taken Hart to the Division Hospital and staying with him four days.
Van Zile quote - "At Gettysburg they did not get there? enough to fortify themselves very strongly we were there to help them."
This last statement definitely proves the letter could not have been written in 1860. Van Zile would not have had knowledge of the Battle of Gettysburg in 1860.
In addition, there were no armies in the field during October 1860- Fort Sumter was not shelled until April, 1861 and Lincoln did not call for troops until then.
Even if VanZile was a member of the US Regulars (in existence prior to the Civil War) - which I do not think is true-- I believe him to be a volunteer based on this quote from letter #7 dated December 16,1863-
" I hope none of the young men will do as I have done. I left an unfinished education and went to fight for our country against those cursed traitors who have done all that lies in their power to destroy our peaceful home and country, but I hope and trust they never will")
The letter head of Colpepper, for letter #2 suggests an army on the move during the war and follows the content thread established by letter #1 written in 1863.
Much of this could be verified thru VanZile's service records or a review of his unit's history. Does the owner of the letters know which Civil War unit VanZile enlisted in? Either my husband or myself would be willing to try and track down some of this info.