"The trouble with Jeff is that he lacks the power of conversation but not the power of speech."

Goodrich’s War: The Aftermath of Fredericksburg

This is Part 5 of an ongoing series built around the letters home of Loren Goodrich, Co. F 14th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. See also…

Part One (including his letter of Sept 5 1862)
Part Two (including his letter of Oct 2 1862)
Part Three (including his letter of Dec 9 1862)
Part Four (including his undated, post-Fredericksburg letter)

Winter quarters for the Army of the Potomac.

Winter quarters for the Army of the Potomac.

The ancient Roman army had a tradition called “decimation,” by which a unit that had performed some ill-deed would be punished by being ordered by a senior commander to be broken up into groups of ten. In that group, one member would be selected to be beaten to death, usually with stones or clubs. The punishment for the Fourteenth Connecticut was the inverse after Fredericksburg– they were reduced to a shell of their former selves. Officers and private soldiers alike had been struck dead, or wounded grievously at Fredericksburg. Regimental historian Charles Page quotes Sergeant Wade, who relates the return of Captain Moore of Goodrich’s Company F from the District of Columbia– where he’d been during the battle at Fredericksburg, missing the fight– to see the battered remains of his unit thus:

“December 17th– Captain Moore returned to the regiment. He had been sent to Washington a day or two before we moved over to Fredericksburg, to get us camp kettles and other property belonging to us, and as luck would have it, he was out of the last engagement, — for had he been with us, another noble officer would doubtless have been killed: for all the regiment knows that there never was a fight yet, but what he always took the lead, and seeing only a little band of us left, — scarcely one hundred fit for duty,– his feelings over-powered him, and for a while he was completely overcome” (Page 107).

Though Moore himself was devastated at what he saw of his men when he returned, they were happy to see him– Goodrich mentions his own happiness at seeing Moore’s return in his January 5th letter home. The shattered 14th Connecticut  drew significant time on picket duty along the Rappahannock, within view of the rebel pickets, who razzed them mercilessly; but also saw fit to trade goods with the Federals more than Minie balls. Page quotes Sergeant Hirst who states:

“On a fine day in the sunshine it is rather pleasant picketing the banks of the river and cracking jokes with the Johnnies on the other side. Some times we rig up a shingle for a boat, load it with coffee, set it adrift in the stream and watch it drift across to the opposite bank. How the Johnnies will watch it slowly drifting over and receive it like a long-lost friend. They in turn will rig up a tobacco boat, and we take the same pleasure in receiving it. You can hardly realize that these are the same men who were shooting us down a few weeks ago, and may be, will be doing the same a few weeks hence” (111).

Goodrich’s letter reflects his own abused patriotism, the army’s declining morale– specifically regarding the competence of the commanding generals– and his hope that the war would be concluded in the spring of 1863–if not sooner.

 

Camp Near Falmouth Virginia
Jan 5th 1862 [sic–actually 1863]

Dear Friends

I now take my pen in hand to answer your most welcome letter which I received this morning. I am well and hope that this will find you the same. I had nearly given up hopes of receiving any letter from you for I had been looking for one for some time. It does one good to get letters from home to know friends we think a good deal of are enjoying themselves at home and that they think of us poor soldiers once in a while that are a fighting for our country. And nothing but the hopes that we shall once more enjoy the same privileges sustains us through the hardships and suffering that have to pass through that stars and stripes may float once more over our beautiful land.

I have talked with a good many of the rebel soldiers and they are as anxious to have this thing settled as we are and they seem to think it will be by spring. They may say what they are a mind to about the rebels but I will tell you of an incident that accoured [sic] at Fredericksburg shortly after the battle. There was a gentleman from New Britain come down here to get the body of his cousin that was killed and buried there. He crossed the river with a flag of truce to get the body and he said that he never was treated better in his life than he was by them that would not let him do anything. They went and detailed men to go and dig up the body and bring it across the river. They stand on the other side of the river now and laugh at our folks and ask them if they don’t want to come over into Fredricksburgh [sic] again.

You wrote in your latter about my clothes whether I had mittens and stockings. I have got a pair of mittens that I bought of Silvester Steck [sic] they was a pair that Mrs. Jediah Deming knit for him and sent to him. Stockings I have a good supply of now. We drawed [sic] clothes a few days ago and it was the first time that a good many of the boys had a change of clothing since we left Hartford. We lost our knapsacks that contained all of our clothing and other valuable things that we had in them.

We have very comfortable quarters but do not expect to stay here long. We have been under marching orders for some days. Our regiment is in French’s division in Sumner’s corps and have been since we came out. Lieutenant Stanley of New Britain our first lieutenant died Sunday night in the hospital in Washington from wounds received in the battle at Fredricksburgh [sic]. We have no officers left in our company now but a captain. That is Captain More [sic]. He is one of the best men in the regiment. All of the company like him and would do anything for him.

You spoke about sending on a box to me with apples in and such kind of things in. I thank you very much for your kind offer and should be very much pleased to have you send me on a box if it was not too much and did not cost you to [sic] much. If you are a mind to send me on one when you can send it on by express you may. They won’t take express boxes just now but probably will before long. If you send me one send me some apples potatoes packed in sawdust and a few onions some cheese. I should like a small bottle of cinnamon cordial and small bottle of peppermint and such things as you are a mind to and if the lord spares my life I will try to pay you for it some day. I know of no more news to write at present. Please excuse the mistakes that I have made and the bad writing.

I send my love to you.

I remain your obedient servant
Loren H Goodrich

————————

Sources:

Goodrich, Loren H. “Letters.” Letter to Joseph Wells. 5 Jan 1863. MS. Connecticut Historical Archives, Hartford, CT.

Page, Charles D. History of the Fourteenth Regiment, Connecticut Vol. Infantry. Meriden, CT: Horton Printing, 1906. Print.

%d bloggers like this: