At Ease: Of Snowball Skirmishes and Winter Camps
"At Ease" in your winter camp these days? (We are too, though always busy researching and getting ready for the next preservation campaign.) Today's email highlights snowball battles, a winter uniform photo, camp descriptions, and the transformation of the Army of the Potomac right here in Central Virginia. We hope it adds some interesting and positive information to the history in your inbox. Don't forget to vote (end of email) to help us collect details about pontoon bridges for the next At Ease message!
Thank you for sharing about your favorite history and campsites in Central Virginia. We're pleased to share a few of the answers we received:
A few years ago, on a tour with Will Greene, we visited the Stafford Civil War Park, Stafford County, Virginia. There, preserved, are portions of the 1st and 3rd Divisions of the XI Corps winter camp.. They camped there during February and March, 1863. It was a fascinating site, and I highly recommend a visit!
Colonel James Beaver's description of the 148th Pennsylvania's 1863-1864 winter encampment near Stevensburg, VA (History of the 148th Pennsylvania).
Where Fort A.P. Hill now exists, camped Jackson’s Corps during the 62-63 winter. A historical area on Fort A.P. Hill is preserved where the winter campsite was located.
Snowball fights among Confederate regiments in early 1863 near Banks Ford.
Our newest video clip highlights an account of a snowball battle in the early weeks of 1863 with Kershaw's Brigade and includes winter sketches from other camps and snow battles of the period.
Rebuilding An Army
In their book, Seizing Destiny, Albert Z. Conner, Jr. and Chris Mackowski (CVBT Vice President) described the importance of the winter of 1862-1863 to the Union Army of the Potomac: "The Army of the Potomac saved itself in a non-battle turning point during a strategic pause in the winter of 1863 in Stafford County and surrounding jurisdictions in Virginia. Operations included a large-scale area defense, reconnaissance and security actions, and combined-arms raids and skirmishes. Morale and fighting qualities were restored, first through dramatically improved care. Infantry, cavalry, artillery, and military intelligence were reorganized. Tactical logistics and ordnance systems were refined and improved. Operational plans, medical and veterinary systems, signal communications, and operational logistics techniques matured. The army reoriented its goal from "not losing" to achieving decisive battlefield and total victory. The army's units and soldiers improved teamwork, developed esprit, and bonded politically...." (page xiii)
Winter quarters of 37th New York Infantry Regiment after the Battle of Fredericksburg (Library of Congress)
This soldier—whose name is not known but has been identified as a member of the 1st Virginia cavalry—is styling a warm, wool overcoat. The cavalry did not always get the same opportunity for long camp days during the winter months. Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart's "Christmas Raid" to Fairfax took place in the last days of December 1862. Cavalry on both sides also helped to form the network of pickets along the military lines. Staying warm during these winter raids and duties was a must!
An unidentified member of the 1st Virginia Cavalry (Library of Congress)
The 16th Michigan's Camp
Edwin Forbes' sketches of the 16th Michigan's camp. (Library of Congress)
"The Sixteenth Michigan is encamped in a pleasant place, not far from Stoneman's Station, and perhaps four miles north of Fredericksburg. in the arrangement of our camp, the complete order and regularity in the [condition] of the quarters for the men, so as to be comfortable and neat in appearance, scarcely admits of improvement, especially with out limited means; in fact, I have not seen another camp in the entire army that exhibits so much order and systems in its general plan, or such a pleasant and beautiful appearance. Many others have built their tents in almost every imaginable form and position, but our are all alike and in perfect order throughout the entire camp. For each tent a wall of logs, about twelve feet in length by six in width, is built, and made tight by being "mudded" and "banked" up on the outside. Over this the shelter tents are placed as a roof, a fireplace is built in one side of poles and mud, and a bunk in one end, and here we live almost as comfortably as at home. For this superiority and excellent condition of our camp we are indebted to Lieutenant Colonel N.E. Welch, under whose orders and general superintendence it has been fitted up."
Special Correspondence, March 7, 1863.
Published in the March 13, 1863 edition of The Detroit Free Press newspaper.
Central Virginia Battlefields Trust's mission is to preserve, protect, and educate about Civil War hallowed ground at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, The Wilderness, and Spotsylvania.