1862 December 5: Letter from the 1st Minnesota at Fredericksburg
The following letter was printed in the December 20, 1862, issue of The Polk County Press. Henry O. Fifield, from Prescott, enlisted in the 1st Minnesota Infantry, Company C, on May 20, 1861. His brother, Sam Fifield, was the editor of the Press, located at this time in Osceola, the county seat of Polk County. December 6, 1862, is the first issue of the Press that is available.
Henry Fifield is correct when he writes in this letter that the Union army will soon have the opportunity of getting a closer look at Fredericksburg. The Battle of Fredericksburg will be fought December 11–15, 1862.
Camp of 1st Minnesota Reg. }
near Fredericksburg, Va., }
December 5th, 1862. }
MY DEAR BROTHER :—After a long silence and seeming neglect on my part, I take the opportunity offered, to write you a few lines. Our regiment is now encamped in the vicinity of Fredericksburg, Va., in a very pleasant place—and in the heart of the enemy’s country. Frederickburgh [sic] is a city about the size of St. Paul, I should judge—perhaps somewhat larger—is very neatly built, and looks splendidly from the distance.—We are in hopes of soon getting a closer view, and if present appearances indicate anything, we shall soon have the opportunity offered us, to make the desired examination.
The river here is very narrow, about as wide as the St. Croix at Osceola. On this side and nearly opposite Fredericksburg, is the old decayed and tumble-down town of Falmouth, which does not amount to much. It is a place about the size of St. Croix Falls, contains a few small mills, and a woolen factory, hotel, &c. It is the Head-quarters of Gens. Burnside [Ambrose E. Burnside] and Sumner [Edwin V. Sumner].
The opposite bank of the river is lined with rebel pickets, who are quite civil. Our pickets sometimes talk with them, and as picket firing is fobiden [sic]—do so with perfect freedom and safety. There are a great many racy conversations carried on between parties, and I assure you our boys hold their own with the gentlemen (?) who ask about Bull’s Run, and Harper’s Ferry. Antietam and South Mountain generally makes them “dry up.”
Our dear old regiment “still lives,” but is a mere skeleton of its former self. Since we have been in the service we have had 1400 men, recruits and all, and to-day at dress parade we only numbered 250 guns, 1150 having been either killed, wounded or discharged. But it is not to be wondered at when we count the battles we have participated in, and review the hardships and privations we have undergone.
Although the “old First” has seen hard service, there are few, if any of those left, who are faint-hearted. Our hopes are just the same now as when with full ranks, glistening with shining steel, we left our homes to help crush this mighty rebellion.
But to return to the present. We are having a touch of winter here—there being quite a snow on the ground. The weather is cold and the roads are getting to be very bad. It is going to be cold soldiering this campaign, and the suffering among the troops will be greater than ever I fear.
But we are bound to try our “southern brethren” another pull for Richmond, and I think this time with some show for success. We have a large and splendid army, and fighting Burnside commands.
Although Gen. Burnside is not our “Little Mac,” still we are learning to admire him, and, on the whole, I think the army is regaining its usual spirit, which the removal of General George B. McClellan nearly crushed. Those who read Greely & Co. can say what they please about him, the army know him better than they, and those who knew him best love him, and will never forget him nor FORGIVE those who caused him to be taken from them. * * * * *
I have received several numbers of your paper and like its looks very much. I hope when this war is over, and peace will permit us to lay aside the sword and gun, that I may have the pleasure of making you a visit, and then perhaps my “big brother” will be willing to give me a “case.” But war is full of events, and we are with the advance.
Your brother, “HANK.”