As I prepared to start my day with frigid temperatures and snow falling outside, I thought about my great grandfather, Harmon Camburn, and what life must have been like for him and the other soldiers fighting in the Civil War during the winter. I went to his journal (Civil War Journal of a Union Soldier), and found this passage from the last few days of 1862. Despite all of our growth as a nation and people, some things never change.
Yes, they were miserable living out in the elements, but how much worse it must have been to realize that those snug and warm in their homes had no idea how life was on the battlefield for these young men.
As Congress begins a new session, I implore them to look beyond their own political agendas and into the hearts and minds of those they serve. It would warm the heart and souls all veterans, living and dead, who have fought for our causes.
The last week of 1862, Burnside’s army lay in camp inactive.
The winter rains had set in, and it was almost impossible to get supplies for the army over the miry roads from Aquia Creek and Belle Plain Landing. With the whole surface of the country one vast mortar bed, active operations were not thought of in the army. Yet every newspaper that reached us was full of condemnations for the idleness of the troops in the field. Any attempt to move large bodies of men was inexpedient and to move artillery and supply trains was next to impossible.
Between the clamor of northern papers, the quarrels among general officers, and the interference of Congress with artillery movements, the rank and file of the army of the Potomac was becoming discouraged and demoralized. The men were beginning to feel that they were enduring hardships and that lives were being sacrificed without adequate results, because of petty jealousies among the leaders. Idleness and discontent go hand in hand with soldiers, and the gloomy outlook of our winter camp was not cheering. The fences had all disappeared for fuel and green wood for cooking and heating purposes had to be hauled long distances with the mules floundering knee deep in the mire and the wagons cutting almost to the hubs.
Find out more about my great grandfather’s journal by clicking here to view the video trailer. His insights are astounding and universal.