Special to the Tribune Chronicle
The Seventh Ohio Volunteer Infantry had been injected with approximately 250 new "recruits" during late October and early November. This surge of new blood brought the depleted regiment to about half of its original strength. The monotony of camp life was only broken by picket duty and the building of defensive breastworks. Some scouting parties were sent out to see if any news of the enemies' movements can be ascertained near the Harpers Ferry camps.
The removal of George McClellan as the general in charge had many of the men questioning the government's ability to manage the war. Also, the northern newspapers had sensationalized events on the battle fields that lead to misconceptions at home.
Here, a member of the Seventh writes home and expresses the concern the soldiers have with reporting in the field and general feelings of the next move of the army.
Harpers Ferry, Va.
Nov. 24, 1862
Macabre like, I've been waiting for something to turn up - at length my patience has been rewarded. Something has turned up. I hastened to inform you that some great and important events have transpired.
"All is quiet on the Potomac." The troops are wild with enthusiasm. All are equal to push forward. On to Richmond is the universal cry. The men are all in excellent condition and spirits. Gen. Slocum and staff, rode through the principal streets of Harpers Ferry yesterday, and were everywhere greeted by deafening cheers - two teamsters and three mules yelling at the top of their voices. Preparations are being pushed forward with the greatest activity. Everything will be in readiness for a forward movement, by next May or June at farthest, then look out for something of importance from the 12th Army Corps.
The loyal North, no doubt, have had a big Thanksgiving over the removal of Gen. McClellan. Indeed it is something to be thankful for, although we poor benighted soldiers cannot see it in that light. But then we have been so flattered and cajoled by McClellan that we are not competent to pass judgment on him. Greeley, Wilkes and their disciplines understand the whole theory and art of war, and just whom we need for a commander. Astute Greeley!
But enough of this. It is really amusing to those of us who have had a peep behind the curtain, to see how intelligent and discriminating north are taken in and done for by newspaper correspondence and scribblers generally. Some regimental correspondent will make a flying visit to an Army Corps, find his way into the outer tabernacle of some general's headquarters, pump some clerk or orderly, and so down his, items, sure false as the case may be, and off again for New York or Philadelphia by the first train. Next morning appears to her three columns of the "very latest and most reliable" from our special correspondent. Such accounts are about as truthful as the cuts of battle, in the illustrated papers. The idea of soldiers fighting in a hot July day with overcoats on, button to the throat, could only originate in the same fruitful brain that can discover the wildest enthusiasm among troops on a march in a snowstorm.
A word about war scenes in the illustrated papers. Some of them are quite correct and truthful and others are wide of the mark we recollect once having seen a picture of the Battle of Winchester in which Gen. Shields represented leaving his horse over two brigades of infantry and a stone wall. Infantry, Shields and horse in hot pursuit after a retreating rebel. Unfortunately for the artist, Gen. Shields was not in the battle at all. Then there are those brilliant bayonet charges, where "cold steel wins the day," in which half the rebel force are apparently impaled upon our bayonets. Now in our experience of 19 months of this soldier, we have never yet seen a man killed or wounded by a bayonet. Indeed war from an artistic or polite stand point is a very nice and picturesque affair, but reality plays sad havoc with its beauties.
The omens are favorable I think for our staying here this winter. Some of the soothsayers however predict a movement soon.
Harpers Ferry is not the most delightful place for a winter residence. Since we preferred the monotony and few inconveniences of garrison life to the hardships and suffering of active campaigning. Of course we are very enthusiastic and anxious to have the war pushed forward with energy and dispatch. But like many bellicose noncombatants up north we would rather somebody else would push it forward than we.
Ten armies consolidated and largely reinforced by the new levies, form what is now called the Army of the Potomac. Here may be found participants of every battle that has been fought within the last 18 months, east of the Alleghenies. The physical force requisite to defeat the entire rebel army of Virginia and take possession of Richmond before the year expires, is undoubtedly assembled on these banks; what have we assurance that the commanding General has the skill and genius required to handle such an immense power successfully? In McClellan we could trust on the battlefield, for whoever might condemn his slow movements of preparation, the seven days before Richmond and Antietam gave everybody confidence in him in the hour of battle.
And Gen. Burnside, we have a man who never before has had such large armies entrusted to his care. We take him, therefore, comparatively untried; but, give him credit for his successes in North Carolina, we trust him hopefully. The hour seems to draw near when the grand trial is to be made. We have a pontoon bridge already to throw across the river whenever the word is given. The opposite banks of the river are lined with the pickets of the rebel army, and the hills beyond the city of Fredericksburg glisten with its canon. We shall probably have a struggle to obtain a footing on the opposite shore, but once there, Richmond is only 65 miles distant, with no Chickahominy swamps intervening."
It is interesting to read the thoughts and comments of the men in real time. We know that most of what they thought would happen didn't come to fruition.
Compiled by members of the CW150 Committee of Warren's Sutliff Museum.