Halls Hill, Virginia: 186? Envelope or Cover. Three-page letter with envelope. The letter is dated “Halls Hill Nov 29th”, and the envelope bears a circular Washington, DC postmark dated Nov 20, 186?. The envelope is endorsed (censored?) along the top edge in a different hand, “J. E. Newgan . M.C.” Both are in nice shape. Transcript provided. In this letter, Morrisey rants and complains about the leadership of his regiment. It is clear the regimental officers had no clue as to how to deal with an ill-disciplined unit. Instead of working to instill discipline, they implemented harsh measures that severely punished the soldiers both physically and mentally: “I am afraid the regiment will bust up their trouble in Camp almost every day now, when a man is guilty of an offence they ride him on a 4 legged horse about5 feet from the ground they make hi8m straddle it for 4 house & if ther offence be very great the Buck and Gag him with 8 lbs tied to his legs and has to remain in this position until he is released. . .. We had a mutiny in camp, the boys threqatened to shoot the Lieutenant Colonel and they pulled down the horse I previously mentioned. . .. we have all new officers they are awful Sassy and Stiff, they say that they will cut the heads of us if we don’t do as they tell us. . .. the lieutenant Colonel . . . makes us rise out of bed some nights . . . Showing his authority. . .. Oh he is a villain you better believe. . .. They will be more officers shot than privates before this war is over . . . so let it rip. . ..”. Very good. Item #009379
Bucking and Gagging was a painful torture frequently used to punish attempted deserters. A soldier would be forced to sit in the dirt and bring his knees up to his chest while his hands were brought around to the front where they were tied to his shins. A stick or rod would be shoved over his arms but under his knees. He would be gagged, often with a stick, to force his mouth open and prevent tongue movement. The soldier might be left in this position four hours. It is unclear exactly what unit Morrisey belonged to or in what year this letter was written. Many units at many different times were stationed in camps south of Washington, DC to protect the capital from Confederate attack. (Halls Hill was in Arlington, Virginia.) Military records identify several different soldiers named William Morrisey, but the mostly likely author of this letter was a Private William Morrisey. He enlisted in November 1862 and eventually served as a blacksmith in the 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry. That unit was stationed south of the Potomac River in defense of Washington from January 1863 through August 1864. This Private Morrisey deserted in February 1863. Halls Hill has an interesting post-war history. During the war, it became a collecting point for contraband, i.e. escaped or freed slaves, who continued to reside there following the war. The community was walled off by the city of Arlington to ensure its African-American inhabitants could not mingle with white citizens. It was not until 1966 that the City of Arlington removed a section of the wall to allow free passage between Halls Hill and Arlington proper, and sections of the wall remain standing to this day.