Camp on the Meadows on the Bank of Pamunkey Creek, Virginia: May 14, 1862. Envelope or Cover. This exceptional four-page letter is accompanied by its original mailing envelope, franked with a three-cent Washington stamp (Scott #65) and postmarked at Old Point Comfort on 15 May 1862. Chip at top of the envelope. Transcript provided.
In it, Emery describes General McClellan’s encampment following the Battle of Williamsburg and the capture of Norfolk, as both the Union and Confederate armies converged on Richmond. Emery’s unit, the 2nd Vermont Regiment, bivouacked at White House Plantation, once the home of George and Martha Washington and owned by General Lee owned at this time.
"Am now about 15 miles above West Point on the Pamunkey Creek. . .. Last night we camped at a place called Perham’s Landing. . .. We have to skirmish every foot of ground & we are close by the Rebel works. We expected a fight today but hardly think we shall. We may tomorrow & we may at any moment. They are fortified from here to Richmond & I suppose they will contest every inch of ground. . .. Last night there was about 50,000 men camped in one piece of wheat of nearly 200 acres. Fine looking wheat it was but it got awfully trod down . . . most of the Whites have fled & the Darkies left though the Rebels took several thousands to work on their fortifications. Some have run away & tell us a good deal of news. You ought to see this army as it is now camped in this field between 40 & 50 thousand men—artillery, cavalry, & forage teams. It makes a grand scene. . ..
The fight at Williamsburg was a hard fight. Our loss was about 2,000 in killed & wounded—more of a battle than I supposed at the time. We was within a hundred rods of the fight & expected to walk in every moment. All day we stood in line, knapsacks on, & it rained terribly all day & all night. We lay on our arms all night wet as rats & cold & they threw shell pretty close, I tell you. Some burst within a rod of us. We expected to renew the fight in the morning but they left. . .. [Our] cavalry had a fight . . . & killed about 30 Rebels. We lost about 15 men. Skirmishes are quite frequent & some are pretty sharp. There is not much sport in this business. I think the Rebellion will get its death blow not many miles from here. . .. If there is a general engagement, it will be the greatest battle ever fought in this country. We see Gen. McClellan almost every day. This army is a perfect machine. Everything works as it should. The Signal Corps is a fine thing. The Left Wing knows exactly what the right are doing. The General 5 miles off knows what is wanted. This is done by flags of different colors. Men placed on high ground some places can signal 2 miles at once. There is also men to put up the telegraph as fast as we move. This will come into the headquarters of every Division so an order can be given & the men in five minutes will be under arms. . .. P. S. I learn that we are encamped on the Rebel Gen. Lee’s Plantation of about 1,000 acres."
Very good. Item #009563 A fine description of the condition of and optimism within the Union Army before McClellan’s Peninsula Campaign ground to halt and he was fired by President Lincoln.
Military records show that Emery was later wounded at the Battle of the Wilderness and promoted to Sergeant before the end of the war.
A fine description of the condition of and optimism within the Union Army before McClellan’s Peninsula Campaign ground to halt and he was fired by President Lincoln.