Major (then Captain) Grover wrote many letters from the 76th NY for the Cortland Gazette and Banner, a local newspaper. The following letters were transcribed from that publication.
THE GAZETTE AND BANNER
CORTLAND, NEW YORK
JUNE 26, 1862 VOL 1, NO. 39 Pg 2, COL 3,4
FROM THE 76TH REGIMENT
JUNE 11TH, 1862
FRIENDS AT HOME:
When I last wrote to you I did not suppose it would be so long before I should write again. My excuse for the delay is, that hard marches, frequent changes, lack of facilities, and the increase of duty which these circumstances occasion, are not favorable to literary pursuits. There has been no lack of topics, for everything in rebeldom is in some way or other interesting; but one encounters at every step, in such circumstances as ours have been, the greatest of all difficulties in the way of writing - the lack of disposition. The inclination to write, however, returns as our life becomes more settled, and my communication will hereafter be more regular, unless, indeed, we are again pushed out into the fatigues and uncertainties of the field.
I wrote last at Fort De Russey, near Washington, where we were, for soldiers, splendidly domiciled. All, however, were willing to forego the advantages that crowded around us for the honorable toils, inconveniences and dangers of field- life. The order to march was something of a surprise. We had long desired to move, but had come to the conclusion that we were to spend the summer in taking care of a few small forts. I had sent for books, papers, etc., intending to make the season pass pleasantly and profitably along; but march! spoiled all such arrangements; everything not absolutely necessary was packed up and sent home, and we were soon cheerily "marching along."
Our first day's march was the severest we have had. The men had not disposed of all their superfluities and their knapsacks were heavily loaded, the day was intensely hot, and the march was necessarily rapid. It was a hard march, but its fatigue was only compensated for by a significant event which occurred - a significant collision between the civil and military authorities. The regiment was marching quietly through the streets of Washington, when unexpectedly to both officers and men, Marshal Lamon and posse broke into and through the ranks to seize the persons of several fugitives who had by services rendered become almost a part of the regiment.
It was an outrage, and the Marshal should have had at least a broken head for his conduct. No officer or soldier was under obligation to ask the Marshal his business; he should have taken the trouble to have stated it to the proper persons. He chose the opposite course. He broke the ranks and jostled the men, and got for his pains a few heavy blows. He was backed up by quite a number of assistants, who, doing as he did, received like treatment. The affair at one time looked serious. The men began to load their pieces, and fix their bayonets, and had not the Marshal and his confederates beat a hasty retreat, vital blood would have been mad to flow. Aside from the question of delivering up fugitives, the men did right in resisting even a United States officer.
But we are not slave catchers; we are adverse to the slaveholder's peculiar interests; we will not deliver up the man who escapes from his unrighteous bonds. As we look at it, our enemy is not the southern men, but slavery; and we shall never be wanting when a direct blow can be given to it.
Our men were finally embarked, and about three o'clock in the afternoon we started down the Potomac. With a fine opera glass with which I had equipped myself, we were enabled to enjoy greatly the scenery on either side. As we left the wharf we saw the line of forts on the Virginia side, which had done such good service in the dark hours of the rebellion. The bare, sandy, yellow spots where the tread of battalions had killed every living thing, made a melancholy, yet interesting contrast to the green fields, and the clusters of trees by which they were ornamented. On the left, on a peninsula formed by the Potomac and the Eastern Branch, we saw the Navy Yard with its busy foundries, smoking chimneys, accumulated materials of war. Across the Branch we saw the Government Insane Asylum, not on the top of the hill, but high up the acclivity, and half concealed by the foliage of the trees, apparently a most beautiful spot, looking like a picture painted in vivid colors, possessing beauty of its own enough, and overlooking delightful scenery enough, and overlooking delightful scenery enough, near and instant, of city, river camp and field, to charm into steadiness the wandering thoughts of unfortunate ones.
On either side, as we passed along down the river, a panorama of beauty greeted our eyes. The scenery is what we would denominate picturesque. There are no highlands, no abrupt and frowning bluffs, nothing that reminds us of the Hudson, except by contrast; but everywhere were beautiful pictures which one could not tire looking at. The principal object of interest, of course, was Mount Vernon, the home of the revered Washington. All eyes eagerly scanned the shore for miles before we reached it. As we passed, we could see only the central portion of the building, and could catch only the slightest view of the tomb. We felt more than we saw. We spoke to each other of the fact that Virginia is not what it was in his day. He left it the first in wealth, power, fame; but cursed by the spirit of oppression, it had fallen like a neglected statue, from the pedestal of its greatness, its fertility exhausted, its statesmen dwarfed into pigmies, its fame a thing of memory. The view of Fort Washington was one of great interest to the men who had never before seen a casemated fortress, built of solid masonry; but this and many other objects of interest which might be mentioned, failed to change the current of our melancholy reflections concerning Virginia's past greatness and its present misfortunes. Sorrowful with these thoughts the mantle of night fell upon us.
We debarked at Acquia Creek about midnight, and marched about a third of a mile, through and over what we could not tell so like that of Egypt was the darkness. We were guided to a tolerably good grass plot where we bivouacked for the night. For the first time we lay upon the ground. Some were fearful, but none received injury - Sleeping on the ground seems to those at home as very hard and dangerous; the fact it is more healthy and pleasant than sleeping in crowded tents or rooms. It is not quite so pleasant in the rain. Our second bivouac was at Brooks' Station, midway between Acquia Creek and Fredericksburg. Before night there were signs of rain, and soon after dark it began. I lay down at first with others in a building near the camp, but was soon routed by oppressive heat and fleas. I went finally to where my company lay, found the root of a tree for a pillow, wrapped my overcoat around me, and had pleasant dreams.
Next day we matched to Fredericksburg. We were encamped on a piece of table land overlooking the city, and in an angle formed by the bluff which faces the Rappahanneck, and a deep gorge through which a small tributary stream finds a tortuous passage. Here we lay one night. Next day we were marched about a mile back, and encamped near one of the finest residences in this vicinity, from which we have a fine and extended view of the valley in which the city is situated and the hills that lie in the background. One night here, and then away to another spot where we spend, of course, only one night. Next morning we are marched back to our old encampment on the bluff; and after sleeping another night on this spot we are marched into the city where we settle down into a mode of life somewhat regular. Our duty is guarding bridges, storehouses, etc., etc. Our quarters are excellent, and our duties important.
The regiment, now that it has got where it can do something, and having got rid of its chief difficulties, is rapidly improving in tone. We have a good friend and adviser, and an excellent commander in Gen. Doubleday. The spirit of '76 is in him. He represents us on the great questions involved in this war, and he has attached us to himself by the interest he has taken in our affairs, and the advice and aid which he has given us in our dark days. Friends! if the war lasts, the people of Cortland Co. will be proud that the Seventy-sixth was born within its limits. We have had a fiery trial. The worthless scales fall off, the worthless dross separates from the pure metal, that which remains will bear inspection.
But what of the city of Fredericksburg? It is one of the oldest towns in the State. It is situated in a beautiful valley on the south side of the Rappahannock, about midway between Washington and Richmond. It is about one hundred and fifty miles from the mouth of the river, and at the head of tide water and navigation. It contains, or does contain when its ale inhabitants are at home, about five thousand souls. It has a few fine residences, and if kept clean, and its buildings in good repair, it would be a pleasant place; and in spite of its filth, its dilapidated and dirty dwellings, it affords much to interest.
There are but a few young men in the place - a very noticeable fact. We see occasionally a group of old men on the corners of the streets, their heads in close proximity, talking in suspicious undertones. We see as many young women as Providence allows to a place of this size; but the young men have been carried away by a merciless conscription.
Negroes are plenty as blackberries. The citizens are sullen, conspiring; they are jubilant and contented. The negroes are mostly for the Union, and they would do much for it if our government would permit. They know the country, are acquainted with secession operations, know the persons of secessionists, and can and are willing to do us service. But policy refuses to use them as they might be used, and the consequence is they dare not trust us as they would if we were unequivocally their friends.
The citizens are apparently unanimously secession. The women exhibit the prevailing spirit. Before the Seventy-sixth got into the city they were in the habit of hissing and spitting upon soldiers. They would not walk under the Union Flag as they passed in the streets, but would leave the sidewalk to avoid its shadow. When they met a soldier they would gather up their dresses, shy off from them, as if they were contagion which they dare not touch. And sometimes, ladies, of the first families, would resort to indecencies which I cannot write or get printed in a respectable northern newspaper. But this state of things has stopped. It is not probable that the people have changed their views, but they see the necessity of being more respectful.
The Union sentiment does not develop for the excellent reason that government does not adequately protect it. If a Union man reveals himself, his secession friends swear vengeance on him at once. His danger is imminent, and government affords no protection that compensates for his risk. He therefore keeps quiet until events show how the war is to terminate. One instance will illustrate the common sentiment in this community.
A fine-looking gentleman, a day or two since, came into the Governor's office, and among other things, asked for a standing pass which would at any time pass him over the river and back. The reply was, "You can have a pass if you will take the oath of allegiance."
"You must excuse me now; when Virginia is conquered, then I suppose we shall all take the oath."
All go at the State goes. There are no doubt a few unconditional Union men, but they do not declare themselves as yet. It is to be hoped that a policy will be inaugurated so that whenever the true flag floats, all true men will not fear to declare their sentiments. This topic enlarges so that I dare not follow it further. Perhaps, in a subsequent communication, I may speak more largely of the strange system of the protection of rebels and their property, which works so disastrously to Union sentiment in this region.
As I write this, order to pack knapsacks, etc., puts the whole of us in motion. We are to recross the river tonight, and try again life in the field. So be it. We are now ready to start, and this notice of our removal must close this paper.
Transcribed by B. Conrad Bush from the Gazette and Banner microfilm on file at Cortland Public Library, Cortland, NY.
THE GAZETTE AND BANNER
CORTLAND, NEW YORK
JUNE 19, 1862 BOL 1, NO. 38 Pg 2, COL. 6
REPLY TO A. P. SMITH
In the Homer Republican of June 5th I notice a most virulent attack on me over the signature of A. P. Smith. I cannot turn aside from the pressing duties of my office to notice the corrupulous statements of this disappointed man, in the presence of the enemy, is so intensely rebel city, I have something of more importance at hand than following the treak of his representations. I cannot on his account neglect a single duty, I cannot afford to honor him with even one manly blow. Two things sufficiently answer all he has said or can say.
1. The fact that Col. Nelson W. Green has been discharged the service, and that his familiar, his partner in business, has also gone out of service under a cloud.
2. The letter which the officers, without my solicitation or suggestion, have addressed to my wife, a copy of which they intend to send for publication.
I have only at present to say it is too late for Mr. Smith to save Col. Green, his other self, by disgracing me or the officers of the regiment. Our course has been simply vindicated by Gov. Morgan and the Hon. Secretary of War.
FREDERICKSBURG, JUNE 9, 1862
HEADQUARTERS 76TH REGIMENT
MRS. A. J. GROVER: Living as you do in the immediate vicinity of the enemies of your husband, an officer among us, fearing that the saluaries which they have put in circulation may in greater or less degree trouble you, we, therefore, address you as gentlemen and officers - intimate acquaintances of your husband - that you may not be unnecessarily pained.
We know personally and thoroughly Captain A. J. Grover. Since the organization of this Regiment he has ever been at his post, acting in every worthy enterprise, largely consulted in all deliberations, and in all his walk among us his bearing and character have been that of a constant Christian gentleman and most excellent officer.
Madam, be assured that whatever may be said to the contrary, is no sufficient ground even for anxiety on your part. We who know him best and are to-day shoulder to shoulder with him in the face of the enemy, know him to be worthy of the high position he occupies, both as a minister of the Gospel and officer of the Regiment.
Respectfully asking your full confidences in these statements, we are.
Lieut. Col. J.D. Shaul,
Adj. H. F. Robinson,
Major C. E. Livingstone,
Capt. G. D. Crittenden,
1st Lieut. E. R. Weaver,
2d Lieut. Moses P. Marsh,
Capt. C. L. Watrous,
1st Lieut. E.D. Van Slyck,
2d Lieut. George Foster,
Capt. J. H. Barnard,
1st Lieut. E. A. Mead,
1st Lieut. H. W. Pierce,
2d Lieut. S.M. Byram,
Capt. J. E. Cook,
1st Lieut. H.A. Blodgett,
2d Lieut. R. Williams,
Capt. O.C. Fox,
1st Lieut. C. D. Crandall,
Capt. A. Sager,
Capt. Amos L. Swan,
P.S. - The other officers of the Regiment being absent, this paper has not been presented. We send it to you and also a copy for publication in the Gazette and Banner as a small testimonial of our regard for your feelings and an evidence of our high respect for your husband.
Transcribed by B. Conrad Bush from The Gazette and Banner located on microfilm at the Cortland Public Library, Cortland, New York.
THE GAZETTE AND BANNER
CORTLAND, NEW YORK
JULY 3, 1862 VOL 1, NO. 40 Pg 2, COL 5,6
FROM THE 76TH,
CAMP OPPOSITE FREDERICKSBURG, VA.,
JUNE 26, 1862
FRIENDS AT HOME:
My last letter was interrupted by orders to get in readiness for marching immediately. The orders were given with as much of mystery, with much ominous looks and shakes of the head, that many thought we were certainly to engage at once in some desperate enterprise. We are bound for Richmond, was the cry of some; we are going to reenforce Fremont and others; Jackson is going to give us a smell of his powder, on his way to the Rebel capital, fewer still, others; but finally appeared that we were only to recross the Rappahannock, and to go into camp. In not quite the twinkling of an eye, trunks and knapsacks were packed, and we were waiting to be relieved from our detail in the city. Having been relieved, we were marched to a spot now the headquarters of General Doubleday, a spot which overlooks the city of Fredericksburg, and the valley in which it is situated, and furnishes excellent ground for drill.
If one cares for beautiful scenery, he can here find continued gratification. At our dream parades, which occur at sunrise, I find it often very difficult to keep my thoughts on the duties of the moment, so new and enchanting are the beauties which each day presents. The city glorified with historic memories, venerable with age, and sanctified by the grave of Mary, the mother of Washington, lies before us. A little to the left of where the sun sets, the village of the Rapahannock loses itself among the hills, and just there the river glistens in the departing sunlight like molten silver. Above the tree tops, light misty clouds hang through which the suns rays pierce, to which they impart a portion of their own native brilliancy. And beyond all this, in the dim distance, we see the cloud-like outlines of the northwestern mountains, a spur of the Blue Ridge.
The most delightful, and as I think, the most profitable occupation I can engage in, aside from my military duties, deprived as I am of books and of facilities for literary pursuits, is to familiarize myself with everything I see, and lay up in memory for future use, a store of beautiful images. No country that I have seen is more favorable to such a pursuit. And it is the more interesting to me, as there is so much to remind me of what I saw years ago in the valleys and among the mountains of Mexico.
The scenery of this region to be enjoyed must be seen at a distance. Then you see its beauties, enhanced by the mystery of indistinctness, and do not see their defects of southern life and agriculture, that so much disgust every intelligent northern man. In the distance you see beauty; near at hand you see man-made sterility. The country in this feature of it, is indicative of the character of its inhabitants. Southern gentility is yet believed in the north, and is often praised. No doubt it has some admirable qualities, as the country has undeniably many beauties. It has a dash, an intensity, a glitter, and assurance of superiority, that strikes the imagination but approach, go into a dwelling place and get accustomed to its pretension, and you see ugliness painted late apparent beauty.
Southern men in energy and enterprises.
One fact appears very plain to me, and it is a very significant fact, and that is, that the persons in the south, most deserving of freedom, are the very ones who are deprived of it. The best society is helplessly dependent on slaves, who are capable of being independent. The poor whites and fee negroes are decidedly inferior to the slaves; and it is amusing to see the slave looking down contemptuously on his colored brethren, who are free, a thing not altogether unreasonable, for the slave is the superior man. The slaveholder who has persistently and wickedly kept his slave from useful knowledge, has most uninvitingly, by the application of his cruel lash, been training for freedom, the very men he intended to keep unfit for freedom. While their enslavement has in many respects degraded them, and continually outrages them in their persons and rights, it has given them by its restraints and toils, stability of character, capacity for labor and practical wisdom, which no other class of persons in the south possess to the same extent.
Thus has Deity made the wrath of man to praise Him. And now the plagues are being sent upon the land, which will end in compelling the now reluctant slaveholders to consent to the freedom of those he now holds in bonds. Here is the significance of this war.
In my last I was just approaching the subject of protecting rebels, when marching orders interrupted the current of my thought and the movement of my pen. With the editor's permission, I will state the substance of what I then intended to say.
I am utterly opposed to the conciliatory policy as it is very inappropriately called, the truer name being the policy of lengthening the war, and discouraging union sentiment in the south. It is thought to win rebels over to our government, but it is a vain notion. They ask our kindness and then laugh at us for giving it. In this region this policy has been as thoroughly carried out as anywhere, and with what result?
If reports are true there are more Union men to-day, in Richmond than in Fredericksburg. Union men are forgotten, neglected, ill-treated, in the insane effort to please rebels. They dare not declare their attachment to the old flag, for if they do they are not sure of adequate protection. They are spirited away, nobody knows where; are injured in their property and person, and cut off from all respectable associations, and they are offered as compensation for their dangers-nothing! Rebels can get their property protected, when Union finds it impossible to get even a kind word. This so-called conciliatory policy is a mill stone around the neck of Union men, to draw them in the turbulent sea of this war. And it leads to many gross insults to our soldiery.
A lieutenant in the city of Fredericksburg, was heard to say: "Before my men shall be made to do such duty I will be cashiered!" Ah, what have they been obliged to do? was asked. "Six of my men," replied he, "have for several days been made to guard a secessionist privy!" They shall do it no more if I am cashiered!" The corpulent old rebel could sit in his door in the cool of the day, smoke his pipe, and laugh at our mystified volunteers.
Just such instances of course are rare, but they reveal the spirit of the policy more clearly than less ------- things. It not only frequently insults our soldiery, but imposes upon them an immense amount of unnecessary guard duty, sends out small detachments in exposed positions, and in many other ways dispirits, and weakens the strength of the army. In objecting to this so called conciliation, I am not objecting to this so called conciliation, I am not objecting in any conciliatory policy whatever. You do not win over to Unionism by treating rebels better than Union men, or by treating them precisely as Union men, you do exactly the reverse.
I have ventiated my feelings on this topic the more freely no doubt because we have had some experience in the matter, and have become somewhat exasperated at the policy. What we have seen and felt that speak we unto you. I should be glad to speak more largely on this topic could I ask for space in the paper.
There is nothing of special interest occurring in this department. Jackson's army is said to be within a few miles of us, but this is no doubt an idle rumor. If we have any fighting we shall probably have to leave this place to find it. There are some indications that we shall soon be on the march, but of course we know nothing. The men in the main are in good health and spirits. The regiment is quite ready for active service, and no doubt will see enough of it before the war is over. I thought one while that by next Fall the war would be over, and most of the troops be disbanded, but as it now appears to me we shall have to serve at least another year. The government needs many more soldiers than it has got, and will undoubtedly keep all it has got until its supremacy is acknowledged all over the land. We do not desire to get home before we have done something to put down our enemies.
Transcribed by B.Conrad Bush from The Gazette & Banner from microfilm in the files of the Cortland Public Library, Cortland, New York.
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