Monday, April 9, 2012

April 9, 1862: John VanAllen & the 2nd NJ Brigade

In April 1862, the Second New Jersey Brigade, consisting of the 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry Regiments, was transferred to the Virginia Peninsula under the command of Brigadier General F. E. Patterson, assigned to General Joseph Hooker's division.

On April 9, John J. VanAllen, of Belvidere, a medical steward in Company E, 7th NJ Volunteer Regiment, wrote to his daughter from the James River during the Peninsula Campaign.  He wrote, "Daughter Mary:  I received your letter bearing date March 30th.  In answer, I will say that I am well and was glad to hear you were all well.  It makes my drooping spirits glad to hear that those I love so well are in good health.  May God's blessings be with you all.  I would love to see you all this morning, but no, I cannot; my country needs me; its laws and constitution must be preserved. 

"I am down on rebellion and abolitionism. The Abolitionists have for more than twenty years been trying by their acts to dissolve this glorious Union and the best government the sun ever shone [sic] on, and the Southern rebels have stolen our government property, trampled on our glorious stars and stripes, set up a tyrannical government of their own - a government of rapine and plunder.  They have robbed the people and country where ever their armies go.  I have seen old men and women robbed of everything and their property burned and stolen by the rebel banditti.

"Our army on the Potomac have great confidence in our leaders, General Geo. B. McClellan, the President, and Secretary of War.  We think that through them we will crush the rebellion and abolitionism , and peace, harmony and good old Democratic principles will be restored to the distracted Union.

"Our friend [Franklin Pierce] Sellers, of The Intelligencer, is much mistaken if he thinks the army on the Potomac is in favor of freeing the negro and making free territory   of the Southern States.  They would every one lay down their arms if that was the case; it is to save the Union and preserve the laws that we fight, and we will leave it to the people to settle their own question on slavery.  I saw in Mr. Sellers' paper that the 2nd New Hampshire regiment on the Potomac held an election and voted for abolitionism.  I say it is not so.  We were close neighbors on the Potomac, and no such election has been held.  So much for him!

"We are still on the river; we have been on the water four days and nights.  We had one of the worst storms that I ever saw.  We are leading our troops this morning at the mouth of the James river, 30 miles from Monroe and two hundred from Washington.  We expect a fight to-morrow at Yorktown.  I tell we are soldiers now in earnest.  Nearly all were sea sick on board, but it did not affect me any; I had to help the sick; the Doctors were all awful sick; I think I shall practice medicine when I get home.  We are having a big time just now; about 40,000 men and horses are landing; we have to throw the horses overboard and let them swim to shore; the men pull off their coats and wade to shore.  I am still on board with the Doctors; I think we will take a plank for it.

"No more at present; kiss the little ones for me; I will write soon again and tell you about our voyage.  Good bye and God bless you. J. J. VanAllen." 

Copyright 1997-2012: Jay C. Richards  

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