Sunday, May 13, 2012

May 12, 1862: John VanAllen at Williamsburg, VA

On May 12, 1862, after the battle of Williamsburg, Medical Steward John J. VanAllen, of Belvidere, serving in Company E, 7th NJ Regiment, wrote to his family from the regiments "Camp on the March."

VanAllen wrote, "Dear Family: I am well, and wish I could have the same   good tidings from you.  I have not heard from you in sometime.  We are camped on a Secession plantation about 4 miles from West Point, a small town on the river 35 miles from Yorktown.  There the cursed rebels made a stand and gave our men battle.  But run as they did at Yorktown and Williamsburg, they cannot stand the forces of our Little Mac [Major General George McClellan].  We have them surrounded in a large swamp about 17 miles from our camp.  I think they will surrender to our Little Hero.  I think our commander is one of the best men in the world and his army knows it.  Let the Abolitionist squeal, he is all right, his work begins to show itself.  We will be in Richmond in one week.  Our march is slow but sure, and we  are bound to crush out the rebellion, in a short time, and then come home and blot out Abolition, and have good old Democratic times, with Little Mac at our head.

"Our battle at Williamsburg was a hard one, and many a brave man fell, our loss was heavy in the Jersey Brigade.  The 7th Regiment lost in killed and wounded about 178; the 8th, 200; 6th, 160; 5th, only 60, which makes 598 in our brigade.

"This I know to be true for I was with the wounded all the time, and made a report to the Surgeons.  In [General Daniel] Sickles' brigade is the same, the rest of the brigades was lighter, the first brigades suffered the most; for they done all the fighting in the fore part of the day, the others came in about four 0'clock in the afternoon when the rebels fell back in our entrenchments and the field was ours; we lay on our arms in the field all night, thinking that we should have to fight them in the morning; but the cursed cowards fled and left their dead and wounded on the field.  And at Williamsburg, Oh, what a sight for me next day to go around and see the dead and wounded and to hear some familiar voice say, 'Oh! Van, can't you help me. I am in so much pain, my wound is not dry, can't you dress it for me?'  Yes. Yes, out comes the sponge, a basin of water and lint and a bandage, and at it I go, so on for two days and nights, every now and then some poor fellow a breathing his last.  You must judge for yourself how I felt; God only knows.  I don't want to see no more such work, but if I must, I will do my duty.

"I do say the Jersey boys made a glorious fight, and held their position for six hours, against double their number until our reinforcements came up; all day long the rain was coming down in torrents, our men were wet to the skin, but they kept their powder dry and trusted in God for victory and George B. McClellan for our leader.  Our men are in good spirits and ready for another fight, if the rebels will stand their ground.  I tell you I am more and more down on the cursed cowardly rebels since our fight with them.  They are a barbarous set of beings.  A regular set of cannibals. I do hate them, the poor deluded souls led on by leading set of office seekers, to seek revenge on the Northern States, for the faults of the cursed Abolitionists and Union sliders at the North.  I do think the army of the Potomac will have some battles to fight at home after their return, and then woe be unto the Union sliders.

"We are fighting now for the Union and the old Federal Government as it was, and the Constitution as laid down by the old Jeffersonian school, and when we will vote to put down those that say our union is a cursed Union and better that ten thousand such Unions slide than American slavery to exist.  Let them order out their negro leader, Gen. [Horace] Greeley and his black brigade, and come down South and fight for their dear beloved negroes.  We will fight for the Union Government and Little Mac. 

"9 o'clock at night all peace in camp, the boys are singing gay and happy.  Orders have been received to march to-morrow at 8 o'clock, with three days rations in haversacks, and sixty rounds of cartridges.  On to Richmond is the word that runs along the line.  Good night, as we lay down to dream of friends at home.  Love to all. J. J. VanAllen."    

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