The following was written in December, 1863 by “Manton” for the Danbury Times. “Manton” wrote a letter for virtually every edition of the paper while the Seventeenth was in the field. “High Private Manton”, “H.P. Manton” and “Manton” were all pen names of James Montgomery Bailey, a member of Company C. This was on the original website as a special holiday treat and I’m happy to dust it off and post it once more.
Once again, 12 years after it was first posted, a big thank you to Bob Young for copying this for me! From January 7, 1864, “Our Christmas”:
Holidays will come, you know, and if they do come, why they have got to be attended to. So much fussing and landangling, so much beer and whiskey to be drunk, so much yelling and singing to be gone through whether or no. A friend confidently told me that Christmas came but once a year and I determined to profit by the hint. By order of Gen. Gilmore and the Orderly I was put on guard yesterday, cautioned to look after the interest of the Country at large, and keep sober. Determined that the Country should not suffer through my negligence, and indignantly refuted all idea of getting drunk. Night came, and Christmas Eve in all its primitive and gorgeous and oriental and magnificent and munificent and beautiful and glorious and splendiferous and South Carolina robes was upon us. When darkness had settled down on the tapering and graceful sand ridge of Folly Island, the inhabitants thereof concluded that the set time had come, and everybody that was able to go in went in forthwith. N.B.—Now for a bit of sentiment. The heavens were devoid of clouds and comets. Perfectly transparent was the azure dome, and sparkling in myriads of Republican stars. Proudly through this brilliant host sailed the queenly queen of night, showering a million rays of soft lustrous glory, over the verdant foliage and white palaces of the private martyrs of the gallant Seventeenth.
How’s that, eh? That “private martyrs” ain’t bad, considering. And now leaving the prostrated reader to admire the aforementioned high-falutin, I will give you Mr. Times, a brief description of our unequalled camp. Co.’s E, G, B, and K, of the right wing have their streets hedged tastefully with young spruces and pines, slightly interspersed with a long leafed shrub, beautiful to look at, but very aggravating on a too close acquaintance, each leaf being pointed to the intensity of a needle, and safely calculated to pierce sheet iron. Although not knowing the name of the plant, yet I flatter myself that I am thoroughly acquainted with the points of things by regularly falling over it three times a day. The entrances to their respective streets are overhung with beautiful arches of evergreens, enclosing well-made wreaths, and pretty festoons of the same material. Co.’s C, F, A, and H are similarly decorated. Co.’s G and K, occupy the central street, in the centre of which, a few feet back from the line is a double arch of lofty size, with the word CONSTITUTION, prettily worked in it. On the line, and on each side of the street, is a juvenile arch with a wreath in the centre, holding the letter of the Company. The devices are quite unique, and taken together form quite an imposing and picturesque front. Co.’s B, and G, are of the Gothic turn. Co. F—Norwalk—have three fine looking arches, one large and two lesser ones, with correspondingly sized wreaths. The centre contains their letter, and the two others stars. Co. F have also erected a palmetto dining room, and through the indefatigable efforts of their Captain—Allen— have the satisfaction of taking the lead of the other Companies in this modern convenience. Today they had a fine dinner served up in the new building, to which I was most kindly invited by Sergeant Oscar St. John, who will please accept my thanks for the seasonable remembrance. A table bountifully loaded with a pleasant variety of substantials extended the length of the room. A half “shelter” with the following inscribed in green leaves was stretched against the wall above the head of the table:
“A MERRY CHRISTMAS.”
Below it was their Company flag, festooned quite handsomely, and flanked by tasty wreaths of cedars, containing stars of holly. On the opposite wall were similar wreaths surmounted by a cross. I shall not soon forget the pleasing effects of that dinner taken with the bonnie boys of Co. F, not least among whom is little Johnny Bulger with his laughing face. May our next Christmas be eaten within Connecticut lines.
The Hospital and Doctor’s headquarters have been handsomely arched, wreathed, festooned and otherwise decorated under the superintendence of Charley Rhan, ho has shown in the effect that he is by no means adept in floral architecture. I am sorry to say that Dr. Gregory is unwell, but we trust soon to see him among us again. His place is temporarily filled by Doctor Shaw of the 41st N.Y., who, I hear, is giving satisfaction with his mixtures. Sammy Barnum is now Hospital Steward.
And now we come to something nice in the quarters of our jolly Drum corps. Imagine four tents on a slight eminence, topped with cedar boughs, and connected together by an evergreen cable, a railing in front also evergreened, surrounded by young pines and holly, and with a pretty arched stairway leading up to the whole, which is tastefully interspersed with handsome wreaths, and loyal stars. Also from out first arch hangs a suspended banner, bearing the following worked in leaves:
The drummers tents are as tidy and cozy inside, as they are beautiful without, and the boys being a reserved set of cusses, my grave disposition leads me quite frequently among them.
Long live those musical beings, the only objection I have to whom is the sad repetition of their “calls.” But time, my twenty months, will obliterate all such impressions.
Henry Huss, one of them, has drawn a faithful picture of what I have been kindly describing to you. Possibly it may be further illustrated, when you will do well to secure a copy. But I must close now. Every thing is considered lovely by the knowing ones in Camp, and hereabouts. The sutlers from one end of the Island to the other were painfully drunk last night. I was on post from 12 to 2 o’clock dead of night—countersign was all correct, so was I. Several tents were burning lights, whose occupants were not all correct.
Walking my beat in pensive mood, I thought of crowds gathered in certain places in Beaner, and of certain young men who have not yet escaped minority, wandering on Main Street with heavy coat-tail pockets, a Germanic way of conversation, and a tendency to yell at everything, and hug lamp posts. Suddenly I heard something and casting a heavy glance into the dim darkness, I saw a party approach; looked at them again, and concluded they must be a remnant of Franklyn’s Arctic Expedition. Halted them, and after the usual preliminaries got the countersign. While passing by, the most inebriate of the lot, if there could be any distinction, affectionately asked if I were drunk. Angered by the unjust hint, I turned the entire party over to the mercy of the Guards, and fifteen minutes after an amicable settlement was made, and we all —–, but I must not let out the secrets of the guards. It isn’t military. It is Christmas night, Tom Hern is talking of canteens, and I must close while I —-