Letters of Sgt. Augustus E. Bronson – Company C
An unmarried teacher, Augustus E. Bronson had been captured at Bull Run as a member of the 3rd Connecticut Volunteer Infantry, and subsequently spent nine months as a prisoner of war.
Soon after his release in the summer of 1862, he enlisted along with his brother in Company C of the 17th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. Shortly after taking the field, Augustus began to send letters back home for publication in the “Danbury Times”. The letters are typical of what might be expected—they tell of the day to day activities of his fellow soldiers as well as those events and incidents he found newsworthy. Unfortunately, his letters began to decrease in frequency with the coming of spring in 1863. They would stop altogether on July 1, 1863, when Augustus was mortally wounded at Gettysburg. He died in a field hospital on July 5, 1863. His body was returned home for burial.
A grateful note of appreciation goes out to Bob Young of the Danbury Gravestone Project for spending countless hours at the microfilm copying the “Danbury Times” articles. Many thanks as well are due to Ginny Gage (whose husband Lew is a great-cousin of A.E. Bronson) for transcribing the letters from 2nd generation copies for this site. Without their generosity, this information would still be hidden away to all but the most tenacious researcher.
Camp Sigel, Sept 12th 1862
I am happy to have an opportunity of writing a few lines to you to day. This picture gives you a balloon view from the east of Fort Marshal and the city of Baltimore. The right wing of our regiment is encamped on the side of the fort towards the city. One company of the left wing is in the west end of the barracks. The long wooden building shown in the south (left hand side) of the picture and the rest of that wing is encamped between the fort and the barracks. The wooden building with eight men in a line on the east side of it is the guard house. That is the place where intoxicated or disorderly individuals find accommodations for the night or a longer time according to circumstances. E. Howe jr. got in the other night for in consequence of being out after 9 P.M. without the countersign, he carries the mail for the regt. and has a pass from the Col. to go and come when he pleases but the pass is not good from 9 P.M. untill the next A. M. so as he did not keep good hours that night he was cribbed.
This cut was taken before our regt. came here so of course it does not show our camp rather of a fortunate circumstance for the appearance of the engraving to in my opinion as we have more styles of tent than even Josephs coat has colors. We have drum beat for roll call at daylight in the A. M. when all have to turn out and answer to the names. drill from 3.30 till 6.30. A.M. breakfast at 7 A. M. drill from eight till ten dinner at twelve. drill from two till four P.M. Dress Parade at 3.30 P.M. and supper at 6 P.M. but it generally a little later before Dress Parade is over so we are usually a little behind time for supper. Tattoo at 9 P.M. when all hands have to turn out again for roll call and every man not on duty or the sick list must answer to his name or go in the guard house. All the duty I have to do except on a march is to go on Dress Parade with my flag unless I choose to go on drill or some other duty. Last night I went out as Sergeant of the Patrol and came in at 12 oclock pretty thoroughly drenched. The tent I am in looks as if it must have been used in the Revolution of 1775 and every war since. and the quality is such that getting in side of it did not mend the matter much. I believe that all of your Phebes acquaintances here are well. Give my kind regards to all and believe me
Ever your friend
Aug. E. Bronson
If you think this scrawl worth an answer you may direct to
Serg. Aug. E. Bronson
Co. C. 17th C.V.
Camp Sigel, Baltimore, Md
(Above letter to Charlotte Northrop Pulling of Newtown, CT, currently in possession of her great grandson Murray Scott Downs of Raleigh, NC)
CAMP SIGEL, Baltimore, Sept. 15th, 1862.
Dear Times:–We are all pretty busy now. Patrol, picket and camp guard, with five or six men every day from each Company to work on the entrenchments, puts each man on duty nearly every other night, besides the work and drill through the day. How the men are going to stand it with such rations as we have here, is more than I can see-but it has to be done. It seems to me however (or would, if it did not appear like a criticism on officials) as if somebody was sticking it on pretty thick. Rev. A. R. Thompson, who was our Acting Chaplain in Bridgeport, came on here last Saturday, preached for us twice on the Sabbath in a grove or park a short distance from the camp and I believe returns north to-day. I expect somebody up that way may get an impression of his idea of the way this regiment is used when he gets back, but I do not know but I am getting on dangerous ground, so I will change the subject.
The fever which has been raging here in regard to the danger of an attack on Baltimore seems to be abating. The reports to-day are that Maryland has been evacuated by Old Stonewall and his forces. How true it is, or where he will turn up next, heaven only knows. All the reports we get are so contradictory that we cannot tell what is what, or who is who.
Sept. 17th-Since the above was written there has been a decided improvement both quantity and quality of rations. I believe for the last two days all have been satisfied but the professional grumblers. The news here this A. M. is that Harper’s Ferry has been taken by the secesh, with eight thousand prisoners and a large quantity of stores. On the other hand we have report of Union victories. The latest reports are that Harper’s Ferry has been recaptured by our forces. But why a place like that was left in a position to be captured at all is more than I can see, unless it was intended that the rebels should have a place to get out of the scrape they had got into. The prisoners taken at Harper’s Ferry are reported paroled; if this goes on much longer Uncle Sam will soon have a fine family of boys to support in idleness.
I judge from the appearance of the mail bag that our regiment sends about a bushel of letters a day, but we do not get so many back. If we can write the way we are here, it seems to me as if the people at home might answer the letters; I know they would if they could change places with us but a few days. Fruits are plenty and reasonably cheap. Pedlars are not allowed inside the camp now, but they come as far as the guard line, and the boys meet them there.
Sept. 19th, 9Aa. M.-The system of picket guard by Company has been adopted here-that is, one entire Company goes out for picket guard each night. The Wildman Guard were out last night, so we have no more duty I believe (except dress parade to-night) for the next twenty-four hours. That will give us all one good night’s rest, and it is needed too. The constant duty has pretty nearly used up some of the boys for a few days, but none are dangerously ill, I think. The weather is very warm here now, or seems to be.
CAMP SIGEL, Sept. 22d, ’62.
Dear Times:–Mad and hungry I take upon to write a few lines. For three or four days we had decent grub, then back we came to (in plain English) stinking meat. Our Surgeon’s list on Saturday showed one hundred and fifty sick; Sunday, one hundred and eighty-two. As we have no drill on Sunday, the increase cannot be charged to a wish to shirk duty. The Dr. says if this continues much longer the whole Regiment will be sick. How it is, I can’t understand. Uncle Samuel pays somebody to give his boys their victuals, and pays them enough to feed them well, and yet one half the time this Regiment does not have grub that a decently educated dog would eat. Verily somebody is a [many missing words].
Yesterday was the Sabbath. We have no regularly appointed Chaplain as yet. Quite a number from the different Companies went to church in the forenoon down in the village below the camp, called Canton. At 3 P.M. there was a temperance meeting in a grove a short distance from the camp. After some songs and stirring addresses from Corporal Whitney of Co. A., Mr. A. Owen[?] of New Canaan, Col. Noble (who presided at the meeting) was called for. He said,–”My fellow soldiers: I had no idea of being called on to speak, and am not prepared to make a speech; but if there is anything against which we as men and soldiers should set our faces and use our influences, it is the damning one of intemperance. I had no idea that a temperance movement was to be started in the Regiment, but before I left home I organized a Temperance Society of my own; I solemnly promised myself and my God that while I was gone there should be no intoxicating liquor in my tent or drunk in my presence, and there has been none and shall be none there.” After talking for a few minutes he concluded with, –”and now, my fellow soldiers, I appeal to you to come up and sign the pledge, about to be presented, to abstain from the use of all that can intoxicate. Sign it, resolved to keep it, and I assure you I will do all I can to prevent you from being tempted to break it.” The pledge was then brought forward headed by the name of Wm. H. Noble and as fast as the names could be written till it was time for Dress Parade, it was signed by those who resolved that the Deman of Alcohol should have no dominion over them. The good work has commenced-may it go on till every member of the 17th shall be a temperance man in deed and in truth.
Sept. 23d.-The following order was read on dress parade last night: No person shall be excused from duty unless excused by the Surgeon at the Surgeon’s call at half past 6 A. M.; any person going to the Surgeon at any other hour will be severely punished. The breakfast hour is changed from 7 to 6 A. M., drill from 7 to 8 and from 9 to 11 A. M., and from 2 to 4 P. M., dress parade at 5.
Sept. 25th.-There was a report in camp this A. M. that the 23d C. V. were to be at the Washington Depot in Baltimore some time this A. M., so Companies C. and D. fell in, and Major Brady mounted his horse for drill, and marched over to the city to meet old friends. On arriving at the depot we met our Commissary Serg’t J. L. Day, who informed us that we were “slightually” sold, as there was no prospect of the 23d leaving Conn. for some days. After a rest of half an hour or so we fell in and marched back, reaching camp a little before noon, a little tired and a considerable dusty-found dinners nearly ready-dinners consisted of beef, bread and coffee, all good, (we get good grub once in a while) not much variety, but very substantial. A package of Prayer Books from Rev. Mr. Townsend was received and distributed some days since. Recipients return their thanks. We had a little fun yesterday. A woman who has been washing for some of the boys has also been doing a little business in the whiskey line: She would come in with a basket with the wash in it, go to her customers tents, leave the bottle and the clothes, get dirty clothes and be off. Finally she was suspected and reported to the officer, her basket searched, and the critter found, an escort was provided, and the lady left camp as near as I could judge the tune sounded very much like The Rogue’s March.
Sept. 26th.-Manton is at work on the fortifications to day. Perhaps you may find out what he thinks of the axe or spade, next week.
A. E. B.
CAMP SIGEL, Oct. 3d, 1862.
Dear Times:–It is with a feeling of sadness that I write to-day. As you will have learned before this reaches you, our dear comrade, Charlie Small, departed this life yesterday at fifteen minutes past twelve o’clock, M., after a very brief illness. Preparations for sending home his body have been made, so I suppose all of earth that remains of our comrade and friend will reach Danbury as soon as this note. He was a kind friend, and the life of the Company; a deep gloom oppresses us all. We can well sympathize with his afflicted family. May the God of the widow and fatherless comfort and sustain them under this trying dispensation of His Providence.
Nothing of special interest has transpired during the week. Here we are and for aught I see, here we are likely to remain for sometime to come. In my letter of two weeks ago I made an unintentional misstatement. The information on which I wrote I supposed to be correct, but I am assured by gentlemen belonging to Co. D. that not a single member of that Co. has been in the Guard House; yet I am very glad to make the correction. May they never have one there.
We have drill now from 71/2 to 101/2 A. M. and from 11/2 to 41/2 P.M. Dress Parade at 5 P.M., making seven hours a day of drill. This does not look like a very hard day’s work, but any one who thinks it is not will change his mind by taking a double quick march over rocks and stumps for that number of hours in a day, for a few days. Our rations have been of good quality, and plenty of them for the last week, and under the supervision of Mr. E. L. Knapp, they have been well cooked. May they continue as good and I think we will get along.
A. E. B.
CAMP NEAR FORT KEARNEY.
Washington, D. C., Oct. 24th, 1862.
Dear Times:–As I supposed when we came here, our Regiment is in for pick, spade, and pole axe drill with a rush, building forts, batteries, etc., and nothing else. But for inspection Sunday A. M. and dress parade Sunday P. M. and taking their turn on guard through the week, they would forget that there were such things as rifles in existence. There is some talk that we are to be turned into heavy artillery. I don’t pretend to know as to the truth of the report; I have seen nothing to confirm it except that a few men from Cos. A, F, and D, have been detailed to learn the drill for that particular branch of service. The weather is decidedly cool here nights with quite heavy frosts. The days are warm enough.
P. T. Barnum, Esq. was here last Sabbath accompanied by Gen. Tom Thumb and Com. Nutt [?]. Barnum delivered a short and telling address on Temperance, and the Gen. and the Commodore each sang a song.
The Wildman Guard were furnished an oyster supper the P. M. before leaving Camp Sigel by Mr. Morrell, a resident of Baltimore, and a brother-in-law of J. I. Foote, of the Co. A vote of thanks and three hearty cheers were given him in return. May his shadow never grow less.
Quite a number of the regiment are sick; some quite sick. Heaven grant that they may be better soon.
We have no news here of any kind-good, bad, or indifferent, except “All quiet along the banks of the Potomac.” How is it about the new Draft in Conn.? Does it give any body the ague? Is Danbury to have the benefit of it? And how much longer is the 27th to stay in N. H.? I don’t know though but it might about as well stay there as to come out here, as for all the good it could do, if the boys are drilling well. And, by the way, wouldn’t it be a good plan for them to go to work and build a fort there on Oyster Point? Perhaps the rebels may take it in their heads to come up there and take N. H. some day, and if they should it ought to be well fortified.
A. E. B.
FORT KEARNEY, Nov. 1st, 1862.
Dear Times:–Since my last to you another of our Field Officers has met with an accident. Lieut. Col. Walters was taking a ride the other day, when his horse in some way contrived to break his own neck and injure his rider so severely that we have not seen him in camp since. Major Brady has returned from Conn., and is now acting as Commandor of the regiment. We are under marching orders for Centreville to join Sigel’s corps, and shall leave here in a day or two, but our address, I suppose, will continue Washington, D. C.” Last Saturday one of the members of Co. I died of typhoid fever, and was buried a short distance from camp on Monday morning. Johnson of Co. B., died Sunday night, and was sent home. We have no Chaplain yet, but one is expected sometime or other, if he ever joins us. We have had neither company nor battallion drill since coming here until this A. M. We have company and battallion drill this P.M. Considerable excitement is manifested in regard to the General Orders in reference to enlistments from Volunteers into the Regulars. I believe quite a number in this regiment intend to enter the regular service. I wonder what has become of that W. G. who was going to write some more for the Jeff?
A. E. B.
ANTIOCH CHURCH, Nov. 13th, 1862.
Dear Times:–Again we have marched, this time not very far, — from Gainsville here about five miles. Sunday A. M., packed up house and furniture and started, the teams started behind us, but instead of following the 2nd Brigade went on after the 1st, and we did not see any thing of them until noon of the next day. A short distance from Gainsville we passed through what was formerly the village of Haymarket; now it consists of only a few chimneys from which the houses were burned away at about the time of the last Bull Run battle. As the story was told to me the northern troops were passing through the village and the people began to fire on them, and the exasperated soldiers fired the houses and soon all that was left of Haymarket was blackened chimneys, the church, one shanty, and two or three barns. There was a skirmish reported a few miles from here night before last. It was thought we would be called out, but we were not. The mountain has been on fire not very far from here for the last two days presenting a beautiful appearance at night. Before leaving Gainsville we received rations of raw salt pork and coffee. The wagons went off with the cooking utensils so my mess converted the wash basin into a stew pan, cooked our pork and boiled our coffee, caught a rabbit and made rabbit soup, then confiscated some apples and stewed them. How would you have fancied boarding at our hotel?-Don’t you think it was gay? Who wouldn’t be a soldier? Yesterday we received our new dress coats but the boys are quie puzzled to know what to do with them, as they had about all they could carry before. They say “How are your dress coats?” but the laugh won’t come in. We have guards over all the houses, rail-fences and turnip patches here now, though all the people are known to be the strongest kind of Secesh. I thought guarding Rebel property was played out, but it seems I was mistaken. Well, live and learn. The following named members of our company have been left in hospitals:–Samuel Downs and Smith Delavan at Patterson’s Park, Baltimore; Corp. B. White and M. A. Wheeler are in Georgetown; Corp. P. Lounsbury, Wm. H. Curtis, E. Northrop, F. Goodale, T. Edwards, F. S. Smith and J. L. Day are in Washington. Other companies in about the same proportion, I think. Our Chaplain has arrived and gone back to Washington to carry their letters to the sick ones and see how they are getting along.
14th. 5 o’clock P.M. News has just been received in camp that Capt. Benson of Co. I (Greenwich) who was left in Washington sick, has gone to his long home. The weather here is beautiful, so is the fire in the woods.
A. E. B.
CAMP OF THE 17TH C. V., Nov. 22nd, 1862
Dear Times:–I do not know whether it is best to write a true account of our movements and conditions of the Reg’t and Company for the past few days or not-it may create an impression at home not wished for by some; but I cannot create facts, I must chronicle them as they transpire. Last week we were joined by our Chaplain and had religious services on the Sabbath. Monday night we received Marching Orders and on Tuesday morning with about one day’s rations of raw pork and two days hard bread in the haversack, 40 rounds of cartridges in the box and twenty more somewhere else, blankets, wool and rubber, a change of under clothing, over-coat, and tent, in and on our knapsacks, at 7 A. M. were ready to march. For the transportation of those not able to march we had one ambulance, and for carrying the Quartermaster tent, Hospital store, and all regimental baggage, we have six wagons. Whose [?] it was or whether it was anybody’s or nobody’s that with at least forty men not able to march and carry their knapsacks, provision was made for only four or five, I do not pretend to say. Or whether it was right that men not able to carry themselves be obliged to carry their baggage or lose it, and that the companies lose their cooking utensils because the Q. M. had no transportation for them, while a part, at least of the Sutler’s baggage was carried by the regimental wagons I do not pretend to say. Soon after our march commenced, it began to rain and we tramped in mud and wet with scarce a minute’s rest until 1 P.M. when we halted for an hour and partook of the contents of our haversacks, after which we resumed our march and crossed the first Bull Run battlefield in the course of the afternoon. At about dark we halted for the night and occupied the shanties which I think must have been built by the Rebs, for winter quarters, last winter. At 7 A. M. on Wednesday we picked up our traps and started again. Thirty or forty sick who could go no further, were left here with a large number of knapsacks under the charge of Dr. Gregory. We passed through Centervile and marched about five miles farther (as near as I can judge) and halted here and here we pitched our moving camp nearly a mile from wood or water, except the water that continued to pour from the clouds on our devoted heads. Our pork and hard bread was played out, and a little hard bread was given out. Two Companies were furnished pork and the rest offered salt junk. Four or five Companies had a few cooking utensils, but we hadn’t a thing, so salt junk was of no use to us and we did not take it, as raw we couldn’t eat it. A detail was made for picket, seven were called for from this company for twenty four hours. That they thought rough – a two days march in the rain and twenty four hours on picket guard with “no grub.” Capt. M. said they shouldn’t go till they had something to eat, & went to see what he could do. I don’t know, but I mistrust that while he was gone he did some pretty tall talking; any way, when he came back he had pork for the pickets, but the boys in camp couldn’t get any meat till afternoon the next day when we received one day’s ration of fresh beef. Yesterday we received a ration of pork and as near as I can estimate we have had about half rations of other things since coming here. Thursday A. M. though we had but just got in from a two days’ march, Company drills were ordered, and there was to be a battallion drill that afternoon, but for some reason it didn’t come off. Thursday P. M. the sick ones who had been left at Bull Run came in; they got a big scare sometime Wednesday night and started for Centerville, got about half way and stopped till morning in the rain. When the wagons reached the plain where they were left, most of the baggage which had been left there was missing. Yesterday noon the rain stopped and after dinner there was a drill, company skirmish drill this A. M. and I presume there will be battallion drill this afternoon. When we left Antioch, the poles to our hospital tent could not be brought, and until yesterday afternoon no sort of accommodations for our sick had been provided. – There is a report that we march for somewhere tomorrow; can’t say as to its truth.
The place where we now are is named Chantilly or Chantila, or something of that sort, but do not know just what. Address as usual.
A. E. B.
Chantilly, Va., Dec. 2d., 1862.
Dear Times:–Once more I seat myself at my desk (knapsack) to pen a few lines to you. My last was written soon after we came here when several days of short rations had left me not in the best of humor. In fact I believe touching a mail to the stomach is like touching him in the pocket-”hitting him in the tender spot.” The discontent with our grub, or rather “lack” of it, culminated a few days after in Co. B’s refusing to do duty till they had something eatable and their being put under guard. An appeal to the acting Brigadier General, McLean, elicited the pleasing information to them that the guard over them must be removed, and to all that we must and should have our full supply of provender, since which there has been a decided improvement. We have been getting our back rations and have all, yea, more than we can musticate, of hard bread and pork with occasional rations of soft bread and fresh beef. Verily we live on the fat of the land. (fat pork) Last Tuesday we had a brigade drill and again Thursday. (Thanksgiving day) It was announced Wednesday p. M. on Dress Parade that there would be no drill on Thanksgiving day, but the brigade commander thought differently. Of course it was with a feeling of pride that some of our boys heard the Gen. say to his staff that we went through the evolutions as well as any regiment in the brigade, though the rest have been drilling much longer than we have. A cavalry reg’t encamped near us who have been out on a reconnoitering expedition returned Sunday night with quite a number of prisoners, one of them a rebel major, and also a number of horses and beef cattle, having been entirely successful in accomplishing the objects of the expedition. I saw in the Baltimore Clipper a few days since “that the 17th C. V. were doing duty near Centerville when they were attacked by the rebel cavalry and driven in with the loss of three of their number taken prisoners.” I think somebody must have made a slight mistake as we were unaware of the occurrence till we saw it there. We came near having some serious catastrophes. Most of us have built chimneys of stone and dirt at one end of our tents; the addition of a fire-place makes them quite comfortable, but some of the boys have been brought to realize the fact that twilled muslin is quite combustible and to “behold how great a flame a little spark kindleth.” Three or four nights ago I was aroused from my peaceful repose by the cry of “Fire! Fire!! Serg’t Daniels wake up here, you’re all afire!” We piled out but the fire was extinguished with only the rain of a rubber blanket and a few yards of muslin. Not so fortunate were some half dozen, not of this Company, who were a short distance from camp; acting as cattle guard. Their house was almost burnt over their heads before they awoke, one or two were seriously burned, and all lost their household goods and most of their clothing. We were aroused this a. M. at 3 1/2 o’clock by the roll of the drums and ordered to fall in with rifles and acouterments [?]. After a few minutes the arms were stacked and the boy told to get their breakfast. Nothing farther has transpired yet. Whether an attack was anticipated, or it was done to see how quick we could turn out, I am not able to decide.
A. E. B.
Stafford C. H., Va. Dec. 18, 1862
Dear Times:–We have been marching, we have. At 3 A. M. Dec. 10th, we were aroused by the reveille, got our breakfast and prepared to start, but it was nearly noon before we got under way. We marched to Fairfax C. H. and halted for the night. The Paymaster met us there, and paid five Companies up to the 1st of Nov. At 7 next A. M. we marched again and passed Fairfax Station, halting for the night in the pine woods near Wolf Run Shoals on the Occoquan, and the remaining five Companies were paid off. It is said that the money was advanced by Private Elias Howe, Jr., of Co. D., he taking Government Bonds as security. The Regiment is much obliged to him. The next A. M. we started again, and halted that night between the last mentioned stopping place and Dumfries. Sunday we marched to Dumfries, and remained there until afternoon. Monday waiting for rations, after receiving which we started towards Stafford C. H., and passed through here near night Tuesday. Four Companies under the command of Capt. Moore halted for the night about a mile and a half on the road towards Falmouth. The nxt A. M. we had a heavy shower of rain. The four companies rejoined the rest at about noon Wednesday, and marched to within a short distance of Falmouth and halted for the night. The next (yesterday) A. M. we started and marched back here, making an eight days’ march over the worst roads I ever saw on account of the mud. The weather most of the time has been fine. We had a little snow yesterday P. M.; to day the weather is beautiful. We have received to day the first mail we have had for a week. I do not know how long we shall remain here, but presume not long.
A. E. B.
Stafford, C.H., Va. Dec. 27, 1862
Dear Times:–I wish you “A Happy Year” and many returns of the same. New Year or old year, makes very little difference with us here; though we have not much to complain of just now-in fact have something to be thankful for, and return our sincere thanks to Mrs. Capt. Moore and other friends for a box of apples, onions, etc., received in good order last night, and to the Soldiers’ Aid Society, for a number of pairs of mittens received yesterday A.M.
We are now quite comfortably situated in the woods a short distance from the village; some in shanties, and some in tents. Drill has recommenced today, which looks as if we might remain here some time, but one not behind the scenes can tell very little about that. If gifted with an imaginative turn of mind I might tell of the “beauties of Nature here in the “Sunny South,” and of the memories awakened in a view of the jail, but as I am not, I will just say that the aforesaid jail is a sort of curiosity in its way. The walls are of hewn logs, at least three feet thick, and it stands in the centre of the street on four corners, (reminding one of the position of Concert Hall). Perhaps I ought to apologize to the jail, or hall, I don’t know which. The Court House, standing on a corner near the jail, is built of brick, and has a yard, (jail hasn’t.) The Court House is now occupied as Provost Marshall’s Office.
Manton is, I think, rather severe on the 23rd “grumblers.” Soldiering is a rough business even if every two men do have a sheaf of straw; but if the Danbury boys in the 23rd had just got that two hundred dollar bounty changed into currency notes, what a bully bed it would have made.
Nothing of interest seems to be transpiring here, and I am
A. E. B.
Camp Near Stafford C.H. Jan. 8th, 1863.
Dear Times:–I have nothing particular to say about things here; we are pursuing the even tenor of our way, eating our regular hard bread and meat and drinking our regular coffee, have drills twice a day with fair weather, in fact beautiful for the season, and make ourselves quite comfortable generally. I went down to Falmouth the other day and perhaps the process of getting a pass and a short description of the trip and what I saw may not be uninteresting to your readers. As quite a number of the Co. had been to Falmouth, a friend and myself decided on Monday last to go two days if we could get a pass, so I went to the Captain and he gave me a pass reading as follows:
STAFFORD C.H., Jan. 6th, 1863.
Guards and pickets; pass Serg’t___________and _____________to Falmouth and return.
J. E. Moore.
Capt. Co. C., 17th C. V.
So far so good; from there to Regimental, presented the pass to Lieut. Col., the Colonel being absent; he said it should be returned to the Co. that evening. accordingly a little after 8 o’clock P.M. it came back with: “Approved, Chas. Walters, Lieut. Col. 17th Reg’t. C. V.” written across one end, and “Approved, N. C. McLean, Brig. Gen.” written across the middle. Now you will think we are all right. Not so fast. We have an officer called the Provost Marshall, and though he may rank only as Capt. or Lieut., yet his signature, if you’re going round, is worth more than half a dozen Brigadiers, so in the A. M. we went to him and on one corner he wrote as follows: “Approved by order Gen. Sigel, S. P. Robinson, Capt. and Pro. Mar.” Now we were ready, and started. About half a mile out we came to the first picket, and the German on guard stopped us with “Bars, Zargent!” I presented the document. After inspecting the same he pronounced, “Der bars ist racht;” so we proceeded about a mile farther when we came to another post, and again came “Bars Zargent.” I replied, “Yaw.” “All racht.” again said the picket, and we met with no further obstruction until reaching Brooke’s Station where we boarded [?] cars. Just before the train arrived came a Sergeant who inspected the passes, and when the cars came we mounted to the top of one, the engine screeched, and away we went. We reached Falmouth at about 10:30 A. M. [?] the Conn. Brigade, and were soon exchanging greetings with old friends. Charley Gray, among the [?] and altogether too hearty a squeeze for a ghost. Tuesday afternoon there was a “Grand Review” of the 9th Army Corps by Gen. Burnside. The remnant of the old 11th, though but few in number, presented a fine appearance with their white gloves and rifles without spot or blemish. The fire in their eyes is not dead yet and they will, if required, give a good account of themselves. We reunited with the 11th that night, and the next A. M. visited the detachment from the 1st Conn. Artillery, who are posted on a hill directly opposite the city; went down to the bank of the river and saw the Reb. pickets, many of them dressed in U. S. uniforms. Friend Sparks kindly pointed out the points of interest, and having taken the nearest view we could we returned to the hill, and through a glass belonging to the Signal Corps, had a view of a drill by a brigade of Rebel infantry. At about 12:30 P. M. on Wednesday, we started on our return, had to wait at the depot until half past one, took our places on the cars and were soon again on our way to camp arriving here at 3:45 P.M., reported ourselves back, and things go on in their old course and I am
A. E. B.
Belle Plain, Va. Jan. 25, 1863
Dear Times:– I suppose Manton has told you of our march from Stafford last Tuesday, so I will only say that the weather was just cool enough for comfortable marching, and the roads in first rate condition. We broke up camp at 5 A. M., passed Brooke’s Station about daylight, and at 11 A.M. had made 13 miles, and came to a halt for an hour, the hour lengthened to 3, and we started again. After marching a mile or so further we came to a camp vacated by the 7th Wis., and here we encamped. That night we had a heavy rain which reduced the roads to the consistency of stiff mortar to the depth of a foot; (how much deeper I can’t say.) This rendered it almost an impossibility for the trains to move, and I presume considerably altered the programme. The rain continued to fall lightly most of the time. On Friday it was reported that Franklin’s corps were coming back, and sure enough towards dusk, Friday, up marched the 7th Wis. to take possession of their shanties and were very much surprised to find them occupied. Here was a mix. They had been ordered back to their old camp, and we had not been ordered to vacate. They are a fine set of men, (one of the finest regiments I have seen in the service.) and concluded to leave us in possession till A.M. They build excellent shanties, and I return my grateful acknowledgements to the Lieuts. of Co. C. for the use of theirs while we occupied their camp. About noon Saturday we were ordered to get ready for a march, which we did, and marched about a mile and encamped to await orders. When we get them I presume we shall go somewhere else. In the meantime the 1st and 11th Army Corps must be [?]ed together rather “promiscuous.” We had a little more rain this A.M., which does not seem to have improved the condition of the roads in the least.
CORRECTIONS, ADDITIONS AND EXPLANATIONS.
In my letter of Dec. 27th, published Jan. 15th, I returned thanks to Mrs. Moore and others for a box of edibles received by the Co. Mrs. Moore thinks (so Capt. says) that I was giving her more of the credit of said box than belonged to her-(I insist though those potatoes were first-rate.) I am informed that to Mrs. Otis is due a large share of the credit of getting up and forwarding said box, so while we thank the rest no less, we thank her the more, and shall hold all who had anything to do with getting up or forwarding it in kind remembrance till the memory of those luscious apples and savory stews depart.
I see in Manton’s letter published Jan. 15th, that he only sets down our muster roll as one hundred strong when we left Bridgeport. He has left Eli Lobdell of Ridgefield out entirely. Now Eli is altogether too much of an institution to be ignored in any such fashion, and I object. He puts Smith Delevan down to Brookfield, it ought to be Danbury, and Joseph Maddock vice versa. Rob. Farvour should be Ridgebury instead of Danbury. We have as yet no positive information that Fred Smith is discharged. Corporals Lounsbury and Baldwin are discharged, and James F. Beers and Geo. Sears appointed Corporals in their places. Alfred Bennett, Fred Bussing, Rufus Pine, and Adam (not Abram) Williams are discharged.
John Commisky of Co. I, 17th C.V., died Sunday, Jan. 18th from the effects of a wound supposed tohave been caused by the accidental discharge of his gun near Hope Landing Va. at which place he was on detached duty.
In camp near Stafford, C. U., Va., of Typhoid fever, on the night of Sunday Jan. 18th, John Fry of Co. G., 17th C. V., son of Stephen Fry of Ridgefield, Conn. His funeral with the honors of war was attended at 3 P.M. Jan. 19th.
Never again to gather with their comrades around the camp fire, or to answer to their names at the “roll-call,” may they rest in peace till the trump of the Arch Angel shall sound the last great reveille, and then may we and they come forth, answer to our names at the great roll call above, and join with the redeemed to praise God forever. Amen
Jan. 26th Inspection at 9 A.M., followed by drill till 11 A.M., and there’s the Orderly Sergeant, ready for guard at a quarter to twelve – so I must close.
A. E. B.
Brookes Station, Va. March 5th, 1863.
Dear Times:–We still abide at this place as you will see with plenty of pork, hard tack, soft bread, fresh beef, salt horse, potatoes and onions occasionally. No danger of our starving to death just yet, or dying for want of exercise, as building corduroy, doing fatigue duty in camp, guard and drill, occupy our attention most of the time; but as every thing else takes precedence of drill, but very few work at that. I noticed our Orderly on drill the other afternoon in command of all that could be turned out for drill from three ——. He had in all twelve files (27 men) besides file closers. You have probably learned ere this that our Commissioned Officers together with most of the Commissioned Officers in the Regiment, including the Major, were placed under arrest by the Col. last Friday A.M. I do not know what charges are proferred against them, or as any are. So without knowing just what is the matter we trust all will be right in a few days. At all events it will take a smart Lawyer to convince the men that all the Officers have done any thing very bad. In the mean time Orderly Sergeants command the Cos. The weather is pleasant though rather cool, mud not quite as plenty as it has been-but I must close.
A. E. B.
After Bronson was killed at Gettysburg, his eulogy was printed in the local Danbury press. It was contained in the HISTORY OF THE SEVENTEENTH CONNECTICUT VOLUNTEERS OF FAIRFIELD COUNTY – REGIMENT as compiled by William Henry Warren of Company C ,1862-1865, February 1901 – Volume Two, Eighth Edition.
AUGUSTUS E. BRONSON
Born December 27, 1835
Died July 5, 1863
Among those who offered up their lives for the defense of our country on the bloody battle field of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, was Augustus E. Bronson, of Company “C,” 17th Regt. C. V. No truer soldier or more faithful citizen ever went out from our town than A. E. Bronson. Love of gain or honor did not influence him to enter our army, and those who knew him best testify that it was a desire to serve his country and do his duty that induced him to leave his peaceful avocations, gird on his armor and join his companions in the risk and hardships of a life in the army. At the first call for troops for three months service at the commencement of the war, he was one of the first to respond, and as a member of Company “C,” 3rd Regt., C. V. he participated in the first great battle of the war, Bull Run, and was taken prisoner, carried to Richmond, Va., confined a while there and removed to other prisons within the rebellious states, and was finally, after an imprisonment of nine months, exchanged and he returned to his native state.
When Captain James E. Moore, his former loved commander, on July 22nd, 1862, started a new company for three years of the war, Bronson, in company with his brother, enlisted under him and went out as 3rd Sergt. of Company “C,” 17th Regt. C. V. His frequent letters published from time to time in the Jeffersonian, have faithfully recorded the events that have transpired in the Regiment, and our readers will miss his interesting letters. We have lost a valued correspondent; he fell bravely fighting at Gettysburg, Penna., July 1st-shot in the head, and died on the following Sunday. His brother-in-law, Mr. Truman Judd, started last week after the remains, which arrived here last Friday morning and were escorted by a few friends to his father’s residence in Starr’s Plain. At two o’clock the same day a large procession followed the remains to the church, where the funeral discourse was preached by Rev. Mark E. Rude of Georgetown. Elder A. N. Gilbert of Danbury made the opening prayer and a few closing remarks.
A.E. Bronson was a professor of religion from early boyhood, and ever held in respect everything pertaining to religious things. When last April his state was in danger of placing herself in hostile attitude to the general Government by the election of a man to the Governorship of the State who was not in sympathy with the efforts being made to save the Union, Bronson sent home for publication an appeal that did much to save at least this town from disgrace. That appeal, with its eloquence and burning words is a part of history. It proved the heartfelt earnestness of the writer; it was one of the best and most effective documents published during that ever-to-be remembered campaign.
But he is gone; his body reposes among his native hills. The spot where it lies is sacred and will ever be held in grateful remembrance by his appreciative countrymen. He lived a patriot and died a patriot; his bereaved friends have the sympathy of all true loyalists. In his death his country loses a brave and valiant soldier.