Friday, November 2, 2012

November 2, 1862

November 2, 1862: Elisha Franklin Paxton, an officer in the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, writes home to his wife about his visit to his old regiment, musing on how they had all thought, at the beginning, that the war would soon be over:
In my old company I found many familiar faces in those who went with me to Harper’s Ferry last spring a year ago. We then hoped a few months would end the war and we would all be at home again. Sadly we were disappointed. Many of our comrades have gone to their long home, and many more disabled for life. And now when we look to the future we seem, if anything, farther from the end of our troubles than when they began. Many of us are destined yet to share the fate of our dead and wounded comrades, a few perhaps survive the war, enjoy its glorious fruits, and spend what remains of life with those we love. We all hope to be thus blessed; but for my part I feel that my place must be filled and my duty done, if it cost me my life and bring sorrow to the dear wife and little ones who now watch my path with so much anxiety and pray so fervently for my safe deliverance. The sentiment which I try to hold and cherish is God’s will and my duty to be done, whatever the future may have in store for me. I am glad to feel, darling, that although I have been writing to you for nearly eighteen months, and this has been the substitute for our once fond intercourse, I feel when I write now that I miss you none the less than I did when this cruel war first placed the barrier of separation between us. I hope as fondly as ever that the day may soon come when we will live in peace and quiet together. Eight years ago to-day, Love, we began our married life, very happy and full of hope for the future. Thus far it has been made of sunshine and shadow, joy and sorrow, strangely intermingled. The darker shade of life has for a long time predominated; may we not hope for a change of fortune ere long.

—Lieut. Josiah Marshall Favill, a young English volunteer serving in the 57th New York Infantry Reg., records in his journal of their service at the top of Thoroughfare Gap, where the Confederates are trying to probe and break through. In this passage, he reveals how oddly unaccountable are idyllic experiences in the midst of war, including flirtation with the daughters of a nearby family, who are devoted secessionists nevertheless:
The rebel column promptly disappeared under cover of some friendly woods. At five o’clock much to our disgust, we were relieved by the brigade of regulars from Sykes’s division. I remained on the top of the mountain to point out the position of the picket line, and while waiting for the fresh troops to come up, dismounted, and lay down on the sweet, short grass, green as emerald, and enjoyed a charming little reverie entirely alone, without a human being in sight.
We enjoyed life on the mountain top, and were loath to descend, but not being our own masters have to take what is set before us. Headquarters are established in a small house by the road side, just at the base of the mountain. There are two fine young women, who with the entire family sit down with us to eat, our mess furnishing the cooks, and the food, and the house the appointments. The ladies are rebellious, but fond of attention, and so we have a good deal of fun.

—Near Philomont, Virginia, a furious skirmish ensues between cavalry troops under Gen. Pleasanton (U.S.) and Gen. Stuart (C.S.), with Stuart and his riders being beaten into retreat.

—In Wayne County, Missouri, Col. Dewey of the Federal army leads a cavalry raid to round up Rebel guerillas. After a march of 160 miles in eight days, on this date his force returns with 13,guerillas captured.

—The merchant vessel Levi Starbuck is captured by Capt. Semmes and the CSS Alabama, and is burned at sea.

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