From the

Bucktail Rifles


Camp of the 1st Bucktail Rifles

Near Rappahannock

July 30, 1863



The mail has just arrived and with it that welcome visitor, the Gazette of the 16th and 23rd, which reminds me that I have forgot my usual weekly letter.  We have at last been brought to a stand, for what reason I know not, after thirty-four days of the hardest marching ever experienced by the Army of the Potomac, the driving of Lee and his army back to his old line on the Rappahannock, is a sufficient recompense for the sufferings and privations endured by this army during the memorable month of July, 1863.


My last letter was written, I believe, near Percleville, Virginia, since which time as will be seen by the heading of my letter, we have made quite considerable progress towards the much coveted Richmond.  Since then we marched up to Manassas Gap, where we found the “Johnnies” in possession of one end, while our cavalry held the other.  Soon after our arrival, the 3rd corps was placed in line, and moved forward toward the Gap, followed closely by our corps, until both lines, together with the 2nd corps, who were acting I believe as a Reserve, gained a position on the surrounding hills, where we slept for the night.  Next morning our line again made an advance.  Our regiment was deployed as skirmishers, and were compelled to climb a mountain something similar to the one back of the Mansion House at Mauch Chunk, and owing to it being a very hot day it was no easy task I assure you, but the boys took to it, and succeeded in gaining the summit without meeting with the Rebs.  In the meantime the forces below us had advanced through the Gap, driving out the Rebs, who only consisted of one Division, and retreated when our forces advanced.  A few prisoners were captured, but how many I did not learn.  The same day we again took up our march toward Warrenton, without rations, the lads subsisting on one ration of fresh beef, without salt, for forty-eight hours; the country too, was pretty well cleaned out, as that we could not forage and “live on the enemy”, ‘Blenker’s Dutch’ having cleared this region of everything during the memorable Pope campaign.  At last we arrived at Warrenton, where our supply train, with plenty of good, hard tack and pork, sugar and coffee, awaited us.  Never did the army bread taste so good as it did after our 48 hours fasting; in fact, I began to think a fellow can after all find worse fare than that supplied by our worthy old boss, Uncle Sam.


After receiving three days rations, our division, together with Beauforts’s division of cavalry, started for the Rappahannock, near which point we arrived and encamped yesterday.  I do not pretend to know what we are going to do here, but as the engineers are bridging the above named stream, I suppose we are here as a support and guard.  It is rumored in camp, this morning that our cavalry had had a muss with the “Johnnies” at Culpepper, but how true it is I am unable to say. 


Details from all the Pennsylvania Regiments started a few days ago for Harrisburg, to bring on the drafted men, and we soon expect our regiment to be again filled to its maximum number.  Our company needs sixty-one men, whilst the total number needed in the Regiment is about six hundred and fifty.  I think with all the regiments filled, we will be able to give Mr. Lee one of the hardest jobs he ever had on his hands, to hold Richmond.  Of one thing I am positive, Gen. Meade will not dig entrenchments within sight of the rebel capital, and then run from them.  This army is about as ambitious as any of our Western troops, and hence feel anxious to fetch Richmond as they did Vicksburg. 


We were very sorry to learn by last Gazette of the death of our former companion, John Leidy.  We had met him frequently since we are in the army, he having called on us several times.  From members of his company with whom we were acquainted, we learn he was among the braves of the gallant Wisconsin 2nd, never failing to go wherever ordered. 


Our term of service is rapidly drawing to a close, and in nine months more we hope to again be with you, and the rebels to have been conquered.


                                                                        Truly yours





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Jack Sterling

October, 2003