“The most sickening sight I ever saw”
Camp at Washington
Thursday, November 13th 1862
[letterhead embossed with small shield]
I am well at present and hope these few lines find you all the same. I suppose when you look at the head of this letter it will make you feel bad to think that we have moved. Yes, we have made a march and oh how tired and sore I feel. I will give you an account of the march.
The first thing on Sunday, November the 9th we left Camp Seward at 2 o’clock and marched five miles and then halted for night. We took the Bull Run Road and passed Bailey’s Crossroads . We had two crackers and a cup of coffee for supper. I have often heard of men taking up their bed and walk but we have to carry our bed, our house, and all our furniture and everything else. We got a rubber blanket and [labeled page 2] a shelter tent, our pans, knives, and forks, our clothing and gun and it weights awful heavy on our backs. The order was read before we started that any man who fell out of the ranks on the march would be shot and that sickness would be no excuse for him.
Monday, Nov. 10th. Very cold morning. Roll call at 4 o’clock. Eat breakfast on 2 crackers and a pot of coffee and started on our march again. Marched in all today 13 miles. Passed Fairfax Courthouse and stopped 1½ miles beyond. Encamped on battlefield and eat the same as for breakfast. I laid down on the ground and was so lame, tired and sore I could not sleep.
Tuesday the 11th. Roll call at 4 o’clock. I got up and it seemed as if I could move. I was so sore. This morning we got meat for breakfast. Started for Bull Run. Good many of our men sick this morning. Reached Centreville at ten o’clock. Saw the Rebel Defenses. [labeled page 3] Marched on to Bull Run for night. Marched 13 miles.
After Fletch and me got supper we went up to the Battlefield. It was the most sickening sight I ever saw and I hope to God I never will see again. Our soldiers were never buried here at all. They was throwed on the top of the ground, about a bushel of dirt throwed on top of them. Skulls and bones laid all over the ground. Hands, arms, legs, head and feet stuck out from every grave, and some of our men say they saw men that lay just as they fell in Battle but they was in the woods. There is something very curious in the air down here because the hands and legs I saw was as natural as life, the finger and toenails just the same. We went to bed tonight thinking of the Horrors of Warfare and all its Dangers.
[labeled page 4] Wednesday, Nov. 12th. Roll call at 4 o’clock. Eat breakfast. Warm muggy morning. Looked some like rain. Started on the march at 8 o’clock to the Thoroughfare Gap. Reached Gainesville at 10 o’clock and the order was changed from Thoroughfare to Warrington. Stopped today to rest at Buckland, 15 minutes. The boys, pretty well tired out, halted about 2 miles beyond and pitched our tents for night. Quite a bloody fight in Co A tonight of our Regt.
Thursday Nov. 13th. Very pleasant day. Roll call at a half past 3. Got ready for the march again. Started at 7 o’clock for Warrington. Passed New Baltimore and reached our destination about 11 o’clock where ends our march for the present. Passed today about 50 or 60,000 men and more than twice as much here. The old Fourteenth and [labeled page 5] the 26 and the 57 and all New York Regiments is here close by us. As soon as we got into camp the Utica Boys and Oneida Co. Boys flocked in to us as thick as crows on carrion. They all looked well and felt so except they wanted to go home awful bad. They say they are all bound to go home in the Spring. Tell Sarah I saw her brother and he has got to be a Lieutenant in Co. B, 14 Regt. It seemed almost like going home to see so many here that I knew.
The Rebels is only 13 miles from us here. They have been ahead of us all the way on our march. They are now across the Chickohomany River. Siegel has been shelling them all along until he has got them [labeled page 6] where they are. I have seen lots of Rebel prisoners since we was on the march. They are a nasty dirty looking set of men as I ever saw. Their uniform is grey, ragged and all to pieces. They look very poor. All along the road on our march, nothing but desolation marked our way. I have heard a great deal of the sunny south but I can safely say it is the most miserable looking country that ever was. The houses have all been deserted and burnt to the ground and nothing left but chimneys, hills, and woods to mark our way. There is lots of cannonballs, shells, and implements of war, dead horses, and everything goes to show that all along that there has been fearful strife and struggle for life between Bull run and Gainsville. Directly on each side of the road on a hillside we saw [labeled page 7] nearly a thousand dead horses and about as many graves with hands, heads, and feet protruding out of the ground. I tell you, Clara, it almost made me sick to look at them. The Rebels had possession of the ground and their dead was buried decent. They just shoveled about 2 inches of dirt on our soldiers where they fell. They did not dig any hole at all and the first rain has washed it all off. It was the spot where Col. McQuade was supposed to be killed.
Water is very scarce down here and what there is is not fit to drink. On the march we dipped water out of the road and drank it. The houses what was here was all built of logs and mud and that’s what I call the Chiverlous South. Clara, there is not much use of telling you how I stood the march, you can well [labed page 8] guess. You know how I never could stand it to walk and it has pretty near used me up. It did seem sometimes as if I could not go any further. But I was not my own master and go I must. But there was some who was not able that did fall out and they was used pretty hard. I have made a few drawings on the march which I send to you. Keep them until I come home for I want to use them. I don’t know of anything else to write and I haint got any room.
Clara I don’t know but what we shall see some hard times but oh I hope above all things to see your dear face again. Tell the folks we are after the Rebels at a great rate for a new Regt. We are now at a pretty dangerous spot right amongst the fighting Division, Warren’s Brigade, Syke’s Division, and Hooker’s Corp. [labeled page 9] I am really afraid we shall see some hard fighting. Dear Clara, remember me to all my folks and to my little ones for I love them dearly and should it be my lot not to see you all again, Dear Clara, I will try to be a good and faithful man and hope to meet you in heaven. I am tired and oh how lame but I could not let the time go by without writing to you the first chance I got. I have seen Bill [Morey?] and he is well and looks good. I can hardly write this letter, there is so many coming to shake hands and ask about friends at home. I did not think I knew half so many down here as I have seen today.
We were 5 days on the march and marched about 60 miles in all. Some of the boys fell down on the road as if they were dead [labeled page 10] and are left a good ways behind. If anybody had of told me I could [have] marched so far without giving out I should not of believed him.
Clara, kiss the little ones for me every night and tell them Pa will come by and by, and be a mother to them and a faithful wife to me and dearest Clarinda may God protect and bless you all.
From your Peter ever true and faithful to the last,
Peter L. Dumont
I will write again as soon as I can. I have not received any letter from home now in 10 days. Direct your letters the same as before. The soldiers all say they are bound to go home in the Spring. The officers have most all here sent in their resignation now on account of McClellan.