Civil War letters at Middlebury College

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Letter from Orlando L. French to Lydia French

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reserve fall into line and "present arms" and the offices in command answers my questions that may be put to him and the sentinels as the grand rounds approach salutes and answers such questions as may be asked and if the sentinel gives evidence that he does not understand his liasions the grand rounds will perhaps attempt to pass the lines generaly at full gallop but if he knows what he is about before we reach the line by ten paces he will give the command "halt" which brings us up standing but sometimes they loose their wits and forget to give the command until after we are all by- then the poor fellow gets a talking to At 12 Midnight we went the rounds again and it [?] only that every one had to halt us at thirty paces and ask who comes there the armies is "friends with the countersign" as "grand rounds" when the order is dismount friends or grand rounds and advance when one of the party generaly an orderlies for that purpose dismounts goes forward and gives the countersign while the rest remains behind until that is given as a sentinel is not to allow more than one to approach him at a time in the night sentinels sometimes fall asleep at this post some of our regiment were found in that condition by the Colonel only a short time since he did not treat them very harshly but punnished them enough so that they will be apt to remember it

Last edit over 1 year ago by LibrarianDiva
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page 9 At 4 in the morning we went round again to see the see that all wsa right to prevent any morning surprise the rest of the time we were back in camp sound asleep so that in my experience in picketing there is nothing unpleasant but on the contrary I have enjoyed it [muchly?] for the novelty of it but I have an idea that the part I took in it is not exactly like shouldering a musket and standing there my allotted time especialy on a cold rainy dark night and I have no curiosity that would lead me in that direction The regiment was relived at ten oclock and we are quietly in camp again It was the expectation that we would be relived Saturday noon but it seems that the relieving divisions could not get here until sometime Sunday and one days rations were sent out to us and as the weather is very pleasant and the fresh pure air is invigorating and we are satisfied to remain Sunday evening April 5th This morning was one of the finest of the far famed "sunny south" the air was warm with a soft gentle breeze just the day for a stroll or to indulge in a day dream of home

Last edit 4 months ago by MaryV
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in fact a model day for any pursuit and after we had breakfasted the Colonel addressed me in the following morning "Frends: are you ripe for an adventure to day?" I made answers and said that I was never in a better mood for any thing of the kind- "well' he says "dare you ride where I dare ride" I respectfuly submitted that it was my firm conviction that wherever he was a mind to ride that there he would find me by his side- "well then we will make a reconaisance in front to day and perhaps we will be able to perform some brilliant feats and get our names into the papers we can get gobbled up I guess if nothing more Having armed ourselves with pistols each of us with one small belt pistol and one large colts Navy in our holsters we mounted our best horses accompanied by one mounted Sergeant with swords left behind as we were not on duty and after having laughingly bid the boys good bye saying that the mext thing they would hear from us would be that we were in Libby prison or some other sweet scented place ^in Secessdom we left them The course taken by us was to go back towards our old camp so far as to get outside of our Salem pickets and leave us outside of the pickets of the grand army and through streams and vallies over hills and racks we winded our

Last edit over 1 year ago by LibrarianDiva
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way over to the Shelbyville pike and we were the most of the time about a mile in front of our pickets and to the Shelbyville pike from where we started about three miles we then followed out this pike as the Colonel knew there was a station of cavalry posted out something like two miles further we soon found them and further on we passed this outpost Beyond this there were only the videtts and just within the lines of the videtts was a large plantation the house with its wealth of negro cabins was only ten rows from the lines but he said to me that there were two very fine ladies over in that house and if I felt inclined we would make a call -I said that I was very fond of young ladies and I thought that an hour passed in their society would do much to remind me of home and that I thought the sight of a goof true union Lady would be good for sore eyes "Ah: but" they they are the wickedest little rebels in the world but as this would promise a [?] interview I expressed a wish to call on them - all right , he says but in the first place I must have you sworn to not reve- never mind Colonel I swear without your saying anything further "well he said "there is one other subject on which you are to have a definite knowledge

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which is that there is no such a personage in existence as Mrs Col Bennett on this subject your knowledge - is to be positive and unqualified I assured him that such would be for this day my absolute knowledge of this matter The house was a half mile from the pike on the left and out of sight from the videtts on the pike and as we rode up to the house I could not but remark of they knew we were there to come down the hill side dash through the videtts surround the house and gobble us up before we could have time to say Jack Robinson - but I retained my own opinions and rode up to the gate where we dismounted leaving our horses in charge of the Sergeant with orders to not tie them but keep them, ready to mount at a moments notice and to keep a good look out with this precaution we applied for admission - The house is a large two story one - commodious + tastefuly built the yard was prettily laid out with evergreens and shrubbery and evidences of womans care + handiwork were visible in the many pots + beds of flowers some of which were in bloom One of the blackest of Africk daughters attended our summons and bade us enter and were shown into a very pleasant sitting room and after the first greeting I [smelt?] a very large sized mill for I discovered that our [sober?] quiet dignified Colonel was on terms of intimacy at this mansion which could only have been obtained by very frequent and welcome visits

Last edit 4 months ago by MaryV
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page 13 The lady of the house was apparantly about thirty years of age while her liege lord + master had seen nearly twice that number and his locks were sprinkled with grey but the lady was fair fat + full of fun We found here also Capt Hutchinson of the the 10th Ohio Cavalry who was in command of the whole picket force - after having presented me to the company as Quarter Master French the conversation flowed smoothly along in which I engaged the old man and the colonel the lady and as there appeared no particular use for the Capt he took the hint and left and then from the [recesses?] of his clothes the col brought forth Sunday newspapers and mysterious looking packages all of which wre duly presented and among the rest was a half pound of yellow snuff which was received with evident marks of pleasure + satisfaction I will here take the occasion to say that the use they make of this article is to eat ot or in their own words to dip to squab and the mildest form is to rub which is performed by placing a small quantity on a tooth brush and them rubbing the teeth with it and the use of this article of commerce in this manner is voted an elegant accomplishment

Last edit 4 months ago by MaryV
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by the aristocracy of this chivalrous land and they indulge in it liberaly One other little thing I noticed that I regard as very indicative among the papers was one copy of the Chicago Times and the avidity with which it was perused and the expressions of delight as they found some copperhead sentiment or slur at the government was sufficient evidence of their opinion of the character of the paper All this time I was wondering where the nice ladies were but I soon found out for presently the Col "well where are my girls" and a respectable looking darky maid was dispatched to request their appearance and after waiting a half hour one of them made her entry and was warmly greeted by the Colonel + presented to Quarter Master French (to whom he made his most profound obeiance) as widow Brown: and I was struck with the resemblance this lady bore to that estimable lady in Illinois that bears my name -it was not only a resemblance but almost an exact copy- but soon the other Lady came in and in the dazling splendor of his countenance and dress poor widow Brown for the time being sank into insignificance but the Beauty was the greater rebel of the two and the Colonel so far outranking me and as she by virtue of some previous understanding claims the honor of exclusively entertaining him I trandfered my attention to the widow

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we were now invited into the parlor a room very comfortably furnished with mahogany mask sofa chairs center table Pianno and what attracted my attention more particularly was a very elegant chandelier suspended in the center of the room - a truly beautiful + costly one also the large cheerful fire place with its brightly polished trappings + ornaments I cannot undertake to report the conversation as it would prolong my story to a length far beyond my present limit for I assure you we talked fast as all restraint was soon removed and they were free + easy social + chatty as one could wish- I afterward learned that this had been the picket ground of our regiment all winter and that the colonel had made this his head quarters and judging from appearances that he had made rapid strides into the affections of the beauty The status of the war was discussed freely and we gave it to them as our firm conviction that they would be forced to sue for peace before another winter - they frankly confessed they were sorry they had rebelled but doubted our ability to whip them They were ladies of good minds and ^of liberal educations but so free + social that in a half hours time you would have supposed us intimate friends and two hours passed rapidly away but I noticed that the colonel was somewhat uneasy for he would make frequent trips to the window and scan with an anxious

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196 glance the direction from which we might expect visitors and a little after noon the col. turned to me in a joking manner + said "French what would you do if the rebels were to jump in here and surround the house demanding our surrender - but before I had time to reply to his question we heard the clatter of feet up the walk into the hall and the parlor door thrown open and - not a rebel but our Sergeant appeared and in an excited manner said "Colonel there is a man out here that wants to see you" Our belt pistols lie on the floor but they were soon [buckeled?] on and out one went but as I passed out I glanced at the ladies to see what effect it might have on them -the widow was several shades paler and the others was visibly excited We found the Capt of the pickets at the gate who said that he had been attacked by about forty rebel cavalry upon the pike and had driven them back but he expected they would not give it up so and as the colonel was the ranking officer wished he would he would go up and see how the matter stood we mounted and was soon at his outpost where his pickets had retreated The colonel and myself by his side went forward to the scene of the attack and found it all clear but the country on both sides of the road was very rough and withal very dryly wooded and a lurking enemy would have all the advantage of being able to witness our approach while under cones himself but nevertheless we went forward nearly a mile farther until --- we arrived at whay is called the "look-out" where the road for three miles was in plain sight but all this time the gallant Capt kept twenty rods in our rear and our Sergeant was with him and the Capt told him that we were very daring in riding on so far that he would not without being supported perhaps we were but I should have ridden there if I had known it was my last ride after having said what I did to the Colonel - in the morning but I did not feel all allon

Last edit 4 months ago by MaryV
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[written upside down] you will of course read the account of my remarkable doings to friend Carpenter and he will have to excuse you from work a week or two while you read it [/written upside down]

page 17 197 but on the contrary I did want to see one rebel and have the satisfaction of discharging my pistols in his direction I am inclined to think however, that I should not have been so well pleased had we met ten instead of one; But the adventure was not to end just here; The first glace after we had arrived at the look out revealed the scamps about a half mile from us down the pike - thirty or forty in number but they were going from us but a glance to our left through the thicket revealed a solitary horseman watching our movements he was not ten rods from us --- ---- and was dismounted but the ground was such that we could not approach him so we sent him the best we had from our colts navy but either we were poor marksmen or the distance was too great he made his escape We remained here a short time but as no new developments were likely to be made and the enemy had left the road about a mile from us we picked out way to our left to an eminence where we could over look the country for miles arround and down at our feet not over a mile from us we discovered a rebel camp of cavalry five hundred strong and saw the squad that had been up to see us enter this camp and turn out their horses - with this we retraced out steps - and rock on to the house to bid adieu to the ladies; when we returned I was the first to enter the

Last edit over 1 year ago by LibrarianDiva
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