In 2013, I published the memoir of my great grandfather, Harmon Camburn, based on his days as a Union soldier from 1861-1863. It’s been a true labor of love, and to celebrate his words, the Kindle version is free until November 1. Also, the audio version has just been recorded by Jeffrey A. Hering at Hering Voices, Inc., and will be available on Amazon and iTunes in time for the holidays. Click here to get your free download today.
Here’s an excerpt from 1862:
October 28 – We left Edwards Ferry and moved up the river nine miles to Whites Ford. At this point, the Potomac broadens and shallows so as to be fordable. In mid-channel is a small island. Here we found troops crossing into Virginia. The current was quite rapid and the water was cold and waist deep. The troops preceding us were slow and straggled badly in getting across. Our colonel held us until nearly all those in advance were out of the water when he said, “Now boys, show those fellows how to ford a stream.” Entering the water with a shout, we cleared the stream and were on the high bank ahead of some that were nearly over before we started. The banks on the Virginia side were nearly perpendicular, and the cannon had to be hauled up by ropes. After hauling up those belonging to our brigade, we moved back a short distance and built large fires of rails and dry logs to warm our limbs and dry our clothes.
October 29 – We marched toward Leesburg.
October 31 – We reached the vicinity of Leesburg, a village that nestles at the foot of a high range of hills or a low range of mountains, called the Kittoclan Range, a spur of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Leaving Leesburg to our left, we began a gradual ascent of the hills. Taking a shortcut from one road to another, we passed directly through the grounds of Mr. Swan, the President of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Passing through an arch, the uprights of which were surmounted by large cast-iron eagles, we traversed the deep park and approached the castle-like residence situated half way up the side of a mountain. The building and grounds were very imposing and the view was magnificent. Without halting, we toiled on to a still greater elevation and camped on the summit of one of the lesser hills of the range. Here we found General [George] Stoneman’s cavalry division, the cavalry and our brigade forming a corps of observation, which was to scour these mountain ranges to discover a lurking enemy and gain information that might be of use in future campaigns. Stoneman issued an ironclad order forbidding his soldiers from taking anything from the inhabitants without pay on pain of having their heads shaved, their buttons cut off, and of being branded on the cheek with the letter “T” for thief, and drummed out of the service. Our marches were rapid, and their directions were changed from day to day.
November 1 – Standing upon Faitheys Hill, the highest peak of the range, Leesburg lies at your feet like a toy. To the north, thirty miles away, over in Maryland, the Sugar Loaf Mountain, clothed in green, looms high above the surrounding country. The Potomac, a silver thread, winds its way for miles among the forest-clad hills. Washington, sixty miles away, glitters in the sunlight. The expanse between the river and the Blue Ridge Mountains lays spread out like a panorama, with cultivated fields, beautiful dwellings, and woodlands. To the south, the crest of the range, with it s undulating swells dotted with brown fields of corn, stretches away with its diversified scenery. To the west, the Blue Ridge Mountains, towering, crazy and wild, their lofty peaks and dark glens, veiled a thin haze of blue smoke, completes a picture of grandeur and beauty.
Leaving these beauties of nature, we went on picket near the village of Hamilton on the Winchester Road.
We were now in a country that had never been devastated by an army, and poultry, vegetables, and dairy products were plentiful. Thirteen dollars a month would not buy many of these things; still the soldiers indulged to the full in these luxuries despite Stoneman’s withering order.
November 2 – From my post in the edge of Hamilton village, it was amusing to hear a rooster begin a lusty crow in the early morning and change it to a squawk right in the middle.
At ten o’clock, we took up our march along the western side of the Kittoclan Range. A little skirmish near Snickersville resulted in driving some rebel cavalry through Snickers Gap in the Blue Ridge.
November 3 – Our march led us along the base of Bull Run Mountains, through Mountville and New Lisbon, in the direction of Ashley’s Gap. As we traversed this rough and rugged country, government rations were almost entirely discarded, and we lived off the country.