WE have just arrived at Washington after a week of very hard work and quite a scarcity of provisions on the way. I am writing in our quarters in the building erected for the Inauguration ball. On Sunday, the day of our departure, we stood in Bond street with our knapsacks about five hours; the march down Broadway was therefore excessively tiresome.
Our ship, R. R. Cuyler, was a sight to behold; she was very filthy, redolent of decayed meat, bilge-water, &c. The men in two or three hours became clamorous for their rations, which, when furnished, were found to consist of two sea biscuits and a chunk of salt pork, and the rations continued so for the remainder of the voyage. Our beds were wooden bunks in the back part of the ship. I patronized my bunk the first night, but on Monday and Tuesday nights I took to the deck. On Wednesday morning we disembarked at Annapolis, and remained there till about half-past four o’clock on Thursday morning, (having been roused at three,) when we started on our march for the junction, without any breakfast and marched till eleven o’clock, making eight or nine miles.
We then had our dinner, consisting of two sea-biscuits and as much water as one could get. We started again in two hours, marching all the time with our muskets and knapsacks, and went nine or ten miles, and stopped in a large open lot, the whole regiment, about one thousand men. At one end of the lot was a large woody marsh. Just as we were about to resume our march at 7 o’clock in the evening, we heard two or three Indian whoops coming from different parts of this march. It had before been reported that we were to be attacked if we continued our march that (Thursday) evening, and this of course strengthened our suspicions. It was now beginning to grow dark, and we were formed in hollow square to resist any attack that might be made.
About nine o’clock skirmishers were sent forward, and a short time afterwards the main body again started. We had eight or nine miles to go before reaching the railroad for Washington. I forgot to say that the reason we were obliged to walk was, that the railroad track had been torn up. (It is now clear all the way through, and in possession of the Government.) My feelings were none of the pleasantest as we defiled past the thick bushes and trees on each side of the road, and in the dark; the men were silent, all expecting at any moment to hear the muskets of lurking enemies on either side of us, but there was no flinching. In this way we marched three or four miles, stopping every few minutes to listen for the bugle of our skirmishers; it took about four hours for those miles. We then came upon the camp of the Rhode Island regiment, under the lead of Gov. Sprague, and a fine noble set of men they are, generous as possible.
On hearing from us that we were lacking in rations, every man of them opened his ration bag and gave us as much as we could carry. We left their encampment and kept on our way on the railroad track, and arrived at the Junction at four o’clock on the morning of Friday, after having marched continually for twenty four hours, and walked twenty eight miles. That's what I call a forced march for one thousand men. When we left the camp of the Rhode Islanders where they begged us to stay all night, and furnished us coffee and bread, we were induced to march on the rest of the way to the Junction by the expectation that we should there receive coffee and biscuit, and have a nice shelter for the night. When we reached there nothing of the kind was to be found; there was not a particle of any thing to be had in the place until about nine o’clock in the morning, and then it was as much as a man's life was worth to attempt to get what there was. Imagine a thousand men in such a place, with no certainty when they could get off, there being only one engine on the road – you can conceive the state of things! We were all indignant that no better provision had been made for us by the Government, but there are many apologies for the neglect, and those who come after us will have no such suffering.
About seven o’clock Friday evening the cars from Washington came for us; the whole regiment had entered them, and were patiently waiting to be off, when we were all ordered out again and marched back to the field we came from, an eighth of a mile from the cars. There we were drawn up in martial order with two other regiments that had arrived, and we expected to camp in the field all night, but at about half-past ten we were ordered back to the cars, and there waited until early this morning, (Saturday,) when we finally started, and arrived at Washington without accident. An expected attack from five thousand men from Baltimore, reported to be coming down with four-field pieces, was the cause of our being ordered out of the cars at the Junction.
I should have said that on the Cuyler the eating was perfectly disgusting – the junk was served out to the men from the hands of the cook. I could not touch it for two days; the third day I became reconciled to it, and now I believe myself capable of eating any thing. The scramble for water was of course terrific, after the salt junk; the water was of the dirtiest kind imaginable, filled with all sorts of specks - but I became accustomed to this also. I do not think that hereafter I shall complain about dirty water, molasses, or any thing else, that may have a few hairs, croton bugs, or any such thing in it.
At the Junction, where there was so little to eat, I determined to find something; accordingly I walked a mile to a little cottage, where I found a negro and his wife supplying some other members of my regiment with bacon, milk, hoecake, &c. I took my sent at the table with the rest, and took a dirty plate, a quarter full of fragments, left by one who had just eaten from it. I asked the negro to clean it; he evidently not understanding the meaning of the word “clean,” filled up the plate just as it was, and I, though not liking to eat what had been left by my predecessor, was too hungry to hesitate long about it.
I am going this afternoon to got cleaned up, having brushed my hair but once and washed my face but three times, and not having had my boots off night or day since I left New York last Sunday.
NAVY-YARD, Sunday, April 28 -10:30 A.M.
At half past three o’clock yesterday afternoon we were ordered to the Navy-Yard. It is considered here a post of honor, and it is said Gen. Scott sent us here because he considered us a very hardy regiment. Our company is now quartered on a steamboat lying off the yard, till our barracks are cleaned and fixed; we shall probably get into them to-morrow.
On all our march from Annapolis we saw only forty or fifty houses, and those most miserable. We met with one Secessionist, who we asked for a pail of water for the thirsting soldiers; he replied, “I won’t give you any water, if I die for it.” We saw no more of that kind; all others whom we saw on that route seemed to be very friendly, waved their handkerchiefs, and did what they could for us; they were all destitute of provisions, the Seventh Regiment having preceded us the day before.
I have just received the most interesting intelligence – we are to have roast beef for dinner.
If my letter is perfectly wandering and disconnected, excuse it, as I am writing in a very inconvenient place, in the midst of such a noise that I can scarcely hear myself speak; small darkies crying out “Shine your boots for half a dime with the Union polish;” and soon others, “Here's the latest news from New York – New York Herald, twenty five cents..
But we are all well, notwithstanding our sufferings, and we are sustained by the conviction that we are actuated by the spirit of a pure and a holy patriotism, and that our course is approved by all the good on earth, and by our Father in Heaven.
C. P. KIRKLAND, Jr.