Excerpt from . . .
What the Private Saw
The Civil War Letters and Diaries
of Oney Foster Sweet
Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26, 1863
Private Oney F. Sweet, a Union soldier in the 1st Pennsylvania Light Artillery, Battery F (Ricketts’ Battery), describes in a letter to his mother how he and his fellow soldiers spent their Thanksgiving Day and the subsequent days of what many of us now take for granted as a festive four-day holiday:
[W]e were aroused up at 3 o'clock [a.m.], cooked breakfast, and marched at daylight. We crossed the Rappidan [in Virginia] about noon. Camped at dark. An awful cold night. That was the way I spent my Thanksgiving.
Nov. 27 marched before daylight. Oh it was a cold morning to get up and stand around a fire. I would like to have been sitting by mother’s stove that morning. We marched on a plank road 3 miles and then we had a turn pike. At about noon we came upon the Johnnies and there was sharp skirmishing. We did not fire any. Our orderly seagt., the one I sent you a photograph of, was wounded in the thigh by a sharp shooter. After dark we went to work and threw up breast works to protect us if we had a fight.
Early next morning the rebels were gone and we advanced in line of battle. I saw several dead rebs and several graves.
At about 8 o'clock we came in sight of the rebs again. They were drawn up in line of battle and we could see them very plain. They had a strong position. We opened on them and they opened on us. Several shells struck near the battery. . . . At near dark we fired several shells at them but they did not fire back.
We expected a big battle would come off next day but at 12 o'clock we was aroused up and marched back. . . . We had to leave all of our blankets behind and we marched around on to the extreme left of the line. At noon we found a plenty of rebs but our skirmishers drove them back.
I did not sleep much that night. I had no blankets and it was awful cold.
More excerpts . . .
What the Private Saw: The Civil War Letters and Diaries of Oney Foster Sweet will be released on April 9, 2015, the 150th anniversary of General Robert E Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House, effectively ending the U.S. Civil War.
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