Private William Little Davis, of the Winston Guards, wrote a long letter home to Louisville, MS, according to independent historian Jess N. McLean.
On Friday, Dec. 19, 1862, Davis was still finishing it, on picket duty in Fredericksburg, “in the house where George Washington spent his youthful days.”
The building, which had belonged to Washington’s parents, was as battered by Union artillery and Yankee looting as the rest of the old colonial town of Fredericksburg. It wasn’t the first American town to be shelled in the war, but bombarded as it was by more than 5,000 Union shot and shell, and then looted by many regiments, its destruction was the most complete to that time.
“No reverence or respect for [the Washington home's] former occupants stayed the hands of the dastardly foe,” Davis wrote. “I heard today that the enemy were building forges to heat shot to burn the rest of the town. How true it may be I can’t say.”
Apparently it was only a rumor. But Davis and other lightly-clad men of the 13th Mississippi had fared pretty well by the Union dead, at least.
“This battle came at a good time,” he continued, “as a great many of our boys have supplied themselves with winter clothing. As the boys say, ‘Old Burnside is Lee’s Quartermaster.’”
That was also true for Private Robert A. Moore, of the 17th Mississippi of Barksdale’s Mississippi Brigade. He was busy dyeing a blue Union overcoat.
“Have been dyeing my greatcoat today,” he wrote in his diary that Friday. “It is now a beautiful black. Looks as nice as if done by an old lady. Souldiers are learning to [accommodate] themselves to the times.”
He felt lucky to have a new coat when the weather grew even colder the next day, Saturday, Dec. 20, 1862:
“The wind has blown very cold from the North & one could barely live for the smoke from burning green juice wood. Cold—cold, indeed. The abolitionists are very quiet.”