Thursday, Nov. 6, 1862. “Clear and cold,” William H. Hill of the Spartan Band, wrote in his diary. “The baggage that we sent back to Gordonsville arrived back here this morning.”
The baggage also included goods the 13th had left at the Rapidan River and, when they crossed the Potomac into Maryland, more they had sent back to Leesburg.
“We got several blankets and a change of clothing,” Spartan Band Private Albert Wymer Henley recorded, “and were thus able to keep ourselves clean and comfortable.”
On Friday it began snowing “very fast,” Hill wrote. “Very windy.” Saturday dawned “clear and cold. Snow 2 inches deep.”
Later that day Attala Minutemen Private Mike Hubbert, who had begun the war as a rifleman, and then became a musician, was promoted to sergeant and detailed as the regiment’s commissary officer, according to Jess N. McLean.
Monday, Nov. 10, Hill wrote in his diary, continued clear and cold:
“A skirmish occurred 6 miles above here yesterday on the Rappahannock River, particulars unknown.”
Their division commander, Gen. Lafayette McLaws, wrote his wife on the 10th:
“The snow has disappeared from the earth and the weather is clear and cold day and night. The enemy are within ten or twelve miles of us, and there is daily skirmishing with the cavalry of the two armies. Today there was such a determined fire between the artillery of our cavalry or [sic] that of the enemy, that the troops were ordered under arms. But the enemy gave way before us, and were driven six miles. So we are again in camp….
“[His brother] Huguenin is in Richmond attending to blankets & shoes & clothing generally for the division. And I hope confidently he will succeed in getting something. I intend to try and make some shoes out of rawhide for the men, to show them how it can be done. I wish the pair of Navaho shoes was here for a pattern….
“I have heard that my division will be ordered south, but do not believe One word of it—the report has been put forth by some one or many in my Division who desire it should be so. I would prefer going there for one reason & that is to be near my wife & children & for no other.”
Six days later, when it was even more evident that Union troops under Gen. Ambrose Burnside (the cashiered Gen. McClellan’s replacement) were massing on the Rappahannock to the north, McLaws again wrote Emily:
“There is no news of the enemy advancing in our front, although the order has been given for us to be all ready for battle. To have our transportation, ammunition & c & c all ready [,] what it means I do not know. But I have confidence in our cause and in our troops, and in our generals—the north is congregating its hosts to make a final and desperate attempt to conquer us, and in the event of our being overun what a poor despised race we will be….
“Hu has not yet returned from Richmond, but is daily expected—our barefooted and blanketless men are nearly all provided, and we are gradually becoming in a better condition for all contingencies than we have been for a long time.
“It is now raining a fine drizzling cold rain, which I suppose will be snow before morning—my feet are cold and I think of, to bed.”
Excerpts from McLaws’s letters to his wife, Emily, from John C. Oeffinger’s history A Soldier’s General, the Civil War Letters of Major General Lafayette McLaws.