This letter was written by William Maring (1829-1896) of Co. G, 19th New York Cavalry (“1st Regiment of Dragoons” after 10 September 1863). William enlisted at age 33 as a corporal in August 1862 at Conesus, Livingston county, New York, to serve three years. He remained in the service until 30 June 1865 but was reduced in rank to private before he mustered out with his company at Clouds Mills, Virginia. [military record also under the name “William Manning”]
From this letter we learn the detailed, day-to-day movements of the 1st Regiment of Dragoons from the time they leave Lovettsville, Virginia, on 24 February 1865 — where they had been encamped for a month — until they arrived at White House Landing almost a month later. This same period was described in the regimental history as follows:
“On the 24th of February, 1865, the brigade is again ordered to the field. On the second night out, the 1st New York bivouacs in an open field near Winchester, while a shower of rain drenches to the skin. Usually at night the horses are made fast to a stake driven in the ground; unfortunately at this time the ground was frozen so that the stake could not be driven, and the men were compelled to lie down in front of the horses with the reins attached to the wrist. Some of the soldiers gave vent to their feelings in expressions of discontent, while others preserved a moody silence.
“Sheridan, leaving Winchester with ten thousand cavalry, arrives at Staunton in four days; defeats and captures the remnant of Early’s army at Waynesboro; crosses the Blue Ridge at Rock Fish Gap. The authorities at Charlottesville come oout to meet him with the surrender of the town. Destroying the railroads meeting at that point, he continues his march to the James River. All the locks of the canal are ruined for a distance of seventy miles. Already he has left behind him five thousand horses floundering hopelessly in the mud.
“The long marches by day and night along the James will not be soon forgotten by those who shared them, not the amusing spectacle of negroes flocking to the banks of the river to gaze upon Sheridan and his followers with as much curiosity as was manifested by the aborigines at the Landing of Columbus.
“Sheridan having replaced in part the loss of his animals with mules and farm horses, turns about and destroys the Virginia Central Railroad at Frederick’s Hall to Beaver Dam; burns the bridges at Taylorsville and Hanover; destroys the railroad again at Ashland, and returns to the Army of the Potomac via White House [Landing].”
William was the son of Samuel Maring (1805-1889) and Orpha Bunce (1802-1842). He married Mary Docherty (1836-1912) before the Civil War and their first child was Evelena Elizabeth Maring (1861-1943). After the war, the Maring family settled in Mendon, St. Joseph county, Michigan; then later in Schoolcraft, Kalamazoo county, Michigan.
[Note: This letter was attributed erroneously by a previous owner to Sgt. William Waring of the 94th New York Infantry which was clearly an error.]
White House Landing, Virginia
March 20th 1865
It has been a long time since I have received a letter from you and it has been most four weeks since I have written to you. There has been but two days before today since I wrote to you before but I have been in the saddle. I will write a little about our marching since we broke camp at Lovettsville. We left Lovettsville February 24th and marched to within two or three miles of Harpers Ferry and encamped there that night.
February 25th [we] marched through Harpers Ferry, Charlestown, Berryville, and went into camp about two miles from Winchester.
February 26th we marched through Winchester and went into camp nearby. They issued five days rations to us there.
February 27th, about fifteen thousand cavalry commenced their march south and we passed that day through New Town, Middle Town, Strasburg, and Woodstock and encamped nearby the latter place.
February 28th [we] marched through Edenburgh, New Market, and went into camp about midnight near Harrisonburg.
March 1st [we] marched through Harrisonburg, Mt. Crawford, Birch Mills, Mt. Sidney, and encamped near Staunton. We found some rebs at Mt. Crawford which caused a little fighting but they soon began to run. But they left 2 or three dead behind and we captured about 50 prisoners.
March 2nd. Marched through Staunton, Fisherville, and one division through Waynesboro. They had a little fighting to do and they captured 10 or 1200 prisoners and some art[illery].
March 3d we marched through Waynesboro, Rock Fish Gap, and Brownsville and to within 8 miles of Charlottesville. Our squadron was on picket through the night. I had to leave my horse there.
March 4th. Marched to within one mile of Charlottesville and go into camp.
March 5th, remain in camp.
March 6th, marched through Charlottesville, then to Scottsville on the James River where we halted a little while, then marched to Howardville where we went into camp about midnight.
March 7th, our regiment was ordered out about two o’clock to go up the river to guard a bridge. At night, go to New Market and go into camp.
March 8th, our brigade got orders about noon to march down the river 58 miles to Columbia. We marched the remainder of that day and all night and got to Columbia and went into camp about 8 o’clock on the morning of the 9th of March and stayed in camp the remainder of the day.
March 10th, stay in camp.
March 11th, go to Goochland Court House and back to Columbia — distance about 20 miles.
March 12th, we marched to near Louisa Court House.
March 13th, tore up the railroad and go on picket at night near Frederick Hall.
March 14th, marched to Taylorsville and went into camp for the night there.
March 15th, marched by Anderson Station, crossed the North Anna river and encamped for the night on the road to this place.
March 16th, passed Chesterfield Station.
March 17th and 18th, continued our march until we got to this place. I am dismounted and have been sent away from the regiment. I must close this. Continue to pray for me and may God bless you and Evelena Elizabeth is the prayer of your affectionate husband, — William Maring.