1864: James Greig to Laura Page

This letter was written by Sgt. James N. Greig (1841-1864) of Co. C, 3rd Vermont Infantry. James was the son of Robert Greig, Jr. (1815-1879) and Helen Arthur (1815-1881) of Dunshalt, Fife, Scotland, where James was born. By 1860, James had emigrated to the United States where he was enumerated in the 1860 US Census at Newbury, Orange county, Vermont in the household of John Renfrew.

From the letter and from James’ military record, we learn that he reenlisted in December 1863 and was made a sergeant. He wrote this letter at Brandy Station after having taken his veteran’s furlough and just before Gen. Grant launched his Overland Campaign in May 1864. Commenting on the anticipated upcoming campaign, Sgt. Greig wrote to his friend, “We have got the strongest army now we ever had & a good many kid glove regiments are being sent from Washington to the front. It does me good to see them lay on the ground & gnaw hard tack. They have played soldier long enough & we will take them down to the Rapidan one of these fine mornings & make them acquainted with Jeff’s grey hounds.”

Unfortunately for James, he would not see the end of the war. He was killed in action on 19 October 1864 at the Battle of Cedar Creek, Virginia.

I believe the letter was written to his friend, Laura Page of Haverhill, New Hampshire, but I can’t be certain of this.

TRANSCRIPTION

Camp at Brandy Station, Va.
April 25th [1864]

Friend Laura,

I take my pen in hand to answer yours of the 17th which I received safe in hand & was glad to hear that you was all well. I should have answered it before now but i have no news worth relating as everything is very still here at present in the shape of warfare. i think the army has turned into a sporting club. They have horse races here everyday & there is some tall racing & heavy betting. Some bets have been as high as one thousand. A little white horse in our corps is the hero so far. There are horses present from all parts of this army so if Edward has got any very fast horses on hand, he had better bring them out. Yesterday two men like to get killed. They were in a buggy wagon & the racers run on to them. It stove the buggy all up & threw the riders and knocking down about ten of the crowd. The day before one of the race horses fell, throwing the rider & killing the horse. That is the way Uncle Sam’s property goes.

Our corps was reviewed by Gen. Grant last week but I did not see the hero as I was on picket. But it suited me just as well as I was having a good time on the line. It was the first time that I have been out this winter & I was on the reserve so I had nothing to do but stroll in the woods. We took three rebels without uniform on & three under it. Three of our men run the line the same night & got away. One of the pickets shot two of his fingers off accidentally.

I went a Maying one day in the woods while on picket. Wild flowers are plenty here now & the peach trees are all in blossom & it looks like spring again. But we have had a wet time of it lately. It rained hard last night but has cleared off today.

I think a move will be made soon but everything is kept very still. I don’t think that things will be made so public as they have been [in the past]. The sutlers have all been ordered out of the army & have gone — a good riddance. But when we make a move, we will come down on them with a yell. I wish you could just be on this hill & look off — it is one sea of canvas as far as you can see. We have got the strongest army now we ever had & a good many kid glove regiments are being sent from Washington to the front. It does me good to see them lay on the ground & gnaw hard tack. They have played soldier long enough & we will take them down to the Rapidan one of these fine mornings & make them acquainted with Jeff’s grey hounds.

I hope they will move before long so we can get some help from these chaps that go home the first of June. they begin to crow rather loud. We call them June bugs & they call us damned fools for re-enlisting. I think they will keep them till date of muster. That is the 16th of July in our regiment. But they can’t see it & we do. If they do keep them till the 16th, we will have a big time out of them & they have blowed us so much I hope they will so we can blow them. There is a chance for a good many of them to die before that time.

I was glad to see Edward’s picture & was sorry that you did not send yours. It does me good to see a home face out here. I have not got mine. The fellow that is being them out. His furlough is up the end of this month. But the little fool has got married since he has been gone & I presume he will forget them. The ones that I was going to have taken at Haverhill, the fellow said that the man was sick. If I do not get ones, I will try him again for that was a good one of Edward’s. Tell Jane when she writes me I will write her & not before. I sent her a silver cross that I would like to hear from. Remember me to Father Page & I will bid you goodbye for the present hoping to hear from you soon.

Yours truly, — James Greig

Greig
Greig’s Re-enlistment Certificate
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