March to Belle Plains

Any thoughts of setting up camp at Falmouth were quickly put aside when Col. Morris’s Brigade was ordered to march about nine miles farther to a landing and depot on the Potomac River known as Belle Plains. It should have been an easy march, and the first three miles were covered without incident. But as had become all too common, an easy half-day march turned into a slog in lousy weather that lasted a day and a half. The last six miles were plagued with marching and counter-marching, and Sgt. Ben Hirst estimated the actual distance marched at twenty-two miles. Of course, the men blamed Col. Morris for the dual crimes of getting lost and fatiguing his men. And Col. Morris blamed the entire affair on a local guide sympathetic to the Rebel cause.

Sgt. Hirst made no secret of what he thought of his brigade commander, Col. Morris. The colonel didn’t give the usual commands while on the march. According to Hirst Col. Morris would order “Bunch Em Up” or “Straighten Em Out,” so the men started calling the colonel “Old Bunch Em.”

It was raining steadily when the men of the Fourteenth Connecticut finally arrived at Belle Plains late in the afternoon on November 18. Soaking wet wood made the lighting fires impossible, so the men bedded down for the night on the cold, wet ground and tried to get some sleep.

The stated purpose of the excursion to Belle Plains was to guard the landing and supply depot from Rebel attack, but of the three weeks they spent there, most days would be filled with the heavy labor of unloading was material of every kind from the many cargo vessels that tied up at the landing every day.


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