Beyond the Rapidan

On November 10th, 1863, the men of the Fourteenth Connecticut Volunteer Infantry were near the town of Stevensburg in Culpeper County, Virginia. They were told to encamp and to expect an extended stay. The ground was suitable for supporting a long encampment and the army began to issue rations of that most coveted foodstuff, freshly baked bread, still warm from the huge ovens that were quickly built and fired. So for the second time that autumn, construction of winter quarters began, and the men began to settle in to the easy routine of camp life.

While most states already celebrated Thanksgiving Day, and many on the last Thursday in November, it was not until President Lincoln issued his “Proclamation of Thanksgiving” that it became a national holiday. The army was at rest, settling in for the winter, and the men gathered with great relish whatever edible delicacies they could find for the great day of feasting. It really didn’t get any better for the Civil War soldier. But just imagine how you would feel if having taken your place at the table, you were about to chomp down on a crispy-skinned turkey leg, but before you can enjoy even a single morsel, you’re ordered to drop it, fall in and march off to fight the Rebs.

And that’s exactly what happened. The extended stay lasted sixteen days. On the 26th of November, Thanksgiving Day, of course, the army was ordered out of camp to march against the enemy. The men of the Second Corps, still under the temporary command of Major General Gouverneur Warren, marched south toward the Rapidan. The men of the Fourteenth must have started early, because by ten o’clock in the morning, they had marched eight miles and were crossing the Rapidan River at Germanna Ford.

We can only imagine the coarse grumbling that must have run back and forth through the ranks, for not only did they miss their Thanksgiving dinner, but also the weather turned cold, very cold for late November, and no doubt, the men must have missed their log huts and warm fires even more.

To read how the men of the regiment spent Thanksgiving 1862, read my post of November 23, 2012, and I think you’ll agree, these guys and Thanksgiving were not the best of friends.


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