from The Southbridge Journal, 4 July 1862 (Volume 2 #20), contributed by Mike Branniff
Army Correspondence of the Journal
From the Fifteenth Regiment

15th Massachusetts Regiment
Fair Oaks, June 24th, 1862

Mr. Editor; In looking over the Worcester Transcript of June 14th, we notice a communication dated Newbern N. C., May 23d which we suppose hailed from one of the Massachusetts regiments stationed down there. He gives a specimen of what he had for breakfast, dinner, and supper. The boys of the Potomac army would like to drop in and take lunch with him, once in a while, if he gives a fair sample of the army living down there. Surely relish of green……. with soft bread for dinner……and plenty of…. and warm biscuit with butter for supper is something we hardly dare think of here, yet we think it would satisfy our pallets for a season.

The Government deals liberally with us here, and I do not know if we have a cause to complain; but at the same time, the variety is not so great as would be desirable, therefore I will give a description of our food from day to day, that our friends might compare the above living with ours.

We, as a company, draw from the Commissary Department, three days salt meat, two days fresh beef, one days salt pork or bacon, which we think must be some confiscated property from the manner in which it is cured, not very palatable I must confess. Potatoes we have had three times within two months; hard crackers enough and some to spare, as a general thing; for drink we have coffee and sugar twice a day. The meat is all boiled, as we have stringent orders not to fry it for our use. We are allowed eight quarts of rice, and molasses to eat with it once a week, molasses allotment rather short for the quantity of rice to be eaten with it. Beans once a week. I can assure you that it would be a great treat to us if we could exchange diets with that correspondent at Newbern. We think we would grow fat on such living.

Since our last writing, we have, as a regiment, been very busily employed in the various duties here. The picketing is at times quite exciting. Company I was on the outpost, about half a mile from our camp lines on the 12th and 13th instant, nine of the same being out on the extreme picket post, the rest of the Company being held as a reserve under cover of the woods, and in the morning we were somewhat startled by having the rebels pay us a morning salute by sending a shell within eight feet of the right of our company.

We were situated on an eminence overlooking the large wheat field before us. We were ordered by Captain Joslin to go into a hollow or swamp where there was not so much danger. The shell burst and scattered over the ground we had just left, and our boys on the outpost were placed behind a chimney and a large tree. The shells were pointed into them, and also some round shot. They succeeded in wounding one of our men very slightly in the knee, by a falling brick from the chimney. he was able to do duty in two days. They kept their cannon playing upon us for three hours, and although they came very near us and burst over and around us, they only killed one man of a Minnesota regiment.

We have been somewhat provoked in reading the Pennsylvania and New York daily papers, setting forth claims that rightly belong to us. At the battle of the 31st of May, the Baxter Zouaves claimed the honor of supporting Ricketts U. S. Battery, when they were lying on the ground some twenty five rods in our rear, nearly all the time that the battery was engaged with their forces. Again the correspondent of the New York Herald states that the New York boys were behind the chimney and tree on the 12th and 13th when it was the Massachusetts 15th’s boys that were there. we hope these mistakes will be proved by the official report.

We are called up very often in the night by sharp firing of pickets. On the 21st instant about five o’clock the rebels made an attack on our left on the railroad. Our boys fell back on the reserve, and our battery waited until they got sufficiently near, when they opened their pieces on them, throwing shells and canister in among them, which caused the rebels to beat a hasty retreat, killing a number of them. They have tried our lines in various places, but have been driven back every time. Their pickets kept us on the alert the whole of Saturday night. It would astonish you to see with what alacrity the boys seize their muskets on the first alarm that is given. The gun is thought as much of here as a meal of good victuals. Sunday passed off quietly also Monday forenoon.

We have had very pleasant weather the last four days until Monday afternoon, when we had a severe thunder shower. At six P. M. the rebels the rebels came out in force, and have made no less than four attempts to get to our line, but they have been driven back every time up to eight o’clock, with muskets and shells.

We are constantly receiving deserters through our lines. They tell pitiful stories of their destitution. Even when our boys are driven in from our outposts and obliged to leave some of the wounded, the first thing the enemy do is cut our well filled haversacks, and adopt the same for their own purpose, thereby conclusively showing that they are nearly starved out.

Friend Clem related an incident where a rebel captain waved his pocket handkerchief, and said, “put down your gun and I will put down my sword, and will exchange newspapers, meeting you half way across the field.” When they meet he earnestly asked, “have you anything to eat, as I have not had anything to eat for two days.” Said he, “we live on half rations, and are nearly starved out, anyhow.” He gave him six crackers and he kindly said “thank you, thank you sir, evidently wishing himself within our lines.

Everything was quiet on the Potomac, but it ought to be now everything quiet on the Chickahominy last night, with the exception of a very hard thunder shower during the night. The thunder rolled very loud and was awfully sublime, pealing forth its terrific notes, and the rain fell in torrents. this morning the rebels paid their respects to our pickets but were driven back with the same result as the night before.