I find no greater joy in Civil War research than to read the remarks of those who were there – to follow their journals and memoirs. So many of these works are extraordinarily well-written, and they often are even humorous.
So I am going to share more of these excerpts in this Enfilading Lines blog over the years to come – especially as it relates to Antietam, and for the next 2.5 years also as it relates to the 150th anniversary timeline of events.
So here is an excerpt from the writing of Frederick Hitchcock, taken from his book “War from the Inside.” Hitchcock was a part of the 132nd PA – a regiment that had their baptism of fire during the attack upon the Bloody Lane at Antietam. The Scranton native writes about the severe weather of this date in 1862. Quite a number of the other regimental histories that I read also mention this day as a particularly uncomfortable one. The Army of the Potomac has now been more than a week in Virginia, is moving toward Warrenton, and eventually toward the next big conflict at Fredericksburg in December.
November 5 found us near Upperville, where we bivouacked alongside and old graveyard, our headquarters being established inside the enclosure, to get the protection of its stone wall from the cold wind that was blowing. The temperature had fallen during the past twenty-four hours, so that is was now decidedly chilly—good for marching, but cold in bivouac. My notes say that I was chilled through until my teeth chattered; that I slept in the hollow made by a sunken grave to get warm; that my dreams were not disturbed by any unsubstantial hobgoblins of the defunct member of an F.F.V. whose remains might have been resting below me. The letters F.F.V. meant much in those war days. They stood for “First Family of Virginia,” an expression much in use by her slave-proud aristocracy, and, of course, much satirized by us of the North.
Hitchcock, in referring to his notes, was doing this about 40 years after the event when he wrote his book of reminiscences – obviously referencing written materials from the time of the War.
By speaking of a “First Family of Virginia” – this meant that they were of the upper class, not that they were necessarily first in sequence of settlers. Perhaps I could illustrate with a theological reference here (after all, I am a pastor, and my doctorate is in the area of theology, not history). It says in Colossians 1:15 about Christ that, “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” This does not mean that Jesus was created, for he existed eternally with the Father; rather it means that he is preeminent over all creation – first in rank and authority, not it sequence. So also with the Virginians – they were those families of wealth and influence. Among those listed as F.F.V. is the family named “Armistead,” and I note that there is an Armistead Family Cemetery near Upperville, VA. Perhaps that is the grave Hitchcock was sleeping upon! And perhaps the cemetery gate and wall here pictured is the one! I found this picture of this Armistead Cemetery online with the caption: “Gate to the cemetery. Entire cemetery is overgrown as of November, 2011.” … by Jen Whiteree