Manley Stacey Civil War Letters

From the collection of the Historical Society of Oak Park and River Forest, Illinois

January 11, 1863

Camp Near Centerville
Jan 11th /63

Dear Father

I sent you a long letter yesterday, & now will try another.

Yesterday I was Detailed to go on Camp Guard, everything went well, as could be expected, with a regular Virginia Rain. Our Guard House, is two Tents, with no Floor & a Stove in but one of them. Of all the days & nights that I ever spent, this beats all, It was a regular old Soakin [sic], the Tents, so crowded, that we could not sit down, Sleep nor anything else.

Last night about 10,30, one of the Garibaldi Officers, came in to our Camp & reported to the Officer of the Guard, that 6000 Rebel Cavalry, were Just outside of our Pickets, & were advancing on the Pickets. You may be sure this Caused no little Excitement in our Camp, The Guard all received orders, if they heard any firing, to immediately fire the Signal. The signal is two Guns in Quick succession. Then the Guard was to be rallied, & resit the Attack, as long as possible, or until the Regt could be rallied. the Col gave orders to every Commissioned Officer not to sleep during the night. If it had not been such an unpleasant night, the Col said he would have had the Regt in Line of Battle. Thus we wore the night away, expecting an attack, but was not so favored. The Battery Boys, were nearly frightenened to death at the prospect of a Battle. the QM, had his horses hitched up all night, all ready to move the Supplies. The night passed away with out any trouble. I should not be surprised if we were attacked at any time. Things look like it now.

We are now right in Front, no mistake. At Fairfax Court House 4 miles East of this, there is 80 Pieces of Canon, & a Considerable Infantry Force. If we are attacked & can not hold the Place we shall most likely fall back [there]. It is reported that we are to be paid off between now & the 15th, Hope it is so. I expect we will get Marching Orders this week, for Washington. We are not fixing up here to stay any length of time & it would not be right to stay here over a week.

Enclosed in this I will send Charlie & Rosa a piece of the Manassas Gap RR Bridge, which the rebels built to bring their Supplies to Centerville & they Destroyed it over the River. It is the Bridge I Guarded. I crossed this Bridge went over into the Rebel Lines a little ways but concluded not to stay this time. I expect we shall have to go out & reinforce the Pickets, that would be our Luck.

6 PM. About an hour ago, three Regts of Cavalry came in here & fed. They are bound for [Warton]. So that looks like the fighting being done farther out. Some of our Cavalry Pickets, came in to night & say there is no Danger in the world, There was only a few Scouts out. It was reported here tonight, that 10,000 men were on the way here to defend this place. There is a great many rumors here to day, about our leaving this Camp. I do not know how true it is.

We had Dress Parade this 3 PM, & then a little Drilling in Double Quickly. We Drilled in Firing & then Retreating & loading, then Firing. We had one Drill Charging on a Battery. the Color Sergt & I was the first to mount the works. The Color Sergt, told me to night that he wanted me for the next Color Sergt, to carry the State Banner. He said he would speak to the Col & have me made the next Color Sergt. What do you think of that. You have not told me what you thought of Color Guard. By doing this I would get out of the Co.

You have told me nothing about the Donation, I am very anxious to hear about it. I got a long letter from Philip Clause’s Father, asking me, to do my best to get, his Son a Furlough, He says he thinks I have some Influence with the Capt, & urges me to do all in my power, to get him a Furlough. It is a very Complimentary letter to me. I will send it to you as soon as I answer it.

The Mail does not run very regular so I can not send home very often. I have recd the money all right & will try & not bother, you again, very soon. I want you to take the $40 if we are Paid Off, to pay for what you send me. I guess it will not more than pay you.

We had Prayer this PM, after Dress Parade, It was too cold to have Preaching. The best thing that I have seen in Chap Brown is his going out with us the Sunday night, we expected to have the Fight. there was Six or Eight Regts drawn up in Line of Battle that night, expecting Stuarts Cavalry all in different places.

I heard about [Squire] Millard the other day, from an old man, that lives near here. He says he knows him well & that he has been away Sick for a few weeks past. He lives now 229 North Capitol St Washington. If I ever go to W, I shall call on him.

I think we shall go out on Picket tomorrow night, as Reserves.

I wish you would send me some Emery Cloth, to clean my Gun with, it comes in Sheets & I think you could send it in a letter on Paper. We have to keep our Guns very clean, & have nothing to clean them with. Nothing suits me better than to get Letters from home. I can carry my Knapsack a great deal easier, when I expect to get a Letter from Home.  You will have to take out a considerable for Postage from the $40. I have Just written a Letter to Mr Holt to night.

Write Soon




I can not tell you how glad I would have been, to have went to Church with you to night, instead of staying here in my Tent. I think of home Sunday nights of all times. I think I should be willing to sit up in front.

Where do you think I had better select my 160 Acres of land. I see a great deal of Government Land now & could make a good selection.

I think something is up, as our cook is cooking three days Rations tonight. Will [sic] do not expect to stay here now long.

I am very sorry to hear of Maggies being Sick, poor child & I pity her. I wish I could see her. Kiss her for me. Tell Rosa I like to get her letters, & will write to her soon.

We are very busy now & have been for a week or two past. For instance, the day we came off Picket at 12 PM, at 2 Battallion Drill, Dress Parade at 4, & then the next day at 8 AM, were on Guard & had to be up all day & night. So you see I have but little time to do anything. when I am Color Sergt, I shall not have so much Duty to do.

Jan 12 8 AM. No alarm during the night, everything all right. Beautiful morning, like spring. I am sorry I did not send home for [Havelock], they are nice in a Rain. hoping to hear from you soon

Love to all


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Manley Stacey

born October 29, 1842

died December 26, 1863

Written during the battle of Gettysburg, July 1-3, 1863

"When we camped last, we could see the wounded coming in, those that were able to walk, and the cavalry horses coming in riderless. This showed us that something was going on...I think this will be an awful battle very soon and of course we are in for it...It is a sad sight to see the wounded brought in on stretchers, the poor boys all covered with blood & as pale as death.

"Last night at 4 PM we were ordered to march and form in Line of battle on our left. After a great deal of confusion, we got formed and then we were ordered to advance, right in the face of the rebel guns who were firing their grape and canisters into us by wholesale...After a great deal of marching and counter marching, we were ordered to charge on a rebel battery. We were now right in front of our canons, advancing on their guns, the rebel sharpshooters in our rear picking off our officers. This was an awful time the shells taking the men down by ranks. While we were marching, a man was shot, and the Blood was spilling all over my face, it perfectly Blinded me.

"At 1 PM we were shelled by 100 guns, all concentrated on the force supporting the battery. There we laid behind a stone wall, the shells passing over us and killing the men all around me. Three men were killed and thrown across me, covering me with blood. While we were laying here, a shell struck a stone in the wall and killed a man throwing the man across my legs and the stone striking me in the back & doubling me up.

"We have got about 18 men now in the Company fit for duty and 150 in the Regiment. We went in the fight with over 400, and have yet now 150."

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