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Havens Letter: March 20 1865

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Creator: Edwin R. Havens
Subjects: Civil War, 1861-1865
Date: March 20, 1865
Format: Image/jpg
Original Format: Document
Collection Number: LC00016 – Havens Family Papers, Box 2, Folder 6
Language: English
Rights Management: Educational use only, no other permissions given. Copyright to this resource is held by Michigan State University and is provided here for educational purposes only. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without written permission of the University Archives & Historical Collections, Michigan State University.
Contributing Institution: Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections
Relation: LC00016 – Havens Family Papers, Box 2, Folder 6
Contributor: MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Havens Letter: March 20 1865, Page: 1

Havens Letter: March 20 1865
Havens Letter: March 20 1865

Bivouac 7th Mich Cav.
White House Va.
March 20th /65

To Our Folks.
In accordance with my
usual custom I today seat myself to
let you know how the world and myself
are getting along. Since my last of Feb 26th
we have been separated from every body and
everything that owned allegiance to Uncle
Sam. You will, doubtless feel some little
interest to know what we have been doing
and I can perhaps. gratify your desire in
no better way than by copying from my
daily chronicle of our proceedings. So to
commence.
Feb. 27th Turn out at 4 A.M.
and commence training down and packing.
and saddling up . preparatory to bidding adieu
to Camp Russell. The brigade is formed in
field adjacent to camp. at 7 A.M. and
in due course of time the bugle sounds
“forward” and we are off up the “Valley”
The day is clear and beautiful but
the ground other than on the hardest
pikes. a perfect sea of mud. Pass the
villages of Middletown, Newtown, Stras
burg, Old Town and Wooodstock and go
into camp two miles from the latter
at dark after marching 35 miles
28th We turn out at 5 A.M. pass through
Edinburgh and [illegible in original] Jackson. lay pontoon
Havens Letter: March 20 1865, Page: 2

Havens Letter: March 20 1865
Havens Letter: March 20 1865

2

over Shenandoah river and camp at 10 P M
about 3 miles from Harrisburg. Passed
through new marker after dark which appears
to be quite a large town for Va Day cool and
road good. March 1st Turn out at 4 A.M.
morning cloudy and cool. not very encour
aging. Yet with a good breakfast and a belly
full for the horses. do not feel like grumbling
Pass. Harrisonburgh a pleasant little
village and hear a little shooting ahead and
soon pass a carriage. [an?] army wagon and
ambulances horses gone harness cut. and contents
spilled over the ground. Pretty soon pass
ten or 15 prisoners, one or two have their
heads tied up; more wagons. Mt Crawford
a small village dismounted, wagons in street
Mt. Sydney another small village where
a little woman displays an engraving
of the Union Volunteer boys give her cheers
more wagons. cross a small stream 4
or 5 miles from Staunton, where command
goes into camp. Our regiment. goes on picket
Releived about 10 P.M. and join brigade
which has been ordered to take Staunton
Do it in fine style. Somebody fires one
shot. take one prisoner and we [occupy?]
the town. It is now midnight but yet we do
not stop. but continuing on march over roads
such as Michigan never saw we proceed 5
miles in the direction of Waynesboro, burn
R R bridge and countermarch. reach Staun
ton and form in a field near the town at
daylight and just as the advance of the
column comes up. After marching 40 miles
without feeding. Just as we form in
field the clouds break and we are “blessed”
Havens Letter: March 20 1865, Page: 3

Havens Letter: March 20 1865
Havens Letter: March 20 1865

3

with a shower. It comes down steadily and
none too gently. and the soil (an old corn
field last year) soon becomes about the
consistency of mush and something
less than a few feet deep. Tear down fences
and build fires. make coffee fry ham and
bake pancakes. by standing over the fire
to keep rain off. After breakfast sit down
on [rail?] pull my cape over my head smoke
a pipe and go to sleep. When I wake up
find my overcoat has accumulated weight
very rapidly. Disconsolate looking crowd around
me yet all try to smile. Feel as though a
smile would do no harm: take a smoke
Custer, meanwhile, has passed by and marching
to Waynesboro meets Early and his cannons
are booming forth their fearful notes as we
mount and moving into the road move out
to support him. Roads are so muddy that we
can not overtake him and we camp. about dark
three miles from Waynesboro. near a small
station on R.R. called Fishersville. Eat supper
and to bed and to sleep feeling rather
tired but wake up to “listen to the patter
of the soft rain overhead” not however on
the shingles of the roof of some pleasant
cottage but upon the rubber blanket which
covers us. after laying a short time the side
nearest the ground feels queer. so make an
investigation and find that a small
river is flowing beneath us. Soon Revellie
sounds and we crawl out and get break
fast. saddle up and get into line. 1st
Sergts are called and an official
report from Custer is read announcing
the results of yesterdays fighting
Havens Letter: March 20 1865, Page: 4

Havens Letter: March 20 1865
Havens Letter: March 20 1865

it reads 1175 enlisted men 87 officers
11 pieces of artillery. 13 battle flags 120 wagons
and one train of cars. We give it to the men
and as the column moves off the air
rings with cheers for Custer. This is
March 3d We marched ten miles the day
before and now continue the route
that Custer followed. The rain still
continues and we wallow through mud
in which our horses sink almost to their
bellies at every step. Some are grumbling. and
indeed it is anything but pleasant. yet
hoping that Uncle Abe will allow us
credit for this in our account with
him and knowing that “it is all in
three years” we move on Reach Waynes
boro: see 3 or four dead Johnnies part of the
captured artillery. prisoners and wagons.
After passing town we pull up and form
brigade by road side to let column close up.
While waiting hear a few shots fired and
four or five men come dashing out of woods
by roadside no one follows them and all is quiet
once more. some dismounted men go to a house
to fill canteens and one is behind the rest.
On his way back he meets a mounted man in
blue. who stops to talk awhile then demands
his arms which are given up and he is
driven away towards the woods. Soon he
determines to escape and darts away
his captor firing 3 or 4 shots at him and
finding himselfe pursued flees to woods and
escapes. Bold trick. Move on again. cross
Blue Ridge via Rockfish Gap. Custer being
the first of our army who had even
s
crossed there and his, the first Union^
Havens Letter: March 20 1865, Page: 5

Havens Letter: March 20 1865
Havens Letter: March 20 1865

5
soldiers ever seen by the inhabitants
About half way up the mountain side
we meet an old man with hair white
as snow. who takes off his hat to the
“Old Flag” and as the boys’ request gives
three cheers. for “Old Abe” with all his
strength. Wagons are strewn along the road
to the top and down the other side of the moun
tain at the foot of which we find Afton
station where the train of cars and 5 pieces
artillery were captured. We continue on
towards Charlottesville. finding indication
of the route of Early’s forces at every step
a short distance from Afton pass Early’s
damage. a magnificant coach and al
most unhurt. At a small station on
Mitchum river find warehouses burned
also bridge over river. which we ford at
night fall and marching till ten O.
clock go into camp. It has rained nearly
all day and still continues so we put up
tent and think we’ll sleep dry. Have
marched 20 miles.
March 4th Wake up a short time before revellie
and find about 3 inches of water under me
blankets wet. clothes ditto. Crawl out. build
a fire. get breakfast and saddle up. Feel same
as Jonah did when he swallowed the whale
After breakfast. smoke. sun rises and clouds
break away. feel better. move out and
find my horse very lame. March about
a mile then stop to wait for wagons to
come up. mud every where without bottom
where we halt change for extra horse and
find mnyself all right. Train comes up
and we move into Charlottesville when
we go into camp. Day proves beautiful
Havens Letter: March 20 1865, Page: 6

Havens Letter: March 20 1865
Havens Letter: March 20 1865

6
At Charlottesvile we find the University
of Va and school of Cadets. the most extensive
and beautiful building of the kind I ever
saw. Foragers bring in flour. ham. eggs. butter
and currant wine. Have good dinner con
sisting of pancakes. and molasses. ham eggs
and coffee. Custer arrived and passed thru
yesterday with no opposition. marched five
miles today.
March 5th 1st, 6th and 7th ordered out to
destroy R.R. towards Lynchburg. Custer has
destroyed three or four miles and commencing
where he left off. we tear up six or seven
move. Foragers bring in flour, hams, meal. corn.
apples. preserves. molasses and sundry other
things. Sergt Major brings in canned peaches
and he and I take dinner. Middle of P.M.
stop work and return to camp. Wagon
train has come up and 8 days rations of
coffee, sugar and salt are issued. Have’n’t eaten
Hard Tack for two days. Day fair and pleasant
March 6th Turn out at 3:30 A.M. and at day
light move out. Go to Scottsville in James river
when we strike the Canal and burn factory
and ware house and boats. and destroy lock.
thence to Howardsville. and go into camp
at midnight having marched 30 miles
Day beautiful; roads improving.
March 7th Turn out at 5. A.M. and
after saddling up move down to the canal
where we find two boats loaded with flour
ham. bacon.beef. some hospital stores. and
ware houses filled with tobacco. cotton
saddle [illegible in original] and butter. Help ourselves
to everything we want including the
contents of two barrels of Apple Jack, burn
ware houses. and boats and break
Havens Letter: March 20 1865, Page: 7

Havens Letter: March 20 1865
Havens Letter: March 20 1865

7 lock and canal. Then taking the tow
path we marched to New Market and
went into Camp at 7 P.M. Day beautiful
March 8th Turn out at 4 A.M. and
march up the towpath to a small town
fifteen miles below Lynchburg then counter
march and return to New Market and go
into camp. Rains nearly all of the afternoon
and till after we get supper. so. to bed on
three round poles. and although it rains
nearly all night sleep dry. Destroyed every
bridge and lock on canal.
March 9th Turn out at 4 A.M. and
march at daylight take towpath and
march to Scottsville and go into camp
at midnight having marched 25 miles.
Our regt was in advance of wagon train and
was the only one that went into camp. the
roads were very muddy and the train
moved very slowly. besides the advance
being retarded by burning bridges and
locks.
March 10th Turned out at day light
but did not march till noon then took
towpath and marched to Columbia and
went into camp at 3 O’clock in the morning
After cooking supper. we turned in to catch
a few minutes sleep just as day was breaking
in the east.
March 11th We got up about 7 A.M
cooked breakfast. saddled up and moved
about two miles, then went into camp.
sent out foragers. drew 8 days rations of
coffee, sugar and salt. had inspection of
arms. then saddled up again and crossing
the Ravenna river on the Aqueduct of
the canal and went into camp a
mile from Columbia.
Havens Letter: March 20 1865, Page: 8

Havens Letter: March 20 1865
Havens Letter: March 20 1865

8 After going into camp took 9 men
and started to find corn for our horses.
Found a barnfull about 3½ miles from
camp and returned to camp about 9
P.M. and found. a supper of ham eggs
pancakes and molasses all ready for me.
March 12th Turn out at 5 A.M. march
at 8 A.M. in direction of Louisa C H.
and after march.g 25 miles go into camp
six miles from Louisa C.H.. In afternoon I take
15 men and go foraging. A mile from road
find flour, ham, molasses and grain load our
selves and return. Day beautiful. roads good.
March 13th Turn out at 3:30 A.M march
at sunrise. our squadron advance guard
of column. Find my horse about played
out. and dismount. walk about 2 miles
when we reach Tolersville station on Va
Central R.R. where advance captures one
Johnny. and foragers bring in two or
three more. Column comes up and
commences to tear up R.R. track
Our regt ordered to Louisa C.H. 8 miles
distant to burn bridges and perhaps
catch train that went up to Gordonsville
Sunday Follow them 2 miles. can’t
keep up. learn that played out horses
are to be left at Tolersville and return.
[illegible in original] with wagons. and marched to
Frederick’s Hall troops and negroes. ([illegible in original]
whom there are about 1500) tear up track
all the way. Custer burns large tobacco
factory at Frederick’s Hall and continues
tearing up track towards Richmond
Went into camp about 3½ P.M. near
Fredericks Hall regt comes in about
8. Had slight skirmish at Louisa
Havens Letter: March 20 1865, Page: 9

Havens Letter: March 20 1865
Havens Letter: March 20 1865

(9) one man wounded. Day warm and pleasant.
March 14th Reported to regt in the
morning and was ordered to remain
with “played out” squad. Command
moved off towards Richmond while we
remained in camp about two hours
and then followed them. After a march
of 15 miles went into camp 1½ miles
from Beaver Dam station. Part of com
mand and negroes tear up track
nearly all the way. Two brigades of
Custers division and two brigades of Our Div
moved rapidly down R.R toward
Richmond. Day cloudy.
March 15th Soon after daylight we
started out and marched to a few
miles from Hanover Junction. met
command coming back. had been to
Taylorsville 19 miles from Richmond
custer went farther had fight with
Lomax’s Cavalry. captured 2 guns. 2
flags and nearly 200 prisoners with but
little loss. 5th Mich had been sent to burn
a bridge some little distance from main
column had brush and one man
killed. Turned back and marched 8 miles
along R R. then turning towards Fredericks
burg. crossed North Anna river and
went into camp near Chesterfield
station on Richmond and Fredericks
burg R.R. about midnight. Rained
some during night. but slept dry.
16th No hurry about moving
early. and crossing R.R. at Chesterfiel’d
turned our faces towards White
House. Marched slowly and leisurely
and went into camp near the small
Havens Letter: March 20 1865, Page: 10

Havens Letter: March 20 1865
Havens Letter: March 20 1865

(10) village of Mango Lick. having made
15 miles before sundown. Rained during
night but slept dry. Brigade camped nearby
March 17th Marched early. and quite
fast. passed Elliott on the Mattaponey
and camped near King William
C.H. about 4 P.M. Received orders
to join regiment and never felt so
happy in my life “almost” Day pleasant
but roads poor. March 24 miles
March 18th Turned out at
4 A M. and after an easy march of 8
miles reach White House Landing at
noon. where we find a brigade of
infantry and one regiment of cavalry.
three gunboats. and several transports
loaded with supplies. and receive grain
for horses. but no rations for ourselves.
for which we are not lacking as we
have plenty of Potatoes. ham. flour. molasses
and coffee and sugar.
There Nell you have the account
of the hardest. longest and most destructive
raid ever made by our cavalry.
The result may be summed up to this
75 miles of canal about the same of R.R.
and provisions without [illegible in original] end destroyed
1600 prisoners. 13 guns. 15 flags. 150 wagons
and one train of cars captured, and
with the smallest loss ever sustained
by so large an expedition in so long
a time. Our loss through the entire
corps will not exceed 50 men in my
opinion. At Waynesboro. Custer had
but one man killed and ten or
twelve wounded. Two men of my
Havens Letter: March 20 1865, Page: 11

Havens Letter: March 20 1865
Havens Letter: March 20 1865

company are missing and have [11
been for three days. They were
doubtless captured while foraging..
We found no supplies of note before
reaching Staunton. where there was
quite a large supply of government
stores which were burned. Staunton
is the terminus of a branch of the Va Central
R.R. and quite a place. It is the seat
of the western Penitentiary. Deaf and Dumb
and Insane Asylum and a High
School. All of which are buildings of
great extent and beauty. both in design
and architecture. The country around
is rich and beautiful and Staunton
was once an important Depot of supplies
and I was much surprised to find it
so poorly defended. The force opposed to
Custer at Waynesboro consisted of 3000
infantry and 6 pieces of artillery. com
manded by Early in person. The battle
did not last out an hour. Custer dis
mounted the greater portion of his
command and made no efforts
to drive them until by a successful
maneuver he had gained their
left flank with three regiments when
making a charge both in front and
flank he scattered them in great
confusion. Early himself only escaping
by the “skin of his teeth” succeeding in
getting aboard a train of cars waiting
for him which immediately steamed
off followed by shells from our
artillery. Custer then sent a part of
his forces through the Gap and succeeded
in intercepting a train at Afton with
5 guns on board.
Havens Letter: March 20 1865, Page: 12

Havens Letter: March 20 1865
Havens Letter: March 20 1865

12) At Waynesboro. or rather Fishersville
one regiment of our brigade (the 25th N.Y.)
was dismounted and sent back with the
prisoners and artillery captured at Waynes
boro. while those guns captured at Afton
were destroyed by bursting them.
The R.R. in passing through Rock
fish [leap?] runs through a long tunnel
said to be three miles long. As we were
the first wild Yanks. ever passing through
this part of the country the citizens exhibited
some interest in us. and being some
what unsophisticated in Yankee tricks
our boys found plenty of everything for
themselves and horses. and we lived on
the top shelf during the whole raid.
The destruction of the canal has inflicted
upon the confederate government an irreparable
loss. Running as it does through as fertile a
part as the state of Va can boast of: it was
a causeway over which an immense
amount of supplies was transported.
and taking it in conjunction with
the destruction of all roads with the excep
tion of the Southside R.R. will greatly
aid in bringing them to terms
They had burned every bridge over
the James to prevent our crossing
that river and we had not pontoons
enough to cross on and I do not think
Sheridan’s object was to cross unless
he could join Stoneman and Busbridge
whom we beleived to advancing towards
Lynchburg from Tennessee. It was
thought that the reason Sheridan
accompanied the expedition which
consisted of two divisions of cavalry
Havens Letter: March 20 1865, Page: 13

Havens Letter: March 20 1865
Havens Letter: March 20 1865

alone. and was also accompanied
by Gen Merritt commanding (13
corps. was to form a junction at
or near Lynchburg. with Stone
man and Busbridge and then
assume command of the com
bined forces.
We could form no
opinion as to the general course of
our march from one day to another
as we did not follow one road
two days at a time scarcely.
We have lost heavily in horses
which were generally rather indiffer
ent in qualities and condition when
we left camp. and the bad roads
hard marches. and poor care
soon wore them out. None of them
suffered from want of food unless
the rider was too lazy to procure
it. but the mud caused scratches
hoof rot and grease heels and a
great many have been left on
the road from these causes. and
a still larger number condemned
since reaching here. My company
started from camp with 28 horses
called serviceable and reached
camp here with 17 horses ten of
which were condemned and
ordered to be turned off over
yesterday leaving me 7 good
horses. The actuall loss in horses
in my company was nearly
twenty horses as several were
picked up after abandoning others
Havens Letter: March 20 1865, Page: 14

Havens Letter: March 20 1865
Havens Letter: March 20 1865

14) Nearly one half the entire command are
dismounted, or have unserviceable horses
It is expected that these will be sent away.
from here on transports to City Point while the
rest of us will go overland after laying here
six or eight days to rest and recruit up.
I am in no wise anxious to lay idle long
at this time and in this place. I know it of
old. and have no very pleasant memories con
nected with it. We lay in a wide open field
and knee deep. and the sun coming down
with all the force of a June day and any
thing more than a blouse is uncomfortable.
Our Camp Equippage was all left behind
and I was just foolish enough to leave
my extra clothes. Stationery and other little
extras in my company desk. and here
I am with the same suite of clothes that
I started from Camp Russell with and
no very fair prospect of getting others very
soon. As this is only a temporary hold
we can not expect to get our baggage
before reaching our base. We are anxious
only for mail and promise ourselves
numerous letters when it arrives. Mail
leaves here at 8 A.M. but I can not send
this by today’s mail. so I may receive
your letters before this leaves me. A few
letters and then I am ready to take the
highway again. We have seen none of our
papers of a later date than March 16th by
which we learn that the prisoners sent
back by from Waynesboro had arrived safely
at Harper’s Ferry. I found a Richmond
paper of the 10th in a house where we
went foraging which contained about as
much news as any I have seen
Havens Letter: March 20 1865, Page: 15

Havens Letter: March 20 1865
Havens Letter: March 20 1865

[15
The most surprising feature in the
whole raid was that we found no force
to oppose us. We started up the Valley confidently
expecting a fight before passing Mt. Jackson.
and a most stubborn fight before gaining
possession of Staunton. but here we are after 20
days in the heart of Va. and I have not
been under fire and have not seen but few
“wild Johnnies” We never moved hurriedly
that is not Sheridan’s style forced marches
he never makes and had Lee felt disposed
to attack us he would have had no difficulty
in finding us. No private property was
destroyed only such as were used for good
purposes. Several mills along the canal
were burned out barns and dwellings
were untouched. Wherever we went the
negroes came flocking to us. and came
all the way many of them walking 150
miles. Scarcely any remained behind.
They seemed to have little idea of where
they were going. but any where to escape from
slavery. Their answer to our question of “Well
you
Sam: where are ^ going.” was. “Dunno; going with
you all” They were of both sexes and all ages
from the very youngest that could be carried to
the old gray headed men and women. Many
of the women carried a small child in their
arms and a larger one on their backs. They
have all been sent away from here on
transports and will soon become inmates
of the Freedman’s Home. at Arlington
[illegible in original]. The infantry found here is a
brigade of the 24th A.C. the same that
went from Chapins Farm to Fredericks
burg and destroyed the tobacco collected
Havens Letter: March 20 1865, Page: 16

Havens Letter: March 20 1865
Havens Letter: March 20 1865

16) there to exchange for [illegible in original]
We received much information concerning
the feeling in the south from captured letters
of which we got a great many. Our Sergt
Major got quite a large mail at Scottsville.
Almost every letter spoke of Lee’s soldiers
deserting in great numbers. A great
many came to us. I remember two brothers
who came to us at Howardsville. one of whom
was conscripted last July and had been at
home sick all winter. the other had been
hiding in the woods for thirteen months
to escape the same fate. A rebel Captain
and his wife came in at Howardsville or
New Market and have been with us ever
since. The weather for the past four or five
days has been dry and warm. although
it seems to be threatening a storm this
morning. Every exertion is being put
forward to refit the command as soon
as possible Blacksmiths are working
day and night to shoe the horses and
we shall probably be leaving these
parts ere long. Cant leave too soon for me
But I have spun this out long enough
and will close. Graham and Alexander
are both well. Alex is dismounted and
Graham has an unserviceable horse.
If any one should enquire after me you
can tell them I’m still alive but too poor
and lazy to write to any one. Write soon
and accept the best wishes of your
Aff. Son and Brother
Edwin R Havens
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