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The Lousey Life of a 10th Vermont Civil War Soldier in Camp

A Civil War regimental band

A Civil War regimental band

Herbert George in the fall of 1863 was eager to leave behind his uniform as a soldier in the 10th Vermont and get into lice-free civilian clothes.

He was one of four musical brothers who enlisted in the 10th Vermont Volunteer Infantry Regiment during the Civil War.

The boys grew up on a farm in Newbury, Vt., with three sisters. Their father, who drank and gambled, wasn’t much of a provider. The boys all left home at a young age, two to farm, two to become telegraph operators.

Charlie and Osman first joined the 10th Vermont in the summer of 1862. Their younger brother Herbert soon followed. Two years later, brother Jere enlisted.

All four brothers joined the regimental band.

In November 1863, the 10th Vermont was on the march in Virginia. Herbert wrote home about life as a Civil War soldier. It was lousy – literally.

Writing from camp near Culpeper, Va., Herbert wrote:

Dear folks at home

Such a splendid day we are having down here to day. I must write home… While we are in camp I feel just as well contented as I ever did at home but when we are on the march and I get awful tired and can't stop to rest I feel a little ugly. Some times we are not allowed to get anything to eat in all day and then have to get up at 4 o'clock in the morning and get our breakfast in the dark. Then is the time when a soldier will curse the rebellion.

But for all this I am glad I am here and that I came when I did for now I am not there to be drafted and then my time is all most half up. I have not heard a word from Osman yet feel very anxious to know where he is. There is no way to find out but to wait patiently for him to write or till something comes to light. Shall hope for the best. I am better than I was. Charles & I are both in pretty good health. I got those gloves you sent last night or night before last I guess it was.

…If I should be lucky enough to get a furlough next winter should want to go home with decent clothes on, don't want to wear any home out of the field for they will be lousey. The ground here is covered with old clothes & lice & no man can keep them off only by picking them off when they bite. If we take off any of our clothing nights we have to hitch them to a steak bandor they will crawl off where we can't find them. We can drive a pair of pants or a shirt any where with a little patience. Some of the largest ones are a little ugly and we have to use a biting machine. Just so with our wormy hard tack. When we fill up our haversacks we have to be careful to put th e string over a stump or something to keep them from running away haversack and all Ahem! What do you think of that? Ha. ha. ha. Well such is the life of a soldier…I've got a horrid pen and guess will stop writing for this time. Do I write often enough? I like to get letters from home & suppose you like to hear from me often. Father where is that promised letter of yours? Please write to me.

With a son's Respect

J. Herbert

With thanks to "Bully for the Band!": The Civil War Letters and Diary of Four Brothers in the 10th Vermont Infantry Band, edited by James A. Davis. You can buy the book from the New England Historical Society. Just click here.

 

 

 

5 comments

  1. Laura A Macaluso

    Poor Culpeper, VA. Great little Commonwealth town–worthy of having its name spelled correctly!

  2. Cathy Dunphy

    Poor Culpeper, VT is worthy of not being confused with Virginia 🙂

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