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Charles Fairchild's correspondence, 1861-1862

Date: May 1861 - May 1862 | Identifier: 676.1.a
This folder contains transcripts of letters sent by Charles Fairchild to his mother and sister in Madison, Wisconsin during the Civil War, 1861-1862. Early letters give detailed accounts of camp life, marching, drilling, entertainment, music (Negro melodies, hymns, and individual practice of band members), and dances for commissioned officers (27 May 1861). Also of interest are his accounts of the march from Camp Scott in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Camp McClure in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, and then to Camp Negley at Hagerstown, Maryland, and the celebratory nature and food offerings of citizens along the way (13 June 1861); a description of Major General [Robert] Patterson (18 & 23 June 1861); and a discussion of military rule in Maryland (23 June 1861). While in Washington awaiting appointment to the Navy, Charles wrote letters describing in detail his observations of McClellan's arrangement of the army into Grand Divisions (7 March 1862) and of McClellan's overall command of the six Corp D'Armie. Also of interest are descriptions of the bakery in the basement of the Capitol building,which supplied the army with fresh bread; the work of the superintendent of the Washington arsenal, Col. George D. Ramsey, in organizing and arming the defenses around Washington; use of the French shelter tents made of linen instead of canvas; and vandalism done to grave monuments at the Arlington House (former home of General and Mrs. Robert E. Lee). He also briefly mentions attempts by Generals Fremont and Lane to oust McClellan as commander of the Army of the Potomac (1 April 1862). Fairchild joined the U.S. Navy as assistant paymaster and included in his correspondence are a detailed account of his duties (1 April 1862) and information concerning the gunboat USS Port Royal (8-9 April 1862). His letters in May 1862 discuss his assignment to the steamer USS Mahaska, which was on station in the James River during McClellan's peninsular campaign and after. Other letters written while he was en route to Fortress Monroe describe seasickness (18 May 1862); the steamer (18 May, 5, 16, & 25 December 1862); quarters, mess, the crew and supplies (18 May 1862); a general description of officer life aboard ship (18 May, 7 & 9 June, and 16 December 1862; 18 June 1863); and joining several other ships on the James River, including the Monitor and the Galena. Also noted are descriptions of the attack on Richmond, their new captain, being stuck on a mud bank (23 May 1862), Jamestown from the river (28 May 1862), and a collision with the flagship USS Minnesota in Hampton Roads, Virginia (19 May 1862). There is evidence that the originals of some of these letters are found in the State Historical Society of Wisconsin in the Lucius Fairchild Papers. more...