150 Years Ago: Sunday, November 30, 1862

So I am informed on pretty good authority…” writes John F. Reynolds to his sisters in Lancaster, Pennsylvania; he has received word of his promotion to Major General. Though it is not official, he is confident enough to nominate his staff for promotion and also adds two new officers.

General Ambrose E. Burnside & Officers (John F. Reynolds is standing off Burnside’s left shoulder in center of photo)
November 1862 in Warrenton, Virginia
Photography by Alexander Gardner
Source: Library of Congress

Though the promotion is welcome news, Reynolds is more excited about the plates he saw of photos taken at Warrenton by photographer Alexander Gardner. “I was taken in one with Burnside sitting on the stump of a tree, and it was very good. If you can ever get a copy of it do so – I saw only the plates.” He had arrived too late to be photographed with the other generals, but in the picture with Burnside he stood off his left shoulder. He apparently thought the picture showed the qualities that he liked in himself; a proud officer of the 1st Corp. Strong, firm, yet soft and caring. Even though he had photos taken of himself before, the enthusiasm over this photo was a first for him.

It’s been several weeks since his last letter to his fiancee Molly in St. Louis, Missouri; today U.S. Captain James Love writes her a long letter from his camp in Nashville, Tennessee:

It is a rainy Sunday Afternoon, and I must needs improve it! Would you believe it? I have actually been to church this morning, almost the first opportunity I have had in Dixie! It was an epis­copal church with its gorgeous worship windows, & music. I entered into it fully & with feeling even to the responses, but was miserably disappointed in the sermon. It only lasted 10 or 15 minutes & there was literally & truly nothing in it. It treated of the season of Advent, of which this is the first Sunday & explained what was good “Church”? doctrine on that head. Neither did I hear a word of the war. Now when the war is left out in Nashville, now the very center of a great war & all its havoc & devastation, where all the people thereof flew from the presence of both Armies as from a plague – all the Sermon & prayers had better been left out. He might have even prayed for peace & every hated foe he had (the hypocrite) would have prayed with him, but he didn’t even do that, but let him rest. I enjoyed the meeting, & not less so that there was numerous pretty girls there.

Well as I said, it is raining and all nature looks muddy & deso­late. I feel it, for I got wet coming from church, & the rain had put out our fire, so I sat for a while in the Tent the charity of the Doctor has vouchsafed to me – not the care of Uncle Sam – for he now pleads poverty & expects of us hard work in return for few comforts.

Such is our experience. I speak for thousands of officers, the working men of the army not the butterfly grubs, who lay around great cities, devouring the substance of the government & making the very name of an officer at home a stench in the eyes of the people – but I could not stand it & I came to head Qts. where I found newspapers & correspon­dence hold sway, & I joined as you see the majority. It is the first time in three weeks I’ve been here that I could get the time or the quietness to write to you – or any other private matter, so it is the more welcome. I have had such a busy time since my health allowed me to go to work – that my promotion, I fear will not promote it – writing is a sickly position, & when every thing has to be just so as red tape & precision & figures will have it. It is even worse. I have a stove, & hot air inside – while frost & rain & sunshine hold revel outside.

But the day is breaking & ere the New Year – old scores of work will be cleared off & new I hope will not accumulate – if I can help it. Then I can enjoy myself in camp & have a horse on the march. I have already had time for many pleasant round games of Cards, & much literature in the shape of the daily papers in the evening. So much for Hd. Qts. & an open railroad.

I said nature looked gloomy. The leaves have been falling slowly but surely with most the colors of the rainbow, ere & after they fell. Cotton has been picked or burnt & so the seasons travel and tomorrow is the first of December, or the beginning of Winter. Although we have been lay­ing here – our men have been working hard in guard duty & fatigue duties their time is filled up – building fortifications & guarding forage trains while the rest of our Div. has been marching & chasing after guerillas & the advance of the enemy who are still entrenched at Murfreesboro 40 miles off just where we were three months ago. We will soon be fully outfitted for a Southern campaign, & I suppose we must travel as light as the “secesh” if we wish to catch them, so we wont be over burdened with tents or clothing, (on the Wagons) on the contrary it must be on our backs, aye both our house our cooking utensils and our rations, such is life in the Army now. I pity those of weak constitution – even under a southern winter, but I prefer a Southern to a Kansas one myself although we were comfortably fixed there – and as I said I expect now to have a horse, & a servant & the concomitant chances for comfort.

I looked for a letter from you today, but as I was disappointed I revenge myself characteristically.

I hope you are all as well as heart could wish you –  in body & mind. I wish you well through the holidays, & all your fatigues in the soldiers cause or that of their destitute better halves. May they prosper & you achieve a success. I hope Sallie & all the rest are well. I am so sorry that I cant join you. My present position precludes it altogether so I may have to run another year if the exigencies of the war last so long, but there is no use speculating. A fortunate chance might send me on the way tomorrow.

I will send you a Journal that if you change names of Divisions & Regts will give a better account than I can of our movements for Nov.

I will also try and send you a Nashville paper occasionally & now with love & kisses for the present for Christmas & New Years – good night –

I am my dear Molly

Yours Sincerely

James E. Love

It appears to be a quiet day for everyone, including U.S. President Lincoln, who attends a rare religious service with his wife Mary at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington.

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