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266 GEN. SMITA TRANSFERRED TO THE NINTH CORPS.
HEADQUARTERS Sixth CORPS, IN CAMP NEAR
WHITE-OAK CHURCH, Va., Feb. 5, 1863. S To the Officers and Soldiers of the 6th Army Corps :
I relinquish command over you in obedience to orders. Your soldierly qualities make it a high honor to command you, and long months of association with you make me regret the separation.
To my old Division I would say more in memory of our past and longer association. You will not forget that you were in the advance from Fort Monroe to within sight of the spires of Richmond; that in front of the lines near Yorktown, you took and held for days a position within three hundred yards of the enemy; that your valor decided the day at Williamsburg ; that in three consecutive days, the 27th, 28th, and 29th of June last, you met and repulsed the foe; that on the 17th of September you came upon the battle-field to find the enemy advancing upon unsupported artillery, and that, rushing upon their lines, you drove them back in confusion, and saved the right wing at Antietam. With such memorials your future is easily foretold.
W. F: SMITH.
The rainy season had now arrived; all hopes of further active operations were abandoned, and the army went into permanent winter quarters. During the month of Feburary, the Thirty-third, Fortyninth Pennsylvania, and One Hundred and Nineteenth Pennsylvania, were formed into a new Brigade, and placed under the charge of Colonel Taylor, who
established his Headquarters at the “ Lee House,” about one mile and a half from White-Oak Church. The Regiment changed its location to a woody crest on the Lee estate, a third of a mile in the rear of the Colonel's quarters. This was the most delightful camp the Thirty-third had during its two years of service; airy, roomy, healthy, commanding a fine view of the surrounding country, and well supplied with pure water from springs close by. On the summit of the hill, a square clearing was made, company streets laid out, and the soldiers' cabins built in regular order. The officers' quarters were constructed just in the edge of the wood at the head of the various streets. Encamped directly beneath, on the hill side, were the Forty-ninth and One Hundred and Nineteenth Pennsylvania.
The months of Feburary, March, and April, passed very pleasantly. Athletic sports of every description and in-door amusements, beguiled away many hours. A mail was received every evening and distributed at the Chaplain's tent. The New York, Philadelphia and Washington daily papers, together with numerous volumes from the Bernard libraries, and other secession sources, furnished ample reading material.
On becoming weary of the monotony of camp life, many sauntered out to the surrounding forests, fields, and farm-houses, in quest of adventure. Between the encampment and Acquia Creek was a settlement of contrabands, employed by government in wood-chopping. They occupied the huts built by 268
A SETTLEMENT OF CONTRABANDS.
the enemy when in possession of the region, and were apparently very contented with their new mode of life. After the labors of the day were closed, they assembled for a Virginia “ hoe-down," in which the slaves so much delight, or to participate in religious exercises. Most of the older members of the community were of a religious turn, and not unfrequently spent the entire night in devotion. Their leader on such occasions, a wrinkled, osseous specimen, whose crisp hair and callous skin were, if possible, a shade darker than that of his companions, had been the head-cook of his master, and now acted in that capacity. He was never so much at home as when exhorting the brethren, and instead of being embarrassed by the presence of soldiers, then talked and prayed with increased fervor. The writer took down his prayer one evening. He had just risen from his knees when we entered, but loth to lose an opportunity of displaying his talent to the northern white folks,” he again kneeled down and delivered the following with great unction.
Oh, Lord God of dis glorious Universe. Wilt dou look down in de omnipresence of dy eye upon dese dy collard children bowed upon de knucklebone dis night. Take a solemn peep upon us and let a heap of light in. Dou knowest what dese dy poor darkies need. Dere be Sam, dere be Jerry, and dere be Pompey. Dey are in dere sins, dats what I reckon. Help dem to git up, and git from de wilderness of sin, and come in to de clearing of salvation. Take a solemn peep also upon de darkies
in de other cabin, who fiddle and whirl on de bombastic toe, while dy servant fulminates words to dee. May dey rise above the anthratory things of dis world, and fly like massa Linkum's balloom heavenward. Ruler of all humans on dis earth, wilt dou bress de Generals in de field dis night, if it be circumspection in dy eye. Bress de Colonels in de field dis knight, if it be circumspection in dy discreet eye, and also bress de Union soldiers who carry de musket and chew de cartridge, fightin for de Union and de Stars and Stripes. Dey fight in a scientific cause, and be de bestest of men, but good Lord, mey dey swear less and pray more. And finally bress dy humble servant now supplicating dee in behalf of dese benighted darkies. It behoves dee to dig deep, and sound to de very bottom of his heart. May dere be nary blimmage between myself and my Saviour.
In de language of de mighty Washington, dis world is all a fleetin show. To-day we are alive and hoppin around like grass-hoppers, to-morrow the sickle of death cuts us down, and spreads us out like grass in hay time. On every side dou knowest, oh Lord, is de evidences of de general dislocation and distruction of de human family. Dere be fightin among one another, and natural disease. But we die to live again, either as saints or evil spirits. Dere be discushions on doctrines. Elecshion, Beforeordination, Perfection, and sich like, confuse de intellects of both black men and white. But good Lord, dou knowest dat dese are vain allusions, splittin an
dividin dy creatures into sexes without mercy. Whoever will can go to glory. Many dare will be.. with sleek countenances, white collars and fine clothes, who will find de gates shut against dem, while de blind old woman hobbling on crutches, she go straight in, Amen.
The hearty burst of amens which followed from the hearers, indicated that they were no less satisfied with his gifts” than the leader himself, whose serene and placid countenance was turned upon us in a most knowing manner, as much as to say, “any white man beat that?”
Several now joined in singing a “hymn," of which the chorus was—
“ Lord, we are flowin to de fountain,
And it is so sweet;
And so do I.