U. S. Marine Barracks
Washington, D. C.
July 14, 1861
Your letter came to hand yesterday. I was very happy to hear from you at this time in particular. Last night, after I passed down the line to receive the reports of the companies, I was met by Capt. Jones, who said to me, “Mr. Hitchcock, prepare to take the field on Monday morning.” So tomorrow morning will see me and five other Lieuts. with 300 Marines, raw recruits in every sense of the term, on our way to Fairfax Court House to take part in a bloody battle which is to take place, it is thought, about Wednesday. This is unexpected to us, and the Marines are not fit to go into the field, for every man of them is raw as you please, not more than a hundred of them have been here over three weeks. We have no camp equipage of any kind, not even tents, and after all this, we are expected to take the brunt of battle. We are to be commanded by Major Reynolds, I suppose. We shall do as well as we can under the circumstances: just think of it, 300 raw men in the field! We shall drill all day and work hard. I have been very busy all day thus far but have taken a little time to write you. I have left my things with Lieut. Wm. H. Parker, and my watch also. He has my address and will take good care of my clothes, watch, etc. By writing to him you can find out about my matters. In case anything happens to me, he will send my things to you, and you can do as you like with them. Lieuts. Baker, Burrough and Parker will be left here at the Barracks, and any of them would be pleased to ive you information in regard to me or my matters. I hope the God of Battles will give me strength and wisdom to act wisely, and do my duty well. I am not prepared to die, but I am prepared to serve my country, and stand by the Stars and Stripes till the last. I am well and in good spirits. May God bless you all, is the wish of your
P. S. My love to all, and best regards to all my friends. I am just informed that we leave tomorrow evening.
Camp near Centreville, Virginia
Head Quarters Battalion Marines
Col. Porter’s Brigade,
July 20th , 1861
We have been in the field nearly a week now and have not had an engagement yet. The enemy has fled before us as we approached their different positions. We expected to have a fight at Fairfax Court House but as we approached their works they fled leaving a great quantity of flour, Ham, Pork, spears, shovels, etc. The works at Fairfax were good and they could have held us in check for a while, but would have been routed after a while by a flank movement. The Confederates made a stand at Bull Run which is between our camp and Centreville an about two miles from us.
A fight took place at Centreville day before yesterday, the result of which we cannot get at, there are so many different reports. We have been at this encampment about 36 hours waiting for Patterson’s and McClellan’s to come up with their columns in order to make a combined attack upon Manassas Junction where the rebels are collected in great force. We shall bring a force of nearly 129,000 men against them: how the battle will terminate I know not. At Centreville the forces engaged were the N.Y. 69th and 12th Regts. The 12th did not stand fire well after a little and went in. They were in a tight spot. They were in an angle in the road which was covered by a masqued battery that opened upon them rather unexpectedly. The killed and wounded amt. to 29, six I think were killed. I do not know when we shall advance, we may take up the line of march today, and may not leave here for a number of days. We are without tents or anything of the kind, still we manage to live very well. I am well. This is rather a rough life after all, in the field as we are without the usual convenience of camp. The 23rd Regulars are next to us commanded by Maj. Stiaso, I think. Just now as I write, four men of the Regt. are receiving 50 lashes for desertion; rather hard I tell you. I shall write as often as I can. I cannot write more today. I was on guard last night and must get rest as to be ready to advance. I hope you are well at home. Much love to you and the family. Give my regards to all that inquire after me.
As every, your aft. son,
[Civil War Times Illustrated, March/April 1992 – courtesy of reader Mike Pellegrini]