J. H. C.*, Co. D, 5th Alabama, Before the Battle

16 01 2022

From the Seat of War.

For the Beacon.

Fairfax Court House, Va.,
July 14, 1861.

Col. Harvey – Dear Sir: – Thinking that a letter from the Greensboro Boys would not be uninteresting to the readers of the Beacon, I concluded to write a few lines concerning our whereabouts and what doing. We are near Fairfax Court-House, pleasantly situated, having excellent water, which heretofore has been quite a rarity. We fare finely upon the fattest of mutton, beef, chicken, ducks, &c., which we furnish, of course, ourselves. Our duties are none too severe, though we have plenty to do. Our guard duty is worst of all, especially picket guards, as we have so far to walk, and over very broken and rough roads. Our drills occupy about five hours of the day, but the weather being very pleasant, they are not so fatiguing as they formerly were. We often think of the burning sands of Pensacola, and rejoice that we are so fortunate as to be ordered here.

We have had some pretty rough times since we bid adieu to the sunny clime of Alabama, but we went through them cheerfully, and “nobody’s hurt.” We had one march of seven miles from Manassas Junction to Stone Bridge, better known as Bull’s Run. We remained there only three days, then marched to this place, a distance of twelve miles, which was a very fatiguing march, having to march the whole distance at night. We, however, all got here safely. We did nothing the next day but pitch our tents and sleep. I think the Yankees would have worried us considerably had they attacked us at this time, for I assure you we were nearly broken down. We have been here three weeks, and have encountered no enemy yet, though we know not at what moment we may be attacked. Various rumors are in circulation concerning the advance of the enemy, – some that they are within six miles of us and still advancing, others that they are not less than ten miles from us. Some of our scouts were out yesterday, and found none closer than ten miles. We know very little of what is going on, even in our army; and if we did know, we are not at liberty to make it public. We are certain of one thing, and that is, we intend giving them a warm reception when they do come. I never saw so determined a set of men as we have. Every one is anxious for an encounter with the enemy. We have the most implicit confidence in the courage and good judgement of our officers, as well as in our ability to scatter Old Abe’s band of mercenaries to the four winds of heaven. Our Colonel has no superior in the Southern army, and will lead us on to victory in every encounter. The Greensboro Boys are the life of the Regiment, always in fine spirits, (I don’t mean ardent spirits,) singing and dancing nearly every night. They are now in better spirits than usual, for yesterday was pay day, and we walk about with our hands in our pockets with all the dignity of one who was worth a million dollars and had no poor kin. We had the addition to our Regiment of another fine company of Alabamians from Barbour county, Capt. Blackford. They look the same as all other Alabama Boys, brave and ready to repel the invaders of our sacred soil.

There is not much sickness in camp at this time, the measles have pretty well given out, there not being enough to go all around. – Very few deaths occurred in the Regiment, three since we have been here, and they from the imprudence of considering themselves well too soon after an attack of measles. We have Divine service every Sabbath, which is always well attended, and great interest taken in it. The boys to-day are variously occupied – some collecting in groups discussing the news of the days, others singing, and still others, and by far the majority, pouring forth the contents of a full heart to those loved ones far away – parents, sweet-hearts and friends. We often think of them and wish to see them, but knowing the cause in which we are engaged, we cheerfully submit to the toils and privations of a soldier’s life. We wish them all well, and if it should fall to our to never again to return to the dear ones at home, let them take consolation in knowing that we fell in defence of all we held most dear to us, and died face to face with the enemy.

J. H. C.

(Greensboro) Alabama Beacon, 7/26/1861

Clipping Image

*Likely Pvt. John Henry Cowin, also a diarist.

Roster of 5th Alabama Infantry

John Henry Cowin at Ancestry

John Henry Cowin at Fold3

John Henry Cowin at FindAGrave