"Peculiarly distinguished among the advance guard, where all were distinguished, must be recorded . . . Private J. W. Brown, of Company F, First Georgia Regiment, who, upon hearing the order to fall back, exclaimed, 'I will give them one more shot before I leave,' and while ramming down his twenty-ninth cartridge fell dead at his post." - General Henry R. Jackson in his report of the Battle of Greenbrier River.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Winter Of Our Discontent

The officers and men quartered in Romney feel forsaken by their commander, General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson.  They are convinced that he has pulled the Stonewall Brigade - his "pets" - back into nice, warm winter quarters in Winchester, while leaving the Army of the Northwest to make out as best they can in the exposed position at Romney.  The discontent comes to a boil as several officers meet to draft a letter to General Loring.  This so-called "Romney Petition" is signed by the various brigade and regimental officers.  As Colonel Ramsey and Lt. Colonel Thompson of the First Georgia are both absent in sickbeds, Major James W. Anderson signs the petition as commanding officer of the First.

JANUARY 25, 1862.

Brigadier-General LORING,
Commanding Army of the Northwest:

GENERAL: The undersigned officers of your command beg leave to present their condition to your consideration as it exists at Romney. It is unnecessary to detail to you,who participated in it all, the service performed by the Army of the Northwest during the last eight months. The unwritten (it will never be truly written) history of that remarkable campaign would show, if truly portrayed, a degree of severity, of hardship, of toil, of exposure and suffering that finds no parallel in the prosecution of the present war, if indeed it is equaled in any war. And the alacrity and good-will with which the men of your command bore all this hardship, exposure, and deprivation would by death and disease, the remainder were about preparing quarters to shield them from the storms of winter in a rigorous climate. Many had prepared comparatively comfortable quarters, when they were called upon to march to Winchester and join the force under General Jackson. This they did about the 1st of December, with the same alacrity which had characterized their former conduct, making a march of some 140 miles at that inclement season of the year.

After reaching Winchester, as expected, was ordered in the direction of the enemy, when all cheerfully obeyed the order, with the confident expectation that so soon as the object of the expedition was attamed they would be marched to some comfortable position, where they could enjoy a short respite and recruit wasted energies for the spring campaign.

The terrible exposure and suffering on this expedition can never be known to those who did not participate in it. When men pass night after night in the coldest period of a cold climate without tents, blankets, or even an ax to cut wood with, and without food twenty-four hours, and with some of the men nearly two days at a time, and attended by toilsome marches, it is not to be thought strange that some regiments which left Winchester with nearly 600 men should now, short as the time has been, report less than 200 men for duty.

Instead of finding, as expected, a little repose during midwinter, we are ordered to remain at this place. Our position at and near Romney is one of the most disagreeable and unfavorable that could well be imagined. We can only get an encampment upon the worst of wet, spouty land, much of which when it rains is naught but one sea of water and a consequent corresponding depth of mud, and this, too, without the advantage of sufficient wood, the men having to drag that indispensable article down from high up on the mountain side.

We are within a few miles of the enemy and of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, which imposes upon our men the continued hardship of very heavy picket duty, which will in a short time tell terribly upon their health and strength. We regard Romney as a place difficult to hold, and of no strategical importance after it is held. Besides, the country around it for some distance has already been by the enemy exhausted of its supplies. Your army could be maintained much more comfortably, and at much less expense, and with every military advantage, at almost any other place.

Another consideration we would endeavor to impress upon your mind: All must be profoundly impressed with the paramount importance of raising an army for the next summer's campaign. When we left Winchester, a very large proportion of your army, with the benefit of a short furlough, would have enlisted for the war, but now, with the present prospect before them, we doubt if one single man would re-enlist. But if they are yet removed to a position where their spirits could be revived, many, we think, will go for the war.

In view of all these considerations and many others that might be presented, we ask that you present the condition of your command to the War Department, and earnestly ask that it may be ordered to some more favorable position.


Colonel, Commanding Fourth Brigade Northwestern Army.

Colonel, Thirty-Seventh Virginia Volunteers.

Major, Commanding Third Arkansas Volunteers.

Major, Commanding First Georgia Regiment.

Captain, Commanding Twenty-Third Virginia Volunteers.

Colonel, Commanding Third Brigade Northwestern Army.

Lieutenant-Colonel, Commanding Forty-Second Virginia Volunteers.

Major, Forty-Second Virginia Volunteers.

Captain, Commanding First Battalion P. A. C. S.

Captain, Commanding Twenty-First Virginia Volunteers.

Colonel, Commanding Forty-Eighth Virginia Volunteers.

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