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[This unit became known as the 1st West Virginia Light Artillery. Artillery units were divided into batteries instead of companies. Co. B was actually Battery "B." This battery became known as the "Keepers."
N Elvick]

Letter from Lieut. B. F. Thomas of the Va. Vol. Light Artillery

Army of the Potomac, Hancock Station, Va. Mar. 19, '62

Mr. Editor:—
     You and I are quite strangers to each other, but your excellent paper, the Journal, has ever been considered a welcome visitor to me, and many of its readers are my comrades and friends, and I have concluded to drop you a few lines from the "Land of Dixie" that may be of interest to those of my acquaintances who may be readers of the Journal.
     Our company was recruited at Ceredo, Va., during the month of October, and on the 10th of December, we were ordered to Parkersburg, and from thence to Cumberland, Md., at the time of Gen. Lander's retreat from Romney. We were here but a few days until we were ordered forward, comprising a part of the1st Brigade. However, the advance was made slowly, on account of the almost impassable condition of the roads, and the extremely wet weather. Still our brave and heroic Gen. continued to move through almost incredible difficulties, and just as he was on the very verge of showing the nation his valor and skill in managing an army, he was taken from us, and all who knew him confess that in his death, the nation has lost a brave commander. Still we are willing ever to submit to the wisdom of Providence, who rules the destinies of nations for the greatest good.
     A part of our company are here stationed on the B&O R.R. for a time, while one section with two pieces of artillery are in the advance at Winchester, and we expect to soon join them. The soldiers out here are all anxious to make a demonstration of their fighting properties, and while our valiant troops are achieving victories in the West, we now feel sure that we will soon show to the country that we have the commander in the East to lead us, and we feel confident that we are the men. Quite a number of our company are from old Gallia, and if we get to fight, we do not intend to disgrace our friends at home, but show them that we are not only willing to fight for our country, but also die for it if necessary.
     Lieut. B. F. Thomas,
     Co. B Va. Vol. Light Artillery

The Gallipolis Journal
April 3, 1862

Camp Lewis, near Winchester, Va., April 7th, 1862

Mr. Editor:
     A few lines from the "Land of Dixie" may be of interest to your many readers, and as I have leisure time I will attempt to scribble a few lines for their perusal. You will recollect in my last, we were on the B & O R.R. near Martinsburg. We were ordered up here during the first of March, and one section of our battery participated in the last battle fought near this place. I will not attempt to give any description of the battle, for I am not an army correspondent, and therefore it is not my business to write accounts of battles; but I will try to give some news that may interest those who have friends in this division of the army, and especially in our company. I have been over the field of action since the fight, and have seen the effects of war. During the time of action the soldier has but little opportunity to behold the frightful spectacle of a battle field.—His mind at a time like that is engaged in the discharge of his duties, and not until the army is moved from the scene of carnage, can one fully behold the terrors of war. On examination of the ground since the battle, it is perfectly astonishing to witness the effects of the balls among the timber. The centre of the line of battle was in a narrow strip of woods, principally of small growth, and here was the most severe part of the engagement. Bushes two and three inches in diameter were literally cut to pieces with the balls from the infantry, while here and there trees of larger size were slivered to pieces by the cannon balls, showing the destructive effect they had upon the rebels. But this is a small consideration; the soldier can well look upon such a sight as this, without shrinking, but to behold his fellow comrades, those with whom he has camped, drilled, marched and fought, lying weltering in their blood on the hotly contested field, makes the heart of the most daring sicken.—As I beheld this sight, I could, for once with truth say, it is not pleasant to be a soldier, no matter how good the cause. Still we are fighting for something better than life, something dearer than existence itself, and though we may fall in defence of those principles for which we struggle, posterity will bless our memories, and unborn generations will laud us for our valor. Give to my posterity the Union and the Constitution, if it cost me my LIFE. Fortunately, as I looked over the battle ground I beheld none that I knew, and though many brave soldiers fell, I am thankful to God, that none of the boys of our company were harmed. Our loss in killed and wounded, according to the best account, is near 400; the rebel loss about twice that number.
     I would state, for the benefit of the friends of the volunteers in our company, that the boys are all in fine spirits, and anxious to again show the rebels that one "Yankee" is at least equal to one of the soldiers of the chivalrous South. More anon.
     B. F. Thomas,
     Lt. Co. B, Light Artillery O.V.

The Gallipolis Journal
April 24th, 1862

[At the time the following letter was written the WV 1st Light Artillery had recently been participating in the defense of Washington DC but now had just returned to Cheat Mountain Division in what is today Randolph County, West Virginia. N. Elvick]

Camp at Buckhannon, Va., Oct. 29th, 1862

     Since we left the quiet town of Gallipolis a few weeks ago, nothing of much interest has occurred; however, we have been kept moving, and this morning finds us turning up out here near Cheat Mountain, prepared for another winter campaign. The country is tolerably good here, and does not present that devastating appearance so common in Eastern Va., where we have heretofore soldiered—still you can easily discern the effects of war. The most important thing that has occurred is the issuing of General Order No. 28, by Brigadier-Gen. Milroy, in regard to negroes—a copy of which I will transmit to you. The order was very badly needed and is just right.
     More anon.
     B. F. Thomas, Co. B, Va. Artil'ry

Headquarters Cheat Mountain Division. Clarksburg Va., Oct. 22, 1862

     General Orders No. 28. The General commanding has been repeatedly pained to learn that a few bad men in some of the Regiments of his command, are in the habit of abusing, beating, and otherwise maltreating the negro and mulatto servants and teamsters employed by officers and quartermasters in his command. The services of these negroes and mulattos are necessary and cannot be dispensed with, without taking soldiers from their legitimate duties, which would be an injury to the service. These black people are generally quiet and orderly, they were created black and cannot help it, they have mostly been made slaves, and robbed of the proceeds of their own labor, and could not help it; and have left traitor masters in arms against our forces, and are desirous of helping us all they can; and are therefore entitled to our pitty [sic] and commiseration, rather than abuse and contempt; and none but traitors or a coward who would strike a woman and abuse children would wantonly maltreat them. It is suspected that the rebels have hired these bad men to enlist in some of our regiments as spies, and for the purpose of abusing and driving back the contrabands that they (the rebels) may have the benefit of the services of their slaves, and they be deterred from comming [sic] into our lines.
     It is therefore ordered and thereby made the duty of every officer and soldier of this command, to immediately shoot down every soldier or other person, who may be found causelessly abusing, beating or otherwise maltreating any of the negro or mulatto servants, or drivers in or about this command. By order of Brigadier General R. H. Milroy, Henry C. Flesher, Capt. & A.A.A. Gen.

The Gallipolis Journal
November 6, 1862

Transcribed by Eva Swain Hughes

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