‘Laughter, holding both his sides.’... Vocalists we had, each with his special repertory of songs; and we had also a good strong chorus, to support each artist. Nor was anecdotal talent wanting. Talk about forecastle yarns! One should have heard those which were so deftly spun by our camp kitchen fire. ... The year one thousand eight hundred and sixty-four was duly heralded by our comrades who kept watch on the night of the 31st of December, and by the sentries who had the second relief. The rattle of the turning of new leaves awoke the sleepers, who speedily wet their fingers and turned down the last old page. January rolled to eternity, leaving the Army of the Potomac still on the plains of Culpepper County. In February we went on a reconnoissance to Robinson's River in Madison County, seventeen or eighteen miles out on the right flank of our army. We were absent four days, having no remarkable adventure, but bivouacking at the river in a storm of sleet which turned to rain, which soaked boots, harnesses, and tarpaulins. The frost which followed rendered them quite clumsy for use. Gen. Custer drove back a force of cavalry which he encountered beyond Robinson's River. We made the return march in a day, arriving in camp at sundown. The sun shining bright and warm, its heat thawed out and dried our clothing, boots, harnesses, and blankets, and the afternoon march was a pleasant journey. We remember passing through a quaint hamlet, called James City, to the west of Culpepper, C. H., and we remember seeing, as we drew near to Brandy Station, a venerable, hale old man standing on the piazza of his house. Here he stood once upon a time, when there was no considerable number of troops in that vicinity, and being accosted by a Federal cavalry officer, who had never seen him before, and who asked him which way a squadron of Confederate cavalry had gone, he replied: ‘Sir, my name is John Minor Botts, as good a Union man as there is in this country; but I am under ’
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