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[91] amazement rendered the three men dumb for a moment, when the Massachusetts man said, ‘You had better wedge that axe!’

Our junior bugler, by the discharge of his companion, was now our chief musician, and, being quite an enthusiast, in his desire to perfect himself he made the woods ring in these days, with the practice notes of his instrument. It was during this wait at Stafford that we received, each man, a nice, warm, woolen, knit blouse; these were said to have been part of the cargo of a captured blockade runner. They were gratefully appreciated by the boys during the ensuing winter. The date of the New England Thanksgiving passed while we were here. Winter, as it is experienced on the lower Potomac, and in that belt of Virginia in which lies Stafford County, was now upon us: rain, drizzle, damp, moist air, then a freeze; little snow for any length of time upon the ground, but occasional falls, covering the earth and quite rapidly disappearing, leaving the roads in such condition as to render corduroy indispensable to the continuous movement of the trains from the landing.

A cold wave settled over this region in the first days of December, with a steadily low temperature for a week. It was about the 8th of December when we moved to the vicinity of Belle Plain. This is a basin extending inland from the Potomac, surrounded on all sides, except the east, by hills. Its position with reference to the camps, then and during the whole winter, made it a convenient base of quartermaster's supplies. There was a very noticeable rising of the temperature of the air on this afternoon, and during the evening; and on the following morning, the stretch of plain and the hills around and beyond it were white with snow.

The sun shone bright and warm; there was a hum and a bustle in the camps that lay thick at the base and upon the sides of the hills, on the west and south of the plain. Gen. Brooks's headquarters were upon a comparatively high hill to the south of us. We observed in their vicinity several men lugging rails upon their shoulders, evidently for disciplinary exercise. What had they been doing? At another place, several teamsters were standing upon barrels, this also for punishment. But the rogues were disporting themselves in their limited circles as though they did not feel very keenly the disgrace which is thought to attach itself to

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