The following is an excerpt from the Civil War Diary of Sergeant Sam Bloomer, 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Company B, while the regiment was at Edward’s Ferry. The entries are from the period December 24, 1861 through January 9, 1862. The entries were transcribed by Jeffrey S. Williams from the originals that are located at the Minnesota Historical Society.
Tuesday Dec 24th Last night was an awful cold disagreable and windy night for the guard. Today it was freezing most all day. Had no drill in the forenoon so I went over to the picture gallery and had one more pretty taken to send off. Had a Brigade drill but Gen Gorman was gone to Washington on some official business, so in his absence Col. Tompkins of the NY 2d drilled them very much against thire good will for he run them in double quick all the while. We had no dress parade on some account. We had or rather passed a dull Christmas Eve.
Christmas Wednesday Dec 25 This morning dawned very pleasant and the whole day it was a very dull Christmas to us. Last night our sutler had a lot of goods come with all kinds of marks on them. Some were marked knifes and forks, boot blacking, pepper & c. But our Col smell a rat and had the wagon taken up to the guard house, and this morning had the boxes opened up and lo and behold they contained a lot of choice Whiskey & Brandy which to his surprise were taken up to Poolesville to the hospital department to be used in that institution. During the day 2 or 3 kegs of beer were got and some of the boys began to feel rather light headed. Had no drills, nor even dress parade I suppose the reason was it was Christmas and it dont come but one in a year. I for one wish that we had Christmas every day on the drilling account, not because we had a such good time for it was the dulest Christmas that I ever spent in all my life and I hope I never shall again. Being a soldier is not like being at home on that day. The boys in my mess got a lot of Oysters and good fresh milk and made a good soup of them. But I had to look on and see them go in right down good ernest, as I am no Oyster eater. I could not stand it to look on so I pitched in and eate a lot of bread and Molassas for a substitute of the Oysters “perhaps that is a poor substitute.” Sergeant Binns has received his papers preparatory to his discharge to day and will probably leave for Stillwater in a few days.
Thursday Dec 26th The weather this morning was pleasant but soon the clear blue skies were over cast and like if there was a storm brewing. Our company clerk has been to work on the payroles as the pay day will soon be around again. We had no drills today nor even dress parade on some account unbeknownst to me. Some of our men being at work a short distance from camp, where they could see the Virginia shore. And they state that they saw the Rebels in a very large column marching south. A large force first of infantry then a very long line of Batteries and cavalry & c. This evening quite a large number of battery men belonging to Bakers Brigade who were going to Washington after new guns for they lost the ones they had were lost at the battle of Balls Bluff.
Friday Dec 27th The morning dawned pleasant but the wind blew very hard from the northwest and very cold and disagreeable. We had a very good company drill. We drilled as skirmishers the first one we had for some time and in the afternoon had quite a long Brigade drill but had no dress parade on account of the lateness of the houre. Gen Gorman has returned to camp from Washington whither he has been for a few days on some official business. This evening we received orders to be ready to go on picket tomorrow morning at 9 o’clock and were to stay until Tuesday when we would be mustered in again for two months, it making the 4th mustering or 8 months in the service.
Saturday Dec 28th The [weather] still continues to be fine but cool. This according to orders received last night we got ready for to go on picket. After I was all ready to go Lieut Sinclair came to my tent and told me that the Capt had detailed me to stay in camp and help build his log house. It was very much against my good will to stay but stay I had to. At 9 AM the company started and we went to work taking down the Capt’s tent and dug a foundation. After dinner some of us went after a load of logs. When we were coming back we met a funeral going to the burying place with two soldiers that had departed this life while in thire Countries service. They were members of the Michigan 7th Vol. The regiment had no drills to day But had dress parade at the usual houre. Orders were read that the Monthly Mustering would take place on Tuesday Dec 31st at two o’clock and stating the different Mustering and inspecting officers of the different Brigades and regiments. Some other orders were read but were of no importance.
Sunday Dec 29th The morning was fair but cool during the day the sun shone warm. About 10 AM a battery of 4 guns went down by here to relief that which was down at the ferry, the one that went down has just arrived from Washington. Shortly I with some others went down to the ferry to see the boys. There I saw two of the new guns that shoot 60 shots in a minute. Likewise we we saw a small boat that is being prepared for two guns and to be used for a gunboat on the Potomac. It is to be propelled by 14 oars. Our Capt took some more liquor yesterday some belonging to Col. Tompkins of the 2nd NY. The ditches are dug for the fort or stockade and some of the timbers are hauled. Had dress parade. Orders were read that all guard and pickets any where near a telegraph line should guard the wire and posts and see that nothing happend to it and report to headquarters if it should be broken any where. Last night an alarm was occassioned below the ferry where the Mich. 7th is doing picket duty. Some floating ice made a noise and they thought that a boat was coming across with rebels in it and some of the men up and fired at the supposed enemy “but did not kill any” which roust the whole line of pickets. But every thing quiet the rest of the night “No more rebels floating down the river.”
Monday Dec 30 The morning dawned fair. I worked all day on the Capt’s house. The companies had a drill in the forenoon But no regimental drill. At dress parade orders were read to the affect that every man should be ready for inspection or a general muster tomorrow at 9 o’clock AM and Lieut Hoyt was releast from the Quartermaster department and Adjutant Leach was to take his place. I received one letter from Stillwater this Eve. The Michigan 7th buried 2 more of thire soldiers today. The measles are raging to a considerable extent in thire regiment.
Tuesday Dec 31 the last of 1861 The morning was cold but fair it being mustering day there was cleaning of Brass, Blackening of boots, scouring of guns & c. About 9 o’clock Co E was inspected and immediately started off to releif our company from picket. About 10 AM the whole Brigade marched in review then our regt came to camp, stacked arms on the parade ground and went to thire quarters. Our company came to camp about 12 and were soon ready for inspection. About 2 we were marched on the parade ground, answered to our names and had our arms and knapsacks inspected. Had no dress parade. A flag of truce went across the ferry today at 1 PM with communications from Gen Stone to Gen Hill at Leesburg. Last night two Negroes came across from Virginia in a boat and were taken up to Gen Stone by the 7th Michigan.
Wednesday January 1st 1862 Last night at 12 o’clock all the bands in this vicinity commenced to play. They “4 in number” made considerable noise and kept it up untell daybreak. I finished a letter in the morning then I was detailed as Corpl of the guard. About 10 AM the Balloon was again sun high above the high tree tops. It was let up in the same place that it went up before it remained up about an hour during the day we had considerable fun arresting drunken men. Tied up three to a post set by the guard house for that purpose and bucket gaged one besides quite a number of others were disposed of in the guard house. At dress parade orders were read or rather the transfer of A Davis from Co I to our Co B. The weather was very fine and warm untell about 10 o’clock at night the wind got in a Northwest and blew a perfect gale and cold enough to freeze a person.
Thursday Jan 2d, 1862 The weather this [morning] was very cold and windy and continued to be so all day, I wrote one letter to Eph McCanifie The companies had very short drills during the day on account of the cold wind. Had dress parade an order was read prohibiting all officers from detailling soldiers to act as thire servands or do any kind menial service for them “a good order that was I think” one other order was read that all enlisted men that was found cutting up any ungentlemanly acts with any of the neighbours or inhabitands would be promptly arrested by the nearest guard and would be punished accordingly by order of Gen Stone. About 6 o’clock PM Charles Scheffer from Stillwater arrived here. We were all very glad to see him, he came to arange the soldiers alotments.
Jan 3d 1862 This morning was I think as cold if not the coldest of the season. The company had a short drill this fornoon and in the afternoon we had a long Brigade drill. Gen Gormans lady and Secretary Camerons sister in law and one other lady were present to see us perform likewise Mr. Scheffer. Had no parade on account of the late houre. This evening a lot of mittens came from Stillwater for some of the boys. They were sent by the Ladies arniver social circle. They intirely forgot this child…just as well I suppose. This evening about 8 o’clock it commenced to snow.
Saturday Jan 4th 1862 This has been rather a wintery day in morning. It was snowing but stoped about 9 o’clock AM. The air was very cold. We then went up and allotted some of our pay some allotted $5 and some 10 per month, it varying from 5 to 100. The Capt allotted 30 and the both Lieuts 25 a piece. I allotted 7 ½ or 15 at a payment. Today was the day set for the exchange of prisoners from Leesburg some 3 or 400 in Number but I have not learnd whether the exchange took place or not. It appears that the rebels cant feed our prisoners there for wish to exchange them for those that our men took at Balls Bluff some 30 in number. Had dress parade but no orders were read of any importance. Mr. Scheffer spent part of this with us in our tent.
Jan 5 Co. inspection very early for Scheffer’s benefit. Dress parade. Orders by Gen. Stone to private soldiers inciting insubordination among the negroes.
Jan 6 No drill. Co. B allotted about $500 being more than any other Co. in regt.
Jan 7 Mr. Scheffer left for Kentucky. Capt. Downie goes to Washington with him. Batt. drill a.m. & Co. drill p.m. Dress parade. 3 prisoners returned from Leesburg. They had been wounded at Ball’s Bluff & 2 belonged to 15th Mass & 1 to California Regt.
Jan 8 Potomac frozen over. Last night a steam tug and 3 row boats – capacity 150 men each – arrived at Edwards Ferry from Washington in the canal. Long co. drill a.m. Brigade drill countermanded & Co. drill instead p.m. Dress parade.
Jan 9 Rain last night. Muddy. Police duty a.m.