Winter hits Winchester

Winter began to settle over the Shenandoah Valley where my ancestor Arthur Bull’s 6th New York Heavy Artillery regiment was stationed. In early December 1864, temperatures dropped, snow fell and Union troops hunkered down as the days shortened.

Camp of 2nd Maine Infantry, Camp Jameson (1861-1865). Photo: Library of Congress
Camp of 2nd Maine Infantry, Camp Jameson (1861-1865). In camps like this in the Shenandoah Valley, where my ancestor Arthur Bull was stationed, temperatures dropped and snow fell in Dec. 1864.  Photo: Library of Congress

On 9 Dec. 1864 between 10 and 11 p.m., Pvt. Orson L. Reynolds of 6th NYHA Co. M took out pencil and paper to write his wife while he stood watch.

Well to begin with the fire is burning nicely in our fireplace…and we are warm and comfortable. It has been snowing very fast since dark and the ground is covered to the depth of several inches. This is the first snow we have had here of any amount this season…

There is no talk of our regiment moving at present and I may remain here all winter at least. I hope so as I now have a first rate place although it is storming hard without still…

I am on duty sitting by the fire occasionally looking out to see that all is right…All remains quiet in the Valley.

I find myself wondering about my great, great grandfather’s accommodations. Were they as comfortable as those described by Pvt. Reynolds? Was he also able to sit by a fire while on duty?

Or was he exposed to the brutal cold that Sgt. William Thistleton of 6th NYHA Co. I described in his journal?

December 10th Intensely cold and a severe snow storm last night and some of the men on picket were severely frost bitten snow eight inches deep.

I wonder about the weather because around this time, my great, great grandfather appears to have fallen ill again. In two separate documents in his pension file, Arthur told two different doctors he developed heart and lung disease around 10 Nov. 1864 at Cedar Creek, Va.

Yet he was listed as “present” with his regiment in Nov. and Dec. 1864. Did Arthur soldier on despite his illness as he had in the spring?  If so, the winter conditions may have proved to be too much.

More on this in subsequent posts as Arthur’s saga continues.

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