November 1861 - December 1861

On November 4, the Fourth and Fifth Texas Infantries were ordered to pack up their excess baggage and send it back to the Texas Depository Depot at the corner of Main and Seventh Streets in Richmond. Rumours had circulated that the troops were to be sent to the Kanawha Valley in western Virginia, but on November 7 the Texans learned that they were to join the Confederate Army of the Potomac (including the First Texas Infantry) near Dumfries, Virginia.

 

A few days later, the elated men boarded the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac Railroad and traveled to Brooke's Station, a few miles north of Fredericksburg. Here the Texans stayed a few days and experienced for the first time the act of foraging. An 18-man detail led by Lt. J. D. Wade and Chaplain Nicholas Davis of the Fourth Texas procured wagons, corn, and potatoes from three nearby homes. According to Davis, they left behind a bevy of crying women and children. Although a man of the cloth, Davis was known to carry a rifle, a six-shooter, and 100 rounds of ammunition.

 

On the night of November 12, the Fourth and Fifth Texas broke bivouac and began a march for Dumfries, hastened by an urgent request from General Wigfall for assistance in repelling a large Federal force which had supposedly crossed the Potomac and entrenched above the Occoquan River. The march was moonless and muddy, and many troops fell by the wayside. The next day, the exhausted Texans arrived in Dumfries only to learn that Wigfall had sounded a false alarm. This action was immediately followed by another false report of a Federal advance further down the Potomac. Again the Fourth and Fifth Texas scurried north toward the Occoquan to meet the nonexistent threat. Thus the men under Cols. John B. Hood and James J. Archer learned of the panicky nature of their brigade commander. Fortunately, they were not destined to suffer long. On November 16, Wigfall was elected by the Texas Legislature to represent the Lone Star State in the Confederate Senate.

 

On November 17, the Fourth and Fifth Texas went into winter camp and entrenched in the hills overlooking Powell's Run and Neabsco Creek. The Fourth Texans named their site near Powell's Run ``Camp Hood'', which was about a mile from the Fifth Texas's ``Camp Neabsco''. Initially, the men had no tents and suffered from cold, winds, and short rations. The First Texas, under Col. Hugh McLeod, was encamped at nearby Camp Quantico. On November 20, the three Texas regiments were joined by the Eighteenth Georgia Infantry under the command of Col. William T. Wofford. The Georgians set up their Camp Fisher near the Potomac between Powell's Run and Neabsco Creek. Thus were joined the first four regiments of Wigfall's (later Hood's) Texas Brigade.

As 1861 slipped into its final month, the regiments of the Texas Brigade began a routine of patrolling and entrenching along the Potomac, foraging supplies from the local citizens, constructing winter quarters, and keeping themselves entertained. The brigade was responsible for guarding the Virginia-side of the Potomac from Occoquan Creek to Quantico Creek -- a distance of about ten miles. The false alarms of northern invasions continued to be sounded by the jumpy Gen. Wigfall, whose judgment in such instances was often clouded by his fondness for hard cider. Joseph B. Polley of the Fourth Texas wrote that ``Wigfall's imagination was too often quickened by deep potations to be reliable.'' By mid-winter, Cols. Hood and Archer of the Fourth and Fifth Texas began ignoring the long rolls coming from brigade headquarters.

 

The impending harsh winter weather forced the members of the brigade to scour the surrounding countryside for materials from which to build suitable winter quarters. Log cabins became popular, but so did plank structures built with timbers stolen from nearby homesteads, both abandoned and not. A Mr. Dunnington of Dumfries wrote to Confederate authorities on December 16 that when he arrived at his future home, he ``found every plank taken from the stable, the office removed, the kitchen and servant's house all gone but the brick chimneys, the shed portions of the dwelling entirely gone, the window-sash and doors and weather-boarding torn off and carried away, the fencing gone, and what I expected to be my future home a complete wreck... The enemy have not destroyed any man's property so completely.''

 

Because of bad weather, few large-scale drills or formations were held. The troops chiefly employed themselves with cooking, eating, sleeping, picketing, and policing the camp. For amusement, the troops engaged in playing cards, ``news walking'' (spreading news and gossip), visiting relatives and friends in nearby regiments, hunting, visiting the brigade sutler, or attending the ``Lone Star Theater''. The theater was made up of professional and amateur actors, musicians, and singers who organized themselves into brass bands, choirs, and an acting troupe known as ``Hood's Minstrels.'' Despite these distractions, the troops did suffer some hardships. According to Polley, ``The one monotony was the staying in one place -- the grievous lack was feminine society.''