Alexander Biddle was a member of the prominent Philadelphia Biddle family and was married to Julia Williams Rush, the granddaughter of Dr. Benjamin Rush. Biddle served with the 121st Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, beginning in September 1862. Starting out as a major, he would participate in Fredericksburg and Gettysburg, among other engagements, and would leave the service as a lieutenant colonel. (He was commissioned, but never mustered, as colonel)
Camp at Bristow Station
October 27th 1863 Tuesday
Today has passed without anything occurring to us, the 143rd Reg. was moved last night and we hear of other troops moving. Yesterday there was firing towards Rappahannock Station and we knew the Rebels retreated over the river losing two pieces of artillery. Today there has been firing towards Wolf Run shoals at the head of the Occiquan. We are in readiness to move at a moment’s notice and have tonight as we had the last night the idea that we may move before morning. I do not think anything can be done by the army this fall—they might get up one or two great skirmishes but Meade evidently does not feel himself strong enough to protect Washington and operate in the field besides—the same feeble policy which embarrassed McClellan does the same for him. Experience has made the army more moveable- the Country better understood but nothing substantial has been derived—save that we have not experienced the reverses of Pope. I believe that retiring to Washington to reorganise the fractioned regiments in the defenses there and fortifying the fords would be the best thing we could do—after sending Grant all the full regiments. I think this would back down Lee. In the winter preparation could be made for an early spring campaign on the South bank of the James river in strong force whilst the volunteer spirit would be in some measure revived by the apparent withdrawal of the army which nevertheless would not be wanted whilst winter snows and small [transportation?] would tend to check any operations of Lee’s towards Penn. Should he do so and Grant be successful he would soon be destroyed by his returning troops. We have now about 160 men all told and they are in pretty good order. We often laugh over our hardships and wonder what effect a photographic shot of our meals would have upon our friends at home—to see us with an old ham bone and a cracker I think a sight which deserves portraying—and have no doubt you would laugh heartily at it. We are sleeping on the ground but have our tent up. Do you know the ground is sometime warmer than a raised bed if only perfectly swept and clean and free from damp—which it becomes if the sun shines on it through the open tent for most of the day. We are just going to supper with fried potatoes, pork ham crackles, dried peaches, butter, milk, tea, brown sugar, white stone china plates, mustard, candles- what a list of luxuries. Oh how I wish I could only go home. Two of our officers who were wounded have gone back. Found unequal to the exposure. We have but three now with the regiment—Good night dear wife, may God in his mercy soon restore us to each other never more to part and grant us a continuance of his blessings which we have so long enjoyed. Love to the dear little ones dear Uncle and all at home.
Your loving husband,
Citation: Alexander Biddle (1819-1899), autograph letter signed to Julia Williams Rush Biddle, 27 October 1863. Rush IV:30:36