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)
I send you herein $100, tell me if you get it
Camp at Cedar Run Bridge
I have nothing from you today. Just after midnight a man was brought up by the guard to my tent. I went out, asked him where he came from. He said he did not want to speak in presence of so many men. I took him inside of the tent. He told me he came from the Rebs that he left them at sundown, that they were about 500 strong. That they intended to make an attack this Monday evening on the trains, to attack it in the rear and run after another party who would put obstructions in front and so capture it and get horses. He said he had specimens of the goods they got from Alexandria which were smuggled through from house to house. He showed us some cloth. His shawl also his grey [round?] about and had on a blue army coat with a New York Excelsior brigade buttons, dark pantaloons. He called his buttons State buttons but they were not so. He said his name was John Deshea formerly of the 6th Kentucky Col John McClung that he came from Ohio County, Ky and was anxious to get out. He told us that there were several Confederate Captain’s and some men who with scouts (guerillas) would make into full 500 men. He said one of the Captain’s was a former Representative from Texas named Smith. Another named Delaware [Delashiels?] Cooper who had commanded a battery. His own Captain whom he came out with was named Davis. Now his Captain was a man named Kinchella and the 1st Lient Rich Shepard. He named three places [Tremmis?] cross roads. [Mr. Botts?] Kings [Evans?] Smiths, where parties of these men congregated they were badly off for horses and wanted them badly. He said they could be captured with a strong force without difficulty but it would require care to do it he said he had been suspected for some time and had been trying to get off. Was anxious to be farther to Meade’s Hd Qts. Spoke of some of our men who were deserting being robbed. Spoke of a Sergeant who was deserting who refused to give up his arms whom they shot and robbed said they gave him 175 of his money, no he had been long without pay and he now had about 50 left. Spoke of a Lieutenant who had been wounded in both shoulders whom he interceded for and whom he believed they killed. He put him in charge of the guard and the Colonel having to meet General Kenly this morning at the station Junction took him with him. He said speaking to General Kenly that he had done this thing to better his condition. He slept by our guard fire during the night. We did not fully trust him. The Colonel distrusted more than I did. During the day an old negro and his family of 4 or 5 women and children who came in. They had walked to the junction during the night from a place called Bristoes bridge and this man who was coming up with some things to sell brought him over. I enquired carefully of this old fellow who told me exactly the whereabouts of most of the names I have set down, said he thought these men could gather together 50 to 100 to 200 or 300 men that [Aringtons?] cross roads was the place they met at that they had a tent in a piece of woods near his house and every day something could be found there. I also found out the position on the map of the places indicated (just here I was interrupted by the sound of a carbine shot, turned out the regiment under arms, it was a cavalry man on a picket remained about 20 under arms and have now got back to my letter) I found out also that the man refused to tell his news to the Colonel of the Regiment who apprehended him. He was also very anxious to be considered as having come in, not a deserter apprehended. Later in the day we had more applications from people for passes and heard from a neighbor some more information in confirmation of what we heard. Some men were seen later in the day and a party of 20 were sent out to see about them. They brought in a country man under slightly suspicious circumstances so he was kept under guard for several hours nearby where the men were putting up a breast work. At dinner time as I went over to the dining tent past the guard I saw a rope hanging from a tree and found the men as they passed this fellow would say jokingly, oh you’ve got the rope ready for him, hehe. We finally released the poor fellow who I thought might have a little sickness about him to. We have just heard that it was a conscript who fired at the cavalry outpost which he had been starring at for half an hour. He however hit no one. Kenly has left us today, he gives us 8 miles to guard from Bealeton to Walnut [Run]. Our force at this point to night being 214 infantry and 191 cavalry, we have to protect 8 miles with another regiment. Whilst Kenly with 1600 men protects himself and three miles of some RR, he has two pieces of artillery also and 50 cavalry. We think his conduct akin to shameful cowardice. Nice condition is it not to be in to think your division is so weak and know that he gets so drunk. Truly I have many reasons for desiring to get out of this division. I have thus given you a day’s life in camp excepting my ride over to the 150th at the Warrenton Junction to see Major Chamberlain and also seeing Major Farrington of the 1st Rhode Island and Tom Biddle of the 4th Penn. Molly’s my cousin. Good night dear wife may God in his mercy watch over us and lead us in happiness to each other never to part. Love to children and dear uncle.
Your loving husband, Alexander
Citation: Alexander Biddle (1819-1899), autograph letter signed to Julia Williams Rush Biddle,23 November 1863. Rush IV:30:37