Jefferson in the woods, Nov. 6th
I sent you a line yesterday but for fear it did not go to the office and having an opportunity to send by Dr. Casey, I thought I would add a line this morning. We are camped in the woods about a mile from where we were yesterday; we are roaming about like a band of Indians, camping in the woods at night and wandering daytimes.
Last night it rained some, which was not so pleasant as it might be, but we get along very well. It don’t take long to hang up our blankets and they make quite a shelter. The worst of it is [that] we want them under us as well as over us when the ground is wet. 1
The weather is cold nights, as cold as it is with you. The days are warmer when the sun shines but today it is cold and gloomy. Just the day to make one think of home and its comfortable fireside, but we make the best we can of our situation.
The Capt. is at work building a fireplace to leave before night2, he has not got his box yet but I suppose it is at Harpers Ferry. He will not send for it ‘till we get to a stopping place for it would do us no good but for an hour if we should get it now.
Our company is together now. There is less sickness among us now than there has been, but Ruben Doolittle’s son, Hobert, is not able to march and we left him at Loudon Heights. I have not seen him to tell him about his father3, and I don’t know as he has heard from home.
All your acquaintances are in good health and like this kind of life better than to stay in camp for they get enough to eat. They got to a house and the folks are glad to give them a meal to keep them from stealing.4
I should like to say a word about the inhabitants but have not time, only to say that they are very ignorant and have queer notions of the north. Their houses are small with one room, on each floor a bed for the old folks in the corner of the lower room and the young ones sleep upstairs or up a ladder. The houses are mostly log. These people are mostly well off, they have farms and cattle and sheep and might live like kings but are ignorant and lazy.
O, dear, I must stop this if I send it today so goodbye for today, remember me to all.
Your devoted husband,
C. A. Burleigh
At this point, the 20th Conn. had either lost, or had never been issued, shelter-tents, so they had been building “kennels” out of their waterproof “gum blankets” (small pieces of canvas with a rubber coating on one side). Typically, when the soldiers had their shelters-tents, they would use their gum blanket as a groundcloth on which to lay. ↩
Murphy’s Law dictates that as soon as soldiers build a comfortable camp, they will be required to leave it. ↩
Ruben Doolittle, father of fellow soldier Hobert, had passed away eight days prior to Cecil writing this letter. When many soldiers left their home, and enlisted for three years of service, they realized that they might not return home, but few were ready for news that one of their parent’s or siblings had died. ↩
Soldiers on both sides of the line, but especially Federal soldiers, became quite proficient at “bumming”: stealing food from the local people to supplement their dull rations. ↩