Camp Chase Sept 18th 1862
I again take my pencil to write you a few lines and report upon the progress of affairs in this part of Dixie. We seem to have come to a deadlock, we have work enough to do but we do not move from here as I expected and I do not think we shall move at present, but I can’t tell much about it1.
I have not been well the past week and have felt as though something to eat would be quite a blessing, but I am getting better now so that I can go on the army grub2. I have had [a] cold and something with a cough but I hope I shall soon be over it. I take one of Dr Foot’s Pills every night and today I took some of the Jacob’s Pills, so you see, I tend to myself.
I have been today down to the Potomac and washed myself. There is but one place in ten miles of here fit for a white man to wash himself in the Potomac3. It is a low sluggish river with a muddy bottom and bullrushes and pond lilies on each side of it. I had heard of the beautiful Potomac with it’s broad bosom and fair banks but I can’t see it, and the sacred soil of old Virginia in this locality is miserable white clay. You cannot go through a lot without filling the air with dust, so you can guess what the roads are.
We have had no rain since we came here and I don’t know how long since it has last rained. It is so dry here the water is sticky like paste.
There are some good-looking buildings around here but it looks godforsaken ‘round them, and the whole country about here, including Washington, is not worth the powder that it has cost to keep it from the rebels.4
We have pretty tough drills5, but I don’t get tired-out. I have a lame side sometimes after we have had an extra one, but I think on the whole I stand it pretty well. I did not come down here for fun, I know we have got to work to be worth anything. The men that came from Hamden are first rate and with the exception of I. V. Warner have not been sick, but I fear we have got cripples and shirks enough in our company to injure its character.
I wish the Colonel would turn some of them up. Our Captain does pretty well, but he likes to have someone else do most of the work. Lieutenant Doolittle is the best man for business we have.
The weather here is not pleasant, it is hot in the middle and cold at nights. Corn here looks green, I mean the stalks, for there is no corn within ten miles of here - it has all been stolen by the soldiers.
Dear wife, I wish I might have more letters from you; I have written this makes eight to you, most of two full sheets and have received but three from you. Everyday or two I write you a few lines merely if I can write in all the hubbub of a camp. You can write at home, when I got to Baltimore in the middle of the night I wrote you a line by the light of a street lamp while others were trying to sleep. I am not finding fault, but letters are of great importance here and yours are more to me than you think.
In your last, you spoke of my bundle. I have written you that I had found it alright. I wear my wrappers, of course I did not intend to say that we could not wear them (if I did say so), but when we move we must take nothing but what is necessary, but I don’t think we shall be searched and I don’t intend to carry my baggage but shall send it. I sent home my pistol and Joel’s small one and a book I was foolish enough to buy in New Haven. You will find them at Aunt Sarah’s.
Has Ed Dwight said anything to you about that fifty dollars he owes me? He wrote to me that he had paid all of the bill and would pay you fifty dollars for me, but he wants to wait until he gets home. I have not written to him and do not think it necessary.
I think you had better sell all the potatoes that come off the hill if you can. Perhaps Fanny will buy them or Jane Leak, if you can’t do better. The reason for selling them now is because they will not keep good, but I think those raised in Aunt Sarah’s lot will keep better on account of the difference of the land.
Is Boss going to keep Fanny? I have written you two or three times about her.
Give my love to Libby Peck and if you send a box don’t send any baggage, but instead something to eat or drink. I don’t indulge in anything ardent but a small bottle of wine might do me good. I think you said Libby wanted to send something, I think we shall stay here long enough to get it, if sent right away.
I don’t believe three or four of those pears would hurt me but you must not be too much trouble or expense to send me anything, for we can buy most everything here but good victuals and that we can’t get. I don’t believe there is anybody in this state that knows how to make a pie or anything else that is fit to eat.
There are more things I want to say to you, but I shall write again soon, I want you to write me all you think of. You can grumble at our rulers all you want to, but I would wish you felt different for they are in trouble as well as we, even though there are a great many rascals among them. I want to do my part, and if others don’t do theirs, I can’t help it.
How is Louise, does she want to kiss Papa? If she does you can kiss her for me. How I should like to get a hold of her. I think I should kiss her a few times if not more. Give my love to Mother and tell her I often think of her. I hope to meet her again on this side of Jordan, but if not here on the other side where there are no wars to separate families. Give my respect to all my friends and good wishes to all my enemies, and lastly my love to yourself with ten thousand blessings from your affectionate husband.
P.S. I forgot to tell you that I attended divine service today, the preacher was an Episcopalian, he did not preach much like Mr. [unintelligible] but he was a good talker.
P.S.2 The mail has just come in and I feel disappointed for I have not received a letter from you. I believe I shall have to take up another correspondence. Have you distributed my pictures? I have written to Wallingford, you may hear from me in that direction. I shall write to John Hall this week. I shall write some of our neighbors soon if I get time. I understand that Mrs. Austin is going to stay at Aunt Sarah’s, tell her that her man is well. Tell all the folks that we are all well.
At this time, the Federal army was pooling men and resources just south of Washington D.C. in preparation of a expected offensive from General Lee, commander of the Confederate forces in the area. The soldiers were drilling for four hours each day, and large details were kept busy digging trenches and rifle pits around the capital. ↩
The army “grub” wasn’t very tasty or nutritious. When the army was in camp, this typically consisted of beans, some form of meat (generally beef or pork), rice, and, on occasion, whatever vegetables could be acquired. ↩
At this time in American history, only the edge radicals truly believed that black men were equal to their white counterparts. Even most of the abolitionists would have said that while black people deserved to be free, they would never be as “human” as a white man. The culture was so steeped in this principal that Cecil, who was inarguably very religious and didn’t like the institution of slavery, makes comments that had a very racist undertone. ↩
By the time this letter was written, this area had been home to thousands upon thousands of soldiers for a year and a half. All the fat of the land had long ago been used, leaving behind a no-mans land with very few, and very poor, inhabitants. ↩
The regimental history recounts that the men were drilling for four hours each day during this time. ↩