October 8th, 1862

Camp Near Harpers Ferry[, Oct 8, 1862]1

My dear wife,

My heart was gladdened by receiving two letters2 from you. I believe the questions asked in them have been answered in [the] letter that you have by this time except about the fence. As to that, you have done right. I would sooner lay out 25.00 dollars than have Katie3 get unruly or have her tied head to foot. I have written you that you had better sell the potatoes that were raised on the hill at any price you could get. As to the others you must act on your own judgment.

I received a letter from Mr. Thayer last night. I am thankful to him for his remembrance of me. You will please give him my regards and tell him I shall write to him if I get time. I have heard from Boss Ed, I don’t like the way he acts about Fannie4. He says he is keeping her at present but as it is uncertain when I return think you had better keep her. I wish you could force him to a bargain. I want him to keep her if we have to furnish hay, though I think he might let Mr. Thayer have her some and get enough in that way to pay him. I am not afraid of them abusing her, it won’t hurt her to work if she is well fed.

I wish Orin would take up that note immediately for I told them that I would pay it in a few days. They will think I have no regard for my promises. I don’t think of anymore business, at present.

I think you had better wait a while before you send a box, we may be where there will be less trouble in getting it through. I think one would get to us if sent by Adams Express Co. with the following directions:

Sergt C A Burleigh
Co. II 20 Regt CV
12th Army Corps
Gen Williams Comm
Via Washington

That is the way to direct your letters hereafter until further notice.

You need not send any liquor except wine. I have never seen the time I would have given 50 cents or one cent for a drink of whiskey, I shall demand an explanation as soon as I see Mark. I guess he put me in his place, or else he thought that was a fine piece of composition with which to embellish his letter.5

You spoke of friend Beckwith, he stands the living better than many stronger men but has given out on the march some times.

I think I should be well if I could live on the grub but the beans6 don’t agree with me. In fact, I can’t eat them at all without making me sick so I have to subsist on hard bread and beef once a week with the exception of what I buy. We can get most anything by paying for it if we pay enough. I wish Uncle Sam would let us board ourselves and pay us forty cents a day, we could do better than we live now.

You spoke of sending some poststamps, I wish you would [for] they cost 5 cents here7. As for paper, I have some I bought, you need not send any. Pickles would be acceptable, I think they would go first rate.

You spoke of our going into battle, I don’t know whether we are to fight or not but I don’t think we shall at present. General McClellan says that we are too green to fight8. The green regiments did not do as well as you hear up there, in fact, some of them run at the first fire. If I am to run like that I hope someone will shoot me. I am not anxious to get into a fight but if I am able to I shall be on hand9. There was some fighting about eight miles from here yesterday, we could hear the cannon. I don’t know what it amounted to, only a skirmish I guess.

I don’t think I ever called you disloyal for expressing sympathy for me, I don’t call it sympathizing with me to blow about the Government.

What you say about Louise10 makes my heart beat fast with hope and fear. Hope that she may prove a light in the world and fear that that light may go out in darkness. Much depends upon you in regard to her future. May God give you strength to do your duty to her. Tell her to kiss you for Papa.

You say you don’t want me to get another correspondence, well I shan’t need to if I get two letters a day.

I don’t know what you will think when you get the note I sent you from Fredrick. We were in a great hurry and Capt. wrote his letter while I was looking for something to eat, so when I got back he had an envelope all ready directed for me. I took a piece of paper and wrote just enough to let you know where I was.

Frederick was a nice place, too nice for us to stay in so we had to leave. I wish we could go back, the Rebs did the place less damage than we did. They paid for and paid just what was asked, if double the value of the article. I think this strange for a poor half-starved naked army of 200,000 men, but I guess they would not spare the city again as they expected aid but got none. The city is loyal. Three-to-one the people were very kind to us, the ladies brought in delicacies for our sick [and] the farmers gave us straw with no charge to sleep on. Here we can’t get any to sleep on.

I am not in writing mood, as you say, so I must close this disconnected epistle. Give my love to all enquiring friends, all your acquaintances are well, Cook enquires about his wife every time I get a letter. Has she been confined yet? Goodbye and many kisses to you and the baby,

C. A. Burleigh

  1. This letter was undated. The date of the 8th was chosen as the faded-out postmark date on the envelope looked like the 8th and that date obeyed the order of the letters that was written on each envelope (this letter was numbered #14). 

  2. Apparently the letters of the 29th and 30th 

  3. Katie is their milk cow. 

  4. Fannie is a horse that Caroline and Cecil are trying to sell. 

  5. In Caroline’s letter of the 29th, she wrote:

    I think you must have felt pretty bad last Wednesday night if you craved whiskey so. Mark wrote that you said you would give 50 cents for a drink. 

  6. The “white army beans” were a staple of the federal forces when they were in camp, and in the opinions of many soldiers, were one of the most palatable foods issued by the US government during the war. The favorite method of preparing these beans was to bury a large pot full of the legumes on a hot bed of coals underground to cook overnight. When cooked properly, the beans were “the most enjoyable dish that fell to the lot of the common soldier”. 

  7. The “sutlers” (salesmen to the soldiers) were well known for artificially inflating the cost of their wares. The soldiers were often unable to leave camp, making for a captive “audience” who would either have to pony up and pay the price that the sutler asked or go without. A 3-cent stamp was standard at the time for mailing letters, charging 5 cents for a 3-cent stamp was obvious overpricing. 

  8. General McClellan would eventually be replaced by General Burnside because of his reluctance to bring his raw troops into direct conflict with the rebel forces, instead focusing on training and developing esprit de corps. Equally as much as the politicians hated McClellan for his inability to commit his men to battle, the soldiers loved “Little Mac” for how he transformed their untrained, unorganized, and demoralized rabble into an effective fighting force. 

  9. Cecil lived up to his words: In the battle of Chancellorsville, the first major engagement for the 20th Connecticut, Cecil was captured because he refused to retreat from the line of battle when his unit left. 

  10. In Caroline’s letter of September 30th, she mentions that Louise was feeling quite ill and had a bad earache. At this time, the medical field was still quite undeveloped and childhood illness claimed far more lives that it does today.