Camp near Harpers Ferry
I have nothing in particular to write you today but I set here in this cold, rainy day without fire and with poor shelter made of our rubber blankets. My fingers are so numb that I can’t feel the pen.
My thoughts naturally turn toward you and my home, so I sit down and hold my paper on my knee while I have a little talk with you (as you say) in imagination.
You need not think from the way I commence this that I am feeling bad, I am not, but you know that gloomy weather always has it’s influence on the minds of all and mine in particular, and now that I am away from home and home comfort and in a measure exposed to inclement weather it is no wonder that I think how comfortable it would be if I were only at home and secure from the cold winds and chilly rain of this dark and dreary day. How I should like to step in to the old house and find a good warm fire in the old kitchen and what I should value far more, good warm hearts to welcome me, but the Colonel won’t lend me his horse so I can’t go except in imagination (I go quite often in that way), but I must quit this strain for I have no time to write sentiment, I have business on hand of another nature, a horse of a different color.
We have been waiting for marching orders or for orders to march ever since yesterday morning1. Expecting to hear the long roll beat every minute, we have two days rations2 in our haversacks and three more in our wagons. I don’t know where we go (we may not go at all) but they say that McClellan took Winchester yesterday and it may be that we are to follow up the retreating Rebs. I hope so for this army is in good condition and under Burnside which is enough to ensure success. We leave our stuff and tents so I think we [will] come back again. When I [say] tents I mean officers’ [tents], we [enlisted men] have none but our blankets.
I got your Wednesday letter last night3, I am very sorry for what I wrote about Mark, but [when] you said Nellie told before Mrs. Ives it provoked me. I gave Mark a blowing up before some of the boys and he denied writing any such thing. He said he wrote that he could get that for a drink. Bah. You need not be afraid of my quarreling with him, he is too contemptible. He has just been here and says he can’t get time to write today. He wants you to tell Nellie that he is well and will write when he gets to a stopping place. He has not got his box yet but has got a receipt for it. The reason that they did not send with you4 was that they got this box sent free. It says so on his receipt. That is Boss Ed exactly5.
Dear wife, I must close this letter, if we do not leave tonight I will add a line in the morning. If we do I will write you the first chance I get. Remember me to all our friends.
I remain with much love your ever faithful husband.
On the 25th of October, orders arrived for the 20th Connecticut to be ready to march at 5 o’clock the next morning with 5 days of cooked rations. Finally, one month after Confederate forces were defeated at the battle of Antietam, President Abraham Lincoln had outright ordered the tardy McClellan to go forward with his men and pursue the Confederates. This McClellan did half-heartedly and slowly – so slowly that while the 20th was ready to march on the 25th, they wouldn’t move from their camp until the 4th of November. ↩
The 20th Connecticut was issued three days worth of marching rations the day before this letter was written. A marching ration consisted of ¾ lb. of bacon, salt pork, or salt beef, 1 lb. of hardtack (a hard flour-and-water cracker with no flavor and questionable edibility), coffee, sugar, salt, and occasionally desiccated vegetables (chopped vegetables that were pressed into bricks and dried). ↩
Unfortunately, this letter has been lost to history. ↩
Caroline had just recently send a box to the Cecil, he speaks about getting it in his letter of the 22nd. Often, the women of the community would pool their things into a single box to save on postage. By sending their box separately, they effectively made it more expensive for Caroline to ship her box. ↩