Loudon Valley, Nov. 16th ’62
It is Sunday and we are not marching but I have detailed half of our company for labour that is to help get [a] cannon on to the mountain. We expect a visit from old Jackson and are preparing to give him a proper reception. We hear that he is in the valley 20 miles below here and can’t get out any way but this. If that is so, he will give us a hard jab but I guess he can’t get far in this direction unless he gets here today for by tomorrow night everything will be ready for him. Of course, we don’t know whether this Regt. has got to fight or not but I guess it won’t unless it is in the vicinity.
We had orders to build log huts some time ago but they have kept us so busy that we have had no time to work on them. We have only a few logs thrown up without any roof. It is of no use as a shelter from cold or storm, but still it is a sort of home to keep our things in.
The Quartermaster says we are to have tents in a day or two, if so we can use them to cover our huts.1 It will seem strange to have a cover to sleep under once more. If it was not for cold and storm I should rather not have any for I have taken comfort in laying on my back and looking at the clear blue sky and the bright stars for they only look homelike and familiar. I am often reminded of the words of the sweet singer: “The Heavens declare the Glory of God and the firmament shouted his handiwork”.
It is when looking at the beauty of the scenery of this country and the grandeur of the heavens in Nov. that I realize the presence and power of God. What a wonderful creator to create such numberless worlds by the word of His Power.
I will now proceed to answering your last letter for I fear you will be offended if I forget any part of it. I have written you two or three times a week but I see you have not received them all or had not when you wrote last. The last letter I had from you was written last Sunday2. I see that you had a taste of our storm or we had a taste of yours. I don’t know how to sympathize with you for you had a good shelter and I had none, but I can sympathize with you in regard to the going for I had to tramp 12 miles with my knapsack on my back through mud and snow up to my ankles (there is not much levity in that I reckon).
You say there is a time to laugh but we can’t see where the laugh comes in, the time to weep comes often enough.
I have lived so far and grown fat, you need not feel anxious about me for you will know my situation if anything happens. I have taken pains to have that fixed.
Unless you have grown poor, you must have had tremendous wind up there. I am sorry you are not better fixed for winter, I thought I had provided wood for you but we can’t foresee events at all times. I am sorry you feel so poor that you hate to pay for sawing wood, you should not be so careful and troubled about many things but should choose that better part that shall not be taken away.3
I don’t see how the harness got so broken up, someone must have borrowed it. Boss Ed did as well as you could expect him to. If you get any cans or jars to send to me, I wish you would get tin for they won’t break and are useful here.4 You may send what you like, anything good to eat or wear will be acceptable. Butter cake and pie are things that we do not often get here, I have had some Virginia pies but they are awful things not fit for a hog to eat.
I have done picket duty for two weeks now but have not seen any danger in it. I am not anxious to shoot anybody and should not shoot a Reb on picket unless he shot at our men first. I have a love for dangerous enterprise but have not indulged the propensity on your account and the baby’s.
I join you in the prayer that I may see her again and regret that I lose so much of her society. I am glad that she remembers me yet, I think she will ‘till I get home. I should liked to have had supper with you but last Monday we got some mackerel and since that we have lived well. We get desiccated potatoes5 now, we have learned how to cook them and they go very well for potatoes.
I hope Louise is not sick, you say she seems to have more cold. I know you will do all you can for her.
I got the pills you sent but have no had occasion to use any in some time. The grapes you sent me were nice but not so fresh as those I bought.
I don’t see pay day yet and very much doubt if we do in three months6. There are a good many soldiers that have been in service over five months and have no pay yet and I fear we shan’t fare any better. Joel has been quite prudent but I guess he is about as short as I am and I shall get out [of money] some time if we don’t get paid. I have enough for the present but I wish you would send me some postage stamps for it is difficult to get them here.
Sometime I should be glad to answer Mr. Thayer’s letter but I have not the time to take the necessary pains to write him. I can sit down and write you six or eight pages in a few minutes for I know you will pardon all blunders, but when I write to him I want to write correct, though his letter to me was not a very good specimen for a priest to write.
Brainard is going to put in a line in this letter to his mother about a box. He messes with me now. I have him, Joe, Will, Burt, and Austin [in] my mess and shall have to take in 3 more. When we get settled Austin wants some things sent, I will find out and tell you and you can tell his wife. I was altogether mistaken in him and Brainard. I thought when they enlisted they would make me trouble but they are two [of] the best behaved soldiers in the Regt. I never asked them to do anything but what they did it without a word. Tell Mrs. Ives7 that I will write if any of the boys are sick so she need not have any anxiety, for Brainard is in good hands and I shan’t see him suffer if I can prevent it.
I have got along first rate with my washing. We have a man in our Co. that is good at it and I hire him to do mine. I have had no mending to do, you fixed my clothes so good that they hold me yet. I think I have kept them well, there is but one man in our Co. that has kept them better, that is Austin.
I don’t wonder you think of me when you shell corns. I wish you would hire it done.
Give my love to all our friends, many kisses to you and the baby.
P.S. Austin says tell his wife to send him some stockings and a silk pocket handkerchief and something to eat if she has a mind to. She can put [them] in your box if not sent. If it is, put it in Brainard’s. Brain says tell her to send a loaf cake.
Contrary to what the Quartermaster told the men of the 10th, they would not receive their tents for over a week. ↩
Sadly, this letter has been lost to history. ↩
A recurring theme throughout these letters is Caroline’s propensity to work herself into the ground instead of hiring help. Cecil would scold her, but their situation weighed heavily on Caroline throughout the war. ↩
The soldiers would often repurpose empty tin cans into boilers by attaching a wire bale to it. These makeshift pots packed lighter than their commercial counterparts and were easy to replace. ↩
Potatoes were sometimes diced and dehydrated (desiccated) prior to being issued. These were fairly popular amongst the soldiers — they packed light and tasted much better than the alternative (desiccated vegetables). ↩
The soldiers were due to be paid every two months, but oftentimes it would be much longer before the appearance of the paymaster. It would be late January, 1863, before the 20th would finally be paid, almost 6 months after their enlistment. ↩
Ann Ives, of Mount Carmel, is Brainard’s mother. ↩