November 23rd, 1862

Loudon Valley, Nov 23rd

Dear loved Wife,

It has been a long week since I have written to you and more than a week since I heard from you. I have been out on picket or some other detail during the whole week and today I have to work all day to get things straight. I have been away so much everything has got at loose ends.1 I have received the box you sent but no letter since the one you wrote [on] the 12th. I forget the number2 and have not the envelope. I never was so disappointed in my life for there is no reason why a letter should not get here, all the boys get them but me. Yet, I do not doubt for a moment that you have written me.

I have seen much of interest since I wrote you last but can’t make it interesting in a letter. I have been on an expedition3 with a hundred picked men down in Dixie to try and catch some secesh cavalry. I had a chance to visit some of the Virginia chivalry in their homes. I find some of them are good union men and some of the secesh are not very bad men but there are a good many men that like to scant about the country and commit all sorts of outrages. These are the ones that we went after but owing to the incapacity of our officers we did not get them. Our commander did not know his biz and the 2nd in command was drunk before we got five miles. The boys said the only officer they had that knew anything was myself and I am sure that I did not know much about that business. It rained all the time we were gone, we got wet to the skin and had to sleep in our wet clothes without a fire in as cold a storm as you could wish. It is a wonder that we are not all dead. I should not write you this but I promised to be candid with you and tell you the whole truth so you need not think anything is better or worse than what I tell you.

You think it is pretty hard that we have to sleep outdoors, but it is not so bad as it would be if we were not used to it, though we think it hard enough now. What seems strange to me is that I stand it so well when men that seemed made of iron have given out. My health is much better than when at home but there are a good many that are unwell. None that you know that are very sick but there is 17 in our company unfit for duty. You have probably seen in the papers that this Regt. was healthy because the Col. took such good care of it. Now, the truth is he don’t take any care at all of them. He has got a good large tent for himself and you don’t see him out of it except on drill. I don’t believe he ever visited our quarters in his life. He don’t care for anything but himself. We have no shelter yet but our blankets and they are getting poor. I hear we are to have tents tomorrow but I have heard that so much that I don’t place much faith in it.4

I see by your letter that Esq. Hitchcock is as pleasant as you please, confound the scamp. I furnished him with all the information I could, I have him the names of all the men and the names of their wives and children and their ages but I could not give hime the names of the officers for we had none then and I told him so, but he can’t alter the pay. My papers say that the pay commences from the day of enlistment and I think so, now all he has to do is pay you what is left with him and he had better do it or he will see trouble.5

I am sorry you had so much trouble about the harness. I don’t know how the tugs got broken. I knew the races were poor.

What a tremendous price you paid for your bonnet, I am afraid you are getting too stingy. I don’t like to have you quite so saving but you are generous enough to me and I am grateful to you for what you have sent me. The selection of articles are very judicious and if we are to lay outdoors all winter the drawers6 are just what I want. Tell Mother that I thank her very much for the mittens, but she must have thought that she was knitting them for Uncle Sam himself by the size of them. The dried pears are very good, I wish I had another pair of stockings for the government stockings are good for nothing7 but I have two good pairs now which will do ‘till you can send me some more. I have not unpacked all the box but I guess I shall do justice to all the goodies.

I think I shall have better times hereafter for our picket duty will be light now and I shan’t go out again unless the whole company goes. Old Jackson is afraid of the 20th Regt. and [they] have gone off toward Richmond but he has made us trouble enough to remember him by. I think if we had not been ready for him he would have given us a call but when he found us ready he left. I don’t read the papers8 as much, so of course I don’t know the state of [the] country, but it’s come to me that we get ahead very slow. I don’t believe we shall do much here, we may be ordered away. I hope not, we have tramped about enough to suit me.

Col. Ross has gone to New York, I hope he will stay there but there is no such good luck at that.

Next Thursday is Thanksgiving. I wish I could be at home with you not for the sake of something to eat but to celebrate the day in a proper manner, how pleasant it would be to spend the day with loved ones at home but there is no use of grieving over what can’t be. I trust you will remember me when you eat our Thanksgiving supper and I will be with you in imagination. I hope you will not neglect the day on account of my absence, submit yourself to all the ordinances of man.

Dear Wife, I must close this poor letter. It is by the light of a wood fire with all the men crowding ‘round freezing one side and burning the other. The wind [is] blowing the smoke and ashes into my eyes so that I can’t see which side up my paper is. I will write you soon and try to do better. I hope you will keep writing me and not get discouraged because I don’t get your letters, they will get to coming by and by.

How does Louise get along? I suppose she talks right smart. How I should like to see her and hear her talk. I saw a little girl just her age the other day, it made the tears come in my eyes as I thought of home but I must wait with patience for the good time coming. Give my love to all our friends and mother in particular. Now with many kisses, goodnight. Your husband,

C. A. Burleigh

  1. As the first sergeant of Company I, Cecil effectively ran the camp and was the intermediary between the enlisted-men and the officers.  

  2. Cecil and Caroline where numbering each other’s letters. 

  3. From the regimental history of the 20th Connecticut:

    “While the Regiment was here encamped, by order of the Brigade Commander, Major Buckingham, with a force of one hundred and twenty-five men, proceeded towards Hillsboro’ in pursuit of a party of guerrillas whose quarters were known to be in that neighborhood, and for the purpose of a reconnoissance. Starting about 9 o’clock in the evening, after a march of about ten miles in a cold and severe rain storm, the quarters of the rebels were reached, but the latter having been forewarned had fled. Advancing a little farther, the detachment was concealed in a thicket where it stood wet through to the skin in the drenching rain, and without fire during the rest of the night and until noon, waiting for the enemy to return to their quarters. But no one appearing the men were at length permitted to build fires and cook breakfast, after which a thorough reconnoissance was made of the surrounding country,every house being searched for concealed arms and rebels, as ordered. The detachment returned with, for trophies, two men in rebel uniforms, but without arms, fifty muskets and a large number of entrenching tools.”

  4. According to a letter written by Cecil a week later, they did receive their tents. 

  5. Although this is slightly unclear, Cecil is likely talking about the bounty that Connecticut soldiers received from the state. In addition to their pay from the Federal government (a measly $13 per month), the state paid the soldiers an extra $10 and sent another $10 to their families at home each month. 

  6. Drawers were men’s undergarments, the warmer type akin to long underwear, typically ankle-length and made of some type of soft material. 

  7. It was a well known fact that the government-issued cotton socks (“stockings”) were of very little use except as coffee-strainers. They were thin and would only hold up for a few days of marching before the soldiers toes would break through from their confines. 

  8. Newspapers were scarce among the camps of the soldiers. Even though they were on the front lines, they knew less about the overall condition of the war than their families at home.