Jan. 11th. A beautiful day—the mud drying up fast & things about camp improving in appearance. There is a great deal of sickness in the regiment. In our Co. we report 26 unfit for duty today—9 in the Hospital & 15 in quarters. Among the latter is Orderly Sergt. True, who has been unwell several days. Had religious service this morning in the open air just in the rear of our tents—subject of the discourse, “Heaven.”
The express box came this evening with our warm dressing gowns all safe.
I did not find you inside but found an expression of your love in this good coat which cost you so much work + perhaps pain; and it so peculiarly nice and acceptable that I long to pay you in the usual coin. I mean that which don’t go by mail or telegraph. You can hardly tell how comfortable we are this rainy night.
Jan. 9. Weather clear and cold. Commenced putting a fireplace in our tent.
My dear little daughter:
Papa wrote Guy and then Mamma and thinks it is now your turn. Uncle Charlie is in papa’s tent and eating an apple while reading an interesting newspaper. He has now gone and Lt. Stinson’s colored boy has come in to get some sugar. Now he has gone. This makes me think of two things: the boy & the sugar. This boy is about as big as our “Tom” but you never saw our Tom. He is about the size of Mr. Blain’s oldest (is his name Walter?) He has curly hair, black eyes, but his skin is not exactly black …
The sugar comes in a barrel. Capt. Bullock our new commissary brought it and for fun these little colored boys would put their hands in the barrel too often where it was deposited. The Capt. put it in my tent.
Evening. I have just received a budget of letters from Mamma. She tells papa the sad news that Guy learns something wrong almost every day. Papa hopes & prays that his little boys may strive to do right every day. Do you try hard to do the things you know Jesus loves? Papa finds it hard to do what he knows to be right but he prays & asks God to help him.
Your two Ambrotypes don’t look as if you would do wrong. They are very sweet children. Give much love for papa all around and pray for papa in real honesty. Very lovingly your father, O.O. Howard. …
Jan. 7th. My health is improving, though I have not had strength to drill the company till yesterday. At nine o’clock this morning our Co. went out on picket about three fourths of a mile from camp, being “picket no. 4”. We occupied six posts beside the reserve, which was quartered in a vacant house. Everything was quiet on the lines day & night. In the afternoon I went with some of the men of the reserve to visit a plantation about a mile off, owned by Dr. H. Perkins. The house was a splendid one, richly furnished but the furniture is in ruins scattered all over the house. Chairs, tables, picture frames, &c. were broken in pieces, & the floors, covered with remnants of mirrors & table ware that had been wantonly smashed to pieces. The house had been lighted with gas made on the premises. The sugar house is an immense building containing a fine steam engine & sugar mill. Large lots of molasses was standing in the vats, which I allowed the boys to help themselves to & carry back to camp. Soldiers from other Regts. were constantly coming & helping themselves to anything that struck their fancy. Three of the negro women that we carried in when we were on picket before were from this estate. Not one of the slaves is now left in the place.
Jan. 6, ’63. Hd Qrs. 5th Baty[!] Me Vols. Camp near Fletchers Chapel.
… I do not know that I have anything to write except to let you know that we are alive and well. I was never better in my life than I am now. … For some reasons I should not object to see some rain, for I am afraid if it continues so fine they[!] will be tempted to move us further forward, that is if they can, and then if bad weather comes men and horses will starve. As it is we do not get hay for our horses more than one day in a week, and it is impossible for them to work on twelve pounds of grain alone. You have no idea how many horses are used up in the army. You can not go a quarter of a mile on any road without seeing one or more dead horses, where they have dropped down by the side of the road. We lost twelve last month, and we have nine more that are used up and have been condemned.. Continue reading
My dear Guy: Mr. Alvord, Uncle Charles & your papa took a ride the other day to find [illeg. word] Brigade battery and just as we were passing the Huntwood[?] road we saw an ox-cart like the above [drawing]. It was an unusual sight in Virginia, but its contents, a lot of colored children: the short horns of the oxen, and the rickety old affair attracted our attention and I thought I would try to draw it for amy. You don’t see so many of these colored boys & girls as papa does. Uncle Charlie says they are very jubilant: i.e., they laugh & play a great deal. I don’t think they play any harder or any more than you and Wally Stinson. …
Jan. 4th. The sun rose clear & bright this morning, & the weather has been pleasant all [day], so that the effects of the rain are less evident than I supposed they would be. The roads become muddy with a little rain, but dry up quickly after the sun comes out. About breakfast time Mr. Langley came in to inform me that George, his brother, died at half past two o’clock this morning. I went at once to the Quartermaster & made arrangements for a coffin, & Lieut. Richardson went out to town with two men to dig a grave. I walked out about 10 o’clock & was so exhausted by the walk that I was obliged to lie down & rest for an hour so two. After making some arrangements for the burial, I started to return to camp, intended to return to the funeral with the Company. When near camp I met the Chaplain going out, who offered me his horse to ride, which I accepted with gratitude, for I was nearly beaten out. Came into camp & got a little tea & some crackers. The Company, with a portion of Co. G, started for town in advance of me. I than rode out to the Hospital where we formed a procession & marched to the graveyard, where we lowered our late comrade to his last resting place. Here the Chaplain read appropriate selections of scripture, & offered prayer, when the escort, eight men, fired three volleys over the open grave. When we marched away, leaving two men to fill the grave. We marched back to camp where we arrived before sunset, too late for dress parade. In the evening attended a prayer meeting in the [illegible word] tent. Today all the patients have been removed from the building that has been used for a Hospital to a large brick house near the State House.
Jan. 3d. Last night we were waked by firing, apparently heavy cannon down river. … Snowing during the night, & all day. Heavy thunder & sharp lightning a part of the time. This evening it is raining almost constantly, & the thunder is almost continuous. Our camp ground is getting very soft & will soon by muddy enough. This forenoon I rode to town … to see our men in the Hospital. All of them (ten in number) appeared to be improving, except poor George Langley, who lies very low with typhoid fever. He has lain almost wholly unconscious for several days. He opened his eyes while I stood by him, but did not recognize me. His brother has been with him almost constantly for a week, & will stay as long as he lives. Continue reading
Jan, 2d. We woke this morning about 4 o’clock by the Sergt. Major who said we were to hold ourselves ready to call our companies at a moment’s notice, that the outer pickets had been driven in by the rebels & that they were sending up rockets as signals. We said nothing to the men, not wishing to disturb them till they should be needed. I felt hardly able to stand, but intended to go with my Company should we be called out. There was no further alarm, however, so we kept quiet till daylight.