Hd. qrs. 11th Corps Athens (Tenn.)
My dear Sister Ella
This is rather a delicate sheet upon which to begin a letter to a young lady I acknowledge but besides the fact that this is the only kind of paper I have and the last of that, you will find before I get through (if your patience holds out) that I have enough to tell you even to fill a “foolscap” sheet.
Hd. qrs. are at the hotel of this town – the county seat and most considerable place in the vicinity. [...] Athens is partially at least a merry town tonight. There are quite a goodly no. of Union families and besides the natural exhilaration from the presence of U.S. troops. I have had the 33d Mass Band playing up on the balcony of this house all the evening until a few moments ago and I now hear there is a distant quarter giving bad dreams to Miss Secession by playing “Yankee Doodle” that most detestable of all tunes to the genuine Rebel. [...]
Did I mention coffee and sugar? It weighs upon my mind – not the coffee and sugar but the astounding announcement made by our mess-man tonight that it was all gone from our larder (ambulance). We have taken most of our meals with the good union people or other choice families on the march in hopes to keep up our supply. The people have wheat coffee or sweet milk and some few have a little coffee with a great deal of dried sweet-potato – but that our right royally loyal family I have mentioned at sweet Sweewater had the genuine article of coffee – the real old-fashioned Rio. You might know they belonged to the Constitution as it was and the Union that shall be. But the inquisitive mind of my sister must be satisfied – and know that Mr. H. was wise enough to get a quantum sufficit of coffee and like luxuries from Louisville at an early stage of the war and the supply still holds good.
We expect Gen. Sherman here tomorrow tho’ he is now away off at Tellico plains near the borders of Georgia and in the mountains. We have heard that Breckenridge is coming this way with a large army to meet us – but do not credit it. Rebel cavalry were here yesterday P.M just before our advance reached here. Today one of our Brigades arrived at Charleston (14 miles below) and found that the fine bridge (R.R.) which we had repaired and made fit for crossing troops & artillery, working one entire night, had been destroyed. The Cavalry left by Sherman to guard it ran away – a pack of cowards – but under the same kind Providence which has thus far attended us throughout this successful campaign the green timbers would not burn and the Rebels failed to destroy the bridge so but that we can repair it in half a day or little more and it will be done tomorrow or next day.
If the enemy should come up this way we would hold the line of the Hiwassee which is quite a river – navigable by small boats to Charleston. Wouldn’t you think it about time for us to have a change of clothing – going on to three weeks since we left our valises in Lookout Valley? I got some paper collars at Knoxville – of course I was bound to shine when I returned to Sweetwater. I had three (3) (extravagant!) pairs of (white) socks along and my “Wash.”
For ourselves I know not when next dear Ella but think we must return to camp for a little while as many of our men are barefooted and no shoes can be procured here. We are 70 miles yet from Chattanooga. We wait orders from Gen. Grant. Otis is well but a little vexed with some of his sub-commanders who have suffered straggling & stealing to some extent. Not <borrowed> from any house friends since the battle. Will you write?
Very affectionately C. H. Howard