December 31, 1863

Hd. qrs. 11th Corps Lookout Valley Tenn

My dear Mother

I would like to transcribe for you my exact feelings and circumstances tonight – for they are altogether such that if you were to know them accurately you would certainly be relieved from all anxiety on my account – and more – for finding that I am actually contented and in good spirits and I might add the same of Otis and that our health is good – this goodness of God will I trust make you happy.

I am sitting in Otis’ tent by the same table with him. He is writing to Lizzie. It is almost midnight – the last day of 1863. I shall not attempt to review in this letter my life during the eventful year now so near its close. It is too crowded with momentous events. One year ago I was in our Camp of 2nd Divn 2nd Corps near Falmouth Va – Maj. Whittlesey was with us. Sometimes I fear we do not love God and think of Him so much now since we have come to this Corps – but I hope it is not so – And certainly He has manifested His goodness no less abundantly to us since we have been here.

I chose this paper because I have been writing upon it quite steadily all day and I wished to tell you that I have just completed twenty six pages of this kind – a kind of recreation – a sketch of Otis’ life which I have prepared for publication in accordance with the solicitation of a young man – an artist whose acquaintance I formed here recently. If the sketch is published I will send you a copy.

You will not be surprised if my handwriting shows marks of weariness of fingers – or if my fingers make marks indicative of weariness or indeed of my weariness of fingers make illegible marks. But I ought to be more serious as the old year is dying.

Otis has just read me a more moralizing strain from his letter to Lizzie – but still he makes the old year only going off to other parts unknown – speaks of him as having his hat on – stick in hand I think and I am sure he ought to have said over-coat on for surely the old man will freeze without one tonight.

It has been raining hard all day – but this evening has grown cold and probably it will be clear tomorrow. If it is I think I will visit Lookout Point and perhaps get a picture taken if the ambrotypist still remains up there in his Eyrie. wouldn’t you like such a trophy from Lookout better than a piece of stone or Laurel root such as I sent Ella?

I will look for some more smashed bullets from the battle-ground upon the sides of the mountain, if I go up. For several days – perhaps a week – I have done no riding and I fear my health will suffer if I continue so physically inactive – especially if I eat so much. By the way it may interest you as it is no small matter of congratulation with us that a new installment of provisions for our mess arrived from Nashville today – the first since our return from Knoxville. We will have a grand supper tomorrow – New Years.

Otis shows me his writing – it looks remarkably well. He improves. He looks at his watch – “three minutes of twelve” – I just heard Capt Stinson say (outside) something about snow. It would be a wonder if we have some snow here for New Years morning. It is cold enough for it. We do not feel much like hastening to bed to allow our fires to go out tonight. I must not omit to mention that Otis has a fine large new log cabin – and today for the 3d time a Chimney was completed in it and to our intense satisfaction (and you may accredit some of my jubilent spirits to the fact) this chimney does not smoke! That is to say the smoke all goes up chimney and a first rate draft makes a glowing not to say a glorious fire in the broad stone fire-place.

I suppose the old year 1863 has gone – strange he did not interrupt me to say farewell. Perhaps he thought it would make me sad to have a formal parting and that it was better for me to keep cheerful.

Just now some members of the Staff who have been so intemperate as to sit up to this late – no this Early

hour began to start the refrain of “Happy New Year”. “The General” took it up and so I was compelled to leave my letter and go to the door to have my say in the matter – and one or two of these young men will be happy if my Early wish has any potency. Well, then, I must redate my letter.

Lookout Valley – Jan. 1st 1864 – 12 1/4 A.M.

Two years ago about this minute I was listening to delicious music from our old 64th N.Y. Band which came to serenade “the General” (Otis) in our old Camp California – Gen. Sumner’s Corps near Alexandria Va.

I have been assisting Otis in making out his Report of recent operations – battles, &c – this has aided in keeping me confined to Hd. qrs.

We think of wanting Uncle Henry Strickland [husband of Mary Jane Otis, the sister of Charles’ mother] to come and make us a visit. I will enclose some Laurel leaves from the summit of Lookout.

There seems no immediate prospect of movements though we will not probably wait till Spring. Otis has ended (just now) his letter and my space warns me to close. I am sorry not to get more letters from you. Otis from the door says “Maine has come to us.” He just wished the Sentinel (poor fellow) who walks his post a dark two hours at a time – a “happy new year”. Otis wishes “You, Mother, a happy new year, ditto to father, and for me to tell you that he is going to do better this year. Did you get his long letter written a few evenings since?

Love and the happiest of New Years to you & father and to Dellie from Your Affectionate Son
C. H. Howard

P.S. I found the pocket book lost at Bridgeport – and father’s memorandum.

P.S. New Year’s Morning 9 1⁄2 A.M. It is the coldest morning we have had – just enough snow for a frosting of the surfaces. Ink frozen. But we slept tolerably comfortable with robes & blankets. All well. C.H.H.

Charles Henry Howard to his mother, Eliza Otis Gilmore Howard [Charles Henry Howard Collection]

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