Camp near Fredericksburg
Sunday noon, November 30th 1862
My dear Father & Mother,
I have now a few moments on which to answer your letters. You complain of the irregularities of the mail but just see here. Mother’s letter of the 17th I received November 26th, and Father’s letters and papers of the 9th I received last night. What do you think of it? The postage stamps and extra sheet of paper came very handy as I had neither. Many thanks to you for them. I will answer Mrs. Bragg’s, Jerome’s, an Josephine’s letters as soon as convenient.
I am now entirely cured of my lameness and bowel complain and am growing as fat as a pig. I don’t know how it is that I get fat for we live on very short rations as it is hard to transport them owing to the mud.
Here is what a United States Soldier has to live on per day. Hard tack, 7; Sugar, 2 spoonful; coffee, 2 spoonful; a small allowance of pork or ham fat & beans occasionally. More than all, we have had to cook our own coffee and beans and tend to duty besides. Tonight we are to have two spoonful of boiled rice per man for supper. What kind of a damned supper do you call that? I forget to say that we have fresh beef twice a week (about six ounces each time). Salt and vinegar we have had twice since we crossed the river but not a drop of molasses. Well, I guess I can live through it.
I will give you an account of my Thanksgiving. When I awoke in the morning, I was at a loss what to do with myself. It seemed as if I must have something good for dinner. I could not pay 30 cents a quart for corn meal for I had no money and so I resolved to hunt up the 15th [Massachusetts] Regiment and dine with Lieut. [Hans Peter] Jorgensen. I got a pass and found the regiment just in time for dinner. The lieutenant was glad to see me and asked me to sit down so I planted myself on a stick of wood and the way I walked into the roast turkey, roast beef, nice potatoes, bread &c. &c. was a caution to cannibals. I ate until I was ashamed of myself. After dinner we had a good talk and smoke and about three o’clock I bid him goodbye and left.
When I got back I found the regiment had moved but as luck would have it, they had only moved to a better camp in the woods, about 300 yards distant, and I found my traps in good order. That is the way I spent my thanksgiving. Don’t mention how yours was passed for the thought of the nice pudding, bread and “juicy pies” makes me homesick.
Father, you have the same opinion of Old Abe that I once had. I have now no right to speak ill of the President or any of his subordinate officers (see regulations), but this much I will say—that notwithstanding the hardships a soldier endures when the army is advancing. If the soldiers were allowed to vote, the Democrats would carry the day ten to one. And it was the earnest wish of the old army that all the States would go Democratic. Things now appear as if Abe was running his party ashore. I think that a change in the cabinet could be made for the better. I am glad to see Old Massachusetts hold her own. She stands almost alone in her glory. I will write to Mr. Paige as soon as convenient.
And now to begging. We are now in a place where we shall probably stay for some time and the boys are improving the opportunity for sending home for boxes. Now if you see fit to send me one, I will tell you what to put in it. A vest, a cheap black hat, some needles, thread, buttons, yarn, bandages, pins, those drawers if you have them, very dark blue shirt. Take two or three old mustard boxes, put some black pepper in one, tea in another. The boxes are very useful articles out here. Make me two bags capable of holding a quart of coffee or sugar. I have to keep my coffee & sugar in paper now. A 25 cent jack knife and, if you see fit, I wish you would send me a pint or so of nice whiskey or brandy. Put it in a bottle labeled “Ayer’s Sarsaparilla” or some such name and be sure to seal it. I don’t want it to get tight on but for medicine.
If you put in a mince pie and some doughnuts, I shan’t turn up my nose. These are what I would like to have you send. Direct the box to Chas. H. Howe, Co. I, 36th Reg. Mass. Vols., Burn’s Division, 9th Army Corps. Don’t put on Washington D. C.
I am going to have Jerome send me a box of apples, tobacco, and cider. You may think my wants are numerous but just come out here where tobacco is 1.50 per lb, cheese 0.52 cents &c. and live out doors and if you don’t sing the same song I do, why then I’ll give up. We have not been paid off yet. I will certainly send you money when we are. O, send me some paper and envelopes.
But I must close. I am well and hope you are all enjoying the same great blessing. How I would like to see you and that little Wallie but I’m stuck for three years and “that’s what’s the matter.” However, I am coming home sometime and will stick by you like death to a “cullud pusson.”
My respects to all friends. With much love for you all. I remain yours truly, — Charley
Next Letter: 9 December 1862