Camp of the 36th Regiment Massachusetts Vols.
August 14th 1863
My dear Father and Mother,
I have just received [your] dated July 19th and as I have nothing to attend to this evening, will take the opportunity to answer it and all others I have not. On the 3rd of August we struck camp at Milldale and started for Snyder’s Bluff where for want of transportation we waited until the afternoon of the fourth when we took a steamboat (the Hiawatha) and steamed down the Yazoo. Arriving at Young’s Point, we all expected to turn to the right and go up the Mississippi, but no—the steamer turned to the left and went down the Mississippi. Everyone was wondering what was up. We were soon enlightened on the subject for after going five miles down the river, we came in sight of Vicksburg. Here the steamer shut off steam and floated about five minutes in order to give us a farewell view of Vicksburg. Cheers were quickly and heartily given and the boat turned about and started up stream to the satisfaction of many who had feared we were bound further south.
Three regiments—the 45th [Penn.], the 27th [Mich.] and 36th [Mass.] were crammed on our boat and every man had to stay in his place all the time or lose it. Our regiment being on the upper deck caught all the soot from the chimneys and water from the steam-pipes, besides getting a roasting from the hot sun. It was impossible to keep clean or comfortable.
On the tenth we made Cairo, Illinois, after running aground several times in consequence of low water. Here we got into freight cars and started for Sandoval, the junction of Illinois Central and Ohio & Mississippi Railroad. Just about midnight we came to a sudden stop. Soon [we] were informed the axle of one of the drive wheels had broken. Fortunate for us that the train was slacking up at the time for had we had been going at the usual speed, not one man in an hundred could have escaped with his life. Next morning and engine was sent to our relief and we reached Centralia (place I have spoken of before as being full of good people and very fine young ladies) about eight o’clock. Hot coffee, meat, bread, fruit, milk were waiting for us. O Lord, whew, how we eat was a caution to renders in bread, and then the patriotic young damsels, eager to wait on you and to hear your story, pity and encourage you. Well. I’ll see you again about it.
Upon reaching Sandoval, we changed cars and were soon on our way to Cincinnati. At every stopping place we were heartily greeted in some form or other—sometimes victuals and always a good share of talking and kissing between soldiers and the hoosier damsels, and then the “goodbye till we meet again.” Of course I have grown so steady I did not indulge in the practice.
Reached Cincinnati about noon of the 12th and marched to the market house where after having a good wash (no scrub) we partook of a good dinner prepared for us. Then marched to the ferry, crossed the river to Covington, Kentucky, and marched through the city to the barracks where we stayed until last night when we marched to a field and pitched camp. When in the barracks, we had orders to start to Hickman’s Bridge this morning, but the deuce only knows where we shall go now. Hope they will give us the long promised rest but that does no good. Pay rolls have arrived and we are receiting for money we are to receive when the paymaster feels disposed to pay us (a practice common in the army). However, the paymaster is here and we shall probably be paid tomorrow. But the taps have long blowed and if I don’t turn in, I shall not wake up in the morning in time to get breakfast. More tomorrow. — Charles H. Howe
August 15th 1863
My dear Father and Mother,
Finding the weather comfortably cool compared with Vicksburg and feeing in somewhat of a writing mood, will improve this opportunity by continuing my letter. Dinner ate, dishes washed and packed away, nothing to disturb me save now and then an inquisitive negro who is learning his letters, so here goes. Negroes I find are as a general thing very anxious to learn to read and write. I have tonight no less than six but find it does not pay for by the time they have got two words of two syllables, they abscond. More than all, they make themselves quite a nuisance by axing foolish questions. Who would be a schoolmaster?
In your letter I see you find that I am getting anxious to come home. Well, I am somewhat, but then I don’t see how I can for I can’t raise the funds. I shall get but twenty-six dollars when I am paid and after paying debts, and buying necessities, I think I shall have not more than sixteen or seventeen. The fare is all of that each way and I should want money enough to travel around with after I should get home. I do not think I could have more than fifteen or at the most, twenty days furlough and nine chances out of ten I can not get any. Do you think it will pay to come home? It will take at least four days to get to Massachusetts and four to come back, thus leaving out of fifteen, seven days to be with you and visit my friends. If you say come, I will do my best towards getting one, but I shall have to wait some time in order to have money. Father made a generous offer to send me money but I really don’t feel like asking him just now. If the little money I have sent you has done you any good, I am glad of it and do not want to receive any of it back.
As for getting my discharge which you so much desire, it’s an impossibility. Furthermore, I do not want it. I am not going to get out of the service and give up my claims on bounty &c. &c. for the sake of being drafted into it again. I took a solemn oath to stay three years unless sooner discharged and I think if I should come home before the regiment does, I could not be contented and the deuce only knows what would be my feelings when the boys should come. No sireee. I will stay my time out, and then I shall feel as if I had done my duty. Should the war still continue, I hardly think I should reenlist, but still there’s no knowing what I might be tempted to do. I ought to stay at home and say st-t-boy to those who said the same to me. But I do not contemplate such a long war. One year more I hope will settle it.
I have had pretty serious thoughts of late respecting my future career. What in the world shall I do when I get home? What trade shall I learn or what profession? A poser, isn’t it? Machinists trade?—too heavy, noisy work although it pays well when once learnt. Jewelers?—too confined, rather small work for large fingers like mine and the Eastern States are flooded with jewelers. Dentistry?—good trade to follow, great deal of jaw-breaking and hurting people’s feelings; don’t care for that. I can stand it but it requires a good deal of coaxing, parleying, and entreating and I am not blessed with the “gift of gab” or patience enough I am afraid for that. But still I am inclined to favor that business. Farming?—can’t see it; ain’t built right. Dry goods business?—well, I am scarcely enough of a dandy or fine talker. Should hate to have a lady try my patience by examining all the goods and then inform me that “she believes she will call again” (to repeat the operation). Would dislike to have a lady try to beat down my prices and tell me she could get things cheaper at other places. Why I should tell her to “go and be hanged,” or some such talk which would soon procure my dismissal from the establishment.
The only thing I have against cooking is that it is impossible to keep neat and clean. More than that, it is rather confining work and “he is a cook” by trade doesn’t sound well to some people. Yet I can make more money in that trade than any other mentioned for nice clothes is needed in a kitchen [and there are] no board bills to pay.
Law?—Well it’s about lazy enough for me. I had rather work with my head than with hands and feet and I have nearly come to the conclusion that I shall follow cooking till I have laid by a sufficient sum to start on either law or dentistry and yet have spending money. By that time I shall be old enough to have had my trade learned. I feel every day as though I was spending my best time. If it was not for this accursed war, it would be different with me. I fear that I shall be a jack of all trades: good at none.
You appear surprised at the broken engagement between Josephine and Capt. [Hans Peter] Jorgensen. I was slightly at first, but upon second thought I did not in the least. I hope no one will see this except you for I am going to express my opinion freely. You will believe me when you think about it when I say that she has never acted lady-like much less “lover like” when with the Captain. I speak of what I have seen when they were visiting us—a time when two [lovers?] should behave their best. I never went into grandmother’s house and found her in much more than a slovenly condition. I’ll wager Jorgenson never did. I never saw their rooms clear of old rubbish which could have been packed away in garret to the better appearance of the rooms. Of course one cannot expect to find a lady in silks and satins all the time, but still shoes look better on the feet than in the middle of the floor, and especially when the stockings need darning badly. A very dirty dress looks tidier hooked up or buttoned than gaping open, thus endangering the feelings of any young man who should accidentally drop in. One’s hair looks better combed than in snarls (especially when of an objectionable color). At least ladies are thought more of when their hair is combed before dinner. A lady looks better seated in a chair or sofa than to lolly gagging on the floor with a foot protruding from under the skirts, cased in a holey, dirty stocking—no hose, I mean.
Now, experienced as I am in love affairs, if I should find my swate heart in predicaments aforesaid, I should leave in disgust, sincerely praying to have better luck at the next place. I doubt not Capt. Jorgensen was of the same mind and I do not believe him guilty of such treachery as he is accused of. Whenever I saw him I found him the same as at introduction—an honest, matter-of-fact, good-hearted man, as fond of joking as anyone, never heard him find fault with anyone or cast reflections on anybody’s character.
As to Josie, I can’t conceive why she went to the other lady. What good could it possibly afford her? What possible satisfaction could she receive? If he have been alive, it would have been more sensible. Then if he was guilty of any great crime, let him receive proper punishment. But I say let the dead rest—especially when they die in a manner like brave Jorgensen, a foreigner, and wholly disinterested save in the cause of freedom and liberty. I believe he was an honorable, upright man. 1
But again, I find I am getting tedious. When I get on a subject, I hardly know when to stop. The more I write, the more I convince myself of the truth of what I assert. I honestly believe law should be my profession.
As I have said before, you will send these letters to father for when I write such long letters, I can’t write many. Remember me to friends and tell Jerome if he intends to write, to do so soon. Love to all. Write soon.
— Charles H. Howe
Co, G, 36th Regt. Mass. Vols.
1 Capt. Hans Peter Jorgensen (1827-1863) was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1827. He served in the 15th Massachusetts Infantry and was killed on 2 July 1863 at the Battle of Gettysburg. His biographical sketch can be found on Wikitree.