Newport News, Va.
February 14, 1863
My dear Parents,
My last letter, written about a week since, contained ten dollars. I speak of it in this letter to let you know that I sent it and if you do not receive it, it’s no fault of mine.
Our brigade left Falmouth last Tuesday [10 February], by cars, and arrived at Aquia Creek in the evening where we went aboard an old steamer [“South America”] which was so rotten that the Government dare not use it to transport cattle on because cattle cost money.
Wednesday morning [11 February] we set sail or rather steamed down the river. At night we anchored in the mouth of St. Mary’s river (so I was told). Thursday evening [12 February] brought us to an anchor in Hampton Roads and under the guns of Fortress Monroe. At night a storm arose and I begun to think of saying my prayers for the way the old hulk rocked and pitched was a caution to landsmen.
In the morning [13 February] we discovered that the boat had spring a leak and quite a quantity of water was in her hold. However, we started and after passing the “Rip Raps,” the man-of-war “Minnesota,” two or three gunboats and an ironclad [“Nahant”] of the “Monitor” style (which is a mighty small mark to fire at on the water), we safely arrived at Newport News which you know is on the James river. After landing, we marched nearly two miles and are now on a splendid campground [on a high bluff overlooking the James river].
This morning I went down to the beach and saw therefrom the wreck of the “Cumberland” (which was sunk by the ram Merrimac). I also gathered a few sea shells which I shall send to you in a newspaper at the first opportunity. Please save them for me. Also the other little curiosities that I send home.
Oysters are plenty in the river and if we had rakes and boats we would be well supplied. If it was only warm weather, we would have a first rate chance to go in swimming.
The mail has arrived and I will go and see if I got a letter. I got one from you dated the 6th. Glad to hear from you. Hope the Government will go to the devil for now. It’s the meanest concern out. I tell you what it is. Gen. McClellan is the only man on this side of the globe that can handle such an army as this. He above all others is the man they will follow with any kind of spirit or pleasure. Yes, more, he is the only man they will follow, and accomplish anything. Gen. McClellan was in favor of going into winter quarters. Wooden-headed thing called Halleck was in favor of a winter’s campaign and by Halleck’s and Stanton’s means, Gen. McClellan was superseded. Burnsides took command and against his own will—in fact he blubbered like a calf because he had got to take command. A pretty man to take charge of the army, yet the leading journals come out in big type with “On to Richmond”—“Burnsides is the man!” &c. &c. &c. Now one would naturally suppose that a man undertaking a job against his will would have but little interest in it—much less when he is forced into it. But not so with Burnsides. He is an exception. Now see what he does. He marches his army to the front of Fredericksburg, but does not cross the river although the rebels are few in numbers because he has no pontoons. N. B. [note well] there is a ford above Falmouth. “I did not cross the river at the ford because I could not get artillery across,” so he tells the investigating committee.
It would have been an easy matter to [have] made a corduroy bridge but he does not see fit to make one. In the course of time the pontoons arrive but to the disappointment of all, they lay idle for weeks. The enemy are increasing in force daily and are strongly fortified. Why don’t he cross?” Echo answers, “Why don’t he?” Well finally he crosses (the enemy being prepared to meet him) and after giving sixteen thousand of our brave boys their discharge—in a manner that I hope I shall never receive mine—he with the advice of his generals, recrosses and informs the admiring public that he is “alone to blame.” But the press will not have it so. Of course it is not possible that he, who took command of an army against his will, should make such a failure.
Weeks go by and he is once more on the move. Get gets stuck in the mud and the rebels inform us of the fact by placing large signboards with the inscription, “Burnsides in the mud,” on the opposite side of the river. Now what has been the inglorious “winter’s campaign?” Go to the hospitals at Windmill Point, Alexandria, and Washington and you will see.
Jo Hooker has taken command. The Ninth Corps do not like him so they send it to this place thinking it will do better here than under Hooker. A month will soon go by and then we shall see what has been done by “Fighting Jo.” I calculate that the army will grow beautifully less under him.
But my fingers are cold and I must close with informing you that I am well and sincerely hope you are all the same. Write as often as possible.
With much love, I remain yours affectionately, — Charley
[P. S.] If you choose to read this to a few of your acquaintances you are at liberty to do so. — C. Howe