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[PUNCTUATION AND SPELLING ARE COPIED FROM THE ORIGINALS. EDITORIAL COMMENTS ARE IN BOLD TYPE.]
New Years day 1864
Day opened very unpropitiously, a disagreable drizzling rain setting in before Sunrise promiced anything but a "Happy New Year" However it turned out to be a very fine day for it cleared up about 10 A.M. and the rest of the day was a fine sunshiney one in the afternoon the wind commenced blowing from the north, by sundown it was freezing very fast. I got Henry Graves examined for a furlough of twenty days he had a letter from his wife saying she was sick with the diptheria which has proved very fatal in Allegany Co. for several years. I took dinner at the Hosp't we had oysters Stewed and raw and all felt happy enough to enjoy them. 'pumpkin pie' for dessert went well. Every thing was so quiet in camp it seemed like sunday. The President gave a Levee to day. Col McKelvy and Staff went over to it. I spent most of the afternoon at the medical Hd. Qrs. playing "Seven up" - I shall go to bed early as I sat up late last nigh to see New Years in and for several other reasons I feel rather sleepy.
Jany 2" 1864
Day very cold, wind North. ground frozen Very buisy making up and fileing last years papers.
Sunday Jany 3" 1864
Day cold & clear. In reading over my last years memorandum I found some one who had no business to had been doing the same I felt very angry. asked Sergt Beaugureau if it was him, was sorry for doing so at once for he is the "soul of honor" sent in with the Orderly Henry Graves furlough for approved by Col McKelvy for 15 days
Jany 4" 64
Day Commenced snowing about 10 O.C. has snowed ever since, about four inches deep to night, the first snow of any account this season. Sometime in November there was a slight fall not enough to see on the ground but enough to win me a bottle of Champaigne which I had bet with a frenchman named Adolph Otto.
Day cold- Graves got his furlough to day it was onely approved in Washington for 10 days. I told him when he started that if his wife was very bad I did not think the Col' would say anything if he stayed two or three days more than his time.
Day cold. The 3 & 4" Regts of Penna Res. which have been doing our guard duty for a long time were orderded to break up camp and be ready to take the cars for Harpers Ferry at an hours notice. they did so and have waited all day for orders to move which as they did not come, about an hour ago Col' McKelvy ordered them to be marched over to be put in our barracks for to night. we have organised a convalescent guard to take their place temporarily.
Still cold snow not yet melted.
An order came for the "Reserves" to march about 1 1/2 A.M. I got up and took the order over to Col Woolworth who stayed in his own quarters all night. they had to march to the Soldiers Rest Washington and take the cars there. after I got them off I went to bed again. I had an order made out this P.M. to take another squad North but when I came to investigate the matter I found that they had been already sent.
Thursday Jany 7" 64.
Day warm enough to thaw a very little Lieut Stewart was relieved of the command of Camp Distribution by an order of the Secty of War. to be court martialed for abusing a prisoner last fall. when he (Lieut) was drunk, if the truth is proved I think the Lieut will be dismissed the service- snowing a little to night-
Day thawed a very little. What fun the boys have riding down hill the uper part of the camp makes a very good place for that kind of sport. the men get barrel staves or or boards. logs of wood in fact any thing that will slip, to ride on and fine sport they have. We had sausages and toast bread as a kind of treat at ten O.C. to night. Congress is debating wheather they will extend the time for reinlisting in the Veteran Corps. all men in the 3 year regts who have less than one year to serve get 402$ for again enlisting for three years. it is a great indusement to many and they avail themselves of it accordingly-
Jany 9" 1864"
Day cold snow still on the ground. I wrote a letter to William Hibbard who used to be on duty as Orderly at the office. I have been at work on the Commisary returns of the month of December / 63. I have had this to do for the last four monts. After the papers are made out at the Commisary Office they are sent to this office to be approved by Col McKelvy and before he will sign them he requirs them to be reexamined this I do.
Day warm enough to thaw a little. good sleighing yet. My orders are made out to take some men to Anapolis Md. Sergt Beaugureau and myself took a walk this afternoon we had considerable fun snow-balling. it is the first sport of that kind I have indulged in in two years. Received a letter from Sally Ann Potter all well she is afraid little Charly will be lame all his life. I think she does from the tone of her letter. I finished reading Gil Blas this evening it is written by "Le Sage" Author of "Le diable boiteux" the book undoubtedly contains a great deal of philosophy and wit, but one has to read much in order to get it for it is a large book, Sergt B- who has read it in French says it loses a great deal by translation as it is full of idioms which it is impossisble to translate.
Washington Mon. Jany 11" 64
Day very cold do not think it thawed any. I started with Fourteen Paroled Prisoners about 10 A.M. Marched over to Washington every hard walking it is so slippery. I was delayed in getting my transportation untill 3 O.C. P.M. the last train that would connect with the cars to go to Annapolis had then left so I have to stay here in the Soldiers Rest with my men to night it is very cold I will sleep with two of the men on the floor near the stove. said stove is red hot and a darkey come in every little while with a wheel barrow of coals to fill it and the other six stoves in this barrack.
Conv' Camp Tues' 12"
Day thawed a very little sleighing still got out of the city. The "Oldest inhabitant" says that such another long cold spell has not been experienced in this part of the country for many years. the Potomac is completely frozen up. the Chesapeake is frozen enough to stop navigation almost. I slept very badly last night was up by four this A.M. started for A- at 6 1/2 got to camp Parole at 10' My orders had been retained at Dept Hd. Qrs. and I had no orders to show why I brought the men down I made a written statement of the facts which was accepted. As no train came back to W- until 2 1/2 P.M. I went down to Annapolis about two miles from Camp P-. A- is a small very old looking town of 5000 people It is the capitol of Md situated on an inlet of the Chesapeake. the only celibrities of the place are the U.S. Naval Academy and the State house the latter is an old colonial building square and built of brick, from the center rises the tower to a hight of 60 or 70 ft. this part of the structure is of wood and in such an unfinished inside with scraps of boards thrown arround among the timbers which cross & recross each other in all shapes. I wonder it does not get on fire for the slightest spark would set it going like a basket of kindlings. I returned to W- this P.M. getting there after dark. but I went in the Rest and got supper after which I felt so well I concluded to walk out to camp just cold enough to make a brisk walk nice. so here I am at home-
Received a letter from Sherm Crandall he is still at Alfred centre at school boards at the Hall Old uncle Haggard is dead.
Jany' 13" 1864
Day quite warm snow nearly all gone very muddy. Gen'l Hentzelman has been assigned to the command of the Dep't of the North. Ohio Ind' Ill. Michigan and as Col McKelvy is one of his staff I suppose he will have to go with the Gen'l he has gone to town today to see about it. I wrote a letter to father and one to sister this evening. I shall sleep in Hd. Qrs. while B. is away
It is now 10 oclock P.M. but I find in looking over my letters that somehow I have made a miscalculation and owe you one and as I have just written to father I will make myslf even with my sister to, and after that I will probably sleep better. I am almost inclined to think I am not so much in your debt after all for since you wrote me I have sent you Henry Graves to give you the news by word of mouth and have also written to my sister-in-law Sally. so you are posted on what is going on here, and I also am posted in Andover news by receiving a letter from Mrs Perry Potter and one from Mr. Sherman Crandall, so you see we are boath prety well informed persons at least in my opinion we are. Oscar Remington has written to his people about being detailed in the Kitchen has he not. I was going to get him detailed as carpenter had every thing arrainged when he informed me that some men had been arround to get men to wait on the tables in the dining rooms and he had made up his mind to try that and see how it went, so that is all right.
I took a squad of men down to Annapolis Md the other day just to see the place. I will describe it to you. it is the capitol of Maryland situated on an inlet of the Chesapeake Bay and a very uninteresting place. about half as large as New Burgh very old looking the only places worth visiting are the U.S. Naval Academy and the State house. The latter is built on the highest ground in the city. square in form the material used in its construction is brick. from the centre of the building rises the steeple to the highth of 60 or 65 feet. the view from the top is very nice would be considered splendid by any person who had never been on the Capitol Dome or the Bunker Hill Monument or Washingtons Monument at Baltimore, the country arround is very uninteresting nothing but those short white pines that tell but too truthfully of the sterility of the soil. I believe the State house is next to Faneuil Hall the oldest state building in the country. And I am glad I have visited it.
We have been enjoying for the past week (not counting yesterday & today) what has not before enjoyed in this country for several years that is seven consecutive days sleighing and I assure you it has been enjoyed too in a manner that we Northerners who have months of good slipping every year would not think of. Why you would laugh to see the cousarns. I can't call them anything else that they get up over in the city to sleigh ride in any thing that has runners. two boards bent up at the ends with a box on and a horse hitched to it, or two saplings bent like a runner with boards on, in fact anything only so that they can call it riding in a sleigh. still for this very reason they take more pleasure than we do as it is more dificult to be obtained.
The Potomac has been frozen over for 6 days also so you must know it is rather cold.
Yesterday the snow began to go and to day but little is left. lots of mud in its place though.
General Hentzelman has been assigned to the command of the Department of the North his Head Quarters will be at Columbus Ohio. Lt. Col. McKelvy belongs to his staff and I suppose will of course go with him to his new command. who will command this post I do not know Brig' Genl' Abercrombie I suppose, I wish I could go with the Col' out West but I cannot.
You must be having very cold weather up your way now too. I pity brother Josephs straight finger he will want to slap it prety often I think. I should think he would be afraid to go near a horse he has met so many misfortunes from them. however his motto is "persever" I guess for he seems bound to do so in regard to horse flesh.
How does mother stand this cold weather. she is getting to be quite old now and needs to have all the love of her children to keep her warm. dear old lady I send her mine to help. And Janey how is she, no danger of her getting cold if she is as fleshy as when her likeness was taken, and you to my sister I look at that likeness very often and wish I was sitting between you two. Ah! if you were only down here this evening and could go back as soon as you got sleepy (for there is no place for you to sleep here) how I should like it. if I were up there you would hardly send me back if I got sleepy would you?
Susan I believe from the tone of your last letter you are getting melancholy. Do not let it grow on you for it is as fatal a desease as the consumption. I say this because I can see you do not know it yourself. With this happy advise I will close, subscribeing myself-
Ever Your loving brother
Jany 16" 64
Day quite warm--
Col McKelvy does not go out west now the Genl Will send for him if he wants him. Oscar Remington and me have made up our minds to send up to our friends for a box of good things. Mr Jno. B. Gough the great temperance lecgturer spoke here this afternoon at the Christian Commission Chapel. He is a splendid speaker loves to elustrate his points by funny stories would change his audience from crying to laughing and from laughing to crying in a single minute. makes them laugh much more than cry however. Col thought it an excellent temperance lecture went and took a drink as soon as it was over.
Sunday Jany 17" 1864
Day warm and muddy.
Took a walk with Oscar this afternoon prety muddy walking. Went down to Mrs Smiths and ate a mince pie this evening very bad pie it makes me feel so bad that I shall send to my sister for a box with some better ones in it. Charles Jordon is back again.
Day rained all day very muddy no entry to make - Swain our principle Clerk was drunk all day Capt Crawford relieved him to night he feels very bad will make application to be reinstated in the morning and I believe if he gives Capt Crawford his word of honor he will not get that way again. he will be placed in his old position.
Day warm A.M. Cold wind from the N' P.M. was freezing at Sundown. Two large omnibus loads of ladies and five gentlemen came out from Willards this P.M. we could not get them all in Hd. Qrs. if they had not had hoops we could. I was up on the hill while they were and saw the wind make some rather bold lifts of their skirts. they were all homely wemen and so the sight was not ravishing.
Wednesday Jany 20" 64
Day clear and cold not enough to freez until sundown. The Court Martial has been in progress for several days. I am reading the "Wars of the Jews" by "Josephus" an interesting history. shall give my views on it when I get through.
Day clear and quite warm. There is a board here examining men for the Invalid Corps when they are organised they are to be put on duty as guards of this camp. They seem to work slowly as no organising them into companies has been done yet.
Day clear and warm--
I went over to town with Sergt Edmonds a Mass man. I only had 60 ct but he had two or three dolars so we had a good time. We went first to see Prof Stinson of the Smithsonion Institute. the went to a hotel opposite Willards and had dinner, made a brief visit to the Patint office then went up to the Capitol sat down in the house of rep's a while and listened to the debates, came back got our supper and Edmonds went and saw a member of congress while I went up to the Provosts and got our pass countersigned good for all hours for it makes no difference who a pass is given by unless it approved by the Provost as soon as it is dark a man will be taken up and put in the Guard House the patroll goes into every theater and other places of amusemenht and take out all men not having passes so approved. We had a game of Billiards then went to Fords and saw the "Ticket of Seave Man" played. Mis C[blank space] was the principle actress and M. [blank space] the actor. walked over to camp after the thing was played. it is now 2 O.C. A.M. of the 23 we have just got here and I am prety tired but of course must write up my "mem's" before going to bed. I liked the play prety well for it was a good redition of carictor.
[HRJ note: I suspect the play title may be a mis-transcription. Wikipedia lists a play "The Ticket-of-Leave man" that debuted in 1863.]
Jany 23" Saturday.
Day clear and warm
Genl Cawforth Pa Malitia and two members of the Pa legislature were out here to day. the Genl was so drunk he he could hardly stand. I believe I must give a little history of Serg't H. W. Edmonds He is a native of Cambridge father died while he was yound mother over indulgent consiquently he is rather wild-- Went on a trip round the world when about 15 got married while waiting a short time in Sanfrancisco to a Miss Warren. led his wife to believe he was going to Sacremento when he left for China the boat she
thinks thought he on for the former place was sunk and he thinks she believes him dead. has not heard from her since he left San-- he is in love with a Miss [blank space] he says she is the belle of Cambridge. he is now not quite 20" Was wounded at [blank space] and was reduced to the ranks since he was here by a regimental order. he is a good fellow for sport naturely rather vain--
Day clear and warm
Sergt Beaugureau returned to day this is the twelfth day since he started. I took a walk with Oscar R-- to day Recd' a letter from Sml [his father Samuel LaForge] to day. he is well was drafted but was exempted it cost him $30-- he will try to break up ten acres in the spring.
Tuesday Jany 26" 1864
Got up early this morning to take a squad of men belonging the 2" and 12" Regts N.W. Vols down to Alexandria to be sent to Point Lookout where those regts are stationed. Owing to the sloth of the Chf Clerk of the 3" Division Eastern troops I did not get off early enough to get to the boat which left at 9 A.M. so I took the men up to the Soldiers Rest this a a splendidly kept place much better than the one in Washington or Baltimore. here they had to stay until day after tomorrow when the boat goes down again. I returned acrost the hill the wind was blowing very hard it was very difficult to keep ones hat on and if the Ambulance curtains had been down I believe we should have upset. I always have an ambulance when I go on such a trip as that. The driver was unacquainted with the country the roads crossed themselves in all directions but I told him which way to drive for he was lost intirely. It has been a beautiful day notwithstanding the heavy wind the sun shone out bright and clear and warm. I though it would be cold to night but it is not.
Jany 28" 64 Thursday
Day clear and warm so warm as to make one prespire while walking. I received a letter from Sister and one from Janey to day. all well they have not received my letter sending for a box yet. I say they were all well but they were not mother and Joseph have bad colds Frank Bassett is in camp he came to day Oscar Remington brought him down to see me he looks just as he did 3 years ago Col McKelvy made me give Miss Thayer my address she is the assistant State Agent from our State. He also said to Dr. Hunt our Surgeon in charge that we must make that application to get a commission for La Forge. I dont know but he is going to try to get me promoted.--
Day warm and clear. we have now had one week of most beautiful weather clear and warm dry and pleasant. I suppose it is to pay for the weeks of cold weather previous. The name of our camp is changed by a General Order from the Adjs Genls to the Rendezvous of Destribution. Camp Dist-- is to be broken up
Sat. Jany 30" 64.
Warm but rainy. Camp Distribution is to be merged into this camp. no more men are to be sent to this camp but such as are fit for duty in the field. the men will be arrainged in corps instead of states so that when a corps is called for they will all be togather no more discharging will be done here but at our Hospt which is to be changed into a General Hospt. and of course will be intirely independent of this command so quite a change is taking place. pay Mastr was not here as expected.
Warm but cloudy and disagreable.
I answered fathers last letter and will answer my sisters to night and also Janeys. I played 6 games of draughts to day with Sergt Edmonds of whom I spoke on page 12 I feel very much asshamed of it and will not do so again for I have several times spoken to other boys about it. I have had Frank Basset detailed as clerk at the Invalid Corps Examining Board it is a good position I guess he will like it. I finished Josephus and returned it to the library to day. I think his style rather dry but the antequity of the work makes it invaluable what I principly wondered at was how it was possible for the Jewesh nation to loose so manny people at that early period and yet so many remain. The 2nd Book I believe it is of the "Wars of the Jews", gives the numbers slain in domestic and foreign wars as over 150000 I set down the sepperate items and at the end of the book footed it up and the ammount was as I have stated It looks like a curse of God that they were divided aganst themselves and in domestic trouble all the time even an invasion of their enimies could not unite them so they would kill themselves at the same time they were being slain by others. I dont think that the Romans could have conquored them if they had been united for they were very brave under Josephus when he was their General.
I received a letter from Samuel to day. he gave me the information I asked for in my last in regard to my ancestors. he says there is lots of game out there (Wis) and good fishing also. he says he has got a cow, a hog, ten hens and a cock. to commence keeping house with in the spring.
I hasten to answer yours of the 23" for several reasons. firstly, to inform you that father is prety well his last letter to me was dated Dec 28" he had then just returned from getting "ex'd" from the "draught" as the old soldiers say. it cost him $80" he says for he had to pay for his papers and his board cost him two dalars a day while he was absent. he was also suffering under an attack of the "neuralgia" he was getting better whe he wrote he was expecting to go on his place in the spring.
Secondly, To congratulate you on overcoming your fit of meloncholy of which I accused you in my last. I humbly beg pardon if I made a mistake I hope Joseph will make it all right for me by a kiss or two wont you Josey. By the way my brother-in-law is the most unlucky fellow with horses I ever saw. I should think they would get tired of hurting him after a while he takes it so confoundedly cool, now if it were me I would half kill them to see if I could not make them more careful how they handle themselves arround me. I shall have no brother in a little while if he allows them to go on at this rate killing him a little at a time.
"Thirdly" I wish to inquire if Janey received a little note not worth noticing which I sent up about a week ago asking her to be so kind as to engeneer sending Oscar a box of goodies Oscar said he would write to his people to send and we would have things for both of us come in the same box what we principly need is butter Oh! you dont know how fine that butter tasted that Henry Graves brought down with him. eating it was almost as good making a visit to Allegany at least Oscar and myself had an argument to that effect. now if you could send us such a box and not prepay the Express Agent but wait until it gets here and I will pay it would do just as well.
"Fourthly" General news. The name of this camp is changed to Rendezvous of Distribution as you have probably noticed from the heading of this interesting epistle. the nature of the camp is changed as well as the name hereafter none but men fit for duty in the field will be sent to this place. therefore no more discharging will have to be done here. no more men transferred to the Invalid Corps after the men now in the camp have been thoroughly sifted. Distribution camp which has always been attached to the command will be broken up and all the men brought into the Barracks. so the command will hereafter consist of Rendz'-of Dis'- which is our present Barracks which will contain 5000 men and the Invalid Corps Barracks which will contain 1000 men. the Invalid Corps is to do the Guard duty of the command and clerks and orderlies will be detailed from it for the officers and offices, so you see there is quite a change. You might as well change the address of your letters so as to suit the other changes.
I have got Frank Basset detailed as clerk of the Invalid Corps examining board it is a good position I hope he will like it Frank is a "bully fellow" I should have thought I (probably meant "he") would have got a commission and not come out as a private, however perhaps he is not ambitious for rank. I believe it is not always the best men gets the best positions though I have done prety well.
Has "Tim Green" went back to the 85th yet? it seems strange he should be sick he was such a large healthy fine looking man, but I tell you soldiering breaks a man down wonderfully. The Government makes us comfortable as it is possible for soldiers to be, but the change is nevertheless very great from our comfortable Northern homes to the exposure incidental to an active campaign through the low swampy lands of the Slave states, not one in one hundred of those hardy men who went forth by thousands at their countrys call will return without being broken bown. I assure you after my sickness on the Paninsula I feel five years older. I have had more oppertunaties of gaining experience since I have been in the army than most privates have. I have did my best to improve them also. perhaps that may account in part for my feeling so old.
You have not got over that habit of dreaming about me yet? well I hope they do not allarm you as much as they used to. is it not strange I have only drempt of home two or three times since I was up there. I dont think I ever before had such dreamless sleep as I have now my mind is so much occupied in the day time that it is glad to rest at night. you may believe that if you ..... Give my love to Mother tell her to beware of that cold tell Janey I have not forgotten this is leap year. tell the rest a lot of good things and among the rest that I love them all more than ever.
Your loving brother
P.S. I send a letter to father in this same mail. Yours Bijou
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