150 Years Ago (1863 09/16)

Long Island, Boston Harbor

Sept. 16, 1863

 Dearest Abiah,

I thought I would write you a long letter today, but I do not know as I can, for I am on guard today. It is very hot here today. I cannot but think of you every moment, and tonight as I pass my lonely – what thoughts of you and the children will be on my mind. I was on from 11 A.M. Until 1 P.M., on again from 5 to 7. The guard are excused from all other duty until tomorrow at noon. I shall then have a good time to write but I wish this to be on the way to you.

Do you wish to know about our encampment? I will tell you. Long Island is about a mile and a quarter long, perhaps a half stretching from Northeast nearly to Southwest Fort Warren is in full view on the right of the island. As you look north Fort Independence on the left, it is as pleasant a place for a camp as you can well conceive, but I imagine none can be pleasant to me. The men here are a much better set of men than those that came here first. There are five rows of tents in the Vermont camp called by way of distinction Companies A, B, C, D, E. A is pretty rough, nearly all substitutes, most of them from New York, and they soften down as you go down in the letters. There were a few that came in last night, real gentlemanly one of them from Shaftsbury told me that he was really surprised to find so fine a set of men here. He expected when he left home to find nothing here but the roughest set of men.

There is no rum here. Those boys from Charleston have been very steady. That Jim Switser is a pretty good fellow, so is Edwin Goodwin. Goodwin, Stokes, Switser, Bryant from Holland and Woodward from the same place tent together; Jim Doyle from Brighton, a young fellow by the name of Smith from Bolton Canada, and a Mr. Martin from Williamstown, a very fine steady man, and a French man by the name of Joseph Secguoin from Montreal. He is a fine gentlemanly man.

Comments | 2

  • Civil

    These are great fun to read. So he was heading off for the Civil War.

    Interesting to think of camps on Long Island. I usually picture Virginia countrysides when I think of the Civil War, but we even had fields of tents near the high school to serve as makeshift hospitals.

    I especially liked the details given by this sentence:

    “A is pretty rough, nearly all substitutes, most of them from New York, and they soften down as you go down in the letters.”

    He says that even though the camp is nice, no camp could be pleasant to him. I wonder what he meant by that?

    • Camp

      My guesses are twofold…being in an encampment preparing to go to war can be a pretty sobering situation, and he obviously misses home.

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