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Feb 20, 2003 to Feb 6, 2013

150 Years Ago (1863 11/27-11/30)

Brattleboro, Nov. 27th,

Dearest wife -

I improve the present moment in writing. I should have done so two days sooner but could not. Was paid two months pay Monday. I shall send you twenty dollars. Day before yesterday was on guard; took my ink and paper with me to the guard house thinking to write to you between the reliefes, but such a time to be on guard! Soldiers just paid off, and Thanksgiving so close at hand.

Nov. 30th. I have made several attempts to finish this letter, but something or other has always interrupted me. Yesterday, Sunday, there was time enough, but it was so cold that I could not write. My bunk is some distance from the fire. We have but one stove, and the barracks are as cold as any barn, but today I was on guard, and as good luck, or rather a clean gun and equipments would have it, I am orderly again, so have a first rate time to write. I do not know whether it is best to send you twenty dollars or ten. There is a first rate chance to make a little money by selling watches to the new recruits. I am afraid that you will need it. I will think about it until morning, but to go back to where I left off, Thanksgiving came and went. Many of the soldiers got gloriously drunk, but few of the companies A & B, but the invalids went into it strong, many brought up late into the guard house, and there were ten of them carrying sand in boxes the next day, that is the way Capt. Drew punishes them sometimes. The weather here now is pretty cold, but we have had no snow, except a little that fell one day and melted as fast as it came. How I wish that I could come home. I suppose that I could come in the course of three or four weeks, but I could stop for so little time, and it would cost so much that I think I had better not come, and when I do come, try to get a little longer time than is usually given, but if I could only get home, I would enjoy it you better believe. Many of the men have their wives come here. Some hire their board, paying from $2.50 to $3.00 per week. I think that in the spring you had better come down and make a long visit to Hinsdale. They would be glad to have you come, and I could probably get over there about twice a week, but we have time enough to talk about that. I went over there a week ago Sunday and stopped until evening, and Fred brought me back. They wanted me to come over there to Thanksgiving. Should have gone. The orderly sergeant said I should have a pass to be absent until half past eight evening, but he went off the day before and the sergeant that acts in his place forget it. The orderly had made arrangements to fix me all right. I was on guard and could not speak for myself. When I came off guard and found the passes all out and none for me I felt pretty blue, but I made the best of it. We had a Thanksgiving dinner as good, however. The ladies at Swanton Center sent down a box filled with chicken pies, cooked chickens, cheese, mince, & apple pies, &c. &c. The table was full, more than the whole company could eat. Our officers sat down with us and Lieutenant Cooper who was officer of the Day (He belongs to Company A). At the conclusion, three hearty cheers were given for the ladies of Swanton Center and vicinity, three for our Capt. Brannon and three for Lieutenant Loeser and three for Lieutenant Cooper. The boys felt well. It did them bood, to think that a few patriotic ladies, to whom they are unknown had thought of the soldier who had to sleep on a straw tick, with scanty covering, in Barracks colder than most barns, and lived poorer than the soldier at the front, right here in the State of Vermont. I cheered as loud as any of them, but I must admit I felt a great hankering to be home all day. I thought often of the feast you mentioned in your letter to me. Yes, as I cheered I felt how your arms would encircle me if I were at home, how I would kiss one dear cheek and then the other, lips, head, neck, arms, well, I would not bite, no not much. I shall come sometime then look out. I had a letter from Zepher last week. He has probably been in battle before this time. How anxiously I am waiting to hear the result. Three or four of us take the Springfield Republican. We get it at noon. The Freeman comes to me. I mean to make a little effort next year to see if the substitutes cannot get the seven dollars per month. I have made a few converts now, but Governor Holbrook was opposed to it this year. His soul is very small, but by another session he will be on the shelf, dry as seed pea. I will venture the assertion that among all the soldiers that have gone from Vermont there is not so good a body of soldiers as the substitutes that have gone into the army. I mean those residents of Vermont. There are but a few hundres of them, but they are universally of the true grit. Some have come for nothing but what the government gives them. It is hard. There are about two hundred new recruits here now; today as I went to get my dinner, who should I meet but Willard Kelley. I was surprised, but there he was right before my face. He had not got on his uniform yet. He was as much surprised as I. Here we are bent on putting down the rebellion. I could not stop but a minute, but I could not laugh to see him. He said “What do you think John will say?” I suppose you hear the news and are glad that I am not in Virginia or Georgia. I am on your account, but if it was not for you, I should be impatient to be right amid the din and crash of battle, call it slaughter if you please, but I am not there, see all the hardship of the soldier but none of the excitement. Oh! It is a screaming cold night, but I have got to stand guard. Aint it nice that I had a clean gun. You never saw any steel brighter than the barrel of my gun. Alba Warren has been detailed to work in the bakery. I think that I might have got in there, but I do not wish to be a baker, cook, nor anything else of the kind. I am able to do the duty of a soldier and am willing. Warren is much pleased with his berth, it is a comfortable one. I do not mean to wait so long without writing to you. I am sorry that I did not tell you to send that quilt along. You know I like to sleep comfortably. The box has not come yet. I get along very well so far. I think that I will send you fifteen dollars, as I must get me some boots. I shall wait until I hear from you. If you need it I will send you all I have. I must get my coat fixed, and that will cost a dollar or two. I just think of a great many things to write but must close.

Yours in love



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An early version of the Grinch

" I mean to make a little effort next year to see if the substitutes cannot get the seven dollars per month. I have made a few converts now, but Governor Holbrook was opposed to it this year. His soul is very small, but by another session he will be on the shelf, dry as seed pea."

I liked the sentence about his soul being very small… : )

These letters continue to bring the period alive in ways history books and documentary films can only hope to match. Thanks again for sharing them.


Politics...and romance

Some things never change. Then as now, we complain about our elected officials and hope to vote them out of office.

I kind of liked the relatively chaste stuff about kissing. That's as racy as it gets, folks!


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