Near the Railroad, July 8th, 1864.
Here I am on picket again. Came on yesterday morning, pretty well round towards that rail road. I should write with clean hands if there was any water near, but it is half a mile to the spring, and we can only spare a man occasionally to get enough to cook with and drink when it is fresh. It is as good water as I ever saw. It is at that house I wrote to you about where I was on, the first time I was on picket. The women and children are all at home and are not molested in the least. People may talk about the women of the south being she-devils and all that. I have not seen many, but such as I have seen say, when they hear firing they only think of the killed and wounded, without reference to which side they belong. There are some that are decidedly Union. They show it pretty plainly. There was a family down near where we were on picket, when I commenced my last letter to you. They had a very fine garden; the boys pitched into the potatoes and onions at a great rate. There was a guard put on. Those people were Union no mistake. They brought out sweet milk and butter milk to the boys. It make me feel bad to see how the people here are plundered. Oftentimes a poor family are robbed of every bit of flour and meal, everything in the garden goes up in no time. Particularly the potatoes, which are now very good. It is necessary and good policy to take the farm crops, and it does me good to see them on a large plantation go, but to break up furniture and things that no one can eat or drink is shamefully wicked, or to take the last mouthful from poor women, whether they are secesh or not. I shall always remember that I have a wife and family, and if I did not have, and never expected to have, I have too much respect for women to see them abused, without at least giving the abusers my opinion of them.
I have just stopped to draw my rations. The cook has come and brought them to us, a loaf of soft bread, one day's ration, and 11 hard crackers which is one day's ration, potatoes enough for two weeks. They were sent from the Sanitary and a good large onion from the same source, two day's ration of pork (we draw fresh beef about half the time) and a plenty of sugar and coffee. The Sanitary sent us some pickles three days ago. One at home can hardly realize how much good such things do. I eat the last of my pickle this morning. It tones up the stomach, though I have been well all the time, yet, though all the boys have told me "you will see, you will have to take it yet.” Well, something, sometimes I have thought I might, it threatened pretty hard, but I have been careful, and that pickle and the onion is going to make me safe. You may remember I have always said that most of the sickness was caused by the carelessness of the men themselves. I know it. There are many that will draw two day's rations of sugar and sit down and eat it up, draw a ration of fresh meat, cook and eat it all at once, so with all other things. There is one thing my appetite craves, that is cheese. Can get it by paying 40 cents per pound. That is the only thing that my appetite craves that I do not get. I must stop, for my time has come to go on post 3:30 P.M. Stay on two hours 5:30.
HAVE GOT OFF POST, will write a little and then borrow a frying pan, boil my potatoes and fry my pork, and how good it will be. Shall take a part of my onion raw. I have about a pint of dried apple. Shall stew that in the morning and eat it with the soft bread. For the last half hour there has been a very heavy cannonade going on on the right. It commenced comparatively near and is now quite distant. If you have not got an idea of the position here I will give it. City Point is the bast of supplies. Butler's old forces protect it above on the South Side of the James River up to somewhere on the Appomatox River. I cannot give you the precise location, though it was in that vicinity that I did my first dodging. Then comes the line resting on the Appomatox down by Petersburgh. It runs within the city limits, then passing down by the city it turns and bends round to where we are. This flank was threatened before we came in here, but it is now strong, but it requires a great deal of watchfulness. I do not think that we should have quiet a time if Stonewall Jackson and Jeb Stuart were alive. If the rebs could get in here it would make very bad work. We are not allowed to have any fire, or to sleep any. There is a reserve picket, and relieve once in twenty-four hours. I will tell you just how we do it. There are three men posted about ten rods apart. We have a pile of rails about breast high, with a bank of earth on the outside, and some boughs over us to keep the sun off. About six rods in front is the post of the vidette. It consists of some rails piled in the shape of a V, the point to the front, which is made by locking the ends of the rails. This is made about two feet high. Some dirt is thrown against the end and a little way on each side so as to protect the head of a man lying down, and gives pretty good shelter in loading, lying down and firing. Hope I shall not have to use it for that purpose. There is not much prospect of it. There is an owl hooting, and must go and get my supper. The cooking has to be done on the sly. Will write the balance tomorrow.