|from The Webster Times,
ARMY CORRESPONDENCE JOTTINGS OF SOLDIER LIFE
Near Falmouth Va. Feb 16, 1863
To The Editor of the Webster Times
Eight months ago, when leaving the Webster Station of the N&W RR in company of a dozen or more of the Webster and Dudley volunteers, I promised you I would write you an occasional army letter for the Times. But the multiplicity of duties then altogether unknown or unexpected, has so occupied my attention that all these long months have passed away, and this morning I am making my first attempt to fulfill my almost broken promise. I hardly know that I can write anything which will be acceptable to you, or interesting to your readers. So little of interest has occurred in this portion of Uncle Sam’s army for the past month, that no items or facts are at my command, except those of personal observation or experience. But if an immethodical and desultory epistle can serve you any purpose, you have this for what its worth.
I am led to speak of the weather, Snow and rain, particularly the latter more than sunshine, has attended our stay in this quarter of the ‘sacred soil.’ last night it came in torrents. Furiously, pitilessly, did it pour all night long, and many a wet soldier is seen this morning hovering around the camp fire, warming his feet, and drying his cloths, cursing his luck, and wishing himself anywhere but in the Grand Army of the Potomac. During the whole night across my hut ground half a dozen little streams kept up a continuous flow, making it impossible to step anywhere but in water and mud. Add to this a leakage in my canvass roof, which allowed the water to accumulate upon the underside, and drop, drop, drop in more than fifty places, you will have a slight conception of my discomfort. After retiring, which I did at eight o’clock, I tossed about incessantly, until the continual dropping and moisture made me so uncomfortable that I got up my cot into he center of the hut, directly under the center of the ridge pole. In this way I escaped the annoyance of the dropping, and was soon asleep. But my rest was very broken. The wind howled, and my frail shelter shook and seemed to sway to and fro, and the feat that I should suddenly be deprived of covering, kept me awake. During the entire night the rain poured and the wind blew, and I was glad when morning brought the light, and with it a cessation of the storm and a change in the wind. It is now considerably colder, yet withal exceedingly mild for the season, but the sky is still heavy with clouds which threaten further storm.
All hands are busy drying their saturated garments and blankets before the large camp fires, which are blazing everywhere around; and contracted visages and complaining tongues abound; nor can it be wondered that men should complain, and feel that they are getting more than they bargained for, when their shelter is an apology and cloths are wet, and the hands and feet are numb, and more than all, nothing to eat this morning but hard tack and a cup of coffee. I find that. all men, soldiers require a full stomach to be amiable. It helps to keep them comfortable in more than one respect.
I have three chickens alive in my hut; they seem very contented, and though not confined do not seem inclined to leave. When we eat they come around the table and quarrel for the crumbs. This is not a permanent arrangement, of course, but has been the only expedient to save them from the hands of the night prowler, who, like the devil, is always around seeking for something or somebody to devour.
It is amusing, though sometimes annoying, to hear the various rumors that are continually afloat in camp. Today we hear that Banks, or Butler, of Lincoln himself, has been assassinated, again, that Fremont is to have supreme control of the War Department; and the report actually obtained here a few days since, just after the first news of the Charleston harbor affair was received, that Fortress Monroe had been surrendered, Washington sacked, and that ten rebel iron clads were on their way to attack New York, Phil. and Boston! Of course, none but the silly or nervous among the troops give ear or currency to such reports; but there are enough of that class of individuals in the army to keep something of the kind everlastingly afloat.
A heart stopped beating in camp this morning. A soldier died, far from home and friends, without a tear or a sigh to solace his last moments, and without a mourner to go down to his grave. His death was very sudden and wholly unexpected. Yesterday, he called upon the surgeon and complained of a pain in the region of his heart. A prescription was prepared, and nothing was heard of him until this morning, when the surgeon was called hurriedly, the messenger saying that the man was dying. I hastened to his shelter where I found him breathing his last. He died in a few moments, probably from some affection of the heart. He will be buried tomorrow, but the mourners are far away, and with us all will but too soon be forgotten .
A brief sensation is now and then occasioned in camp by the arrival of rebel deserters, who have always some astounding statements to make, very few of which eventually prove true. Yesterday two officers. a lieutenant and a corporal, came within our lines. Among the statements which they make, is one to the effect that there are less than three thousand rebels in the vicinity of Fredericksburg, all having gone south or west. I do not apprehend that a reconnaissance will be ordered by reason of the statements of these gentlemen. We, as an army, could not move if we would, on account of the mud! I will not say that we would not if we could.
But I will not trouble you with more at present. I may however be allowed to indulge the stereo type wish that the unnatural war in which we are engaged may soon be end; although for myself, it must be acknowledged. I see nothing which indicates an early or remote accomplishment of the object of this bloody strife. I speak the sentiments of others than myself when I add that the experience of the past eight months has made me sick of and disgusted with all that appertains to war.