5 miles from New Orleans
January 2d 1863
Dear Mother and Father,
Who thought last New Years that at this time I would be so far from home? How did you spend Christmas and New Years? I hope pleasantly for I must say that I did, though I felt many times as if I would like to be with you. I tried to picture you all at Grandma’s and then I thought that Uncle Jason and now Land Lord and perhaps you were all alone, or else Mrs. Gray or Mrs. Bates or perhaps Miss Leymour was with you part of the day at least, a few days before Christmas, and intended writing again the next day so as to have a letter for the steamer, but I was very busy distributing new clothing and having muskets put in order that needed repairing from lying so long on the ship not in use and then the things belonging to the sick had to be put in good order and turned over to the Quarter Master. All this took up a great deal of time. Mason’s wound troubled him and was excused from duty and is now so that Dobbins was the only one to help me.
Christmas Day [on Ship Island] the command was turned over the non-commissioned officers and pronates. Christmas Eve the companies held their elections for Captain &c. and then the officers so chosen deleted the field officers. Sergt. John Rohan of Co. D was the Colonel, a boy from Co. A the Lt. Colonel, and one of the color corporals was Major. These officers were to do the best they could and they did first rate. Went through with guard mounting and dress parade without making a mistake.
John Higgins was detailed as corporal of the first relief and I corporal of the 3rd. Most of the others had to stand guard. Some of the men would run the guard and then the officer in command would send me with a guard to arrest them. They kept us running, I tell you. They had most of the officers in the guard house. It was a very warm day. Those not on duty were around without their coats. Just before dinner time, there was a squad round to arrest all the darkies and take the dinners away from them so we had to live on just what the men had, but that did not make much difference for we had nothing more than they anyway, except now and then, by watching the little scooters that came in there, we could get flour or oysters or something of that kind. Their object was to make us cook for ourselves. Take it all together, we had a very funny time.
I wish you could have seen our camp. I think you would wonder how we could live. Just imagine a regiment un camp on the beach in a warm day in summer and you have it to a dot, and we had large spiders running round rather lively. I tell you, one night on the ground here was enough. We got some boards and made a bed for all three and we then were very comfortable for the nights there [on Ship Island], and here, are very cold, and yet in the day time it was awful hot drilling. We lived principally on “salt horse” pot and hard tack, fried with the fork, had potatoes four times a week, rise and molasses three days in the week. We occasionally could buy some soft bread and once had butter but I never was better in my life. In fact, never was as well I weigh—don’t laugh now—one hundred and forty-five pounds. My coat is too tight without my vest and the buttons won’t stay on my pants or vest. I only regret my sick men are not here and well. The Colonel thinks that the next steamer may bring some of them.
Last Sunday we were delighted to see three steamers round the point and cast anchor off Ship Island for we were sure that one was for us and sure enough, about 9 in the evening the officer’s call was sounded and we had orders to strike the tents at reveille and at four, Monday afternoon, were all aboard the North Star bound for New Orleans where we cast anchor after dark, Tuesday. In the morning, the Colonel went ashore for orders, saw General Auger and General Emory who ordered us up here. We had to pass New Orleans and a more deserted looking place I never saw—all the stores shut up and nothing doing. A few old men and boys were lounging around the docks with their hands in their pockets and nothing to do. As we passed by each street, we looked hard to see a store open but all were closed and on most of them, bars of wood nailed across the doors and windows. I don’t believe we saw over five hundred people going the whole length of the city.
We arrived at Greenville about three o’clock. It is about as much of a place as Lancaster, or Town Line. There is no dock here but they don’t need any—the steamer s run close to the bank as the water is very deep here.
Sunday eve. Thus far, dear Mother and Brother, when the assembly for dress parade was sounded, and I had to close, intending to finish yesterday, but in the morning had dress parade, the hour having been changed, and afterwards had battalion drill. And after dinner, Capt. Ed Hollister, Dr. Whitehead, and Paymaster Fred Conkling drove into camp. I tell you, it seemed good to see a Buffalo face. Hollister came up to see Maj. Love, knowing that he was with this regiment. The others came up to see if they knew anyone else and I guess they were as glad to see us as we were to see them. Conkling belongs on one of the vessels that he have been blockading off this coast. He says they lay at anchor for nine months, out of sight of land and hasn’t heard from home since last September. George Gimson is Second Lieutenant in Capt. Hollister’s company and behaves himself. He enlisted as a private, was made company clerk, and then sergeant, then first sergeant, and now is 2nd Lieutenant. Robert Bache is major of the regiment. There is some talk of making his Col. a Brigadier. If they do, as they have no Colonel, Bache will be Colonel. The regiment is now at Fort Jackson, a little more than half day’s ride from New Orleans.
I wish you could see our camp. It is a pleasantest one we have had. We have plenty of room. The company streets are fifty feet wide. I have a floor in my tent and things as comfortable as can be. The ground is just as smooth as a floor and is very hard. The grass is as green as it is at home in summer. Right near my tent is a little clump of trees that keep the sun off till after three in the afternoon. Within a stone’s throw of our camp is the famous “Shell Road” which runs from New Orleans to Carrollton which is about a half mile from here. Right at the end of the road is a large hotel which was a fashionable resort for the New Orleans people. The grounds around are beautiful. Directly in front of the house is an orange grove and on both sides are all kinds of flowers. Just think, roses in bloom in January.
I wish you could see the water that we drink. It is from the Mississippi River and is half mud. But the if we shut our eyes, it tastes first rate.
Charlie Wadsworth is spending a few days with General Auger in the city. John Huggins received an invitation to dine with some of his staff.
So you see Will? I was left alone and I went up and took dinner with him. Now if you think we don’t live well, let me tell you what we had for dinner. Fried pork, baked sweet potatoes, fried oysters, mackerel, a splendid bread pudding, and oranges. How is that for soldiers dinner. In our mess for supper we had cold boiled ham, friend sweet potatoes, toast, oysters stew, and squash pie. We pay six cents per dozen for oranges and fifteen cents for oysters. Beef is forty cents a pound, butter thirty, milk—or rather chalk and water—thirty cents per quart. We don’t buy much of the three latter articles. I have hired a servant for ten dollars a month. He is a first rate cook, and cooks for the mess, so they pay half of his wages. He was head cook for a planter who did live near here and he does get our table up in style. Just imagine five of us setting round a chest which answers for a closet, refrigerator, and table with a darky to pass our plates and brush away the flies. We can reach way across the table but that isn’t polite. His is that for style? I think when I come home I will have to bring Dick to cook for you. I think he could cook you some new dishes. For instance, skouse. This is a hard tack broken up fine, salt horse cut up into small bits, and whatever else you choose to put in. All this is boiled together till you think it is done.
Last night we had an awful storm. The rain came down I sheets and I never heard such thunder or saw such lightning in my life. It was as bright at times that I could recognize the sentinel at the other end of the camp—about seven hundred paces. The wind blew a perfect hurricane. I thought every minute our tent would be carried away. This lasted about an hour and a half and when we got up this morning, the sun shone out bright and clear but it was rather muddy.
I heard tonight that we are brigaded under Col. Ingraham and that General Emory is in command of the division. There are a number of nine months of regiments from Massachusetts in the division. They came here with their arms boxed up so they don’t know much about drill.
There is a good deal of guessing going on as to the destination of the division. Some say up the river, others to Texas. I suppose we will know before long. I had a call a few evenings since from a Second Lieutenant of the One Hundred and Sixteenth Regiment. He said he knew Lewie very well. His name is Kerby. John Dobbins knows him. He was a member of some ball club in Buffalo. Ed Hosmer is up the river a few miles. Went up a few days before we came for. I am real sorry I could not have seen him.
I have just been out to listen to a serenade for Col. Chapin by the band of the 47th Massachusetts Regiment who are encamped near us. I never heard such splendid music in my life. They have gone over to serenade Col. Ingraham and as his camp is next to ours and on the left I shall have the full benefit. This is a glorious night. The moon is full and it is as light as day.
I wish I could hear from you. Have had no letters since the day we left Fortress Monroe. We hear various reports about a fight at Fredericksburg but don’t know what to believe. We fear that Burnside has met with a severe repulse but still hope it may turn out otherwise. We don’t know of anything that is going on.
I see my paper has got awful dirty somehow or other but it is all I have and so I will send it. How is dear Grandpa and Grandma? I hope well. Give them my very best love. Please remember me to all of my friends.
I am getting near the end of my paper and my candle won’t last much longer and Dobbins and Mason’s snoring tells me that it is bed time so dear Mother and brother, good night. Accept my very best love and write whenever you can to, — Albert
Monday morn. Good morning, dear Mother. How do you do? This is a beautiful day. The sun is very warm and the birds are singing. I am ashamed of this paper and had I any more, I should not send such a dirty sheet. There is a steamer ready to leave so I I am going to send this. — Albert