February 20th 1863
I see by the papers that the Bio Bio leaves for New York on Sunday so I am going to commence a letter to you though I fear it will not be much of a letter, or very interesting, as I know of no news to tell.
I am getting better very fast and gaining strength every day, I have been out twice to walk—the first time I didn’t go very far, my knees shook considerable. But yesterday I walked out to the railroad, which is about as far as from our house to Ellicott Street, I did not feel very tired either. The doctor says tomorrow I can go to New Orleans. I want to get my haircut, take a bath, and get a cap, The back of my old one is all greasy. I have sponged it several times but it is worn and in a few days it looks as bad as ever. I presume the Bio Bio brought letters for me but they would go right to the regiment with the rest. I hope to join the regiment the fore part of next week. The doctor thinks I will be well enough. He is a real nice man and I always have a talk with him when he calls. He has travelled a great deal and has a good many stories to tell. His name is Barrett. Last evening he stayed nearly an hour.
I wish you could step in and take dinner with me. I am going to have roast snipe, toast, and cocoa. This morning I had snipe boiled, toast and cocoa. There are men out shooting them every day, right close by here too. Dick bought five for me yesterday of a ma who was hunting them at the time. He got them for a shilling apiece. I have been living on oysters till I got tired of them. Have had chicken three or four times, but now you can’t get them for less than from seventy to ninety cents apiece, and small ones at that. The doctor told me that if I liked figs they would be good for me and to eat all I wanted. So I bought a box. They are not much like those we get at home. They are fresher and much better. There is not as much sugar on them and so get much of the fig taste.
Now go with me back to the Friday before I was taken sick. The whole brigade under command of Col. Ingraham took a march out the shell road. Co. B of the 116th was detailed to act as skirmishes most of the time. I had a whole platoon deployed but part of the time there was room only for a section and at times I would have to call them all in. About half way there is a swamp on both sides of the road. Of course we did not have any skirmishing here.
The next day—Saturday—-I was detailed as “Brigade Officer of the Day.” This put me next in command to the Acting Brigadier and it may be I did not put on airs for the next twenty-four hours. I had three camps to look after, to see if they were clean, if the sentinels were properly instructed in their duties, to see of the “Officers of the Day,” of the several regiments did their duty. In short, look after the brigade and see that all did their duty and that everything went straight. Whenever I visited the camps, they turned out the guard for me. When I made my rounds at night, John Dobbins and Capt. Stambro went with me.
Sunday, Col. Cottier was “General Officer of the Day.” He had to visit the outposts and all the camp under General Emory’s command. Will Seymour, Adjutant Weber, and I went with him. We left camp at two o’clock. I had the Quarter Master’s horse, which by the way is not a very easy riding animal, and a little ugly—just such a horse as I like—one that you can jab the spurs into once in awhile. The horse was taken from a secesh and he bought it for forty dollars. The horse is probably worth a hundred. Well, on our journey we saw a darkie wedding party and of all the sights, I never saw anything to beat this. The bride and three bridesmaids as we supposed were dressed in white but the turbins were on the colors of the rainbow. And the groom was dressed in white with a new beaver, and a great, broad, velvet band. The groomsmen were dressed in white but didn’t have as fancy hats. The rest of the party—about twelve couples—were dressed, one would think, for a fancy dress ball. I tell you, it was a funny sight. As we passed the bride and groom, Col. [Cottier] says, “Hello John! been getting married?” He looked up and grinned and said, “Yes sar.” Some of the girls said, “Tomorrow night we’s gwen to hab a dance, won’t you come dah!” The Colonel said he guessed he couldn’t.
Out at the parapet, which is near the outposts, we saw three companies of blacks. I wish the Government wouldn’t enlist them, It is well enough to have them to dig trenches, drive teams and do such work but as for making soldiers of them, I do not believe in it. I am sure I do not want to fight alongside of a nigger.
We arrived in camp about five o’clock. I took supper with Col. Chapin. He is real pleasant. The regiment [31st Massachusetts] that Major Bache, Capt. Ed Hollister, and Lt. James [M.] Stewart (Geo. Ganson) are in is in camp near here. I can see one or two of their tents from my window and were it not for a building I could see their whole camp. Yes, George Ganson ¹ is 2nd Lt. in the Thirty-first Mass. Regiment and is known only by the name of James Stewart, except of course by those who came from Buffalo.
I suppose Julia Phelps is in Buffalo by this time, How I should like to be there to help entertain her. She is such good company and a real splendid girl. You said in one of your letters that I have said that she was going to write me but I haven’t seen it yet.
I wrote Coz. Mary the other day and Grandma yesterday. Directed the letter [to] Mrs. Lewis Jenkins, Buffalo, thinking she would be more pleased to have the letter come to her through the Post Office but if the letter is not put into the box, let Lewie enquire at the general delivery. Tell him in directing letters not to try to but the Brigade on for that is changed so often. Be sure and get the No. and state plain and put in Banks Expedition. I have had my dinner of snipe and toast and now is the time for me to take my walk and as I have made out quite a letter, I will close.
Please give my love to Grandpa, Grandma, Lewie, and all who ask for me, and accept ever so much, with a kiss, for yourself from your own, — Ally
¹ George Henry Ganson (b. 1835) was a bank cashier in Buffalo, New York, prior to the war. It isn’t clear how it was that he assumed a false identity and served in a Massachusetts regiment. It may have had something to do with a bounty.