Albert J. Barnard, 21 December 1862

Headquarters, 116th Regt. N. Y. V.
Ship Island
December 21st 1862
4.30 p.m.

Dear Mother,

There is a boat here to leave for New York this afternoon at six o’clock and I shall have to hurry to get this into the mail. We get along very nicely although this is such a sandy, wild place. There is nothing but sand for four miles. Then there is a swamp that reaches nearly from shore to shore and in the swamp Alligators and a species of palm tree. Further on is a sort of prairie covered with tall rushes which are so long that they will reach a man’s knees when riding on horseback. About six miles from here is a beautiful little lake in which are plenty of fish and lots of ducks. We are having a better time here than I supposed we would. We have been living on oranges and oysters since we came here. There are boats loaded with hens all the time. The oranges we buy for a dollar and a half a hundred and oysters for a shilling a bushel.

For dinner today we had beans, potatoes, onions, boiled pork, slap-jacks, and oranges. How is that for soldiers? We have coffee every day but have no milk nor sugar for it—have to use molasses, but that’s nothing after one gets used to it. And there is no soft bread on the island. We eat hard tack which we have fried with the pork.

After we got our camp settled we had clothing given to the men. They now have the regular army dress coats and new pants and present a very fine appearance at “dress parade.” We now have but about six hundred men for duty, but ever since we came from the ship the sick ones have been improving. I had only forty-five men out for inspection this morning. At Camp Chapin I used to have about eighty or eighty-five.

I intended to have written you before so as to have a good long letter to send by the first mail, but was busy the first two or three days delivering the clothing and since them have been off duty, having had a severe cold—not off duty because I was sick, but because I was so hoarse that I couldn’t give a command.

Day before yesterday the Colonel, Adjutant, and I went up the island hunting. We got a few sand snipe and plover which were cooked for the sick ones in the hospital. Yesterday afternoon we went again, there being no drill as it was Saturday and the men preparing for inspection. We went about seven miles, saw and shot some duck, but as ew had no boats and they fell in the water, we could not get them all. I had the Lt. Col.’s horse and as we could ride on the beach all the way, we had a splendid ride and lots of fun. I tell you, it is a wild place all around the lake, and in fact all the way from the other side of the island till within four or five miles from here. I feel as if I had seen a great deal of the world and as if I had been from a year.

I would give anything for a letter from you and a paper. Why we know nothing of what is going on now at New Orleans. The boat that has been running here has been taken off and is now carrying troops. We are expecting every day to see a boat come for us but still we may be here some time. The 38th Massachusetts, Col. Ingraham, and the 110th New York, Col. Littlejohn, are both close to us and will probably stay here as long as we do. The companies are just going out on “dress parade.” I have stayed to finish this letter.

I wish you could look into my tent now. As you enter on the left in the further is our bed; further opposite is one of the beds that Capt. Dobbins sent us. Next to the bed is a box that answers for a table, wash stand, and desk. At the foot of the bed sits Charles William Henry Washington catching flies. He keeps us laughing all day with his funny sayings and doings. I wish you and Grandma could see him. Lewie saw him. He is the one that Sizer had when he was at Fort Monroe. Sizer now has a cook and this little “Nig” does the brushing and running for us all as we mess together and share the expenses.

John Dobbins is well and seems to enjoy himself as much as any of us now he can around. I guess he thinks I am a little severe on him once in awhile. The other day I set him at work at the clothing book which I had put in his charge some time before, and he had neglected and yesterday put him at the pay rolls. He says, “Why Cap, you are rough on me, ain’t you?” He didn’t like it because I spoke in such a way [but] there was no getting around it. He likes to have his own way and take his own time, but they ought to be finished before we leave here. He is all right but don’t like to be told in such a way that he can’t get around it if he should like too. He makes a first rate officer and is liked by all, both men and officers. He never shows any feeling but I guess he don’t like to think he must mind when I tell him to do anything.

Gray is as well as ever and just as full of fun. I see Will Seymour often. He is in good spirits now we are off the ship. He was seasick most of the time.

My paper has run short and I have to use this sheet that the man gave me who drew the picture of my tent.

You had better direct your letters to Washington and write as often as convenient so that when the mail does come I will [get] a letter anyway. Supper is ready and it is most time for the boat to leave and I don’t want it to leave this letter so I will close.

Give my love to Grandma & Grandpa and tell them that I will answer their kind notes as soon as I get time. Please remember me to all my friend who enquire for me, particularly the [  ‘s], Norton’s, Mrs. Pratt, Mrs. Jewett, and Mr. and Mrs. Norton and when Lewie sees Mr. George Ketchum. Tell him I wised to be remembered to him and wife also Mr. and Mrs. Charles Townsend. I suppose Coz. Mary has gone home or is she going to spend the holidays in Buffalo. Accept much love for yourself and dear Mother and brother. I wish you both a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year.

Goodbye for the present—I suppose another three or four weeks—but I hope not so long. — Albert

Remember me too Mr. and Mrs. Kip. Also Aunt E and Uncle Sam when you write. I haven’t time to read this over so please excuse the mistakes.

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Ship Island