Headquarters 1st Brigade
Baton Rouge, [Louisiana]
March 3rd 1863
I am sorry I have delated so long answering your good letter but you must take part of my letters to Mother. We have been expecting a mail every day since my last letter was written but have received none yet.
Yesterday John Dobbins handed me two letters which he found in his overcoat pocket—one from Kate Seymour and the other from you dated January 21st.
I am much obliged for your photograph. It think it is the best one I ever saw of you. I have received but one so shall not give it to John. Please thank Julia Phelps for the photograph you sent me of her. Ask her if she will take a ride on horseback with me tomorrow or anytime most convenient to her. I wish I could be at home till I get able to return to duty, not but that I am nicely cared form for I mess with the Colonel and am with him in his room most of the time and we occasionally have a game of euchre or do something else for our amusement. But I should like to help entertain Julia Phelps and I should much enjoy getting ahead of Cowan and getting Uncle J. into a stew.
Your description of Miss Runsey is quite funny. I imagined she was just such a girl. Guess she won’t fool Julia P. much. Hope she (Julia) went to ride with you.
Dr. Howe has resigned and gone home. He was to give you a call and he knew where the office was.
You must have had a gay time at John Dorr’s but it is an aggravation to read about your oysters, roast beef, and quail for here we have co come down to what we can get of the commissary. In our mess, we have salt horse, beans, potatoes, pork, bread, and dried peaches, no butter or milk to be had except by paying an awful price for them. And as their pocketbooks are not very robust just now, they go without. I can’t go coffee without milk yet or bread without butter so that is one reason why I mess with the Colonel. He apparently having money has plenty of milk and butter. The other reason is I can’t help myself as he says as long as I live with him, I must go to meals with him. He says, “go the whole hog or nothing,” and he also says I must sleep here till I get well.
I am getting along nicely, gaining strength every day and in the course of a week or ten days will return to duty. Yesterday I borrowed Wasdsworh’s horse and rode down to the city. I had to walk all the way [back] but think it did me good.
Baton Rouge is quite a town and in good times must have been a pleasant place. Most of the stores are closed and in those that are open, there is not much to buy an what they have is very high.
I wish you could see one of our brigade drills. They are gay, I tell you. The Colonel has got the green regiments into shape, and they now drill very nicely. We are to have a brigade drill this afternoon for the benefit of General Auger who is coming up to see it. He arrived here yesterday and took command. One of his staff told Wadsworth that Farragut’s fleet was coming up here today and that General Emory would be here shortly with the remainder of his forces.
Today or tomorrow I am going out to the picket line to learn how to act when I have to go on. The other night the pickets on one of the posts (three men) saw something move. All thought it was a platoon of rebels and so fired, and that started the whole line. One of the Lieutenants of the Forty-ninth Massachusetts Reg. who was on duty was frightened most to death and came running into camp and told Col. Cottier that the pickets must have support, so he sent out Co. A. After the company had got most to the line, the orderly asked Old Capt. Ayer if he wouldn’t change the arms, they having marched all the way at a shoulder. The Captain said, “Oh yes,” an sung out “Change arms.” He was so excited that he didn’t know what he said. The firing still continued though at long intervals and so each post was strengthened by putting two more men on each post.
All of a sudden the men on one post saw something move again and banged away. The Captain got excited and said he “thought it proper to form in a line of battle right there,” marking the ground with a stick that he picked up. This was too much, the idea of forming a line of battle out on the picket line, and of the pickets too. Some of the men in the reserve laughed aloud. This vexed the old man and he ordered them to “shut up.”
In the morning the men discovered that they had killed a mule, he having fourteen bullets in him, and a stump close to him had the top all splintered. Shortly after the company got to their quarters, Capt. [Ira] Ayers received a petition from them signed by over sixty men to resign which he did immediately. This makes me senior captain and so I have the right of the line.
Now I will tell you something which you and Mother must keep a secret. Major Love is a good officer but he—we all think—is jealous of Col. Chapin and is all the time throwing straws in his way. Last evening while I was in the Colonel’s room, he told me of several little things that the Major had done which I cannot tell. And showed me a complaint by him to General Grover. This had to pass through the Colonel’s hands as did everything that goes to “Headquarters.” It was in regard to some government horses which have been used by the staff. The Major did not know that permission had been granted to use them and so he made this complaint. Major Love and Colonel Chapin are cousins and so the Colonel has shielded him but he says he’ll not stand it longer as he wrote General Auger a letter which he read to me explaining all.
The Major is liable to be court martialed for what he wrote and the chances are about even whether he is or not. You know as well sa I do that it is through Col. Chapin that Major Love is where he is. He was just as pleasant as could be this morning, but there is no knowing how long it will last. I am sorry there is such feeling on the Major’s part, you would never know that anything was wrong through the Colonel’s looks or actions. He makes a splendid brigadier. Officers and men come from all directions to see his drills and dress parades and they are worth seeing too. I find the 116th was improved vastly since they left me at Greenville.
Who do you think I met in New Orleans the last time I was there? A friend of yours who’s home was in Michigan, lived in Buffalo about three years ago and then went to Boston. It was John Van Cleve. I met him in front of the St. Charles Hotel. He is in the Navy. Is captain’s clerk on one of the gunboats. At the last Bull Run fight, he was in the Ambulance Corps and was taken prisoner. Was with Lee’s army seven days, then taken to Richmond and exchanged, after which he went to Washington and got his present appointment. He is on one of the new gunboats; I don’t know the name. He wanted me to be kindly remembered to you and all his old acquaintances and friends. He looks well and has been out long enough to have the real sailor roll to his walk.
I hope long before this that you have received letters from me written since I was sick. The last letter I received was one from Mother written just after she had heard that I was sick and I am anxious to hear again, fearing she worried herself sick.
I guess this is a long enough yarn for this time and the brigade is just forming for drill so I will close.
Give my love to all the good people at 79 Swan Stret and to our dear Mother and tell her I will write her again soon. Write soon to your affectionate brother, — Albert