Folly Island, S. C.
April 1st 1864
My dear Kate,
“All fools day” may have brought fallacious and deceptive documents to many an unfortunate humbugged individual but it brought to the Battery the largest mail we have seen for many a day and whether or not your letter was the mighty and important matter that made the Orderly groan as he carried the heavy bag three miles on his horse, I can’t say, but it did not have any such effect on me. On the contrary, I am decidedly hilarious this evening and in almost happy state of mind. Stick to your philosophy and patriotism by all means and imagine that time has his fastest steeds hitched at a furious rate.
In trying my brother Joe to keep his courage up, I suggested as a reflection that all evils must end sooner or later. It is strikingly original of course but nevertheless it is well to think of it occasionally; so please bear in mind that I may astonish myself some day by getting a leave of absence. Don’t you think I count the months that are past as well as those that are coming? And that the 15th of November commences an era in my record of time?
Thanks for Jean Ingelow‘s poems. I have just run my eye through the book and am at first glance attracted by the very neat getting up of the volume. I shall read it with pleasure and carefully.
I am rejoiced to learn as I do by this mail from home that my brother is at last free. He had not reached home but was on his way and I have not heard how he is. He will have a good leave of absence before obliged to rejoin his regiment. I would give something to be at home now as I may not have another opportunity of meeting him for nobody knows how long. John has come on from Cleveland for a few days to see him. Patience I must practice as well as preach and console myself with the same old idea that it will all come out right by and bye.
By some stupid blunder or carelessness of someone somewhere the Fulton’s mail was miscarried and your note enclosing Mr. Foster’s letter did not reach me till a day or two since. I am very glad you wrote to Mr. Foster as you did when you definitely decided not to use the pass. It will save him unnecessary trouble although, if after what I wrote him he had not done all in his power to secure it, he would have made one enemy.
As to the talk of the Secretary of War about it being against regulations and all that, it’s all moonshine. If any friend of his wishes to go, regulations don’t stand in the way. “Customs courtesy to great kings” you know. Of course it would not do to have more ladies than soldiers here, but there are plenty of officers wives here and every steamer brings down some lady visitor. However, perhaps you have decided best. The visit would have been short and as usual where much is anticipated, everything might have gone wrong and been unsatisfactory. In Mrs. Hooker’s case, everything happened to go smoothly and will appear rose colored. I need not repeat again how much I should have enjoyed your visit and I understand of course how much you would like to have come, but the Fates were adverse and it was not to be and we will make the best of it. I don’t consider you any more uncertain than every one is who feels obliged at last to decide against their inclination.
April 2d. Console yourself for we are having disagreeable weather here now as well as you in New England. Wind & rain taken alternately and then mixed are not conducive to amiable feelings or the sudden changes to a good state of health, and I have been a little under the weather for the past week or two but am now in a better state of mind and body and feel ready for anything from a battle to a leave of absence.
I find on looking at my Almanac that just one year ago today we embarked at Beaufort on the old “John Adams” for that attack on Charleston when the iron clads under Dupont failed to reduce Sumter. Our boat laid a week in the Stono [Inlet] & then the expedition returned. Little did I think then how permanent a resident I was to become of this island as our troops occupied it then for the first time. Indeed, a good many other things have happened within the year that I did not clearly foresee. Who can tell what the coming year may bring about?
I am beginning to feel that the people at the North are becoming crazy—such reckless extravagance while the enormous war expenditures are going on & increasing. An article in the N. Y. Times which I have just read and which expresses what has been in my mind for some time leads me again to the subject. It makes me far more anxious for the country than the prospect of defeat to our armies. Patriotism, if no other motive, should make people husband the resources of the country for the war may last long enough to exhaust even the inexhaustible wealth of the North. We will hope, however, that this summer may bring victory and success to our arms.
Of matters here, I have little to tell. Few changes are made. The opinion seems to gain ground that black troops are gradually to replace the whites in this Department, I think not wholly. Light Batteries and cavalry will be retained and there is every reason to believe that we—the 1st Connecticut—will grow grey in the service here. I have just heard that part of Col. Rand’s regiment (cavalry) has arrived at the [Hilton] Head and that the rest are on their way. He will probably be ordered to Florida as that is about the only place where cavalry can do anything effectively.
To show what sudden changes in rank and position sometimes occur in the army, I must tell you of a young man, formerly a private, in my company, now a Colonel of the 32nd U. S. Colored. He was a student at Yale, left college and joined my Battery as a recruit in September ’62. Last spring, he seemed likely to die from effects of the climate and was sent north to the New Haven Hospital. After being there all summer and autumn, he was transferred to the Invalid Corps, still as a private. Finding him in good health again, I had application made for his being returned to my company again as I regarded him a good soldier. While the matter was pending, he applied to be examined before the Military Board for a Commission in the Colored Regiments, and I gave him a recommendation. He passed an excellent examination and was recommended for Colonel which position he now holds. About the same time my application for his being re-transferred to my company was granted. If it had been acted upon by the War Department promptly, [George W.] Baird would never have been where he could have gone before the Board but would have been a private under me here now, whereas he is now Colonel and if we are ever thrown together in service, I must obey his orders. What do you think of that roll in the wheel of fortune? I think he will make a good officer and hope he will reflect no dishonor upon his old company.
When I am losing such men as he, who by the way ought never to be in the ranks except in an emergency, and getting such specimens of humanity as my new recruits, I can but echo the words of the scrap which I send enclosed, “Send us men, send us men.” Connecticut has filled her quota to be sure, but I wonder how our brave and patriotic home citizens would feel if they realized what kind of representatives they had sent to fill up our thinned ranks. One man is nearly an idiot and out of eight last received, six were too intoxicated to know what they were doing when enlisted and appear on the rolls under assumed names given them by the miserable men who got them drunk and then having enlisted them, took two thirds of the government bounty properly due the recruit. If Providence does not punish us for such operations, I shall be thankful. It would not be more than justice if these very idiots and worthless recruits should be the very means of our losing some decisive battle. Such a course on the part of our towns and cities is disgusting me with our home people, men who resort to every contemptible excuse to shirk their military duty to their country.
If you, my dearest, were not in it as a saving element, like the ten righteous men who were not in Sodom, I might be tempted some day to conclude it was not worth fighting for and throw up my commission. However, I still think it worth a larger expenditure of blood and treasure than has yet been made and believe we shall come out right in the end in spite of everything.
I send you another installment of photographs. Lieutenant [George] Metcalf, my senior Lieutenant, and Lieut. [William T.] Seward of Guilford, formerly under me, now regimental quartermaster of the 7th Connecticut. When you have received enough of these bits of pasteboard, say so and I will stop.
Ans so you think you need some inspiration to write. Well, you will think after reading this that I need something similar. But my head is just now full of requisitions, returns, and other matters which you would not care to hear about. I will get away home before long and then the inspiration shall be mutual.
Ever yours, — Alfred