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Alfred P. Rockwell, 16 June 1864

In the field near Curtis, Va.
June 16th 1864

My dear Kate,

Yesterday evening I debated the question in my mind as to whether I should write with nothing of special interest to write about or not and the result was not. Now I have something, having just come in from a hot, dusty fatiguing day’s work, still without any bullet marks.

It was found out very early this morning that there was no force of the enemy in our immediate front and we of course moved out o our works to see what hd become of them, cautiously and slowly, capturing a few pickets as we advanced. Finding no large force, orders came to push on and cut the railroad again, and this has been done and the day’s work has consequently been satisfactory.

The only fighting was done by our division and this principally skirmishing. We held the enemy in check while Generals [John Wesley] Turner & [Adelbert] Ames pushed out on our left and did the tearing up. I do not yet understand why the enemy allowed all this for our force was not large. Prisoners last taken state that we were fighting the advance guard of Lee’s army and that toward evening, Lee himself was just in front. So it seems we were stirring up the lion himself. About sunset we withdrew within our entrenchments closely followed by the enemy. Our loss has been slight so far as I can learn.

Four of my guns were out & from from another battery. I had the pleasure of riding with the General [Alfred Howe Terry] who had a strong desire to see how far to the front he could go and not be hit. Fortunately we all escaped the balls that occasionally whistled by.

In my last I think I intimated the possibility of Grant’s sending us heavy reinforcements. He was here himself a day or two since and everything looks now as if he was moving his force in whole or large part to the south of the James [River], apparently with the view of cutting off all reinforcements & supplies to Lee from the south. Lee must then evacuate Richmond and make the best of his way out of Virginia or come out of his entrenchments and fight Grant wherever the latter may choose or stand a siege with his present supplies, which he cannot do. Or he may attempt a dash upon Washington or Baltimore. If he does, he may do us great damage but his ruin is then certain.

I must say everything looks brighter than it has done and a short campaign seems more probable. Unless Lee can out-general Grant, he must leave Richmond either with or without a fight. Of course there are unofficial speculations and you can make them at home as well as I here. Still, I thought you might like to have a reminder that there might be a brighter side than some are disposed to take. I have myself great confidence in Grant and am determined to be sanguine as long as I can. Like the Army of the Potomac, I have always been defeated and never expect to share the glory of any great victory, yet I shall be content if others win the great victories provided only a successful peace can be conquered and that right speedily. I am not dazzled by any visions of military distinctions. Just now I would exchange even that imaginary Colonelcy for anything which will make an end of fighting possible and transport me bodily to the quiet retirement of gay festivity of Whitney Avenue. Life will be all the more worth living after all this trial and discipline. It is a very satisfactory reflection that an all-wise Providence overrules everything for our good, though it does not always become apparent till we can look back upon it.

This is the anniversary of my first battle (Secessionville) two years ago today. We were defeated there, but today we are successful. I hope it may be a good omen of the campaign. I am just as tired and sleepy as I was then (you may have found it out by this time from my letter without my telling you). How perfectly luxurious my soft plank seems after a long day in the saddle! These effeminate civilians can not appreciate Sancho Panza’s sage remark, “Thrice blessed be the man that first invented sleep.”

We have been freezing for several nights, positively very uncomfortable, and today it has been hot again—92° in tents—and the men seemed to suffer considerably.

By the way, I think you had better not undertake to send me any box at present as it is very doubtful if it ever reaches me. Now that Grant is moving to this side and so many changes of troops constantly taking place, all mail & Express arrangements are very irregular. We have had no mails for two days and I hear nothing of my cigars. I am just as grateful for your kind thoughtfulness as if I received the box.

Goodnight, my dear Kate. You know how much you are in my thoughts. Affectionately yours, — Alfred

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