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Alfred P. Rockwell, 21 April 1864

Steamer Ellie Knight at Sea
April 21st 1864

My dear Kate,

We have been delayed or I should have been at Fortress Monroe by this time. I wrote you by the last mails expecting to embark at once but the usual delays prevented the steamers reaching Folly Island till Sunday morning. All day Sunday I had men hard at work building stalls for the horses and loading guns, &c. onto the General Meigs—one of our transports–and on Monday morning the Ellie Knight came to the wharf to be fitted up and loaded. By Tuesday afternoon everything was ready and we moved away from the wharf at Pawnee Landing and said a last goodbye to Folly Island and [our] home for the past nine months which as I enjoyed at leaving, I could not keep down a kind of regret at breaking away for good from a spot with which I have after all many pleasant associations. I made at different times attempts to have my camp photographed but something always prevented so now memory is all I have to depend on.

The General Meigs went to sea that evening but my Captain was too cautious and would not go out till the next morning. We have had a good passage thus far and hope for good weather into Hampton Roads. You know how stupid life is at sea even on the best ocean steamers, but just fancy a small propeller rolling with the least sea, no one to talk to but my Lieutenant, and he under the weather, and nothing to do but eat, read and sleep.

Last night it was really beautiful in deck, full moon, quiet sea, all still on board, deck covered with soldiers rolled up in their blankets—nothing to disturb calm meditation and everything calculated to make one sentimental. Of course I was not and did not think that the same moon shone just as brightly in Whitney Avenue, and that each mile we were going was lessening the distance between me and all I hold dear and did not go on building castles as we went dancing over the waves.

Generally, however, I am excessively lazy on board ship and good for nothing. Please consider it an evidence of extraordinary energy that I have written even this much. Did you ever try to write at sea? If you have, I need make no apology for the vibratory motion which my pen seems to have. My hand is perfectly steady and my nerves but the pen is quite uncontrollable.

I have just finished “The Story of Elizabeth” and have been much interested with it. Letitia does not amount to much and how so sensible a man as Will Dampier could have fallen in love with her, I don’t quite see. And Sir John behaves in an outrageous manner all through and Elly is a great deal too good for him, for she comes out a good girl at last. It was all nonsense for Sir John to pretend that he did not know he was behaving in a most shabby manner in taking Elly to the theatre &c. in the way he did. Still the story is interesting and has helped me to pass agreeably several idle hours at sea.

Thackery, I have always liked as many of his characters—perhaps most of them—are drawn to the life, but the trouble is he never painted and gave examples of the best of men & women. The world is full of such people as he describes but I am quite sure I have met in actual life better men and women than he shows up—especially women.

Friday 22nd

We are having wonderfully fine weather and are making a better run than I could have hoped for considering the craft. You can imagine how a rough, stormy passage would have been with the main deck crowded with horses and my men forced to sleep without cover on the upper deck. We passed Hatteras last night about 11 o’clock and are now steaming along as smoothly and quietly as if on Long Island Sound and hope by sunset to be at Fortress Monroe. I am anxious to get there to know more of our future plans—how soon we are to take the field—if there is any chance of a leave of absence, &c. I am afraid from something the General told me that he is likely to require my services for the present and thus prevent my getting away.

My head is full of speculations upon our future operations an I have an intense desire to look ahead a few weeks and months and read he future. Anyway, it is better than stagnating upon Folly Island.

Hampton Roads
Friday night,

Here we are at last, safe and sound. We came to anchor at 8 o’clock and I went ashore to the fort to report. I am ordered to Gloucester Point near Yorktown to disembark and may go up tonight but more likely tomorrow morning. Part of our Corps are already there under General Terry—or rather Major General W. F. Smith. Address until you hear again:

1st Connecticut Light Battery
10th Army Corps
Gloucester Point
Fortress Monroe, Va.

There is a daily mail to F. Monroe and I will write again as soon as I know more. It seems like coming back to civilization again and quite near home. If now I can only get away and run on to New Haven, if only for a few days, I shall be a happy man.

Goodnight. Yours, — Alfred


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