Near Fort Fisher, N. C.
January 27th 1865
The days pass wearily enough I assure you. Nothing to do and worse than all, no news from home and not a word yet from you. Of course you have written but the mails have not begun to come regularly to us here. Yesterday brought a mail to be sure but my letters were not therein. I wait as patiently as may be (which is very impatiently) for the slow moving officials whose business it is to bring us these welcome messages from dear ones so far away.
I have little of interest to send you [and] one fact only to communicate and that is that my “application” to be mustered out of the service has gone in. I called a few days since on General Terry and told him of my intention to leave the army at the earliest practicable moment, now that my time is up. He said some kind things about my leaving—sorry to have me go and all that—but that if I had decidedly made up my mind to go, now was as good a time as could have, from which I inferred that he thought we would be inactive here for the present. The next day my application went in and should now be on its way to General Grant. I know of no reason why it will not be granted and I be allowed to retire. There will necessarily be more or less delay in the matter and it may be some weeks yet before the paper comes back approved, but when it does, the first steamer going North will take me as passenger. I am quite satisfied that the capture of Fort Fisher should be the winding up of my military career. I told General Terry that I might come back into service again after getting tired of civil life. Do you think it likely? He smiled incredulously.
I will telegraph you at the first point when I reach a telegraph station.
My present quarters are very far from being attractive but they are endurable in the prospect of a change at no very distant day for more comfortable ones at home. Col. Klein, the chaplain, and myself live in a common wall-tent, nine feet square. The floor is the bare ground. When night comes, the process of bed making is undertaken—amusing but very important. In the first place, sundry pine boards (pine is selected as being the softest you know) are laid on the ground. On this comes a thin layer of dried grass gathered from the swamp nearby. Then down goes a rubber blanket and then the woolen blankets. A haversack serves as a pillow. When bedtime arrives, the servants are summoned and to them is assigned the duty of pulling off the boots and putting us to bed. We crawl into a blanket apiece and they then proceed to pile on the rest of the covering—blankets, overcoats, rubber coats, &c., and tucking in the corners spread over all an enormous rubber blanket, which is to add to the warmth and keep off the rain which, when the heavens weep, comes filtered through the old canvas tent. This done, they blow out the candle and tie up the tent and we go off into dream land. We present a striking resemblance to the “babes in the wood!”
The tent is warmed by fire built in a hole in the ground connected by a trench with a turf chimney outside. It’s perhaps a delusion to say that the tent is warmed though there have been moments when water did not freeze in it. The fire smokes at times as now when the tears flow from my eyes.
Our fare has however improved, I am happy to say. Hard bread and salt pork no longer form the sole and solitary dishes on our table three times a day. Fresh beef and vegetables have at last come.
The weather is really very cold. The water in my canteen freezes every night. Still I don’t grumble or write this in any complaining spirit, but only to give you some idea of campaigning in winter. A soldier’s life may have its charms, but it has enough of the opposite.
I conclude you are still in Brooklyn as I have heard nothing to the contrary and direct there still. I trust you are well and enjoying yourself. Give my kindest regards to your mother. Goodbye.
Yours, — Alfred