Gloucester Point, Va.
April 30th 1864
My dear Kate,
Your letter of the 26th shows that my letter did go forward and that perhaps mails are not stopped after all. It gives me the delightful feeling that I am very near you to receive an answer back within a week after I write. I only wish that matters were so that time and space were annihilated and that there was no appreciable space between my lips and your fair cheek at this moment and yet it don’t do to think too much of such things when realization is impossible.
An hour ago I came in from a Grand Review, all grim and grey with dust and hungry as a bear. And now, after having been refreshed by some of the famous oysters that Virginia produces but more than all by your letter, I must use the few moments before closing my weary eyes to tell you of our review.
Of course reviews are old stories and dreadful bores for all who are doomed to take any active part in them, but today it was more agreeable for me, for being the Senior Battery Commander of all the artillery. Imagine five Light Batteries (30 guns) drawn up in line one third of a mile in length. They were five Batteries and certainly did appear very well. There were probably not more than 18,000 to 20,000 men, if as man, but even these make quite a show and to a Folly Islander seem quite an army. We were on the ground at noon and were there till dark, marching and countermarching till all are thoroughly tired, horse & man.
I am positively enjoying the sensation of fatigue, not that it comes from having done something and not from absolute laziness or “inertia” as you kindly and considerately call it. But to return to our review, the whole Corps went through the review first as a rehearsal and then took our positions and waited the arrival of Major General Butler. In time, the guns at Yorktown announced his landing there to review the troops on that side. Then another salute announced crossing to this side. Then I had a man stationed who could see him coming, and reported the fact so that as he rode upon the field, one of the Batteries fired our 13 guns.
This review was ordered for tomorrow but was hurried up today because we may move at a moments notice. Everything indicates that our stay at Gloucester Point will be cut short all of a sudden and within a very few days. We are already to march now. Some troops were ordered somewhere early this morning—where, I don’t know. Wither we go, it seems to be impossible to find out. I surmise that we embark on steamers and make a demonstration to cut the railroad at or near Petersburg, cooperating with Meade’s attack in front. I have no business to make even such a guess, but if it proves true, you can say that you knew we were going that way—“I told you so!”
I have been luxuriating and feasting on fresh eggs, an article I have not seen for months, and such splendid (that’s a school girl’s adjective I know but I was very hungry tonight for “splendid”—read excellent) oysters. Yesterday our cook came riding in with a fine chicken fastened to his saddle. We eat with thankful hearts and asked no questions.
On the whole we are having rather a pleasant time of it here and all are congratulating themselves that they are not on Folly Island. Perhaps Lee may have the good sense to evacuate Virginia and fight us in N. Carolina—nous verrons bientôt [“we’ll meet soon” in French].
The two months rations of your affections are a most valuable part of my equipment. If they cut our baggage down much more it (the rations) will be my only physical as well as mental support. However, I hope long before the two months are up to be able to leave and then that round of festivities and the select party to the White Mountains and all that. What a delicious prospect! Certainly, of course, I shall dodge all the bullets—the easiest thing in the world. And you are glad I am not a clergyman? Well, I wish I was good enough to be one. It’s easier preaching them practicing, I find.
Now don’t feel obliged to write long letters when you don’t feel like it. I know how difficult it is to find material for letters when there is nothing doing. Only let me know that you are well and happy and I will be content and yet the most trifling incidents of everyday life of those who fill our thoughts are pleasant things to hear about—anything that will bring you near. The mere odor of the scented note paper will revive my desponding soul at times. I am sentimental enough at the moment to feel that being in Virginia, I am nearer my love.
[My brother] Joe ¹ writes me how much he was pleased and all that at New Haven, or rather says he has & the letter gone to Port Royal which with yours will come to me in time. He will be at Annapolis “Parole Camp” after Monday.
My address I will abbreviate to:
1st Conn. Lt. Battery, 10th Corps, Fortress Monroe, Va.
The gunboat in the York river has just struck eight bells (12 midnight) and I have lately adopted the pernicious habit of early rising. I shall endeavor to [ ] it but it necessitates “early to bed &c.” Goodnight. I will write the moment we leave. Affectionately yours, — Alfred
¹ Joseph Palmer Rockwell (1833-1911) was Alfred’s older brother. “Joe” was serving as a 2nd Lieutenant in Co. G, 18th Connecticut Infantry when he was taken prisoner during the Gettysburg Campaign and taken to Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia, where he was not paroled until March 1864. After his release, he was allowed to go go home for a time and then required to report to the Parole Camp near Annapolis. He eventually returned to his regiment, was made adjutant in June 1864, and promoted to Captain of Co. C in January 1865.