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Civil War Letters of the Christie Family

Author: Thomas D. Christie
Date: March 13, 1864
Location: Vicksburg, Mississippi
Addressee: Sarah J. Christie
Description: Thomas, acting as Sergeant, is brought in front of the captain by a drunken General Chambers, who believes that he was insulted by one of the Battery's soldiers.

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Vicksburg March 13th 1864

My Dear Sister:

I only wish you could see the number of waste sheets of paper on my shelf, all beginning "My Dear Sister," and dated all the way from Feb 28th to the present time. Some of them are half written, some with one page scribbled over, and 3 or 4 have just the date and the address.

Sometimes I would flatter myself, as I do now, with the expectation that I could finish them without interruption, but when just in the midst of some interesting (to you) sentence, the Orderly Sergeant perhaps would poke his head into the tent with "Christie, the Captain wants you at HdQrs." "What the deuce is that for?" "Oh, something about that ordnance report that is to be made out." So, down would go your letter into the cigar box which serves me for desk and portfolio, with a mental promise to finish it "tonight," on would go my best cap, and that would be the last my tent would see of me till perhaps 10 O'clock at night, for the Captain always had plenty of other work for me when the Report would be finished, and I would have to stay and eat dinner and supper with him, while his waiter would be sent down to the company to feed my horse and excuse me from Roll call.

Or, perhaps the interruption would arise from the cry of "come Sergeant," (they all call me Sergeant now, although I am only acting) "divide the bread," or "divide the sugar," or "get your squad out to the piece for drill."

Then, next day, when I could spare time to sit down to write again, I would not be satisfied with what had been written, and would start another sheet only to be thrown aside again like its predecessors.

I have not much news to write that would be interesting to you, if it were to one of my comrades I were writing, I could tell him a great deal that would be interesting to him, but by you, such items as, "Dick and Sandy, (the 2 negroes,) died of Pneumonia last week." "James Cheatham, the brother of him who died of Small Pox, is very sick with the same disease that carried off his brother," such items are not appreciated. The only thing I can tell you of special interest is that William left the hospital today, and is again with the Squad, but can not be put on Duty yet.

A little incident occurred this evening that I must tell you of: We were out in the park playing quoits, Dave Duryu and I being playing against Dan Wright and his partner. All of us were deeply engrossed in the game and were "playing," as the boys say, "for all in sight." Dave had just thrown a "good shoe," and it was now the turn of Dan's partner.

All our heads were bent down over the "hub," to see the effect of the throw, when down came the shoe, square on to the peg, — a "Ringer." On seeing this, Dan sent up a shout of exultation at the success of his partner, and unfortunately, at the same instant, Gen. Chambers, the commander of the 3rd Brigade, was riding swiftly by, coming from town, and, as our officers generally are after being in town, he was about 3 sheets in the wind as Mother says. On hearing the shout, he was fool enough to think someone was making fun of him, as he is very unpopular in his own Brigade, and immediately he reined in his horse, rode up to where we were standing, and dismounting with difficulty walked up to me, and took me by the shoulder, saying "I'll learn you to holler at me, come along sir."

I saw at once the mistake he had made in first supposing that the shout was intended for him, and secondly, in thinking that I did it. So, pointing to the "ringer" still lying on the hub, I said, "General, you are mistaken, there is the cause of the shout you heard." One of the boys spoke up and said that I was not the one who had made the noise, whereupon he turned to me and asked me if such was the case, saying that he saw me "holler." I told him then, that it was not I who shouted, and reiterated the assurance that no disrespect was intended by it. This he would not believe, and asked me who was the offender, which I refused to answer, and he was threatening punishment if I still continued obstinate, when Dan stepped up and owned to the act, giving the reason for it. I had got my "dander" up, and would not have told who was the supposed culprit, if he had put me in the Guardhouse for a month. "Come along you sir," the drunken fool, (it is too bad to use such language about so high an officer, but it would be perfectly applicable if he had been a private,) said to Dan, whereupon, Dan demands to be taken before the Captain, which, Chambers acceding to, away they went, and I run my head in the lion's mouth by going too, to bear testimony in Dan's favor. It was needed, too, for after the General had proferred [sic] his charges, in which he implicated me pretty deeply for aiding and abetting, the Captain turned to me, and sternly demanded our reason for the insult. He believed our explanation, and told the General that it was customary for our boys to make a noise when playing, but Chambers would not believe but what it was intended for him, and after abusing the artillery generally, and us in particular, threatening Clayton with punishment if Dan were not punished, and swearing he would shoot the next man who should shout at him he went off. Isn't it melancholy to think of this drunken bully having command of thousands of men, the meanest of whom is more of a gentleman than him.

All our starred officers however, are not like him.

No more now, as my paper is out and as are my ideas.

Love to all, and believe me, Yours, Thos. D. Christie

[Postscript on page one] While writing, the candle has twice tipped over and dripped on the sheet, but I suppose you can read it anyhow.

[Postscript on page four] I have heard nothing from Tom Reid since that letter I sent you. Tell me all about Helen when you write. I judge by what is in one of your letters, that she is not living with the [illegible word].

How have Grandmothers Reid and Bertie stood the winter?

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