Fort Snelling, Minnesota
Sunday, Feb 19th 1865
My Dear Sarah:
Now that the bustle of dinner is over and Roll called,
I have sat down to answer your letter received several days ago, and laid
aside untill I could have a suitable opportunity and something interesting
to write about. And now after I have sat down and got this far, I am embarrassed
to think of what to write about for here there is nothing to be seen or
heard, any more than if I was shut up in an old barn and indeed these
quarters do resemble old barns to a surprising degree.
However, I will try to give you an idea of how we pass
a Sunday here, and especially how I passed this forenoon and intend to
pass every succeeding one whenever it is practicable. In the first place,
we discover that it is Sunday sometime after Reveille, by inspecting our
Diaries, or by inquiring among ourselves "What day is it?" as
is customary with us for there is nothing to distinguish it from any other
day, as no part of the daily routine is omitted; that which we go through
are weekdays being indiscernible on any day, consisting as it does of
Roll-call and Grub three times and Dress-parade once, only there being
no drill at all.
This morning, as soon as I knew what day it was, which
was sometime after Breakfast, I gave myself a second and thorough wash,
changed my shirt & drawers, and going to my valise, took therefrom
a clean pair of stockings which as yet I had not had on since I left home;
but had preserved as a memento, as it were. This morning however, hearing
that divines service was to be held in the neighboring quarters, and having
been dreaming all night of Home, I took the notion into my head that I
would put on these stockings, which to me seemed so like pulling them
off the line behind the stove where Mother had hung them all so clean
and dry fro me, and with the little Testament which she had given me long
ago in my pocket, I would go and hear Divine Service which would be so
consonant with her wishes and that of Father, and not by any means against
my own inclinations.
Accordingly, I went in company with a little drummer
boy of my Regt., or rather, like myself enlisted for my Regt. When we
arrived, the Preacher was in the middle of the Morning prayer and the
room was already filling up to the "maximum." However, they
continued to come in at intervals during the whole services, which did
not disturb the meeting in the least, they were very orderly. He took
his art from the saying of Solomon, and I, not having an Old-Testament
was precluded from marking it as otherwise would, but it was, as near
as I remember as follows: "And in the last days they shall mourn,
crying, how have I neglected they teachings?" The Preacher was a
a Northern Irishman by the name of Thomson, large, powerful & portly,
with a large, bald head, a red beard & a good countenance.
He was a presbyterian, and an enthusiast at that, to
which I do not object since I have heard him myself. I cannot follow him
through all his discourse, but enough that all his arguments were good;
that his views were broad; that his sympathies were on the side of Union
& Universal Freedom of Mind & Body and that the effect on his
audience was far greater than I expected it could be. The fact is, it
took all I could do to Keep the tears from running down my cheeks, and
there were many that who found it impossible to do so.
It was truly excellent. His sort o'Irish tongue; his
sparkling wit, as it shone in his apt illustrations; and above all, his
powerful appeal to the feeling, was irresistible. I returned to my Quarters
well repaid for my time and attention, with all my good-resolves still
[ ? ]. I only wish that such a man had his home in Clyman.
As yet I have had no Pictures taken, but will before I leave my "Native North." The last time I was at St. Paul I had so many other things to attend to that, although I did not forget about it, yet I did not get the thing done.
As you wish, I will send you an Ambrotype & some photographs but it may not be that I will get it done for some days.
You are doubtless disappointed that I do not write more interesting letters but I can assure you that the material here is very scarce, and that I am not a second Tom, either. I really believe that he could make a more interesting letter about a hickory nut than I could about a Battle. The fact is, you need not expect two such in our family.
I expected to see something great when I saw this place, but I "couldn't see it" after getting this far. The fact of the matter is, I was not so much astonished at these sights, because I had expected to see something new and striking.
Like Dan, who on being asked by one if he wasn't astonished
on seeing the 20ft Boa Constrictor in the side-show, answered, "Not
much; I paid my money to see a big snake and expected to see one."
Had he met the Boa in the Sandlot, I dare say he would have been astonished,
to no small degree.
Besides, this is not soldiering by any means. It is only being shut up in a place far from home and friends, and fed 3 times per day. Once I am in the Field then you may expect something worth pausing, and not till then.
I intend to save and send home the best of the letters sent to me, while I am in the service, for it is too bad to lose them all.
I want you to write me a long one in answer to this,
and it will be answered more promptly than the last. You must send me
all the news of the neighborhood, and such like things, for I want to
have nothing new and strange to me when I com back, but just as if I had
been gone for an arm-full of wood or a pail of water. You cannot think
how much good Dave did me by alluding to "Devin's marsh." I
brought me right home. Doth his and Willie's letters did me a great deal
[From the top margin of page 5]:
The news from the south is very encouraging, Oh that they would send us.