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Civil War Letters of the Christie Family

Author: Thomas D. Christie
Date: December 24, 1861
Location: Fort Benton, Missouri
Addressee: Sarah J. Christie
Description: Thomas describes camp life at Fort Benton, Missouri. He also sends his wishes for a merry christmas.

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Camp Benton, Mos. Dec.24/61

Dear Sister,

In my present life I have plenty of leisure, as we do not drill any yet until we get our guns. So more from a feeling of ennui than anything else have I been prompted to devote a half hour to the delineation of some part of the scenes in Camplife.

Our company is quartered for the present in a room about 60 feet by 30, all round this room are the bunks for the men, three tiers in hight [sic], formed of uprights, crosspieces joining them together and boards laid on the crosspieces, on these the bedtick is laid, two men sleeping together. William and I are to be bedfellows after tomorrow.

As I write, a peddler is gathering a crowd around him at one end of the room, by his glowing description of his wares "so sheep shentlemen" and as large a crowd is gathered around his clever imitator who is holding forth in the same style at the other end.

We have all kinds of Characters in our battery, some of whom I hope to describe to you someday, 3 men have been members of the Legislature, 3 were in the Crimea, 1 served under Lieutenant-now Commodore-Dupont, 1 was with Fremont in his first Expedition, west of the Rocky Mountains, and 6 or 7 were in the Mexican War.

So you see we have thrilling stories told around our Campfire, and more interesting than those related by Novelists Characters.

And here let me remark that I have discovered things to be just as I had imagined them to be. The immense Prairies of Illinois did not appear in the least strange to me, for they looked exactly as I knew they must look. It is so with our military life, I adapt myself to it much more readily than the most of our men do, who have not yet realized that they are no longer independent Citizens, but Soldiers bound by certain rules and Regulations, and subject to all the privations, fatigues and dangers consequential to a Soldiers life in time of War. A great many of our men — and the Americans especially — cannot leave off those habits of Independence, which are so meritorious in the civilian, but so pernicious in the Soldier. Hence there are daily in our company instances of insubordination and misconduct which, if the laws were executed would be severely punished.

The picture I sent you is a pretty correct representation of St. Louis. You can see the City with its brick buildings, its coal Chimneys and its Courthouse, the finest building of its kind in America. The levee with its piles of goods and four horse teams. The River with its Steamers and their clouds of smoke, and on the other side, Belleville with its Depots and Railroad trains. It has only the faults — the River is not wide enough and the City not black enough. Remember that the best Christmas Box you can send us will be a long letter. So, A Merry Christmas to you, and to all our friends.


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