Camp near Newport News
April 12th 1862
Yours of the 7th came to hand in due time and I was glad to hear that you were all well and enjoying yourself as well as the times will admit. I am well as usual but rather lazy for it is quite warm now but we have had some wet, cold weather, but it has cleared off now and we have a fine prospect of having some fine weather now. But it will be some time before we can march and when we do, it will be towards Yorktown. There have been men detailed to [fatigue duty?] and have been fixing the road between here and there.
When I received your letter, I had just got in from picket duty on the James river. There [are] about 200 out of our brigade everyday. It is near 4 miles over there and we have to stay there 24 hours at a time. The river is about 6 miles wide at this point and across the stream are the rebel camps and up the river was to be seen one of the rebel gunboats but so far off that I could not make out anything on board of it. And on the river were to be seen ducks and sea gulls, king fishers, and whatnot. So taking it all around, in fair weather, picket duty goes well. But we did not dare to shoot any of the game and so they came near enough to us to be bold and saucy in our opinion.
Yesterday the Merrimac came into the neighborhood of Fortress Monroe and had one or two vessels loaded with troops and fire[d] into the shipping or fort — I do not know which. But they were answered from the fort and retired without doing any injury to us. The Monitor was amongst the rest of the vessels, steaming around, but for some reason she did not try her skill. Perhaps they did come near enough for business.
You have heard no doubt of our last victories at Pittsburg [Landing] and Island Number 10 and so I will not say anything about it for you are better informed than I am for I have not seen a newspaper since I left Washington.
The other day John Frances and myself took [a] stroll outside of the camp to see the blessing and benefits of secession and found it to be fields of corn left before hoeing time and well grown up to weeds, fields of wheat cut and left to rot down in the bundle, the fences all torn away and in 9 cases out of 10 the buildings burned to the ground. But in this instance, the houses were left and the black folks kept house and had the big white house in use and the wenches graced the parlors where a few months ago they were waiters. We went into the house and found them — or a part of them — cooking apple turnovers to sell in the camps and outside hung a veal. Pigs, chickens, horses, dogs, mules, niggers, and whatnot all [roamed] as large as life, and they seemed to enjoy it as well as though they had a boss. There were hard on to 20 of them, big, little, and all, but they are all Union men and Lords of the soil. But I do not think we shall have any trouble in keeping them in this glorious Union. But this will do for nigger war.
You write that Dave sent the boots back. That is better than I thought he would do. He has not got back here yet and I do not think he intends to come. I was over to his regiment about a week ago and there they do not think he is coming at all but if he had done as he has done now a month ago and had them sent to me, I should have liked it well. But I do not like to give them up yet for I need them in this sand as much in summer as in winter almost. And tell Father if he will put them in a small box as they will go into and send them by express to Washington and pay the charges on them to there and have them left where I told you in my other letter, I think I can get them here easy enough from there by the way of our sutler and will stand the cost and run the risk. He will have to send them by express for they are not heavy for freight. He can find out how to send them at Shortsville and for fear you have not got the directions, here it is: Barns & Company, 7th Street, Washington, D. C., care of R. B. Smith. Write as son as you start them. Excuse all mistakes and send letters to the Third Brigade, Casey’s Division, and the company and regiment.
Jenny Davis is a Union Gal to the backbone and so am I. I will send some peach flowers which I picked the 6th.