16 October 1862

Camp near Suffolk, Va.
October 16th 1862

Dear Brother Willie,

Yours of the 9th is at hand and I was glad to hear that you were well and hope this may find you the same. Things move on after the old style. We are now with our brigade and division and as usual fortificating is the order of the day and we are in a very strong position now. We have got very extensive slashings and a long line of earthworks and three forts made so that they can bring all their fires together a mile off and make it hot work for Mr. Rebel if he got in the way. ¹

You write that [it] is not safe for squirrels to sass you. I am glad to hear it. I guess [you] can beat me shooting for we do not have shooting enough to do to keep our hand in. I have not shot my gun over 4 times since the battle [of Fair Oaks]. They are very strict about shooting and then there is no game here to shoot if permitted to.

You go over the subject of a soldier’s life. In some things, you are right. One cannot expect to live here as you could at home and one must endure a great many hardships and troubles that are not to be envied. And when one is forewarned of what will come, they had not ought to run into [it] and call it good.

I have been over to the 148th [New York Infantry] to see the boys and they are as sick a set of boys as I ever saw. They would give all they got and more too if they could get out of it again, and they have not been in over a month yet, and they have not seen any service yet. So you can imagine how you would feel if you were in the same fix. You had ought to be glad that you are not obliged to come yet. There may be chances enough yet for you to come—but enough of that.

The weather here is about the same as in York State. We have had 3 or 4 days rain and was veryu disagreeable, I assure you. But today it is quite pleasant for this time of the year. We have had no frosts yet down here. Have you had any up there yet? I should like to be there a few days now to go hunting with you. I dreamed last night that we did go but had no luck. You say that you are not so lazy as I used to give you the name of being. I am glad to hear it but I am about as lazy a chap as you could well find. I am so lazy that I am uncomfortable.

But I must close for I have got two letters more to write today. Write soon and remember your soldier brother, — Albert H. Bancroft

That melon was as large as a patent pail and a good one and I will send you some more and some cotton right out of the pod.

¹ Occupied by mounted Union riflemen shortly after the South abandoned Norfolk and Portsmouth in May 1862, Suffolk straddled two crucial rail lines as well as a lightly defended corridor that ran south of the James River to Richmond. Not until Maj. Gen. John J. Peck took command in early fall, however, did the Federals begin fortifying the town and using it as a base for increasingly ambitious operations. A formidable chain of earthworks and connecting trenches that ringed the town from the Nansemond River to the Great Dismal Swamp were combined with an elaborate system of 10 forts that gave the artillery and infantry converging fields of fire extending at least half a mile to the nearest cover. It also provided Union cavalry with easy access into the surrounding countryside, where they probed as far as the Blackwater River.

Fortifications surrounding Suffolk, Virginia


Camp near Suffolk [Virginia]
Dear Sister Myra,

Your last has been received and would have been answered before this but we have had some bad weather and I did not have anyplace to write when it rained. And for two days we have been busy building us a log shanty so that we are quite comfortable again. And now we are under marching orders again and may go today and may not in two weeks. It is the lot of the soldier in the field not to know one day where he will be the next or whether he will be at all.

There is not much on the way of news here. Things go on after the old fashion. The papers state great victories—Rebels routed and demoralized—but it does not seem to amount to anything and I begin to think that the war will not end by fighting. They declare their intention of raising the black flag and exterminate us. I do not know what good it will do them but they can tell by trying it. It does[n’t] seem to scare the boys and I guess we could hold our own and pinch.

You said Father had sold some cabbages. How do they sell? I wish I had them down here. He could get a most any price for them. Potatoes are worth $1.25 here and apples that you would make cider of fetch $1 per bushel, and everything else according.

But I have written as much more as you did and do not feel very well and so I will close. Write soon and remember your brother, — A. H. B.