On picket in Oak Bottom Swamp
Near the Enemy’s lines
May 28th 1862
Dear Sister Myra,
I take the opportunity to let you know how I am getting along in the land of cotton. I am quite well and hope these few lines may find you the same. I have been trying to be sick but did not make out much in that line. I managed to keep with the regiment and now I am as tough as ever and think I shall be able to stand it. Our company has suffered a great deal with sickness and nearly half of them are sent back. Two have died since we left Washington—our Second Lieutenant [Amos Brunson ¹] and one Private. ² And if the Rebels could [have] kept us in the swamps before Yorktown, they would have used us up in a short time. Nearly half of the regiment are back sick as it is. But we are getting into a healthier portion of Virginia and the health of the men seems to be on the gain. The enemy have done their best to keep out of our way but we have followed after them with untiring vigor, building up what they have torn down, making roads over almost impassable swamps rendered more so by fallen timber. We have marched about every other day making things safe as we went until we are within 7 miles of Richmond with our whole force and our outposts are within 5 miles.
Our last three or four marches have been but about two miles each day and I think soon the final blow will soon be struck I think that will decide which is to be the master. Yesterday they were working pretty sharp all day on our right flank but I do not know how they made out but I think as usual. Last night they were moving towards our left with as much haste as possible—either retreating or reinforcing—but this morning everything is quiet and no stir amongst them that we can hear. And I have no doubt but by this time their main force is beyond Richmond and if they are, we will be there by the last of the month. But we must hope for the best and wait patiently and the end will come in good time. And if they do not manage to get away from us here when we get to Richmond, we shall be ready to start for home. I have set the time to be on our way on the 4th of July and if we do not, I do not know where I shall spend the 4th. Maybe I shall borrow somebody’s old gun and go a hunting.
I guess I will tell you something about what poor a place this swamp is owing to the late rains. There is plenty of water here which does not improve it any. The May flowers are all over the ground and there are plenty of high bush whortleberries about half grown. These and small pines are so thick that it is very hard work to get along with a load on.
Well I have been watching a spell and now I will try and write a few more lines. The sun has gone under a cloud and I hear the muttering thunder in the distance and everything shows that we are to have a shower—the air cool and refreshing. The boys are full of fun and do not seem to think there is any more danger here than they would at home. The nearer we get to the enemy, the less they seem to mind it. But here comes the rain and I must stop for the present and listen to the booming of an occasional gun.
I will write a few more lines and close by giving you a certain lecture for not writing to me before now. This makes the third letter I have written to you since I have heard from you and if you are not more prompt in future, I shall know the reason and you will suffer accordingly. There is going to be plenty of peaches here but there are not many apple trees. The peaches are as large as plums and the trees hang full. I have seen peas and potatoes nearly 6 inches high and large fields of corn large enough to work amongst and fields of wheat all headed out and promising large yields, but they get harvested with the sword and everything is nearly destroyed by the time both armies get over it and if we do subdue them we shall have them to feed or let them starve. Nearly every white man has left with the army and all the negroes that were of any use to them but they get away as fast as they can and come into our camps. But they expect instant death until they find out different. They say, “Massa sey Yankees play the Debble wid us if they cotch us.”
What is the prospect for a crop and how do things look? You must write as soon as you get this and write if you do not hear from me for sometimes I cannot get my letters mailed. I will send you a May flower in this that grew within 6 miles of Richmond. All from our way are as well as usual the last I heard from them. Please send me a few postage stamps in your next. You will see by the envelope that Jenny is well.—A. H. B.
¹ Amos Brunson was mustered in as 2d Lt. of Co. B on 2 December 1861. He died of disease on 24 May 1862 at Rose Cottage hospital near Bottoms Bridge, Virginia.
² The private was probably John Demeritt of Co. B who died of disease on 14 May 1862 on a steamer en route to Washington D. C.