28 September 1862

Newport News [Virginia]
September 28th 1862

Dear Sister Myra,

It is the Sabbath morning. Inspection is done with and all looked well. The guards have gone out to their duty and all is quiet except the continual tramp of the cavalry horses fighting the flies that seem determined to eat them up alive and they have got too much life in them to allow that. There is not much in the way of news—nothing but the daily routine of duty.

Last night one of the Ironsides made her appearance in the river and all were anxious to get a sight at her and she is a powerful vessel mounting in all 18 guns—two of which are 200 pounders. She has three masts and steam power besides so that she could get up quite a chase if necessary. The Galena and Monitor are also here besides three or four other war vessels so we could start out quite a fleet from here.

The Monitor is a little inferior looking craft only about three feet being seen out of the water and the cheese box on top in which are two guns almost large enough to crawl into. She has seen some sharp fighting though and carries the marks of it on her, too plain to be disputed. The iron plating is started in two or three places and the cheesebox has been hit 18 times.

An 1862 drawing of the Galena and Monitor showing their relative profiles.

The Galena also is not behind in scars and wounds—some of which have gone clear through her—and one ball went through the smoke pipe. She is a larger boat than the Monitor and sits out of the water more making a better mark to shoot at, but the Rebels had better not attempt to run down here with their new Merrimack or they will lose it quicker than they can build another one or pay for this they have got. And some think that they will go up and bring down the new Merrimack before long if she does not come herself. And if they do, Richmond will be apt to hear of it.

The weather begins to grow cool and pleasant and we begin to think of winter again although we have not had much wet weather yet. Yesterday Henry and me fixed up our tent so that we could live quite comfortable this winter if we stay here. I must describe my tent. It is as good as there is in camp. It is about 6 feet square and the bed takes up two-thirds of the room. We have raised up the tent about two feet from the ground and boarded it up tight and put down a floor so we can keep out of the dirt and put our things under the bed which answers for chairs. Our bed cord is made out of pine boards and our feather tick is filled with hay. Our roof is double so we are not afraid of getting wet when it rains, and lastly I have got a place to write on and this is the first letter I have wrote on it and it does first rate.

You said that the fire looked awful but not as bad as a battlefield or a village burning. I never saw a village burning but have seen one after it was burned and have seen two battlefields and I do not think that a fire is any comparison to it, where men and horse all lie mangled and torn together showing where the strife was hottest and that they had done their duty and then after the roar of artillery has ceased and the battle cloud has cleared away, to see those that have been spared searching amongst the dead and wounded after their late comrades or brothers to give them aid or burial. Then is when you will see sights that will make the heart sicken and the blood curdle. And then to see the graves of the enemy and friendless with not enough mother earth over them to hide them from view. But that is but a feature of war—glorious war. And this is the picture of every battlefield and I hope never to see another one. But then the men fought bravely—the officers did nobly—so the papers say. And the idlers read and stare and call it dull news if the slaughter seems small and wonder what the army is doing that the war will never end. And then they will step into the bar, call for some old rye, seat themselves in a corner and discuss the best and surest way to crush out the rebellion. Patriotic men. What should become of the soldiers if they should be taken away? But them as long as the war lasts. they will [talk], and they will have to be listed to or they will secede. And then what will become of us? But that will do in that line.

There seems to be a mutual cessation of hostilities for the present—whether to rest for awhile or to entrench themselves for renewed and livelier strife—or whether they are trying to settle the thing, I cannot say. The President has given them the conditions that he will settle on and also what he will fight on if they do not see fit to accept them. He has proclaimed liberty to the slave and death to tyrants—just what our rabid editors have been clammoring for all along. And it is in the right time too—when they are on the eve of defeat. It gives them the chance when it would seem they needed it most and if offered sooner, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri would have gone with the rest. as it is, they have remained loyal and sent troops into the field to put down the rest. But I fear that the terms will not be accepted. They are calling out every man able to bear arms to swell out their ranks and make a stubborn resistance. But they will have to come under and that soon. We now have men enough in the field to whip them anywhere they can. Yet our army is strong and every day develops new strength so that when they again meet us, we shall be able to drive them to the wall for the last time.

But I have written more now that you will want to read and more than I mean to another time. I am quite well at present and the health of the regiment seems to be improving. We had two of our boys come back that have been away sick and the boys were all glad to see them. The mail comes in today but nothing for me. Yours is the only letter I have had for a month but when I get around, I will make the delinquents account for it and you had better not be one of them. Hoping the war sill soon end, I remain yours as ever, — Albert H. Bancroft

Write soon. How does the war fever go with Willie. Has it turned yet? Tell him a dose of gunpowder would do him good and to answer my letter or I will fix him. How are the crops this year? And has father dug his potatoes yet? They are worth 5 cents per pound at the sutlers. Did any of you go to the fair and were there many there? I have not received any papers yet but would like some to read. I can get all of the war news here but not much reading matter.