Albert Bancroft directed this letter to his younger brother, William J. Bancroft, who was in Grand Blanc, Michigan.
Plymouth, North Carolina
Tuesday, September 1, 1863
Dear Brother William,
Your welcome letter arrived in due time and would have been answered ‘ere this but I have been having the fever that is going the rounds of the camps and few escape it although it is not dangerous. I have gone to doing duty again. I was on picket Sunday and had a wet time of it but did not catch any cold. Yesterday we were mustered for pay and it was afternoon before I was relieved. We have been having plenty of melons along back. They go well in hot weather. We get some potatoes for the trifling sum of $1 per bushel and eggs for 35 cents per dozen and call it cheap. Corn is too hard to eat and roasting ears sold for two cents apiece. I have had all I wanted and did not buy it either. We have a way down here of getting things that would not work up North.
Last month passed off fast. Our regiment — or part of it — went on three raids and I was on two of them and was taken sick on Roanoke Island. We were there 6 or 7 days and were glad to get off from it for they had everything in the way of insects and vermin to torment a man with. There were about 600 darks there living in shanties and they were all professors and the way they go on is a sin to snakes. They were worse than the Stillwater Bars and must be seen to be appreciated. The island is of little worth except as a military post to stop passing vessels. It is covered with small pines with thick underbrush. There are a number of white families living there and they are 150 years behind the times. They do all of their spinning and weaving by hand, do their baking in large spiders, and the old dames look as cross as bears when they see the bluecoats under a gun coming up the nearest way, disdaining all fences.
The whole South is behind hand — no cookstoves — no reapers, horse rakes, sewing machines — no cultivators of any kind. All of their plowing is done with one horse or mule or steer — as the case may be — and the plows are wrought iron wooden beams and sometimes wooden mould boards. And the hoes you would see at a glance, no white man used them. I have seen hoes 10 inches square with handles large enough for fence stakes. But thank God we have not the blighting curse of slavery at the North and never will have. The Southern whites are — that is, the poor class — as ignorant as the slaves. I do not believe there was 100 men to a county that could read and write and that is what keeps the whole country under. The Southern gentlemen — as he styles himself — does not know what a good living is. Their meals are muddled up by the slaves who [they] have nothing to do with and placed before him while another stands by with a brush and drives away the swarms of flies that infest this blessed land. They do not know how to live here. I have not seen a good meal cooked by the darks since I have been a soldier. But enough of that.
The weather has been cool and pleasant for near [a] week although it has been wet most of the time and we can sleep nights and not hear the mosquitoes for they are a wicked set and swear dreadfully if they cannot taste of you. They have been plenty since the first of May. But I hope they are about played out.
I have not had a letter from home since I wrote to you. I have written to them 3 times and have made up my mind to hear from them before I write again. I had a letter from Nate, Ann, and Eunice. They were all well and said their folks were. I had a letter from Vet with yours. They were well. Tip wrote about the same time. He is well and First Lieutenant in command of a company. You may well wish for Old Bristol. Those were good times but I have done my duty and would not call it back. I think by the tone of your letter you are a little homesick. But you must keep up good courage and if father can get along without you, I would find a place to board and go to school. You would learn more in one winter there to a good school than you would at home in four but do as you think best. Father may need you though at home.
About prospecting, it would hardly pay and would take the loose change and it would not benefit you much in the end.
The New York [Draft] Riot caused some sensation in camp but it wore off and all wished they had been there to have sent some of them where $10 bills were knee deep. They would not have broken our lines many times and when we charged on them, they would not have come up again. But that is over with and we are whipping them at every point. Charleston is ours ‘ere this and Richmond will soon be on the skewer. I feel confident that the fall campaign will end the war. But we must allow for reverses and do the best we can. But I have already written more than I intended to. Excuse mistakes and write soon. Hoping this may find you well, I remain yours to command, — A. H. Bancroft
Co. B, 85th N. Y. S. V.