Roswell Farnham to [Mary Farnham]

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Camp Butler, Newport News, VirginiaThursday, July 4th, 1861My Dear Wife:

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According to promise made in my letter this morning I begin another letter to you today. This is the fourth of July but is very quiet here so far. The Col. wants to celebrate a little but has no powder for salutes. We expect to do something this afternoon but hardly know what. Our company was detailed for labor this morning & for a while they hardly knew what it was for. They were sent out with other companies to finish the German fortifications - not finished till today. So that the Vermont Reg't have not only built their own share of the fortifications, but have built the whole of the bastion towards the right, and the last six or eight rods of the German works. Our company have got their share finished and are relieved from labor the rest of the day except drill at night.

You have no idea what beautiful weather we have here most of the time. Today is as cool and comfortable as could be asked for. The sun is not very hot and in the shade it is almost too cool. This is said to be the healthiest place in Virginia so you need not be alarmed for my health, now my cough is gone. My duties are hard some days and then are very easy. Fortunately yesterday and the day before I had very little to do, so I that I had to travel but little. You think that I ought to have an assistant. I cannot for my business is of a kind

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that I have to do myself. It cannot be delegated. Every case that comes up, whether a man shall be admitted within the lines or not &c. I have to attend to personally unless it goes to Col. Phelps. You say that some think that I shall get enough of "niggers" by the time I get back. I find the negro to be about the same sort of a being as I had supposed. My reading has not been altogether useless. I have not found anything yet to make me sick of "niggers". I feel now just as I always have, that I should not like to have the north filled with them. They must necessarily hold an inferior position, and an inferior race will always have a bad influence, if any, upon the race with which they are mingled. The relations are such as to develop the worse rather than the better portion of the superior race. This must be doubly so in case the inferior race is enslaved. I should not want the north to be filled with a lot of free negroes. I never was in favor of slavery, but I could see no means of freeing them and was satisfied to see it restrained within proper limits. The negroes themselves are the best people in the world to get along with and so far as I am concerned I have had no trouble with them. They are much more intelligent than I had supposed. The news of our arrival here has spread like wild-fire among them and they seemed to understand our position. They had got a rather more favorable opinion of us than the facts would warrant. Slaves have come here from a distance of twenty six guns miles to get into our encampment. They are ready to do anything to get away from their masters. Some of them, whose masters have run away, still remain outside to sell vegetables &c. to our soldiers. Night before last one man who has been marketing for the Regt. lost his wife. His old master

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came down after him but he went up stairs to get his clothing & jumped out of the window & escaped. They took his wife with them and stole about seventy dollars in hard coin that he had saved by marketing within the last few weeks. He came to the lines in a good deal of distress and in some doubt whether he had better come in & stay or remain outside and gather his potatoes &c. He finally concluded to remain outside. Among the whole lot of slaves in this vicinity I know of but two who stick to their masters. I have received into camp one hundred and thirty different negroes and have sent seventy five down to Ft. Monroe.

It is now afternoon. At noon we had a salute of thirty four guns, in honor of the thirty four states, from our four big Columbiads. They were fired at the rate of four per minute. The troops were drawn up in battalion line and the music played "Hail Columbia" during the first seventeen guns and the "Star Spangled Banner" during the last seventeen, and "Yankee Doodle" while the troops marched to their quarters. Ft. Monroe fired a salute, and the rebels over to Norfolk or at Sewells Point fired fifteen guns. We are to have a flag raised tonight I believe. What the ceremonies are to be I dont know. Fourth of July thus far has been very quiet; some of the boys have been to the brig and have got a little independence in them in the shape of bad whiskey and for a while were inclined to be noisy, but they have got over it now.

Give my love to Uncle David & Zeke & Jane. Remember me to Ed. Evans & Emma. The wind blows

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my paper so that I can hardly write. I am laying down on our bed leaning on one elbow & writing on your portfolio, while Lieut Peckett sits on a chest writing in his lap, and Capt. Andross has just lain down trying to get asleep. I was nicely asleep a few moments ago, but was waked up by the Lieut. of the Guard who said there were some negroes who wanted to get beyond the lines. They were market men & I got them a pass. We might write a little more comfortably, but at our table but the wind blows too hard.

I wish you could have gone up to St. Johnsbury & seen Seymour's wife. You would have had a very pleasant time indeed. I will write Seym. a letter. Speaking of him makes me think that there are three of our old scholars here - John Sawyer, George Burleson and Whitney - Ellen Whitney's brother. Whitney is well acquainted with Geo. Clement & wife. He has had a letter from Geo. since he has been here.

Taylor has got his papers so that he will be able to start for home tomorrow or next day. He is rather feeble but still able to be around. I hope he will get home safe. What is Dan. Johnson coming out here for? Do you know? There is nothing for him to do here. John Prichard is not quite so homesick as he was. He gets along well and I dont know what we should do without him. I think very much of him. Of course the boys in our tent have to laugh at him a little about his letters &c. I understand that my last letter to Gov. Fairbanks is in the Caledonian. Have you seen it.

If I get a letter from you or Laura tonight I will add something to this.

Yours truly & affectionatelyRoswell Farnham