Roswell Farnham to [Mary Farnham]

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Camp Butler, Newport News, Va.Friday Evening July 5th, 1861My Dear Wife:

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I will commence a letter to you tho' I may not be able to finish it tonight. Today has been after the ordinary course, except that we have had a visit from Mr. Cameron Sec. of War, and he had to be received with all the honors of war. A salute of fifteen guns was fired from our big guns as he landed. After he came on shore he reviewed all the troops. Gen. Butler was with him and his staff. There were also about a dozen ladies whose presence occasioned considerable feeling among the troops who have hardly seen a piece of calico for two months.

Last night some of the Zouaves were out and encountered more than double their number of Rebels and put them to flight. The rebels lost two men, killed, and left their cannon, but the Zouaves could not take it as they were so harassed by men firing from the woods that they could not draw it away. Today Maj. Worthen went out with three companies from our regiment, and Lieut. Col. Betts and five companies of Hawkin's Zouaves to see what they could discover of the enemy. They met with nothing of interest, but learned with certainty that two of the rebels were killed. The steamer Mt. Vernon kept up the river along with the troops and at

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one time threw shells over them, supposing that the enemy were about to engage them on the other side. No damage was done. They saw horsemen in the distance who prudently kept out of sight reach of their guns. Fortunately the whole command returned without any casualty.

Taylor left here this morning for the Fort, but there have been so many dignitaries about that he was not able to get his discharge signed by Gen. Butler so as to start today. He will undoubtedly start tomorrow morning.

The last sick man is now out of the hospital, as Mr. Tubbs came up from the Fort tonight. We feel pretty well to think our company is in so good a state of health.

You will probably understand from what I write you that we have rather exciting times. The enemy do not mean to fight any big battle here buy simply to cut off such stragglers as they can. Thus far we have lost no men in this way while they have lost quite a number. I believe I told you some thing about a negro Joe Wilson, who lost his wife the other night - they have taken him also - took him last night. It is a hard case but cannot be helped.

There have been three rebels here in camp ever since we came here, who have been watched rather carefully. Yesterday one of them heaped a pile of combustibles including a tar barrel which he was about to set on fire when he was caught. It was suspected that he intended to signal somebody. He has since been in close custody.

Dan Johnson had better not come out here with any expectation of selling anything. Government appoint sutlers and

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will not allow any body else to furnish stuff to the soldiers. If he comes he will loose his money and his time.

I have written to Seymour Brown and hope to get an answer from him. I wrote Ed Peckett this morning and he will probably let you see the letter. I have not yet heard from Laura. Where did she go to at first and where was she expecting to stay during the time?

Sunday, July 7th I intended to have finished this yesterday morning before the mail went out, but Prichard made some flap-jacks the night before and hot doughnuts, and they gave me such a stomach-ache during the night that I did not sleep any and I was about sick during the day. Last night it rained and this morning I only had time to get my report ready to send off three negroes, so that I could not write in season for the mail that goes at seven o'clock. We had the hardest rain last night that we have had since we have been here. It poured by the bucketful and every thing was afloat this morning. We take all these things good naturedly and really have a fine time. The boys have been out for inspection notwithstanding the rain, wet and mud. There was a good deal of grumbling but they feel better now it is over. Some of the men are cooking doughnuts for the whole company. They have a kind of flour with the yeast, seasoning &c. already mixed, so that all there is to be done is simply to mix it with water. These new doughnuts have sweetening & shortening in them, so that they are something extra.

I believe I told you something about a negro, Joe Wilson. He has finally been taken prisoner, carried to Yorktown or

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near there, escaped from there and got to Hampton and last night came up here on the boat. The Col. has just allowed him to go out protected by a company of men after his wife who has been let loose.

Last night the boat brought up a lot of telegraph wire to be put up between here and Hampton and the Fort. We have a system of signals, by flags in the day time and lights at night by which almost anything can be communicated from one point to the other, as the two places are in sight of each other. This method however is rather slow & not so good as the method by telegraph if the rebels do not cut wires - - - - I did not get a letter from you or Laura last night as I expected. Where is Charlie Harding? I have not heard from him for some time.

It is pleasant today and we shall have a nice chance to get our clothes dry. This morning there was not a single man on our company off duty on account of sickness - a condition we have not been in since we left Rutland. Taylor probably started for N. Y. today. Now you are alone I want you to write as often as you can, and keep up as good courage as you have done thus far. You have been a brave little woman so far and every body speaks in the highest terms of your conduct. Mr. Strickland & Mr. McKeen both mentioned you with commendation. I received a letter from Mr. McKeen Friday and will answer it soon. I should write to more but it is about the same old thing over and over again. Give my love to all friends. Remember me to Mr. Stickland's and Baldwin's folks.

Your affectionate husbandRoswell Farnham

Sunday Evening - July 7th. Your letter finished July 4th. was rec'd tonight and glad was I to get it for I have been disappointed several nights of a letter. I also got one from Laura and Charlie Harding. I am glad you keep up so good courage in the midst of all you have to endure. I hope your health and courage will be as good as they have been. Give my love to Uncle David and tell him I feel when he is there as tho' there was some one to look after things as they should be. Remember me to Aunt Mary and Uncle Clark. Tell them all, and John Bixby and Dan, that they are by no means forgotten. I think of all but I have not time to write as many letters as I would like.

Laura did not write much except that she had got to Boston and was under the Doctor's care. She is stopping at Richard Morse's, No. 83, Brighton St. She is rather discouraged but says she hopes for the best. When you write her you had better not send your letters to her, that is the letters I write to you. I shall write to her quite often, now she is away from home.

My health is better than it has been since I left Rutland with the single exception that I have mentioned. We have all just come in from a bath in the river. Lieut. Peckett has gone to bed, tired, as he was on guard last night, a duty that I escape entirely now. Stearns is lying down, Prichard is reading a very finely written letter rec'd tonight from home & the Capt. & I are writing letters. Lieut. Peckett wishes me to say that he is well. We are all now in good health and spirits. As for a fight the probabilities are that we shall not have one. They have not the means to attack us here

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and our numbers are increasing must faster than theirs. Col. Baker's Regt. of 1300 men landed at Ft. Monroe on the 5th. There are now over ten thousand men at the Fort and we have four thousand here. The army at the Fort has already pushed forward to Hampton and will soon occupy Newmarket Bridge, still nearer to us. Our telegraph will put us in close communication with the Fortress so that an attack upon us is virtually an attack upon the whole force. They do not intend to have a great battle but simply to harrass us by cutting of our scouts and pickets. You must understand that our main guard is stationed about the camp as represented in the map I sent you. The picket guard consists of three or more men stationed at some concealed point on the main avenues of approach to camp at distances varying from half a mile to two miles from camp. To enable the commanding officer to understand still better the movements of the enemy scouting parties of from ten to four hundred men are sent out every night and every day, nearly, - especially when an approach of the enemy is apprehended. The larger parties are called reconnoitering parties. Today a single company went out with Joe Wilson to get his wife. Five or six of our boys went with them. They met with no adventure. The men commenced setting the telegraph poles today and carried them half a mile & a half. They kept a body of scouts out in advance of them. I suppose when the line is finished it will have to be protected.

The day has been very fine today and divine service we had tonight just before dress parade. Mr. Stone preaches

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very good discourses. He seems to be very well fitted for the place. The men all respect him and his influence is very good. Some of the chaplains of other regiments have gone home but he sticks by us altho' he has hardly any place to lay his head. He has no tent here and has to remain most of the time at the Fort. He comes up at least every Saturday night & stays till Monday, and is generally up two or three times in the course of the week. When at the Fort he is with the boys in the hospital a good deal. When here one night he slept in a tent with ten or twelve and another night on the floor of the hospital; so you see that it is not very convenient for him to remain here. At the hospital they have now female nurses and every thing is as neat as wax, and all unite in saying that they have the best of care.

By the way, it is among the possibilities that I go down to the fort in the morning. Capt. Andross talks of going and if I can get a pass I shall go with him.

The bugs and flies disturb us some. We snap them off our paper and whisk them off our ears and then are not rid of them. Prichard just called for help, something had lighted on his back that he wanted brushed off. I looked but could see nothing. He said he knew he was there for he could hear him sharpening his teeth. I took the light to look but did not find him, until Prichard himself run his hand down his back under his shirt and drew out a diminutive little bug not an inch long. We thought it rather small fry to make such a fuss about.

Some of the boys got some boxes of stuff from home tonight.

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Among them was Dea Buckley's containing my Panama and the bottle of Downs' Elixir. I am glad to receive them, but the Elixir I will keep till I need it. You dont know how much good these things do us. The sight of anything from home is refreshing. You need not send me my coat unless you have a very good chance. Send the largest one if you send either.

We probably shall not be at home till our time is out. I see no chance of it, and were it not for your health I should prefer to remain our full time. We shall probably be in Rutland a day or two before the 9th of August so that we can be mustered out of the U. S. service by that time. The time is now fast passing away and the 9th will soon be at hand.

Tell Uncle David that I should like to have him stay with you till I get home if he can as well as not, and I will satisfy him. You and he seem to get along well together. Write as often as you can, just as good letters as your last. If your health continues good till I get home I shall be thankful indeed. Mine I hope now will be good as long as I remain here.

Tell Charley to write even if he does not get a letter from me every day. I will write him tomorrow unless I go to Ft. Monroe. Love to all.

Your affectionate husband
Roswell Farnham