Roswell Farnham to [Mary Farnham]

Primary tabs

Page: of 3
Download: PDF (11.19 MiB)
Camp Butler, Newport News, Va.Monday, July 29th, 1861My Dear Wife:

Page 1

Your letter of the 26th. Friday, was received last night & also a letter from Mr. Stebbins. I take a few moments this morning to write you a line or two if only a half sheet, before the boat gets here. It was pretty warm yesterday and is going to be today, altho' it is cloudy. We have not had as much hot weather here as we generally get at home in Vermont. Some days however when it is clear & warm the sun pours down with a fierceness that our boys are unacquainted with.

There was some little excitement in camp yesterday. A telegraphic report came from the fort yesterday that a flag of truce was coming in here from the enemy. The boys got the story that they were coming in to demand the surrender of the place within twenty four hours. A rumor had already been thro' the camp that a balloon ascension had been made at the fort & twelve thousand of the enemy were at New Market Bridge. As if to confirm the rumor of our expected attack the sloop of war Dale came up the river and stationed herself on our left, while the Monticello took position on our right, - the Penguin being here already.

I had just got comfortably lain down for a good

Page 2

nap, when an order came that Col. Phelps wished to see me. One of the picket guard had just come in with the report that there was a flag of truce just outside the lines, and the officer wished to communicate with the Col. I was directed to mount a horse that stood ready saddled at the Col's. tent and go out with the officer of the day and see what was wanted. We started but before we had got out of sight of our guard tent we saw the picket bringing in an officer from the flag who claimed to be an American. He was blindfolded and by direction of Col. Phelps was taken to his tent in the same condition. Upon question him the he was found to be a Lieut. in the Naval Brigade stationed not far from Hampton. The flag of truce had been to the fort to get the baggage of Mr. Shurtliff & Capt. Jenkins who were taken prisoners the other day. Shurtliff was the artist & was reported to be killed. Shurtliff's baggage was not at the fort but on board the brig Hope lying at our wharf, so they came here after it. I went down to the brig & started up the baggage. When I returned a Col. sent us out again to the flag. and we went The party consisted of an officer and three men, one with a cart and the rest on horseback. The officer was a good looking, gentlemanly fellow, and dressed not very unlike our men. He had no demand for a surrender or anything of the kind, but simply desired the clothing of the prisoners. It was soon sent out to him and so ended the excitement of the day.

Page 3

I am glad you got over your anxiety, but I think the folks at home sometimes are needlessly anxious for us.. We can hardly realize here how you feel at home. When danger is right upon us or we are in the midst of it we dont feel as we do anticipating it, or when we have friends exposed. I have never yet felt any worse than I did before leaving home. Very many times when you get news at home that alarms you there is nothing to it. The last alarm that you had was not occasioned by any intention of trying Great Bethel again. We were going in just the opposite direction if reports are true, Gen. Butler was going to send us over on to the small portion of Virginia east of Chesapeake Bay; and thence we were to march up through - how far I dont know - That is the story now - What truth there is in it we cant tell.

There is no doubt about our starting for home on Friday the 2d. Aug. unless there is a failure of transports or we are attacked. After we get there we shall be mustered out in three or four days unless the Govt. neglect to send a paymaster. If they neglect to do that we shall have to remain in camp at Brattleboro, and I suppose you will have no great objection to that for a week or so as we get pretty good wages. (Dont read this last.)

When we get to Bradford we shall be pleased to have such a reception as the citizens are willing to give up. We had some fears that something would be got up that would tire everybody - long speeches &c.

Page 4

I dont want much of a celebration because you will not be able to enjoy it. I hope you can be out, still if it will be likely to tire you out, it will be better for you to keep quiet. I shall be at home as soon as I can after I get into Bradford Village. I have just had a call from Col. Phelps to visit all the sutlers today and see how much liquor they have on hand &c. &c. You see my duties are very varied. When the boats come in I have to be on hand to see that those who come up have passes all right &c.

I send down a negro woman & child this morning to the fort. She came from York Co. Thick lipped & thick headed - & dont know much.

I hope today Jane is strong and well.

Give my love to all.

Some of our boys are going out to get potatoes this morning. They will not go far enough however to get into danger - tho' that would not deter them were it not for the Captain's express prohibition. I can see them now loading their guns, ramming the balls well down, and getting the cart ready.

Remember me to all - And Uncle Clark and Aunt Mary especially. I feel sorry for them both.

Write and direct to Brattleboro.

Your affectionate husbandRoswell Farnham