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1863 November 14: “There is no place like the army for trading, soldiers will buy most any thing”

November 14, 2013

Edwin Levings essentially writes another post-script to Homer’s letter of November 11 and Ed’s own letter of November 12, 1863; hence no salutation (Dear Parents).  This one, written on November 14, 1863, updates some of the information in the previous letters.

The original letter is in the Edwin D. Levings Papers (River Falls Mss BO), in the University Archives and Area Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.

Natchez Miss,  Nov 14th, 1863.

I wrote you we expected to leave.  What I now write is we didn’t go, and are not likely to go.  It suits us firstrate [sic] too; but we had quite a joke played off on us of which I will briefly speak.  At daybreak yesterday everything was on the way to the the boat landing, our luggage partly aboard the boats, when the “Choteau”¹ from above have in sight with Gen. Crocker [M. M. Crocker], who countermanded the order.  There were sour faces, but we are all snugly back in our quarters & now don’t care.  The explanation given is John A. Logan was to relieve us, but it was finally concluded to take Logan & let us remain; but too late before the 2nd Brigade reaches Vicks[burg].  The 2nd will stay there, I am told.  [paragraph break added]

We shall probably be paid again in a few weeks, when we shall send you some money.  Dale [Wilber P. Dale] is still making money, sutlering.²  O[h], Homer says—tell you he is in the “mercantile business.”  He & Henningson³ (recruit) are in partnership.  But you will laugh when I tell you what they sell, — peanuts, — buy them of [off?] the darkies at $7.50 per bbl4 & sell them at 10 cts a pt [pint].  They have just bought 2 lbs & have but 1½ bushels left & will clear each $3.50 or $4.00 on each lb.  “The next thing will be something else.  Despise not the day of small things,”5 says Homer.  Well go in Homer, you might as well make some of the money yourself as Dale or some other body.  There is no place like the army for trading, soldiers will buy most any thing.  You would be astonished to see it, & would hardly credit your eyes at first sight.  [paragraph break added]

The weather is warm & pleasant to-day.  You are frozen up, doubtless.  Write soon to your boys,
. . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Edwin Levings

1.  This should probably be “Chouteau.”
2.  A sutler was a civilian merchant who sold provisions to an army in the field, usually from the back of a wagon or from a temporary tent, which allowed them to travel with the army. Edwin is jokingly calling Wilber Dale a “sutler” when he is actually doing what Homer often did, scrounging. Homer, however, did not usually sell what he scrounged, instead giving it to his brother and friends.
3.  You may remember Christian Hanningson as one of the new recruits that Captain Maxson brought back with him in August 1863. The Roster of Wisconsin Volunteers lists him as Hanningson, from Prescott, and he enlisted on August 19, 1863. Other types of records indicate that Henningson is more probably correct. He may or may not be the same Christian Henningson who served in Company I of the 6th Minnesota Infantry and was discharged for a disability in 1863.
4.  Normally this is the abbreviation for barrel, but Ed may mean bushel (normally bsh. or bu.).
5.  Homer is using a common misquotation from the Old Testament book of Zechariah, 4:10 “For who hath despised the day of small things?”

Edwin Levings letter of November14, 1863, from the Edwin D. Levings Papers (River Falls Mss BO) in the University Archives & Area Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls

Edwin Levings letter of November14, 1863, from the Edwin D. Levings Papers (River Falls Mss BO) in the University Archives & Area Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls

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