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1865 January 22: “A soldier’s etiquette in camp is funny enough, and we often laugh to think what our mothers would say could they see us”

January 22, 2015

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.

Pocotaligo S.C.  Jan 22nd, 1865

My Dear Parents;

                                  I presume you are daily looking for letters from us, wondering why they do not come.  I have not written you this month as often as intended, owing to preventing circumstances.  I know not that I can write anything of interest today, and have only taken up my pen to see.  I say see, because I am barren of news and must write of something else to interest, if I write at all.  I wrote to Cousin Hattie a few days ago, detailing what we had been about for several days; and since then nothing important has happened.  What we are here for, I do not pretend to know.  Sherman makes all his movements count, and it is conjectured the 17th Corps was sent out here to attract the rebel attention while the balance of the army should quickly execute some more important work elsewhere.  Contrary to expectations, the R. R. here, instead of being repaired, has been torn up, indicating that no rail communications are to be used at present.  The rebels in small force are on the other side of the Saltcatcher [Salkehatchie] River 3 miles above us.  The regiment has been up there twice to reconnoiter, skirmishing a little to develop their position and discover a place to cross.  Troops of the 1st Div. have also been out but accomplished nothing, the river or creek being unfordable and requiring the building of a bridge before crossing.  It is idle to speculate what we will do.

Fort Fisher and the neighboring forts are said to be in our possession, and by reliable authority, Wilmington also.  If so, blockade running is over.  It does seem as though no great penetration is needed to see that the rebel power for mischief is about used up.  Of course, the rebels will still fight, but not successfully nor hopefully, even.  The longer their resistance, the more complete & overwhelming their overthrow; and it is thouroughness [sic] in this work of crushing rebellion that we desire.  Annihilation is the decree of Provdence [sic] for Slavery and its armed up holders, and as the instruments of its execution, we can well afford to abide the time of the Great Disposer, rejoicing that deliverance is indeed close at hand.  We can thank God for 1864;  and may reasonably, yet by faith — faith in our purpose and in the purpose and favor of God — expect that with the results of this year’s struggle the war will close.  But to another subject.  [paragraph break added]

How often, when reading your letters, I have wished you had mentioned more of the minutiae of your every day life at home!  Not that your letters are uninteresting, but I suppose you think we would not care to hear about the little affairs that engage your attention, and so, do not often allude to them.  You mistake.  It is the little affairs of home life that to the absent ones constitute the charms of the “dear spot” and make each of its members so endearing and will you not in future be a little more specific?

I fancy you possess a somewhat similar feeling with reference to us, though not with reference to this Southern soil, as we do respecting home.  You would like to know what we are more immediately about than is told [to] you in letters—wish you could see for yourselves—see what we do, how [we] live, how we are situated & so on.  While it would be interesting, and presuming you have that curiosity, I will try to picture out to a_dog_tentyou our circumstances & how things look.  Bear [sic] in mind we are among the pines.  Here is our camp—brush & roots cleared away—the little dog-tents ranged in rows on either side the streets, presenting an orderly, neat, snug appearance, though to the conscious observer a comical appearance as well.  The blazing log of resinous pine is before each tent and gives interest to the scene, and you may see us cooking, carrying water, partaking of the ever welcome coffee, hard tack &c at meal time, enlivening the occasion with hilarious talk or speculative remark, according as we are in a mood for it.  A soldier’s etiquette in camp is funny enough, and we often laugh to think what our mothers would say could they see us.  The smoke of the burning pine & the exposure to all sorts of weather have made us look black some what, & you would say we had not washed for a month.  When we eat we sit or stand at a rough table of boards, or, Turk like, sit on the ground, or recline.  The dishes may get washed, or simply wiped with a piece of paper.  We do profess to look white and to aim at tidiness, cleanliness & so on, but then a bright gun & equipments are the first consideration with shoulder-straps [officers], and we must have them all right, though we look like mudsills.  Our tents, called dog tents, are simply pieces of cotton or linen cloth, 5 ft. square, buttoned together.  Each man is owner of a piece & can tent with one or more of his comrades comfortably.  Our tentmates are Lennius [sic] Williams and Nelson Brooks.¹  We have determined to pass the hours of camp as pleasantly & profitably as possible & have accordingly sent for reading matter viz. Harper’s Monthly, Phrenological Journal, Mil[waukee] Sentinel, State Journal [Madison, Wis.], Christian Advocate, N.Y. Independent.  The Christian Commission have lately given us papers & magazines.  [paragraph break added]

There I must not write any more to-night.  It is beginning to rain and I guess I will stop, blow out the light & retire.  So good night.

23nd,  Monday morning. — It still rains.  The regiment is going out to forage to-day.  I am excused from going, having no hat.  I have not had a hat to wear for two weeks, my old one being worn out & no opportunity having occurred lately to draw a new one.  I suppose you will worry at this announcement, but you need not.  I am not suffering for the lack of a hat or anything else.  My health is never affected by exposure and I am not afraid of becoming sick.  When I want a hat I pull off Homer’s.  I have been selling gold pens (with a hat on) lately for Dale [Wilber P. Dale] who is now in Savannah.  I have sole $150.00/000 worth & have some more to dispose of.  I suppose he will give me something for my services.  I must mail some money to him today, $100, which he told me to do.  He says he expressed you $160 and sent you a receipt & an order on Mr. Searle of Hudson for $200 more.  Have you received the money or heard from him?  I have another letter to write & must bring this to a close.  Has Pomeroy returned?  Let us know all that is going on & write soon Via N.Y.

Yours affectionately,
E. D. Levings

P.S. ~ I am much in need of a handkerchief.  Will you send us a couple?  E. D. Levings

1.  Linneas M. Williams was from Malone and enlisted December 22, 1863.  Nelson Brooks was from Kinnickinnick and enlisted October 30, 1861.
2.  George Pomeroy was in Company G of the 12th Wisconsin Infantry. He was from Cataract and enlisted October 1, 1861, and mustered out October 30, 1864, when his term expired.

Edwin Levings letter of January 22, 1865, 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 January 22, 1865, 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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