Civil War Love Letters: July 14–15, 1861
Steamer A. McDowell
July 14th 1861
My Dear Molly
I have been to Church this morning, (after writing you that Pencil Scrape before 6 A.M.) and I feel much better for it. It is such a great change from the vacuum & ennui of our boat life, or the weariness of our marches that it fell like oil on the troubled waters, or like dew on the grass. It was Communion Sunday too in an Old School Presbyterian Church & I never felt more like joining in
Was it the contrast & relief from my card playing & Swearing Dutch friends only - I am afraid so - as I know I am very impressible, & like the Chameleon too often take my hue from surrounding circumstances & colors - in some measure! very wrong Aint it? but so it is - How could a lazy man do otherwise than float with current? But I don’t want to enter metaphysics. Well what have I been doing since I came from Church? Why I’ve been reading Harpers Monthly! Dont mention a chapter in the Bible! Smoking & dozing - & now the Colonel having come home has Stopd these dutch boors from Card playing & as most of them have gone to sleep there is some quiet - So appropo. a conversation, in which I do all the talking as usual with Ma Cher Ami - I have had no letter since I returned to duty! I believe you've written to me but that only makes me feel worse! Oh Dear! What shall I do? What Do you think of Harper for July - I invested that much yesterday & consider myself fully repaid already - Porte Crayon is rich as usual in description & incident. Love's Messengers are sweet: Margeret Fuller Ossoli's story is so pitiful - Why is it that genius is always so unfortunate, & that the mere clods should progress & grow rich in this worlds goods?
All the other stories are well brought out! Thackeray in Phillip is in his best vein - but enough of Harper
At this point I came to a sudden halt. One company that had been sent to work after dinner on the breast works came home in open mutiny. It rained a little & it was Sunday So they perjured themselves into a Mutiny - They had been playing cards all morning recollect - so their religious scruples could not be very strong & as the remnants of Jacksons Army are coming back here a dozen at a time, poor, needy & desperate, we do not know what devilment they may commit at any moment, & Sunday & Monday require constant work & preparation
Col White gave them a sharp lecture - disgraced them a little & got them to work again but Babel had broke loose again & I could no more
I wished to tell what we were doing but there is so much, & so much plotting & counter plotting amongst ourselves too, that I find it totally impossible
As a matter of course the Ladies are at the bottom of it & your humble servant is as deep in the mire as anybody else – Said Ladies at present being friends or wives of prisoners. These Dutch & the Americans & Irish in our regiment have several times come to blows or nearly so, as to what sort of treatment they should receive
Our Dutch Compatriots Officers & all with few exceptions, wish to, & do when they can, treat them as dogs or the vilest of humanity might be or is treated, while the others wish to treat them as Ladies or as their conduct deserves. So we quarrel & plot, & each day supplies unlooked for incidents
We went in the country tother day & called at several Union houses & had a good dinner at one for 280 men served up in good style & at two hours notice. The Old Lady Mrs. White, as stout as a Dutch Beer Tub - is the very essence of old Virginia, with that old fashioned kind of hospitality that could never make you comfortable enough - but that considers that the very essence of comfort lies in stuffing you with good eating & drinking. At others we had refreshments - Strong & weak - While at the Secessionists we had closed doors & sour looks nevertheless that day we brought home 4 Wagon Loads (ox teams) powder besides Shot, Shell, Haversacks, Cartridge boxes, Cannon one or two & Artillery Carriages, also three Contraband darkies followed us which we have since delivered to the acting mayor of the City (The Mayor has seceded)
These Darkies were shot by their master, after we left because they informed us where the Powder &c was secreted. Our Doctor took over sixty pickles of shot out of the back of one -- such is the result of a violent temper, when disappointed
Our Senior Captain - Captain Tannahill has his wife along & she presides in our boat. She was raised within Fortress Monroe in Virginia, & seems quite at home - She is young not pretty, & more of a girlish hoyden than a Lady - the consequence of camp life, a poor education & a bad head piece - 10 P.M -
Got disturbed just here again - our company is on guard - but notwithstanding all hands not on Sentry duty had to go up hill & go to work on the breastworks
We have done so up to this time & now all hands 600 lay or stand by their arms expecting an immediate attack - by our vigilance we expect to frighten them off - but they have gathered to near 1000 - with pistols shot guns & bowie knives & are desperate - all our plans are laid - & though our fighting maybe uphill work - we hope to make theirs more so
I shall think of thee dearest in the hottest of it (if it comes) & it will nerve my arm tenfold Good bye - God bless us all
I am in haste
James E. Love
A thousand kisses & pleasant dreams to both of us -
1 o clock in the morning. All quiet yet.Goodnight Love
Read the original letter by James E. Love.
Read more letters.
Read more about the project.