Hd. qrs. 11th Corps
My dear Mother
I often write you hurried and I fear very unsatisfactory letters. I keep my own conscience clear by reasoning that if I waited for suitable opportunities always I would not write so frequently and that perhaps it is preferable to have poor letters often rather than have better ones much more seldom.
This afternoon I hope to have leisure to fill my long sheet – a confiscated sheet, by the way, from the office of the “Athens Post” – a Rebel newspaper formerly published at Athens where we spent several pleasant days in East Tennessee. We captured the Editor also and Otis is making the attempt to exchange him for our friend A. D. Richardson Correspondent of the N.Y. Tribune now in Libbey Prison Richmond if alive – captured in trying to run past Vicksburg last Summer.
It is a cloudy day and will probably end in rain. It is I suppose about time for the rainy season. We are fast getting ready for it. The men are at work making “the General” a new log house. They are also making new mess quarters for our little family. We have taken in Col. Hayes now so we have now six members. Colored people accumulated wonderfully in our recent campaign into East Tennessee and we have two colored women (and one of them has two children) in the service of our mess. One is cook – the other – a girl of 16 or 17 – is waitress.
Speaking of mess – I will enumerate the articles of food for dinner today (as far as I remember) that you my know how luxuriantly we fare – notwithstanding the dryness of this Country and the fact that the troops have only 3/4 rations.
The men for a few days had only 1⁄2 rations of hard-bread. This is owing to the difficulty of transportation from Bridgeport since the boats are employed in carrying food & ammunition to Knoxville – one of the Corps of this army being still up there – and other forces will probably go up to assist in driving Longstreet back to Virginia as (we hear) he has insolently made a halt and refused to go further unless compelled to do so. We would have attended to his case when up there the other day if we had known of this kind of impudence in the face of being driven off out of Tennessee.
But back again to the Hd. qrs. 11th Corps and the dinner. Otis sat at the end – the head of the table. I next on the right, then Col. Hayes, then Lt. Gilbreth, but he was absent today having been sent to Chattanooga on business. Opposite me Capt. Stinson, then Capt. Pearson.
Roast Beef, Potatoes (fried), <onions>, Corn-cake (warm).
Dried-apple sauce, Butter, Dried-apple Pie with Coffee, Milk and Sugar included.
Our Mess-man who is a German spends the most of his time in roaming over the country “foraging” as we call it – getting articles of food. He came in late last night while Capt Stinson and I were taking our supper and soon a plate of fresh butter appeared. We had been destitute of this luxury for two or three meals. He generally has two or three chickens tied to his saddle when he returns. So you observe how it is that “the General’s mess” (or “Mess No. 1″ as it is called in distinction from “Mess No. 2″ and “Mess
No. 3″ at these Hd. qrs.) How it is that we live so high and without infringing upon the short rations of the soldiers. It is safer for our Mess-man to “forage” now than it was when the Rebels infested our immediate neighborhood. I don’t know as there is a Rebel within twenty miles of here.
Otis has thought some of a Leave, but thinks it best not to go way at present. A new Divn is to be added to the Corps and we are in hopes that Gen. Hooker will be sent somewhere else. It is troublesome to have our Hd. qrs. between us and the Department. I mean in the way of business. Besides an Army Corps is complete in itself and it is irksome to have a third party giving orders and attending to matters which we could just as well request ourselves.
Our health is good. Our location healthy though many of the men got sick in our last seven campaigns. They were many of them destitute of blankets; none of them had Tents; Clothing rather poor; shoes wanting and bad; rations irregular & badly cooked – on the march so constantly.
No change of clothes and hardly time to wash what they had for a month.
The magnificent Fairs for the Sanitary Commission in the West will do much good – $75,000 were raised at Chicago! I have had letters from Uncle Henry and from Lizzie Strickland. I lost a little memorandum book when I went down to Bridgeport before the battle – and it contained that paper father prepared for me – stating the Condition of my money accounts &c. I am sorry to trouble father to make another. But should like one giving the state of my finances at the End of the year.
Did you ever know any one besides me that could not tell when to bring a letter to an end?
I was sorry to hear Dellie’s health is not good. I have written him upon the subject. He need not feel very discouraged I think since my health was poor for a while just after graduating but is now very sound and good. You and father are having cozy times alone at home. Hope you are not lonesome.
How thankful we have reason to be that the war is so far from our own sacred homes!
How agonized I should be to believe an army either hostile or friendly were encamped near my father’s farm or upon it and my unprotected mother were exposed to all the trials incident to the presence of an Army. To say every article of comfort which has been added to the commissaries stock in the course of years would all, likely, vanish in a day and night. But the Lord is plenteous in mercy & goodness toward us and ours.
Your Very Affectionate Son C. H. Howard
Wednesday Dec 23 (1863)
P.S. Too late for me to talk to you about “Merry Christmas” though not too late for me to wish it in my heart.
I will skip to New Years “A happy! happy! New Year!” to you my mother – to father and all my friends who read this. May this year see the dawn of peace in our distracted Country! And may you all so share Heaven’s protection and blessing as to enjoy that blissful time and aid in sending up to our Merciful and Almighty Father pleas of true praise and thanksgiving.
Otis says he proposes to write you tonight – accept the enclosed New Year’s gift – a rather ordinary likeness of our beloved President – but the only kind of Present I can procure out here in the field.
Love to Dellie & Father From your loving Son C. H. Howard