[Louisiana] Monday. Engaged a newly escaped Contraband to do our cooking. He is a mulatto, twenty-six years old, a native of New Orleans, by the name of Victor. He has lately lived with a rebel master about five miles below here, on the other side of the river. He appears intelligent & speaks French as well as English, though he cannot read. Was a house servant at New Orleans, but of late has worked at coopering. His wife came here before him, & on his arrival last Sunday found she had linked her fortune with another!
West Point Jan. 25th., 1863
Your short letter of the 18th was received on 22d inst. I suppose William started for Port Royal on the 20th. I have been expecting him here all week. I was very much disappointed at not seeing him.
I am getting along very well with my studies. I think Calculus is the easiest Math we have studied yet.
We are having very warm weather, it looks more like April than January.
How are the Limington soldiers getting along? Were any of them in this last battle?
I have no news to write. Sunday comes round so quick that it seems as though I was writing the same letter all the time. You know how it is. Your letters, I believe are not much longer than mine.
Your Affectionate Son, Malcolm McArthur
P.S. – I don’t suppose you have got a couple dollars you would like to send me?
[Louisiana] Saturday. Pretty languid and weak today, though not sick. I find that I have little physical strength here in this country, even when I feel otherwise pretty well, and think the same is true of nearly all in our Reg. The men were busy all the forenoon washing clothes, & this afternoon have been clearing up a parade ground in part of the encampment. The weather is mild this evening & the men are feeling pretty well. I think the health of the Reg. is improving.
[Louisiana] Friday. Well, the order came this forenoon to strike tents & move to ground just north of our present location, & some hundred rods distant. We began packing up at once & got our tents pitched again about 2 o’clock. The new spot is better than that we left, as the ground slopes down & can thus be more easily drained. It appears to have been a kind of common, perhaps used to pasture city cows. Old rotten stumps stand here & there, & tall woods & thorn bushes abound. With a little labor, therefore, we can put the ground in tolerable condition for our purpose. It is doubtful whether we shall be permitted to stop here long, as this is the ninth complete remove we have made within about three months! After all it makes little difference, as “the nine months are going on,” as the boys say on almost every occasion. Some fresh beef reached our camp soon after we had got the tents pitched. Two hind quarters came to our cooks & were put under a tent cloth near the fire. A short time after the Quartermaster called me aside & said: “Capt. C., they are hunting for some fresh beef that has been killed today. I thought I would just mention it to you!” I lost no time in putting the boys on their guard, & it was soon disposed of—ways that I think the rebels are hardly “up to.” Small quantities were put under tent floors, & one quarter cut into several pieces & put in a pork barrel by the cooks fire & covered with salt pork! If the owners are keen enough of scent to find it there, & can identify it, of course they will get it.
Hd Qts, near Fredricksburg, Va.
Stormed all night. Wind and rain ceased. Still threatening. The Army stuck in mud, five miles from here.
[Louisiana] Jan. 21st. This morning orders came to have knapsacks packed & ready to sling at any moment for a move. Went out after a company inspection of arms & had a short skirmish drill. Came in at 11 ½ o’clock & at once detailed ten men with spades & picks to go down near the Blind Asylum & work on the ground that we are to occupy next as a camping ground. Held ourselves ready all the afternoon for a move, but the order did not come. We expect tomorrow early in the morning—have now occupied this ground nine days & it is about time for another move. A report has spread in camp today that there is to be a general examination of the Officers of the Reg., & a pretty rigid one, and all those not “passing muster” are to be discharged. It was said that some dozen officers of the 26th Maine have already been rejected on examination. This evening, on conversing with a member of the 26th I learn that there has been some talk of sending one or two obviously incompetent officers before an examining board! So much for camp stories.
[Louisiana] Jan. 19th. Commenced raining last evening & rained hard during night, & all this forenoon. Cleared off this afternoon, & this evening the stars are out clear & bright. Went down & saw the men in Hospital in afternoon—found most of them doing well.
Camp near Fredericksburg, Va.
Weather clear and cold. The move postponed to tomorrow noon. The 4th Excelsior oppose their consolidation with the 163d N.Y. Regt. “or any other man.”
[Louisiana] Jan. 17. Another very cold night, about like our Maine weather the middle or last of November. Last Monday night was very warm, & we had a warm rain Thursday; but the change since then has been greater than we often have at home at any season. This morning the ground was frozen considerably in low spots, & ice formed a quarter of an inch thick on small puddles of water. It is not strange that men get colds & coughs at such times. Had a Reg. inspection of arms & clothing this P.M. by the Lieut. Co.. & Major. I have made out a “certificate of disability” for Franklin Holbrook today, but there is some doubt about his getting a discharge, though I think he is very anxious to have one. He has been in Hosp. all the time we have been here. I have had a dry hacking cough for some days, though it is not very troublesome. Otherwise I feel very well.