[Louisiana] Jan. 16th. Am acting as “Officer of the Day” so have done nothing at drilling today. The Lieuts. took the Co. out this forenoon & this P.M., have gone on a Brigade Drill. Last night was very cold & this morning the ground was frosty, & some ice was to be seen in low spots.
[Louisiana] Jan. 15th. Finished & mailed a letter of 25 pages to Pamelia. Have been writing it at intervals for several days. I enclosed in it two ambrotypes taken in town last Monday—one of myself, the other of Lt. Jerrard[?] & self on the same plate. The Lt. had a single one of himself & a double one line mine taken at the same time. All to whom they were shown pronounced the good likenesses.
Today I have made discharges for Albert Brown, G. F. Davis, & Stevens of our Company. Brown & Davis have been troubled with rheumatic difficulties for a long time, B. having been in Hospital soon since we landed here, & Davis had done no duty for two months. They are to go before a board of Army Surgeons for examination, whose decision in their cases will settle the question whether they go or stay. I have little hope that either of those will be of much service here, but I think they would all recover if allowed to go North soon. Our number in Hospital today is 12, & 16 others are in quarters excused from duty be the surgeon. The sickness in the Regiment is fearful—nearly or quite a third of the men being unfit for duty, though not many are thought to be dangerously sick.
H’d Q’rs 2nd Divn 2nd Corps
Near Falmouth Va.
Jan 14 1863
We have had intimations of a move but whither or in what force is not known.
There is much semi-disloyalty among both officers & men in the army, caused I think by reading the N. Y. Herald. I wrote two letters last week to the Press. Did you see them? The no. of generals who are proslavery in their sentiment is larger than the no. who are heartily in favor of the Proclamation of Emancipation [Issued 22 September 1862 & 1 January 1863]. There is danger that this division of sentiment may ruin our cause in the North. We need a single-hearted unanimous devotion to the Government in order to receive the blessing of God without which it is vain that we fight. But with the Divine heretofore so mercifully vouch safed to us, your sons, we at least will be found doing our duty.
[Louisiana] Jan. 13th. This is to be set down as one of the bright days of soldier life—the mail from the North arrived, the first we have had since we left Newport News six weeks ago. As was natural there was intense joy in camp as the Chaplain rode in with a two bushel bag crammed with letters & papers. It took about an hour for several officers to sort the letters for the companies, when the Capt[ain]s took their Co.’s shares & distributed them at their own tents.
Nearly all the well men of Co. H had gone out in picket in the morning with Co. C, under command of Capt. Bolton, with Lieut. Richardson as subaltern. Lt. J. & I sorted & del[ivere]d those for the men in camp, then [illeg. word] for the pickets, & sent them off to them at once. I then took those for our men in Hospital & gladdened the poor fellows with from one to eight letters apiece. I found five for myself from home, from Pamelia & one from Mother. I first opened the two latest mailed & glanced over them to see whether all was well, & finding it was so, deferred the reading till all the others had been furnished with their letters.
I hurried back from the Hosp. & save myself up to the perusal of every line my letters contained. I did and do thank a kind Providence that had so mercifully preserved & prospered all the dear ones at home. The date of the latest was Dec. 18th—nearly a month ago, and many things may have happened in that time to mar the happiness of those at home; but I feel that it would be ungrateful to our Father in heaven to so distrust him as to be unhappy in absence of any knowledge. No, may he give me grace to trust him implicitly for the time to come, for myself & all those near and dear to me. I think every man in the company got at least one letter, & some a dozen or more, and almost all brought good news.
Jan. 12. The remaining four of our paroled prisoners returned. Weather pleasant.
Jan. 11th. A beautiful day—the mud drying up fast & things about camp improving in appearance. There is a great deal of sickness in the regiment. In our Co. we report 26 unfit for duty today—9 in the Hospital & 15 in quarters. Among the latter is Orderly Sergt. True, who has been unwell several days. Had religious service this morning in the open air just in the rear of our tents—subject of the discourse, “Heaven.”
The express box came this evening with our warm dressing gowns all safe.
I did not find you inside but found an expression of your love in this good coat which cost you so much work + perhaps pain; and it so peculiarly nice and acceptable that I long to pay you in the usual coin. I mean that which don’t go by mail or telegraph. You can hardly tell how comfortable we are this rainy night.
Jan. 9. Weather clear and cold. Commenced putting a fireplace in our tent.
My dear little daughter:
Papa wrote Guy and then Mamma and thinks it is now your turn. Uncle Charlie is in papa’s tent and eating an apple while reading an interesting newspaper. He has now gone and Lt. Stinson’s colored boy has come in to get some sugar. Now he has gone. This makes me think of two things: the boy & the sugar. This boy is about as big as our “Tom” but you never saw our Tom. He is about the size of Mr. Blain’s oldest (is his name Walter?) He has curly hair, black eyes, but his skin is not exactly black …
The sugar comes in a barrel. Capt. Bullock our new commissary brought it and for fun these little colored boys would put their hands in the barrel too often where it was deposited. The Capt. put it in my tent.
Evening. I have just received a budget of letters from Mamma. She tells papa the sad news that Guy learns something wrong almost every day. Papa hopes & prays that his little boys may strive to do right every day. Do you try hard to do the things you know Jesus loves? Papa finds it hard to do what he knows to be right but he prays & asks God to help him.
Your two Ambrotypes don’t look as if you would do wrong. They are very sweet children. Give much love for papa all around and pray for papa in real honesty. Very lovingly your father, O.O. Howard. …
Jan. 7th. My health is improving, though I have not had strength to drill the company till yesterday. At nine o’clock this morning our Co. went out on picket about three fourths of a mile from camp, being “picket no. 4”. We occupied six posts beside the reserve, which was quartered in a vacant house. Everything was quiet on the lines day & night. In the afternoon I went with some of the men of the reserve to visit a plantation about a mile off, owned by Dr. H. Perkins. The house was a splendid one, richly furnished but the furniture is in ruins scattered all over the house. Chairs, tables, picture frames, &c. were broken in pieces, & the floors, covered with remnants of mirrors & table ware that had been wantonly smashed to pieces. The house had been lighted with gas made on the premises. The sugar house is an immense building containing a fine steam engine & sugar mill. Large lots of molasses was standing in the vats, which I allowed the boys to help themselves to & carry back to camp. Soldiers from other Regts. were constantly coming & helping themselves to anything that struck their fancy. Three of the negro women that we carried in when we were on picket before were from this estate. Not one of the slaves is now left in the place.