Editor’s Note: The Soldier Studies web site (http://www.soldierstudies.org) collects and publishes letters written during the Civil War. Owner/editor Chris Wehner was kind enough to grant me written permission to publish a selection of letters from his site which focus on the Siege of Petersburg. Look for letters to appear here during the 150th anniversary of the Siege of Petersburg and beyond. These letters may not be reused without the express written consent of Chris Wehner. All rights reserved.
Mr. J.B.J. Keler,
How are you today old boy and how does the goose hang. I am pretty well today myself but it is so confounded muddy we can’t get outside of the door without getting in it up to our knees, and I’ll be contwisted if I han’t so tired of it that I hardly know what to do with myself. I have seen considerable mud in my time but this beats anything I ever saw before. Some places it is four feet deep and it is knee deep to a horse almost all over. I was going to Jones Landing to get my horse shod but I was afraid to venture out and think I will have to wait a day or two. There is a band playing in front of our door and I am trying to write and keep time with my pen. They have just commenced a tune solemn enough to bring tears out of a grindstone. Don’t you wish you could have a good band come and play for you like we have. Our Div. has gone off on another expedition to Wilmington and this time I think they will be successful. They arrived here New Years day and started back the third day of this month. If they met with no gale on the ocean they are at Wilmington by this time or rather at Fort Fisher at the mouth of Cape Fear River.1 I was left behind again but this time at the front instead of at the rear. We were all left in the officer’s quarters and expected to have big times but the Col. of the 9th Maine Regt. drove us out of all but one and that put a stop to our fun. The old Devil not being satisfied with turning us out had to go and order me to take care of two horses belonging to two of his staff. I never was so mad in all my life and have hardly got over it yet. For three days I was too mad to speak to anyone. I wish I could have been up to attend the great Ball at Abe Klines. I think I could get around a little if I was among you. You had better come down and see us this winter or are you afraid to get so close to the Rebs. When I was home last winter I had never seen an armed Rebel but I’ll bet I have seen plenty since that. I saw C.S. Long a day or two before he started home. If I hadn’t been so foolish as to have re-enlisted last winter I could be at home now too, but I am fast for two years yet I may be lucky enough to get a furlough this winter, but it will be rather doubtful. An order was issued a few days ago granting furloughs, but yesterday it was revolked. I was in hopes they would give us all a chance to get home a little while this winter but by all appearances that is knocked in the head. Was you at Jersey town Christmas Eve? If so what kind of a time did you have? Just now we got our rations of whiskey, nearly a glass full, but I dare not drink it. The damn stuff makes me sick. I haven’t drank a pint of whiskey in a year I believe. The smell of it makes me shiver. Well Bent it is about supper time and I guess I will have to close. Take good care of all the pretty women and don’t let them all get married for I want one when I get home for myself. Now see that you obey the instructions of your superior officer or I will have you tried by court martial for disobedience of orders and no doubt have you shot. I saw two men shot last Saturday for desertion. A deserter if caught fares but slim in this Dept. Nine have been shot since the 25th of Nov. Han’t that putting them out of the way pretty fast. Well I must close or I will freeze to death. Hoping to hear from you soon.
I subscribe myself,
Your true friend,
George Mc Ewen, Head Quarters, 2nd Div., 24th A.C., via Washington, D.C. Care Capt. Carleton, A.A.G.2
- SOPO Editor’s Note: McEwen’s Division was part of the force under Alfred Terry which went on the second expedition against Fort Fisher, near Wilmington, North Carolina, the last open port to blockade runners. This force was ultimately successful in taking Fort Fisher and many prisoners, effectively closing Wilmington and cutting off the Confederacy from the outside world. ↩
- McEwen, George. “Head Quarters, 24th Army Corps.” Letter to “Mr. J.B.J. Keler” 11 Jan. 1865. MS. Old Point Comfort, Va. This letter appears here due to the express written consent of Chris Wehner, owner of SoldierStudies.org and may not be used without his permission. All rights reserved. ↩