SOPO Editor’s Note: Noah Andrew Trudeau found and transcribed several letters for the 15th New York Engineers page at the excellent New York Division of Military and Naval Affairs web site. I did further research and found this and other letters written by “D. C. P.” at the also excellent Old Fulton NY Postcards site. I transcribed this and other letters in the collection myself.
BRAINARD HOUSE, ELMIRA [NY], Jan. 6. 
To the Editor of the Roman Citizen:
I now for the first time have consented to appear before you and the good people of Rome generally, in my favorite role of the raw recruit. At all events I hope that my conduct ever hereafter may be such as to justify great expectations, and to win unbounded plaudits, as a true blue representative of the 21st District of Old Oneida.
But, Mr. Editor, to be plain and practical, I will give you a brief synopsis of my doings since I left modern Rome [NY]. As you are probably aware, I united my fortunes indissolubly with those of the Army of the Potomac, Wednesday, Dec. 28th, and received orders from Provost Marshal POOLE to report at Utica [NY] upon the following Monday [January 2, 1865].—Pursuant to orders I reported at the time aforementioned, and at 4.45, six recruits, including myself, were drawn up in line of battle at the Depot, and so soon as the New York Express arrived we secured seats, and were awaiting further orders, when we received an order which caused us to gape with wonderment, viz: that in consequence of the failure of seven men to report, (who were to go with us) we would be obliged to disembark and postpone our departure until the following day, consequently the next day [January 3, 1865] at 4.45 we re-embarked for Elmira, at which place we arrived the next morning [January 4, 1865] at 6.30. Marshal HUBBARD conveyed us to a restaurant where we refreshed our inner man, and at 8 o’clock we started for the barracks. We were then re-examined by an army Surgeon, and then received our County Bounty. We were then ushered into the Quartermaster’s Department, and were speedily clad in Uncle Sam’s livery. (But not with the understanding that with it we were to serve his satanic majesty.) However, two or three of the men did put such a construction upon it, and were forthwith sentenced to assist the cooks for an indefinite period.
So soon as I became in a degree acquainted with the officer in command of the camp, Maj. P. B[enner]. Wilson, of the 2d Pennsylvania cavalry1, (which I may safely assert was in just one hour from the time that I entered the camp) he granted me a pass to go down town, as the phrase is, and spend the remainder of the day. This was Wednesday [January 4, 1865], and the night of that day I shall never forget. The coldest night by many degrees that we have had this season. I reveled upon a luxurious camp bunk with two blankets and my overcoat thrown over me, I managed to get snatches of rest until 1.45, when I could woo the god of sleep no more; accordingly I arose, replenished the fires, and sat up until morning; bright beginning, was it not, Mr. Editor, for a soldier? That morning [January 5, 1865] I procured another pass, the time of which would expire at 4 p. m., and sallied forth a prey to the worst species of ennui; my spirits, however, soon rallied after lounging around the streets for a short time, and at 2.30 I presented myself again before Major WILSON, with a request for another pass until the next morning at 9 o’clock, which request the Major cheerfully complied with. This morning [January 6, 1865] I returned to camp and received another pass until five o’clock this afternoon. I first visited the camp of rebel prisoners2, or rather I went into the observatory, and thus obtained a view of the entire camp and its surroundings. There are eight thousand five hundred prisoners confined here at present, and such a dirty squalid, body of men, (taken as a whole) I do not remember to have seen. About twenty were at work grading a wagon road through the grounds, others were washing their underclothing, while other were listlessly idling about the grounds, possibly bestowing a thought upon the fortunes of war which had thrown them into Yankee hands. And while looking upon their extremely pleasant camp and barracks, full as comfortable as those in which our own troops are quartered, my thoughts inadvertently reverted to the Andersonville and Millen pens, and I turned away and retraced my steps to my own quarters, in a very thoughtful mood I assure you.
Last night [January 5, 1864] a detachment of recruits for the 14th U. S. Infantry, enlisted principally in New York, arrived in camp, and signalized their advent among us by a batch of robberies, almost unheard of even in the annals of camp life. Watches, blankets and overcoats were stolen, and one man while passing through one of the buildings, had his cap snatched from his head by unseen hands. In fact, such a motley crew of dead beats have never found their way to Elmira before.
But I am recounting a little of everything, amounting in the aggregate to nothing, but suffice it to say that every courtesy has been extended to me by Major WILSON, and I advise those of my Rome friends who contemplate a visit to Elmira, either officially or unofficially, to cultivate his acquaintance so soon as possible.
I leave for City Point3 to-morrow when I will endeavor to keep you fully posted in reference to all items of general interest.
Yours, &c., D. C. P.
[SOPO Editor’s Note: Noah Andre Trudeau believes this soldier is probably Darwin C. Pavey of the 15th New York Engineers.]4
- SOPO Editor’s Note: Wilson was in New York, far away from the front on this detached duty. However, his regiment, the 2nd Pennsylvania Cavalry, was involved in the Siege of Petersburg at the front. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: Elmira Prisoner of War camp, grimly dubbed “Hellmira” by its Confederate inmates, saw a 25% mortality rate during the war. Pavey was viewing this camp while he waited to be shipped off to the 15th New York Engineers at the Siege of Petersburg. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: City Point, as many readers well know, was the supply hub of Grants entire operation against Petersburg and Richmond. By the time Darvey’s letter was written, City Point was in all respects a thriving city, with ships and trains coming and going many times a day. Grant’s supplies and recruits came in, while those wounded or mustered out were shipped back North. ↩
- “Elmira Correspondence.” The Roman Citizen (Rome, NY). January 13, 1865, p. 2, col. 3 ↩