Byrns, William – October 15, 1861

Michigan Civil War Collection Letters

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Regiment: 1st Michigan Infantry Battles Mentioned: Historical Figures: White Oak Bottom, Md. Oct. 15/61 Dear Florence, I don’t know but that I should not write so often but as times life grows dull in this camp camp, reading matter is scarce & I can do nothing but drive dull excess away by writing. Now ain’t that a good introduction? Won’t you feel honored by it? Well I shall keep writing until I hear that I am to stop or have my letter returned unopened. How much longer we will stay out here I cannot say. Our Reg. is under orders to be ready to march at a moment’s notice. Of course we will not go if the Reg. is ordered while we are away. We are having now the beautiful “Indian summer”. The nights are cool, frosty. Almost all of my detachment have fitted up “Yankees” in their tents. I presume you don’t know what a “Yankee” is, tis a furnace homemade inside the tent & connected with the world outside by an underground passage. They are not comely but comfortable. Yesterday Joshua built one in my tent. Last night was the coolest we have yet felt & Joshua “fed the furnace” with pitch pine faggots. I slept beautifully but had to relate this since everything inside the tent was covered with black soot. I have expectorated soot have smelled soot, wept soot & perspired soot all day long. I feel to rejoice that Joshua is possessed with a good stock of patience for were we that I am sure he would assibilate me for my bad talk about amalgamation. Pitch pine is excused from further duty & seasoned Chestnut will occupy his place. We enjoy life as well as can be expected indeed if we could only hear from our friends & the world outside oftener we would be quite contented. I have read one letter from you & some from brother since here. If I have written one letter I have 20 & it is only encouraging for me who is depended on his friends to a great extent. The people of this state are kind to us but at heart I believe the most of them empathize with the rebels. Capt. Abbotts & I attended church last Sabbath morning, twas the church of the small town. I have attened service in a good many cities but I never saw so much style as was expressed in one short Episcopal service in the village of Carmel, Md. last Sunday. But Capt. A. is a very quiet man & I was denser. No, that is not the way we officers should look. I looked reserved but Capt. & I formed in a hymn in a manner that seemed to astonish them. Capt. is said to be a good tenor. I keep close in camp more so than most of the officers in this business. But I feel little inclinations to be away from business. Accordingly I take a stroll & have a grand quiet time. It seems like one continued Sunday so dead is the appearance of all things except those “fouls”, turkey buzzards. They can be seen at all hours of the day hovering about them lazy flight is in keeping with the reaction the whole country to haul one load of wood or coal that any two horses in the north would carry off with ease. They the inhabitants attack six mules & have a desire to ride the “near wheel” arrival & drive the other five with one rain. Were I to be on a committee to draft a coat of arms for the rebels, I should choose a turkey buzzard hovering over a dead mule. I do not know what to think of a colored gentleman that visited my camp just at twilight last night. I first asked him where he was from – Baltimore. Where he was going – Washington. What he wanted – something to eat. Was he free – No. Who was his Master – Capt. [  ?  ] of [  ?  ] Company. Had he a pass – No. Should I arrest him & get the  $25.00 or $50.00 bounty for apprehending him? He did not care – So which I showed him the entrance to my camp & told him get out as soon as possible. I think he was sent in to spy out our sentiments. He learned much & but lost his supper if he was dependent on our camp for it. I try to observe a strict regard for the laws of old, as my duty to do. But my patience is sorely tried. I did want to find out who sent him here & at times had he come in that manner, would have known his business to a certainty. Tis hard to stop in a section of country when the people profess such friendliness & still you know that tis all faults. By good luck I supposed to find an Officer in the U.S. service at Washington who is in the neighborhood last spring when secession was bold & the people had formed three actions into military cos. He gave me names & incidents which are of great value to me. I also saw an officer who was encamped at this place all summer, so that I know almost everyman from miles about. I can give them :incidents” which surprise them. This knowledge of the country & the people troubles the inhabitants not a little, & gives our people a great advantage. You wrote me that you hated the approaching winter & do not know what to do, etc. I would advise you to take a good deal of exercise – get a pair of those clubs that ladies practice with. I would not projilistic exercises such as “gloves & stocking a day of salt” but walking or riding when the weather will permit, not think too much of the war & your absent soldier friends. I know it must be much harder to be at home, watching for the close of this trouble, than to be in the field participating in the evil, if even it can be called and Mr. Bernard things it is wrong to defend ones country & he is an older man than I in years. When you write your “Soldier boys”, remember that tis very pleasant for them to receive long letters & get them often from those who are at “home” & remember that though surrounded by rough companions & seeing something of the toil & hardships incident to our life, they never lay down at night without breathing a prayer for the “Dear Ones at Home”. I believe the soldier & the sailor in spite of their many vices, to be finer forces & to hold in greater respect the memory of the absent than any other class of wonderers. You cannot tell the influence of a sisters or dear one than sister’s letters upon the soldiers more in active service. While in camp at Bladensbury, I slipped in the tent of a brother, he had been disciplined & I fear he would turn to his old habits. He was reading a letter & had another that he had finished in his hand. I shall just say that the U.S. Officer was weeping. Being a confident of his I endeavored to console him, supposing he had lost a dear friend or relative, but he had only read 2 letters one from his sister and the other from his…Well, a pretty lady of his acquaintance. He asked me to sit down & well we had a long conversation on absent ones have over us. When I left him I believe we were both better men. Tis so hard to think you ought, don’t wait to hear from me. Yours truly, Wm. Byrns