top of page

Camp Ellsworth near Seneca River, Md.
Sept. 21st 1861


My Dear Father,

In spite of the numerous rumors floating about in this quarter and, which undoubtedly reach you, of the enemy’s approach we are still safe and quiet in the same old camp, but we have two days cooked rations constantly on hand and the men are to be ready to march at a moment’s warning, knapsacks and trunks being packed at all times. From our present position we could hear cannonading at any point on the Potomac lines and I was at a house yesterday where they heard the firing at Bull’s Run.


The morale, discipline and spirit of the army have improved infinitely since our regiment arrived at Sandy Hook. Drills are much more numerous and thorough and the police[ing] of the camps is carefully attended to. It is evident too that the most perfect confidence exists in Generals McClellan and Banks and the momentary discouragement and dismay caused by the Bull Run disaster have passed away. I have strong confidence in the discipline and bravery of the Army of the Potomac as now organized. The government still seems to “hasten slowly” in its policy towards the rebellion but I trust you will see an advance before long.


Much is said about the injury done to Maryland by the presence of our army but I should say that such an influx of Northern intelligence, enterprize and activity was the greatest blessing this old fogy, one-horse state ever before experienced. For instance in this place our division has built bridges where there were none and actually taught the first principles of trade to the farmers and petty merchants hereabouts. I had heard of the superiority of the North over the South but never realized it untill I saw the low state of the useful arts and of education existing in this northernmost of slave states.


Day before yesterday our company with Company D under the command of Major Chapman went out on picket duty. After a quick march of seven miles passing through the little village of Darnestown on the way, we reached an immense supply train which occupied a day and night in passing us a week since. 


I found the duties very light, as after posting my guard I spent the day and evening with some interruptions at a large farm house where the other officers and I enjoyed some excellent meals. I have tasted no such homelike coffee and biscuit since I left Hartford. There was a very lively young lady in the family who expressed herself as strongly antislavery and for the Union. She took our names in a book she had, saying she wanted to compare them with the lists of killed and wounded in the coming battles. Thoughtful, very! If I should be wounded or sick I should love to reach such a place.


I have been in the best of health with the exception of two days (Monday and Tuesday of this week). I caught cold all over wearing thin boots, I believe, and in the morning commanded the company an hour and a half on drill and then went on a target excursion in the hot sun and through a heavy cloud of dust. On returning I found I had a fever coming on, but by lying still the rest of the day and the next and spending the night in a neighboring farm house I recovered speedily and Thursday I started on the march feeling as well as any one in the company.


. . . I hope this war will be short for public reasons and for the private one that I should get very tired of this camp life before long and should be now if it were not for the excitement of expecting a fight continually. Besides I feel dissatisfied with the want of books and literary culture we are obliged to submit to. However that is one of the privations and one of the greatest ones. Lately two orders have been issued which do not harmonize very well. We officers must wear our uniforms at all times and must have our baggage reduced. We are allowed eighty pounds by the Army Regulations but shall be reduced to considerably less. . . . 


I am deeply grieved that mother feels so badly. I was in hopes she would become reconciled to my absence as I have been gone so much the past two or three years. I think she exaggerates the danger of this life and even of the battlefield. I should never have been contented to stay at home and bear the imputation of cowardice which would have fastened upon me, and the sense of failing in my duty which would have haunted me. 


My love to all.
Your aff. Son,
Melzar


P.S. Sept. 22nd (1861). Last night I received my commission as 1st Lieutenant, dating from Sept. 9th. Our company is on guard today. We have services by the Chaplain twice or three times during the day on the Sabbath and no exercises except dress parade and inspection.


Your’s aff.,
Melzar 
 

bottom of page