Following the American Civil War Sesquicentennial with day by day writings of the time, currently 1863.

Post image for Adams Family Letters, Charles Francis Adams, Jr., to his mother.

Adams Family Letters, Charles Francis Adams, Jr., to his mother.

December 9, 2012

Adams Family Civil War letters; US Minister to the UK and his sons.

Potomac Run, near Falmouth, Va.
December 9, 1862

After a day or night of duty, it is strange what a sense of home and home comfort one attaches to the bivouac fire. You come in cold, hungry and tired and I assure you all the luxuries of home scarcely seem desirable beside its bright blaze, as you polish off a hot supper. And such suppers! You’ve no idea how well we live, now we ‘ve added experience to hunger. This evening, I remember, I had army-bread fried in pork — and some day I’ll let you know what can be made of that dish — hot coffee, delicate young roast pig, beefsteak and an arrangement of cabbage, from the tenement of a neighboring mud-sill. This, with a pipe of tobacco, a bunk of fir branches well lined with blankets and a crackling fire before it left little to be desired. There is a wild luxury about it, very fascinating to me, though I never realise the presence of danger and that excitement which some men derive from that; to me camp always seems perfectly secure and my horses kick and champ on the other side of my fire, and my arms hang on the ridge of my bunk, practically as little thought of by me as though the one were in the stable at Quincy, and the other hanging over my mantelpiece in Boston. My enjoyment springs from the open air sense of freedom and strength. It’s a lawless sort of feeling, making me feel as if I depended only on nature and myself for enjoyment.

This is all very well when the weather is fine, even in December; but next morning a change came o’er me, for early in the morning it began to rain and snow and, by the time we were relieved, at noon it snowed most heartily, so that I sincerely pitied the miserable creatures who relieved us. Home we rode, wet and cold, and as I walked sulkily along, I tried to think of one crumb of comfort awaiting me when I got back into camp. I couldn’t think of one, unless indeed the commissary might have procured some whiskey. Wrong again! I got into camp and found Colonel Sargent there with three companies from Hooker’s head-quarters and things looked lively enough, though far from cheerful, and as luck would have it Henry Davis was there, established in the midst of discomfort in his usual comfort. So I passed the evening with him, cursing Colonel (in which chorus we all unanimously concur), smoking the best of tobacco, drinking hot whiskey punch and eating plum-cake fresh from Washington….

The next time Henry passes a bookstore let him stop and buy for her [Mary] a little volume called “Ten Years of Soldiers’ Life in India.” It contains the life of Major Hodson taken from his own letters and is one of the most touching and charming books of these later days, to say nothing of the character of Hodson himself — my ideal of a Christian gentleman and soldier. I wonder none of you ever heard of him.

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