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

Post image for Army letters of Oliver Willcox Norton.

Army letters of Oliver Willcox Norton.

October 15, 2013

Army letters of Oliver Willcox Norton (Eighty-third Pennsylvania Volunteers)

No. 374 North Capitol Street,
, D. C, Oct. 15, 1863.

Dear Mother:—

My examination has not taken place yet and probably will not till next week. I have been here two weeks already, and I am not yet prepared. I am studying all I can. Today I have been up in the President’s room in the Capitol with another candidate for strapic honors, reviewing and cross-examining on the tactics. Imagine my feelings, transferred from my shelter tent on the Rapidan to the royal magnificence of our republican President’s private room in the Capitol. Pier mirrors twenty feet high on three sides of the room, marble top table, luxurious chairs, and, oh, such paintings!

It may be that I am very verdant, but a ramble through the Capitol puts me in mind of the fairy palaces of the Arabian Nights. The vaulted roofs, beautifully painted and frescoed, the marble columns (white and variegated) polished till they look as though they were covered with glass, the labyrinthine passages so puzzling it is almost impossible to enter and come out the same door, the glorious historical and portrait paintings, all make up a scene of wonder and grandeur to a plain republican like me, such as I never have seen and never expect to see again. In the Patent Office I saw Washington’s sword, the one he carried in the Revolution, his dress suit, his writing case, tent, cane, bureau, mirror, etc.

I visited the Smithsonian. I won’t try to tell what I saw there. It set my brain in a whirl that I have not got over yet. It is near supper time and I must close. I will say that nothing but my eyes will keep me from a commission. If I can convince the board that they are right, I shall be all right. If they throw me out on that, I have half a mind to demand a discharge on that ground. I cannot see why my eyes should disqualify me for an officer and not for a private.

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