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.

September 10, 2015

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

Ringgold Barracks, Texas,
September 10, 1865.

My Dear Sister L. :—

I have no letter to answer since my last, but I have a little time to spare to-day, being Sunday, and will devote it to you by writing.

I try to imagine what you are doing just now, and what is the change in the looks of the place since I was there. I presume that just about this time of day you are sitting in one of the slips in that “Podunk” or “Chachunk” (what do you call it?) “meetin’ house,” listening intently to the logical instructions of some “Elder Boanerges” and wishing between times that you had your big brother up there again to show him to those who were not sufficiently impressed by your first exhibition. Ah, well! You can’t get him there to-day. Let me see. It is nearly the middle of September. We have been making garden. Our cucumbers are up and doing nicely—so are several other plants. You, I suppose, are just getting through harvesting. Charlie’s barns are full to overflowing. The cows come up at night so full they lie down with a grunt, and all the country round shows the fullness and beauty of the early autumn. I have not learned to tell the season here. July and August have passed never so quickly, so coolly, so pleasantly before. Most of my time is spent in my office and, instead of the excessive heat being troublesome in the southern climate, I have never suffered so little from heat in New York. There is all the time a breeze, and the thick walls of my adobe house shut out all the heat of the sun.

I say the time has passed pleasantly. One reason is that I have had little time to think of unpleasant things, and another, I suppose, is that I am somewhat pleased with the power and influence of my new position. Except the commanding general, there is no one here so much looked up to by the citizens as “El Quartelmaestro,” and then my business suits me. General Steele, Inspector General, has been inspecting my train, shops, storehouses, etc., to-day, and he compliments me highly on their appearance. From down the river I hear the same thing. “I like to consign a boat to a live quartermaster,” says the quartermaster at Brownsville, “but how do you manage to unload your boats so quickly?” I do it by keeping things moving. I set seventy-five men with an officer in charge at work as soon as a boat is tied up, and when the load is off her papers are ready and she starts back. There is a pleasure in hard work when you see the results. That makes all the difference in the world. The way I punish an unruly teamster is to make him dig a big hole and then fill it up, dig it out and fill it up the second time, and that is enough for any man. It fixes them.

I should not write such a letter to everyone. It sounds a little like self-praise, but between us there need be no reserve. I tell you all because I know you like to know just what I am doing.

By the way, have I told you that I have at last dropped the “A” and my “pay handle” is “R. Q. M.” of the Eighth? Burrows got his appointment in August and I stepped into his shoes at once. Rank from August 5th.

The prospect for getting out of the service very soon is not very good. As things are shaping I do not much think I shall try till after Congress meets. Wilson Camp has sent in his resignation and he will go out sure. The medical board that examines all officers pronounced him disqualified to perform his duties, by reason of physical disability contracted in the line of his duty. It is a big joke, for he is physically the ablest man in the regiment. Can stand more hardship than the whole medical board together, but he said “the doctors ought to know,” and sent in his resignation on those grounds. I suppose I might do the same thing, but I do not care to do it.

The paymaster has paid us a visit and some greenbacks. I received $577.63 for four months.

Well, I will bid you good-bye, hoping to hear from you soon and as often as you can find time to write. Love to Charlie and all the good folks. Shall I bring home a doll trom Mexico for your baby?

I enclose a missive I received the other day. Perhaps you can read it. It refers to a mule.

Adios, hermana mia,

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