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.

July 31, 2012

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

Camp at Harrison’s Landing, Va.,
Thursday, July 31, 1862.

Dear Cousin L.:—

Though everything in the box was very acceptable and we enjoyed it all so much, still I do not want to have you send another. If my health continues as good as it has been almost all the time I have been in the service, I can get along first-rate on Uncle Sam’s rations. Almost everything we get is of good quality, and though there is nothing very nice or tempting to the appetite in the whole list, still it is good and wholesome food, and I do not wish to put you to the trouble or expense of sending me anything more when I can do very well without it, especially after all you have done for me now. There are so many poor fellows sick and wounded who are suffering in our hospitals, to whom such delicacies would be so acceptable, that I should feel guilty, feel as though I was receiving what they needed more than I, if I should allow you to send so much to me when I am sound and well, and very well able to get along on what the government furnishes. I know the ladies of New York and Brooklyn are doing all they can for the soldiers and I have no doubt that you are doing much that I never hear of, but I would rather you would give them what you would otherwise send to me than to receive it myself under the circumstances. They may be all strangers to you, but they are Uncle Sam’s boys, and so cousins, are they not? —and they are brave and gallant boys that the fortunes of war have brought to suffering. The ladies are doing all they can for them, but there are more coming every day, and when you have done, isn’t there always room for something more? Please, then, don’t send another box, not because I do not appreciate your kind intentions in doing so much to make the hardships of camp life easier for me, but because I do not really need it.

In regard to money, too; when we are paid off I generally send most of my wages home, reserving what I think I shall need to last till we are paid again. Sometimes it happens that it don’t hold out, the paymaster don’t come at the expected time, and I get short and have to do without. I could get money by sending to Erie for it, but it seems just about like throwing it away to take it out of the bank and give it to those army sharks, the sutlers. It is so now. Our pay has been due a month, but it does not come yet. We are expecting it, and so I don’t send for any. Money is well enough off at home, but it isn’t of much account here. I must and will have enough to write all the letters I want; that is something I will not deny myself. I would rather receive a good letter any time than anything else I get here, and they don’t come unless I write. And then I spend considerable time in writing that I should not know what else to do with. So, as to the money that Aunt Buckingham sent, if that must come, I would like to have you send me a gold pen. Ask Ollie, when he is over some time, to get as good a one of Morton’s as he can for $1.25 or $1.50 and send the rest in stamps. That will be just what I want most for writing. I lost a good pen in my knapsack, and since that I have had to get along as I could.

Won’t you send me Aunt B.’s address when you write next time? I think I had it once, but I have forgotten, and I would like to write one letter to her.

It is no use for me to try to pick those bones with you, for I would have to give up before I was half convinced. I can dispute and “argufy” with a man and “hoe my row,” but I never quarrelled with a woman yet but I got the worst of it. I have almost a mind to pick up the second bone, though. It is a misfortune of mine to know no better than to write sometimes just as though I meant it and then expect that people will know that I don’t mean any such thing. L. says she never knows, when I am talking, whether I am in earnest or not, and I suppose it’s just so with my writing. But I would not insult you by writing, for anything more than a little pleasantry, such absurd ideas. I have always thought, since I had any ideas about it, that money or rank could not make a man of the person who would not be a man without either, and that, if I was just as much of a man as another would be stripped of his wealth and titles, I was just as much of a man anyway, but don’t you believe the money was to me as the “sour grapes” were to the fox. Paper is full and I must stop. Write soon as you can.

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