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.

August 1, 2012

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

Harrison’s Landing, Va.,
Friday, August 1, 1862.

Dear Father:—

I was very glad to learn that there is some prospect of your being appointed chaplain for our regiment. I suppose the appointments are made by the Governor on the recommendation of the officers of the regiment. If Colonel C. favors your appointment, I think there will be no difficulty about the other officers. My opinion is that the majority of them care but little who is chaplain, or whether there is any or not. Unless some of them have some other person in view, I have no doubt they will all sign the recommendation. You will find the duties of chaplain very different from that of pastor of a church. There will be no deacons or active sympathizing brethren to “hold up your hands.” You will have the whole management of the spiritual concerns of the regiment. The officers will neither aid nor oppose you, but expect you to attend to your duties while they do theirs. I do not know that there is a professor of religion among them, unless I except Lieutenant Colonel Campbell, who I have heard is a Presbyterian. Your charge will be a hard one, a motley assemblage of all sorts of characters, among whom the name of God is used much oftener than he is thought of. One thing I have noticed, however, and that is that profane swearing and card playing are not near so prevalent lately. I do not attribute this to any thought of the sin of these practices. There were many when we first entered the service, who, when they found themselves away from the restraints of society and home, let loose their tongues and indulged in swearing till they could scarcely utter a sentence without an oath. One night when we lay at Hampton, I listened to a couple of fellows in our company awhile, and finally spoke. “Boys,” said I, “I think if you keep on you will make first-rate swearers. I’ve heard you use fifty-nine oaths in about ten minutes.” “Is that so?” said one. “Yes,” said I, and they stopped talking at once. One of them told me since we came here, that he had broken himself of the habit entirely. He was getting ashamed of it.

I am glad Horatio is doing so well. Poor fellow, I pity him. I think of him very often, and hope you will keep me informed how he gets along.

My health continues first-rate yet. If we march I shall stand it as well as any, I think. I shall have no gun to carry. I have no use for one now, and mine was given to a man who came back from the hospital. I have made up my mind that I shall not carry one while I am not required to, for if we get in any place where I need one there is never any difficulty in getting one.

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