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 29, 2012

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

Sharpsburg Ferry, Md.,
Monday, Sept. 29, 1862.

Dear Sister L.:—

Dennison T. has got home discharged. I wish I could have seen his mother’s greeting. I warrant you it was a joyful meeting. But Mrs. B. writes her sorrow. She cannot forget that though he went from home with a companion, he returned alone. Henry, I am afraid, will never return to receive such a greeting. They have never heard a word from him since the news of his arrival in Richmond severely wounded. I think he must be dead. Still they have no direct intelligence of his death, nothing but dreadful uncertainty.

If I should come home and call to see you I don’t believe you would be very sleepy for one hour or two, but I have no such expectations for the present at least. I have often told you that I was in for the war, and I never suffer myself to think for a moment of any going home till I go home honorably discharged, either unfit for service or at the close of the war. That day may be a good way off, but still I do not get homesick in the least. I know I never could feel easy to remain at home in full health while the war continued. No one would be more happy to see the war come to a close, the troubles settled, and the Union restored, than I, but few perhaps think less of military life than I, or would be more glad to leave it than I, if the cause were removed, but principle is at stake. I have cast my lot here from choice, and I’m not the one to back out because it’s hard.

I don’t just know about Almon’s garrison duty at Fortress Monroe. I rather guess they have garrison enough there. He may go to Yorktown or some of the other places in the vicinity, but I miss my guess if he stays long in the Fortress. I hope he will not be homesick, for of all the forlorn objects I ever saw a homesick soldier is the most pitiable. If he gets along the first month or so he will stand it afterwards.

So Uncle Joseph’s folks are down on McClellan, are they? Well, you know they are strong abolitionists and get most of their ideas on national affairs from Greeley and Beecher. Now McClellan is a more moderate man and deals with things as he finds them. He is no pro-slavery man, no more than Beecher, but I think he is a more practical man. He will do his duty just as well, now the “proclamation” is out, as he would before Greeley said the war would end in thirty days after the issue of the proclamation. It was done September 22d, so I suppose the war will end by October 22d, and some time in November I shall be home. Pleasant prospect, but I “don’t see it.” I approve of the proclamation, but I don’t think it is going to scare the South into submission. I think it will result in the total overthrow of slavery, but next winter will witness scenes so bloody that the horrors of the French Revolution will be peace in comparison to it. If the South will have it so, the blood be on her own head. Seward was right—the “irrepressible conflict” will continue till freedom or slavery rules the nation. I can’t see through the mist that clouds the future, but I’ll hope.

So you will allow me to laugh at you for thinking the smoke of battle reached old Chautauqua. Well, you are good humored about it to say the least, especially as you are not in a situation to help yourself very well. I do not say it didn’t come there, but did you see any repetition of the performance after the battle of Antietam on the 17th? There was more smoke there than I have seen at any other battle. It was a hundred miles or so nearer, too.

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