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.

January 30, 2013

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


Stoneman Station, Pa.,
Friday, Jan. 30, 1863.

Dear Sister L.:—

Last Friday an agent of our benevolent but dilatory Uncle Sam paid us a visit and four months of greenbacked promises. He was an oily tongued fellow, and just euchred me out of $2.00 and over. The government owed me $6.41 on clothing account, and he paid me $4.25 and put the rest in his own pocket.

There were some rich scenes during his visit. One fellow in the Forty-fourth New York had been paid twice in hospital on his “descriptive list.” The first time he drew $52, the next by some oversight he drew $78, when but $26 was due him. He returned to his regiment and chuckled over his smartness in cheating Uncle Sam out of $52. He told it to everybody he knew, and when the pay-day came they were all on the lookout to see how he would come out of it. When his name was called he stepped to the table and Mr. Oily Tongue commenced: “You owe the United States $52, the United States owes you $48; $48 from $52 leaves you just $4 in debt to the government. Got the money?” He rattled it off like an auctioneer, and the tricky Ellsworth was non-plussed. He finally stammered out that he had not. “Oh, well, never mind, we’ll wait till next time, but don’t forget that $4.” Oh, you ought to have heard the smile that rose in the crowd! The poor fellow can’t stir out of his tent but somebody puts out his hand with—”Got the money?”

We have been having a big touch of winter for this country. Yesterday morning we had snow a foot deep, the most I’ve seen in Virginia. It was not very cold, but it is melting off now and it will make terrible roads when it is gone. Snow is twice as bad as rain for that. To-day is clear and warm, that is, thawing.

There is an order out to allow three men in each company to go home on furlough. This and other orders intimate to me that we are to stay where we are some time, or that we will not attempt another movement till the winter is over enough to make it safe.

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