Note: I found a private soldier’s estimates of the numbers involved on the Peninsula interesting, considering the debates over them over the years. I wonder if Prince John Magruder would have been flattered to be mistaken for Albert Sidney Johnston?
Camp before Yorktown
April 13th, 1862
I don’t suppose you have received a letter from me since last December but you must not blame me for it. The fault lies with the P.O. Dept. I have written several times, but yesterday I discovered, or rather a poor Dutchman, whom I didn’t think had sense enough to last him till he made his exit from this world, found out for me that my postage stamps were no good, being of the old style which were in use before the days of Secession. Thank Good my health has been tip-top since I wrote my last letter from Washington but you must have thought I had gone to Davy Jones locker from my silence.
Since I left Washington (last Dec.) I have been pretty constantly on the move but save a clear day occasionally nothing remarkable has happened. I think however something will happen next week. We have had three clear days in succession, and such a thing must be the forerunner of something remarkable.
Our Squadron (Cos “A” and “E” 4th Cavly) is Genl McClellan’s body-guard and we have a fine time of it. If there is any fighting the General will be in as much danger as we will, but I think that will not be much. There is an army of about ninety five thousand federal troops here and the papers say there are one hundred thousand secesh (sic) with five hundred cannon, but I think forty thousand is the outside of their strength. There has been considerable skirmishing here for the last week but the mud is too deep for us to bring our heavy artillery into position. Several Prisoners have been taken by our boys and they tell so many stories nobody believes them. The prevailing opinion is that Yorktown is held by fifty thousand troops under General A.S. Johnston and that they will be whipped within seven days.
A large boat bridge has been built across the (York) river just opposite us (our camp is on the same side of the river Yorktown is, and about two and a half miles below it). The roads have all been filled up with rails and logs to make them passable for artillery and I think about everything is ready for the ball to be opened. If I am so lucky as to escape having the lamp of my existence snuffed out by a secesh (sic) bullet I expect to write a full account of the battle at Yorktown in exactly one week from this day and write from Richmond.
Till then Adios.
Chas. E. Bates