Note: In which we learn that the Union Army, or at least those parts of it near McClellan’s headquarters, ate quite well during the Peninsula campaign. Seidlity powders and a grand effervescence are also mentioned.
Harrisons Landing Va
August 10th 1862
Dear Home Circle,
I will try to write you a letter, or at any rate a few lines, enough to let you know that I am not well, but still I am worth a dozen dead men yet. I was taken pretty severely with Diarreah but am over it now and in a few days shall “resume my sword” if providence permits. One good effect of my illness has been a change of quarters, for my tent is now right over the water at high tide making it a great deal cooler. For bathing , too, it is much handier, but in this I can’t think, for it is impossible for me to keep my feet and my hands off the bottom at the same time, but it is all for the best perhaps if I could swim. I should get the cramps some-time in deep water. My paddling is played out, as Johnson guessed it would be even if I had not been sick for we have to be ready to start at any time. Part of the troops did start three days ago and took “Malvern Hill” with some loss. I cant get the particulars but you will in the papers. I also hear what you will probably not hear; that Genl McClellan is not pleased with the conduct of his Generals in the affair, and that of Genl Heintzelman especial, but this is only camp talk it may be so and it may not.
I accumulated $270 from my “Spec” and have taken a Treasury check for it. Perhaps I shall have a chance to make some more before long. If I do, I’m in.
I wonder the Horses don’t go crazy with the biting of the flies, for they are terrible think, and as the Irishman said of the Hornet, “their feet are hot as the Devil’s fingers.” They are not the quiet little brown fellows you have at home, but great blue-headed, blood-sucking, back-biting (and for that matter they are not particular about where they bite) sleep-disturbing torments, and like the evil spirits in the swine (or was it in a man) their name is legion.
I received Johnsons last with the postage stamps all right two days since, and am very thankful for them, he gives a sad picture of the morals of Oakville as exemplified in a “wordy war, and a challenge to combat,” among the Abolitionists. If I was down among you now I shouldn’t think myself safe without an edition of Colts “peace maker” in my pocket.
There has been considerable moving among the gun-boats here lately. I don’t know but some-thing is going to be done shortly, at present however “everything is quiet along the lines.”
I shall have to stop for supper I willl just give you my bil of fare for supper, we don’t eat dinner these hot days. 1st then comes tea, then some condensed milk for the tea, soft bread, butter, currant jelly, green peas, ham, preserved fruits of all kinds, cheese, lemons, tamarinds, oysters, lima beans, tomato catsup, and several other things that I can’t see from here and am too lazy to move, to look after, and to settle my stomache after this “small brunch” I have 3 boxes of seidlity powders; you need not think I am going to eat all this, but some of my old stock of goods is on hand yet, and I am going to have some of the luxuries.
The seidlity powders are a clear loss to me, I had four dozen of the boxes and in spite of all the logic I could use to persuade the soldiers they are unhealthy, and needed them to regulate their system they would not be convinced, well let them live in their perversity, or die from want of the “Asserism effervescing draught, invaluable in hot climates,” (so reads the lable) for I have determined to make a grand effervescence in the James river with these same powders.
I expect the next word I hear from home some of you will be drafted, well so be it. The Army is not a prison house or a grave for every-one although many a poor fellow finds it so. If any of my old chums come out here I want them to come right to Genl McClellan’s headquarters and enquire for the Fourth Cavalry, and then in the Fourth for me.
Give my love to all.
I remain your affectionate son
Charles E. Bates