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40th New York Infantry

Item LTR-5796
August 13, 1862 John H. B. Jenkins
Price: $185.00


Original Civil War soldier's letter. 4 pages written in period ink. Archival tape on some folds.

Headquarters, 40th New York Volunteers
Near Harrison’s Landing, VA

August 13, 1862

Dear Mary,

Yours of the 10th is just received and I was much pleased to hear from you. It came unexpectedly quick for from the way in which my folks have been doing business, I have begun to expect letters almost four weeks after writing. Mary, my eldest sister, especially, appears to think a week or two’s extra delay makes no difference and that the army is bound to be always in the same place.

(There are a lot of officers in the tent, buzzing so that I can hardly write.)

We have had a great time here lately. Having received orders to reduce our baggage as low as possible. Our knapsacks have been shipped off to Washington, but I think we’ll strike for the Rappahannock and unite with Pope. The Washington is only a blind.

Shipping off the knapsacks is a good idea. For soldiers can not act as baggage trains and fighting men too, especially in this region.

That “Peace Party” is a rabble of blockheads. What good would their 150 shot guns do, when Major Henry could mount a 50 pound Parrott on a steam tug, and knock the town about their ears? Boats come up the creek to Smyrna, don’t they? They had better let shotguns go and take rifles and use them in defense of a government which will be likely to provide schools in which they can get rid of a little of their benighted ignorance.

We have just heard of Pope’s gallant fight at Cedar Run Mountain and don’t feel a bit bad about it. But we expect old “Stonewall” will probably be down this way soon. It’s a way he has of joking.

(We have just received orders to march at 7 a.m. tomorrow.)

As you say, I would like to see a draft take place. For it would serve some folks exactly right. I applaud Uncle Lewis’ pluck and would like to meet him out here. If he can leave his family comfortable, he will be discharging a sacred duty. Neither you nor Aunt Caroline would lack for protectors, for let Smyrna be cursed with those miserable libels on manhood – Peace men – as much as it may, one such as your Uncle Graham is enough to redeem the whole place. Like Abraham and lot in a secesh town some time ago.

Give that brother my heart felt good wishes. He will never repent his taking the right course and I wish that all of the young men of Smyrna might come to as sensible a conclusion.

Jimmy is one of that kind of children who gets to be men before their mothers. His marrying at 18 was no proof of shrewdness and burying sickly children is a sure reward for marriage on small bodily capital.

I heartily wish I could share in those evening walks. It would be more pleasant than going on such a “walk” as commences tomorrow. Where we’ll bring up, nobody knows. I am in poor condition to stand it. But will toddle along as well as I can. I have asked for my discharge twice since I was here, but though they dare not refuse me, they bluff me off. So I am bound to put the matter through at the first camp we get to.

I want to be with you by Thanksgiving Day, and if I am alive, I will leave nothing undone to bring it about. I believe I know how I will be received and may God grant us both happiness.

We have lost our assistant surgeon, Dr. Charles E. Halsey. But for his death, you and I would have been together now. He was overworked at Fair Oaks and from that time until the retreat ended. This aggravated an attack of typhoid fever which had set in shortly after Fair Oaks and he had hardly reached Fortress Monroe before he died.

We could have a fine time if I was there now. Couldn’t we? With no “old folks” to hinder? Don’t tell Aunt Caroline about the old folks, though she might think I meant her.

It might pay to have me, for I can wash dishes, make fries, peal “taters”, run errands and do “heaps of work.” There I could keep the clothes in repair by giving John a couple of hours at knapsack drill during the heat of day. He wouldn’t feel like flying around and breaking things much after that.

We do feel the heat terribly. But the swarms of carrion fed flies and insects are the worst nuisance by half. They’ve all cannibals and bite with as much vim as so many gallipipers.

I am glad you keep “as fat as ever,” as I never liked the “living skeleton” style of lady and want to have a good armful, so I can tell when I’m hugging you.

We have received the Inquirer regularly here. But don’t know how it will be on the march. We’ll have to go hungry for letters and papers both, I fear. But anyhow, we’ll not go through anything worse than the Seven Days’ Battles, it can’t be worse.

With an earnest hope of meeting you in health and safety very soon and with love to all friends, I remain,

Yours ever,

J. H. B. Jenkins

Miss Mary A. Benjamin
Care of John Lewis Jenkins, Esquire
Smyrna, Delaware