Camp Miller, Greenfield, Mass., Nov. 13, 1862.
Dear P——, — To-night there are in the tent at least fifteen men. There are three sets of men playing cards. I sit at one end of our table, close under the shelving edge of the tent, with head bent over to get rid of the slant of the canvas. My seat is a heap of straw, covered with a blanket. A kerosene lamp gives light to me on one side, and to a set at whist on the other. It is cold out of doors; but the tent is in a sweat, with its stove, and crowd of men. Slap go the cards on to the table. Every moment comes up some point for debate. Throughout the tent there is loud and constant talking, sometimes swearing; generally good-natured, sometimes ill-natured.
You want to know why I have left my pulpit and parish, and enlisted. I had several reasons; all plain, simple, and sensible enough. I have believed in the war from the first. The cause of the North, briefly, is, to me, the cause of civilization and liberty. To help this, I have preached, made speeches, and talked in private. Ought I not to practise what I preach? Ought I to shrink from encountering perils and hardships which I have urged others to encounter?
Then, again, having no family, I can go better than many others in our village,— men liable to be drafted, whose means are straitened, and who have wives and children to support. These are my main reasons; but, besides these, I confess to a love for adventure. Moreover, I hope to gain new robustness from the exposure. I own, also, to something of a military spirit. In every honorable war since the settlement of the country, I believe, some member of the stock from which I am descended has taken part. Generally, these ancestors of mine have been in very humble positions; although my great-grandfather held an important command among the militia at Concord Bridge, and did much toward keeping the “embattled farmers” firm on that day before the British volleys. In our family traditions he is an illustrious character, together with his brother, “Uncle Ben,” a sturdy husbandman, who fought faithfully that day throughout the long pursuit, and afterward carried a heavy old blunderbuss in many a hard campaign. I own, it is a sort of fame I covet, —to have my name go down in our modest family annals as the parson, who, in his generation, went with rifle on shoulder to Texas or Louisiana or the Carolinas ; doing his duty in honorable fields, as did great-grandfather and “Uncle Ben” of old.
I trust that the motives I have put first were the ones that influenced me for the most part; but these last, too, have had their weight.
Ed., my young brother, you know, has been made first sergeant of the company. He goes round, therefore, with a broad stripe down each leg, and a blue diamond, with a triple underscoring, upon each arm, — insignia upon which we poor privates and corporals look with reverence. I am now one of the eight corporals whose duty it is to guard the colors. I have a narrow stripe running down each pantaloon, and a double bar, or chevron, on each arm. Ed and I button up to the chin in our blue and brass; and are a brilliant pair, I assure you.
There seems to be no doubt now about our going with Gen. Banks. We hope it will be soon; for, although we are decently comfortable here, we should prefer some sweet-potato patch for a camp-ground, to this pumpkin field.
Yours very truly,