1 February 1862: “it is a splendid time for fighting and ‘all is quiet on the Potomac’…”

Item description: Letter, 1 February 1862, from Emmett Cole, who was stationed in Beaufort, S.C., serving with Company F, 8th Michigan Infantry Regiment. Cole writes to his friend Marcus, who is still at home in Barry County, Michigan, about his experiences in battle, and his predictions about the Confederate strategy in Mexico. In the letter, Cole references a popular poem by Ethyl Lynn Beers, published in Harper’s Bazaar on 30 November 1861, entitled “All Quiet Along the Potomac Tonight,” which is about the death of a Civil War picket guard. It is thought that this song inspired the title of the English translation of the 1929 German novel All Quiet On the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque.

Item citation: From folder 2 of the Emmett Cole Letters #5002-z, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Item transcription:

Beaufort S.C. Feb 1st 1862.

Friend Marcus.
haveing unexpectedly received a letter from you. I will answer it at once.  I was glad to hear from you and to learn that all was right in Barry. I have been sick for a few days back but I am fas regaining my health and shall be all right, in a few days. Mark I have seen some rather tight times since I enlisted but it is nothing more than all volunteers have to put up with. John has gone to his last resting place. Leon Duffy has gone home & Will Wheeler will get a Furlough to go home soon I think. so you see that all the boys that I was acquainted are leaving and I am left among strangers, but I dont care so long as I keep my health. and if I live till the war closes then I want my discharge and then I will call it honerable. Mark how does the features of the war look up there. I must say it looks rather dull to me, although our arms have been victorious in Kentuckey and many other parts but little skirmishers and scouting parties will never do the to be shure they help, but I tell you what there has got to be some hard fighting done yet this is the long and short of it. they have got to be whiped before they will give up and if it is not done by next July it never will be done. what is Mc Leehan waiting for prehaps he knows his own business. but the American people understood that last fall was the time that the heavy blow was to be struck last fall passed and “all was quiet on the Potomac.” winter came an open winter too and “all was quiet on the Potomac” the winter [now?] [I nearly?] gone and it is a splendid time for fighting “and all is quiet on the Potomac” next spring will come, then the roads will be too muddy, hence “all will remain quiet on the Potomac” next summer will be to warm and “all will be quiet on the Potomac” but Mark you all is not quiet in the Gulf of Mexico, what are those three fleets all there for, they tell the Mexicans to keep quiet that they did not come there to fight them. but I’ll tell you what they want, they want a foot hold on both sides of us, and remember what I tell you that if we dont flag them before next July, the Eastern nations will recognize them as a confederacy and their excuse will be to trade. Mason & Slidell are given up but that wont last long they soon will have another pretext. we have a row with them down here now and then. I suppose you have heared of the Flat Boat scrape by hoky we like to have lost our scalps that day, but a miss is a good as a mile so they say. but on New Year day we held a Trump or two as well as they and we played them to the best of our ability. I wish you had been with me the next morning. I would like to have seen you scringed when the Bomb shells thundered out over your head. it was fun to see some of the boys shudder. no wonder they shudered for when six or eight of them big shell were in the air togeather it seemed as though they would tear the very heavens in pieces. but when they would strike the the most beautiful ripping took place. by gosh they would take a pine tree a foot or eighteen inches through right off, and then tear the trees and ground, as though a hurricane had broken loose. well they only kill thre or four of our boys and we made crow bate of two or three hundred of them.  I thought that was doing very well.  I was on guard that night on the main and I could plainly see their camp fires. but it would have been [?] for them to have kept dark.  for the next morning our boats knew exactly where there camp was, and they could put the shells right amongst them.  now Mark as soon as you get this I hope you will answer it. now Mark they have been haveing some fun down to Fort Pulaski and Savannah but old Pulaski was too mutch for our little gun boats the Rebels have got three old hulks sunk in the Channel of the river, and no boat drawing over 8 feet of water can pass. so our big boats can not get in unless they can raise there boats. our little boats have bee pecking at the old Fort for two or three days. the first day it was one continual roar, but it was too Iron sided for them. but they will study some plan to come the Limericks in them yet. now I suppose you have no Idea how things look down here. I think it is the most beautiful place I ever saw. that is so far as nature has done her part. the res, that is the works of art are all old fashioned. but they were a wealthy people that lived here. the houses are all furnished right up to the scratch. almost every house has got a Pianno or Melodian and sometimes two, with very extensive Libraries. larger than I ever saw in the north. but I hope we will leave here before hot weather comes on. for if we dont I shouldent wonder if disease makes worse havock than Bullets. now Mark I say as I said before I want you to write soon write a long letter and tell me all the news. tell me all about the folks down there and how the times are and money matters. so good by till next time Will Wheeler sends his respects to you and would like to have you write to him. give my best wishes to all my friends and accept a good share yourself.

Emmett Cole.

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