18 February 1862: “For breakfast, schedule reads ‘biscuits’; for dinner ‘biscuits & salt beef’, for supper sometimes ‘biscuits’, oftenest ‘nothing with tea or coffee’.”

Item description: Letter, 18 February, 20 February, and 21 February 1862, from Charles Woodward Hutson to his mother. Hutson describes the availability of food in camp and details a skirmish near the Occoquan River in Virginia.

[Transcription available below images.]

Item citation: From folder 5 of the Charles Woodward Hutson Papers, #362, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Item transcription:

18th Feb. 1862
Legion near Occoquan Va.

Dear Mother,

Several brigades having been sent from the Army of the Potomac to the Roanoke neighbourhood,  the re-enlisted men here were postponed the enjoyment of their furloughs, until the cars are free to give them transportation. So that my friends have not yet left me. The snow is thawing today, and consequently universal moisture fills up the programme which the weather gives us.

Last night’s mail brought me your letter of the 11th and I am very sorry to learn that the Doctor still has such sad times from sickness in his family.

I am pleased to hear that I will be likely to find some reading matter in the coming box. I fear, however, that the condition of the roads will for a long while prevent my enjoying possession of it.

I am glad to hear that young Mikell[?] is considered out of danger. I shall have to get acquainted with all these new friends of yours, when I get back.

You ask me to tell you what we eat. We seem to have swept out all the live stock of this country, and for some time have had no fresh beef or pork. For breakfast, schedule reads “biscuits”; for dinner “biscuits & salt beef”, for supper sometimes “biscuits”, oftenest “nothing with tea or coffee”. Occasionally we manage to get rice in exchange for flour, and then the dinner schedule varies that substantial grain of the seaboard taking the place of the invariable biscuits. On this thin fare, however, we remain as fat as wax-birds.

20th Day – No letter came for me tonight, which is disappointing. Yesterday it rained incessantly; but this morning brought us the sun & a blue sky again. The day, however, has not been pleasant, as a high wind set in very early & has continued all day. We worked on the battery today. The hard work which in different ways is forced upon us almost every day is beneficial, however uninviting it may be. If it were not for this, the windy cold of March, which these latter days of February presage, would give us, I fear, those unwelcome guests, pleurisy & pneumonia.

Conflicting intelligence comes to us from the West; & I pay but little attention to any reports, confident that all will be well in th end.

I am quite tired from my work of this morning; and must now to bed.

21st – Last night we had an alarm. At about nine o’clock, just as I had dazed off into a pleasant sleep, I was roused by the order to fall in. The picquets at Deep Hole on Occoquan Bay had sent up a courier to announce that the enemy were landing, the picquets having fired upon what was supposed to be their advanced guard. Our company was sent forward to reconnoitre, and, in the event of the enemy being there in force, to act as skirmishers & ascertain the extent of their front. We marched for three or four hours along the river bank, which is very extensive on acct. of bend in the river, scarcely able to extricate ourselves from the universal quagmire in which we moved, several men losing their shoes in the mud-holes & continuing the march in their stockings. I was very much afraid, we would shoot each other in the darkness. But fortunately, no damage was done. We saw not the shadow of an enemy; and, it being ascertained that the picquets had really seen only one or two men in the woods, who would not halt when challenged & were fired upon. Who they really were has not yet transpired.

At last we returned to camp at 2 o’clock, thoroughly exhausted with the labours of the day & night. I was fortunate enough to get a refreshing draught of whiskey from a friend, and going to bed once more enjoyed the most profound rest. Today we have been busy getting in wood for our kitchen.

I wish very much that I had a good, stout pair of boots. I am almost on the ground.

My love to all with you,

Your Loving Son, CW.H

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