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Robert H. Caldwell Papers: Transcripts - MS 623

Correspondence from Robert Caldwell - November 1861

November 1861

Dear (Mother?)

If you could have been up to the Capt tent just about 10 minutes ago, you would have thought I had gone crazy by the manner in which I acted but perhaps you may ask what could have occassioned this grand gymnastical display upon my part, well the fact is I had just read a letter from home. You can hardly tell in what good humor it places a person situated as we are, to receive a letter from the ones at home. Why as for myself I believe if any person but a secesh had struck me in the face I could have forgiven him. You wish to know how camp life agrees with me, well I can say that if I were unwell and were asked what I thought would be beneficial to my health I would answer, a dose of camp life by all means. You appear to be apprehensive that some of us have not a sufficient... [torn page] ... overcoat furnished by the same fatherly gentleman. I also have a good supply of shirts and socks and in fact I have all that I could wish for at present. In future if our company should be in need of anything in that line our Captain will make application to the good people of our town who no doubt will promptly respond to the call. We were all very sorry to hear that that box of varieties which you sent us was detained on the route as it would have been very acceptable. But as it now is, it would cost it weight in silver to send it and consequently we shall be obliged to do without it. But we are willing to take the will for the deed and are just as thankful as though we had received it. I was very glad to hear that Aunt Mary was with you and that she was going to stay with you all winter. I was glad to receive a letter from her. She expressed the desire to be the wife of a General tell her if she was in the army she would at once find the romance taken off if she had to travel through the Cumberland Mountains as we have had to do. Although we have a lady in the 21st who has been with us through the whole campaign so far and as far a(s) I can find out she appears to like the life very well. Her husband is a private and she cooks for some of the officers But tell Mary to live in hope and when this little fuss is cleared up there will be lots of soldiers wanting wives, and who knows but she may be the wife of a General yet. (but enough of foolishness) I was also much pleased that Mr. Vetter was boarding with you. You wrote that Alfred Rice had enlisted in the good cause, I was very much surprised to hear that, but he will make a good soldier if he is able to stand the fatigue, but he is pretty strong and I guess he will stand it.

Father wrote that he had had an offer for his mill and wishes to know what I think of it. Well I do not know the condition of the land that he was offered whether it was improved or not but father knows all about that doubtless[.] He says that he is not able to run the mill and as he is offered what I think a middling fair price considering the times, and that he might be able to get into something that would be easier for him until I get back to take hold once more I think that he had better accept it, that is if my opinion is worth anything. The frame will need considerable repair if he keeps it, and sawmilling at the present time is not a very paying business to say the least, and if there is any kind of business that ought to pay, considering the amount of work to be done, it is sawmilling. I was much pained to hear that our good old Grandfather had departed this life, but it was what I had been expecting to hear, as he was so infirm at the time that I was at home. But let us hope that he is better off now than when he was with us. But I must close as our cook is called to stand guard and I must take his place and cook the supper just think of that will you. imagine me cooking supper is it not laughable. Give my love to all, tell Aunt Mary and John Vetter that I will write to them shortly.

(P.S.) Indian Summer is in full blast among these mountains, the finest of weather

R H Caldwell

November 13, 1861

Prestonburg Nov 13th 61

Dear Mother

As I have written two letters to Father since arriving at this place I thought it no more than fair that I should now write to you and let you know how the 21st in general and Co. I in particular were fareing at the present time. Well as I wrote to Father there had been a skirmish between our forces and those of the enemy at a place a considerable distance up the river in which the rascals were routed. Mr George Jones of Co I was present during the brush and received a ball in the calf of one of his legs, he was the only man of the 21st that was wounded He says that the 21st was ordered round the hill to take the enemy in the rear and he says that about the time they arrived at their position the firing ceased and probably that accounts for the small number of our boys being wounded We cannot get the correct report yet as our boys have not yet returned to this place but we are looking for them daily.

In the letter that I wrote to father I explained the reason why I was not with our regt. At the time of marching I was sick with the chill fever contracted by exposure and over exertion, the last day that I marched we were put on a forced march of over 23 miles and I was sick the day before but my mottoe is to never complain as long as I can lift a musket to my shoulder, I got wet that night as it rained after our arrival at the river and we were about two hours crossing as we had but one flatboat upon which the whole regt had to cross. But I am now about well once more, I have an appetite like a bear, but I am very particular about what I eat. I received a letter from father last night dated nov 2nd and was very glad to hear from home. I also received one from the same source while we were lying in a camp some distance this side of Hazel Green it was dated Oct 27th and I received it upon the evening of the first of November He spoke of N. Willsons Co in that letter. I immediately answered it. I also received a letter from you while we were lying in H. Green in which I reed the news of Grandfathers death I also answered that within 15 minutes after receiving it. I wrote several letters home while we were at the above named town, and when we were at the Licking river I sent two letters to Father and (as I said before) I have already sent two, since arriving at this place and this will make the third. And taking it altogether I think I have done pretty well in the writing line, and if you fail to receive my letters the fault is in the mail[.] I am quite certain that I don't get all your letters as I am confident that you write oftener than I receive, however I shall not complain as I have been over the roads and know what they are and it is no wonder if the mail fails to make a connection now and then. When you receive this letter and find yourself obliged to pay the postage don't be surprised and think that I am out of money for such is not the case. But the case is this, hitherto the rules have been that we could pay the postage with money, but of late the orders are, that if a person has no postage stamps to place upon their letter they will have to get it marked soldiers letter and it will go free until its arrival at its destination when the postage can be paid by the one receiving the letter. But as I shall need my money to purchase writing material it will still be very useful[.] When you write I wish you would send me four or five stamps to be used on special occassions. It is not known positively where we shall go after leaving this place, but is rumored that we are to go either to Cincinnati or Louisville but that would be too good news and I cant believe it. Tell Father I will answer his letter shortly. I should like above all things to get a leader now and then, as we receive no news whatever

R H Caldwell
love to all

November 15, 1861

Prestonburg Floyd Co
K.y nov 15th __61

Dear Father

This is to let you know that I have lately received two letters from you one dated the 2nd and the other the 5th and I was very glad to hear from home.

I was sorry to hear that Nat Willson was obliged to give up his Co as I should have liked very much to have had Nat turn out a full company I was glad to hear that Bucklands regt was prospering so finely. I am in hopes that Al Rice will succeed with his Co. I am very glad to think that Aunt Mary is to stay with you this winter. I suppose before this time that Juliet has arrived at home and taking things altogether I guess that you will have a plenty of company as John Vetter is a lively fellow indeed

I was sorry to hear that the man who was going to buy the mill failed to come but there may be better chances yet for selling

I was glad to hear that business was in such a prospering condition in Elmore. You say that the ladies of Elmore have formed themselves into a soldiers aid society, may they meet with good success. James Bumpus is not 2nd Lieutenant of Co I. As has been reported Wood is still Lieut and as far as I can judge will remain as such. There was some talk of putting Bumpus in his place while we were lying at Lexington, but it was never done and I am glad of it as Wood has made a good Officer since leaveing that place

When I last wrote I wrote that I had been sick, but I am now almost a(s) well as ever. Our regiment is still at a place called Piketon a place situated about 25 miles up the river, they are to remain at that place for a few days I believe, and in the meantime we (that is those who were left at this place) are to remain here until they come down, we have once more taken up our quarters in houses. Co I. is quartered in a large brick house with three fireplaces in it

I hardly know what to write a(s) news is very scarce with us at present. I should like to know something in regard to the movements of the army on the Potomac we have heard but little news since leaving Lexington You wish to know if I would like to have you send me the Leader occasionally, do so by all means as we receive no news of any account in these mountains and a paper from home would be a treat indeed. As the Postmaster will take nothing but postage stamps in payment for letters and it is impossible to get stamps I send my letters in future as Soldiers letters and you will find it necessary to pay for the postage upon the receipts of them

You may still direct to
Prestonburg Floyd County K.y
&c &c &c
R H Caldwell

November 17, 1861

Prestonburg Floyd County
Nov 17th [1861]

Dear Father

We have received orders to leave this place for some point upon the Ohio river, probably Cincinnati. We are to leave tomorrow morning and it is likely that we will be taken upon steamboats. The regiment (the 21st) arrived from up the river last night and we are now altogether once more. The boys marched a distance of about 30 miles and when they arrived they were pretty well fagged out.

The rumor is now prevalent that we are going to Lexington by the way of Cin, and we are to stay at Lex until we are recruited sufficiently in point of health, when we are to go to Camp Dick Robinson and join another Brigade when we are to commence active operations against the rebels.

Another rumor, which I think the most probable, is that we are to go into winter quarters not far distant from Cincinnati. Day before yesterday Col Norton told Cap Gibbs that he was just ready to start for Ohio for the purpose for finding suitable quarters for the 21st and he has since left for that purpose. And for that reason I consider this last rumor (if rumor it can be called) worthy of the most credit I wrote in one of my letters that in the late engagement Mr Jones received a slight flesh wound in one of his legs he is doing well and in fact you would hardly know that he was wounded by the way he carries on He is perfectly happy, as it is said he will be allowed to return home until he is well again.

This is the poorest place in the world for news and consequently I shall be obliged to cut this letter short. I guess you had better still direct to Prestonburg Floyd County K.y &c &c &c and the letters will be forwarded to the 21st wherever it may be.

This is the fourth letter that I have written home from this place and as I said in my last, I received two letters a few days ago dated the 2nd and 5th of this month, but I must close

From Robert H. Caldwell

We are all happy as larks on account of receiving orders to leave these mountains, which I can truly say we have never yet fallen in love with

November 20, 1861

(Catlettsburg) Kentucky
Nov 20th __61

Dear Father

Hurah! We are once more within sight of old Ohio but I suppose I had better go back a day or two and commence there and let you know what has taken place since that time. While at Prestonburg I wrote that we had received marching orders, and that it was expected we would start in a day or two for Cincinnati. Well at the appointed time we broke up camp and started for the ferry for the purpose of being ferried across, there were four regiments of us and it occupied the whole day in putting the wagons and men across, I had been excused from duty in the morning by the Surgeon on account of not yet having recovered from the effects of the chill fever of which I wrote to you, and as we were sitting by our campfires talking over the prospects for wintering in Ohio, when an express came from the Doctor desiring all those who had been excused in the morning by him to report aboard of the steamer Sandy Valley then lying at the peer and as I happened to come under that category you may believe that it did not take me very long to get my things together and myself aboard the boat. There was about 50 of the 21st aboard besides a like number from each of the other regts. The steamer started sometime in the night destined for the mouth of the Big Sandy a distance of 60 or 70 miles, but I had forgotten to say that the remainder of the 21st was to go by land down the river a distance of about 40 miles when they were to take boats and join us at this place. When daylight made its appearance we were going down the river with Virginia on one side and Kentucky on the other, that being the firt time that I had been allowed the privelege of looking upon the Old Dominion so famed in song and story. But I looked long in vain to see something about those everlasting mountains and log cabins with the neverfailing accompaniment of a dozen or two of dirty ragged children running about that was calculated to awaken the romance of any writer. It was nothing but rocks and mountains, log cabins, dirty children, lean pigs, starved chickens, dirt, and poverty upon every hand There that is my opinion of what I saw of the far famed Old Dominion Well we kept on down the river and passed the town of Louisa, a town of considerable importance. We arrived at the Ohio river at about 3, oclock and went up into to find quarters, which we accomplished after a short search. We are quartered in a good warm house situated upon the bank of the Ohio river, and we are favored every now and then with the sight of a magnificent steam plowing her way either up or down river, and for one to see such a sight, who has seen nothing for the last month except a wilderness, it is quite refreshing. The town of Catlet[t]sburg is situated at the mouth of the Big Sandy upon the banks of that stream and also that of the Ohio, it contains a population of perhaps 700 inhabitants the houses are well built and the place has a very thriving appearance. There is considerable shipping done here. I visited two large steamboats this morning and it is surprising what an amount of freight one of these boats is capable of carrying. They are literally stowed from bottom to top with boxes, barrels, and bales of cotton.

When we arrived here we were without rations, and no means for drawing when a citizen of the place brought the boys of the 21st a good warm supper consisting of warm bread and butter, chicken, jelly and applebutter warm coffee and tea and now perhaps, things in general and the chicken in particular did not take to themselves wings and fly away, just ask the boys of the 21st. And this morning the same good man brought down a plentiful supply of warm Steak mashed potatoes good warm rusk with the best of coffee with milk and sugar in it. We all felt as though we could not do enough for that man. Shortly after this we drew our regular rations with a few additions and we are going to live like kings, you never saw a happier set of boys in your life than we are, We expect to lie at this place for a few days when we will be joined by our regt and proceed in boats down the river to Cincinnati, and there my information stops but I think in all probablility we shall go from that city to Lexington, as all indications of late seem to point to that conclusion, However I am as happy as a lark no matter where I am just so long that I keep my health. I have not yet seen the time that I could truly say I was homesick, I cannot account for it. It must be caused by the never failing excitement of cam life, the looking ahead and expecting one hardly knows what, the ever varying scenes which present themselves to ones view, these and a thousand other things taken together tend as the French would say to keep one on the gui vive and serve to keep off the blues, I think if any person should get homesick that person ought to be myself, as I left the best home that God in all his seeing wisdom ever provided any person with, and was blessed with parents that I believe were never willing to place a (burden?) upon my shoulders that they were not willing to carry for me should they think it best for my welfare. I often think of these things and they make a deep impression upon my mind, and i now see that I never full appreciated the endeavors of my parents to promote my welfare, and I believe that if there is any one thing that is calculated more than another to keep one steps from the paths of vice and immorality, it is the memory of that home that I cheerfully left, to take up arms in defence of the best government the World ever knew. Tell Aunt Mary to not get tired waiting for that letter (there goes a steamboat right past our door, and here comes another) as I intend to write her a long letter when I get into a place where we have accomodations for writing. I am writing this letter sitting flat upon the floor with my knapsack lying across my knees and my paper lying upon it, I have written a large share of my letters with my paper lying upon the bottom of an inverted tin plate, such as we use in eating, but who would not be a soldier, From this point we can see three states Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky, they all three center on this point. Virginia is just across the Big Sandy and Ohio across that river. When you write direct to Cincinnati and in case we go elsewhere it will be forwarded on to us.

Give my love to all from Robert H Caldwell

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