It is curious to read of James’ casual discussion about staying longer, since I had always assumed that the military was strict about furloughs and soldiers returning. My curiosity was aroused further when I saw his military record and the note that he was “absent without leave since September 25 ’62.” It appears that James was supposed to have returned a week earlier than he did, and yet he was not imprisoned, court-martialed, stripped of his newly-acquired rank, or disciplined in any way.
Further research into furloughs and being AWOL showed me that, while the military had specific rules governing soldiers who were not accounted for, it was really a matter for the commanding officer to deal with. Some officers were strict and followed the letter of the law, others dealt with each situation on a case-by-case basis. In James’ situation, no doubt James’ loss of so many friends, as well as the loss of his mother, were taken into account.
What we do know is that James does not appear to have been punished and he makes no mention of any discipline in his letter to Melissa.
James also mentions visiting Melissa’s step-father, Henry Ernest, and tells her that Henry is healing but has a very crippled hand. Henry will be discharged later that fall on account of his injury. He will apply for and receive a medical pension for the rest of his life.
Among the others items of his letter – his repeated desire to be home again, his mention of a wayward Elick or Alex, and more news passed on from other soldiers – is a single line that could easily be overlooked: I was very sick coming on the road but I feel better now. James was, indeed, very sick and would spend the rest of 1862 fighting for his life.
Halls Farm, Va
Oct 2nd 1862
I arrived in Washington on Wednesday [October 1] evening and had to cross the river right away and had no chance to write to you. Maliss I wish I had stayed 2 or 3 days longer for we have not moved from Centreville. Maliss this does not seem like home to me any longer.
I was down at Alexandria and seen Henry. His hand is crippled I was very sorry to see him have such a bad hand. Henry is very tired staying in the hospital he is heading home as soon as he gets out of the hospital.
Maliss I wish I was coming home with him to stay. You must not be surprised if you see me walking in some of these days before long. Maliss I am going to try and do what I told you. If I had not bought my ticket I would have got off at the corner when I saw you & Leon. Maliss don’t you forget what I told you.
I was very sick coming on the road but I feel better now.
Maliss I saw one of the prisoners of the 46th Penna and he said he saw Harry Rollins laying dead on the field. The man that told me was Mat. Frazier. I seen all our men that were taken prisoners and they look very bad some has no shoes and some no shirts. They have very little respect for a solder. I think there will be a settlement before long.
I seen Elick over in town the evening I came in. Maliss he is a pretty bad boy Maliss I don’t think he will ever do much good. Maliss don’t tell Maria that I told you anything about Elick. You can tell her if you see her that I saw him and that he is well.
I wish I went out to Will’s with you and Leon and stayed 3 days longer. It costs so much traveling over the road that the next time I come I am going to stay and I don’t think that will be long.
Good bye Maliss for this time. Write soon. Tell Leon he must quit biting or him and me will have a fight when I come home. Maliss tell Rach that I was very sorry that we had not time to go over together.
My love to you and Leon.
I remain your husband.
James F Price