Saturday, January 26, 2013

Part Four: "Oh My Bleeding Country"

     The spring and summer of 1862 brought some health concerns from home. James had obviously received a letter from Melissa in which she told him that their infant son was unwell. While we do not know the nature of his illness, it is interesting to note that Melissa sent a photograph of herself in the letter and she, too, showed signs of sickness or exhaustion. James expresses his concern for his little family and asks that Melissa update him immediately on their son’s health.
     In this letter James mentions his cavalry unit being sent out on a seven mile march with the brigade. No doubt that was a learning experience for the 1st Maryland Cavalry to spend several hours on foot!

Camp Carroll 
May 8 ‘62 
Dear wife, 
I received your letter yesterday. I was very sorry to hear that Leon was sick…. I am almost certain of being home within a month. There is great rejoicing among the boys of the late Victories. 
I don’t think you look near as well as you did when I left you. Have you been sick? 
You can look for me again next pay day if we do not get discharged. 
On last Saturday General Cooper’s Brigade (to which we are attached to) went out on a march a distance of seven miles to learn the men how to march in brigade form. 
Our new Captain has done very well so far. I think this kind of soldiering suits him first rate. 
Answer this right away and let me know how Leon is. Let me know in your next letter how all the folks are. I send my love to you and Leon. 
From Your Husband 
James F Price

     Leon’s illness was quickly over according to James’ letter of 18 May, although his anticipated furlough was prevented by the regiment’s movement south into Virginia (West Virginia today).  Through the remainder of May, through June and into July the 1st Maryland was kept busy around Winchester and Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia.
     The last two letters we will look at today are poignant in their simplicity and lack of worry. James and three others were set to guarding the company’s supply wagons and got separated from the rest of the regiment by a flooded river. While they scouted for a safe place to cross or waited for the floods to subside they stayed in the homes of slave owners where the Maryland cavalrymen held church services.
     The four men discovered that they were good singers and seemed to enjoy singing for appeared to be an appreciative audience. James’ language may seem shocking to our politically correct ears, but the words he used were common throughout the United States and did not have the same powerful implications that they do today.
     Once again James’ sense of humor is evident as he suggests that their nearly one-year-old son was at least as big as 5’9” James, or he talks about enormous pancakes.
     Today’s final letter is only partially legible but mentions James’ best friend, Robert Wilson, who recently returned from furlough with a new photograph of  Melissa and Leon who were both looking much healthier than in May. Robert will be a very important part of James’ next letter home.

July 23 ‘62 
Dear wife, 
….We have had a pretty good time stopping at plantations to board. We get lots of slave masters. We generally sing three or four hymns before retiring to our beds of floor. We have three good singers with us Mr. Hall, Mr. Orem, and Mr. Wilson and me myself which forms quite an Opera Troupe. 
Mr. Hall preached to the colored individuals on last Sabbath at 10 o’clock. Mr. Orem led with a prayer after with the grand Excelsior Choir sent forth its melodious strains which sent the Niggers on their way rejoicing. 
The meeting was concluded by retiring to the house and refreshing ourselves by eating a hoe cake as large as a common size cheese.... 
I would like to see Leon. I suppose he is at least as big as I am. 
….I send my love to you and Leon. Write soon. I have good health at present. I hope you have the same. 
From Your Husband 
James F Price 
Camp Carroll Aug 5 1862
Dear Wife, 
I received your three last letters the one Robert Wilson fetched and your likeness I am glad to see that you and Leon look so well.

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