Today is my grandmother’s birthday, so I felt that now would be a good time to add another post while I take a quick break from working on finals, since I did start this blog partially in honor of her 90th. I haven’t shown her this blog yet, but I plan to at some point today before the horde of partygoers descends upon us. Here is the letter:
Leesboro, Maryland Starvation Hill
Tuesday morning September 9th, 1862
My wife and friends at home,
I now take this opportunity to give you the news. Horace is well except a sore foot his
heel is blistered. I’m well, hope this will find you the same. Last Saturday Robert &
Charles Parker & your James went to [Alexandria?] got back to camp at two Oclock PM and
found it all in a heap for a long march to start Sunday morning 5 Oclock but we did not
until 1Pm. Hastied from Fairfax Vir and marched to Washington 9 miles halted for 1/2
hour then marched 5 miles out of Washington halted as was 11 Oclock at night stopped
until morning. Slept upon the ground. At 7 Oclock we started went 6 miles farther to
Leesboro got [there] Monday morning 11 Oclock marched into a field and stopped here
[where] we are now. I have not had sleep under a tent since we left Hartford. Slept on the
Every night we have got some shelter tents came this morning large enough for two men
Horace and me got our tent together this morning. I have [not] got any cold now, got so I
can stanit first rate. The 8 & 11 Reg Ct. Vol. is here with us, we are in Burnside’s Brigade
now, we expect to go into action soon. We have not had any rations since we left Vir, only
what we bought on our way along the road that was a little we got one [loaf] of bread [a
piece] this morning 10 cents a [loaf]. Horace [and] I got some corn yesterday and [roasted] it. It was good for we was hungry. I [have] got to drill now. [Goodbye] while I get through
[the] drill I have got through [the] drill we have just got orders from the [Colonel?] to [?] to march at ten minutes [notice], don’t know where as yet. There is 10 of our company sick some of them in Virginia some is here with us.
My [knapsack] is in Virginia and all of my things, paper any and all I had. To barrie this of
some of boys. Tell Mary and mother I will write as soon as [I] can get paper to
write on. Give my love to all of my friends far & near I hope they are all well, I am.
Much love and respects to all.
Write soon as [convenient].
From your loving husband,
Sunday, Monday, Tuesday
To his wife
My dear wife, [goodbye]
When I first read this letter and saw the name Leesboro, or rather Leesborough, I was interested in where that was exactly, because I’m from Maryland and couldn’t recall ever hearing of it. “Oh, I wonder if it’s a nice small town surrounded by nature, maybe with a historical museum or something,” I thought. Yeah, so turns out Leesborough is now Wheaton. If you’re from Wheaton or know it, then you probably won’t have a hard time imagining the expression on my face when I found this out. Wheaton’s only a couple of minutes away from my hometown, and let me tell you, it’s not exactly a picnic destination (all right, this is partially a lie as there is Wheaton Regional Park which literally does have a picnic area). It is, however, known for its mall parking lot stabbing incidents. Leesborough was eventually renamed Wheaton, after General Frank Wheaton who was a local folk hero according to Wikipedia, in 1869. Now when I try to imagine Jamie and his brigade camping out in Leesborough, I can’t exorcise the image of them sitting in Westfield mall across from Hot Topic with cups of froyo.
I can’t find any record of anything really called “Starvation Hill”, so I’m going to go ahead and guess that this was Jamie being hyperbolic. Or maybe not so hyperbolic – they were running low on rations and getting really excited over corn, after all. Horace (or Horrace, he’s spelled it both ways so I don’t know what’s going on), is still having a rough time of it, what with his stomach ailments last time and his blistered foot now. Jamie still seems to be in good health, though he did leave his knapsack in Virginia for reasons that I can’t quite understand. They’re also still sleeping completely exposed to the elements. I can’t help but think that by this point it’s really starting to sink in for Jamie just how challenging and miserable the life of a soldier can be, and that even though his spirit still seems mostly intact, he’s becoming steadily more and more disenchanted.
Also, it might be important to note this mention of Charles Parker. He’ll become an important player later on.