WILLIAM PRITCHETT TO JENNIE LOVELL, April 10th
Stevensburg, Virginia April the 10th 1864
My Jennie my Dear One,
I know that I have written you this before, but I must repeat—how my heart is breaking for you, and for all of us—for Tobias’ Death has brought Melancholy over the entire camp, these past weeks. That he was your twin and Only Brother means that you, more than any of us, know that not a more lively & gentle Soul ever existed. I do feel the loss of our Toby nearly every minute.
If you can possibly summon the strength again ’midst your grief, I beg you write me my dearest Cousin. You have been foremost in my thoughts these long days in winter camp—I keep reading & rereading your sweetest letter of one month past where you said yes you do Love Me after all & it brings me such Joy in this sad place I cannot tell you how much.
I shall describe my Circumstances—and perhaps my weak scribblings might distract your Sorrowful Mind. Well here I am sitting on the Dank Ground with a Tree Trunk for a desk, writing you in between Drills & Meals & Dreary Waiting. Yet it is not so bad as the Newspapers might have you believe, those fellows in camp who remain in Health are quite jolly sorts, though they are Miles Away from being Gentlemen. I have made the acquaintance of one Charlie, an Englishman, who plays at Cards like the Devil himself tho not yet as well as Quincy & has a wit to match. Do not roll those eyes at me, Dear Fleur, how else is a young restless Soldier to spend his time? Esp. when your Sweet Letters are so few. No, I am not chastising, much; their rarity make them all the more precious, Dearest. As to your question whether I write to any Others—do you really think me such a Rogue as that? You are not the First, in that you are correct, Cousin Mine, but rest assured, you are the Last.
There is not much more to report. There is Coffee & Coffee & Coffee & then some Salt Pork. I am more than grateful for your generous package—the cakes and honey taste all the sweeter for the knowledge that your little hands carefully placed them in their box. There are Men of every Station and Nation and in fact not so many Irish as one would expect from the Irish Brigade. There are Men who sing and play at instruments, there are cards & reading what books & newspapers we can find & there are Tales told & doing our own cooking & washing up & waiting waiting waiting for the call to march. I sleep with a pair of my own boots for my pillow & pursue dreams of a Lovely Child who promised to wait for her feckless Cousin to come home & kiss on her sweet white neck.
& there are those moments that serve to remind that one is at war, after all. I heard tell of a Man in one of the Regiments was shot dead for sleeping on guard duty. I shudder to think of the penalty for a more desperate Crime. It is punishment enough, day by day, to sleep on the Cold Ground and gnaw on Hard Biscuits.
O Jennie, if I should see you I could tell you more in a Minute than I could write in a Week. Scratches on Paper are cold substitutes for Flesh and Vision and the sound of a Gentle Voice. I would give anything at all to be able to hold you and comfort you in your time of Mourning. &Jennie I promise to keep my Temper in check if only for your Sake.
The drum has just beaten “to arms” & I must close this letter but
I remain as ever, most devotedly your