Camp Cumming, Mobile, Alabama – March 4, 1863

“Camp Cumming” Mobile, Ala. Mrch 4, 1863.

My Dear Fan

I am flusterated to night as old Bris says, no news from you the cause.  __ the Yanks I do say, fill the blank as you please.  When I get this way I cant read or talk or do any thing else, + my favourite remedy is to take my pen + discourse you.  Dont you get very tired of reading my nonsense?  I am sure I must write a deal of it, but I need not ask you that, you are too good natured to acknowledge it if you are.  So I’ll scribble away.  Well Dear I read a good deal now, dont study much but read.  well you say “That is nothing new.  I expected that as a matter of course,” not exactly so. You know what an old granny I am to have things fixed up.  Let me tell you  about my house, how nicely I am fixed + you will thank providence with me.  Imagine to yourself as I describe, a plank box 9 feet square + 4 feet high, floor’d with plank, six inches off the ground, my tent, a wall one with a fly, spread over this, a nice little brick chimney in one corner my bed on one side, a neat little cot with a moss mattress + pillow, two good blankets + an oil cloth for bed clothes, wash stand in another corner, my Table on another side, rather a large table for the size of my room, a chair + a camp stool.  Small room think you, eh?  big enough for one man, no babies + no hoop skirts, you would know whose tent it was from the table + what is on it.  I will never get out of sight of the implements of my profession, among the books you would recognize my little red Bible, + beside it the old leather pocket case of medicine, + my spectacle case, a pocket case of Surgical instruments, half a dozen pill boxes, a morphine vial for an inkstand, pens + papers lying about loose generally.  Old Joe makes me a fire + I sit with my feet to it in old style a star candle to read by, I cant read by a tallow candle, + by the way the stars cost $3.00 a pound, pretty expensive reading that.  I very often set up till eleven or twelve, particularly if I get a nap in the afternoon, + then I burn a whole candle, well you say “what do you read?”  as old Stroud used to say I “mix poetry, ane[c]dote + devotion,” all by turns + nothing long, as I said before I dont study much but simply read. Chisolms Military Surgery1, Macaulay’s History of England,2 Milton’s Paradise lost, one of my pets,3 and  Shakespeare of course, Ollendorfs New Method of learning French,4 this I find rather dull, I am sure I would not make much better progress If I had my little Greenville widow to teach me how to pronounce.5 It amuses + interests me however + answers very well for a change.  Occasionally I read a good novel when I can borrow one.  By the way I read Uncle Toms Cabin last week, It is a better thing than I thought it was.6  I wind up the exercises by a chapter or two in the Bible, there to bid to dream of you + the children.  There is no chance for any thing like a regular course of study or reading I am interrupted twenty times a day, one fellow will slip in to my tent slyly with a hung dog expression of countenance + beg me not to tell the boys what ails him.  you can guess what he has got.  I have more fun with these poor devils than all the rest, Some how I cant sympathise with them.  Our fellow came to me about three weeks ago in great distress, show’d me a letter from his wife saying she was coming to see him the next week, + that morning he found out he had the __, the dirty dog!

Now said he Dock just cure me + help me out of this scrape + name your price + I’ll pay it + love you as long as I live + promise never to do so again.  I abused him till I got sorry for him, he cried like a child.  I told him to write to his wife that small pox was epidemic here + it would not be safe for her to come for a while, + cured him in about two days.  He would do any thing in the world for me now. I believe the fright he got has cured him of his wildness You would have been tickled at the expressions of his countenance as I told him all the terrible effects of the disease on his wife + children, I am astonished to find how ignorant the mass of men are about these diseases, + their effects.

Some of the Surgeons get lazy + ill natured + wont attend to them except at the regular hour in the morning.  This is wrong I think.

another fellow wants a “bile” lanced, another wants a tooth pull’d + so on.  Some of the Surgeons get lazy + ill natured + wont attend to them except at the regular hour in the morning.  This is wrong I think.  We are paid good salarys + furnished with medicine + I think we should be as consciencious + attentive as we would be in private practice at home, if anything more so. I am afraid I will get rusty in obstetrics.  I have not delivered a woman since I left home, a year!  lacking five days. Several of our men have their wives with them but none of them have needed attention in that way since I have been with the Regt.  Dear me how little I thought when I left you I would be gone so long, + heaven only knows how much longer it will be before I see you again, I reckon not till the war is ended.  GoD help us

I see from the paper that the Yankees are going to pass a conscript law like ours + hold all their 12 months men in the service, about 300,000.  They have called for 500,000.  They seem more determined than ever to destroy us or conquer.  I still try to believe peace is not far off, but think now there will have to be some more heavy fighting.  As soon as the weather permits I look for another desperate fight near Murfreesboro,7 at present things are quiet every where.  The knowing ones say that the french man Louis Napoleon will certainly recognize us + open the blockade very soon.8  I am afraid it is the old song, but try to believe it nevertheless.  The excitement in the North West that we all watched so anxiously a few weeks ago seems to have died away.  The peace convention was despersed by the Military. The prospect of a little fight at Pensacola that I mentioned in my last is dispelled.  The Yanks went back.  I saw the asst Surg of the 19th La Regt yesterday in town he reports all well at Pollard.  Yesterday was a gala day in Mobile, Genl Bragg9 Presented to the State of Ala, four brass cannon taken from the enemy by the Ala troops in the Murfreesboro fight.10  Genl Withers 11delivered them to Genl Brecken,12 each one made a little speech. 

There was a grand time out of the sisters.  All the pretty women + children in Mobile in one bunch.  I circulated among them freely, found several old acquaintances.  Some very pretty some not so pretty but all dressed looking their best, as I gazed at the gay + happy throng my heart turned back to my own dear little home squad on Bayou Pierre.13 + I wonder to myself what were they doing, What would I give to see them all, Oh ! for a telegraph to talk to you all occasionally.  I do hope you are having a better time there than they are having in some parts of our distracted Country.  One of our Capts returned a few days ago from a short furlough to his home in Atlanta Ga.  He gives a gloomy picture of things there.  All the good men + true are in the field + the thieves + cowards + Speculators at home having their own way, preying on the widows + orphans.  The old man almost cried when he told me of it.  So many of the women have fallen from their positions.  What a terrible time there will be for husbands + fathers when they get home + find their families lost forever.  I hope there is no place in La that will compare with Atlanta as he represents it.  He says when the war with the Yanks is over there will be another at home. —

we are having pleasant spring weather here now.  The fruit trees are all in bloom + promise a large crop.  The gardens are very fine. Seed though is scarce.  How are you off for garden seed?  You ought to raise mustard.  we cant get enough to make a plaster that is strange when there is so much raised in the Country.  You can’t buy a box of mustard in Mobile.14   I have got some fine water melon seed to send you.  some I saved in Greenville last summer.  I think Uncle Peter saved some of the same. Well my paper is full so I will stop for this time.  Do the best you can my dear about your crop + other business Take good care of yourself + the children.  Remember Me to Ma + Maj + all the friends + kin + believe me as ever your afft
Alex.

 

The Letter:

  1. Julian J. Chisolm’s manual was first published in 1861 specifically to meet the need of the Confederacy’s poorly trained medical staff.   It described how to treat specific types of wounds, construct field hospitals, transport the wounded, and manage hygiene, diet, and disease.
  2.  Thomas Babington Macaulay was an influential English historian and essayist of the 19th century.
  3. An epic poem by 17th century English writer John Milton concerning the creation, temptation and fall of  Adam and Eve.
  4. Heinrich Gottfried Ollendorff’s New Method of Learning to Read, Write and Speak the French Language
  5. See letter of February 16, 1863.
  6. An anti-slavery novel first published in 1852. This popular novel was the second best seller of the 19th century after the Bible.
  7. The Battle of Murfreesboro (Battle of Stones River) was fought from December 31, 1862, to January 2, 1863.
  8. In the fall of 1862, delegate John Slidell of Louisiana spoke to Emperor Napoleon III seeking recognition of the Confederacy and possible naval intervention against the blockade. The French Empire remained officially neutral throughout the war, however.
  9. Gen. Braxton Bragg was a principal Confederate commander in the Western Theater of the Civil War.  Modern historians criticize Bragg for unimaginative tactics, a quick temper, and a lack of confidence.
  10. Battle of Stones River
  11. Gen. Jones M. Withers
  12. Maj. Gen. John C. Breckinridge – photo
  13. Bayou Pierre is 20 miles south of Shreveport in DeSoto Parish.
  14. Confederate Surgeon General Samuel P. Moore worked to develop substitutes for scarce pharmaceuticals by using local plants.  He commissioned a ground-breaking resource for Confederate military medicine: F.P. Porcher’s Resources of the Southern Fields and Forests.

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