Christmas Eve 1861 brought a real treat for Oliver Case who was in serious need of an uplifting of his spirits after battles with a feverous condition known as Ague. Back to a good state of health, Oliver was assigned to a work detail, but he was first invited. To partake of a Christmas Eve meal at the headquarters of Major General Ambrose Burnside in Annapolis. From his letters, the reader observes that the seemingly trivial things like eating at a table become much more significant events in the life of a soldier.
The entire letter is republished below…Merry Christmas from Oliver Cromwell Case!
Dec. 25th, 1861
Yours of the 22nd came at hand today and was very welcome as I had received no letters from you since L.G. Goodrich was here. Monday was a very stormy day, although the storm abated somewhat in the afternoon.
Lieut. Marsh detailed me to go downtown and report to Gen. Burnside’s headquarters with five others from our Regt. I was the only one from our Company. We went down and stayed at Gen. Burnside’s until early dark when we were conveyed aboard the Arneal, a large transport, and took supper and spent the night. We had good accommodations and set down to a table and ate like folks instead of hogs.
It is the first time that I have sat down to a table to eat since I left H(artford). After breakfast we were conveyed ashore and Gen. Burnside made the detail from all the regiments but one commencing with the largest men. When he found that he had four from the 8th Conn. and only one or two from each of the other Regts, he said that it (the 8th) had not ought to furnish any more but her men were the right size. He considered for some time and then picked out the largest from the other regiments and sent us back subject to a detail whenever we shall be wanted. There was ten sent back in all, only two from our Regt. They are detailed one for a ship to be placed in the Magazine and stow away the different size balls in the proper places and keep a memorandum of where and how many of a kind so that when they are wanted they can put their hands on them without any trouble. I should think that they were to deliver out the ammunition in case of an attack. The Gen. said that it needed strong men to handle the large balls etc, etc. Of course I felt somewhat disappointed by being sent back but I had the assurance that it was not because I was not strong enough but because they didn’t want so many from a regiment. The harbor is full of transports and gunboats, all with the exception of 3 or 4 painted black. I should think that there is 30 or more besides some that have not yet arrived. I think I may have a chance upon one yet but do not know.
Our orderly has gone into the Cavalry and W.J. Braddock (?) has taken his place. Our Capt. has also resigned and our 1st Lieut. has taken his place. I do not know who will be 2nd Lieut. yet but guess someone out of the Co.
We shall probably start in the course of a couple of weeks for “way down in Dixie” and I presume wherever we go we shall be warmly received.
As to studies, I should think that you had as many as you can attend to at present. Zonachenhof’s(?) composition I think is a very study. Hope Father is not going to be sick; he must be very careful of himself or he will get down. The boys are out target shooting this afternoon, but as I have a little touch of Ague there would be no use of my going, so I thought I would try to answer your letter. There was a young man from Bridgeport died here yesterday from our Company. His mother came a day or two before he died. His disease was camp fever. He hurt himself while upon drill, getting over a fence double quick. The doctors thought that there was nothing the matter with him and I suppose that he took a hard cold. He was conscious to the last; he was much liked by the Company.
The Rhode Island battery is here. I have just received a letter from Ariel. Excuse writing as “the shakes” are not pleasant to write with. Respects to all inquiring friends, especially to Cousin Mary and Grandmother.