Feb. 19th, 1862
I felt inclined not to write you because I received no letter from you in the last mail, but thinking that you will do better in the future, and knowing that you would naturally feel anxious to know how I am prospering, I have concluded to write you a few lines. I did not leave the old Chasseur until last Friday for the reason that I was indisposed, and the regiment had not pitched their tents and it was rather damp lying in the open air, especially for one who was not well. It was with feelings of delight that I again set my feet upon “terra firma” after having been upon the briny deep for over six weeks. I read in the paper that we had terrible sufferings while there; perhaps it was so but I did not see it. The newspapers were short of news from Burnside’s expedition and manufactured that for the occasion. Perhaps it had a good effect in keeping the public mind from almost cursing the Gen. for the delay as he had an excuse. I do not believe that he was delayed at all by the storm, if so only a short time.
This island is almost all covered with forests, mostly pitch pine, with now and then a clearing of five or six acres with a small house upon it. The land after it is cleared up is very easy of cultivation and produces light crops of corn and sweet potatoes. The forests are a perfect jungle, it being almost impossibility for man and beast to get through them. There are many swamps upon the island which are a perfect mat of green briars about 10 feet high and so thick that there is no guard kept next to them, which is the same as saying that they cannot be passed through. How that any force under the Gen’s command could have taken the place with its numerous fortifications together with its natural advantages for repelling an attack is a wonder to many. The Georgians say that the North Carolina troops did not fight but played into our hands.
I don’t know that they are half right for a large number now appear to be decided Unionists and quite a number have enlisted into the Mass. Regiments. Most of the prisoners were taken on board ship yesterday; as a general thing they are a tough looking set although there are some fine looking men amongst them. We are very glad to get rid of them for some of them, especially the Georgians, might be troublesome in case of an attack. They have barracks erected capable of containing 15,000 troops besides those that were burned at the upper fort. There are five forts or fortifications mounting 40 pieces of cannon of large caliber. After the battle the boys began to look around for something to stay their stomachs as many of them had thrown away their 3 days rations of salt horse and hard tack at the beginning of the engagement.
They found hogs, chickens, calves, sweet potatoes etc. in abundance which they made the most of. Any way if you take a stroll over the island you will find hog skins and innards etc. scattered all about in considerable quantities. The Zouaves went and killed a man’s chickens, dressed them, carried them in and made the owner cook them for them. Was not that rather cheeky? I have written nothing about the battle for the papers will be full of it. Gen. Burnside said the 8th Conn. held as responsibly fast as any upon the field although they did not have to fire a gun. His orders were to hold it even if it took every man. At one time it looked as though the brunt of the battle was coming upon them, but the enemy were flanked and turned in another direction.
Our camp is situated in a very pleasant locality just out of the woods in the place where the secesh had cleared it for us, and is protected from the cold winds and hot sun. It has rained every day since I came ashore until yesterday when it put off until night; then it commenced anew and rained until morning. It does not rain today but is cloudy and looks like a shower. It wants a little rain to settle the ground. Orders were given Sunday night to have three days rations cooked and the regiment was to leave Monday morning in light marching for some place.
All those that were unfit for duty were looked up Sunday night and every one expected to leave in the morning or before. The Lieut. And Capt. both sent for me unbeknown to each other and told me that as I had been sick so recently I should not be able to go and wanted me to stay in their tents and in case the regiment should not come back to see about packing up their things. It was all very well for them but I wanted to go with the regiment and try my luck in an engagement. Each of them told me as it was such very wet weather and we should have to lie outdoors in the water it would surely bring on the Fever and Ague.
I did not tell the Capt. that the Lieut. had spoken to me first about it for I thought I could see to both. The 5th R.I. regiment have left in light marching order. No one knows wherefor. I am well and hearty. It is stated here, and by the officers, that the Gov. of N.C. has given up the state to Uncle Sam and will render what assistance is in his power to drive the rebels out of it. You will learn the truth of it by the papers.
I was much surprised to hear that Sam Terry is married. Give my love to Father, Mother and Grandmother. Respects to all.
Write soon and often. Do not wait to receive letters from me.
Your brother Oliver,