Item description: Letter, dated 27 October 1861, from Charles Woodward Hutson to his mother. Hutson details articles of clothing and other provisions that he would like sent from home (in order to prepare for the coming winter). He also writes of his belief in God and mentions the strains that military service places on these beliefs. Hutson also shares news about fellow soldiers and asks his mother for updates on members of his home community.
Item citation: From folder 4 of the Charles Woodward Hutson Papers, #362, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
27th Oct. 1861. Sunday.
Army of the Potomac
Legion near Bacon Race
I shall have to trouble you with a little idiocy, as there is nothing rational to say. Your orders conveyed to me in your last letter enjoined upon me the task of enumerating the articles of apparel which at present protect my person. To which, I reply in the words of the Oriental formula for a verbal promissory note: “On the head and on the eye.” In payment of which I proceed at once to particulars:
One stockinet shirt – one pr. red flannel drawers
Ditto blue flannel ditto – ditto pants
Ditto green ditto ditto – ditto knitted stockings
Ditto coat – Ditto reverse-of-day cap
Ditto silk handkerchief – Ditto shoes
There! I believe, I have mentioned all my toggery. And much good may it do you & Em., inquiring spirits of the age!
Yesterday, when the mail came in, I heard my name called & felt sure of a letter, but was disappointed. It turned out that I owned a bundle containing two papers, a Courier & a Presbyterian. I have merely glanced at both as yet, but see a tart & spicy bit of controversy in the letter, which you seem to think Dr. Thornwell responsible for. I dare say. He has many sins of that sort on his hands, reverend pugilist that he is.
Monday morning. My cold is very nearly well. Yesterday listened with pleasure to two sermons, one in the morning from Mr. Richd. Johnson, the other in the evening from Mr. Porter. After service in the evening I united with some fifteen or twenty members of divers churches in partaking of the Lords Supper according to the Episcopal form. Parts of their Communion Service are exceedingly appropriate, & utterly inconsistent with the language of mystery elsewhere adopted. An inconsistency still more glaring is often observable in the phraseology employed by our own minister; but we have the advantage in this, that the fact of a Ritual perpetuates & makes binding errors & inconsistencies, which however frequently they may occur in our church can claim none of the benefit of authority.
Tuesday. 29th Oct. So, now, dear, I can chat with you, having rested after our fatiguing tramp. Yesterday at one o’clock we were marched away from our camp with arms, accoutrements and blankets, intending to adventure into the enemy’s country and tempt them to battle. We marched eight or nine miles, crossing in our route the ford at Wolf’s Run Shoals. Here I pulled off my shoes & stockings & rolled up my nether garments to wade across. But the water was icy cold & the stones sharp & slippery; & with the weight which I carried I was pressed down upon them in such  that my tender feet suffered great pain. On our way back therefore, I simply rolled up pants & drawers, refraining from pulling off shoes & stockings, & so had only cold to contend with, taking care to put on dry stockings & slippers as soon as I reached camp. We bivouacked last night in Fairfax County, so near the Northern Brigade who stationed at  Church that the picquets we threw out could distinctly hear their drum. In the morning we were roused early & made to load our pieces, & fully expected something fine to come off, when a courier suddenly arrived from Gen. Holmes, commanding this division, with an urgent message to Col. Hampton to return as speedily as possible, as he might need his assistance in the neighbourhood of Fredericksburg. I would not relish another move quite so soon, but would not be at all surprised if we should be obliged to move on very soon towards Fredericksburgh. Last night the mail arrived at our bivouack after I had pulled off my shoes & covered up comfortably with Mr. Verdiers & my joint arrangement of blankets. so that, when I heard my name called I turned my head to inviting sleep with the pleasant consciousness that I would have something from home to read in the morning, knowing that the Capt. would take good care of it until then. In the morning my pleasure was increased by finding two letters instead of one. These I barely had time to skin over, when we were ordered into ranks for our backward march. But, when I had got safely into camp & made myself comfortable & enjoyed a very superior dinner prepared by the incomparable Fred, I betook myself to the agreeable occupation of reading them at my leisure & enjoying them.
I am greatly grieved to hear of Patty’s illness. I fear that in many respects the old haunts will be much altered before I return, if I am allowed that privilege. But I still have strong hopes of learning in your next of her recovery. What a fatal summer it has been to the villagers! I trust it will never be so again, or we shall be tempted to fear the place.
But, as you say, these events may, I trust will, work much good of a high & lasting character. I was much cheered & encouraged by what you wrote me of Charley. Oh, if all of us who are drawn so much to one another by ties of blood & affection could unite in putting all our trust in Him who redeemed us, how much we would bless God for those afflictions, which brought us to that hope & assurance!
Tempered & tried & proved, we can then grasp & hold that perfect content, which is born of undoubting trust – & admits not one murmur of impatience, not one passing doubt of the straight & even course which the tide of time is taking, directed as it is by the wisdom and goodness of our Master.
Charley has always believed with the intellect; & to my certain knowledge his life & conversation were pure & untainted. He was one of those, who trained to accept the faith need only a pressing call from the Spirit to declare themselves & walk henceforth within the path, by the side of which they have long been wandering. He received this call: & since Emmeline’s death, I have entertained strong hopes, that the time was now come when of this good grace God would incline his heart to accept the fulfilled atonement so freely offered.
Oh, that Mac & Marion & Wackie would join with him in entering that visible fellowship of believers, for whom the word is so rich in promises!
Temptations in this military service, as far as I have observed, are more toward lukewarmness in the faith & forgetfulness of God & the duties of prayer & serious thought, than toward any actual sin or sinful indulgence in reasonable pleasures. The sins most commonly committed are profaneness & gambling, both of which to a man of nice breeding offer no attraction at all, & are offensive to the taste of a gentleman.
But the grievous fault of thoughtlessness & forgetfulness of our high responsibilities is one continually occurring in a life where our contact with others is for the most part simply social & we are debarred from that sweet privilege of the domestic life, of a nearer & fuller communion with our earthly fellows, where my attribution of mind with mind & thought with thought the inner life of each is brought to his consciousness often more fully than the idleness of reflection will permit in an attempt at self-examination. This last is a task we shrink most instinctively from.
Shall I begin to consume another piece of paper in writing to you? Well, I do not know that I shall have much to say, but perhaps your letter may suggest topics. It is growing very near twilight, & I fear the approach of darkness may cut short my communication. Real winter is gathering around us now; & I fear we will have hard times long before they house us. But there is nothing like hoping only the best, & making the best of the worst, if that should chance to come. A strong spirit can make a very trifling sort of body stand a great deal.
Oh, before I forget it, I had best tell the latest hearing about the Legion. It is to the effect that the German Company recently arrived among us is to be turned into a corps of artillerists; & Capt. Lee will then become Major of the Battalion of Artillery. Commanding their three battalions, one of artillery, one infantry & one of cavalry, Col. Hampton will be entitled to the rank of Brigadier. I don’t know how true all this is & don’t care one straw.
I have an India-rubber, my lady, the melodeon cover you “sighted” in King St., & sleep on it dutifully every night of my life, lugged the heavy thing out with me yesterday & used it last night. It keeps off much dew, may it please you. Dew falls here, as it does in the East. Scientific men, by the way, say, it falls nowhere, which shows what triflers they are. I could wash my face & hands in it here, so thick it is; but it is much more comfortable not to wash at all.
Your first letter was of the 19th & 20th. The other was of the 22d. I have abundance to say to you just now being in the humour; but darkness compels me & I stop perforce. Perhaps, before sending, I shall not get a chance to say more, so I say goodbye now.
Much love to all with you, & beg the folks at Jericho to let the boys at Suffolk know that I think constantly of them & long to communicate with them, but our present uncertain life prevents. I will write, as soon as I can feel settled.
Thanks to F. for the jeu d’esprit taken from Portfolio. Quite amusing.
Your loving son,
I hope that I shall soon get the bundle containing overcoat, vest &c. The overcoat is decidedly a desideratum just now. I shall be seriously rejoiced when I see that box of which you foretell such good things. I trust it will not share the fate of its lost fore-runner. In the last-mentioned, if I understood you aright, was my new blanket, which was really a great loss, as I own but one blanket. Do not think however that I have been suffering from cold. Mr. Verdier’s kindness forced upon me the use of one of his blankets.
I am grieved to hear the state of Uncle Isaac’s health & spirits. Why does he not come away from his business and recruit? You remember how much his very short stay in the Low Country benefited him last spring. He is to be blamed for his persistency in staying, where the drain on his powers makes them weaker for endurance every day. How dare a man die, leaving a whole family of young people, & a wife in very bad health?
The whiskey, served out to us in rations, is, as you say, very poor; but there are times when even this wretched stuff will save a man from a breakdown on a march, or keep him from taking a cold, when on guard. Good liquors will always be extremely welcome. I shall enjoy your [behne?] candy very much indeed; it is a kind that I have always liked. You know I have a very sweet tooth.
We are to get our new leggings soon; & Mully tells me that mine were made up by the Misses Peronneau. They will be a great protection against cold & wet.
Oh, I have not told you that Iredell Jones was here on a visit a day or so ago, staying only one or two days. He was looking remarkably well, & could walk with but little difficulty, limping only slightly & using a walking stick. He could not do military service, however, for months to come.
He begged me to thank my sister for the cockade sent him shortly after the battle. I gave it to Wad, with the message and Wad sent it on to him.
The Jones’s, who “are sons of the Dr. Jones who married a sister of Dr. Capers’ wife,” are Julius Quincy Jones & Willard Jones.
Cadwallader Jones, whom we call “Wad” for short, is the younger brother of Iredell; He & his old schoolmate, Jim Ivy (an old collegemate of mine), are among my best friends.
So, you have the great Welsh family divided & classified.
Coffin’s father is with him at the Hospital, & he has good nursing; but he has typhoid fever & is still quite sick.
My friend Reed is sick just now & is at a house in the neighbourhood arranged by Mr. Porter for comfort of the sick. I have been wanting to see him; but cannot get there, as I have had a very bad cold myself, & this late tedious march constrains me to quiet. Nor is my cold quite well yet. Henceforth every time you send me anything else, send me handkerchiefs too.
Here it is Wednessday, the Thirtieth of October! Soon we will pitch into November; & if the winter is severe, military operations must be foregone until next spring. I hope this next month will witness a glorious summing-up. It is said that Hampton asked permission some time ago to career over the river into Maryland; but it was refused. While the great armies are facing each other in the highways, it seems to me, a very pretty little side-game could be played with an organization so complete as this.
Have just eaten breakfast & feel comfortable. I must now envelope this with the last sheet.
Give my love to Father, Sisters & all at Jericho.
I hope to hear by the next mail better news of Patty.
Your loving son,
C. Woodward Hutson