25 December 1861: “Today Being Christmas the Col has excused us from drill and we are trying to pass this hollyday as best we can.”

Item description: Letter, 25 December 1861, from Emmett Cole, a Union soldier in Company F, 8th Michigan Infantry Regiment, encamped at Port Royal Island, S.C., to his sister Celestia. Cole commented on Christmas in the context of war, the Charleston fire, prisoners in camp, sickness among soldiers sent to Beaufort to recover, and how much he missed apples and apple pie.

Item citation: From folder 1 of the Emmett Cole Letters #5002-z, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Item transcription:

Camp on Port Royal Island S.C.
Dec 25th 1861

Dear Sister.

Today Being Christmas the Col has excused us from drill and we are trying to pass this hollyday as best we can. although we have not got the privelages that you have away from the excitements of the War. today perhaps you can hear the jingle of sleigh bells and the merry laugh of happy sleigh loads as they glide to and from the places of amusement, but white different scenes & sounds from these greet our eyes and ears. while I write I can plainly hear the dismal roar of canon in the direction of Fort Pulaski and Jackson. while every ____ a messenger passes me with dispatches from the ferry or some after quarter. so Christmas passes with us by the Niggers seem perfectly at home. we gave them Beef and they are haveing a jolly time on the is Plantation. I received you letter in answer to one that I wrote on Hilton Head. this morning also one from Ira Sheldon, and was right glad to hear from home. letters will come right along if directed by the way of N.Y. Father wanted to know if I gave Barlow & Goodyear my note before I left. no sir I did not. they seem to be in a terible [?] untill I could pay it. they spoke to me about it before I started, and I sent  you a line asking you to let them have some Oats or something else and I would pay you. now I will send some money as soon as I think I can send it safely. I will also sent $15 of Johs money and the rest that was due him if I can get it on pay day. Celestia you must tell Ida that I am in the Cotton Batten fields. for indeed our camp is in the middle of a big plantation that belonged to a Widow Milne. and it is now white with cotton although it has been picket twice. tell her I want to knit me a pair of Mittens to wear the frosty nights when I have to stand Guard tell her if she will knit me a pair I will send her a Gold dollar. she can do it I know she can. we have to go to the Ferry tomorrow for something I dont know what perhaps we shall see some fun it is but two miles down there. they have got their Batteries planted on the other bank and our Guns grin at them from this side. all we are waiting for is reenforcements. we hear that Charlston has been purified by fire if so than God will only save us the trouble. we have got six prisoners in our Camp I will tell you how they were taken a Lieutenant of Co H set out skirmishing with 15 men he got as far as the river and waited till dark took a beat and crossed over to the Main. divided his squad. left 8 at the Boat and took 7 with him he soon run on to a fort of Pickets we accosted him as usual with “halt who goes there” Answer Lieut. Friend with the countersign and the Stars & Stripes. by God Sir. the Pickets immediately fired upon them. our men returned the fire wounding two and the whole prisoners. they looked sullen enough next morning. you asked me Celestia if I though the War would soon end. that I cannot tell but I hope so and so does every other volunteer if they will send us help we will try and do our part here in the old seed of rebelief there is not so much sickness in the Regiment now as there was sometime ago I dont think, but there is enough now. Leon Duffy, Bates, Will Wheeler & Warren Cole are all at Beaufort the most of them are on the gain. Will Wheeler will never be worth anything again I dont think. you sent your respects to my Friend Tatro, but alas he is not here to receive it. you must send you love to Heaven, for I believe he is there he was a praying man and I believe a Christian I would like to be with you tonight. we would sign and talk & eat Apples as we used to do. and perhaps I would play on the Violin if I had not forgotten how. you mus eat a good big apple for me. how I wish I had a piece of Apple Pie. I believe it would go about as good as Hoe Cake. the weather is warm here and nearly all the Trees are Evergreen. there is a splendid garden on this Garden and this Plantation. Roses in full bloom what do you think of that on Christmas. I guess I will write no more at present tell the children to write and you must read my letters to them. give my best wishes to my friends among which I reckon are Jo. T. Wellman and hans folks especialy. and you ever have my Love

Emmett Cole

P.S. Direct as I last told you to. Port Royal, S.C.A. Via N.Y.

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