July 30, 1887 edition of the Chenango Semi Weekly Telegraph, published in Norwich, New York. The article, below, shows Nathan's personal perspective of the war.
A Soldier's Letters.
There is lying on the desk as we write, a package of letters, torn with use and yellow with age. They are a quarter of a century old, and were written "from the field" in 1862. They tell the story of the enlistment of the soldier who wrote them and of his life in the army. The letters show that he was not versed in composition. In all probability he had written few letters before he enlisted ; probably never composed anything. Yet these letters give a more vivid, graphic and realistic picture of the real life of a soldier than can begot out of histories or the more ambitious attempts at description of professional authors.
It is not our purpose to give all these letters, but only to quote from one or two. Here is one dated, "Camp Bliss on Upton Hill, Va., Dec. 7, 1862." After referring to family matters, and to the news received from home of the death of a young friend, he writes: "I have been blessed with good health so far, while six of our regiment have died. As I went to the hospital this morning to get some stuff for my cold, I saw or counted twenty that were there very sick. It looked pretty hard to see them, for they were all in one room without any floor and it is a tedious day.
The snow lies four inches deep on the ground, but we all have a fire in our tents and are comfortably warm. If a person is well he can get along here, but if he is sick it is a poor place. But if a man is sick with a disease that will last a week or two he is sent to the General Hospital at Washington, where it is said they have the best of care."
I went out on picket last Wednesday I was placed near headquarters of our picket line. It was in a place called Falls Church This place contains one tavern, two stores, a post office, also twenty-five or thirty dwelling houses that contain what they say are good Union men and women. Also I saw five or six girls, very good looking, but they are pretty scarce here.
Night came, and the boys brought down our letters from camp, and to my surprise I had five. I took them and went to a nice house to read them. I went in and was nicely entertained with an extra candle and chair—the first one I had sat in for over a month. I read my letters and talked
The next day I went into a large church made of bricks that are said to have been brought from England, at least it has been a nice house, but the soldiers have torn it all to pieces. It is an Episcopal Church. They say Gen. Washington was married in this church. But we saw no rebels. We stayed 48 hours and I had a pretty good time. Picket business suits me the best of any yet.
We have had some accidents in our regiment. A man while on picket was fooling with his gun. It went off and shot away two of his fingers. Some thought he did it on purpose to get his discharge. Another on picket was lying down on his gun asleep. His gun went off and shot him through the ankle. The ball broke the bone all to pieces; also the ball when found was split in two—done by the bone. The poor boy's leg is now off and he is getting better. Another boy or Corporal by office, while on picket was standing by a fire. Someone shot. The ball struck him in the foot. It was supposed to be a rebel—at least five or six shots were fired at him, but the villain got away and was seen and heard of no more. The boy's foot is getting better.
Another little incident that happened the other day: one of our boys when out around camp, picked up a piece of an old gun barrel, the britch part, and thought it would be good to punch up the fire with in his tent. So he took it to his tent and began to try it by putting one end in the fire. It immediately went off making a report as loud as any gun. He hopped up, and with an oath said, "What in h--l and damnation is in it?" With his hat off and his hair stuck perpendicular and looking around, saw a place torn up in the ground. He soon saw that the old thing had a ball in it, and the ball hardly missed his leg. I heard the report when it went off and stepped in, so I saw the whole performance. A number of other such things I could write, but my time and paper will not permit.
We have to drill yet every day when the weather is pleasant, but we are getting pretty well drilled. I should like to be home this winter to enjoy some sleigh rides and eat apple pie and cake, for they are things we don't get here. I hope next spring will find us all home enjoying the comforts of life, but I guess not. We are here and are likely to stay some time yet.
We have one in our tent sick, the rest of my tent mates are well. We are a pretty happy crew, for I brought my singing book and we have two others, so we sing and learn to sing. We have a singing school at our Chaplain's tent once a week. Also I am a member of our choir. We have preaching every pleasant Sunday. I will have to close for this time. We are in Abercrombie's brigade and Siegel's corps. Abercrombie is an old man, his hair is white as wool but he has got a sharp eye. We shall stay here all winter I guess.
Nathan Blencoe, was my great-great-great uncle who at age 21, enlisted as a volunteer for the American Civil War. He died at Post Hospital, Folly Island, SC on September 22, 1863 of dysentery.
American Civil War
The Civil War was fought in the United States from 1861 to 1865 due to the long standing controversy over slavery and states' rights. It was the Union — the northern states against the Confederacy — the southern states.
- Dissolution of the Confederate States after much bloodshed
- U.S. territorial integrity preserved
- Slavery abolished
- Beginning of the Reconstruction