This letter was written by a member of Brig. Gen. Carl Schurz’s Third Division of the 11th Corps. His identity is unknown; he has signed his name only as “James” or “Janes” and addressed the letter to his “friend Mary,” otherwise unidentified. We know that he was a member of Schurz’s Division because that division held Thoroughfare Gap for several days in early November after Gen. Stahel’s cavalry drove the Confederates from the Gap.
From the content we know that the infantryman served in a regiment that passed through Philadelphia on its way to the front. Unfortunately three of the regiments in this division were raised in New York City (68th, 58th, and 119th New York), all of which probably passed through Philadelphia. The division also included the 74th Pennsylvania (organized at Pittsburg) which was known to have passed through Philadelphia. More research may nail down the soldier’s regiment but possibly not the name of the soldier. I did find one soldier in Co. E, 74th Pennsylvania, named Pvt. Samuel G. Janes (also files under Samuel G. James).
Camp New Baltimore [Virginia]
November the 8th 1862
This morning I have time to write a few lines to you and let you know what I am about. I have been drilling this morning. The ground is partly covered with snow. It snowed the most of the day. The sun will take the snow all off today.
Saturday night [1 November] we marched about one mile and lay down on the ground and went to sleep and in the morning we started on again and marched about 15 miles and ate supper and laid down on the ground again and went to sleep. And in the morning we ate breakfast and started & marched 15 miles again that day to Thoroughfare Gap and camped in the road from Monday night [3 November] till yesterday morning [7 November]. And then we marched about 8 miles and pitched our tents and some of the boys went off and got a lot of hens and ducks & geese & [ ] and we had a first rate supper, I tell you. We boiled them and they were good.
It is warm out here today. The snow is all gone since I began to write. The sun shines very warm now. This is a nice country out here. It looks the most like home of any place that I have seen since I left home. It is the best land that I have seen out this way.
I don’t know but I have answered your last letter but I thought that I would write again. I have had three letters from you and one the other day from Cate and I got one from home last night. I have had 3 or 4 from [home].
It is so cold that I can’t hardly write. We have to write right out doors in the wind. My hand is so numb that I can’t hardly hold the pen. I guess that you can’t read it. It is not half neat. My pen is not the best that ever was but it will have to pass. That is all that I can think of to write this time. This sheet of paper has got the City of Philadelphia. That is the place that we shook hands with so many ladies. It is the best place that we saw after we left home.
It is so cold that you will have to excuse me this time. Write as soon as you ca. Direct the same as before.
To Mary from your friend, — Janes