This letter was written by Pvt. William H. Nicholson (1840-1907) who enlisted in Co. G, 38th Pennsylvania Infantry (9th PA Reserves) in May 1861. The regiment was organized at Camp Wright, near Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, on 28 June, 1861. They were ordered to Washington, D. C., on 22 July, 1861, and arrived by the Washington Branch, Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, via Harrisburg, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, and Baltimore City and Annapolis Junction, Howard County, Maryland, on 26 July, 1861. The regiment encamped at Seventh Street Road, Washington, D. C., the same day and was mustered in United States service for three years on 28 July, 1861. They were ordered to Camp Tennally, near Tennallytown, D. C., on 5 August, 1861, from which camp William wrote this letter three days later.
Willam mustered out with his regiment on 12 May 1864 after three years service.
Camp Tennally [Maryland]
Thursday, August 8th 1861
My dear friend John Yahras,
I take my pen with pleasure to let you know that I am well and hope these few lines will find you the same. I received your letter on Monday evening [5 August] just after we had arrived at Camp Tennally. I was glad when I read your letter to ear that you was well. You said it was warm when you wrote your letter but I can tell you that if it was warmer than the evening I received your letter, it was warm enough. We marched eight miles through the hot sun. There was a young Dutch fellow in our company [who] said to our captain, “I vont zing Tixey [Dixie] anymore. Tixey is too hot for me. I rater zing I wish I was in Greenland.” It was so warm that we was as wet as if we had been in the river and when we would come to a pump, we would pump our caps full of water and put it on our head. ¹
I must let you know that I had not time to answer your letter on Tuesday for we had to march 6 miles to go out on picket guard and just returned to our camp. This morning we had lots of fun. The whole regiment was scattered out. We was in the advance near the river. The rebels is said to be near us and we have to keep pickets out all the time. There was some 32 pieces of artillery went past here this morning to be ready for them if they come on us. There was four regiments of cavalry went past here this morning for our outside picket.
I must tell you about some of our gun when out on picket. One of our reserve shot a big black dog which was approaching him. He thought it was a man. The next regiment to us had one of their men shot through the leg by a Rebel who came up the bank like a dog and sprang up and shot him and made his escape but he might as well let our sentinel alone for he only put the ball through the calf of his leg. One of our men belonging to Co. E got shot in the face with his own gun. There was no ball in it. It was a blank cartridge [and] didn’t hurt him very bad.
When we all got to the place where we was to be stationed, we was ordered to load our guns and Andrew Blacksmith got so much excited he put four cartridges in his gun. The surgeon seen that his gun was double loaded. He said Blacksmith, let me see your gun and he said, “I’ll be damned if he hain’t put all his ammunition in one load. The captain [John B. Brookbank] said, “Never mind Blacksmith, he thinks there is no use in loading so often when he can put four in at once. I’ll bet if any rebels come near him, he will lay him out.” ²
I must tell you that we are expecting a little fight about here pretty soon but I think they won’t stand us very long. I must tell you that we must go out two or three times a week as picket guard and I don’t know when I will get a chance to write again. But write soon and my letters will follow us and I will write every chance I get. I must close my letter by sending you my best respects to you and all the rest of the folks about Pine Creek and Stewardstown.
I still remain your affectionate friend, — W. H. Nicholson
¹ The following account of the same march was probably written by a member of the same regiment: “Last Monday when we marched from Washington, the thermometer varied from 95 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. It certainly was the hottest day I ever felt. Many poor fellows fell exhausted by the excessive heat and dust which rose like a cloud. We had our cartridge boxes, knapsacks, blankets, Haversacks with a loaf of bread in them, canteens each weighing four pounds when filled with water, and our muskets to carry all the way and it was not strange that we should become wearied.” — J. D. C.
² Andrew Blacksmith transferred to the 6th U. S. Cavalry on 28 October 1862.