Letters From The Civil War
|Last update |
Jul 13, 2005
The following letter is a good example of the general attitude and understanding of many soldiers and civilians, on both sides, in the months preceding the First Battle of Manassas. The Fire Zouaves, of which the letter's recipient was a member, were so named because they were made up predominately of firemen from New York City. The reference to Broadway, is the same street in New York City now famous for its theatres. The mention of their "fierce array" is reference to their uniforms which included their bright red fireman's shirts which many of them would wear into battle only 9 days later. Remember, the letter was written on July 12th, 9 days before the battle and was dropped by the recipient during his retreat through Sudley Springs.
Letter from the Portfolio of a Zouave Chaplain.
Groveton, Prince William Co, Va, August 25, 1861
To the Editor of the Richmond Dispatch:
63 Portland Av., Brooklyn, July 12 
Dear Brother Dodge:
I was very glad to hear from you. I have thought frequently of you since we parted in Broadway, after the purchase of that knife and revolver. If a bullet from the latter had been honored in a lodgment in the assassin Jackson's vile carcass, it would have been a pleasant piece of information.
I am very much afraid your boys are not to have a serious brush with the rebels within the unfortunate three months of enlistment. It will be a dry rain with them if they make a return march up Broadway without having had a real grand tug with the foe. It will be like running the machine to a fire and finding the fire out. I hope, for their own sakes, they will have a chance to do a big thing with those infernal traitors before they get home.
I wish I could run down and see you. It would be delightful to see the boys in fierce array, spoilin' for a fight and no fight at hand. We have great confidence in Gen.. Scott up here; and we have confidence in prompt measures too. There are some rebel batteries a little too close to Federal lines to make it particularly honorable for creditably.
I think the boys would like to take some of these posts by contract, and give good security for the prompt performance of all engagements, and assume all the risk. I do not know but that wars generally could more rapidly and completely be disposed of under the contract system than in the old-fashioned way.
All the munitions of war, as well as the Commissary Department, are under the contract system, and you get gloriously cheated and sold out generally. Suppose you are permitted to look out for your own provender, and do up the rebellion at so much for the job. I think in that case the rebel Congress would never meet in Richmond. And wouldn't the Fire Zouaves "be there to see," and have a big finger in that pie? Methinks so. Do you think it would be worth while to correspond with Gen. Scott on the subject?
I am anxious to have these palm-leaf nabobs gloriously whipped so thoroughly that for a generation they will be glad to hold a Northerner's horse for a sixpence. I wish you and the boys could be in at the death. Can't you all hold on to the end?
No doubt you have longings for the good things of Broadway restaurants, or the better comforts of home; but it is not often that free-born Americans have an opportunity to fight or die for such a country as this. Hadn't you all better stay till you wipe the thing clean, and then for once tell your children a tale that the angels would love to listen to!
I suppose if you would only put a dozen bullets through some contractors and commissaries, you would be more happy than you are. Some of them, at least, ought to be sent down the Potomac astride of a log. It is unpardonable that, when thousands of men have patriotically laid themselves on the altar of their country, a few graceless, soulless scoundrels should disaffect a whole army by their diabolical contract villainy. A member of Duryee's regiment told me the other day, he had not had 30 cents' worth of provisions in a week, in the face of the fact that Government allows 30 cents per day for each man. The unmitigated wretches that cause such a state of things are a thousand times worse than open traitors fighting in the rebel army. I wish you could give them all a fair hanging, and hold a court-martial in their case afterward.
What has become of compromise down your way? It looks as if old Abe was sound on the goose. $400,000,000 and 400,000 men ought to lay this little trouble on the shelf for all time to come. Part of the money ought to be expended in erecting a continuous gallows around the Capitol grounds, to be thickly strung with head rebels, from Jeff., the arch traitor, down to the microscopic Twiggs, the most contemptible of them all. Tell the boys-do hold on; a few more pork rations and hard crackers, and you will have the pleasure of opening up avenues through the ranks of the fighting rebels, and hearing prayers under the scaffold of traitors of the upper ten.
Give my best regards to Hosford. He is a good fellow, with an excellent mother, and sisters who love Christ. I think he wants to be a Christian. I hope the solemn surroundings of a soldier's life have not failed to impress him with a need of a preparation for eternity.
I am comfortably fixed in Brooklyn-an advance in every respect over the old spot. Secession is an infection, you perceive. Fourth Ward Mission is apparently near its end. Unfortunate counsels prevailed. Mr. Van Mater, with half a dozen of the employees left, and are doing their work in the Bowery with about 200 children-more of the infection.
Glad to hear from you at any time. May your braves return with many scalps.