"Who is this that looks forth like the dawn, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army with banners?"

Friday, January 11, 2013

January 11. 1863. Provost duty at Fairfax Courthouse

Fairfax Court House, Jan 11th, 1863"I have been preparing several days to write you but an unusual piece of business has prevented. I have the permission of the General to drill in Brigade with my regiment, which occurs twice a week, and necessitates the study of evolutions of the line. Furthermore I have within the last three days made examinations into the several liquor shops in this place, and yesterday I confiscated about 20 dozen bottles of the contraband, which I shall turn over to the Medical Director, keeping of course all that I may want for my own use.

"During the past week, also, I have tried several cases, treason, desertion and the like five of whom I have sent to the Old Capital Prison at Washington. These in addition to the granting of passes, answering questions, etc, keeps me quite busy. 

"I am quite well as I have been ever since I had a little cold and sore throat at Camp Vermont. I got to eating so irregular owning to the inconveniences of getting and preparing food in my office that I have taken to boarding, as I wrote you in my last. Then is not a decent boarding place at Fairfax Court House as there is no market, no nothing. I should live much better with my regiment. But I am thankful that I am not squeamish about my food. I have lived on boiled and fried pork for more than with week without any potatoes and I can do so some weeks longer.

"...[T]here has not been a moment since I entered the service that I have not felt glad that I enlisted. I do feel that in this service I am doing my duty. But I do every day, morning and evening, think of the dear ones at home and how much pleasure it would give me to see them all. As to what I think of the war I have no opinion except this - that the North will surely and certainly triumph in the end - it may not be this year nor the next, but truths justice and right must in the end prevail. I am not particularly jubilant over any great victory ...nor am I dismayed by any defeats. We must take them as it comes, rain or shine, yet there is seed time and harvest always. As to the propriety of this or that movement beyond the sphere of my personal influence, I do not discuss even in my own mind. I mean to do my duty as faithfully as I can where ever I am ordered assist my superiors to the best of my ability obey all lawful orders according to the spirit of the Regulations and Article of War, without a question or murmur. This is just the way I feel, and I can’t feel any different.

"If I were to express any opinion upon anything I am ordered to do it would be this. Fairfax Court House is the dirtiest, nastiest, most destitute place I was ever in. It has been tore to pieces and nearly destroyed. There is not a house standing that is even half furnished and I don’t believe there are chairs enough in turn to seat the inhabitants all at one time, let alone the army.

"Second the business of Provost Marshall is the meanest part of army duties. I never did like a staff appointment. I have told Holbrook, Washburn, Davis, Col. Veazey and others so many times. I would never accept of one even if I could be Chief of Staff to McClellan. But here I am ordered and I have not made one word of complaint although the whole thing is so distasteful. Yet I have expressed my opinion as above when asked how I liked it.

"It is in obedience to orders that I stay, and I will never ask for favor when very order is made but will obey without a look of discontent except that told Gen. Stoughton that when the 16th was ordered into action he might as well consent to my going for if he did not, he would have an opportunity to court martial me. He speaks warmly in approval of the manner in which I do my duty here.

"Your living husband - Charles."
 ~ Lt. Col. Charles Cummings, Sixteenth Regiment, Letter No. 15, January 11, 1863. VHS.

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