“My Dear Wife,
“I am in the receipt of your letter of the 29th ult, which was read, as are all your letters eagerly and with pleasure. It is a source of peculiar gratification to me that you all continue to enjoy good health and get along so well during my absence. Yet I am looking forward with the fondest anticipations to the day when I shall meet you in our own home and enjoy a respite from absence and Virginia life.
“I shall probably remain here until the middle of next week, when we shall, according to present indications, return to Union Mills and picket duty. It is a pleasant county out here and the men enjoy themselves very well. The only drawback is that we have not half enough to do and no where to go. I got away however, Thursday afternoon and rode to Bristow to see the Colonel and Major.
“We enjoy one luxury here that is unique. Every morning from day light to nearly noon the mocking birds make the air vocal with their delightful intimations. Not content with rehearing the songs of the best singers, they will imitate the blue jay, chickens and the caw of the crow. Their notes are much sweeter as they sing from the tree tops than when enclosed in an iron cage and transported to uncongenial climates.
“On my table I have a beautiful bouquet of roses, honey suckles, pinks, and etc, sent my commanding officer by an English girl residing two or three miles from here by the hand of her brother a physician. This is the third I have received and it makes my tent look cheerful. Cherries are now nearly ripe and the men are eating them. In one garden I saw peas in blossom the first day we arrived here, but the season is as unusually basken here as it is in Vermont.
“My horses are getting along well. The black one is at Bristow turned out to grass and is a fat as a seal and but little lame. I think he will pretty much recovered. Peacock is doing finely. His back is so nearly well then. I ride him nearly every day. He is a wonderful horse on a gallop and is worth twice what I paid for him.
“At Mr. Catlett’s for whom this station is named, is a litter of little black puppies, one of which I want to get home for Lizzie but I do not know as I shall succeed. He is coal black except tan feet and a few tan spots underneath. …Lizzie’ eyes would sparkle to see them and she would have one in her arms all the time.
“There are several occupied house in the vicinity of the camp and from their inmates we can learn something of Southern manners and life. These people are for the Union just so far as it is for their interest and no farther. Some of them have taken the oath of allegiance to the Union and I have no doubt they would take a similar oath to the Confederacy tomorrow were rebel troops here instead of ours. But they treat us with marked politeness for we are just now “the powers that be.” In all these families - and they evidently belonged to the respectable class - the women do the milking and hoeing while the men sit around and talk with the soldiers.
“One woman, the mother of fifteen children - the youngest less than a year old - I saw bring six cows into the yard and she and her two daughter milked them while the man fair, sound, healthy, and not more than fifty was sitting in his doorway looking on. The fact is the “respectable” men down here in Virginia won’t work. They will go hungry and ragged first. Now their niggers are gone they don’t plant a rod of ground, nor sow any grain. They keep a few cows when they can because they can sell butter and milk to the soldiers, and their wives and daughters can take care of them.
“But this is a grand old country, and were it settled by our thrifty New England people, would be a paradise. It is easy to get a good living here. A splendid farm cost not more than $15 to $30 per acre, and sheep and cattle can be kept all winter without barns, only feed then from stacks of a few days when the snow is so deep that they cannot get their noses to the ground. But take it all in all New England is yet the most desirable place.
“ Love to all the household - Your loving husband – Charles” ~ Lt. Col.Charles Cummings, Sixteenth Regiment, Letters June 6, 1863. VHS.