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letters_from_camp_johnson

Letters Home
From Civil War Soldier
Charles Gamble
1862-1864

Compiled by
  Mark Flinchpaugh

Ellicott’s Mill, Maryland.
September 10th, 1862.
      Dear Parents and Wife;-
  I take the opportunity to sit down on a stone and make a desk of another one to write to you a few lines to inform you that I am well at present and hope that these few lines may find you all the same.
  We are encamped on a hill in this place about 80 or 100 feet high and a valley all around.  The Rebels are within 8 miles of us, and in fact they are all around us.  Last night there was 5 of our Companies ordered out to the 14th Regiment about 12 o’clock on the double quick time; and that is about 5 mile from here.  They have not returned yet with the exception of four men and they tired out and returned to their tents on the same night.  Tonight I suppose that we will go out on the same errand by the looks of things and our officers around us.  I think that we shall have to go in battle soon whether we are trained or not.
  There is another Company (C) has just been called out and now I expect that our Company will have to go soon; they are all here at the fountain spring filling their canteens with water now:  It is one of the best little streams of water that I ever saw.  It runs out of a rock and is the best of water; it runs about an inch thick an about three feet from the rock.
  I must stop and tell you about our travel out here; after we left Woodbury we went to Philadelphia and then we went into a place where we got a good dinner given us all, and then we marched to another car*, about two miles and I tell you it was warm and I got tired of my baggage.  When we got there I was as wet as if I had come out of a harvest field in July.  We stayed there about an hour and then we started for Baltimore.  We went through several places and crossed several rivers.  We came to a place where we ran all of our cars on a boat at once and went across the river and there was a long string of them.  Then we went on to Baltimore and we got there about 12 o’clock and then we got out of the cars and marched about 1 ½ miles to another car; there we (here I was called out to go out in the town and get our dress coats and tell you they are something handsome and I have just returned so now I will go on with the cars) got another good supper and then we all marched out on to the Rail-Road track and laid down on a stone pavement behind the railing and took our knapsacks for pillows and there we laid until morning.
  Then we got aboard the cars about 10 o’clock and started and arrived here about 5 o’clock in the afternoon; then we marched up on this hill and laid down on our blankets and went to sleep.  In the morning our tents came and we went to putting them up; and last night we rested right well in them until morning.  No more at present but remain Your Son and Husband
C. W. Gamble
  Please read this letter to Eliza and give it to her.  Henry Woodruff is well.  Dave, Sam and all of the boys send their best respects to you all.  Direct your letter to Baltimore County, Maryland, in care of Captain Moore Co. D 12th Regiment N. J. Volunteers.

  Ellicott’s Mills
September 13th, ‘62.
   Dear Parents and Wife;-
  I take this opportunity to write to inform you that we are at the present at the same place where we were when last I wrote you.  I am enjoying good health at present.  I had a fit at Camp Stockton, and they said that it was a hard one; and I have been unwell ever since we have been here, and had another very hard fit, but I feel now as well as ever I felt in my entire life. 
I often think of Eliza, my wife, and George and Father and Mother.  I have been on picket* duty once since I have been here; I was on about 30 hours and then returned to Camp again on Saturday the 12th about 11 o’clock.  Then we had nothing to do only to attend to answer our names when the roll was called, so I went to the captain and got a pass for Dave and myself and went out in the town; there we went to a place and called for supper and we had a good one; we called for ham and eggs and we got it.  They were good too, for they were rarity to us, for we have nothing here but boiled beef and those sea biscuits, and they are so hard as the rocks.  Some times we have fried bacon and that is not extra and sometimes we have beans in soup.  Today I see we are going to have some hominy for dinner, but I don’t know whether I shall get any of it or not, for every one dips into it when ever he gets a chance.  I should like for you to see us when meals are served; to see them with their dishes and cups, running like pigs to a trough for swill, and it is the best one that gets there first.
  We have taken three of Jackson’s men as prisoners, and have got them here in the guard-house; we had a hard time last night to keep the Cavalry off of them, and we have to put a guard around the tent to keep them from killing them, but to day they have left here for Baltimore.  I tell you they are a hard looking set; they are a harder looking set than we are, and that is needless.
  To day and Sunday we had a chance to go to meeting, but we thought that we would write home.  So we, Dave and myself, went down to our stone desk and commenced to write home letters to you all.
  All the butter, eggs and bread that we get here we have to pay for out of our own pockets, and that is very hard; we have to pay .25 a dozen for eggs; .25 for butter and .10 for a loaf of bread, and it takes off the money very fast; but to day they have brought in some bread.  So no more at present, but remain
  Your Son
C. W. Gamble.
    P.S.  Henry Woodard and Sam Green are well and in good spirits and send their best respects to you all.  Write soon and let me know how you are getting along.  Direct your letters to me at Ellicott’s Mills, Baltimore County, Md.  12th Regiment.
 
 
 
Camp Johnson, Maryland
September 25th, 1862
    Dear Parents and Wife;-
I take my pen in hand to write to you to inform you that I am well at present and hope that these few lines will find you the same.  I said that I would write no more letters to you; I have written two letters to you since I have been here and have not yet received any answer.  I think very hard of you for not writing to me if you have received them; if you did not receive them I will excuse you; I tell you that I want to hear from home; I want to hear how Eliza and George are getting along and all the rest of you.
I stated in my other letter all about from the time that we left Woodbury until we arrived here.  We have nothing to do here at present but go out on picket and guard and drill once or twice in a day.  When we go out on picket we stay 24 hours, and when we are on guard we stay 24 hours and then we come off and the next day we can get a pass to go out in the town until 6 o’clock; and the next day we are put on police duty – that is to clean up the streets between the tents.  When we go on guard we are put on in alphabetical order and every one takes his turn according to his name.
  Dave Smith has been under the Doctor’s hands for about ten days; he says that he has got the inflamtory rheumatism in his legs.  The rest of our boys are well at present.
  There is 13 in our tent, and we now cook for ourselves.  We cook our meals in Jersey style now and we find that we can eat it a great deal better and it agrees with us better.  We have no butter or pepper here unless we find it ourselves.  Dave and I got a pass the other day and went out and got butter for ourselves.  Dave and myself sleep side by side and what one has the other has too. Sometimes we get some whiskey and we divide it too.  Henry Woodard sleeps on the other side of Dave.  Yesterday he went out on a pass and he came in pretty tight but he is over it now and he says that he is in notion not to drink any more of the dam stuff, because it makes such a dam fool of him.
  There was about 12,000 or 15,000 Rebel prisoners here on Saturday from Harpers Ferry and Fredericksburg; we had to guard them while they were here until they left for Annapolis where they are at present.  There has been several thousand Rebel prisoners pass through here in the cars but none of them stopped here.  They were guarded by our Company here; we all marched out in the road and seen them pass.  They were the dirtiest looking men that I ever saw in my life.  They had no uniform whatever.  When the cars stopped some of our boys hurrahed for Johnson and they hurrahed for Jackson. I tell you I felt like ramming bayonets through them.  Their officers looked as bad as the soldiers did.
  I must stop now.  Read this letter to Eliza and let her have it and tell her to keep it and all the rest that she gets.  Write to me as quick as you get this letter and let me know whether you got the rest or not.  Good-bye, From Your Son and Husband
C. W. Gamble.
 
 
Camp Johnson,
Ellicott’s Mills, Maryland.
October 5th, 1862.
    Dear Parents and Wife;-
  I now sit down to write you to inform you that I am well yet and enjoying good health and hope that you are all the same.  I received your letter and that tea on October 2nd and it was dated the 15th of September and I was pleased to read it as the Court-Marshall of Dan Ward by Captain Joseph Garton was in it.  I called all the boys of Pittstown in to the tent and read it to them and I tell you that they had some hearty laughs over it and when I was through reading it they gave three cheers for Captain Garton and said they would have liked to have been there. 
  Father we now begin to have a little harder work to do.  The whole regiment has to march about three miles to drill and all of us together; and the road is so dusty when you are at one end you can not see the other as we have not had any rain here of any amount since we have been here; and the road that we travel is all the way up hill when we go out to drill and about half the way up when we come back to camp.  They give us double quick time and when we get into camp our hair whiskers and clothes are all of one color and we all have to go down to the run and take a good wash before we can feel anything like ourselves and it makes me feel tired.  We get in about 2 o’clock and then some times we have a little whiskey and then we take a small drink; then we have a good appetite for our dinner.
  Last Sunday morning the whole Regiment was called out in one line and that was a long string of us to hear the laws and  rules read to us, and all so the Court-Marshall of three of our privates.  One of them has to carry a barrel on his neck for one week and live on nothing but bread and water.  The way the barrel is fixed is one head knocked out and the other has a square hole cut in it about 8 inches just big enough to let his head through.  He has to go up and down all of our streets in camp twice a day; his crime was for breaking open a trunk.
  One is to carry his knapsack filled with stones 2 hours every day for one week and lose one months pay and live on bread and water; his crime is for shooting at one of the privates; and the other is to be brought before the guard-house every day for 2 hours for one week and live on bread and water as they belong to our Regiment I will not expose them by telling their names.
  On Monday I was out on the R.R. at Winchester on picket about 4 miles from camp guarding the switches as some of them had been turned as they supposed by the Rebs so we have to guard them day and night.  We go out in the morning and stay there until the next morning and then we are relieved by another Company.  Our Company goes on once a week.  On Monday night and Tuesday there was 13 trains of cars passed here; they had from 25 to 30 cars on each train and they were all full inside and on top.  Supposed to be 30,000 or 40,000 they were going down the Potomac we supposed.  They made such a hollering that you could hardly hear yourself talk.
  Tuesday we came off of picket about 2 o’clock and then we had nothing to do but clean our guns and equipment and cook our supper.  Every night about 9 o’clock we are all each Company called out in line to answer to our names and then at the tap of the drum we blow out our lights and go to bed as we call it.  Wednesday we had to march out on our ground to drill again and it was as dusty as ever.  Thursday, Friday, and Saturday we were out on guard on the bridge in town and stayed until morning.  This Sunday is pleasant as it rained on Saturday night and laid the dust pretty well.
  Last week we had the Court marshall of another one of our privates; he has to be drummed up and down the streets of our camp twice a day with a board before and behind and on it in big letters lose one months pay and live on nothing but bread and water for one week.  His crime was stealing money from other soldiers.
Money is getting scarce with us here as we have to pay the highest price for everything that we get.  I am out as I did not keep much with me and our Captain says he don’t think we shall get any for three months and I do not know how I shall get along till then for it has cost me about $2.00 a week to get my washing done for we have to keep ourselves clean according to the rules of our camp.  I have to get three shirts and two pairs of drawers washed a week and have to pay .12 a piece for them and my tobacco and other things cost me about $2.00 a week.
  I sent Eliza a certificate so that she can draw her State money; tell her to take care of it and not lose it, but she can draw her money from Salem when she wants it.  That is $6.00 a month; she has got some coming to her now.  Lize if you have not spent all the money that I let you have sent me a little and when I draw my wages I will send them to you.
  Father I saw John Loper yesterday and he told me that he was coming to Pittstown and I send by him three cartridges to you and two caps such as we use.  Father come up and see us it won’t cost you but about $10.00 here and back and you can stay here with us and it won’t cost you a cent and you won’t begrudge your money just to see how we are situated.
  Yesterday there was a hearse with a coffin in it and word come to us while we were on guard that the coffin had fire arms in it; it was for some of the Rebs; I saw it when it passed but did not think but what it was a corpse but what will the Rebs do if they have got to carrying their arms in a coffin.  No more at present but remain
    Your Son and Husband
C. W. Gamble.
Good Bye.


Camp Johnson,
Ellicott’s Mills, Md.
October 16th, 1862
  To My Dear Parents and Wife;-
  I now sit down to scratch you a few lines to let you know that I received your letter on the 14th and the money that you sent me, and was glad to hear that you were all well.  I am enjoying good health at present and hope that this letter may find you all enjoying the same good health.
  We had just come off of a Company drill when I was informed that there was a letter for me and I got it and read it, and was pleased to hear from home.  While I was opening my letter Sam came in with one from his Mother for me to read, and he was pleased to hear from her.
  We have had some rain here since I wrote my last letter and it makes it very pleasant for us to drill now; it was quite muddy and slippery the next morning after the rain and when we went up and down the hill we had to mind how we walked or else the hind part of our pantaloons would kiss the ground; I looked pretty well for my own part for I did not get a fall, but I saw several of our boys with their pants quite muddy on the seat of them.  But after one day it was quite smoother and nice for us to march on with the exception of the stones and I found that the rain had not softened them any.  
Yesterday some of our officer’s wives came to see them and we had to go out and drill as they wanted to see us all on drill and we did not get in until nearly dark and we had no time to cook any supper so we took the bean soup that was left from dinner.  In the morning Dave, Henry, and myself got up about daybreak and built a fire and went to cooking breakfast:  you ought to have been here to see us cook; one of us was frying beef and one cutting wood and punching fire and the other making coffee in a pot about 15 inches long and 9 inches in diameter and that was full too.  After we got up to our tent you ought to have seen them coming with their cups and plates after coffee and fried beef and bread.  Some of them were like pigs going to a trough, as Some of them are too lazy to cook and can not get out of their beds until some one gets the meals ready for them.
  Father I was out on picket the other day about 7 miles from here and was scouting about through the woods and I saw a tree that had leaves on that looked like an orange tree and I went to it and it had something on it that looked to me like lemons; they were just the shape of them and I got some of them and they smelled just like oranges, but I did not taste them until I got back to the orange grove where we were on picket.  Then I asked the miller of the mill (his name was Gamble) what they were and he told me that they were paw-paws and that they were good to eat when ripe and good to fry when about half ripe; some of them that I had were ripe and they ate them quick:  I tasted them but they were too sweet for me, and I did not like them much.  They told me that the seed would come up if planted so I saved some of them and send them to you for to plant and see what they will do.
  Last Sunday I got a pass and had a good tramp around on the tops of some of the high hills around here.  Some of the farms have so many stones on them that I do not know how they can farm them, but they told me that they could raise good grain and grass.  I will send you some of my passes so you can see how we have to get out.
  When you write let me know whether Eliza got her certificate or not and let me know whether you got my tools and chest from John’s or not.  I have not received the Sunbeam yet.  We shall have to go on drill now so I’ll stop for the present.
  I will now commence again; if you have not got my chest tell John to bring it to my house and leave it and the boring machine with it and see that all of my tools are in it.  Tell Eliza not to lend them but if you want them go to her and she will let you have them.  Today I received the Sunbeam that you sent me and was glad to get it.
  One of our brother soldiers died this morning; his name was Thomas McRithen (James McRithen’s son) and we had a funeral march in our camp.  Today we marched out to the cars with him in the coffin to send him home to Williamstown.  It does seem very solemn to see one of our soldiers march out of camp in a coffin and it made us feel so to for we do not know how soon one of us may have to be carried the same way.  Our regiment pays the very best respects to the funeral of one of our brother soldiers and I am not the least afraid if I was taken sick and died here but what I would be taken care of and sent home.
  Father we expect to stay here all winter but not in our tents.  We have got the cotton factory to move in.  It is about 300 yards from our camp so we shall not have far to move.  The building is not in operation now and it is five stories high and built of stone and has heaters all over it and that will make it comfortable for us.  They are going to take the inside work out soon and I do not know when we shall move.  Tell Lize to write me soon and tell me how to direct my letter and I will write to her.  So good bye till I see you all,
  C. W. Gamble.
 
 
Camp Johnson,
Ellicott’s Mills, Md.
October 30th, 1862
  To my dear and Affectionate Wife and Parents;-
  I now sit down to drop you a few lines to inform you that I received your loving letter and was glad to hear that you all were enjoying such good health.  Your letter found me in good health with the exception of a cold and that gave me a cold in the breast which makes me feel a little uncomfortable at present; but I am in hopes that I will be relieved of that in a few days, I have not been under the Doctor’s hands yet, nor have not taken any of his medicine yet, nor neither do I want to take any of it as long as my health will permit me to; several of our soldiers have been taking his medicine and they say that he makes them worse instead of better.  We have several sick soldiers in the hospitals now, and some I don’t think will ever get home again.  The weather has got so cold here in camp that they have moved the hospital down in the town in a dwelling house, which makes it a great deal better and warmer for them these cool nights and damp weather, for we have had some bitter cold nights and damp weather here.
  It commenced raining here last Saturday morning and rained on until Monday morning about 10 o’clock and then it cleared off very nice and has remained so until the present time; I was out on guard at the time of the rain and not having no oil cloth coat or blanket I got wringing wet and that is the way that I got my cold and if I could get myself a coat or blanket I would get one as they will keep the rain off of us; the overcoats that we have keep off some of the rain but when you have to be out in the rain eight and ten hours, and they get so wet that they are as heavy almost as led and then have to lay down in them on nothing but straw and sometimes on bare ground it is a wonder that there is no more sick than there is; as for my own part I have enjoyed good health since I have been here with the exception of the cold that I speak about and have gained in my weight 12 lbs. up to the present time and they all tell me that I am getting as fat as any one in the regiment, but I can not tell how soon I may take a change, but I still hope that I may have the same good health as I have had since I have been in the regiment.
  There is one thing if I should live to get home I shall have the biggest pair of whiskers you ever saw me wear as I have not shaved since I have been here and Eliza is not here to shave me nor to cut them off now, but if I should live to get home and my wife Eliza should see me there she may have a chance to shave me again and I do hope that we, both of us, and all the rest of you may live to see one another again and enjoy the comforts we have enjoyed together.
  Tell Eliza to take good care of George, and use him well for my sake, and likewise herself until I do get home and not let him starve nor starve herself either; as I want him and her to have enough to eat and wear until I do come home that is if I should live to go home.
  Our captain and one of our orderlies have been home on a furlough and one of our corporals and they all overstayed their time and the colonel ordered them all to be under arrest; they came home today and our lieutenant notified them of the case and our captain did not like it and he has started down into the town to see the colonel about it and I do not know how they will make it, but they seem to think that the stripes will have to come off of the orderly and the corporal and that it will go pretty hard with the captain but I hope it may not be the case.
  Our pay roll came in day before yesterday and today we are all called on to sign it; I have just been and signed it and I had to write my name in three different places and write it very fine at that.  I do not know when we shall get our money some say that we will get it in ten days and some say not until one month but I can not tell when they will pay but one thing I know there is some of the boys that will not have much coming to them as there is a sutlers* tent here as they call it and they can draw orders from the captain and get what they want by paying two prices for them; they buy apples for 50 cents a bushel and sell them out for one and two cents a piece; pies for ten cents; worth about three cents and all other things according to the price of the things that I have above mentioned but as for my own part I have not took up one cent of my wages and have not spent over 50 cents with me so I have all of my wages coming to me.
  I stated when I wrote home before that we expected to move down in the town, but I don’t know whether we shall go there now; there is a talk of us having to move from here to some other place all together but I can not tell any thing about it for I do not believe that there is any of us knows any thing about it, what we shall do yet; not even one of our officers without it is some of our head ones.  They have took twelve of our privates out of the regiment to cut wood for us this winter; but what place we are to burn it I cannot say as yet:  they are cutting it about five miles from the camp.
  As you stated in your letter that you were getting along with the house pretty smart and you wanted to lathe and plaster it before Eliza moved, I think it would be the best if you could get to do it.  George Sithens promised to get me the plastering lathe for the house and I saw him the other day about it and he told me that the water was so low that they were not sawing much down there now but there would be some there after a while, and if there is any there I would like to get them there as he owes me and that will save paying the money for them; and lime and anything you can get where they owe me get them to get anything that you can.  Before you plaster it up stairs I want collar beams put across over head, something like 2 by 5 of one inch board on each side of the rafter with a strip nailed to the board up the side to the peak of the rafter and before putting the collar beams up I would like you to draw the planks in to gather as you will see they are sprung out and that makes a hollow in the peak of the roof.
Now I will have to stop for this time; write and tell me how Kate and Taylor comes on:  take Kate and go hunting with her as the season has come in, but don’t let anyone have her without you are along.  Write as soon as you can make it convenient and let me know how you are getting along.  Good-bye
  From Your Son and Husband—C. W. Gamble


  Camp Johnson, Maryland
December 10, ’62.
  Dear Parents and Wife;-
  I take my pen in hand to inform you that I received your kind and welcome letter last night and one from Charlie Hitchner.  I have not time to write much for we have got orders to move and there is a Company waiting to take our place and we are all in a flustercation; I can hardly write.  I hate to leave here now since we have got our tents fixed, but we have to go this morning to Washington, and we can not tell where we shall go next, but they tell me that we are going in battle.  You need not write to me again till you hear from me again.  Tell Hite not to come to Ellicott’s Mills but to come to Washington and then he can tell where we are; and I want him to follow the regiment if he can. Send the box to Washington and it will be sent to me.  Father I have not much time to write; we have to start now; right away.
  From Your Son
C. W. Gamble.
    Tell Lib Smith that Dave is on duty and has not got time to write until we get moved and then he will write right away.

letters_from_camp_johnson.txt · Last modified: 2019/05/10 08:15 (external edit)