This letter was written by Thomas M. Barrett (1842-1927) who came from Ireland when he was only six with his parents Richard & Catherine Barrett. By 1850 the family has settled in Burlington, Racine county, Wisconsin. Thomas enlisted in Co. C, 1st Wisconsin Infantry on 5 September 1861 and remained with the regiment until 13 October 1864. The regimental roster indicates that Thomas was wounded during his term of service but does not give the date.
Thomas addressed his letter to a young woman identified only as “Rachel” who must have also been from Racine county, Wisconsin. The woman he married after the war was not named Rachel, however.
Camp Wood ¹
January 10, 1862
Dear Friend Rachel,
I received your kind letter yesterday and was glad to hear from you. I found a favorable opportunity to write to you for the boys are most all out—some of them helping to repair roads. Miles and Charley [Charles W. Wood] has gone out to wash and Nathan [Nathaniel Corby] and I stayed at home. The boys are all well.
Indeed, Rachel, I thought you had forgot to write to me. I take another pen. I was on guard yesterday and was thinking if you would write to me or not just ten minutes before your letter came. Dear Rachel, you hoped I had as good a time as is the soldier’s lot to have. It was my turn to stand guard and we had some cool, refreshing showers that night too, but don’t mind that for I expected all that before I came here. But Rachel, I would not mind all that if I thought the leading men were doing right. Here we are laying idle—a great expense and [not] going ahead. Why don’t [they] lead us forward and put down the rebellion and abolish the accursed name slavery from the land? But it will not be so as long as slavery remains in the land.
Rachel, I am tired of it. Yet I believe what I say is true, the most of our leading men would keep the war unsettled for 10 years and would not care as long as they could fill their own pockets. And I think it won’t be settled very soon. What Nathan wrote is all true about the looks of the country for it looks to me as he describes it. You would think so if [you] was here and [could] see all the mess.
It has rained a great deal here lately. I am very happy to inform you that our Colonel [John Converse Starkweather] has come back well and sound but our Captain [Robert Hill] was not much better when we heard from him last. I hope when we hear from him again, we will hear that he is well for we miss him very much.
Our washer woman has not returned yet.
Dear Rachel, I have not got time to say anymore for I must scorch me some coffee for supper, so goodbye for awhile from your affectionate friend, — Thomas M. Barrett
I hope you will excuse this poor writing for I did not sleep much last night and had a very poor pen.
¹ Camp Wood was near Nolinsville, Kentucky, on the Green river. The 1st Wisconsin Infantry were at Camp Wood from mid-December 1861 until the 14th of February 1862 when they marched to Nashville, TN.