This letter was written by Asahel Charles Wallace (1843-1879) who enlisted at the age of 18 on 7 May 1861 to serve two years in Co. G, 24th New York Volunteers—a regiment belonging to the lesser known, but first “Iron Brigade.” He mustered out with his company at Elmira on 29 May 1863.
Asahel was the son of Alvin Wallace (1807-1880) and Sally Bennett (1806->1890) of Sandy Creek, Oswego county, New York. Asahel was a carpenter/joiner by trade. After the war he married Harriet (“Hattie”) Parke (1849-1878).
Addressed to Miss Mary Parmenter, Sandy Creek, Oswego Co., N. Y.
Postmarked Washington D. C.
24th [New York Vols]
Arlington Mills, Va.
August 4th 1861
Dear Friend Mary,
I now sit myself down to answer your letter after a long time. I should [have] answered your letter before if I had been where I could. We have been away down here in the wilderness the last two weeks where we could get no paper nor anything else to write with. I was agoing to write to you two weeks ago today & just as I got ready to write, the orders come for us to pack up & get ready to march. We was ordered to leave our knapsacks & take nothing but our blankets & one shirt, two days rations, so we were obliged to leave our paper & writing tools. Our knapsacks have been fetched to us since we have been here. Our tents are still at our old camp ground.
We are agoing back to Washington Tuesday. I hope that we shall have a better day to go in than we had when we come here. It rained all day long & most all night the day that we came here. I wish the Sandy Creek folks could have seen us marching along in the mud up to our ankles & as wet as though we had been in the river. It was rather discouraging too, I tell you. All along our march we saw thousands of the soldiers that had been in the battle the day before retreating back & loads of dead officers & the wounded, but we keep a stiff upper lip & marched on. ¹ We passed over the Long Bridge. I suppose you have heard of it. It crosses the Potomac river & is early a mile in length. We halted at noon in some woods & took dinner. Our dinner was bread & meat. At five in the afternoon we stopped for the night. We went into barns & unoccupied houses. We laid down wet & tired as ever an army did & slept as sound as pigs.
We left Theodore [Holmes] at the hospital sick with the inflammatory rheumatism. I have not seen him since we left. The hospital [Fairfax Seminary] is only about 100 yards from our old camp. It used to be a college & the place where Jeff Davis used to teach school. But since the war has begun, it broke up—the pupils being mostly from the Southern states—so it has been fitted up into a place for the sick.
I am today in the woods on picket guard. Ed is with me. He lays down by the side of a tree reading a Pulaski paper. I would like to be in Old Sandy Creek today but here I am away down south in Dixie and I will stay & fight for the Union. It is no desirable job to face the cannon’s mouth but as long as I am a soldier, I will walk right up & face the music & if I fall & if I succeed, all right.
Yesterday we got our pay. It is the first time that we have received any pay from the U.S. We got our pay when we were at Elmira for while we were in the state service. I have not forgotten my promise [to have my likeness taken.] When we go back to the City, I will have some taken & send them to my old friends &c. I have seen your picture several times since I have been here. The next time you have your picture taken, I want you to keep your mouth a little straighter & not twist it around quite so much.
The boys that are here with us are all well & in good spirits. I don’t know but Theodore will get jealous if I go to getting up correspondence with you but I can’t help it. Give my respects to all &c. This from your friend, — A. C. Wallace—a volunteer in the U.S. Army of Co. G, 24th [New York Vols.], Colonel Sullivan, Commander
Please write and tell me all the news.
¹ Wallace is referring to the First Battle of Bull Run fought on July 21, 1861 some two weeks previous to to this letter.