1864: Unidentified “Albert” to Grandmother

This unremarkable letter was written by an unidentified soldier named “Albert” in March 1864 who appears to have only recently enlisted and been detailed to work in the commissary department of Emory Hospital in Washington D. C.  This hospital provided medical treatment for convalescent soldiers from mid-1862 to mid-1865. It was located a little east of Lincoln Hospital which was itself one mile east of the U. S. Capitol Building. Emory Hospital is often described as being near the alms house and the Congressional Cemetery. It was also said to be bounded by 17th and 19th Streets east and B&D Streets south.

The hospital consisted of wooden frame barracks and employed as many as 38 enlisted men in performing tasks ranging from chopping wood to policing the grounds. Often those detailed to work such jobs had connections or were otherwise useless performing their duties as soldiers in the field.

We know only that the author of this letter had a grandmother with whom he was particularly close and that he had an “Uncle Daniel.” The handwriting suggests a better than average education though the author seems quite young.

TRANSCRIPTION

Emory Hospital
[Washington D. C.]
March 1st 1864

Dear Grandmother,

If my memory serves me, I think I have written you only one letter since I come a soldiering, but it was not because I had forgotten you. No, far from that; but because I could find nothing of interest to write. I said forgotten you? I could not forget Grand Mother if I would. Every time I get a sore finger, I think of Grandmother and think how ready you always were to do them up for me and they were always sure to get well, and they did not ache and bother me as they do now. I have no one to do them up for me.

I have been examining my coat and pants and trying to mend them. I find I cannot fix my coat lining without drawing up the sleeve and that looks bad. And I have come to the conclusion that I must throw them away as Grand Mother’s needle is not here to mend them. I remember I kept you pretty busy doing up my fingers and mending my clothes as that was what I was always doing; either tearing my clothes or jamming my fingers. It is now that I know the value of these many little kindnesses and feel the want of Grand Mother’s kind and willing fingers.

You have probably read or have heard read all my letters and know my opinion of soldiering. I like the job I have now very well. I am as you probably know, in the Commissaries and have just enough work to keep me from catching the gout or being lazy. It’s just the kind of soldiering for me. I have a good warm bed to sleep in nights and plenty to eat, and am indoors all the time, and no guard or picket duty to do, but I probably shall be sent away before long. I find plenty of books to read when not busy as there is a library of five or six hundred volumes connected with the hospital and everyone can draw as many books as they wish.

All the news that I get comes from home through letters and papers so you must not expect much news. I have been down town several times and have been through the Capitol several times, and the other public buildings. They are all very fine buildings and worth going to see but Washington is a low, dirty city.

You may tell Uncle Daniel that I have half a letter written to him and the envelope directed and a stamp on and will try and finish it. Give my love to Uncle Daniel’s people. My sheet is full and I must close. May God watch over and prepare us for all of life’s changes so that if we meet not here, we may meet in a better and happier land, Goodbye. I remain your affectionate grandson, — Albert

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