A Letter to Laurel
May 7, 1864
My dearest Laurel,
I am writing you in the quiet that always follows a hard battle, as soldiers from both sides tend to their wounded and bury their dead. There are many of both, and I am sorry to tell you that young Hiram was wounded in the battle and suffered the loss of his left arm. The poor lad is beside himself at the thought that he will not be able to continue drumming. He was taken to a field hospital where the amputation was performed and now is in a hospital in Richmond. I do not know which one it is, but I will find out.
Adolphus, Andrew and I came through the fighting without a scratch, and I wish I could rejoice that we won, but the losses and suffering were too great to do so. There were so many killed and wounded we could scarely bury the dead and tent to the wounded before we had to move on.
The word is that Grant will continue to move toward Richmond after this setback. There he evidently plans to meet up with Butler, who will come up the Peninsula. I fear that all this will not turn out well for us. There are simply too many of them, and they have more weapons. I find myself wishing for their victory or anything that would end the war, because it would mean the fighting and suffering would cease. Such thoughts are treasonous, I know. I am not a very good soldier to want victory for the other side, but that would also mean that we could begin to recover from this terrible conflict, and build new lives for ourselves on both sides.
Since the Union troops plan to come at us again and very soon, we must ready ourselves as best we can. Some of our troops have deserted, no doubt because their homes are so near. Three men were caught and are to be executed. We will be required to witness this, but I do not wish to since I have seen so much death already. These troops must have deserted several times before, for it seems to be policy that first time deserters are given lesser penalties.
Writing about such things has made me sad and hopeless, so I will turn my thoughts to you and to little Caleb. I wish mightily that we could be together for all time, which will probably happen when the war is over. Until then, hold me in your thoughts and prayers, and I will do that same for you.
Is Clinton a help to you? I earnestly wish that he is, for you have so much to do, and you have done it too much without me there. How I wish I could be with you, not only to be close to you once again, but also to do all I could around our home.
I pray that you are well and that the planting of the garden will be successful. Clinton
Adolphus sends his best wishes, as do Hiram and Andrew.
I love you, my sweet, wonderful Laurel.
Your loving husband,
I looked over the letter and then, satisfied that it said what I wanted it to say, slid it into an envelope. Adolphus came in. “Did you just finish writing Laurel?”
“Would you take a letter I have to the headquarters tent?”
Adolphus fished out a letter from his pack and gave it to me. “This is to my father. He is seriously ill, and I have tried to write him some words of encouragement.”
“I shall pray that he improves. That is worrisome when one who is elderly has a bad illness.”
I took his letter with mine and started to go out.
“What time is the execution tomorrow?”
He drew closer to me. “I will tell you something, and you must promise on our friendship not to repeat what I have to say to anyone.”
He looked around quickly. “Tomorrow, while the execution is taking place, I plan to leave to see my father.”
“How did you obtain a pass to do that? In these circumstances, with a battle soon to begin, generally there are no passes given.”
“I have no pass.”
I caught my breath. “Then you are deserting.”
“The army makes little distinction between ‘temporary’ and ‘longer.’ Could you not see the chaplain and see if he might do something so that you do not endanger yourself to see your father?”
He looked down. “I am sorry, but I do not have time for that. I will leave while you are gone to mail the letters.”
“Adolphus, it is not worth it.”
“I recall that you left your post for your family: I am doing the same thing.”
I could think of no way to counter this, so I said, “Well, go, then, and God go with you.”
We shook hands, and he looked me in the eye. “If the worst happens, you have been one of the best friends I have ever had.”
“I feel the same way, Adolphus. I pray that I shall see you again as you are now.”
“You shall.” Having said that, he left, leaving me to wonder how this plan of his would turn out. I hope it ends up well, I thought, but I fear that it will not. So much could happen to a soldier journeying alone, and I prayed that Adolphus would be safe.