Although it is dated 1862, the content of this letter makes clear that Duncan McBain wrote it in January 1863. Like many of us, it probably took him the better part of a month to get used to writing the new year’s date.
McBain writes from Fredericksburg, Virginia where the 8th Michigan had camped for much of the winter. He describes the circumstances of the camp and notes that four of the original enlistees in Company F are still together. He reports that the unit will soon be on the march. He doesn’t know their destination but hopes it will be a forward movement to confront the enemy.
He indicates that the longer the war goes on, the harder the soldier’s life is. Like Cock, McBain had enlisted in September of 1861 and now, a year later, the war has proven to be longer than he had anticipated. Nevertheless, he says, he intends to tough it out.
McBain closes by telling Charles that he is glad that he made it home and is recovering from his wounds as well as he has. McBain would survive the war although he was wounded at the Battle of Petersburg, Virginia in June 1864. His wounds were serious enough that in the spring of 1865, he was still recovering at Harper Hospital in Detroit. He was discharged with the rest of the 8th Michigan later that summer.
Fredricksburg Jan 21st, 1862
Last Night I receive your letter & Was Glad to here once more from you tho I did not think last night that I now have the privelage of writing to you this morning we ar under marching orders sence night before last & on acount of bad weather I suppose we haven’t left yet hoockers* corps left day before yesterday it rains all the time Night an day the troops that is on the road must have a sweet time & I recon it ent very plesant here Night Before las ar waters fairly overflowed But I tuck the quickest way to get out of my nest I swam out and for mud I think it will pass I don her much Grumblin among the boys We ar all well what there is here of are Boys 4 in number John Dowd Henry Grebel C. H. Swartout Algerran I said we were all well yes & eat up our rations clean & lick the trof But we have plenty — where we ar going I do not no All I know is that they say it is a forward movement and that is what we wan every thing has ben quiet here sence the fight it is said that that the Rebs have lef here that is a good share But they still fortify here. the last day I was on Pickit they wer to work trench in they had lots of darkeys to work they Got the citty bunkered and rifle Pits all over But I am thinking their work will Be in vain they ma get pecked in the rear this time auld Burny** is looking all a round every day he has a larg idea in his head I think well I hope he will see the point he will sink or swim this time I hope he will Be successful their is Good nuse from the Sout But vicks Burg ent ours our men had to fall Back we tuck part a verry strong fort and six regt of prisoners Their has Ben some hard fighting on Booth sides heavy loss on Booth Sides a General lee lef here with 5,000 to rein force the rabels south we get all the nuse here from richmond the Reb Pickets give us papers every day
after dinner know I will finish my letter Charley every time I think of you I am Glad that you Got home and ar as well as you ar Charley the longer this Soljerig[soldiering] lasts the tuffer it gets we thought Portroyal was hard But nothing to this auld Virginia My Patronism is most Played out But I shal hang an tuffer out if I did die trying the weather has ben verray could til thus rain come an verrey good winter weather their is Nothing much to wrrite about here the helth of the armey has Ben verry poor they die out of the 20 much fast sense we Ben in this Camp they Bured 20 we 4 the went fast from all retments the New Regt suffered worse I presume Charley if alive in my next letter I can give you some nuse so you must excuse me for my that letter and uncovenience of writing Be sure and write often all the Boys joins in sending their love to you and all the friends from youre friend & Well wish
To C F Cock
* probably refers to General Hooker’s Corp
** probably refers to General Burnside