January 20, 1864 I am getting better.

Stephenesburg.  Jan 20th 1864

Dear Mother.

I received a letter day before yesterday from you telling about that box I went to brandy Station & found that the things were to be sent as soon as they arrived to Stephenesburg & from there distributed to the Companies.  I am getting better.  I have had a funny time cutting teath.  Wisdom teath guess but dont feel much wiser after it.  I caught cold in my face riding in the wind and my chopps swealed up and I had one hard time for a day or two.  I shall go on picket again in the morning.  There are a great many deserters comeing in to our lines evry day.  but one poor fellow faired rather hard the other night.  He attempted to cross the river about midnight & the Rebs found it out & followed with a file of men to the river when he had got about half across they fired on him but he succeeded in getting across but lived only two hours for he was shot in nine places.  last night my bunk mate had the honor of bringing a deserter into the lines.  we have poor weather here most of the time.  rain evry other day & an occational frieze & thaw.  What is the weather with you I would like to have my horse there & take you all out for a sleigh ride.  Do you hear from Darwin & family often if so write & tell me how they get along.  I wonder if D will make much or not.  when you write to him next tell him that if he will get a commission in a negro Reg he will find that it will pay better.  These negrow Regs may be all right but they must not put any of them in connection with the army of the Potomac.  Do you think I would fight by the side of a negrow.  No.  we use them here to wait on Officers & take care of horses & be assured we can find enough for them to do without putting arms into their hands for them to throw away the moment that they see the enemy.  If you only knew the dread that they all have of the Rebs you would abolish all idear of ever attempting to make soldiers of them.  this is the popular feeling as far as I am acquainted & other say it is so with all our army.  We as yet do not think it time to call on the servants to fight.  we are yet strong & able to do the work & we wish to do it & have all the praise.  What will be the impression on forign nations.  it will be that the Americans are not able to fight their own battles but mus need call upon the slaves.  but I must close please write your mind on the subject & so good by.

from your Aff Son

Spencer

Curator’s Commentary:
Perhaps the most dramatic and disturbing section of this letter comes near the end. After suggesting that a family friend, Darwin, might get a higher rank if he enlists with an African American unit, McOmber goes on a diatribe about the unreliability of African American soldiers. Reflecting the racism that was common in the Union Army, he suggests that these soldiers are best suited for menial tasks.

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