Letter from Thomas McKean, from Camp Pierpont, December 14, 1861

Camp Pierpont,
Dec, 14th, 1861.

Dear Rachel – I take my chance to write to you tonight, for fear tomorrow might be too pleasant for me to stay in the house, thus cheat you our of a letter, as last Sunday. The Weather still continues fine, but nobody expects it to last long. There is still no word of our moving, and no order yet issued for us to go into winter quarters. I do not know as much as General McClellan. But I think he ought to know by this time we were building our barracks. The 12 th Regiment, beside us, and part of our brigade are busily engaged in building log shanties in which they can winter comfortably.

Capt. Warner and I have been busy today getting our winter establishment put up, we got log split, and are building a mansion eight feet by twelve, with the split side of the logs inside. We intend to build it up about five feet high with logs and put on a regular clapboard roof. We will have a fire place in one side of our palace large enough to cook in, for when winter comes on in earnest we cannot cook our of doors. We will have a board or funcheon floor, but we shall probably neither have carpet on the floor, or paper on the walls.

Such luxuries are not fit for soldiers. We have not decided yet whether we use it for private dwelling, or open a hotel in it. If we could get license to sell liquors, we could do a good business in the hotel line. Capt. Warner has some conscientious scruples about the liquor business, however, and as we would not have room enough to entertain men and beasts, most probably we shall live in it ourselves. We can bid defiance to the storm when we get into it, and I think we can enjoy ourselves as well as anybody in camp. Col. McCalmout talks of resigning on account of his health. I hope he won’t for if he resigns the regiment will deteriorate our other field officers do not amount to much as commanders. They do well enough as subordinates, but lack the ability to command.

I am satisfied that as soon as congress can reach the matter, the regimental bands will be abolished. Whether each brigade will be entitled to one or not, I cannot tell if so, they will probably elect members from the best of the regimental bands. I will not go into one unless I can get at least fifty dollars a month.

There is nothing at all new in camp. We have the same routine of duties day after day, and week after week, and an alarm, or an order to prepare for a march is hailed with delight. Even picket duty, though really hard and disagreeable, breaks in upon the monotony of every day life, and is performed with alacrity.

I know nothing yet in regard to my chance of getting a furlough. There have been none at all granted for some time. Just except to the sick. However this was while it was expected that a forward movement would be made. I think that idea has been given up, and I cannot see why, even under such circumstances they would oppose a musicians going home. It does no good, however to speculate upon the matter. If a furlough can be had, I will have one. If not, we must bear the disappointment as best we can. I have nothing more to write tonight. I will not close my letter till tomorrow for no mail will go out before Monday morning.

Sunday evening. We have had another beautiful day and from all appearances, may have many more. I never expected to be far enough south to be clear of snow till the middle of December. I went over to see Mr. Monasmith today. He is well he had heard of Lizzie Pearson’s death. He was very much shocked. Tom Rodgers has not got here yet. I except he will be here tomorrow. He has most likely stopped in the city to see Congress in session.

The New York Tribune of last week expresses the belief that the rebel army in the valley of the Potomac out numbers ours. If this is the case, we will not make any advance this winter. They will not dare attack us in face of our entrenchments, and there will be no campaign this build. Once in Winter Quarters, I think there will be no trouble in getting a furlough. A couple of New Castle ladies visited our camp this evening – one Miss Kate Peeplen and a Miss Sankey. I had the novel pleasure of escorting them through the camp and showing them the sites. In reward, I had the more movel pleasure of shaking hands with them on leaving. You need not be jealous for a lady is a sure luxury here. My love to all, and kissed to the children.

Ever Yours,