Letter from Thomas McKean, from Camp Pierpont, December 9, 1861

Camp Pierpont,
Dec 9th, 1861.

Dear Rachel – I promised you, and I promised myself that I would write to you on Sunday, but if you had seen what a glorious day yesterday was, you would not have expected me to write, or do anything else, except walk around. I sat down to write, and did write a little letter to Jimmy McKean intending to finish off with a letter to you, but when I got finished I could sit no longer and went out in tending to take a short walk. The walk was a long one, and in short – I thought it would do just as well to write you today.

When I wrote to you last I was excessively tired from a rapid march of sixteen miles, and had hard work to write even as much as I did. I slept sound that night, and got up in the morning feeling all right. The march was almost devoid of incident. We were in the rear of the advancing column and, of course, whatever there was to be seen or encountered was out of the way before we got there, Our regiment is on the ground where Col. Bayard’s 1st Pennsylvania Cavalry had a skirmish a short time ago with some rebels in ambush.

The only evidence left on the ground was Col. Bayard’s horse. The poor brute was shot through just above and in front of the Colonel’s leg. Two of the ribs were shot off, and another ball had broken his leg. The fence was broken down where the cavalry charged into the thicket whence the firing proceeded and the limbs of the cedar bushes were cut off by the balls of either party. A large brick house near the place was visited by our boys, and they made sad work of it in a very short time. I went into it and saw them smashing windows doors etc. The owner of the house was supposed to be the one who sent word to the rebels of Col Bayard’s advance and assisted them in preparing the ambush. At all events he escaped when he saw that the Cavalry had won the day, and next day, he moved all his furniture and family safely to the interior. In looking through the house I came across a half worn baby’s shoe., and if it had been Floyd’s house, or Jeff Davis I could not have been touched any in it. Our Brigadier heard the smashing, and hastily surrounding a guard, he galloped over and arrested all who were in the house. I saw him coming and knew him well enough to prefer not being in the house when he came, so I scooted out of the back door, and out into the bushes in the garden. Our Brigadier is a capital officer. At a house near where we stopped I went in to try to get something to eat. While the women of the house was making change for someone else I noticed she had some shinplasters or Southern substitutes for money. I bought one and sent it to Jimmy McKean. If you want to see it, send up to him and he will let you have it to examine.

I have not heard of any new cases of small pox or varinloid. I hope it will spread no further, for diphteria and small pox together would make dreadful work in Mercer. Whistler got a letter from home this evening, informing him that his wife had dihtehria, though only a slight attack. He is very uneasy.

I intend to apply for leave of absence next week. I want to send it in early for sometimes they take a long time to get them through, I am not confident of getting it, for a great many officers have applied lately, and have been refused. Still, I think I can make the connection. If I can’t, I will be the most disappointed man in the army. I don’t like to think of failure. We have had the most splendid weather for some days past. It is Indian Summer and the best specimen of it ever saws. It is a little later than usual for it in this latitude, and probably it ill not last long. The days are very warm, and the nights only moderately cold. We only kindle a fire in the morning and evening. Our regiment is very healthy. While some of the regiments are losing a man or two every week, we have had but three deaths in our since its organization, and one of them accidentally shot himself. So other regiments, I venture to say, was ever in service six months and could say that but two men had died of disease. We have a nice church for a hospital, and our surgeon is very attentive.

The Mercers boys are all well. George Graham is very fit. He weights, more than I do, considerably more. He has not been sick a day since he came into service. He thinks he will join the regular army when the war is over. I have nothing more to write about, and so I shall stop. Give my love to all, and kisses for the children.

Ever yours