Letter from Thomas McKean, from Camp Pierpont, January 19, 1862

Camp Pierpont,
January 19th, 1862.

Dear Rachel – In your last letter, which I received night before last, you hint at the possibility of your soon wanting money. I enclose you five dollars, which will keep the wolf from the door till we are paid off, which will be next Wednesday so at least the paymaster informed the colonel. We will be about the last regiment paid off. The only consolation we have is that we will have money when the other regiments have theirs spent.

There is nothing new in camp at all. The men are doing nothing at all, except guarding the camp and keeping the fires going. They are getting fat as hogs. It will take two weeks hard drilling to fit them for active duty. The weather is very bad, it has been raining unncessanity for the last two or three days.

The roads are now impassable except where stone-piked are, and the idea of a forward movement under such circumstances is absurd. I am getting better now. The intermittent form of my disease is disappearing. My principal troubles now are an obstinate constipation of the bowels – headaches every night, and weakness of the back end legs. I cannot walk any distance without great fatigue. I could not march five miles to save the Army of the Potomac. My appetite is improving so I can eat far more than is good for me. The health of our regiment is excellent. There are not over fifteen in hospital, which in Company G. There is not one on the sick list. There are great rumors of a general advance of the Army of the Potomac to support Burnside. I have not the slightest faith in these stories, Burnside must hold his own now. If he gets behind the Rebel lines at Norfolk or any where else, he may compel the enemy to attack him or if he is too strongly posted for that, he may compel them to attack us, as a last desperate chance. The latter I think the more probable. They dare not abandon their lines, no matter what danger threatens their rear. Without making an attempt to force our lines in front of Washington. An abandonment of their lines without striking a blow would be death to their hopes. So I think in anticipation of such a desperate move on their part, most of the Army of the Potomac will be kept here, at least until Burnside and Wool unearth the Rebels from Norfolk Manassas and Centreville. Then if our western columns have done anything, the Rebellion is dead. I expect to start for home soon after pay day, but don’t build anything on it, for there’s many a slip twixt cup and life. A stringent order against granting furloughs has been issued by McClellan.

Love to all,