Letter from Thomas McKean, from Camp Pierpont, November 18, 1861

Camp Pierpont,
Nov 18th, 1861.

Dear Wife – I did not write on Sunday because Tom Rogers started for home on Saturday, and he promised to go and see you, and tell you how I was. etc. He should have reached home on Monday, and I have no doubt his verbal account of matters and things here was of more interest to you than a letter. There is nothing new here. Indications are strong that we will remain here a long time. They are putting up long ranges of ovens around here, as though they were going to bake bread for the whole Penna Reserve. This is the first positive indication I have seen of a permanent camp. I hope they do not mean to keep us in our cotton tents. I do not fear for myself, for our tent is large and has a double roof.

Besides that we have a good fire, and plenty of bed clothes. I have been told that they are building large numbers of wooden tents in Baltimore, for the use of the army in winter. If they give us such tents we can manage very well, except that the mud will be terrible. They do have much snow here, in winter, but tremendous rains. The soil is of such a nature that soon after the wet season commences disagreeable. However, there is no need for borrowing trouble. I can stand it, I know, as long as most of the army can.

The rebels are growing bolder in this neighborhood. Day before yesterday, a detachment of a News York regiment, with some weapons, went out a couple of miles beyond our picket lines to gather in a field of corn. On reaching the field they stacked their arms and fell to husking the corn. While at work a body of rebel cavalry got between them and their stacked arms, and captured the whole squad-forty in number.

Last night they came up to our line of pickets and got the countersign. I have not heard that they got a chance to use it, though I think our countersign was changed immediately. This new born audacity of the rebels is not without purpose, which I would interpret to mean that they are sending a larger portion of their Manassas and Richmond divsions to the South to protect their coasts. This sudden boldness is intended to cover this weakening of their Virginia army. I believe that McClellan might, tomorrow, march to Centreville without operation. Perhaps he will soon.

I am not at all anxious for a movement, but if one is to be made, it should be made before the roads break up. If the war is to be carried on by sea, I would expect the Reserve to be called on, in its turn. The sole objection I would have to an expedition of this sort would be the distance it could send us from home. However, I expect Congress will abolish all the Regimental Bands as soon as possible after it meets, and then I will leave the service. If they have any idea of sending us South they will soon let us know it.

My own belief is that we will be among the last troops moved, for we form a sort of left wing to Banks’ Division, and can only move us as he moves. We cannot move until he moves, and he could not move if we were withdrawn. I got a letter from David Milliron this evening. He is very much in want of money. I will send him a little tomorrow. I cannot spare much but he is going South. They are entirely my own imaginings, and are worth no more than any body else’s guess.

I have nothing more to write. A great many fourloughs are being applied for now. Some are granted, and a great many refuses. Col. McCalmout is absent on twenty days’ leave, When he comes back, I suppose he will resume immediately command of the regiment, a Brigadier General having been appointed for our Brigade. His name is Maro. I do not know who he is, or where he is now. It would be a good thing for the regiment that Col. McCalmout is coming back to it. I still think I can easily get a furlough when I want it, for I am not so important to the army as a fighting man. Give my love to all, and kiss the dear little ones for me.

Ever yours