Letter from Thomas McKean, from Camp Pierpont, November 24, 1861

Camp Pierpont,
Nov 24th 1861.

Dear Rachel,

I received a letter from you last night, a acknowledging the receipt of the money I sent by Mr. Francis. I am glad you got it safety for I hear some complains about money miscarrying. I knew it would do you more good to see some one who had seen me than to get news from me by letter. I presume Mr. Francis did not exaggerate a bit in reference to my appearance.

It is a fact that I never felt so entirely satisfied and happy as I have ever since I came into service. Of course no one can be perfectly happy in this world. There is always some drawback. In my case, the one obstacle to perfect enjoyment is home, and the dear ones there, Were I within reach of you all, so that I could see you occasionally, I think my satisfaction would be unlimited. However, I can hear from you often, know that you are getting along comfortable, and perhaps the pain of separation is the foil necessary to set off my enjoyment – the contrast, by which I realize how much I enjoy.

However, it may be, I am, more than satisfied with my mode of life, and only regret that you cannot bring yourself to feel how fortunate it is that I am here, and in so good a place. My pay is amply sufficient for all our wants, and my duties are not arduous. At home and carrying on the printing business, I would be wearing out my life for a scanty subsistence, without any comfortable feeling. Altgoether. Rachel, I think we both can find reason to be thankful that I got his place, even though it separates us for a time.

The great review passed off Thursday according to orders, and why it came off, is a question largely discussed among men and officers. Our regiment together with the 12 th , part of our Brigade, moved out to our line of pickets, and remained there nearly all day. The idea was that if the enemy, knowing most of our division was away at review, attempted to attack our camp, we could keep him at bay for a time, until other troops could come to our assistance. However no one ever showed and we returned in the evening.

Our new Brigadier General is with us now, and from what little we have seen of him, we have formed a good opinion of him. He is sharp and I think, a strict disciplinarian. The first day he was with us, he noticed a man in the 12 th regiment line, one who had his hat turned wrong side front. He rode straight to him and ordered him to change it. We need such a man in our Brigade very much.

Rumor is busy again in fixing at a time for our moving forward. This week is now the time for our division to move according to reports. I think it very likely that we will move before many days, probably to Vienna or Leesburg, or to guard the Railroad between those two points. The enemy is not to be found in force this side of Centreville, and it is important that we occupy the country between this place and that, including the Loudon and Hampshire Railroad, which would connect us directly with Alexandria, and give us a means of transportation when the roads back up. Vienna is only six or seven miles from our present position, and is said to be a more pleasant position and is said to be a more pleasant locality than this.

I have very little faith in the great battle the telegraph and Washington correspondents talk so much about. I see no necessity for any such battle, unless the rebels attack us, which I am pretty sure they will not. McClellan can occupy the country between the Potomac and Centreville without a battle, and he can take Manassas by regular approaches as Sebastopol was taken. The whole fortune of war might be there determined, as it was in the Crimea.

It would be an artillery fight almost entirely, with little loss of life on either side. We can concentrate troops enough before Centreville to overawe resistance there, and then spend the winter reducing Manassas. Such appears to me, as probable a programme as any I have seen. McClellan will not fight a great battle if he can help it, that may depended upon.

We are getting along very comfortable in our tents. We have a great furnace of a fireplace, and twice this forenoon we have had to open the canvass to cool off. Yesterday we had few spits of snow. The first of the season. This morning it was very cold, but this afternoon it has cleared off, and is quite comfortable. I hope we will reach our permanent winter quarters, before the December rains come on, so that we may be prepared to meet he blast.

I got Ellie’s note. I will write to her soon. Capt. Warner says he will write to her one of these days. No mail has been taken from our camp for two days past, for the reason that the mail boy has no horse, and he cannot carry it on foot. They bought him a horse on Saturday, so I suppose we will have regular communication again.

Tom Rodgers promises to go and see you, as soon after he got home as he could. I suppose he has told you all about our way of living etc. Between his account and Francis’ you will get a pretty good idea of how we are and do. The boxes sent from Mercer are at the express office in Georgetown and we expect them up tomorrow. You never told me what I had in them. If you have marked them plainly it will all right, if not, I can’t get them not knowing what is mine. A keg of apple butter came on the other day in good order, and all hands are luxuriating upon it. My love to all, kisses to the little ones.

Ever yours,