Letter from Thomas McKean, from Washington, D.C., April 29, 1862

April 29th, 1862.

Dear Rachel – I rec’d yours of the 25th this morning. You may be sure I was glad to hear from you. It seemed an age since I had heard from you. I am no further on in business matters than when I wrote you last. I have not been able to see Mr. Bingham yet. He is on the judiciary committee, which has something important on hand, and he is very busily engaged. He will be at leisure soon, and then I will enlist him in my behalf. I have no fears as to the result. The difference between 14 dollars a week, certain, and no night work, and from 12 to 20 dollars a week all night work, is sufficient to make me willing to wait a week, or two, if necessary. I will not go back to the army, you may depend upon that. I could not stand a week’s active service.

I was sorry to hear of Willie being unwell. I hope he has recovered. I have not had a headache since I left home, or at least since I got here. You speak of bad weather at Mercer. The weather here is very little better. For about four days it rains, and then comes one day of sunshine, making everything look inviting out of doors. Today it is raining and I am keeping indoors. On Saturday I went down to Mount Vernon, the home of Washington. I spent a short time there, and saw all that was to be seen. I got some mementoes of the place – among others two or three pebbles from inside the tomb of George and Martha Washington – A cane which I cut myself from among the prunings of the garden shrubbery, and an old fashioned hand cut nail, which I pulled it out without any one observing me. The place has been put in repair since it passed into the hands of the association.

Washington city is yet a lively place, though not half as much thronged as it was previous to the advance of the Army. There are still many soldiers on the streets, but not half so many as last winter. The Penna Reserve is still on this side of the Rappahannock, though I do not know precisely where – Perhaps at Warrentown Juction. I have not heard particularly from our regiment since last Sunday week.

I heard indirectly that Tom Rodgers was on duty. Whistler is still here, improving. But not yet fit for duty. He and I manage to put in the time very pleasantly, except on rainy days, when time hangs heavily on our hands. I sent you a little money by express. I hope you have received it. You need not pay Porter and McKean till I send you more.

Tell father I spent a day in the patent office and examined particularly the tool department, but find nothing resembling his center bit. I can’t help thinking that it might pay to take out as patent for it.

I would like t tell you of all the things I saw in the patent office and in the Smithsonian Institute, but it would take a long time and much space. Someday, when I get home I can talk of the sights I have seen in this great place.

I can think of nothing more to write, so I will close, hoping the children are well again. Give my love to all, and kiss the dear little ones for me.

Ever Yours,