Letter from Thomas McKean, from Washington, D.C., May 17, 1862

May 17th, 1862.

Dear Rachel – I have concluded to write tonight instead of tomorrow. I have taken boarding permanently at the St. Charles Hotel. I have to pay five dollars a week, but I have good accommodations, and it is close to the office, which is no small matter on a hot day. I could not get decent boarding for four dollars a week without going a mile or more from the office, and the idea of walking so far at day light, after working all night, is not very comfortable – to say nothing of walking to my meals through the hot sun. The difference of a dollar a week hold not equal the difference in the comfort. This house is quiet, pleasant place to be, kept by a landlord of the old style. I like it very much. There are two or three members of Congress here, and a number of Clerks and other attaches of the Government. There are now three soldiers here who have been in Richmond as Prisoners since the Battle of Bull Run. They tell hard stories of their jailors. The city is full of “contrabands.” They come in droves. Tonight I saw a gang of about twenty women and children – “Contrabands” marching down the avenue towards the negro rendezvous. I can’t think what the government will do with them.

Col. McCalmont is in the city. I saw him today. He is going home next week. He looks very thin. I get along finely in the office. No one sets a better “Proof” than mine, and I think the foreman is very well pleased with me. I set up some remarks by Senator Sumner last night in his own manuscript; and such writing! I do not wonder that brooks battered him over the head with his cane. I expect Sumner had written a note to him, and Brooks, unable to make out the semblance of a letter, thought he was making fun of him. Such might be an explanation of the assault. I got a “take” of his speech, and set it correctly, all but one word. I know that when the foreman gave it to me, he expected me to stick on it. But I did not, and did not have to ask any one to help me make out. I have now no fears of not being able to keep my situation. Sunday – I did not finish my letter last night. Will Whistler got here today. He is going down to see the regiment tomorrow. I saw Col. McCalmont again today. He told me that Capt. Warner had been elected Lieut. Colonel of the 10th in place of Kirk, elected Colonel: Parker Smith and Peter Shipler had been elected Lieutenant in place of Rodgers and Whistler. I have no idea who they elect Captain. They have no man fit for that position. Enclosed I send you ten dollars, which you will use as necessity requires.

I very often think long to see you, though I do not get homesick. It seems to me a hard necessity that separates a man from his family in order to provide for them; But much as I think the matter over. I can see no alternative in my case. I shall stay here as long as I can get work – or at least until Congress adjourns. Then I do not know what to do. However, it is better to let tomorrow take care of its own trouble.

Give my love to all, and kisses to the dear, dear little ones. Ever yours,

P.S direct my letters Thomas McKean, Glove Office, Washington D.C.