Camp Massachusetts, Va.
June 9th 1861
I thought I would seat myself this pleasant Sabbath day, beneath the wide spreading boughs of a large maple tree which grows near our camp to answer your kind letter which I received about one week ago. I am well and hope this brief epistle will find you enjoying the same great blessing. The soldiers in our regiment are as a general thing in good health and spirits, and what should prevent them from being in good spirits when they know that they have justice on their side. We have plenty of work to do. Our regiment with three others are at work on what is called shooter’s hill throwing up entrenchments. It is a very strong place and no enemy can take it after it is finished. It has command of the river for two or three miles and the country for a greater distance.
Two weeks ago today we pitched our tents for the first time on Virginia soil. It was about one mile from here. And last Sunday we moved on to the ground which we now occupy. It is about one mile west from Alexandria and seven or eight from Washington.
I was down to Alexandria yesterday on picket guard. It was the first time that I ever was over the city and I found it a much pleasanter place than I expected to see. I paid the Marshall House a visit which is the house where Col. Ellsworth was killed. I tell you, it is a hard looking place. The doors of a great many of the rooms are torn off the hinges and the stairs where he was shot are all tore to pieces.
From there I went to the Alexandria Depot and there was another hard looking place. The depot ticket office and cars had been broken open and books, checks, tickets, and papers was strewn all over the buildings. Whatever hte soldiers was a mind to carry off, they took.
Susan, in war there is no Sunday. The reason that I am not at work on the trenches today is because I was on guard last night and so I have no work or duty to do today. Our chaplain has services on the campground in front of the tents and after services are over, the boys go up to the trenches and go to work. But you can bet your life that they don’t hurt themselves with work. We work three hours per day and not very hard at that. How long we shall stop here, I don’t know. Some think we shall not stop here long. In fact, the report round camp is that the Michigan troops have got marching orders but I don’t believe a word of it. When they go, we shall in all probability go too and if we go, it will be to what is called Manassas Gap, I think, where there is a large force of hte rebs encamped.
Susan, we need to be thankful that the war is no nearer us than it is for wherever war is, there ____ and misery. The people of Alexandria today is out of work and out of money with little or no food and….a great many places will. You must excuse me for writing on so small a sheet of paper for it is some of the spoil of the war. It came out of the Alexandria deport and I will send you some tickets for perhaps you may want to travel South sometime or other. The chaplain gave me the envelope and a book called Sunday at Home. He said that I could have one by reading the other.
The Union people round here appear to be a very good sort of people—that is, I should think so by what little I have seen of them, I have not see much of them to be sure for I have not been outside our encampment for two weeks before yesterday when I went on guard to Alexandria and when I was on duty. I got acquainted with some of them and one man let me have papers and another one this morning just before I came back gave me an invitation to have a good cup of tea and something to eat and I made quite a breakfast, He did not charge me one cent and we should get treated better than we do. I think if it was not for some mean fellows who neither respect age nor sect but are always ready to insult anyone and if they can find a rum shop, they will get half tight and then they are worse than ever. The officers do not allow it but they don’t very often find it out for the people don’t like to complain.
Give my best respects to Bart and Margaret and to Charles Lord and his folks and all enquiring friends. Tell them one and all that I should like to see them and shall pay them a visit after I get back. I must close now and you must excuse me for writing on so small a sheet of paper for it was the best that I could do. Please to direct your letters the same as you have no matter where we go. Direct my letters [to] Washington D. C., Co. E, 5th Reg. M. V. M. In care of Capt. Hutchins, and they will follow me.
— S. M. Bragdon