Here is yet another letter written by Henry Augustine Trowbridge to his nephew, William Earl Woodruff. His comment about the flock of birds (placed in bold font by me) is particularly poignant. Note: the abbreviation “inst.” is short for instante mense (Latin for “this month”).
Camp of the 14th Regiment NJ
Near Culpeper, Viriginia
Monday morning, Feb. 1st 1864
My Dear Willey,
I received your Welcom letter of the 24th inst. last evening. also one from Emma [William’s sister Emma Woodruff] at the same time. And was very pleased to hear from you once more. It found me alive well and a kicking as usual, which I hope this may find you and Matte [William’s brother, Matthias Woodruff]. I write to Emma last evening and till the candle burnt out and then I had to stop writing and turn in for the night. Yesterday and last night it rained near all the time, and the mud is getting as bad as ever. tomorrow morning we got to go out 7 miles on picket to stay out 9 days. it is so muddy I think we will have an interesting time getting out there. marching out and back is worse than to do the duty when we are out there is some talk about camp that the 3rd Division of the [????] will be sent to Tennisee. but we cannot believe anything we hear now days. last week there was two regiments of lee’s army tryed to desert. they started off but before they could get to the Rapidan they were over taken by some artillery and cavalry and after fighting some time, they were compelled to go back to there camps. if they act so now, what will they do when the spring campaign begins. then they can desert without much danger. I only wish evry one of them would come over the more the better for us. we expected to get paid off the 1st of January but we did not. so now we will not get it until the 1st of March. Then we will have 4 months pay. Willey, I wish you to ask your father [Francis Woodruff] how much money I have all togeather. and let me know in your next letter. I asked Emma to let me know, but I suppose she has forgotten it. I will send you my picture as soon as I can get it taken. but the muskrat hides I cannot send for I do not have any chance to ketch them. I am sorrow you cannot give me some excuse to get home. for this winter may be my last chance. if I do not get home this winter, I may never get home. It is all chance. it is the same as if you shoot into a flock of birds and those you hapen to hit must fall and the rest go on untill the next time and leave you behind. they may bury you and they may not just as it happens and how much time they have to do it. but there is no use in talking we may as well laugh as to cry and base it as we have done so far. I suppose you will see Sargent Wardell around town. he is to stay 40 days to [???] when he comes on. I wish you would send some fine cut chewing by him. you must not be afraid to speake to him if he is ordaly sargant. our old ordaly George Rhodes is 1st lieutenant in a negrone company. We were all sorrow to loose him. Tell Emma she must send me Phoebe’s picture [William’s other sister]. our Capt. is home you have seen him before this time I suppose. well now I must close hopeing to hear from you again. From your loving Uncle Hen. We’ll hang Jeff if we ketch him on a tree.