Camp life for the average soldier was quite monotonous, full of drills, poor food, and numerous rumors, with occasional trips to the city and the odd alarm or interesting event. To pass the time many soldiers wrote home and some, such as Purdy, kept detailed journals. These men also looked forward to letters and news from home. Rumors abounded in camp and the soldiers were often extremely frustrated by their lack of knowledge of details such as when and where they were going or if their services would be required for a fight. Quite a few soldiers, such as Horace Purdy, were strongly devout and worried about meshing army life and their ability to worship on the Sabbath.
From the journal of Pvt. Horace Purdy (Infantry Co. E).
Tuesday April 23rd 1861, New Haven, Connecticut
"Pleasant. Drilled in the morning and in the PM. After tea we changed our quarters from the Hotel to the State House.”
Wednesday April 24th 1861, New Haven, Connecticut
“Judah P. Crosby + Chas. T. Stevens came on to the Green in the forenoon. They were on their way to Hartford to procure overcoats for our co. In the PM we pitched our tents on a field near the Hospital and went into camp. Rain in the eve. We continue to go to the N. Haven House for our meals.”
Thursday April 25th 1861, New Haven, Connecticut
“Pleasant. I received a letter from Gussie. I was detailed for guard duty at noon to continue to tomorrow morning.”
Friday April 26th 1861, New Haven, Connecticut
“Pleasant. I tried my revolver this morning by firing at a mark. It gave me good satisfaction. It shoots well. My feet are very sore. I retired early or rather bunked in my tent. Retiring is rather too refined an expression for camp life.”
Saturday April 27th 1861, New Haven, Connecticut
“We drilled in squads in the A.M. Capt. excused me after dinner to go to the city to get my boots mended. A. H. Byington, one of our members, mended them for me after getting permission of a shoemaker to use his seat for the purpose.”
Sunday April 28th 1861, New Haven, Connecticut.
“I attended the 1st Methodist Church. Dr. Kenedy Preacher. Text in the A. M., Heb. 10=36. In the P. M. it was Rev. 2=17. Geo. Allen and several others with myself attended prayer meeting at the same place in the eve. It has stormed all day and in the eve.
Letter from Horace Purdy to Augusta Purdy dated April 26, 1861:
Encampment near Hospital N. Haven Friday Apr. 26th 1861
I received your good letter yesterday and am glad that you are as comfortable as you are. But I fear that you worry more than you ought. Wednesday P.M. we were ordered to a field near the hospital about a mile from the Green where we pitched our tents and encamped. We shall undoubtedly remain at these quarters while we remain in N. Haven. We march to the New Haven House for our meals. But I believe that the understanding is now that tomorrow we are to have our rations brought to us at the encampment and are to do our own cooking. This will come harder to us than anything else because we are not accustomed to it, but if we are to have such fare the sooner we commence the better so as to become familiar with it. We expect to have our overcoats today from Hartford. When we shall get our other equipments I do not know, before long I hope. I should not be surprised if we staid hear nearly a week longer. The reasons for our moving from the interior of the city was to encamp to become better aquainted with camp duty and also to make room for the 2nd Reg. which is getting together.Yesterday quite a number of our members were rejected for the purpose of reducing our numbers to 64 men. The rejected ones felt bad, some actually cried.
We have just had word that Mrs. Skinner is dead. Tell Geo. as for solice I cannot promise but I will do what I can. It will be inconvenient for me to carry a great deal besides my clothing as the knapsack will probably be full and the more I carry the heavier the burden to carry on my shoulders. I stood on guard last night, two hours on and four off. The day is ---. I am now in Capt. Wildman’s tent. The officers are telling stories, all hands are in a ---. A whole Co. is detailed at a time for guard duty. Our Co. was detailed yesterday. There are ten companies which compose the Reg. and consequently we will not have to go on guard duty again for ten days if we should stay here so long. Quite a number have given it as their opinion that when we move out at all it will be to go home. But I do not desire it. I would like to go though to Washington right ---. Notwithstanding I should like to be home.
(Horace Cooper??) the one who enlisted with us has backed out and gone home today. He is a complete coward in my opinion. The general opinion of him here is that he is only half-witted. We are all glad to have him go for he could not learn anything and would never make a soldier. He knew about as much about a gun as you do, and handles it about as handy. The news has just been brought to us to march. It may be true and it may not. I stop now, I may write more and I may not.
The alarm was false. Good by keep up good courage.
VMI Cadets Lose More Than Their Shoes - Update: Robert Moore has a post up that takes issue with aspects of this little review. It’s worth reading, though I am not sure what exactly Robert takes ...
5 hours ago