The third and final Christmas letter from David Beem. This is the first I transcribed and by far my favorite. Merry Christmas!
New Culpepper, Va.
Dec. 25th, 1863.
My dear Wife:
It is a great length of time since I wrote to you than I usually let pass without writing, but I will try to make up for it to-day.
A merry Christmas to you! What would I not give to be able to look in and see what my darling wife is doing to-day! I hope you are enjoying yourself as all persons ought on this usually happy day. How is it, my dear?
As for myself, I cannot say that there is anything more than usual to mark the day. Indeed there is nothing in camp to distinguish the day from others, unless it be the unusual flow of whiskey, which is abundant. Last night it was quite noisy, and from all present indications it will not be any more quiet to-day and to-night. At this moment I hear several expressing themselves in various parts of the camp in so decided a manner as to show that whiskey is the chief performer. Last night some of the men were disposed to celebrate Christmas Eve by shooting their guns, and the consequence was we had to place guards all about to maintain order. But this picture of Camp only applies to this particular occasion, for usually we have a very quiet time. Our Sutler agreed to bring us some good things to eat from Washington, such as poultry &c., but he did not do so, and therefore we have to do without the good dinner we expected to obtain. So you see I am enjoying Christmas in a very quiet way, and if I do not have what some call a "big time" I at least am having a pleasant time, and unlike some of them, I do not expect to have the head ache when I get up in the morning.
I have no doubt you are eating a good turkey dinner about this time. At least I hope so, and may you have a good appetite to eat some of the choice dressing and bosom of the turkey. Next Christmas, my dear, I will be with you, and will you have a turkey dinner for me?
I think I remember what I did, and where I was at, this day two years ago. I was in Romney, boarding at Mrs. Bowles', and had a nice turkey, and oyster soup, for dinner. Then I wrote on that day a love letter, which I suppose contained all sorts of sweet things, for you know you and I were two then, but yet had a kind of lovin' way towards each other. One year ago I was at Falmouth, and I think I also wrote you a letter on that day; so this is the 3rd Christmas letter to my absent darling since this "cruel war" commenced, and my love, I sincerely hope that it will prove to be the last one.
I yesterday had an invitation to take dinner to-day with Col. Taylor of the 20th Indiana. Col. Taylor and myself were formerly very well acquainted, and I regretted that I could not accept the invitation. The camp of the 20th Indiana is about five miles from here, and Col. Cavins and myself intend to visit them in a few days. Being now in winter quarters, and permanently situated, we are enabled to enjoy something like a social system; at least Officers in different Corps in the Army can visit each other, which at other times they cannot well do.
There has been quite an agitation among the enlisted men in our Regt. for a few days on the subject of reenlisting. Some seventy five have already gone in, and perhaps a number of others will yet go in. None of Co. "H" have reenlisted, nor do I think any will. They all know that I do not propose to stay in the service, but whether my example has influence on them or not is more than I can tell. I am neither trying to persuade them to go in, nor saying anything to keep them from it, but leave them to decide for themselves. I think those who reenlist for another three years are entitled to great praise, but I do not blame those who do not do so, since they have certainly done their duty already; at least, until those who have not yet been out shall have served a term.
We are having some very cold weather here, but it is dry, and we get a long very comfortably. We have plenty of wood, and keep rousing fires. The boys, however, have just put on a knotty back-log which causes it to smoke, and I am consequently provoked somewhat, but will try to get over it.
My dear, I have since I last wrote, received two letters from you, one dated the 5th, and I presume the other was written a few days later, it had no date on it.
You say in one of your letters that Mollie contemplates visiting her husband sometime this winter. Well, I am glad he is situated so she can do so, and I hope if she goes her trip will be pleasant, and her visit a happy one. I would be very glad if we were situated so that I could have you with me, but that is out of the question here, as we are in a part of the country where accomodations for ladies are not to be found. You say that if I cannot go home to stay you wish me to go and stay a while this winter any way. Well, my dear, do you want to see me right bad? I am sure I want to see you the baddest in the world, but I can't go without a leave of absense; and this makes it a question which only the future can decide. There is one way, however, by which I could get to go home for thirty days - by getting the company to reenlist and promissing to serve three more years myself. Do you advise me to do this?
I presume this is almost long enough to write when I have nothing to say, and therefore I will close. I do so my darling love as I commenced, by wishing you a merry Christmas, and may your slumbers to-night be sweet and sound. I also wish you all a merry Christmas, and a good time.
Goodbye, sweet wife, with my love and a kiss.
Your loving husband
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
- T.S. Eliot
Welcome to Ten Roads! This blog is intended to be a place for me to share my (generally Civil War-related) thoughts and experiences. I try to update once a week at the very least. All comments and readers are greatly appreciated!