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!

Monday, December 24, 2007

David Beem letter: December 25th, 1862

The second of the Beem Christmas letters. I'm unsure if it is complete, since it does not have any signature and ends rather abruptly.

Falmouth, Va.
Christmas, 1862

My dear Wife,

It is with pleasure that I again find myself seated to write you a letter.

You will see from the date of this that it is Christmas. At home, it means something; but in the army it means nothing. At home, we might have our nice turkey dinner, and a jolly time; but in the war there is no turkey for dinner, and as for a jolly time, if we have one at all, it is of that kind that I do not much enjoy. Last night a number of men in camp were a little too sociable on account of having an abundance of whiskey in camp. I hope that the friends at home are to-day having a nice time enjoying Christmas. Last Christmas I fully expected I would be at home to spend this one, but providence has kept me in the army. I would like to spend the day with you. How did it pass off? Did any of the folks have turkey and nice "goodies" for dinner? I will tell you about our dinner, and you must tell me about yours. Well, we had potatoes, pork, dried apples stewed, fried onions, beef, crackers and coffee. Now, I expect you will think that was a great Christmas dinner but I can assure you that it is better than we get for common. I tried to get a ham, but failed; and sent into the country for a chicken, but the breed seems to have become extinct in this region. So we had to confine our Christmas luxuries to the articles I have named.

Last night the Surgeon of our Regt. invited me to call in at his tent. I did so, and found five or six already there, among them two colonels, two majors besides a Surgeon or two. During the evening, a pitcher of egg-nog disappeared; how, I will leave to your imagination to guess. I must acknowledge, however, that a couple of the aforesaid gentlemen had previously imbibed a little too freely, and were therefore somewhat more boisterous than dignity would allow. As to myself, I was snugly in bed by 9 o'clock, but had scarcely got to sleep until some drunken rascals fired off their guns in camp and awakened me. Of course, they were arrested.

The day has been decidedly a dull one. To me, it appeared more like Sunday than any day for a long time. Nothing has been done, and everything except whiskey drinkers remarkably quiet. They have been exuberant all day. In fact the army of the Potomac has been on a general Christmas drunk. One or two of Co. "H" have been a little "tight," with which exception has maintained respectable sobriety. Boys whom I am well convinced would have been drunk as Bacchus were they at home, have here been duly sober.

This is the kind of Christmas we have had here in the army. I quit writing just here this morning and take it up to-night. Christmas night! a time for enjoyment and pleasure; a time for good old fashioned rejoicings. How much of this do you suppose falls to our lot? I don't think we have more than our share of it; we have none of the big fires of the old fireside to sit by, none of the big turkeys to eat and what is worse than all, none of the big girls to squeeze. Our chief source of enjoyment is in anticipation. What nice Christmas we will have, and how we'll enjoy them. Then, the big fires will crackle, the turkeys will be devoured, and the girls take care of their
[illegible, looks like ribs]. But we make the best we can of our situation, and although deprived of the pleasures and enjoyment of home, we are by no means a downcast and gloomy set, for many an anecdote and many a joke pass the rounds.

I expected to attend church to-night, but for some reason or another there is none. Bro. Sabin told me there would be, but he was mistaken. There was preaching in one of the adjoining Regts. to-day but I did not attend. So you see there is still a spark of the religious element left in the army. While on this subject, I must tell you that Billy Rice lost his Bible in our Battle of Fredericksburg on the 13th. I believe it is one that was presented to him, and he regrets it very much. Billy is a good soldier, and I think a genuine Christian.

While I am writing I hear a band discoursing sweet music; they are playing "The Star Spangled Banner," "The Red, White, and Blue," "Yankee Doodle," and other lively and entertaining airs. All of which tend to remind me that it is Christmas night, and that I am not at home.

But still, I hope to hear that those who are at home are enjoying the occasion hugely, especially you.

I have been building me a snug little cabin, consisting of four rounds of logs, a fire place and a chimney, and covered with my tent, making it a very good comfortable abiding place. I have a snug little bed made in the back part, about two feet high, on which Dan and myself sleep. Jack sleeps with Adjutant, and has a good situation. You ought to see our domestic arrangements. Our parlor, sitting room, bed room and kitchen combined in fine order. All of which is good enough for soldiers. Next Christmas may find us in the Army; but if I am fortunate enough to be out, I hope to have a good, jolly time to make up for this.

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