Camp on James River near Harrison’s Landing
July 17th 1862
I again sit down to write you a few lines and I must confess that I have been longer in writing to you this time than ever before. The reason for not writing to you sooner is that we have been quite busy fixing up our new camp and in making things as comfortable around us as circumstances will allow for it appears to be the general opinion that we will remain her for some time.
We are now encamped on the banks of the James River — and a very pleasant place it is. It is about half a mile from Harrison’s Landing where all the provisions for the troops are landed. There are several gunboats lying near the shore among which may be seen the old Monitor, the Galena, and several others. The river is almost covered with transports and other small steamers which are continually coming in and going out and gives the place a very stirring appearance. We go down to the river and bathe every day which I think adds much to the health of the troops, for without cleanliness it is impossible to prevent disease, and I believe there are hundreds of instances where sickness is brought on because some are too lazy and indolent to keep themselves clean and will go without using water for weeks except what little they use for drinks. And I honestly believe that if someone did not take pity on them and bring it to them, there are some who would die rather than get it for themselves. I never saw as much laziness in my life as I have since I came into the army. They become idle drones who eat up all the honey but don’t do any work. If there is any work to be done, they will play up sick and thus get rid of doing their duty and swell the list of sick to thousands when in realty there are but a few hundreds. It is in this way that so many get their discharge if they can only get a United States Surgeon to report them as unfit for military duty — it is all that is necessary. They can [then] go home with an honorable discharge while others who have not their pockets as well filled with money, or perhaps have not as many influential friends, are kept lingering for months in the hospitals and finally die for want of that care which might have been bestowed on them by a loving mother or sister had they been sent home at the proper time. Thus it is that men of high position will sell their honor for a few dollars and rob the poor soldier of his honest earnings.
It is unnecessary for me to say anything about the change of position in the great Army of the Potomac for you are acquainted with all the circumstances connected with it better than I could tell you. It is sufficient for me to say that we were not in any of the engagements [of the Seven Days Battles]. We were sent back near the Chickahominy [river] shortly after the fight commenced on the right to guard some of the bridges and were moved from one place to another until we finally got here without having a sight at the rebels at all.
I must agree with you that this is indeed a singular war. There is something mysterious about it — something that has not yet been fathomed. There will be some strange revelations before this war is over which will show some of our leading men the dangerous position the government is now in and will arouse them to more activity in putting down this unnatural rebellion. I think the late change of position in this army must show them the necessity of at least having half the number of men in the battlefield that the rebels have in order to make a victory in some degree sure and save the expense of having to fight the same ground over again, for it is very evident that had McClellan had sufficient reinforcements, the late movement would have been an advance instead of a retreat and we might now have been in Richmond instead of being twenty miles from it. But we need not speak of what might have been done. The call for three hundred thousand troops must be attended to and it is certainly the duty of every lover of his country to do all in their power to induce young and able bodied men to enlist in this noble cause and help to hold up the glorious old Stars and Stripes and sustain the government. Let these young Nero’s who are fiddling and fooling away their time by attending Fourth of July celebrations and ballroom dances enlist and help to put down this rebellion and then when peace is once more restored and the old Stars and Stripes are once more in triumph over every state in the Union, let us return to our peaceful homes and have a National Celebration in which everyone can take part, and one in which the heart of the nation can rejoice.
There is one thing sure — and that is that the reinforcements must be had and certainly there is great inducements held out for men to enlist as I see that Gov. [Edwin D.] Morgan offers a bounty of fifty dollars from the State to all who will enlist besides the bounty which the government gives. And besides, it is not likely that those who enlist now will ever see a battle unless the war continues much longer than is now expected for the new troops will be left in places which are now held by the old ones and they will be sent here to reinforce McClellan while the new troops will be left at such places as Washington, Baltimore, &c. So I think now is the time to enlist. It is true, there are some things that look rather dark at present, but I believe that if the reinforcements are sent on in two months. that before the snows of another winter, the last battle will have been fought. I have yet confidence in McClellan. There may be something wrong in him, but I can’t see it.
But what is this? I see the State Militia are going to be called out. How is it with the Bovina Company? Are you ready to take to the field? Is the gallant Twenty-seventh Regiment ready for action? If not, it is high time that you were out recruiting.
But I must close as my sheet is full. Write soon and give me all the particulars about it.
— H. S. Murray