Illinoisan John McBride, soldier in Company D, Fifty-First Illinois, is stationed near Corinth, Mississippi, now occupied by Union forces. Today McBride writes a letter to his mother, vividly describing life in the army and making passing reference to the regimental chaplain, Baptist minister Lewis Raymond of Chicago. Raymond tendered his ministerial services near the beginning of the war, and serves with distinction as the Company fights many battles in the Eastern theater. At times during the war Raymond is assigned hospital duty. During these periods of absence from the 51st, he is missed by the soldiers.
With humor and interest in things southern, soldier McBride today writes:
Saturday [June 13] 1862
I will call it Camp Dirty
in the woods south of Corinth
I received yours and Marcia’s of the 29th of May and 1st of June some time ago, but this is the first opportunity of answering them that I have had as we have been marching from 6 in the morning till 12 at night for nearly a week back and forward until at last we have settled down to camp for 3 weeks or 2 months. I have been sick for a day or two past with the camp complaint & a bad cold but not under the Dr’s care. I feel a little better today. We have been having fresh beef without any salt to cook it with. We are so far away from civilization that we can’t get our commissary stores regularly, so we have to take it once in a while pretty hard, but that is necessary for a soldier. We have just heard the good news that Memphis and Fort Pillow are ours through the C[hicago] T[ribune] of the 10th.
Uncle is a little unwell. I made him some cayenne pepper tea this morning which done him good.
Now I have written you all the news I Know & I am going to answer your letter just as funny as you wrote it. We have had no fighting at Corinth because the secesh had found out that there were 51 Chapters in the third epistle of the Corinthians. You need not – I would – delay writing because I am unwell for I will write all the sooner. I don’t think you have received all of my letters, for I have answered all of yours. You write to uncle as though I had forgotten home, and I think I have written 2 to his 1. I am glad to see that Mr. S [or L] is getting along so well. I have been looking for Charley some time but cannot find him.
Our reg have the Harpers Ferry rifled musket. We have a good quartermaster. The Chap is the Baptist Elder of Chicago. You asked me what kind of uniforms we had. I have a secesh coat, pants & knapsack that I captured after we were in the secesh about 10 miles. We have blue pants & jackets. I found a pair of pants that fitted me all except around the body and legs and they fit there better than anywhere else. I got a good dress coat like the regt had at first and when the rest lost theirs Gov Yates sent us some jackets, so I have them both. Our knapsacks & blankets are carried on a wagon this hot weather. Now you see I have not got vexed at being called a small soldier. I hope if you hear any report of me it will be a good one, whether alive or dead. God speed the right. The papers come regularly every day. We pay 10 & 15 cts a piece. We get them 3 or 4 days sooner than you could send them. I have my rubber blanket yet. I have been offered $4 for it. It is an excellent thing. I have cayenne pepper enough yet. Now I believe I have answered all your questions. Please send me some more stamps. We have to pay sometimes a dime a piece although I don’t buy nor sell. Uncle received a nice package of maple sugar, prunes, tea & 2 nice pencils with rubber heads last Wednesday. Where did they get the seed wheat? We have plenty of sugar in the army minus the strawberrys and cream.
The black berrys are getting ripe & the apples make good sauce. The peaches are coming on pretty fast. We will have fine times. Take it all around I like the service better than I expected to, but I must tell them all to come see for themselves. Then they will know how they like it. When we are in camp, we draw for rations beef, bacon, rice, flour, coffee, sugar, molaasses, salt, vinegar, & crackers. We have not had any potatoes lately for new ones are not far enough along and old ones are all gone.
We have a chance of being discharged in three years if not in five. You probably won’t see me very soon. Good bye.
Tell all the rest to excuse me from writing for the present please. Send me one of Clara’s curls next time. A kiss to Clara and Fredie. Lots of love to all
Yours truly Your affectionate son John L. McBride.
Tell Pa not to let anybody have that extra dog unless it is Jacob Frane. If he will take one, let him have it. But not to you know who I mean.
Sources: “Lewis Raymond, Regimental Chaplain” (link); John McBride’s letter, June 13, 1862 (link)