September 1862 Letter by Captain Josiah C. Fuller, 32nd Massachusetts, Just After Antietam - Vivid Account of Chaplain's Service

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sold out

September 1862 Letter by Captain Josiah C. Fuller, 32nd Massachusetts, Just After Antietam - Vivid Account of Chaplain's Service

260.00

Item No. 3830246

A fascinating September 1862 letter written as the Army of the Potomac lingered in Maryland following the Battle of Antietam. It was written by Captain Josiah C. Fuller of the 32nd Massachusetts. A daguerreotypist by trade, Fuller was acquainted with many of the aristocratic families of Boston. His letter to his wife, a lengthy one at seven pages, touched on several aspects of his life in camp. He had much to say about army chaplains and religious services. “There is nothing but the same old errors which I repudiated years ago and am heartily tired of hearing uttered,” he wrote, adding, “Still I go to encourage others.” He has some cutting words for a Colonel Parker, writing, “If Col. Parker was not such a bigoted Episcopalian we should have had a liberal Chaplain long ago.” A later passage paints a very vivid picture about a later religious service:

It is very romantic and pretty to look upon a meeting of that kind…. The hearers in the immediate neighborhood of the Preacher are seated in a little more than a semmicircle (I don’t know about two m’s in that word) and extend according to the number, and then outside and surrounding the whole is a circle of men standing. Most all are bareheaded and the sea of faces upturned to the minister with the light reflected from them, and then added to that, the thousand camp fires blazing around the prayer or song, mingled with the sound of Drum & fife as the music is obliged to play at different hours. All makes a scene to admire and to remember

Other topics in Fuller’s letter include the lack of food, lack of regular mail, the construction of a well and bathhouse, and his admiration for General Charles Griffin, the division commander. The remaining passages of the letter have to do with Fuller’s concerns over his photographic business, discussing an apparent feud with his brother over some money owed for furniture and equipment for the studio.

The letter reads, in part:

Camp near Sharpsburg Md. Sept. 28th 1862

My Dear Wife, We are still at this place, and may stay weeks, may move in a few hours. It is a most beautiful day. Calm and quiet as though war did not desolate this fair land, for it is a beautiful country this part of Maryland. Mary-land. Very pretty name and should be a pretty country. Have just finished a letter to my Mother, and just heard of divine services to be held at Division Hd. Quarters (Genl. Morrell’s who is a very good careful man I think). This afternoon is to be services in the woods close to us. A Chaplain of the 62 Penn. Regt. is to preach. There is nothing but the same old errors which I repudiated years ago and am heartily tired of hearing uttered. Still I go to encourage others. If Col. [Francis Jewett] Parker was not such a bigoted Episcopalian we should have had a liberal Chaplain long ago, though I would hardly want a friend of mine to come as one unless he was as firm and principled as Mr. S. It is a very very easy thing for a Chaplain to grow indifferent and then wicked. I have just been out a few minutes and while I was out I heard a man praying (which belongs to Genl. Sykes’s Div.). Still a little farther away the drums were beating as some Regt. was mounting guard, or something else and around on every hand was the hum of voices, as the men were engaged in cooking or cleaning guns, &c. &c. If it is as lovely a day at home, how much, how very much I should enjoy it to be there, and believe me Nan I would rather be there if it was the gloomiest stormiest day I ever saw (as far as nature is concerned) with you all around them here lovely as the weather is. The night cap & cookies and your letter written last Sunday I received Friday night. The cap is first rate. Just what I wanted as it will cover up my ears and keep the bugs out, and my head warm too. My cap would hurt me some as the buttons on the sides pressed against my head lying on my side. Many thanks to Mother for thinking of me and making it. I will pay her for it when I get home by scolding her if she gets sick by her own carelessness, or if I have an opportunity in some other way. The cookies I have not tasted yet. Am keeping them till we have only hard bread to eat. Lately we have had soft bread & flapjacks. This morning I made some gravy. We had some fresh pork fried, and the officers thought that it was better than butter. This noon we are going to have stewed beans, but I thought of you this morning & of that dark colored quivering with Indian pudding you know so well how to make. Capt. [Cephas C.] Bumpus went to Washington last night, or rather started for W. He is on business for the Regt. and may be gone 10 days. I don’t know as it is anything to desire, unless he should have to do some hard marching in the time, which I hardly think. Our men are very ragged, some of them, and all need more or less clothes & I think we shall remain here till they are fitted out. The letter written the Wednesday previous to the one I received last Friday I have not yet got, neither the papers that I should have received a week ago, but I think they will come soon….

…Lt. [Robert] Hamilton has just come back from dinner. I did not go (was waiting) and says the beans are burnt. Well, I am not much disappointed. I only wish I had cooked them myself. We have been trying to get them this 6 weeks, have had none since we left the Landing, and only get about a quart out of 2 we bought and now those are spoilt. Well I have the cookies yet. I don’t want you to neglect to write. I am surprised & saddened to hear that Frank Thomas [Private, 29th Massachusetts] is dead. Not so much so that justice is, for I thought he would not stand it. Give my sympathy to Mary Jane (Mrs. Thomas) should you meet her or send it by Charlie or anyone else. I hope John may come home. I can do nothing for [Private] Henry Raymond but think he will be discharged as he has been sent to the hospital. He was crazy by spells. I don’t know whether it was caused by his disease or is in addition to it. Perhaps tis not best to tell Salome this, only that he is sent to the Hospital and I think he will be discharged by the Doctors. Unless he should prove insane when he would be sent to the Hospital near Washington where Chas. Spear is Chaplain. Eunice has heard from the Col. before now as he is at Harpers Ferry and gets his letters regular…. I have been out and eaten a few of the beans. The vinegar took away a part of the taste. I had to finish by eating 2 cookies and gave Hamilton 2. He thought them nice. I think I would have eaten such at home…. I want to hear from the 29th [Massachusetts]. Write me what you hear and how they came out in the East battle…. Our Genl. is named [Charles] Griffin and is a pretty man and I think a very good officer. Is about J. Farris’s size and shape, dark complexion and a pretty face. Has been married since the war commenced and lives in Washington. He used to go home quite often when we were at Miner’s and Upton’s Hill…. It is now past 8 and no mail. I have heard it was up to Genl. Headquarters and if so will be along in the morning. It is too bad that they cannot do as much for the soldier as to send him his letters as soon as they come. We are deprived of many things we had a right to expect would be continued to us, and were by the “regulations” guaranteed. Well the greater the cross the brighter the crown, and when this war is over we who come out of it can look back on what we have endured and enjoy the more the comforts of loved ones and home, and the blessings of peace. While I write a meeting is going on close by my tent so that I hear every word. I went out be one of the congregation but could not stand it. The Preacher or Exhorter may be sincere about his logic, was not logic, nor his argument argument to me…. I retired. It is very romantic and pretty to look upon a meeting of that kind, and one is easily reminded of the meetings of Apostolic times, and of the sermon on the mount, &c. The hearers in the immediate neighborhood of the Preacher are seated in a little more than a semmicircle (I don’t know about two m’s in that word) and extend according to the number, and then outside and surrounding the whole is a circle of men standing. Most all are bareheaded and the sea of faces upturned to the minister with the light reflected from them, and then added to that, the thousand camp fires blazing around the prayer or song, mingled with the sound of Drum & fife as the music is obliged to play at different hours. All makes a scene to admire and to remember, & remember me to all. Kiss the dearly loved ones Josey May and not least from Yours devotedly & Truly Josiah

Tuesday noon. It is much cooler today. A good breeze makes it quite comfortable, so you see another evidence that it is not best to worry, but hope and be as happy as present circumstances and past blessings will allow. I have fretted a good deal yesterday and last night concerning the weather, but as long as we do not have to march or drill or fight, I will be very thankful and resigned. This forenoon I have helped the men build a bush house (close by the well we have dug) to use for a bath house, and after we got it done I went in and had a nice cool wash, and shifted my clothes and felt much better. Our well is about 15 feet deep. We dug down and put in a barrel and another top of that till 4 had been used, then took 2 boxes to finish with and filled all in with earth, and the water is cool (but rather muddy you would think). Tis about the color of milk & molasses. All call it excellent. Mr. Henry Raymond is in the Quarter Master’s Dept. and is first rate. He is called Uncle Henry. I expect a letter today sure. Want to write to lots of people but don’t know as I shall muster the spunk to do it. One of the lieuts. has made a raise of a lemon as is making some lemonade. I have just mixed up some cold composition and drunk it, as I am quite thirsty and do not care to use too much cold water. Write often and remember you have to write to only one and I have to write to 3 or 4. Yours very truly & devotedly Josiah. Love to all and kiss the little ones and imagine I am kissing you.

The letter is seven pages long, written on four separate sheets ranging in size from 5” x 8” to 7 3/4” x 9 3/4”. All pieces are in excellent condition except for the largest sheet, which is reinforced at the center fold with preservation tape. Very light toning. Creased where originally folded.

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