Saturday, January 12, 2013

January 7, 1863: James Prall & the 31st NJ Regt.

On January 7, 1863, 2nd Lieutenant James Prall, of Company I (Belvidere Infantry Co.) of the 31st New Jersey Volunteer Infantry Regiment, wrote a letter to his family while in Camp Potomac near Belle Plains, Virginia.

Parts of the letter are missing but as much of the letter as possible is transcribed below:  "I don't know that I have any thing new to write to you this time.  I received your letter on Saturday just after I had sent mine to you.  I also wrote to Jabez and Sam on Sunday.  I are now engaged in building a new house for the Captain [Calvin T. James, of Belvidere], Lieutenant [Richard T.] Drake and myself.  If [we] do not have to move again when we get it done I think we will have a very nice place.  I went over the Potomac Creek yesterday and got a window and some boards, a door &c. out of a Rebel house that they had deserted.  It was nearly a new house, very nice, well furnished, but now it's about torn to pieces.  We confiscate or draw anything we want to can get down here.  This house lay over the Creek where they could not get to it or it would have been torn down way before this time.

"Now while I write, some of the boys are in our tent singing some splendid tunes.  they are now singing the tune called The soldiers' Lear.  It is beautiful to hear.  It has got quite cold here to day and is about as cold to night as any night we have here yet, but we have had splendid weather here this winter.

"Clark, I have just come from the Colonels.  I expect we will soon have to march again.  The Colonel [Alexander Berthoud, of Washington] said he had to report to Brigadier General...this morning and I will not mail this letter until I know something more.  I don't know whether we will have to move or not...this is Thursday night.  We have yet to receive new orders.  We will be relieved from all duties except drilling.  We will have to drill every day.  We are now Brigaded.  there is in the Brigade the 22nd, 24th, 30th and 31st New Jersey Regiments and the 137th Penna. and the 147th New York.  Brigadier General [Gabriel Rene] Paul will have command of the Brigade.  I believe we belong to Major General [John Fulton] Reynolds' Division.  It is called the First Division.  It is supposed that we will still remain here perhaps all winter as it will be impossible for the army to march by the overland route on to Richmond and...that the army will now go into winter quarters and then we will still remain in these quarters.  I are going to go on and finish..."
Lt. Prall wrote the following lines within the margins of his letter, " know when you are done reading this letter where will you find the end.  Clark to night it looks like snow and I think it will storm before morning.  It is very dark.  We can see the Signal light of the army very plain.  They look something like a large star up in the air but we do not understand what they mean...The Health of our Regiment now is very good.  We have but very few sick.  the drums are now beating for Roll Call.  It is half past Eight o'c.  I are having about the easiest times now for the last week that I have been soldiering.  I have not had much duty for the last few days except drilling and other camp duties.  I think this sheet is about full.  This is the last line that I will write on this sheet.  I will get a larger one next time.  I had nothing else to do to night so good night."
Copyright 1999-2013: Jay C. Richards 

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