Saturday, May 25, 2013

May 25, 1863: Lt. James Prall after the Battle of Chancellorsville

On May 25, 1863, after returning from the battle of Chancellorsville, Lieutenant James Prall, of Company I (the "Belvidere Company") of the 31st NJ Volunteer Infantry, wrote, "Dear Father and Mother: It is with the greatest pleasure that I can sit down this Monday morning to write to you once more and say that I still are well, never felt better than I do this morning.  Now our breakfast has come up.  I will stop and eat.  We will have ham and eggs, good coffee, hard tack &c &c.
"Well now I have eaten a very hearty breakfast and I will try and finish the letter.  I would have written yesterday but was on duty and had not time.  On Friday we moved our Camp about a quarter of a mile.  We still have a very nice Camp.  We have had very warm and dry   weather here for some time.  It has been as warm here as I ever saw it in Jersey in July but last night it clouded up and got quite cool again and now looks as though we were agoing to have a storm. I hope it will rain for it is very dusty here and I think it much pleasanter if it would rain and lay the dust.
"The 137th Regiment Pennsylvania Vols. of our Brigade started for home this morning.  They are the first that goes out of our Brigade.  We will be home about the 18th or 20th of June.  There is no signs of any move here now.  Adjutant [John] Schoonover [11th NJ Infantry Regt.] was here yesterday.  He is looking well.  I have been looking for Mr. [Frederick] Knighton [Chaplain, 11th NJ Regt.] to come over for some time but he has not come yet. I hear he is going home [to Belvidere] soon.
"I received Clark's letter on last Thursday.  I was glad to hear that you was all well.  I received one from Rebecca the same day.  I was sorry to hear that she had not been very well, has had the Rheumatism.  She says Bartley was there when she wrote.  I have been looking for one from May.  I think I have not received any from her since I wrote to her. How does she like her new house?  I find by Clark's letter that he is down on [General Joseph] Hooker and thinks he displayed very bad generalship and says this was the greatest defeat of the war. Well now Clark, I think you are greatly mistaken.  It certainly was not half so bad as the [General Ambrose] Burnsides fight where he crossed the River.  I don't believe our loss was near what the papers say it was and I are well satisfied that the Rebs loss was far greater than ours and I think that Gen. Hooker displayed as good generalship as any general we hever had.  You can't tell by the papers any thing about it.  The whole army almost think the move was a good one and still have all confidence in him.  They did not come back in such a demoralized condition they did when they came back before.  He had various reasons for retreating back here.  I don't think it was because he did not know how to handle his men.  If he is left in command and of this army and it is still necessary to cross [the Rappahannock River] he will do it and if he gets ready before our time is out I are ready and willing to cross again with the army.  I for my own part have always been a McClellan man and you are but I don't think he is the only man. I should like to see him take command of the army once more and Hooker to take charge of a part of it for some of the troops think there is not more like Hooker.  But to finish up about this I will say that I think this war is nearing an end than any of us thinks for I think & hope it may in a few months more come to an end. 
"Father I had a letter last evening from John Wyckoff about buying out J. R. Dey's store.  He said he and Mr. Davis had talked to you about it (as I had requested).  Now the County and I think that Davis & Wyckoff both is good business men and if there can be any business there we can do it and if I do not make up my mind to come back here [to the Army] again I should like to have this place   but I will not say positively that I would take it until I get home for I may make up my mind to come back again.  This Rebellion must be put down and if the Government does except [sic] more Volunteers, and I think it will, I think there will be inducements to come back again.  I want to see the end of this war.  I would like to be out there to help end it.  I like the soldiers life and I would as soon be here as any where but I will not say any thing more about this now.  It will be time enough to talk about it when I get home.  Hoping this may find you well and enjoying the comforts of a good home of which the Soldier is deprived.  And so I close, James."
Copyright 1999-2013: Jay C. Richards 

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