Opening of a letter by Isaac Smedley, Jacksonville,  March 28th, 1862

Text of the Letter:

Jacksonville Florida March 28th 1862

Friend Ed
                It has been some time since I received a letter from you--not knowing the reason of your silence but shall write to you and make you acquainted of the fact that you are one or two letters in my debt--Hoping that you will excuse me for this piece of paper which I have selected to write you.  I shall endeavor to give you a synopsis of our doing since our last communication if I can--In the first place the health of your friends in the 97th are in good health except myself who has been labouring under a heavy cold for several days back.

    Today Co. C. and E. are on pickette duty which has been the first for our company since we came here--we have had considerable trouble with the Rebels while on pickett at this place,--the first night we came here, one man of the 4th New Hampshire was killed and one badly wounded, the next night we heard firing in the same direction and ere a few minutes had passed the 97th was in line with guns loaded ready to proceed to the scene of action but after waiting near one hour very anxiously for orders to forward march we were marched back to our quarters to remain for the balance of the night,--the next morning after the picketts came in we were all anxious to learn the cause of the firing and the results,--It happened in the following manner--about two oclock in the morning an old stray cow was strolling about when she came in contact with one of the Sentinels--he of course halted [hailed?] a man as he supposed, and demanded the countersign but the poor Brute passed on and on untill she received the contents of a musket.  This alarmed the whole line of picketts and a whole volley of shots were fired which resulted as I have told you

    --I do not apprehend any danger of an attack here  by the enemy as from what I can learn from the Citizens the[y] [came?] but poorly armed,--if such is the case there is no use of them attacking us providing their force is not to[o] very great,--at present there is not more than two thousand of them near but they have better facilities for transportation of troops than we have as a Rail Road connects with some point where they can get reinforcements in any emergency.  I should like very much to hear how the Army on the Potomic is progressing,--the last accounts they were still inactive--it was rumoured that Manassas Junction was taken but how reliable it is we know not,--there is so many rumors in Camp that we do not believe anything until we see it in print.

    We have at last got the details of the glorious victory at Fort Donelson.  The death of the Rebel General Zollicoffer seems as if it has spread great terror over the entire confederate Army.  It must have been a terrible slaughter of human beings--from accounts such a fight is I think unprecedented in history,--only a few more moves like that will satisfy the Traitors that Northerns are something else besides mudsills as we have been shiled by the Southerns.  [Probably?] the day is not far distant when the stars and stripes will be floating over every Town in the Union--we have put several up since we left Hiltonhead.

    Jacksonville is a splendid Town--is situated about twenty Five miles from the Mouth of the river on an elevated piece of ground close to the waters edge--in number about six thousand inhabitants--the houses are principally built of Brick and in a very tasteful Manner,--Co. C. is quartered on the first floor of one building--at one time I presume it was a store room--it is very nicely finished and is about seventy feet long by fifty feet wide.  The streets are all laid out and named--we are on the corner of Bay & Laura,--the finest building in Town I am sorry to say was burned--it was a large Hotel owned by a Man who used Union sentiments most to free about the time our forces first landed--he now occupies a house opposite us on the other side of the street.  I took supper with him the first night we came here, had some very interesting conversation with him--He said the Rebels ensured him protection and would not suffer anything damaged, but he says, after they had applied the Torch he tryed to save a portion of his furniture but was stopped and was threatened that the first man or woman who laid their hands on anything would be shot on the spot,--he is a man of very good repute and has a large circle of friends North as well as here--He is very anxious to se[e] the Rebellion crushed and the guilty ones punished,

    --I am afraid that your patience will be exhausted in reading this ill constructed attempts of a letter--I write so many letters to different persons and must necessarily write the same thing over many times and as a matter of course I must try and have all as near alike as possible.  I expect by the next mail my commission will arrive.  I have sent home for my clothes &c. Harry Kauffman is now acting fifth sargeant and will rank as such as soon as I am commissioned.

    I have just finished supper and I shall have to finish by candle light,--this afternoon I took a walk around Town and stopped in several stores to see if things corresponded in price with things North,--I found it right the reverse, green Coffee fifty cts per pound, salt twenty dollars per bushel and other things accordingly.  I thought probably I could sell some rations, of which we have an overplus at this time but I could not unless I took Florida shinplasters for pay.  I shall enclose a sample of the money which they make use of for specie, in this letter,

    --Among the noted things in Town which come under my observation I forgot to mention--that was the Ladies.  This evening while the Regiment was on dress parade a more finer set of young Ladies could not be well scared up, it being an uncommon thing for us to see the face of a handsome white woman for four long months.  I just tell you Ed, it made me think of home (which is the dearest spot on earth).  I felt thunderstruck.  I felt as if crushed by a mountain weight,--I looked from one to the other with mute amazement, but could only gratify myself by going to my quarters and thinking of the many social hours I have spent at home and looking for the same opportunity in the future.  This I though equivalent to gazing on the forms of those who presented themselves so beautifully this evening--The soldiers are enjoying themselves this evening by taking a dance but seems very awkward to have a partner of the same material as the man is himself--I expect I shall make some queer writing while that fiddle is going on alongside of me--I have to write as fast as I can or I keep out of time

--I have no doubt that many of you people think soldiers life is a hard one but I have had near seven months experience and have seen nothing to murmur at yet--hoping you will pardon me for this attempt to write you, I close with much respect I am truly your friend and well wisher

Isaac Smedley
[E.E.C.] [?]

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