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Dear Sister Rachel
I received your letter day before yesterday and with pleasure I now sit me down to answer it. To begin with, I will tell you some news that I know will make your heart beat high with joy. If I am alive and well I will soon bid rebellion farewell and in a few days after I will once again tread the hills of old Chautauqua. It doesn’t seem to me as if it could be true but all our officers say it is true so I suppose it must be so. As soon as the Battle of Yorktown is fought we are all to return to Washington and be mustered out of the service. We may be home in three or four weeks and we may not be home til towards the last of June. Our thirty days of detached service is out but they are going to hold us til after the Battle of Yorktown. Some of the First Battalion will be in the battle (those that are in the artillery). We left about 150 men to our old camp. They are mustered out and gone home.
When I go to Washington I will find Samuel’s grave if it is a possible thing. I will get some gravestones, if I can, for him. As soon as you get this write and tell me what inscription to have put on them in case I can get them for him. You know, of course, what you want on them better than I do.
I shall never forget the good advice that he gave me in his letters. The last thing he told me was “Don’t let yourself be led astray from the path to heaven.” He then shook hands and clung to mine til his back was towards me. He then let go and started on the run. I watched him til he got over the hill, but he did not look back.
I hope you will not be so lonesome when you get into your school. O Rachel, try and think it all for the best and not worry so. God has afflicted you and he will comfort you.
I am on a boat-load of ammunition with Lieut. Coffin and five more of our company. We only have to stand guard two hours each night. Daytimes we don’t have to do anything. We have good quarters and all the oysters we can lay to. There is any quantity of them here of the nicest kind. We have a pair of oyster tongs so we can go out and get ten bushels in two hours. I wish you could be here to help me eat them for they are tiptop I tell you. Seven of us will eat two quarts and there are more oysters in one quart of them than there are in the quarts that you buy.
This new harbor (Shippoint) lies to the right of the York River. You probably have seen an account of it in the papers. I will not write but a little for when I get there I can tell you all the news better than I can write it. There, they have come after ammunition and I must stop for a while. They did not get any ammunition so I will continue my letter.
The 11th of April we got up from breakfast and happened to look toward (undecipherable, probably Toos) Point and what should we see but the Merrimac with four other coming around (Toos) toward us and on the same ground where we were anchored the night before. After the Merrimac got a little below the point she fired a signal gun which was soon answered by the Monitor. The Merrimac than came down about half-way between the point and the fort turned her other side low and again came up and lay around all day. Our boats did not go out to fight her for some reason, I don’t know what. At night a very few shots were fired between the Yorktown and one of the small boats, but no damage done on either side.
As soon as the Merrimac stopped performing the Yorktown ran out and took only three vessels that lay outside of us. Being in a schooner and the tide against us we did not try to move at first. When the three vessels outside of ours were taken we were within a short distance of her guns. If she had tried they might just as well have stove us all to atoms and probably would have is we had made any extra motions to get away. She might just as well have come after us as the other boats. But it would not have done them any good for we got the hatch ready to fire by laying a train of gunpowder. We were ready to get into our small boats, fire the train, hurry away and let it blow up. You may bet that as soon as we dared to make a move the anchor and sails went up the quickest they ever did. We ran towards the fort a little ways. Then a towboat came and towed us around the fort. The captured vessels were two brigs and a schooner. The captain and crew took to their rowboat and got on shore all safe. I guess I had better take some more paper to finish my letter.