Camp life Gen. Averrell's raid on Kelly's Ford

Date Written

March 21, 1863

Charles Sylvester Smith was 23 years old when this was written.
The recipient, Betsey Tibbets Smith, was 47 when it was received.

Charles Sylvester Smith died 1 year, 9 months, 3 days after writing this.
It was written 156 years, 8 months, ago.
It was a Saturday.

Bell Plains, Va.
March 21, 1863

Dear Mother,

Today is stormy and cold. It has snowed all night but not hard, there is three inches of snow.
I sit hugging to the fire and writing on the cover of my box. The bugles and drums are sounding for Guard mounting. The old guard will be glad to be relieved, having been on that duty for twenty-four hours, which is the usual time.

I have just been to breakfast, which consisted of fried potatoes, beef steak, and soft bread and coffee and some butter that I paid 50 cts. a pound for. A very good breakfast for a soldier. My house is partly underground and built log cabin fashion with a canvas (shelter lean to) roof, and is a fireplace dug out into the ground, and a hole duged [sic] down over the outside to the fireplace for a chimney, and there a barrel filled up with dirt or clay with a hole left in the center to make a good chimney, and also to get a draft. To prevent the water from intruding on us, we have banked up around the outside so as to turned off the rains.

There is one thing that happened of late which one and all are proud to relate. It is (strange to say) a successful Cavalry raid by—not the rebs—but the Yankees. Sometime last week the rebs crossed on to our side of the Rappahannock, for some purpose or other and returned without doing us any damage, and then to return the compliment, our Cavalry under Gen. Averell crossed to their side under sharp fire from the rebels sharpshooters, and charged and drove them from their place of concealment, and then commenced a series of charges first from our Cavalry, and then from theirs under the commandment of the rebel Gens. Stuart and Fitzhugh Lee, who were compelled to fall back, leaving to our forces the field, four hundred prisoners and their wounded. The fight was said to have lasted five hours when our Cavalry crossed the river unmolested.

I have got Emma’s letter last week containing them stamps. Although it was written before your last, I didn’t get it until a week later, so you can tell her or let her have this letter to read. If you have not sent them stamps already, you need not as I have a plenty, but if you have I can quickly dispose of them and get the money back again. Without doubt you have got my last containing six dollars. When you send my box, please send and let me know it, so if it should stop in Washington, as they do sometimes, that I can send for it from here. In a few days I shall be twenty-four years old, and just at this time I feel as though I was forty. I have got a cold and it kills me to cough. You wanted to have a lock of my hair. It has not changed any, except some locks that have been bleached out some by so much exposure. Neither have I changed except that I ware [sic] a long beard on my chin and a delicate little mustache. I would like to send home my ambrotype if I could get it taken here, but I know of a saloon in the army.

I will close now and write again soon.
From your son,
Charles

Scans of Letter