• Civil War Soldier Writes Of Camp Life At Newport News, VA, Likely A POW Camp For Confederates; Racist Comments

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    Newport News [VA], January 9th [n.y.] soldier writes to his sister, 3 pp, 4 1/2 x 7 1/4, patriotic embossed eagle “Union and Constitution” at upper left, red and blue borders. Our soldier signs only with his first name, which appears to be Lee.

    The soldier could have been stationed at the Newport News, VA, POW Camp, which held and processed 10,000 to 20,000 Confederate prisoners. The site was built next to Camp Butler on Newport News Point.

    “...I thought we should stay in Fort Calhoun but last Sunday night we had orders to pack up and be ready on Monday...We did not know where we was going but we landed here at 3 o’clock. It is fourteen miles from where we have been...not so good a place to stay for comfort for most of the men have to sleep in tents. It is bad for the ground is very damp and cold. When we went up here they were all well...but now there is twenty sick with a bad cold but Thack and myself are well as ever. The tents were wet and crowded that fifteen of us bought some boards and built a house. It cost us two dollars a piece and so we have got a good place to sleep...There is six thousand & eight hundred men in the camp. There is a breastwork five feet high around the camp. The camp is ninety-five acres inside the battery there is twenty-five large cannon and twenty brass field cannon. It takes four hundred men every day for guard. We have a picket guard four miles from the camp. There is five union families around here and we have to keep a guard over them to protect them from the rebels. We went out scouting yesterday but did not see anything, only five or six niggers. There is lots of them around here. I thought I had seen niggers before but I never did. They are the oddest looking things.”  

    Light chipping along one margin, affecting a few words. Else very good. Punctuation added and spelling corrected for clarity in the transcription.


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