Camp Near Cub Run
August 9th, 1861
My Dear Niece,
Several days ago I recd your last long & interesting letter, this is the first opportunity I have had to reply & am now consuming time I ought to give to some camp duties but will run the risk to write to you. Since the battle our duties are as severe as before except the five or six days preceding. One would think that during this intensely hot weather drilling would be dispensed with as few as possible but within the last two days in this Brigade it has been increased. I must correct a wrong impression my letter made on you. I did not burn a single grain of powder at the Yankees. Our regiment was there under fire of musketry from them but strange to say was not permitted to return it. This Susan, may have been the part of wisdom, for they fired from cover on us, each time and so mixed was the fight our officers fear in we might engage some Southern Regiment in the woods. Some of our men could distinguish the red pants of the firey Zoaves in the woods & our two flanking companies fired each one volley with what effect. I never knew. The enemy at one time fired on us from an oak works not in regular vollies but scattering shots as if each one had selected his object. Our line was kneeling or lying flat on the ground & although they were firing in this scattering way for some fifteen minutes, not a man was hurt & many of the Yankees shot from not more than 75 yards distance. The bullets could be distinctly heard whistling over us. But during the whole time I only saw one rifle ball strike the ground in front. Southern women in their position would have killed some of us. To give you some idea of how men were scattered from how many directions they were firing, I’ll mention one fact which happened not fifty feet from me. While lying exposed to the fire above mentioned, an officer from S. Carolina of splendid appearance & well mounted came up & said he would guide the regiment to where the enemy was and we immediately followed him but had proceeded but a short distance when a Zoave rose from behind a bush with his musket leveled & remarking with an oath that he would kill our guide, shot him dead. Tis said that Beauregard got hold of that new maneuver having our regiment under the artillery & sent the Brigade Lieut, word that the next time he ordered the 28th Regiment – Va Volunteers taken through the battalion the field of battle under a heavy artillery fire, he would send word to that effect. If this be true, it was deserved. You ask can you do anything for me? Yes, I wish you would make a flannel shirt for me, I sent Sister Kitty word to make one for me and if you make another I’ll have four. Sister K. will give you the flannel & tell you how I want it made. I would also like two pr. socks fine dark yarn white toe and heel and long in the leg. You can find some opportunity to send them perhaps when Sister K. sends the shirt I wrote to her for. Don’t send, Susan, to Manassas unless you can by some one you know will deliver the bundle and tell Sister K. the same. They have become so careless at the junction they let packages for Soldiers layout exposed to the weather and any one who may choose to take it. I do think this is so wrong Susan & then we can never know that our letters will reach their destination. So many men are at around this point that nothing is well done, (except the fighting) & I suppose some ten or fifteen thousand letters are mailed there daily & a good many are not mailed at all. Susan dear a most singular desire to see you has come over me. Since I joined the army I say singular because so earnest I think of you & so often & so long where on sentry duty at night & in my little canvas house in the day time. Did I tell you in my last that I thot of you on the battle field? While under the fire of artillery & musketry, your sweet face was frequently before my mental vision. I wonder if I’ll see again, see that face I so much love and have you affectionate arms around my neck. I hope so Sukey. I should not be surprised if we have another battle on this line before long. Tis said troops are concentrating at Manassas & I know of no other construction to place on it. Mr. David Harris is attached to this command in some capacity I don’t know what. He ranks as Capt. I like what I have seen of him very much. About a week ago I saw & conversed with a wounded prisoner, a Lieut. in the 2nd Regt. New York militia. He was an intelligent man, answered very readily all questions I asked. Said New York had ten thousand men in the battle & that The Brooklyn 14th Regt. (itself fired dreadfully) was composed of the elite of that city, he also said that the average intelligence & education of McDowells army was unsurpassed. If you hear of another battle on this line & don’t hear from me directly soon after don’t be uneasy dear, I’ll certainly write to you if possible, but all the communication may be cut off between where I am & Manassas. Always examine the papers for the 28th. They will inform you how each regiment suffers. This is a slow way , but sometime the best that can be done. But after every battle I’ll write to you if I am not hurt soon as possible but My Sukey, must not be uneasy if she does not hear from me immediately after such an event. In your last you mentioned two letters I never received one by Bro. Julian and one by mail. I do lose often many letters sent through the mail now but hope no one else opens them. I did not hear of the Cavalry charge you mentioned & think it very probably a false rumor, our Cavalry did very little until the retreat commenced. There they did splendid Service in pursuit. It may be so but I don’t believe a word of it. What battery was it? Do you know? Write soon, kiss Aunt M & Chestnut for me. Let me know if you will make the shirt & socks for me. Want them soon as possible. Goodbye my darling
W. C. Kean
Is the style fine in writing to my affection for you?
Some do not like that way if so you must let me know
Dr. Bruce Venter, ed, “The path will be a dangerous one…but I for one do not fear to go”: The Civil War Letters of William C. Kean, Goochland County Historical Society Magazine, Volume 43/2011, pp. 31-34
Used with permission. For purchase of this volume, contact the Goochland County Historical Society at 804-556-3966 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Transcription courtesy of Goochland Historical Society.
William Callis Kean on Ancestry.com