Friday, February 11, 2011

A Soldier's Letter

It's Friday again, and so I find myself typing up the contents of the Civil War collection at the historical association. I came across one of my absolute favorite files in the collection and wanted to share it with you all (whoever you may be). This is the file of Robert B. Nicol, who enlisted in March 1862 at New York, Company I. He was appointed corporal (date not given) and later wounded and discharged for disability in July of 1864. Well, the wound isn't terribly happy, but he didn't die from it; he lived to the age of 82!

The main reason that this is my absolute favorite file is that Robert enjoyed composing songs, and in this file, we happen to have a copy of a letter that we wrote to his uncle composed entirely in verse! Can you believe it? Neither can I, but it's pretty fantastic.

So rather than be going on and on about how much I love this letter, I'd rather just type it up for you so that you can get the full experience of Robert B. Nicol:

"Dear Uncle,

As writing materials often are scarce,
I purpose to write you a letter in verse;
To condense my ideas, save paper and time,
Is my object for writing this letter in rhyme.
Of course you will know it is one of my pranks!
It will take but a minute to fill in the blanks.
[Note that this letter is typed, and some blanks left for his uncle to fill in. I've italicized the blanks.]

I received your kind letter just one year ago,
Which found me a member of "Uncle Sam's Show;"
And for two years or better, expect to remain,
Unless, like full many, I chance to be slain;
Should this be my fate, the last boon I crave
Is to mark on my tombstone, "A Patriot's Grave!"

In the hist'ry of wars, as we carefully scan,
Since the first was waged by man against man,
In all the fierce conflicts no records remain
Which can be compared to the present campaign.
The war has been general! on both land and sea,
And many have fallen for "Liberty's Tree!"
It would fill many volumes to pass in review
What our various armies this year have gone through.
Though my space is not large, yet 'twill not be amiss
To give a slight sketch on a small sheet like this.

The Potomac's great army has nobly withstood
The wiles of the traitors, and written in blood
The route it has taken o'er mountain and plain,
Through forests and rivers, in hot sun and rain;
And now like a giant, aware of his power,
Aims a death-blow at Secessions "left bower!"

In the siege of Atlanta, and Charleston, too,
What subjects for History's pages we view!
Generations to come will exult in the name
Which their fore-fathers carved in the records of fame.

At the Gulf, on the flank of Secession's domain,
From the shores of "Red River" our brave comrades slain
Are calling for vengeance; Ah! traitors shall feel
A full share of this in the siege of Mobile.
The reb who surrender'd the stronghold, Fort Gaines,
We aver, was possessed for less valor than brains!

Our heroes at sea have had plenty to do:
The ports to blockade, and pirates subdue;
Let the famed Tallahassee beware of the day
When our "Yankee Tars" meet her in battle array!
I am sure they have not forgotten so soon
The victory we gained on the 19th of June.

Thus we see every part of our army so grand,
In the "War for the Union," on sea and on land,
Are working in concert, our cause to maintain,
To crush the rebellion, and end the campaign.

I have the honor to be your affectionate nephew,
Signed, Robert B. Nicol"

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