August 21, 1861
My Dear & Affectionate Mother,
I am thankful to Almighty God that he has spared me to again write you a few lines. Above you can see the emblem that I have sworn to defend & with God’s help, I will as long as life lasts & I can raise an arm to strike a death blow to one of its enemies. It is just 30 days today since I had the privilege of standing on the battlefield. Though in one sense I did nothing in reality, I help do a considerable. The bullets flew over our heads & cut the boughs from the trees & nothing but our presence save[d] a portion of the retreating army.
We have had a very cold rainy time, but the clouds have passed away & the sun once more shines bright as I hope it will soon do over our distracted country. Last night was very much such a night as the one before the battle of Bull’s Run. The sunset was one of splendor—such as is rarely seen in New York, & after that the moon rose over the eastern hill & shone so bright and beautiful that one could hardly stand it to remain in his tent—the moonshine so bright that I could read laying in my tent.
We are now on the eve of another battle which may decide our fate as a nation. I do not know what position we shall be assigned to fill. We are now filling one of importance—namely watching the telegraph wires from Washington to Alexandria. My hopes are as bright as ever. I have enjoyed the best of health since I have been in the service of my country & do not regret in the least what I have done, though [I] know that I have made a few hearts sad. Yet, if I were in your places, I should feel much better to know that at least one from the family had done what he could—and to fall in noble, honorable battle is better than to remain at home & have the best government on earth overthrown.
Time has never seemed to pass so swiftly as since I left home. The diseases that were slowly fastening themselves upon me have gradually, I think, disappeared. I used to have catarrh, but do not now. My kidney & liver I think are very much better.
There are a great many peaches here & some the largest I ever saw. I like to go to the market & see the manners & customs of the people. I am very glad to learn that the church matter is settled. Do you go to church & how do the Kidder party feel & appear? I wish you would write to me & that soon for the mail may soon be stopped. Give my respects to all who enquire. Pray for me that I enter not into temptation & that I do my duty like a man.
From your son, —Chas. E. Bradley
P. S. They are building 3 forts within sight—one very large & 2 smaller
Lieut. [Prentice B.] Wagner has gone to Ithaca & I think that if you go out as soon as you get this, you can see him. Have you got my book yet? I am wearing the boots & drawers that I wore to school last winter. They will last until wet weather, I think. We have shoes but I shall get me a pair of boots, I think. We expect to soon have another battle. I will send you a paper & you may do the same by me. I suppose the other Spencer boys lay down their arms tonight. They are homesick & have been miss-used, I think. Write soon for the mails may stop. Respects to all, Can’t Spencer furnish more volunteers?
— Chas. E. Bradley
August 22—Since the other part of this letter was written, I have received yours & paper.
Gen. McClellan & staff have just come along. He is very careful to [ ] our guard when they present arms. I have not lost any money but have got over $6. Some of the boys lost most all of their things when we left our knapsacks at the [ ] but as yet I have not had stolen from me 3 cents worth of property that I remember of. Blackberries have all gone with us just about the time we got sick of them.
We have our revolvers. Mine is to me what Gen. McClellan’s body guard us to him. Save all your course food for winter for you may need it. There is a long string of government wagons going by toward Washington.
Len is right about the whiskey. I am glad that you have helped Mrs, Jones. H. owes the boys. How much is it? He will pay if he lives. There is not much chance to lay up anything on the kind of feed we get. Send no more volunteers from Spencer. Tell them to be afraid they will soon get use to the fare & the bullets.
I have sent an old letter of mine to Mary for her to put in my desk. I hope Sarah will not be sick. Tell her to never mind a little sickness as long as she has got someone to take care of her. There is hardly a day passes but what someone says how fat you are getting or how you grow. The Captain just made the remark within 15 minutes. I have the good will, I believe, of all the boys. I met one of the Van Ettenville boys Sunday. I was a going to church & he offered me a drink but…. — Chas. E. Bradley