Camp at Whites Ford, MD
January 14th 1863
Dear Friend Jacob,
Please excuse me for intruding so far, as to take the liberty of writing to you, but when I remember the many hours patriotic and manly conversation I heard fall from your lips, I cannot refrain from doing so any longer.
I have hoped to receive a line from you ere this, although I admit it would be somewhat out of the regular course, so not having received any I now take this liberty upon myself.
Dear Sir, when I first enlisted I intended should I get into battle (which I expected to before this) that if I was spared to live through it I should send you some trophy to be kept by you as a relic of this war and if I ever shall (which most likely I will before long) I will send you something.
I know that when people at home in Vermont read about the soldiers living on hard tack and salt horse (as they call it) there rests in their minds a curiosity to know what kind of bread these hard tacks are. I send you a cracker which to you may not be any curiosity, but it certainly will be to a good many in Sheldon. It is a fair sample, and I hope it will not get broken on the way. I know you will take pains to let the people see it. The salt horse is nothing more or less than good salt or mess beef, which together with fresh beef, once or twice a week, beans, peas, pork, potatoes, once and sometimes twice a week, rice, soft bread occasionally, good coffee for breakfast and tea for supper, it makes a very good coarse living, better by far than many who find fault with it had at home. At all events I feel satisfied with it and grow fat on it. There was a time when there was quite a number of our men sick - but I think it was partly caused by ateing (sic) too much fat pork and perhaps pertly by doing duty between the Potomac and canal, at all events I noticed that the men that were always complaining of being sick were all the time looking for fat pork and frying these same hard tack in the fat that came from the pork. So when I was promoted to orderly I forbid the frying of crackers or meat of any kind for supper and what think you is the result, why this very day I have only one man sick, when at the time of which I have been speaking I have known 39 men sick in our Company.
My dear friend I should like to have you here with me, for about a month to initiate you into camp life, and should I not like, think you, to stand at the corner of your fathers store and see your company march down the hill with martial music as you used to do, indeed I should, but I would not have you think by this that I want to get out of the army. No! dear sir, although I am not much of a fighting character as you know, I do not want to leave the Army until the Victory is complete for the Union and these accursed rebels once more be forced to return to their allegiance. I do not know when this shall be accomplished but I am satisfied that such must be the case and that Star Spangled Banner shall triumphantly wave over a free land, which it has never done yet, and from the last accounts I have heard, our arms are again victorious in the west.
My dear young patriot, it will cost a great many precious lives before this is ended, but in my opinion the Nation needed a scurging and the Lord in his providence is scurging it pretty hard, yet he knows what is best and let us be satisfied and submit with pleasure and reverence to His Holy Will. I do think the time is not far distant when this thing will be ended. Still I must confess that I cannot see far enough ahead to see through it, but until it comes I shall endeavor to do my duty. I understand ye have a very curious winter. We have very mild weather here but we have had it cold for a few days passed. I am within a few miles of Balls Bluff where Colonel Baker was killed and I have seen the ball holes in a building on this side of the river. Sugarloaf Mountain is only a few miles from here. Will you please give my kind regards to your Father and Mother and Charley Mr. and Mrs. Hapgood and Anna and all others to whom you see fit to do so, hoping to hear from you soon.
I remain respectfully yours
Mr. J. Wead