Augustus P. Hoadley was 26 years old when he left the family farm in
Pennsylvania to go off to war. Although his sister Emma was just a teenager
at the time, their letters show the two shared a special relationship.
A.P. wrote to Emma frequently and affectionately, filling his letters
with descriptions of his day-to-day life in the army camp where he and
his fellow recruits trained and waited for further orders from the battlefront.
Sept 11, 1862
I am going to give you something of an idea of Camp Curtin: in the first
place you will please imagine a field containing thirty or forty acres
without a green thing growing upon it except a few small locust trees
and so dusty that every time the wind blows a cloud of dust will rise
which is enough to smother a person. In short it comes the nearest to
my idea of a desert of any thing that I can compare it to, this field
has been nearly all covered with cloth tents . . . about 6 feet square
at the bottom and running up to a sharp peak at the top . . . We cook
rations over a fire made in a hole dug in the earth . . . Our rations
consist of bakers bread sheet iron . . . some fresh beef and corned pork
with a plenty of coffee and sugar vinegar salt and pepper. . .
As winter approached and heavy rains began to fall, the dusty camps were
often churned into a sea of mud. To make matters worse, the soldiers were
never quite sure when they would be called into battle. As A.P. wrote
in October of 1862, "I have heard no war news of any consequence
lately. How long we shall stay in this place I cannot tell, we may not
stay three days and we may stay three weeks. I would not find any fault
in staying here if they would build barracks for us, it is pretty cold
sleeping in cloth tents
now. . ."
But A.P. made the best of the situation. He asked Emma to send items from
home that would make his life more comfortable--his black hat, some handkerchiefs,
dried fruit, good thread, a little sage, and a pen holder, among other
things. During the day he carried out his military drills and duties with
enthusiasm, writing home proudly to report that he had been chosen for
a special guard assignment. "Quite an accomplishment that?"
he marveled. "To be picked out of a company of about 95 men as one
of the four cleanest and having the cleanest gun."
When he felt homesick or tired of the harsh
conditions in camp, A.P. found strength in his patriotism.
He had volunteered for duty simply because he believed in serving his
country and fighting to save the Union. He was filled with disgust when
he learned that one of his acquaintances had hired another man for $250
to take his place at the front. "That price wouldn't hire me to go
to war," he confided in Emma. ". . . It required something more
than money to separate me from the loved ones that I have left
behind, it was a [principal] of duty, a [principal] which I hope I may
always cherish as long as I live."