Co. B, 1st Btn
1st Repl Reg Eng
Washington Barracks, DC
Will write a few lines today as I have plenty time. There is only about 25 of us Co. B boys in camp today. The rest went on a hike. I was on sentry duty from Thursday evening 4 o'clock till nearly dark last night, over 40 hours. They certainly kept me guessing. I was on Post No. 1 guarding entrance to camp from the dock and the stockade, where they keep the fellows who try to desert or commit some violations of military discipline. There were 9 of them in the stockade and it was a big job to keep an eye on them to see that they didn't try to get away and, at the same time, halt everyone entering or leaving camp. I didn't dare let any pass without stopping them and calling the Corporal of the guard to come and pass them into camp. The Officer of the Day left camp just before dark and I knew he was coming in sometime in the night and if I'd ever missed stopping him once I'd get a cussing! He came in between 12 and 2 o'clock and so did two other boat loads of soldiers. I had three corporals out on my frame for passing a lieutenant without calling the corporal of the guard, and I knew the lieutenant as well as I know you and knew he belonged here. But I guess I was mistaken in orders. Anyway, the corporals knew from that, from that time on, when I halted anyone I called them like I thought they were from over in Alexandria!
I'll bet I walked enough if it had been straight ahead to have been home and back but I am all in today and not doing anything. My hips and shoulders were so sore I couldn't hardly navigate this AM. So they put me "off duty."
Say, the unruly dudes in the stockade have to work some, too. I know they do the dirty work and hard work, and every time one comes out of the stockade, even to go to the closet, a guard walks 6 steps behind with his gun on his shoulder loaded for bear and his bayonet fixed. Even when they work we had to stand right over them with gun and bayonet. They don't get any mail nor any writing paper, stamps, money or tobacco. One dude picked up cigarette butts and tried to take the tobacco out and make him a pill but he didn't have any cigarette paper so he came over to the corner and when I came around he looked up and says, "Say, Sentry, couldn't you give me a paper?" We are not allowed to talk with them or let them talk to anyone else except among themselves, so I shook my head but a whole book of papers fell out of my pocket.
Some of them boys don't do anything bad enough to deserve such fate. Some just happen to slip some way and get in, and some do things against the rules and think it is allright and get in. There are others who'd ought to went to the gallows instead of the guardhouse or stockade. The guardhouse is where the Sentry goes to sleep when off their beat. It is mighty little sleep I got. I would just get about to sleep and then I'd roll over and wake up again. We have to sleep without belts on and a fellow has so blame many things hanging to it that one of them is bound to get him some place in the short ribs and wake him up.
Well, will try to finish your letter today if nothing happens. I didn't ask for any pass last night for I didn't think I would be able to use it but am feeling pretty fair this A.M. I went across the river to Alexandria, Va. last PM and stayed till midnight
Alexandria, Sunday, 7 PM
By hen, I'll bet you can't any of you beat me for running around. I've been clear to Mount Vernon since I quit with writing this AM. Saw Geo. Washington's home and all the old fashioned household goods. Saw his kitchen. It's got a fireplace with more space in it than my little bedroom back home. Pots, pans, ovens and kettles and all right there in it. His house is some mansion, too. I know. I rested on his front porch on his chair overlooking the Potomac. It's a grand view from the front of that place. I saw the caskets he and his wife are in in their tomb. The caskets are made of marble.
I saw all the things you read about in the History book about Mount Vernon. Saw the old Stage Coach he rode in and drank water out of his well. Then I went to a little six cornered building about 10 ft in diameter labeled "School Room." It seemed to be the highest place, and from there, I could see most all the other buildings. Say, it must have been a happy time for surely no man could ask for any nicer home than Mt. Vernon (here on earth). I swiped from the hedge a little souvenir for you to keep as remembrance of my trip. It is what the hedges are made of, sort of barberry or something. It's all I could get for they watch you pretty close.
When you see this little branch, just think it is from Washington's home and shut your eyes and see gentle winding paths ever so thick and going every direction. Every side of each path is a hedge of this, all trimmed up as square as any stone wall.. Nice white houses around a beautiful big mansion to which all these paths run, then follow one path to the flower garden and green house. It is kept up and a marvel for beauty. Several others lead to little retreats or alcoves off from the other buildings and the alcoves are covered with vines and pretty. Say, I'd give anything for a chance to take some nice little Jane to Mt. Vernon a week. And while you are picturing all this, just picture it all on a background of bluegrass green, and you haven't got it half as pretty as Mt. Vernon.
Well, I must close. I'm ashamed of the writing I've done with this pen but it's the best I can do with this time. So answer soon. As ever your brother,