Homer Curtiss, 19th C.V.I., September 12 1863


Homer Curtiss, 19th C.V.I., September 12 1863


United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865
United States. Army. Connecticut Infantry Regiment, 19th (1862-1863)
United States. Army--Guard duty


Homer Curtiss writes to his family about the experience of guard duty and going off base to visit Alexandria and Washington, D.C.




Redoubt “D” Ft. Lyon Va. Sept. 12th/63
Dear Friends
There is that ogre of a Dutch
Officer of the Day that I must sit up and watch and
wait for to make his “Grand Rounds” or I should not
have any excuse for blotting paper in your behalf
as I’ve written over some 5 sheets within the last
48 hours, but what must a fellow do to keep awake?
and I’ve none but you to write to these days.
I was thinking the other day when we went up on
review that if all the pain fatigue and mental misery
suffered by the battalion was concentrated on one company
it would annihilate it. So with this guard business, only
it is worse here. The sleepiness, languor and fatigue of
each man is certainly half enough to kill him each
time, but luckily it is subdivided once, so he only
endures a right smart torture in trying to keep awake
and lives on guard duty till the guarding brings
on the shakes, where he lies up a few days in ordinary.
Any amount of guard duty wont ^quite kill a man of
itself, for I’ve known a man to be on 21 successive days.

[page 2]
Sunday morning Sept. 13th
On guard once more my dear friends.
Night before last I wrote the foregoing page when nearly
asleep. I allowed the infant who was the then corporal
to sleep and myself posted the 7 + 9 o’c reliefs. He put on
the 11 o’c and again returned to his dreams.
by Saturdays work began at precisely 12 midnight and
closed at near 12 midnight, 24 hours after, to show you
the difference between a common day in camp, many
of which I have already described, and a busy one
I will detail my yesterday labor.
As I said the day began for me at 12. At that time
I was awake and watchful, but nothing only the
drowsy hum of the night voices disturbed the stillness
The night was hazy and cloudy, at times, few stars being
in sight, but the bright points of light at the engine
house and the lighthouse in Alex. and on the Ar.
in Washington shined pleasantly all night looking
cheerful and companionable enough.
There was no disturbance and not even the common
challenge, ‘Who comes there’? until just before 1 oc
when it rang out shrill and clear. The reply “Grand rounds”
came out from the darkness as clear. “Halt Grand Rounds”

[page 3]
“Show out the Guard, Grand Rounds”, and in a jiffy every
man of the guard was on his feet, and had his rifle
in his hand. We formed, just inside the gate, the
Corp. went out and challenged, received the countersign
which happened to be “Springfield” this time, and
calling to me that it was right. I ordered “Advance
Rounds. The Officer of the day came in reviewed
the guard as usual and ordered us to dismiss it
which I did. The guard returned to its boards +
blankets and sleep, and I after bidding the officer
a good night returned to the Guardroom to watch
At 1 o’c precisely posted the 3d relief, and perhaps
a half hour later was again interrupted by the
Brigade Officer of the Days Guard rounds, the old
Ogres of whom I spoke on page 1. He was for a
wonder pleasant, asking for the news and finding
no fault. Off he went and back the boys much to
rest again. At 3 I put on the 1st relief and as
Dave gave no indications of waking us at 4 o’c I woke
him, lay down in his place and slept nearly
till just 7 where I awoke feeling like a lark, went
to my breakfast, ate hastily and was all right.
Never felt more refreshed by a good sleep and breakfast.

[page 4]
When I was in at breakfast Corp. Nichols came to me
and told me that as Sgt. Noble was indisposed
Dave had ordered him (Nichols) to get up a requisition on
on the Q.M. for its clothing, camp and garrison equipage
and to draw and issue it to the Co. but as he him-
self did not feel able, he wished I would do it.
I promised to do so, it being generally my chore
Saw Lt. Berry who said he wished me to do it if Hen
Noble couldnt as I was used to it, so I was in.
At 9 o’c Sergt Granger with his guard relieved me
and just as soon as I had dismissed the old guard
and got off my sabre I went at the list of articles
worked steadily an hour to get ^it up then with a
squad went up to Q.M. where after waiting our time
we drew our stuff and started with it for Fort “D”.
Going over we stopped at Cross’s, our artists, where
I got these nice pictures of Lts Berry and Marsh
which are perfectly natural and I think fine.
Aint Lt. Berry the hansomest man you ever saw?
Col. Kellogg says he is the handsomest officer he ever
saw, and the best in the 19th, excepting himself, I
guess he mentally reserved. I think him not only
the best officer but the best man I ever knew.

[page 5]
On my way back I stopped a minute at Frank Dunham’s
to see him and Johnny Blakeslee, managed to find
Franks wife’s sister’s picture and run it off. Got it now
by the way, quite pretty though not half so much so
as Franks wife who is one of the prettiest ladies I ever
met, sweet, fair, and not over stocked with smart.
When we got the stuff to Lt. Berrys there was the distribution
to follow. Each man taking what he had marked for
and I marking him, checking name and article.
It took a good hour to settle it, so that when I had got
the job straightened out, and had eaten my “hasty plate
of soup” it was near 6 o’c p.m. Birge gave me a pass
or rather he wrote it and the orderly Hen Burton took
it up to H Qr. got it countersigned and gave it to me
It was for Alex and good till 8 p.m. I got it at 8
a.m. Should not have used it at all but that the
boys many of them wished for some article from town
so I got up a list of wants and putting on a clean collar
and coat and a haversack I started for Alex. for my
friends at 1 o’c. Nate Root went down on a “doctored” pass
a.m. and I tried to find him, but we did not meet in town
at all, he came out just a little after I went in by another rt.

[page 6]
I went in via Hunting Creek Bridge and Washington St.
direct to King St. and the first place I went to was a
barber where I had a good wash and shave for a dime
from there I went to the news offices and bookstores
for Sanford’s goods. (Sanford is the one I told you so
clearly resembled Geo. Kellogg. He is much like him
especially in the music line, but he’s more of a fellow
soldiering has improved him mightily) I got most
of the books. Then went down to the Adam’s Express
Office where I delivered the $50 over to the Co’s tender
mercies, getting in return a couple of mulatto receipts
Then to Hunt and Goodwin’s for Laut’s cap, and to a
secret ice cream saloon where I ate freely and
as there was no one about to recieve pay and I was
in a hurry I left without any pay or receipt but
the cream. When I went out the sky was overcast
the thunder muttered, lightning flashed and wind
howled. I could see the storm coming up the street
preceded by a cloud of sand, leaves and dry garbage
so after hastily reconnoitering some drug stores for
“Coopers Balm” (an unheard of medicine I found)
I took refuge in French’s book store where I read
the storm away on “Hard leash”. There was a deal

[page 7]
more sand and dirt and wind than rain and more
thunder + lightning than seemed necessary for the
amount of water, but the dust was finally subdued
and laid out in the street, and all passed off
pleasantly enough. I got Anderson some little lemons
at a dime a piece a tossel of a Son and Byron’s for
Sackett and started on my way home. Had a
pleasant, dirty muddy walk of it, and got round
just a little before sunset, settled up all the bills
and supposed my days work was done. Thus how
little can we calculate what is to be in the future.
I went up to Bailey’s for some peaches and mayhap
a bit of watermelon, when Sam Hill and Nate Root
challenged me to go down to the theatre with them.
It was a little after 6, my pass was good till 8
Sam had a kind of one-for sometime and Nate
though passless wished to go, so getting Dave to excuse
us from tattoo roll call, we started off just as we
were. Got to the bridge shortly, just at dusk, and
had a nice little chat with the guard, the corporal
more especially. The orders at the bridge are to
admit no soldier without a pass, to shut the gates
at 8 o’c and not to open them to any man for

[page 8]
pass or countersign until sunrise. I talked to the
corp. explaining matters truly, and he like a good
fellow, as he undoubtedly is, told us if we would
keep whist and would get back by 10 o’c it would
be all right. We said we would come as soon as
the theatre closed, and went on our way rejoicing.
Went to the “Vermont” where we got some stoned oysters
and sarsaparilla, then to the Canterbury, being just
in time. The galleries were crowded and it was
very hot, besides the play was not much. Frenchy
not to say anything worse and though rather funny
and laughable, not very improving, but we staid
to the end of “Paddy Miles’s boy” and went out with
the crowd. It was dark as ink, only when it
lightened which was 60 times a minute at least.
We started for “D” direct, back while we were listening
to Gen. Slough’s band in front of his H. Qrs. he standing
at the window looking out and calmly smoking,
a heavy shower came tumbling down. We sought
shelter in a dark old open doored house and let
it pour. When it had poured out we started on
crossed the bridge, out of the gate and through the
slough safely, and by the glitter of the distant light-
ning mended our way to camp and to bed. Pip.

Original Format





“Homer Curtiss, 19th C.V.I., September 12 1863,” Linda Lear Center Digital Collections and Exhibitions, accessed May 29, 2023, https://lc-digital.conncoll.edu/items/show/1802.