Monday, July 23, 2007

Bates Letters, October 1861

Note: I hadn't intended to use one of the letters for post number 100, but decided in the end that it really didn't make much difference. I enjoyed the descriptions of provost guard duty in this letter, particularly the encounter of Sergeant Frye and his father. Neither Charles Bates nor Sergeant Frye nor presumably his father are listed in the CWSS, so I'll have to look elsewhere for further information on the encounter. I imagine the scouting rides were simply for training and practice, but find it interesting that Bates doesn't mention the constant drill that seems to have been the lot of the other regular cavalry units upon their arrival in Washington.

Washington D.C.
October 14th, 1861
Dear Parents,

I know that I have been ungrateful to you lately, but I shall try to make up for my neglect by writing very often in future. The reason of my long silence is explained by one word. Laziness (underlined). Yes it is laziness and no mistake, for there is plenty of time for me to write now. Our company is quartered within a thousand yards of the Capitol and form a part of the Provost guard for Washington city. We have to patrol the streets every other day and arrest every soldier found without a pass. It is laughable to see us sometimes give chase to a party of half drunk Sogers (sic, underlined) through back alleys and into cellars, sometimes on foot, but generally we manage to overhaul them without dismounting.

If they allow themselves to be arrested quickly there (sic) are kept overnight in the Guard house and released the next morning without further punishment but if they try to run away they are favored with a cold water shower bath three times a day for a few days before getting their liberty. Many a curse is given to us by the poor victims, but it is orders and “duty must be done,” as Sergt Frye said when he took his Father to the Guard house.

It is a great benefit to the citizens to have the patrols about the streets. Be fore they started the streets were filled with drunken Soldiers at all hours and in many cases the houses too. Now the streets are empty from nine O.clk at night until 6 in the morning and through the day they are put in limbo if they get drunk.

The provost guard now consists of three Companies of Cavalry and nine of Infantry, and the mounted patrols go in parties of 6 men and a commissioned Officer. The foot patrols have 12 men.

We have an occasional scout into Maryland but they never last more than three days, so I expect we will remain in our present quarters until spring. I shall write often to you in future and expect to hear from you soon. I have just recieved (sic) Johnson’s letters and am glad to hear that your (sic) all well. It is the first one I have had for so long, I can’t remember when. Give my love to my little niece. Tell Julia, but never mind I shall write to her tomorrow. Good bye for the present. Give my love to all.
I remain
Charles E. Bates

P.S. I almost forgot to tell you that the name or number of our regiment is changed. Direct to
Compy “E” 4th U.S. Cavalry
Washington D.C.

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