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The following is a letter written by Cpl. Robert Boyd, Company C, 16th O.V.I., to his young cousin, Mary A. Taylor, while the soldier was encamped for the winter at Milliken's Bend, Louisiana. The 16th Ohio was part of Gen. Ulysses Grant's forces which were massing around Vicksburg, Mississippi, for a spring assault on that city. Cpl. Boyd would be about 22 years old at this writing and based on his reference to Cousin Mary's age makes her about 10 or 11.
This transcript was kindly provided by J. Mark Powell, a Civil War researcher and collector. Mr. Powell transcribed the letter verbatim, adding only periods to make it easier to read. The website thanks Mr. Powell for his contribution!
Millikens Bend, La
March 4th, 1863
Dear Little Cousin Mary,
I received your very kind letter two or three days ago. It was very unexpected to me though none the less wellcome. I hardly know how to write a letter that would be interesting to you. We are encamped Still on the banks of the Mississippi River which is as wide as from Moreland to Akerbachs & as deep as from your house to Hindmans in some places. Some places the river is higher than the country on either side and is kept in its banks by huge embankments as large some places as the railroad at Wooster & a good deal wider so that one can see Steamboats coming toward him & they appear to be walking right over the land. there is a great many Steamboats & Gunboats here running up & down the river. You have never seen a Steam boat. There is a great many things here that would be of interest to you if you could see them, but it is no use to try tell you about them for you would not understand what I said. If you could see all the soldiers here you would see as many camps as would cover the land from Moreland to Wooster. The ground is Speckled for miles as far as you can see with the white cloth houses of the soldiers. the ground is low and flat everywhere like Killbuck Bottom & the upper deck of a steamboat is the highest place one can get to look over the country. the fields are bigger than 4 of our farms put together & many of them are full of corn that never was husked. Our army is using it now to feed our mules. Some of the fields are full of cotton that never was picked. Imagine that you can see all of Kilbuck Bottom there by Wooster in one big field full of buckwheat with big brown stalks as high as your head (as high as my head I mean) & these stalks hanging full of bunches of wool so that you could see about half wool & half stalks & you will have a pretty good idea of a cotton field. You seem to think we always have hard times sleeping on the ground. It is not always so. True sometimes we must sleep right in the mud in the rain & have nothing that is fit to eat. but when we are lying in camp a month or two like we are now we can fix our camp and tents so that we are very comfortable. We tear down all the board fences & old buildings & make beds up off the ground. though they are not soft as feathers we are used to them & sleep quite sweet if not sounder than if we were sleeping in the nicest bed. We live a good deal better here now than half of the folks at home though nothing could give me more pleasure than to eat a meal with you and Aunty. Yesterday I was out on Picket & when out by myself on the Silent Picket Post a sort of dreary loneliness comes over me. Imagination takes a flight & carries me back to the time when everything conducive to happiness was at my command. I was always Ill humored & asking for something better & what cause I had to be thankful & happy & contented. I had kind friends everywhere, a good Father & mother, all that I wanted that was good to eat, plenty of good warm clothing & a good warm bed & roof to shelter me from all storms and inclement weather. Since I have left I have found that my old home was a very good place & the people around as good as there are anywhere else though the best of them are here with me fighting for you & all that is dear to us. I am nothing like as well off here as I was at home but I am very well contented as long as I am well for I think I am doing a great duty & I am older & wiser. when you are older you will understand why we are fighting and suffering in these poisonous swamps. I am not very old yet but I am just twice as old as you are & if you could see how much better off you are than some people you would go about all day long singing & rejoicing. Think how good Aunty has been to you, how well she has taken care of you, how she has loved you & when you were asleep, away at school or sick or well She is busy thinking about what she can do that will be for your good or that will please you. though she may ask you to do somethings that you don't like to do be sure and never refuse. always be good & pleasant & never say cross words to Aunty & I'll give you my word of honor when you are older you will be glad of it. No more at present. Give my love to Aunty and reserve a good share for yourself. write to me again & I will be sure to answer it.
Miss Mary A Taylor
From Cousin Rob,
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