Monday, December 26, 2011

70 or 80 Pairs of Mittens

The entry is from Blue-Eyed Child of Fortune, The Civil War Letters of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, edited by Russell Duncan.  Later in the war Shaw would become the colonel in command of the all-black 54th Regiment,  but that was still a couple of years off.  Christmas time 1861 he was  second lieutenant with the 2nd Massachusetts Infantry.

Shaw was from a privileged background, which helps explain this entry..

Camp Hicks, near Frederick Maryland, 3 1/2 o’clock
December 25, 1861

. . . Also, tell the girls that Harry would be very much obliged if they would send him seventy or eighty pairs of mittens.  I heard him say he would like to have some.   The men were all glad to get them, though, as usual, they didn’t express their thanks.  They get so many things that they are spoilt, and think thy have a right to all these extras.  Thirteen dollars per month, with board, lodging, and clothes, is more than nine men out of ten could make at home.  Poor soldiers!  Poor drumsticks!  But this is not the sort of language for me to use, who am supposed to stand in the light of half  mother to the men of my company. I should like about fifteen more pairs mittens; and some warm flannel shirts and drawers would be very useful, if there are any spare ones.  “Uncle Sam’s” are miserable things.  “Merry Christmas” and love to all  . . .
Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, May 1863, photograph, Boston Athenaeum

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