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Augusta County: James R. McCutchan to Rachel Ann McCutchan, September 22, 1861

McCutchan writes of his boredom in camp, and how much he misses the pleasures of home, family and friendship.

Sunday Sept. 22nd, 1861

Camp Near Fairfax C.H.

My Very dear Rate

I promised to write to you when I came back to camp + I will endeavor to do it this evening, as I havent any thing else to do. I havent felt a bit like writing letters since I came back. I havent written but 4 since I saw you - I got back safe, though I had a heep of trouble with the things I brought down. I had 1500 [unclear: lb] for different ones in the comp'y + it is no little trouble to take care of so many things. I found the boys generaly well at their encampment near Centreville. We left there last Monday + we are now 3/4 mile from Fairfax C.H.. Our encampment here is a very pretty as well as convenient one, but I can't like it myself, but there is no place on this side of the Blue Ridge that I do like. It is a beautiful country here, but somehow or other it hasn't the charms for one that the mountains + hills of Western Virginia has.

[page 2]
There is a fight going on down at Alexandria this evening. The canons have been firing ever since I commenced this letter. Boom after boom of the heavy old guns strikes upon my ear - it stirs up my soul + makes me feel like going to the aid of my fellow soldiers. There is canonading going on most half the time across the line between the two armies, though there is not much mischief done by it. I am looking for one of these skirmishes to bring on a general engagement + I hope how soon it may. It will never be ended except by fighting + the sooner we do it the better. I despise inaction, I want to be doing something, something that my mind or hands can be employed at. Some people accuse me of laziness but I'll venture the assertion that there is not one in Beauregards army that despises this thing of doing nothing worse than I do. I love something that employs my mind + energies. This dismal routine of drilling at little going on guard occasionly + cooking day after day + week after week just kills one.

[page 3]
The army is still increasing here. I have no idea how many are between the Junction Alexandria now now. Not many less than 200,000 I suppose. Nothing is to be seen but soldiers, waggons; encampments & military bustle and confusion, nothing to change the monotony of the same; from morning till night + from day to day is all the same. How long will it continue so God only knows. Here I am now cut off from my friends and from all that is dear to one from society + enjoyment of every kind. How often I think of the past when I was free as the little birds that sing their songs among the branches. I didn't know how to appreciate home, friendship, society, pleasure or any thing else then but now when I am cut off from all these blessings I can see + feel the need of them. Here I never see the face of a woman.

"Ah woman - those whose form + whose soul
Are the light + the life of each path we pursue;
Whether warmed at the tropic, or chilled at the pole,
If woman is there, there is happiness too."

[page 4]
I have often heard it said that man when taken away from female society will become like a brute, + I am forced by experience to acknowledge it to be true. I believe, too, to take a woman away from the society of men that in a short time she would be no better.

Well it is night now. I quit writing + eat my supper, + just as I got done eating orders came for us to prepare a days rations + be ready to march by six o'clock tomorrow morning. We are going on picket down in this side of Alexandria. I expect we will have a hot time down there. We have to stay 5 days in sight of the enemies picket + they are continualy firing across at one another. I didn't intend to finish this letter till morning but I wont have time then. John Wade is sick + he asked me this evening to stay here with him. I will stay if the Cpt. will let one I want to go along with the boys down there but I will do anything for John that I can. Mr Craig is still living, but no better, he is just living + no more. I don't think he can possibly get well if I don't go tomorr I will write some more if I go I wont have time to write any more for 5 days. Give my love to all. Kiss the children + write to me soon. Direct to Fairfax Station in care of Cpt. H.J. Williams Com D. 5 regmt Va vol.

Don't let any body see my letters, if that want to know what is in them read it to them, the part you want them to hear.

Yours as ever

James R. McCutchan

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