This letter was written by Diedric M. Day (1836-1865), the son of Newton Day (1802-1887) and Sybil Pease (1808-1897) of Granby, Hartford County, Connecticut. Prior to the war, Diedric resided in Southwick, Massachusetts. He enlisted in Company G, 34th Massachusetts Infantry on 31 July 1862 and was mustered out on 16 June 1865. Diedric survived the war but died at home just weeks after being discharged from the service on 6 August 1865. He was 29 years old and unmarried.
The 34th Massachusetts was organized at Worcester, Massachusetts, and moved to Washington D. C. in August, 1862. They were on duty guarding the Orange & Alexandria Railroad till September 10 and then went into camp near Fort Lyon until June 1863. See Regiment History.
Ft. Lyon ¹
October 17, 1862
I received your letter dated the 9th and one from Maria dated the 10th in the same envelope last night. I was very glad to hear that you were well. I thought you must have been sick. I received one from Henry Smith last Sunday stating that they had been a fishing but he did not tell about the pond — only the shiners that they caught in the brook.
As for the lice being as big as wheat, they are as big as turtles. I have not found but three but some of the men have as many as you wrote Hosking had.
There has been a great battle fought in Tennessee [Second Battle of Corinth] and the Rebels were badly whipped and many of their officers killed and taken, There has been one in Kentucky [Battle of Perryville] also in which they have been wounded and we expect the same in Virginia soon. Our troops are a moving towards Culpepper and Warrenton every day and a force of eighty thousand is said to be moving on Richmond. The rebels acknowledged themselves badly beaten out west.
There was a report that there was ten thousand rebel cavalry in this valley marching on Alexandria the other night but we have not seen them yet although our outer pickets have been driven in once. But if they come they will meet with a rather warm reception as they have to pass five large forts and we have ten or twelve thousand men and four batteries to welcome them with so let them come. They may get more than they bargained for.
Give my respects to Aunt Sally and tell her that I am all right though a little down and off duty today. Henry Fields is down with the measles and Knox with the rheumatism. Fields will use up all measles — he is so long — and the rest have to do without. [Arthur J.] Cushman has gone home. [Phierson] Stillman and Homer Russell are are on the road. The rest of us are pretty well only we have the dysentery in the camp and about 5 of our company at a time have it. I have it about three days once in three weeks.
I am a going to send for some medicine for it in the next box that I send for. I have got my clothes of the Nigger ² but tell Diana that I had to wash my own breeches. It is something of a job for me to write but I like to hear from home. we drill about three hours and a half every day when the weather is favorable. It began to rain the 2nd and has rained enough about every day to stop drill. They are building two new forts close by and we shall have to help build them, I am afraid, instead of fighting.
I shall send for another box as soon as I am certain of staying here. I do not know but I shall send home for a dollar or two in money as they have not paid us anything since we left Worcester, Massachusetts. As for your C. P. [cold process] Soap, we have a plenty of good bar soap that Uncle Sam furnished us. It lies around every brook near the ARMY.
From Diedric M. Day
Camp Fort Lyon, Virginia
¹ Fort Lyon was a timber and earthwork fortification constructed south of Alexandria, Virginia as part of the defenses of Washington, D.C. Built in the weeks following the Union defeat at Bull Run, Fort Lyon was situated on Ballenger’s Hill south of Hunting Creek, and Cameron Run (which feeds into it), near Mount Eagle (plantation). From its position on one of the highest points south of Alexandria, the fort overlooked Telegraph Road, the Columbia Turnpike, the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, the Little River Turnpike, and the southern approaches to the city of Alexandria.
² Presumably Diedric, like many soldiers in the Washington D. C. area, took advantage of the clothes laundering services of Negro washerwomen (and men) who made a living supporting the soldiers.