Augustus P. Hoadley was 26 years old when he left the family farm in Pennsylvania to go off to war. Although his sister Emma was just a teenager at the time, their letters show the two shared a special relationship. A.P. wrote to Emma frequently and affectionately, filling his letters with descriptions of his day-to-day life in the army camp where he and his fellow recruits trained and waited for further orders from the battlefront.

Sept 11, 1862

Dear Sister

I am going to give you something of an idea of Camp Curtin: in the first place you will please imagine a field containing thirty or forty acres without a green thing growing upon it except a few small locust trees and so dusty that every time the wind blows a cloud of dust will rise which is enough to smother a person. In short it comes the nearest to my idea of a desert of any thing that I can compare it to, this field has been nearly all covered with cloth tents . . . about 6 feet square at the bottom and running up to a sharp peak at the top . . . We cook rations over a fire made in a hole dug in the earth . . . Our rations consist of bakers bread sheet iron . . . some fresh beef and corned pork with a plenty of coffee and sugar vinegar salt and pepper. . .

As winter approached and heavy rains began to fall, the dusty camps were often churned into a sea of mud. To make matters worse, the soldiers were never quite sure when they would be called into battle. As A.P. wrote in October of 1862, "I have heard no war news of any consequence lately. How long we shall stay in this place I cannot tell, we may not stay three days and we may stay three weeks. I would not find any fault in staying here if they would build barracks for us, it is pretty cold sleeping in cloth tents now. . ."

But A.P. made the best of the situation. He asked Emma to send items from home that would make his life more comfortable--his black hat, some handkerchiefs, dried fruit, good thread, a little sage, and a pen holder, among other things. During the day he carried out his military drills and duties with enthusiasm, writing home proudly to report that he had been chosen for a special guard assignment. "Quite an accomplishment that?" he marveled. "To be picked out of a company of about 95 men as one of the four cleanest and having the cleanest gun."

When he felt homesick or tired of the harsh conditions in camp, A.P. found strength in his patriotism. He had volunteered for duty simply because he believed in serving his country and fighting to save the Union. He was filled with disgust when he learned that one of his acquaintances had hired another man for $250 to take his place at the front. "That price wouldn't hire me to go to war," he confided in Emma. ". . . It required something more than money to separate me from the loved ones that I have left behind, it was a [principal] of duty, a [principal] which I hope I may always cherish as long as I live."

Dear Sister Emma | A Principle of Duty | Sickness and Suffering | Please Write Soon
I hope some day to return | Take good care of it...

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Last updated:
October 14, 2003

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