These letters were written by Private Albert Westgate of Co. G Fourth Mich. They were addressed to Alfred Tingley of Adrian, Michigan.
Fairfax County, Virginia
January 18, 1862
Again I find myself seated on a stick of wood to address you a few lines to let you know that I am in the land of ]the] living yet, but can’t tell how long I shall be here. We expect to go on the next fleet that sails and if we go, we shall [see] some fighting and it may cost [me[ my life. If it does, you may say that I was a doing my duty for my country and willing to do anything that lay in my power and stand anything that anybody can.
We are a having some cool weather here and a little snow with it. We have had it so [cold] that it made my fingers ache and I had no house to go in to warm [up]. It is hard for us to stand on picket guard. We have to go out and lay down on the cold, damp earth and stay there two days and nights. That is what I call hard. If you had of told me when I was to work there that I could of stood what I have, what do you think I would [have] told you? I should have said that it would of killed me. You can’t imagine what it is. It is hard fare. But we get enough to eat and to wear. We don’t get any whiskey and I am glad of that.
We have got new rifles at last. They have been a coming for a long time. We can knock the socks off from the rebels now if they get in sight of us. I would like to come and see you if I could get away but I think it is rather doubtful. I am a going to try for to get a furlough and come home and stay fifteen days if I can. I have asked my Captain and he says he is willing if the general will grant it. He was a going to get our pay next week.
My brother Nelson has enlisted in the Lancers and I am sorry. And I have got another brother that talks of coming and that makes father feel bad. It is hard for him as he is a getting old and to have three sons go in to the army, it will wear his life away. It is a getting late and I shall have to close soon. Give my love to all and keep a share for yourself. No more this time. This is from your friend, — A. Westgate
to A. D. Tingley
Fairwell. Write soon. Direct to Albert Westgate, Co. G, 4th Regiment Michigan Infantry, Washington D. C.
February 7, 1862
Respected friend Alfred,
I take my pen in hand to answer your very kind letter that I received last week and was glad to hear from you. I am well as usual and hope these lines may find you the same.
You wanted me to tell you about our drill. It is so muddy that we have not drilled any for a long time — only have dress parade. We have Brigade drills and Battalion drills and company drills when it is fair. There is four regiments in this brigade and we have now and then a sham fight and fire blank cartridges and we use our knives sometimes. There is a Irish regiment in our brigade and some of them got blood last Sunday and I am afraid that there will be more blood if they don’t back out. We have had several fights with them and now the general says that we have got to be separated and I am glad for one.
There was a little skirmish this afternoon and there was fifteen rebels taken and a lot of arms and one whole battery of six pieces. The 14th New York was out. They are a joining us. The long roll was beaten and all ready for a start [in] ten minutes. We wanted ours to beat up too but it did not.We are a getting tired of laying around and want to go ahead and fight if we have got to and do the thing up as soon as possible, but it is not for us to say when to make us move. If it was, we should say go ahead.
Alfred, tell the little girls that I would like to see them and tell Charley and Orand to be good boys and tell you to be a good boy and not fall off the wagon for it won’t do. You know that as well as I do. I often think of you and what good old times we used to have. Often have I thought of the time that you and I was there alone when your father was gone to Illinois. What a good time we had them with our guns. But now we have to keep [bachelor’s] hall and my bed is composed of pine poles and one blanket and my overcoat. It is tough but I think it is in a good cause and am willing to do all I can.
Tell your mother that I often think of her and the many times she has fixed medicine for me when I did not feel well. And tell her I have got those handkerchiefs she gave me yet and they sure wiped many a tears from my eyes that rose brought over by your friends. Many a time I have found myself with a sad heart and it caused me to mourn for friends that are far away. When I was sick, I was not contented. But after I got so that I could get around, then I was all right. Give my love to all. This is from your friend, — A. Westgate
to A. D. Tingley
Farewell for now. Write soon.