Tenant Spencer enlisted in Company D of the Fourth Michigan Infantry on June 20, 1861 at the age of 29. He died of disease on November 26, 1862 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
This letter was written by Private Spencer to his brother Festus and includes a closing paragraph meant for Roswell’s wife Jane. The transcription is provided by the great-great-grandson of Roswell’s, Karl Davidson. Copies of the original letter are unavailable at this time.
Dear Brother, Camp Union September 15, 1861
After so long a time I take my pen up to write an answer to your kind letter. My only excuse is lack of time. We have been so hurried of late that we have not had time to get lonesome or homesick if we was inclined to. We are hurried or hustled from one thing to another so fast that morning, noon, or night comes and goes and we can hardly keep track of the days of the week or month. Sunday comes and we just begin to make calculation on the letters to be written or work to be done in the week and Sunday is upon us again, and so weeks come and go as days. I am astonished when I stop to reflect on the time that has passed; it was early spring a few days have passed; I stop to think and lo it is fall and stormy. Winter is fast approaching. I think never [have I] so fully realized the rapid flight of time; and all because we have been busy with frequent changes each day following the other up to something new. If I was a young man with nothing but myself, no such jewel of a family to think of, God be thanked I have, time would fairly fly and with the wings spread wide I’d rise on the hurricane [and] be borne along the eddying and ebbing of time, unconscious of care or anxiety. But here comes the Sergeant with “Fall in for dress parade” so I must stop speculating and get ready for dress parade.
Well, I have had my tea, and fooled around a while, and now I will write again. I suppose you would like to hear about the boys of your acquaintance. Well, John Taylor (Pvt. John William Taylor, Co. D) is getting to be a big, heavy, and stout fellow. They are few and scarce that can handle him. He has improved very much. He is a big, fleshy, tough fellow. He has not, I think, been sick a day. He speaks of you almost every day and said “I wish Fet was here, he’d show them how to lay on their back, or how to wrestle.” John is a good boy and very much liked by the boys. He and I expect to go out on picket tomorrow. Deck is doing first rate. Leo makes a first rate soldier, steady, sober, and as contented as he always is everywhere. Charles reeves is one of the heaviest and stoutest men in the regiment now. He is as fat and rugged as a bear. The boys have got a violin and are having a cotillion out in the street. I was just out to see them perform. John is among them. He says “Tell Fet I am alright. I wish he were here and he is having a little dance.” They are having a high time out there, I guess by the noise I hear. I told Jane that I would give some account of the way we live in your letter and I guess I must do so. It may be interesting to both of you. Letters, as I get from you, I guess by your tell, that there are more battles there than here. But not quite so much bloodshed, more something else than blood, although ours have been rather bloodless battles lately. That is, those in which the Mich. 4th have been engaged of late. It is late and the tent has been full of boys joking and telling yarns so that I have not got along very fast in writing and I must complete my letter in the morning.
Good morning Janie. It is better late than never. I have been busy all the morning. We have had to sweep our tents, the streets, and alleys, brush up our guns, overhaul our clothes, unpack and repack our knapsacks, bring water for the cook, and go through company and general inspection of arms, accouterments, and knapsacks. And then they wanted me to go to church. But I thought I was under greater obligation to do a little writing and so here I am at it. I would like to go to church with you today. You say that some were taken in in full membership, you with the rest. I would like to have been there. Was anything said about my connection with the church? Tell the brethren that I am trying to live a life worthy of my connection although I do not feel as interested as I should, perhaps, nor [do I have] as much of the “love of God” in my soul as I would like to. But my trust is in God “who is able to deliver” who is able and willing to save all, even to the uttermost, all who come unto him”. Jane, I wish you could be here with your needle and thread to sew up laundry rips and rents that have made their appearance in my garments, and sew on about a dozen buttons that are in my pockets instead of where they belong. And then there is some altering over I would like to have done. So far I have done all my washing which is not less than half a dozen pieces a week. I am bound to keep clean. We have to pay from 5 to 7 cents a piece when we hire it done, and sometimes it is not half done then. There must be more than usual, I conclude, to the girls writing if they were going to it as soon as they could, as I have not heard from any of them yet, except Mother. Here come our pickets into camp. By their tell the rebels have fallen back some but I do not know how far. Nothing was to be seen of their pickets. I was going to tell you about our fare and how we live but I must write to Fet and perhaps I will give it in his. Give my respects to all our friends and neighbors. Kiss our children for me and believe me, my undying love is yours, and that you do, and will ever occupy the chief place in the heart of your ever faithful husband.
T. R. Spencer