CONFEDERATE SOLDIER LETTER - FIRST LIEUT. WILLIAM C. CARRINGTON, 15TH VIRGINIA CAVALRY

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Cover envelope addressed to [Hospital Steward] Alonzo Brock Esq/ Genl Hospital Camp Winder/Care of/ Dr. J Chambliss/ 2nd Division”—postmarked “Howardsville VA/ Sept 13th”. Dated “Howardsville Va/ Sept. 13 1862.” 6 pp., in ink, on light blue lined paper. The letter exhibits slight smudging and spots of bleeding ink, but is by and large intelligible and highly hilarious—if not scandalous.

William C. Carrington, a resident of Albemarle Co., was at the time of writing a Lieutenant with Co. “B”, 15th VA Cav., and 27 years of age. His correspondent, Robert Alonzo Brock, a resident of Richmond, 23 years of age, was then posted as Hospital Steward at Camp Winder. (Brock had earlier served year with the 21st Virginia Infantry). Both men attained later prominence in post-war Virginia—Carrington as Mayor of Richmond (1876-88), Brock as an historian and Secretary of the Southern Historical Society.

This war-time letter from Carrington to Brock is written in youthful exuberance, laced with facetious commentary concerning the high-jinks and amorous affairs of various friends in common at Camp Winder.

Lieut. Carrington begins by announcing that he is sick: “I am sick Brock!—been in bed several days & physician with me—so I doubt whether I ought to write but will try & if I cut off short any where—just know that I am too sick to finish & write me again…”

He goes on to mock Brocks’ literary capacities, writing to the future secretary of the Southern Historical Society that “You are a remarkable youth in your literary attainments! Specially in your talent in writing & I think your letter displays such power to ridicule-flatter & make fun in the same sentence, that I fear “viva voce”…will force you from your seclusion to some stand point of literary eminence where your light no longer “under a bushel” can illuminate a larger space than Camp Winder & show to more effulgence in more public sheets than the records of Camp Winder—say at the head of the paper you once represented as porrescondent in the field of mud an mire in the Valley.”

Having pulled Brock’s leg, Carrington then turns his ornate phrasing loose on both Brock and “Floyd”, the latter an Army comrade recently wounded at Manassas and recuperating at Camp Winder.

You say Floyd’s “scars of war” are repeated ingraftings of “ground apple” fruit when he was “a la Tipperary”…I deeply regret he was so unfortunate and mourn the fall that instead of a bite from the “dogs of war” he bears a bite from the “Dogs of Erin”. (Shillalahs)

But Brock, I don’t believe that tale! Floyd fought at (2nd) Manassas & while I have no doubt that he was “tipsy and rearing” I do no think his scars are from that.”—[ie., being drunk]—“for don’t you remember the Dr. Jones excitement…Don’t you remember how fluently he [Floyd} spoke of fighting…don’t you remember my telling him he had “nippy cum flips”—he replied most pugnaciously “Nippy cum! Nippy cum! Nippy cum hell!!! Lieut., you just ought to…Where-e-e…I’d fight! I’d fight!! Where-e-e-e…or I surrender.”

Oh, Brock, such matchless eloquence—such grandiloquent words of courage. Denote our snake haunted friend as one worthy to bear the marks of stern conflict on the blood & grit fields of Manassas; but Brock, joking aside, Floyd is a first rate fellow & I wish if he has to go back to the Army he may get in some in some nicer crowd than he represents his company to be. I’d like to have him with me.”

And, it only gets better. Though sick in bed, Lieut. Carrington, isn’t done with Floyd, or other of their mutual acquaintances down at Camp Winder, including some ladies, including one of darker hue.

“You say Floyd is a “votary of “Bacchus” (which in my knowledge as a linguist is Snowbird Greek—meaning “he votes for the black one”. I recollect his bragging of the beauty of his sweetheart one serenade night & wishfully watched from the window, I remember a “black one” poked her head out—but upon our teasing he protested his innocence, I am glad that time has proved the charge but hoped Floyd would be keen enough to hide the real object of his visit to the Misses Young house…

Now my friend, let me interpose in behalf of my friend Floyd a request that you as my representative take steps to prevent Withers & Cutler from interfering with Floyd’s matrimonial project with the Misses Young. Cutler loves one of them (or Miss Ann Nolan). I was pestered to tell which—but either one of them interfered with Floyd. Withers evidently wants to marry something (& will so if unless killed in some “dog quarrel) & from the uneasiness he showed while here, his frequent allusions to the Misses Young & his hurried departure, I fear he has cruel intentions of committing marriage on one of them.

Tell them to keep cool—to lay still till the “Genl. Debility” [obviously Floyd] settles on which color & which one he wants & let him have his way; oh Brock! Beseech them to remember his trials!!—remember that the snake turned in his bed, scared him into leaving us one whole night from a serenade, for the wash room…let him quietly take choice of the Misses Young, Miss Anne Swope or the “Black One” that greeted his serenade.

Tell Cutler that that he had better be cautious, a “wolf” is on his track—Say to Withers to “Keep his eye open tight” or the evil power of a “crank” will be one him & give him more “hard Cider” remembrances than he can face…

I can write no more--I have put this much foolishness together by repeated resting…I will be down in a week or so…my regards to Floyd, Withers, Cutler, Dr. Lane Lewis—“et id omnes genius”—in short every body.

Is Floyd dead or is he too much occupied with the Misses Young to answer my love letter? I have rec’d no reply from him.

Prodigiously/ Yours in Fraternal Snakehood/ W.C. Carrington

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An extraordinary war-time letter from a Lieut. of the 15th VA Cavalry, later to become Mayor of Richmond, to his brother in “Fraternal Snakehood", a Camp Winder hospital steward destined to become Secretary of the Southern Historical Society. In protective sleeve, with a small amount of internet research material included. Invites further research.  [jp]

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