Page 7: Correspondence; U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD, 0ct. 14 and Oct. 18, 1861--Author Unknown-but likely Col. (Dr.) Leasure based on content of two letters;
U. S. NAVAL ACADEMY, Annapolis, Md., Oct. 14th 1861
I am going to have a sit and a talk with you here for an hour or two, although the evening wears late. Capt. Van Gorder is sick, and I tend him here to night. He and I went out this morning to have a walk. He had not been well for a week or so, and I thought it would do him good as he was able to do so, to walk about. We had a very pleasant walk, but I think it has done him harm. We went to the steps of the State House and sat for one half or three-quarters of an hour, taking in the beautiful view; we came down to the 2d story and saw Governor Hicks and his Secretary, Mr. Jefferson, who treated us very courteously. I had been introduced to the Governor after our evening service, which he attended yesterday. Our present object was to see some old letters of Gen. Washington’s which are framed and hung upon the wall of the Governor’s Executive Chamber in the south-east corner of the State House which is immediately above the Senate Chamber; Mr. Jefferson also produced a number of letters, the autographs of Thomas Jefferson, La Fayette, Benedict Arnold, and more of Washington’s. The fact is, Annapolis is a mine of antiquities of the colonial and revolutionary era. Of course we enjoyed seeing all these, and also one of John Brown’s pike staffs taken at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, which Edwin Ruffin???? Of that State, has sent to the Governor for secession political purposes with a secession inscription which the Governor or his Secretary had the good sense to tear off.
The Governor’s Chamber is a spacious one, splendidly carpeted, and commanding a very fine view of the harbor and bay beyond.
On our return I brought Capt. Van Gorder there, and he is now quartered as a patient under my particular care in the adjoining room. The building we occupy is a one story building comprising 2 large rooms and a hall between. It stands mid-way between the South Eastern gate of the Naval School premises and the first dwelling house to the east after entering the gate. It bears the inscription “Superintendent” on one of the doors. Alva and I together with Cochran, occupy one of these large rooms. The other is devoted to the printing press, and in it Capt. V., has his bed made; (there is plenty of room; our press is a tiny thing), and I am happy to say his fever is abating. He got his indisposition by exposure to a storm at Kalorama one night when he was officer of the guard, and sleeping afterwards in his wet clothes, and is really rendered somewhat worse, I now think, by his uneasiness lest he should be so sick as to be left behind when we come to embark.
I presume you will value in some measure a letter written from this spot, and so I write hoping to be repaid by a letter from you, which you may address to me thus _____ _______, Col. Leasure’s Roundhead Regiment, Sherman’s Division, Annapolis, Md. I think it likely that if we leaver here we shall have arrangements made behind us to forward all mail matter by suitable opportunities to all the regiments comprising our division, where-ever we may be sent. When we shall embark no one knows, but if the whole Roundhead Regiment feel as peaceful as I do about it, I think we are fast acquiring one good soldierly quality, namely, to await orders.
I must tell you, however it is not hard to wait here in this beautiful spot. Many of our regiment, I think would be satisfied if the Government should leave them here till the war is over. When the secession troubles broke out, the Superintendent of the Naval School feared an attempt would be made to capture this place. The institution was removed to Newport, R. I.. These extensive grounds and numerous fine buildings, therefore, belonging to the United States, and thus left vacant, afford a delightful place for quartering troops. Along one side of the grounds run the Severn River and Grave Yard Creek; so called from the ancient Cemetery on its banks. Parallel with this is a 10 feet wall on the other side of the grounds, with a street outside, while at one end is the Harbor. The nearest building here to the water is the Battery, where cannon and mortars are ranged for defence. On this side a beautiful view is obtained (looking eastward) of what is called the eastern shore, i.e. e. of Maryland, 12 miles distant Annapolis Harbor and Chesapeake Bay lying between.
I really cannot tell how much land is thus walled off from the city – perhaps 10 or 20 acres. There are perhaps thirty buildings scattered all around through the yard, some of them large and elegant. Some beautiful monuments are also here. The whole makes an establishment like none I ever saw elsewhere. The Government has spent here I presume many hundred thousands of dollars. About 300 Midshipmen were always at school here; and altogether the institutions must have been an invaluable thing to the place.
Tuesday, 15, - I now close, because my time will be so occupied I may not be able to write more. Capt. Van Gorder is better this morning than he was last night when I wrote to you. I saw Hamilton’s (formerly Sherman’s) battery in the yard this morning engaged in drill; there are about 80 horses, 72 of which are attached to 12 wagons; there are about 100 men and six guns, some of which are brass others iron. Of course the whole camp is busy with the accustomed drill.
Oct. 18th, 1861.
DEAR MR. EDITOR: - Contrary to expectation we are still here in these beautiful grounds. Since I wrote to you a number of steamers have glided into the harbor, and silently tied by the shore or anchored out in deeper water. The latter are ocean Steamers. Four of them have not come in at all, but lie at anchored outside in the deeper waters of the Chesapeake Bay.
There is something suggestive of mystery, combined with the conception of wisdom and power in the appearance of these vessels in these waters, and their riding at anchor there so quietly day by day. When I arrived here there were none at all. Now I count seventeen of them from the cupola of the State House. They are beautiful objects, with their clean cut keels, their single chimney stacks, and two masts each; and there they sit like birds upon the water; they resemble to my eye, eagles upon their perch, that seem to be oblivious to every surrounding thing, but whose eyes sweep the horizon, while we know not what moment they may swoop down, and fall like thunderbolts upon their prey.
It is well for our regiment that before we embark we should have the comparative rests and refreshment afforded by a sojourn in these delightful grounds. It is a change to “dwelling in ceiled houses,” after dwelling for weeks in tents, as we did on Kalorama.
One of our regiment has “finished his course” and fought his last battle, since I wrote last, namely, Wm. S. Sample. Mr. Sample was a resident of Mercer county, a good member of the regiment, a professor of religion at home in the U. P. Church of Greenfield. He maintained his integrity here in Camp. The trip from Washington here was a very hard one on the sick, on account of its tediousness. When one of our nurses, those kind ministers of mercy, among the sick men, commiserated him as he sat during the long night propped up on the seat of the car, with the true spirit of a Christian and soldier, he told her not to mind him, it was hard on others as well as himself. We buried him in the beautiful historic grave yard at Annapolis; but his brother, who arrived last night, has concluded to have the body disinterred and embalmed, and afterwards conveyed home and buried with its kindred dead.
It is reported this morning that the 1st Brigade of our division embark today. I think the report is correct. I do not know, however – Of course our orders are not made public, but we are ready, and only wait the final word. – It may be a few days till that shall come. – Then we may lie a few days more in Hampton Roads. But all our movements are veiled to our eyes in mystery and uncertainty. Let our friends be hopeful as we are. Let us not go without their supplications on our behalf. “I never doubted,” said Col. Leasure to me, last night before last, but when we go into action we will be victorious, for I know a column of prayer will go up behind us.” The good news comes to us like a cup of water to our thirsting souls. God bless you for it. Oh that our country’s friends, here and behind us, in this great hour of peril and hope may be “baptized with the Holy Ghost and with fire.”
I send this home by Mr. James M’Cune, of Harrisburg, who is just closing a visit to our camp. We are pleased by the arrival of another of our good Lawrence County friends, Rev. Wm. J. Moffatt who reached here last night.
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