Headquarters 2d Brigade,
Hilton Head, Dec. 2d, 1861.
My dear Mother:
A real Southern storm is without — the rain falls heavily, thunder rolls in the distance, the fly of my tent flaps noisily — yet here within all is peace and quiet, loving not stormy thoughts. Let us look about my tent a little. The bottom is boarded and covered with straw; a washstand occupies the corner; a bed, comfortable with blankets, extends along one of the sides; from the tent-poles hang my sword, sash and belt, my military coat, and such clothes as are needful for daily wear. Then I am sitting on my valise (Lieut. Elliott's name is upon it), and am writing at a table of rude construction — an old shutter, robbed from a Secession barn, laid upon a box—yet, covered with the beautiful blanket which came a gift from Hunt, it has a fine, jaunty look, and we think ourselves elegant in the extreme, especially when we put our new coffee-pot upon it, and sit writing at it for the purpose of spinning a yarn. A circular yarn I call it, for I intend it for all the kind friends whose loving thoughts were so abundantly manifest in that box of “goodies” which the “Bienville” brought me. There's one thing that I've been keeping back all this time — the cunning rogue that I am. Its a big, blue Secession chest, a good deal battered and worn, but I have only to throw open the lid — and presto (in the excitement I had nearly written prestidigitato) — I feel, see, think all sorts of things — things around which cluster pleasant memories.
Let us see! Come, oh bottle of Abreco, out of thy hiding place, for thou must distil for me dainty fancies warm as the sun that ripened the grapes out of which thou art made! Ay, and a cigar I must have too — a real Havana — Santa Rosa is inscribed upon it. Why that was the name of a little Jew maiden whom I once knew, and concerning which Miss Ellen Dwight with her superior worldly knowledge, whispers in the ear of Sam Elliott, “Oh strange infatuation!” But no matter. Let the fragrant clouds arise; clouds bearing fair, friendly, earthly visions! Stop though! There the cap of blue and white, knit by small, slender fingers. Dear Lilly, I put it on now, and now I take it off and look at it. It has a pretty maidenly appearance about it, and suggests indefinitely kisses from red pouting lips, and the sort of romantic dreams in which sentimental youths indulge. Some such articles as this, probably, Penelope spun while waiting her Lord's return from Troy. Is Penelope quietly spinning for me still? Or is the yarn run out, and does she now bend a willing ear to new suitors? If so, why then, bother take Penelope; let us look at the stockings! They have a jolly comfortable aspect. They bring one from visions of “airy, fairy Lilians” of poet fancy, to the substantial bread-and-butter sentiment of Germany. They are the work of comfortable middle-aged Penelopes, I fancy. I can commence at the toes of them, if I choose, and unravel them slowly, and each time the yarn makes a circuit, I can feel sure that I am unravelling a kind thought — perchance a tearful memory, that the loving ones wove into their work, as they sat knitting around the fireside. “Sweet home” — it is long since I have known thee, yet, when the labor is done, how eagerly will I clutch the promises the words “Sweet home” contain! I have some studs in my shirt. They are made of Sarah's hair and they tell me home has changed somewhat since I knew it. I asked General Stevens the other day if he had known General Garnett. He said, "Yes. Well?" and almost in the same breath added, “He had such a lovely wife who died in my territory.” They two have bidden us farewell, and grief is deadened at the thought of their present happiness. I look again into the box, and I see there gifts from Hunt and Thomas. They have been good brothers to me. They two and Walter have always given me a full, hearty brother's love. I am not an humble man, and am proud in many ways, but there is naught of which I am half so proud as my own true valued friends. As I think of them, they are not few; as I look into the box, I see this; as I remember all the kind acts they have done me, I feel this; and when I call to mind the goodness of the Almighty, I know it. Dear mother, dear sisters, dear brothers, I can hardly keep back the tears when I ask you to accept the thanks for your exceeding love. There are the little ones too, and they are never forgotten. I must add Walter's boy to the list now — that wondrous boy, so different from all other babies, and yet so like all others in the striking resemblance he bears his papa. Tell Cousin Lou that I am using the ink and paper she sent me, to express to all my friends my thanks. Does Cousin Lou think I am such a savage — so delighting in secession blood — that I would not extend my hand to help anyone in trouble? And does she not feel sure that a duty would become a pleasure when it would be to assist her friends? Let her never doubt that should any of her relatives fall into our hands, I will not forget either my duty to them nor my love to her. The gift from Uncle John I felt, and accept with that pleasure which not only springs from affection, but from the honest respect I have for his fearlessness of character in vindication of the right. Thank Uncle Phelps and Aunt Maria. They have never faltered in their friendship toward me. Thank my Aunts. I trust I may never disgrace them. Thank Mrs. Tyler, Cousin Lizzie and Aunt Elizabeth. Their gifts were timely and acceptable. I trust I have omitted none of those to whom I am indebted. If so I would thank them too, and in conclusion I can only thank God who has given so many friends — friends so faithful, so kindly, and so true.
SOURCE: William Chittenden Lusk, Editor, War Letters of William Thompson Lusk, p. 102-5