Headquarters 2d Brigade,
Beaufort, S. C. Jan. 9th, 1862.
My dear Mother:
It is with great pleasure I am able to write of my rapid recovery from a somewhat severe illness. I caught the fever prevalent in this country, and lost all those pounds of flesh of which I have boasted, but am thankful to be again restored to health, if not to full strength, and am gaining rapidly. There is little chance of obtaining a leave of absence, for, though delightful as it would be to see you all again, it is not well to look back when the hand is once put to the plough. You will ere this have received an account of our New Year's call over on the mainland of South Carolina. It was very successful, but I was unable to be present, as excessive exhaustion, the result of the fever, kept me confined in bed. The weather down here is charming now, the sun is as warm as summer. I think of you suffering from cold. I would be willing to exchange the warm sun of Beaufort though, for a couple of weeks in the chilly North where there are warm hearts ever ready to welcome me. I am going to enclose to you a copy of a Secession letter which may afford you some amusement.
I have not received either my trunk or sword yet, though they undoubtedly are at Hilton Head, but the express agency is a slow working affair, and I must abide their time patiently. Yesterday was the anniversary of the battle of New Orleans. In the evening the General had a reception, at which many patriotic speeches were made, and a general feeling of jollity prevailed. There is little news to communicate. Your letters come regularly. I have received Hunt's photograph, which is capital. I hope gradually to get the likenesses of the whole family.
There is at present as far as we can learn, a general feeling of depression among the South Carolina troops, which possibly may eventually develop into a Union sentiment. The feeling the soldiers express is: We have no negroes to fight for, while the slave-owners have all taken good care to retire to the interior of the State where they can live in safety. The question is beginning to pass among them, “Why should we stay here to be shot, when those who have caused the war have run away?” This is dangerous talk, and, we are told, officers have great difficulty in maintaining the organization of their Regiments. At least these are stories brought by the negroes who are continually escaping to our lines, and the unanimity of their reports seems to lend the appearance of truth to them. The fact is, the frightful effects of the explosions of the 11 inch shell which some of our gun-boats carry, have produced a great panic among the land forces of South Carolina. Negroes from Charleston report the city in a great fright, the inhabitants making preparation to leave at the sound of the first note of alarm. I hope we may catch old Tyler.1 It would do me a deal of good to see the traitor sent North to be dealt with properly. There is a strong contrast between the treatment of our prisoners, and that received by the unfortunates who fall into the hands of the “chivalry.” The prisoners we have here are certainly as well treated if not better than our own soldiers. As I see them, on passing their place of confinement, with their legs hanging out of the windows, smoking their pipes, lolling about, enjoying fires when it is chilly, I cannot but think of a poor fellow named Buck, a German in my company and a capital fellow, who was captured at Bull Run and taken prisoner to Richmond. Once he ventured to put his head out of his prison window, and in an instant the guard shot him dead. I remembered too an amiable practice of the chivalrous youth of Richmond, who, when drunk, were in the habit of discharging their pieces from below, sending the bullets through the floor of the prison. This piece of pleasantry they termed “tickling the legs of the Yankees!” Well, we are not barbarians, and the other day a poor fellow whom we took prisoner at the battle of the Coosaw, as he lay grievously wounded, but receiving every kindness and attention at our hands, said: “Ah, there's a mistake somewhere. We think you come here to murder, and burn and destroy.” It will take time, but we believe by making ourselves dreaded in battle, but using kindness to all who fall into our power, even South Carolina may learn the lesson that there is a mistake somewhere.
There, I think I have written a long letter. With much love to all, I remain,
Your affec. son,
1 John Tyler.
SOURCE: William Chittenden Lusk, Editor, War Letters of William Thompson Lusk, p. 112-5