This letter was written by George R. Harlow (1838-1908) who enlisted as a private in Co. E, 39th Massachusetts on 12 August 1862. In this letter, datelined from the regiment’s encampment near Cedar Mountain in January 1864, George imagined that the fighting might soon be over. Little could he have realized the fight left in the Confederate army. Just after his promotion to corporal, he was wounded slightly in the fighting at Laurel Hill, Virginia, at the beginning of Grant’s Overland Campaign and then again quite severely on 18 August 1864 in the fight for control of the Weldon Railroad near Petersburg. Following the amputation of his right arm, George was sent to a hospital in Washington D. C. where he was mustered out of the regiment for disability on 17 March 1865.
George was the son of Eldad Hitchcock Harlow (1803-1883) and Almira Clark (1807-1890) of Westminster, Vermont. He wrote the letter to his sister, Julia Elizabeth Harlow (1840-1869), who married Edward R. Taplin (1843-1872) in 1867. George died in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
To read other letters by member of the 39th Massachusetts I have transcribed and posted on Spared & Shared, see:
Julius Marshall Swain, Co. B, 39th Massachusetts (3 Letters)
Joseph John Cooper, Co. F, 39th Massachusetts (1 Letter)
Benjamin Curtis Lincoln, Co. G, 39th Massachusetts (20 Letters)
Camp near Cedar Mountain, Va.
January 16, 1864
We have just finished building our winter quarters and have been so busy that I have hardly had time to write a letter besides being on picket or guard nearly every other day. Our duty here is quite hard to what it has been and it is rumored that our Division is to go back to Culpeper and that a larger one is to take our place. How true, I cannot say. I would as leave do the duty [here] if when we get settled and made comfortable, they would let us remain until spring.
We occasionally see some rebels and not a few come into our lines and give themselves up saying they are tired of fighting. Almost every night some come in and tell pitiful stories of their army. They all seem to tell one story and they are not half fed or clothed. Some of those that come in are barefooted without overcoats or blankets to make themselves comfortable. The other night a captain come in and said his whole company wanted to come in and would as fast as they could get away. Surely if such is the state of their army as represented by them, may we not look for brighter days to come? They all seem to think the fighting is over or will be before spring.
We have a most beautiful camp situated in fine view of Cedar Mountain battlefield and the distant Blue Ridge, have very comfortable houses large enough for eight persons only. We have had a little snow but is nearly all disappeared and now are having fine weather for a few days.
Dr. Tyler did not write anything particular about Kirk stopping there this winter. He thought as a general rule outdoor life was the best for persons afflicted as he was. Henry wrote me that Charles had hired the house where Frank Clark lived and was to take Mr. Ranney’s farm to carry on this summer.
Will you please copy those lines in that book of poetry I let you have. The title, I believe, is “Thoughts at the Lord’s Table” and send me when you have an opportunity. If not all of them, a part.
Have you had your winter’s sleigh ride yet? We have had a little snow but has all disappeared and is quite muddy in the middle of the day. Last night I was on duty and do not feel much like writing but must write Henry a few lines.
From your affectionate brother, — G. R. Harlow