This letter was written by Aaron C. Young, Jr. (1825-1903), the son of Aaron C. Young (1778-1859) and Mary Pickett (1779-1834). Aaron was born in Hocking county, Ohio, never married, and lived within half a mile of the place of his birth all his life, according to his obituary. During the Civil War, he served in Co. G, 151st Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI) for 100 days. Companies C & G were posted at Fort Stevens during Gen. Early’s attack on Washington D. C. and helped blunt the Confederate offensive, saving Washington D. C. from capture.
Aaron wrote this letter from Fort DeRussy which factored into the Battle of Fort Stevens in July 1864. Fort DeRusssy was sited upon high ground on the west bank of Rock Creek to control movement along and across the valley. The fort coordinated its fire with Fort Stevens on the east and Fort Kearny on the west. It was built originally in the shape of a trapezium, armed with 7 guns, and afterwards expanded to mount 11 guns and mortars, including a massive 100-pounder Parrott rifle located at reshaped northeastern angle.
Aaron wrote the letter to his nephew, William Young (b. 1840) who served in Co. I, 159th Ohio National Guard. This regiment was organized at Zanesville and sent to garrison the forts at Baltimore during the summer of 1864. The regiment was activated for 100 days from May through August 1864.
June 15, 1864
I have just received your favor of the 12th and am glad to hear from you. I have been on detached duty for the last two weeks at the Great Falls, fourteen miles above the city. When we first came here, our regiment was stationed at Fort Sumner, seven miles above Washington on the Potomac. Since then we have moved to Fort Reno, a little nearer the city. Here the main part of the regiment are stationed at present while our company quarters are at Fort DeRussy—still a little nearer. I suppose from what I can learn, we are about four or five miles from the city in a northwest direction perhaps.
We have no chance to go to the city to look around any. The day we got there, I was in a couple of hours. I put in the time looking at the Capitol and surroundings. It is a magnificent structure, but it is no use trying to describe it. Perhaps you will have an opportunity of seeing it for yourself. As we marched through, we passed in front of Old Abe’s house but didn’t see the occupant. We also passed the Treasury Building which is a grand affair.
I must tell you of a dinner that we got in the city. We arrived about nine in the morning and lay round in the hot sun till noon when we were marched up town for dinner. The tables were set in a magnificent hall and the bill of fare for each soldier was as follows—viz: a slice of light bread, a piece of fat middling meat that had been boiled at but not boiled—most of it stunk—and some kind of drink they called coffee but the true nature of which I know nothing at all about and never expect to. I could detect no taste of coffee in it. I considered it the longest range dinner that I had seen. It would kill a man about four hundred yards.
Our fare here consists of beef, bread, and coffee and I don’t feel disposed to complain as long as I can get plenty of that. My health has been pretty good with the exception of a very severe cold that I caught about a week ago. I was pretty poorly for two or three days but I am some better now.
If you should pass through here and have an opportunity seeing me, I should be very glad to see you and whether you do or not please write whenever convenient and I will give you whatever items of news I can. Yours truly, — Aaron Young
P. S. Change the address to Reno instead of Sumner.