The following letter was written by Samuel Aborn Wightman Arnold (1842-1902), the son of John William Arnold (1817-1885) and Phebe Holdridge Wightman (1818-1882) of Warwick, Kent county, Rhode Island.
Samuel enlisted in Co. B, 10th Rhode Island Infantry in late May 1862 and mustered out of the service some 90 days later on 1 September 1862. The regiment was detailed to garrison duty in the forts about Washington D. C. Company B included about 125 students from Brown University and Providence High School. Its captain for three months was Elisha Dyer, the former governor of Rhode Island. Legend has it that Brown’s President Sears consented to allow his students to enlist only on the condition that Gov. Dyer accompany them. They were posted at Fort Pennsylvania along with Co. K for the duration of their term of service. The fort stood near Tennallytown at the top of the hill that marks the highest point in Washington, D. C. It was built in the winter of 1861 by the 119th Pennsylvania Regiment, and was named Fort Pennsylvania until 1863 when the name was changed to honor Major General Jesse Lee Reno, who died at the Battle of South Mountain in 1862.
Samuel married Mary Jane Fuller in 1867 and worked as a painter after the war.
August 3rd 1862
I now take these few moments to write you a few lines. I was on guard yesterday and came off guard this morning at 8 o’clock. We had a meeting this forenoon. We have our guns loaded every night. We have to be careful with them. It is very warm here. This is the warmest month of the year.
What do you think we had for dinner? Well, I will tell you what we had. We had some green corn, roast beef. I can tell you it was good. I have some fruit cake left yet. I have not used any of my tea yet for we have very good tea every night.
I must stop writing a few moments to eat my supper. We have got bread and tea. I have finished my supper and I will go on with writing. It rained very hard this afternoon. We have a Dress Parade every evening and Battalion Drill every two days. Mr. Clapp came in the tent and left some tracts. I am as well as anyone can wish. You don’t know what rumors runs through the camp—some saying that we will go home in six months and some says that we will go home in two weeks.
Co. B. fall in. I will go on with my writing once more. We have not received no money except our bounty money. It is a splendid evening. The rain has cooled the air very much. Camp life is a lazy life, I can tell you.
How does Old Moll get along? And has Father got any pigs? There was two boxes came in our tent this morning and we had a grand treat all round. Tell James to write. Should like to have a letter from him very much. I have lost my shirt and two handkerchiefs and one pair of drawers. I have got my undershirt that I wore when I left home. You will find a letter in the Press last Thursday.
I am sorry that I have not wrote to Fred or Hannah. I don’t know what they think of me. I have put it off so long now that I am ashamed to write now. I could not have the two certificates made out at once for the two months were not up. Charley Wilbur had his two months drawn into one.
It is a pretty sight [to] see signal lights displayed from one fort to fort. I think myself lucky that I have not been sick. There is seven of the Co. K sick with the fever. I don’t know any more to write so I must bid you goodbye. From your son, — S. A. W. Arnold
Pawtucket, Rhode Island