This letter was written by Calvin Waldo Marsh (1825-1873), the son of Henry Marsh (1797-1852) and Sarah Whitney (1796-1883) of Berkshire county, Massachusetts. Calvin’s father, Henry, died of cholera at LaSalle, Illinois in 1852 when he was 55 years old. By that time, Calvin had already graduated from Williams College (1844) and was working as a commission merchant in St. Louis, Missouri. During the Civil War, Calvin received a commission as a Lieutenant and served consecutively on the staffs of Generals Halleck, Curtis, and Schofield in the Army of the Frontier. He was married in December 1860 to Anna W. King of Roxbury, Massachusetts. We learn from the letter that Waldo and Anna had a young child named Waldo at the time of the 1863 letter.
Despite being a letter to his mother, Waldo shares a lot of his impressions on the progress of the war and of the politics controlling the selection of generals and the campaigns they were tasked to conduct.
Headquarters, Army of the Frontier
March 4th 1863
My very dear Mother,
I feel ashamed to think I have suffered nearly two months to elapse since I received your kind letter. My time is pretty fully occupied and it often happens that I do not get a chance to read the papers until after reasonable bed time. Another thing, ever since about the 10th of February I have been more than half sick at least two-thirds of the time and most of my bad feelings have partaken of the ague type and you know that is terribly paralyzing in its effects both upon the body and the mind. Of course this halt and delay of the army here is also very trying and there does not seem to be any object in the future towards which the Army of the Frontier is, or is to be, moving.
Anna’s letter of the 27th arrived about 7 o’clock last evening but owing to the obstinacy of our postmaster, I did not get it until about 10 o’clock this forenoon. I was really delighted with the photograph of you and think it one of the very best I can say [that was] taken in Saint Louis. You could hardly have sent me anything I could prize so much. I have been very much gratified both for his sake and yours that Charlie has been reported to be doing so well. I believe he will yet make a man of good mind. I regret that I cannot at present contribute to the defraying of the expense of his present position.
Have you laid any plans for the next year? If I am obliged to remain away from home I think I shall try to get Anna to go North or East and board during the hot weather and break up housekeeping. I have been inclined to think favorably of it—not so much as a matter of economy as an account of the danger to little Waldo. I think it would be very much better for him to leave the city during June, July, and August and perhaps September even if they went no farther away than Kirkwood or up in St. Charles county.
I presume the future of General [John McAllister] Schofield will be determined upon by the 10th of this month or immediately after the extra session of the Senate adjourns. I presume you can imagine how disappointed the General and his staff were yesterday when the news came by telegraph that the Senate Military Committee had failed to report his name among the selected list that the President had sent in for confirmation. Senator [Henry] Wilson of Massachusetts is the Chairman and the whole thing is political of General Blunt & Curtis through Jim Lane and others of his ilk. Wilson is a bigoted radical abolitionist and proclaimed himself a fool in military affairs when he made his abusive tirade against West Point men. Every single Rebel General of any note except Forrest and Morgan were educated at West Point but they have had an opportunity to carry on their campaigns on their own plans while every campaign we have had except one or two in the West have been managed solely by the politicians. Of one thing I feel sure, if the ultra politicians continue to rule over Lincoln and the War Department sixty days to 3 months longer, the South will certainly achieve her independence. The North has not gained one point of value for eight months & today occupies much less of the rebel soil than we did six months ago, and the rebels have probably added more men to their army than we have. If this Conscription Law is rigidly enforced and the politicians will let Lincoln and the War Department alone, I believe we shall succeed in the course of the year. I guess you will think I have croaked long enough, but although unpalatable what I have said are truths.
I have had several very pleasant horseback rides since we have been here and have been much surprised to see the quantity of birds which used to see in Massachusetts between April 1st and November 1st only. Robin red breast, meadow larks, blue birds, all kinds of sparrows, golden winged woodpecker & many others. The fields are full of them in large flocks.
Dear Mother, let me renew my expressions of love & reverence for you, and tell you that hardly a day passes that I do not look back to the many years of patient love and counsel which you gave to me. I hope time will still continue to deal gently with you and that for years I may still have your love, counsel, and prayers. With much love to all. I am your son, — Waldo