New Year’s on the Potomac

Over the past few months, we’ve been following our Civil War soldier Henry Joslin while his company was on picket duty on the banks of the Potomac.  Last we heard Henry and his Company were involved in a skirmish in late October.  Now in the New Year, 150 years ago, Henry is writing home to his mother, thanking her for his new year’s gifts of aprons and cake, which he deems “a very acceptable new year’s gift”, and describes his new duties as the Company’s baker –

We commenced baking to issue bread every day instead of every other day on new years day it toke [sic] nearly 800 loaves per day.  It is no easy job for three of us…to do the work it takes us from sunrise till after dark to do it.

He later writes proudly, “I have got so that I mix and mould same and am getting to be quite the baker.”

The winter seems to be setting in, and Henry hopes this will be the last winter he sees away from home.  We unfortunately know Henry was still in service through the next winter.

I don’t know how long this fighting trade is going to continue but hope not long I would like to get home but do not want to come until the comp’y returns for good which I hope will be before another winter comes on.  We had a little snow this morning not but a little though.

The tone of this letter is certainly different from the previous.  All seems calm for the moment, and Henry is relishing in his new task.  Not quite what one may expect from war letters.  We’ll catch up again with Henry soon!

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Tracey Kry

Assistant Curator of Manuscripts and Assistant Reference Librarian, American Antiquarian Society

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