Letter from Austin, Matthew S.

Soldier: Austin, Matthew S.
Allegiance: Union
Unit/Service Branch: 5th Infantry
Home State: New Jersey
Date Written: Tuesday, September 23rd, 1862
Location: Alexandria, VA
Correspondence Type: Letter
Subjects: Camp Life, Commanders, Comrades, Daily Life, Eastern Theater, Family, Friends
Camp Fifth N.J. Vols.Near Fort Lyon

Mt Dear Father~

Yours of the 20th was received last night and it gives me assurance that you have not yet given up the idea of securing me some position beside that of a Com. Serg’t. I quite fully appreciate your efforts in my behalf but I can assure you that I feel and now the difficulties attending efforts of any person outside of some military organization, to affect what might be to you and me so desirable. I cannot say that I second your efforts with Gen. Mott for the reason that success is quite hopeless in that quarter, from the nature of the case - notwithstanding, Gen. Mott would no doubt have been pleased to recommend me to the Gov. had he remained in command of the 5th and further, it would be more in harmony with my wish to first be commissioned in my own reg’t. I am willing to wait my time here - it will hardly be possible to give me the “go by” during the entire war. Gen. Mott won the esteem of all who came in contact with him, while with us, excepting those envious of his position and ascending Starr of foes to military discipline and on the battle field he has shown himself worthy of the position he now holds; there are few (perhaps none) who possess more bravery. He is brave, without being rash - knowing how to save his men from unnecessary danger or death - which requires a cool head to judge of in the time of battle. Had the intercourse of Col. Starr, with his superiors and inferiors, partaken more of the character which naturally and rightfully belongs to man (the character of man itself) he would now, without doubt, hold the position he so ardently deserves. He is justly punished. He has been long in the service and is brave and competent in battle. He may get above his present rank but not through the recommendation of those who know him personally.

Our men cannot get over the recent appointment from the ranks. The officers give him the cold shoulder. Some of them think it an insult to the personally. You can judge the talk and supposition drawn. The man has never been in an engagement and I have often remarked, was one of the most unsoldierly looking soldier I ever saw - was dirty, unnecessarily so - and was distinguished from every other man in camp, from a greasy cap, the front piece of which was cut so as to leave a narrow piece directly over his nose - which he wore for a long time - when he might have, at most anytime, procured a good one. He was slovenly and every man in camp knew him by sight - if not by name - hence the mortification felt by the entire command now blame him for his good fortune - all we rejoiced that one can rise from the ranks - from a private but there are tens upon tens whose lives were at stake, in their country’s cause, more entitled to promotion than he: even if they were not so competent. None admit competency, as having any hand in the business - nor meritorious conduct - nor service in the ranks. The influence drawn are various - one of which is that if a soldier has friends at home who have plenty of money (or influence) there is a chance by its judicious one to secure a place of profit in the ?.
Wednesday 24, ‘62

Today we are under command of Capt. Angel. Col. Sewell has leave of absence for 48 hours. Gen. Carr has been transferred to First Brigade. This brigade is under Col. Patterson of 115 PA. Vols. - brother of Frank Patterson, our Brigadier - who we understand is to take his command again. I believe there is little confidence felt in his ability or loyalty. We have too many officers of Col. Miles order and shall never succeed so long as they remain in place.

It takes ones patriotic feelings all “aback” when such stupendous blunders as the Bull Run Battles, No. 1 & 2 and Harper’s Ferry surrender, are allowed to be enacted and re-enacted day after day and hour after hour. Gens. & Cols. Are placed in important positions to the end that they may retrieve lost “reputation” - only to find that their treachery was more deep than the mind had been able to comprehend. I believe the campaign of ’62 on the “saved soil” of Va. has resulted (or will result) in a defeat of our army. The surrender of Harper’s Ferry has added another year to the war, I firmly believe. The rebels will hold the Shenandoah Valley until the season will have so far passed as to make a fall or winter campaign almost impossible, when they will retire upon Richmond. A detail of a 115 men from the 5th have been absent 5 days guarding workmen who are repairing the R.R. to Manassas. There is a change in the weather this p.m. - some rain - a strong N. wind give us the first lesson in fall weather and wind. It is cool enough for a good woolen blanket, etc. We are now under good Sibley tents. Am in very good health. May the same blessing soon attend all or hour house. Love to all.

Very truly sincerely

M. S. Austin
Com. Serg’t.
Fifth N.J.V.