Letter from Austin, Matthew S.

Soldier: Austin, Matthew S.
Allegiance: Union
Unit/Service Branch: 5th Infantry
Home State: New Jersey
Date Written: Saturday, January 18th, 1862
Location: Lower Potomac
Correspondence Type: Letter
Subjects: Camp Life, Commanders, Comrades, Daily Life, Eastern Theater, Enemy, Family, Rumors, Weapons
Camp Fifth NJV

My Dear Mother~

The time passes so rapidly that I fail to keep up with it in my home correspondence but I do not have as much time as formerly, to write, so that my letters have grown few and far between with all my correspondence. I hop to do better in a few days, as much of the business of the regimental department will go into the hands of the Brigade Commissary (as soon as he gets into working order) such as sales to officers and company accounts. I know you always feel anxious for my safety and health and I ought, on this account to communicate often and will endeavor to do so in future. My health has been excellent - have been almost entirely free from the colds, which prevail generally among the men and at the present moment feel as well and strong as I ever did. Have gradually gained flesh until I have added 23 lbs. since leaving T. and am not unmindful or ignorant that I am constantly indebted to God, though your prayers and ? of the family for the continued blessings I have enjoyed.

Today the regiment was supplied with the Belgian rifle or musket - very superior to the old arms. It has rained hard part of the day and mud is so deep that roads are almost impassable. My assistant and self have put up a log house - on the Kansas style - of good sturdy logs and have very comfortable quarters. It is warmed by a stove and has a floor. Beds or bunks are arranged one above another and are made to turn up against the side of the house so as to give plenty of room. We have the best bakery in the brigade - a large log house and an oven attached, capable of baking 500 loaves - oven made of clay - about a foot thick. Excellent bread is made. Last night the rebel batteries made the air echo and reecho with their thunder. A vessel passed up about 8 and all the guns they could bring to bear, sent forth its ball or shell - the noise was terrible and lasted half an hour. At the commencement, it was thought they had made a simultaneous attempt to shell out some of our regiments. They have fired some three shells entirely over our camp and that of the 6th and one over the camp of the 3rd Indiana cavalry - something like a mile east of us - which buried itself 10 feet in the ground - was dug out and the ground measured. The one I spoke of in my letter of fathers as being fired onto the parade ground of the 2nd NJV, was dug out and sold for $10. They are becoming quite numerous among the regiments as nearly all failed to explode. They are conical percussion shells and of various weights - some 54 lbs. - 72 and 92. We have one in the Non. Com. Staff tent of 54 lbs. weight which is fourteen inches long. The are ugly customers to look at but are not so destructive when the explode, as the fuse shell - unless it may be against vessels. When striking the ground they bury themselves before an explosion can take place - hence the pieces are buried also. Today the rebels have been very quiet - more so than any day since the Pensacola passed down. She had passed out of their reach before they were aware of the monsterís presence. The Pensacola is a very large war steamer and the rebels could not have failed to hit her since her passage - they have opened their batteries upon everything that comes within range but have done little or no damage. Our gun boats have been quite driven out from the mouth of Mattowaman creek - the rebels have tried the range of their guns on the Govít. store house at ? Point but have not reached the object aimed at.

Taps have beat and I must put out the light.

Good night
Love to all.

Very truly
M. S. Austin
Com. Sergít.
5th NJV