Thursday, 1863 April 9, Vienna, Virginia: “I have not seen a great many Contraband but what I have seen is a very fine-looking lot of fellows”

Vienna, April 9th, 1863
Dear Aunt:
I received your kind
letter last night and was glad
to hear from you. We have moved
at last and are drawing near the
enemy every time. We are situated
in a very fine little village in Va.,
and it is a pretty place. It is on
the Washington and Leesburg railroad
and it was a flourishing little place.
There is about 10 houses around in
the place, and if this war had not
broken out there would [have] been as
many as 50 houses here now, as
they would have been about 500 inhabitants.
The man who kept the tavern was
taken prisoner and was in a
prison in Richmond about 8
months, and was robbed of all
of his money which was about

[page 2]
1,000 thousand in gold and
silver and all of his personal
property was all Destroyed and
while we was their he came their
and said that he was glad to see
the union troops in his house
but when we was ordered out and
to go in shelter tents he said
that if their was ever anything that
would make us comfortable to
take it, and we took some of his
boards and made a floor so it makes
us more comfortable than to go
and take them without leave.
We have the poorest tents now
that we ever had, we have hardly
chance to sit up in them, but by
getting right in the middle of
the tent we have a chance. We made
about as quick a march as we
ever made when we came here.

[page 3]
We was ordered out about 10
O’clock, Monday night and marched
About 15 miles and got their at
4 O’clock the next morning, and
we had to go in a snow storm
and when we got their the snow
was about 6 inches deep, and the
mud was up to our knees and
we brought nothing in our
knapsacks but our blanket and
shelter tent, as we have go no
change of clothing with us; we
had to go out on picket the next
day and took two rebels prisoner
and they was the dirtest looking
that I have seen since I came
into the army. We captured the
rebel mail carrier yesterday
and he had about 70 letters
with him and now he has
got stop his fun on that it
is probable that he will be
hung. He was about 25 years old.

[page 4]
I should think but you could
not tell how old any of these
Virginian are without asking them.
And our cavalry captured the
whole of Mosby gurilers [guerillas] which
numbered about 80 but my sheet
is getting small. We have not
been paid off for about 3 months
now and the government owes us
5 months pay and we don’t
know when we shall get any of it
pretty soon. Our sutler  says that
the paymaster has been in camp
but I don’t think we shall get
any until May. Now, I think that
I have received every paper that
has been sent to me. I meant to
tell when I received a paper but
sometimes I forget it.

[page 5]
this is from your friend
Edwin A. Lane
Please write soon

I have not seen a great many
Contraband [Editor: escaped African-American slaves], but what I have
seen is a very fine-looking lot of
fellows. When we was to hunters chapel
[Editor: Hunter’s Chapel and Hunter’s Chapel Methodist Church,  Arlington, Virginia.]
I went off over to a hill which has
been called a contraband village and
they seem to understand themselves
quite well. The most of them do
not know how to read and write.
They used come into our camp and
get clothing to wash and one old
man got so attached to the business
that he could get any body clothing
to wash and trust us for it. We expect
to go back to camp today as tomorrow
but I don’t think that we shall
go back to the hunters’ chapel [Hunter’s Chapel] again.
We have two or three contraband in
our regt. that come from North Carolina
and they are pretty smart
fellow. We get them to sing and we

[page 6]
got a banjo and a tamborn [tambourine]
for them and you had ought to
heard them sing and dance they
are the brightest negro that I
have ever seen, but I guess that I have
said enough about them in this
letter. It may be by the next time
I shall see more of them. What
is the mind of the people of the city
about the close. I think that it
will be at close before this
year has closed, and the most
of us will be to home when
[General] Joe Hooker go at them he
will make them go toward their
burial place. We have a very
good plase to camp now in
Virginia. I have inquired for them
Washburne boys in town or their
Company and can’t get one
trace of them but I must close.
Give my love to you and
sister and receive this from a true friend.

[Editor: cross-written on page 1]
Write soon and tell me all of the news.
Write soon.
Write soon.

[Editor: There were at least two Union infantry privates named “Edwin A. Lane”; this letter’s internal clues suggests this Lane may have been a member of the 40th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment which was stationed in Vienna during April 1863. This letter was written two years to the day of Lee’s Appomattox surrender.]

MSS 11027

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