Brandy Station, Virginia
February 1, 1864
It is with pleasure that I take this opportunity of writing you a few lines. I suppose you feel anxious about my safe arrival to camp. Well I am all here safe and sound—not a hair of my head injured. Only I miss my dear friends at home. I started as you are aware not on Thursday but on Friday at eight o’clock for Washington and arrived after traveling all night in Washington. It is very tedious riding from Newark through, especially from Washington out here for the roads are very rough and consequently the trains have to go very slow. Tell Mother that I did not eat those cakes until I was below Baltimore but if I had not have had them I don’t know what I should have done—I got so hungry.
I started from Washington at nine o’clock and arrived in camp about five o’clock. The Battery is still in the same place although it is very much altered. The trees are all cut down and yesterday there were three hundred men but 150 left this morning for Washington to go into other batteries or wherever they are sent. I might have been one of them and went into Woodbury’s Battery but as Albert says you would rather have me stay where I am, I will do so for the present.
There has been three deaths since I left here and once since. They are all new recruits. Most of them die by overloading their stomachs with army food. One, I believe, died from the effects of drinking too much sutler’s whiskey. It is nothing but poison. I wouldn’t touch one drop of it for fear it would kill me. I tell you what it is, there is nothing like a good meal once in awhile. I just came back in the wrong time for now we are all out of money and very scarce of fresh meat. I have hardly eaten two pounds since I got back. I was out today and the sun came out so bright and I felt so weak that I came near fainting. ¹
I have not received my box yet but I expect it along soon. Since and the very day I got in Washington, it has been very foggy and wet. It is a little more clear today. Father, if you have not got that deed recorded yet, I wish you would not do it for a little while yet. Please write some and tell me if you have heard from Mr. Hill yet concerning my commission.
From your soldier son, — C. Van Houten
One of my horses was shot while I was home so now I will not have a team anymore, I will be a cannoneer. — C. V. H.
Direct the box to:
Cornelius Van Houten
Battery B, 1st N. J. Artillery
Artillery Brigade 2nd Corps
City Point, Va.
Care of Capt. A. J. Clark
¹ From Michael Hanifen’s book (p. 100): “During the fall and early winter we received a very large number of recruits for three-year service. On February 2, 1864, 104 of these recruits were sent to Washington under charge of two Sergeants and two Lieutenants, there to be transferred to other New Jersey batteries. January 19th, John Kelly, alias Shea, died at Brandy Station, result of sutler’s whisky. January 28th, Alfred Hurin, alias Rood, died in brigade hospital of typhoid fever. During the winter 37 men re-enlisted, and went north on veteran furlough of 35 days.” Cornelius was among this latter group of men who reenlisted for three years.