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A Moral Young Man in the 1860s

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Source: Rutgers University Special Collections and University Archives.


Camp 15th N.J. Vol.


Near Warrenton, Va Aug. 22, 1863


My Dear Aunt,


I received a letter from you some two weeks ago but have been so pressed with business that I could find no time to answer sooner.


I was in command of Co. C. from June 17th to Aug. 1st then in command of Co. F.. to Aug 15th and am now in command of Co. G. and every time I take command of a company I have to make out triplicate returns of Ordinance, clothing, camp and Garrison Equipage to send to Washington and also settle up all books and papers of the Co. I previously commanded so you see that all these things taken into consideration, together with about six hours drill per day, dwindle my own time down to just about nothing.


Our Brigade is, as you will see by the date at Warrenton doing Provost duty in that "City of beautiful ladies," and I can tell you that it keeps well up to its name for if you walk the streets about seven o'clock in the afternoon you will see from 50 to 75 very beautiful you ladies in a population of I suppose three thousand (in time of peace, but as all the men are in the Rebel army, there are not over 700 or 800 here)


Exfieds goods come right through now, without any delay and the boys are getting boxes from home every day.


We are having better times now than I ever expected we would have in the army. I received a letter from home night before last, they are all well. Fritz wrote to me some time ago, asking for eight dollars which I let him have, and Father says he passed the office with a big box in his arms which he would not let Father look into: what it can be he is so secret about. I don't know and am very curious to hear what all the privacy was about. You are right in your conjecture as to my falling into bad habits.

For I have not touched a drop of Whiskey, Gin, Brandy, or Rum since I have left home except when we were on the march from Hagerstown to Williamsport where I was so weak, (having marched so much and been up for several nights) that I could not walk duty after taking a good pull at a bottle of Whiskey I felt much stronger and did not complain thereafter.


I never swear nor chew and have the conceit to think myself a very moral young man.

Write soon and I will answer it immediately.


As to the Leave of Absence, I don't expect one before next winter.

Write soon to your loving nephew.




Ellis Hamilton


Co. E. 15th N.J.V.


  1. Describe the routine of a Company commander.
  2. Toward the end of this letter, Ellis reassures his Aunt Fanny that he has "the conceit to think of myself (himself) as a moral young man." How would you compare Ellis Hamilton's view of a moral young man in the 1860's with that of a young man in the 1990's?