Letter written by Captain Alfred J. Sofield of Company A, 149th PA Volunteer Infantry “Bucktails,” to his wife Helen, from a camp near Falmouth, VA. Sofield writes of his own depression, and how he feels he has failed in his duties as a husband. He writes that he hopes his wife can forgive him for past transgressions, as he loves her and will “atone for past errors” if he is able to join her after the war. He mentions receiving monthly wages for two months, and is planning on sending money home. Lieutenant Dudley A. Fish has gone home on sick leave, the camp welcomed a new chaplain, Reverend J. F. Calkins.
Camp near Falmouth, Va
June 3d 1863
My Dear Wife
Yours of the 21st reached me on the 31st. I was on picket duty about two miles from camp, lying on my back under my shelter tent, thinking of home and of you when it was handed to me, & was in fact having the blues a very little, but at sight of the inperscription of the letter I cheered up, and proceeded to read its contents. Well, now after reading the letter I have the blues worse than ever. To be reminded that I was so necessary to your happiness, and feeling how far short of my duty as a husband I have come for the past twelve years, and how indulgent and forgiving you had been, caused me to feel sad indeed. I cannot account for so much generosity as I have received at your hands upon any other ground than that you know that with all my faults I love you with all my heart & soul. Sometimes you have said to me when I have been conducting myself badly, that you thought I did not love you. But I don’t think you really thought so, and yet I must admit that at times my conduct was such I could not blame you for arriving at such conclusion. But I will say, as I ever hope to see my family, that my love for you and the fear that you would lose all love and respect for me, has caused me more remorse of conscience than all other considerations
and has in many cases kept me in the way I should go. If I am permitted to join you again after getting out of this war, I will try to atone for past errors. I don’t think it necessary that you or Willie should cut the wood. You are neither of you strong enough, and I don’t want you to do any more. You don’t know how glad I was to learn that you carry out my requests in relation to the kissing Tell Jimmie I want it done even if I should forget to put it in the letter. We were paid two months pay yesterday. I am expecting Issac M. Bodine here next week, and will send by him $150 would send $200, but I have to buy a new suit of clothes. am getting pretty rusty, that is my clothes are. The first of next month will have two months more pay due me, and shall then (or rather about the 10th) try to get started for home. And then (if I succeed) how happy I shall be – and how infinitely more so when I reach home. Tell Azalea I am glad to hear that I am not forgotten by her, and give her my love if you don’t want it all yourself, and if you do you may keep it in welcome. Lt. Fish started for home yesterday on a sick leave of absence for 15 days. I just stopped writing to welcome the Rev. J. F. Calkins. He is now in my quarters and will stay with me until he gets a tent of his own, and as he has just arrived, I must close and attend to him. Kiss the boys & have them kiss you for me. Good night my dear wife, and may God bless you.
Yours in love,
Alfred J. Sofield was a clerk/justice of the peace in Wellsboro, PA when he enrolled as a Union Army Officer. He served in the Civil War as Captain and commander of Company A of the 149th PA Volunteer Infantry. During the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg, he was stationed along Chambersburg Pike north of the McPherson Farm. His unit under artillery fire from the Confederate batteries on Herr Ridge, and was struck by a round, which killed him as well as Private Edwin D. Dimmick and Corporal Nathan H. Wilcox.