Letter written by Captain Alfred J. Sofield of Company A, 149th PA Volunteer Infantry “Bucktails,” to his wife Helen from camp near Belle Plain, VA. Sofield writes of the impending arrival of a new chaplain, and a rumor that Captain Bryden was appointed provost marshal of the Congressional district. He also mentions the prevalence of disease within the camp. He goes into detail about the politics in the regiment concerning their lack of an acting major. Sofield received the majority of the votes for major, though he is unsure if he will get the position as the promotion would be made by the colonel. He writes that Belle Plain is only used as a government depot, and they are on picket duty for the next several days.
Camp near Bell Plain, Va
March 6. 1863
8 O clock P.M.
My Dear Wife
I have been waiting anxiously several days for a reply to some one or all of my letters. But the mail is in and again I am sorely disappointed. Yours of the 19th, 22d, & 21st ult. I rec’d at the same time, that is on Tuesday last. You may well believe I had begun to get nervous as I know you generally write to me frequently. And in this case it being so long, and the children being sick when I left, I imagined all manner of things, and of course was very much gratified to hear that you all, if not quite well, were so much better. I rec’d a letter from Capt. Bryden [Co. G] saying that Mr. Calkins’ [chaplain] papers had not reached
Harrisburg. I went immediately to Col. Dwight and said it was very strange as he saw them mailed. The next morning the adjutant brought me the documents and said they had been mislaid. I took and forwarded them to S. F. Wilson at Harrisburg, and we now expect our chaplain will be with us about the last of next week. Did you see Wilson when he was in Washington, or was you at Alexandria at the time I heard yesterday that Capt. Bryden was appointed provost marshal of our Congressional district. Is it so? I hope it is. When we arrived at this camp we only numbered 530 men, and out of that small number 130 were reported sick this morning. One of Capt. Bryden’s
men died today. It was a Blissburg man. I do not know his name, but if I can think of it in the morning will find out and let you know. There are quite a number of my men sick, but none of them dangerously so. Among the number is John Wilcox. Colds & diraeah are the prevailing diseases. We have no acting maj. There was a move on foot by which Capt. Osborne was to act in the absence of Maj. Speer. It was a move of Col. Stone’s, at least so says Col. Dwight. But the officers of the regt. just told the lt. col. that that would never answer, and it had the desired effect. The officers had a meeting a few nights ago and took a vote as to who they were in favor of, and I had all but three votes
Two of those against me were by men voting for themselves and the other by a lt. of one of the other candidates, viz. Capt. McCullough. I cannot tell how the thing will as there has been a regimental order issued saying that promotions would be made by the col. without consulting the wishes of the line officers. But I think the col. will hardly dare to disregard the opinion of so large a majority. If he does, I have the consolation of being almost the unanimous choice of the regiment. Bell Plain is just a government depot. No other buildings there. We are doing picket duty four days out of six. I send out about half my company on that duty. They have to travel about 3 miles before reaching the line. We are doing duty on the outer line close by the Rebels. I think I wrote you of my being wet. After this when I go I have a horse to ride as the captains will only go as field officers, and we take turns at that, so I shall not have to go often. When in camp we drill from 8 to 10 hours a day. I am very impatient to hear how you succeed in your clerkship. I approve your course. I do not want you to return to Wellsboro until you can do so in the right shape, and
independent of everyone. Now it is getting towards the 1st of April, and I believe the lease of Mrs. Micks house expires on the 16th of April. And if you should conclude to remain at Washington, I think you had better write to Horace Cook and ask him to have our things packed up nicely and stored in some good, safe place. I think we had better let C. S. Wilcox take the piano, and use it (if he will) till we want it. If he does not want Lewis Bodine says he would like to have it taken to their house. You can do as you think best about it. I only suggest what I hope to think of as in case you stay something of the kind must be done. I think of you almost constantly. And it causes me much more
anxiety than my own situation does. I know your hands are more than full, but I have one thing to console me, and that is if any woman can get along where brains and good judgment is required, you can. Tell Willie that apples sell here for five cents a piece. The Lt. was Benjamin Hughes that died in Bryden’s company. Ma, kiss Willie, Jimmie, & Bennie and Willie, Jimmie & Bennie, kiss Ma, all for me.
Now Helen, I want you to write immediately and frequently thereafter. I am always anxious to hear from you and particularly so when you are away from home & situated as you now are. And now good by for the present.
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.