it appeared the army was going to be in one place for
sometime, soldiers often wrote to family members asking
for items from home. For example, when going into "Winter
Quarters," Carlton McCarthy requests materials needed
for building huts: nails, hinges, and an axe. He also
asks for old church music books or other books that would
only be practical if the army was to be in one place.
Christmas was also a popular time for sending boxes.
made sense to ask for a box from home only when it was
fairly certain that the box could be safely delivered.
Many times a box or package would be sent by hand when
a wagon was headed to camp. Sometimes another soldier
returning from furlough carried it. If the army was resting
in place not far from home, a neighborhood man might bring
the box. To risk normal mails meant the box may never
be delivered, the army could again be on the move, or
those for whom it was not intended might intercept the
box. Once a box was requested, a series of letters often
followed inquiring as to whether it had been sent or received.
The box became an object of great concern.
new and used clothing were often asked for. When the seasons
changed, the soldier would prefer to throw away his dirty
clothes rather than wash them. He would ask for clothes
from home as replacements. Items of clothing often asked
for or sent included shoes, underclothing, shirts, cotton
or woolen socks, hats, a "warm visor", scarves
(even fancy colored ones), coats and knitted gloves.
by far the most anticipated items were "good eatables."
Food was almost always requested: coffee, apples, apple
butter, fresh pork, dried fruit, milk, eggs, risen bread,
cakes, preserves or jelly, pickles, egg-nog, sugar, bicarbonate
of soda, salt, fresh butter, roast beef, ham and turkey.
While McCarthy discreetly asks for a bottle marked "to
be used in case of sickness or wounds," the Allen
boys of Amherst County, Virginia, request as much whiskey
as the family can spare. They had intentions of selling
this valuable commodity to others.
other items of necessity or comfort were sent. These included
blankets, paper ink, pens, pencils, photographs, tobacco,
pipes, pin cushions, needle cases with thread and buttons,
and embroidered tobacco bags. A Valley soldier asked his
family to send him shot and caps, presumably for squirrel
was not always possible for a family to grant a soldiers
wishes. Bolling Bartons mother Fannie writes from
Winchester in October 1862 to "...explain why I do
not send a box of eatables to you. We have no sugar for
cakes and indeed scarce any thing that would be nice to
send." Many times a soldier asked that the items
only be sent if they could be spared without causing hardships