This letter was written by William “Britten” Durie (1840-1916) to his sister, Mary Emma Durie (1846-1927). They were the children of Samuel Durie (1814-1901) and Nancy Maxwell (1817-1891) of New Providence, Union County, New Jersey. Britten Durie wrote this letter just days before the Battle of Chancellorsville while serving in Co. B, 30th New Jersey Infantry — a 9 months organization. He later served in Co. C, 39th New Jersey Infantry.
The regimental history of the 30th New Jersey Infantry was as follows: Duty in the Defenses of Washington, D. C., until November, 1862. Moved to Aquia Creek, Va., and duty there guarding railroad until January, 1863. Moved to Belle Plain, Va., and joined Army of the Potomac January 10, 1863. “Mud March” January 20-24. Duty at Belle Plain until April 21. Chancellorsville Campaign April 27-May 6. Operations at Pollock’s Mill Creek April 29-May 2. Battle of Chancellorsville May 2-5. Ordered home for muster out June. Mustered out June 27, 1863.
Addressed to Miss M. Emma Durie, New Providence, New Jersey
Camp Parker, Virginia
April 23, 1863
Dear Sister M. E.,
I thought I would write a few lines and let you know how we are getting along &c.
My health is first rate all the time. I never have any colds to bother me which is more than I ever expected.
I received a letter from you and Father upon the fifth. I haven’t it by me at present as I packed it up with a pair of pants, a blouse, 2 pairs of shoes & portfolio I sent to Washington so as to have less to carry upon a march as we have eight days rations upon hand all time which we will have to carry if we make an advance movement. Last Monday we broke up our old camp at Belle Plain and moved down the Potomac about two miles upon better camping ground near to wood and upon the bank of the river where we get plenty of fish. We catch them either in nets or upon hooks. My breakfast this morning was fresh herring, bread & butter. Day before yesterday we commenced to get logs for our shanty. Yesterday we put them up, put in a bunk for four of us — S[amuel] A. Gourley, D[avid] M. & P[hineas] G. Ruckman — and covered it over with two shelter tents which makes as good quarters as we have had this winter. We intend to have a fire place in it. We could have finished it today but it rains hard so we will have to postpone it until it stops.
Last night I slept upon the softest bed I have had in a month. We build our beds of round sticks about three inches overlaid close together and cover it with pine or cedar boughs which makes a good bed — better than all of your goose feathers. Down at Belle Plain the pine & cedar boughs got too scarce. The streets of our new camp are regularly laid out — one street for each company. The tents are about four feet apart. Each tent has a tree at each corner of either holly, pine or cedar — all evergreens which makes the camp look very beautiful. It is close to the river. My tent is as close to it as the house is to the farther end of our garden [at home]. We are in sight of Aquia Creek lower landing between which and us lies Belle Plain upon the south side of Potomac Creek.
Isaiah Coddington has gone to Washington and [Louis] Keller to Windmill Point to guard cattle as he is not well enough to drill and march. There are none sick in camp now.Our time is out the 17th of June at which time I expect to be home as we were mustered into service upon the 17th of September 1862. A great many of the regiment contend that our time is out upon the 3d of June as the draft was to take place upon the 3d of September 1862. And some of the men & officers say that they will not do anything after the third. But I guess they will have to obey the Colonel.
I believe that I have not much more to write at present that will be interesting to you except that I received two stripes upon the 16th.
I believe that I owe John a letter which I ought to write next. Give my love to Father, Mother & the girls & reserve a good share to yourself. I remain as ever your brother, — W. B. D.
Direct to Corpl. W. B. Durie, Co. B, 30th New Jersey Infantry, care of Capt. James D. Vanderveer.