Offensive? Is it Fair to Judge an 1862 Letter by Today's Standards?

Ken Lopez
Posted by Ken Lopez on Nov 6, 2021 12:50:17 PM

A Northern Army soldier, Samuel Carter, was recovering from illness and injury in an Alexandria, Virginia Civil War hospital. One November evening, in 1862, he responded to a letter from his New Jersey hometown friend, Vincent Brewer. Most of the letter includes fairly innocuous content, but one section about both Samuel and Vince's love life is an eye-opener.

The somewhat lewd passage about the women at home is below:

. . . well that is about all of that subject

Wat will come next why girls

Well Vince I expect that you have your one sport thare with them for I understood that you was the only young man that was left thare for all of the girls and so I do expect that you go with one one night and with another the next but lovely for you I say Vince goit while you are young for you know when you get old you can’t Vince I wonder if any of the girls would take pity on a fine felow and let him have a littel tale for I sware I have not had any since I left Jersey, but I should be attempt to try pretty hard for for a nip before I left them but I expect that I should try in vain from littel Annie Higebee got married and then her man left before he had give her a good shagen and that was a pity for her I say don’t you Vince If I had of married a nice of a little woman as that I should but left her for one while I bet but I suppose that he got hearte and left for war and concluded that was his only chance for him to make sure of a wife while he had a chance

So the question I raise in the headline and here is, should this letter be considered offensive today? Is it fair to judge a civil war hero's writings by modern standards? I am guessing that this content probably won't offend most people, but for others, it is precisely the kind of locker room talk that disgusts.

What do you think?

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Corporal Samuel B. Carter would die at the U. S. Army General Hospital, Fredericksburg, Virginia, on May 17, 1864, of wounds received in action at Wilderness, Virginia. He was honored on a group monument in Camden, New Jersey. 

Here is a picture and transcription of another letter to Vince. Vincent Berdell Brower was born on December 25, 1841. His father was Amasa Brower who was born in May 1809, and died on February 3, 1895. His mother was Rebecca McCallum, who was born on September 30, 1813, and who died on May 2, 1860. Perhaps because of Samuel's advice or perhaps because he was specifically ignoring Samuel's advice, he waited until 37 to get married. He married Emma Vansant at Abescom, Atlantic Co., New Jersey, on March 20, 1879. They had a son a year later and a daughter five years after that.

The entire transcription of the letter appears below. Please definitely do submit transcription corrections.

 

Convalescent amp near Alexandria Virginia

Tuesday night 7 o’clock November 18 /62

Mr. Vinson B Brewer

My very dear friend

I take the present opportunity to answer your long looked for letter which was dated on August 17 and I received it on Sunday, November 16 almost 3 months gettin to me and I received 21 more along with that two of them was from Louise and some from most every body so it took me all day Sunday to read them well now I will tell you of my health which is not very well nor has that bin for the las two or three weaks past but I feel mutch better to night I rote to John last weak as I promised him when he left here and I expect that he has got home and got it before this time also I wrote to Louisa and whether she is at home or not is more than I can say for she said in her letter that she expected to go up to her sisters on a visit And whether she has gone or not is more than I can say. No news here I believe of any importance as I know of only there is a camp numer? here now that Jackson has got in the rear of us and our army and cut off the railroad communications but there is no foundation for the report I don’t believe nobody here in this camp out of my company but myself and Sam hen Cavileer is here in the pray role camp came there two days ago from Washington

SamCarterHospital-p1

The last accounts that I got from the Regiment there where at Warnington Junction along the Rappahannock and was marchen on towards Richmond again but whether that they will succeed or not is more than I can say but still I hope they may be successful this time for goodness that they have been long enough trying to git thare and we have seen hard times enuf I no for my part I don’t expect to ever do much more for I have done all that I am abel to ever do in the Survis and I am going to try pretty hard to come home this winter if I can and shall try my best well that is about all of that subject 

Wat will come next why girls   

Well Vince I expect that you have your one sport thare with them for I understood that you was the only young man that was left thare for all of the girls and so I do expect that you go with one one night and with another the next but lovely for you I say Vince goit while you are young for you know when you get old you can’t Vince I wonder if any of the girls would take pity on a fine felow and let him have a little tail for I sware I have not had any since I left Jersey, but I should be attempt to try pretty hard for for a nip before I left them but I expect that I should try in vain from littel Annie Higebee got married and then her man left before he had give her a good shagen and that was a pity for her I say don’t you Vince If I had of married a nice of a little woman as that I should but left her for one while I bet but I suppose that he got hearte and left for war and concluded that was his only chance for him to make sure of a wife while he had a chance

SamCarterHospital-p2

If John has got home please tell him to answer my letter right away give my regards to Low Clark and all of the rest of the girls in them parts

I believe that all at present so I will close for this time hoping to hear from you soon love to all a how I have got the back ake good night from your old friend please write soon

Please direct this way to me Samuel B Carter

Co G 4 NJ Vol

Post Hospital near Alexandria Virginia

Chair of Colonel Belknap

SamCarterHospital-p3

Mr Vincin B Brewer

Port Republic

Atlantic Co N.J.

SamCarterHospital-env

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Topics: Civil War, Alexandria, VA, Hospital, New Jersey, Port Republic, NJ, Samuel B. Carter, Vincent B. Brewer, Convalescent Camp, People, Places, Things

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