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Description of Portland, Maine; continued frustration with the postal system

Updated: Mar 27, 2023

Alexis Clements. A mail pioneer. University of Virginia

17 U.S. Infantry Fort Preble Portland Me. Oct. 15, 1862

Dear Friends at home,

I am well at present and hope these few lines will find you the same. I guess you have forgotten me. I have not heard from you and I have seen letters come from Flint in 3 days. Our letters come right to the fort and are distributed here. I begin to think there has been some unfair play at the office here as I sent 5 dollars by mail and have not heard from it yet.

A short time after, I sent 15 dollars by express and a letter by mail with a check in it and reserved another for myself in case it miscarried, but I have told you this in three letters before and if you have got them you will think I am bragging, but I am anxious about it. The 13 dollars advance pay is a hoax, as I have not heard of it yet.

We get along first rate in drill and get good (...) high (...) from those who drill us but that don't hurt us. We don't know but we will go south this week, but we may not go this third month. But I want to go before winter. We don't know any thing.

It passes around one dull thing and over again. I should get out of patience if I did not know the lousy post office potched, made Griffin's route but then it is only little over two weeks since I first come here and the letter and answer has to go about 3,000 miles. But any way do your best.

But I am not writing a very interesting letter. The city of Portland contains some splendid edifices, but large cities fall far short of what I expected.

The city lies in full view of the fort, with a bay three miles long and 1½ miles broad with two narrow entrances leading into another narrow channel and that into the bay. The water is very deep. The 2 first channels is formed by an island at the mouth of the main entrance. On one is Fort Scammell. On a ledge of rocks is Fort Gorges and on Point Elizabeth is Fort Preble. Drill time.

Wednesday evening.

I am free again and will Finish. We have had hard drill and a good supper. I have sketched a rough outline of Portland Bay and where the forts are in the bay. It is a pretty good sketch in my opinion and as soon as I get time I will write a larger one.

There is one mistake and that is Fort Gorges is too large (and) too far from shore and the bay is rather small. Fort G is a stone concern built out of the water and on an island 20 rods long. It is not quite finished on the Portland side.

By Jonny's punkin (...) Has lost two legs. Ma, Lydia has stopped churning and Julia sweeping. If I was there I would box their ears. Jonny there is a little puppy here about as big as Abe was the first time you ever saw him. Kitty has catched a mouse, now tell me if it ain't so. Good bye.

Your affectionate son and brother, Josiah

Direct to the 17 U.S. Infantry, Fort Preble, Portland Me. Josiah

(The following is the content of a partial letter that I believe goes here in the chronology.)

... I have went into Company A second battalion 17 regulars. I might have stayed in the permanent garrison party but I would had to stayed in the fort all winter. Them went into Company B went there in the summer after staying in snow 6 foot deep and I thought I would stand a better chance in the field.

We will leave here in about four weeks and maybe more, but I don't want to stay with rocks promontory with sea on 3 sides of us all winter and then go to a corresponding warm climate to spend the summer.

Excuse mistakes. Don't stop writing on accounts of my leaving, for I shall get them just the same. I have not got my arms yet, but I shall yet before Saturday.

I am out of the guard house yet, but I had to go half an hour double quick for a shine I cut up in the ranks, but although the boys took it as a good joke they could not brag, for they have about all been in the guard house that come from Flint, and once 7 at a time. And it is no nice thing here to have to go to the guard house.

I shall quit now, but you must expect another next week, and I wish I was assured of getting one from you.

Jonny, it is too bad you cut your finger to make that top.

No more.



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