James P. Williams writes to his father about his unit's pass through Chambersburg. He comments on his impressions of the local residents and the availability of goods.
I wrote to Nannie the day after the battle of Winchester, but it is very uncertain whether you even received the letter or not and I know you are all very anxious to hear from me. After leaving Winchester out division went to Sharpsburg & remained there about 3 days on the old battlefield, From there we marched on through Hagerstown which is a pretty little town in Maryland & contains some good Southern men. The day we left Hagerstown we crossed the Pennsylvania line & since then we have been marching constantly & through the finest country I even laid my eyes on, inhabited by the hardest looking set of people -- abolition Dutch. We have passed through such a number of little towns that I cant recollect the names of half of them but the principle ones were Chambersburg & Shippensburg. The former is a place of about 10,000 inhabitants, all Dutch & the meanest looking white people I ever saw. They were scared nearly to death at the bare idea of having the rebel army among them & evidently expected to be burnt alive. I had a discussion with an old Dutchman on the right of secession & War matters generally, the day I was in Chambersburg. I also had a warm debate with a regular abolition woman. I wouldn't say that everything I wished to the woman but if I didn't abuse that old Dutchman, then I am one myself. Genl Lee has issued positive orders against individual plundering & burning, but tells the Qr Masters to pitch right into everything they see that is needful for the Army. At Chambersburg the Qr Masters emptied every store in the place and our men are living luxuriously. We bought everything we wanted at our own price in the town, & the country is full of everything good to eat. We get as much Butter, Lard & Molasses as we want, & vegetables to. Yesterday evening we arrived at our present Camp, which is three miles from Carlisle. I could have gotten a pass to go in there this morning but it was Sunday & I wanted to remain in Camp today & write some letters. The greatest consternation prevails all through Yankee-dom & they are busy sending on the "Milish" to meet us at Harrisburg. We will leave here, I think, tomorrow, & Harrisburg is only 18 miles distant. It will be rare fun fighting the "Milish". Old Hooker is perfectly at a loss what to do. He cant bring his army up here & he doesn't know what to do with it where he is. I dont know what Genl Lee's plans are, of course, but it is generally hoped & believed that after taking Harrisburg, he will sweep down the Susquehanna on Baltimore & Washington, having destroyed their great line of communication North. Our army is in fine spirits & a straggler is something that you never see now. This corps, I believe, can whip all the Militia in the United States. We have splendid Horses for our Artillery, an abundance of forage for them & the men draw rations of everything. I just wish you could see all the crops here. Pa, I never saw such wheat & corn in my life. Every man has a little bit of a dwelling house & a magnificent barn, probably about 80 or 90 feet long. We can hardly ever get the Richmond papers now. If we are successful in this move up here & also in the Southwest I think there will be hopes of an early peace.
I have not heard a word from Home since I left Fredericksburg & you may imagine how anxious I am to hear from you. I wrote to Uncle George at Sharpsburg. Send you letters to Uncle George & ask him to get Mr. Wall at the Adjutant Genl's office to send them by courier. Cousin Wattie has promised to forward any letters which I wish to send back. I shall take this over to him this evening. I have not seen him within the last few days. Did Nannie receive the letter containing his picture? There is nothing worth writing & I must now close. Write immediately & give me all the news. Give my best love to Mama, Sister, Bec & Dinkie & kiss Jack for me. Give my love to Uncle Watt & to Aunt Mary & Wattie when you see them. Dont be uneasy because you dont hear from me. I will write as often as possible. Goodbye.
James P. Williams