Watkins March 19th 1863
My Dear Friend Manley
For months past I have been intending to write to you. not because I have had anything specially interesting to write, but I have thought that amid the weary monotony of camp life perhaps a few lines from any friend would be acceptable and help to while away the long hours which the soldier spends far from home and its loved ones.
Long as I have thought of and defered writing doubtless my letter takes you by surprise and is what you were least looking for. I hear from your Father occasionally and through him from you, I can imagine how much of a sacrifice you must have made when you chose a soldiers lot and became for the present a willing exile from the home and friends so dear to you, but thousands of the noblest bravest of America’s sons have made like sacrifices, and their memories shall be forever enshrined in the hearts of the loyal mothers and sisters of the North. Every soldier is dear to me, and a uniform bespeaks for any one a hearty welcome here, perhaps I had better qualify that sentence a little, there are those among the officers course tryanical brutal men, without one spark of tru patriotism, without regard for their men, or one virtuous principle, such men I scorn, and turn with loathing from, the contemplation of their acts of injustice. I hope you are blest with good officers who have the welfare of their men at heart, for there are hardships enough to be endured in a soldiers life at the best & judging from what I know of your career since you enlisted I presume you know already more of the sufferings of a life in camp than I am able to imagine.
My Brother who was among the first volunteers is now 8 miles below Acquia at Belle Plain the Brigade (Gen Patricks) are Provost Guards, their duty is hard as they come on guard every third day & night but their time of service expires the middle of May and they are full of anticipations of a return to home and friends, but death even in this short space of time may call for some of them, and while we hope we also fear,
Doubtless you miss very much the religious priveliges which you have always enjoyed, but the Presence of God is every where and I hope you hold fast your christian integrity and faithfully serve Him to whom in youth you gave your heart, remembering that His promise is “I will never have nor forsake you,” Now this is a poor attempt at a letter, but I would very much like to hear from you, about your mess mates officers, Chaplain and should read with very great interest your daily experience in camp life, I would like to keep track of your wanderings while you are in the army, Are you among the three years men? Now I must bid you Good night, hoping you will excuse the liberty I have taken and answer my scrawl. May God Bless & protect you is the prayer of Your true Friend
L. M. Stout