The Buffalo Commercial Advertiser. February 11, 1862

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The Buffalo Commercial Advertiser. February 11, 1862


Letter from "Hyghe Pryvayte"


A letter from a soldier who calls himself "Hyghe Pryvayte" describing life at Camp Niagara on Upton's Hill


Hyghe Pryvayte


The Buffalo Commercial Advertiser


February 11, 1862


Public Domain

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Letter from "Hyghe Pryvayte.' Camp "Niagara, Upton's Hill, Feb. 5, 1863.

Another cold snap has visited us, and ihe mud courses, styled by courtesy "roads," are rapidly stiffening under its frigid influences. Just now, physical exertion is necessary to create physical warmth, and individual necessity applies its not illogical reasoning to the wants of the mass, and endeavors to build up a hope that the Grand Army Itself will shortly be put in motion. Before I emerged from between my blankets, this morning, I knew that something had happened, for the chilling atmosphere had condensed my breath, and chrystali.ed its moisture upon the hirsute covering of my upper lip and chin. And when I repaired to my water-pail to ablute. I found its contents glazed with a thick coating of ice, which, for a time, vigorously resisted my efforts to break it. On drawing aside the canvas of my tent, all was explained for the earth was covered with a snowy mantle, and the air filled with the falling flakes. Romantic, and all that, you know, but cold.

In the course of my reading, I remember to have seen mention of the "Sunny South," and, in the innocence of my youthful heart. I believed in its existence. But it's all a myth, a phantasy, and I am no longer to be bamboozled by any such vague indefinity. I'm at the "Sunny South" now, and don't Bee much difference between it and the frigid North. The fact is, a s fiver's a shiver, wherever you take it, and I am utterly unable to discover any properties of a shiver upon the banks of the Potomac that are not also peculiar to one upou the banks of the Niagara.

Then, too, the "gentle zephyrs of the South,'' about which Poets have sung, are a wretched imposition upon the credulity of the Northern public, as you would declare could you experience one of the gales which semi-occasionally sweep over Upton's Hill. Our camp has no protection from them now, for the stately forest which formerly clothed the sides and crowned the summit of the hill has long since yielded to the imperious laws of military necessity, atid bowed iisell to the earth so that the "zephyrs" have a clean sweep at us. They come to seo us frequently, and the tents flap themselves frantic under their influences. Not a few of the canvas houses colla1 se, or break loose from their fastenings and sail away like a balloon, to the dismay of their luckless inmates, who are thin thrown upon the mercies of a cold world, without a roof to shelter their heads.

I, myself, regard these winds with indifference for, after having for a long time been troubled by a fear of losing my habitation, I succeeded in obtaining an oblong box, of sufficient size to recumbently accommodate this deponent and his blankets. Into this place of refuge, this luxurious retreat, do I nightly crawl, with an exultant feeling of conscious security. When the ''zephyrs' do come, the winds do blow the gales do rock my tent, and flap its canvas; when the wintery blasts come, whistling and shrieking, over Upton's Hill, tugging at the tent-ropes and extracting the tent-pins with a jerk and a howl, strongly suggestive of dentistry operations; then chuckle I to myself, as I draw my blanket over my head, and say, "(io in, rude Ilorea-'. Do your best Take the tent, if you want it, but as for me. and this box, we are going to remain on Upton's Hill, Fairfax County. Virginia and up to this present, writing we have done so. After all, these winds are not strange: s to any of us here. We came ftom IJulfalo, New York, and we recognize iu these gales, old acquaintances, who come to us laden with grateful memories.and welcome home associations. When (lie northern blasts do come, we remember that first they swept over the State of New York, and that it was in crossing Lake Erie's frozen surface that they acquired their peculiar keenness and icy influences. "Lake Erie," in whose clear waters the Twenty-First Regiment of New York Volunteers have so often bathed and sported' and upou whose bosom they have so often sailed in summer, and skated in winter. " Lake Erie," whose waves have, for so many years-rolled such a golden tide of prosperity upon our homes, which tide, faithful even in this time of war, when other commercial avenues are closed and silent, has continued and increased four fold its rich tributes to the "Queen City of the Lakes.'' But it is pleasanter still to remember that these winds have swept over our native city itself, passing through its broad streets, meeting how many of our good friends, entering how many of our homes, brightening the flames upon how many of our hearth-stones

The wind yesterday was a slow, quiet wind, and yesterday was Tuesday. Perhaps yesterday's wind was in Buffalo on the Sabbath, and went to the same old "First Church" within whose walls some of us here, who are now soldiers, received in infancy, upon our foreheads, the waters of holy baptism. When the bell called the people together, and the great front door opened to let our dear ones in, the gentle breeze of yesterday likewise passed reverently in, to unite with the worshippers. Perhaps during the service, at that sacred place, and at that solemn hour, it became silent and still, and our mothers and sisters, with their fans, gently waved it again into grateful motion, and its cooling-cheering, refreshing, influences played around their brows and cheek'. Did anybody notice tho music of the organ and think admiringly of the player's skill ? Ah ! what an error. It was the wind of yesterday which passed through the pipes and tubes of the oran, and sent gushing music, sweetest, richest, melody, to swell and harmonize the worship which the church offered to the Almighty. And it was Holy-day in the church for on that day the church was just half a century old, and the people had come together to celebrate its anniversary; and the wind of yesterday was there, and saw them all. It recognized the familiar faces, too few in number, that we have seen fading and becoming wrinkled in life's warfare; the forms that we have seen slowly bending beneath the weight of years; the locks that we have seen silvering with the frosts of age. It saw those with whom we have grown up from childhood, and who are now the active men and women of the church; young men and maidens, old men and children." our fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters the wind of yesterday saw them all, and read their hearts, and knew that some of them were thinking of the vacant seats beside them that belong to us, of the absent presence, the missing forms, the broken home-circle of us who would have enjoyed the day ?o much and yet could not be there 1 And tho wind of yesterday saw others who had come to the gathering faces that, long ago, passed from the church below to the church above; forms that had exchanged the fleshly for the spiritual; and they were once of us and with us. Aged ones it saw, who, weary of life's burden, laid it down, to seek a heavenly rest; rvanly and matronly forms removed from life's opportunities and life's usefulness; young men, the companions of our childhood and youth, who gave up their lives, some on the battlefield, some on the seas, some in foreign lands, a few, a very few, at home, were there. Faces of children and babes it saw, whose brief surrey of earth sufficed to turn them heavenward. And in the pulpit, the good Pastor, whom we have so soon learned to love, was not alone. Others were by his side others who once stood where he stands, and spake where he speaks, and who, long ago, went to render an account of their stewardship. And these visitors from the spirit-land communed with the people, and the people beard their spirit-voices in their souls. Fnr it was a Holy Day in that Church. And the wings of yesterday's wind, ascending aloft, bore the worship of the people awhile, on its upward course, to seek the Almighty's throne, and then the wind turned and came here, to Upton's Hill, in Virginia, bringing memories and thoughts of home and home-scenes to the absent husbands, fathers, ! sons and brothers.

That's what yesterday's gentle wind did. Today' wind is rude, boisterous and gusty, and has traveled rapidly. It must have been in Buffalo this morning. Perhaps the very gust which, a little while ago, sent the chills chasing each other ! vertebral column, and took my fatigue-cap down the hill into a snow-drift, but a few hours ! since tossed the curls of some fair maiden in Buffalo, ,and brought a fresher glow of crimson mantling to her cheeks; {Hi! hi!} some proud beauty, perhaps, just crossing Niagara street where it debouches into Main, and meanwhile all unconscious of portending inflations, and confidingly unsuspicious of impending collapses. That's been a famous place for such things, ever since, as a Quixotic school-boy, I used to lie in ambush on windy days, to the end th at I might observe my juvenile "Dulcinea," as, with fearful steps and slow, she did essay to navigate the perilous passage. And when her courage did fail her, and she did drop her dinner basket, clasp her little hands, and utter a faint shriek of despair, then would I, with quick steps, and, I am sure, with zeal and chivalnc ardor as true as ever animated Knight of old, rush to the rescue. Then would I take her hand in one of my hands and her dinner basket in the other, and guide her in safety to the maternal roof, not caring half so much for the mother's unfailing and ever-welcome seed-cookies as I did for one of Dulcinea's glad smiles and bright looks of gratitude. She's married now, my juvenile " Del Toboso" is, and has children to the number of six, more or less, and I am a bachelor volunteer here on Upton's Hill, in Virginia! I wonder if, when she reads my letters in the Commercial. she remembers the youthful vows which one day Ah! what was I writing about? Oh, yes! the winds! An apt connection. The changeful, variable winds and the fickle "Dulcinea" of my childhood!

This letter is too long already, and. besides, I am rapidly writing myself homesick, but I must not omit to mention one idea, which has just occurred to my mind, viz.: that, possibly, after the aforementioned gust of wind had got through with the aforementioned beauty, on the corner of Niagara and Main streets, it encountered my Central Wharf friend, and chilled the breath upon his grizzly moustache, frosting each bristling hair, and sending isolated icicles down over his mouth, like the pendant stalactites over the entrance to some yawning, yet half concealed, cavern .

All this about the winds, just because I allowed my fancies to run away with my pen. Mv pen is a quill, too. and takes naturally to "flights." Now I think of it, a pen that takes naturally to " flight" is not the pen for a soldier it must henceforth be of steel, firm and true. Speaking of steel pens, I must tell you that 1 am about to propose to the War Department to call into service a battalion of New York city editors, with Horace Greeley as Colonel the force to be armed with gigantic steel-pens, ihe handles ot which to be hollow and filled with ink, which, during a charge upon the enemy, can, by a syringeical process, be ejected upon the flying rebels. The project, must commend itself to every thinking mind, especially as it will not only atl'ord an outlet to the warlike ardor of the fraternity, but also give the enemy the benefit of the ink which has hitherto been frequently used to blacken and traduce the reputation of our own officers and soldiers. Hoping that the " First Battalion ol Editorial Steel Penners" will soon take the field and make its mark upon the enemy. I bid you goodnight.

Yours, truly, HYGHE PRYVAYTE

P. S. I am happy lobe aide to announce the probable success of my projected course of lectures. I have already received a number of orders for tickets, which would be promptly filled, but tor the fact that no remittances accompany them. It is possible that my first lecture may be delivered iu a very few days. It' the prevalent rumor, that the " Army of the Potomac" is about to advance and give battle o the enemy, proves to be correct, I shall be compelled by "urgent private business" to apply for a furlough, or for orders " detaching me upon the recruiting service." In this case. I shall be happy to cooperate with the "Association for the Relief of Ireland," and will cheerfully deliver a lecture for the benefit of that lather Hazardous, though eminently praiseworthy, object.



Hyghe Pryvayte, “The Buffalo Commercial Advertiser. February 11, 1862,” Mapping the Civil War in Arlington, accessed September 24, 2023,

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