Letter from William B. Darst, 21st Virginia Volunteer Infantry
Camp of Instruction, Hermitage Fair Grounds Camp
May 3, 1861
MY DEAR MA:
I received your kind and affectionate letter day before yesterday. I was very anxious to hear from home and to know how you were all getting along. I expect it is right lonely since Jack and I left. I never get lonesome here surrounded by about 4,000 men, of all kinds. We get along very well here, never have any disturbances at all, except at night sometimes the guard take people to the watch house. There is a guard of 100 men detailed from the different companies every night, which are divided into five different watches and each watch stands two hours before it is relieved by the next succeeding one. The cadets have the guard under their care, the reason is they are so much better acquainted with military duty than anyone else in camp.
Everything moves as regularly here as if moved by machinery. The drum beats at five to get up. At 10 minutes after, the roll is called, at six the drill begins, ends at seven, and breakfast at eight and drill at nine, ends at ten, commences again at 11 and ends at 12, dinner at one and then we have a recess until three, when drill commences again and ends at four, dress parade at sundown. The people of Richmond turn out by the thousands to see this, they assemble onto seats erected on the race course. It is a beautiful sight to see 4,000 soldiers in full uniform forming the hollow square with a thousand on each side…
Your must all make yourselves easy about us. I expect your anxiety is harder to bear than our hardships…
Write soon, give my love to Mrs. Sumner, tell me everything that is going on in the neighborhood.
WM. B. DARST
Source: Tapert, Annette, The Brothers’ War: Civil War Letters to Their Loved Ones from the Blue and Gray (New York: Vintage Books, 1988), p. 6-7