This letter was written by Corporal George Smith of Company F, 17th Texas Infantry while encamped near Simmesport, Louisiana. This Confederate regiment, with others, was engaged in constructing a complex of forts and earthworks two miles long at the junction of Yellow Bayou and Bayou des Glaises in Avolyelles Parish. The fortifications — which came to be known unofficially as “Fort Humbug” — were intended to prevent the invasion of Union troops into central Louisiana though the men and officers were dubious as to the fort’s usefulness; hence the name. Writing home to his wife, Captain Elijah Petty of Company F claimed that “this is one of the routes by which Fort DeRussy can be flanked, but there are three other routes by which it can be flanked either of which is as good or better than this and why this alone is defended is more than I can tell.”
State of Louisiana, Camp Simmesport
December 2nd, 1863
I with pleasure take my pen in hand to let you know that I and John are both well at present, hoping those few lines may find you all at home yet and well and doing well. I have heard they have called all from the age of 16 to 60. If that be so, my home will be left scanty in the men line but I hope it is not so.
We are doing very well at present. We are throwing up fortifications.
William, John has gone a fishing and I went yesterday and got a fine chance of Persimmons and they were very fine.
We have been paid off 4 months wages. Pa sent word to me if I needed money to let him know. I do not need any money from home. I have 2.00 dollars at the present so I don’t need any money from home.
The boys are all well. Abner and Levin Tate is tolerable only. He has a chill every now and then. They are furloughing two men out of the company.
Pa, if anybody wants to send letters across the Great [Mississippi] River, they can do so now. I don’t know the correct way through. They have to direct their letters to Shreveport or send them to that place and they will be carried. If I had a letter here now, I could send it. There a man lives here that goes across every Friday &c.
William Tate says you have been slighted by the girls. I am very sorry for you but I hope you will make it all right with her. So farewell to you all. Write soon. No more. — George Smith to William Smith. 1863
Well Father, the mail has come in and I received a letter from Cousin Louisa and also the letter you sent by McLester. ¹ The clothing I have not get yet though it is at Alexandria and we have sent for it and it will get to us by the last of this month if we don’t go across the Atchafalaya. We are a going to work on that fortification tomorrow.
Well mother, you will have your goodies all to yourselves. I mean your Christmas dinner and I and poor John will have to eat our bread and beef and work on our fortification while the citizens of Texas feast on their Christmas dinners. And who knows but what we will be in a fight at or before that day although there is no sign of a fight now.
Well, I hope you will enjoy your life while you live, but you will have to do it without my being in your presence. And if you have a fine dinner, I know you could not eat it in any satisfaction for thinking of this horrible war and when and how it may close. Mother, there is no chance for a furlough until the old men get off and that will not be until this time next year. So no more.
William, you say you are afraid of the girls and you don’t know whether they are sweet or not without tasting of their lips. You are a poor egg if you don’t know more than that. If it comes to that, I have ate sugar enough to make my lips sweet. So farewell to you all. It is so dark I can hardly see the lines. Farewell — George Smith to William Smith
¹ H. McLester was the 2d Lieutenant of Company F, 17th Texas Infantry. He was captured on 11 April 1864 at Pleasant Hill and exchanged on 22 July 1864.