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בס"ד

Jacob C. Cohen, 27th Ohio Infantry

FROM CORINTH, MISSISSIPPI

Corinth, Miss., April 10th, 1863.

Introductory

DEAR MESSENGER:

You people of the North, who live in fine houses and fare sumptuously every day—who toy with soft tresses, immaculate dresses, Paris moustaches and childhood's fair hair—who are so eager (yet satiated with war-news) that an engagement loses all the force and circumstance of a battle, unless the laureatic wreath of victory is found bathed in the gore of ten thousand victims—who think a General is no General; except he, like Samson of old, slays his thousands and tens of thousands (and, perhaps, the same instrument would be preferable) and who are foolish enough to imagine that a residence in this "fair land of Dixie," at this particular time, is a much-to-be coveted luxury, can scarcely form an adequate idea of the monotonous and unfavorable existence, which is daily led by both officers and men within the narrow confines of this "District of Corinth."

It is true that there are some who live well, and, perhaps, happily—who sport fast horses and tolerable looking vehicles, who have all the necessary contrabands to wait on them and more; too, and who not only "cavort" around pretty wives and interesting daughters, but evince quite a degree of satisfaction at being able to do so, (to the discomfort, at times, of certain young and romantic bachelors).

But by far the greater portion of our officers are only blessed (?) with drills, reviews and reconnaissances, raids, runaway horses, fevers, broken heads, quinine, "not granted" leaves of absence, contrabands and whiskey. Now, after witnessing such sights for a very long time past, it is not strange that your correspondent should attempt to find something new to relieve the ennui that was making him "a used-up man." Consequently I honored the august U.S. Grant, commanding this department, with an application for a leave of absence. In a few weeks it came back with an ominous endorsement in Arnold's carmine, "not granted." I was not to be discomfited to easily, taking it for Granted that Grant would not Grant me a leave. I consequently took a circuitous path, avoided red-tape, obtained a leave, (how, it is nobody's business) and in twelve hours thereafter one of U.S. Grant's "as a class" friends was speeding homeward.

Spring Time

I will not bore you with a diary of my trip and brief sojourn in the Empire City; suffice that "Veni—Vidi"—FUGIT—I came, I saw, I left—("nary" a conquer) and am back again at my post of duty (?) to inform the readers of the "Messenger" how I found things on my return. In my absence, Spring had made its debut. The trees are budding, wild flowers are opening, and the grass has grown green again. The weather is delightful, which, after as much rain as has fallen here, is highly appreciated. On these balmy moonlight nights our slumbers are often agreeably broken by the harmonious strains of our truly charming band of music. How vividly they recall the scenes of just one year ago, when this great army was collecting for the grandest of modern battles! [Shiloh]

A Chapter on Money Making

The army furnishes an excellent field of operations for various classes of speculators and tradesmen. To say nothing of official huckstering (of which, I think, I can say, the portion of the army composing this garrison, has furnished little) and of the vast cotton operations which have disgraced our management of the conquered territory, and enriched a class of speculators generally of doubtful loyalty, there are many means of gathering money which are unknown or unenjoyed in the land of peace at home.

Chiefest, for certainty, though not for brilliancy, are the regular sutlers. Them we have always with us. When the Paymaster delays his visits, their fabulous accounts are entered on the sutlers' books to be cancelled at "next payday." For the necessaries, and many of the luxuries of camp-life are furnished by these accommodating salesmen, who, having but little, if any, competition, are left to place their own prices on goods. Councils of administration or any other authorities, seldom interpose to regulate their prices. A hundred per cent on imperishable goods is quite common profit, and on many articles two or three hundred per cent is made.

Artists—picture-takers—positively coin-money, if that expression is permissible in this age of "greenbacks." It is true that they suffered a fearful probation, while the Paymasters were yet a great way off. But no sooner had the first Regiment been supplied with their "spondoolux" than their studios were thronged with officers and soldiers in full uniform and armed, to have the magic sunshine fix their lineaments for the benefit of "friends at home." Day after day, the busy artists are engaged to the full extent of their abilities, and then are obliged to turn many away. Cartes de visite are furnished at the moderate cost of six dollars per dozen, or four dollars per half dozen—such as Brady or Anthony would ask two dollars per dozen for. Common ambrotypes that in New York cost 25 cents, are put up in Corinth for one dollar and fifty cents. Cases sell proportionately high.

In this line, somewhat, may be included the stage, which, strange as it may appear, has been eminently successful at Corinth. There is now a regular troupe engaged nightly at "Corinth Music Hall,"—an old frame building, formerly used for storing forage—in showing to the admiring military population of this garrison the wonders of sleight-of-hand, negro minstrelsy, jig dancing, comic and sentimental songs, etc. The admittance fee of fifty cents will admit you to the luxury of a front seat, which is a rough pine board, supported about a foot from the floor, all innocent of any back or railway whatever. The front seats fill the foremost half of the room. For twenty-five cents you can enjoy (!) a back seat, which only differs from the front seat in position, and in being about three feet higher. A night or two since, another "theatre" opened to a crowded house in front of the "Tishomingo Hotel." It is somewhat to the credit of the discipline of the troops here, that no bad effects are traceable to these nightly amusements.

Newsboys are another class of army followers that make it pay. The craft will understand this when I inform them that one newsboy frequently sells a hundred papers per diem, at a clear gain of from five to six dollars. Papers, though received here only the fifth day after publication, sell at ten cents apiece, good, bad, or indifferent.

Domestically

We are preparing to "make a garden." An officer has been sent to procure a large supply of garden seeds. It is intended to have the large number of women and children of the contraband species of this place, make themselves useful by raising vegetables for the use of the garrison, as well as for themselves. This is an excellent move, as the want of a proper supply of vegetables, especially as anti-scorbutics, is severely felt here in the summer. There will be no difficulty in finding enough land to employ them all.

Dissipation Among the Corinthians

Yes, though it may cause a laceration of the feelings of the tax-payers, and old Abe may shake his head disapprovingly, yet let it be known that in Corinth balls are gotten up, balls are attended, and dancing progresses night after night into the "wee sma' hours of morning." Much to the chagrin of those lovers of the Terpsichore, who, on returning to camp find themselves detailed for picket duty for the ensuing twenty-four hours. The latest and best ball of the season here occurred last Tuesday evening, being given under the direction of the military authorities, in commemoration of the Anniversary of the battle of Shiloh; it was well gotten up, and, together with the supper, passed off very pleasantly. Another military ball, under the auspices of the officers of the Ohio Brigade, is on the tapis, and promises to be a fine affair.

It is only by thus methodically annihilating time, that we can dispel the home thoughts which are ever crowding our minds, giving us the blues to such an extent as to make us feel decidedly uncomfortable.

J.C.C.

[Comment by the editor of The Jewish Messenger] We are pleased to hear once more from our esteemed correspondent, and hope that we will favor us regularly with his excellent letters.

Jacob C. Cohen Letters