1863-12-22Bliss X Roads [Blaine's Crossroads], Tenn
Bliss X Roads [Blaine's Crossroads], Tenn

Dec 22nd 1863

Dear Parents

This pleasant afternoon finds me trying to write a few lines for your perusal. It has been a long time since I have written to you or at least it seems it to me. The last time I wrote was at Knoxville after the Rebels had left. We lay there some 4 or 5 days when we started in pursuit of the retreating foe. We followed them three days. When we made a stand, our men skirmished them a little and fell back with the intention of drawing them after us but old Longstreet didn't follow up the advantage so we are no longer in expectation of giving him battle. We came to our present camp last Thursday night and when we leave here it is reported we are to cross the mountains for the North. It is the report that we are to report to Baltimore. I hope this is the truth for any place is preferable to this, but we fare, very well with what firage we can get in the country which is pretty well stripped of all surplus provisions. Many of the families are entirely destitute of food for themselves or what little stock they have left and in many instances their stock have been taken. I do not know which is the worst the Rebels or our troops. We are sometimes obliged to take things to keep from famishing with hunger but I am in hopes better times are in store for us. If we should be so lucky as to get back to Baltimore or Washington we will not mind the last 12 months of our three years.

There are great inducements being held out for vetren volunteers to reenlist. They offer $402 bounty and 30 days furlow free of expense, the 30 days to be spent in our own state, $175 down or when sworn into the service. If they can get 1/4 of a Co or Regt our officers can go home with us. It is a good chance for those that wish to reenlist. It makes the bounty $502 for the five years. If it was not for my parents I would not hesitate one moment for I think my country kneeds my services as bad now as when I first came out but I will have served 3 years when this term of service is out. Then I think my services will be kneeded as bad at home as anywhere else. If you think it best I will enlist. If not I will wait awhile yet. By enlisting I could give you $200 as soon as we get home. I will leave it with you whether I remain in service another term or not. I presume if we go North this will not reach you much sooner than we will reach some northern fort.

There is but little news to write. The Rebels are reported to be flying towards North Carolina. We have rec'd a large reenforcement from the Army of the Cumberland. Gen'l Granger is here with the 4th AC and Sherman with parts of the 15th and 17th AC. I think Longstreet thought the Yankees were getting too numerous for him. Gen'l Burnside has resigned and gone home. Gen'l Foster is in command here under Gen'l Grant who has command of the whole western department. We were all very sorry to lose our old commander but we may yet get with him again. There are so many reports one does not know what to believe. We have heard several times that Burnie was to take command of the defenses of Washington. If that should be the case I have no doubt but what he would call us back there. I think it is about time for the 9th AC to retire from the field and let some of those troops that have always been doing nothing but guard duty. I do not know what to write that will interest you. As I told you before there is no news of importance to write. I think the campaign in east Tennessee is about over for this winter. The roads are so bad that it is impossible for the trains to keep up provisions for the army. All our supplies come from Chattanooga and Nashville. As soon as the RR can be opened there will be no lack of supplies for the Army. The weather is quite cool here now. The ground is frozen quite hard. There has been no snow here yet. As far as that, I do not know as there is ever any snow of any amount here.

We are encamped at the foot of one of the highest mountains around. Sunday I was on the very top of the most splendid scenery I ever beheld. One gets a view of the whole of east Tennessee. I wish I was as good an artist as ever drew a pencil. I could get a sketch that one ought feast upon a lifetime. It was tiresome work to climb to the top but it payed me for all my toil and labor in getting to the top. East Tennessee abounds in such sceneries.

Well I guess I have written about enough for the present unless it is more sensible than what I have written already. We have rec'd two months pay. I will send you some money as soon as I get where I think it safe to send money. I do not care to risk money in a letter from here. It will soon be muster day when we will have two more months pay due us but I must close hoping to hear from you soon. This leaves me well and weighing 190 pounds so you can judge whether 1 am tough or not. My weight when home was 135.

Please write often as convenient to your ever Affectionate but unworthy Son

J .D. Strait