A letter from Shaw to his fiance Annie:

Fairfax Station, Va. [BCF]
Jan. 10,1863

Dear Annie,

Your letter of the 5th inst., enclosing the vignette, came last night. At first I thought the latter was not good at all, but now I begin to like it, and am very glad indeed to have it. I have noticed that very often you must get acquainted with a portrait before you like it.

I begin to think, Annie, that there will be enough fighting in the country to give us all plenty of occupation for the rest of our lives, even if they are not shortened by bullet or cannon-ball. If a peace is patched up with the South, I don’t believe it can be a permanent one, and if the war goes on for another eighteen months, other nations are likely to be drawn into it. I hope I may be mistaken, for, though I don’t think the soldiers are so much to be pitied as the fathers, mothers, wives, and sisters, who have to stay at home, there are few who are not heartily sick of the war. The anxiety some people must feel for their relatives in the army, is a great deal worse, I think, than anything we have to bear.

You asked me once if I knew why McClellan lay still after the battle of Antietam. We have never been able to discover why Lee was allowed to withdraw as he did. When we heard that he had gone, the day after the battle, we said it would ruin McClellan. After the Rebels got into Virginia, there were many good reasons given for not pursuing. We were not well supplied with ammunition (at least, I know that to have been the case in our Corps), our force was not so large as theirs, and our men were scattered by thousands from Frederick to Sharpsburg—our troops always get scattered after a fight, and the new ones are much worse than the old. If a hard march precedes the battle, of course that adds to the number of stragglers. It may be true that McClellan is not rapid enough in carrying out his plans, but I wish he were in Halleck’s place.

I have read Cairne’s book and Lecture. It is a pity they have not more such good and clear-headed men in England. I have just read “Gurowski’s Diary.” It is very amusing, if no more, and no doubt there is much truth in it. The book I swear by now, is “Napier’s Peninsular War.” I have not read anything that has given me so much pleasure for a long while.

Did I tell you we were all comfortably hutted now? The men are all in log-shanties with fireplaces — four men in a mess — and the officers occupy palatial residences, seven or eight feet square, usually two in each. We can defy the weather, and if we are “let alone” for a time, we shall pass a comparatively pleasant winter.

I want to go home, I cannot tell you how much, in February, but I do not see any chance of it now. Tell your mother not to trouble herself to answer my letter. I didn’t expect an answer, as I knew she didn’t write much.

Yours affectionately,

R. G. Shaw
p.S.— I wonder if you have received all my letters. Often I can only tell the date of yours by the postage-mark, for you give the day of the week merely.