DEAR PARENTS: -- I received three letters from you yesterday and was very glad to hear from home. Our mail comes once in about five days. It is the most welcome thing we get and my share yesterday was seven letters. I am well and getting on O.K. I have not been sick one day since I left Chicago. Of course, I feel tough sometimes but not enough to be off feed. I have not missed any duty whatever since I enlisted and that is more than most of them can say. I do not know why you did not hear from me and I have written once a week. We are still here on the same hill and doing about the same duty. It rains about twice each day as usual, so by close figuring we are dry at least two hours each day. Tell Arthur he is lucky to have a tent to sleep in; I don't have one a part of the time. A portion of the time we are on outpost duty and when I am on it never fails to rain hard. I have laid out on that mountain when it just poured until the water squashed in my shoes and the mountain so steep if you let loose of the grass in your sleep you would not quit going until you landed in the creek at the bottom. In regard to the ponies; there are any amount of them here but I am not struck on them, although they carry a large load. There are dogs by the dozen. Our mess cooks got fired yesterday and I am one of three detailed to cook for ten days. I do not care to work here but cannot help myself. As there is no more fighting I will do my best to suit the boys. They are well pleased so far. We get up at 4 o'clock and three of us cook for 90 men, so it is no play, but we get plenty to eat. My eating has been the wonder of the Co. for I can consumer more fruit than any of them. They call me the jungle scout because I gather so much fruit up the mountain. It is a great place up them mountains and I never saw such vegetation in my life. It is very rich soil clear to the top. Saturday I found my first snake; he was up a mango tree, and I was also up there after mangoes. It was a species of boa, about six feet long. There are lots of lizards; one in each shoe nearly every morning, but not many snakes.
I am not homesick nor any other sick but if the war is over I want to get back to the U.S. as soon as possible, by Christmas at least. I will stay with the Company as long as my feet will carry me and if there is any fighting to do I will quit the cooking and get in the ranks, if I get court martialed for it. You speak of this being a laud of plenty, well it is a very rich soil and no waste land every thing grows clear to the tip of the mountain, just as well as any where else but some of them are so steep you want a ladder to climb them but they are covered with all kinds of palm and fruit trees. In some of the valleys it is so dense it is fairly dark. I could live here if turned loose in the woods. Everything you want to eat, and there is one kind of tree that has needles on. Another that has vines equal to cords or rope, another that water pails grow on, another that makes brooms. If you want milk, just milk a cocoanut. Land is worth from $10 to $500 per acre, but on the whole, I will take my claim in the U.S. The natives are about half black, cleaner and more intelligent than in the south part of the United States, but they have been taxed to death by the Spanish. Some sugar cane is fine but the crop has been neglected this year. There are more oxen than a few; fine large oxen with the yoke fastened on their horns. All the cattle are good here and it is a dandy grazing county; grass four feet high where it is left fallow and our Calvary horses do fine on it. There is no game or birds to speak of in this part of the island, and not many chickens. Eggs are about 3 cents each in United States money. This is a free silver county. The Spanish dollar is just as heavy as ours but one of our dollars will buy two of theirs and at the consular office will bring $210. It has been as very good lesson for all the crack - brained free silverites who came to war (but that is not many). We got our first white bread last Saturday and we get it once a day now.
We are all hoping to get home by Christmas for dinner, Quite a number of our men are sick with typhoid and malaria fever, some have died and others are expected to; one from Co. A about gone.
This is a great country and no mistake. I have been out a few miles from the outpost and it is something wonderful the way things grow here. Bananas, cocoanuts, mangoes, bread fruit, and many other fruit everywhere.
DEAR PARENTS: --
We are in camp here waiting for a boat to take us home. I do not know when it may come. I am in good health as usual and the weather is fine this week.
You ask what the people raise to live on; well they raise a whole lot of produce. First I will say there are two classes of people here. The well off planters who are one class, own large sugar plantations (sugar being the largest crop of the island) and have fine, large fields of cane, with a mill on each plantation for making it into sugar or rum. They have good mills, run by steam. Their help does not cost them much; they hire the natives for about 50 cents per day, in our money, and this for the best of them. The other class of people live in the mountains in little huts, which are very numerous, the mountains being covered with them. They raise everything, such as corn, sweet potatoes, squashes, oranges, bananas, lemons, coffee, cocoanuts, and a lot of vegetables of many varieties. They bring their produce into town on horseback. The corn seems to be the main crop just now for this class of people. It is light-yellow, a fair length of ears, but not many rows and not deep grained like our corn. They grind it by hand and it sells for four cents per pound, but is not as cheap as our meal. Our brigade store sells us good meal from U.S. for two cents per pound. The fruit seems to grow wild. Bananas are planted in big patches on mountain sides, there being three kinds of them here. There are no oats, wheat or Irish potatoes raised here as I can find out, but beans, onions, and such truck are raised here.
Their ponies are mere ponies and are used to ride and carry baskets to market, and not to work. All their team work is done with oxen. They have the best oxen in the world -- big fellows that can pull more than two horses. Their cattle are fine, better on an average than ours. Hogs are the common razor back, and pork is quite extensively used, but is of a higher price than in our country. There are some sheep and lots of goats. It looks like a good sheep country.
There are plenty of fish around camp to be had at four cents per pound; and they are good ones -- I had some for dinner. They are mostly caught in the stream for if they got up one of these streams they would find themselves in the sea in about three minutes, as there is a fall of about 8 feet to the 100.
I do not know whether there is fruit at all times of the year, or not, but think there is of some kinds.
There has been but one snake seen by any of us since we came. I have seen only one wild animal and it looked like a prairie squirrel, only larger, but not as big as a woodchuck. Lizzards are as thick as grass and from two to twelve inches long. Spiders and scorpions are plenty.
We are quite sure of going to the U.S. soon, but I am not certain of our leaving the army for a long time yet as there is some work to do, and I know we belong to a good regiment, one that the regular officers speak highly of, and in all our travels we have only met two regiments that "could hold a candle" to us, and they were 3d Wisconsin and the 16th Pennsylvania. We feel proud of our command.
Co. A., 3d Ill. Vols.
Miss Isabel Spalding, sister of the groom, acted as maid of honor, and Mr. Maxwell, of Chicago, served in the capacity of best man. Misses Eleanor Foster and Alice Spalding, sisters of bride and groom, acted as bridesmaids.
After congratulations the party adjourned to the dining room and partook of a bountiful dinner. It being Christmas Day the house was very prettily decorated with holly and mistletoe and other Christmas tokens. At three o'clock the happy party broke up and many goodbyes were said as the bride and groom took their carriage and departed for their home in Chicago, where they will welcome their many friends, at 531 East 74th Street. Many tokens of good will and best wishes were left by the guests.
Go to Henry Spalding, "Pioneer History Index," for further information.
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