Happiness: A Good Chimney

Capt. Samuel Fiske (14th Conn. Vol. Inf., Co. F), under the pen name Dunn Browne, wrote to his faithful readers of the Springfield, Mass. Republican newspaper about the necessity for having a properly constructed chimney, having done it several times during the last several weeks.

“All my odd-numbered chimneys have drawn finely, while the even-numbered ones have smoked, though constructed with equal skill—my personal beauty renders it specially necessary to take pains with a chimney at whose fireside I am to sit—laid up with the same kinds of sod s and stones and plastered with mud of the same consistency. Virginia is the most consistently muddy state that I know; always mud enough in your front dooryard to plaster up your chimney, and of the stickiest kind. Won’t you come and sit with me some of these long winter evenings, dear Republican, and perhaps your different style of beauty might counteract mine and my chimney become perfect?”

The above was written while Fiske sat in hut number four, before the regiment moved to Stony Mountain on Dec. 27, 1863. After the move and setting up camp in cold, driving rain, he wrote, “The storm continued for three days, and was succeeded by the snappingest cold weather. For me personally, you know, the change was all right; for my present chimney draws like a blister, and never smokes any more than my mother.”

My present house has a real door, with hinges and screws and latch and bolt; an actual shovel and tongs standing by the fireplace; chairs, tale mirror, etc., yes, positively a carpet on the floor. But, beyond all the rest of the furniture, my chief ornamentation and pride, which makes me the envy of all the regiment and brigade is—a wife and baby.”

Yes, Fiske was somehow able to manage living in a small house, rather than a log hut, and he also arranged to have Elizabeth and their sixteen-month-old son visit for more than two months. His joy and not a little irony flowed into his writing: “We are housekeeping on our front picket line. I have a home, like a bird’s nest on the breech of a cannon. War! I don’t know anything about it. I am at perfect peace.”

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