“Mine DTS Papers are Denied:” Letter Home from an Admin Clerk in the Continental Army

A recently discovered letter from a Massachusetts militiaman in the Continental Army reveals what life was like for the brave men fighting in the American Revolution. The letter is presented here in its original form, with the lower case “s” appearing as it would have at the time since the tendency was to put a line through the “s,” making it look like an “f.” This is to ensure that no details are omitted for accuracy, as historians everywhere will surely marvel at the intricate details in this letter.

Morale, welfare, and recreation at Valley Forge

Near Valley Forge, Penn.

December 21, 1777

My dear Mother and Father,

I write to you today from the bareft of encampmentf in thif moft defolate of Waftelandf. Our fuffering haf been great, but we know that Victory muft be only one Battle away. It greivef me to fay unto you that my requeft to return to you for Chriftmaf haf been denied for mine Avoidance of Accidental Collifion Certificate if out of date, and my Sergt doef fay unto me that mine Defefe Travel Syftem paperf  are denied and may not paff by hif handf in fuch an Terrible State. He if moft inconfiderate a man and doth anger mine fiftf to warre moft dreadfully. Yet af the Scripture doef fay, “Woe betide he who hath not filed hif travel requeft in a timely manner, yea, though he gnafh hif teeth and rend hif garmentf bare.” 

Our dayf here drag by unto like that of a Stream of Molaffef, that if, flowly. We Drille moft conftantly, marching up hill and down. A fmall German Mann doth fhout at uf and berate uf moft cruelly, a pox on hif head and upon that of hif fo-called “doctrine” of which he fpeakf of alwayf. When we do not train, we muft alwayf be in camp, wherein we muft be alwayf attired in a length of Cloth the fhade and hue of yellow, which we muft wear af a croff-belt, running from our fhoulder to our waift. Our Captain doth telle uf it favef livef and will bring uf out of conflict with fcarce a hair harmed; whence comef thif fuperftition, I know not. It if furely not in the Holy Scripturef.

Having been a man of Letterf before thif Terrible Warre, I am become the Company clerk, wherein fuch capacity I muft review the Non-Commiffioned Officer Formf of Evaluation. Thefe Blaggardf cannot compofe even the meaneft of fentencef, and it painf my Soul to read their fad writing, fuch af: “Sergeant Smith led fhit detailf and got all the cow fhit out of our tentf.” Nothing if quantifiable! There are no detailf found herein to match thif Manf rating af “Moft Sound.” How many detailf did he lead? How much of the excrement waf removed? And fuch Horrid Language. Another one readf, “Did good thingf and waf good.” And another: “Haf only told Foul and Schocking ftorief of hif Exploitf with Liveftock twice thif rating period,” which if in violation of Company Circular 18, which doth read, “Cut that fhit out, Corpl Jonef, no one wantf to hear that Tripe, you Blackguarded Liar.” I fmite my forehead moft Soundly on the daily.

The men of our town are in good fhape and are all Moral, Cleane, and Sound. Only half the company if of a drunken ftate at one time, fo that if better than many of thofe at Home. Our men have ftopped catching Difieafef of Moft Vile naturef from the Camp Followerf after our briefing on “Wrapping Thine Continental Afore Ye Lay in the Moft Biblical Way.” Our neighboring Company if full of the Worft and Moft Difficult men I have yet feen. One approacheth me the forenoon laft, calling me a Lout and Scoundrel of the firft Order, and I fayeth unto him the ftongeft of Rebukef, to whit, “Fornicate off to a Whorehoufe with ye, ye fon of a Connecticut Fifherman.” He cometh at me then, at which we exchanged Fiftf, for which exchange he took the worft part, I do tell you. 

Thif place if furely the Slough of Defpond and mine Spirit growf more defpondant – t’would be naught but for the moft wonderful of drinkf upon which we have quaffed moft commonly. It giveth energy and a Fierce feeling of a fire in thine ftomach. It if called by the localf, “Rip-It,” and it if furely Manna af from Heaven. It keepf me awake on the long Watchef of the Night, when it if my turn to yell at the Cavalry for fneaking back into Camp after vifiting the local Women. They are furely moft Terrible.

I muft leave you now to pen unto Gen. Geo. Washington a miffive. Mother, thif Sergt doth manage me in the moft minifcule of wayf, and moft cruelly, and I muft Proteft to the General. Father, telleth not unto Mother more ftorief of the French and Indian Warref – fhe deferveth not fuch treatment – af the Scripturef fayf, “Verily I fay unto you, like a jewel in a Pigf fnout if a Veteran with too many opinionf.”

Your Moft Loving Son,

Pvt. Jofeph Snuffy 

Addendum: This was satire.

I shouldn’t have to say that, but I do.

3 Replies to ““Mine DTS Papers are Denied:” Letter Home from an Admin Clerk in the Continental Army”

  1. Oh, the infernal “f” substitution…
    Drove me nuts when I was reading Anthing’s biography of Suvorov – It was Mike Tyson suddenly got a day job doing narration.


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