A letter from Henry Graves to His Sister
"...one after another were dragged out and ironed..."
Written December 1863 by Lt. Henry Lea Graves, Marine CSA, Savannah, Georgia
December 26, 1863
You will naturally wish to know how I have spent Christmas so far. I have had rather more of excitement than I at one time anticipated. Christmas Eve myself and two or three of the officers were sitting in the Ward room--which room is what we call the Officers Saloon, where we eat and into which our staterooms open. The men all stay on the deck above no one and us but the officers are allowed in the wardroom. We were sitting quietly but busily making an egg-nogg when a man came down and said the Captain wanted me on deck immediately. I went up and found about 20 sailors, drunk and like so many wild beasts.
I called out my Guard instantly, had them load and fix bayonets and form around them, and one after another were dragged out and ironed. It was near two o'clock before we got them all secured. The wind was bitingly cold and I like to have frozen. Fortunately the moon shone very brightly. I suppose two or three of the men will be court martialed and shot. The men had broken into the spirit room and stolen several gallons of whiskey from the Surgeon's supply.
Yesterday morn (Christmas day) I went up to Savannah, attended service at Bishop Elliott's church, which was beautifully decorated for the day, heard a fine sermon from the Bishop, and then started out to make a call. On the way I met a gentleman friend who invited me to come around and take dinner at his house. I accepted the invitation and after I had made my visit I went around and got an elegant dinner--at least it so seemed to me, who had eaten beef and ship biscuit or "hard tack" as we call it, for weeks without a change.
Every Saturday the ship is scrubbed out from top to bottom, and today being Saturday, all hands are washing away and the decks are flooded with water. You can imagine how cheerless and uncomfortable everything is.
Now you must tell me how Christmas has passed at home. The package of soap, socks, etc., came safely through. I am very much obliged for them. Please say to my Father that I will have to get a pair of shoes made here at once, and have no money to pay for them. They will cost me 60 dollars. If he has 50 he can spare now and will send me I can make out to pay the other ten and will be very much obliged to him. My pay of $80 per month barely pays my mess bill and contributes almost nothing towards my clothing. Shoes, and inferior ones at that, are selling in town for 125 dollars; boots from 175 to 200. If the government doesn't raise my pay soon I can't imagine how I am to get along. I am almost persuaded to get married here and go and live with the girl's father.
I am looking forward anxiously to the 20th of January when I am to be transferred to shore duty again.
I must close now but will write soon.
Your loving brother