John's letter home on this Tuesday in March of 1864 is the modern day equivalent of the "safe arrival call". John is providing his parents an update to his travels after a nearly 3 month furlough of the 48th PVI back in Pennsylvania. The 48th, spent the better part of 1863 on provost duty in Kentucky and Tennessee, concluding with a re-enlistment of the regiment at Blain's Crossroads, Tennessee on December 31, 1863. A well deserved 3 month furlough for the 48th was a welcome respite and reward for a job well done. However...by March of 1864 it was time to return to the field and the eastern theater of the war. John departed his Deep Creek valley home en route to Pottsville in order to embark on the train that would carry the 48th to Harrisburg and eventually to Annapolis, MD...a mustering site during the war. It was the second trip to Annapolis by John, with the first being after his capture at Second Bull Run. Annapolis was used as a parole station and that was where John was exchanged in September of 1862.
The letter is typical of John...a little bit of update...a little bit of health update. He complains about the cold weather and a toothache that he is suffering. Given the condition of his leg after the wounding at Second Bull Run, John was relegated to "driving teams". We know that this was a mule team, based on on subsequent letters he wrote about them. He is indicating to his parents that he does not yet have a team to drive. It would appear that the main activity of the 48th during this period was drilling and training...ostensibly to "knock the rust off" of the men after a 3 month break.
1864 will be a significant year for the 48th with difficult engagements through out the year. John writes about these events during the course of 1864 and I look forward to sharing them with you.
Camp near Annapolis, MD
March 22, 1864
My Dear Father,
I take my pen in hand to inform you this few lines to you to let you know that I am well at present time and I hope this few lines will find you in the same state of good health. I let you know that we had to leave Pottsville that same day and went to Harrisburg and laid there for three days. Then we went on to Annapolis, Md, and here we are in camp now and our whole corps is coming here and here we will lay until our new men are drilled, but how long that will be I don’t know. I let you know that it is very cold here now. We are near freezing in our tents and I have toothache near all the time that we are here. But I have good times just now for I have no team to drive and I won’t drill any only go in dress parade in the evening. That is all I am doing at present time and that is too much for me. So dear Father and Mother I have not much to write for this time because it is too cold to write. I will write soon again. Give my best respects to my sisters and brothers and to all inquiring friends. So I will bring my letter to a close for this time. This few lines from your respective son.
John W. Derr
Answer soon and direct you letter to J.W. Derr, Co. D, 48th Regt. Pa, 1st Brigade, 2nd Division., 9th Army Corps, Annapolis, MD.