"The sand was carried about by the wind as snow sometimes is in the North."

Hilton Head, South Carolina
March 7, 1862

Mr. Martin Bell
Dear Cousin,
It is with pleasure I sit down to write you a few lines. I say a few lines for I have not time to write you more than a few. I saw the first ice this morning I have seen in South Carolina. It was very precious being nearly a scum in a small pond. Saturday night was decidedly the coldest we have had since we came here. Today the wind was very high and very disagreeable to be out. The sand was carried about by the wind as snow sometimes is in the North.

We have made an addition to our tent. We procured some boards, made a box about 15 inches high and just large enough other ways to admit the tent to stretch over it, and to this box we have the tent fastened. It makes it about a foot higher and gives an abundance of room. We have also a good floor and have added a few new pieces of furniture in the shape of stools, etc. which add much to our comfort.

The paymaster has payed us with a visit. We were payed on the 19th of last month. Many were obliged to take checks in part pay as money was getting a little scarce with the paymaster. All from about the furnace sent all they wished to send home to Loyd & Co., or rather he will draw the whole amount from the government and pay it out to persons who are to receive it. I sent to you in this way $25 which you have perhaps now got or will get before this reaches you, if nothing has happened to delay its arrival.

We are all well. John & Jim join in sending love to all. Excuse brevity.
Your true cousin, -- J. Vinton Martin

John Vinton Martin was born in 1840 and grew up in Blair County, Pennsylvania.  At the outbreak of the Civil War he enlisted in Company F of the 76th Pennsylvania Infantry as a Corporal.  They were known as the 'Keystone Zouaves' and they wore the famous French Zouave uniform.  Initially the unit was sent to the Carolina coast and they participated in a number of engagements including, Pocotaligo, Morris Island, and many assaults against Fort Wagner (attacked by the famous Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts).  In the two major assaults against Battery Wagner, the regiment lost 204 men.  Martin served with the unit through all these difficult campaigns and in May of 1864 they were called back north to Virginia.  They embarked upon Butler's Bermuda Hundred campaign as part of Grant's overall strategy.  On May 7, 1864, while Lee and Grant's armies were side-stepping south after the savage butchery at the Wilderness, the 76th Pennsylvania was involved in a nasty little fight at Chesterfield Heights, Virginia where the regiment lost 65 men.  On that day, Corporal John Vinton Martin yielded his life for his country.  He was only 24 years old.   

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