by “Roger Little”
Originally published in Tangents 1.9
June 1966 • Pages 12–14
This month’s Jeremiah Daisy CHAIN LETTER is unusual because of its connection with the letter published in last month’s Tangents, and also because of the writer’s obvious station in life in contrast with most of the other American Revolutionary homophile correspondents. Evidently class distinctions among the gay set were no more rigid in that day than they are in our own time.
Valley Forge March 1778
I never have ritten to strangers afore but you could not be stranger than me. And thats a funny thing. Back home I thought I wair the only one ever born so upside down. So when this war come along I got in fastern a fox can hide his tail. I thought my luny feelings wood stay back home but they trailed me bettern my bound dog Sniffy.
And thats a funny thing.
What you can larn in the army. My name is Roger Little. I am six feet and four and before I left home I wayd two times what I do now. I have blue eyes and straw hair. My hair used to be curly. Now its mostly jest dirty. My pa is a farmer in the back land. After ma died I larned to cook. I have three brothers but none of them wood larn to cook. I can lick any of my brothers with one band.
If this letter is hard to read its on account the smoke from my fire. It keeps acomming in my eyes, I set close as I can to get some warm.
I been here all my life I think. My hut is real snug. I dug it way in the side of a hill. We slept on twigs till general W. got us some straw. You can make a warm nest in straw. Our general inspects us even on awful cold days and be talks rite kindly. Some times he looks sad and worryd. Once be spoke to me. He askt of my helth. I said fine as silk as I did not warnt to worry him. He is real hansome.
At lest two of us have to live in each hut.
And thats a funny thing.
I was afeard my feelings wood set a trap for me sleeping with a man but the dust man I lived with was sick half the time and had pimples and wood not even keep hiself clean. He made me mad talking all the time about Philadelfia whar the enemy is and whar we here thairs plenty to eat.
One day I called him a coward.
He hit me fust but I licked him good.
No body has seen him after that.
For a long time after pimples run away I had the hut to myself. It warnt so warm alone but I was afeard to ask another man to live with me. And the ones I likt wair all ready settled in.
And thats a funny thing. I liken men so, and feeling as outa place as a preacher in a tavern on a Saturday nite.
I larned a lot by keeping my ears open and my feelings to myself and some of the storys I herd made me shake worst than the cold. Mostly the men swear about there whors and that is a educashun. But what made me realy shiver was there jawing about some of the officers. One story I no turned out to be true. A certain lutenant was caught sleeping in a soldiers hut and got a cort marshall and was given one hundred lashes and discharged from the army. What scared me was that I had seen this lutenant and had dreamed about him in my sleep. He was real hansome.
And that brings me to lutenant P. He is my own lutenant. He is so hansome I cant keep from looking at him when I no I ortant. And that was a funny thing. I new he new I was looking. Then one day he talked to me. I cant remember what we said but it was easy and friendly like.
The very next day he came around with a pare of shoes for me. My old ones had fall apart. That was the most kindly thing any body ever did for me and that takes in my own pa and ma.
We saw each other every day after that. One day he went in the woods with me to gather faggots. We chased each other and I made out I was my hound dog Sniffy going after a rabbit. We restled and he said he wanted to see if I was still strong enough to hold a musket. We laft and I showd him I was.
But whilst we restled it wont long afore I got the feelings so bad I scarce could control myself and I could see that the lutenant was having my trouble to. I got scared and hit him harder than I met and for a minute I thought I had kild him.
And thats a funny thing.
He got up and warnt mad at me at all
He said he was acomming to my hut that nite.
I thought of that other poor lutenant who went to bed with a common soldier and got whisled out of the camp and my heart beat so fast I warnt sure I could stand it. I pertended to be mad and said he must be off his head.
He new what I was thinking.
You like me that much he said. That much I said and picked up my sticks and headed back to camp.
And that brings me to corporal D. He was one of the ones I wisht I could ask to come and live with me but I warnt foolish enough to do it. He looked older than me and sort of frail. I wisht I could cook for him and take care of him. I put him in my mind at nite and it wont Iong afore I begun dreaming and having feelings about him.
One day I could of swore he looked at me the way I looked at lutenant P. but then I warnt sure.
Then on the nite of the next full moon I was fixing my fire afore turning in when up comes lutenant P. looking real serious like. I thought he was acomming to sleep with me and I begun to have the quivers thinking Id have to hit him agin and git put outa the army for striking an officer.
Private Little he said. You are still alone in this hut I presoom.
Yes sir I said frowning serious like to.
We have some voluntears coming in he said. I am moving some of my men around to make room. Private Little he said, I have a man for you.
And thats a funny thing. He winked.
Right then up walks corporal D. the frail one I had been dreaming about.
As I rite now the moon is on the wane and I still think Ill goo off my head some times wundering at what Ive larnt in the army. Corporal Nathan Drinker says I must rite this letter as I got to larn to rite some day and I mite as well larn now. He lafts and says when the wars over and if we warnt froze to rocks or kild by the redcoats he will take me to Philadelfia and really wake me up.
Your humble servant.
©1966, 2016 by The Tangent Group.
All right reserved.