This book is a collection of letters written by James Marsh Read (1833-1865) to his family in Winooski, Vermont and their replies to him. After graduation from the University of Vermont, he joined a US Geological Survey team that spent three years in Texas and New Mexico trying to find underground water to facilitate travel to California. Fascinated by the desert, enthusiastic about all he was learning, he writes to parents, sisters and brothers about his first adventure. After a brief interval as assistant to the editor of a Burlington, Vermont, newspaper, he answers Lincoln's first call for 75,000 volunteers in April 1861. From then until the end of the Civil War, he writes about life in camp, the rigors of battle (he fought in a dozen major battles), and the abilities of various generals. No matter how difficult his situation, he is always concerned about the people at home. Because he writes so well, we are able to know and appreciate this fine young man.