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April 28, 1861: San Luis Obispo

April 28, 2011

Fremont 01

Fremont Theater, downtown San Luis Obispo; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

Camp 26

I will answer some inquiries made in letters from home.

First—as to whether we have “camp bedsteads?” No, by no means—State officers can’t afford such luxuries, only Uncle Sam’s men can indulge in them. Each man has two pairs of heavy blankets, and an India-rubber sheet or oilcloth. The latter is spread on the ground, to keep us from the wet, and we sleep on that, rolled in our blankets. The colder the night the more we use above and the less below. When we sleep out in the open air we generally put an oilcloth or old coat over us to keep our blankets as dry as possible, for the dews are like rain these clear nights. One soon gets used to the ground, but it is often hard, and oftener rough with stones or cattle-tracks. This last is the most serious inconvenience. Often a great hummock or hollow is found just under one, and one must adapt himself to the ground. For pillows we use coats, saddlebags, or something of the kind—one learns to sleep on a hard pillow, only it makes the ears sore and bruised.

Second—tent. We first used two; the larger is discarded now. We use a Sibley tent, of government model, built after the style of an Indian “lodge,” round, with one pole only, in the middle; and after our experience of blowing down in the rain we strengthened this with three guy ropes or stays. These latter are also handy to hang shirts on to dry, towels, etc. The canvas closes into a ring at the top, about two feet in diameter, which is suspended to the top of the pole by short ropes. This leaves a hole in the top for ventilation on hot days. It is closed by a hood or fly.

Third—the barometers. These are mountain barometers. The glass tube is enclosed in a tube of brass; the cistern is so arranged as to be closed with a screw, the air expelled, and the mercury made to fill the whole tube and cistern. This is then inverted, put in a wooden case, and this again in a leather case. This last is round, about three inches in diameter and three feet long, and is carried by a strap over the shoulder. They are admirably packed, but it requires much care to carry an instrument with so long a glass tube filled with mercury. We have, however, not broken one yet, except one of the thermometers attached, which burst with the heat. It was graduated to only 120°, which is entirely insufficient for open-air use in this climate, where reliable men have told me that they have seen it 167° F. in the sun. We have lost two thermometers by leaving them where the sun would come on them; in a few minutes they would burst at 120° to 125° F.

Another week’s labors have closed, and we have finished all that we have time to do here. Professor Whitney has gone to Washoe. He will be back in San Francisco about June 15, and soon after rejoin us. We will be up to Monterey by that time.

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