James begins by apologizing for the tardiness of his letter, explaining that he has been ill. Although the Confederates are building breastworks to prepare for another Yankee attack, James predicts that the enemy will not soon attempt one. But the Confederates are experiencing other problems: substitution (hiring a replacement to serve one's term in the army) and desertion. James also notes with some shock that Pleasant Inman has suddenly died of illness. In a separate note on the same paper, John tells his cousin about his cold and sore throat. He also states that there is currently no fighting, but he can hear the Yankees firing cannonades "down on the river."