George H. Battes's letters provide an insight into army life as seen by a soldier still in his teens, and away from home probably for the first time. He provides vivid descriptions of four important engagements: Cold Harbor, Winchester (where he was wounded), Hatcher's Run, and Petersburg. Fond of decorating his letters with sketches and red-and-blue ink designs, Bates possessed of an exuberance that is illustrated by his breezy style. Although he evidently did not get along well with his mother, his letters to his siblings are especially tender.
For George Bates, the first two years of his service were, more than anything else, uninterrupted boredom. He complains constantly of having nothing to report, yet is not in any hurry to be done with the war for fear of unemployment. Yet through these pages emerges a fascinating depiction of daily life in the military camps: the quality and quantity of food, foraging for provisions from local residents, the invaluable services given by the Sanitary Commission, and the diversions and amusements that diverted the soldiers. Bates appears not to have understood the true implications of war until his first battle, after which he wrote, "I shant reenlist." The series of letters written after his wounding at the Battle of Winchester afford an inside look at military hospitals.