This incredible July 4, 1861 letter from Philip Henry Powers (1838-1887) of the famous 1st Virginia Cavalry to his wife, Roberta Macky Smith (1831-1919), recounting his experience in the Battle of Hoke’s Run (also termed first Battle of Falling Waters) two days earlier. Though small, this battle represented the first use of cavalry in the Civil War. Powers enlisted as a private but was a good friend of JEB Stuart and eventually became Stuart’s Quartermaster. Many of Power’s letters (including this one) were included in Robert Trout’s 1995 book: “With Pen & Saber; the letters and diaries of JEB Stuart’s staff officers.”
What makes this letter particularly interesting is Power’s noting that during the skirmish “one fellow [about to be captured] was creeping away under cover of a fence when he was shot dead by the only negro in our party.” The validity of this recounting is confirmed in the battle’s report by the unit’s Brigade commander (and other sources). The Negro was James Humbles (1834-1906)—a free ‘mulatto’ from Lexington, Virginia, who was the only Negro on the roster of the 1st Virginia Cavalry at the time of this skirmish. Humbles enlisted on April 18, 1861 and was identified on the roster as a “bugler.” Of interest and relevant importance is the fact that Humbles’ mustering roll document states “free negro. Mustering officer thinks this man should not be mustered.” It is assumed that Humbles was accepted as a Confederate soldier because he was known and liked by certain members in the unit. It’s possible that Humbles was not even a “bugler” but only identified as such on the roster merely to make his presence there as an equal somehow more palatable to his comrades. It may also have been done because Confederate law prohibited blacks from bearing arms in the war, though Humbles clearly did.
Black Confederate soldiers (as opposed to slaves who accompanied their owners to war and sometimes bore arms when necessary) were extremely rare and probably confined to Virginia which had the largest numbers of free negroes among the Confederate States. Readers are referred to Kevin M. Levin’s excellent (2019) publication entitled, “Searching for Black Confederates, the Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth.”
Humbles left the unit after an indeterminate time, likely within a year or so after entry, possibly as it became even less acceptable for blacks to be considered true confederate soldiers. Public records indicate that prior to the Civil War, Humbles was employed as the operator at Lexington’s waterworks. In 1860 he was living with Frances (“Fanny”) Brooks, a Black woman who took in laundering. The couple were married in 1863 and by 1866 he was employed as a stable keeper. In 1880, Humbles was listed as a general merchant and he rented a few acres one which he raised hay, oats and corn. He owned a horse and employed help. After Fanny died, he married Eveline Myers who ran her own restaurant and employed two people.
[Note: This letter is from the personal collection of Richard Weiner and is published here by express consent.]
Camp at Big Spring
My dear wife,
Though within 2 miles of the enemy who are in Martinburg and just this side, I seize the first leisure moment for two days to write you a line merely to assure you of my safety this far. We have had a stirring and exciting time for the 2 days past. Tuesday morning we heard that the enemy were crossing at Williamsport. Col. [J. E. B.] Stuart instantly had us in the saddle and marched down to meet them keeping on their flank. Almost before we knew it, we came upon their lines. And finding one company ¹ of about fifty men detached and resting under a tree, we charged them, surrounded and captured every man of them except four who ran and were killed. One fellow was creeping away under cover of a fence when he was shot dead by the only negro in our party. However, we made a most narrow escape for we had hardly started our prisoners when a whole regiment of infantry came up to the place where this skirmish had taken place and pursued us. We were too fast for them and got off with all the prisoners, their arms and accoutrements. ²
About this time, Col. [Thomas J.] Jackson’s command met the enemy and a skirmish ensued. We could hear the firing but could not see the engagement. As we were on the flank and most of the time in the woods. Col. Jackson retired in a short time and we continued to watch the enemy until they went into camp on the ground we occupied the night before. We camped just outside of Martinsburg—sleeping on this ground without blankets or food—our baggage being at Bunker Hill. You may imagine the comfort of our position. However, I managed to sleep some though I had a terrible headache.
Yesterday morning the enemy ³ advanced upon Martinsburg and we retired before them keeping just without range of their guns. They are in large force, though we cannot exactly estimate their numbers. They marched upon the place in battle array, their glistening [bayonets] gleaning in the sun as their lines hurried through the fields, their main column in the road. We retired through Martinsburg. Sadly—I assure you—I could hardly refrain from shedding tears when I saw weeping women, hurrying out, and all in alarm. God will yet vindicate the right and enable us to drive this invader from our soil. I imagine General Johnston wishes to draw them from the river before he gives them battle. What our movement will be today, I cannot tell. We are now resting and our pickets watching the enemy.
I had expected to come home this week. Of course you will not expect or desire it now. Had I time I might write you many incidents worth mentioning that have occurred, but the man who is to take this is waiting. I only ask you not to be uneasy about me. I am well and shall take care of myself and discharge my duty to the best of my ability. God bless your my dear, and protect you and my little children. I heard from you through some of Morgan’s company.
Ever yours, — P. H. Powers
¹ The Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, 1861-1865, states that the casualties were: 14th Pennsylvania: 12 Captured (the 1st Virginia Cavalry took 47 prisoners from Co. A, 14th and Co. I, 15th Pennsylvania).
² In a history of the 15th Pennsylvania Volunteers, the following account of the skirmish was published: “On the morning of the 2d of July, the army crossed the Potomac, the 5th Brigade having the right of the 2d Division and passing Major General Patterson in review. About one mile from the ford Negley’s Brigade diverged from the line of march of the main column, and moved by a road leading to the right, having Co. A of the Fourteenth regiment, and Co. I of the Fifteenth thrown forward to right and left as skirmishers. Scarcely expecting to meet the enemy, the skirmishers—about three hundred yards in advance of the column—were suddenly confronted by a battalion of Colonel Ashby’s cavalry, dressed in blue blouses, and having the general appearance of Union troops. Emerging from a thick wood in the direction of Falling Waters, they rode leisurely forward and halted at a fence. The skirmishers, mistaking them for our own cavalry, obeyed the order of Colonel Ashby to “let down the fence.” No sooner was this done, than the rebel leader, followed by some forty of his men, rode into the field, surrounded the unsuspecting party, shot down the First Sergeant, and demanded the surrender of the entire body, consisting of the Second Lieutenant, John B. Hutchinson, and thirty-four men. Before they had time to fire, or hardly to comprehend their situation, they found themselves in the clutches of the enemy, and were quickly ‘hurried:” away. The skirmishers on the left were prevented from firing, for fear of shooting their captive comrades. The column was at once thrown into line, and marched in pursuit of Ashby; but, having no cavalry, the pursuit was vain. Ashby escaped with his prisoners, and the result of his strategy was heralded through the South as a brilliant affair. But among honorable men, stealing up to an enemy in the disguise of companions in arms, has always been regarded as an act of cowardice.” I suppose the truth of this affair lies somewhere between these two widely varying accounts.
³ The Union troops were under the command of Maj.-General Robert Patterson’s division who occupied Martinsburg but eventually withdrew to Harpers Ferry rather than keep Jackson’s army engaged, thus enabling Jackson to march to support Beauregard at First Bull Run.
This letter was written by 30 year-old Susan Jane White (1831-1915), the daughter of James Patterson White (1800-1879) and Mary Ann Clarke (18xx-1873) of Belfast, Maine. Susan’s father was a ship builder and a successful businessman in Belfast where he served two years as major and two years as a state senator. His 1840 Greek Revival home—where Susan wrote this letter—was located at the southern end of Church Street, occupying a lot at the corner of High Street. The home still stands today and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Susan became the second wife of Col. Samuel Donnell Bailey (1825-1885) in Belfast on 27 November 1873.
The letter was addressed to her friend “Nettie” whose last name was likely Devereaux but I could not find her in census records under that name. Nettie appears to have recently moved to Marblehead, Massachusetts, and had a brother in the Western army.
[Note: This letter is from the private collection of Aaron Greene and is published by express consent.]
February 23, 1862
My dear Nettie,
Your interesting and welcome letter reached me in the midst of a Tableau, ¹ in which I was very much interested. It was my first attempt and I was made very happy by their proving themselves a great success. We had very pretty young ladies [in] very handsome dresses and a number of rehearsals which accounts for it. I allowed myself to be made a nun, and an old woman, much against my inclination, but one is willing to sacrifice themselves for the benefit of our soldiers, and that was our object.
We had, after defraying all our expenses, $150 to devote to their comfort. We have already made a number of night shirts and are now engaged in pillows and pillow cases.
What glorious victories we have achieved the past two weeks. How bravely and nobly the Western troops fought. They should each have a diadem for their brows. But think how many homes are left desolate and alone, and how many aching hearts to mourn for them. However, we have to cheer us, the thought that the war cannot continue long. You must hope soon to hear from your brother at Memphis. I hope we shall very soon hear that the Stars & Stripes are floating over it.
Have you read Cecil Dreeme [by Theodore Winthrop]? If so, how do you like it? I think his style is splendid. His first writings, Washington as a Camp, and the March of the New York Seventh were admirably written. Love and Skates is a charming little story—so spicy. I am really glad we can say there really was one modest man that lived. Who but he would have left such dine writings and the world not known of him.
Great Expectations I have just finished. It is thoroughly Dickens. I am one of his admirers. Are you, my dear Nettie? Write what books you like best. I want all my friends to read and like what I do. Don’t think me selfish. Perhaps you don’t indulge in light reading, but I can assure you, it helps t pass a great many hours pleasantly in quiet Belfast.
Was Old Marblehead awake yesterday? we had a very stirring day with us—ringing of bells, firing of guns, and the reading of Washington’s Farewell Address—with good Union speeches from any of the citizens made the day one of rejoicing.
Does it seem possible winter is so nearly passed and bright, pleasant spring will be so soon amongst us? O, Nettie, I delight in spring and summer, when I can almost live out in the open air after being confined to rooms heated by furnaces through a long winter. It is so refreshing to work and be among the flowers. June is our month of roses and we have a great variety. If you lived near, you should have a fresh basket every morning. But I hope my dear to show you all my flowers this summer and gather you a choice bouquet. You won’t disappoint me, will you? It would be really cruel to be so near and not see each other after so long a separation—if it is only for a few days, you must certainly come. I think you will like our little city. It really is a charming place in summer. We have some delightful rides and you shall see them all. Of course Mr. Devereaux will not object if it is your desire. I have no doubt we could find something to interest him. If he enjoys fishing, we have a plenty of that of all kinds.
My sister Julia will be at home this summer with Edith. I should like Manin and Edie to become acquainted although Manin is so much older, I think they might perhaps enjoy each other’s society.
I am afraid I have already tired you with my importunities but you must excuse me, I have such a desire to see you my dear Nettie.
With a kiss for the little ones, and a remembrance to Mr. Devereaux, with much love to yourself I am your affectionate friend, — S. J. W.
¹ A tableau vivant was a production using one or more actors to create a stationary scene (a “living picture”) accompanied by music. In this case, the tableaux was part of a fund raising activity for the benefit of Union soldiers.
This letter was written by 26 year-old Ethan William Davis (1836-1890) of Greece township, Monroe county, New York. He was the son of Harry B. Davis (1810-1876) and Elixa Green (1810-1883). Ethan was married to Betsey (“Bessie”) A. Allen (1841-1905) but it was sometime after this letter was written in 1863; perhaps just prior to their marriage. Their first child was born in 1865.
Ethan claims to have been working for a firm headquartered in Milwaukee but he does not give the name. He later returned to Monroe County, New York, and became a farmer.
[Note: This letter is from the collection of Aaron Greene and is published by express consent.]
New Lisbon [Wisconsin]
February 17, 1863
It has been some time since I heard from you so I will improve the opportunity and have a chat with you. The last letter I received from you I had forwarded from Cedar Falls to Marion, Iowa. In my last I said that a letter could reach me at Dubuque but was disappointed and did not get any and come on to this State (Wisconsin) with a heavy heart.
I have been traveling for a firm in Milwaukee. I have been north nearly two hundred miles among the Indians where the snow was two feet deep and among the tall pines 100 feet high. How cold and dreary it would seem—much unlike home—when the wind would moan through the tall pines and not see a house for ten miles expect Indian wigwams by the roadside.
It is very pleasant here today. It rained all day last Saturday and nearly spoilt the sleighing and today will finish it.
It must be hard soldiering it now-a-days. When I came through Mineral Point, I saw a company of soldiers that had been out after forty drafted men and got one. So much for drafting. Mineral Point is in a great lead region. I have some of the mineral in its natural state—it was a great curiosity to me—and have also some small pine cones. They will do to look at when I get home and refresh my memory of what I have seen.
I have that letter that you wanted me to get. Now Bessie, you don’t think that of me, do you? What Kit said about me? You have more confidence in me than I never thought of the thing. I wonder if the street cars run in Rochester.
Oh, when you [go] to your cousins after sugar, fetch me a tooth full. I shall be home in three weeks. Direct your next to Dundee, Monroe county, Michigan. I have relatives there and will leave here next week.
My picket is stationed at Jamesville, Hardison Mills, Old Ford Mills, and Stallions so the enemy cannot advance in no direction from Washington and Plymouth without my pickets having knowledge of the movements. There is also a force of cavalry from this regiment at or below Gardner’s Creek Bridge on Jamesville Road. There has been no advance made by the enemy yet. Should there be, my picket will advise you. In fact, they will return by the mill should the enemy force them to retire from their post.
Your obedient servant, — John G. Smith, 1st Lt. Commanding Camp
This letter was written by Marshall David Craton (1829-1866) of Wayne County, North Carolina, who entered the Confederate service as Captain of the “Goldsboro Rifles” which became Co. A, 27th North Carolina Infantry. He was promoted to Lt. Colonel of the 35th North Carolina Infantry on 6 November 1861, and to Colonel of the 50th North Carolina Infantry in 1862.
Col. Craton wrote the letter to Major Wortham who was made captain of Company 2, the Granville Greys. He was commissioned as a major in the 50th Regiment of North Carolina on 15 April 1862, and promoted to lieutenant on 01 December 1862, then to colonel on 10 November 1863.
Addressed to Major. Wortham, Point of Rocks
I wish you would send some responsible man—a Lieutenant—over the river and engage all the blankets you can find in the country for our regiment. Get as many as two hundred if you can & we will pay a fair price for them. Four dollars for the best, &c. You ought to save us 25 or 30 good axes for our regiment & if they have to be accounted for, Adams can do so. I sent you back the gun you sent me because it was not the one you gave me. Send up your morning report twice a week & account for all the sick you send him as “present—sick.” [ ] can’t make out the right report from yours—only those that are absent in hospitals at Petersburg or somewhere else besides here in camp should be marked “absent sick.”
No news. We will commence our winter quarters next week. I presume you will get orders to build where you are. I send you some commissions for officers & you will please collect 2 on each one before giving them out as I am responsible & send me the amt.
This letter was most likely written by either a member of Gen. Simon B. Buckner’s staff while he commanded the District of West Louisiana in October 1864. The author may have been supporting Buckner in either a military or a civilian capacity. What is clear is that the author’s daughter—named Ruth—was severely ill and receiving treatment in the form of medical “blistering” and the administration of calomel and tartar emetics.
Headquarters, District of West Louisiana
October 3rd 1864
My dear Mother,
As I promised yesterday by cousin I would write you each day while our daring Ruth was so ill. I cannot say much today to encourage or console except that the Dr. says she is no more which you would think encouraging if you had seen her yesterday. She has burned her throat twice quite severely which of course has done her good. He is giving her small doses of calomel & tartar emetic one & two hours apart, he applied a blister plaster from one ear to the other or rather clear around her throat & she has one of the sorest blisters I ever saw. I fancy there is some change for the better but Ma, she is a very sick child. She is in truly a critical condition and ______. I would not write you this Ma but I feel it a duty. Besides I intend to write to you each day and any change that takes place I will write you promptly and you see you will not be kept in suspense more than one day at a time unless the couriers do not deliver letters promptly. I just asked Ruth if I should tell you that she loved you. She bowed her little head and whispered yes. She breathes very hard but still has plenty of strength and gets up to take her medicine. She is very good and notices everything of importance.
Mrs. & Dr. [John Pintard] Davidson, ¹ stayed all night last night. Mother Lacy comes tonight. Every attention is given.
General [Simon B.] Buckner has given orders to the Medical Department to furnish in everything requisite. Of course we cannot tell when we will come home. It may be several days before we can tell what is to be her fate. And we will not leave this Dr. while there is danger.
We know you are lonely & want to get to you. Always wishing your happiness, I am dear Ma your affectionate son, — Harlon J___
Please send my letter to Phelps & Co. & get their receipt for it that I may know from them that it reached its destination, — H
The Dr. says she is a little better.
¹ Dr. John Pintard Davidson (1812-1890) was married to Laurette Jenetta Ker (1814-1865).
This letter was written by Peter M. Klingensmith (1834-1890) who enlisted at Pittsburgh as a private of Co. I, 2nd Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery on 31 March 1864. He remained in the Battery until January 1866. It appears that during the summer of 1863, with the threat of invasion of Lee’s Army, Peter also served two months in Co. A, 58th Pennsylvania Infantry.
Peter was the son of Eli Klingensmith (1811-1884) and Mary Smith of Kelly’s Station, Armstrong county, Pennsylvania. He was married to Mary Bell Rimmel (1843-1904) in June 1866.
Peter wrote this letter from Fort Slocum and refers to General Early’s raid on Washington D. C. in mid-July 1864. He indicates that he was thrown in with other men from other states to man the city defenses against additional threats. He was not with his regiment which had been ordered out of the city’s defenses to participate, not as artillerists, but as infantrymen in Grant’s Overland Campaign shortly after his enlistment. Most likely Peter became ill when he joined the regiment and was hospitalized at the time they left Washington.
Peter wrote the letter to James A. Beatty (1812-1879), a merchant in Kelly Station, Armstrong county, Pennsylvania.
Addressed to Mr. James Beatty, Kelly’s Station P. O., Armstrong County, Penna.
August 3rd 1864
It is with due respect that I now sit down to let you know that I am still living and middling. Well I have done some hard marching since I heard from you since we was all taken out of the hospital and formed into a regiment. There is men out of every state in this regiment. There was a battle here about two weeks ago and we are expecting one here everyday. We was up all last night standing by the cannons. The pickets was drove in at Fort Reno about 2 miles from here but we have not saw any rebels today.
I do not think this war will ever be settled by fighting. We have lost more men this summer than any person knows of. I was talking to rebel prisoners. They say they cannot whip us and we cannot whip them. They say they can kill all the men we can send there and we can kill all the men they can send here. Our soldiers are all very much discouraged. I know they do not fight near as well as they used to do. There was four men dropped dead out of this regiment on last Sunday. It was so hot and they marched us too hard. A soldier has not much chance for his life these times.
I wrote to you for some money from Chestnut Hill Hospital. I had to go away before I got any. Answer if you answered. It will be sent to my regiment but I do not know when I will get to it. Please answer this soon and let me know if the people is all well. I am anxious to hear [ ] again. Please let me know what the people think about the war. I wish you [would] send me a couple of dollars to buy tobacco and paper and stamps. Direct to Peter M. Klingensmith, Fort Slocum, Washington D. C.
Please answer soon. Please let me know whether Mary Robison is at our place yet or not. I send my good wishes to all. Peter M. Klingensmith
This letter was written by Charles A. Smith (b. 1840) of Verona, Wisconsin. Charles was made the First Sergeant of Co. E, 8th Wisconsin Infantry, when he enlisted in August 1861. He was promoted to a 1st Lieutenant on 17 May 1865 but was never mustered at that rank despite the fact that he commanded the company at Nashville and Spanish Fort. He mustered out of the service on 5 September 1865.
In the 1860 US Census, Charles was enumerated as a single “day laborer” residing in the household of Rufus Atwood (b. 1823) in Verona, Wisconsin. Charles was identified as a New York native.
Sgt. Smith wrote the letter to Capt. James Harvey Greene (1833-1890) of Co. F, 8th Wisconsin Infantry who was at home on a furlough at the time. It was written on the day before the Battle of Nashville began.
December 14th 1864
With much pleasure I received by the hands of on of your “trusty boys” the sample of paper you sent me for which please receive my thanks. All our men are pleased with the form of the record it exhibits of their acts and wish me to procure a good supply of it for use. Accordingly I enclose the stated price $5.25 for one ream. I wish, Capt., you would procure and stamp for us a little better quality of paper—heavier would suit my men better, and if there is any additional cost, let me know when you send it, and I will remit the same to you at my earliest convenience.
Gen. Hood is trying to siege this place but I guess he finds it hard to make his “ends meet.” Nothing of importance going on. Capt. Smith, Capt. King, & Lieut. Helms are mustered out and gone home. Lieut. Jones has gone home on sick leave. We have but few officers left now. I am in command of Co. E now. The general health of the regiment is very good.
We are living at present in “Badger” holes on a side hill dug among the rocks without tents. We have pretty cold weather and some snow.
There is little use in conjecturing what will be our next movement. There is a little skirmishing along the lines every day.
I suppose you are enjoying the “sweets of domestic bliss,” relishing now and then a hearty laugh at our expense. All right, laugh on. You have the best wishes of many vets who have the privilege of your acquaintance. When you have leisure, Captain, please drop a line to
Yours respectfully, — Charles A. Smith, 1st Sgt. Co. E, 8th Wis. Vet. Vol. Inf.
This letter was written by 45 year-old Julia A. (Goss) Adams (1817-1900), a native of Springfield, Massachusetts, who married William H. Adams (1811-1874). She wrote the letter to her son, George Robert Adams (1840-1915) who was attending college at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, where he graduated in 1863. Like most college students of meagre means, George taught a select school in Connecticut while attending college. After his graduation, when he was drafted, George hired a substitute to take his place while he served as the principal of the Schoharie Academy.
In 1866, George was admitted to the bar in New York State and practiced law in Charlotteville and later Kingston, New York.
In her letter, Julia implores her son not to enlist in the army, writing: “The sorrow and anguish that this war is making, no mortal tongue can tell. I am not willing that my friends should be led as sheep to the slaughter. I am willing others should have the glory of the battlefield. It is as necessary that some should remain to other places of importance to the Nation. I hope you will be a blessing to your country in some other way besides going to war.”
Charlotteville, [Schoharie county, New York]
November 2, 1862
We received your letter last night and was glad to hear from you. I am sorry that you could not get the school. Is all the school taken up around Middletown? If so, perhaps Mister Sizer could get you one somewhere else on the island. You must try and so the best you can. I don’t know any chance here. You must not be discouraged. There will be some way provided. You can come home and stay awhile if you can’t do any better.
We are all well at present. I was very sick the first letter Pa wrote you but I have got well. There are but few students here this term. Uncle Rufus Adams came here at the opening of the school and brought Delia Stephens and Ozias Stephen’s son and his mother came along and went to Mr. Ricky. Old grandmother went home with him. He treated her very cooly He did not ask her to go with him. He shook hands with her when he came and that was all he said to her while he was here. I don’t like his disposition.
Your grandma Goss went home from here four weeks ago. She and Lavina talked of going to William’s. I expect they are there. I have not heard from them since she went home.
Your Pa wrote to you in his first letter which you said you didn’t get that Kate [Lamont] ¹ and [Newell McGregor] Steele ² were married the next morning after you left. He came in that night. He said he saw you in the stage. They went to Troy the next day and Friday the regiment left. He was in the Battle of Harper’s Ferry. He was taken prisoner and paroled and the government has sent them West. There were at Chicago. We have heard that their regiment [125th New York Infantry] was ordered back to Washington. Kate is in Albany to [her brother] David’s. ³
There is a good deal of excitement about the election of the governor of this state. I am afraid that [Horatio] Seymour will be elected. The draft is making a good deal of stir around. I am glad that you are exempt. The sorrow and anguish that this war is making, no mortal tongue can tell. I am not willing that my friends should be led as sheep to the slaughter. I am willing others should have the glory of the battlefield. It is as necessary that some should remain to other places of importance to the Nation. I hope you will be a blessing to your country in some other way besides going to war.
I wish you would write and let us know when this term closes. You must not wait for me to write—I have so much to do. [Your little brother] Ephraim says I must tell you to fetch him some nice things and cherries and peanuts and candies and he will thank you and kiss you.
Delia Stephens was here last Thursday night to prayer meeting. She said she had a letter from Mary Sizer and she had some thought of coming here to school. I must close this. If you can find it out, you will do well. I remain your affectionate Ma, — Julia A. Adams
I will remember thee, yes, while the pulse of life beats warm and free by all I love on earth in heaven. I will remember thee, George.
¹ Catharine (“Kate”) Lamont [or LaMonte] (1840-1916), was the daughter of Thomas William Lamont (1803-1853) and Elizabeth Marie Paine (1811-1898) of Charlotteville, Schoharie county, New York. She and Steele were married on 27 August 1862 at Charlotteville.
² Newell McGregor Steele (1836-1882) was born in Castleton, Rutland county, Vermont. He practiced law in Troy for a few years before the Civil War when he enlisted in Co. K, 125th New York Infantry, accepting a commission as 2nd Lt.
³ David Stillwell LaMont (1830-1903) was a dry goods merchant in Albany.
This letter was written by John Butler (1841-1863), the eldest son of Jacob Butler (1817-1877) and Fanny Southwick (1824-1890) of Candor, Tioga county, New York. John enlisted at Candor on 18 August 1862 to serve three years in Co. H, 137th New York Infantry. He did not live long, however. He died in a military hospital of typhoid fever on 20 January 1863. Enlistment records indicate he stood 5 foot 10 inches tall, had light hair and blue eyes.
Butler mentions two other members of his company; John Silvernail (age 26 in 1862; discharge 2 August 1865), and William Snyder (age 18 in 1862; mustered out 9 June 1865). Both were from Candor.
Butler wrote the letter to his friend, Phebe Cass (1846-1868), the daughter of Samuel Cass (1824-1903) and Jane Harlan (1818-1881) of Candor. She died unmarried when she was 22 years old.
Addressed to Miss Phebe Cass, Straits Corners, Tioga county, N. Y.
September 9th 1862
My dear friend,
I now take my pen in hand to let you know that I am well at present and hope that these few lines will find you the same. I received your letter the 28th of October and was glad to hear that you was the reason that I did not write before. I could not get time. The day that I got your letter, we moved and it took us till night to get here and the next day we had to build up our tents and we had to keep moving around and then we had to go out on picket yesterday and we got back just now.
It is Sunday and we had fun. We killed a hog and skinned it and friend it and we had a good meal and we had some hens and the way we got them, we went and took them out out of the hen coop and we seen the rebels about a half a mile off from where we was but we could not shoot at them—they was too far off. But when we are at home, we are about 4 miles from them. But I can fetch them if I can get a shot at them.
We set up a mark the other day and 42 of us shot at it and no one hit the mark but me and I hit it in the center of the mark the first time.
The boys is all well that come off the hill—only John Silvernale, he has got the measles, and William Snyder has got them [too].
I wish that I could see you and the rest of the folks but I can’t see you yet, but I hope that I shall see you all again. I received Catherine’s letter last month and was glad to hear from her. This is all—only write as soon as you get this.
From one of your best friends, — John Butler
To Phebe Cass
Direct your letters to John Butler, Washington D. C., 137th Regt. Co. H, NYSV in the care of Capt. E. F. Roberts.
[Included with the letter was the following poem sent to Phebe Cass, I suppose in remembrance of John Butler, that was claimed to have been written by “C. H.” The poem is a poor transcription of the a poem entitled, “For the Soldiers of the Potomac” claimed to have been written by John Fogerty in Hammond General Hospital published in “Brothers ’til Death, edited by Richard Trimble, page 85.]
The Soldier of the Potomac
Down where Potomac waters
Neath the sunbeams’ smile
Lay a Soldier weak and sighing
In delirium wild
Through his veins the raging fever
Wild and swift did seam
And the soldier bearer was wandering
Mid the scenes of home
Fond mother, dear father
To the soldier come wondering
For his brain was wildly
Mid the scenes of home
On his ear there fell the chiming
Of the old church bell
Come his mother’s tones so holy
That he loved so well
Hear the murmur of the brooklet
In te quiet dell
Scenes of sport in joyous childhood
On him cast there spell
Fons sister, dear brother
Greet the soldier now,
And he feels his mother’s kisses
On his aching brow
Farewell mother I am going
To my home of joy
Place my head upon your bosom
Kiss your darling boy
Lay my form within the churchyard
Where I loved to stray
Near the church wherein my childhood
First I learned to pray
Fond mother, dear father
To the Soldier come
For his brain was willy wandering
Mid the scenes of home
Bid my Mary, ease her weeping
When forever I am gone
Bid her oer my grave not warmer
Sadly and forlorn
Slow the Soldier’s eyes was closing
Faintly came his breath
With a murmur twas but Mary
Slpt the sleep of death
Weep comrades for the soldiers
Who have left your band
Make his grave beneath the will ow
In the Southern land.
Written by H. C. [Possibly Henry Cronk of Candor who served in the same company]
To Phebe Cass, Candor
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
November 23, 1862
My dear friend,
I now take my pen in hand to let you know that I am well and hope these few lines will find you the same. I have been sick two weeks with the measles but I am better now. Alford has had them too but he is better now. I received your letter the 14th and was glad to hear from you and [to] hear that you was well at present and all of the rest of them.
Mr. Stitson is here now and George Woolford is here too. They are a going to leave tomorrow for home. I got a letter from Catherine and from Ann Mackey today and they are all well. I would’ve wrote to you before if I had not been sick. I would like to see you and I may see you sometime. I hope I can see you before long. I hope I shall.
Our men shelled the rebels yesterday and they run. One of our men run over to the rebels and they give him a pass to go home and they say we will have to shoot him. It is Old Towner and I guess some of you know him.
The boys is well the most of them. Souil White is a dying now. He is in our company. He is the first man that has died in our company. We can see the rebels every day and that is good. I am well for them.
This is all this time only. Write as soon as you get this. From one of your friends — John Butler
To my friend Phebe Cass
John Silvernales is sick and he will have to go to hospital I guess. Goodbye.
This letter was written by Col. George Washington Wortham (1823-1883) who began the war as a Captain of the “Granville Greys.” “He was commissioned as a major in the 50th Regiment of North Carolina on 15 April 1862, and promoted to lieutenant-colonel on 01 December 1862, then to colonel on 10 November 1863. Wortham was placed in command at Plymouth, North Carolina after its recapture (May-October 1864). In late 1864, Wortham’s regiment was ordered to assist in the defense of Savannah. They subsequently fought at River’s Bridge, Averasborough and Bentonville.
In the latter battle, mentioned in this letter, Wortham is said to have “shown the white feather,” fleeing to the rear to “report the disaster.” Meeting a brigade courier en route, he described the battlefield deaths of Colonel William Hardy and several other officers, all of whom were subsequently found alive, though bloodied. See Nathaniel Hughes’s Bentonville: The Final Battle of Sherman and Johnston, UNC Press, 200, p. 148.) Wortham was paroled on 01 May 1865 in Greensboro, North Carolina and returned to the practice of law.” [Archives, Collection of George Wortham, Gilder Lehrman]
George wrote this letter to his father, Dr. James Lewis Wortham (1797-1866) of Oxford, Granville county, North Carolina. In the 1860 US Census, George was residing in the Tar River District of Granville county and had ten slaves ranging in age from 10 to 67.
Headquarters 50th North Carolina Troops
March 23rd 1865
My Dear Father,
I am so rushed of time that I can only say we have had four days hard fighting—one at Averystown where we whipped one corps of Sherman’s army, & a three day’s fight at Bentonville in Johnson County from which we came off victorious but were compelled to fall back by Schofield threatening our rear from Goldsboro.
I was in the whole of these fights. On Sunday we lost one third of our brigade in a few minutes. I am unharmed (glory to God) except by one slight scratch on the shinbone, or rather the shin which is from exposure and want of rest becoming inflamed & troublesome. I hope it will get well as soon as I can rest. My health is excellent with this exception.
We have fallen back on Smithfield. Where we are going, I do not know. General Joseph Johnston is in command.
Remember me in your prayers. Give my love to all ad write to me at Raleigh.
Truly & sincerely your affectionate son, — Geo. Wortham
Sherman’s Army is evidently much cowed. They fight much more timidly than at first.
This letter was written by Col. George Alfred Cunningham (1837-1904), commander of the City of Wilmington and River Defenses which included the command of Brig. General James G. Martin’s Brigade in Robert F. Hoke’s Division. Col. Cunningham was an 1857 graduate of the US Military Academy. After graduation he served on the Utah Expedition and under General Lee in Texas. He resigned from the US Army in 1861, joined the Confederate army and was wounded at Fort Donelson. After he recovered, he was placed in charge of Fort Caswell, N. C. and the river defenses headquartered in Wilmington.
The letter accompanied a package containing the personal effects of Private Augustus B. Norton who had been on the sick list since September 1863 but was later listed as a deserter. Records indicate he returned to the regiment on December 22, but died that night while in the guard house. In this document, the three Confederate doctors making up the examining board concluded Norton died of a chill. ¹
Augustus Norton was a 29 year-old “day laborer” when he enlisted in Robeson county at the age of 29 in Co. B, 50th North Carolina Infantry. I believe that Augustus Norton was related to the Pate Family and came originally from Richmond county, North Carolina.
Headquarters City and River Defenses
Wilmington, North Carolina
December 23, 1863
Brig. Gen’l J[ames] G. Martin
Commanding &c. &c.
Enclosed I send a package taken from the body of A. B. Norton, Co. B, 50th N. C. Regt. who died while in confinement at 2½ A. M. yesterday. It contains all that was of any value that he had with him and I send it to you that it may get to his friends sooner than it would were the regulations in such cases followed out. Private [Norton] was in confinement for desertion & died very suddenly of a congestive chill.
Very respectfully, &c. — George A. Cunningham, Col. Commanding
¹ The doctor’s statement of cause of death is offered for sale (January 2020) at Iron Horse Antiques. It reads:
Wilmington NC December 22nd 1863
In the case of Pr. A Norton 50th Reg NCI Co B, a Deserter, who died in Guard House of City Garrison on night of Dec 21st 1863, we the board of examination as to cause of the death of said Norton, do declare that from evidence produced we are of opinion that the immediate cause of his death was a congestive chill.
N. N. Harrison, M. Dr. S. D. Door MD _____ Bryant, Asst. Surgeon
This letter was written by Dr. William Moye Benjamin Brown (1823-1903), the son of Willie Brown (1799-1867) and Nancy Moye of of Greenville, Pitt county, North Carolina. Dr. Brown was married in 1854 to Jane Marie Greene (1825-1899). In the 1860 US Slave Schedule, it appears that Dr. Brown owned 13 slaves ranging in age from 2 to 34. I infer from this letter that the slaves who names and ages appear on the following list had sought refuge with the Union troops quartered at Plymouth, North Carolina, until they were apprehended when Gen. Robert F. Hoke recaptured the city in April 1864. The slaves were, as indicated, the property of Dr. Brown, his father Willie Brown’s, and his relatives, Robert and Zeno Greene’s. [A large collection of the Brown family papers are archived at Easter Carolina University in Greenville.]
Dr. Brown wrote the letter to Col. George Washington Wortham (1823-1883) who began the war as a Captain of the “Granville Greys.” “He was commissioned as a major in the 50th Regiment of North Carolina on 15 April 1862, and promoted to lieutenant-colonel on 01 December 1862, then to colonel on 10 November 1863. Wortham was placed in command at Plymouth, North Carolina after its recapture (May-October 1864). In late 1864, Wortham’s regiment was ordered to assist in the defense of Savannah. They subsequently fought at River’s Bridge, Averasborough and Bentonville. (In the latter battle, Wortham, is said to have “shown the white feather,” fleeing to the rear to “report the disaster.” Meeting a brigade courier en route, he described the battlefield deaths of Colonel William Hardy and several other officers, all of whom were subsequently found alive, though bloodied. See Nathaniel Hughes’s Bentonville: The Final Battle of Sherman and Johnston, UNC Press, 200, p. 148.) Wortham was paroled on 01 May 1865 in Greensboro, North Carolina and returned to the practice of law.” [Archives, Collection of George Wortham, Gilder Lehrman]
Also mentioned in the letter is Major William E. DeMill who was in the North Carolina Commissary Department.
Greenville, North Carolina
May 11th 1864
Will you please inform me by mail if the negroes named on the enclosed list are among those captured at Plymouth by Gen. [Robert F.] Hoke [in April 1864]. I learn from Major [William E.] Demill that the list of them is completed and their owner’s names given. Attention will much oblige.
Yours respectfully, — W. M. B. Brown
Luke (man about 35 years) W. M. B. Brown’s (formerly C. Greene’s)
Moses (man aged about 20 years) W. M. B. Brown’s (formerly C. Greene’s)
John Tyson (msn aged about 18 years) W. M. B. Brown’s (formerly C. Greene’s)
Joe (man aged about 18 years) W. M. B. Brown’s (formerly Willie Brown’s)
Starling (man aged about 40 years) Willie Brown’s
Haywood (man aged about 18 years) Willie Brown’s
Rhodes (man aged about 18 years) Willie Brown’s
Bob (man aged about 18 years) Willie Brown’s
Ann (woman aged about 35 years) Willie Brown’s
Suckey (woman aged about 25 years) Willie Brown’s
Joe (man aged about 30 years) Robert Greene’s (formerly C. Greene’s)
Bill (boy aged about 15 years) Robert Greene’s (formerly Smith’s)
Tom (boy aged about 15 years) Robert Greene’s (formerly Smith’s)
Lewis (man aged about 35 years) Zeno H. Greene’s (formerly C. Greene’s)
John (man aged about 22 years) Zeno H. Greene’s (formerly C. Greene’s)
Enoch (man aged about 18 years) Zeno H. Greene’s (formerly C. Greene’s)
Edward H. Wells (1842-1864) was 19 years old from Bridgeport, Iowa, when he enlisted on 14 September 1861 in Co. I, 12th Iowa Infantry. He was severely wounded at the Battle of Nashville on 16 December 1864, taking a bullet in the knee which resulted in the amputation of his leg. He died of his wounds, however, on 21 December 1864.
In his letter, Wells refers to an expedition and a hard fight in July. I believe this is a reference to expedition sent out from Jackson, Mississippi, led by by Colonel Geddes of the 8th Iowa, sent to the Pearl River. It seems apparent that though the 12th Iowa participated on this expedition, Wells was too sick to participate himself.
Edward wrote the letter to his friend, James “Nott” Nims (1846-1923), the son of Amasa Nims (1810-1894) and Adeline Goodnow (1813-1893) of Maquoketa, Jackson county, Iowa. Edward mentions Nim’s brother, Creon Lycortez (“Con”) Nims (1844-1935) in his letter. Creon’s brother, Owen Weed Nims (1842-1929), also served in the same company & regiment as Wells. In 2018, I transcribed one of Weed Nims’ letters describing the Battle of Shiloh; see 1862: Owen Weed Nims to Parents.
Camp of the 12th Iowa [near Vicksburg, Mis.]
July the 28th 
Friend James Nims,
I now take my pen in hand to let you know that I am well at present and hope that these few lines may find you the same. There was an expedition went out and got in a fight and had a hard one.
I am not very well now. I have wrote once and have not got an answer for it yet. I want to know how [your brother] Creon and Netty Springer get along. I want to know how Weed gets along with his boat. I want to know why Sam Grant don’t write. Tell him to write to me.
We have not got any pay for some time. Tell your father to be patient and as soon as we draw our pay, I will send him some money. I can’t think of much to write this time so I will close this.
I feel reasonably confident that this letter can be attributed to Henry T. Blanchard of Co. K, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry. He served as Corporal and in May 1862 was promoted to Sergeant. Blanchard was killed on May 6, 1864 at the Battle of the Wilderness in Virginia. He was shot in the head and killed instantly. A captain, John P. Shaw stated that “his loss is mourned by everyone acquainted with him. He was every inch of him a soldier and a perfect gentleman.”
Henry was the son of Erastus Edmund Blanchard (1812-1894) and Elizabeth Jones Aldrich (1815-1894) of Providence, Rhode Island. Henry was a 21 year-old machinist when he enlisted. I previously transcribed two of Henry’s letters on Spared & Shared 13 and I note there are quite a number of Henry’s letters in archives and private collections as well.
Camp Advance Guard
Lee’s Farm on Pamunky River
May 13th 1862
I write a few lines to you in answer to your kind letter. We are camped today in a lovely place on Gen. Lee’s farm on which lay some 6 or 7 U. S. Gunboats—two of them lay in sight of us. We, the advance guard, have been doing one of the sauciest things of the war—having been chasing some 40,000 rebels before us for 30 miles, and some of the time there has been none of our troops within 20 miles of us. If secesh had known our foce, they would have no doubt given us a tough one, but they thought that there was a large force of us following them.
The troops forming the advance guard for the Grand Army of the Potomac is composed of the 5th & 8th Regiments of Regular Cavalry, 8th Illinois Cavalry, the 2nd Rhode Island Regiment, 98 Pennsylvania Vol., & Battery L of the 2nd U. S. Regular Artillery, which were picked by Major Gen. McClellan for this duty, thus showing that he has great confidence in us. The party is commanded by Gen. Stoneman of the Regular Army who has been chief in command of all the cavalry. Col. Wheaton is acting Brig. General. Gov. Sprague has been with us all the time, and I have heard that he said that the 2nd Rhode Island should be the first regiment of infantry to enter Richmond.
It is the general impression of all, and especially of the prisoners which we have taken, that the rebels will make a stand in Chickahominy Swamp about 12 miles from where we now are, and 15 from Richmond. Some of the prisoners which we have taken are confident that we will get whipped, while others are as far the other way, saying that the rebels are discouraged and will not fight. But that remains to be seen. One thing is sure—that there is no retreat for us. We are bound to go on until the rebellion is crushed out.
You would laugh if you could see the negros crowd around our band Sunday while it was playing. They said they never saw or heard one before.
Until lately we have lived high on secesh pigs, bacon, & poultry, but Sunday an order was issued that any man caught foraging would be court martialed and punished severely. The white part of the population are scarce around here, but there are any quantity of darkies. Every officer’s servant belonging to our regiment has got a secesh horse or mule & saddle and form quite a body guard by themselves.
I suppose you have heard of the capture of Norfolk &c. The first [we] heard of it [was] Sunday and there was great cheering in camp. The Monitor and several other gunboats are reported as going up the James river and with the help of those on the Pamunky river, with Banks & McDowell in the rear of the rebels, we might surround them. But none of us know Gen. McClellan’s plans though we have the utmost confidence in him and the other generals who have command of the army.
But I must close y letter for fear we will march before I get it in the mail for the gunboats are blazing away up the river, shelling the woods as they go along. I see in a paper yesterday an account of the sword you spoke of. It must be a splendid thing.
Write soon. From your affectionate brother, — Henry
These nine letters were written by Henry Cole Smith (1845-1917) who enlisted in Co. E, 8th Connecticut Infantry on 28 September 1861 at the age of 15. He reenlisted as a veteran on 23 December 1863 and was discharged on disability on 28 March 1865 due to a hernia. Henry was born in Kent, Connecticut, the eldest son of Marcus DeForest Smith (1820-1910) and Harriet Cole (1821-1900) of Cornwall, Litchfield, Connecticut.
Henry wrote the letters to Nancy L. Harrison (1844-1934), the 20 year-old daughter of William Hopkins Harrison (1813-1878) and Mary Amelia Catlin (1814-1893) of Cornwall, Litchfield county, Connecticut.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Camp 8th Regiment Connecticut Volunteers
Near Suffolk, Virginia
May 10th 1863
I have been expecting a letter from you for quite awhile and as I have received none, I concluded that either you had not received the last letter I wrote to you or if you had received it, your letter to me in answer had been lost. So I thought I would write to you. (You must not expect very good writing for I have to hold my portfolio on my knee.)
This is a very pleasant Sunday morning. There is hardly a cloud to be seen. The sun shines bright and warm. The trees are covered with their green foliage and perched upon many a limb is some songsters merrily singing. I wish I was where I could go to church this Holy day, and not have to stay in camp all of the time.
The last two weeks the regiment has had to make corduroy roads every day, rain or shine. And the last 5 days it has rained most of the time. Our present camp is near the Nansemond River on rather low ground.
You have probably read about our taking the rebel battery the other side of the river, so I shall not need to say much about that. I was there of course. I fired my rifle 3 times. None of the boys fired more times than that, with one of our rifles, but those who had Sharps Rifles fired 5 times. Some of the boys fired none. One man of this company was wounded in his arm and leg but not seriously.
Is Edward at home this summer? Please remember me to him. Also to your other brother & sisters & parents.
There is a great anxiety felt here for Gen. Hooker. I hope he may succeed in his attempt to drive the rebels from their stronghold round Fredericksburg. I think there will be some chance for this war to end in 8 or 10 months after he has driven the enemy from Fredericksburg.
Butter here is $8.50 per pound, cheese $0.30 per pound. Please ask Charlie to write to me again.
At present we are living in small tents and 4 men are compelled to live in one of them. The tent covers a space of ground 8 feet square. In this we have to eat, drink, and sleep. We eat salt beef, or pork, & bread. Drink water or coffee and sleep all we can.
Please write soon. I cannot think of anything interesting to tell you so must close. Goodbye. From your friend, — Henry C. Smith, Co. E, 8th C. V.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
Camp 8th Connecticut Volunteers
White House Landing, Virginia
June 28th 1863
I am happy to have the opportunity once more for writing to you. Your welcome letter of the 14th inst. was received in due time.
You no doubt are surprised to see a letter from me dated as this one is. We arrived here the evening of the 26th inst. The house from which this place took its name has been burned. It was burned when General McClellan evacuated this place last year. The house (I should judge from the foundation) must have been a very pretty one and was owned by Brigadier General F. H. Lee of the rebel army. He also owned the farm on which we are encamped. About an hour since, I saw an old Negro 102 years old. He says he can remember when General Washington was married in the “White House.” ¹
I think I can do better with a lead pencil as my ink is thick & poor. It doesn’t shed from the pen well.
I am glad you like your school. I wish this war was settled as I would like to have it so that I could go to school once more for I have nearly forgotten everything I ever knew—which was not much.
I think you will hear pretty good news from General Dix’s army before long. This regiment is under General Dix. Yesterday Colonel Spears of the 11th Pennsylvania Cavalry and his regiment made a raid [and] captured about 200 prisoners, about 90 army wagons, destroyed a great quantity of grain, several bridges, and did other damage to the enemy. Brigaded General F. H. Lee was among his prisoners. ²
The weather has been showery and cloudy for the past week. The banks of this river [Pamunkey River] are generally very steep and from 15 to 30 feet high. The rebels had commenced to fortify the bank in several places.
Have you got acquainted with my Uncle Swift yet? It would seem rather strange to say Aunt Minerva, wouldn’t it? I should be very happy be able to take a sail with the young people of Cornwall the 4th of July, but I am in hopes I shall celebrate that day by marching into Richmond.
I will enclose a few flowers—the pink Larkspur I picked in the “White House” garden and the white French Lilac came from the same place. The leaf came from the Dismal Swamp and the other flowers I picked near Suffolk. And that little yellow clove I picked near Yorktown. We were encamped there 3 days.
I wish I could have seen Hattie while she was in Cornwall. It has been nearly 6 years since I have seen her. It would seem strange to go into a church and hear a minister preach the word of the Lord once more. I hope it will not be long before this war will be settled so that we can go to church and do everything else as we used to. I think it will be settled in a year.
I thank you very much for sending me a photograph of Mother. I cannot say as she has changed much in looks. I will return it in this. Please remember me to her, your other sisters, brothers and parents. Please excuse this poor writing as I am laying on my rubber blanket which is on the ground and my paper is on the rubber also.
I must close now. Accept this poor letter from your friend, — Henry C. Smith
¹ George Washington and Martha Dandridge Custis were married on 6 January 1759 at White House—the Custis Home in New Kent County, Virginia. Martha inherited the home after the death of her first husband, Daniel Parke Custis. If this Negro was 102, he was not yet born when George and Martha “got hitched.”
² At the beginning of the Gettysburg Campaign, Lee was shot in the thigh during combat at Brandy Station. He spent the next two weeks recovering at Hickory Hill, Virginia, before being captured by Union forces. As a prisoner of war, he was sent to Fort Monroe for several months, before being shipped to New York, where he was held until returned to the Confederate Army on February 25, 1864, in exchange for Union Brig. Gen. Neal S. Dow.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE
Camp 8th Regiment Conn. Vol.
Near Portsmouth, Virginia
March 2, 1864
Dear, dear Nancie!
Here I am in the old log house, better known as “Wadsham’s Hall.” We arrived here yesterday P. M. about 3 o’clock and to our great joy found the Hall had not been torn down. A great many of the buildings had been, but we found the Hall very dirty. We made a clean place of it though before we went to bed last night.
We left Wallingford Saturday P. M. that evening we went aboard the steamer Daniel Webster, that which was lying at the end of the “long wharf”, New Haven. We never were so crowded aboard a boat as much as we were aboard this boat. The first night the orderly (E. Wadhams) and I slept together on the deck. The second day one of the boys broke into an empty stateroom and occupied one of the bunks. I went in and monopolized the other bunk so I was better off than most of the boys. The ocean was not very rough so we may say our passage down was quite a pleasant one, but it was slow as we were going toward the wind all the time.
We arrived in “Hampton Roads” off “Fortress Monroe” about 3 o’clock yesterday A. M. and anchored there until about 10 o’clock A. M. at which time we weighed anchor and went up the Elizabeth river to Portsmouth. Then the 8th went ashore and marched up to camp. The 11th stayed aboard and went up to Gloucester Point where they were encamped before they went home.
The boys are in very good spirits. I feel more at home than I did when I was in Cornwall. I felt out of my place when I was there and now I feel as if I am where I belong. I hope and believe I shall hear from you very soon after you receive this. Have you seem the North Star since the 3rd of last month? I have and you can imagine what were my thoughts about that time. I cannot find words to express my feelings.
Did Mr. Baldwin, Mrs. Todd, or Mr. Vaile attend the next Reading Circle after the 12th of last month? What are you to read the next meeting? Keep me posted on affairs in Cornwall. My serves Sunday (the 21st last month) was Romans 6:3, and for the 28th was Psalms 39:4. The chaplain preached a short but very good sermon on the boat last Sunday. Text Hebrew 4:13, “Him with whom we have to do.” Be assured dear Nancie, that you are remembered by me in every prayer and I believe you pray for me nearly every day that I may not yield to the sins which besot me on every hand. May we so live while in this earth that if we do not meet here, we will before our Father which art in Heaven.
While we were in Wallingford, the Ladies had a fair. Then net proceeds were to be given to the Soldier’s Aid Society. I was picked out of the regiment as one of 6 to go to the festival and see that there was no disturbance which was quite an honor and quite a good job. But how much happier I would have been if I had been acquainted there. I wish you could have been there. I know you would have enjoyed yourself. But I must close now so goodbye for now. From your affectionate friend, — Henry C. Smith
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FOUR
Camp 8th Regt. Conn. Vol.
Near Portsmouth, Va.
March 10th 1864
Dear Friend Nancie,
Your letter of the 5th was just received by me and happy I am to hear from you again. Your letter of the 26th last month was received the day after I wrote to you last, and should have answered it then, but thought I would wait until I received an answer from the letter I wrote the day previous. I am going to try a different pen. This is a very rainy day and the roof to our house leaks a little and a drop of water has just got on my paper.
If I could have got a furlough while we were in Wallingford, I should have done so and it might have happened so that I could have visited the school with you. I have been studying the “tactics” so I feel pretty well prepared for an examination whenever I am called upon. If I receive an appointment in a Colored Regiment—either the 29th or 30th Connecticut—I will probably be able to visit Cornwall before the regiment leaves the state, ad in that case if I do not stay with you later than I did the last night, it will be strange. I feel as if I was very distant and removed while I was home. I cannot feel as if I saw you more than one quarter as much as I ought to. I am glad you still have singing schools. You say you “have been lonely.” I have been lonesome too since I come back.
Now, dear Nancie, you must not exempt yourself from company but always enjoy yourself when you can. You know that I think more of you than any other young lady, and believe you feel so in regard to me. And if that is what makes me say what I do, believe me, that I am in earnest. I am glad—yes, joyful—and happy to hear you express yourself that you feel yourself a Christian. May the Lord sustain you and keep you from being led astray from the path of duty. My prayers are for you. My verse last Sunday was Psalms 106:43 and for next Sunday it is same chapter, 8th verse. What was yours?
I should think the concert must have been a very pleasant recreation for the people of Cornwall and vicinity. I suppose Aunt Minnie has formed quite an idea of a soldier’s life while in camp, but she can form no idea of soldier’s life while on a long and weary march, or on the battlefield. If our recruits had rifles, I think it quite doubtful whether we would be here for the rebels are in considerable force toward Suffolk and there has been considerable firing in that direction for 2 or 4 days and several have been wounded on our side, and of course several have been wounded on the rebels side. And unless the rebels drive in our forces, I think it doubtful if we have to be called out. And if we are, I guess we will only have to go to breastworks which are about ¾ mile from camp.
We brought back 125 recruits and until they are armed, I think we will stay here. I think we will stay in this department anyway.
I thank you for send me a list of the mistakes in my first letter and can it be that I did not make any mistakes in my second? I judge so for the reason that you did not send me a list in your last. I hope you will not forget about it. I am very sorry you had to go to East Street all alone, but then you have been trusted alone so many times, that I suppose you are not afraid. How nice it must be to be able to take care of oneself. I guess I am improving in that respect. We have got settled down now like any housekeepers and all are puzzled to know whether it is best to get a wife to support (when this war is over) because we could live so much cheaper if we were Old Bachelors as we can cook, wash sweep, sew, and do most everything else which is useful. I guess I shan’t get any wife. But the future will decide that question.
I ought to have written to Edward before this but my time is so taken up that have not found time to do so yet, for I am studying my tactics with great application. I must close now so adieu.
From your friend, — Henry
P. S. Cable says “Tell ‘her’ that my pens-harp is broken, but the next one I get, I will try and play loud enough so she can hear.” Also he wants to know if you heard him ring my time? In haste, — Henry
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FIVE
Addressed to Nancie L. Harrison, South Cornwall, Conn.
Postmarked Norfolk, Virginia
Camp 8th Regiment, Connecticut Vols.
Deep Creek, Virginia
March 26th, 1864
Dear Friend Nancy,
Your welcome letter of the 19th was received yesterday. It had been up to Norfolk, Ct., and from there it came direct to me, so omit “Norfolk” when you direct your envelopes after this and I will receive letters one or two days sooner.
Yesterday I was detailed for guard and on guard mount the Adjutant detailed me for “Orderly” so I could not answer your letter yesterday. You perceive that we have moved camp by the heading of this letter, which we did the 12th and now are encamped on the left bank of the “Southern Branch” of the Elizabeth River—or as it is called here by the citizens, “Deep Creek.” The soil is quite sandy, the surface about 12 feet above the water. In the summer I think we will find a good breeze on this bank. We have not the “old log house? but we have a house which is quite comfortable and very much the same shape as the “Hall” was but not as large. Instead of a “fireplace,” we have a stove. And instead of logs, we have the sides of the house built of “shakes” as the Negroes call them. To make them the Negroes cut down large pine trees, saw them up in pieces from 4 feet to 6 feet long, then take a “fro” and split the blocks up with strips about ½ inch thick and from 3 inches to 6 inches wide, which we have to use in the South for boards.
We have prayer meetings twice per week when the weather does not prevent, or something else. There is to be one tomorrow evening. My verse for tomorrow is found in Eph. 6th Chapter, 11th Verse. At the last prayer meeting, the chaplain requested us to each bring a verse at the next meeting and he would tell us what to do with it. I will tell you in my next what the result is.
Since we returned from Connecticut, there has been a pledge to “abstain from drinking all alcoholic liquors as a beverage while in the service of Uncle Sam” passed through the regiment and nearly all the officers and quite a number of the men signed the pledge. I think their example has a very good effect upon those who did not sign. I, for example, resigned, having signed while I was home.
I think the report you received as to the reason the 8th left Wallingford was not far from correct. What a shame—no curse, it is that a regiment will conduct itself so. I have not received a letter from Lydia yet although I have written her a letter. But I suppose the reason is because they have been moving. The weather the 22nd was the most disagreeable this regiment has seen since it has been in the service. That day about 9 inches of snow well and the wind blew with all its fury. There is only a little snow to be seen now, and as the soil is sandy, we are not troubled with mud.
We (the 8th) have to do the picket duty for about 4 miles. we go out for 3 days at a time. I do not know whether I will have to go on picket tomorrow or not, but I hope not. Shall expect a letter from Willie soon. He was well and enjoying himself the last time I heard from him about 2 weeks since.
Received a letter from Annie last week. All were well there. Every evening, I think well, about now Nancy is at singing school or prayer meeting or some other place. How pleasant it is for me to think of the may happy hours I spent different places during my furlough and I can anticipate as much, yes more joy, when this war is closed on honorable terms, and I return to visit with my friends again. This blank shows that I have been detained by reading a letter which I just received from Mother. I have not been able to discover any mistakes in your letters. Thank you for sending me a list on my mistakes. Please continue to do so if it is not much bother. — Henry
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER SIX
Addressed to Miss Nancie L. Harrison, Cornwall, Litchfield county, Conn.
Camp 8th Regt. Conn. Vols.
Near Portsmouth, Va.
April 16th 1864
I was much pleased last Monday by receiving a letter from you, and was intending to answer it Wednesday, but “Orders” prevented me from doing so, and I will tell you what the preventative was. The morning of the 13th we were ordered to go to Gettysville to attend the execution of a member of the 10th New Hampshire Regiment ¹ for deserting into the lines of the enemy, but when we got down there, and the poor fellow had been brought from the jail onto the ground, the orders—so cheering!—to the poor man came that “he was reprieved for one week,” and at the expiration of that time I think he will be sent to the “Dry Tortugas” instead of being shot.
We got back about 2 o’clock P. M.—I think it is 5 miles to Gettysville. At 4 P. M., we received orders to have 2 days rations cooked immediately and 60 rounds cartridges issued to each man and the recruits were armed and equipped. At 7 o’clock we formed line and commenced our march. We marched across the Norfolk & Petersburg Railroad and out to the Seaboard & Roanoke Railroad which goes from Portsmouth to Weldon. It is about 7 miles from camp to where we struck that railroad and we had to wade through water (which is some places was over the top of our boots) for nearly one mile. The name of the place where we struck this railroad is called “Bower’s Hill.” There we got into the cars and rode about 7 miles where we got off. We found ourselves about 3 miles from Suffolk. At this place, we lay down (at 11:45) although our feet were “sopping wet.”
We were called up by the beating of the drum at 4 o’clock A. M. the 14th, then marched until we were about ½ mile from Suffolk. There we stopped and made some coffee in our cups and ate our breakfast. About 6 o’clock we started but our march was very much delayed in different ways until about 8 o’clock—one of which was crossing a branch of the Nansemond River on the west side of Suffolk. We had to cross it on poles, one man at a time. I think there was 1500 infantry in all, besides two companies of Colored cavalry (no artillery). But finally we got under motion and marched a circuitous route until we arrived about three miles from the north side of Suffolk. It was 11:20 when we stopped to eat our dinner and at 12:50 P. M. we started back again in the same tracks and at sundown we halted and prepared to lay down and get a little rest about 2 miles east of Suffolk and near where we used to be encamped.
I think the men had sorer feet on this march than ever before because we got them so wet the night before, and then we marched about 30 miles that day. My feet were not as sore as a great many were and that evening when I took off my boots & stockings on the bank of a little brook to soak my feet in the water to take the fever out of them, I found the skin had been worn off in several places and that my feet were rather bloody. I think my feet would have been so sore. I could not have walked on them if I had not used a preventative which was to rub soap on them, which made my stockings stick to my feet and instead of my stockings slipping on my feet, my boots slipped on my stockings. This I have tried several times and found it was a great help to me on a march. I have told others of it also and they do so also.
We were woke up the next morning at 2 o’clock, went aboard the cars which took us down to Gettysville. Then we march up to camp, having been gone 36½ hours in which time we marched 45 miles, rode 17 miles on the cars, and were allowed 10 hours for sleep, which is pretty hard work. While we were doing this, Colonel [Samuel P.] Spear went out to the Blackwater River but neither he and his cavalry—or we—found any of the enemy.
You must excuse this miserable writing for I am pretty tired yet, although we got into camp yesterday morning. My feet pain me very much this morning. I have not heard from “Will” on some time. I think it is strange. Guess his letter has been missent. Hope it will come around pretty soon. And I have not received a letter from Lydia. Perhaps she does not intend to write to me. Are you going to the select school in the village this summer? I guess I will not as it is for ladies instead of gentlemen. Whose class are you in now that the classes have been reorganized in Sunday School?
From your friend, — Henry
¹ The deserter’s name was Charles Crumpton of Co. G, 10th New Hampshire Infantry. He entered the service as a substitute on 10 August 1863. What recruiters did not know when they accepted and paid Charles as a substitute was that he was actually a Confederate deserter named Henry T. Snyder (1839-1907) of Co. B, 18th Virginia Infantry. Apparently Henry deserted in April 1863 when he was ordered back to Virginia from Washington, North Carolina, after an illness that kept him from his regiment. His ruse, it seems, was to collect a bounty and then desert back to the Confederate army, but he was detected. Just before his scheduled execution, someone appealed to President Lincoln prompting him to write the following note to General Butler on 12 April 1865 asking “whether there is any ground for a pardon, or even a respite.” Butler then responded to President Lincoln stating the following particulars: “In the case of Private Charles Crumpton, Co. G, 10th Regt. New Hampshire Vols., it appearing that the accused enlisted as a substitute and received his bounty in payment thereafter, then deliberately procured a Rebel uniform with which to aid him in deserting, and did desert from his regiment, and was detected in the act, and when detected attempted to pass himself off as a rebel deserter. No excuse is left for this act, and indeed none is attempted to be given. He has been tried before a general Court Martial, and upon satisfactory evidence, he has been found guilty. The proceedings, findings, and sentence are therefore approved and confirmed.” On the 13th, Lincoln responded to Butler’s letter stating, “Yours in regard to Charles Crumpton received. I have no more to say in the case.” Crumpton was scheduled to be executed on the morning of 13 April 1864 but received a reprieve for 7 days until the response from the President was received. Though Lincoln seems to have decided not to intervene, it appears that Crumpton was given alternative punishment for he survived the war and was mustered out in July 1865.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER SEVEN
Addressed to Miss Nancie L. Harrison, Cornwall, Litchfield county, Conn.
U. S. Hospital Steamer “George Leary”
Port Royal Harbor, South Carolina
December 4, 1864
For some time I have postponed writing to you as I have hoped we would have been to Fortress Monroe ‘ere this. Then I could have the pleasure of reading a letter from you, for I feel sure there is one there. If we do not go up soon, I think our mail will be sent to us. I hope it will be one or the other soon for if we do not, I shall begin to be anxious about the welfare of my friends.
we have had very peasant weather since we arrived in this Department. Our trip down was as pleasant as could be expected. Some of the sunsets are the most gorgeous I ever beheld.
A few days since I was in Beaufort. There are some handsome residences there. Sometime (after the war is over) if you wish to see handsome sights, take a trip on southern waters and in southern states for I know you would be pleased to see a small tree (the size of an apple tree) loaded with oranges. I will enclose an orange leaf (the smallest one) from Puris Island, and a leaf from Beaufort, the name of which I do not know. It is too late in the season for flowers or I would send you some specimen of South Carolina in that description. Are your flowers looking well this winter? You must let e know all the news for you know I take quite an interest in most everything and about nearly every person in Cornwall.
Hope Edward’s crops of tobacco is curing well. Guess that when I get back my mail again, there will be one letter from him. My regards to him, Charlie, & your sisters. Tell Martha I have no message for her this time—only to be a “little” girl.
I suppose Miss Lydia has returned to Cornwall. Hope she enjoyed herself in Woodbury. Please give her my regards and tell her I have not forgotten my schoolmates yet and probably shall not if I am in the army 10 years longer.
It is 7 minutes to 11 o’clock A. M. now and probably you are in the church listening to Mr. Fenn. I wish this war was settled on righteous terms so all soldiers might be home and have the privilege of listening to the word of God once more as some good minister explains it to them.
Pray for me Nancie that I may be kept in the path of life. My temptations are many but by the grace of our Lord and savior, I shall return to my friends a better being than I was when I left you. Let us not be afraid of the scoffs of the adversary, but put our trust in Him who doeth all things well and hath sent us to labor in His vineyard. With God on our side, let us not fear anyone who arrays himself against us. Address as usually. I must close now.
Yours &c. — Henry C. Smith
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER EIGHT
Addressed to Miss Nancie L. Harrison, Cornwall, Litchfield county, Conn.
Point of Rocks, Virginia
February 5th 1865
Dear Friend Nancie,
Your favor of the 27th ult. was received yesterday & as I know of no better way to spend my time, I have commenced to answer yours.
This is about as pleasant a morning as we very often have his season. I am thankful that I am able to inform you that I am nearly well, or in fact I consider myself well, but am not very strong yet. Still I am improving very fast and trust I shall be strong enough for any of them in a few days.
Was much pleased to receive such an interesting account of tat pleasant sleigh ride down to Gaylord’s Bridge. You must all have enjoyed yourselves hugely going and returning—at least I think I should if it had been my fortune to have been one of the company. Guess I would have counted “we” and if agreeable to you, you and I would have counted “us” and I guess the rest of them would have had to compose the “company.” As to the “bells of belles” I must say that I like the “bells” a few rods distant, but should not be satisfied unless I could have a “belle” in the seat with me, if some young people to try to impose upon some “belles” and call them “old maidish.”
I am glad that Capt. Gold has been home on furlough and I am especially glad that my Uncle Swift was able to get a furlough, and be permitted to see his dear wife and child. I can assure you, I think a great deal of Aunt Minnie. I consider her about as interesting a person as it has been my fortune to make an acquaintance with. I do not know your opinion on this last subject.
Am glad that W. H. Hart is teaching singing on the Plain again, for they are a source of instruction (to some) and pleasure to all. How many long winter evenings are “whiled away” which otherwise would be spent by some not very profitably, I fear. I think I know two or three young men in Cornwall that this would apply to.
Am glad you and Anna are such friends. I think if you were together more, the affection of each for the other would be still stronger. By her letters, I know that the affection you bestow upon her s not cast away. I am not acquainted with J. M. yet although I have met him once or twice. Still I have made up my mind from reports received through various sources that he is worthy of her whom he loves.
You think you recognized my signature in a Led. Enquirer of Dec. I presume you did for I considered it my duty while down there on exchange to write a few facts as I received them from the mouths of the men. Oh, words cannot portray to you their condition. I did not write for publication the most terrible stories. You may rely upon those stories as true. You must excuse this writing as it was done in somewhat a hurry. Please answer soon and address to Bermuda Hundred, Virginia.
Left the hospital the 24th of January and joined the rest of the boys on this barge, “Agnes Dun.”
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER NINE
U. S. Flag of Truce Steamer “Manhattan”
Varina Landing, Va.
March 18th, 1865
Dear Friend Nancie,
Yours of February 28th 1865 is at hand. It was received the 9th instant. Since then I have been quite busy but have commenced one letter to you, but as I did not finish it then, I will commence anew & we will see what success I have.
I had to laugh when I read how you were disappointed that Friday evening. Of course it was all owing to the mistake of my little brother Charles. You must not be offended because I laughed for really it was quite a joke, but i suppose you are not fond of having anticipations of enjoyment thwarted on account of false reports. That is my case anyway, but Nancy I guess the time is not far distant when you may look in earnest for me. By this I mean that I have great hopes of being discharged on account of disability contracted in the pursuance of my duties as a soldier while marching. Still you must not make up your mind that I am to be discharged for you might get disappointed again. Please keep this a secret, for if I succeed, I wish to surprise Cornwall people. You and “my people” are the only ones that know there is such a move on foot, I guess. You may make up your mind that an answer to this will be pretty apt to find me by my desk on the Manhattan.
The 13th instant we were transfered from the “George Leary” to this steamer. You remember this is the one I was taken sick on. She is quite a nice boat. Her accommodations for passengers are very ample, but she is getting to be quite old now. Although her accommodations are better than those on the “Leary,” she is not as well adapted to business in the Medical or Flag of Truce Departments as was the “Leary” which has gone on the mail route between Washington & City Point, I suppose. we all hated to leave the “Leary” and I must confess that it was with rather depressed spirits that we watched that noble steamer go down the river and us to be on her no more probably. Let me assure you, one may become as attached to a steamer as he can to a pet cat or dog.
I have seen Dr. Benedict since his return, but not to have a talk with him about Cornwall people, as I had not time. I am glad that concert given by Mr. Dudley’s school was such a complete success.
This is a very pleasant day. The [prisoner] exchange is progressing. I am glad you had such a pleasant visit with Mrs. S. Pierce and by your account. I guess you had a pleasant ride home with “Old Folks.”
I should not be much surprised if you should be an old maid in accordance with your resolution, because you enjoy yourself so much visiting with “Old Folks.” Perhaps you think I intend to fill this page but I doubt it some for at present I think of nothing more to communicate that will interest you—only that I enjoy myself here. We live well, have god state rooms, &c. I wish you could see my state room. It is very pleasantly situated near the stern of the boat, & on the right hand side of the saloon. On the floor is a Brussels carpe. There is a little table in it also & very pretty curtains in front of the bunks. My roommate is quite an agreeable young man of nearly my age who is acting as hospital steward. He belongs to my regiment. Adieu.
These letters were written by William Suydam (1825-1864) of Co. F, 9th New Jersey Volunteers. The regiment got its nickname, Jersey Muskrats, during the Battle of Roanoke Island when they successfully “sloshed through shoe sucking mud into waist deep water in ‘division’ formation”, giving the regiment a two company front flanking the enemy. The regiment was the last to leave the state in 1861 but the first to see battle.
The 9th took part in the Burnside Expedition into North Carolina. The regiment remained in North Carolina with the occupation force until early 1864 when the first enlistment was up. In January 1864 the regiment went back to New Jersey where more than 50% of those whose three-year term was about to expire reenlisted. This allowed the regiment to add “Veteran” to the name—a mark of distinction for the men. Those who reenlisted for three more years were given a 30-day veteran furlough. The regiment then moved into Virginia leading to the Siege of Petersburg.
Suydam was wounded in the shoulder at Drewry’s Bluff on 16 May 1864 and died on 16 June 1864 at Fortress Monroe Hospital.
William was the son of Christopher Suydam (1799-1874) and Jemima Blackwell (1804-1836) of Hopewell, Mercer county, New Jersey. William’s father was a minister of the Old School Baptist Church in Hopewell. William’s brother, Sidney Blackwell Suydam (1833-1905), also served with him in the same company. Sidney survived the war and mustered out of the service in July 1865. William is buried at the Hampton National Cemetery under the name “William Surdam.”
[Note: These photocopied letters are from the private collection of Dave Suydam, the great-grandson of William Suydam’s brother Sidney (who served with William in the same company) and are published here by express consent.]
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Havelock Station North Carolina
July 18th 1862
Yours of the 22nd June come to hand 7th instant and we were truly glad to hear from you and that you enjoyed your usual health. I take the first opportunity of answering it.It takes a long time for a letter to go or come now—about as long as it does to cross the Atlantic.We are here yet in this nigger country. How long we will stay here, the Lord only knows.I did think sometime ago the war was nearly to a close, but now it looks as though the day was quite distant. But I have not the least doubt but we shall conquer and in such a way that it won’t have to be done again.When McClellan gets reenforced and makes a dash at them, he will rub them out entirely.But I dread to hear it when I think how many valuable lives must be sacrificed to accomplish it. It is horrible to think how many brave boys have been slaughtered in front of Richmond already. If it were not for the union men and our prisoners there, I’d like to see a charge of powder heavy enough put under the accursed city to blow it and all there is in it to pieces.
We have had no official report of the last battle. The last papers we have had was the 4th July. By them we learn that McClellan has got his army just where he wants it and out of danger.The loss is said to be very great but it is to be hoped not so great as represented.I see the Jersey boys were in the mid[dle] as usual and were badly cut to pieces. The 4th Regiment having only 80 men left.I was well acquainted with several of the officers and men that were killed.
It makes my blood boil while I am writing when I think how it come about that so many of our noblest sons must be murdered to accommodate a few aspiring politicians.But a day of reckoning is coming when I hope they will get hemp.
We are here yet guarding the railroad. We have got the bridges rebuilt and the road in good order.And since the middle of June, the old iron horse has sneaked through and though he was afraid of Mosby rebels in particular.For three or four weeks past, they have shown symptoms that they would like to get possession of the road and us too.Last Monday night week our outside pickets were attacked and driven in. There were 8 or 10 shots fired, but no one hurt on our side. It’s been so dark and you could not not see much further than the end of a gun. If the rascals were any of them hurt or killed, they were taken away.The boys were out in less than no time expecting every minute the devils would rush out of the woods onto us. [But] as we expected, the few that attacked the pickets were only a reconnaissance. We waited until nearly daylight and as they did not show themselves, we laid down on our arms to rest—-but not many of us to sleep, expecting at daylight they would pitch in. But they did not come.We began to think they were only trying to scare us.But just after breakfast, we saw a darkey coming on a mule as if Old Nick was after him—the mule making as big time as Flora Temple or Old [George M.] Patchen [and] the darkey’s eyes sticking out like saucers—saying the road and woods two or three miles back of us were full of rebels and marching on to us.I tell you what, we were out in a hurry in line of battle in about as little time as it takes to write this.Shortly the road was lined with darkeys, mules, dogs, and wenches coming to us for protection. Some of them said there were a 1000 men—some more, some less.Quite a fix for us seventy men, some of them sick [and] not able to be up.
Every man looked well to his rifle as he well knew it all depended on them and the bayonet.There was a short council of war held when the captain sent 4 of the stoutest darks on a hand car to our regiment 8 miles below us for reinforcements.They got there in time to meet the up train when 2 companies jumped aboard and were up here in two hours from the time the alarm was given.Things began look better. One company stayed here.Our company and the other one started to meet the scoundrels but they found out the darks had got the start of them and we were ready for them.They concluded to get what plunder they could and get away.There is a large plantation which the owner left after the battle of Newbern, since occupied by his slaves—the same ones that gave us the alarm.They robbed the darks of everything they could carry.They carried off 6 darks, 6 mules, all the darks’ clothing, what money they had—-some of them had $15, some $20, others more or less [that] they had got for [selling] pies & cakes, and for washing for us.They left the old decrepit darks that would be of no use to them, but not until they stripped them of their clothes and left their dirty rags in place of them. They must be pretty hard up to take the clothes off old lousey niggers and put them right on. ¹
They had been gone about an hour when we got there. They had made a road through a swamp and round a lake were we had thought they could not get through.They left their horses on the other side and waded through, mud nearby up to their necks.There were only 175 of them. Many of them had shot guns and old muskets. If they had come on that night, we would have given them a warm reception. But if we could have met them next day, we would have given particular thunder.
¹ William is referring to an incident that occurred on 23-24 June 1862. When the reconnaissance was made toward the Lewis’ Plantation. it was found that the large force of dismounted Confederate cavalry had withdrawn after plundering the place and taking the money and clothes from the resident negroes. Company F, of which William was a member, commenced and completed the block house at Havelock Station and remained on duty there most of the summer.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
Camp Reno, Newbern, N. C.
Co. F. 9th N. J. V.
December 29th 1862
I have long had a desire to write to you and to hear from you but knowing any inability to write any thing interesting,I have put it off from time to time.I often think of the pleasant hours I have spent in your society & of what I have heard you say of the joys and comforts of religion. I have not always been indifferent or thoughtless as you might suppose by what you have heard me say on the subject.I recollectonce saying to you that I did not believe in a future punishment but that a man’s conscience was his guide and if he done what he thought was right off would be well.The Lord knows how hard I tried to believe it, but it is hard recoiling a guilty conscience.I have tried as hard as any poor sinner ever did to do something to merit eternal life, but I have been led to believe if I am ever saved, it will be through the mercy of God—not for anything I have done.
I am sometimes led to believe the Lord has pardoned my sins and appears to [paper creased] and I wonder the Lord has not cut me down long ago.I again think it a delusion because I have not had the same trouble and trials that Christians have.But in all the dangers I have passed both by sea and on the battlefield, I have always felt unconcerned and felt if I were called away, all would be well.But afterward I fear it is all a delusion.I sometimes think it is a blessed thing that I ever entered the army as I never before saw [paper creased]. I am preserved from these sins. I have God here on to be thankful.I often think I would give anything to hearing dear old Father preach one of his old fashioned sermons he used to preach on experimental religion. No doubt you recollect some of them.But whether I shall ever see or hear from Father & Mother again, it is hard telling. I have not heard from them since April 1861.They were then living where the war has been raging ever since.
Long before this reaches you, no doubt you will see an account of the Foster Expedition that left the 11th December to destroy the Wilmington & Goldsboro Railroad and bridge which is one of the connections of the south with Virginia. We fought two hard battles & with the one there was three besides a number of skirmishes.We got back to Newbern the 20th [at] 8 o’clock in the evening, as near used up as any set of fellows ever were.I tell you what, it is it is a good deal like work to march 20 & 25 miles a day, often mud & water knee deep, fighting & skirmishing nearly everyday, sleep out with the earth for a bed—in the morning our blankets were white with frost—sometimes within a few hundred yards of the enemy. [paper creased]….official account & shall not until we get the New York papers. We don’t know much what is going on outside of our own regiment. The only wonder is we did not lose more as we were on the advance all the way through.There were several regiments with us that were in the Seven Days Battle before Richmond. They said they never had harder marching or fighting in Virginia than they had here.
I have been through five battles and all kinds of hardships.I never enjoyed better health than I have since I have been in the service with the exception of chills.I was 6 weeks in the hospital which is the only time but what I could go ahead.Taking it all together, I like soldiering as well as anything I ever done. When it comes to fighting it is pretty rough with the exception that we have about work enough to do to give us good appetite for grub. Sometimes we have plenty to eat and that is good but sometimes not so good as it might be. But we get as good as we deserve. I am thankful we get what we do. we have good tents with stoves, and with two blankets apiece we manage to keep comfortable.
You must excuse the way this is tumbled together as it is a hard matter for one to write or think as he wants to in a tent where there is a dozen fellows romping & pitching around you, with nothing to write on but a board across your knees for desk and the ground for a seat.One of the greatest comforts a soldier has is tobacco and we have to pay well for it.Chewing tobacco costs 1¼ dollars a pound, smoking 1.00 dollar [and] not very good at that. Anything we buy here costs a big price.
The only pastime I take interest in is reading the New Testament and the Psalms—particularly the 23rd.
I don’t know of anything of much interest so I will close.Give respects to the Harborton forks & the rest of the friends.My best wishes for yourself & family.Don’t fail to write soon to your friend.
[ ] M Holcombe
Direct [to] William Suydam, Co. F, 9th N. J. Vol., Newbern N. C., Via N. York.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE
St. Helena Island, South Carolina
February 16th 1863
Your welcome letter of January 9th came to hand 29th, the day after I wrote to you.We were then on board the steamer bound no one knew where. I should have written sooner but I have been waiting to find out where we were going and what we were doing.It is hard telling yet.
We left Beaufort Harbor, North Carolina, [on] January 30th.We had a pretty rough time out at sea. [We] anchored in Port Royal Harbor 1st February, opposite this Island—about 50 miles south of Charleston.We lay in the harbor a week waiting and expecting to light somewhere, but the whole expedition was ordered shore.Gen. Foster—it is rumored—went to Washington for orders or something else. That appears to be the order of the day now—strange way of doing business that.It appears to me there is no one to depend on or no one knows what to do.There is at least 50,000 men encamped around here idle—well, they might as well be.We have fine weather—rather warm some of the time, some days uncomfortable.Any quantity of niggers employed by the government raising cotton, &c.It is said there is a negro regiment on the island but I [have] not seen any of them.
They grow the finest cotton here of anyplace in the United States. This is the place where they raise the Sea Island cotton.The country here is all islands—the finest kind of land. If it was near Trenton, New Jersey, it would be worth 200 dollars an acre.Where it is, I would not have it for a gift.There is any quantity of oranges growing here but they are poor and sour. [It would] make you squeal to bite one.They look pretty to see them growing.You may calculate it is pretty warm for oranges to grow and not cold enough to hurt them.It must be very hot here in the summer.The most beautiful tree I ever saw is the Palmetto.
The box you sent has not come yet but it will be along some of these days. Some of our boys get boxes that have been on the way eight months.Woolsey Blackwell writes he has heard from our parents through Mrs. Spencer Weart and she from her son.They were encamped within three miles of them but did not know it in time to go and see them.He saw a man that lived near them who seen them the day before. He stated they were at the same place and doing well.I and Sid are enjoying good health for which I desire to be thankful and for every other blessing we enjoy.May we all live that when we come to die we may all meet in that bright world above where we shall praise our redeemer forever and ever.
You talked of publishing my letter. You can use your pleasure.I did not think it very interesting. I think there is a good many words and sentences would look rather odd in print [but] if you do, send me a paper or two.
The mail leaves here this afternoon for Hilton Head.
Write soon to your affectionate brother, — Wm Suydam
Mr. V. [and] Mrs. C. A. Wambough
Direct [to] Newbern, N. C. put the 9th New Jersey plain and it will come correct.
It is the impression here that we will go back to N. C.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FOUR
St. Helena Island, [South Carolina]
March 7th 1863
Co. F, 9th Reg. N. J. V.
Through the mercies of God, my live is spared and [I am] permitted to enjoy good health and many other temporal blessings for which I have great reason to be thankful. But above all, for spiritual blessings and promises to us guilty sinners.May the Lord teach me to rely on His promises, know His will, and do it.
I received yours of 8th Feb the 24th. The stamps [came] all right.Yesterday the long looked for box come to hand, everything in good style—chicken, apples, cakes, and pepper rotten. The large can of pickles [leaked,] the vinegar worked out and [bottom of page cut off]…little can of pickles, the top was loose and wizzed when I took it off.The preserves were first rate—as good as when put up. One can of tomato was good. The other I have not opened yet. The butter was musty, but by scraping off the outside, there was a little we could eat, but it is not very good.I know it must have been first rate when it was put up.The dried apples are a little musty [and] so are the cherries.Some of the boys got boxes [with] everything spoiled.I am much obliged to you as much so as if every[thing] was good. I come out better than the boys that had all spoiled as we all had to pay fifty cents freight—the cost from Newbern to Hilton Head.
We are here yet holding ourselves in readiness to leave at minute’s notice. [There are] all kinds of reports. Some say we are going to Savannah, others back to North Carolina. For my part, I don’t pretend to know and I don’t care if they would [only] do something to settle the war. When it will end, the Lord knows. May He hasten it on is my prayer.
We have very changeable weather—some days so hot we can hardly stand it.Then again it is so cold we want fire.But most of the time it is warm. Peach and cherry trees are in bloom.
It is reported that our forces have taken Vicksburg. How true it is, we don’t know or won’t until we get the N. Y. papers.Not much dependance to put them as we don’t get any here but the N. Y. Herald and that is the best secesh paper north or south. I have so bad opinion of it, I scarcely believe the local news in it. Old [James Gordon] Bennett [the editor] ought to be hung with a few more of the same stripe [up] North.But if they think there is no here [bottom of letter cut off]…I don’t know of anything new or interesting.
Write soon to your affectionate brother, Wm. Suydam
Mr. V. & Mrs. C. A. Wambough
Direct [to] Port Royal, South Carolina.
It is likely we shall go farther south than other ways.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FIVE
Beaufort, North Carolina
September 4, 1863
You will see by the heading of this I am in the same place I was a year ago.I have been on the sick list all summer—not exactly sick or well, but just good for nothing, doing duty part of the time. A week ago today the doctor sent me here to recruit up.I am considerable better.I felt better as soon as I [illegible] water (conceit will do a great deal you know). I have a salt water bath every day, a good bed to sleep on, and pretty good food. I had ought to gain. I am content knowing I have done my duty in serving my country and helping to put down this cursed rebellion.
My trust is in the God of battles whose strong arm has given me many victories. I feel as confident of success as ever. One stronghold after another has come down and probably before this Charleston (the Sodom of America) has surrendered or been destroyed. The last accounts we heard from there is they were bombarding Fort Sumter and she was caving in [paper creased]…If in place of the old scoundrel Buchanan we had such a Democrat president as Gen. Jackson who 30 years ago told the secessionists of Charleston he would hang every one of the as high as Haman, what a disgrace the name as Democrat to call such men as Buchanan, Jeff Davis, Floyd, Vallandigham, Seymour, Wood, Jim Wall, and a score of others I could name. There is no Democracy about them. They are a set of aspiring politicians who are trying to break up one of the best governments in the world and establish a despotic government of their own—but they never can. What rights of the South have ever been invaded? They have always, with one or two exceptions, had a president of their own choosing, a majority in congress, a fugitive slave law, and all other laws to suit themselves.
But when the majority of the people elected Lincoln, many of them knew their term of office was out and the determined to have a government of their own.How well they have succeeded, we all know.How an American citizen living North can aid and encourage the rebels by abusing the administration and discouraging enlistments is more than I can tell.The leaders of the democratic or copperhead party North no doubt know what they intend to try to do—to elect a president to suit themselves and the South and go hand and heart with the rebels.They have beguiled many well-meaning people and induced them to turn against the government and trying to dishearten the soldiers already in the field who have left home and friends and everything dear to them to fight for the Union and the old flag that our Revolutionary Fathers fought and bled to sustain and which the rebels are trying to destroy.The ignorant masses are easily led and excited as was the case with the New York rioters. But where was Vallandigham, Wood, Thain, Jim Wall, and others? Out of harms way after counseling them to resist the draft and exciting their worst fears and passions by telling them Old Abe intended to make them fight for the nigger and make slaves of their wives and children.A friend writing to me from the North says he hopes I will soon be home to help hang the Copperheads (if not with hemp) with scorn and contempt.
Another friend writing says it seems to be enough to crush the spirit of our soldiers to find so much selfishness and ingratitude among the men. They think we never shouldered a gun or marched a mile in our nation’s defense.It would crush their [ ] not believe that with all the [ ness] manifested, there is yet an overwhelming majority of truly patriotic sentiments in the country that will see justice done them, and enough of the lusty haggards that have lain so long at home, enjoying the luxuries of peace, not compelled to do a part of the hard and dangerous work that they have been performing. They [the soldiers] have reason to feel indignant that all the burdens of the war should be thrust upon them—as if they had no friends or families to leave, no business to abandon, no losses to sustain, no limbs and lives to lose when they enlisted and went to camp and to the field as soldiers of the United States.Many people North think the Conscription Act is wrong and the President has no right to draft men to fill up the army, but he certainly has a right. The secessionists have theirconscript law and have enforced it to the letter ever since the war broke out. [Up] North, they have their choice to volunteer or be drafted and get a substitute and stay at home themselves. [Down] South, they have no choice. They are drafted and made to go in the front.
I would like to see them [in the] South jump up and say they won’t stand drafting.I was reading a few days ago in a southern paper an order enforcing the Conscript Law. First, if a man should absent himself from his home to avoid this order, burn his house and other property. Second, if a man is found to resist the execution of this order by refusing to report, shoot him down and leave him lying. Third, if a man takes refuge in his house and offers resistance, set fire to his house, and guard it well, that the recreant may not get out. Such is the liberty the Southern people are fighting for.
Our regiment has been hammered round a good deal this summer. They have had several hard marches and skirmishes [and] there are a great many sick.They have been in barracks above New Bern all summer in a very unhealthy place.They are now encamped by Carolina City four miles from here on the banks of Bogue Sound. They are now in a healthy place with a fine sea breeze.Several have died.What great cause have I to be thankful to God for preserving my life and preserving me through dangers by land and sea and on the battlefield where I have seen my companions fall around me.Surely mercy has followed me all my days.I feel that I can say the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
I had a letter from Elizabeth a few days ago. They were all well. She said she thought of making you a visit this month. I hope she may.I should like to meet her there but I don’t expect to get to Jersey before my time is out which will soon roll round as I have but little over a year to stay.If we never have the privilege of meeting on earth again, may we be so happy as to meet around our Father’s throne where sorrow and parting are feared and felt no more.I have not heard Suydam since May.Sidney is very well.It is pleasant weather here now. It has been very hot this summer. The thermometer as high as 115 in the shade.My love to Charles and the children and a good share to yourself and write whenever you can to your affectionate brother, — Wm. Suydam
Direct William Suydam, Co. F. 9th N. J. V., Newbern N. C.
This unsigned letter was written by Samuel Stewart Jackson (1815-1911), the son of James Jackson (1779-1837) and Nancy Shields (1787-1850) of Lawrence county, Pennsylvania. At the time Samuel wrote this letter in November 1861, he was married to his second wife, Nacy McCaslin (1826-1884); his first wife, Nancy Mitchell (1814-1859) having died in March 1859. Samuel wrote the letter to his son, Oscar Lawrence Jackson (1840-1920) who served as an officer in the Union Army from 1861 to 1865. He entered the service as the captain of Company H of the 63rd Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry, and later received promotions of major, lieutenant colonel, and colonel by brevet after the war. He was shot in the face by a Confederate soldier with a Squirrel Rifle and left for dead in the 2nd Battle of Corinth.
Samuel mentions all of Oscar’s siblings in the letter, Edwin Wallace Jackson (1847-1924), David Prentice Jackson (1851-1926), and Mary Jackson (1854-1929). It isn’t clear from Samuel’s letter what the nature of his son David’s disability was—that he would require crutches. It was most likely an accident of some kind as he grew up to be a physician and lived until 1926.
In his letter, Samuel speaks on an incident in Clark county, Missouri, wherein his brother-in-law’s family was burned out of his property and forced to flee Missouri because of the family’s Union sympathies.
[Shenango Township, Lawrence county, Pennsylvania]
November 24, 1861
I received your letter dated Sabbath stating you was well and had received five dollars from me and the promise of some more. I thought to have sold some wheat and sent it to you but wheat has declined a little and I have thought to wait a little to see if it would not advance again. But you must rest assured if health permits, I will do it if you still need it. We are all in our usual health. I am hardly so well as usual but I attribute it to the amount of hard work I did. We have got our fall work pretty well done and Edwin started to school today and Mary has been gone for some time. David is still improving a little. I have [made] him a pair [of] crutches and he can walk across the room. There is not much I have to write.
[Col. Daniel] Leasure’s Regiment is in the [Thomas W.] Sherman’s Expedition [to take Fort Pulaski]. We hear they are doing well. Still Sherman is most too anxious to gain favors with the South.
George Baker & wife was up on a visit. They have got quite [a] splendid carriage. They was telling us about your Uncle Price Dillon ¹ of Missouri [and] that he had volunteered in our army. He is holding some appointment—I think quarter master—and the Rebs in his absence gave his wife 12 hours to make escape which she did into the edge of Illinois. She got some of the property away [and] eleven head of horses, and when Price got back, everything was destroyed. He then moved her up to [Mahaska county] Iowa to your grandfather Mitchell’s. So everything considered, I think the South ought to be subdued and if need be, their peculiar institutions rooted out, and I think the government has not been enough in earnest yet.
You spoke about the vices of camp life. I hope you will keep clear of them and so far as your influence goes to suppress it. I herein send you Mr. Chedester’s & Robert M. Gaston’s letters. Also Robert M. Gaston’s post office address by Col. [Daniel] Leasure’s Regiment, 2nd Brigade, Sherman’s Division, Care of Col. Tompkins, A. Q. M., New York City, Co. F.
I have no other letters of yours.
¹ Price Cooper Dillon (1821-1910) served with the 1st Northeast Cavalry Regiment, Missouri [Union] Home Guard. He is identified as a private and was in “Capt. Moore’s Company.” Price was married to Elizabeth (“Betsy”) Smith Mitchell (1823-1902) in 1842. She was the daughter of Matthew Mitch (1786-1876) and Nancy Smith (1786-1872) who relocated from Beaver county, Pennsylvania, to Mahaska county, Iowa, in the mid 1850’s. Price was also born in Beaver county, Pennsylvania, and moved to Jackson, Clark county, Missouri, prior to 1850.
These letters were written by Robert McKee Gaston (1840-1863), the son of John Gaston (1817-1870) and Rachael McKee (1815-1869) of New Castle, Lawrence county, Pennsylvania. Robert had been employed teaching a public school in Mount Pleasant prior to the outbreak of the Civil War but enlisted when he was 21 years old with other young men from his community as a corporal in Co. F, 100th Pennsylvania Infantry on 31 August 1861. At age 23, he accepted a commission as 1st Lieutenant of Co. F, 1st Regiment South Carolina Volunteers (33rd USCT) on 23 October 1862 at Beaufort. This commission made him a marked man for an article appearing in the Charleston Mercury on 30 August 1862 under the title “Marked Men” listed him among the officers of the 1st South Carolina (Negro) Regiment, with the preamble, “In view of the recent order of President Davis, concerning the execution of officers of negro regiments, we copy the following list from the New York Tribune. Though eager to lead his men into a major battle, Gaston never got the opportunity. On 27 May 1863, while leading a “scouting expedition from Port Royal Ferry to the mainland, in the excitement of the moment a negro accidentally discharged his musket and instantly killed Lieut. Gaston of the First Negro Regiment who was ahead of him.”
Robert’s younger brother, Sylvester S. Gaston (1842-1887) served with the Roundheads as well, though as a private in Co. K. He was severely wounded in the left arm during the fighting at Second Bull Run on 29 August 1862 resulting in an amputation and discharge from the service. He died at the age of 44.
He wrote all the letters to his boyhood friend, Oscar L. Jackson who was born in Shenango Township, Lawrence County, Pennsylvania to Samuel Stewart and Nancy (Mitchell) Jackson. He attended the common schools, Tansy Hill Select School, and Darlington Academy. He later taught school in Hocking County, Ohio.
During the Civil War, Jackson served as an officer in the Union Army from 1861 to 1865. He entered the service as the captain of Company H of the Sixty-third Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry, and later received promotions of major, lieutenant colonel, and colonel by brevet after the war. He was shot in the face by a Confederate soldier with a Squirrel Rifle and left for dead in the 2nd Battle of Corinth.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Mount Pleasant [Pennsylvania]
January 18th 1861
O. L. Jackson
Again I begin an epistle for your perusal. I should have written sooner but I am so situated now that I cannot get letters as I used to as I am not at New Castle more than once a week and sometimes only once in two weeks. So my letters may lay in the office for 5 or 6 days or I may not have an opportunity more than once a week of sending a letter to the office. I received your last on the 12th so it could not have made as tardy a trip as your letters used to.
Well the holidays are over and I suppose you had a good time of it while I was laboring to “learn the young idea how to shoot.” I stopped my labors only two days, viz: the last day of last year and the first day of this. But I did not enjoy myself any better than if I had been teaching. However, I was at an oyster supper the night after New Years at John Mayne’s that “some” for a a big crowd and plenty of fun. There was about 25 couples there. Yet the next day in school I felt as you have felt, no doubt, when you did not get any sleep the night before. I am kept very busy having 60 pupils on roll. I like my school very [much] in some particulars. They are well advanced and intelligent, industrious, and most of hem easily managed. But a few of the large boys are of the “fast” kind and do not come to school for any good and it keeps me to about all I know to keep them straight.
I am used like a king among the old folks and the “grub” is of the first class. Take it all in all, I have a first rate time of it and time passes swiftly. I am over half through with my term and it seems as yesterday since I began. I wonder a considerable some times that I get a long as well as I do for they are the wildest set at night meetings I ever saw. Hog Hollow is nothing to it. If your average attendance is 50, I think I will beat you this month. My pupils—all but a few—come to school to learn and miss no time at all scarcely.
I suppose you will be through in about a month. By the way, what are you going to do when you get through? Will there be any chance for a summer school down there? For my part, I do not want to fool around 8 or 9 months in the year and do almost nothing. I am beginning to think since I was 21 years old on the 17th of this month that it is time I was “up and doing.” If I can make it pay about here to teach, I will do it but if I cannot, if I can get anything else to pay, I am it. Or if I can hear of any place away that will pay to teach in, I’m off.
I liked your sentiments on secession pretty well but as you did not say anything as to the result of the present excitement, I will give you my opinion of the present, past and future. I believe we have really got into a serious scrape. In my opinion, one of three things must be done and either of them is certainly a calamity. First a backing down of the Republican Party, second a peaceable secession of the Southern states, and third civil war to coerce them into submission. You say think there is many other ways of getting out of the difficulty and there may be, but this is the opinion of your humble servant.
The first I believe to be the most calamitous and at the same time the most likely to be done. We have a great many examples of weak backbones among the leading men of the Republican Party such as Tom Corwin at the head of the committee of 33 and wishing to conciliate the South by even amending the Constitution to favor the slaveholder. Now the history of the past teaches us when a step is taken in this direction (that is, to compromise in any way), there will be no looking back until we dishonor ourselves by concessions which show us to have either very little courage or very little principle. But the idea of changing or amending the Constitution to suit the oppressor still better, when it should be lamented by every good man that there is so much in it now that can be twisted and construed into the right of holding property in man is desperately wicked. No! may the hand wither that should attempt to write such an amendment and may the voice falter that would advocate it.
I do not like the idea of a dissolution of the Union, but if it cannot remain together unless we bow in submission to the slave power, then I say let the bond be severed. This slavery question has just come to the crisis I have wished it to come to for years. It is not now whether slavery shall be protected in the territories but whether it shall be recognized everywhere and the right to hold property in man denied nowhere. Nor is it the election of Lincoln or our refusal to protect slavery in the territories that alarms the South but that the public conscience of the North has been awakened and has taken form for once in political action.
It is the public sentiment that chose Lincoln an exponent of itself. Lincoln’s election is a finger-board pointing to the way the event has come. It is a weathercock sowing which way the wind is blowing. “Slavery is wrong”—that is the sentiment in the North today and in a country like ours where public sentiment is almost law, it is no wonder the South trembles and grows white with rage. Death does not more relentlessly follow its victims to the grave than the roused spirit of Freedom will advance forward to the complete extinction of the crime and folly of human slavery.
I believe Seward uttered nothing more than the truth when he said there was an irrepressible conflict between North and South on this question. Each have their vital principle. The North Liberty and the South Slavery. The question is which much give away. The principle of the one or the other must fall to the ground. Either Liberty must discrown her fair head or oppression shrink and veil its head and depart. We cannot compromise with them—the South—without giving up our own belief, our own principles and our own honor. Yet I believe there will be a compromise—not that the South expect to gain much by the compromise itself, but that it may distract parties at the North and quell public opinion for the time. And they are right if the Republican Party backs down, then there will arise an Anti-Slavery Party and neither will succeed. But the Democratic Party will again carry the day. That is the opinion of your humble servant.
But if instead of doing as they did our Republican Representative in Congress had remained silent when asked to take some action in regard to the state of feeling in the South, South Carolina and her sister states would never have gone as far as they have. But enough of this. When I get started, I don’t know when to stop with this question.
You seem to think it something that you haven’t got the “mitten” this winter but I can say more than that. I never got it in my life. But I have a pretty good reason for not. I very seldom indulge—not because the “softer sex” have no charm for me, but because I am very seldom thrown into the company of those I care anything about and I am not one of those who keep the company of ladies merely for the name of the thing. I like something that has either wit or wisdom and not the mere excuses you generally find in our day and generation. The “stock” up here is plenty and respectable but nothing particularly enticing about them so I have not indulged once since I came here. Perhaps I have been severe but I have seen so much empty giddiness from the sex that it makes me so. I wondered when you made that proposal to send me the address [of some girl] whether you could find many of the right kind in a country place. For my part, I don’t want to correspond with anyone unless they have either wit or wisdom. But more anon.
Now for local matters. We have a good association in Old Shenango this winter. It meets at Rose’s S[chool] H[ouse] and on Friday evenings and as it is right on my road home, I attend pretty regularly. The active members are Morehead, R. J. Breckinridge, Mullen, Mr. Newton who teaches in the McLaren district, Leslie Conner dis, Sylvester, Womach dis, Miss Drew, Miss Kerr, and others. I would give almost anything to have you with us one night, but I won’t look for you unless it comes good sleighing. By the way, we [had] a very large snow to fall last week and stayed on 2 days and went off the quickest and fastest of any snow I ever saw. Mr. Miles, Sr. died last week. He has been ailing for a long while. Mrs. Kerr, widow of Old Bob) died last week also. I understand we have got clear of $100,000 railroad bonds and perhaps all the North W.
That is all I can think of now. Write soon again and in the meantime, believe me your sincere friend and well wisher. — R. M. Gaston of Pennsylvania
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
Mount Pleasant School House
February 18, 
O. L. Jackson
At your request I commence an answer to yours of the 28th January promptly. Although it is not likely you will get this any great length of time before coming home, yet I feel in duty bound to do whatever you may dictate for me to do since you have been so prompt in writing to me.
I feel almost like swearing a little at the mails again. I did not get your letter until the 16th although I was at the office only 4 or 5 days. Well I cannot say as heretofore that I enjoy the great blessing good health. I have heard it said that one who enjoyed good health always did not know the value of it. So it seems to me. I have had such good health generally that I scarcely knew what bad health was. But for the last 6 weeks I have not enjoyed one hour of health.
We had a deep snow about 7 weeks ago and it went off very suddenly and the weather became very warm for the time of the year and many caught cold and myself among the rest. For 2 weeks it was nothing more than an ordinary cold, but it then began to get worse and settled in my side and breast in something like pleurisy and I suffered for a few days very bad but I still continued to teach hoping that each day would find me better. The pain in my side did leave in a couple of days but I still have a bad cough and pain in my breast at times. I am taking medicine for it and have hopes that I will be better soon. But troubles come not singly. Shortly after I became unwell [again]. The whopping cough got into the school and diminished from 50 to 25 in a few days and the weather is at present very bad (the largest snow we have had this winter being on the ground at present0. So that today, I have but 15 or 16 pupils. Taking all these things into consideration, you may suppose that I am in none of the best spirits. You can also have some idea how much good it would do me to get a letter from my old friend Jackson. But 3 days more and my time will be out here and I will be free to roam wherever I choose (that is, in the Northern states).
February 19th—Today is the best day for sleighing we have had here this winter and it is snowing more at present. Our seasons are surely changing in this latitude. I have never seen as changeable winter as the present. Last week we had 2 or 3 days that I have seen solder in May.
Now for an explanation. It is true that I did write that I would not correspond &c. with anyone who had neither “wit nor wisdom” but of course that did not include those I had been corresponding from necessity or old friendship that had been existing between me and those with whom I had been corresponding although those correspondents were so unfortunate as not to possess “wit or wisdom.” So you will see why I make such declaration and still continue to correspond with you. Consistency is a jewel and I do not like to be classed with those who have it not. I hope this will prove satisfactory to you. If not, your friend will apply to Hon. Robert Y. Toombs or Roger A. Pryer into whose hands I place the case and whose arrangements will be binding upon me.
February 20th—The snow is melting quite fast today and I think we will soon have muddy roads again.
February 21st—I was interrupted yesterday by the appearance of visitors and could not write anymore at that time. This is my last day of school. In about three hours I will be as free as the air we breathe. I wish you were here to hear my parting [speech]. It will be very effecting, you had better believe.
Local news in our neighborhood is pretty scarce. There is one piece of information that I know will pain you but it must be told, however. Miss S. J. Kerr and James Rigby are now one flesh. The ceremony took place about 3 weeks ago. Lorenzo Wilson is married to a daughter of John Allens. There has been some other marriages but you have heard of them no doubt. But I must stop now and attend to duty.
Home, February 23rd, 1861—Friend Jackson, I am once more out of employment . Yesterday I reported and received my warrant for my 3 months services. I then came home via Rose’s School House and was present at the ingathering of Teachers and Friends of Education. You know how we used to do it there. Well, we do it the same way yet. I don’t know what I will do now. I suppose I will loaf next week, visit some schools, &c. I wish you were here to accompany me in my rounds. After that, I don’t know what I will do. If you are at home this summer and it would be agreeable to you, I would not stop to study and recite to you as I did last summer. Come home as soon as you can. If you don’t get this before you leave, you can send for it after you come home. Hoping you will meet with no accident but have a pleasant time, I remain your friend, — R. M. Gaston
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE
Camp Wilkins ¹
[near Pittsburgh, Pa.]
August 8, 1861
O. L. Jackson
I seize the present opportunity of writing you a few lines to let you know of my experience in warfare. I did not expect when we parted on last Sunday evening that I would not see you again before leaving. There is not in reality anything serious in not bidding our friends adieu, yet one feels like it should be done. However, so long as our chances for corresponding with one another is good, one can in a great measure make up for it all by frequent writing of letters.
You were not at New Castle when we left but you have been told all about our leaving. We had a pleasant trip of it and arrived at Pittsburg about 5 o’clock. We got our suppers in town and were afterward marched here and quartered for the night. I did not rest very well the first night as we had not straw sufficient and what we had was infested with fleas. But now we have cleaned up our quarters so that we can live quite comfortably. We did not get our rations the next morning but had to provide our own breakfasts.
The first eating I did of Uncle Sam was Thursday noon and since that time we have had what I would call first class times—enough to eat and a good quality. We do not cook ourselves. The government provides a stove and set of cooking utensils and each soldier with a tin cup and tin plate, leaving you to make your own arrangements for cooking, &c. You can imagine what an endless confusion it would make for each mess of a company of 90 men to cook his own. But we are not in that fix for about one cent a day, we get a couple of “darkees” to cook for us so that we have simply to send our plates and tins up to the kitchen and our meals are there served out to us. For supper and breakfast we get god fresh bread and coffee. For dinner we get beans instead of coffee with our same allowance of bread and meat. When we get through eating, we simply take back our dishes to the kitchen and that is the last we have to do as far as eating is concerned till the next meal.
I neglected to say that our quarters consist of the stalls formerly used for putting cattle in but they have been overhauled and made quite comfortable. They are well roofed and floored and have bunks to sleep in. We have not yet got any blankets or clothing from the government nor do I know when we will get any.
We know nothing of our destination nor how long we will have to stay here. I see it stated in the Dispatch that Leasure has made a proposition to the War Department to establish an independent camp offering to find the tents himself and endeavor to increase his regiment to a brigade. I hear strangers remark every now and then that he is the best Colonel in Western, Pennsylvania, and that this regiment is the regiment, second to none any place.
We have now the full number of companies to forma regiment, viz: 7 from Lawrence [county], one from Beaver, one from Washington, and one from Mercer. The Mercer company arrived today. It is a splendid looking company. I have not once regretted that I enlisted. But on the contrary, I am glad I enlisted. But I must close for the boys are just going over to town.
I had an envelope addressed to you at New Castle but since I began, [my brother] Sylvester tells me you did not intend to be home for two or three weeks so I will address you at Logan. I want you to write as soon as you get this and write about it all. With my best wishes for your welfare, I remain yours friend, — R. M. Gaston
P. S. Address
R. M. Gaston
Care of Capt. Cline
N. B. I forgot to say to you I hold the high position of 1st Corporal in my company, — R
¹ Camp Wilkins was established at the County Fairgrounds on Liberty Avenue near Pittsburgh. We learn from Gaston’s letter that the cattle barn was converted into barracks for the men who initially slept four abreast in each stall on a bed of straw. By the time that Gaston and the companies that would for the the 100th Pennsylvania Infantry had arrived, apparently bunks had been provided though straw was still used to make their beds. Gaston speaks on a solid roof and floor but does not indicate whether the structures were sided or not. For more information about Camp Wilkins, see Joseph P. Borkowski’s article, “Camp Wilkins, Military Post, 1861.”
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FOUR
[Beaufort, South Carolina]
March 3rd 1862
I had not time to finish this on yesterday but I might as well have sealed it up as writing any more for I don’t know what to write. There seems to be a general impression along the men of the regiment today that we are going to move soon—perhaps to Florida. For my part, I have no inclination to go further South. It is now pretty warm here and the gnats and mosquitoes are so bad some evenings that one is constrained to charge bayonet on them.
Well, friend Jackson, you would like to be in Beaufort now? I know things look nice, I must say, and we spend our evenings after supper as pleasantly as schoolboys. We have various amusements. Capt. Cline bought the company a pair of $5 boxing gloves and you would laugh till your sides would ache if you could but see our boys use them. We also play ball and cricket and pitch quoits. And as for reading matter, we have an amount of it. If I could always have good health and have nothing more to do than now, I would not change a soldier’s life for some other occupation I know of. Don’t think from this I wish a continuation of the war.
Things in Old Pennsylvania are dull as usual from what I hear. I get letters from home almost every week. I hear from you now and then in that way. I get letters from R. S. Breckinridge now and then. In his last to me he told me what I suppose he thought I did not know—that you were a Captain in an Ohio Regiment and that Steve Butler was an aide to General McCook with the rank of Lieut. He thought you were fortunate and wound up by asking me if there was any hope of me getting promoted. Was that not impudence? I find there is no chance of being promoted where one asks for it. I was not made to succeed to any great extent but I am pretty well satisfied with myself. It would not make any difference if I was not satisfied. I am somewhat surprised at the success of some men in our regiment but I account for it because they have the “poke in” spirit.
This is a wretched poor letter but I know to whom I am writing. Write often to your fellow soldier and sincere friend, — R. M. Gaston
Co. H, 100th (Roundheads) Regt., Pa Vols., Beaufort, Port Royal, S. C.
to be forwarded to regiment.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FIVE
Beaufort, South Carolina
April 2nd 1862
My Dear Friend Jackson,
Yours of March 16th is received which I will now endeavor to answer. I have nothing new or important to communicate. You have had a change of scene almost constantly while we are here at the same camp we pitched our tents upon 4 months ago. Since I wrote you last our regiment spent two weeks on advanced picket duty on the bank of the Coosaw river. We had a very pleasant time being on duty only every third day. The enemy’s pickets were just on the opposite bank of the river and for their amusement they would occasionally discharge their pieces at us but their balls fell harmless in the river only carrying half way across.
The command of the Southern Expeditionary Corps has been given into the hands of General Hunter of Junter Lane notoriety. I think the change is a good one. I think there might have been much more done in this expedition than has been if the right man had been in the right place. However, I think the command is like Fremont when he was relieved. That is—it is ready for action.
Our brigade is thoroughly disciplined and consists of four as good regiments as are generally brought together, viz—on the right, the 79th New York Militia (Highlanders) on the left 100th Pa. Vols. (Roundheads) on the right center, the 8th Michigan, on the left center the 50th Pa. Volunteers. General [Thomas] Sherman, when he reviewed and inspected us a few weeks ago, said the 79th New York was the best volunteer regiment he ever saw and I think the Roundheads are not much behind them, but you must take my opinion with allowance.
We drill in Brigade each alternate day under the command of General Stevens’ son, a lad of about 20 who by the way is a very promising young man. We have one of the best parade grounds just out of town imaginable. It is as level as a floor and consists of 3 or 4 hundred acres.
But I fear I am tiring you with this. I am in excellent health and spirits and hope this may find you the same. Soldiering agrees with me very well now. The health of the regiment is very good. Not one man dies now for 5 that died three months ago.
Well, you have been in a fight, have you! I see General Pope’s report of the Battle of New Madrid. It is no small honor to have been in such an engagement where such an engagement where such a victory was won. Our news from the North is up to 25th of March but I hope by this time much has been done that we know nothing of.
What do you think of the young Napoleon General McClellan? For my part, I am not a worshipper of him and have not been for several months. I believe he would make any sacrifice to the demon slavery and patch up a peace on any terms rather than give them battle if he thought he could gain popularity and stand a chance for the Presidency in 1864.
[unsigned and probably unfinished letter]
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER SIX
Beaufort, South Carolina
Saturday, May 10th 1862
I have had the extreme gratification of receiving two letters from you this week—one last night and one few weeks ago. I was no little surprised to hear of you not getting my letters. I have written to you quite frequently and directed my letters as you told me. However, you have been moving about so much that it’s almost impossible for the mails to keep track of you. One of the letters I got from you this week was dated near Island No. 10 and was cut off short by you receiving marching orders. In the next I find you nowhere but in the great army before Corinth. I had expected to hear of you next in New Orleans but I suppose it was the best that could possibly be done to remove you to the stronghold of the enemy in the West.
Jackson, you are lucky in getting into positions where there is work to be done and laurels to be won. Yet what is honor worth to a man if a minié ball of or piece of shell strike him in a tender spot. I will watch the papers anxiously for the list of killed and wounded in that “Great Battle” when it comes for who can tell if I may not see your name among the officers in that list. God grant otherwise. Let us crush this viper with a will but it seems hard to crush it at so great a cost of human life. We are here in the enemy’s country and I thought long ‘ere this we would have had to try the terrible ordeal of battle but it seems that the brave sons of the West will have the honor of most of the fighting.
We are lying about loose doing nothing but guard and drill a little in the evening when it is cool. I don’t know what to write. Your letter deserves a good one but it is not in me today. I am too hot—my mind is very scattered and my pen will not write what I want it to. I can answer the questions you ask, however. Mr. Ross is 1st Lieutenant. [Robert J.] Ross of Co. H (Capt. [Adam] Moore). Walter Clark did not come to war. Mr. [Jefferson] Justice who was in the 3 months service came out as orderly sergeant of Co. H. but since then, Quartermaster Leslie has resigned and justice fills his place. Sam Morrow who lives out beyond Punkington came out as an orderly of Co. I. (Capt. Squier). He has been promoted to 2nd Lieutenant of said company. What do you think of that? You know the position of Vangorden Gilliland & L____ Smith Dushane holds a sergeant’s position in that company. He has just returned from a recruiting tour of 3 months duration. 1st Lieut. [John P.] Blair of Co. I has not been with his company since we came to Beaufort but has been acting Provost Marshal.
The first death of a commissioned officer in our regiment occurred in our own company. James L[aw] Banks (you remember him I suppose; he took a prominent part in the nomination of Jno. Wallace for Congress from Hickory township). died last week. He was the stoutest and most robust ma in the regiment. Had never been sick before. His disease was inflammation of the bowels. He lived only about 48 hours after taking the disease. His place was filled by the election of Sergeant [David] Patten. He will make an excellent officer.
I suppose I get more letters from dear Old Lawrence [county] than you do and perhaps hear more gossip from that country. Andrew Gibson has a son (I mean his wife has). Pretty fast for Andy, is it not? He was married in September and the child was born about the first of April. He must have tired [himself] about the time he was at home burying Robert. Or about the time he called to see our famous company, the Liberty Guards drill at Punkintown. How that gallant little band has become scattered! Their gallant little captain [O. L. Jackson] is doing service in the Great Western Army and has perhaps led a gallant company into the field of strife before this.
The Second Lieutenant (Bill Gibson) serving in the same office at Hilton Head, South Carolina. The Orderly away down south in Dixie acting high corporal with no hope of promotion. The Secretary ([my brother] Silvester) acting high private in the same regiment. Some of the privates of that gallant company are now before Yorktown or in pursuit of the flying enemy (Messimore and others are in Col. [Samuel W.] Black’s Regiment [62nd Pa. Inf.]). ¹ Where is the spot that there are not some of the Liberty Guards? Who would have thought nine months ago that we would have been so scattered, yet each one having the same object in view and all working for the same paymaster. If any one asked then can any good come out of this, let time answer the question.
Jackson, Tom Leonard came as a recruit to our regiment last week. You may depend upon it, there will be some tall fighting done now.
We have news up to the 6th of May. Then Yorktown was evacuated. Whether this is of any advantage to us is more than I can tell yet. It seems to me McClellan is lucky in getting an enemy to move without giving them battle. But I must not criticize. The change in this department is a source of great gratification to the command. Hunter is the Lion for the present. I hope we may have the same opinion of him to the end.
Jackson, I could talk to you if I had a chance but I can’t write. I am too nervous or something. How I wish we could see each other about 10 hours. I don’t think the war will be over so soon as I did a while ago but I have hopes we will see one another before a great many months.
Till then, adieu. — Gaston
N. B. Write as often as you can. I will write just as soon as I feel like it if it should not be 3 days. I know you will pardon this. — R. M. G.
¹ The 62nd Pennsylvania Infantry was organized at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania beginning July 4, 1861 and mustered in August 31, 1861 as the 33rd Pennsylvania Regiment for a three year enlistment under the command of ColonelSamuel W. Black. Its designation was changed to 62nd Pennsylvania Infantry on November 18, 1861. Col. Samuel W. Black was killed in action at the Battle of Gaines’s Mill.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER SEVEN
[Note, this letter was written while Robert served as a lieutenant in the 1st South Carolina (Union) Vol. Infantry, which was later designated the 33rd USCT.]
I never could stand the tears of a woman very well so I am glad that the most of them were pleased upon a second hearing day before yesterday. I think they have no friendship fir us or our cause but they can’t do much either way. As to their appearance, there is nothing remarkable in their looks—about as northern women upon the average.
But perhaps you want to know what we have done. Whether we have done any fighting as you are a fighting man. No, we have not done any fighting of any consequence although the 1st Regiment was under arms almost all of the 2nd and 3rd days we were here.
The pickets were driven in a short distance by a body of cavalry and quite a body of infantry were in their rear. Our men were spoiling for a fight and came out with a rush no less than half a dozen times in two days but the chivalry did not think proper to give us battle. One man of the 2nd Regiment was killed and two wounded.
Our position is very perilous as we have not more than 900 men all told and here we are on the bank of the St. Johns River on the mainland of Florida (the only part of the main in possession of the U. S.).
To be sure we have the assistance of two gunboats in the river which came along with us but if the rebels have a much larger force than we have, they may dash in upon us and the effects of shell from the boats would be as disastrous to us as to them.
If they find out our weakness, they will I think give us fight before long but that is what our men want. We expect reinforcements of several companies of the 7th Connecticut Regiment from Fernandina in a few days.
I fear we are only strong enough to act on the defensive which is much to be deplored. I think the prime object was to invade the state and recruit a black army as we go forward. I don’t think it is possible from this point.
Jacksonville is a very pleasant healthy place and in time of peace an immense amount of trade was carried on from appearances. I like it much better than Beaufort. I am once more out of the sand where there is gravel and even stones. I did not see a stone at Port Royal during a fifteen month visit.
But this letter is already too lengthy and I have been in such a hurry that I think you will be satisfied by the time you decipher it all. The last I had from you was a little note written from Chillicothe, Ohio (damn your short letters; why can’t you find a little more time) when you were returning to your regiment. I don’t know what may have happened to you since then. You said you were terribly in earnest and I suppose you were.
Don’t get killed as I am more than ever anxious to have a good chat with you before you “shuffle off this mortal coil.”
I don’t know what your Northern and Western Army may have done since I heard from it and I suppose I won’t hear very soon as we will not get mails so often here as at Port Royal. I hope to hear of much being done near Charleston and Savannah soon There were 7 of the ironclads there when we left. Let me hear from you often and in very long letters and I will try to scratch something for you when I have a chance, but I am busy today and will only write myself.
Your most obedient and humble servant, — R. M. Gaston
Lt. 1st S. C. V. I. USA, Jacksonville, Florida
March 20th 1863
Dear O. L. J.,
I add a line to this as it may appear that this letter may be long in reaching you. The fact is there has been no boat to [leave] from here till now. The Burnside will go today.
Our boats have been busy making excursions up the river to different points doing whatever their hands find to do. We have not yet been attacked by the Rebs. They sent in a flag of truce warning all men, women and children to leave the town on yesterday. Accordingly, a number of women and children went.
I don’t anticipate a fight soon although they threaten to destroy the place. One of their men deserted yesterday and came to us. He says they have 1,500 men which is twice our number nearly. They don’t want to fight our men, he says, and will wait till the white troops come. They think it would be an eternal disgrace to be whipped by niggers.
Yours in haste. I am yours, — R. M. G.
[Note, this letter was written while Robert served as a lieutenant in the 1st South Carolina (Union) Vol. Infantry, which was re-designated the 33rd USCT. Robert died less than two weeks later from wounds received when a gun discharged accidentally while on a reconnaissance.]
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER EIGHT
Advanced Picket Station
Port Royal Island, South Carolina
May 15th 1863
O. L. Jackson
Honored & dear friend,
I received your kind and much welcomed favor of April 18th some days ago but cannot say I was able to read all of it although enough was made out of it to fully repay the untiring efforts your humble servant made to decipher certain portions of it. However, I don’t blame you to sometimes writing in Greeley’s style as I sometimes adopt it just for a change when I am writing to you.
Te “joy or sorrow” you spoke of coming from Charleston, Vicksburg, &c. has come and has come in sorrow too. Charleston—that nest of treason and oppression—yet flourishes in her iniquity. The affair at Vicksburg is fully asa discouraging as from Charleston as far as I can learn. Jackson, the war goes on but slowly. I think before this perhaps, Hooker has shown to the world if he is a general or not. If he fails, then our horizon will be dark indeed. To be sure, we have had several small successes lately but nothing to make up for our failure to reduce Sumter after making two years of preparation and our failure after many attempts to get possession of Vicksburg and the Mississippi river. We cannot settle down into a seven or ten years war. The people at home will not sustain us in it. Let us fight it out and now. I for one want no more fooling about it. Better for to perish in the breach at once than perish in te camp after years of toil and privation. When we have suffered and bled as our enemies have, we will have conquered them—not sooner. This dying for one’s country by inches is not what it is cracked up to be.
I cannot give you that “experience of a big fight” you desire yet nor do I expect to soon. There seems to be but little likelihood of any fighting to do here soon. We have been doing picket duty here on the Port Royal River since before the expedition to Charleston. It may be possible that after General Hunter sees the folly of bringing us away from Florida he may send us back there. In that event, we may have a chance to do some rough work. It seems to me I could “fight a good fight” with these men and am anxious to try myself. You are right that we occupy a conspicuous position. I would not belong to another kind of a regiment than a Colored one. I would rather be 2nd Lt. in this regiment than any White regiment in the U. S. I am not alone in this opinion. Two Captains of the 8th Maine Regiment with good companies resigned their commissions there and took the same position in the 2nd S. C. Vols. (Col. [James] Montgomery). A Captain on General Davis’ staff having allowances which he will not now have resigned his commission there and has now a company in the same regiment. So you see the movement that brought down so many curses on its head at first is now becoming very popular. Colonels of White regiments are very anxious to give them up and raise Black ones just as soon as we can get the men.
To give you an idea of how we drill and how we appear in camp, let me make a statement from Paymaster Wood, a West Pointer who paid us week before last for four months service. He and his clerks came on to our camp strongly prejudiced against our regiment and all connected with it. He ridiculed the idea of making soldiers of Black men and thought this regiment was only the work of a few abolitions and others who had no other way of filling their pockets from Uncle Sam’s purse. They paid five companies (only five companies are stationed at Headquarters) and in the evening witnessed the company drills and passed through camp viewing things generally. The result was the statement given above and that their minds were entirely changed. That they think the ex-slaves better suited for soldiers than any men in the U. S. I hears Major Wood say very positively that Co. G of our regiment was the best drilled company in the Department—either White or Black.
Who are to fight the battles of the Union hereafter? For what was John Brown hung and who hung him? Where are they who hung him and cried for his blood? Traitors to their country and in open rebellion against it. Where are John Brown’s friends and fellow sufferes? [Colonels] Higginson & Montgomery live to do the same work for which he was hung. Will the same power hand the, that hung Brown? It would if it could but now, thank God, Brown’s friends have the U. S. Government to support them. When Brown died, it supported traitors. Bless God for the change! This war is not in vain after all.
No danger of my marrying a secesh lady for her Niggers. They are not a good investment here just now.
Hope the “Fair Lady of Notoriety” may receive the flowers kindly. I suppose General’s daughters and wives appear pretty much like other fine ladies. Generals are almost as plenty as Captains and Lieutenants.
My health for the last months has been good till within the last week. I have been down with fever but am up again. I am a little troubled with diarrhea but hope to be rugged soon. We have blackberries here in any quantity and are enjoying ourselves hugely. We have just got the news from rebel sources that we have indeed done a good work in the neighborhood of Richmond. I guess Fighting Joe Hooker is to be the great man after all.
I will not weary you with writing more at present. I will write again when the fit takes me. Let me hear from you very often. I hope to hear of your army annihilating the Western Army (Rebel) as it is said Hooker has done the Eastern one. Leave it to the African Army to use up the Southern Rebel Army. The 2nd S. C. Vols. in nearly full and the third is fairly under way. Believe me, I am very respectfully your obedient servant, — R. M. Gaston
P. S. I believe it was since I wrote you last that your humble servant received promotion to a 1st Lieutenant. I was only a 2nd Lieutenant till the 15th of last month. — R. M. G.
This letter was written by James William Burrell (1842-1929)—a 19 year old from Youngstown, Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania, when he was mustered into Co. K, 53rd Pennsylvanian Infantry on Nov. 1, 1861. He re-enlisted on Dec. 22, 1863; Listed as POW, Spotsylvania Court House, Va., May 12, 1864. Mustered out June 30, 1865.
He wrote the letter to his parents, Jacob Burrell (1816-1883) and Mary (“Polly”) Withrow, at Youngstown, Pa. James mentions another brother in the letter, John “Amos” Burrell (1845-1865), who served in Co. G, 135th Pennsylvania and also in Co. K, 53rd Pennsylvania.
The 53rd Pennsylvania Infantry fought at Fair Oaks, the Seven Days, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Overland Campaign of May-June 1864, the Siege of Petersburg and the Appomattox Campaign. This letter was written approximately one month prior to the Battle of Bristoe Station in which the 53rd Pennsylvania participated. Much of the content of this letter pertains to Burrell’s complaints about substitutes and copperheads.
Headquarters 2nd A. C.
September 11th 1863
I seat myself this morning to answer yours dated Sept. the 6th, which I had the pleasure of reading yesterday eve. It found me about as usual. I was very glad to hear that you were all well and I hope the reception of these few lines may find you all enjoying the best of health.
Well, I have no very particular news to tell you this morning more than that Gillmore has taken Morris Island and Ft. Sumter and Rosecrans has taken Chattanooga and Bragg’s army is still retreating. The papers say that he is retreating back into the boundless depth of the South. I think that he had better stop or he might get so far South that he will never get back. But I guess that he will stop now for Jos. Johnston has succeeded him. If all is true that we hear, Jeff Davis had better get his ships ready. Davis addressed an audience at the breaking of this rebellion in Tennessee and said that if the North should over power them and drive them off the land, that they wouldn’t still give up, but that they would get some ships—Men of War, I suppose—and fight a guerrilla warfare on sea. I guess that he intends to turn out pirate.
There is deserters coming in daily. They tell a lamenting story, but we can’t believe what deserters tell for they are generally cowards and who would believe a coward.
We had upwards of 30 men in the guard house—the most of them were in for desertion—and last night there [were] 6 or 8 of them escaped. We hain’t heard whether any of them was seen yet.
Well, it is 4 P.M. I was out patrolling all day—or since 8 A.M. this morning. We have found none of the boys that escaped. I tell you if they are caught, they will be handled roughly. They are all substitutes. Those substitutes are very troublesome. They are worse than no soldier at all, but what won’t a man do when he will sell himself for a few hundred dollars. I respect a man that is drafted and we have no trouble with such men. But those infernal bought men, they give us more trouble than they are worth or ever will be.
This day, Sargent Wineland with a squad of 8 men—I was one of them—traveled over at least 10 miles of the country and we daren’t go the road, but through the very worst thickets and woods that we came to, and this is not the only time, but it’s so almost every day. I tell you, such work don’t pay! We heard very heavy cannonading in the direction of Beverly’s Ford this morning. Beverly’s Ford lays southwest of these headquarters. After about 2½ hours firing, it then ceased. The results we hain’t heard yet, but at all events, the Army still holds it old position.
I would like to know how the Rebel Army is getting along with their conscripts. I tell you, if they have as much bother with theirs as we have, there won’t be much hard fighting done this fall, for it will take all of the men in both armies for to guard their conscripts. Some of those subs can tell all about the mob in N.Y. City. One of those fellows that escaped last night was seen counting his money yesterday evening and he had 400 and some odd dollars in greenbacks! I tell you this is not the first time that he has sold himself.
One thing I forgot to tell you. We just got all the ripe peaches today that we wanted to eat. We came across an old farmer that was a going to make peach Brandy, and he had a wagon load nearly 2 thirds full, and we acted soldier fashion, helped ourselves all the time.
I would like to know the reason that you fellows don’t read some of those Copperheads out of Greensburgh. There is 5 or 6 that comes out openly and expresses some of the most absurd, mean, ornery and degraded sentiments that ever I heard. There is old Sykes. You know he was Major in the Regular Army, but was such a drunkard that his Commission was taken from him. To say the least, he was dishonorably dismissed from the service, and there is old Laird and Kenan and Lattas that ought to have their heads shaved, stripped naked, and both ears clipped off, and tarred and feathered—and then one of their toes cut off right close up to their ears, for it’s a disgrace for a civilized country to allow such men to live in it. But Greensburgh and Westmoreland county is not the only place those fellows are in. They are all over the North and it surprises me that the military authorities allow such men to be carried on. I tell you, Greensburgh, or I might say, Westmoreland Co. may be thankful that they have Capt. Colter there. Colter is a good man, but he is a little too easy. If they had Col. J. K. Brook or Capt. Mintzer or if Lieut. Weaver was living and they had him there, I’ll just bet $100 dollars that there would be some necks stretched, or else there would be less talk (disunion talk, I mean).
This evening’s paper brings excellent news from the Southwest. Our forces are in operation every place but here and I judge that from the middle of October to the first Dec., will be an exciting time in this wing of the army and hardly before that. If only they had of taken those conscripts and organized them into regiments and scattered them through the army that way it would of been better in every sense of the word according to my opinion.
If you hain’t sent that box yet, please send me a few cigars if you do send it at all. You can just use your pleasure about sending it. Tell Amos to take good care of that old flag and for to not let it leave him. Col. Brook hain’t got back yet…
As a general thing, the Army is in good health, and I guess I have told you the news in general, so I will close for this time. Please give my love to mother & all of the rest. My respects to Mrs. Caldwell and Nancy and all of the folks. Please write often.
I believe this letter was written by 11 year-old Wyly J. Smith, the son of Peter Smith (1828-1902) and Lucinda Hall (1825-18xx) of Romeo, Greene county in eastern Tennessee. He wrote the letter from Lindley, Grundy county, Missouri, where I presume he was staying with friends or relatives—there were four Smith families living in the Grundy county in the 1860 US Census; two of them from Tennessee. Perhaps young Wyly chose to leave his parents who apparently did not share his secessionists views for his father later joined Co. K, 1st Tennessee (Union) Cavalry.
Smith wrote the letter to James Knox Polk Saylor (1839-1919) who was a school teacher in the same district where Smith was raised and the content suggests to me that he was Smith’s teacher. Saylor was the son of a blacksmith-farmer named John Saylor (1808-1879) and his wife Mary (“Polly”) Fink (1809-1895) of Greene county, Tennessee.
Addressed to James K. P. Saylor, Esqr., Romeo, Greene county, Tennessee
Lindley, [Marion Township,] Grundy county, Missouri
March 24th 1861
J. K. P. Saylor, Esqr.
It is with the most profound regard and highest respect conceivable that I take up my pen this good Sabbath evening to try to promulgate a few thoughts to your perceptive faculties through the medium of an epistolary. Correspondence as I understand from B. F.’s last letter from you that you have got to be a great Union Man. Perhaps you will say you have always been. Be that as it may, we at last bid farewell in political friendship never to meet until this nation and country is drenched in blood, unless you turn from the error of your way and quit following such [a] heartless demagogue as Andrew Johnson whose speech is like himself—black as hell. Nothing but slander and a disgrace to the state and age in which he lives and is endorsed by all the damned black-hearted abolitionists in the North.
I do believe if hell was raked and sea scummed, there could not be another such a damed, heartless hypocrite found—Judas not accepted. Yes, a Benedict Arnold to give up his country. Oh! may the gods be angry with him. May they blast all his efforts and aims. May they cut him down. Oh! may Mars be upon him and send him down to his proper place and may his prosperity if imbibed in his doctrines, be blasted from off the face of all the earth. May all his seed be forgotten among men & those who will now say amen to his hellish notions. He has always been an abolitionist in my opinion and as he thinks that it is getting popular, he will now show his hand. Abe [Lincoln] is a gentleman to all such and would be preferable to him with me. I hate a traitor.
Perhaps you begin to think I am a secessionist. Yes sir, that is my stripe and as spotted with it as a leopard and say damn a man that hasn’t got the spunk to say amen to it. But why? say you. Well sir, I will tell you. Before I get done with this correspondence. From several considerations. The first is we haven’t got any Union, nor haven’t had any for the last 15 years which you—if an honest man—will give up [as true]. Don’t think I mean to say you are not honest, for no unconditional Union Man can be honest.
The only kind of Union you can be for is the union of the races—i.e., the amalgamation of the Saxon and the Ethiopian which is contrary to the laws of God and should be repudiated by all honest men. But says you, how do you make that? Well, I will show you, first we have no Union as a nation. The North first violated the law by passing the Liberty Bills which were unconstitutional and to repeal those laws would have been civil war & subjugation. And to have those laws remaining on the statute books would be no Union at all—for a Union that is not in union is no Union at all. Where can you see union in their measures? The only chance to have union is to go the way Wade & Chase & Greeley go. Confiscate the property of the South. The abolitionists are for Union. A. Johnson is for Union. Therefore, A. Johnson and his confederates are abolitions.
Alonzo Reed was an African American soldier from Spring Wells, Michigan who served as a private in the 102nd Regiment Infantry, U.S. Colored Troops during the Civil War.
Alonzo’s letters have been donated to the Rubenstein Library at Duke University. This collection “consists entirely of 21 personal letters [eight transcribed here] from an African American Union soldier, Alonzo Reed, written to his mother while stationed in South Carolina during the latter part of the Civil War. Some of the letters were written by Reed, some by other individuals, and indicate that Reed’s regiment was often on picket duty, though they also provide some descriptions of warfare and the ransacking of plantations during marches. A brief sketch of the letters is also included in the collection folder.
“Reed, who was nearly illiterate, provides brief insights into daily camp life in terms of references of illnesses, hunger, not being paid for many months, life as a soldier in the midst of war, and the desire to have news, photos, and writing supplies from home. Reed occasionally refers to the reception they received from both whites and blacks in the South. He also writes about fixing railroad supply lines and utilizing surrendered Confederate soldiers to aid in this work. In November 1864, he inquires as to whether African American men are being allowed to vote in the North and indicates that they are in the South.”
Only the first letter shown here was actually penned by Reed. The others were written by others for him.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Winnsboro [South Carolina]
August 14, 1864
I take my pen in hand to inform you that I am well and I hope these few lines to find you in your same health and tell Jane that I send my love and to [ ] of my friend and tell them I [will] come home in two months. The regiment is come home and the City of Chester. It don’t like to see a negro soldier and we did have to fire and kill two men and then the rest of the city is in prison and put some of the men in prison and put the captain under arrest.
And tell Mr. and Mrs. Gray I send my love to her and tell my aunt I send my love to her and I read a paper and some postage stamps and was glad to get them. The colored people is glad to see us.
All [for the] present. Not to write me till I write again. If we don’t start home in two weeks, I will write to you.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
September 2nd 1864
It is with the greatest of pleasure that I take my pen in hand to let you know that I am well at present and hope that these few lines may find you the same. I received your kind letter and was glad to hear from you. I would have written to you before but the regiment went out on an expedition and did not have time to write any before we went.
We left Beaufort on the first day of August and went to Hilton Head and stayed all night and then took the boat and went to Jacksonville and stayed there all night and in the morning before daylight, marched twenty miles till we came to a little place called Baldwin and stayed there about two weeks and then we started out for a tramp. We then marched one hundred and fifty miles in five days at the rate of five miles an hour—that is, he walked us that fast, and the sun was hot as an oven and one of our men give out and our Major [Newcomb Clark] grabbed him by the belt and hit him over the head with his sword and then galloped his horse off and dragged him a half of mile. We marched in mud and water up to our waist.
John Thompson has got relieved from that sentence. The court wasn’t sworn when he was tried on the 30th of August. I was at Hilton Head and I saw some men that seen him. We could not get off of the boat. He is well and sends his love to his folks.
Mother, tell Mr. and Mrs. Gray that I am well and send my best respects to them and hope they will find them the same. Give my respects to Mrs. Hughbanks and Oliver Hughbanks. That I send my love to them and also to Charley. The reason I did not send you that money was because I could not get to anyplace where there was any post office and I was afraid to trust it with any person and that is the reason why I did not send it. I had the money drew up in an envelope and the captain of or company told me that it wouldn’t be safe to send it until we got to some place where there was a post office. I would have sent my likeness but didn’t have time.
We arrived at Beaufort about eleven o’clock and the next day had to pack up and leave. I would like to have you send your likeness, my sisters, and aunt and brother and Dessey and nothing more. Direct your letters to Beaufort Island, South Carolina.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE
September 19, 1864
It is with the greatest of pleasure that I take my pen in hand to inform you that I am well at present and hope that these few lines may find you the same. Mr. James Robison, a sergeant in our company, and myself are a going to send our likenesses to you. The reason I had it taken so rough is I was on business in town and I did not have time to fix up any. I am a going to have it taken again. It will be a little better. Tell Mrs. Thompson that I have seen Jim and they talk of letting him out. He is well and sends his best respects to you all. John sends his love to you and he is wishing to have his mother write to him as soon as she receives these lines reach her. Direct your letters to me. No more at present.
— Alonzo Reed, 102nd US Colored Troops, Beaufort, S. C.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FOUR
Coosaw [South Carolina]
October 24th 1864
I take this present opportunity to write a few lines to [say] that I am well and hope these few lines will find you the same. I received your letter the 23rd of this month. Was glad to hear from home, I [have] been on picket about all the time. I could not get it [my likeness] taken. I will get it taken just as soon as I can get time. In your next letter, let me know whether you received my likeness I sent you. You may expect some money by the next mail, We will be paid off by that time.
John Thompson sends his love to his mother. He is now at Shell Bridge where he can’t send. It is sickly down here in this department with the fever. Most of our regiment is down sick with the fever. Tell James I saw some of his friends down here. He used to be drayman with him. Give my love to Miss Gray and Mrs. Hubanks.
This from your son, — Alonzo Reed
Direct your letters to Beaufort, S. C., 102d United States Col. Comp. E
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FIVE
Coosaw, S. C.
January 4, 1865
I thought I would write a few lines to you that I am well at present and I hope these few lines may find you the same. Just one year ago today I was mustered into the service of the United States. I am in for three years. You need not send that box you was a going to send because I can’t get it. If the box was to come, I could not get short of three months. Our boys are not come in yet off the raid. Our boys are still shelling yet. Sherman is doing a big thing. Sherman has not got Savannah yet.
I want you to tell my sister she is taking her time about sending her likeness. I should like to have you to send me the Republican paper. We are on picket yet. We can’t tell how long we will stay—probably not for two months.
Tell Mr. Gray and Mrs. Gray I send my love to them. I want you to tell James I think he is doing well. About writing to me, I will always remember him. No more at present. Give my love toeverybody.
— A. Reed
Direct your letters to Beaufort, South Carolina, 102nd United States Col. Comp. E
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER SIX
Charleston, South Carolina
February 25, 1865
I seat myself in a very fine house in the city to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well and hope when this reaches it may find you enjoying the same state of health. I am having a very nice time here with the girls but we have had pretty hard marching through the state to different points until we reached here. We have ransacked every plantation on our way and burnt up everything we could not carry away.
The next time I send you any money I will send it by express. Give my love to all enquiring friends. I have no news to write now as we have not been here long enough to learn. Answer soon and let me know all the news about the city.
No more at present but remain your son, — A. Reed
Co. E, 102nd USCT, Charleston, S.C.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER SEVEN
March the 21st 1865
My dear mother,
I now take this opportunity of writing you a few lines to inform you of my health which is very good at present and I truly hope these few lines may find you and the rest of the family enjoying the same blessing.
We have been on a long march of 93 miles from D[ ] Neck to Charlestown. There we stayed about 2 weeks. Then we had orders to pack up and march down to the dock and take the boat for Savannah. We marched down to the dock which was the distance of four miles. There we waited for awhile till the order came for us to turn around ad march back to the camp which we had just left and this we did not like very well before we got away on the boat. We marched backwards and forwards 3 times and at last my company had to stay back for 2 or 3 days but at last we were all at Savannah, Georgia. Here we are doing camp fatigue, picket, and provost duty.
Savannah, Georgia, is a nice place and there are a great many colored people here and seem to enjoy themselves very well since the colored soldiers have been here. Charleston, S. C. has been a very nice place once in time but now it looks horrible—knocked all to pieces by the shells from our gun boats.
No more at present. Only I still remain your affectionate son, — Alonzo Reed
Company E, 102nd USCT
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER EIGHT
Summerville, South Carolina
May 15, 1865
It is with pleasure that I embrace the present opportunity to address you a few lines to inform you of my health. I am well at present and hope that these few lines may find you the same.
I have been on a raid through interior of South Carolina and destroyed all of the cotton in the state and we burned the gins and brought six thousand contrabands to Charleston.
We are camped at Summerville, S. C. and we are getting along as well as can be expected for soldiers. God knows when we will get paid. We have got 8 months pay coming….
This letter was written by Michael Nevin (b. @1830 in Ireland) who was employed as a sailor before the Civil War. He wrote the letter to his sister, Mary Maria (Nevin) Silver, the wife of John H. Silver (1834-1865) of Haverhill, Massachusetts.
Michael enlisted in July 1861 to serve 3 years in Co. B, 47th New York Infantry. It appears he was discharged in mid-September 1861, however, so it’s possible he transferred to the 40th New York Infantry encamped at “Camp Sacket” by the time this letter was written in October. There were a couple of other soldiers in that regiment by the name of Nevin(s).
Addressed to Mrs. Mary M. Silver, Haverhill, Massachusetts
Camp Sacket, Va.
October 12, 1861
I received your kind letter last night. I was glad to hear that you and your children were well. I am well at present so I hope that this letter will find you the same.
Dear sister, I wrote to you before I had two letters from [your husband] John. ¹ He told me that he was well. I felt sorry last night when I heard he was laid up with a sore back. I enjoy very good health myself. I never was with a doctor since I been out here.
I like soldiering pretty well. We have no beds to sleep on. I always put my rubber blanket and overcoat under me and a woolen blanket over me so I try to make me as comfortable as I can. I like it better than sailoring for all of it I seen yet.We get pretty fair rations now. They are a good deal better than the Were [?].
I am going to write to John today. It would be better for them if they were here for it is warmer nights here than in Baltimore. It is most too warm days here.
Dear sister, don’t feel anyways troubled about me for I am as well off as I ever was. I hope to get safe through it all. We have a little brush most every week with the rebel pickets. I have no more to say this time but I remain your affectionate brother, — Michael Nevin
Dear sister, I intended Mary a time to ask you if you had to pay postage for my letters when they got there. Some men says they have to be paid for. If so, I don’t see what the use it is for them to frank our envelopes for us. Let me know if you had. I will always try to get postage stamps.
¹ John H. Silver served as a teamster in the 17th Massachusetts Infantry from July 1861 to August 1864. John and Mary Moria Nevin were married on 6 September 1859.
These ten letters were written by William Edwards Augur (1836-1903), the son of Horace Augur (1804-1874) and Catharine Hanson (1808-1852) of New Haven county, Connecticut. Before the war, William resided in his parents home and worked as an architect in New Haven. In September 1861, he enlisted for three years in Co. C, 7th Connecticut Infantry. He fought with the regiment in the Carolinas, Florida and Virginia before he was discharged in September 1864 as a corporal. A large collection of his letters were donated in 2012 to the Whitney Library under the title, “Letters to Addie, the Civil War Correspondence of William Edwards Augur (1836-1903).” The donors name was Peter Markle, a descendant.
One month after William was discharged from the service, he married Addie C. Phelps (b. 1836) of Northampton, Massachusetts. It appears that the couple became acquainted prior to the Civil War when Addie’s older sister, Julia Rockwell Phelps (1828-1921) took a position as a school teacher in New Haven and boarded in the Augur household.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
In this interesting letter, William writes to his friend Addie giving her the regiment’s movements day by day from June 1st to June 10th in the days leading up to the Battle of Secessionville on James Island near Charleston.
Addressed to Miss Addie C. Phelps, Northampton, Mass.
James Island, South Carolina
[Tuesday,] June 10th 1862
My own Addie Dear,
The past week has been an eventful one to us. We left Pulaski Sunday morn, June 1st and arrived at Edisto about five. Went on shore, landed all our tents &c., and then went on board again in light marching order (leaving our knapsacks behind), bound for the next island (John’s) on which we landed about midnight and lay down in the sand to get what sleep we could. Monday morn [June 2nd] we cooked our own breakfasts, bathed, and lay in the sand until about ten when we started on our march with the sun pouring down on our poor heads. After marching about four miles we halted for the night, built fires, cooked supper, spread our blankets and lay down to rest on mother earth.
Tuesday morn. [June 3rd]—One of our companies were out in picket last night and one of the men bad a little adventure. A secesh tried to stab him but did not succeed, and made his escape in the bushes. It commenced raining this forenoon and we have had to take it the best we could, most of us making little shanties of sods and rails and using our rubber blankets for a roof, making a passable shelter.
Wednesday morn. [June 4th] The rain fell in torrents last night and the wind blew most of our shanties down, leaving the inmates to the mercy of the rain. Mine stood very well so I did not get as wet as some. The rain has held up and we have had our guns inspected and damaged cartridges replaced. Our cavalry (part of a Mass. regiment) have been all over the island and report no secesh of any account. Our brigade formed in line and had a grand review just before dark, and we have gone back to lie down with things on ready to march at a moment’s notice.
Thursday morn. [June 5th]—We commenced our march about two o’clock this morn (the rain commencing the same time) and had a hard march of thirteen miles through the rain pouring down from above, and the water and mud averaging six inches deep in the roads. That march will be long remembered by us all. Reaching our stopping place (Stonhoe) about ten A. M. and are quartered in the houses. Made fires, dried our clothes, cooked dinner, &c. This is a very pleasant place and we are now within about six miles of Charleston.
Friday [June 6th]—The sun has made its appearance once more and we have had inspection, dried our cartridges and received orders to be ready to move at a moment’s notice across the river to James Island. Crossed over about three P. M. and arrived at our resting place about dark, built fires, cooked supper, and lay down on mother earth again to dream of home and the dear ones there. What a time we are having. We are lying within range of a rebel battery.
Saturday [June 7th]—I have got so used to this life that I slept all night in spite of a shower we had and feeling first rate today although it is raining. About four P. M., our regiment with a company of cavalry started off after the enemy and such a road we traveled I never saw before—mud ankle deep or more and very slippery and obliged to walk in single file part of the way. We drove in their pickets and had a little skirmish with a part of their force. About four thousand being just ahead of us. After we found out their position, we fell back (only one of our men wounded) and reached camp about ten in a drenching rain, built fires, dried ourselves what little we could and lay down to sleep. How delightful.
Sunday [June 8th]—Cloudy this morn but no rain yet. The 46th New York and some other regiments have gone out skirmishing. Commenced raining again before noon. Firing on our left where we went yesterday. Gun Boats throwing shells into the woods. Our regiment & others formed in line ready to march. One corporal and three men of the secesh picket brought in prisoners. Six of our companies have gone out on picket. Firing ceased. 46th [New York] returned with two killed and ten wounded. They went where we did yesterday. Our tents have arrived and we have put them up. They seem a luxury after being out in the rain so long. How little things seemed like the Sabbath. I hope we shall not be obliged to spend many more in such a way.
Monday [June 9th] Had a cool rain all night. Very thankful for the shelter of our tents. The whole rebel line was alarmed last night. Cleaned our guns &c. Not quite so much rain today. Firing from our Gun Boats, rebel battery, and pickets. We are lying on our arms ready to start at a moment’s notice. Cleared up and I hope it will not rain again for a few days. Started out about three P. M. to protect our pickets, formed in line under shelter of a ridge, with shell from secesh battery falling close to us. One of our pickets slightly wounded with a buck shot. Returned to camp, cooked supper and turned in for a good nights rest. Hope we will not be alarmed.
Tuesday [June 10th] It is a lovely morn. The sesesh battery fires occasionally but we have got used to that and do not mind it. I am in good health and very thankful to our Heavenly Father for his protecting care. I do not know how soon I may be called to lay down my life. I trust I am prepared at any time and can bow meekly to His will whatever it may be. He doeth all things well.
God bless you my Addie dear. I am in haste as we may be called on to march any moment. Direct your letters to Port Royal and they will be sent wherever the regiment is.
Every your, — William
Love to all.
Pages 1 & 4
Pages 2 & 3
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
New Haven, Connecticut
January 22, 1863
At home for the last time for the next eight months, and how lonesome it seems here with my own loved one far away. How I wish you were here to give me a goodbye kiss.
Tuesday I returned to Hartford, and found your letter awaiting me, which gave me very much pleasure. Your picture I am very much pleased with, and shall find it a very pleasant and ever present companion to cheer me in my wanderings, and help me resist temptation, for it will be easier to resist with that loving face so near my heart, knowing how that loving look would change to a sad one should I do anything unworthy of me, or aught to bring a blush to the face of my own precious Addie. Pray for me, Addie dear, that I may have the strength given me to resist all temptation to do evil.
I think I shall like your dress, but I always like to see a dress made and on the wearer before I pass judgement.
I am very, very, much pleased to hear you have given up vest making, even for a month or two, and hope and pray you may be restored to health and strength again soon, and I thank you very much for doing it to please me, as I shall ever be for all similar favors.
Mrs. Augur wants me to invite you here to make a visit. I am in favor of your coming for I think the change will do you good.
Wednesday I came down here as the 7th [Connecticut Vols.] were expected home. They arrived here about three and had a grand reception. About three hundred and fifty have reenlisted and they are all looking finely. Forty-four of my company are here, and I am afraid I shall be quite lonesome down south until they return for they comprise the best part of the company—those left behind being mostly recruits.
If I had been with them and had no loved Addie, I should have reenlisted; as it is, I am afraid I should have been strongly tempted. You need however have no fears now of my reenlisting, for I do not think my health would allow me to if I wished.
The 6th [Connecticut Vols.] arrived about ten last evening, and the 5th [Connecticut Vols.] is on the way. The 10th, 12th, and 13th are expected home soon, and all together will make about three thousand veterans from this state; at least two-thirds that could have so reenlisted as it is necessary to serve two years before they are allowed to.
The quota of this state must be more than filled now, and still recruiting is brisk. Our first colored regiment is full and the second has been commenced.
I went up to Hartford again yesterday and returned last evening. I go to New London this afternoon, as we are to leave there tonight so I have had little time to write a long letter but will promise you long ones hereafter.
We are to sail from New York tomorrow. God bless and keep you my own precious one and permit a safe return to me with many happy years together.
With lots of warm, true love, I remain your own, — William
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE
Headquarters Volunteer Recruiting Services
Fort Trumbull, Connecticut
February 10, 1863
I received your letter this afternoon just as I was wondering if it had not gone off in search of the missing one. I cannot imagine where that letter has strayed to but I do not know as I can find any fault with it for wanting to keep away from this out of the way place, for I would do the same if I could.
I should like to have seen sister Julia’s friend in her wedding attire, but still better would I like to see my own lived Addie dressed in her wedding, and have the great pleasure of placing the ring on her finger that should bind her to me through all this life and—what’s in store for me beyond the grave we know not, but can hope for—and so live here that it will be happiness. I often in my evening walks pass by cheerful looking homes and my imagination pictures the happiness hid from my view, and how I envy the inmates of these pleasant homes. And my heart grows sad with longing and waiting for a home. Shall I ever have one? My selfishness, if it can be called such) and my love of country have many conflicts to see which is the strongest. Sometimes one and then the other seems to be the victor.
Would that this war might end soon and return to their homes the remaining absent loved ones. Many have found a resting place on the battlefield and waiting friends will wait in vain for their return. May their meeting in the other world be a happy one.
I am very much disposed to find fault with my lot when I think if my own case alone, but when I compare it with thousands of others who have given up much more than I have, then I feel ashamed of myself, and try to be very, very patient, and wait God’s good time for I know he is working all things for some good end, and my place is to work and wait, not find fault.
I have not yet heard anything further in regard to returning to the Sunny South and it now looks as though we might stay here two or three months longer, but you must be prepared to hear of my departure anytime. I think of going to New Haven next Saturday and return Monday, if my work will allow me to. If I go, I shall miss seeing you very much. I wish you lived near enough so I could come and spend the Sabbaths with you, and I think I should then be very contented with my position here. Have patience, William. God is good.
I think it will be a good plan for us to have a regular time for sending our letters and propose sending mine (after this week) on Friday, and you will probably not get it until Saturday, and you send yours Tuesday so I can receive it Wednesday. It is such a long distance from here to Northampton that it takes two days for letters to go through.
Wednesday afternoon. Just received a letter from home and they have not seen the missing letter. Miss Carrie Hubbard has finally gone home and I am very glad of it and hope no more strangers will come to take her place. We had fish chowder for dinner today and expect to have a clam chowder soon. Don’t you think we are living high considering that we are Uncle Sam’s children?
There is no prospect of being paid off yet and I guess by the time it does come, I will have so much due me that I will be at a loss to know what to do with it.
Goodbye Addie dear. With lots of love, good wishes &c., I remain yours, — William
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FOUR
Fort Trumbull, Connecticut
March 5, 1863
I am sorry to say it is nine o’clock P. M. and my work has been such that this is the earliest moment that I could commence answering your letters. I finished the muster and pay rolls and sent them off last night so that is one good job done. Muster day does not come only one in two months; that is some consolation. Since then I have been busy preparing for Gen. Wool’s reception and this afternoon we all had to turn out with knapsacks and all the other articles necessary to torment a poor soldier, and go through with a review and drill of about three hours. It is six months within a few days since I have carried a knapsack, gun, &c. and just at present I feel lame, tired, and wish various wishes, among the rest that I was my own master once more. My hand trembles so from the effects of carrying that old, twenty-pound gun (I should judge) that I can hardly write. I hope the General will not make us another call while I am here.
Eighteen months of the term of my enlistment expires tonight, so I have something to rejoice over, having arrived at the half way house, and I feel about the same as I did the first day I marched with a knapsack on. I wonder where another eighteen months will find me. I hope in a pleasant home with you my love. God is good and doth all things well.
I can hardly realize that it is spring, for it does not seem but a very short time since I came home from the South, and I expected to be back there again long before this, and I almost wished I was there this afternoon. I have heard nothing from the regiment yet, and have some doubts whether I ever shall again.
My head is not very clear tonight so I shall be obliged to cut my letter short again, and trust to be excused for so doing. You will excuse men dearest, will you not?
Goodnight my love. Sweet, pleasant dreams. Mine last night were of pay rolls. Yours as ever, with much love, — William E. A.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FIVE
Fort Trumbull, Connecticut
April 9, 1863
I feel very thankful to our kind Heavenly Father for restoring you to health again. Truly He is very good to us. I had a snow storm for company home last Saturday and a rain storm all day Sunday, so that I could only attend church in the forenoon. Monday it was very pleasant and after doing my duty at the ballot box, I called on Charles. He is quite lame, but goes without either crutch or cane. I am afraid he will never recover entirely. I found sister Mary in New Haven and made her a call, and she wanted my picture. I had half a dozen taken and will send you one when I receive them.
Monday afternoon O took a walk out for my health and enjoyed it nicely. The birds seemed to be unusually happy, and were expressing their happiness in a very musical way. I wished you were with me to enjoy it. The frogs also seemed to be aware the spring had returned for they were making all the noise they could. Their music is not very sweet. Still there is something pleasant about it for it tells us that pleasant weather is near.
In the evening I went to Brewster’s Hall to hear the returns read as they came in and you may be sure I felt like rejoicing at the good news. I was a very little afraid old Connecticut would disgrace herself by electing Seymour and now that she has proved true to the right, I love her more than ever. May she ever be as true. This election will have a good effect on our army and a bad one on the rebels.
I see by the papers that the attack on Charleston has commenced and I hope it will be successful this time. The land forces have taken the same road we did. I received a letter from Sgt. Merriam last night and it says they are enjoying themselves nicely, having good quarters, plenty to eat, &c. They have an opportunity to enjoy a sail occasionally and I guess they enjoy themselves well enough without me. Don’t you think so?
I want to see you very much but shall try to be very patient for perhaps I cannot come up before next month, I have so much to do. I have been very busy since I returned, making out muster rolls for the muster, called for tomorrow by the Adjutant General, and when this job is finished, I have got to commence making out a Descriptive List of all deserters for this post since the recruiting service commenced.
I propose as we have been interrupted inn our reading, that we commence on next Sunday with the 1st Chapter of Saint John, and I trust it will be for our good and bear some good fruit.
I have got lots to do just now and shall probably have to be up most of the night, so please excuse me now. With the same warm love, I remain yours, — William
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER SIX
Fort Trumbull, Connecticut
July 16, 1863
Would that I might leave my work for a few days and spend them with you, my love. But no, I am tied down here now completely and have given up all hopes of seeing you at present.
It has been a very long time with us all here during the last three weeks. Everything has been turned over to a new Superintendent and his office has been removed to Hartford, which now throws more work on me, and has left me here almost alone, as Lt. Hatch, Westervelt, & Fenton have also gone.
A company has been organized here from the Vol. Regiments and recruiting parties and left for New Haven, Tuesday morning (rumor said last night they had gone to New York [draft riots]). I should have gone with them but my work could not be left undone, and no one else here could do it, so I had to stay and work until it seemed last week as though I should go crazy. I hardly had five minutes that I could call my own during the whole week and how I longed to leave it all and go to your dear old home, and find rest, and a dear loved one to make me forget all the rest of the world for a time.
I had all of my Quarterly Returns to make out also and it seemed as though everything had been reserved for this particular time.
Another company has been organized here and we are all ready in case our services should be needed here, but I do not think they will. The draft takes place here today. My work is waiting for me so I must say goodbye.
I thank you very, very much, my own dear one, for your long letter in return for what I have sent. Bear with me very patiently a little longer, dearest, for I am yet too tired and worn out to write more now. Goodbye for now, my precious one. With warm true love, I remain your own, — William
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER SEVEN
Fort Trumbull, Conn.
August 29th 1863
I have been relieved from duty here and ordered to the Superintendent in Hartford immediately, but I cannot get my work so I can leave it until Monday, when I intend to go to New Haven and stop over night before reporting in Hartford.
The Muster & Pay rolls have not been commenced yet, and I shall have to work all day tomorrow and all night I expect.
You need not write until you hear from me again, so I can tell you how to direct your letter. Received one from you this morning.
I much haste & as ever your own, — William
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER EIGHT
Headquarters Vol. Recruiting Service
October 1st 1863
We have made a change in our Headquarters having moved from Main to Trumbull Street. We have a very pleasant office now on the first floor but cannot see all this is going on as well as before, but can see enough.
The State militia are in camp two or three miles out of town and I went or rather started out to see them Tuesday afternoon but found the walk too long and so spent the time very pleasantly roaming around the woods. It has been very pleasant for a few days and it seemed good to get outside the city and enjoy it. The evenings have also been delightful and I wish very often I could enjoy them with my own lobed one. I find it very lonesome here but it is always so away from you. The months are passing away very fast however—only eleven more short months to serve, and these will soon pass away leaving me free once more to claim you as my own precious “wife.” Many happy days are in store for us I trust and I do not think they will be less happy for this long waiting.
There is a Negro Regiment now being raised in Rhode Island and one or more companies for it are to be raised in this State if they can be. I can have a commission in one of them if I wish it. I do not, however, think enough of a commission to accept one in any regiment as I am now situated. What do you think about it?
I have not found out where No. 30 Chestnut Street is yet but think I shall be able to some time (if I try).
I think I shall go to New Haven Saturday night, returning Monday morning. With you cold be there to keep me company, &c. If it is pleasant the middle of the month, I think I can come up and see you two or three days, and so take some pleasant walks out to see the beauty of Autumn. I enjoy a walk out into the woods very much after the trees have put on their Autumn dresses, but I always want some dear friend to enjoy it with me.
Goodbye for the present. With much love, your William
Evening. No time to write more. As ever, yours, — William
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER NINE
February 23, 1864
I arrived at the Head [Hilton Head, S. C.] on the 4th and on the 5th we started on an expedition to Florida, landed on the 8th, and since then have been on the move, having marched almost two hundred miles.
We marched about thirty-five miles and fought a four hours long battle [see Battle of Olustee] in twenty hours. I came out all safe, although our regiment lost heavily. We are now just out of Jacksonville, but expect to move soon so I have no time to write at present but will as soon as we get a little settled. Please write soon and direct to Corp. W. E. A., Co. C, 7th C. V., Port Royal, S. C.
With love, your son, — William
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TEN
Headquarters District of Florida, Dept. of the South
April 3d 1864
Dear Father, Mother, and all the folks,
I received your letters and papers all safe, but have been too busy to answer them before. I like my present place here, with the exception of working too many hours, but as we have another clerk now, I expect that will be remedied soon. I have been here three weeks today and have not had time to visit my regiment during the time. We commence work at eight on the morning and do not usually get through before eight in the evening, and sometimes later. I had much rather work twelve hours per day here however than to do duty in my company.
About two weeks ago our men picked up two torpedoes down the river which the rebels placed there with the best of wishes for their success probably, but were disappointed. Friday morning, however, they had better success and exploded one under one of our transports (about twelve miles above here) which injured her so badly that she sank in about five minutes, and took down four men with her. The next day three companies of the 7th [Connecticut Vols.] were detailed for boat service on the river, and are now patrolling it to see that another such incident does not occur.
Yesterday they sent in several deserters which they picked up and today they sent in ten more. Hardly a day passes with out some coming in, and a sorry-looking set they are as each one dresses as he best can, and their clothes are of a dirty color when now, so you can imagine how they would look when almost worn out. Hardly any two of them have on hats alike, and most of them look as though they required something to lean against to keep them from falling.
The mail leaves in a short time so I shall have no time to write more now. I am in the best of health and expect to be home and make you all a visit next September.
Remember me to all the folks with much love and good wishes, — W. E. Augur
[Enclosed, General Orders No. 13, Headquarters, District of Florida, Department of the South, Jacksonville, Florida, dated March 10, 1864]
I believe this letter was written by Asst. Surgeon Emile Gavarret, a native of France, who served aboard the U.S.S. Marmora in 1864. He had previously served on board the Receiving Ship Clara Dolson at Cairo, Illinois. After the Civil War, he opened a medical practice in St. Louis, Missouri, at 5 South 4th Street.
Thomas Gibson, Acting Master commanding the USS Marmora in September 1864 complained to Rear Admiral David D. Porter that a smallpox outbreak onboard his vessel threatened the crew and that he had “no surgeon attached to the vessel…since the 20th of June.”
USS Marmora was a stern wheel paddle steamer in the United States Navy. Marmora was built at Monongahela, Pennsylvania, in 1862, was purchased by the Navy at St. Louis, Missouri, on 17 September 1862 from Messrs. Brenan, Nelson, and McDonnell; and commissioned at Carondelet, Missouri, on 21 October 1862, Captain Robert Getty in command. The ship saw action at Vicksburg, Mississippi, November/December, 1862; Fort Hindman, Arkansas, January 4 to 11, 1863; Yazoo River operations, February/March, 1863; various action along Mississippi River, 1863; Yazoo City, Mississippi, March, 1864; in reserve at Mound City, Illinois until decommissioning. Three Marmora sailors were awarded the Medal of Honor for action at Yazoo City, March 5, 1864.
January 7th 1864
I received a letter this week from Em & Lucy written the middle of last month. I judge you had written one previously that I haven’t received.
There is nothing particularly new. It has been very cold here. There at C[orinth] ice is passing down the river in large pieces so as to half cover the river.
We seized a government cotton boat today. Are on track of two. It is not yet known whether or not they will be condemned. We are having a very comfortable time—have fresh hog in abundancy etc. Had possum today. Will have some ducks tomorrow. Had turkey Tuesday. Our mess for two months is $7.00 against $50 for that time at Newport.
It is becoming quite warm again although communication between Memphis & Cairo is cut off by ice. How long it will continue is unknown.
I think it is likely something was written in regard to Little in the letter I have not received. Please inform me what.
Enclosed you will find some sewing silk and less I forget it, it cost 60 cents for 28 skeins.
I suppose I left my commission at home, did I not? Our Captain let his prize go, I presume he would do the same if he should capture 40.
When you hear from Daniel, write from what he wrote me the 5th December. I expect he has been to Washington.
I saw a patient on a cotton boat yesterday who died of lockjaw—a negro. Was well till night before. He died at 10 A. M. yesterday. It was the 1st case I ever saw.
If Daniel is at home and is coming out this way, I wish he would bring some French Grammars. Also a Botany of Vinnie if he can get it conveniently.
These letters were written by Private Daniel Hicks Hopping (1817-1868) of the 24th New York Cavalry. They include descriptions of the battles of Cold Harbor, the Crater (Petersburg), Weldon Railroad (Petersburg), and two cavalry raids toward Stony Creek Station. Hopping was a 44-year-old carriage maker in 1861 when he enlisted in Battery A, 3rd New York Artillery. He was discharged for disability in March 1862, but in August 1863 enlisted in the 15th New York Cavalry. Again he was discharged, this time for being “too slight” (Hopping stood 5’ 6” but must have been pencil thin). In December 1863 he enlisted in the 24th New York Cavalry, a regiment made up largely of men from the old 24th New York Infantry, whose term had expired earlier in the year.
Daniel Hopping was born in Throopsville, Cayuga county, New York—the son of Silas Hopping, Jr. (1779-1868) and Maria Hunt (1782-1874). He wrote the letter to his brother Joseph Hopping (1811-1893). Daniel was married to Sophia J. Hurd (1835-1863) but enlisted in the 24th New York Cavalry after her death on 26 July 1863.
Battlefield [Cold Harbor]
June 9th 1864
Yours of May 26th has been received. I was glad to hear from you. I wrote Caty June 2nd, I think. Soon after I mailed her letter, our brigade was ordered to move. We marched about three miles and halted for a rest, It was very warm and dusty and we were told to cook our dinner and make ourselves comfortable. Our meal was soon dispatched as we had nothing but hard crackers and coffee when we lay down for a rest. We were soon aroused by a sharp volley of musketry, half a mile in our rear, and found that our rear guard had been attacked. ¹ We were soon in line of battle and started at double quick to support our rear and reach a line of rifle pits distant ¼ of a mile. ² Skirting the edge of the woods, we had to cross the open field. We gained half the distance and were met by a volley of minié balls, but we reached the rifle pits in time although we were under a heavy fire for some distance.
We suffered some loss before we had gained our position, but not as much as I should have supposed under the circumstances. We were but nicely in position when the rebs charged on us. On they came, yelling like demons. But we were ready for them. It was the last charge many of them will ever make. Our artillery soon commenced shelling from our rear, and the enemy opened on us with shell, grape and canister, but our position was such that the enemy fire was not very effective.
The battle lasted from four until eight P. M. What the loss on the side of the enemy was will not be known soon, but I was told by those who looked up our dead and wounded that they lay very thick near our rifle pits. The loss in the 24th [N. Y.] Cavalry was 106 killed, wounded, and missing. What our whole loss was I have not been able to learn.
At nine P. M., our brigade fell back a mile and took up another position working all night entrenching. Next morning at four o’clock, the enemy were attacked, they having advanced a division, taking position about one fourth of a mile from our front. The 24th [New York Cavalry] being in the front line and occupying a position to support the artillery, gave us a fair view of the engagement—or part of it. The attack was made by a brigade of Pennsylvania troops who advanced on the enemy across our breastworks and charged the first line of the rebs. ³ A heavy line of skirmishers appeared in the edge of the woods some forty rods in front of our line. The instant our troops had crossed it, but were quickly driven back as our brave fellows advanced unflinching, but some of them never reached the woods. Some fell before they had advanced twenty paces from our breastwork.
The wounded were assisted to the rear as quickly as possible. I noticed one poor fellow who was shot through the cheek, his tongue hanging from his mouth having been severed by the ball. There are many incidents of that terrible battle which I cannot mention now. The rebs fought like very devils but they were met every time and repulsed. The battle ceased at dark and the rebs fell back as usual leaving us in possession of their earthworks.
We are now nine miles from Richmond. There has been no fighting for several days except skirmishing, but I am looking for a heavy battle soon. Our army is building very strong fortifications and making other preparations for defense. You have an opportunity of knowing more of the army movements than I have as I but seldom see a paper.
My health is still very good although I have seen some tough times. You must continue to write and give me all the news. I have not yet received Caty’s letter containing the stamps, but I may soon. I send my best wishes to you all. Tell Caty and all of them to write.
Yours truly, — D. H. Hopping
¹ The 24th New York Cavalry (dismounted) were brigaded with the 2nd N. Y. Mounted Rifles (dismounted), the 14th N. Y. Heavy Artillery and the 2nd Penn. Provisional Heavy Artillery (these last two heavy artillery units being used as infantrymen). The Brigade was attached to Thomas L. Crittenden’s 1st Division in Burnside’s 9th Army Corps. When the 24th N. Y. Cav. was ordered to rest, they were near the Bowles farm, deployed in a line south of the Shady Grove Road. It was General Jubal Early’s three divisions led by Rodes, Gordon and Heth that swung around Bethesda Church and attacked the far right of the Union lines on Thursday afternoon, June 2nd.
² These rifle pits were the same ones built during the fight on May 30, 1864.
³ Crittenden’s brigade was held in reserve supporting the artillery while Griffin, Willcox, and Potter assaulted Early’s men on the morning of June 3rd.
In the following letter, Hopping describes the 30 July 1864 Battle of the Crater and the artillery duel that preceded it on the 28th. The 24th New York Cavalry (dismounted because they were not yet given horses) were assigned to Col. Humphrey’s 2nd Brigade, Brig. General Willcox’s Third Division, of Maj. General Burnside’s 9th Corps. Humphrey’s Brigade entered the fight around 8:30 A. M. and managed to break through the Confederate works on the south flank of the crater but the success was short-lived. By the time the USCT entered the fray, the field was strewn with a flow of wounded and panicked comrades, slowing their progress.
Addressed to J. H. Hopping, Esq., Auburn, New York
[Before Petersburg, Virginia]
July 29, 1864
Yours of the 18th I have received. Also one from Catz which I have answered. On the 28th our Brigade was ordered to be in readiness for the march in one hour’s time. Accordingly, tents were struck, our traps packed, and we were soon on the move. A soldier is supposed to know nothing in the service except to obey orders. We moved back to the rear out of sight of the Rebs’ lookout posts, then marched down to the left along our line some five miles. We are stationed on the extreme left and to the rear, forming a skirmish line and picket line about a mile in advance of the skirmish line to prevent a flank movement of the enemy, or a surprise. There are other troops in connection with us.
I’m out on picket now. We have five men on a post stationed some 15 rods apart. My post is in the edge of the woods a short distance from the residence of some planter who has taken the oath of allegiance and remains at home with his family protected by a pile of our men, laughing in his sleeve in the meantime probably at how he is coming it over the Yankees. I hope we may be kept on this duty the balance of the campaign. We are away from the dust, smoke, and many other disagreeables closely connected with the main body of the army.
Last night about sundown, cannonading commenced in the direction of Petersburg. It soon became very severe for a mile or more along the line. Heavy mortars, sixty-four pounder siege guns and of various caliber were used in such rapid succession, causing such a continual reverberation that one could hardly distinguish one gun from another. The sky was illumined over Petersburg with all the appearance that the city was in flames on account of the distance and continual discharge of artillery. I could not tell whether they were engaged with small arms or not. You need not be surprised to hear that a severe engagement has taken place and that Petersburg is in ashes.
I had to close suddenly day before yesterday. Our picket line received orders to fall back to the skirmish line, pack up at once and be ready to march at a moment’s notice. We marched back to the right and halted near our camp which we left two days before. We had orders to rest until three o’clock and then be ready to march with nothing but our arms, haversacks, and canteen. It began to look ominous of a battle.
We started at three directly for the front and in the direction of Petersburg. We halted near our front line and found a large force of the 9th Corps massed for an attack on the enemy. We waited until the sun was about rising when we were startled suddenly by a convulsive movement of the earth and a dull, heavy explosion. Almost simultaneously one hundred pieces of artillery belched forth pouring tons of shot and shell into the enemy’s front lines of earthworks. The ball had opened. A rebel fort had blown to atoms. Standing in front and close to their front line of works, before the enemy had time to recover (from the effects of the explosion), a division of the 9th Corps had charged on their front line and carried it. The enemy had now become fully sensible of what was transpiring and opened on our men with grape and canister and musketry from their second line, but wholly regardless of danger they soon reached the 2nd line and carried it. But it was done at a fearful cost of life. A terrible artillery duel was going on dealing death on every hand. Our division held what they had gained until ten o’clock when a division of colored troops were ordered in to relieve them and charge on the 3rd line. They went in and advanced near to the 3rd line when the Black Rascals broke and run like sheep. That decided the battle. The day was lost. The enemy charged on them and soon had taken back all we had gained. With the exception of the explosion of the fort, they stood where they did before the battle commenced. I am informed the fort contained 2 regiments with a General and his staff. The fort presented a horrible sight when our troops reached it. Men mangled in all ways imaginable.
I have it from good authority that our loss is five thousand—3 of white and 2 of colored troops in killed, wounded and prisoners. I suppose we have lost more in prisoners than the enemy have. Yesterday at four P. M., Burnside asked for a truce to bury the dead and remove the wounded [but] for some reason it was not granted until this morning at 8 o’clock. It lasted four hours. It was a hard sight to see them lying on the field within a few rods from our works and could render no assistance. Many died no doubt which might have been saved could they have received help but such is the fortunes of war.
I have not space to give you a description of this battle as I would like to. I would like to see what the press says about it. Please send me a paper. I had some pretty close calls that day but am all right yet. I consider this campaign a total failure.
Give my best regards to all the family. Yours &c., — D. H. H.
Before Petersburg [Virginia]
August 16, 1864
Yours of August 11th I have just received. We are in the same position as when I wrote you last, holding the line where the charge was made from on July 30th [see Battle of the Crater]. Butler has had a fight down on the right and I hear has command of the railroad from Petersburg to Richmond. How far otherwise he has been successful, I did not learn. There is now only on line of battle in the center where our brigade are. The troops are lying in our rear having been sent either to the right or left. There has nothing transpired recently in our vicinity of much note. The usual picket and artillery firing is kept up. A few men are killed or wounded every day.
It is intensely hot today. We had a good rain two days ago which was very reviving. There are many sick and our Division Hospital is filling up fast so I hear. I have not been feeling very well for some days. Still able to do duty, but there are many in the regiment in a worse condition than myself.
I received Caty’s letter with $3 all right and answered it. I think the 75th will find it some rougher campaigning in Virginia than they did in Louisiana. We read about the [American] Revolution trying men’s souls. This campaign tries both soul and body. You mention a fight the 9th Corps had with the enemy on the 7th inst. Part of the corps might have been in the fight but not to my knowledge.
Do the abolitionists still say use up the last man and the last dollar to subjugate the South? If they do, they had better shoulder the musket and turn out en masse, and come down here. I think they would find it quite a different affair. I believe the best military men in the Federal army are convinced that it’s time to have peace otherwise than by fighting, and that it can be done honorably to both parties. I think it a poor argument to say that after we have sacrificed millions of human lives and almost impoverished the country, that we must fight it out if the country is ruined beyond redemption. For my part, I have seen enough of fighting and enough of the war as it has been carried on, and I am for peace and I almost know that I am speaking the sentiments of the mass of the Potomac Army. The sacrifices and sufferings of the Army of the Potomac in this summer campaign has been sufficient to establish peace to the country if the conduct of the war had been just and right, and I hope the All-wise Being who ruleth the universe will put it in the hearts of the people of the nation to see that peace is better than war, and that might is not right.
Excuse this short letter as I am pressed for time. Write soon as I don’t like to see the mail come unless I get a letter. Give my kind regards to all the family and friends. Yours truly, — D. H. Hopping
P. S. Tell Amead to write and tell me what he thinks of the war.
Before Petersburg [Virginia]
September 4th 1864
Yours of August 24th I have received and read with pleasure. It must be quite exciting times with those liable to the draft and profitable to those who wish to avail themselves of the opportunity to go as substitutes. But if I was in Cayuga county, a free man, and was offered a good title to the whole county to serve one year in this double-damned nigger war—knowing what I now know, I would consider myself insulted. This accursed war was instituted by demagogues and gamblers of the North and from thousands of sanctuaries throughout the Northern States have ascended prayers to the Almighty to sustain them in this unnatural and wicked wholesale murder. Never in the view I take of matters was such blasphemy and insult offered to the great Author and Judge of all mankind.
I see by the papers that McClellan has he nomination for the Presidency on the Democratic ticket. Well I am no politician, but I think it is quite time that something was done to bring about a better state of things. For the past ten days, our brigade have been almost continually on duty or on the march day and night. It is almost a miracle that many of the 24th are let to tell their friends that they are still in the Army of the Potomac.
About ten days ago, we occupied some works in the advance, not more than twenty rods from the enemy. Orders came to march at three in the morning. About twelve at night, the enemy opened two batteries on us from right and left, with shells filled with iron bullets from the size of a musket ball to that of an inch diameter. The batteries were so near that the shell would burst before the report of the gun could be heard, giving us no warning until we saw the blaze of the infernal shell and heard the whizzing of its fragments and its contents. Often before the report died away could be heard the painful cry of some of our comrades who had fallen to rise no more. Two men were killed that morning within a few feet of me and many were wounded all round me. One shell bursting within ten feet of me wounded five, two of them mortally. Perhaps some protecting hand warded off the deadly missiles.
At the taking of the Weldon Railroad, our regiment were on picket. We had just been relieved by another regiment not to exceed twenty minutes when they were flanked by a large force of the enemy and all captured with eight of our men who had stopped to talk with some of the relief. I don’t know but we were unfortunate in being relieved so soon.
We are now some three miles from Petersburg building breastworks, and forty in advance of the old line of works, and straightening the line. Our regiment are on fatigue twenty-four hours and on picket the next twenty-four. It has been quiet along the lines for some days. The enemy in our front are about a mile off. The indications are that we are preparing for winter quarters here, if necessary.
My health is very good. Tell Caty I am sorry to hear that she is still sick. I found the stamps all right. I don’t wonder that Francis don’t like campaigning in Virginia. Where was he when he wrote you? Tell him I would like to hear from him.
Give my best respects to all the family and friends. Yours truly, — D. H. Hopping
Winter Quarters, Virginia
We are near our old camp some 3 iles from Petersburg, staying 3 in a log shanty when we are not out scouting, on a raid, or on picket, which we are ¾ of the time. On the night of the 29th of November, a party of 75 from the regiment went in search of a guerrilla camp guided by a contraband. We found the camp some 10 miles distant, nicely situated on a small island in a swamp. We came upon them about 2 o’clock in te morning and found them [to be] about fifteen in number, fast asleep, and we should have bagged the whole lot if one of the men had not fired his carbine too soon. We, however, killed 3, wounded 3 more, and took one prisoner. Also recovered 7 of our horses they had taken from us.
December 1st. Our Division [David McM. Gregg’s entire Second Cavalry Division] went out to Stony Creek Station on the Weldon Railroad some twenty miles from camp. We captured 190 prisoners including 7 commissioned officers, 5 baggage wagons, 30 mules, and 5 horses, and burnt the freight house containing some considerable army stores. ¹ We also burnt a large steam grist and saw mill. We had some sharp skirmishing for a short time. The loss on either side was slight.
December 7th, the Division started on a raid accompanied by part of the 2nd and 5th Corps. We reached the Weldon Railroad near Stony Creek Station the first day and destroyed some 3 miles of track before dark. Next morning the infantry ² joined us and we operated together destroying the road as far as Belfield, some forty miles from Petersburg where we found the enemy in strong force and entrenched. ³ The object of the raid seemed to have been accomplished thus far. We had very effectually destroyed over 20 miles of railroad. A whole brigade would take hold of the rail and ties and turn the whole thing over bodily. Another party followed in the rear, building fires from pine fence rails which were plenty, buring the ties and warping the rails so that they were entirely useless.
A severe storm of rain mixed with snow now set in and rations for men and horses being nearly exhausted I think prevented an attack being made on the enemy’s works. We countermarched by the same road we marched out by. The enemy followed us some 25 miles and we had skirmishing in the rear and flank considerable of the time. Passing through the small village of Comans Well, we learned that 5 infantrymen which had straggled to the rear had been killed by bushwhackers. Gen. Warren now issued an order to burn everything of value on the road and the order was obeyed to the letter. Some of the finest buildings I have seen in Virginia was on our road to camp and in less than 10 hours, there was nothing left of them but smoking embers and stacks of chimneys. There was much connected with the raid that the papers can better inform you of than I can. There must have been a large amount of property destroyed.
My facilities for letter writing are not very good at present and I am also pressed for time. I get but few letters. Yours of November 12th was the last. I wish my friends would write oftener and I will answer them all.
Yours truly, — D. H. Hopping
Regards to all.
¹ “Among the prisoners were significant numbers of dismounted men from the 4th South Carolina Cavalry and the Jeff Davis Legion of Mississippi. At least a few members of the Holcombe South Carolina Infantry were also present. After this fight, Gregg did what he could to destroy the supplies then located at Stony Creek Depot. The depot itself was burned, along with 3,000 sacks of corn, 500 bales of hay, a locomotive and cars, bacon, Government clothes, ammunition, and various other items.” [Source: The Siege of Petersburg Online]
² The infantry (22,000 men), were led by Gen. Gouverneur Warren and “consisted of his own three Fifth Corps divisions under Crawford, Griffin, and Ayres and Mott’s Division of the Second Corps. The men were given 60 rounds of ammo and 4 days rations to carry, with 40 more and two more in wagons One battery of artillery accompanied each infantry division in support. Much of Gregg’s Second Cavalry Division provided advance scouting and screening duties for the exposed column.” [Source: The Siege of Petersburg Online]
³ “The town of Belfield was just north of the Meherrin River, with Hicksford to the south. Confederate General Wade Hampton left most of his forces in three redoubts behind the Meherrin River in Hicksford. But he also sent the 5th North Carolina Cavalry across the river into Belfield to prop up the reserve infantry forces stationed there. The Confederates defending Belfield and Hicksford didn’t have long to wait before Gregg’s lead elements showed up around 3 p.m. Gregg probed with several feeble attacks, but at no point was a serious effort made to force a crossing. As the cavalry probed at the Confederates in Belfield, the Union infantry continued to wreck railroad, ultimately tearing up the track almost all the way to Hicksford, sixteen to seventeen miles in all over the course of the raid. The Federals found abundant Apple Brandy, or “Applejack,” in houses all along the route. Many Union soldiers got completely drunk, and some behaved very badly as a result. Around this time Warren learned that Confederate infantry was on its way. He was also worried that bad weather might trap him well south of the Union lines with the Nottoway River as a major obstacle. These pieces of information combined with the fact that his infantry had accomplished the main goal of the operation led him to the decision to reverse direction the following morning. The potential of winter weather was not an idle worry for Warren. The temperature plummeted as evening wore on, and sleet fell all night long. The Union soldiers who had tossed their overcoats carelessly aside early in this march would suffer greatly on the return trip. The Confederates, many of them barefoot, would have an even tougher time of it.” [Source: The Siege of Petersburg Online.]
January 16th 1865
Yours of the 1st inst. I received five days ago just as I was starting out on picket and have not had an opportunity to write sooner. The weather here is very changeable—cold enough today to freeze you, and warm as summer tomorrow.
I have nothing this time of importance to write about. The usual amount of picket and camp duty has not been varied for some time. The roads are almost impassable except for horsemen.
You ask if I had a Christmas dinner. I answer most emphatically, yes, and ate it with a keen relish, sitting on my horse in an orchard on picket. My dinner consisted of hard tack and raw pork, but the ghosts of former Christmas dinners and the remembrance of kind friends I enjoyed them with brought to my memory anything but pleasant reflection.
You say Wm. Hopping is about to volunteer again. If he can get some position that will pay, it will be very well.
I wish you would get some good boot maker to make a pair of boots from calf that will fit you with an insole inside, and extra taps, the legs good length. Have them by the first of Feruary, if possible. Your boots are plenty large for me. I want them in good taste and durable. I may come for them myself or I may send for them. Government boots are worthless and sutlers have an article they charge from $15 to most any price that will last about one month. As my duty is performed almost entirely in the saddle, I don’t want a very heavy boot.
Furloughs are given to some particular ones and I may get one if I can bring the proper influences. Tell Caty I will write to her soon. How does Father and Mother stand this cold winter? I hope as well as former ones. Remember me to them and to all the family and friends.
This letter was written by Sarah (Gilkes) Richards (1801-18xx), the wife of Robert G. Richards (1804-1875), a tobacconist, who emigrated from London, England, in 1843, aboard the ship George Stevens. The couple emigrated with five children to Penfield, Greene county, Georgia, but finding country life not to their liking, relocated after two years to New York City. In the 1850 and 1860 US Census records, Robert and Sarah were enumerated in New York City’s 16th Ward, District 3.
The youngest son was William Gilkes Richards (1837-1895). William was machinist and in 1875 he was elected engineer of the Atlanta Water Works—later superintendent of same. “Willey” was married to Mary Jacqueline Haynes (1840-1919 in 1860. The child of 11 months mentioned in this letter was Emma Y. Richards (1863-1852).
The eldest son was Robert H. Richards who returned to Georgia and started his career as a book seller in LaGrange, Georgia. He married Josephine Rankin in 1852 and lived most of the time in LaGrange until after the war though he had a partnership with Mr. McPherson in an Atlanta Book business. Immediately after the war, Robert partnered with General Austell to organize the Atlanta National Bank—eventually become the Vice President.
The author’s parents were William Gilkes and Hannah Walford of Oxfordshire, England. She wrote the letter to her sister Mary (Gilkes) Goffe who was married to a farmer and must have emigrated either at the same time (1843) as the Richards or just prior to the date of this letter in 1847. It appears the Goffe family settled in western New York State.
Address to Mrs. Goffe, Oakfield, Genesee, New York
My dear sister,
I dare say you think it strange that I have not written to you for so long but when I tell you the reason, I know you will forgive me. Early in the spring my husband and myself were both taken ill—so ill that we were both confined to our bed and obliged to close the store. My husband is still sick sometimes—able to sit up and then again abed for days altogether.
In a few weeks I recovered to my present, feeble state of health, but my trouble of mind about my husband and my children and I am suffering awfully from dyspepsia all combined together quite unfits me for anything.
When that infernal Sherman took Atlanta—as he ordered all the white people out—my Willey with his wife and youngest child, a very lovely little girl of 11 months, came on home. His wife and child are still with us but Willey has been from the city for the past 3 weeks in a shop but I expect him home on Saturday. It was a great loss to Willey. He lost a comfortable home and very nice furniture—very likely all now burnt up—and his little boy for a time, no one knew how long, is lost to him. When the city was being shelled, Robert took him to LaGrange for safekeeping and the soldiers came into the city before they expected them so that their little boy with my Robert is lost to us for the war. Such, my dear sister, are my trials through life.
Jake Milley’s wife don’t know what is become of her mother and her family.
Robert’s store with all its stock was burnt down several weeks before they took Atlanta. He could have got the insurance money but it had run out the day before.
We have had a doctor all summer and with the high state of things and such an increase in our family, I find it an awful expense. Mine has been to you a tale of woe and I anticipate nothing else the very little time that I shall be here. I trust, my dear sister, we shall meet in a better world.
Sarah and her family are well. My husband joins me in love to you all. If brother is with you, give my kind love to him. I have heard nothing from England. Write to me as soon as you can. Hope that your prospect is bright for both worlds.
I remain, my dear sister, your affectionate sister, — S. Richards
This letter was written by Surgeon Enoch Pearce of the 61st Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI). It is undated and was most likely a first draft that he prepared to send to the Quarter Master Department in Washington D. C. in an attempt to close out property accounts he was responsible for during the war.
A biographical sketch of Enoch Pearce was published in the Steubenville Daily Gazette on 14 January 1916 that reads:
Dr. Pearce was born November 18, 1832 at Westminster, near Baltimore, Md., and was the son of Enoch and Rachel McKenzie Pearce. Both of his parents were Marylanders. His father followed mechanical pursuits and the family moved to Pittsburgh, coming to Ohio and settling in Steubenville in 1840. Dr. Pearce was educated in the public school and Grove Academy in this city. In 1848 he began the study of mdicine under the preceptorship of Dr. Benjamin Tappan. He attended the Medical Department of the University of New York City in 1851-52, and also the Jefferson Medical School at Philadelphia , in 1853-54. He began the practice of medicine in Steubenville in 1854, and continued the practice until he entered the United States Army in 1861.
He was married to Miss Cecelia Jane Savary, daughter of Richard and Betsy Savary on December 25, 1860, in Pittsburgh. To the union the following children were born: George Grant, Jessie B, Frank Savary, Oliver Branch, Beulah Viola, and E. Stanton.
Dr. Pearce had an enviable record in the Civil War. He was appointed assistant surgeon of the 24th OVI on July 2, 1861 by Governor Dennison but the appointment was not accepted. Governor Todd appointed him surgeon of the 61st OVI on October 15, 1861 and it was accepted. He was made surgeon in chief of the First Brigade, Third Division, 11th Corps, Army of the Potomac, January 3, 1863. He was appointed by President Lincoln as assistant surgeon of United States Volunteers on September 2, 1863. He was promoted by President Lincoln to surgeon of United States Volunteers September 9, 1863. He was appointed by the President, Brevet-Lieutenant-Colonel United States Volunteers for gallant and meritorious service, to date from March 13, 1865. Dr. Pearce was on the front in at least 20 battles and did great service in relieving the wounded.
At the close of the war Dr. Pearce was appointed by President Grant, United States Examining Surgeon for the Steubenville District in 1869, and served in that capacity for over 20 years. He was a member of the Loyal Legion, Department of Ohio, Cincinnati; of Stanton Post GAR; President of the Soldiers and Sailors Association of Jefferson County; a member of the Jefferson County Medical Association; an honorary member of the F. Savary Pearce Society, Pittsburgh; the Jefferson University Alumni Association, Philadelphia; and the D. Hayes Agnew Society, Philadelphia.
Dr. Pearce wrote the letter to Daniel Henry Rucker (1812-1910). “At the start of the Civil War, he was 49 and had been in the Army for 24 years. He declined an appointment as Major in the 6th Cavalry, preferring to remain in the Quartermaster’s Department where he was promoted to Major on August 3, 1861, and placed in charge of the Washington Depot. On September 28, 1861, he was promoted to colonel and appointed as an additional aide-de-camp to General George B. McClellan. During the war years he remained in charge of the great depot that developed at Washington, through which passed a major portion of the supplies for the armies before Richmond and the Atlantic Coast. At the end of the war General Rucker initiated auction sale of surplus animals and equipment, selecting the best of the Quartermaster supplies for storage at various points. He oversaw the post Civil War downsizing of depot operations and personnel.” [Source: U S. Army Quartermaster Museum]
General D. H. Rucker
Acting Quarter Master General
In asking for a Certificate of non-indebtedness from the Quarter Masters Department, I would most respectfully inform you that I have not now any invoices or receipts for Quarter Masters stores issued by the Q. M. Department to me while I was an officer in the [61st Ohio Volunteer Infantry].
I did receive from said department some stores but am unable to state all the articles or the number of each with certainty, or the exact time or place of receiving or issuing them.
I have however in the Returns herewith submitted stated from memory the quantity and kind of property received and issued.
The six mules, their harness, one large wagon, two wagon tongues and one wagon cover were received sometime in the winter of ’62 & ’63. The four horses with their harness, one Dunton Medical Wagon ¹ and one wagon cover were received from Quarter Master train not known at Aquia Creek. All of the invoices of which were unavoidably lost by me during active service. All of the above named property was by order turned in to some officer (I believe a Quarter Master) at Alexandria, Va., when the command of General Hooker consisting of the 11th & 12th Corps passed through that city on its way from Catlett’s Station, Va.
Bridgeport, Alabama about September 1863. Whether receipts were given me at the time I am unable to say. When the 11th Corps arrived at Alexandria, I was ordered by General Howard to take charge of all the sick of said Corps and secure for them hospital accomodations—and immediately follow the command—which occupied my time so entirely that I cannot now say whether any receipts were given me. But if there was, they have been unavoidably lost.
The one wall tent with fly, poles, & pins was received of G. J. Wygum, Quartermaster 61st O V. I. at or near New Creek, Va., spring of 1862. Cannot say to whom it was issued by me.
Five of the hospital tents with their poles, pins & fly and hospital stove were issued to [paper creased] Brig., 3rd Div., 11th Corps [were distributed to?] 74th Pa. Infantry, Surg [George] Schloetzer 82nd Ill. Infantry, Surg. Hendricks 174th Penn. Infantry, the Surgeon (name not remembering) of the 68th New York Infantry. One other was retained in the 61st Regt. Regt. OVI of which I was the surgeon.
At the Battle of Gettysburg, the five tents with poles, pins & flies were put up for the accommodation of the wounded at the field hospital of the 11th Corps and by the order of Med. Director of the Corps, G[eorge] Suckly, Surgeon U. S. V., they were left at said hospital without any receipts received for them.
About the 10th of July 1862 [should be 1863], I drew by order while on the march 5 more hospital tents with poles, pins and flies. One tent complete with poles, pins and fly were issued to the same medical officers before named. We were then on the march every day. The property was received and issued at night and I cannot say whether I received receipts for the invoices or receipts for them or not. One other hospital tent complete was left at Corps Hospital Gettysburg under the same circumstances before mentioned, no receipt being given and The remaining hospital tent was turned into a Quarter Master at Alexandria at the same time that I turned in the horses, mules, wagons, &c. at Alexandria as before mentioned. All the Q. M. stores received by me were faithfully disposed of by me in accordance with the wants of the troops under my charge as medical officer. Their distribution was under circumstances of active service in the field, on the march, before, during and after battle and I have not been able to maintain invoices and receipts as required by regulations. So far I am technically at a loss but under all the circumstances, I respectfully represent that the technicality should not be set up against me in the settlement of my accounts. It is now utterly impossible for me to have recourse to the medical officers who drew stores from me and equally impossible for them to account for the same. I had none of this property on hand when I left the army.
I respectfully submit this statement to which appended my oath as a deposition which I respectfully request may be submitted to the Secretary of War for action therein for such relief as he may be able to grant me under the law which enables him to relieve officers for lost property or property not on hand, which cannot be regularly accounted for.
I am sir, very respectfully, — E. Pearce, late Surgeon, U. S. V.
¹ The Dunton Medical Wagon looked like a Conestoga wagon with doors that opened on the sides to dispense medicines. It was not a favorite of the doctors because of its limited capacity.
This letter was written by Isaac W. Newton (1841-1863), the son of Asa Newton (1812-1880) and Lydia Cook (1812-1908) of Camden, Preble county, Ohio.
21 year-old Isaac enlisted on 9 August 1862 to serve three years in Co. G, 93rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI). The regiment was organized at Dayton, Ohio, and sent to Lexington, Kentucky, just in time to join the Union retreat back to Louisville due to the advance of Gen. Bragg’s army. The regiment remained at Lexington until just before this letter was written when they were marched to Frankfort, Kentucky. After manning the fortifications there for a few weeks, they were sent to Tennessee in time to participate in the Battle of Stones River where they were in the thickest of the fight.
Newton remained with his regiment until he was taken prisoner during the Battle of Chickamauga in September 1863. He died a couple of months later while a POW at Danville Prison. He is buried in the Danville National Cemetery in Plot E, grave 747.
This letter has a fascinating lithograph of “Major General Pope” with the byline underneath his image that reads: “(The man who moves ahead.)”
Addressed to Mr. Asa Newton, Camden, Preble county, Ohio
October the 3rd, 1862
I take this present time to write a few lines in answer to your letter which come to hand this morning. It found me well and I hope when you receive these few lines you will all be enjoying good health.
As far as news, I have some little to tell you. We have left Louisville and again started on the march—the same road we skedaddled on a few weeks ago. We have got as far as Shelbyville, about 30 miles from Louisville. The rebels have been skulking around Louisville for several days so we concluded we would follow them. Day before yesterday we started—about 20,000 of us on the Lexington road, 60,000 on the Bardstown road, and about the same amount from Cincinnati. We the first night stayed in their camp. Our advance had a small skirmish with them. I understood they killed a few but one thing certain, I saw where we had shelled them. I saw 2 or 3 bomb shell a laying by the side of the road that had not exploded. I saw where one had struck a house. It looked as it if had been struck by lightning. The people said they made a hasty retreat.
I think the way things are moving, they will soon be rid out of Kentucky. Where we are now, the people have the strongest Union sentiments than anyplace we have been at yet. We have had some more skedaddling. John Mohler left the day we left Louisville. John Kindle has not got back yet. Neal Lervis & Stover we have heard from—they are talking of coming back in reference to harvesting. I am owing Elwood Morey but I forgot how much. If I can hear from him, I can tell how much I am owing him. Well, I will have to bring my letter to a close with requesting you to write soon.
Direct to Shelbyville, Kentucky
P. S. If convenient, send me a few P. O. stamps in your next if you can. Don’t send many as I can take care of them. e have quit carrying our knapsacks. We are to get them handled for us which has lightened us considerable. If they had not agreed to take care of them for us, we would have raised a row as the other regiments get their handled. No more at present. Yours in haste, — Isaac Newton
These letters were written by Joseph Edward Kimball (1839-1896), the son of John Kimball (17800-1876) and Rebecca Gould (1804-1888) of Ipswich, Essex county, Massachusetts. He wrote both letters to his older brother, Rev. John Calvin Kimball (1832-1910)—a virulent abolitionist—who was serving in the pulpit in Beverly, Massachusetts, at the time, but later entered the service as a chaplain in one of the first black Massachusetts regiments, serving in South Carolina.
John E. Kimball was mustered into Co. B, 1st Massachusetts Infantry on 23 May 1861. He later accepted a commission as a lieutenant in the 3d North Carolina Colored Volunteers (afterwards the 37th USCT) in 1864; later breveted a Captain in March 1865. He remained in the service until January 1867.
According to an obituary record, Joseph E. Kimball participated in 37 battles during the war, including First Bull Run, Yorktown, Williamsburg, Fair Oaks Malvern Hill, Fredericksburg, Petersburg, and Appomattox. For his bravery in the Battle of New Market Heights, he was breveted for gallant conduct. He died in 1896 at the age of 56. The inscription on his monument in the Mount Vernon Cemetery, Abington, Mass, reads:
“One Who Never Turned His Back,
But Marched Breast Forward;
Never Doubted Clouds Would Break;
Never Dreamed, Tho’ Right Were Worsted,
Wrong Would Triumph…
Held We fall To Rise,
Are Baffled To Fight Better,
Sleep To Wake.”
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Addressed to Rev. J. C. Kimball, Beverly, Massachusetts
Hampton Hospital [near Fortress Monroe]
September 30, 1862
Your letter of the 23rd inst. has been duly received. I dispatched you a few lines the day I received your box stating that it came safely and tendering you and those other generous contributors the grateful thanks of myself and comrades. We are still enjoying the fruits of your kindness and it is doing us much good. I don’t think all of the pamphlets which you send me reach here. I got the [ ] you sent—also some papers, but no sermons. The money also came safely.
I don’t know that my principles have undergone such a great change in relation to slavery. I am only disgusted with that Radical Party where every movement since the opening of the Rebellion has been to make the restoration of the Union second to the liberation of the negroes and the carrying out of their own pet schemes. Do not tell I got this idea from the New York Herald—your own writings betray it. Why are you so slow to acknowledge the merits of Gen. McClellan in victory and so ready to overthrow him in defeat? If you would displace him, who would you put in his place? Is there any other in the list of generals who is more capable? Is [John Charles] Fremont’s experience in Missouri and the Shenandoah more serious than McClellan’s in Virginia and Maryland? Have [James Samuel] Wasdsworth and [David] Hunter higher claims? If so, where are they? Do you wish to experiment again with lesser generals? [John] Pope’s experience has been too bitter for you to attempt it again. Would not McClellan be quite good enough if he were an abolitionist? Can you better McClellan’s plan of disposition of troops as were noticed in the late battles in Maryland. Could Fremont do better or as well? If McClellan is only an ordinary general, then we have only ordinary ones. So we may as well be content. An ordinary general may do much with a united government to back him, while a great general would utterly fail with a powerful faction opposing him.
President Lincoln has issued his Emancipation Proclamation. It is hard to say whether its results will be of good or evil. At any rate, the People should be a unit in supporting him. Those who have the good of the Union at heart must feel that as the Proclamation has gone forth, they have no other course open but to use every means to strengthen the government in order that it may be effective. Much of its result will depend upon the progress of our armies between this and the first of January. Of course, it will greatly intensify the struggle.
I am not opposed to abolition. I speak of the ultra abolitionists because they are the Rule or Ruin Party. Do you not see the great importance of the People being a unit in order to crush out this Rebellion? Are there no tens and hundreds of thousands of good loyal people in the North who are opposed from purist principles to prevent Negro emancipation? Having arrived at this conclusion, how can they cordially aid you in carrying out your ultra ideas any more than you could relinquish yours to aid the opposite ultra’s in carrying out theirs? But there is a ground on which all can meet. It is aiding—not embarrassing—the government in carrying out its own measure.
The present government is as of your own choice and you ought to trust its ability and [ ] of purpose. If President Lincoln says emancipation, let the people be a unit in supporting him. I think President Lincoln desires to execute the will of the People. I think he has striven to act so as to keep them united. In his delay in issuing the late proclamation, I think he has adopted its policy and the approval of the majority of the People. It is all twiddle about our inability to crush the rebellion without interfering with slavery. Let us have united will and action and we must either crush it or acknowledge ourselves cowards and imbeciles. It is the fault of this faction who have left no means untried to thrust this one idea of slave emancipation upon the President, thereby embarrassing the government which has so long prolonged the struggle. They would displace the greatest chief of our armies today solely on account of party. If this is the talk of the New York Herald, then the Herald is right. Why do you cling to Fremont? What is there on his career which is so brilliant and promising? He has not the claim of nine tenths of the junior Brigadiers. I pray God the opposite party will not give the government the trouble which you have given them in the past, now the President is adopting measures to which they have been opposed.
I may understand the affairs of state but poorly, but I think we have all seen enough in the past to lay aside the party schemes and devote all our energies to strengthen the government. If sir, we don’t act just as you would like, it is far better to strengthen him as far as he goes than to make a division.
I have heard of the animosity which Charles Sumner has towards [our] Col. [Robert] Cowdin. I heard it from the lips of Col. Cowdin. He had the effrontery when we were encamped at Camp Banks, Georgetown, to request Col. Cowdin to resign. Lucky for him at the time that we did not know it for if we had, we would most assuredly have kicked him from camp. I have heard Col. Cowdin [say] many times that Charles Sumner, and [Gov. John A.] Andrew were intriguing against him. Look at the disgraceful intrigues of J____ & Andrew to displace him before he left Massachusetts. Hawker has recommended Cowdin for a Brigadier. Sumner wouldn’t have made a very strenuous effort to second it without succeeding. Don’t say anything about Sumner or Andrew to any of the “Armed Mob.”
I received your anti-slavery sermon—it is very fine.
I shall go to my regiment this week. Direct your next letter there. Please enclose in your letter two more dollars in Boston money as before. I may need the money much when I get to the regiment to purchase me some articles as I presume my knapsack is lost.
I have heard it said that the soldiers are not allowed to write home from the army. This is rather hard times if it is so, but we must put up with it. You however can write to me. I feel strong now and am anxious to get back to the ranks. The wine you sent me has done me a great deal of good. I shall keep one bottle to carry with me—also some preserves. I am very thankful, dear brother, for what you have done for me. I have had a rather hard time here—much more so than I would have acknowledged before. But is is quite over now and I find myself in good trim to stand another twelve months or more. I have been fortunate that perhaps I may safely survive the struggle. [ ] has serious whims. I have been deluded many times during the last six months when I regarded the chances of my getting out safe as pretty slim. But somehow when my comrades have been shot down by my side, I have come off with scarce a scratch.
A very dear comrade of mine—one whom I have chummed with throughout the campaign, who was wounded beside me at Williamsburg with a cannon shot and again slightly at “Fair Oaks” has received a very bad wound at [Second] Bull Run [on 29 August 1862]. The ball entered one cheek and came out of the other, fracturing the jaw. I don’t know that he is living now.
Please write so that I can get your letter at the regiment next week enclosing the two dollars. Direct to J. E. Kimball, Co. B, 1st Mass. via Washington D. C.
Love to Emily, — J. E. K.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
1st Regiment Mass. Volunteers
Near Seminary, Alexandria, Va.
October 7, 1862
My dear brother,
Mr. William H. Knowlton, ¹ the bearer of this note—a member of this regiment and a tried and much esteemed comrade of mine, now returning home on a discharge of physical disability—I am most happy in introducing to your acquaintance. Mr. Knowlton has served with honor and credit through all the campaigns which the regiment has, and his accounts you will find truthful as well as interesting. He is a little too much tinctured with abolitionism but I doubt not you will find his acquaintance valuable.
Sometime when you go home, invite him down with you to visit the old folks.
Trusting he will find you in good health, I remain affectionately your brother, — J. E. Kimball
¹ William H. Knowlton was a “wood turner” from East Boston, Massachusetts. He enlisted at the age of 31 in Co. B, 1st Massachusetts Infantry and was discharged for disability on 10 October 1862. A note on the roster suggests he subsequently served as an officer in the US Navy.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE
Fairfax Station, Va.
November 17, 1862
My dear brother,
I take the present opportunity of forwarding you a few lines and with them two letters which I this day received from sister Anna. I send them for the double purpose of having you preserve them for me and to satisfy you that that affair is settled I think perfectly satisfactorily. The dear girl has new desire—had a severe struggle with herself and has indeed nobly triumphed in the Right. Like all severe mental struggles, the victory once gained in the Right, the balance fairly turned. The Right course seems clearer and purer. Anna has done much better than I could hardly dare hope. She has certainly shown herself thhe Right stuff for a true woman. I was greatly affected with her letter as indeed you cannot fail to be. If Bean is really of the Right stamp, he may come back at some future day worthy of her love. I think her idea of him and indeed the whole affair as expressed in her letter is not a great way from being correct. But it is best to let time work out this matter in silence.
Anna has a nature that is easily worked upon by kindness. Let us all forget or make no allusions to this past affair but strive to encourage her in her new course. You had better speak to Henry who is rather apt to be harsh with one whom he does not understand and impress upon him the importance of using kindly. You had also better have a talk with her. I have just written her a letter in reply to the two enclosed. My heart was too full to say much but all that I can do for her in any way, I shall certainly do. I sympathize with the poor child from the depth of my heart.
I have nothing of importance to write you in regard to myself. You no doubt think the late insult to McClellan all right, so there is no use to speak of that matter. The future to me looks dark and gloomy. We are in Hooker’s Corps so we may expect to be in the Van of the Army. I hardly care where they send us.
My love to Emily. Write often. Address as [ ].
Affectionately your brother, — J. E. Kimball
My own dear brother,
I was surprised and pained by learning from your letter received tonight that you had not received my letter directed to the hospital at Hampton. I wrote you there I should think more than a month ago, and have been anxiously looking day after day for news from you. I at length concluded you must be offended at something, although I could not conceive what which I had written in that letter and again wrote you which I put in this morning. I hope you will get it, but fearing you might not, I am writing you again. Far, very far was I from being angry with you for what you wrote to me. On the contrary I then and now thank you from the bottom of my heart and have never for a moment entertained for you one harsh thought.
I took your advice and in two days after receiving your letter, I was perfectly free. My dear, brother I think you judge [Edward] Bean harshly. I know that he entertained for me the purest feelings of which a man is capable of feelings of which a man is capable of feeling for woman and I thought that I returned it at the time and perhaps for a short time I did, but it—like many other youthful fantasies—has entirely wore off and today I am as heart-free and careless as I ever was in my life. Edward Bean has many noble qualities and sorry am I that so fine a nature as his must once have been should become so perverted. I do not doubt but he was truly sorry for the past, but of what avail is repentance! Once down, always down in this world. Not but what I think one may out live deeper disgrace than that, but I fear he had not the strength of character to do so.
I have heard nothing directly from him since we parted, but learned casually that he had enlisted in the 44th and was off for the war. Every letter he ever wrote me I always read to mother, Sarah, and they were at the disposal of anyone who chose to read them. I never received a line or heard a word from him which I had not just as soon all the world should hear. He was ever noble, generous, and upright to me in spite of the past, I can’t help thoroughly respecting him. He always said he did not blame any of you for what you had done and were doing. He should do the same by his sister and should think nothing of you if you did not do it by me. It wore off with me, but every day convinced me ore and more that he thought as much of me and I hated to inflict the pain on anyone which I knew I should on him so I let it go week after week, and God knows I felt bad enough when it did have to come. But it is better so. We could never mate together. He always said the sacrifice was too great and I was mad to ever dream of it. But I saw so much that was good in him and found him so perfectly unselfish, I thought one error could be forgiven and I know no one on earth was perfect that to err was human, and he was not alone. Over that record I think the recording angel will drop a tear which will but out the evil and leave only the good….
[more of same, including a second letter signed by Annie]
This letter seems to have been written by an English merchant named Ned Nender who wrote it from “Fernandasso” on the Mellicouri river in western coastal Africa. From the letter we learn that the author was merchant in the hat trade.
The letter was addressed to Edward Dearborn Kimball (1810-1867), the son of Nathaniel Kimball (1779-1821) and Sarah Knight (1779-1849) of Rockingham county, New Hampshire. At the time of this 1862 letter, Edward had a temporary residence at 2010 Walnut Street where he worked as an accountant/secretary in a merchant firm with his brother Nathaniel. A great deal of information about the Kimball family can be found in the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum. From a summary of that collection, we learn that Edward and Nathaniel, along with another brother named Elbridge Gerry Kimball (1816-1849) traded extensively with the west coast of Africa, the East Indies, Pacific Islands, South America, and Asia.
Most likely this letter pertains to the suspension of trade activities between the author and Kimball’s firm due to the American Civil War and the blockade that was placed on the southern ports.
Fernandasso, Mellicourie [River]
February 18, 1862
My dear Major,
I was very pleased to get your letter dated the 6th January as I began to think you did not intend to write again. I am glad to find that you and your family are in good health and that you have made up your mind now to settle in Philadelphia during the cold season.
As regards business matters and all you say respecting them, I quite agree with you. Therefore, it is useless to open the subject further. It now only remains for me to close up the old affairs satisfactorily. I shall close the Brigs 1st voyage by the “Orlando” and the [ ] due on “Orlando’s” 1st voyage on which of course I am bound to pay interest. I shall use my utmost endeavors to close by the next vessel. Until this is done, you will not see me. I am certainly very desirous to see you all again and I hope I shall be able to get away in July next.
As to a war with our country, I don’t know what to say. I am afraid your people are rather inclined for it, but what a dreadful thing it would be, next thing to a Civil War and once commenced, God only knows where and when it would end. I hope the thinking, reasonable people in your country as well as mine will use their influence to prevent such a calamity. I enclose a printed speech of our Dr. [William Ewart] Gladstone‘s on this subject, the tone of which you only take as the universal feeling in England. ¹
I am afraid the blockade question will give rise to hard feelings, but I hope France and not ourselves will be the hands in this matter. I am writing under difficulties as I have a number of dark party about me begging. I will come and pay them for their groundinets [grasscloth], so you must excuse this short letter. I am glad the pony got over his illness. I would have sent a letter but could not at that time find one. He is scarcely high enough for Mrs. Kimball to ride. I shall no doubt pick up a good one soon.
Pray give my kind regards to your good wife. Miss [Balinda] Brown, Master Frank, and any of my friends who may ask about me. I am pushing ahead in the hat trade ² and expect a good profitable season, but I have given over being sanguine as to anything in this world. At all events, nothing is certain. Good bye. God bless you all and war or no war, I shall do my best to see you all again soon.
Believe me, my dear Major, yours faithfully, — Ned Nender
[to] E. D. Kimball
¹ I am not certain I have found the speech herein referred to. It was until October 1862 that Gladstone made the speech supporting the Confederate States of America. Gladstone himself apparently had no serious objection to the slave trade.
² I presume the author was in West Africa purchasing grasscloth that was used to make straw hats.
William W. Billings (1843-1925) of Rock Island, Illinois, was an 18 year-old farmer in February 1862, when enlisted at Towanda, Pennsylvania, in the 8th US Infantry. According to his enlistment record, he stood 5′ 7.5″ tall, had grey eyes, light colored hair, and a light complexion. His file indicates that he deserted on 14 August 1863, was apprehended on 7 November 1863, and deserted once again on 14 January 1864.
On 14 March 1864, William resurfaced in Racine, Wisconsin, accepting a bounty to serve in Co. H, 4th Wisconsin Cavalry. He remained with the regiment until mustering out at Brownsville, Texas, in May 1866. When he sought admission to a home for disabled volunteer soldiers as a retired machinist in 1904, he told them he was born in Canada and only gave his service in the 4th Wisconsin Cavalry.
Billings died in 1925 and was buried in Sunset Cemetery, Quincy, Adams county, Illinois. He was married to Mary J. Goff (1851-1933).
William wrote the letter to Eliza Vilas Carey (1845-1915), the daughter of John Watson Carey (1817-1895) and Eliza Vilas (1820-1845) of Racine, Wisconsin. Eliza married Sherbourne Sanborn (1834-1918) in 1870.
Addressed to Miss Eliza Cary, Racine, Wisconsin
Postmarked New Orleans, LA.
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
April 15th 1864
It is with a degree of pleasure that I now sit down to scribble a few lines to you to let you know that I am well and hope when these few lines reaches you, they will find you enjoying the same blessing.
Well, we have got to our journey’s end for awhile. We had a nice time a coming down. When we got to Chicago, we stayed there all night and a part of the next day. When we got to St. Louis, we stayed there three days. We had some gay old times there. That is a great old town. The streets is about twenty feet wide. We would go down town everyday and stay there till night. We had some beer a coming and how do you think we got it? Well we stopped to a station and stole two kegs of beer and shoved them in the cars. We tapped one of them and got it about half drunk up and one of the officers came along and throwed them both out of the cars so we have not had any since. You cannot buy whiskey or beer anywhere along the river. They dare not sell it to soldiers.
Things is cheap here. Butter is only sixty cents a pound and eggs ninety cents. We have good living here—better than in Camp Randall a darn sight. We stopped a little this side of Island Number 10 to wood. I and two or three other boys went and stole some eggs from the rebs. They seen us but they dare not say a word to us.
We are camped about a half a mile from the river almost in the town on a large green field. The grass is about six inches high. It is fine weather here—not very warm or very cold.
Well, did you go to dancing school the last night? Oh how I longed to be there. I was to a dance in St. Louis. We had a gay time. Nell is not with me, He did not get paid when I did so he could not come. My name was called on to go and so I had to leave him, but he will be along in a few days. I am a little lonely without him. Will, how is Miss Bery and Miss Yates? Give my respects to their best half [and] a good share for yourself. Well, I must close so goodbye from your ever friend, — W. W. Billings
Direct your letter to W. W. Billings, Co. H, 4th Wisconsin Cavalry, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Write soon, You will, won’t you? I know you will. You don’t know how much good it will do me to get a letter from you or any person.
This letter was written by Marcus D. Rice (1844-1925) of Co. A, 2nd New York Veteran Cavalry to his Mother. The 2nd NY Veteran Cavalry (aka the Empire Light Cavalry) was organized at Saratoga, New York in 1863, and was mustered into U. S. Service from Aug. to Dec., 1863. The Regiment served mainly in Louisiana, participating in Banks’ Red River Campaign of March-May, 1864, and numerous raids and skirmishes. In March & April, 1865, the Regiment served in Florida and Alabama, and was mustered out at Talladega, Ala. on Nov. 8, 1865.
Marcus was the son of Daniel Rice (1806-1892) and Betsy Bristol (1811-1897) of White Creek township, Washington county, New York.
Rice’s letter includes a description of what has come to be known as “Davidson’s Raid” which began on 27 November 1864. Leading 4,000 troopers from Baton Rouge, Gen. John Davidson set out to sever the Macon & Ohio Railroad near State Line, Mississippi. The intention of this raid was to divert resources away from Gen. Hood’s operations near Nashville and to harass Mobile. During the raid, Davidson split his command, sending a small detachment of the 2nd New York Veteran Cavalry (Malcum Rice included), with the 1st Louisiana Cavalry, and a small detachment of the 11th New York Cavalry under the command of Lt. Col. Asa Gurney north via Leakesville to destroy telegraph lines and a bridge on the M&O at State Line. The engagement that ensued was the Battle of McLeod’s Mill.
New Orleans, [Louisiana]
December 22, 1864
I thought I would drop you a few lines to let you know that I am well and have been gone on a raid for seven weeks. We left Morganza and went to Baton Rouge and then we started for the Mobile & Ohio Rail Road. We were six weeks in the saddle. We had eight thousand cavalry and two batteries. We got within ten miles of the road and it was so muddy that we couldn’t get there with our big guns and men, so the General sent two hundred & fifty of the best men in our regiment to burn a bridge on the railroad & they had a big fight. They got within three miles of the road when they came on to twelve hundred men with six pieces of guns. They didn’t know how many there was of them, so the Colonel ordered the squadron to charge them. They broke three lines of the rebs and took [an] ambulance and four prisoners and killed about twenty, but when we got up to the next lines, we couldn’t break it, so we had to get back the best way we could.
We had three rivers to swim before we got to the rest of our command, but we got back with but a small loss. We had one Orderly Sergeant [Theodore Moss] & one Quarter Master and one Private [James Woods] killed in my Company, and one Lieutenant [Albert Westinghouse] in Co. B, and some others. In all, we lost six killed & fourteen wounded. The General gave us great praise. He said it was the first saber charge that ever had been made in this department. ¹
But the best of all, I went in the fight. The General had the Major in command of the Pioneer Corps, so I was with him. He had to build a corduroy road for the wagons to get through the mud. We was in the wood for three hundred miles. They called them the Pine woods. We went through three or four little cities. We was three days without seeing a house. We were two days without grub or feed for our horses. We got through alive, but we had a bad time of it. We camped at West Pascagoula on the sea shore three days. We got grub there. We got orders to come to New Orleans, so the Major got leave to come on the first boat. I am at the Government stables and have a good place to stay. We expect the regiment any day. Then I don’t know where we will go.
My Colonel has gone to Morganza [to] get the top mounted men ready to join their regiment. I expect there is some letters there for me, but as I had time, I thought I would write a few lines. If you don’t hear from me again in months, or you expect I have gone again, you needn’t be alarmed. The General’s name is Davidson. We came from West Pascagoula on a Steamer—George Peabody. She was a good ship. We was five days on her. I was glad to get here.
I am well, but I am very poor. My weight is 110. I haven’t been so light since I left home. Give my love to all. I shall have to close by bidding you all a Merry Christmas.
— Marcus D. Rice
¹ An unidentified trooper in Co. B, 2nd New York Veteran Cavalry also wrote of the engagement, saying, “by this time we was in sight of them. There was as we could judge from 100 to 150 [rebels] and the lead flew faster than I had seen it before. They kept falling back and they had support to fall in with them as they fell back. We kept them going back about 2 miles [when] the major told our Lieut. [Westinghouse]—he was in command of the first squadron—to draw sabre and charge on them & [ordered] Capt. Dolan to support us. At the word, “Draw sabre,” we pulled the bright steel blade for the first time in a fight [and] at the word, “Charge!” we put spurs to our horses and our 1st Lieut. says, “Boys, follow me!” swinging his sabre at arms length above his head. The smartest horses got into there rear and the last blow our Lieut. made struck a reb in the back which fetched him to the ground. [But] another reb was in the front of our Lieut. [who] drawed his revolver [and] shot the Lieut. through, about half way from the pit of his stomach to the hollow of his neck. He dismounted his horse, took his hat in his hand, [and] started back. When I met him, he said, “Go on boys, I’m shot.” He soon died. We drove them until we seen their line of infantry [at which time] we was ordered by Capt. Dolan to return. When we came back, Charley & myself with two others took up the Lieut. [and] carried him back with us a quarter of a mile [and] laid him down. He was too heavy. The most of our men that was there at the end of the charge was Co’s. A & B and a few from other Co’s. I don’t think we numbered over 40 men in all. The rest was back over a mile in the rear. We captured 4 rebs, one ambulance, and two mules. [We] took the ambulance and got the Lieut. Took him with us and we marched back, took another road down the river road some 25 or 30 miles, and very still I can tell you, and encamped for the remainder of the night. Those captured men said that they knew that we were a coming & they were sent to stop us from the railroad. They were one Brigade of about 1500 that we run upon in the front of us. Then there was an other Brigade sent down another road to come up in the rear as they [were] expecting the whole army was there…. Our loss was in Co A, 2 privates killed, one missing; Co. B our 1st Lieut. Westinghouse killed, 1 private David Bennett wounded—the Doct. said he would not live until the next morning, 1 private Co K. killed. What we could see of the rebs that was killed was about 15. We had a guide with us [who] used to be a rebel Colonel and he said he never saw a bolder and better charge made in all his time of service and those that we captured said that they had heard of the 2nd Vets & they never wanted to come in contact with them again for they was never drove so before and by so few men as we had in the charge. The guide said that regt. was called the best regt. they had in there service—it is the 2nd Missouri.”
Capt. James Harvey Greene of the 8th Wisconsin Infantry was with the regiment as part of Polk’s Army when they crossed the Mississippi river into Kentucky to “assist in the pursuit of the flying rebels after the evacuation of Island No. 10” in April 1862. As a memento of the occasion, Capt. Greene picked up a few papers that were left “on the field” by the rebels. Two of the papers were letters pertaining to the 55th Tennessee (Brown’s) Infantry which have been previously published here. Another paper was a ledger page—tattered and worn from frequent folding and unfolding—that captured the “Rules and Regulations” to govern a cock fight that was to occur at the race track in Natchitoches, Louisiana, on “16 March instant,” presumably in 1862.
Today there is nothing but a pile of 16 fragments of this ledger sheet which I have attempted to piece together and transcribe though I believe I am missing several more pieces and only the top portion of each side appears to be complete. It is sufficient to give the gist of what the cock fighting rules were at the time although these have probably not changed much in the last 150 years. Cock fighting seems to have been a favorite sport among soldiers, in particular, for hundreds of years. It is said that the sport was even practiced by the Greeks before battle in order to stimulate the warriors to brave and valorous deeds.
The Louisiana regiments garrisoned at Island No. 10 before it was taken in April 1862 included the 5th Louisiana Battalion under Col. Kennedy, the 11th Louisiana under Col. Marks, and the 12th Louisiana under Col. Scott.
Rules and Regulations to Govern Fighting of Cocks at the meeting to be held at the Natchitoches Race Tract [Track] on the 16th March Instant.
Subscribers will at or before 10 o’clock on the morning of the day appointed furnish to the Judge of the day a list of their cocks describing their respective colors and exact weights. The cocks exceeding six pounds in weight being registered as Shake-Bags and not entitled to be registered.
The cocks being registered, will be matched by the Judges, the matches being made in every practicable case of cocks of equal weight precisely. When this will be impossible, then the matches will be made of cocks differing in weight one, and not more than two ounces, except in reference to the Shake-Bag cocks, which will be matched against each other without regard to weight.
The matches being made, will be registered and numbered and will be announced by the Judges; —
The Battles so arranged shall be settled by the Judges and shall take place in the numerical order previously indicated; none being called before 10 A. M. nor after 5 P. M.
The matches being called, the cocks designated will be brought forward and weighed by the Judges. They will then be prepared for battle, trimmed or not, and armed with Gaffs [metal spurs or knives] of any size or length at the discretion of their owner, but the Judges will see that all the Gaffs have no other than round points, disallowing any with flat or chisel points, or with cutting edges like Slashers.
The Cocks being ready, the Pitt will be cleared and no one allowed to remain inside of it but the two Pitters. The cocks are then presented to each other, in hand; and may be allowed to Peck each other once or twice, the Pitters being respectively responsible that hte cocks escape not from their hands, as any injury resulting to one of the cocks by such an accident would forfeit the wager staked, to the backers of his adversary. The cocks are now put down facing each other at a distance of not less than three feetm and as much further as the Pitters may think proper.
The Pitters will keep close attention to the fighting, so handled and put down breast to breast, and if there [ ] no fighting, the battle shall be decided as being won by the cock that made the last fight.
When one of the Cocks has been disabled as to cease fighting, the Pitter of the other cock has a right to count him out; viz: he counts from 1 to 10. The cocks are then handled and put down within fighting distance. If the disabled cock has made no fight, the Pitter having the count, counts again from 1 to 10. If the disabled cock has not then made fight, the cocks are again handled and put down, when the same Pitter counts from 1 to 25. When if the disabled cock has made no fight, it will be decided that he has lost the battle. But a show of fight by the disabled cock, at any time pending a count, or pending the taking of time against him, cancels the count, or time, when the battle will be renewed.
Should either cock die, during the observance of time, or during a count, the surviving cock is the winner.
It sometimes happens that cocks are thrown upon backs, or falls in such a manner as to have neither wings under their bodies. In such cases, Pitters are entitled to turn a cock that is upon his back or to place under his body a wing that may be stretched out upon the ground, but this must be done without handling or lifting the cocks. In the handling of the cocks, it must not be understood that Pitters are entitled to keep them in hand for any indefinite time at their own discretion, but only so long as to clean of their Gaffs, remove from their back any feathers that may be sticking there, and if necessary, to relieve their throats of blood for all of which a very few moments of time will be sufficient.
Gaffs broken in battle can not be substituted nor will slinging cocks to relieve then of blood in the throat be allowed. All bets offered and accepted during a battle are good whether the stake was opposite or not, and are payable immediately after the battle.
This letter was written by Benjamin Shaw (1840-1866), the son of Ephraim Shaw (1788-18xx) and Margaret Good (1815-1848). Benjamin wrote this 1862 letter while serving in Co. G, 1st Pennsylvania Reserves (30th Pennsylvania Infantry). He enlisted as a private in that regiment on 6 June 1861. The following is a summary of the regiment’s movements up to the date of this letter, written on the day before they participated in the Battle of Mechanicsville, the first of the Seven Days’ Battles:
“Moved to Harrisburg, Pa., July 20; then reported to General Dix at Baltimore, Md., July 22, 1861. Moved to Annapolis, Md., July 27. Duty at Annapolis, Md., July 27 to August 30, 1861. Moved to Washington, D.C., then to Tennallytown, Md., August 30–31. Marched to Langley October 10, and duty at Camp Pierpont until March 1862. Reconnaissance to Dranesville December 6, 1861. Action at Dranesville December 20 (Company A). Advance on Manassas, Va., March 10–15. McDowell’s advance on Fredericksburg, Va., April 9–19. Duty at Fredericksburg until May 31. Ordered to the Virginia Peninsula June. Seven Days before Richmond June 25-July 1. Battles of Mechanicsville June 26.”
Apparently Benjamin served with the Reserves until he was discharged on 15 March 1864 to “accept a promotion” but I have not found any record of what that promotion was. I did, however, learn that Benjamin married Mary E. Smith (b. 1841) in Trenton, New Jersey on 5 May 1864 but he died less than two years later. His death was given as 13 April 1866 in Lumberville, Bucks county, Pennsylvania. Three years after Benjamin died, his wife married Capt. George W. Ely.
Benjamin’s letter suggests he was member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). He wrote the letter to his friend Hugh B. Eastburn (1846-1915) who also grew up in Solebury, Bucks county, Pennsylvania. Most likely they both attended the Solebury Monthly Meetings together as boys.
Addressed to Hugh B. Eastburn, New Hope, Bucks county, Pa.
Near Mechanicsville, Virginia
June 25, 1862
Were I unlike any other mortal and knew what tomorrow would bring forth, I would defer writing to thee till then for I feel so dull and stupid that I can scarecely sit up. But as it is, it must be done or perhaps left undone for weeks. Just two weeks ago today the good steamer Canonicus ¹ brought me to this part of Virginia where I’ve long wanted to be. Since that time we’ve been “roughing it” truly. We occupy the advanced position on the right of the “Army before Richmond”—-a few cavalry regiments supporting the pickets being all the troops between us and the Virginia Central Railroad.
Our batteries exchange shots with the enemy every day. This dueling, though fun for them, is rather unpleasant for us for the enemy’s shells—though usually falling short—occasionally come into rather close proximity to our camp. Sometimes they pass entirely over us. A shell fired at a balloon which makes daily ascensions a quarter of a mile in our rear, one day last week exploded close by General Reynold’s quarters but fortunately did no damage. Last First day, our regiment supported by the 8th went on picket within 40 yards of those of the enemy. They were quite friendly, exchanged papers with us, and complimented us on our superior dress and arms but said it was impossible for us to take their capitol. When we put a fresh man on post, they would raise their guns just to try his pluck.
The second night we were on, all had to keep concealed as the 10th Alabama was on (they were the boys the Reserves handled so roughly at Dranesville). Several shots were exchanged but no one was hurt on our side. They only put troops from the Gulf States on their outer posts as others will desert if put there. A Georgia man came over to us 2nd Day night. He said he had paid $5.00 to get his post and that the whole regiment would come over the first chance.
We are not allowed to have any lights in camp and our bands and drums are kept quiet so they may not know our numbers and position. It is believed they are evacuating. A great deal of smoke has been seen for the last two days in the direction of Richmond and no tents are in sight here. They have at least fallen back. I was in hopes they would make a stand here and let us wind up the rebellion with one good strong pull.
A great many are sick in our army—particularly on the left. The country along the Chickahominy is one vast swamp with diseased enough in its bosom to kill the whole human family, soldiers excluded. Springs are scarce and the water in them villainous. Another fruitful source of disease is the innutritious food we receive (I object to this one more than the others for it is more easily remedied). Here is “bill of fare.” Judge if I’m not right. “Hard tack,” “Salt Hoss,” and Coffee. Nothing more nor less. How many of the gallant “Home Guards” think thee would be content with this fare? I don’t know that I should complain though for I’m hearty as an ox, though somewhat reduced in weight. If I’m shot at all, it will be by chance. No main can aim close enough.
Am I to infer from a remark thee made that any of your far damsels would be sorry to have me strangled? Really, I had begun to think they had all forgotten I once had “lived, moved, and had my living” in Old Solebury. If there be any such, let her speak, for her shall I reward (Antony with a slight variation).
I saw Ed White while at Fredericksburg. He was well and hearty then. I believe their Battery has returned to that place again. As I’ve had no sleep of any account for three nights, I hope thee will excuse my dullness.
Please write again at thy earliest convenience. Truly thy friend, — Benj. Shaw
Direct as before to Washington
¹ The steamer Canonicus transported the 2nd Pennsylvania Reserves along with five companies of the First and Eighth. “She was rather crowded, and by the time we got ourselves laid out for the night, there was scarcely a square foot of deck unoccupied,” wrote one member of the 2nd. The men debarked at White House Landing on the York River where they began their advance up the peninsula.
This letter was written by someone named “J. A. H.” of Davidson County, North Carolina, to Constantine Alexander Hege (1843-1914) who served in Co. H, 48th North Carolina (Confederate) Infantry. Constantine was the son of Solomon and Catharine (Guenther) Hege of Davidson county. The author may have been a relative such as an uncle, though the handwriting looks suspiciously like his father’s.
Constantine survived the war, returned home and shortly thereafter started the Salem Iron Works.
Addressed to C. A. Hege, Richmond, Virginia, 48th Regiment, N. C. Troops, General Cook’s Brigade, Co. H
Postmarked Salem, North Carolina
[Davidson county, North Carolina]
Only for C. A. Hege, dear sir,
Inasmuch as you have been in the army some over twelve months forced to go against your own will or the will of your Father, notwithstanding your father having hired a substitute for you in the draft who volunteered for the war and went into service, it is not lawful to retain you in service and yet you was forced to go like others who had substitutes in their place and of late there has been a great deal of money spent in carrying such cases before Judge Pearson by lawyers and some have got discharged from the army who had hired substitutes in the draft who had not been paid any money.
Tis true they were at home when the case was carried to the judge. The fair thing is the fair thing. Now what should hinder your Father from getting you out on the same principle. Tis true you are in the army and have been paid some for service those were looking about home & Hege & E. Brinkley are cleared by Judge Pearson according to law. You ought to have the same chance and more so being you served for 1 year—they did not. If you could only get a furlough to come home or into North Carolina, I think there would be money freely spent for your case. It is so supposed by me.
By a friend of yourn, — J. A. H.
For C. A. Hege and for him only, dear sir,
In a letter you sent a few days ago to your Father, you wish to know how and what to do (having hired a substitute) to get out of the war. Your Father has counseled with a number of lawyers on that point months ago. Some say because you received pay, you cannot get out. Others say they have no right to keep you in the army, you having a substitute in your place no matter what age he was. They say if you was at home, they could take you before Judge Pearson and he, according to law, would clear you from the army by suing out a writ of habeas corpus. Your Father is anxious for you to get a permit or furlough to come home. That is all he wants.
All he wants is for you to come home or into North Carolina only and he will see what he can be done. He would spend money freely to have you out of the army if it is possible. Therefore he is very desirous that you might come home.
You best had keep those things to yourself. If the officers find out that you want to get out, they will be meaner to you and not let you get a permit to go home and in Virginia your Father cannot sue out a write of habeas corpus. So you had better plead for a permit to go home to see your Father who is in very feeble health. Likely they would let you go to see your sick father.
This letter was written by Solomon Hege (1813-1875) of Davidson County, North Carolina, to his oldest son, Constantine Alexander Hege (1843-1914) who served in Co. H, 48th North Carolina (Confederate) Infantry. Solomon and his wife, Catharine Guenther (1813-1874) had at least four other children.
Constantine survived the war, returned home and shortly thereafter started the Salem Iron Works.
Addressed to C. A. Hege, Richmond, Va., Co. H, 48th Regiment, N. Carolina Troops, General Cook’s Brigade
Davidson County, North Carolina
Thursday evening, June the 11th 1863
My Dear Son C. A. Hege,
Just a few moments ago H. Meser brought me a letter which Uncle C. Ripple brought from Salem today [from] Richmond Camp Lee bearing date June the 7th. I was truly glad to hear from you and this morning I received your letter you sent from Kinston as you were about to leave there. I had supposed likely you had only went to Petersburg but so it is again at Richmond. It is stranger they order Cook’s Brigade about so much, but so it is. May the goodness and mercy of God be with you where ever you go is my prayer.
Still during this week I had many an anxious thought thinking perhaps you was about Fredericksburg being told they were fighting there on Saturday last. But yesterday I was told they only run the Yankee’s back again. Oh what folly that the men in authority do not try to offer proposals other wise that trying to murder for to restore peace to our already ruined country. O that God would constrain them to meet each other in Peace Conference to make fair proposals to stop fighting and live as God designed man should live here, that they may live in Heaven hereafter. I do hope that God Almighty will soon interpose. then let us in earnest cry and never cease in prayer.
I suppose you have now received letters stating the disappointment of your Mother in bringing you a trunk of good things to eat as your attention seemed to be arrested in going through Virginia seeing the fine wheat. Well, may it remind you of the great need of your help on our old farm which needs more laborers to raise grain and make hay as Old Jeff and his Cabinet say one tenth of all the farmer does raise must be paid as a tax to defray expenses of the Confederate Government. May God rule our ruler and bring them to a sense of their duties to their fellow men.
By your father, — Solomon Hege
We are all well as usual and thank the Lord you are well also. May the Lord be with you to bless and comfort you under all circumstances.
This letter was written by James E. White (1843-1916) who enlisted on 20 May 1861 at the age of 18 in Co. G, 13th Iowa Infantry and worked his way up through the ranks from a private to captain of his company before being mustered out at Louisville, Kentucky, on 21 July 1865 as a veteran. James was the son of David H. White (1818-1894) and Catherine Walley (1819-1900) of Vinton, Benton county, Iowa.
Camp 13th Regt. Iowa Infantry
Near Alexandria, Va.
May 22d 1865
The grape vine has been in constant motion for the past six or seven days. Rumors of divers and sundries kinds are circulated through the camps in regard to what disposition will be made of the Veterans. I think that time alone can solve the problem. Governor Stone is now at Washington supposed to be making arrangements for transporting the Iowa troops to the state. I hope that we will be mustered out soon for I can see no reason why they should discharge the recruits and keep the Vets.
I see by the [Vinton] Eagle that R. Adams is dead also a notice of the death of Capt. [Thomas] Drummond. ¹ In connection with the death of Mr. [Milton P.] Adams, I saw an article purporting to come from a citizen recommending our old friend Fred ² as a good man to fill the vacancy now existing in the Recorder’s Office. I think that such a movement would receive the hearty support of almost every loyal man in the county. I am confident that Company G would give him their hearty support. Fred deserves it and what little influence I may have amongst my friends and the company will be used in his favor. In connection with this, I desire you to remember me to Fred and ask him why the devil he does not send me my [news]paper.
We are camped now upon the ground that the papers say was wont in former times to echo and tremble beneath the feet of the victorious “Onward to Richmond” Army and now while the land is inhabited by “Sherman’s Greesers,” “all is quiet on the Potomac.” I suppose that we will cut a —– at Washington on the 24th. ³ We are then to be reviewed by the President and General Grant. People are gathering in from all parts of the country to see the grand sight.
Remember me to Mrs. P. Also to anyone who may make any inquiries about yours truly, — Capt. James E. White
Remember me to Uncle Johnny and also take a glass of lager beer for me. I have not enough money on hand to procure the above mentioned article. — Jimmie
¹ Capt. Thomas Drummond, also from Benton county, Iowa, was in command of the 5th U. S. Cavalry when he was fatally wounded at the battle of Five Forks, Dinwiddie County, Virginia. A letter from the Chaplain of the 5th US Cavalry states: “Captain Drummond’s conduct was noble and heroic to the last and he rejoiced to know that he died as a soldier and a patriot. As he was borne from the battlefield in an ambulance he articulated the Latin words “dulce et decorum est pro patria mori” – it is pleasant and honorable to die for one’s country. Captain Drummond lived from 11 a.m. on the 1st, the time he received his wound, until 8 a.m. on the 2nd. Before becoming insensible he talked very freely of his spiritual condition and felt himself reconciled to die.”
² Frederick (“Fred”) Lyman served as the Benton County Recorder from 1866 to 1868. Fred was the editor and publisher of The Vinton Eagle, the first newspaper to be placed in circulation in Benton county, Iowa.
³ This is a reference to the Grand Review of Sherman’s Army in Washington D. C. on May 24, 1865.
This letter was written by Roger Minot Sherman (1773-1844), the son of Rev. Josiah and Martha (Minott) Sherman. His uncle, Roger Sherman, was a Signer of the Declaration of Independence. Roger graduated from Yale in 1792, attended the Litchfield Law School and after his admittance to the bar, set up a practice in Norwalk, Connecticut. By 1807 he had relocated to Fairfield where he continued his practice. While there, he entered politics, serving as both a Senator and a Representative in the Connecticut Legislature.
He addressed the letter to Rev. William Buell Sprague (1795-1876), a Congregational and Presbyterian clergyman best known for compiling a comprehensive biographical dictionary of the leading American Protestant Christian ministers who died before 1850. Sprague and Sherman were contemporaries, each attended Yale, but Sprague pursued a theological course at Princeton and entered the Congregational ministry in 1819. Afterwards, and for forty years, he was affiliated with the Second Presbyterian Church in Albany, New York. Sprague was keenly interested in historical documents and he set out to collect the autographs of all the signers of the Declaration of Independence. He completed this task by February 1833. In his lifetime, he collected the autographs of nearly 100,000 historical figures. A correspondent of Sprague’s once wrote to him, “You are certainly a first rate fellow, worthy of all the autographs which you can beg, buy, or borrow.” [To read more of Sprague and his obsession with autograph collecting, see: “William Buell Sprague and the Trouble with Antiquarianism in the Early U. S.”]
The content of this letter, as you might have guessed, pertains to the collection of autographs.
Addressed to Rev’d William B. Sprague, Albany
September 24, 1830
Agreeably to your request, I send you the signature of the Hon. Roger Sherman. The Hon. Samuel W. Johnson of Stratford has favoured me with four original letters—one is from his grandfather, the Rev’d Samuel Johnson of Stratford, the first President of Kings (now Columbia) College at New York. He was highly distinguished for his talents & literary achievements. The letter addressed to him by Doctor Franklin is very characteristic. The rank held by his son, Doctor William Samuel Johnson, is well known to you. In 1765 he was a member from Connecticut of a Congress of the Colonies which convened in the city of New York. The address by that body to the King remonstrating against the tax sought to be raised upon the colonies to defray the expenses of the war which terminated in 1763 was principally from his pen. In 1766 he received the degree of Doctor of Laws from the University of Oxford. In 1772 he was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court of Connecticut, in 1784 a member of Congress under the Old Confederation, in 1787 a delegate to the convention which formed the Constitution of the U. States, & in the same year, president of Columbia College, & in 1788, a Senator in the First Congress of the U. States under the present constitution. The judiciary system of the United States was framed by him & the late Chief Justice Ellsworth.
Should you not appropriate either of the letter furnished by Mr. Johnson to the intended object, it will oblige his family if they can be conveniently returned. You may have already received similar autographs.
I also send the fragment of a letter from the venerable John Jay, first Chief Justice of the United States.
With great respect, I am, Dear Sir, most truly yours, — Roger Minot Sherman
This letter was written by Capt. James Harvey Greene (1833-1890), the son of Eli Green (1799-1852) and Mary Fox (1798-1887). James was married to Jane Rachel Hervey (1836-1892) in 1857 and the couple were living in Prairie du Chien, Crawford county, Wisconsin when the Civil War started. In August 1861, James was commissioned Captain of Co. F, 8th Wisconsin Infantry. He remained with the regiment until February 1865 when he mustered out.
Probably about 1864, James addressed this letter to his two youngest daughters, Nellie (b. 1859) and Cassie (b. 1862).
In the letter, James draws a sketch of the regiment’s mascot, “Old Abe”—an eagle that they carried into battle with them.
My dear little daughter Nelly and my dear little daughter Cassy,
Papa is afraid his little girls are tired of waiting for an answer to their pretty little letter to him, but he has been oh so very, very hard at work until this minute. You must take this letter to your dear mamma and be real good girls while she reads it to you and then you must write another letter to papa and tell him all about that little black and tan dog that Uncle Henry got for you, and which was a naughty dog to run away. I wonder if Nelly remembers that big white dog that we call Frank which she played with at Germantown? Here is a picture of him. [Sketch]
And here is a picture of our eagle. [Sketch] Don’t you think it is nice?
And you remember that little nigger girl who thought you was such a fine young lady. Well, my little girls, here is a picture of her. [Sketch]
There, papa must bid his Nelly and Cassy goodbye for this time. Mamma will give you a good kiss for me.
This letter was written by Mary (“Mae”) Annette Halley (1836-1888), the fiancée of Samuel Newton (1835-1922). Mae was the daughter of John and Jessie (Spital) Halley of Markinch, Fifeshire, Scotland. She came with her parents as an infant to Vermont in 1836, was educated in the local schools, and then graduated from Newbury Seminary in Newbury, Vermont in 1858. She served as the preceptress of Xenia College, in Xenia, Ohio, from 1858 to 1864. She married Samuel on 22 September 1864. After She died, her husband married her sister, Elizabeth Halley (1842-1927).
This letter was written in 1864 while Samuel Newton served in the 154th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI). “The couple became the parents of three boys and two girls between 1865 and 1874. The first two boys, Paul and Earle died at the ages of three and four respectively, probably from diptheria. The three surviving children were Frances Halley (1871-1962), Samuel Donald (1872-1962), and Mary Leslie (1874-1944). As stated in Kathryn Jean Tyrone’s Dear Ones, Newton Family Letters, 1862-1940, (page 31) Samuel’s dream was to own a sugar-cane plantation in Louisiana, but “he never abandoned his civic duties to Xenia. He entered the business community first as an apothecary and later as a bookseller. He was a founder of Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church and played a vital role in planning its construction.” Mae Newton taught at Xenia Female College and also found time to help organize the Xenia Woman’s Club in 1869 (the club fictionalized by Xenia native, Helen Hooven Santmyer in the novel, And Ladies of the Club). Mae Newton, after a brief illness, died in September 1888 and two years later Samuel and the three children move to Ooltewah, Tennesee. There Samuel built and managed a blasting powder plant. Samuel’s mother, Catherine Newton as well as Mae’s sister, Lizzie Halley, soon joined him. In 1893, Samuel married Lizzie. Catherine Newton died at her son’s home in December 1901. He died in July 1922.” [Source: Newton Family Papers, BGSU Libraries]
Addressed to Mr. Samuel Newton, New Creek Station
154th Regt. O. V. I., West Virginia
July 31st 1864
I received on last Thursday a note dated New Creek Station and on Friday your letter of the 24th inst. My rule “to answer immediately” has proved fallible this once, but it makes a difference of only two days.
I had anticipated your question with regard to the “Faculty” for next year in my last letter. It will probably be as therein stated unless you conclude to let me keep the position of preceptress as you have lengthened out your waking hours from sixteen to twenty, I suppose it won’t make much difference to you anyway. Please let me know quickly before it is too late to make arrangements. Sixteen or twenty waking hours a day! I am afraid if you attempt anything of the kind you will be haunted. I am morally certain that a “wraith” will work mischief dire & awful. Be persuaded then, I beseech you, tempt not the fates.
I had intended going away from Xenia this week but various untoward circumstances have prevented. Shall go next week if no adverse providence interferes to Washington Court House. You may continue to send my letters to Xenia—it is so uncertain about my going. They will be forwarded in case I leave.
“Do people gossip?” I do not know. I hear very little. My “reporter” Mrs. Canwell is out of town now visiting her mother. Besides, I have not been to see her but once during vacation. From some rumors that floated to my ears I had reason to think she was not “true” and so to keep myself out of the way of temptation, I quit going there for awhile. We have not quarreled. I do not think I am angry—just “spunky” a little, though I knew before that Mrs. Canwell liked to talk and when people talk, they must say something. All of which is mostly interesting to you I have no doubt.
I have scarcely been “down town” this week so I have no news to write. The only sign that “the world still wags” cognizable from the college are the mingled sounds of singing, praying, and shouting in the “colored” church opposite. The weather is warm enough for a revival and consequently from sunrise till midnight the work goes on.
I had only one letter last week which I didn’t think was exactly fair. Do you?
Transcribed here are two letters connected with the history of the 55th Tennessee (Browns) Infantry. What makes these letters interesting is not so much the content as the provenance. Both letters were picked up “on the field” by Capt. James Harvey Greene of the 8th Wisconsin Infantry when they, as part of Gen. Pope’s forces, crossed the Mississippi river to Kentucky to “assist in the pursuit of the flying rebels after the evacuation of Island No. 10.” This was the regiment’s first encounter with the rebel army and no doubt Capt. Greene wanted to preserve them as a memento of the occasion.
This first letter was written by Confederate Surgeon John Maclin Driver (1837-1893), the son of Henry Driver (1809-1892) and Elizabeth Carter (1816-1900) of Edgefield, Davidson county, Tennessee. Driver received his medical degree from the University of Nashville in 1857 and married Mary E. Traylor (1841-1913) the following year. He was practicing medicine in Camden, Benton county, Tennessee, when the Civil War began and first enlisted in late October 1861 as a private in Co. B, 55th Tennessee at Trenton, Tennessee. After receiving his appointment as surgeon from the Provisional Army of the CSA, he was ordered to report to 2nd Tennessee Cavalry Battalion (Jones) at Columbus, Kentucky—the Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi river.
Driver was taken prisoner during the Battle of Island No. 10 in early April 1862 and eventually spent time in the prison at Camp Douglas near Chicago. He was exchanged in during the summer of 1862 and returned to Tennessee where he saw duty as a medical inspector. He subsequently saw duty in Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, serving as a surgeon at the Gen. Hospital at Cahaba, the union prison in Alabama, near the close of the war. A very complete biographical sketch of Driver is contained on the Find-A-Grave website.
Driver wrote the letter to the the officers of the 55th Tennessee (Browns) Infantry encamped at Columbus, Kentucky. The first-named officer was Major John H. Hilsman who had entered the service as Captain of Co. G. in October 1861 at Trenton. The 55th Tennessee remained at Columbus, Kentucky, until March 1862 when it was ordered to Island No. 10. The regiment was part of the garrison defending that stronghold until it was forced to surrender after a severe bombardment on 8 April 1862.
In his letter, Driver introduced Senator William Priestly Morris (1817-1893)—a prominent business man of Camden, Tennessee—who was elected to the State Senate in 1861 (34th General Assembly) representing Benton, Humphreys, Perry, Decatur, and Henderson.
The second letter was written by John Madison Parker (1821-1875), a native of North Carolina who relocated to Tennessee in the mid 1840s and was employed as a Printer/Publisher in Jackson, Madison county, Tennessee, before the Civil War. He was married to Caroline (“Callie”) King McCutchen (1829-1905). In his letter, Parker endorses his friend, Alexander Jackson Brown (1835-1864) for Colonel of the 55th Tennessee (Brown) Infantry. Col. Brown was taken captive after the fall of Island No. 10 and imprisoned at Fort Wagner. When his health failed, he resigned his commission and he died at Jackson, Tennessee in April 1864 at the age of 28. Before the war, Brown had attended the University of Virginia and was practicing law in Jackson.
[Note: Both letters and the image of Capt. J. H. Greene were inherited by his descendant, John Narrin, and are published here by his express consent.]
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
January 3rd 1862
To Maj. [J. H.] Hilsman, Capt. [J. E.] McDonald, [Capt. Alfred] Briant and others of Gentlemen,
The Hon. Wm. P. Morris visits our camp at Columbus to remain some days. He is a gentleman of extra ability and prominence—is at present the senator from Henderson, Benton, &c. His every energy has been given to our cause—and could you induce him to remain and accept a position with us, I am satisfied that he would give as much character and do as much in securing the rights of the Battalion as any man we could get. I take great pleasure in introducing him to your favorable consideration.
With respect, gentlemen, I am your obedient servant,
J. M. Driver
Jones Tenn. Battalion
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
January 15, 1862
Col. Wm. A. Jones
I learn from my special friend Lieut. Alex Brown, that you and him are about to become connected together in a regiment of volunteers in the confederate military service. He has informed us that you all have promised him the post of Col. in your regiment provided that he can bring these companies. It it depends upon a contingency of this sort, we have no misgivings about the result. He will bring the volunteers, no doubt. He is one of the most gallant and talented young men of my acquaintance, and I am glad to hear of his probable good fortune in becoming connected with you in the public service. You will all find that he will never falter under any circumstances that may surround you in the vicissitudes of war. He is connected with a family of large influence, and a regiment under his charge will enjoy some advantages, as you know, over other regiments differently circumstanced. I hope you all may succeed in your undertaking.
These letters were written by Asst. Surgeon Augustus Robert Nebinger (1834-1884), the son of Dr. Robert Nebinger (1796-1867) and Elizabeth Powell (1799-1864) of York county, Pennsylvania. Augustus attended the Jefferson Medical College and began his practice in 1860 in York county. He first served as an assistant surgeon with the 158th Pennsylvania (Drafter Militia)—a nine month’s regiment that was posted much of the time at Newbern, North Carolina. He later served as the assistant surgeon with the 11th Pennsylvania Cavalry. His brother William Powell Nebringer served as an Assistant Surgeon with the 56th Pennsylvania. [Note: For some unknown reason, Nebinger signed his letters, “Rox” which must have been a nickname.]
In the first letter, Augustus writes his Father of the failed “Foster Expedition” and then provides his brother William with the day’s list and treatment of sick soldiers in the 158th Pennsylvania. From the list, we learn that Asst. Surgeon had to treat sixty-six soldiers that morning before he even had the opportunity to eat his breakfast.
In the second letter from New Bern, North Carolina, Augustus tells his father he is ready to leave for Washington D. C. to rejoin the regiment.
In the third (partial) letter, Augustus writes his father from Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, following the Battle of Gettysburg, where he was treating the wounded at the “School House Hospital”—a large brick building adjoining the old jail on King Street. In the letter, he expresses concern for his younger brother, Sgt. Robert H. C. Nebinger (1840-1907) who was a member of Co. F, 56th Pennsylvania. The 56th was the second Union infantry regiment on the field on July 1st and the first to open fire, taking on the Confederates of Davis’ Brigade. A twenty minute firefight caused the Pennsylvanians heavy casualties before the regiment was withdrawn to the woods along Oak Ridge, the extension of Seminary Ridge north of the Railroad Cut.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Camp near New Bern [North Carolina]
February 24, 1863
My dear Father,
Your No. 7 (dated 12th) with sister’s No. 6 (dated 11th) [are] received—yours yesterday and hers on Friday last.
I was sorry to learn that you were having another visit of your old complaint–colic, but as you say nothing about it in yours I suppose you are again well. I hope Mother will speedily recover from her second attack of cold.
I am glad to learn that Bob is better satisfied than he seemed to be from you writing some time past. I hope Fighting Joe [Hooker] will soon speak to the South in an unmistakable manner showing them that there is yet a U. S. that will crush rebellion.
Yes, I had reference to the Foster Expedition which was so badly managed. We learn that on arriving in Hunter’s domain, he claimed the expedition but Foster also claimed the honor of commanding so they done nothing but let the fleet lay at Hilton Head while Foster went to Washington. I have heard that there were some 70,000 men in the expedition. Will our generals never cease interfering to defeat each other? Had either of them been what they profess to be—Patriots—we would have heard good news from that expedition some time ago.
The sash cost about what I thought you would pay. I have not received it yet but expect it soon as the Express Boat is now due. I wrote to you & sister last week and thought of writing to [brother] Will but did not. Will soon.
There, I have answered all there is to answer in sister’s letter for you, and not for yours after thanking you again for the favor you have done me since I hired to “Uncle Sam.” Oh! shirts all right—only a little long in the sleeves.
Strange as it may appear to you at home, it is very seldom that two of you write the same thing. I mean that I do not get the same news twice and therefore your fears of repetition have so far [at] least been without foundation. Even was it your fear would not the pleasure of receiving a letter from any of you prove an antidote to all indifference there might be in reading the same thing over.
well now, after thinking a long time, I must say I can’t tell you what I would like to know, any more than I can tell what I would not like to know. So I shall just ask asll to write what comes uppermost & if I want specially to know anything, I will ask. Of course I would like to know of all the family in all your letters. Now questions concerning John Chap, Geo. & all their families are crowding but you know what I wish to learn of them without my particularizing.
I am waiting patiently to hear from Bob W. & Gust. I am afraid the organization of counter societies is calculated to weaken instead of strengthen the government. I think that is usually the effect of such moves. Success to the New Order of Patriots. Willi s always either one thing or the other—never halfway—and of course if he smokes, he will smoke, smoke, smoke.
The Great 22nd has passed & thought it rained very hard all day, we had a Grand Review of Spinolas & some other Brigade by General Prince. After the review, of course supper & champaign, whiskey, &c. followed for the officers from Lt. Cols. up—and I must say their conduct in New Bern was a disgrace to our arms. Making speeches & running their horses through the streets. Not being in the crowd, I have the above [account] from some of the participants.
Oh! please give Jontie McGrew my very best regards for the present of “The Soldier.” We are still in status quo and of course nothing new to write. Burnsides is said to be coming to take charge of us in North Carolina. I am well & weight 168 to 170 lbs. Bully!
Your affectionate son, — A. R. Nebinger, Asst. Surgeon
I send you this as a sample of our days work which we do before breakfast commencing about 5½ A. M. This is one of mine as you will easily perceive by the writing. “H.” means in hospital. “L. D.” means Light Duty & Ex. [means] Sick in Quarters and excused from all duty. Ain’t it nice work on an empty stomach?
In your letter you make a request at the close and by jingle I cannot make it out. If you recollect, let me know what it was. As I write at least once a week, I think I should receive say twice. Your brother, — Rox
February 24, 1863
Pvt. Jno. Cling, Rx, Cough syrup, LD.
Pvt. W[illiam] O. Rhoads, Rx. Quinio, Ex.
Pvt. Jonathan Stover, Rx. Quinio & Syrup, L.D.
Corp. Samuel Bishop, Rx. Quinio, L.D.
Pvt. J[eremie] H. Morrett, Rx. Gargle, L.D.
Pvt. John [W.] Griffith, Rx. L.D.
Sergt. Fred Goodyear, Rx. Mass Hydg. [?] Pill Purgative, L.D.
Sergt. William C. Leady, Dress wound, Ex.
Corp. Alex. [W.] Gaston, Dress wound, Ex.
Pvt. Christian Leidig, Dress wound, Ex.
Pvt. James A. McKee, Rx. Mass Hydg. gr XV. Pill L.D.
Pvt. Samuel Upperman, Rx. Cough syrup, L.D.
Pvt. George Gordon, Rx. Cough syrup, L.D.
Sergt. Samuel D. Zeigler, Rx, continued Ex.
Pvt. Henry Smith, Rx continued, Ex.
Pvt. Samuel Berry, Rx., Poultice, Ex.
Corp. Andrew J. Rutz, Rx. Quinio & Ferri, L.D.
Pvt. J. J. Reed, Rx. Cath. syrup, L.D.
Pvt. George Riddle, Rx. Syrup, Quinio, L.D.
Corp. Jacob Fry, Rx. Quinio & armacid q.s. Agna ?, L.D.
Corp. Henry Posser, Rx.
Pvt. Oliver Elliott, Rx. Sinafism syrup, L.D.
Pvt. George T. Stains, Rx. Syrup, L.D.
Pvt. Abner Shatzer, Rx. Cup & Pulv Dor., L. D.
Pvt. Fred Burket, H.
Pvt. Henry Bittner, H. Stimulants & Tonic
Pvt. Jerry Bear, Rx. Syrup, L.D.
Pvt. Charles Hoffman, Rx. Syrup, L.D.
Pvt. Samuel Tucker, Rx. Tonic [?] Syrup, L.D.
Pvt. George Little, Rx. Syrup, L.D.
Pvt. Daniel Henry, Rx. Mass Hydr, [?] L.D.
Corp. David Wingart, Rx. Syrup P. [?] L.D.
Corp. Jacob Horsch, Rx, Quinio. L.D.
Sergt. James R. McCurdy, Rx. Syrip, Ex.
Lt. Parrick G. McCoy, Rx. Quinio, Ex.
Corp. George Yocum, Rx. Syrup, gargle, L.D.
Pvt. Andrew Fiches, Rx., Syrup, Quinio, L. D.
Pvt. Daniel Keller, Rx., Cathartic, L.D.
Pvt. Eli Ford, Rx, Diarrhea, Pill (SEB) Syrup, L.D.
Pvt. Samuel Mixell, Rx., Syrup, L.D.
Pvt. George Sudsbury, Rx. Sinofism syrup. L.D.
Pvt. David Wagner, Hosp. Tonic, L.D.
Pvt. James Dishong, Rx. Cathartic, L.D.
Pvt. John Stull, Rx., Syrup. Gargle. L.D.
Pvt. Fred Hauff [Hoff], Rx. Continue, L.D.
Pvt. John Hullinger, Rx. Pill (SEB), L.D. [Died at Philadelphia, 3 July 1863]
Pvt. James Baker, H
Pvt. Adam Vallance, H
Corp. Jacob Chisholm, Rx. gargle, L.D.
Pvt. Peter Ensley, Rx. Syrup, L.D.
Pvt. George Trott, Rx. Syrup, L.D.
Pvt. John Irvin, Rx. Quinio, P[?] at night, L.D.
Pvt. Abner Wink, Rx. [?] Sulf., L.D.
Pvt. George Mellott, Rx. Syrup, L.D.
Pvt. Jacob Saltkeld, Rx. Sinofism syrup, L.D.
Sergt. Joseph Martin. Rx. Cathartic Quinio, L.D.
Pvt. John Wilt, Rx. Quinio, Duty
Pvt. David Ashwell, Rx., Cathartic, Duty
Pvt. Amos Detrich, Rx. Quinio, L.D.
Pvt. Jacob Glenn, Rx. Cough mixt., L.D.
Pvt. Abram Seacrest, Rx, Mass Hydg & Oil, L.D.
Pvt. Samuel Henry, H. Tonic [discharged on surgeon’s certificate 20 March 1863]
Sergt. Wm. Martin, Rx. Cath to Quinio, L.D.
Pvt. G. W. Sailhammer [Seiihamer], Rx. Quinio
Pvt. Peter Clark, Rx, Dress wound. Ex.
Pvt. Henry C. Clevenger, Rx, Collyrium [eye drops], L. D.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
New Berne [North Carolina
May 31, 1863
My Dear Father,
I have not much to write and very short time to write in the morning as I leave for Washington D. C. to join the regiment. [I am] well as usual and glad to get back to the regiment. We have had no skirmishing since my last.
I hope U. S. Grant will succeed in takin Vicksburg. Have any of the 130th got home & how do they look, &c.?
I write on one of our cards because my paper is in trunk. I have received 2 letters from home in two weeks, both from you. I shall write you from Washington as soon as I have seen the place.
Love to all from your affectionate son, A. Rox Nebinger
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE
…I have heard nothing of Bro. Bob but hope he is among the 150 effective men in the 56th [Pennsylvania] Regiment. We have 4 or 5 of the 56th in our hospital but none of them knew anything of him. Tomorrow if I have time, I will visit the other hospitals (2 in Va.) and make further inquiry. We have one of Jenkin’s men in our hospital who say Stobe was not in the action.
This is rather a nice old town of some 5,000 inhabitants with a good sprinkling of negroes. Too ark to see. I am anxious to hear how you are getting along. Love to all. Direct to School House Hospital, Chambersburg, Pa.
Yours affectionate son, — Rox
Morn, I wrote to George to speak to Gen. Geary. I withdraw the request as then made. If I am thrown out when these hospitals are discontinued, I will then want influence to get some other hospital. — Rox
This incredible Battle of Fredericksburg letter was written by Sgt. Thomas W. Dick (1839-1924) of Co. H, 12th Pennsylvania Reserves (41st Penn. Infantry). Historians will recall that Meade’s Pennsylvania Reserves assaulted and punched through the Confederate defenses on Prospect Hill but the lack of support caused the Reserves to fall back. The regiment lost 13 killed, 70 wounded, and 34 taken prisoner that day. Among those killed was Sgt. John Patterson Griffith (1835-1862) of East Wheatfield—comrade and messmate of Sgt. Dick.
Thomas was the son an Irish emigrant farmer named James Dick (1801-1884) of Armagh, Indiana county, Pennsylvania. His mother’s maiden name was Mary More Stewart (1813-1873), a native of Pennsylvania. After the war, Thomas married Lucy Kern (1843-1918) and resided in Ebensburg where he made a living as an attorney and businessman.
The second letter posted here was also written by Sgt. Dick. It describes the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg on 19 November 1863. Though he comments favorably on Everett’s speech, he makes no mention of Lincoln’s brief address. He datelined the letter from “Columbia” which I assume was Columbia, Pennsylvania, while detached from his regiment on recruiting service. He mentions the regiment being on the move again which was the Mine Run Campaign.
[Note: These letters have been donated to the Archives & Special Collections of Dicksinson College.]
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Camp Near Belle [Plain] Landing January 8, 1863
As my letters since the battle have been brief and unsatisfactory, I will embrace the present opportunity to give you a detailed account of the affair as near as I can. I believe the last place I wrote from previous to the battle was Brooks Station. On the morning of the 8th December we were ordered in off picket, drew rations, and took up the line of march towards the Rappahannock. It was a bitter cold day and rather discouraging for soldiers, but all were willing to endure the exposure and brave the danger—if we only accomplished our object! But alas we failed!
We marched all day and that night until 10 o’clock. We then encamped in a dense pine thicket, and as there had a skift of snow fallen recently, you may know it was not a very inviting place to spend the night—for if we happened to touch a tree, the snow would come down upon us in a perfect torrent. Nevertheless it served to keep the wind off, and we unpacked our blankets and slept as soundly as if we had been at home in feather beds. [Sgt. John P.] Griffith and I slept together. Our bed consisted of some pine and cedar tops cut fine covered with two gum blankets and a shelter tent and our great coats. This formed the under part of our bed. We had over us two woolen blankets and a gum. Considering the circumstances it was a pretty good bed. We remained there the next day and night and also the day following. On the evening of that day—which was the 10th of the month—we received orders to be ready to march at midnight. Then we gave up all hopes of sleeping that night and began preparation for the march. This was soon accomplished for it requires but little time for Uncle Sam’s boys to make ready to move to any point whatever.
After we had made all necessary preparations, the boys gathered around the campfire to talk about the probable object of the movement—but the conversation assumed rather a serious turn for nearly all came to the conclusion that we would soon be in battle. And we well knew that some one of our number must fall. Yet about 12 o’clock when the Capt. came around with the familiar command, “fall in boys,” they fell in ranks as promptly and marched off as gaily as ever. We marched to the [Rappahannock] river and there received orders to protect the engineer corps while they threw the pontoons across. We could plainly see the rebels lights on the other side, however they made no show of resistance until the bridges were built when the pickets opened fire, which resulted in wounding three or four of the workmen. In fact I think their opposition at this point was a mere feint and our generals permitted themselves to be drawn into the trap. That evening our troops commenced crossing, but our division did not cross until the evening of the following day. We slept that night on the south side of the Rappahannock. Little did I think that that night was the last for poor Griffith on earth. But we know not what a day may bring forth.
The next morning we again moved down toward the enemy and soon the distant sharp report of artillery announced to us the fact that we had found them. Our troops advanced steadily forward under the shot and shell of the enemy. We moved on for some distance and then halted for some time but not long, for as usual the old reserve corpse had to kick up the fight. So we were ordered to charge on the enemy’s works which I think was done in gallant style. We had to advance over a piece of low marshy ground and the rebels were posted in the woods on a range of hills in front of us, thus having all advantage in position. But still we advanced over their rifle pits and had them driven away from their guns, but we had no support and consequently had to fall back.
I think whoever is responsible for this grand movement across the Rappahannock managed it very badly for any person of common sense with no military ability would know that it was impossible to take that position. And the testimony of the different generals goes to show that it lies with Burnsides entirely. Even in his own testimony he assumes the whole responsibility. I think Old Burnie a gallant man and a good military man in his place, but I am afraid he has got too high. I believe with him that McClellan can do more with this army than any other man. No wonder our army is discouraged. We have been slaughtered for nothing. We have always been led to expect great things and nearly always been disappointed. We are all willing to do or to suffer anything for our glorious cause but we are not willing to see our comrades cut down beside us and still accomplish nothing. All we want is good leaders—God-fearing men who will do their duty, for surely the army has done its duty. The people have done theirs, so it must be with our leaders.
I never felt so lonely in my life as I did after the battle [with] the last of my messmates gone. In fact, all the company feel the loss of the three that were killed very deeply.
I received your kind letter by politeness of B. Miller. It was the kind of letter I like to receive. It contained some advice which I shall try and profit by. But it is impossible to get a furlough. No man can get a furlough unless he is sick or wounded and the doctor certifies that it is necessary to save his life. I believe I have given you all the news therefore I will close.
From your affectionate son, — T. W. Dick
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
December 3rd, 1863
I received your letter a few days ago and should have answered sooner. Still it is sooner than you generally answer so you dare not scold.
We are still in Columbia and of course are enjoying ourselves very much. I had a letter from Lt. [Samuel M.] Elder not many days ago. He said the boys were generally well and had comfortable quarters. However, since that I see by the papers the army is on the move again so I suppose they are not so comfortable now. I have not heard from Capt. [Andrew J.] Bolar but once since we came to Columbia.
I was over to Gettysburg on the 19th to the dedication of the national cemetery. There was a great crowd there. I believe all the governors of the loyal states were there besides Father Abraham, Edward Everett, and other distinguished men. Everett made a fine speech. I had a shake hands with the United States. ¹ He appeared very glad to see me.
Although they had made every preparation in the town to accommodate the guests yet there was numbers who could not get a sleeping place. I went up the evening before and happened to be fortunate enough to fall in with a hack driver from [the] Motter House, ² York, [Pennsylvania,] and he was kind enough to let us sleep in his hack. He gave us two blankets and a buffalo robe and we slept very well.
I was very glad to hear that you are doing such a good business but don’t work too hard. You know you can only get your six feet of ground when the sands of life are run anyhow, so you had better take a little comfort as you go.
Now about reenlisting, I believe as you are all so opposed to it I will not do so at present and I do not intend to go into the service again without some position—but I won’t promise how it will be in that case. Write soon.