1863: Joel Winslow to Catherine E. (Creamer) Winslow

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Pvt. Roscoe G. Davenport of Co. H wearing the uniform of the 21st Maine Infantry

This letter was written by 29 year-old Joel L. Winslow (1833-1863) to his wife, Catherine (“Katie”) Elizabeth Creamer (1837-1917) of Nobleboro, Lincoln county, Maine. Joel was the son of Snow Winslow (1793-1851) and Elizabeth Hannah Hoch (1792-1878). Joel and Katie were married on 27 December 1855 at Waldoboro. He was a farmer in Nobelboro in the 1860 US Census.

Joel wrote the letter while serving in Co. I, 21st Maine Infantry. He enlisted with the regiment on 1 October 1862 and was with them when they sailed from New York City to New Orleans in January 1863 when he wrote this letter enroute. Most of the regiment sailed aboard the steamer Onward, but Co. I sailed aboard the steamer Illinois with the 49th Massachusetts Infantry. The Illinois arrived at New Orleans on 31 January and then sailed on upriver to Baton Rouge on 3 February, 1863. The regiment participated in the operations against Port Hudson in March 1863 and then served in Baton Rouge until May when they participated in the siege of Port Hudson.

The “nine-month’s” regiment mustered out on 26 August 1863, but Joel did not return to Maine. He died of chronic diarrhea on 4 August 1863 at a hospital at Mound City, Pulaski county, Illinois, and was buried in the Mound City National Cemetery, Plot E O 4303. [Note some military records give his death date as August 1865 but the U.S. Register of Deaths of Volunteers clearly indicates it was in August 1863.]


On board the steamship Illinois
off coast of Florida
January 31st, Saturday [1863]

Dearest Katie,

I take this time to write you a few lines to let you know how I am. We left New York a week ago today and got down to Fort Monroe Monday forenoon. We did not stop there but a few hours when we left for New Orleans, I suppose. We have had a very fine passage so far. The Massachusetts 49th Regiment is in board of this ship [too]. They got aboard before our companies did and they got all the bunks so that our boys had to sleep on the hurricane deck but it was all the better for our boys on account of not being seasick. There was the mostest heaving up that ever you saw amongst the Massachusetts boys who slept between decks. Our boys was not much sick. Some of them began to heave before we got out of sight of New York. I have not been seasick a might. I have been as hearty as a bear since we started.

We have been four days and a half out of sight of land. We made land this morning in the coast of Florida. We live on hard bread and fresh beef boiled and coffee and one mess of potatoes. It was very cold coming down from New York till we got off the coast of Georgia when it grew warmer. We expect to go into Key West today where they will take the mail off and I shall get a chance to send this home. We shall go to New Orleans, I believe, when I shall write more.

I expect you are freezing down in Maine now. It is warm enough here to go in your shirt sleeves. I expect we shall be in New Orleans by next Tuesday if nothing happens. We are going along at the rate of ten or twelve knots an hour with all sail set and a full head of steam on. The boat shakes so that I can’t write very well but I guess you will make out to read it. I am writing on the head of a pork barrel.

Give my love to all the folks. Tell Aldy and Isabelle to [be] good girls. I want you to write as often as you can and as soon as I get settled, I will tell you where to direct your letters. I can’t write much more this time. Tell Sis her par has got in sight of the Land of Dixie so guess I won’t write much more this time. It is hard work to write here. I will write as soon as I get ashore.

We lost a man overboard coming out. He belonged to the ship. He was a fire man. Had the delirium tremons. He jumped overboard and before they could get to him with the boat, he sank.

As the dinner is about ready, I will close. So good day dearest Katie. From one who loves you better than all others.

Your own, — Joel Winslow

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