This letter was written by 20 year-old merchant sea captain, Henry F. Boyles (1842-1866), the son of Ichabod Boyles (1795-1883) and Rebecca S. O’Brien (1801-1846) of Maine. In the 1860 US Census, Henry was enumerated in his father’s residence in Tenant’s Harbor, Saint George, Knox county, Maine as an 18 year-old mariner. Henry’s father appears to have worked variously as a mariner, shoemaker, and grocer. Henry died in St. George on 1 December 1866.
Henry wrote the letter to his older sister, Mary J. Boyles (1839-18xx). Mary was not married until 1874 when she married a “calker” in St. George named Joseph Studley.
Henry informed his sister that he was preparing to sail for Baltimore to pick up a load of cattle to bring back to Fortress Monroe, he could hear the fighting going on at Yorktown up the York River.
Addressed to Miss Mary J. Boyles, Tennant’s Harbor, Maine
Sunday, April 27th 1862
It is with the greatest pleasure that I now sit down to inform you of my health which is good at present and I hope you are the same.
We are laying in the stream ready to sail for Baltimore to get a load of cattle for Fortress Monroe. There is a plenty of war here. They are a fighting hard out to Yorktown. We can hear the battle from here.
If William is to home, tell him to write to me. I want to know what kind of a time he had aboard the Spark the Ocean, etc. ¹ The schooner Almira Ann Bickmore is ashore close to the Fortress.
Be sure and write as soon as you get this. Direct your letter to Baltimore, Maryland.
From your brother, — Capt. Henry F. Boyles
¹ In the fall of 1861, Spark the Ocean, commanded by Capt. Kinney, was advertised as bound for Genoa. By 19 December 1861, she was announced to have arrived in Genoa. She then sailed for London before returning to the States.