1864: Amos Niles Brewster to Cynthia Brewster

This letter was written by 26 year-old Amos “Niles” Brewster (1837-1865) of Annsville, Oneida county, New York, who enlisted at the age of 26 in late August 1864 as a private in Co. K, 189th New York Infantry. In November 1864, he was transferred to Co. L, 15th New York Engineers with his younger brother, 18 year-old Ananias Brewster (1847-1932), who enlisted at the same time. Upon his enlistment, Amos was described as a 5′ 7.5″ mechanic with grey eyes, and dark hair.

I could not find an image of the Brewster brothers but here is tintype of members of the 15th New York Engineers (Alejandro de Quesada Collection)

Niles and Ananias were the sons of John Brewster (1802-1858) and Elizabeth [Wilbur] (1807-1883) of Annsville, New York. Two other brothers are mentioned in the letter, Aaron J. Brewster, and Daniel D. Brewster—the latter serving as a sergeant in Co. I, 81st New York Infantry at the time.

Brewster’s letter conveys the tragic news to his sister Cynthia that he accidentally shot himself in the foot while cleaning his gun at City Point, Virginia, and was transported to a hospital in Washington D. C. for treatment and recovery. “It will be a good while before I can work with it,” he told her. I couldn’t find a record of his discharge but the injury was most likely disabling—and while comical enough in his telling of the incident, it most likely proved fatal. He died in December 1865, just thirteen months after shooting himself.


Washington [D. C.]
November 23, 1864

Dear Sister,

I take this time to inform you that I have had the bad luck to get a musket ball shot through my foot. It happened the 14th of November near City Point [Virginia]. I arrived here the 18th. The way it happened, someone put a cartridge in my gun and did not put any cap on. I took my gun to clean. I sat in my tent with it in my lap. I thought I would crack a cap. I did and cracked a hole through my foot too. Mile Hanney lay in the tent with me when it was done.

Ananias [Brewster] had the dysentery some when I left but not very bad but so that he did not work.

I have got a rather bad foot but I guess it is doing very well. It is quite comfortable here. I have a good appetite. I can eat all I can get and I can get all I can eat by playing sharp. I can go it as long as I have a good appetite alright. I wrote a letter to Aaron J. Brewster when I first got here. Will Hanney wrote for me from City Point to him. I expect an answer soon from him.

I shall come home on a furlough if I can get one. It will be a good while before I can work with it. I guess I shall fetch around in time.

I saw Chet Osborne here. He said he saw a man that seen [brother D[aniel D. [Brewster]. He thought he would get along all right. I haven’t any news to write—only Henry [S.] Wetherbee is here with me. He has got a lame knee. He lays in the next bed to me. He has got a good appetite too.

It is rather cool here now. If Jay is not, tell him to write soon. You need not write until you find out whether I get a furlough or not. So goodbye for this time. Give my regards to Mother and all other enquiring friends.

Directions. A. N. Brewster, Engineer Brigade Hospital near the Navy Yard, Washington D. C.

That is all.

C. C. Brewster.

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