1865: Duncan O. Stowell to his Cousin Sarah

This letter was written by Duncan O. Stowell (1844-1929) of Ellisburg, Jefferson county, New York, who enlisted at age 20 in September 1863 to serve one year in Co. L, 6th New York Heavy Artillery. He mustered out of the service on 28 June 1865 at Petersburg, Virginia.

Duncan was the son of George H. Stowell (1811-1883) and Francis Derry (1812-1873) of St. Lawrence county, New York. After the war, Duncan married Martha A. Kelsey (1841-1934) and moved to Woodbury County, Iowa where he was a farmer.


Sunday, March 12, 1865

Dear Cousin,

I received a short letter from you when we were at Winchester and have frequently thought to answer it but for some reason or other I have postponed doing so until the present. I have to ask your pardon for being tardy this time and if you will grant it, I will be prompt in the future.

We here in the army labor under one great disadvantage in writing to friends—that is this: We can tell them no news. However, I am glad to tell you one thing—viz: that Charley and I are both well. I have served a little more than a half of the time for which I enlisted and have been favored with the best of health and good luck. For this and many other things I thank the Great Ruler ad if it be His will, I hope to meet you all once more in a peaceful country.

It may be of interest to you to know where we are and what we are doing. We are on the line between the James and Appomattox rivers and are doing picket and fatigue duty. We are on duty the most of the time. When on picket we are quite close to the Johnnies and can talk to them with ease. There are deserters coming into our lines every night. They tell us that they are kept on half rations—that the Confederacy will “go up” soon, &c. How true this last statement is remains to be seen. God grant that it may be be so and that we may again have a prosperous and united country. I think that never since this rebellion broke out have our prospects been so good as at the present.

There are many things that I might tell you about connected with the army but it would require too much space and perhaps would not interest you. I will tell you as near as I can though the way we live when in camp like this. We have shanties about 15 feet long, 10 wide and 6 high covered with our tent cloths. There are four of us in a shanty. We cook our own food which consists of pork, beans, fish, coffee and sugar, and hard tack. Sometimes we get bread in the place of hard tack. We have had better rations and more of them since we came here than before.

The weather is getting quite warm and pleasant except a cold rain once in awhile. I have not seen any snow to speak of since we left the Shenandoah Valley last December but presume you have had snow enough and sleigh riding to your heart’s content. Wouldn’t I like to jump into a cutter and have a good sleigh ride—all alone of course. I think of nothing more this time. Now Sarah, I don’t want you to do as I did but return good for evil and write me a good long letter as soon as convenient. Give my love to your people and oblige. Yours, — D. O. Stowell

Direct to me, Co. L, 6th New York Heavy Artillery, Washington D. C.

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