1863-65: Horace Benjamin Ensworth Letters

I could not find an image of Horace in uniform but here is one of Dorance Ferris who served in Co. K, 81st New York Infantry (Photo Sleuth)

These four letters were written by Horace B. Ensworth (1842-Aft1870) who enlisted at the age of 21 at Oswego to serve three years in Co. B, 81st New York Infantry in late September 1861. He reenlisted in January 1864 and mustered out as a veteran on 31 August 1865 at Fortress Monroe.

In his enlistment records, Horace was described as standing 5 feet 5 inches tall, with gray eyes, and brown hair. He entered the service as a private and mustered out as a sergeant.

Horace was the son of Backus Ensworth (1812-1882) and his first wife, Hannah, who died in 1856. The Ensworth family were farmers in Mexico, Oswego county, New York.

See also—1862: Horace Benjamin Ensworth to Backus Ensworth published on Spared & Shared 22 on 2 May 2022.


Fort Macon in Beaufort Harbor, North Carolina, 1863

Letter 1

Fort Macon
June 11, 1863

Dear Father, Mother and Sister,

I received your kind letter the 8th and was very glad to hear from you once more and to hear that you were all well as you are and am glad that you have had the good luck to get settled down to a married life once more and hope that you may have better luck this time than before.

Well Father, I don’t know as you know that I was to the regiment or not for you directed your letter to the hospital. I returned to the company May 7th. We are detached to heavy artillery in Fort Macon—companies B. D, and G. We may serve our time and leave in all probability for our commander thinks a great deal of our target shooting. The first day we shot we came within two inches of the bulls eye. The target is 1800 rods off from the fort.

Well them furloughs haven’t come as yet and they begin to think it doubtful. I guess Perkins has got home by this time. When you see him, get that likeness. It has a red lush case on it and a steel lock.

I was taken down when I heard of Charley Green’s death. How his folks must feel and his poor old Mother too. Where is Medera now and where does she live at? His mother told him when the 24th went if he went that she never would see him again.

Well, give my best respects to them all and John and all of the Knight boys and Frank Howlette—but I suppose that he has forgot his old acquaintance since he was married—and all of the boys to the quarry, and a share to yourselves. No more at present. Write soon. So I will bring this to a close by bidding you all goodbye for the present.

Direct to the regiment. Yours truly, — B. Ensworth

From H. B. Ensworth, W. C.

You didn’t tell me her name in your letter so I don’t know for certain who it is.


Letter 2

Fort Macon
Beaufort, North Carolina
August 24, 1863

Dear Father

I will address a few lines to you once more and tell you now that I am still alive and have good health at the present time and the rest of the boys are the same to. I haven’t heard from you in some time nor had a letter of any kind.

Well, Father, the news is here that we are a going to be turned into a heavy artillery regiment—the whole of our regiment for the rest of our time in the service. They have sent the papers to Washington to that effect. General Heckman is a doing his best.

Well, Father, I suppose that there is not much of anything on around there at present. I wrote a letter to Edwin Huntington a long time ago and have not heard anything form him yet. I directed the letter to Mexico and several others that I don’t get any answer from them. I suppose that they will be a fair there this next month September.

Well, Father, I am a going to send home money soon and I want you to buy me a thrifty three-year old colt and take care of it for me if you will. If ever I should get home, I want some another to start a living. Have some $130 dollars a lending out now and more payday. I am a going to collect it all and send it off. I think that if I get $200 home, that will be better than nothing. You hadn’t let anyone see this letter around here.

Well I haven’t much more to write at present. Write soon. Direct as before and tell me the news of the day. My respects to all and a share to yourself. I still remain H. B. E.

To mother to write some of these fine days.


Letter 3

Camp 81st Regt. N. Y. State Volunteers
March 4th 1865

Friend F. D. Myers,

As I have a few leisure moments, I will improve them in scribbling a few lines to you once more. I hope that these few lines will reach you in as good health as yours of the 15th of February found me and the rest of the lads from the Quarry & Texas also.

Well, Fraid, there has been a great change in this regiment for the last four months. Almost all of the old veterans are promoted to non-commissioned officers all through the regiment. Marshall Mattison is sergeant in D Company. He was promoted the first of February. Also I was made sergeant in B. Company at the same time but Fraid, we have earned all that we have got since 1861 and allowing me to be the judge, we should of had it before. But still the officers that use to be in the regiment all had friends and of course they would look out for their friends before all of anyone else.

Well, Fraid, what is a going on around there in Mexico and Oswego City? What is the general opinion of the people around there? Where are you now about this war question? Do they think that it will be settled or will we have to fight it out till the very last? Sometimes I think that it will be settled without anymore fighting and then I think that it will be fight till the last. But I hope not.

Well Fraid, I suppose that you remember James Gant, that little sergeant of B Co.? He is here yet and sends his compliments to you.

Well, Fraid, when you see any of my folks, tell them that I am well as usial. Also give my compliments to all of my acquaintances and a share to yourself. From your old friend, — Horace B. Ensworth, Sergt. Company B, 81st N. Y. Vol.

To his friends as usual. Frasier D. Myers, Esq. Please write soon as convenient.

Address to:

Sergt. H. B. Ensworth
Co. B, 81st Regt. N. Y. S. Col.
1st Brigade, 3rd Division, 24th A. C.
Washington D. C.


Letter 4

Headquarters 81st N. Y. Regt.
Williamsburg, Va.
May 30th 1865

Dear Father,

I have a few leisure moments to improve in writing a few lines to you once more. I received a letter from you and Abbie the eve of the 27th and was very happy to hear from you once more in my life time for I had given up all hopes of ever hearing from home again.

Well, Father, my health is very good this summer. I am a getting very lonely down here and all of the rest of the army is on their way home and I have got to stay here until the government gets ready to let me go. It is talked of pretty strong about all veterans having to go off to Texas or Mexico but there is one thing pretty sure, I did not enlist to go to Texas and more than all of that, I think that they never will get me to Mexico.

Well, Father, I am still in the hospital and I have a pretty good time here but still I cannot help a thinking of home. You spoke about James Mc____ getting killed. You spoke about my keeping my money for I will want it when I get home. I intend to be as saving of it as I can. Also, about my keeping all of the old clothing that I could.

Father, if I ever should live to be a free man again, I never want to put on another suit of blue clothes upon my back for I fairly hate the sight of them. If I should get them, I never would wear them and I do not want them to see them around me.

Well Father, those violin strings I would like one.

Please give my respects to all of he enquiring friends, to Abbie, to Mother, also a share to yourself. Tell Mary to be a good girl. If I live you can look for me in about 20 months and not before.

Most respectfully yours. From your son, — Sergt. H. B. Ensworth

To his well remembered Father, Backus Ensworth.

Address at Fortress Monroe, Va.

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