1863: Elbridge W. Whitney to his Family

A middle-aged, unidentified Massachusetts soldier from the collection of Dave Morin.

This letter was written by 44 year-old Elbridge Whipple Whitney (1819-1882), the son of William Knowlton Whitney (1795-1868) and Deborah Woodward (18xx-1841). Elbridge was married to Sophia Ann Billings (1823-1873) and together they had two surviving daughters by the time he entered military service in the Civil War.—Frances (b. 1856) and Nellie (b. 1861).

Elbridge was working as a shoemaker in Athol, Worcester county, Massachusetts, when he was recruited in August 1862 into Co. B, 27th Massachusetts Infantry. He remained with the regiment for one year, mustering out in mid-August 1863 on a surgeon’s certificate of disability. Following the war, Elbridge returned to Athol where he resumed work in the shoemaking business.

Elbridge no doubt joined the regiment in New Bern, North Carolina, in time for the Goldsboro Expedition in December 1862 and was among the eight companies of the regiment in Washington, North Carolina, in April 1863 when they were hemmed in by Gen. Daniel H. Hill’s confederates and subjected to a siege. The following letter was written after the siege was lifted and the 27th Massachusetts had just returned to New Bern.

Siege of Washington, N. C., Map, April 1863 (LOC)

This letter is from the private collection of Jim Doncaster and is published by express consent.


Newbern, N. C.
April 26th 1863

Ever dear wife.

It is Sunday & very pleasant. We arrived here last night. We came down by a steamer. We got about halfway & the shaft broke and we had to cast anchor & lay over about three hours until another steamer came along & then we started again and got into Newbern safely.

Dear wife, I hope these few lines will find you and the children all well. I am well & tough.

We hear that the rebs are a getting whipped & I am glad of it, ain’t you? I think you are. I think the war will be closed before long. We have not had our pay yet but we expect it this week. We have a good many troops here now. I don’ know how many for I have not been here long enough to find out yet. I understand that we are a going to stay here to garrison the place. We are in A tents—four of us in a tent. Charles Sears and myself and Major Hogg & Mr. [Addison] Leach, the fifer. Charles is well.

I can’t write much this time for the mail closes at 12 o’clock so I shall have to cut short this letter & I will write a longer one next time.

Kiss the children for me & take a big one yourself. Remember. The war is a going to close now soon. Bear in mind. My love to my two little girls and Mary Turner.

Your husband, — E. W. Whitney

To Sophia A. Whitney

Newbern, North Carolina
April 26th 1863

Ever dear Mother,

I have not forgotten you yet. How do you do now? I am well & tough & hope these few lines will find you the same. We have got back to our old place again to do garrison duty & I am glad of it, ain’t you? Yes, I know you are. The Rebs are hard up, I tell you. There is hundreds of them bare-footed and bare-headed. They don’t have but one-fourth of a pound of meat a day & it is hard at that & four crackers.

Old General [Daniel H.] Hill was the reb general that attacked us to Washington [N. C.] and Old Governor [Zebulon Baird] Vance was there with them & he came very near getting killed. We throwed a shell over there & it burst & very near killing him. I wished it had, don’t you? I know you do.

I shall have to close now for the mail closes at 12 o’clock. Write as soon as you get this. Yours with respect. Your son, — E. W. Whitney

To A R. E. Billings, Athol Depot, Worcester county, Mass.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s