1862: Lewis A. Stow to his Friends

This letter was written by 17 year-old Pvt. Lewis A. Stow (1845-1862) of Co. K, 2nd Vermont Infantry. Lewis enlisted on 20 February 1862 and a couple of months later he participated with his regiment on the Peninsula Campaign. Though he survived that ordeal, he suffered continued ill health, was discharged from the regiment for disability on 2 October 1862 and died at home a week later.

I could not find an image of Lewis but here is one of an unidentified soldier believed to be wearing the uniform of the 2nd Vermont Infantry. His grey state jacket, gray Chasseur-style cap and Vermont seal buttons suggest he was in the 2nd or 3rd Vermont. (Dan Binder Collection)

Lewis was the son of blacksmith Alonzo Stow (1810-1894) and Eliza Hall (1812-1886) of East Calais, Washington county, Vermont. In his letter, Lewis mentions his older brother Theodore Stow (1836-1915) at home who later served in Co. H, 13th Vermont. He also mentions being with “Bill” who was his older brother William Stow (1840-1864). William had enlisted in the 2nd Vermont Infantry (Co. F) when it was originally organized in May 1861. He rose in rank to corporal before he was killed on 5 May 1864 in the Battle of the Wilderness.

Lewis does not mention him but his oldest brother was Lorenzo Stow (1834-1863), a carpenter, husband and father when he enlisted in July 1861 as a corporal in Co. C, 12th Rhode Island Infantry. He died of typhoid fever in January 1863. Thus, Alonzo and Eliza (Hall) Stow was plagued by loss during the war, losing three sons in consecutive years.

While researching this letter, I found that there were a number of Stow family letters at the Jack & Shirley Silver Special Collections Library at the University of Vermont under the title William Stow Civil War Letters.


Camp near Williamsburg, Virginia
May 8, 1862

Dear Friends,

Once more I will try to write a little more home. The 4th we left Camp Winfield Scott. The rebels had left and I had the mumps so the captain told me to get out there the best that I could and I feel in with Hooker’s Division & [on the] 5th we came up with the rebels about 7 in the morning and fought till night. They gave me a gun and I fought about two hours and a half, then I helped carry off the wounded. And I carried off a secesh and gave him some water to drink and he gave me one $2 bill in Southern money. He said that he had got to die and it wasn’t of any use to him. He was shot in the side with a shell. I am a going to send it home.

“And I carried off a secesh and gave him some water to drink and he gave me one $2 bill in Southern money. He said that he had got to die and it wasn’t of any use to him. He was shot in the side with a shell.”

We shall be paid off soon and I can send you fifty dollars and how I shall send it to have it come safe.

Bill says that he is too sleepy to write. I should [have] wrote before but I wanted to look round some. I have got to go on guard now.

They did not use me so I will write some more. I want that you should send a fine comb for if you don’t, the lice will fetch me home. You can send it in a letter & send some stamps for I can’t get them. Tell [my brother] Theod[ore] that pocket handkerchief that he gave me I tied round a man’s leg to stop the blood and they carried him to the hospital.

Did you get my picture and that money that I sent from Burlington? What are they all up to in No. 10? Tell Orville that I hain’t froze my ears lately but I have roasted them some. I can’t think of any more to write now.

— Lewis A. Stow


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