1863: Ebenezer Eastman Colby to Friend “Olive”

I could not find an image of Eben but here is one of John A. Hartshorn of Co. A, 19th Maine Infantry (LOC)

This letter was written by Ebenezer (“Eben”) Eastman Colby (1844-1892) of Belfast, Maine, while serving in Co. G, 19th Maine Infantry. Eben was wounded on 5 May 1864 while fighting in the opening stages of the Wilderness Campaign and was transferred to 1st Main Heavy Artillery on 15 December 1864, and later still to the 14th Veteran Reserve Corps (VRC). Before joining the 19th Maine, Eben had previously served in the 2nd Maine Infantry, Co. K, for two years, his enlistment being witnessed by his father, Charles S. Colby, who attested that his son was at least 18 years of age. At the time of his enlistment, Eben was described as five foot six inches tall, with blue eyes and brown hair. But Eben was no alone in his enlistment—his father also enlisted in the same company as his son but did not survive the war. He was killed at the Battle of Gaines’ Mill on 27 June 1862.

Following the war, though Eben did not leave the country as he threatened to do in the following letter, he relocated to Santa Cruz, California, where he could resume his blacksmith trade as far away from the liberated Negroes he obviously despised. He was married to Flora A. Collins (1847-1941) on 11 September 1864 in Liberty, Waldo county, Maine.

To read letters by other members of the 19th Maine Infantry that I have transcribed and published on Spared & Shared, see:

Henry H. Hartshorn, Co. D, 19th Maine (1 Letter)
Enoch C. Dow, Co. E, 19th Maine (3 Letters)
Warren B. Thorndike, Co. I, 19th Maine (2 Letters)
Isaac Webber, Jr., Co. K, 19th Maine (1 Letter)


Camp near Catlett Station, Virginia
October 25, 1863


I will pen you a few lines today as I have nothing to do. We have got marching orders and we don’t know when we will have to go but go wnen or where they will, I am with them.

Olive, I have nothing very new to write today. Everything is quiet along the lines. The rebels are not far from here but what there is near us are peaceable as can be.

Eben was most likely reacting to this article appearing in the Daily Eastern Argus (or some other Maine paper) published on 14 September 1863

Olive, if you take the Belfast Journal, I wish you would send me one once and a while for I am fond of reading papers. If you will send me one every week, I will pay all postage on them, I was reading a piece in one that a fellow had in our company. It was about some of Abraham’s negro soldiers where they murdered—or rather massacred—a whole family of whites. Damn ’em. They all ought to be burned at the stake. What in hell will this country come to if the negroes are all free.

Olive, I never mean to help free them anymore than I have. I mean to leave the army one of these days and then let them whistle if they get me. I am going to leave this country one of these days. I wish to God that Abraham and all of his followers was in hell. This war would be stopped shortly, I suppose. If some of the damned abolition curses down there was to hear me say what I have written, they would be mad enough to hang me. I wish I was down there—I would tell them what I think of Abraham and his black brethren. Damn ’em.

Olive, I will close this short letter for I have written more that you will want to read. No more today. Goodbye. Ever your friend, — E. E. Colby

P. S. Please write soon and write all the news. Give my love to Ed and all the folks.

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 )

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s