1862: Romanzo A. Harris to “Friend Mira”

This letter was written by Romanzo A. Harris (1842-1930) who enlisted in January 1862 as a private in Co. H, 8th Vermont Infantry. He remained with the regiment until mustering out at Washington D. C. in late June 1865 after three and a half years. He was the son of Christopher Harris (1814-1886) and Elvira C. Holden (18xx-1884) of Townsend, Windham county, Vermont.

Romanzo wrote his letter from Ship Island in the Gulf of Mexico where the 8th Vermont was encamped from April 7th until early May when they were ordered to New Orleans.

I could not find an image of Romanzo but here is a ninth-plate ambrotype of a private from the 8th Vermont still wearing his state-issued uniform. New Federal uniforms were issued to the men at Camp Holbrook prior to embarking for Ship Island, however. (Dan Binder Collection)


Ship Island
April 16, 1862

Friend Mira,

I am well and hope this will find you and your folks the same. We anchored off Ship Island the 5th of April. We came on the island the 7th. The 10th we went six miles and got some rushes for our beds. We fetched a great big bundle. My bundle was a little heavy before I got to camp. We get our wood on the upper end of the Island. The wood is rafted down to within half a miles of the camp. We thought that we made very good horses.

There has been 21,000 soldiers here until yesterday. 12,000 of them was ordered off. We have heard heavy firing this afternoon off in the direction that the troops went. The boys hear it now. I have been to work at the cook house for a few days. We have had orders to pack our things and be ready to march at a moments notice.

We have some nice times [even] if we are on the sand. The island is covered with white sand and swamps and some woods. We shall have some fighting to do before long—before you receive this.

It is getting late and I must close for it is getting to be late. Give my respects to your Father and Mother. Please write your friend R. A. H. Direct your letters to R. A. Harris, Co. H, 8th Vermont Vol. in care of H. F. Dutton, Ship Island

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