These letters were written by Dexter E. Buell (1842-1923), the youngest son of Samuel Buell (1782-1850) and Polly Dunham (1787-1872) of Lyons, Wayne county, New York. Eighteen year-old Dexter enlisted as a private on 5 July 1861 to serve two years in Co. B, 27th New York Infantry. He survived the war and mustered out with his company at Elmira on 31 May 1863. His service record indicates he participated in the battles of 1st Bull Run, West Point, Seven Days before Richmond, Crampton’s Gap, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville.
Three months after he was discharged from the 27th New York Infantry, Dexter enlisted a second time. This time he enlisted in Co. C, 14th New York Heavy Artillery for a term of three years. He was prematurely discharged from that regiment in June 1864 by order of the War Department on account of a disability. He was released from the Philadelphia South Street Hospital.
Dexter married Laura Ann Hitchcock (1846-1900) in July 1865 and earned his living as a house painter in Lyons, New York, after the war. [Dexter’s son Edward’s biographical sketch claims his father “was a grainer in wood by occupation” and that he “served valiantly with the 27th Regiment” and “on his second enlistment with the 109th Heavy Artillery” taking part in “27 engagements and received wounds in battle.”]
In 1874, Dexter captured his memories of his service by publishing a book entitled, “A brief history of Company B, 27th regiment N.Y. volunteers, its organization and the part it took in the war.” It was printed at the Office of the Republican in Lyons and consisted on only 22 pages (sadly, no pictures). I will supplement any gaps in the records or footnote details from this book to aid the reader in gaining a more comprehensive understanding. The first excerpt I will transcribe comes from his description of the Battle of Bull Run since no letter exists connected with it.
Some of these letters are addressed to the “the folks” at home and some are addressed to his friend Robert Pollock Allee whose younger brother Edward served in the same company with Dexter until he was mortally wounded in the fighting at Gaines’ Mills. Robert’s younger brother Andrew Allee (1844-1895) later served with Dexter in the 14th New York Heavy Artillery. Yet another brother, George Allee, served in Co. C, 160th New York Infantry.
Extracts from Dexter’s book:
“The regiment was supplied with arms, &c. and left the State on the 10th of July, 1861, for Washington, via Harrisburgh and Baltimore. On its arrival in Washington the regiment was quartered in barracks on Franklin Square, where the boys remained for a few days only. A movement against the enemy was then under discussion, and the officers sought an interview with the War Department, with a view to having the regiment assigned to the field. This request was granted, and on the 17th day of July it took up its line of march from Washington, as part of the First Brigade (Col. Porter) and Second Division (Gen. Hunter). It reached Anandale on the evening of the 17th, and Fairfax Court House on the 18th, where a line of battle was formed, and the Rebs, driven from their rifle pits. On the 27th it reached the town, and pulled down an old Secesh flag that was floating on one of the rifle pits. The regiment bivouacked here for the night, the men, being hungry and tired after the day’s march, took their muskets and went out after some fresh meat. Some of the boys succeeded in bring in a fine steer, and some came in with turkeys, some with chickens, some with honey, has, sugar, &c. A large fore was kindled, and the boys resolved they would have a ‘square meal’—and so they did, that night.
At an early hour next morning the regiment was on the move. It reached Centreville in due time; after leaving which place it reached the Nine Mile Woods, where Company B was ordered out to deploy as skirmishers—and they did well, being their first trial. For nine miles the company scoured the woods. Every few minutes the bugle would sound to rally. The day was one of the hottest I ever remember. When the sun sank out of sight, and the whippowill commenced his evening song, the regiment halted for the night; and so ends the day.
On Sunday morning, July 21st, 1861, the booming of cannon was heard in the distance. As our brave boys marched along through field and woods o that memorable Bull run day, the water in their canteens gave out before reaching the field of action. Espying two porkers in a puddle of water near the roadside, they were summarily driven out; and the boys commenced to drink hastily of the vile fluid to quench their thirst. The water was stagnant, and made the boys vomit almost immediately. Some of them went here and there, with canteens to be filled.
As the 27th was going into action, the opposing force attempted to deceive it by displaying the Old Flag. Col. Slocum was distrustful, and directed Adjutant [John P.] Jenkins to ascertain whether they were friends or enemies. With a havelock on the point of his sword as a flag of truce, the Adjutant rode toward the commanding officer to make the necessary inquiry; but before he reached him, the Stars and Stripes were displaced by the South Carolina banner. The line of battle was formed and a fire opened on the 27th, which was promptly and vigorously returned. The Adjutant, thus unexpectedly placed between two fires, had a miraculous escape. The attempted deception so exasperated the regiment that the men fought like heroes and utterly routed their tricky foes.
Our next encounter was with the 27th Virginia, which fell back in confusion. We then met the 8th Georgia, which fell back until reinforced, when the regiment was in turn repulsed and took refuge under a hill. It was soon after ordered to charge a battery stationed on a knoll, and the oys moved to the work under a heavy fire, which soon told with fearful effect upon the ranks of the regiment. Col. Slocum was wounded; the color-guard was reduced from nine to two; and the movement was abandoned. Company B was then ordered to charge upon an old log house which stood near by, containing a number of the enemy’s sharp-shooters. Before reaching the house the Rebs was seen getting to the rear as fast as they could, but the boys sent a volley of balls after them and made them ‘climb’ still faster. Reaching the house, the door was instantly burst in, and before us stood one of the largest bloodhounds I ever saw—with bloodshot eyes and hungry jaws. He turned to attack his Yankee foes. One of the boys gave him a bayonet thrust. He leaped forward and broke the chain that held him, and away he went toward the enemy—between two fires. Whether the dog ever reached his master, no one knows.
The regiment fell back and joined the regiment; and Col. Slocum being wounded, Major Bartlett succeeded to the command. Major B. kept the regiment well in hand; and as it formed in line of battle for the last time, I think it was joined by the 14th (Brooklyn) commanded by Col. Wood. Other regiments joined on, but the Rebel forces coming upon and overwhelming us, our forces fell back to the rear where the confusion attending the retreat broke it up, as was the case with other regiments actively engaged in the battle. Portions of the regiment reached Fort Corcoran about nine o’clock on the 22nd, and at noon, was partially reorganized and marched to Camp Anderson, Franklin’s Square.
The regiment remained in Washington until sometime in September when it was assigned to Gen. Slocum’s Brigade with the 16th N. Y. of Gen. Franklin’s Division, moved to the site of Fort Lyon, where it went into camp and was engaged in the construction of this fort during the fall of 1861…”
The following summary comes from the website FirstBullRun.Co.UK:
FIRST BATTLE OF BULL RUN, 21 JULY, 1861
The 27th New York Infantry was stationed at B D Utterback’s/ Willow Spring farm, two miles east of Centreville, Fairfax County, Virginia, in the morning on 21 July, 1861.
Advance to Sudley Ford, on the Bull Run River, 21 July, 1861: The 27th New York Infantry was ordered to Sudley Ford, on the Bull Run River, at 2 AM on 21 July, 1861.
Advance to J Dogan’s or Rosefield, on Dogan’s Ridge, half a mile northeast of Groveton, Prince Willaim County, Virginia, 21 July, 1861: The 27th New York Infantry was ordered across Sudley Spring’s Ford, on Catharpin Run, to northeast of J Dogan’s or Rosefield, on Dogan’s Ridge, half a mile northeast of Groveton, Prince Willaim County, Virginia, in the morning on 21 July, 1861.
Advance to Buck Hill, north of Young’s Branch, one mile west of the Stone Bridge, on the Bull Run River, 21 July, 1861: The 27th New York Infantry was ordered to Buck Hill, north of Young’s Branch, one mile west of the Stone Bridge, on the Bull Run River, in the afternoon on 21 July, 1861.
Note: Colonel H W Slocum, 27th New York Infantry, was wounded on Buck Hill, north of Young’s Branch, one mile west of the Stone Bridge, on the Bull Run River, in the afternoon on 21 July, 1861.
Withdrawal to Centreville, Fairfax County, Virginia, 21 July, 1861: The 27th New York Infantry was ordered to B D Utterback’s/ Willow Spring farm, two miles east of Centreville, Fairfax County, Virginia, at 4 PM on 21 July, 1861.
September 7, 1861
I now take my pen to write you a few lines. I received your letter and was glad to hear from you and to hear that you are all well. I just come in from guard. The Boys started this morning for Munson’s Hill a little ways from here to build a fort. We are now in Gen. Slocum’s Brigade. You need not to be scared for Washington will never be taken. There are forts every little ways around here. This fort we are building is on top of a high hill so you can see all around for some miles. But one thing, we can see the enemy from there. They are throwing up breastworks close to Bailey’s Cross Roads. They say they are so near us they will have to come on or retreat back out of the state for they have not got provisions enough to keep them. An attack is daily expected.
One of our company went out and fetched in 4 negroes prisoners and 3 horses. They were either spies or scouts but we got them now tight as a brick. we will keep them awhile, I guess. Our pickets has been in sight of their camp. They are coming on closer all the time but they must not get in range of the rifle cannon on Fort Ellsworth. I have worked in the fort for give days now. Six goes at a time. They are detailed to work so long. It is a strong fort.
Well, [Melvin W.] Goodrich 1 is here and the Capt. all safe and sound. I wish you can send me some new postage stamps. We get our pay next week. We get about 22 dollars. I will send it home or get a draft and send. Send a few new stamps if you can and I will get some when we get our pay. We may probably see a battle in less than two days. They will put us in ahead of all the regiments because we know something about it.
Write as soon as you get this. No more for the present.
Ed, please give this to my folks. — D. Buell
1 Melvin W. Goodrich, 27 years old, was also from Lyons, New York. He enlisted on 2 May 1861 and was made 1st Sergeant of Co. B. He later received a commission as 1st Lieutenant and Adjutant.
“The regiment spent the winter in Camp Franklin. Fort Lyons was built by Slocum’s Brigade in the fall of 1861; ad later in that fall the regiment moved its camp to a site near Fairfax Seminary, toward the southeast—its former quarters near Hunting Creek having proved unhealthy—the new location was named Camp Franklin. here the regiment spent the winter of 1861-62, during which time the boys were occupied in building Fort Lyon, doing picket duty, and chopping wood from the Heights where now stands the fort. The regiment was very comfortably situated in winter quarters here. It was during this time that the 27th was assigned to the Second Brigade (Slocum’s) of General Franklin’s Division. This brigade was composed of the 27th and 16th New York, the 5th Maine, and the 96th Pennsylvania.”
November 30th 1861
I received your letter this morning and was glad to hear from you and hope to say you are well. It snowed a very little here yesterday but it melted as fast as it struck the ground. I would like to be home to go a skating with the boys this winter but I can’t as I see so there is no use of talking. I don’t care much anyway. The boys have first rate times here. We like it good. We may all of us be home in a little while. We have not had any cold weather much—about 6 or 7 frosts and that hain’t nothing to what it is up there you know.
Bob, I will send my money to you next time we get pay and let you keep it until I come home. Bob, you must excuse this writing and all mistakes because I write this before we go on dress parade. I suppose you know that we have dress parade in the morning instead of night. They have changed the times.
Our camp [is] situated near the woods so the boys don’t have far to go after their wood nights and mornings. We are about two miles from Alexandria—just a good walk. The boys all take their turns in going down to the city. Alexandria is quite a large place—about 14 thousand people there before the war broke out. Now they are about 9 thousand. I have been all over the city a dozen times if not more. Scott’s Band are improving on playing every day. Bob, I wish you would let me know who them new recruits are that is coming.
After Dress Parade. Now Bob, I will take my time in writing. The boys are all well. I suppose you know Bill Swelling. He is coming home.
Well. Bob, I am getting tired of writing but I will finish this now [that] I commenced it. Left Hold Hank to keep up a good cheer. I will see you all in a little while. Bob, I wish you could take a trip down this way just to see the country and the soldiers. You would think that we could eat up the whole South—men, womem and all. I would like to have you see us when we go out on knapsack drill—especially when we are on double quick. Some of the boys fall down in the shit and over fences and stone piles and brush heaps. That is so we can get used to a march I suppose.
Bob, I must close and go on drill with knapsacks packed as usual.
After drill. We come in at eleven o’clock. We did not have it very hard today because it was so warm and it cold nights and warm days. The boys are all making such a noise, I can’t write, so I will close till after dinner. Goodbye.
After dinner. Bob, you ought to be here to see the boys eat their dinner—hominy and molasses, and two potatoes apiece, and a small piece of pork. We are getting used to it just the same as though we was to home. I don’t think of home—only when I write to some of the boys. Begin to like it first rate down here. There is only three of us in our tent now. Frank Hickox went into the next tent with Rod Dunnell and Raine Lawrence. I will get some of them new recruits in after they come.
But I must close. Give my best respects to Hank and Bill Pagett and Bill Bailey. Tell them to write once an awhile if they can. I must close so no more at present and I still remain your friend.
From D. Buell Write often.
Sunday, December 29, 1861
I now take the pleasure of writing you a few lines. Your letter came and I was glad to hear from you. I have been sick for about a week so that I could do nothing. This is the first letter I have wrote since I have got around. All of the boys have gone down to a funeral with Company G. One of their number is dead and our boys went down with them. Tell Henry Alford that I will answer his long letter just as soon as I can. We can’t get any postage stamps down in this region to send letters by. You must excuse me for not writing before for I could not sit up long enough to write to you. Tell Hank that Theodore Klumpp has got up here from the hospital. He has had a tough time of it I guess by what he said. He looks very pale yet. The doctor was going to take me to the hospital. I told him I guess I could stand it and so I did. You must excuse this writing for I don’t feel much like writing yet.
You can’t get nothing fit for a dog to eat down here unless you buy it yourself and a fellow must have something. Bob, I will tell you what we had for Christmas. We had some old boiled beans and some rotten pork as the boys call it, and coffee and some bread. That was Christmas. And for New Years I guess the same—maybe not so good. Bob, I could go out in the woods and live on rots and wild meat. I don’t think it would trouble me the least bit, There is lots of rabbits down here but they won’t let us go hunting.
We hain’t had any snow here yet. As soon as there comes some, you will see this chick shoulder his rifle and make for the wood. You will scare two or three out of the brush pile at a time. We have got a good hound dog here. Some of the boys stole [him] when we was out on picket guard. He is a good dog, I guess. He follows me to the woods most every night. But as soon as there comes 2 inches of snow so he can track them, I will have some fun. I am going to get a rabbit for New Years if I can and am well enough to get around. I will make a good dinner out of one if I catch him.
The boys have just returned from Alexandria from the funeral. I do not know what his name was. Bob, I am getting most tired of writing and not knowing what to write. If you will send me two or three postage stamps, I will pay you for them. I hain’t any stamp to send this by and so I will have to borrow one somewhere. Stamps are a scarce article down here in these parts. Tell Hank I will send him a government overcoat home in a little while. United States coat—they are a nice warm coat, I will send it in about a month. Me and Jones has got 4 coats—one for Jack Cosart. Tell Hank to sell one for Jack when we go west. Jones wants to come everyday. Bob, I must close. So goodbye and I still remain your sincere friend, — Dexter Buell
Write soon. Goodbye.
February 8th 1862
I thought I would write you a few lines letting you know how I am getting along. I suppose you have received my likeness by this time. Write and let me know.
The weather down here is very curious. The mud keeps just so deep all the while—that is, about five inches deep all the while. We don’t know when we will have another battle but I hope we will have one soon and end the matter at once. Virginia ia a very unhealthy place. The water we drink down here makes all of the boys have the dysentery very bad. The water we drink is about like the canal water up there, That is the honest truth. I have not seen any good water in Virginia since I have been here. There is no wells down around here as I have seen in all the drilling we do.
We go out a target shooting. The boys are all getting to be good marksmen. We shoot the distance of 300 yards. The mark is about the size of a small cup. The target had 29 balls put through it but none hit the mark. Lieut. [William H.] Swan said he would make the first man a present that hit the small piece of leather in the center of the target. I told him that I could hit it [and] I would bet on it, and so I loaded up my rifle and pulled up the 300 yard sight and got down on one knee and rested and took good sight and shot. All of the boys said they seen the target wiggle. One of them went and looked. He said the ball went in the center of the leather and the boys begun [to] look at me [as if] they did not know what to make of it. But they all give up that they could not hit [the target]. I have not got the present yet. I don’t know what it is. It was all in practice that I hit the mark. The boys are learning the bayonet exercise to protect cavalry from coming up too near you. Take two men that understands it, they can whip six cavalrymen.
I must begin to close. So no more at present. From—Dexter Buell
Sunday, February 10, 1862
I received your letter yesterday and I thought I would answer it today being I just came off from guard and nothing else to do. You say there is good sleighing up there. Well the mud down here is about five to six inches deep, That is the kind of sleighing down here. The going is awful bad, The wagons get stuck in the mud up to the hubs. Every little ways you can see a wagon stuck fast. I will tell you how it is down here. If you stand too long in one place, when you start to go, you will find yourself fast in the mud. I have had my boots pulled off more than once in this mud. The soil is all clay down here.
Bob, soldiering is about played out most. Bob, about the money, I think some of coming home but I don’t know certain yet. The water we drink down here is just about like the canal water up there. That is so—no joking. If I don’t come home next month, I will send you as nigh $26. I will try and get them in Treasury notes if you think that will be the best, If not, I will try and get the gold. I would like to have been at home this winter to have enjoyed the sport of skating and hunting with Hank and the rest of the boys. How does Hank get along? Tell him to write. How does Jack Cosart get along? Tell him to write once in awhile.
I suppose you have heard before this time that Fort Henry was taken and Lloyd Tilghman and staff and sixty others taken prisoners. Our army is slow but sure every time.
Ask Hank how many minks he caught this winter. Ask him if he wants to chop wood for Ira Mirrick again. Tell him, me and Frank Hicox has a laugh over that every little while. Bib, I must close so goodbye for this time and I remain your friend, — Dexter Buell
N. B. Tell Hank to write. Yours, — D. B.
Friday, February 28, 1862
I now take the pleasure to write you a few lines hope to say your are well. If I should tell you the news we have had, what would you think? Well I will. So here goes.
We are to march for Bulls Run. The whole Army of the Potomac—300,000 men—for a bloody fight. We start next week Tuesday about the time you get this letter. You must not answer this until I write again and I hope I will if I am not shot.
The railroad is stopped from carrying army news until after this fight. Probably this is my last letter. I am on guard today over to headquarters. The boys have got their knapsacks already packed, ready at a moment’s warning. If you write, I will get no answer until after the battle.
I must close by saying goodbye to you all and everyone. Give my best to them all when you write. So goodbye. From — Dexter Buell
Fairfax Court House
March 12, 1862
I now take the pleasure of writing a few lines while I have got time. There is over 80,000 troops here. Centreville is evacuated and so is Manassas. Our troops occupy the old battleground where we was before. We are going to chase them as far as they can go. There is a large body of cavalry and infantry after the flying Rebels. They have blown up their powder magazines and their entrenchments and burnt all the bridges. We will have Richmond is less than a week.
Gen. McClellan has been to Manassas and gone back to Washington. We talk of going back to camp and take the boat and go down the river to help Gen. Burnside. He has got Norfolk. There is 300,000 men on the march after the Rebels. They fled from their strongholds and have destroyed everything. We took a few prisoners here yesterday.
You must not write until I tell you because I won’t get the letter. We don’t expect to be here only today. I will write in a few days. This is the largest army ever had been known, so they say. Melvin Goodrich sends his best respects.
Just as I am writing, there starts three regiments of cavalry on to Richmond and a large body of infantry and artillery. I must close. Yours in haste. From, — Dexter Buell
Fairfax Court House
Friday, March 21, 1863
I sit down once more to write you before going down the Potomac. Our Division expects to go Tuesday next week. I wrote to Eliza and told her to write to you about my going down the river. I though I would write before going. I could not begin to tell you the march we had for the past few days. We went to Fairfax Court House 16 miles. We started to go to Manassas but the Rebels, they all run.
There is five divisions going down the river. That is about 70,000 soldiers. We are going to make an attack on Richmond. Our regiment went up to the Seminary to serenade Major Gen. McClellan. He did not make any speech because he was thrown from his horse the other day. Yesterday we hd a Grand Review. Gen. McClellan reviewed us.
We don’t get no pay until the first of May. They are paying off the Western troops so we have got to wait. Mell [Melvin] Goodrich wants to know what the reason is you don’t write to him. When you write, direct to Adjutant, 27th Regt.
We live on hard crackers now instead of bread. You have to stomp them with the heal of your shoe about two hours before you can break it. Then pick them up and eat them. We are going to send some home to build side walks with. They will make a good store walk.
I have not had any letter from you in a month. Why don’t you write oftener?
To close with, I will tell you that I shook hands with Gen. McClellan and the other boys did [too] the night we serenaded him. His headquarters is in our Division. I must close so goodbye. Write soon as you get this, before we go.
— Dexter Buell, Co. B, 27th Regt.
Camp Five Miles from Richmond
May 15th 1862
I received your letter yesterday and was glad to get it. Have you received the $10 I sent? Next time you write, let me know.
We just came off from picket today. The Rebels are a fighting amongst themselves. We brought in two prisoners tonight. They state they are a fighting amongst themselves every day. You must excuse this writing and all of the mistakes. I write this on the top of my hat so you can judge my writing desk. There is nothing new much. Richmond is going to be taken by siege. All of the foreign generals say his plan can’t fail.
Mell [Melvin] Goodrich is well and playing with the boys as much as ever. We are drilling the bayonet exercise twice a day. We have got to drill until it is perfect—a very nice drill it is—so we can just show the whole of them how to drill with the bayonet. I have been studying on it all last winter. I know the [drill] perfect myself. I have to drill the company and the ret look on. The boys all learn very fast. If we live to come home, we will show you the nicest drill you ever saw or anyone else. Our company has only drilled a few times. We can beat any of hem now. There can’t no cavalry ever do nothing with us. We can whip all the cavalry in the South. One man well drilled can whip three cavalry—that’s so.
They say you are going to have lots of peaches this year. The trees down here are loaded with them.
George B. McClellan says he ain’t going to be in any hurry about the fight. The Rebs were on one side of he Chickahominy Creek and we on the other. They are out of reach of our rifles here but not of our 100 pounder siege guns which throw their load over there in the size of a wash tub which makes them scratch dirt pretty fast.
I must close so goodbye. Write soon. — Dexter Buell
The following letter describes the fight at Gaines Mills which took place on 27 June 1862. It then describes the next several days until the regiment arrived at Harrison’s Landing on the James River. In his book, Dexter describes the Battle of Gaines Mills as follows:
“The regiment crossed the Chickahominy about the 26th of June, at about 3 p.m., went into action about 5 p.m. on the extreme right of Porter’s Corps, drove the enemy from his position by a bayonet charge, and captured a large number of prisoners. It held its position until dark, when, after after expending all its ammunition, it was ordered to retire. It was here, in the battle of Gaines’ Mills, that Company B lost heavily, losing some of its best members—21 in all, killed, wounded and missing. Poor Bill McElwain, Edward Allee, Joseph Seavey—as long as there is a history, so long will their names be remembered at home by their loved ones. The battle being fought, our forces retired from the field, Captain White badly wounded. The regiment recrossed the river ad went into camp. All that night and until next morning the wounded kept coming in….Early the next morning the bridge over the river was blown up; then commenced the retreat of the Army of the Potomac.”
Camp on the James River near City Point
30 miles from Richmond
July 6, 1862
I now take the pleasure of writing you a few lines in a hurry. I suppose you have heard of our fight with the Rebels. In our company there was one killed and 21 wounded. The captain is wounded. Billy McElwain badly wounded in the leg—the leg is broken, and Ed Allee in the leg, not broken. I can’t begin to tell you how many more. Half of them taken prisoners. The name of the one that was killed is Joseph Seavey. We all miss him very much. There was a shell came so close to Melvin Goodrich’s head that set him crazy. He is on the way home. Our Major is the same way. 1 All we got left is our Colonel. I suppose you will get the news before this reaches you.
I got a piece of a shell hit me in the leg but I don’t call that anything. Our regiment made a good charge on the rebels and drove them. I will write you more about the fight some other time. We are to work on a fort near the river. It is going to be a large fort. The[re are] gunboats here in the river—the Monitor and two or three others. We have had quite a time retreating back to the river. Our division was the rear guard of the whole army. We had to fight daytimes and march in the night. We had a tough time of it, I tell you. I must close for this time. I will write more next time. So goodbye.
From Dexter Buell. Co. B, 27th Regt., Franklin’s Division
I see Gen. McClellan most every day. Write soon. I got them postage stamps all right. Send more if you can.
1 For great articles on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, see “Did Civil War Soldiers Have PTSD” by Tony Horwitz, Smithsonian Magazine; or PTSD and the American Civil War, National Museum of Civil War Medicine; or Dying to Get Home: PTSD in the Civil War, by Kevin L. Cook, Warfare History Newtork; or The Shock of War by Ron Soodalter, HistoryNet.
Camp on the James River near (one mile from) Harrison’s Landing
July 16th 1862
I now sit down to write a few lines. I expect you have received my letter before this time. I received your letter dated the 9th while I was on picket yesterday. I suppose you have learned the name of the wounded boys in our company by this time. There was 23 in all—one killed on the field. Captain [Henry R.] White was wounded but not dangerously. Billy McElwain 1 and Edward Allee 2 stood side by side in the front rank. The ball passed through Billy’s leg and hit Ed Allee’s leg. Ed’s leg is not broken, so they say. Our regiment made a charge on the enemy and drove them some distance, but finding the enemy too strong for us, we had to fall back. They outnumbered us three to one. What chance did we have? But we fought like tigers while we did fight. The only wound I got was in my leg by a little piece of a shell. It did not hurt me any. I do not call that anything. I took my knife and cut it out so you see I am alright. I’m just as sound as a brick. I did not tell anyone of it or else my name would be among the wounded. I knowed it would make you worry about me so I did not let anyone know it.
When we were going into the battle field—just this side of it—I stooped and got a drink of water and got some in my canteen. I started after the regiment and they was gone out of my sight. It was an awful warm day. I could not find them. I came across Lafe Sherman 3, one of our boys, so we went together. There is so many different regiments, they did not anyone know about our regiment so on we went. We come to the Duryée’s Zouaves and the enemy was close by. We laid on our bellies and fired some ten rounds of cartridges and the enemy came out and put a Black flag in front of the Zouaves—that is the sign they show no mercy—so the Zouaves made a charge on them and took the flag away from them.
There was a battle of artillery just ahead pouring in grape and canister into the enemy. Out come a whole brigade of Rebs charging towards this battery close to where I laid. [Then] up jumped a whole brigade of the Vermont Boys and into them. We sent them back quicker than they came. Oh! it was dreadful to hear the dying groan and the roar of the cannon and a continual roar of musketry all the whole time. I can’t begin to tell you all about it.
After I had been in awhile, I did not care for anything. The enemy commenced to flank us so we had to fall back. When we got off the field, we met the Irish Brigade coming in on double quick, hollering just as loud as they could holler. After that night we had to fight day times and march nights for nearly seven days. I went and so did the rest, without any meat to eat for five days I ate one or two hard crackers at a time and drink a little water so you can judge for yourself how we felt. One night [at Charles City Cross Roads] the Rebels had our division surrounded. We were the rear guard. They had us in just about the shape of a horse shoe so when they fired at us, they would kill their own men. If it had not been for General Kearny, we would all have been taken prisoners. He cut the center of them and made them fall back. Our division kept up a continual roar of cannon. We had eighteen pieces with us. We drove them away from their guns as they could not fire a shot and at dark we got out safe. So you see just how nigh we came from the Rebs that night.
1 William (“Billy”) McElwain died of his wounds on 2 July 1862.
2 Edward Allee died of his wounds on 29 July 1862.
3 Lafayette (“Lafe”) Sherman was later captured in the Battle of Fredericksburg but was paroled and survived the war.
Camp on the James River near Harrison’s Landing
August 5th 1862
The news just reached us that your brother Ed [Allee] died at the hospital in Baltimore. We can’t hardly believe it but Lieut. Swan got a letter from a surgeon there in that city.
Bob, is it true? The boys don’t know what to make of it. If it is so, it is enough to make us crazy. I ca’t write you—can’t express my feelings, if so.
We are expected to have a battle in less than 24 hours. We can’t tell who will fall next. There has been awful heavy cannonading this morning. It has just stopped. No more this time.
Friend Bob, please write soon. I remain your friend, — Dexter Buell
Camp two miles from Alexandria near old Camp Clara
September 4, 1862
We have just come to our old campground & received your letter and the postage stamps. I was glad to get them, you may believe.
We have had a very tough time of it for the past three months. We have just come from Centreville. We did not get there soon enough to have a hand in the fight but I will tell you what we did. We saved Gen. Pope’s Army from being cut [up] and captured—everyone of them. Just our division did it. I will tell you how we done it. Your regiment was on the right of the Brigade and our Brigade on the right of the Division. When we came within two miles of the battlefield, there was a panic got among the wounded and that scared all of the rest and the retreat became general—every man for himself. It certainly would have been another Bull Run. The battle was fought on the same ground
When the Rebel cavalry made a charge, we was there just in time. Our regiment tried to stop the stragglers who was running for their lives but we could not—there was such a panic. Our artillery came up just in time. When the Rebs came charging down the road, went sent the grape and canister into them so thick and fast, what was left of them turned and run like deers and our Division covered the retreat of Pope’s Army and we fell back to Centreville. While we laid there, the Rebs got in the rear of us. [But] Gen. Kearny’s Division whipped them and drove them a mile and a half and the same night each man in our regiment took sixty rounds of cartridges expecting to have them to make a dash on us but they did not.
The army wagons laid in the ditches turned bottom side up, all broke to pieces and the dead horses laid all in the roads. Everything was destroyed. I would fill five sheets of paper to tell you all.
We don’t know how long we are going to stay here. We expect to get our pay soon. I must close for this time. I will write you more next time. Don’t forget to answer. Goodbye. Send some more stamps and I will send the money.
— Dexter Buell, Co. B 27th Regt. N. Y. S. Vol. P. S. Direct as usual. If you want to find out any more, you might as k Hattie.
Headquarters 27th Regiment N. Y. S. Vols
Camp near Harper’s Ferry
September 19, 1862
I now hasten to write you a few lines. Perhaps you have received the letter I wrote the other day on Sunday last, the 14th of September. We were engaged in a battle at Stranton’s Gap [Cranston’s Gap]. Our regiment deployed as skirmishers and went within 500 yards of the enemy’s cannons and all the while the enemy kept firing shell and canister at us and on we went and we halted in the center of a large field and the word came “Foreward!” On we went. On came the enemy shells close to our heads. We came so close to the Rebel battery we silenced it with our rifles. We whipped them nicely and took about 2,000 prisoners. They were all Georgians. They belonged to Cobb’s forces where we whipped them.
The next day we took up our march for another battle. When we got there, we found out that Gen. Burnside’s Corps was engaged with the enemy and just as we came near the field, Gen. Sumner’s Corps went in and Gen. Franklin’s Corps was a reserve. We did not have to go in the battle. We went in a cornfield and halted. That cornfield was charged over five different times—the Rebs two and our forces three times. We drove from the field when they commenced to run. Our artillery poured the grape and canister into them and piled them in heaps. I counted 64 in a space not over three rods [including] one Colonel and one Major. That was the awfullest looking sight I ever saw. It was the largest battle I think that has been fought. The Rebs lost easy three to one in that cornfield.
We slept all night among the dead. You could hear them groan—the dying—all night long. It was an awful sight, I tell you. 1
We have now driven the enemy out of Maryland across the river into Virginia and expect we have got to take another trip towards Richmond. I lost all of my postage stamps in the battle on Sunday. We hain’t been paid yet. Please send one next time when you write and write soon. So goodbye.
Truly yours, — Dexter Buell, Company B, 27th Regiment Y. Y. Vol
1 46 year-old George A. Cook, a musician in Co. G, 27th New York Infantry, recorded in his diary that the regiment slept on the battlefield and worked all night “carrying off wounded—our men and Rebbels. Expect to fight again today [18th]. 10 o’clock a.m. Both parties burying their dead.” George was mustered out of the regiment on 18 October 1862.
The next three letters were written from the encampment of the 27th New York near Bakersville, Maryland—“an historic rural crossroads community located where one of the earliest east–west roads through western Maryland crossed the main north–south road from the Sharpsburg area. The region known as Carey’s Crossroads for a then prominent landowner George Carey, had become central to the mostly German settlement taking place in southeast Washington County during the mid to late 18th century…Bakersville was once home to a store, post office, doctor’s office and grist mill. 19th century census records list many C&O Canal workers and boatmen in the village and surrounding area.” [Wikipedia]
Camp near Bakersville, Maryland
October 13th 1862
I received your letter while I was on picket guard so I could not answer it until we came in. I was glad to hear you were well. We have not been paid off yet and they hain’t any signs of it. We was so close to the Rebels while on picket, we would talk with each other—they on one side of the river and we on the other. They would come half way cross and one of our boys go half way and meet on a little island in the middle of the river and talk and exchange tobacco and knives and other articles. They think they are a going to whip us. One of our boys told them we would them or die a trying—everyone of us.
They say we hain’t going into winter quarters this season. The boys will freeze to death in their little tents without any blankets to cover them. I have not had a shirt on my back in over a month. The weather is growing cold down here. We are the raggedest set of boys you ever see. Most of the boys hain’t got no shoes but we are a going to draw some in a few days. We are worse off than the Rebs are, I think.
Colonel Adams is elected as colonel of the regiment. Bartlett is general. When you write, send me a postage stamp. I must close for this time so goodbye.
— Dexter Buell, Comp. B, 27th N. Y. S. Vol.
Write soon and don’t forget.
P. S. I received a letter from Eliza today.
Camp near Bakersville, Maryland
October 18th 1862
Friend Robert [Allee],
As I have nothing to do for a few minutes, I thought I would write you a few lines to let you know how we are getting along. We just came off from picket guard day before yesterday. Bob, I will tell you just how close the Rebel pickets were to us. We were stationed almost within a stone throw of each other. We were on one side of the river and the enemy on the other—the river being about as large as the Clyde river at Lyons, and there was a canal close to the river called the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. We was stationed of a high bluff about three hundred feel above the river. We could look down and see every move the Rebels made. We would holler at each other and exchange all sorts of notes. They would come half way across and one of our boys would go half way and meet on a little island i the middle and talk and exchange tobacco with each other. We gave apples and [they] gave us whiskey.
We had a good time with the Johnny Rebs out on picket. We was near an old farmer’s house. He was an old Reb himself. He accused our company of stealing nine of his hogs and of milking his cows. He came to the camp and told Gen. Slocum. The general sent him to Col. Adams and every boy in our company swore against him and Col. Adams is going to put him through for it. Bob, I must begin to close my scribbling and write you some of my poetry about your brother Edward and Bill McElwain.
Poetry to R. P. Allee from Dexter Buell
The Brave volunteers who quickly rose to stand
By the Union against its foes should ever
have the estimation and greatful thanks to all the nation.
But some there was [two] who should ever be
Held in remembrance by our whole country.
Twas in battle the daring braves who now sleeps in a soldier’s grave.
Of the number who lingered in pain
Was our brave comrade William McElwain
And another brave Edward Allee, friends in life and in eternity and woe, they have passed from the land of pain.
They will fight no more battles here below
But the twenty-seventh cannot spare many such brave spirits
So free from fear
But mothers and sisters weep no more
for we trust they have gone to a happy shore.
Where wars and sorrows never will come
And you may meet them in that bright home.
Composed by Beverly Copes, 1 [Co. D] 95th Regiment Penn. Zouaves. A friend of mine. He is from Philadelphia City. Belongs to Gen. Slocum’s Division. Written by Dexter Buell, Company B, 27th Regiment, N. Y. S. V.
P. S. Bob, you can have the poetry wrote up good and keep it. You can give Mrs. McElwain one after you write it off. From your friend, — Dexter Buell
by by. P. S. Friend Bob, if you see our folks, tell them I received the box they set me when we were at Harrison’s Landing.
P. S. George [H.] Walrath sends his best respects and wants you to write.
[in a different hand, in pencil]
Dexter is writing so I think I will put a few lines in to you. How does No. 1 Hose & No. 3 stand it now? I heard they done well at the last fire. We boys that belongs to the Hose will be back with you next spring…We have lost one member—that is poor Ed. We mourn his loss very much. Julie B. feels very bad about Ed. Every letter I get from her she mentions his name. Give my respects to William Pugett & when you write give my respects to George Allen & tell him to write to a fellow. What company is he in? And respects to your mother and father. Tell them I am well and hope I will see them well when I come back to Old Lyons. Excuse writing. Write soon. In haste. Your friend, — Geo. W. Williams 2
1 Pvt. Beverly Copes of Philadelphia served in Co. D, 95th Pennsylvania Gosline’s Zouaves. He served from 17 September 1861 to 2 November 1864.
2 George W. Williams enlisted at Lyons with Dexter in May 1861 and mustered out with the company in May 1863. He subsequently served in Co. H, 22nd New York Cavalry.
Camp near Bakersville, Maryland
October 29th 1862
I received your letter of the 22nd a was rather glad to hear from you. I have been looking for a letter from you for a long time and just received it. We have just come off from picket guard. We were on [the] post close to Dam No. 4—the Johnny Rebs just across the river in plain sight. We could see their reserve and their whole force. I went across the river in a boat and had a talk with them and came back.
I received he box you sent and I was glad to get it for that shirt just came in handy, it being the first one I have had on in over a month. The medicine you sent—there was three bottles of it broke. The glass in the likeness was broke. Also the medicine run all over the tobacco and handkerchief but it was good tobacco.
You spoke about how we sleep. We have one blanket over [us] as that is all. We have little tents we sleep under only they leak when it rains [s] you might as well be out doors as in. I will tell you what we live on mostly is hard tacks as the oys call them and coffee, and when we can we get tickets of the sutler. Then we can buy a few soft ones once in awhile. The boys have just drawed new pants. They have not had any in so long they don’t know how to feel—they are all pitting on airs.
I have got an old pair of shoes on with the bottoms all out and a new pair of pants. I am going to buy me a good pair of boots when we get paid off. We expect to get pay the 15th of next month. As I said, we expect to get 4 months pay $52. But out of that we have got to pay for all the clothing we lost on the Peninsula. I don’t know how much that will be. I will try and send home all I can when we get it.
I was glad you sent me them postage stamps for I have been wanting some a long [time]. They are worth about 25 cents apiece down here. If I had some, I would have written long before. I don’t hardly know what to write about. There is no news much. I suppose you know that General Slocum has left us and taken command of General Banks’ Corps. Brig. General Brooks has got command of this division. Some say we are going to Centerville, Va. to stay this winter but I don’t believe it. We don’t know what we are going to do one day from another so you are better posted than we are. We don’t see any papers—only what the Lyons boys get from home. We don’t know half as much as you do about the war only we see enough of it all the time.
I must close I guess for this time. I wrote this in a hurry so it could go out in the morning mail. I will close, so goodbye for this time. Don’t forget to write soon. From — Dexter Buell
Company B, 27th Regiment N. Y. S. Vols.
When you write again, send me some stamps and I will send the soap next time.
Camp near Warrington [Warrenton] Station in the woods
November 10, 1862
I now sit down to write you a few lines to let you know about where we are and what we are a doing. We are resting here in the woods. There is very heavy cannonading about 8 miles ahead of us. They say the rebels are in sigh. We can’t tell how soon we will be engaged.
The boys are all cheering General McClellan. He and General Burnside just rode past the camp. They look first rate but one thing the boys don’t seem to like—they say that Gen. Burnside has superseded Gen. McClellan. The boys don’t seem to like it. How true it is, we can’t tell. You will probably know before we do. We cannot get any papers of no kind down here in this part of he country.
The whole country all around seems to be stripped of everything. You can’t hardly find rails enough to build a fire with. There is no eatables of any kind down here. The Rebel army being here and then our army, I tell you they make a clean sweep of everything as they go. The government or someone else don’t seem to use us right. The boys—half of them—go almost barefoot. The other day we had some snow for the first time about two inches deep. It came pretty tough on the boys to sleep in these little cloth tents. But I can stand just as much as any of the rest can. We don’t know whether we will go into winter quarters or not. The whole army seems to be moving. We don’t know where we will bring up nor don’t care. They only got six months more to drag us around. I must close my scribbling for this time.
I will let you know next time where we are going to stop or what we are going to do. When you write next time, send me a pair of gloves and I will pay for them double. It is too cold for my sore hand. You can send by mail I guess is the best way. So goodbye for this time. Written in haste.
— Dexter Buell, Comp. B, 27th N. Y. S. Vol.
Camp in the Woods 5 miles from Warrenton Village
November 15th 1862
I now haste to write you a few lines. I wrote a letter the other day but could not send it because I had no stamp. There is very heavy cannonading going on this morning on the outpost. They keep up a continual roar all the while. We have new regulations in our regiment. We have three roll calls every day and if you’re absent, we have to give a good account or else get tied to a tree. Pretty tough but can’t help it. We expect to be brought in an engagement every moment. We can’t tell when.
When you write, sed some stamps. We expect the paymaster here this week to pay us off. I will send home all I can. I want to get a pair of gloves. It is getting too cold. You can send them by mail. It won’t cost much.
I must close writing because we expect to be called in line every minute. So goodbye. In haste.
— Dexter Buell, Comp. B, 27th N. Y. Vol. Write soon.
Camp in the Woods 5 miles from Aquia Creek Landing
November 19th 1862
I now hasten to write you a few lines to let you know where we are and what we are a doing. We have been on the march for five days through the wilderness. Some days we would not see more than two houses. Then there was no one lived in them.
General Franklin’s Corps holds the extreme left of the army and General Hooker the center, and Heitzelman the right and Sigel is the reserve. We are laying still for a few days because the roads are too muddy to travel. I think we will see worse roads than we see now before the winter is over with. They all seem to think they are going to carry on a winter campaign. If they do, they will have to make a new call for troops in the spring, I tell you. We never can stand it and it will take many a poor soldier to his grave.
Them damn abolitionists are a blowing their horn, “Why don’t the army move? Why don’t they move?” I would like to have some of them down here with a knapsack on [that] weighs about 200 lbs. I would run them on a double quick all day long and if they did not go, I would run a bayonet through them. I will tell you one thing. There is no other general in the world that will do as well as General McClellan. The whole army will soon be fighting amongst themselves. There are officers resigning every day just because Gen. McClellan was turned out of his position and I don’t blame them for doing it. I must close for there is no use of talking—only 6 months longer.
Get a newspaper and pit some chewing tobacco in it and send it. It won’t cost any more. I have not had a chew in a week. We cannot get it down here. Don’t forget it. I have got a cotton bloom to send to you. I can’t send it without a paper. So goodbye.
— Dexter Buell, Co. B, 27th N. Y. Vol.
Hurrah for [Gov.] Seymour!
Camp near Stafford Court House
5 Miles from Aquia Creek Landing
December 3rd, 1862
I received your letter last night and was glad to hear from you. I received the gloves you sent me all right. I think a great deal of them but I would like a little tobacco the best. I will tell you I never see the boys suffer so much for tobacco before. They smoke coffee for tobacco. We can’t buy anything down here. We are here in camp. Some say we are going into winter quarters and some say we are not. Most all the boys in the regiment have got log houses put up. I am to work putting up mine. When you write, do the tobacco up and send it the same way you sent the gloves. I will get it. I have got a ball of cotton to send to you when you send me a paper.
What did you have for Thanksgiving dinner? I will tell you what I had. Our regiment was on picket guard. I had for dinner one hard cracker and a little piece of raw pork. Pretty good for a “snoger.” Sometimes we can’t get as much as that. Yesterday our regiment went to build corduroy roads so they would not get stuck in the mud.
They say apples and potatoes are cheap up North. We can’t buy apples here for ten cents apiece down here. I would like to be home one night with you to eat about two pan fulls. Never mind. A better day is coming. We have it pretty tough but we have got use to it. Don’t forget the tobacco next time.
I close my scribbling. I got a letter from Jerome Gates. He is home. They are all well. So goodbye. From, — Dexter Buell, Co. B, 27th Regt. N. Y. Vol.
Three cheers for New York Volunteers. Write soon. 27th Against the World!
[Sadly there are no letters to describe the fight at Fredericksburg in mid-December 1862 and, surprisingly, Dexter does not devote a single paragraph to the battle in his book. A notice in a local paper reported at the time: “Co. B., in the Late Battle. The 27th Regiment was engaged in the recent battle of Fredericksburg. We have no particulars except that the men behaved bravely, and that Sergeant John C. Hooper, of Huron was wounded, and that Henry W. Brown of Lyons had his hip fractured.” Another newspaper notice stated: “Our former correspondents in the Twenty-Seventh Regiment are chary of their favors. Not one of them has written us concerning the part the Regiment took in the recent battle. We learn, however, from other sources, that the Twenty-Seventh was not found lacking in courage or determination; that it was in the thickest of the fight (under Sedgwick;) and that although it received no special mention at the hands of the puffers for the New York papers, no Regiment can show a cleaner record than the Twenty-Seventh. The casualties in this Regiment were comparatively few. In Company B, there were four men wounded: Sergeant John C. Hooper, (slight,) Henry W. Brown, B. Disbrow, (slight,) and G. Walrath, (slight.) Brown’s injuries are said by a correspondent of the Rochester Union to be slight; but other reports say that his injury is a fracture of the hip, caused by a musket-ball, and that his leg has been amputated. One or two others are reported missing, but as they may yet be heard from we refrain from giving their names at present.”]
Camp near Fredericksburg, Va.
January 17, 1863
I received your letter last night and right glad to hear that you were all well. We just came in from picket yesterday. We are under marching orders. We expect to go across the river and try them once more but there is hundreds that will never cross the river. I have heard more that one half of the boys in our company [say] that they would never go in another battle. They say it is too bad to go through what we have and then slink out but they say they will do it.
This fighting for Niggers is played out. Some of them Black Abolitionists out to be made to fight their share of the battles.
We expect to be on the move before long. Can’t tell how soon. We have warm days and cold nights. We don’t expect to have much snow down here. Our men are working daily building corduroy roads for the Johnny boys same as they did on the Peninsula. All of the boys are getting sick of this thing. They begin to count the days thinking how near our time is out. I wish it was out tomorrow, if not sooner.
I have not received them things you spoke of yet but I guess I will before long. I must come to a halt for this time. Write as soon as you get this.
— Dexter Buell, Co. B, 27th N. Y. S. V.
Answer soon. Don’t wait so long.
Camp near Fredericksburg, Va.
January 27th 1863
To the Editor of the [Wayne] Democratic Press
As I have a few leisure moments, I thought I would write and let you know what is going on in camp. Our regiment has just returned from a great expedition. We marched ten miles from camp and got stuck in the mud and then we turned around and played mule and helped to get the pontoon train back to the rear, the mud being 1—2—3 feet deep. We returned to camp on Sunday and when we got there, General Bartlett gave the regiment their rum. We all got to feeling first rate when General Swan made his appearance and then there was quite a disturbance and then Col. Adams, just for spite, put the whole of Company B on guard 48 hours to take revenge. And at the same time, most of the officers was so drunk that they did not know how to enjoy themselves and as poor privates had to suffer the consequences.
The rest of the company [regiment] was drunk also but all was laid to Company B. But never mind. Our time is nearly expired and then we will let the people in Lyons know what is what. If we ever enlist again, we will have a captain from some other town but our own. We came out to fight for the Stars & Stripes but the officers came out to fight for the Eagle and Star.
I will close for this time and let you know more about the matter in my next. Yours respectfully, Comp. B
From the 27th Regt. N. Y. S. V. Signed “Old sport and hard luck”
P. S. Please put this in without fail and oblige — A good soldier.
[Camp near Fredericksburg, Va.]
February 3rd 1863
As Tom Hilliard is going home, I though I would drop you a line. If you will go to the drug store and buy a bottle or box of hair dye to color whiskers with and send by Tom when he comes back, I will send you the pay for it just as soon as we get our pay which we expect to get this week and oblige.
We are just getting ready to go on picket guard.
— Dexter Buell, Company B, 27th N.Y.S.V.
Write soon. Only three months, Bob. How is No. 3 [Fire] Hose? All right? Write soon. Your friend, — D. Buell
Camp near Fredericksburg, Virginia
February 14th 1863
I received your letter and was glad to hear from you. I suppose Tom Hilliard has reached Lyons before this time. I sent a letter by him to you. I suppose you have received it before now. I wanted you to get a box of hair dye to color whiskers with and send by Tom and just as soon as we get paid off, I will send you the money back. It will cost $1 and I am going to color up the boys whiskers for them. I keep a barber shop now-a-days. I shave most all of the boys on our company.
Bob, today is Valentine’s Day. I wish I had one to send to you. Bob, the boys are all busy making finger rings and pipes,&c. to fetch home with them. We make them out of laurel roots. I am making a pipe and ring for you out of laurel root. Bob, I guess you had a pretty nice time with the girls. I have not seen a girl in so long I forgot how they look. If we see a man with a citizen suit of clothes on, he looks like a Reb to us. Everything will seem strange to us boys when we get home.
Never mind about the letter I sent to be printed. I only wanted to let the people know something about it. But I guess Tim Hilliard can tell you [that] Adams & Swam are the biggest drunkards you ever see. Robbers—thieves—they would steal our ration of hard tack if they could make anything by it. All the boys swear revenge on Adams when we get out of Uncle Sam’s reach.
Bob, I want you to kiss a pretty girl for me, will you? Hw is Old No. 3 [Hose]? All right, I suppose.
I must begin to close my scribbling for this time as boys don’t have much to do now days. Time is passing swiftly by.
I wish I could send your pipe by mail but I am afraid you would not get it. I will fetch you something to remember Old Virginia. I must close for this time so goodbye. From your old friend, — Dexter Buell, Co. B, 27th Regt. New York State Vol.
Please write soon.
Camp near White Oak Church, Va.
March 21, 1863
I received your letter while we was on picket guard and was very glad to hear from you and to hear you was all well. We have been on picket duty for the past two days near the river. We can look down from the hill we are stationed on and see every move the Rebels make. We can see them out drilling and see their cars when they come in loaded with freight from Richmond.
I will tell you just what kind of houses we have to live in while on picket. They are made out of pine boughs put up on poles and when it rains or snows, then it comes pretty tough on the soger boy. We are here in camp now. The boys in the company are all well.
Old Joe Hooker is getting ready to make a move. The boys all wished that it would snow three deep so the Army could not move until the first day of May. They boys all say they have seen fighting enough to last them while they stay in the service. I think they have myself. This morning it snows quite hard and the snow is about two inches deep and it still snows.
We have not received any pay yet but I rather think we will in less than three months. The government is going to discharge the best troops in the field when they discharge us and they say so themselves. If they had discharged us two months ago they probably would have got the largest part of us back in the service but as it is, they won’t get a single man I don’t believe.
The boys have been making pipe and finger rings out of laurel roots to pass away the time.
I would like to send you my photograph if I could but there is no place to get it taken down in this miserable country. I wish you could look down and see the country. Just see how you like it. The wood is mostly all pine timber. The ground would not raise white beans. The soil is mostly all clay and when it rains, it makes very bad walking or riding. You can see thousands of acres down here with little trees and berry bushes of all kinds growing up on their farms. The look so they had not been plowed up in a dozen years or more. All they live on mostly is corn. They make what they call a hoe cake out of a little meal and water.
I guess I had better come to a close for I have a little dinner to eat. I would like to have one good meal of victuals. I suppose there is lots of oysters up North. I would like to be there a little while to eat about a dozen kegs or so.
Well goodbye for this time. You must write oftener for I don’t get a letter from you often enough. You must write all the news. Is the little black cat alive yet? Let me know. Truly yours, — Dexter Buell
Company B, 27th Regt. N. Y. Volunteers. Write often. — Dexter Buell
Camp near White Oak Church, Virginia
April 13th 1863
I received your letter last night and glad to hear from you. Since my last we were reviewed by the President—old Abraham Lincoln. This morning the cavalry and artillery are all moving towards the river and we expect a fight before night but can’t tell. There are all sorts of rumors about the two years troops. Some say we will be in Elmira before this month is out. Yesterday we were on inspection and Col. Adams read an order that he received from the War Department that all two-years troops that will enlist after their time is out for one year will receive $50 bounty—one half to be paid down and the rest after the expiration of their term of enlistment. I rather guess they won’t get over 2,000 out of our regiment. The government paid 250 dollars for a lot of green men and now they offer us after we have been in the service two years 50 dollars to enlist? Can’t see the point, as our boys say.
We expect to be in New York State in less than two weeks. Bully for that.
I got a letter from Eliza the other day. They are all well. They want me to send them my photograph. We are hard up for tobacco down here but we can get along a little while longer. I don’t know of any more news to write. I can’t think of now. We are having nice weather here. The peach trees are budding out and will soon be in blossom. I will close for this time so goodbye. Excuse haste. Truly yours, — Dexter Buell
Co. B, 27th Regt. N.Y. S.V.
P. S. all are well as usual.
Elmira [New York]
May 31st 1863
As I have a few leisure moments I thought I would drop you a few lines to let you know that we are all sound. We arrived at Elmira about eleven o’clock the same night we went across the Lake on the steamer P. H. Field. We had a good time. The boys are all well and anxious to get back to their old homes instead of laying around this miserable place. Robert, you may think this is rather queer writing paper but as it is raining, I thought I would not go down to the village.
Dick Putney is all well and sends his best respects to you and all. We expect to be mustered out of the service tomorrow and will probably be home this week. All are well. Give my best respects to all of the boys and the girls too.
From your friend, — Dexter Buell, Co. B, 27th N. Y. Vol.
My best respects to your cousin, Miss Berry
Composed by Comrade Dexter E. Buell, Lyons, N. Y. Co. B, 27th Regiment N. Y. Volunteers [handwriting appears to be post war]