This letter was written by Capt. Horatio Nelson Hunt (1826-1896) of Leon, Cattaraugus county. Horatio enlisted on 15 September 1861 and was commissioned 1st Lieutenant of Co. K, 64th New York Infantry. He was promoted to Captain of his company on 24 May 1862, just one week before he was wounded in the fighting at Fair Oaks, Virginia. Less than three weeks later he sat down to write his wife, Jane (Murdock) Hunt (1826-1899) and his seven children the following letter.
His parents were Sherebial Hunt (1801-1889) and Anna Reed (1799-1846) of Bristol county, Massachusetts. Horatio was a cooper by trade.
For the 64th New York Infantry, Fair Oaks (or Seven Pines) was their first real emersion in combat. They performed remarkable well—“with great steadiness under a fire which killed or wounded 173 of its members.” Among those wounded in action from Co. K at Fair Oaks, besides Capt. Hunt, were Conrad Auchmire, Wayne V. Bloodgood, Joseph Bower, Nathaniel T. Cooper, Albert W. Dye, George Francis, Joseph Furnace, Galette Gilbert, Joseph Gooden, Gustavus Grover, Charles M. Ingraham, Patrick Maign, William Marsh, Fergus Merriman, Thomas P. W. Palmer, Delos E. Pember, Samuel Penner, and George W. Wellman.
Fair Oaks, Virginia
June 19th 1862
Dear Wife and children,
I improve the present opportunity in writing to you to let you know that I am well. I received a letter from you some 3 days ago. Was glad to hear that you was all well. I received a letter from Card. He said you were all well.
You will see by the heading of this that we are at the same place that we have been for about 3 weeks. When we will make our advance is more than I can tell. Our army are very busy throwing up entrenchments, planting [illegible]. Yesterday our regiment was to work on breastworks. We have got some splendid works here. There is no news of importance. I am making out Descriptive lists for those that were wounded as fast as they apply for them. Some are at Philadelphia 1 & some at Portsmouth, some one place & some in another. All have left here. Some are expected back soon & some not at all. Our boys are all well as usual. Harvey is some lame today. His leg troubles him once in awhile. N___ is well and fat. The boys all dram whiskey twice a day and gill a day. They are not allowed to sell or transfer it. Anyone that not present at roll call loses his whiskey ration. Most of them all are on hand every time. It was recommended by the surgeon of the army today.
We draw potatoes the first time for 3 or 4 months, dried apples for the first time since in the army. We have to have onions soon they say. Our boys went in on taters today. When they were still out you could see about a dozen heads hanging over the kettle to time. Poor fellows. How I did pity them. But most of the folks say they are nothing but soldiers. Anything is good enough for them. Nothing but the [illegible]. Oh how I wish they could see what I have seen just once. Once would be enough. Men—yes, young men—the pride of our country, standing face to face with the enemy & face to face with death, dropping and falling on both sides and pleading for help all for their rights and liberties and blessings of those to enjoy who are at home sleeping on their downy pillows of ease, while the soldier walks his lonely beat at the dead of night. Shame on such patriotism. Shame on such talk. They ought to hide their faces from the sight of human beings. We forgive them.
Jane, I have just been to the office (a cloth tent) to get our mail. I found yours of the 13th inst. to me. Was very glad that you were as well as usual. Frant must not come come too often. I calculated to write to her often. She can get it without come home more than once a week. I wrote her a long letter but a short time since. Mr. Franklin’s folks wanted to know where William was. I have not found out yet. As soon as I do, I will inform them. I will answer all enquiries anyone wishes that is in my power to answer.
I have had letters from Fry & George [Wellman] and many other boys that was wounded. All are doing well as can be expected. I sed them their Descriptive lists and account of pay and clothing so that they can get their pay and discharge if they are considered unfit for duty.
I am very busy making our pay rolls. It is a long job, We have to make four just alike. We will get pay again soon probably. How much money have you now and how much shall I send you next time. Write soon and tell me what you ned, what you want, and all about matters. I send in this a gold pen and silver case and pencil to Frant. She must be careful of it and not lose it for it is a good one.
I want you to get someone to look at the wing part of the house and see what is the least they will underpin it for with lime and mortar in a good workmanlike manner. Ledge stone wall to commence ten inches below the top of the ground in a ditch filled with small stone. All for cash when done and accepted. Perhaps Corydon will see to it for you. When it is done, the southeast corner or the whole [ ] must be leveled up for it has sagged some.
I send my love to you and the children. Goodbye for this time. Write soon all news. Yours truly, — H. N. Hunt
1 One of the members of the 64th NYSV sent to Philadelphia for the treatment of wounds received at Fair Oaks was Daniel Wiley Lafferty of Co. A. His wound resulted in the loss of the 3rd finger on his left hand. See his letter of 25 June 1862.
[Note: The following letter is from the private collection of Greg Herr and was transcribed and published on Spared & Shared by express consent.]
Camp of the 64th New York Vols.
Near Morrisville, Virginia
August 9th 1863
Dear Wife and children,
Again I seat myself within my tented home to pen a few lines in answer to your kind letter of August 4th which was dul received today.
Today is Sabbath and the warmest day I think we have had this summer. We have just finished Sunday morning inspection and I have returned to my quarters and commenced a few words conversation with you. I wonder how you all do today. It may be you have all left the old homestead and gone to church. Or perhaps you are all seated around the family board partaking of those large potatoes of which you speak in your letter. I had some this morning—the first that I have had since about the time we left Falmouth. I guess I must tell you where and how I got them for fear you will will have some bad feelings or you’ll be sending some in your letters to me. Still, if you want sympathy about it, I will tell you. Well, you see our Chaplain got a few potatoes somewhere and he boiled them for himself and had 4 left not one bit larger than walnuts. He was going to throw them away. My 1st Lieutenant saw him and said he would take them so we had them for breakfast this morning. I had two and Lieutenant two. So you see we’ve had new potatoes.
You speak of its being warm weather up there. That’s no name for it down here.
I see you talk of going a journey to Elmira and think it will be good for your health. Now if it would do you a little good to go to Elmira, would it not do you a great deal of good to come down and make me a visit? I think you had better go if you can gain anything by it; you can do as you think best about going. I should be glad to have you go.
I suppose it can safely be said that we have gone into camp. How long we will remain, I can’t say. It is said we are to remain here until the drafted men are in to fill up the regiments. There is now only about one company of men in our regiment. I think it is less than 100 men for duty. I have 3 men, 1 corporal, 1 musician, and 1 pioneer in my company making 6 in all. Big thing, ain’t it? I am a member of a general court martial in session everyday at Gen. Coldwell’s Headquarters. The court are trying commissioned officers for different offenses. We have to sit from 3 to 6 hours each day. The excuses me from all other duty.
We are getting very good food again. Soft bread, ham, &c, but no vegetables yet.
John Mosher came from Washington yesterday with a load of sutler’s goods. He sold out in one day and has gone to Washington today for more goods.
We were paid again last week. I received $253.65. I had put up in a package $225.00. Shall send it to Cord soon as our Chaplain gets his pass to take the money of our regiment to Washington to express. I sent a letter to Cord telling him about it 3 or 4 days ago. The money isn’t sent yet but I expect to be able to send it soon. When you get money of Caryolon, you must give him a receipt and take one yourself and keep them and these receipts will show the amounts you have had. There is most 2 months pay due me now. we expect to be paid again before we leave here though we can’t tell. I am anxious to lay upon as much as I can while I have an opportunity. I shall not answer Frank’s letter upon this sheet as I have not room. I received Frank’s letter written at Clinton I think July 3rd. Will answer that and her last soon.
I am well as usual, take good care of yourself and all. I send love to you and the children and bid you goodbye again. Very truly yours husband, — Capt. Hunt