1863: Loel Chandler Hakes to Elizabeth (Hamilton) Hakes

I could not find an image of Loel but here is one of Delos M. Phillips who served in the same company & regiment. (Photo Sleuth)

This letter was written by 22 year-old Loel Chandler Hakes, a farmer from Wellsville, Allegany county, New York, who accepted a bounty of $50 from his village and enlisted on 5 September 1862 to serve three years in Co. H, 160th New York Infantry. According to his enlistment papers, he stood 5′ 11″ tall and had black hair and blue eyes. Though claiming to have a strong “constitution,” the rigors of camp life eventually proved too difficult for him as he was discharged for disability with the rank of sergeant on 13 May 1864.

Loel was the son of Billings Hakes (1797-1878) and Lucy Maria Pierce (1812-1871). He was married on 7 January 1861 to Elizabeth Hamilton (1839-1901), whom he called “Lib” and branded “the best wife in Allegany county.”

Loel wrote the letter from a hospital in Brashear City, recruiting from exhaustion incurred by the long march in recent weeks when the regiment—in Gen. Wetzel’s Brigade—moved from Brashear City up to the mouth of the Atchafalaya, skirmishing with the enemy most of the way


Addressed to Mrs. Elizabeth Hakes, Wellsville, Allegany Co., New York

Camp near Brashear City [La.]
May 1, 1863

Dear wife Lib,

I thought I would write you a few lines today. I wrote to you the 25th when I was to Washington Hospital. I don’t know whether you will get the letter or not. I wrote two sheets the whole account of the battle. I did not know whether I should come down here or not but the doctor sent me here and I feel to home.

Dear, I got some bread toasted and my butter is good yet and dear, it did taste good. My sausage is good and I tell you dear, I had a good breakfast.

We left Washington Wednesday morning and we got here to camp last night Thursday and today is Friday. We had an awful crowd coming down—over 200 sick and a small boat at that—and it was loaded with cotton and it was hard work. Dear, I feel very well today. I would of staved to death coming down if it wasn’t for a barrel of soft crackers. They was dreadful good and I filled my haversack full of them and I give our sick boys some of them and I got along well. I took them when they wasn’t a looking. Don’t you think, dear, that was right? Other boys got them and I think I am as smart as any of them.

There is a letter in the regiment and paper for me. I wish I had them. I know they are from you [but[ I guess I won’t get them until I join the regiment. Dear Lib, we have had a hard time. I wrote all about it in my other letter. If you get the letter, you will have a good sketch of the thing. I dated the letter No. 10. I think you will get it. Leroy is here with me. Hiram Burrell is here. He looks about the same as he did. I shall stay here, I think, about two weeks and get recruited up a little.

Dear Lib, I feel well. You know I am [of] strong constitution. I went on my grit too long. I ought to give up quicker. There hain’t no use of anybody killing themselves for they won’t more than half bury my body after they are dead. I mean to take good care of myself. Hain’t that right, dear? I want to take care of myself so I can come home and enjoy the comforts of life once more with my dear wife and family as we have once before. I hope this will be brought to a speedy end.

I write to you that Texas and Louisiana had come back into the Union but that hain’t so. But I think they will have to come back pretty soon. If we can get onto Red River and they say Commodore Farragut has taken Alexandria. If that is so and they say it is, so we will take Port Hudson and Vicksburg very easy. I hear that our boys is having hard times at Charleston. I hope we will take the place for if we do, we can whip them very easy.

There is three boys gone from here this morning to join the regiment. You don’t know either of them. One of them is Adelbert Potter. 1 His is brother to Jerome Potter. We are a going to have some beans for dinner. How good they will be. Dear Lib, if I could live all the time as we can here, I would like it. I would starve to death on hard tack. Dear Lib, I have been to dinner. We had some beans. I had bread and butter and sauce and tea. I tell you, dear, I had a dreadful good dinner. It is very quiet here this afternoon. I guess I won’t write anymore today. I will finish tomorrow. I have write to [ ]. I wrote a long letter to him. I am going to write to Mary and Rozell. Good day, dear Lib.

I have just finished Rozell’s letter and I will finish yours. Dear Lib, I don’t feel very well today. I don’t know but I have eat a little to much. I will have to look out for this is an awful place to stop and die. I have heard that our regiment had got back to Opelousas. I think they will be left to do garrison duty somewhere. They have done so much marching, I hope they will.

Dear Lib, I hope you will get the letter I wrote to you before this one. Dear Lib, I wrote to Corp. [Daniel T.] Spicer this morning—he is to New Orleans Hospital sick—to send me the money he owes me. It is 9 dollars. I shall hear Monday. I see lots of rebels that come up from New Orleans last night. They had taken the oath to not fight us any more. They felt good. I never would take the oath. If a man takes the oath, he has to stay in their lines. Now if the rebels should drive our men back, their men that has taken the oath would have to come back too and they can’t vote nor do anything. If I should be taken prisoner if the rebels held that country up there where you are, I could take the oath and go home but if the rebels should get drove away, I would have to leave. do you understand? I thought I would write it plain so you understand it. I never would take the oath in the world.

I will send you Wheeler’s letter when I write another one. Dear Lib, I have been thinking of the old times when you and Kate and myself went up to Mrs. Werden’s. Didn’t we have a good time riding? We drove old Bill. But we had a good time, didn’t we? You lived to home then, didn’t you, or was you just to home resting? I have forgot. I know you was to home when we was living down in the woods. That was a great place for fun but I was bashful. I did not know how to enjoy it. Now dear Lib, write me a good long letter. Write everything you want to.

From your husband, — Loel C. Hakes

To the best wife in Allegany county—Lib

Lots of kisses

1 Adelbert Potter was a private in Co. H, 160th New York Infantry.

Hakes’ Monument in Woodlawn Cemetery in Wellsville, NY

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