1864: William Edward Perkins to his Sister

This poignant letter was written by a previously unidentified soldier who signed his name “Ned,” a nickname for Edward, Edwin, or Edmund. There was very little content in the letter that might lead us to his identity though he told us he had passed through “every fight from Cedar Mountain to Resaca with scarcely a scratch.” While this narrowed down the hunt somewhat by eliminating all regiments that did not claim these as their first and last battles to the date of the letter, it unfortunately still included many regiments, including the 102nd New York, the 109th Pennsylvania, the 79th New York, the 2nd Massachusetts, the 46th Pennsylvania, the 66th Ohio, the 27th Indiana, and probably several others.

Dr. William Nichols, Jr.

The best clue in the letter was the reference to Dr. Nichols whom I believed was William Nichols, Jr. (1840-1899), as asst. surgeon from Boston who was commissioned in the 2nd Massachusetts in May 1863. William was an 1862 Graduate of the Harvard Medical School.

I finally checked my own archive of previously transcribed letters and found that I have a “Ned” who fits the profile of this author. I’m reasonably confident the letter was written by William Edward Perkins (1838-1879), the son of a Boston merchant. William served with the Forty-fourth and Second Massachusetts Infantry regiments. At the time this letter was written he was an officer in Co. I, 2nd Massachusetts Infantry.

See also—1863: William Edward Perkins to his Mother

Transcription

Breastworks five miles south of Marietta [Ga.]
June 23, 1864

Dear Sister,

Dr. Nichols tells me that the statement which I ran in the papers of Charlie’s death is confirmed. I have been thinking how strange it is that two whose future lives seemed so bright & promised so much usefulness should be taken while I who have had no future have been through every fight from Cedar Mountain to Resaca with scarcely a scratch.

The two Charlies seem to me like a bright dream of the past. There seemed to be so little of evil in them that I cannot think of them as I do of others who have started through life with me & been taken away by death.

Please write soon, — Ned

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