1862: Alonzo Holland to Harriet Eliza Rice

I could not find an image of Alonzo in uniform but here is one of Matthew Marvin of Co. K, 1st Minnesota (Charles T. Joyce Collection)

These letters were written by Alonzo Holland (1838-1907) of Quincy, Minnesota, who enlisted on 18 November 1861 as a private in Co. K, 1st Minnesota Infantry.

He joined his cousin, Samuel Stebbins, who had enlisted at the beginning of the war and was also serving in Company K. On Dec 17, 1863, Stephen Martin wrote a letter to Mathew Marvin and mentioned that Alonzo was the company cook.
When the regiment was mustered out on May 5, 1864, at the end of their enlistment, he was transferred to its successor unit, Co. B, 1st Battalion, Minnesota Infantry, to finish his term. Alonzo was wounded at the fight at Jerusalem Plank Road on June 21, 1864. He was mustered out on Nov 18, 1864, at the completion of his three year term of enlistment.

On Nov 28, 1866, he married Ellen Kingsbury in Winona, Winona county, Minnesota.

Holland wrote the letters to Harriet (“Hattie”) Eliza Rice (1835-1909) of Barre, Worcester, Massachusetts, an 1856 graduate of the Lasell Female Seminary. In the 1860 US Census, 25 year-old Hattie was enumerated with her 76 year-old mother, Lucy. She was identified as a “Palm Leaf Hood Maker.” Her father, Charles Rice (1788-1854) passed away in January 1854. In the 1870’s, Hattie was still single and living in Worcester working as a seamstress. She never married.

Veterans of Co. K, 1st Minnesota Infantry gather in front of Alonzo Holland’s home (411 West Sanborn Street) in Winona on 3 June 1896 (Winona, by Walter Bennick)

Letter 1

Addressed to Miss Hattie E. Rice, Barren, Massachusetts

Camp Stone near Poolesville, Maryland
February 12th 1862

Friend Hattie,

I presume you have come to the conclusion ere this that I did not care to answer your letter which come to hand some two months ago but such is not the case. But I thought I should like to hear from you again so I didn’t wish to write till I got to a stopping place so you would know where I was. You will see by the date of this that I am in the army of the United States. I enlisted as a recruit in the 1st Regiment Minnesota Volunteers the 18th of November at Minneapolis where I was when I received your letter and expected to go south immediately but various hindrances prevented until the 31st of January when 54 of us started for Washington. Arrived there the 7th of February and stopped there part of a day, then came up to the camp. So you will see that changed from one thing to another till I have got to be a soldier.

I said last winter that I should volunteer when I was needed and I concluded last fall that the country needed all the men that could be raised so off to the war I went. We are stationed on the Potomac about 55 miles from Washington. It is at Edward’s Ferry. I presume you have heard of the place. The Rebels are on the other side of the river. Our camp is two miles from the river. We go down there on picket guard.

It is dreadful muddy here. I suppose you think you know what mud is but you never saw any in New England. The mud sticks to my feet so I can hardly go. We shall not be likely to have a battle till the mud dries up. There is eight of us in our tent that I stop in so we are pretty thick. We all sleep together packed in like logs. The bed occupies half the tent and we have a fireplace at the other side and we have a table made of a board sat on some legs and some seats so that is is about full.

We don’t live first rate. It is bread and coffee for breakfast & supper, and soup and beans for dinner. No butter or milk or any such things. But I will close hoping you will accept the best wishes of your friend and write soon as they are all strangers to me far away from all friends. Our letters are sent to us from Washington wherever we are so you can direct to Alonzo Holland, Co. K, 1st Regt., Minnesota Vol., Washington D. C.


Letter 2

Alexandria, Virginia
September 10, 1863

Hattie,

You say I never answer my letters promptly but once so if I answer your last promptly it will be twice punctual to your negligences as I don’t know you have ever been over anxious to write soon after receiving. I remember of your waiting some six or eight months at one time but I guess you will do better hereafter and I will endeavor to write just as often as you will.

We went from Governor’s Island to Brooklyn City where we had one of the best times that ever came to soldiers as we was camped at York Green (one of the city parks) and the people (ladies in particular) were very glad to see the old veteran troops and visited us everyday in large numbers. One of the churches gave us a splendid supper of everything that was good, which we call good enough for soldiers. They also gave us a treat of melons and peaches &c. We were to have another supper by another church but were ordered back sooner than we expected so we lost it. We left N. Y. last Sunday and embarked on board the steamer Empire City bound for Alexandria where we arrived Tuesday.

We are laying here for a day or two waiting for the rest of the brigade to get here when we shall go to the front. So you see our good time is all gone and we are once more in the field to get more hard marching and fighting. We hated to come back as bad as anybody could for we have been at the front so long that we are pretty sick of it but we are tired of such foolery as we have been having as regards our officers. They told us we was to stay at New York this winter and kept us moving round all the time we was there. So we did not have a chance to go anywhere and now we have to go to march out to the Rappahannock 60 miles when we might go on the cars if they was a mind to let us.

The draft passed off all quietly at New York and vicinity but the men are not taken away yet. Will probably be some trouble in doing that. By today’s paper, it seems that Morris Island is evacuated. If so, it is a great step towards the fall of Charleston. The news from the West is very good and I can but hope that we may gain a victory here which would bring the rebels into difficult circumstances. But I don’t look for a speedy culmination of the war. In fact, it almost looks as though we was to have a war with France and England.

Write all about the fair that to come off soon. I should like to, as you advise me, but I have been going the wrong way for Barre but I trust the time will be sometime that I can go where I like more than at present. Meanwhile, be assured that you have a friend in the army. write soon.

— Alonzo [Holland]

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