This letter was written by Charles Trowbridge Dwight (1842-1884), the son of William Dwight (1805-1880) and Elizabeth Amelia Wilder (1809-1883). Charles was a student at Harvard when the war erupted and he dropped out of school to accept a commission as 2nd Lieutenant in Co. B, 70th New York Infantry. He was mustered in on 1 November 1861 and discharged from the service on 30 June 1864. Charles’ brother, William Dwight, Jr., mustered in as Lt. Colonel of the same regiment and was promoted to Colonel on 30 November 1862 when the regiment’s first Colonel, Dan Sickles, was promoted to Brigadier General.
Charles wrote this letter during the Peninsula Campaign in the summer of 1862. In the battle of Williamsburg, the first battle of consequence in which the 70th took part it met with the heaviest loss of its service. Out of 700 engaged the loss was 330 killed, wounded or missing. At Fair Oaks and in the Seven Days’ battles the regiment was also active. In this letter, datelined “In the Field before Richmond” on 15 June 1862, Charles reassures his mother that he is yet alive and informs her that, “McClellan is moving slowly along in his plans as usual and we are undergoing the tedium of another siege instead of ending it by a good, smart fight.”
In the field before Richmond
June 15th 1862
My dearest Mother,
Although I wrote a letter last night, still as I have just received yours of the 10th in which you express so much anxiety on my account, I feel that it is to say the least my duty to do all I can to relieve your fears. To begin them, I am in splendid health except thin from the excessive heat from which we are now suffering. A thunderstorm has just cooled the atmosphere somewhat.
McClellan is moving slowly along in his plans as usual and we are undergoing the tedium of another siege instead of ending it by a good, smart fight. Every third day we either go out on picket or into the trenches. Our pickets are so close that we can hear them talk but we have orders positive not to fire unless they advance. We daily have skirmishes between the pickets and now and then (as for instance, today) they throw a few shell at us. Some came into our camp doing no injury to us although they wounded two or three in the trenches in front.
The army awaits with impatience the order to move. Sickness is prevalent. How I should like to have an opportunity to be at class day but it is not my good fortune.
There is nothing new. I am sorry Chip is so anxious to come out and I wrote him so. There are enough here now. If you wish me to write, you must send me postage stamps.
Give my love to Eliza Chapman, father & Wilaver.
With much [love] to you. Every your affectionate son, — Charley