1862: Charles Trowbridge Dwight to Elizabeth (Wilder) Dwight

2nd Lt. Charles Trowbridge Dwight

These letters were 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 these letters 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 the 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.”

Letter 1

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

Letter 2

Headquarters Excelsior Brigade
Harrison’s Landing James River, Va.
July 14th 1862

My dear Mother,

I received this a.m. your letter oof the 10th which while I was glad to have it, still I felt sorry to think that you should be in a state of useless anxiety for so long a time. To show you whether I am busy or not, I commenced this letter day before yesterday morning at about 9 a.m. but when I had got as far as the word “anxiety” the General called me to go out with him, and I was kept out until 2 p.m. while the inspection of the Division was made by him with Heintzelman & Hooker. The day was very hot, but after dinner I had to go to Headquarters, Army of the Potomac, to get a requisition for ordnance approved., since I am acting as Brigade Ordnance Officer, and did not get home till 8 p.m. and I was too tired to write.

The next morning, yesterday, I started at 5 a.m. with two wagons to draw my ordnance and was kept trotting around all day until 4 p.m. with nothing to eat before I could get my requisition filled out, there being but two men to issue to all the army. It was the hottest day we have had and I suffered more than I have any time except during the retreat and was tired out when I came back. We had a tremendous thunder storm which cooled the air temporarily but today it is hot again.

I received last night William’s letter and although I am glad that you are all pleased with my conduct, still I do not think I have done anything more than my duty and nothing remarkable. But there are many officers, I am sorry to say, who have disgraced themselves and their uniform—some in our regiment, but I won’t mention names as they will be sent in by the general to be dishonorably discharged. Everything is quiet here now and if anything does occur, I shall try to do my best and not disgrace myself.

How are enlistments going on? I do think the lack of patriotism is disgraceful to the North. Everyone but Chap or any more from our family ought to come out now, first making up their minds to be prepared to endure hardships and to stick it out.

We may be relieved to garrison some place soon. We ought to be and the General wants and is working for it. If so, I may get a furlough but if William gets his position, I want to go with him in some staff capacity. I wish I had a photograph of you, father—–Chap & Dan to see how you look.

Love to all at home, with much to yourself, dear Mother. Ever your most affectionate son, — Charley

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