1863: Joseph A. Alexander to his Parents

I could not find an image of Joseph but here is Pvt. Charles Bosher of Co. B, 125th New York Infantry (Photo Sleuth)

This letter was written by 19 year-old Joseph A. Alexander who enlisted at Lansingburg in August 1862 to serve as a private in Co. C, 125th New York Infantry. The 125th did not get off to a very auspicious start in the war. Rushed to Harper’s Ferry without much drill and preparation, they were among the 11,500 Federal troops surrendered to Stonewall Jackson in the Antietam Campaign. The men were then sent to Chicago under parole until they could be exchanged in November 1862 at which time they were sent to join the Washington D. C. Defenses and encamped near Centreville, which Joseph mentions in his letter.

During Lee’s second invasion of the North, the 125th New York had an opportunity to redeem itself in the Battle of Gettysburg where they lost 139 men killed and wounded, including their Col. George Willard. Mortally wounded in the fight was Co. C’s Orderly Sergeant, 28 year-old George S. Moss, who is also mentioned in this letter. Moss took a shell fragment in the groin, wounding his penis, scrotum and thigh. He wanted the fragment removed but according to nurse Cornelia Hancock, the delicate surgery was postponed until 8 August 1863 when the fragment was finally removed without much difficulty but the patient likely died from an overdose of chloroform. (see A Soldier’s Friend)

We learn from Joseph’s letter that he missed the Battle of Gettysburg due to an illness that resulted in his hospitalization but when they finally released him to the Convalescent Camp—where he had his money stolen out of his pocket while sleeping, he quickly decided he would rather return to his regiment than enter the Invalid Corps. Unfortunately for Joseph, he was captured again during the Mine Run Campaign in December 1863 and he died in Andersonville Prison on 27 June 1864.

Joseph wrote the letter to his father, William A. Alexander—a brush maker in Lansingburgh—and his wife Laura, both emigrants from Nova Scotia.


Camp 125th Regt. New York Vols.
Near Warrenton Junction, Virginia
August 16, 1863

Dear Father & Mother,

I take my pen in hand to write a few lines to you to let you know how and what I am doing. I have got quite smart and have returned to the regiment. I got to it last Monday all safe. I have done no duty yet. I got paid at the hospital all in money. I did not get any allotment.

I went from there to the Convalescent Camp. They put me in the Invalid Corps. I could not get a chance to send my money to you so one night I went to bed with my money all safe and the next morning I got up and felt in my pockets to see if it was all right but it was all gone. It had been taken out of my [pocket] by some their and I was very sorry so I concluded to go to the regiment. I only stayed there but three days when I started off. I did not want to belong to that Invalid Corps. I want to be with the boys so that when. Come home, I may come with some honor.

The boys was glad to see me and they said I was foolish for coming but I don’t think so. We have got marching orders to have three days rations in haversacks to be ready to march at any moment’s notice. I don’t know where we are going to. Some say we are going towards Washington but I don’t know how true it is. Some say we are going to Charleston. I hope it is true for I would like to witness the fall of that place.

The weather is very hot down here and must be the same up your way but for [my] part, it is more healthier here in the open fields where we can get the fresh air than being in the close cities. I think I can stand it to go with the regiment for they (the old troops) say that this campaign was the hardest they have went through. They are going to fill up [the regiment] with drafted men up to its full maximum number.

There is a great cry down South for peace and I think it is time for them to look and reflect of what they have brought upon themselves.

I want you to send me some money and postage stamps as quick as you get this for I want it. James is well and with the company. He sends his love to you. I sent a company record to you at Washington. When you write, let me know if you have got it.

I have been informed of the death of Orderly Sergeant George S. Moss. He died from the effects of his wound received at Gettysburg. If this be true, the company regrets the loss of him for he was the best sergeant we had in our company. While we was in Centreville, Col. [George] Willard thought a great deal of him, His wound was very bad. That’s what the boys told me when I got to the regiment.

I received a letter from you when I was in the hospital but I did not get time to answer it. I must conclude by sending my love to grandfather and mother, and brothers and sister, and all enquiring friends. So goodbye.

From your faithful son, — Joseph A. Alexander

Co. C., 125th Regt. N. Y. V.
3rd Brigade, 3rd Division, 2nd Corps
Washington D. C.

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