1864: Unidentified Henry to his Wife

This letter was written by a soldier named Henry who served in the 5th Connecticut Infantry. This regiment fought with the Army of Virginia in the East until the fall of 1863 when they were transferred to the Army of the Cumberland and assigned to the 1st Brigade, 1st Division, 20th Army Corps.

Henry Cornwall Clark, possible author of letter

The soldier did not sign his last name but he mentions being transported to his regiment in Stevenson, Alabama, where the regiment was sent in the fall of 1863. Most likely he was either a wounded or sick soldier held in the hospital on Bedloe’s Island (where the Statue of Liberty sits today in New York Harbor) and was being transported along with recruits or draftees to Alabama in time to participate in Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign. He mentions only one traveling companion, Bob Warner, who was a private in Co. B, 5th Connecticut. Bob had been wound in in 1863 and was most likely hospitalized with Henry. Bob had been transferred to the Veteran Reserve Corps but then transferred back, presumably thinking he could endure the two months he had left to serve with his regiment. Henry writes of being plagued by pains that he feels certain will enable him to get his discharge once properly examined by a physician after getting back to his regiment. One possibility is that the author might be Henry Cornwall Clark (1836-1912) of Granville, Massachusetts, who also served in Co. B, 5th Connecticut. Henry and his wife, Lauretta Moore, were married on 21 April 1863—only a year previous. I cannot prove he was the author, however.

The Zollicoffer House in Nashville, only partially constructed when the Civil War began, was used extensively as a prison for Confederate POWs. Many of them were housed there on temporary floors that had been constructed as makeshift barracks inside the structure, and many of them were killed or mangled when the flooring collapsed on 29 September 1863. By the time Henry and his traveling companions were quartered there, there was still no roof and the upper floors were partially collapsed. After the war, a 1st Wisconsin Cavalry Quartermaster Sergeant named James Waterman remembered the Zollicoffer House as being “more like a prison than a barracks for civilized beings, and was a disgrace to the service.”

Fort Harker just outside of Stevenson, Alabama


Stevenson, Alabama
May 11, 1864

My Darling & Beloved Wife,

I take this opportunity of writing you a few lines to let you know where I am and how I am getting along. I don’t feel any better than I have felt. My back and side troubles me considerable but I could not get any examination anywhere on the road. But if the regiment is stationed in the same place, I shall ask for my discharge as soon as I get there and I will get it.

Zollicoffer House in Nashville during the war

But I hope these few lines will find my darling enjoying first rate health. I hope that you received the letter that I wrote from Louisville the 8th of this month in which I told you about our treatment from Bedloe’s Island to Cincinnati. But from Cincinnati to this place we was treated a little better. But when we was in Nashville we put up at the largest hotel in the City. It was called the Zollicoffer House but it was not half finished. There was no covering on the roof and when it rained, it came right down through on to the ground floor. We arrived there about half past five in the afternoon and stayed until the next morning about 11 o’clock when we took the cars for this place and just outside of Nashville I saw a great many new made graves. And for about 4 or 5 miles you could see graves and entrenchments where there had been engagements.

And when we got to Murfreesboro, there was very strong entrenchments which encircled the whole town so the rebs would have a hard time getting in there. There was one place we came through called Wartrace and it was rightly named for it showed traces of a war party and as our train came thundering into the depot, there was quite a tumult such as the ringing of bells and gongs which one could hear above the noise of the train.

We arrived here about half past 4 in the morning and had to stand around about an hour before we could find out where we was going to put up but at last we found a place and Bob Warner 1 and two other men belonging to the Fifth and myself went into quarters together.

I have borrowed about 75 cents of Bob to get some paper and stamps so that I could write to you but I don’t expect to hear from you until I get somewhere to stay a spell and then I will want to have you write for it would only be a waste of paper and stamps. But I have not got much more to write so I will draw to a close for this time. So give my best respects to all and keep all of my love to yourself with 50 million kisses.

So good day hoping to see you before long, I remain your ever loving and affectionate husband, — Henry

To his darling little [ ]. You need not write until you hear from me again. So good day, darling pet.

1 Robert (“Bob”) Warner of Hartford, was a private in Co. B, 5th Connecticut Infantry. He was wounded on 8 August 1862 at Cedar Mountain, Virginia, and again on 23 November 1863 (place unknown). He was transferred to Co. G, 20th Veteran Reserve Corps on 11 January 1864 and re-transferred to the 5th Connecticut on 26 March 1864. He was discharged on 22 July 1864 when his term expired.

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