1861: Alfred L. Edwards to Philander Merrill

I could not find an image of Alfred but here is Franklin D. Cornish who served in the same regiment. (Photo Sleuth)

This letter was written by Alfred L. Edwards (1841-1918) who enlisted on 26 August 1861 as a private in Co. E, 50th New York Engineers and remained in the regiment until mustering out on 20 September 1864 at Elmira, New York.

Alfred datelined his letter from New York City on 20 September 1861 two days after his arrival. He shares the news with his mother that they were ordered to encamp on the battery overlooking New York Harbor which was still occupied by members of Ellsworth’s New York Fire Zouaves (11th New York Infantry) despite their having been ordered to Fortress Monroe. A newspaper article described the situation as follows:

“The New York Fire Zouaves—the “Pet Lambs”—have again been distinguishing themselves. On Thursday last they were assembled on the battery, New York, where they indulged in a series of free fights, at one time assuming the proportions of a riot. They also tossed in blankets a number of inoffensive laborers, and seizing a reporter of the Times tossed him in a tent cloth, and otherwise maltreated him, and finally robbed him of fifteen dollars. When appealed to Col. Lozier to behave in a more orderly, and to go without further difficulty to Fort Monroe, but twenty-five out of three hundred were willing to go—the others, on various pretenses, utterly refusing to leave New York. It is high time that these cowardly miscreants—the terror of all peaceable and unarmed citizens, the disgrace to the profession of arms, and the butt for the ridicule of the fie—were treated as mutineers or deserters; reduced to order or shot. It is idle to waste more time or more words on them.”The Daily Gazette and Republican, Trenton, NJ 23 September 1861

Alfred wrote the letter to his mother, Rumina (Gates) Merrill (1818-1895). The envelope was addressed to Rumina’s second husband, Philander Merrill (1795-1883) of Ketchumville, Tioga county, New York. Rumina’s first husband, Cyrus Edwards, died prior to the 1850 US Census at which time the widow Rumina was enumerated with her two boys, Alfred and Cyrus, in Maine, Broome county, New York.

To read other letters I have transcribed and posted on Spared & Shared that were written by members of the 50th New York Engineers, see:

Cornelius Van Huysen, Co. A, 50th New York Engineers (1 Letter)
Abner G. Hill, Co. B, 50th New York Engineers (1 Letter)
William H. Lunn, Co. E, 50th New York Engineers (1 Letter)
Halsey Amos Rhodes, Co. H, 50th New York Engineers (1 Letter)

Temporary Barracks erected in Battery Park in NYC in 1861


Addressed to Philander Merrills, Ketchumville, Tioga county, New York

Camp Lesley
New York City
[Friday,] September 20th [1861]

Dear Mother,

We started from Elmira [on Tuesday,] the 17th at four o’clock p.m. in a train of 24 cars, 17 with soldiers. We got [here] next day [Wednesday] at 8 a.m. We are camped on the Bay. Last night we slept on our arms. We expected to be attacked by the New York Fire Zouaves. There was some 300 or 400 on the ground when we came here and they were not going to leave. They had been ordered to leave in the morning at six o’clock but swore they would not, but the Mayor sent the police force in the afternoon and they left. We expected they would return but they did not.

We leave here today at two o’clock. Where to I don’t know. We are all well. I have [seen] more here than I ever seen in my life. Ships and boats are moving all the time. I counted two hundred and sixty-three in view. I am laying flat on my belly and nothing to write on but a board and can’t write good. I will let you know where I be in a day or two.

— A. L. Edwards

I will direct my letters after this in this style, — Alfred L. Edwards, Ketchumville

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