This letter was written by Robert Downs (1835-1907), the son of Leverett Downs (1796-1859) and Anna Atwater (1801-1895) of New Haven county, Connecticut.
Robert enlisted on 8 August 1862 as a private in Co. H, 15th Connecticut Infantry. He mustered out of the regiment at Newbern, North Carolina, on 27 June 1865. The regiment served in the defenses of Washington D. C. before participating in the Battle of Fredericksburg, the Mud March, the Siege of Suffolk, &c. They were ordered to Newbern, North Carolina in January 1864 which was their base of operations until the close of the war.
Robert’s letter datelined from Newbern in September 1864 speaks of his own sickness and of the large number of sick citizens and soldiers in Newbern where “a good many are dying.” So many of the 15th Connecticut soldiers died at Newbern during the time they were quartered there that a monument was erected by the state honoring their service. In the dedication of that monument in 1894, Senator O. H. Platt said, “We erect monuments, not to the living, but to the dead. A century from now the State and Nation will still be seeking some way in which to testify an increasing regard for the men who saved the Union from dissolution, who made its flag one flag, and its boundaries to encompass one—only one—country. Heroism, achievements, sacrifice are the grand fruitage of humanity, worthy of all honor; but grander yet and worthy of supreme honor is patriotism…Other regiments may mark with their monuments positions on battlefields where their comrades met the enemy in a fierce and deadly struggle to retain their position and beat the enemy back from the field. These your comrades battled with the death angel on a field which they would have gladly abandoned but from which there was no retreat; their struggle involved no passion, none of the accessories of battle strife bore them up, no word of command, no cheer of comrades, no bugle note, no drum, so sound of cannon or rattle of musketry to life them out of themselves and to inspire them to heroic deeds, but in silence and in darkness, alone with themselves, and with the invisible destroyer, far from the homes of love, uncheered and unattended, they met their foe and their fate…”[See Platt Address at Newbern, N. C.]
To read other letters by members of the 15th Connecticut that I’ve transcribed and posted on Spared & Shared, see:
Eli Walter Osborn, F&S, 15th Connecticut (1 Letter)
Charles Griswold, Co. E, 15th Connecticut (1 Letter)
Charles H. Taylor, Co. F, 15th Connecticut (1 Letter)
Henry C. Baldwin, Co. H, 15th Connecticut (1 Letter)
Henry D. Lewis, Co. H, 15th Connecticut (1 letter)
Henry D. Lewis, Co. H, 15th Connecticut (1 Letter)
Walter Howard Lord, Co. I, 15th Connecticut (1 Letter)
John Harrison Hall, Co. K, 15th Connecticut (1 Letter)
New Bern, N. C.
September 17th 1864
Dear Sisters and all at home,
I received two letters yesterday from you, one from home from Clarissa, and one from Laura then at Bethany. But I suppose that Laura is at home by this time. I am very happy to hear that you are all pretty well. I am a good deal better than I have been but I don’t feel as well as I did before I was sick. I have got over the shakes, but I am in the hospital yet for I don’t feel well enough to do guard duty. We have now and then a cool day and night but the weather is mostly very warm and it is getting to be pretty dry. It is quite sickly here both among the citizens and soldiers and a good many are dying, but the weather will be cooler before long and then it will be more healthy, I think.
Another boy from our company and from Naugatuck died yesterday here in the hospital. His name was Henry Lord. Perhaps you knew him. He was a good, steady boy. He came out with the regiment and he has enjoyed pretty good health till lately. He died quite sudden.
Both of your letters was dated September the 4th. I think they have been a good while coming though I had been looking for a letter from home for some days. But we heard that one of our mail boats had been taken by the rebs and burnt and I thought that I might have a letter on that boat but I guess I didn’t for you was not at home, the reason that you did not write any sooner. I am glad that you went to the camp meeting. I hope you enjoyed it to your best good. I would liked to have been there too for they have such good times and the place is a very pleasant one for a camp meeting.
I should have written to Laura again but I didn’t think that she was going to stay there so long so I thought I would not write to her for I didn’t think she would get the letter and I knew that you would send the letters to her as soon as you could.
I think it is the best thing that Mother could do to fat[ten] that heifer for I don’t want that you should have the bother of an unruly creature for you have enough to see to without that.
I am glad to hear that you are getting along so well and that things on the farm are in pretty good condition. Some say that the war will be over this fall and I think if things work as it appears, that it will now. I say I think that the war will be over sometime this fall. I hope it may be so so that we can all come home for good some time next winter. But this is uncertain for we can’t tell what is before us. Therefore we must trust in the Lord and be consigned to his Holy will. I know that many times the way looks dark ahead and we can see no way how that we are going to get over the difficulties which appear to lay before us, but three is One who can see through all the future, who will guide us in the right path (when we appear to be in the dark) if we ask Him in faith, trusting to His knowledge, mercy, and goodness. I hope that we shall all trust in the mercy and tender love of Jesus, our blessed Saviour and Redeemer, and ask Him to fit us for a more glorious home than the one we possess on earth. I hope these lines will find you all well. Please write soon.
From your sincere and affectionate brother, — Robert Downs