1861: William Fuller to Mary Ellen Leavenworth

This letter was written by William Fuller (1837-1877), the son of Richard and Maria (Parrott) Fuller of Vermont. He wrote the letter to his friend (later wife) Mary Ellen Leavenworth (1846-1930). After the couple were married in 1863, they resided in West Haven, Connecticut, where William worked as a carriage maker. He died young on 28 June 1877 and was buried in the town of Roxbury, Litchfield county, Connecticut.

Twenty-four year-old William Fuller enlisted in the 5th Connecticut Infantry on 22 July 1861 and was made first sergeant of Co. D. He served under Captain David F. Lane of Hartford. According to a history of the regiment by E. E. Marvin (1889), William was taken prisoner on 25 May 1862 at Winchester. A family biography states that he spent four months in Libby Prison. He was exchanged on 15 September 1862 and discharged for disability in mid-February 1863.

In this letter, William mentions the “bad managed affair” at Ball’s Bluff and Edward’s Ferry on 21-22 October 1862 and reassures his friend that, “They will soon receive a blow from us that they will long remember and will make them feel the power of [our] noble Union army. I think the war will be short and decisive.”

See also—The Desertion of Edward Arthur Elliott, 5th Conn. Infantry on Spared & Shared 19.

[Note: This letter is from the private collection of Greg Herr and was transcribed and published on Spared & Shared by express consent.]


Addressed to Miss Mary E. Leavenworth, West Haven, State of Connecticut

Camp near Muddy Branch
November 12th 1861

Dear Friend,

Yes, I am fully convinced that you are a friend to me in every respect and you can be well assured that I am the same to you. I remember a few lines that a friend of mine wrote in the back part of my writing book that made a lasting impression on my mind. they were as follows:

“A constant friend is harder to find and if you find one that is true, change not an old one for a new.”

I received your last on the 18th. The reason of my letters being so long getting to you is our mails do not go regular. If it storms very much, they are delayed. The storm you spoke of reached us here. It raged for 24 hours most terrifically blowing and raining without ceasing. It makes it very unpleasant for the soldiers. We have to be out nearly as much in stormy weather as in pleasant.

There is no mistake that our troops suffered very much at the affair of Edward Ferry. It was a very bad managed affair. Our men were led to a complete trap and scattered like cattle without a chance for their lives. I am very glad our regiment was not there. They will soon receive a blow from us that they will long remember and will make them feel the power of [our] noble Union army. I think the war will be short and decisive.

This is a very pleasant morning for this season of the year. I ave just come in from usual morning work and take these few leisure moments to write to you thinking that I cannot put them to a better purpose. My duties are not quite as arduous as they were when I was in Hartford although I am busy most of the time. I have a good deal of care on my mind which keeps me busy thinking and writing when I am not otherwise engaged.

It is impossible for me to express my pleasure in receiving your letter—they are balm carried to many a wounded heart and joy to many a downcast spirit. Yes, through the silent medium of the pen, your letters are of more value to me than silver or gold. It is a great consolation to me to know that I have sympathizing friends at home. It reminds [me] that I have something to work for. I didn’t come here through selfish motives but i came to help to sustain that government that our fore fathers fought and bled to establish that we might live under the protections and enjoy its liberties.

If you could see the works of the secession soldier, it would make you weep. They ravish the country where ere they go. They pay no regards to the most sacred rights of the homes and firesides of private citizens. They rob the widow of her sole dependence—her sons, and impress them into their infamous armies and grossly insult and even murder the aged parent and innocent maiden. These are the kinds of beasts we are contending against. God grant that they may never set their unhallowed feet one inch farther north than they now do to pollute the sacred soil of our noble, loyal states. I feel confident that they never will. I could relate many incidents of their barbarity to hard for my part to describe. It is the other way with us. we place guards over houses that are likely to be intruded upon by any ill disposed one.

I received letters from two of my sisters since I write to you. My mother is as well as usual. I don’t know how long we will stay in this place. I think it will not be long. You need—or I hope you will not—let your mind be so uneasy. Let fond hope cheer your lonely hours. Let us both look forward to the time when we shall meet again and when we [will] be blessed with peace in our land.

Yes, Mary, I know just what kind of a set you are surrounded by. Keep yourself, or keep them to a respectable distance. They would lead you astray. It gives me great pleasure to hear that you look upon them in the light you do. I am happy to hear that you are well. Cling to your health. Preserve it as you do the memory of a dear friend. I am well and hope these few lines will find you the same. My folks send love to you through me.

I send my undivided and never failing love to you. From William. Write soon. Direct as usual.

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