1864: William Brittin Durie to Mary Emma Durie

A post war image of William B. Durie

The following letter was written by William Brittin Durie (1840-1916), the eldest child of Samuel (Duryea) Durie (1814-1901) and Nancy Maxwell (1817-1891) of New Providence, New Jersey. William initially enlisted in Co. B, 13th New Jersey, serving from 12 April 1863 to 27 June 1863. He wrote this letter while serving in Co. C, 39th New Jersey Volunteers which he joined on 8 October 1864. He mustered out of the service on 17 June 1865.

By the 1880 US Census, William was married to Frances E. Clark (1849-1930, with two children, and working as a school teacher in Rahway, New Jersey. William wrote the letter to his sister, Mary Emma Durie (1846-1927) who married William C. Johnson (1829-1892) in 1870.

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


Addressed to Miss Mary E. Durie, New Providence, New Jersey

Steamboat Guide, James River
Between Fortress Monroe & City Point
October 16, 1864

Dear Sister,

I take this opportunity to write you a few lines that you may know how I am getting along & where I am, &c. We left Newark Friday morning, stayed at Philadelphia Friday night in the cars. Yesterday we went to Baltimore by rail & took passage from there upon the Guide. We left 6 o’clock p.m. down the Chesapeake Bay & arrived at Fortress Monroe about 11 o’clock where we stopped about an hour, we are now plying for the James [river] & expect to land at City Point tomorrow morning.

My health is first rate and has been all the time. We are having a fine time of it—much better than marching. I am now seated upon the deck of the steamboat with a friend of mine, Mr. Jacob Lewis Pierson. 1 He is writing a letter too. We write about two lines & then rest to look at the scenery or talk or listen to [each] other.

Half past five p.m., I have just been downstairs to a prayer meeting for three-quarters of an hour. It is now nearly sundown. We shall not have much more time to write. We have it very nice upon board. We—that is, our company—occupy the Ladies Cabin. We have nice berths to sleep in. I should like to stay on the boat all the time. This letter can not be mailed until we get to City Point. That will be tomorrow. I believe I shall have to close for tonight for it will soon be dark. I want to get my supper. I will write to you again as soon as I get to camp.

Your brother, — W. B. Durie

October 16, 7 a.m.

We are almost to City Point. The boat was anchored all night, otherwise we would have been there last night. You can write as soon as you get this & direct to Co. C, 39th New Jersey Volunteers., City Point, Va. Tell Father that Mr. E. Austin has $105 for him which I left for him if he has not already gone down & got it. Austin thinks that Father had better take those bonds of mine and invest them for me. Tell Father he may get them when he goes down. I will write as soon as I get settled in camp.

Your brother, — W. B. Durie

1 As it turns out, I previously transcribed two of Jacob Lewis Pierson’s letters some time ago. They were: 1865: Jacob Lewis Pierson to Mary Emma Durie published on Spared & Shared 14, and 1865: J. Lewis Pierson to Mary Emma Durie published on Spared & Shared 12.

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