1863-64: John William Warner to his Family

The following letters were written by Pvt. John William Warner (1843-1919) of Troop M, 1st New Hampshire Cavalry. This regiment was organized at Concord, New Hampshire, as a Battalion of four companies in the fall of 1861 and then was attached to the 1st New England Cavalry (afterward designated the 1st Rhode Island Cavalry as companies I, K, L, and M.)

John W. Warner, Co. M, 1st New Hampshire Cavalry

John did not join the regiment until October 1862. When he enlisted, he was described as standing over 5′ 8″ tall, with blue eyes, and black hair. He was taken prisoner on 18 June 1863 at Middleburg, Virginia, and held captive on Belle Isle in Richmond until he was finally exchanged in the fall of 1863 and returned to a hospital in Washington D. C.

In January 1864, the regiment was detached from the 1st Rhode Island Cavalry to form the 1st New Hampshire Cavalry and returned to New Hampshire to reorganize and reenlist as veterans but John did not join them. He mustered out of the regiment on 7 January 1864, just days after the last of these letters were written.

John was the son of Andrew S. Warner (1814-1876) and Olivia Tow Leavitt (1818-1877) of North Hampton, Rockingham county, New Hampshire. After the war he married (1869) Estella Warner (1845-1919) and in the 1870 US Census he was identified as a 27 year-old “carriage maker” in North Hampton. He was still there in 1880 working at the same trade and in 1900 he was identified as a “wheelwright.” He was still living there in 1910 employed as a “wagon manufacturer.”

Letter 1

New York
October 11th 1862

Dear Parents,

As we have a few spare moments, I will write a few lines to let you know where we are. We left Providence last week at 8:30 o’clock and went to Stonington in the cars and took the boat for here at 10:30. Arrived here at 7 this morning. We shall probably leave here this afternoon for Washington.

We got $325 bounty in Rhode Island. I have sent $290 to you by N. P. Gage. He will take out $10 for his trouble and some for our board &c. If he had not come on with us we should not have had time to sent it. If you want any of the money, use it. I thought that I had better wear my vest. Mt boots were not large enough and father had better wear them. Shall buy another pair.

We shall get #13 more today. I will write again soon and let you know where to direct your letters. Give my respects to all. From your soldier boy. — J. W. Warner

Letter 2

Camp Stoneman near Washington
October 30th 1863

Dear Parents,

As I have nothing else to do today, I will write you a few lines as I suppose you will be looking for a letter from me. It is about time for me to hear from you as I wrote last week. About all the news that I know of is that the Shapley’s arrived here yesterday. I had ben expecting them for some time and was very glad to see them again. Joshua Smith started for the front yesterday morning and I had just begun to feel lonesome when they came along. I don’t know as I am much better than when I wrote last, but am full as well. I hope the bottle of medicine which you sent will do me some good. I wish you would send another bottle by mail.

We can get anything of the kind except by going to Washington and it is about five miles to the city and it is difficult to get a pass to go there.

The weather is very pleasant most of the time but the nights are cold. I think every morning that I should like to be at home which I should get up and find a good, warm breakfast already cooked. I get more than I can eat but have to cook it.

If you can do a shirt up in a small roll so it will not cost too much, I wish you would send one by mail as soon as you can. Send a dark blue flannel one unless you have one of a different color all ready to send. Send a pair of stockings with it.

I believe that I have written out for today and will close. The Shapley’s send their respects. Give my respects to all and write soon to your affectionate son, — J. W. Warner

Letter 3

Camp Stoneman near Washington
November 23rd 1863

Dear Sister,

As I had such good luck as to get my box yesterday. I will write a few lines to you hoping that you will get them about Thursday forenoon. Everything in the box was in as good order as when packed. It came in good season for Thanksgiving but it is just as acceptable now as anytime. I hope that Joshua Smith will have as good luck in getting his. I expected that I should have to send to Washington after it but it was brought to the Provost Marshal’s office about a mile from here and one of my company who is driving team here brought it up for me.

The shirts and stockings are just what I wanted and fit well. The apples taste a great deal better than those which we buy here (two for 5 cents). I suppose it is because they came from home. I believe that I have tried a little of all the things except the loaf of cake which I have not cut yet. Last night I had a variety for supper and this morning I made a hash for breakfast which was quite a rarity for the army.

I shall have to write again in a few days after trying the rest of the contents and tell you how they agree with me. I have not got the letter with the receipt yet, and am in no particular hurry for it now.

We are having remarkably fine weather now. The nights are cool but the day is very mild and pleasant.

Another lot of cavalry is just starting for the front. They take about all but the sick ones this time. I am all the one now left of troop M. There are about twenty of the regiment here. I am as well as when I wrote last and I think a little better. There is no more news to write so I will close by bidding you good bye for the present.

From your brother, — J. W. Warner

Letter 4

Addressed to Mrs. Olivia R. Warner, North Hampton, New Hampshire

St. Elizabeth Hospital
January 4, 1864

Dear Mother,

Thinking that you may think it strange that father remains so long here, I will write a few lines and explain matters a little.

I should have got a furlough from the hospital that I have been in but the Governor of Rhode Island sent an order for all soldiers belonging to that State to be transferred to Portsmouth Grove Hospital in Rhode Island and I think that I can get a longer furlough from there. We were accordingly sent to this hospital to get transportation to Rhode Island. Father is here with me. He has been to see the Rhode Island State Agent today to find out when we were going. The Agent said that he would get us off as soon as he could have the requisite papers made out. It might take one day and it might take longer. So you see I am likely to get to Rhode Island if no near home. Father will remain and go with us.

I was agreeably surprised last Tuesday by seeing him coming into the hospital yard. At first I could hardly make up my mind that it was him, but I was soon satisfied. He could not have come in a better time for we shall get to Rhode Island a great deal sooner by his hurrying the thing up.

I am getting along well, onlyt I am in a hurry to start towards the North Pole.

We are having a snow storm today which is the first there has been here, although there has been some pretty cold weather. Father sometimes is afraid that the engine will get frozen up before he gets home. I will write no more now and close by bidding you goodbye till another day. Give my respects to all. From your affectionate son, — Jno. W. Warner

Don’t write for we shall not stay here long.

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