1864: Solon Augustus Carter to Emily A. (Conant) Carter

Capt. Solon Augustus Carter
(Dave Morin Collection)

The following letter was written by Solon Augustus Carter, a native of Leominster, New Hampshire. In 1859 he removed to Keene, New Hampshire; and in September, 1862, he was appointed Captain of Co. G, 14th New Hampshire Volunteers. He was in command of this company until July, 1863, when he was assigned to recruiting duty in Concord, N. H., acting as Assistant Adjutant-general on the staff of Brigadier-General Hinks; and in April 1864, he was made acting Assistant Adjutant-General of the Third Division, Eighteenth Army Corps (colored). This body of troops was organized at Fortress Monroe by General Hinks.

In July, 1864, Mr. Carter was commissioned Assistant Adjutant-general with the rank of Captain; but he continued to serve with the colored division from the time of its organization till the close of the war. He was in the campaign before Petersburg and Richmond during the summer and autumn of 1864, in both expeditions to Fort Fisher, and in the campaign from Fort Fisher to Raleigh. Receiving his discharge July 7, 1865, he returned to Keene, N.H., and was employed there as a clerk until June, 1872. In 1885, on the organization of the Union Guarantee Savings Bank of Concord, he was elected President.

The clue to identifying the author of this letter was the discovery of the following paragraph published in an article about Fort Pocahontas by Ed Besch which read: “Brigadier General Edward A. Wild’s 1st Brigade (1st, 10th, 22nd, 37th Infantry Regiments, USCT), part of Brig. Gen. Edward W. Hinks’ 3rd Division, 18th Corps, Army of the James, seized Wilson’s Wharf and Fort Powhatan, seven miles upriver, while Hinks’ 2nd Brigade of USCT landed at City Point, further upriver. Butler chose Colored Troops to seize key points along his James River line of communications since he knew they would fight more desperately than white soldiers because Confederate policy denied prisoner-of-war status to black Union soldiers and their white officers, if captured. At Fort Pillow, Tennessee on 12 April 1864, a disproportionate number of black Union soldiers were killed or badly wounded, many while trying to surrender. Captain Solon A. Carter, on Hinks’ staff, wrote his wife on 1 May: “We must succeed. Failure for us is death or worse.”

Searching Capt. Carter’s ancestral record, I was able to learn that his wife’s maiden name was Emily A. Carter and that their young daughter’s name was Edith. This combined with his biographical sketch clinched the identity.


Weitzel’s Map of 18th Corps Line near Petersburg, dated 30 June 1864

Headquarters Third Division, 18th Army Corps
Office, A. A. A. General
July 19th 1864

My darling Em,

We have been having a delightful ran today—the first for many weeks—and everybody seems to be feeling the better for it. It was getting to be terribly dusty and everything was loaded with it. I was not very busy this afternoon so I got under my fly net and had a nice nap till supper time.

I received your letter no. 31 yesterday morning. I am always glad to get letters from home and to hear of the safety of the loved ones there.

Everybody seems to be feeling nicely after the rain and the rebs seem disposed to stop the fun on this side of the [Appomattox] river, and for the past two or three hours have kept up a continuous fire from their batteries. The 6th Corps which went from here to Washington at the time of the scare there, I hear tonight is landing at City Point. We are expecting to see the 19th Corps here too, but nobody seems to know who or what is coming, and it is best so I suppose. Gen. Smith, who has been on a short leave of absence, is expected back tonight.

Brig. Gen. Edward Winslow Hinks
(Dave Morin Collection)

I have not heard directly from Gen. [Edward Winslow] Hinks 1 since the 8th. I have written to him two or three times and yesterday the letters all came back here unopened. I hear indirectly that the General has gone home on a ten days leave of absence. I had a letter from Capt. White saying that Mrs. [Bessie] Hinks had started for Washington to see him. This letter was written the 12th. I don’t know what to think that I don’t hear a word from him.

I don’t feel a bit like writing tonight somehow or other. I am sort of blue about my present position and a little mad withal at some things that I can’t help a bit. Lieut. Verplanck who went away sick about the time the General left, came back last night and reported for duty. I sometimes wish that I could get a bump or something that would give me a few days with you and baby. When I read in your leters about Edie 2 and her short clothes and you talk about her like she was such a big girl, I can hardly realize that you are talking about the little tottie that I saw last in Mary’s arms in Mrs. Balche’s yard with her little cloak hood thrown over her head. And when I read in your letters about her, I do want to be with you so that I hardly knew what I am about. It seems too bad, doesn’t it, that I can’t be at home now—just when the little darling is so interesting.

I shiould dearly love to help you take care of her now and teach her to know her papa. I am afraid that she will be afraid of me, and if I should go home for a little while only, that she wouldn’t get acquainted with me. But I wouldn’t stay away on that account if I got the chance to go home.

I’m glad you received the money all safe. I didn’t know but the rebs had got hold of it. I will send you a sheet of five cent currency in this letter, I guess, for curiosity.

It is raining again quite hard and I have got something of a headache so I will not try to fill out the sheet this time, but will try and give you a longer one next time. Write often please. Give love to all. Believe me your own [ ] ever.

1 Edward Winslow Hincks (1830-1894) was a career Army officer who served as a Brigadier General during the American Civil War. His names was spelled “Hincks” but during the war he went by “Hinks.” He began the war as Colonel of the 19th Massachusetts Infantry. He was wounded at the Battle of Glendale and again at Antietam, after which he was promoted to Brig. General. He spent the next two years on court martial and recruiting duty. In March through May 1864 he commanded the prison camp at Point Lookout, Md. Afterwards he was assigned to command the 3rd Division of the 18th Army Corps composed entirely of Black regiments led by white officers. The corps took part on the first unsuccessful assault at Petersburg but then settled into the siege. The Division was eventually merged into the 25th Corps.

2 “Edie” was Edith Hincks Carter, the daughter of Solon and Emily Carter. She was born on 1 January 1864 and died in 1940. Apparently Solon thought so much of the General, his daughter was named after him.

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