1863: Andrew Durfee to Stephen Durfee

This letter is written by Andrew Durfee (1840-1865), the son of Stephen Durfee (1812-1886) and Sarah Marshall (1816-18xx) of Fall River, Newport county, Rhode Island.

Andrew mustered into Co. D, 1st Rhode Island Cavalry as a private in mid-December 1861. He was captured at Middleburg, Virginia. where the regiment was badly routed on 18 June 1863, and paroled on 23 July 1863 at City Point, Virginia. He was captured again at Sulfur Springs, Virginia, on 14 October 1863. He spent the next 18 months at Libby and Andersonville, being paroled 27 February 1865 at N. E. Ferry, North Carolina, only to die of pneumonia in the General Hospital in Wilmington, North Carolina within a month.

I could not find an image of Andrew but here is Lyman Aylesworth of the 1st Rhode Island Cavalry. Lyman barely escaped capture at the Battle of Middleburg (VA) on June 17/18, 1863 when most of his comrades were taken prisoner. His family donated his uniform, sword, enlistment papers and other various accoutrements to the Varnum museum in the 1920s. His shell jacket has been recently conserved. — at Varnum Memorial Armory Museum.


Camp near Potomac Creek
May 12, 1863

Dear Father,

Once more I am in camp. I have escaped the battle without a scar. It was good luck [and] not because we were not under fire. My battalion has had a hard time of it. We were detached after joining Hooker to scout outside of our rifle pits. There was ninety of us drove the Rebs two miles and a half with pistols over the Fredericksburg and Culpeper Road to Ely’s Ford where two regiments of infantry [and] two pieces of artillery was driven back on a double quick. Our runners stationed on the road did not leave their post through all of the firing. The Rebs came in the rear of us afterwards and cut us off but we got away from them and returned with only three wounded.

After returning at night with no food for the horses or men all day, we were sent out again to scout outside of our pickets to see if the Rebs were advancing on the right through the woods and while returning, we came upon our pickets across a ravine. Two of our men went ahead to find a path to get inside the [picket line when] the pickets fired on them and right after, a whole brigade opened on us but [we] all escaped unhurt. Some of our men were dismounted and stood in the woods all night to keep from being shot. The General, it seems, after sending us out, gave the pickets orders not to challenge anybody but fire on anyone they saw—and so they fired on us instead of the Rebs. It was a thoughtless piece of work and ought to cost that general his commission.

The report is that Hooker is again across the river but I do not see it so. But we shall cross again soon. I am well and I hope this will find you and Mother the same. Give my love to Libbie and Lida and goodbye for the present. From your ever affectionate son, — Andrew Durfee

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