This letter was written by Archer Hays Jarrett (1825-1869) of Bel Air Harford county, Maryland. He was married to Martha Frances Shepherd (1833-1915) of Norfolk, Virginia. In the 1860 US Census, Archer was enumerated as the head of a household that he shared with his 73 year-old mother in Bel Air with two black servants. He was married to Martha on 11 February 1861 in Norfolk.
An article appearing in the Baltimore Sun (July 8, 2006) describing “Harford History” claims that in mid July 1861, “300 Union troops from the 12th Pennsylvania marched from White Hall to Bel Air to arrest certain secessionist sympathizers and seize the weapons of local militia units. The soldiers announced that they were in Bel Air at the request of Unionists who feared violence from secessionists. Capt. Archer H. Jarrett, leader of the Harford Light Dragoons, was arrested [on a charge of treason]. Having failed to elicit from Jarrett the location of the militia weapons, the troops searched several public buildings and then private homes, to no avail. In the evening, the troops departed empty-handed of the weapons. But they took Jarrett, who was detained until Sept. 22 because of his refusal to take an oath of loyalty to the federal government.”
It should be noted that this region of Maryland was filled with southern sympathizers. Junius Booth, older brother of John Wilkes Booth, built his home just north of Bel Air in 1847. In the days leading up to the outbreak of hostilities in 1861, local militias were formed primarily for the purpose of patrolling the region to prevent the runaway of slaves which was anticipated. In the election of Jarrett to the Captain’s position of the Harford Light Dragoons, Bel Air felt they had secured “a fearless and independent gentleman and Southerner.” Those joining the dragoons pledged themselves “ready to take the field in the defense of Southern rights and the honor of old Maryland.”
According to the Baltimore Sun (July 9, 1869), Jarrett died a tragic death. It was claimed to have been the result of an accident, but sounds questionable to me. “Intelligence reached this city yesterday, by telegraph from Cumberland, that Mr. Archer Jarrett, of Harford county, accidentally fell from an upper window of the City Hotel, in Cumberland, Maryland, on Wednesday night, and was instantly killed. The deceased was a lawyer by profession, and was at one time State’s attorney for Harford county. He was a relative of A. Lingan Jarrett, Esq., and also of Lefevre Jarrett, Esq., president of the police board. The remains are expected to reach this city today on their way to Bel Air, where the interment will take place.”
This letter is a request by Jarrett to Maj. Gen. Wool for permission to allow his wife to pass over from Fortress Monroe to Norfolk, Virginia, where his wife’s widowed mother and presumably other relatives were living. Norfolk was evacuated by the Rebels on 10 May 1862—just two weeks before this request. Prior to that date, it had been in possession of the Rebels who seized Fort Norfolk and the ordnance stored there in April 1861.
[This letter was transcribed by Annaliese Vonheerigen/edited by Griff]
May 22d 1862
Major General John E. Wool, USA Dear Sir,
I have just received permission from General Dix for my wife Martha F. Jarrett to pass to Fortress Monroe and he advises me that it will be necessary at that point to obtain a pass from you to visit her family in Norfolk.
Will you oblige me by advising whether she can obtain your permission to pass over to Norfolk, without delay should she go down.
Very respectfully your obt. Servt., — A. H. Jarrett
Bel Air, Hartford Co., Md.
Docketed on the reverse:
Belair Hartford Co. Md. May 22., ’62 A H Jarrett In relation to pass to Norfolk for his wife Answered May 26th requesting Mrs. Jarrett to defer her visit for a few days.
The signature on this letter looks like “A. R. Nash” to me but I cannot find any Union soldier by that name in military records. If one could find the regiment known to have garrisoned Fort Alexander in March 1863, it might be possible to identify him from the roster. The letter is not particularly newsworthy but it is written on beautiful patriotic stationery which was very unusual two years into the war.
My hunch is this is a relatively new recruit mustered into one of the heavy artillery regiments. He appears to be a strong pro-Administration volunteer but also a racist (which would describe most Union soldiers at the time).
Fort Alexander 1 March 7, 1863
I received a letter from you last night and will try and give it an answer, I am enjoying the best of health. Never was so rugged in my life as I am now. As soon as I get a chance, I will have my picture taken (or else get the Colonel’s darkey to sit in my place) and send it to you. also I shall accept your invitation to make you a visit when I get home. I want you to have the girls the girls according to promise. I expect to help free all of the niggers and come home in time to spend Christmas with you. Won’t that be jolly? I don’t know but what I shall bring home one with me. If I do, I shall bring him when I come to see you.
But enough of this and to the honor of the soldiers, be it said that they never felt as if the war was as near to closing as at present. A great many of the nine-months men are reenlisting for three years and the business of recruiting at home (if I may judge by the number that has enlisted for our company thirty-seven) is going on briskly, But I do want to see a draft to hail out here some of the same sentiment as yourself. If it is not secesh, it is so near that if they (rebels) get a victory, you are glad. Then the ones who have done so little to carry this war on and are doing so much to discourage it will have to take their part.
I have not seen the action of the states you spoke of and would very much like to read them. I have never regretted the step I have taken and know whatever hardships I have to endure, I never shall. I hope when I come home, I shall find you a regular Black Republican and nigger lover. I will now draw my letter to a close. Write soon. Accept these few lines from your nephew, — A. R. Nash
1 Fort Alexander was one of three forts that were built in Montgomery County in July 1861, along with Forts Ripley and Franklin. They were intended to protect Chain Bridge and the reservoir of the Washington water system. Fort Alexander was named for Colonel Barton S. Alexander, who superintended the construction of the three forts. In the spring of 1863, the three forts were combined as Fort Sumner.
This incredible letter was written by Levi Hayden (1813-1888) of Roslindale, Massachusetts who at age 9 was left an orphan and raised himself up as a house and ship joiner. After spending some time building houses in the early 1830s in the fledging village of Chicago, he went to see as a ship’s carpenter and sailed the Pacific Ocean. He returned to the east coast in the late 1840s after years of long sea voyages and set himself up in maritime businesses until just before the Civil War when he organized the New York Submarine Engineering Company—a company often hired to clear obstructions, usually wrecks, from navigable waters.
As one can imagine, the skills of Hayden’s firm were in great demand during the Civil War, and he and Professor B. Maillefort—his partner—were frequently hired to accompany Union expeditions. Their first experience was with General Burnside on the Expedition to North Carolina and the capture of Roanoke Island and also Newbern where they demolished the channel barricades in the Neuse and Pamlico Rivers.
When this letter was written in October 1864, Hayden and Maillefort had been equipping tugboats and ironclads with boom torpedoes, and also placing torpedoes and sunken vessels in the channel of the James river opposite Farrer’s Island.
Aside from contributions made by Hayden in supporting the U. S. Navy during the Civil War, the letter is particularly significant in that it confirms the use of Rebel prisoners, at least for a time, in the construction of the Dutch Gap Canal by order of General Butler. When Rebel authorities complained that Butler was misusing prisoners of war, he sent word to them that they too had misused Black soldiers taken prisoners when they put them to work building Rebel fortifications.
U. S. S. Delaware James River, Virginia October 16, 1864
My Dear Bland,
I wrote you on the 11th from this place and I have heard nothing from home or the professor [Maillefert] since I parted with him at Norfolk on the 6th. I am all right so far. Our river improving project is being examined at Washington and no action since I wrote you. The canal, by the way, in now going on rapidly and Capt. Smith told me yesterday that he had the best possible guarantee that it would be completed and ready to pass by the first of November. The work is generally accelerated by one of General Butler’s plans of using a few of the F. F. V.’s [First Family’s of Virginia] to forward this state improvement so we have now 100 Johnny Rebs digging for dear life in the Sacred Soil. Day before yesterday as I came in from the front 18th Corps Headquarters, I came upon those fellows just caught and well guarded by our Ebony Boys. The officers in charge halted them just long enough to tell them the direct way to Dutch Gap.
As I write this, the professor [Maillefort] comes alongside and of course disturbs my writing. He is all right. Had to lose a day at Baltimore by failing to connect with the steamer to the Fortress. He complains that his visit is too short but poor fellow, it can’t be remedied. The money matters in settlement, he says, are all right. I will examine the papers at leisure.
Well, [back to] the Dutch Gap & reb story. The captives of whom I spoke were marched directly into the Gap and put to work and I understand that word was sent to the Rebel commander that as they had failed to accord to our Colored soldiers the usages of Prisoners of war, and [instead] set them at work on their fortifications, he (Butler) claimed the privilege of getting a little service out of their captives in our hands.
Yesterday I visited the Gap under a very disagreeable smashing of Rebel shells and found these fellows fully as efficient as our Black Boys with the spade & pick. They make a ludicrous appearance among our Union Darks—Dig, Dig, Dig—and bang goes the shell overhead and under foot. While there, one poor Darkey got his left leg smashed off with a fragment of shell. Pity it had not hit a F. F. V. Well let me tell you that these fellows are awful mad to be shot at by their friends, being aware that General Butler had notified the Confeds of their situation. They swear a big oath that with this rude treatment, they have determined to be Reb no more. They are camped right in range of the Rebel guns & mortars so they eat, drink, sleep & work under fire. One pleasant gent told me they like our beef & coffee and yet get whiskey rations besides just the same as our Lordly Negroes. The Nigs enjoy it hugely.
Butler has one more interesting coon under his hand of discipline. I say coon for one of our sentries found a well-dressed intelligent Reb in a tree a few nights since near the Gap, evidently having crossed the river and getting information as to our progress and observing the range of the Rebel shells. Well, his story was not good. Said he had just come from New York to get the dead body of a friend. Old Ben could not swallow this [and] thought it strange he should be found in a tree at 2 o’clock a.m. after a dead man, so he too has a central place in this famous Gap with chain and ball on his legs. Well he don’t like it any better than his brethren.
Our military men are daily gaining evidence of the fitness and efficiency of the Black men for soldiers. One veteran officer, Col. Cole of the 2nd U. S. Cavalry, told me that he had seen much service and engaged all through this war. His regiment—all Black; these men, he says, are docile as lambs in camp but fight like fiends when engaged. Many the Reb officer and private, he says, after laying down their arms, have barely been rescued by the interference of White officers sharing the trench mercies of Fort Pillow.
I expect to return in a day or so to Norfolk to look after the work there until further orders. Capt. Smith, commanding the fleet, told me yesterday that Admiral Porter, having charge of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, now had sent to the Navy Department that he wished to have one of us permanently with the Navy up the river so I think in a few days we shall be in line—one perhaps Navy and the other Army. I shall try and see General Butler before returning down the river.
I think a final dash will come off about the first of November. The Gap is then to be done and a powerful force will be placed before Wilmington, naval ad military.
I close this 3 o’clock this p.m. Sunday. Have been to church this a.m. on board the flag ship Onondaga. My regards to friend Miller & Iverson.
Yours truly, — Levi Hayden
The Military and Naval friends of Little Mac are several. Send us a detective to search out.
Will you please send me a few cloth bank checks in a letter. I think I have a book of them in my desk. L. H.
This letter was penned in 1861 by a woman who signed her name, M. E. I. K.” and we quickly learn from the content of the letter that she was a teacher at the Baltimore Female College, the first institution of higher learning for women in Maryland, which operated out of a building on the lower part of St. Paul Street (No. 53) in Baltimore. The principal of the school was Nathan Covington Brooks (1809-1898).
I can’t be certain but I believe this letter may have been written by 18 year-old Mary E. King, a native Baltimorean who graduated from the college in 1859 and was probably hired on as a part-time instructor afterward.
What is significant about this letter is perhaps less who authored it as the evidence it offers of the excitement and division caused by the Baltimore citizens’ attack of the 6th Massachusetts Regiment as they attempted to pass through the city on 19 April 1861. Pummeled with bricks and clubs by pro-southern rowdies, the regiment had no alternative than to fire into the mob. The event apparently compelled many Northerners living in the city—especially women—to feel unsafe and they fled to their Northern homes. In this letter, the author tries to convince her friend in Philadelphia that the majority of Baltimoreans are Unionists despite their strong ties to the South.
Baltimore [Maryland] May 14, 1861
My Dear Miss Denham,
Long and anxiously I awaited the coming of your letter thinking sometimes that you had determined to strike all southern names from your list of friends. I presume I was rather impatient. but I very much desired to know of your whereabouts. You do not tell me how long you are to tarry in the Quaker City or how I shall address you; however, I suppose if the envelope has merely the word “Denham,” it will be sure to find an owner in yourself.
Nearly all the girls left the same week of your departure, most of them receiving the intelligence in the morning & departing in the afternoon. The Berry’s left on Monday of this week, leaving Miss Phillips solitary & alone. She will remain until the close of the session. On the morning of your departure, after the opening of the school, Mr. [Nathan Covington] Brooks divided the remaining scholars into three classes, taking the Seniors & Juniors himself, giving Miss Owens the classes from Sophomore, B. Downs and myself the Sophister & Sophomore A. There were no regular lessons during the remainder of the week as the scholars were too much excited to study & on Friday Mr. Brooks told me that he should not be able to pay me any more salary but offered me the hospitalities of his house as long as I chose to stay.
After balancing our account, it was evident that he owed me $64 but he kindly informed me it was impossible for him to pay me more than $5!!!!! Munificent. He gave me a due bill and an order on Mr. & Mrs. [M. A.] Hamilton [milliner] who, it appears to his account owes him $80. I immediately started out on a round of visits to my friends intending to recommend Mrs. Hamilton to them & hoping to get some money in that way but they had already made their purchases. I do not see that there is any possible means of getting money & I happen to need that more than bonnets & bon-bons which will not pay debts. If Mr. Brooks had given us the information sooner, you & Miss Lummis might have obtained your bonnets from Mrs. Hamilton & I might have had some money.
Miss Owens still continues to teach (the average attendance is about 20) & I visit a great deal, coming to the college about once a week. I had nearly forgotten to tell you that Emma Day took a bonnet from Mrs. Hamilton. Misses [Ellen C.] Gobright, Brookings, L. Lebore & Mr. [Jean] Schaeffer no longer visit us. All have departed but Miss Owens.
Mr. Brooks received a letter for you & I think two for Miss [Sarah E.] Lummis which I suppose he has forwarded as I heard him say he had a letter for Miss Lummis. I am sorry that Miss Lummis & you think that the rowdyism of the mob on that eventful Friday was an indication of he sentiment & manners of the Baltimoreans. You are aware that this city is famed for its rowdies & at times they delight in excitement of a disturbance, but do not take them as a sample of the citizens. Baltimore is decidedly for the Union. Almost everyone that I know is for the Union. I am for the Union and I know you are. Thus far we agree. If Union is impossible, I am for the South, and there, I suppose, we disagree. I do not think, however, that our politics will affect our friendship. I was very much surprised to receive a letter from Miss [Nancy Williams] Wright who, at the time of writing, was seated at her mother’s table in Gouverneur [New York]. She had gone home by the way of Hagerstown, taking a private conveyance to that place from Washington—a rather expensive journey. I envy you the sight of that whale very much as I have never seen one.
Mrs. Plowman, Miss Owen desires to be remembered to you both. I hope i shall hear from you very soon. Hoping you may have a pleasant visit, I remain your sincere friend, — M. E. I. K.
You remember I borrowed a stamp from you which I now repay.
This letter was written by Nathan Frederick Bohn (1842-1907), the 19 year-old son of William Bohn (1813-1893) and Catharine Frederick (1809-1871) of Berks county, Pennsylvania. At the time of this letter in 1863, Nathan’s father was the proprietor of a saloon and restaurant in Reading, Pennsylvania.
Nathan datelined his letter from Lebanon, Pennsylvania, where he was apparently in the employ of, or in company with, his Uncle Joseph Bohn as a boatman on the Susquehanna River. The Susquehanna was a major transportation artery for the movement of farm produce from Upstate New York and central Pennsylvania to eastern markets via Chesapeake Bay. We learn from the letter that Nathan has just completed his first visit to Havre de Grace at the mouth of the Susquehanna so we can surmise he had just begun the employment.
Nathan’s letter mentions seeing 4,000 Rebel prisoners pass through Havre de Grace, possibly on their way to Fort Delaware, and several thousand more on the way. These prisoners may have been captured during the Battle of Chancellorsville.
Lebanon [Lebanon county, Pennsylvania] May 14, 1863
My dear father and mother, sister [Elbina] and brother [Richard],
I will let you all know that I am well at the present time and I hope that these few lines will find you all the same state of health. Dear brother, I will let you know that I received your kind and welcome letter on the 12th of this month of May and I was very glad to hear from you that you are all well.
And now I will let you know that I was a a place that I have never been before. I have been in haverdegrass [Havre de Grace] in the state of Maryland. I tell you that I seen a good lot of Nigger slaves at work but they look very hard and I have seen a new fashion of houses with the stove pipe out of the windows and no chimley [chimney] on the houses. I tell you, it looks funny to see that. And further, I will let you all know that 4,000 Rebels has passed through Havre de Grace that our men have caught and there was yet 12,000 on the road a coming but we had no time to stay any longer for we was unloaded and we had to start off for home for we have been one month and four days at this trip. But this time we needn’t to go to Havre de Grace. We must go home to Lebanon with this trip and so I want you to write as soon as you get this letter for if you don’t write as soon as you get this letter, why I won’t get your letter then, not until we come back from the other trip.
And so I want you to write as soon as you possibly can for I will send yours home [with] $12 dollars in this and then when you write, write in your letter whether you got my money or not. I would have sent you more, father, but I couldn’t. I had to pay $3.62 and a half for that gum suit where I got [it] and I had to get my boots soled and for that I had to pay 70 cents. And now I am going to buy myself a new straw hat and the rest I had to have for tobacco and to buy more when it is all [out] again. But next month I think I can send home $17 dollars for you father. And I can’t tell you when I will come home yet. It may be before long and maybe not until haymaking, but they are talking very hard out here about drafting again. But if they do draft, why I will come home as soon as I can.
And further, I will let you all know that we had very high water again out here on the Susquehanna River for there were two boats went down over the dam at Columbia and broke up to pieces, but the men all got out safe but two mules drowned and the flat [boat] broke loose up at the Nanticoke Dam. Six mules went down over the dam and they all six drowned. I tell you, that was hard to look at. And father, I will let you know that I seen Uncle Daniel Bohn up here at Lebanon with his boat. I was on his boat by him till 10 o’clock talking, and father, I wish you all luck at home—especially on the vote. I think if the weather gets right hot once, it will kill mother, or Old Katchen as Richard always says, very near again.
Father, I think you might better go and buy me two pair of summer pants for me till I come home once for I only got two pairs yet for the old pair is worn out and I got two have some. And go and buy stuff for me and let mother make them for me till I come home. I don’t know how soon I will come home again but before long if they are agoing to draft. Father, I like boating very well yet so far with Joseph Bohn. So no more at present time. From your son, — Nathan F. Bohn
Richard, I wish I had you our here by me on the boat. You Nutzerferquintten Ein hodenferquatch as mother always said. So no more, but only don’t forget to write as soon as you get this letter for I would like to know whether you got this money or not. Now only don’t forget to write and direct your letter this way:
Mr. Nathan F. Bohn Lebanon Post Office Lebanon county, Pa. In care of Henry Hoffman
These letters were written by Josiah Parsons Miller, Jr. (1832-1905), the son of Josiah P. Miller (1806-1884) and Eliza Hand (1810-1887) of Springs, Suffolk county, Long Island, N. Y. Josiah was married on 11 November 1861 to Harriet Miller (1843-1905) and had a child by the time he enlisted as a private in Co. I [later in Co. K], 127th New York Infantry on 19 August 1862. He was described in the muster rolls as a 29 year-old, 5 foot, 5 inch tall, blue-eyed, sandy-haired mariner. The 1890 Veterans’ Schedules inform us that he served 2 years and 9 months with the regiment, mustering out on 20 May 1865. However, a book on the regiment states that he was transferred to the Navy on 14 June 1864. After he was discharged from the service, he returned to Suffolk county where he found employment at the Amagansett Light House.
Josiah wrote the letters to his Uncle William Jackson Bennett (1819-1901), the husband of Phebe Miller (1821-1893), and the father of Jonathan (“Johnny”) Allen Bennett (1845-1863) who served with him in the same company.
Camp Bliss Upton’s Hill, [Virginia] January 11, 1863
I now seat myself to inform you of my health which is very good at present and I hope these few lines will find you the same. We are here on Old Upton’s Hill in camp and drilling every day, getting ready for the Rebs. We have been call[ed] out once to go and see them but when we got to Annandale, the Rebs had left. We formed a line of battle and lay all day and came back to camp again. I don’t know as this war will ever end. It don’t look much like it now. I guess we shall have a chance to give the Rebs a try yet.
I hope this war will end soon for I want to get home to see my wife and child and quiver [to have sex] once more for I feel very much like it now. I think I should shake one bed post all clear from the bed in a short time. You must think of me when you quiver for that is my play now. I will write something else. Is they any poles of wood that any of the youngsters can get when they go to see the gals? Give my love to [your wife,] Aunt Phebe and tell her I want a new clean commeser [?]. Give my love to Rose and all the family and all enquiring friends.
I don’t think this war will end very soon. I expect we shall have to go and fight yet. The First Brigade out of this division has gone into the battlefield and the Second goes tomorrow. We are the Third. Our turn comes next. Our generals is not so smart as the South’s generals is. We whipped them the other day and now they have whipped our forces. And our folks has give up taking Vicksburg. I think they had better settle it for the South will carry their points yet in spite of thunder. They will fight and get our men killed off and get whipped in the bargain. The South can fight as hard as the North can and more so. They are on their own dung hill. They know every foot of ground in the southern states. Jeff Davis says he can carry the war on a long time yet and I guess he can. It never will end by fighting, that is sure. The North cannot whip the South—no one can do it. That is what the matter is.
Give my love to my folks if you see any of them. Johnny [Bennett] is well and William Miller [too] an [they both] send their love to you all. I have not got any news to tell you this time but next time I write, I hope to have some good news to tell you. You must write and let me know all the news. Give my love to Uncle Hooch and his family when you see them and take a good share for yourself. I don’t know what will become of this regiment if we ever get into a fight. We ain’t got but one officer in the regiment [that] knows enough to take a company of men into a battle. Our colonel would do very well but none of the rest. They don’t hardly know enough to drill men as they ought to be.
Well, Uncle Bill, I have not anything more to say for the present so I shall have to bring this to a close and bid you goodbye for this time. This is from — Josiah P. Miller
Write as soon as you get this if you please and write all the news.
[Note: In this letter, Josiah Miller write to his Uncle William J. Bennett, informing him of the death of his son, Jonathan Allen Bennett, who served with him in the same company.]
Cole Island, South Carolina Sunday, September 13, 1863
I now seize the opportunity to inform you of my health which is middling good at present and I do truly hope these few lines will find you and your family all in the best of health.
Well, Uncle William, I have got some sad news to tell you. Your dear son Jonathan has left us. He died September 11th and was buried the 12th. He was buried on Folly Island, South Carolina. I did not hear of it till this morning. Those that saw the corpse said that he wasn’t nothing but skin and bones, I did not see him for more than a week before he died. We come over on this island to do picket duty and left him on Folly Island in the hospital. The last time I saw him he was very poor. I made up my mind that he would not stand it long. That is two that has been buried on this island since the regiment came on here and Theodore Bennett don’t look as if he would stay with us but a few days. One more out of our company has been [ ] crossed there today. I have just got in from picket tonight and then [ ] he had all but yours and Aunt Phebe’s and them [ ]. Will send if i can.
Well, I have not got much more to write. Johnny was as good a boy as they is in the regiment. A good soldier—he was ready and willing to do anything that they called on him to do. He ought not to have left Alexandria to come here. He was not well enough to come but our doctors don’t try to do anything for a man till he is dead or pretty near to it. They keep them on duty as long as they can stand up.
Well now, I will tell you that the rest of the boys from our way are all pretty well at present. I have not got any war news to tell you for we don’t get it here as soon as you do at home. The boys all send their best respects to you all. Give my love to all of your family and to my folk when you see them and off of our relation and write as soon as you get this. Tell Samuel Ranger’s folks that he is well at present. When you write, let me know all the news, if you please.
It is very hot weather here. I hope it will soon be cooler now. I have not got anything more to write so I shall have to bring this to a close and wish you health and happiness all this world can afford. This is from Josiah P. Miller
To my uncle William J. Bennett. write as soon as you get this and direct your letters as you always have done. Goodbye. God bless you all.
We have lost eight men out of our company that died with sickness and have got 17 in hospitals sick now. Some in one place and some in another and two or three that is in the company now [that] don’t look as if they could stay with us but a few days at the longest. Those that we have lost is from East Hampton and Bridge Hampton and Sag Harbor and those that is in the hospitals is mostly from that way.
127th Regt. N. Y. S. V. Company K Monitors Coles Island, South Carolina Thursday, November 19, 1863
I now seat myself to write you a few lines in answer to your kind and welcome letter which came to hand in due season. I was very happy to hear from you and to hear that you and your family was all in good health and I truly hope this will find you and yours all in the best of health.
I have not got any news to tell you for we don’t get any news down here. You must write the news to me. I will send you the money that is due on the watch as soon as I can get it. We ain’t been paid off yet and I can’t get it until we are but the overcoat and knapsack I can’t send and can’t sell them for they have all got such things. I have not got anything to write that is of any importance so I can’t write a long letter this time.
I have got four [letters] to answer which I received the last mail but I have not had one before in three weeks. Give my love to Aunt Ester and all the family and to the swamp folks and to Rosalie and all of your family and to my folks. I do wish this war would end for I am tired of it. I wants to get home to see my folks and I want to quiver [have sex] once more. It is fifteen months since I quivered and that is a long time. I rather think I shall have to stay as much as one year longer if not more. I don’t see any sight for it to end this winter at any rate. Still most everybody seems to think it will but I can’t see it in that light. I wish I could think so but I can’t so I make myself contented as I am but I never knew what it was to be gone from home before. I have been gone longer but I had no family then to think of so I did not have so much to think of as I have now.
Well, you must write to me as often as you can and I will do the same. Now I must bring this to a close and wish you health and happiness all this world can afford. This is from your nephew, — Josiah P. Miller
These letters were written by Jonathan Allen Bennett (1845-1863), the son of William Jackson Bennett (1819-1901) and Phebe Miller (1821-1893) of the whaling village Sag Harbor on the tip of Long Island.
In August 1862, a few months shy of his 18th birthday, Jonathan enlisted in Co. G, then later transferred to Co. K (the “Monitors”), 127th New York Infantry. At the time of his enlistment, he was described as a 5 foot 7 inch, grey-eyed, brown-haired farmer. He was with his regiment until mid September 1863 when he died in a hospital on Folly Island on 11 September 1863, a victim of chronic diarrhea. A history of Suffolk county soldiers claims that he died from the complications of a hand amputation as a result of an accidental shooting, but the story—only partially true—pertains to a cousin named August B. Bennett who was discharged from the same company in February 1863 after only three months service.
I now take the pleasure of writing to you a few lines to let you know how we all are. We are well and [hope] you are the same. Not much news to write at present. Some of the fellers got some money yesterday but I didn’t get any but I shall get it when the war is about over, if I live and I expect you to. Give my love to all of the folks and tell them to remember me and I will then. Tell Miss Betsey I should like to have some more of her cake for I have not had anything but bare bread and soup and coffee since I have been here and I have got most tired of it.
The boys sends their love to you and all of the folks. We have just been out on a drill and I thought I would write to you. Dear mother, tell Rosa she must write to me and tell Lid she must write to me and give my love to Strona and tell her I should like to see her very well.
I was on guard last night and we got a Rebel and put him in the guard house. He had a blue coat on and he had a cross on the back of it. It is a very pleasant place here. I like it very well. Well, Mr. Ranger sends his love to you and his folks in particular. We have been expecting to go away every day and have been for this last week and I guess we shall go pretty soon. And when you write to me, you may direct your letters to Jonathan A. Bennett, 127th Regt. Co. K, New York Vols., Washington or elsewhere.
I can’t think of much more at present so I must bid you goodbye, This is from– Jonathan A. Bennett
Tell father to take good care of my gun and all of my things. I guess you needn’t write to me anymore til you hear from me again. Mother, goodbye.
We are a going to have a speech this afternoon from Lieutenant Gundy. Don’t forget to give my love to Anna. Mother, tell the girls to take good care of themselves and give my love to them—Mary and all of the rest.
Camp Morgan Sunday, September 14, 1862
I now take the pleasure of writing to you a few lines to let you know that we are all well and hope you are all the same. Ain’t much news to write at present—only I and some of the boys has just been down to the Potomac and washed our clothes. We are all well, I believe, as common. William Miller sends his love to you and all of the folks.
I expect there has been a battle not far off from here today for we have heard the cannon roar all day. We are all in good spirits and we have good times in the camps, I tell you. It is a very pleasant place here. It is on the side of a high mountain close to the Potomac. I should like to be at home a little while with you and the folks. You must excuse my bad writing if you please for I have not got anything to write on but my gun stock and that is not very handy.
I want you to send me some postage stamps if you please for I can’t get any here and I wish you would send some if you want to hear from me. I can’t think of much more to write at present so goodbye. This is from J. A. Bennett, your son. When you write to me, direct to:
Jonathan A. Bennett Company G 127th New York Vol. Camp Morgan Washington D. C.
Camp Morgan, Va. September 18, 1862
My Dear Father,
I now take the pleasure of writing to you a few lines to let you know that we are all well and hope you are the same at home. The boys is all well and sends their love to all of the folks. I don’t know of much news only we have been a digging some rifle pits this week. I was on guard last night and Uncle Sam is on today. We have very strict orders and have to obey them too. I like it very well but if I was to home, I should not like it, I tell you. But I have to like it out here. I have just been to dinner and we didn’t have anything extra neither, I tell you. We had a very small piece of meat and a little beef soup and a very small piece of bare bread. And some of the fellers thought that was something extra but I didn’t, nor you wouldn’t if you had to live as we have since we left home.
If it would do any good, I would be homesick and a good many others but it wouldn’t do any good so we have to make ourselves contented. If I ever live to get home, I never will get caught in such a scrape again—that’s so. William Miller and Josiah is out on picket duty and I expect I shall have to go pretty soon and I don’t care how soon.
Give my love to all the folks and tell Rose she must write and Elizabeth and Maggy and Anna Ranger and Liddy Ann and Charles Mays and Miss Betsy Miller and all of the rest of the folks that thinks anything of me and I will write to them when I can. Uncle Sam send his love to his folks and to you and he says he is glad that you didn’t come for if you had, you would have been like the rest of us. You would wanted to get home again as soon as you could and we expect to come home by and by all right—that’s what the matter. Alvin Clark says he wishes he was to home so he could go to [ ] again.
If the news is true that we heard last night, we won’t stay long, I don’t think.
I received a letter from you and one from other and one from Rosie and I was very glad to hear from you and I should like to hear from Ann for you don’t say anything about her nor she has not written to me but once since I left home and I don’t know what the matter is with her. I shan’t write to her if she don’t write to me. I don’t know but she has forgot e or found someone else that she likes better and takes all of her time to write to him. And Uncle Sam says he don’t know what the matter is with his folks for he has not heard from them since he left hoe and he wants you to tell them to write for he wants to hear from them very much and so do I. I have had one letter from Aunt Lucy and Uncle George King and it was a very good one too, I tell you.
Father, if you want $5 of my money to get some corn, you may have it and I want you to send me $1 worth of postage stamps if you please for I haven’t got only one more. Lyman sends his love to you and Kate. We have got a man here to take pictures and I don’t know whether I shall have mine or not. I would if I could get it home. He don’t take them on cards. If he did, I could get one home. When you write to me, you must fill up a good big sheet of paper and tell Ann she must write as soon as she can and write all of the news and tell her I am a hard as ever and I should like to be to Old Stergen’s tonight.
I can’t think of much more to write at present, only don’t forget to send some stamps at any rate if you want to hear from me. I must go and get my rifle in order for we shall have to go out on drill pretty soon. Tell Ann to write and if she has forgot me, put her in mind of me if you will. Now be sure and tell her, Father. I must bid you goodbye. Father, write soon as you get this if you will and send some stamps too. Tell the folks all to write. Tell mother to write and give my love to her, sure. And kiss Ann for me on both sides.
This is from, — J. A. Bennett
When you write to me, direct your letters to:
Jonathan A. Bennett Company G, 127th Regt. New York Vols., Washington D. C.
Camp Morgan, Va. October 5th 1862
I now take the pleasure of writing you a few lines to let you know that I am well and hope that you are all well at home and I think if I was there, I should be better satisfied than I be now. William Miller is sick and in the hospital and I guess that he has got the measles but I don’ know. Lyman is in the hospital but I don’t know what ails him. All of the rest is well, I believe. Mr. Ranger sends his love to you ad all of the folks and he says that he don’t think so much about leaving his bones in Dixie as he did before he come away from home.
Give my love to all of the children and to Anna in particular and tell Dr. I should like to hear from him for I have sent him a letter but I don’t know as he got it. I wish you would send me $5 for I want some very much for I don’t know when we shall get paid off and I wish you would send me some right away.
I don’t know of much news. I hope that I shall a pass to come home this winter and I will if I can—that’s so. No do send me some money for if I don’t have some pretty soon, I shall starve for what I know and if you have not got it, go to Mr. Huntings and tell him to send me $5 as soon as you get this and don’t put it off one day, if you please.
Dear father, give my love to mother and telll her that I don’t know of any pretty name to give the boy but when she names it, let me know what it is. I can’t write much more this time so I must bid you goodbye. This is from your son, — J. A. Bennett
I have just been down to the river and washed my clothes. Don’t forget to send me some money, father. So goodbye. This is from J. A. B.
Camp Morgan October 7 1862
Dear Father, William J. Bennett
I now take the pleasure of writing you a few lines to let you know that I am well and most all of the rest of the boys. I don’t know of much news to write at present—only I have been transferred from Company G to Company K and I am glad of it. I received a letter from Dr. Mays and a letter from you tonight and I was glad to hear from you and I hope that I shall hear from you again pretty soon. I don’t know when we shall get anymore money but when I get some, I will send it to J. M. Hunting. But if you want some of it, you write and let me know and I will send you some. I can’t write much more this time.
But when you write to me, direct your letters to Jonathan A. Bennett, Company K, 127th Regiment N. Y. Vols., Washington D. C. and then I shall get them if I am not here—for I don’t know when we shall get to move from here. Tell Anna where to write to me. Co. K.
Give my love to Anna and all of the rest of the folks and tell them to write to me. the Union troops is a giving the Rebels some every day. I expect that you hear the news as soon as I do. I must bid you goodbye.
This is from J. A. Bennett
Camp Bliss Thursday, November 6th 1862
I thought that I would write you a few lines to let you know that we are all well and I hope these few lines will find you the same at home. We have been out on picket two days. We have had very good weather a long back but it is awful cold today. The boys is all out on a drill but me and I expect I had ought to be. I don’t think that it would do me any hurt. I don’t know of any news to write at present, only some say that we are a going to Washington to stay this winter and I hope that we shall for I think that we shall have better quarters if we do. We all voted last Tuesday–al but one or two of the drummers and they wasn’t 16 years old. If they had been, they would have voted.
I received a letter from you day before yesterday and it had $1.05 in it and I was glad to get it and I hope that I shall get some more pretty soon but I don’t want any but Suffolk County Bank for it won’t do me any good for we can’t get any other out here. You wrote to me that mother had got those mittens and so I thought that I would send for them and some more things. I would like to have them mittens and a pair of buckskin gloves and some pain killer and some peppermint and some butter and some tea and something to eat if you are a mind to but don’t put in any pie that will run out on the other things and be sure and put in two or three pounds of plug tobacco and two or three pounds of fine tobacco—chewing tobacco—and anything else that you a a mind to. And I should like to have some butter. Josiah P. Miller wants you to tell his mother to put some things in the box with mine for him. I should like to have some fruit very much.
Give my love to Captain Miller’s folks and to all of the rest of the folks. I wish that you would send me some more money for that didn’t do me much good for I owed 81 cents that I had borrowed to send letters with and I promised that would pay it as soon as I got some money and I did. Tell Abraham Miller’s wife Ellen that Abe wants her to send him a pair of mittens or gloves and some chewing tobacco and some cake if she wants to but she needn’t be very particular about the cake. And don’t have any liquor put in the box whatever. Be sure and don’t put any in for if you do, the box will be opened and they find any rum in it, they won’t send it any further. So don’t put any in.
Give my love to all of the folks and take a good share of it for yourselves. Tell Aunt Mary Ann that I know that I had ought to wrote to her before but I think that I shall pretty soon. I don’t have much time to write for we have to drill three times a day and we have good long drills too, I tell you. When you get ready to send the box, I want you to write a letter and let me know when it starts so I can be on a look out for it and write what you put in the box if you please. My tent mates is Daniel Blosser and Abraham Miller, and Mr. S. Rangers tent mates is Daniel Beg and James Farley, a Riverhead fella.
I can’t write no more this time so I must say goodbye for this time. This is from J. A. Bennett, Co. K, 127th Regt. N. Y. Vols. Monitors.
[Note: This letter is from the New York Digital Collections]
Upton’s Hill November 9, 1862
As I have a few moments to spare I thought I would write you a few lines to let you know that I have not forgot you. I expect that you have begun to think that I have for I haven’t written to you since I left home and I think that I had ought to be ashamed of myself for it but never mind. I will try to write oftener if I can. It is very cold just now. We have had a hard snow storm and a very cold one. I have been a shoveling snow all day and I thought I would write a few lines tonight to let you know that I am well and I hope that you are all the same.
I have been very sick since I left home with the measles but I am well now, thank to God for it. Give my love to all the folks and tell them that I hope I shall be there with them one of these days and I trust that I shall. Tell Billy and Fanny I have not forgot them yet. I wish I could see them tonight but I can’t. we have to drill three times a day. The longest drill is three hours and that is long enough, I tell you.
There is some talk of us a going to Washington but I don’t think anybody knows where we shall go. For my part, I had as leave go South as not if we can meet Stone[wall] Jackson. I wish he stood before my old rifle and I behind it. I would do my best, I bet I would.
Please excuse bad writing if you please. This is from old John A. Bennett
To his sister
Don’t forget to write. Write soon. Direct your letters to Jonathan A. Bennett, 127th Regt. N. Y. Vols., Company K Monitors, Washington D. C.
Don’t put on that black spot by the K. Goodbye.
Camp Bliss November 14, 1862
I now take my pen in hand this evening or pencil, I must say. I don’t know of much news to write at present. Some think that we shall get paid off by the middle of next and I hope we shall. And then I expect that we shall move somewhere but I don’t know where we shall go. but I hear the Lieutenant Colonel says that we was a going to Texas, he thought. But I don’t care where we go but I hope that we will go to meet Stonewall Jackson for I had just as leave meet him as not for I want the pleasure of pointing my rifle at him and see what I can do for my country.
I like [soldiering] better and better every day. We drill 2 and 3 times a day and I take delight in it. We have got pretty well drilled now. I like the officers very well, the most of them. Dr. Range is well and sends his love to you. Give my love to all of the folks. Josiah [Miller] don’t quiver [masturbate] very big now. I am as fat as a corn-fatted hog. I was weighed the other day and I weighed 149.5. You wanted to know if I got that likeness of Annie’s. I did and if you have got any to send, send them along. I had a letter from Uncle George King the other night. he said that the Budge Hampton Boys was a going to sea if they could but I hope that they can’t for I want some of them darned secesh fellers down here along with the rest of them.
I can’t write no more this time so I will say all night, this is from Old John Bennett, Company K, 127th New York Vols. Write soon as you get this if you please.
Cap Bliss, November 14th 1862
To L. B. Bennett
Dear sister, I would write you a few lines to let you know that I am well and hope that these few lines will find you the same. Give my love to Waller and all the rest of the folks. The boys is all well, I believe. I am anyway, that’s so, and if you could see me, you would think so I guess. I grow fat every day. I weight 149.5 pounds.
We had a good time last night., I tell you. We have got a fiddle in the company and we had a good time last night. I must say goodnight. This is from J. A. Bennett, Co. K, 127th N. Y. S. V.
Camp Bliss November 25, 1862
I now take my pencil in hand to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well and I hope that you are all well at home. We have got the box. It come all safe. we got it last Tuesday night and I was glad to see it. I am out on picket about 1.5 miles to the southeast of Falls Church in the woods. We have very good times out here but I think that I had a little rather be at home.
We have a bad looking house to live in on picket. It looks something like this. It is made of bushes. It does very well in dry weather but it is not very good when it rains 4 days and nights as it did last week and the mud was over shoes and I wished for a pair of boots, but I can’t get them for I haven’t got money enough. If I had, I would have a pair.
I have got a very bad cold. I got it by having wet feet and for my part, I want a pair of boots. They cost from 5 to 7 dollars and I don’t know when I shall get paid off. Not before January I don’t expect. It looks some like rain today but I hope that it won’t be so muddy as it was last week for I don’t want to get any more cold in top of this. I have got enough now.
I have got two letters with $1 in and a pair of mittens. I like them mittens first rate and so I do all of the things. The boys is all well as common. [ ] Ranger sends her love to you and to her folks and so do I. Give my love to Aunt Esther and Aunt Mary Ann and all of the folks. Miss Sally Ranger wrote that the folks around home thought that there would not be anymore fighting but you can tell them that Richmond is not taken yet but when it is, the war will soon be over, I think, and I guess that it will anyway for I think that one side or the other will give in pretty soon.
I would like soldiering very well if it weren’t for being exposed to bad weather so much for if it rains when we are on guard or picket, we have to stand out in it all—rain or shine, snow or blow, it makes no difference. I don’t mind the drills. I like them first rate. I don’t know of much more to write at present so I will say good day. This from J. A. Bennett
Poor soldier—who cares for him?
Camp Bliss December 3, 1862
Dear Father, Wm. J. Bennett,
As I have a few moments to spare, I thought I would write a few lines to let you know that I am well and I hope that these few lines will find you the same. I don’t know of much news to write at present but we are a going to Bailey’s Crossroads tomorrow on a brigade drill. Give my love to all of the folks and tell them that I am well, tough and hearty and as saucey as ever.
I suppose that it will be Christmas New Year so I will wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and a glorious one. The boys is all well and send their love to you. Josiah Miller is kind of down-hearted and has been for some time. He never will make a soldier for he don’t pay no attention to the drills. He don’t try to learn at all to drill. He talks all of the time about home and if he don’t pay no more attention to the drills and try to learn, he never will be good for anything here. But I attend to ever drill and try to learn something and if I ever have a chance to do anything, I will do what I can.
Mr. Samuel Ranger sends his love to you and all of the folks. Give my love to Rosa and all of the girls, You wrote to me that you hadn’t got any name for that boy and I will send you one and you can do as you are a mind to about calling him by it—Charles Raynor Bennett.
This is from J. A. Bennett, Esqr. Write soon as you get this. Yours as ever, — J. A. Bennett
Camp Bliss, Upton’s Hill December 16, 1862
As I have a few moments to spare, I thought I would write you a few lines to let you know that I am well and I hope that these few lines will find you the same, It is a hard rain storm today. We have some high old weather, I tell you. I don’t know of much news to write—only they say that Burnside is a giving the Rebs some now and I am glad of it. And if he wants any help, I am willing to go and help him. Give my love to all of the folks.
Theodore Bennett has just been here and he sends his love to you and so does all the rest of the boys. We haven’t got any pay since we left Staten Island and I don’t know when we shall. But next month pay day will come and I hope that we shall get paid off.
We come in from picket yesterday. We had first rate times while we was out. I wish that we could of stayed a week if it could be as good weather as it was while we was out. We only stayed two days.
I wrote to you for a pair of boots and and when you start them I wish you would write and let me know and I will be on the look out for them. I wish I had them today. I would find use for them, I guess. You must excuse bad writing and write as soon as you can. This is from J. A. B.
Yours as ever, — J. A. Bennett
Dear Sister, as I was a writing to father, I thought I would write to you to let you know that I am well and I hope that these few lines will find you all well at home. Give my love to D. and Fan and tell them if they don’t answer that letter, I won’t write to them again while I am here. Give my love to George and Lib and tell them that I am a coming to see them one of these days, I guess. But they must keep good courage till I do come. You must tell me all of the news. I can’t write much more this time but I wish I had some money. I would have my likeness taken and send it to you. I can’t write no more this time so goodbye. This is from — J. A. B. to Maggie
Dear father, I wish that you would write as soon as you can and send me a little money for we are a going to have some new tents and me and Si [Josiah] and Bill and Bailey are a going to tent together and we want a little stove. I feel most ashamed to send for money but I would like to have some and when I get my pay, I will send some to you. write soon as you get this if you please. Yours as ever, — J. A. Bennett
Camp Bliss January 2, 1863
It is with pleasure that I write these few lines to let you know that I am well and hope these few lines will find you the same. I don’t know of much news to write at present but I thought I would answer your kind letter that you sent to me.
We have marched once to meet the rebels but we didn’t have the pleasure of meeting them. We was about 2 or 3 hours too late. Our company came in from picket last Sunday. We had been out 3 days and we turned in about 9 o’clock and about 11 we was turned out and told to pack our knapsacks and be ready to march in one hour and we was in less time and we went about 5 miles and stayed about 24 hours and then we came back to camp. We got three prisoners and sent them into Washington and I wish we could of had a little brush with them just to see what the Monitors could of done with them.
You must give my love to all of the folks and tell Sophia Edwards that I am a going to write a line or two to her one of these days. William Miller is well and he sends his love to you and all of the folk.
I had a letter from home the other night and it had the picture of a farmer in and I suppose it was father but it is long since I see a man with a frock on that I didn’t hardly know who it was. You wrote to me that you hoped that I had as good dinner Christmas as you did and I hope that you had as good dinner New Years as I did for I didn’t have anything but a cup of coffee. Not a mouthful of anything else.
I can’t write much more this time but you must give my love to Lib and the children and tell Billy I guess I will fetch them something if I ever come home if it anything but a sugar toy.
I can’t write no more this time so I will say good night. Write soon. This is from a friend. Yours as ever, — Jonathan A. Bennett
Fairfax [Court House] Picket Duty January 12, 1863
I received a letter from you the other night and I was glad to hear from you and to hear that you was all well and I hope that these few lines will find you still so, I am well and on picket about 8 miles from camp.
You wanted to know whether I got your picture or not and I will tell you I did and I got one dollar in the same letter and then a got another letter the other night and that had one more dollar in.
I don’t know of much news to write—only we had a hard storm last night and it was pretty cold to stand out in, I bet. William and Josiah Miller is well and they send their love to you and all of the folks. Captain [Abram] De Bevoise has resigned and we haven’t got no captain now but I expect that our 1st Lieutenant will be our captain.
Tuesday, January 13, 1863
I am in camp today and I feel old, I tell you. The news is in the camp this morning that Colonel [William] Gurney is a trying to make out in Washington that we are 9 months men but I don’t think that them news is true but I hope that they be. I heard that Lyman had got home and if he has, I am glad of it. But he don’t know what a soldier’s life is but I suppose that he will try to make out that he does and I suppose that I can tell him more about a soldier’s life that he ever thought of. If he had of been on picket with us one time, he would of thought something, I bet.
We have got some brass shoulder plates to put on our shoulders I expect and they say that we are a going to all have new light-colored blue pants. And they say that we are a going to Washington for to guard that [place]. I hope that we shall go.
I don’t hear anything about the war ever ending and I don’t know as it ever will end. I hear that Jeff Davis says that they are better prepared for war than they was a year ago and can stand it longer and I guess it is true. Give my love to the girls and tell that boy that his brother will be at home one of these days to drill him and make a soldier of him if he wants to be one for I think he would like it very much.
Father, I wish that you would send me another little box of things. I will tell you what I want. I want a little tea and a little sugar and a rotten brick and a little chalk to rub brass with and a little butter and a roast chicken or two if you have got them to spare, and a bag of sausage and anything else that you want to send. And I will put a few lines in this letter for Mr. Hunting. I want him to send me a little tobacco if he will and I want you to send the box as soon as you can if you send it.
You must excuse this bad writing and answer it as soon as you can. I can’t write no more this time so I will say good day. Yours as ever, — Jonathan A. Bennett
Camp Bliss January 25, 1863
As it is Sunday today, I thought I would write you a few lines to let you know that I am well and I hope that they will find you the same. I don’t know of much news to write at present—only the Boys is all well and send their love to you.
I have been on picket for the 3 last days past and we had very bad weather. It rained about all of the time and it is awful muddy, I tell you. I used to think sometimes when I was to home that there was some mud but it is nothing to what we have here. But I don’t expect that it is anything to what they had here last winter.
I had a letter from home the other night and I was glad to hear from home. The letter had 50 cents in and I was glad of that too. I don’t expect that we shall stay here much longer but I don’t know. Some thinks that we shall go to Washington for guards and if we do, we shall stay 9 months anyway, if the war lasts so long. You wrote that you was a going to send a box but I don’t know but you will think that I shan’t get it [if we move]. But it won’t make any difference. You can send it just the same.
We have got new light blue pants and brass scales on our shoulders and we are a going to have new hats with a trumpet it them and then we are a going to have the coat of arms on our breast.
You must give my love to all of the folks and take a good share of it for yourself. Bill Miller and Josiah sends their love to you and Bill says he can whittle yet and Josiah says he can quiver [masturbate] as big as ever. I be going to have my likeness taken one of these days and send it home. Mr. Sam Ranger says you must give his love to his folks and you must give my love to Annie and tell her that I am a bad soul and as hard as ever.
I had a letter from George Bennett the other night and he said that everything was lovely around there. Cousin George Bennett was in our camp the other day and he was fat as a pig. He said that he would like to see you. You must excuse this bad writing and write as often as you can. Give my love to mother and the girls and tell Rosa that I would like to hear from er. I can write no more this time so I must say goodbye for this time. Yours as ever, — Jonathan A. Bennett
Camp Bliss February 2, 1863
As I have a few moments to spare, I thought I would write a few lines to let you know that I am well and I hope these will find you the same. I don’t know of much news to write at present but I guess that I will make out something. The boys is all well and send their love to you. Bill and Josiah [Miller] is on guard today. They have just been to dinner and they had to carry on a spell before they could go back.
The box came last Tuesday and I was on picket but came in camp the next day and I found it all right. It came through all right and very quick. Tom got his things and Mr. S. Ranger got his and I got mine and I was glad to get them. I have been on drill this forenoon and I expect that I have got to go again this afternoon. We have had some hard weather here but it is better today than we have had before in 5 or 6 days.
I heard that there had been a party to Edwin Edwards’s and Charles Myer went and he went home with Rebecca Bennett and I think that he was in good business. You must give my love to the girls and to Dr. and to the swamp boys and to Anna and to all of the folks. I wrote a letter to Sophia Edwards the other day and I don’t know whether I shall get an answer to it or not and I don’t much care.
Our 1st Lieutenant [Jesse G.] Raynor has got his wife here and I ain’t seen him but once since she come but our 2nd Lieutenant I see any time I am a mind to. Me and he has some fun together once in awhile. He drills us once in awhile and he says that I am the best drilled man in the company. His name is Charles [P.] Cook from Sag Harbor. He is a real clever feller.
You wrote about my money and I want you to do the best you can wit hit and if I live to get home, I will do all I can for you. I heard that Wilson King’s wife had a girl and I think that she was in a hurry, don’t you? You must give my love to Rebecca Bennett and to Let Baker and tell Let that Bill Miller sends his love to her.
I don’t hear anything about the war ending but I guess it will end pretty soon but I don’t know. I wish it would end just for the sake of poor folks but I had just as leave be here as anywhere else. It don’t make any difference to me for I can make myself contented just as well here as anywhere else. Give my love to Lyman and tell him that I say that he don’t know anything about a soldier’s life but I expect that he tried to make out that he did.
Here is a song in this letter for Maggie. You must excuse this bad writing and answer it as soon as you can and write as often as you can for I like to hear from home. I can’t write no more this time so I must say goodbye for this time. Write soon. This is from your obedient servant, — Jonathan A. Bennett
Co. K, 127th Regt. N. Y. S. V., Monitors. Washington D. C., Upton Hill Camp Bliss
Camp Bliss February 3, 1863
As I have a few moments to spare, I thought I would write a few lines to let you know that I am well and I hope that these few lines will find you the same. I had a letter from you last night and I was glad to hear from you and to hear that you was all well. I heard that Letta Bubaker was in the fashion [pregnant] and I heard that she laid it on me as Bill Miller and I felt quite proud of it and you wrote that Anna had got most tired of waiting and she thought that one of the same name would do just as well and I don’t know what you meant exactly and I wish that you would write and tell me all about it for I should like to know a little about it. I have heard something about it before and I don’t know what to think about it. I know I am some worse off but I can hear some things that is a going on at home for I have got an old friend there that knows something that is a going on and I have a letter from him once in awhile.
I can’t write much this time for it is so cold that I can’t hardly hold on to the pen and you must excuse this bad writing. The boys is all well and send their love to you and you must give my love to all of the folks and tell them that I am a soldier boy. You must write and tell me all of the news for I want to hear from all of them. Bill is a writing and laughing all of the time. He is writing to you but I don’t know what he is a writing but I expect that he is a writing all about it.
I had a letter from Little George King and he wrote that everything was lovely around there and I am glad of it. But I do not wish I was there for I had rather be here if all of the stories is true that I hear. I didn’t expect to be a daddy so soon. I had no thoughts about it for I never did anything as I know of more than piss up against one of them trees out in front of the house. But I don’t know but she got it from that. Ann wrote to me that Selah and Nate Lester and John Bennett sent their love to me and I wish that you would give me my love to them.
I can’t write more this time so I must say good night for this time. This is from J. A. Bennett
Write soon as you get this and tell me all that is a going on around there. Goodbye.
Camp Gurney February 15, 1863
I now take the opportunity of writing to you a few lines to let you know that I am well and I hope that these few lines will find you the same. I had a letter from you the other night with 1 dollar in and I had another last night. And you said that I must send my likeness or else I must send the dollar back. And now I will tell you I did not need the money for we have got paid for four months and I am a going to send some of it to you and I want you to do the best that you can with it. I shan’t send it all in this letter but I will put a little in every letter that I send.
We have moved twice since I wrote a letter. We went about five miles and then we stopped and pitched our tents and we stayed there 48 hours and then we struck our tents again and started on another march and we went about 4 miles and then we pitched our tents again. And we have been here one night but I don’t know how long we shall stay here but I guess that this a pretty good place.
It is a rain storm today and Bill and Josiah [Miller] is on guard. They are both well and send their love to you and you must give my love to all of the folks and tell Anna that I say she must not think hard of me for I don’t of her for I think just as much of her as ever I did. And you must tell her that I say not to lay anything to you for it didn’t come from you. It come from the Springs. But I shan’t say who it came from for he doesn’t want me to tell and I shan’t. But never mind, I will be at home myself one of these days. Tell Anna that I shall write to her just as often and I don’t care a damn whether she writes to me or not. Tell Rose that I shall send her a letter pretty soon and Lid too. And tell Lid that I guess I like this war better than I should home made war for I don’t think I should like that very well.
Mr. S. Ranger has just come in my tent and he says that I must send his love to you and tell you to give it to his folks and he says I must tell you that we have got in amongst the mountains and hills. I am a going to send a letter to Anna tomorrow and I hope that I shan’t make her any madder for I don’t want her to come back on you. If she wants to come on me, let her come for I ain’t afraid of her, not any other girl that ain’t no bigger than she is.
The boys is all happy as they can be. I hope that they will keep so for I have got almost tired of seeing homesick fellers. You must excuse this bad writing and write as soon as you can. I must say good day. Yours as ever, — J. A. Bennett
Camp Gurney near Cloud’s Mills, Virginia March 23, 1863
I again sit myself to pen a few lines to you to let you know that I have not forgot you and how you must work. If you want me to get a furlough to come home on, our Colonel won’t give any furloughs without he sees a letter that comes from home and then he won’t without some of the folks is very sick at home and if you are a mind to and want to see me enough to make out a story and write it to me and then I will go and show it to him. But if you do so, you must tell how some of the family is very sick—you or Mother—and say that they are very low and make it out good and slick, but don’t write anything so he will mistrust any other way, and don’t write it as if you thought he was a going to see it.
And if you write it, I won’t let it be known by no means whatever. I wish that you would write so for I want to come home very much and that is all the way I can get home. Now do write so, won’t you please, for if you was here and I was where you be, I would do so. And if you want to see me very much, you will. You needn’t be afraid to do it, and if you do, I want you to send $10 dollars with it. Some of the boys is a going to come home by the same way that I spoke of. They had letters from home that their mother was sick and all of the time the was well. And if you write so, you can put it on a piece of paper and then you can write on another piece what you are a mind to and I won’t let him see that nor no one else. And if you do, write as soon as you can before to many gets ahead of me. Write as soon as you get this and as soon as I get the letter, I will go to work.
I will tell you how I should write it by and bye. Give my love to all of the folks and take a good share of it yourself. I won’t write much more this time but you must write as soon as you get this.
Now I will you how to write what I am a going to show the Colonel if you do write. It should begin:
East Hampton March so and so
I now sit down to write a few lines to let you know how we all get along. I am very lame but I am in hopes I shall get better pretty soon and your mother is very sick and we don’t know as she will live for the doctor says she is very low and I wish you could come home and see her if you can [even] if you don’t stay more than a week for she feels bad about you to think she can’t see you. And I wish that you would go to your Colonel and see if he won’t let you come a little while and I guess he will if you will promise him that you will be back when the time is up.
Now father, you can do as you are a mind to about doing so but if you won’t, I shall think you don’t want to see me very much. Don’t let anyone see this. From– J. A. Bennett
Vienna, Virginia April 2, 1863
I thought I would write a few lines to let you know that I am well and I hope that you are all the same. I don’t know of much news to write—only I can tell you a little about our march. Last Saturday night we had orders to march and we started about dark and we went 8 miles and stopped at Falls Church all night and we laid out all night and the next morning we started again and we marched almost all day and that night we pitched our little tents and the next day we had to start again and we marched 1 mile and pitched our tents again. And we are here yet.
We had to cut wood all of the first night after we got here so that artillery could get a range on a road and we don’t know what hour the Rebs will come up on us. We are a digging rifle pits and doing picket duty. We are to the front now and I am glad of it. I hope the Rebs will come for I want to see them. We have very bad weather. It rains and snows and thunder and lightning a most all of the time and it is awful muddy. We have just come in from picket. We are close to Bull Run and they say that Stonewall is in Bull Run Mountains and I hope we shall see him.
You must excuse bad writing for I am in a hurry. Write soon as you can. This is from J. A. B.
Camp near Vienna, Virginia April 2, 1863
I have got a few moments to spare once more so I thought I would write a few lines to let you know that I have not forgot you. Now I will tell you what I wish you would so with my money if you can. I wish you would go and see Charles P. Dayton and ask him if he will try to get me a commission and take my money to pay for it. I don’t expect that he will do it for nothing and I don’t want him to. You know he got one for Dave Shary and I guess he will for me. I don’t care ig it takes all I have got for if I can get a Lieutenant’s berth, I can get enough to make it up pretty soon for they get from 80 to 100 dollars a month and if they don’t like it, they can resign and come home. And if you will set him to work, I guess he will get it, I don’t care if he gets it in a nigger regiment, it don’t make no difference to me. I think that he will get it if you pay him well for I guess he likes money well enough and I think he will try for me. If I was to home, I would not ask you to do it for if I know as much as I do now, I could do it. Now I wish you would go and see him and see what he says and then write and let me know. You need not be afraid of spending my money for it will be all for my good and then I can do just as I like, I can stay or I can come home. But as I am now, I have got to stay anyway.
William Miller wants you to try for him too and if he can get them together, I wish he would. But if he can’t, we will take them anywhere. I wish you would write as soon as you can and let me know what he will do about it. I can’t think of no news but if you hear any, you must write. Give my love to all of the folks and take a good share of it yourself. I can’t write no more at present so I must say goodbye.
This is from J. A. Bennett
Write soon as you find out what he will do about it. See him as soon as you can. Write soon. Write soon. Write soon.
Camp in the orchard, Vienna, Virginia April 3, 1863
I thought I would write a few lines to let you know that I am well and I hope that you are the same. I don’t know of much news. I wrote a letter to father yesterday and after I got it put in the envelope. I took a letter out of my pocket and looked at it and then I laid it down and one of my tent mates picked it up and put it in the envelope with fathers and he didn’t tell me anything about it till it had gone and then it was too late to take it out. But I don’t care anything about it. I had just as leave you would see it. You must give my love to all of the folks and tell them when I get my commission, I will come and see them. Tell father to get mr one if he can. Tell him to try for me before he does for Bill and tell him yp do it as soon as he can and let me know what he says.
I shall send this in Mr. S. Ranger’s because I can’t get no postage stamps. I can’t write no more till I get some. This will have to be the last one till I get some stamps so you will have to make much of this. I can’t write no more so I will say goodbye.
From — J. A. Bennett
Camp Little near Vienna [Virginia] April 10, 1863
I thought I would write a few lines to let you know that I am well and I hope that these few lines will find you the same. I had a letter from you today and I was very glad to hear from you. And I had a letter from Sophia Edwards and she said that Louisa Seaburg was dead and I was sorry to hear the bad news for she was the nicest girl that I know of on Long Island and I was in hopes that we should live to meet once more, But if she is dead, I don’t never expect to meet her on earth but I hope that we shall meet in heaven. You must give my love to all of the folks and take a good share of it yourself. Josiah and Bill [Miller] send their love to you and all of the folks.
I don’t know of much news to write but I seen some of the Virginia First Cavalry go by here today and they had four rebel soldiers with them and they was hard-looking fellers. I don’t no much about what is a going on down south but I expect they will have some hot work when they get to it and I don’t know but we shall be with them and I don’t care much for I had just as leave be there as here although it is a very pleasant place here when it is good weather. But we have got a good deal of wet, cold weather. I would liked to be to home for the town meeting day but I was not there. But we had a good time. I will tell you what we was a doing. We come in from picket in the morning and after dinner, we went out five of us about two miles and stole one sheep and 5 chickens and a goose and carried them in the woods and dressed them and cooked them and then we carried them in camp and asked the officers to come and eat with us. And we had good times. I suppose that you will think we are bad boys but I will tell you that soldiers is bound to live as long as they can find anything in the Rebel states for if they see anything that they want, they will have it for all of everybody.
The other night some of our boys got a calf somewhere and they had a big time with him. And he went first rate, I tell you/ we have some good times and some hard times. we are in the Rebel land and I hope that we shall have a chance to have a brush with them. Bill says that he has just got contented to stay here now. He ain’t had a letter from home in 4 weeks and he says that he begins to think that they don’t care anything about him. He is as happy as they make them in our days. you must excuse bad writing and write when you can and write all the news.
Now Father, if you can get me a commission, I wish you would as soon as you can. Don’t spare my money. If you can get one, write and let me know about it as soon as you can. Bill Miller says he has for got all of his old tricks about the the rAlston trees and so on. I can’t write no more this time so I will say goodbye for this time. Write soon, from Johnny.
When this is you see Remember me J. A. B.
Write soon as you can if you please.
Camp near Suffolk, Virginia April 19, 1863
I thought I would write a few as I have an opportunity. We have left Camp Gurney and we are 225 miles further south. we are close to the rebs and more than 1 mile off of them and we shall have a brush with them before long. They are a skirmishing with our pickets all of the time and one of our gunboats is a sending shells in amongst them all of the time. I have seen some of them today. We have been here two days. We came on a transport.
The boys is all well and so be I. It is as hot here now as it was there last summer. It is very pleasant. You must give my love to all of the folks and take a good share of it for yourself.
I don’t know of much news but you must write as often as you can and I will do the same. I don’t have much time but I will write as often as I can. Bill and Josiah [Miller] has gone on picket tonight. You must write and tell me what Charles Dayton says and if he gets it. You can send it to me and I will do the best I can with it. I hope you won’t be ashamed about me for I ain’t at all afraid. Tell the folks to write when they can and I will do the same.
I can’t write much about our moving now. I will tell you all about it when I write again. You must direct as you always do and I shall get them. It will take longer to come to us now, I expect.
Mr. Samuel Ranger is well and sends his love to you and he says you must give it to his folks. I wish you could see what troops we have got here. They say that we have 90,000 here and that makes a bog army but that ain’t half that there is in the states but they cover over some ground, I tell you. I suppose that you have heard of the Black Water and we are close to them in the Dismal Swamp, as they call it.
I can’t write no more this time so I will wait and say goodbye this time. This is from J. A. Bennett
Write soon as you can.
Camp near Suffolk, Virginia April 27, 1863
I again take the pleasure of writing you a few lines to let you know that I am well and I hope that you are the same. I don’t know much news to write. I suppose that you have heard of the Dismal Swamp. I am on picket in it, close to the Jericho Canal. This swamp is the thickest one that I ever seen and they say that it is 60 miles across it and I don’t know how long it is but it goes way through into the state of North Carolina. I expect that we shall have a brush with the rebs pretty soon for they say that Old Stonewall has got here with 30,000 and they had about 20,000 before and we have got about 100,000 here and we are well fortified and if he does try us, we will have some fun.
You must give my love to all the folks and write as often as you can and I will do the same. We have signed the pay rolls today for pay and I guess we shall get paid off before long. but I don’t expect that I can send it home for they say that the express won’t take it and I don’t know as the mail will. Josiah and Bill [Miller] sends their love to you. I hope that you will see Mr. Dayton before long for I want to know what he says.
April 28, 1863
We have got relieved from picket and moved a little further out towards the rebs. It is a rainstorm today. We are encamped close to the rifle pits now—not more than 2 rods off. I wish that you could see the forts and rifle fits. It would make you open your eyes, I guess.
You must give my love to all of the folks and tell them I should be very glad to hear from them once in awhile. Mr. Ranger is well—all but a cold. He has got a bad cold but I guess it won’t hold on long. The boys all seems to be in good health and good cheer and they seem to love the good old flag as well as ever and the Lord knows I do and I hope you do. I expect that you have heard all about what is going on here. I can’t write no more this time. So goodbye. write soon. Yours truly, — Jonathan A. Bennett, Co. K, 127th Regt.
Direct as you always do.
Camp near West Point, Virginia May 24, 1863
I thought I must write a few lines to let you know that I am well and I hope that these few lines will find you the same, I had a letter from you the other night and I was glad to get it. You must give my love to all of the folks and take a good share for yourself. I don’t know of any news to tell you this time but I hope that I shall the next time I write if it is good news.
The boat that brings our mail was fired into yesterday by the rebs but not much hurt and one ball hit her. Bill and Josiah [Miller] sends their love to you and all of the folks. It is awful hot here, I tell you. I expect that we have got to go on picket tomorrow and I hope we shall for we will have bully times, I guess. If the rebs don’t come to see us and if we do, will do the best we can with them.
Mr. Ranger is well ad he sends his love to you and all of the folks. Uncle Nate sends his love to you but he ain’t very well.
We have been here about three weeks and I don’t see but what we shall stay some time. I wish that you would get the children’s pictures on cards and send them to me and yours too for I would like to have them very much. I don’t expect that you can get them without you get 4 but never mind, you can get the three children together and yours alone. You can take some of my money if you want any to get them with. And I wish you would send them as soon as you can.
I can’t write much more this time so I must say goodbye. Write soon and I will do the same. This is from J. A. B.
Please hand this to Anna’s father and that’s all.
Camp near west Point, Virginia May 16, 1863
My Dear Father,
I thought I must write a few lines as I have a few moments to spare. I had a letter from you last night and I was very glad to get it and I was glad to hear that you was all well. The boys is all well, I believe, and in good health and good spirits. I haven’t got that paper that you sent me with them buttons in and I wish you would send another for I want some buttons very much. William and Josiah [Miller] send their love to you and all of the folks.
I don’t know of any news to write for I expect that you hear more in one day than I do in one week. You must give my love to all of the folks and tell Rose to write to me and I will to her. Mr. Ranger has just come in my tent and he says I must send his love to you.
You said that you had seen Mr. Dayton and he was a going to write a letter to our Colonel but it ain’t any use for him to write to him for he won’t want me to leave the regiment for he wants to keep all the men he has got. But I think that he can get me one [a commission] without writing to him if he is a mind to, don’t you?
We have been out a cutting wood today to stop the rebel cavalry and artillery. But I don’t think they will ever try to get here. If they do, they will find the “Monitors” here and some heavy works for them to face and they will find some of Uncle Sam’s blue pills [bullets] after them.
I can’t write no more this time so I will say goodbye. Yours truly, — J. A. Bennett
Write soon and send me some postage stamps if you please.
West Point, Virginia June 1, 1863
I now take the pleasure of writing a few lines to let you know that I am well and I hope that these few lines will find you the same. I expect that we shall leave here tonight or tomorrow but I don’t know where we are a going to—some good place I hope. They say that Vicksburg is ours and I hope it is. I don’t know of much news to write this time but I hope the next time I write I can say that the war is almost over. But I don’t expect that I can say so. I am in hopes that the summer will close it up. For my part, I have got enough of soldiering for the present, although I am willing to do my duty in defense of my country. They say that Hooker is a going to try again and see what he can do and I hope he will have good success and go through [to Richmond] this time.
I got a letter from you the other night and I was very glad to hear from you and hear that you was all well and alive. You must give my love to the children and mother and to all of the folks. The letter that I got had some postage stamps and I had one before with some in. You wrote that Mrs. Samuel Ranger had a letter with $10 in. He sent that and he was very glad that you spoke about it for he wanted to hear from home very much. I had a letter from Elizabeth the same time I had one from you. She said that the foks was all well around there except the measles. You can tell Mr. Dayton that I don’t care anything about his trying to get me a commission for I can do just as much good for my country where I am but I wish he was in my place.
I will write again as soon as I can and let you know where we are. You must write as often as you can and direct as usual. I haven’t got much time to write any more so I must say goodbye for the present. I will put one dollar in this letter. write soon. Yours truly, — J. A. Bennett
The boys is all well and send their love to you. Goodbye. Write soon.
Camp Howland Yorktown, Virginia June 6, 1863
I now take the pleasure of writing to you to let you know that I am well and I hope that these few lines will find you the same as it leaves me. I don’t know of much news to write but I thought I must write something.
When I wrote before, we was at West Point and now we are at Yorktown. And how long we shall stay, I can’t tell. I had a letter from you Thursday and I was very glad to hear from you and hear that you was all well. You must give my love to all of the folks and tell them I should like to hear from them once in awhile.William and Josiah [Miller] is well and send their love to you. I heard that you had had a big fire in East Hampton. Mr. Ranger sends his love to you and to all of the folks. He is well as common, I believe, and all of the boys except Alvin Clark. He is very sick but I hope he will get better pretty soon.
It is a very pleasant place here and awful hot and a plenty of niggers too. I wish that you could see some of them and hear them talk. I bet that it would make you laugh some.
You wrote that you would send me the children’s pictures as soon as you could get them and I wish you would for I would like to see them very much and I would like to have mother’s too. You must excuse bad writing and write as soon as you can and I will do the same. I can’t write much more this time but I will write again as soon as I can and you must do the same. Give my love to all of the folks. Write soon.
I will now say goodbye. Yours truly, — J. A. Bennett
Co. K, 127th Regt. N. Y. S. V., Washington D. C., or to follow the regiment.
I will send each of the children a leaf for a book mark in remembrance of me. — J. A. B.
[Note: This letter is from the New York Digital Collections]
James City, Virginia Sunday, June 21, 1863
I now take the pleasure of writing to you to let you know that I am well and I hope that these few lines will find you the same. The boys is all well, I believe, and sends their love to you. You must give my love to all the folks and take a good share for yourself. I had a letter from you the other day and I was very glad to hear from you and to hear that you was all well. I don’t know of much news to write—only it is very warm today and so it is every day.
You wrote that you was not afraid of the draft but we will wait till it comes and then we will see. But I hope that it won’t take you if you don’t want to come. The bugle has just blowed for meeting ad some of the boys has gone but I thought I must write to you so I didn’t go.
William Miller is a writing to you for the first time, I guess, but I don’t know. You said in your last letter that Sophie was a going to send one that day but I haven’t got it yet. But I hope I shall pretty soon. I had a letter from father the other day and it had mother’s picture and the childrens in. I was glad to see them and I wish that you would get yours and Elizabeth’s and send to me for I want to see you very much and I will send you the money if you will get them. I wish you would send them as soon as you can. I had rather have them on a card if you can get them. Never mind the cost. I will pay you for them. Please get them.
You must give my love to Uncle George and Aunt Lucy and all of the Sag [Harbor] folks that you know. You must excuse bad writing and write as soon as you can and as often as you can and I will do the same. I can’t write no more this time so I will say goodbye.
Yours as ever, — J. A. Bennett
[Note: This letter is from the New York Digital Collections]
Camp near the Warrington Junction, Va. July 28, 1863
It is with pleasure that I write these few lines to let you know that I am well and I hope that they will find you the same. It is some time since I wrote to you last but I can’t help it. We have been on a march for the last three weeks but we are in camp now and I hope we shall stay a spell. We are in the Army of the Potomac now and in the First Brigade and First Division and the 11th Army Corps. We joined them the next day after the Battle of Gettysburg so we wasn’t in the fight.
You must give my love to all of the folks and take a good share for yourself. I expect that the draft will raise the Old boy with some of the boys around there but it won’t hurt them to come out here no more than it does us. We are a going to have 300 [recruits] in our regiment. We have sent for them now and I expect that they will be along pretty soon. We have very warm weather here the most of the time but it is cloudy today and very cool.
You wrote that you had been a huckleberrying and was a going to have a pudding and some peas for dinner and I wish I could have some but instead of having them, I have to eat hard tack and meat and coffee. That is all we get when we are on a march but when we are in camp we live very well. We have fresh meat 4 times a week and beans every day and stewed apples three times a week and soup 4 times a week and coffee twice a day and whiskey twice a week so we get along very well.
I don’t know of any news to write. If I did, I would write it. You must write as soon as you can and tell me all of the news. I hope I shall be at home with you by next New Years and then I will be all right, I bet. You must excuse bad writing and write soon. I can’t write no more this time and I can’t send no more letters till I get some postage stamps and them I can’t get here so I will say goodbye. Yours truly, — J. Bennett
To G. W. B.
[Note: This letter is from the New York Digital Collections]
God damn the Rebellion Camp near the White House, Va. July 4, 1863
I now take the pleasure of writing to you to let you know that I am well and I hope you are the same. I don’t know of much news to write at present but you must give my love to all of the folks and take a good share for yourself. I wish that I was at home today to help keep the Fourth. I had a letter from you the other night and I was very glad to get it and I got them pictures the same time and I was glad to see them. I expect that you are in to the hay today, but don’t I wish I was where I could be. But I am not.
The report is that we are a going to leave the White house [Landing] but I don’t know where we are going. We are about 20 miles from Richmond now but I guess if we move, we shall go back again. Some of the troops has gone on but I don’t know how far. You must excuse bad writing for I am in a hurry for I haven’t got much time. It is hot enough to kill all the devils out of hell for it is hotter here that it is in hell, I know. I can’t write much more this time so I must say goodbye. This is from J. A. B.
To G, W. B.
Write soon as you can.
Co. K, 127th Regt. N. Y. S. V. Army of the Potomac August 3, 1863
It is with pleasure that I write to you to let you know that I am well and I hope that these few lines will find you the same. I don’t know of much news to write at present—only it is awful hot but that ain’t no news to me, I tell you. I thought that I had seen hot weather before I come here but I never. We have marched 9 miles this forenoon but we are in camp now. But I don’t know how long we shall stay here but I hope we shall stay a day or two for we have been on a march the most of the time for the last month.
August the first we all had to go to see a man shot. He belonged to the 57th Regiment New York Vols. He was shot for desertion. I expect that you will see it in the Herald for I see it today in the Herald dated August the first. You must give my love to all of the folks and take a good share for yourself. We are between Alexandria and Warrington, not far from the Alexandria & Orange Railroad at Cat Lick [Catlett’s] Station.
I can’t put any stamp on this letter for I haven’t got any. I wish that you would send me some. I haven’t got that ring yet but I guess that I shall. I have got the comb and I was glad to see it. William and Josiah [Miller] sends their love to you and all of the folks.
You must excuse bad writing and write as often as you can and I will try to do the same. I guess that I have got all of the stamps that you have sent. I can’t [write] no more this time so I will say goodbye. Bill says that I must tell you what he is a doing. He is a eating sugar and water with some hard tack crumbed in it. Now I will say goodbye again.
This is from—J. A. Bennett
Write soon. Direct as before.
Camp on Folly Island, [South Carolina] September 2, 1863
I now seat myself for the purpose of writing to one that should be so glad to [see]. I received your letter and was very glad to hear from you all. I have not got anything new to write. The boys are all well and send their love to you all. I suppose you have got the other letter that I sent to you and you know that we are to South Carolina. There is nothing on this island, only a few bushes and a plenty of sand. We are close to the surf now where we can go in a swimming every day and have lots of fun. What does the folks think about the war at home? Do they think there is any prospect of it ever ending? I hope it will soon end for my part. The boys all seem to think that they will get home by spring and I hope we shall.
I got the pocket handkerchief that you sent. We don’t hear anything here about the war. We can’t get ay newspapers here. We can hear the guns from Morris Island but we don’t hear a word from there. We don’t know what they are firing at and what it amounts to. When we was in Virginia we could hear everyday, but now we are in sight f Charleston, we don’t hear a word. I think they will take it after awhile and I hope before long.
You must give my love to all the folks and tell them to write, It is pleasant today. We don’t have very hot weather here. It is not half so hot here as it was in Virginia. we have the sea breezes. We have not had much drilling yet since we got here. I suppose we shall have to make up for all of this pretty soon.
Bill Miller sends his love to you and all the rest. He says that he wants the war to end so he can get something to eat besides wormy hard tack. We have had poor hard bread. We can’t lay a cake down and leave it. If we do, it will run away. I want you to send me a half a quire of writing paper and some envelopes and a pocket knife. I don’t know of anything more this time. Josiah is well and sends his love to all. Give my love to Captain Miller and the family and tell them once in awhile. Give my love to Anna and all the rest. And tell them that Jamey is well and sends his love to them. I don’t know of anything new to write this time. I hope the next time that I write, I can tell you that Charleston is taken and the war ended. You must write every chance and not wait for we can’t send letters every day from here [even] if we had time to write them. I can’t write any more now. Be sure and write soon and believe me as ever your son, — Jonathan A. Bennett
This letter was written by John “Wiley” Gulick (1829-1898), the son of John V. and Margaret Young (Wiley) Gulick. Wiley was residing with his father in Fayetteville, Cumberland county, North Carolina when he penned this letter in January 1849 (he erroneously datelined it 1848) during the height of Polk’s popularity as President and nearly a year after the close of the War with Mexico. He was married in 1858 to Margaret Jane Sutherland (1835-1879) and moved to Washington county, Texas, where he made a living as a physician. During the Civil War, he served as surgeon of the 18th Texas Infantry, reporting to General Bragg.
Gulick wrote the letter to his friend, John Taylor Coit (1829-1872), the son of John Caulkis and Ann Maria (Campbell) Coit of Cheraw, Chesterfield county, South Carolina. Coit graduated from Princeton University in 1850 and returned to Cheraw where he practiced law. In 1858 he married Catherine Malloy Bunting and relocated to a 320 acre farm straddling Dallas and Collin counties in Texas. During the Civil War, Coit raised a company of cavalry and he became captain of Co. E, 18th Texas Cavalry, later Lt. Col. of the regiment. He was take prisoner with the surrender at Arkansas post in January 1863 and after he was exchanged and returned to his regiment, he was wounded at the Battle of Chickamauga which ended his career as a field officer.
[Note: This letter is from the personal collection of Richard Weiner and is published on Spared & Shared by express consent.]
Fayetteville, North Carolina January 20, 1848 [should be 1849]
You may be a little surprised on receiving this epistle from me, but when you consider the intimacy that has subsisted between us for some time, you may take it as a natural consequence. I hope that our intimacy may not be broken by miles but that we may at least think enough of each other as to write occasionally. Your father passed through town on his return from the North. He stayed a short time. I called on him at Mr. McIver’s. He said you had gone to P[rinceton]. Before then I had not heard & that he would like me to write you. So according to promise, as well as inclination, I will make the effort. Hoping that you will have patience in reading until you get through with the above exordium, I will proceed.
You have doubtless heard of the many changes that have taken place in Cheraw & of your uncle’s death. Such, I dare say, you was prepared to hear. But there is another shade over the first. It is this. There being some misunderstanding as to the place where Mr. [John] Taylor’s remains should rest. He was first buried in the Presbyterian Church yard & removed a few days ago to be carried to Georgetown to be placed by his wife [in the Episcopal Church yard]. His body was taken up & in the charge of [John Taylor’s nephews] Mr. David & John McFarlan to be taken to Georgetown. The body was placed in the steamer Richland. Allen McFarlan did not go with them owing to a law case he had on hand which he was obliged to attend to. He, when through, started by land to meet them at Georgetown, but dreadful to relate, when the boat was [descending the Pee dee River] near Britton’s Ferry, the boiler bursted and carried away everything in its reach. The whole was soon consumed by fire to the waters edge. 1
John McFarlan was standing by Mr. David when the explosion took place. He instantaneously disappeared and has never been heard of since. It is thought that he fell in the burning mass. Several were killed (16). A Mrs. [Henry] Davis and daughter [niece] was killed. Capt. Brock had an arm & leg broken and his body badly burnt. Mr. David not hurt. What a sad state of affairs! How can poor Allen stand it? Oh! it is shocking. John was consumed and the body of his uncle.
There has been no deaths for the last two months or more. Nearly all those who went to Mexico have died. No marriages have taken place. Cotton is coming in very fast. They say more business has been done in this than in last season. Col. H. & LaCoste are about to return from the field. James Presley Harrall has become the lion of the Cheraw market. He has the name of J. P. Napoleon on account of his buying so much cotton (nearly all). It is said if cotton shall rise this spring, that he will make a great deal of money. Very little sickness.
I must now try and give you the news of this famous city. I suppose you know that I am hard at the monotonous duty of a school boy’s life & news are very scarce. We are very pleasantly situated on Hay Mount—we call it “Literary Hill.” Have a little fun now and then and a good laugh over our lessons, for we do come across some of the smuttiest that I ever saw. I suppose you have noticed in the Georgian &c. we have the two Smiths (Jim C. and Alex R.) Alex rooms and boards here. We stay in the same room & have a great deal of fun. The old coon is sitting back reading Polk’s Message—it being the first time he had seen it. 2 He is almost a Democrat & is much pleased with it as far as he has read. Don’t you think it an able & well written document? Don’t you think Polk one of the, or the greatest man of the age? Has he not immortalized himself? I think so.
Alex says he is alive and kicking and that his Uncle John’s Billy don’t grow any smaller. He wishes you much happiness and success, &c.
How do you like General Taylor? Don’t you think he is a pretty Old Coon to be President of the United States? If the northern fanatics should, from their encroachments upon southern rights, cause a civil war, would you not fight? Calhoun is a wheelhorse, is he not? He has taken a bold stand & so ought a southern members. I watch his movements with interest. If you are acquainted with David E. Smith, please give him my regards & kindest shake of the hand. Tell him if he has cut my acquaintance, let him say so & if he does not write me a letter soon, I will be after him.
I shall be glad to hear from you soon & as much news as you can possibly sed. Tell me all about the college & the town people, &c. &c. Believe me to be your friend, — J. Wiley Gulick
To; John T. Coit
1 Lawsuit testimony taken long after the incident revealed that the Richland “left Cheraw for Charleston, taking in Cotton at the landings along the river. On Sunday morning, January 12, 1849, the steamer stopped about two hours at Woodberry’s landing to take in wood. Seven or eight miles below that place, at or near a bend in the river, while the boat was underway, the boiler burst. All the officers, and five or six deck hands, were killed or disabled. Some of the passengers were killed or blown overboard…The anchor was dropped by some person unknown, and the steamer lay about thirty yards from the shore. The boat took fire, which spread so rapidly as to prevent the rescue of several passengers who were not injured by the explosion. All the cotton [1,000 bales] aboard was burnt or destroyed. All the witnesses concurred that, after the explosion, by no efforts of the surviving crew could the cotton have been saved.”
2 Wiley is referring to Polk’s 4th Annual Message to Congress (equivalent to today’s State of the Union Address) which was published in the newspaper in early December 1848. In his message, Polk wrote: “In reviewing the great events of the past year and contrasting the agitated and disturbed state of other countries with our own tranquil and happy condition, we may congratulate ourselves that we are the most favored people on the face of the earth. While the people of other countries are struggling to establish free institutions, under which man may govern himself, we are in the actual enjoyment of them–a rich inheritance from our fathers. While enlightened nations of Europe are convulsed and distracted by civil war or intestine strife, we settle all our political controversies by the peaceful exercise of the rights of freemen at the ballot box.”
These letters were written by William Christopher Skillman (1841-1868) who enlisted in July 1861 as a private in the 1st Kentucky (Confederate) Cavalry and was eventually promoted to Captain and A. C. S. [Assistant Commissary Stores] for the regiment. In October 1862 the depleted regiment was reformed as battalion and consolidated with the newly organized 3rd Kentucky Cavalry of Col. J. Russell Butler. In this composition it continued to serve in the Army of Tennessee for the duration of the war; usually as part of the Kentucky Cavalry Brigade in Gen. Wheeler’s Corps. It surrendered with the army near Bennett Place in North Carolina on April 26, 1865.
William was the eldest son of Josias Payne Skillman (1807-1871) and Lavenia Thomas (1824-1886) of Fleming county, Kentucky.
Camp Yankeetown May 3, 1863
As it has been raining all day most and I couldn’t get out, I thought I would drop you a few lines to let you know how I am getting along. We have been at this camp one week today. I think we will leave this place in a few days. I wish General [Colonel] Hardin would send me to Chattanooga with my part of the train. I have command of the wagon of the Brigade and about 500 men. I am getting very tired of it. We have to find everything we get to eat and all of our corn we use. The country has been foraged very close. The people are bound to suffer. We have a skirmish every day.
Tell cousin Jimmy I saw Mr. Cotton a few days ago. He is well. I expect you both would like very much to see him. Give my love to Miss Lucy Henderson. Ask her if she ever found my glove.
Cousin Annie, this is the 4th letter now and no answer yet. Give my love to your Ma and Pa. Tell your Pa to write to me how that [he] is getting [along.] My horse is sick. I think he will make a dye of it.
Well, I have no more news so I will close. Write as soon as you get this. Send your letters to McMinnville. Tell your Pa to address his there.
Well I just found out it is Sunday. I wish I was at your house to take dinner. I will have to do without eating today. Somebody stole all of my meal and meat last night. As for flour, that is something we don’t get. I wish you would send me a biscuit in your next letter. Well, I will stop my nonsense. I think I will come to Chattanooga in a week or two if I can get off. I must come to a close. No more at present, but hoping to see you soon. Don’t let anybody see my letters if you please.
I remain your most obedient, —W. C. Skillman, Captain A. C. S.
Sporty [Sparta], Tennessee May 20th 1863
As I got tired of waiting for a letter from you, I thought I would drop you a few lines to let you know how I am getting along. It is hard enough now for I have been sick for three or four weeks. I have been ordered to Chattanooga to the hospital. I don’t think I will [go] to the hospital. I will come to your house [instead] if they will let me go. I have been on duty every day since I have been sick. The bushwhackers is so thick on the mountain, I am afraid to try to cross it. They was 6 of our men killed on the mountain yesterday, 7 wounded, 6 horses killed. We got 10 of them and lost them before we got to camp.
This is a hard country to live in. I was [with]in two miles of Carthage on the Cumberland River a few days ago after bacon. I saw the Yanks & they got one of my wagons and 2,000 bacon. I got away with the rest of them. Lost one man.
I wish I could see you all once more. It would afford me a great deal of pleasure. James Landis has gone to Van Dorn’s Army under General Forrest. He had his horse stolen from him. I sleep right by the side of my horse all the time. They sold 28 horses one night from our regiment.
My love to you, Ma and Pa and cousin Jimmy and to cousin Cory when you write. This is the 5th Letter I have wrote and no answer. Well, I must close. Write soon as you get to McMinnville. Give my love to Jeff. No more at present but hoping to see you soon, I don’t think it will be long.
I remain your most obedient, — Capt. W. C. Skillman, AACS, 1st Ky. Cav.
This letter was written by Elmore Yocum Warner (1833-1886), the Chaplain of the 3rd Ohio Volunteer Cavalry (OVC). Elmore accepted his commission on 11 December 1861 and remained with the regiment until 1 August 1862 when he resigned and returned to his home in North Fairfield, Huron county, Ohio. [Note: the regimental roster erroneously recorded his name as “Edward” rather than “Elmore.”]
Warner’s letter is obviously just a draft of a letter that he addressed to the “Register.” This was undoubtedly the Sandusky Daily Commercial Register which had previously published a couple of his other letters, one in January 1862 calling upon citizens to donate books for a traveling library in the regiment, and another one written from Jeffersonville, Indiana, in March 1862 as the regiment readied itself for a march into “Secech Land,” saying, “We are near enough to know something of the beating of the Secesh pulse, which we believe grows fainter every day, and will soon cease to beat forever—leaving the ghostly carcass of Secession prostrate—a stench, and yet a valuable lesson to the world.“
If Warner ever sent a final copy of this draft to the newspaper editor, I could not find it among the on-line issues of the paper. Perhaps he thought best not to send it, or maybe the editor decided the chaplain’s sentiments didn’t not seem very charitable—especially since Warner apparently was the recipient of charity from a secesh family when he fell ill in March 1862.
An obituary for Warner published in the Wayne County Democrat on 14 July 1886 said of him:
“This well-known minister of the North Ohio Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and son of the late Rev. Jesse Warner, was born in Wayne County, July 3, 1833, and died in Norwalk, Oh., July 6, 1886, aged 53 years. Mr. Warner, after a faithful use of the educational advantages furnished by the common schools, entered the Ohio Wesleyan University and while he did not complete the course, he did lay the foundation of a respectable scholarship, which enabled him to pursue so intelligently his future studies in connection with his ministry that, subsequently, the Faculty and Trustee of the University felt justified in conferring upon him the honorary degree of Master of Arts. He was married in 1857 to Maria Lee, of Huron county, who survives, with five children, one of whom is also a minister, and represents the third generation of the same line in succession in the same Conference. During the Civil War, Warner served as chaplain of the 3rd Ohio Cavalry and was on the field of Shiloh; but the exposure in the service being too severe for a constitution not naturally robust, he secured his discharge, but had already laid the foundation of the disease to which, after heroic struggle for years, he had, at last, to yield….”
At least one other letter of Warner’s is known to exist which is housed in the collections at Western Michigan University Archives. The letter was written on 24 March 1862 (two weeks before the Battle of Shiloh) and is summarized as follows by the curator:
It is filled with general news. He talks about that the regiment may be on the way further south. Warner had been sick but felt better. He had stopped at the house of a widow and five daughters who helped him even though all their friends had been in the Confederacy. He reported that the ladies, “…don’t know anything about cooking.” He stated that he had not heard from her in almost four weeks and “…give me at least the scratch of your pen…” The small addition dated March 27 states that Warner is homesick and wants to go home to see his wife.
Headquarters 3rd Ohio Cavalry Woodville, Alabama July 18, 1862
We are now with two battalions of one regiment about twenty miles northeast from Huntsville near Woodville Station on the Memphis & Charleston Railroad. We came here for the purpose of ferreting out some guerrilla and bushwhacking bands who infest the mountains in this vicinity. Lieut. Col. [Douglas A.] Murray is in command, Col. [Lewis] Zahm having gone home on leave. The first battalion under command of Major Foster is with the division near Winchester.
Much hard scouting has been done by the men over a rough mountainous country, scarcely passable for cavalry. A great many prisoners have been taken, some of whom confess to belonging to the bushwhackers. There are several companies of these desperadoes as near as we can discern who are ranging through these mountains shooting down straggling soldiers and Union men adn watching every opportunity of pouncing upon trains and small parties of troops. A man by the name of Harris was captured the other day who confessed to having been one of the party who captured four sutler teams a few days since with all the goods and to have participated in eating & drinking some of these stores. One of the teams belonged to Mr. Drennan, sutler of the 64th Ohio Volunteers. A force is going out today who think they have track of the wagons and teams.
Two or three nights ago our pickets were attacked by a small force but were almost immediately repulsed by the watchful sentinels. The alarm was instantly given in camp and although the men were mostly asleep, it was but the work of a minute for them to get out in line ready to receive the enemy. The general desire was to see them come and I think from the position we hold that our men would have cordially received a force even greatly superior to our own but they chose not to come.
I do not think that there is any considerable force anywhere in this region of country but the guerrilla warfare has fairly opened and the manner in which it is carried on is disgraceful to any civilized nation and the villainy and deception practiced [by] them is without a parallel. Nearly all claim to be Union men in our presence, but when inquired of among the bushwhackers, they know nothing and never ever heard of such things. When we go to find those who do engage in this work, we find them quietly working in their fields apparently as innocent as the unborn but no sooner do we leave them than they join the gang again. They can lie and put on the most perfect air of innocence of any persons I ever saw. I don’t believe the devil in hell can begin to match them.
Quite a number of persons have been shot recently in this neighborhood by these pretended Union men. While we were encamped at Decatur, two men from Co. A were bringing in three prisoners when they were fired upon from the bushes, killing one of them—Jacob Bauman. The other made his escape into camp. One of the prisoners was said to be killed [and] the other two escaped. Such are almost daily occurrences.
Now the question arises then, [how] ought we to deal with such villains and murderers? I need not answer this question. All true loyal hearts will unite in saying deal severely with them—punish them as their crimes deserve. Let me propound a few other questions which your readers may have to think of. Is it right while passing through a country like this to afford every protection to the property of those who have brought upon us this cruel war—who have done and are doing all in their power to sustain and carry it on to the bitter end?
Is it right after our soldiers have been on a hard march in the heat and dust to compel them to stand guard over the premises of those who would take their life if they dared and if perchance that soldier who thus gives protection, when hungry, should take a few onions, apples, or a chicken, even if he should be arrested and punished in a brutal savage manner?
More, is it right to place our brave soldiers upon half rations and give or sell the other half to secessionists? Yet all these things are done. Knowing this, what should be the voice of the people? What should they demand? I leave them to answer and to say whether it is for this purpose they have given up their loved ones.
We had hoped that ere this, this dreadful war would have been brought to a close but still it lingers and will until rebels and secessionists are treated as they deserve. May that change in the conduct of this war for which we have so long looked soon come, that we may again hope for an end of these things.