This letter was written by Pvt. John H. Chadwick (1844-1864) of Co. F, 12th Connecticut Infantry. John enlisted on 17 October 1861 and was mustered into the service on 19 November 1861. He was with his regiment until his death on 19 October 1864—killed in action at the Battle of Cedar Creek.
In the 1850 US Census, 5 year-old John was enumerated in his parents home in Seymour, New Haven, Connecticut. His parents were Frederick and Martha E. (Rhodes) Chadwick. In the 1860 US Census, John—now an orphan—was enumerated in the household of Mathew (“Matti”) G. Murdock, a carpenter in Westbrook, Middlesex county, Connecticut. It was Mr. Murdock to whom this letter was most likely addressed.
In his letter, John mentions his older brother Thomas Chadwick (b. 1840) who was working as a blacksmith in Seymour, Connecticut, when he enlisted in the same company as John. Tom survived the war. He also mentions Sergeant Edwin W. Bushnell served in Co. F and was also from the same town of Westbrook, Connecticut.
Camp Kearney October 10th 
I take this opportunity of writing a few words to you and let you know how things are. I am about the same. I have a shake every other day. 1 I haven’t done much duty for the last two months. Brother Tom is in the hospital but is not very sick. Our regiment [12th Connecticut] has ben moved from Camp Parapet to within three miles of New Orleans. We are in a new Brigade under Gen. [Godfrey] Weitzel. we are expecting to leave every day. we don’t know where. Some say up the river—some say to Mobile, but I guess they don’t know.
Ed Bushnell has been promoted from 5th Sergeant to 1st Sergeant. He is now next to a Lieutenant. The rest of the boys are pretty well. I sent you a letter and three papers about the 8th of September. I haven’t heard from you since then so I don’t know whether you have got them or not.
Give my best respects to Mrs. Murdock and yourself. From John Chadwick
1 Symptoms of malaria resemble those of flu and can typically last 6–10hours and recur every second day. However, some strains of the parasite can have a longer cycle or cause mixed symptoms.
This letter was penned by Sarah Elizabeth (Atwater) Royce (1807-1887), the wife of shoemaker Enos Royce (1803-1874) of Bristol, Hartford county, Connecticut. She wrote the letter to her son Lucien Merriam Royce (1838-1907).
In her letter, Sarah despairs that her son Hubert Dana Royce (1842-1914) has stated his intention of enlisting in the army despite her repeated attempts to talk him out of it, feeling that war is against the teachings of her religion. She even goes so far as to warn him that if he carries through with his determination to enlist, it will most certainly send her to a lunatic asylum or the grave. Sarah mentions a neighbor family named Yale who had a son named Frank already in the service. This would have been Orlando Franklin (“Frank”) Yale who enlisted in the 9th Connecticut Infantry. Frank’s father William Yale was a machinist and his older brother Henry was a carpenter. The Yale family lived immediately next door to the Royce family.
Sarah’s letter was datelined on 1 December 1861 from “Brookside” which I suspect is the name given the family homestead rather than a city or town. According to state military records, Hubert did indeed enlist, as he threatened, on 3 December 1861 in the 12th Connecticut Infantry. Fortunately he survived the war (as did his mother), mustering out of the service on a disability on 24 August 1863. Hubert’s older brother Lucien also enlisted, joining the 25th Connecticut Infantry in August 1862.
It should be noted when Hubert enlisted, he did so under the alias name of Hubert D. Rice, not Royce.
[This letter is from the private collection of Richard Weiner and is published on Spared & Shared by express consent.]
Brookside December 1st 1861
As Hubert proposes to visit you tomorrow, I devote a few moments to writing to you. Your Uncle and Aunt left us yesterday afternoon and we already begin to feel the loneliness which must shortly be more complete if Hubert carries into effect his determination. Ella 1 weeps incessantly and will not eat and we are a sad house. My own feelings I will not attempt to describe further than to say that as memory goes back over the darker passages of a life where such passages have not been “few or far between,” I find nothing to compare with the present.
Your Father saw Henry Yale [Gale?] yesterday. He is better but unable to work. He told your Father that Frank said he had no idea of the hardships of the “Service” that no one could from any adequate idea of them till experienced and that although long enlisted, he meant to carry it through, yet if he were well out, he would not do it again. He is so stout and strong and hardly yet feels the galling of the chain of the war demon, and longs un vain for freedom. And how shall your young brother endure? “Oh that my head were waters and mine eyes a fountain of tears that I might weep day and night” for the miseries of my countrymen, “for the slain of the daughter of my people,” for the young lives that are daily offered upon the altar of this Moloch.
If I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved, but Oh! in such a way. Can I bear it? I think not. I tell Hubert if he persists in going, he may expect to hear from me either as occupying a Lunatic Asylum or the grave. And your sisters; it will fall with terrible force upon them. John, I learn from William’s letter is not well nor will she if she hears that two of her brothers instead of one has gone. True, we have yourself left, but
“A doting parent lives in many lives Though many a nerve she feels From child to child the quick affections spread, Forever wondering yet forever fixed, Nor does division weaken, nor the force Of constant operation e’er exhaust Parental love. All other passions change With changing circumstances: rise or fall, Dependant on their object; claim returns; Live on reciprocation and expire Unfed by hope. A Mother’s fondness reigns What a rival and without an end.” [Lines from the Drama of Moses in the Bullrushes]
But I will yet hope as long as I may. I will not believe that this terrible affliction will be permitted to overtake us and yet, “what am I or what is my house” that I should escape. Could I take the popular view of this subject, I might endure, but the nearer it comes to me personally, the more false appears this view. Rest assured “the things which are highly esteemed among men are abomination in the sight of God.” He the fountain of goodness and of blessing wills the happiness of his creatures commanding, entreating, exhorting us in His holy word to love one another and live in peace and by the thousand voices of Nature, beseeches us saying, “Oh, do not this abominable thing which I hate.” Yes men presumes to set aside this divine, this heavenly and beautiful teaching and with savage ferocity hastens to imbue his hands in his brother’s blood. Was not a mark set upon Cain, the first murderer? And now were a black mark set upon each individual who carries murder in his heart, what a spectacle would this “free and enlightened nation” present.
I judge not those who deem it their duty thus to mix slaughter and bloodshed with the religion of Him who came with song of angels. “Peace on earth, good will to men,” but I cannot reconcile Him.
Yours truly, — Mother
1 I assumed Ella was short for Ellen when I initially searched for this family but it turns out her name was Elmira Elizabeth Royce (1844-1927) and they called her “Ella” for short.