These two letters were written by Joseph Springer Hersey (1829-1911) who enlisted on 26 February 1864 to serve in Co. C, 1st Maryland Infantry Regiment, Potomac Home Brigade. This unit was transferred into Co. C, 13th Maryland Infantry after the cessation of hostilities.
Joseph was the son of Solomon Hersey (1790-1834) and Hannah Ball Springer (1799-1884). He was married to Susan (“Susie”) L. Reynolds (1841-1900) and together they had two child named Sophia Isabella Hersey (1864-1894) and John Foster Hersey (1863-1953) during the war, and four more afterwards.
I find it curious that the second letter, opened on 15 April 1865, the day after Lincoln was shot, and closed three days later, makes no mention of the President’s assassination. It rarely passes without notice in the letters written by soldiers and citizens alike if they had heard of it. I can only assume that Joseph had not received word of it which is odd given that their location was not isolated.
April 4th 1865
Having a little leisure time this evening I will try for the second time this week to indite you a few lines as I am aware they will be welcome to you. I am well with he exception of a very bad cold.
You will perceive by the heading of my letter that we are still at this place yet and I hope we may get leave to stay here the balance of the war. Our duty is pretty heavy but I would sooner stay and do it than to go into hard fighting all summer. Some of our green recruits are very desirous of getting into battle but we have been out long enough to know what powder smells like and to experience the danger of ball and shell, but some if the boys that came here heard the shriek of a shell or the whiz of a minié ball, if such were drawn up in line of battle now before the rebs, they would tremble like an aspen leaf. But if it is my lot to be taken into the field of blood and carnage, of course I am willing and ready to do my duty. 1
Well, Susie, before this reaches you, I suppose you will hear of the glorious news of the fall of Richmond. Before I close, perhaps I can be able to give you a little more information in regard to it after the mail comes in. I received a letter from [your brother] Milton [Reynolds] 2 last evening. He says he is perfectly willing to stay where he is if they will only let him. He said he was like some of our boys after he went out—anxious to go [to the] front, and in the fight. But after he was in, that was plenty for him for it was not a very comfortable place to be.
John Loyd was asking me if Mrs. Barnes was staying at home now for he said she was there when he was there. I told him I thought he was mistaken. He said not for she had a baby in her arms. I thought since perhaps it might of been one of the girls with little Sophia Isabel in their arms.
Well, Sue, Richmond and Petersburg are both ours. Gen. Lee has left with his whole army—or what he could get away with him. But our forces captured about forty thousand prisoners from them. I am not able at present to give you a definite detail of the affair but it was a grand success to our arms and I think a death blow to Rebellion. Oh, how many a happy heart has this news made. I think before long we will hear of more cheering news. Perhaps there may be a heavy battle, and perhaps a bloody one before the final day of peace is declared. I still have hopes of getting home this fall to share the comfort of home and the blessings of a sweet little family.
I must now stop writing for it is pretty near dark. Tell Grandmother I have not forgotten her. I was going to answer her letter today but I thought I would write to you while I had time as the letters all go to one family. And when I speak of one, I mean all, for I hold you all near and dear to me. I feel as though the whole family were father, mother, brother and sisters toward me.
Well now, Susie, it is raining and I think I will be lucky enough to be in the dry tonight. Charles Gove is on picket tonight out of our tent. It goes very hard with him to do a little duty for he is too lazy to do anything if he could help it. Now, Susie, I want you to write often and I will write as often as opportunity affords. As ever your loving husband, — Joseph S. Hersey
Co. C, 1st Maryland Regt. P. H. B. [Potomac Home Brigade], Martinsburg, Va.
1 Joseph is probably referring to the Battle of Monocacy that took place on 9 July 1864 in which the Potomac Home Brigade Infantry took an active part.
2 Milton Brown Reynolds (1845-1910) served in Co. B, 187th Pennsylvania Infantry. He was a guard for Lincoln’s Funeral Train arrival in Philadelphia.
Camp at Noland’s Ferry
April 15, 1865
As I had nothing to do I thought I would commence a letter to you to let you know how we are getting along. We are all well at present and sincerely trust you are enjoying the same blessing. I wrote a letter to you the first of this week. I have been looking for one from some of you every day this week but have got none yet. I wrote Tommy Wiley a letter this week. Perhaps he will get it tomorrow.
We are here along the river guarding the ferry and bridge but are looking for marching orders every day. We live pretty well here now. Some of our boys went a fishing the other day and caught a mess of very nice fish which we cooked for supper. We went out and bought a pound of butter and took pretty near the half of it to cook the fish. Our Lieutenant has gone to Sandy Hook to get his commission and as soon as he comes back, we intend to apply for a furlough home. I would like to be at home with you all again and do hope the time will soon come when we will all meet again.
The camp will sing sometimes, “Who will Care for Mother Now?” which is enough to bring tears to any person’s eyes to think of it. This is the day the draft comes off. I would like to hear from old Fann how she comes “making up her quota.” If the draft comes off, I want you to let me know who is drafted.
I feel glad that you have found out where Sally is. If she is at home, I want you to give my love to her as I do respect and regard here as a sister. But as for her husband, I have no particular love for him as I am confident he is not the right kind of a man. I have found since I come down here that he is nothing but a common private, getting his 13 dollars per month. Those shoulder straps and stripes and sword harness were all to show off. He would have to throw them all away when he went back so you may know how the money went. I think Sally need not look for him or his money anymore after this (I am sorry to say it).
April 17th. I will begin again. Yesterday was wet and disagreeable with us and this morning is not much better. I got very cold in our tent this morning and there was a canal boat lying here so we went in and it was very comfortable in there. It is now hailing considerable—lumps down on us. Last night and night before last was very disagreeable to stand guard. Our turn comes tomorrow night. We have none out only at night. I cannot tell you when I will be at home. Perhaps before this reaches you and perhaps not for some time. We are going out fishing this evening to put in time. There are a great many fish here—very large ones too.
I was sitting on a plate of an old warehouse along side of the canal that the Rebs burned when Charles Grove made a jump to get on it and went into the canal out of sight. He come up and as luck would have it swam ashore. There is some talk of us going down to Sandy Hook but I think we will stay where we are awhile as it is a necessary point. Our Colonel was to [have] been here yesterday but on account of the weather, he did not get along. As soon as he comes, I think we will get home.
You said you received a letter from Solomon. I was glad to hear it. I want you to please answer it. I wrote to him when we were in Camp Lafayette but have received no answer. You said David Pyle had gone to the army. I was surprised to hear it as Huddy was so chicken-hearted, and as for little Abe, I was glad he did not come with us and we have a very good crowd. We [are] allow[ed] to go over into Virginia some of these times on a raid for eggs and chickens as it is just on the other side of the river. We cross in canoes.
It is cleared up now very pretty and I am glad to see it for if it rains an hour here, it makes the roads knee deep with mud. On the opposite side of the river a ridge of mountains with valleys through them but no farming done on account of the armies.
April 18th. Monday morning. The sun has come out very nice. We are all about to do our washing. We all took our clothing off and a grand hunt for greybacks [lice]. They all found plenty of them but John Howitt and me. We were clear of them. I must quit scribbling as I have no more room unless I put in another sheet. My love to you all and a kiss to Foster for me. Give my best respects to Mary A. Hersey for me. When I come home, I will bring you them tings you spoke of if we come through Baltimore, which I want to do on account of my certificate.
Susie, I must draw these few lines to a close in order to get it to the office in time for the train. You said mother and Mary talked of going over the river the last of next month. I would like to get hime before they went fr I want to see all my friends. I would like to fill this sheet but I have not time.
Yours with love and respect, — Joseph S. Hersey
To Susie L. Hersey
My love to all enquiring friends.
Directions: Point of Rocks, Md., 1st Maryland Regt. P. H. B., Co. C, in care of Capt. Faithful