These two letters were written by Josiah R. Kirkbride (1844-1932) who enlisted on 13 September 1862 as a private in Co. C, 23rd New Jersey Infantry. The 23rd New Jersey was a nine-month unit that participated in the Battle of Fredericksburg, the “Mud March,” the Battle of Salem Church in the Chancellorsville Campaign, and the first part of the Gettysburg Campaign. Josiah survived them all and mustered out with his regiment on 27 June 1863. The regiment went by the nickname “Yahoos” when an unpopular officer used it as as an insult because he considered them to be totally undisciplined. But the regiment wore the name as a badge of honor and even had it stitched into their battle flag.
Josiah was the son of William H. Kirkbride (1811-1881) and Elizabeth Boultonhouse (1809-1885) of Mount Holly, Burlington county, New Jersey. Josiah learned the house carpentry trade from his father. He was married on New Years Eve 1865, to Mary Ella Fogg in Camden, New Jersey, but began their life together in Bridgeton.
At the time the following letters were written the 23rd New Jersey was brigaded with the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 15th New Jersey under the command of Col. Alfred T. Torbert in Brooks’ 1st Division of Smith’s VI Corps.
Near Fredericksburg, [Virginia]
December 14, 1862
Dear ones at home,
I have half hour to write in. Yesterday we were in a very heavy battle for about two hours. I came out safe and sound. There is a few out of our company wounded. They are Capt. [Samuel] Carr in the foot, Alonzo [Moorehead] Bodine in the back, and one or two others. There is a very heavy battle here and we do not know when it will stop. We may soon be in it again but we are getting the best of them. We were in one of the heaviest [fights] ever was seen. The shells bursted all around us but I am safe.
Give my love to all. So goodbye for the present. Pray for me. From your loving son and brother, — J. R. K.
Camp near White Oak Chapel
December 26, 1862
I have just received a letter from you containing 3 papers which was written on the 21st. I was very glad to hear from you. Glad to hear that you were all well. I received that money which you sent me. It did me much good. We expect to be paid off every day.
You want to know about the weather. It is so warm that we sleep without our blankets but I think it is now blowing up a storm. The wind goes moaning through the pine tops. It is a solemn thing to hear. I am enjoying excellent health but I a sorry to state that I hear the dead march played almost daily. None out of our camp have died yet.
I had a letter from C[harles] Risley. He says he thinks he will never get back with us again. Fred Shinn has been to see me three times. He is as fat as a hog [and] looks first rate. He says he don’t like it much. I guess all of the soldiers are tired of war. As for me, I am.
One of our wounded men—Charles Broom—has returned to his company. He was struck by a piece of a shell on the foot. It did not even break the skin but his foot swelled up so he could not walk. He is well now. I have not heard from any of the rest.
What do you think I had for my Christmas dinner? Why I had some fried beef and 6 hard tack fried in the gravy. That was what my Christmas consisted of. Oh how I thought of the many happy Christmases I had sent at home. I longed to be there but I could not so I had to be contented.
I wrote a letter to Maggie this morning. I wrote one to you yesterday telling all about the battle. When you receive this, please send me a quire of paper and a package of envelopes for I have but two sheets and I cannot get any here. Send them as soon as you can. But I must prepare for dress parade so I will close with my love to all.
From your ever dutiful son, — J R. K.
The [New Jersey] Mirror dated the 18th has a true account of the battle. Yours in love, — J. K.