This letter was written by James Chesman (“Chester”) Littlefield (1845-1926), the son of Samuel Littlefield (1817-1901) and Louisa Watson (1806-1856) of Cambridge, Somerset county, Maine.
Chester enlisted at the age of 18 as a private in December 1861 in the 3rd Maine Light Artillery. On March 1863 he was transferred into Co. M, 1st Maine Heavy Artillery where he was serving at the time of his reenlistment as a veteran in January 1864. In February 1864 he was transferred back to the 3rd Maine Light Artillery where he served until his discharge on 1 September 1865.
We learn from Chester’s letter that he was assigned the duty of being one of four mule drivers in his battery. Typically each battery had 4 guns, each pulled by six horses or mules harnessed in tandem, the driver riding one of the mules nearest the limber and steering the animals with reigns and a whip. Horses, being less skittish and more manageable, were strongly preferred over mules but by this point in the war were more difficult to come by.
When the 3rd Maine Light Artillery was reorganized and sent to the field in the spring of 1864, they were attached to the 9th Army Corps and placed in line on the Petersburg battle front. They were one of the batteries heavily engaged in the Battle of the Crater in July. They were relocated to the defenses at City Point, Virginia, in late October and remained there until early May 1865 when they relocated to Washington D. C.
Chester wrote this letter to his cousin, Jennie S. Russell. He did not marry her after the war but possibly married another maternal cousin named Ada L. Watson (1855-1880) in August 1870.
Camp 3rd Maine Battery
In the Defenses of City Point, [Virginia]
February 28, 1865
My dear cousin,
I am glad to have the opportunity of writing to you in answer to your kind letter of the 19th. I was glad to hear that you was well when it left you as it found me. The weather is fine here now. It begins to look like spring here now. The birds begin to sing and the sun gets nearer to us so we feel it more sensibly. I wish you might run over here and see me one of these fine days. It would be such a treat for you to be rid of the snow and to think of seeing the birds hopping about in the branches in February. Wouldn’t it be a treat for you, Jeannie? and what a treat for me to have you by my side once in awhile when the weather is fine.
Oh Jennie, how anxiously I am looking forward to the time when I shall meet you again. My darling little cousin, how glad I was to get your letter. Your pigs made a safe trip. It is a great satisfaction to find that they have no disposition to squeal. You did not seem to know much about your neighbors. Well, the best way some times [is] to know as little as possible at times. I guess you are more generous in your comment on your friend Miss Mower that you are on the Merchant. I only guess at this.
The war news are first rate. Things look as though we might come home next winter. I hope it will not be more than a year at the most before the Johnnies will cry enough. This is what we are waiting for now. The sooner it comes, the better it will suit the most of us.
I must look at your letter now and see if you asked me any questions. Sad indeed is it to hear that Mrs. Morse is taken from those she loved and by whom she was loved but we’ll bless the glorious giver who doeth all things well. We must all go down into the valley and shadow of death.
We are engaged the most of the time in getting wood and hauling forage for the Battery—we mule drives, I mean. There is four of us each driving six mules. This would be fun for you to see me driving six mules with one rein but it is quite easy when one gets used to it.
I have been thinking about getting a furlough home but I am not decided what I had better do, I want you to excuse this short letter. I have hard work to get my thoughts upon paper but I would talk you most to death if I was with you. I have not heard from Miss M. Lolly.
With much love and good wishes, I remain your true and loving cousin, — Chesman
Shortness of time
How swiftly times passes away. It seems but a day since it was winter. But spring and summer will have passed. Then comes winter again with its drifting snows covering the fields and trees with its white robes. Then another year will have rolled away. When I think of this, I ask myself the question, have I improved well my time for the last year? Have I tried to gain any good….[self introspective musings in pencil for a half page]