Category Archives: 6th Massachusetts Infantry

1862-63: Charles Abial Wright to his Family

These letters were written by Charles A. Wright (1843-1899), a 19 year-old cooper from Townsend, Massachusetts, who enlisted on August 25, 1862 in Co. B of the 6th Massachusetts Infantry during their second term of service—a nine-month’s stretch when they were attached to the VII Corps and saw duty in and around Suffolk, Virginia. After he was discharged from the 6th Mass, he enlisted into Co. D, 2nd Massachusetts Heavy Artillery. He was discharged for disability at New Berne in July 1865.

Charles was the son of William Henry Wright (1804-1887) and Mary Baldwin (1807-1873) of Townsend, Middlesex county, Massachusetts.

Five soldiers, four unidentified, in Union uniforms of the 6th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Militia outfitted with Enfield muskets in front of encampment. Photo shows soldiers wearing frock coats and standing at ease with their Enfield Rifles. An encampment is visible in the background. Photo shows one identified soldier, Albert L. Burgess, on far right. Taken during their second term of service probably in Suffolk, Virginia. Published by North South Trader, May-June 1983, p. 23.

[Note: These letters are from the personal collection of Jim Doncaster and are published on Spared & Shared by express consent.]

Letter 1

Suffolk, VA
Sunday morning, October 5, 1862

I am pretty well today. We have had a fight it out here yesterday. We whipped them up pretty well. We killed about thirty of them.  We lost only four men in all. The Rebels had to skedaddle and burn the bridge so we could not get across.

I wish you would send Jennie out here in a letter. I would kiss her and send her back home safe. Henry, I suppose you feel pretty big of your horse. I hope you do. If I live to get home I shall buy me a wife and live happy. I tell you, I shall. I am a different man now to what I was at home.

I want you to tell Augusta to send her picture to me. I should like to have her send it as soon as she can. I did not think of it when I wrote to her. I want you [to] tell John Going to write to me, and I will write to him. I go to church every Sunday. I hope you all go to church every Sunday. You tell William to write to me….also Martha and do tell her to write to me and send Hattie out here in a letter and I will kiss her and send her back safe at home. I should like to see the little ones. I hope I shall live to see them once more and see you all. 

I hope you will write as often as you can. So goodbye. From your brother, — Charles A Wright

Letter 2

Suffolk, Virginia
December 19th [1862]

Dear Sister,

I received your letter this evening and I was very glad to hear that you was well and all the folks. I am well tonight. I wrote a letter today. I am growing fat as a pig. I got my box safe and them pies was good and the rest was good too. I hope mother will send my pants and hat for I should like them. We have not [moved] out of this place yet nor I don’t think we shall this winter. I hope not for we have a good time out here. But I can’t help but think about Little Edgar. 1 It is in my mind all the time. You can’t tell how [bad] I felt when I heard Little Edgar died. I felt just as I wanted to go with him. I did not want to live any longer for I felt so bad. We have lost about eight men out of our regiment.

This is all I can write this time. So goodbye. From your brother, — Charles A. Wright

1 Little Edgar was Charles’ nephew, Edgar Heselton (1859-1862). Edgar’s parents were Franklin Loring Heselton (1836-1917) and Mary Roanna Wright (1834-1864).

Letter 3

Suffolk, Virginia

Dear Mother,

I thought I would write a few lines to you as long as I had a chance to send it and I am a going to send my letter home by Fred Mansfield. He is going home. I want you to take my letters and lock them up where they won’t anyone get hold of them for there is some letters that I don’t want any[one] to see them for I think a great deal of them for they are private letters. I have had the blues about my money so I don’t know what to do with myself but I hope it will come round right when I get home. I think it will. Don’t you say anything to Father about it so he won’t know what I am a going to do. I will fix it some way. I don’t enjoy myself now to what I did before. He took my money and spent it. I am homesick now since you wrote to me about my money.

I guess I won’t write anymore tonight. This is from your son, — Charles A. Wright.

Give my love to all the girls, will you? I hope you will. So goodbye for this time. Goodnight, Mother.

Letter 4

Suffolk, Virginia
January 29, [1863]

Dear Mother,

I thought I would write you a few lines today to let you know how I was. I am well and fat. I got paid off last night but they did not pay us only for two months and so I can’t send any this time but I will next time we get off and that will not be only about three weeks from last night. The reason why I did not send some this time was because I want it to live on out here. I will send you all of the rest next time. I shall make this last me the rest of the time out.

Well, I am bound to live if I don’t lay up a cent. I don’t suppose you can blame me any for salt horse is hard stuff to eat. You ask Walter Wright what it is to live on salt horse. I guess he can tell you what it is.

We are on our last half and they don’t treat us so well as they did on the first half. You don’t catch me to enlist again, I tell you they don’t.

Well I can’t stop to write anymore. So goodbye. From your son, — Charles A. Wright

Letter 5

Suffolk, Virginia
April 21, [1863]

Dear Mother,

I thought I would take my pen in hand to inform you that I am well and that I had received your letter. I am glad that you are all well. I feel better when you are all well at home. I was sorry to hear that Frank was sick. 1 I shall go and see him when I get home. I hope he will get well. What does Frank say about the war? You must give my love to him. And Frank must write to them tomorrow if I can get a chance. I have not heard from them, only when you write. They have wrote to me once since I have been out here. And I wrote to them but didn’t know whether they ever got my letters. But I am a going to write and find out if they got my letters. I think Frank had better get his discharge and come home for I don’t think he will get well, do you? I wish I was in that regiment as a nurse and that I could take care of him when he is sick. I think if he don’t get his discharge before my time is out, I shall enlist in that regiment. I shall come home first and see you all and then I shall go out and see the boys and I shall stay with them. And then I shall feel better. I don’t feel right when they are sick. I keep thinking about them every day and night. I am a going to ask Doctor [Walter] Burnham to give me a certificate of my examination and papers to show what I have done for the sick soldiers here. I have done a great deal for the sick boys and they like me first rate.

Well, Mother, I think the climate suits me better out here than it does at home. I’ve never been so fat in my life as I am now. I don’t think you would know me now hardly if you should see me for I am so fat. I don’t suppose you would think that I could get so much fat onto my little frame but I have and I can hold up a great deal more if I had it on me. I weight one hundred and twenty-five pounds. That is pretty good for me, I think. Don’t you? I suppose Father will buy that horse for me. I hope he will for I want it when I get home. And if I go out to see the boys, he can sell it if he wants. I don’t find nothing else to write. The sick boys are getting along first rate now.

This is all I can write this time. Give my love to all the folks. From your son, — Charles A. Wright

1 I presume Charles is referring to his older brother Franklin S. Wright (1841-1863). Frank was serving in the 33rd Massachusetts Infantry. He was killed at the Battle of Brown’s Ferry Farm on 29 October 1863.

1861: Mary E. King to Mary Denham

How Mary might have looked

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.

Rowdy Baltimoreans attack the 6th Massachusetts Troops as they attempt to pass through the city on 19 April 1861


Addressed to Miss Mary Denham, Philadelphia, Penna.

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.