This letter was written by Melzar Wentworth Clark (1812-1895) of Hingham, Plymouth county, Massachusetts. Melzar was married to Sabina Hobart Lincoln (1820-1906) in 1837 and was working as a baker in Hingham when his oldest son Andrew Jackson Clark (1837-1927) enlisted to served in Co. H, 23rd Massachusetts in 1861.
I could not find any evidence that 50 year-old Melzar was serving in any official military capacity at the time he wrote this letter in September 1862. My assumption is that he was at the Hammond General Hospital as a civilian volunteer, or perhaps as a government paid work in the hospital bakery. In any event, we learn from this letter that he was at the hospital assisting the medical staff with the treatment of the wounded soldiers who were “from the late battlefields” near Washington D. C. These would have been, of course, the battles at Groveton, 2nd Bull Run, and/or Chantilly.
Ward B, Hammond General Hospital Point Lookout, Maryland September 14, 1862
It is now 3 oclock P.M. I have just shaved me & sat down for the first time since I got up. Four hundred wounded soldiers arrived here yesterday afternoon in the J. R. Spaulding from Washington. They are from the late battlefields in that vicinity. Quite a large number are Massachusetts men. Tell Lyman Whiten there is one man from Captain [Cephas C.] Bumpus’ Company named Hiram Nickerson 1 who lost his right middle finger by a minié ball here. He says he is the only one in the 32rd regiment harmed. There are some from the 18th Regiment, some from the 29th (Barnes’) and other regiments. They are wounded in all parts of their limbs, hips, and shoulders. It was a sad sight to see them come hobbling up from the boat—which lands close by here—with crutches, canes, &c. so exhausted as to sink down upon the floor as soon as they could get a chance.
We have had a hard time of it ever since they arrived getting their beds up and the linens ready for them and for themselves, to say nothing about providing it for all the other patients. This morning Dr. Stearns and Lombard, with me for an assistant, as soon as breakfast was over, went through with what there was in Ward B. It took them till noon removing the bandages, probing and otherwise examining their wounds and redressing them. They bore all with great fortitude. We suffer none from the heat although it is quite hot in the sun. I never saw so much difference anywhere at the North as there is here between being in the shade and in the sun. The suns rays penetrate just like the heat of an oven, while at the same time it is delightfully cool and balmy in the shade.
I found it so in Baltimore in a peculiar manner and, also, on my way down the Chesapeake on board the Major Belger. This is owing to the sea breeze that is constantly blowing from all quarters here. As the ward I am in is in upper story of what was a spacious hotel which embraces three large houses attached to one another, we feel the full force of it through the long corridors which extend north and south, east and west, between the rooms, with windows opening at the top and clear down to the floor.
As we look across the mouth of the Potomac, the sacred soil of Virginia is in full view 8 or 10 miles distant. We can see it some ways up the river, and down to the light at the mouth of the Rapahannock.
This is the third letter that I have written home. I have received nothing as yet but hope to before long. Mary Hobart said she would see that the Boston Journal was sent me. I have not got one yet. If you have found that large map Andrew had at Fortress Monroe that came out of that big book, I wish it put in an envelope newspaper fashion and forwarded to me by mail. His is Papa’s little humming bird and the baby? From your father, — M. W. Clark
1 The only Nickerson I can find in the 32nd Massachusetts Infantry was listed on the roster as William T. Nickerson (1838-1867) of Plymouth in Co. E.
The following diary was kept by Alexis Caswell Dean (1842-1923) of Co. C, 22nd Massachusetts. He was the son of Philip King Dean (1798-1882) and Nancy K. Thomas (1802-1857). In the 1855 Mass. Census, Alexis was enumerated as a 13 year-old in his father’s household in Raynham, Bristol county, Massachusetts. After the war, in 1866, Alexis would marry Martha (“Mattie”) Bowers Perry and settle down in Foxboro in Norfolk county where he worked as a shoe merchant.
Alexis enlisted on 2 September 1861 initially as a musician in the regiment but soon moved into the ranks where he was promoted to a corporal. He had great handwriting which afforded him the opportunity to fill in as a clerk to his Colonel and even to Gen. Fitz-John Porter during the Peninsula Campaign. He became ill following that campaign and was not with his regiment for many months. He was wounded on 23 May 1864 at North Anna River and mustered out of the regiment on 17 October 1864.
To read letters by other members of the 22nd Massachusetts Infantry that I have transcribed and published in Spared & Shared, see:
[Note: This diary is from the personal collection of Greg Herr and was transcribed and published in Spared & Shared by express consent.]
Diary for 1862
January 1st—Very pleasant. I am in Camp Wilson, Hall’s Hill, Virginia. January 2nd—Quite cold. Brigade drill in the afternoon. January 3rd—Received a letter from Sarah and heard from Charles. January 4th—Snowed a little in the night. Exchanged guns. January 5th—Pleasant Sunday. We had a meeting in the open air and two joined the Soldier’s Church by public profession and communion services at the close of the meeting. January 6th—Snowed a little at night. January 7th—Supernumerary for guard. George is under arrest. January 8th—A rainy night. I am on guard. George had a box from home. January 9th—Came off guard. George was sent to quarters. January 10th—On fatigue duty. January 11th—Very muddy. January 12th—Pleasant. Sign the pay roll. January 13th—George was court martial and acquitted. January 14th—Quite snowy. We’re paid off. January 15th—Quite stormy. January 16th—Pleasant. January 17th—Pleasant. January 18th—Stormy and muddy. January 19th—Very stormy and muddy. January 20th—Stormy and muddy. January 21st—Stormy & muddy. January 22nd—Stormy. On picket. January 23rd—Came off picket. Received orders to box up all the things we could not carry. January 24th—Battalion drill in the afternoon & morning. Rai at night. January 25th—Went on guard. January 26th—Came off guard. January 27th—Tent caught fire and burnt up. On fatigue duty today. January 28th—Stormy. Had my miniature taken. January 29th—Washed my clothes. January 30th—Very stormy. January 31st—Company drill in the morning.
February 1st—Quite stormy. February 2nd—Pleasant Sunday. February 3rd—Snowy. Company drill in the morning. February 4th—Pleasant. Company drill in the morning. February 5th—Pleasant. Brigade drill in the morning. February 6th—Very stormy in the morning. On guard. February 7th—Came off guard. Target shooting in the morning. February 8th—On fatigue duty. February 9th—Pleasant. Sunday meeting in the morning. Sabbath School in the afternoon. February 10th—Pleasant. Had my hair cut. February 11th—Worked on the road about sick at night. February 12th—On fatigue duty again. Almost sick. February 13th—Very pleasant day. Seems like spring. Saw robins & bluebirds. Went target shooting. Nearly sick. February 14th. On fatigue duty building roads. Almost sick. February 15th—Very snowy. Went to the Dr. in the morning. February 16th—Pleasant. Sick. February 17th—Very stormy. February 18th—Very muddy. On guard. I am sick. February 19th—Very stormy. February 20th—Pleasant. On fatigue duty. February 21st—Drilled in the morning. Rather cold. February 22nd—Washington’s Birthday. Salutes were fired by the batteries. February 23rd—Cloudy. February 24th—Tremendous windy in the afternoon. It blew nearly all our tents down. February 25th—Pleasant. Battalion drill in the afternoon. February 26th—Pleasant in the morning but rained at night. Battalion drill in the morning. Brigade in the afternoon. Orders to have two days rations cooked. February 27th—Pleasant. Orders to box up everything we could not carry on our backs. February 28th—Very cold and windy. We were mustered on guard.
March 1st—Pleasant. March 2nd—Snowy in the afternoon. March 3rd—Stormy. March 4th—Pleasant. Company drill in the morning. March 5th—Company drill in the morning & afternoon orders to come out to roll call with gun & equipments. March 6th—Washed my clothes. Brigade drill in the afternoon. March 7th—Pleasant. Company drill in the morning. Battalion drill in the afternoon. March 8th—Pleasant. Brigade drill in the morning. March 9th—Pleasant. March 10th—Left Hall’s Hill at 7 o’clock for Fairfax Court House. Arrived there at 4 o’clock p.m. Rained in the morning and at night. Slept on the ground in the open air at night. George remained in camp. March 11th—Pleasant. Company drill in the afternoon. March 12th—Pleasant. Battalion drill in the morning & brigade drill in the afternoon. Reviewed by Gen. McClellan at sunset. March 13th—Rained in the afternoon. Saw 4 rebel prisoners. Company drill in the afternoon. March 14th—Rained at night. Company drill in the morning & afternoon. Saw a lot of contrabands. Nothing but 3 hard bread for breakfast, 2 for dinner, & nothing for supper. March 15th—Left Fairfax at 6 in the morning for Alexandria. Rained very hard all day. March 16th—Pleasant. Inspection in the morning. Had rubber tents. March 17th—Company drill in the morning & afternoon. Inspection at night. Pleasant. Wm. Macomber & I went in to Fort Worth. March 18th—Pleasant. Company drill in the morning & afternoon. March 19th—Pleasant. Company drill in the morn & afternoon. Left Camp California for Alexandria City at 4 o’clock p.m. Quartered in a Methodist Church. March 20th—Rather stormy. Signed the allotment roll to have $11 of my pay sent to Sarah each month. On guard at night. March 21st—Cloudy all day. Left the city for the boat at 4 o’clock p.m. March 22nd—Pleasant. Left Alexandria at 10 o’clock a.m. on board the steamship Daniel Webster. Saw Mount Vernon as we sailed down the Potomac. March 23rd—Pleasant. Raised anchor at 5 in the morning. arrived in the harbor of Fortress Monroe at 5 p.m. Saw the Monitor & saw the rebel flag flying at Sewell’s Point. March 24th—Landed at 7 a.m. Left at 10 o’clock for Hampton. Arrived there at 2 p.m. and pitched our tents. Very pleasant. March 25th. Left at 10 o’clock and went about halfway between Hampton and New Market Bridge & camped. Pleasant. March 26th—Pleasant. Washed my clothes. At 10 o’clock the regiment went out reconnoitering and were ordered to load [our guns] for the first time. Went out about 8 miles, found the rebels picket, and then returned to camp. March 27th—15,000 men passed camp this morning. 11 o’clock, I am on the bank of a little river and it is the most pleasant morn I ever saw. Brigade drill in the afternoon. saw yesterday where two regiments of our army met in battle before the fight at Big Bethel. March 28th—Pleasant. Company drill in the morning. Battalion drill in the afternoon. March 29th—Company drill in the morning. Rainy in the afternoon. 9 o’clock at night it rains very hard and the water is quite deep in the tent. We are trying to drain the water off so we can sleep and not be in the water. March 30th—Cloudy and some rain. went out on picket at 8 o’clock. posted in a swamp. At 10 o’clock at night one of our pickets was shot and [William] Fletcher & I went down and took his place until morning. March 31st—Very pleasant. Came off picket. Missed the dress parade at night. Company drill in the afternoon.
April 1st—Pleasant. Battalion drill morning and afternoon. April 2nd—Cloudy all day. Battalion drill in the afternoon. Quite heavy thunder with rain at night. On guard at the cook house at night. April 3rd—Very pleasant. Brigade drill in the afternoon. Orders to have three days rations in our haversacks and two days uncooked in boxes. April 4th—Pleasant. Reveille at 4 o’clock. Left New Market at 6 a.m. and arrived at Big Bethel at 10:30 a.m. Rested one hour, then marched to within 6 miles of Yorktown and camped for the night (orderly for the Colonel). April 5th—Left for Yorktown at 6:30 a.m. Rained very hard until 10 a.m. At 11:30 a.m. halted in an open field, unslung knapsacks, had a few moment’s rest when our regiment and the 2nd Main [Infantry] were called for by Gen. [John H.] Martindale to go and support a battery. 2 p.m., the regiment supporting battery in woods. Sunset skirmishing. Company B has just advanced into the open field and had 9 men wounded. On picket at night. Slept but three hours during the night. The rebels burned a house nearby at night.
The regiment was engaged in its first combat on 5 April 1862. Warrick Road.
April 6th—Pleasant Sunday. On picket until 11 a.m. The rebels kept throwing shell over occasionally. The last one killed two horses and wounded one man. reported that a flag of truce had been sent in giving the rebels 24 hours to surrender. April 7th—Rained in the afternoon. saw a wounded rebel that had been brought in during the night. One of the men died that was shot Saturday [Ap. 5th] in Co. H. April 8th—Rained in the morning. Cloudy in the afternoon. saw a shell that the rebels threw over that did not burst. Also rebel gun with sword bayonet which a deserter had. On guard at the cook house at night. April 9th—Cloudy in the morning. Rainy in the afternoon. The rebels threw a few shell over in the morning. The regiment was called out at 11 o’clock at night but it was a false alarm. April 10th—Pleasant. Very cold at night. Left Camp Misery at 11:30 a.m. and went back one mile and camped. April 11th—Very pleasant. Went out on picket. The rebels shelled us and came out and tried to drive us in. Several of the rebels were killed & some of our men wounded. April 12th—Pleasant. Came off picket. April 13th—Pleasant Sunday. April 14th—Pleasant. Had my hair cut. Company drill in the morning. April 15th—Pleasant. On fatigue duty building bridges. Another party went out at night. April 16th—Pleasant and warm. Company drill in the morning. Washed my clothes. On guard at night. The rebels threw some shells over and the regiment was called out and kept in line until 11 o’clock p.m. Heavy cannonading all day and was kept up all night. Reported that we had taken two forts during the day. Many prisoners. April 17th—Pleasant. Firing heard occasionally during the day. Heavy firing of cannon and musketry at 1 o’clock at night. The regiment was called out but the firing soon ceased. April 18th—Pleasant. Company drill morning and afternoon. April 19th—Pleasant during the day but rained very hard at night. Almost sick with the dysentery. Company drill in the morning. On fatigue duty building roads in the afternoon. April 20th—Quite rainy. Sunday. On fatigue duty building fortifications in front of Fort Magruder. April 21st—Showery all day. Rained into our tent very hard at night. April 22nd—Pleasant in the morning. Showery in the afternoon. Company drill in the morning & afternoon. Sharp firing of artillery at 10 p.m. April 23rd—On fatigue duty building roads. Went on guard at night. Pleasant. April 24th—Pleasant. Came off guard. The regiment went out scouting. April 25th—Cloudy & some rain. Went out on picket at 5 o’clock in the morning. 6:30 o’clock p.m. am on post alone under a tree the side of a river and am thinking of home. April 26th—Very rainy all day. Came off picket. April 27th—Sunday. Cloudy all day. Sharp firing of cannon in the afternoon and in the night by the gunboats. April 28th—Pleasant. Went on fatigue duty at 5 a.m. The rebels shell us all day. One burst over my head. We were paid off at 10 o’clock p.m. April 29th—Pleasant. Company drill in the morning. washed my clothes in the afternoon. The rebels shelled our men who were on fatigue duty and pieces came into our camp. April 30th—Cloudy all day. Orderly for Major General [Fitz John] Porter. Firing of shell in the afternoon.
May 1st—Showery in the morning. Company drill in the afternoon. Sharp firing of cannon at night. May 2nd—Cloudy in the morning. Pleasant & warm in the afternoon. Went on fatigue duty at 5 a.m. We threw up breastworks in a large peach orchard and the rebels threw shell every few minutes in the morning and occasionally in the afternoon. They fell all around us but no one was hurt. May 3rd—Very pleasant. Company drill in the morning. At night the rebels commenced shelling us and kept it up until 2 o’clock in the morning. A piece went through the Adjutant’s tent. May 4th—We were called up at 3:30 o’clock in the morning to go on picket. When we got out there we soon found out the rebels had evacuated. We went to the fort and Col. Gove raised the Stars & Stripes. We had 4 wounded as we advanced to the fort and 4 killed and two wounded when we got into the fort by torpedo shell which were placed in the ground. We returned to camp at 3 o’clock p.m. Pleasant.
Colonel Gove was the first Union officer over the earthworks at Yorktown and the 22nd Massachusetts the first regiment to plant its colors.
May 5th—Very stormy all day. The Brigade was ordered out at dark. Went to Fort Magruder and stayed all night in the rain without blankets. Numerous reports during the day and night in regard to the army. May 6th—Pleasant. Came back to camp at 10 a.m. Packed knapsacks and left at noon for the Fort Magruder. Col.’s orderly at night. May 7th—Pleasant. The regiment was called out at 10 a.m. and stacked arms and waited until 10 p.m. and then went down to the wharf and laid in the road all night. May 8th—Pleasant. Went aboard the boat at 11 a.m. and arrived opposite West Point at 7 p.m. & landed at 8 p.m. I am sick. May 9th—Pleasant. Marched a little further and made a camp. Saw the wounded that were in the battle on this ground. May 10th—Pleasant and warm. Laid in the tent all day sick. Brigade drill in the afternoon. May 11th—Pleasant Sunday. Went in bathing. May 12th—Pleasant. May 13th—Very warm and pleasant. Reveille at 3 o’clock. Left West Point at 6 a.m. for Cumberland. arrived there at 7 p.m. One man died on the march. May 14th—Cloudy all day with some rain. Reviewed by the Secretary of State [Seward] and General McClellan. May 15th—Rained very hard all day. Packed up in the morning and moved two miles in the afternoon. May 16th—Cloudy in the morning. Col’s orderly. Marched at 10 a.m. for the White House. Arrived there at 2 p.m. May 17th—Very pleasant. Washed my clothes and went in bathing. Inspection in the morning & afternoon. May 18th—Pleasant. Inspection in the morning and afternoon. May 19th—Rained in the morning. Left White House Landing for Tunstall’s Station at 6:30 a.m. Arrived there at 4 p.m. and pitched our new tents. May 20th—Pleasant all day. A shower at night. May 21st—Pleasant. Marched at 6:30 a.m. and went 5 miles. May 22nd—Very hot. A shower in the afternoon. Marched at 6 a.m. and went to Kidd’s Mills, a distance of 9 miles. May 23rd—Pleasant & hot. Almost sick. May 24th—Rained all day, On provost guard at night. May 25th—Sunday. Very pleasant. May 26th—Pleasant. Marched at 6:30 in the morning and went to Gaines Hill—a distance of 4 miles from Kidd’s Mill. May 27th—Rained very hard until 11 o’clock a.m. Marched at 5 o’clock and went 18 miles to Hanover Court House. Had a battle. Whipped the rebels and drove them back to Richmond and took a great number prisoners. Saw our dead on the field for the first time. May 28th—Pleasant. Went into the woods in the morning and counted 15 dead rebels. Went out 5 miles reconnoitering at 10 a.m. and then returned. May 29th—Pleasant. Left Hanover Court House at 1 p.m. and went back to camp. May 30th—Pleasant in the morning. A thunder shower in the afternoon and very sharp lightning until midnight. Two men were struck. One was killed in the 44th New York. May 31st—Cloudy all day. Heavy firing heard during the day.
June 1st—Called up at 4 o’clock, 3 days rations given us. Struck tents, packed knapsacks, and went out about 1 mile and stopped until 2 p.m. and then returned to camp and put up tents again. Firing heard nearly all day. Very warm and pleasant. June 2nd—Very hot. Showers in the night. Henry Galigan died. June 3rd—Very hot and commenced raining at 5:30 p.m. Went out on picket on the banks of the Chickahominy [river]. June 5th—Cloudy all day. Dress parade. At night an order was read from General McClellan that if we were successful in the coming battle, the rebels would give up or words to that effect. June 6th—Cloudy with showers. We were up cooking until one o’clock at night. June 7th—Showers in the afternoon. The regiment went out on fatigue duty, Saw a man in Company D shoot his finger off. June 8th—Pleasant all day. Sunday. June 9th—Pleasant. Rained during the night. June 10th—Rained in the morning. Cloudy in the afternoon. June 11th—Pleasant. June 12th—Pleasant. Worked in the cook house until 2 o’clock at night. Left Gaines’ Mills at 8 o’clock and went down the Chickahominy 4 miles and went on fatigue duty. June 13th—Pleasant & hot. Left at 3 p.m. and went back to Gaines’ Mills. Worked in the cook house until 2:30 o’clock at night. June 14th—Pleasant and very warm. The regiment was ordered to be ready to march at 2 o’clock but the order was countermanded. Had a pair of pants. Wm. R. Macomber died. June 15th—Pleasant. Sunday. Up cooking at night. June 16th—Pleasant. The regiment out on picket. June 17th—Pleasant. June 18th—Pleasant. The regiment was called up at 11 p.m. and went out to Mechanicsville. June 19th—Went out with the teams at 9 a.m. & came back to camp at 2 p.m. Pleasant. June 20th—Pleasant. Left Gaines’ Mills at 7 o’clock and went two miles further towards Richmond. The rebs commenced shelling our teams at 9 o’clock and hit some of them and killed one man. June 21st—Pleasant. The company came off guard. I left the cook house. Had a blouse. June 22nd—Pleasant and warm. Sunday. Went to meeting in the morning to the 4th U. S. Infantry Protestant Episcopal Church. June 23rd—Heavy showers in the afternoon and at night. Company drill in the morning. June 24th—Cloudy nearly all day. Company drill in the morning. We were called up at 2:30 a.m. June 25th—Pleasant. Company drill in the morning. Charles Jones came back from Taunton. June 26th—Pleasant. Company drill in the morning. We were called up at 2:30 a.m. and went out to Mechanicsville at 12:30 p.m. The battle commenced at 4:30 p.m. We had two men killed and one wounded. Were posted near the battlefield at night on picket. Quite cold at night. June 27th—Pleasant. Started back towards camp at 4 a.m. and got our knapsacks and went to the Chickahominy and took our position in line of battle. The rebels came up at 2:30 p.m. and the battle commenced, we repulsed them 4 times and held our position until 5 p.m. when they were reinforced by Gen. “Stonewall” Jackson and broke our lines. We formed a new line and crossed the river during the night. Nearly half of the regiment were killed, wounded or taken prisoners. Col. [Gove] killed.
Battle of Gaines’ Mill—The regiment spent most of the battle in reserve. At the end of the day the Union line broke and the 22nd Massachusetts was outflanked and forced to fall back. It lost 71 men killed, 86 wounded and 177 captured out of the 750 engaged, its heaviest loss of the war. Colonel Gove and Captain John Dunning were killed and Major William S. Tilton was wounded in the shoulder and captured. Lieutenant Colonel Griswold was absent sick, so Captain Walter S. Sampson took command.
June 28th—Pleasant. arched at 1 p.m. and crossed Bottom Bridge and camped for the night. False alarm at night. rained at night. June 29th—Pleasant. Sunday. Marched about 3 miles and stayed in the woods during the day. Troops were passing all day. Moved one mile. At night there were two alarms. There was a skirmish here in the morning. June 30th—Pleasant & very warm. Started on our march at 4:30 a.m. and went nearly to James River. There was a battle in the afternoon. We were in line but were not engaged.
July 1st—Pleasant. Stayed in the battlefield in the morning at 11:30 p.m. We took our position in line of battle and at 2 p.m. the battle commenced with artillery. At 5 p.m. the infantry were engaged. At 5 p.m. the 22nd went in and gave the rebels 60 rounds. Lost during the fight about 50 killed and wounded. At 9 p.m. all firing ceased. At 10 p.m. started down the James River. Marched all night.
Battle of Malvern Hill—The regiment supported a battery of the 5th United States Artillery, losing 9 men killed, 41 wounded and 8 captured.
July 2nd—Rained very hard all day. Arrived at Harrison’s Landing at 11 a.m. A very stormy night. Scarcely any sleep. Laid in the mud with [no] blankets or tent. July 3rd—Cloudy. The rebels commenced shelling us at 9 a.m. The whole army were in lines of battle and we captured two of the rebel pieces of artillery and several prisoners. We moved into the woods and camped. Simmonds came back from Alexandria. July 4th—Pleasant. Expected to be reviewed by Gen. McClellan but were not but by Gen. Martindale. Very quiet in camp, A few salutes were fired. July 5th—Pleasant. All quiet. July 6th—Pleasant. Sunday. Company went on guard. July 7th—Pleasant. Very warm. Went in bathing at night. Had new blankets &c. July 8th—Pleasant. Went in bathing. July 9th—Pleasant. went in bathing. Company drill in the morning. July 10th—Showery in the afternoon. Company drill in the morning. Inspection at night. July 11th—Cloudy all day with some rain. Inspection at night. July 12th—Pleasant. Inspection in the morning & afternoon. July 13th—Pleasant. Sunday. All quiet. July 14th—Pleasant. Company drill in the morning. July 15th—Pleasant & hot. A very hard shower at night. Went down to the Landing in the morning. On guard. July 16th—Pleasant with a storm at night. We were mustered for pay. July 17th—Pleasant with a very hard shower at night. Company drill morning and afternoon. July 18th—Cloudy all day. Company drill in the morning. Almost sick. July 19th—Cloudy all day. Brought water at the cook house. July 20th—Pleasant. Sunday. July 21st—Pleasant. Had our tents. Company drill. July 22nd—Pleasant. Company drill in the morning. July 23rd—Cloudy in the afternoon. Moved and went down to the Landing. went on guard at night. July 24th—Pleasant. Came off guard. July 25th—Pleasant. reviewed by Generals McClellan & Porter at 9 o’clock a.m. Orderly for the Colonel at night. July 26th—Pleasant and warm. Orderly for the Colonel. Shower at night. July 27th—Pleasant. Sunday. Went in bathing in morning. July 28th—Pleasant. Company drill in morning. Inspection at night with knapsacks. Roll call with equipments & gun. Paid off. July 29th—Pleasant. Brought water at the cook house. Company drill in the morning. Went over to see James Wady. He is very sick. July 30th—Pleasant. Company drill in the morning. Went on guard at night. Wrote a letter for James Wady. July 31st—Cloudy with some rain. Sick at night. The rebels commenced shelling us from across the river at 12 o’clock at night.
August 1st—Pleasant. Went to the Dr. in the morning. Sick. Stayed in tent all day. August 2nd—Sick in tent all day. August 3rd—Rained in the morning. Sunday. Sick. August 4th—Pleasant, Went doen to Westover Landing on guard at night and came back as 12 o’clock. Paid off. August 5th—Pleasant & very hot. Orderly for the Colonel at night. August 6th—Pleasant. The prisoners came back from Richmond. Under marching orders. August 7th—Pleasant & very hot. August 8th—Pleasant. Orderly for the Colonel at night. My box came from home. August 9th—Very warm. August 10th—Showers at night. Sunday, Had orders to be ready to march at 12 o’clock. Sent our knapsacks off. August 11th—Pleasant. Went on guard at night. August 12th—Very hot. Showers towards night. Guard. Were relieved at Westover. August 13th—Pleasant. Went down bathing at night. August 14th—Pleasant. went on guard at night. Left Harrison’s Landing at 10 p.m. and marched all night. August 15th—Marched all days and crossed the Chickahominy at sunset and camped for the night. August 16th—Pleasant. Marched at 7 a.m. and went to Williamsburg and camped for the night. August 17th—Pleasant. Marched at 6 a.m. and went to Yorktown. Sunday. August 18th—Pleasant. Marched at 5 a.m. and went within one mile of Hampton Village. August 19th—Pleasant. Left Hampton at 7 a.m. and went to Newport News. August 20th—Pleasant. Went on board the boat at 6 a.m. Sailed down the river. Made a short stop at Fortress Monroe and then started up the Potomac. August 21st—Landed at Aquia Creek at 10 a.m. and took the cars and went to Fredericksburg. Pleasant & very warm. At night it rained. August 22nd—Moved at 10 a.m. and went about 1 mile to a new camp again at 5 p.m. and marched nearly all night. Pleasant. August 23rd—A shower in the afternoon. Marched all day and stopped about 5 miles from the Rappahannock River, August 24th—Pleasant and cold night. Sunday. Went out on picket at 7 a.m. Marched again at 2 p.m. and went about 7 miles and camped for the night. August 25th—Pleasant. Left camp at 7 a.m. and went about two miles, halted in the road 2 hours, and then went back in our old camp ground. August 26th—Pleasant. Left camp at 6 a.m. and crossed the ford. August 27th—Left the ford where the fight was a few days before and marched at 6 a.m. and went to Warrenton Junction. August 28th—Extremely hot. A little shower in the afternoon. Left the junction at 4 a.m. and went down the railroad to where the fight was the day before and camped for the night. August 29th—Pleasant. Left in the morning and went down to Manassas Junction. Met the rebels and had an artillery fight. We supported a battery. The regiment was on picket at night. August 30th—Pleasant. Left in the morning and marched in the rear of Griffin’s Brigade to Centreville. Started for the battlefield of Bull Run at 5 p.m. where the rest of the Brigade was. Were stopped on the road and went back to Centreville at 9 p.m. August 31st—Rained very hard in the morning. Cloudy in the afternoon. Rained a little at night. Sunday, Saw many wounded soldiers during the day. Moved about 1 mile at noon. Expected battle in the afternoon.
September 1st—Pleasant, Under arms all day expecting at attack. Commenced moving at 10 o’clock at night. A shower at night. September 2nd—Pleasant. Left Centreville at 4 a.m., marched through Fairfax, stopped about 2 miles beyond Leesburg Turnpike at night. September 3rd—Pleasant. Marched at 7 a.m. and arrived on Hall’s Hill at 3 p.m. September 4th—Pleasant. Our pickets were driven in and we were called out but were not needed. September 5th—Pleasant. All quiet in camp. Firing heard in the afternoon. September 6th—Pleasant. We were mustered in the afternoon. Orders to march at 9 p.m. but did not until 2 o’clock in the morning. September 7th—Pleasant. Sunday. S. E. Raymond and I did not leave camp until daylight. Saw J. Young at Ball’s Cross Roads and he went along with us. Went through Washington. Stopped 3 hours and then marched to Tinleytown and stopped for the night. September 8th—Pleasant. Started for Rockville at 6 a.m. and marched within two miles of the village. September 9th—Pleasant. Marched at 5 a.m. and went to Rockville and learned that the Division was on Arlington Heights. Marched back and got to the regiment at 4 p.m. Were mustered at 5 p.m. September 10th—Pleasant. A little shower at night. Remained in camp all day. September 11th. Cloudy all day and rained very hard at night. Had our knapsacks. Received James Wady’s box. Had an overcoat & pair of socks and did not [get] receipt for them. September 12th—Pleasant. The regiment left at 8 p.m. and crossed the river. I was left behind. September 13th—Pleasant. Washed my pants. September 14th—Pleasant. Left at 9 a.m. and went to Fairfax Seminary Hospital. September 15th—Pleasant. Examined by the surgeon at noon and sent to the Convalescent Camp near Fort Ellsworth. Left the hospital at 3 p.m. September 16th—Cloudy in the afternoon. Rained at night. Remained in camp all day. September 17th—Cloudy. September 18th—Pleasant and hot. Went up into the city in the morning. September 19th—Pleasant. Went to the Dr. in the morning. Fletcher came back from the hospital. September 20th—Cloudy all day. September 21st—Pleasant. Sunday. September 22nd—Pleasant. Went up into the city and remained all day. September 23rd—Pleasant. Did some washing. Had my hair cut. September 24th—Cloudy with some rain. September 25th—Pleasant all day. September 26th—Pleasant. September 27th—Pleasant. September 28th—Pleasant. Sunday. Went up into the city and went to church in the morning. September 29th—Pleasant. September 30th—Pleasant. Commenced bedding with Fletcher.
October 1st—Pleasant. October 2nd—-Pleasant. Sick at night. October 3rd—Pleasant. Not very well. October 4th—Pleasant. Very windy. Some rain at night. Washed all my clothes in the afternoon. October 5th—Pleasant but windy. Sunday. Went up into the city with Fletcher. October 6h—Pleasant. October 7th—Pleasant. Fletcher went to the regiment with Sergeant Rock. Sent for my Descriptive List. October 8th—Pleasant. Pealed a little. October 9th—Pleasant. October 10th—Pleasant. Rained in the night. October 11th—Cloudy and cold.
[No substantive entries until November 7, 1862]
November 7th—Snowed all day and very cold. November 8th—Pleasant in the morning. Cloudy and cold in the afternoon. November 9th—Pleasant but very cold. Went to the surgeons in the morning with rheumatism. Sunday. Went to meeting in the afternoon in the open air. November 10th—Very pleasant. Sick with headache and sore mouth. November 18th—Cloudy with some rain. Sent to Fairfax Seminary Hospital. November 26th—Pleasant. Sent for my Descriptive List. December 15th—Left Fairfax Hospital at 9 a.m. Went to Alexandria. Took the cars and arrived at Philadelphia City 6:30 next morning. December 16th—Stormy in the morning. Went to the U.S.A. General Hospital in west Philadelphia in the afternoon.
[The balance of his diary, running through July 1863, indicates that he spent time in various eastern hospitals.]
These 44 Civil War letters were written by John Boultwood Edson (1839-1863), the son of Elijah Edson (1812-1878) and Achsah Edna Wright (1818-1905) of Rochester, New York.
John enlisted as a private on 7 May1861 to serve two years in Co. E, 27th New York Infantry. He mustered out with the company on 31 May 1863 at Elmira, N. Y. Although some sources say that John “died in the service in December 1863,” I can’t find any evidence that he reenlisted unless he happened to go to California to bring mules back East as mentioned in the final letter.
Other family members mentioned in John’s letters include his sister Miriam Crane (Edson) Clements (1841-1891), who became the wife of Thomas Clements (1839-1902) in 1862. Albert H. Edson (1842-1863) who served in Co. Am 8th New York Cavalry until he was mortally wounded in the Battle of Gettysburg on 1 July 1863. Harriet (“Hatt.”) E. Edson (1832-Unk)
[Elmira, New York] Sunday, May 19, 
A I have finished a few lines to Ben, I thought I would say something in regard to my things that I left behind. My ink has run out so will be compelled to use the pencil. I have been to church this forenoon & remained to class meeting which was as interesting a one as I ever attended, there bring several volunteers present. I wish I could have some collars—straight ones—sent me as in probability we shall remain some time. Tell Father to try some of the boys & see if he could not get me a Wide-Awake cape. Some of the boys in Woodbury’s have them. He could for a very little sum. Should like to have another fine shirt.
Please send me a stick of that sticking plaster & a paper of peruvian bark. Capt. Wanzer [told] me again that I would pass. It was announced this morning that all the companies would leave this week for some distant post & I will not be back in the state until the end of 3 months which time they are sworn into the service of the United Sates. [ ] quite sick. The other day had a very bad diarrhea caused by the change of water. Everyone more or less has been affected with it.
Our fare is some better than at first. I feel very sleepy on account of having been on guard last evening. Whenever you wish to send anything to me you can do so by express free of charge no matter how small or large. Address John B. Edson, Elmira, N. Y., Care of Capt. Geo. Wanzer, Independent Zouaves
Headquarters Elmira [N. Y.] May 24th 
As I will have an opportunity of sending a few lines free of expense, I will give you a little more in respect to my life here. I have had pretty easy times as yet but tomorrow we are to drill from 10 a.m. until half past 1 p.m. and from 3 until 6 p.m., then from 8 until 9 in the evening so that will tell on a man if anything will. I’m ready for it, however, and will not [ ] as long as I’m able to stand upon my feet. I’ve had the misfortune to have the knife you gave me stolen and consequently am without a necessary article for a soldier’s equipment. I do not tell you this because I want you to send one—not by any means.
The Rochester Regiment re expecting every moment to receive marching orders. They have received their uniforms and equipments. They expect to be sent to Fort Monroe, Va.
I learned with great regret of Col. Ellsworth’s death while leading on his brave and undaunted men to the capture of one of the principal cities near our Capitol. But his death will only make another & still finer fire burn in the breast of every true patriot. May God protect that heroic band which when the incendiary flames were seething & hissing around one of the finest of buildings in the Empire City, counted death nothing compared with frustrating the designs of traitors. And now we behold those led by their noble leader who falls while the shout of victory rings in his ears.
There is one regiment yet to receive their uniforms, then comes our turn. We have had one case of the diphtheria in our midst but the prospects will now [page missing?].
I hope you try and send me those things that I mentioned in my last—the Wide-Awake cape especially for I will need one when on guard duty out of doors. I went down to see our barracks this afternoon and found it a pretty hard looking place. The drill ground—or what will be the same—is very stoney & consequently will be very hard on our feet. We are still in Schull’s Hall, Water Street. Will leave on Monday for our barracks. I shall try and come home and see you all before I go if possible—not without my uniform however. I would like a little money as I will have to get a shirt done up once a week at the least and my being sick took some of what I had when leaving which was not much, as you know. However, I can hardly bear to speak of it & will try and get along without any if possible.
It is getting very near time for our prayer meeting and I must close. I can’t tell the reason why I do not hear from you. I have written several times but do receive no answers. How is it? You spoke of your work being very hard. I knew from the first that you would not like it. But that’s not the question. Uncle James said he was going to Rochester in a few days. I hope you will tell him just your condition. Do not work hard. Take it easy. Men do not expect a man to kill himself or to overdo while in their employ, but what am I saying (trying to advise one what has had the experience you have).
I hope you will take care of yourself. Remember me to all my friends. I ever will remain your affectionate son, — J. B. Edson
Headquarters, Elmira, [N. Y.] [June 1861]
Mrs. Blackford is waiting at the door, or rather passing through. She desired me to send a few lines to you. I hardly know what to say.
We came into barracks yesterday morning. Our sleeping apartments are first rate considering a soldier’s life is so rough. We are to be mustered in tomorrow.
Tell Albert I shall remember him when far away.
As soon as I get my uniform, I shall try and obtain a furlough for a day or two. The package you sent by our Sergeant came safe. I received it last [night]. Tell Albert I will write to him soon. Also Emeline. So goodbye for awhile.
Your affectionate son, — J. B. Edson
Headquarters Elmira Barracks No St Com E. of Union Dpt. June 22, 
I received a letter from you yesterday. In it you stated not having received a letter from me for over a week. I have written two or three to persons around there—one to Fanny, one to Em. Semms so you could heard through them of me. My health is none of the best but considering the general health of our company, I do pretty well. We have some 7 or 8 under the physician’s care. The measles are going through the regiment, taking old and young. There have two men died in our regiment since we’ve been in barracks. The Oswego Regiment [ ] was sworn into the service of the U. S. today. They received their uniforms yesterday and a first one it is in comparison to the one of the Rochester Regiment.
I received the parcel you sent me ad it was very acceptable I can assure you. I’m going to try and go home the latter part of next week if possible—that is, if I get my uniform & pay.
Our new quarters are very pleasant. The race course where the celebrated horse Florence Temple won her laurels is close by. The [Chemung] river runs in the rear of our quarters—a fine bathing place. If you go down East, stop here on your way there. I guess you could or would it be out of your road?
We have started the prayer meetings again and I’m in hopes they will continue. If you have any things to send me, I will try and pat the Express charges, if they are not over 50 cents. I may have some money by the time you wish to send it. Our officers have deceived us in respect to our uniform & pay. The Rochester Regiment fares badly [missing page?]
…had to put up with. We are to have the same but they have not made their appearance yet. They are in the town. Our Colonel told us we might expect them [uniforms] so as to appear at dress parade Sunday evening. I very much doubt it, however. Our pay has not come yet. No knowing when it will come, the Major pledged his word we should have it today sure, but nary bit have we seen.
Our company was told to proceed to the Doctor’s room & be vaccinated. I did not go but suppose I will have to go as it is an imperative order and must be obeyed. The boys were going to see if our Captain will try and have us in Rochester on the 4th of July and show our proficiency in drill. I hardly think we will be here on the fourth, Gen. Van Valkenburgh having received a telegram to hurry off all the regiments now here as fast as possible within 20 days so it may be we will be in the Capitol of our nation before the fourth.
Give my respects to Homer Aylesworth and the boys there. Tell Emeline to write and Albert especially. I shall not write any more if I don’t get an answer more punctually. How does Em get along with her school? I received a letter from Will M_____ the other day. Tell Em that I wrote to P____the other week. If she sees him, tell him to answer it right away or prepare for a storm when I see him. I must close as I want to get this in the office this evening.
P. S. Go and see Ben Swift and tell him to answer my letter. I have never received a word from mine. He does not stick to his agreement. My love to all enquiring friends. I remain as ever, your son. — [J. B. Edson]
[On the eve of the Battle of First Bull Run]
In camp 5 Miles beyond Fairfax Court House and within 2 Miles of the Rebel Batteries July 20th 
My Dear parents,
I’m writing this under peculiar trials and circumstances as I’m seated in one of the camp wagons trying to write to you, my ever loved and to be loved parents.
We left Washington last Tuesday afternoon at 4 o’clock. The order for marching came very suddenly. We marched until 11 o’clock that night to a place 11 miles from Fairfax, there encamped until the next morning at 7 when we started on and such a march it beggars description—one of the hottest days I ever saw, if not the hottest. Men [were] falling out of the ranks at every step exhausted. I stood it until the last when men who had worked in the harvest fields at home in the morning said said if they had had another mile to march, should have dropped in the road. The rebels having poisoned several wells and destroyed others made it very bad for us.
We arrived at Fairfax at two o’clock. We expected to find a large secession force there but they had eloped. Consequently we were disappointed. We stayed in Fairfax from 12 o’clock of that day until 4 o’clock of the next day. We lived on the spoils taken from the secessionists. While there the boys took their guns and shot chickens, geese, pigs and even bullocks. One party went to a farmer’s house some two miles off and found 7 bottles of wine, pies, cakes, &c. No one at home. Fairfax was a deserted hole.
Started at 4 o’clock for this camp where we arrived at 7 o’clock [and] set our picket guard that night. That was a night indeed to me. I can assure you, I laid down upon the ground with a blanket over me [and] it commenced raining soon after and I was wet through. About 12 o’clock we were awakened by the firing upon our pickets. We all jumped up and seized our arms. During that hour volley after volley came pouring in. Such a sight! Men standing whispering to one another. Our Colonel came around and told us to lie down by our guns which we did only to be awakened by another alarm.
While I’m writing I hear the artillery booming in the distance towards the rebels’ batteries. I suppose you have heard of the battle on the 18th [see Battle of Blackburn’s Ford]. It was a small affair [paper creased] troops they having to retreat. The Colonel who led them on did so contrary to the orders of Scott. We lost some two hundred men. Gen. Scott is expected to be here this evening to plan the attack. It is this—to shell the batteries, then pour in shot until they are burned out, then bring on the infantry and give them the bayonet. We are waiting now for the shells to come on so we can proceed wit hthe battle. There will be severe fighting. We will in all probability be in Richmond some time next week. Our Colonel told our Orderly when he asked him for a sword that he would scarcely need one for we would all be home in three weeks. I tell you, it is tough. We will have all of Virginia in our possession before another month. I hope I shall live to see you all again. I often think of home and all its comforts. Tell all my friends if they write to direct to Washington.
John B. Edson, Company E, 27th Regt. N. Y. S. V., Washington D. C.
I wrote to you when in Washington but have received no answer. I will get it if you write. I have received no money yet. Probably will not until we are again in Washington. Let me know how you are getting along and what the people think of the movement of the army in Virginia. I hope to see you before many months are passed. It is very warm today. My love to all. Ever your affectionate son, — J. B. E.
Camp Anderson Washington D. C. July 25th 
My dear sister Hattie,
After the eventful scenes of Sunday last, my mind is much disturbed. I have no appetite for the trash that is presented to us. If you had been anywhere near to have perceived our army as it wended its way through the streets of Washington—it was raining very hard & had been for some time. My jacket I threw away as an encumbrance just before entering the battlefield. O! such a scene. It baffles description. But I’m not sorry. The 27th [New York] Regiment has established a name that will live in history. They, next to the Fire Zouaves of New York, are warm in the hearts of the citizens of Rochester.
The evening of our arrival, Ladies flocked around and with their kindness and attention, ministered to our wants. The Ladies of this place give me a supper this evening.
I can hardly realize that I’m in the land of the living when thinking of that hour. There is a feeling of thankfulness comes over me.
Johnny Clague told me why lying on the field that he was glad the victory was ours. Poor boy. He little thought before the time the afternoon was over we would be on the retreat. He died nobly, cool and collected as if on parade. I was with him all the time until the rebels fired into the house where he was but he died before they had time to torture his body further.
I’m trying to obtain a furlough of a week’s respite to recruit my strength. I hope I may succeed. Give my love to Anna M. I often think of her, and all my friends. Has Father found work yet and where? Get Ann’s and your likeness and send them to me and oblige.
Your brother, — J B. Edson
Tell Ben Swift I will write him in a few days.
Camp Anderson, Washington D. C. August 2nd 1861
My dear Sister,
I received a letter from you, Mother & Annie last evening as I was preparing to send some money $10 in gold by our Lieut. [Charles S.] Baker. He is to leave it at Mr. Blackford’s with Albert. He will deliver it to Father. You can tell him that I received $15 only. I send him 10 as I would probably lose it if I had it with me.
My mind is so confused this morning that I can hardly write at all. There is one thing I wish you and the rest of our folks to understand—also my friends—that I wish no more of my letters to be published or any extracts of them. If I see any more of them in any of the papers, I shall immediately cease writing. I’m not joking now. It is not very pleasant for me. You do as I tell you and all will be well.
Your letter came just in time as I had began to have the blues. The letter I received last night from you was the only one I received from home since I returned from Bulls Run. I expect every day to hear of the order for the Grand Army to proceed across the river again under the command of a man though younger in years than our former one, understands his business a great deal better, and one who will lead us to victory. We never will return but with victory perched upon upon our banner. You never heard of victory being achieved when contending against such odds. 18,000 men engaging 80,000 and they behind batteries concealed and manned with rifled cannons. But I have said enough on this subject.
You wished to know whether John Clague (all honor be to his memory) died contented with his fate, or rather, did he die a christian. I was with him the most of the time which he lived after he fell. I thought of speaking to him on the subject, but he was in too much agony—his pain being intense. You could touch him no place just what it seemed to torture him. God, I trust, has taken care of him. 1
Tell Annie I will surely write her within two days. I have been very unwell for the last 3 or 4 days having had the neuralgia in my face. Have you seen Bill Lockhart since the fight at Bulls Run? I don’t believe I will be able to go home. If my health does not improve enough by the time we have to march again, I will apply for an honorable discharge. Our [Colonel] will in all probability be elected to a Brigadier Generalship. His name has appeared first on the list for that post. You no doubt saw a piece in the paper (the [Rochester Evening]Express) about him. Oh! he is a noble man.
I should like to see home before I go into another engagement as I have a strong presentiment if in another engagement, I shall not escape. I often think of Annie McMillan. I thought of her once on the field of battle. Would I be saying too much, Em, if I should say it was love. But it is really so—she is a lovely girl both in looks and disposition. But as you say, there is no chance for me there. Dare you question her on such a subject? Give her my love.
Tell Albert to write to me immediately. Goodbye. God bless you.
1 Apparently God did take care of him. He was taken prisoner after the Battle of Bull Run and was among those 240 prisoners released from Richmond, Virginia, on January 3, 1862 and conveyed to Fortress Monroe for exchange. Other members of the 27th New York who were among these prisoners released included Solomon Wood, A. H. Cornell, P. Flarity, Charles Hunt, G. L. Mudge, V. Mudge, W. P. Smith, J. McAulay, G. F. Jewett, J. C. Fowler, C. A. Durnell, J. Chamberlain, H. P. Boyd, T. J. Briggs, J. Borden, W. P. Smith, C. Tucker, W. Trall, Ed Watrous, E. H. Warner, T. H. Yates, John Hogan, W. H. Merrill, H. Gerrick, and possible others.
Camp Vernon Alexandria, Virginia August 23, 1861
My dear sister Hat.,
I received your kind letter of the 18th a few moments ago & proceed as to answer it. Always be as punctual as I am & you will hear often from me—that is, as far as I am able to write a person. In regard to my health, it never was better. While away from the confinement of city life as we had while in Washington. I enjoy the highest of heaven’s blessings—good health.
With the blue waters of the Potomac in front of us & the healthful breezes of the ocean to fan our over-heated brows, we cannot complain much except when it rains hard. Our company was out on picket guard Monday and all Monday night. This is dangerous business & to put the climax on the thing, at, or rather in the eve about 8 o’clock after our guard had been set for the first part of the night (which was from 8 o’clock until one, I was on the same), it commenced to rain—and such a rain I never wish to see again much less to be out in. There was a brook close by which swelled to such an extent as to overflow the banks on either side. I was on the opposite side guarding the junction of two roads—one leading to Fairfax Court House and the other to Richmond. I saw if I did not cross then, I should not be able to that night so we plunged in, not thinking how deep it was. The consequence was a fine ducking. Then had to spend the rest of the night shivering like so many dogs. No one knows except those who are out here what we had to undergo that night.
I have just finished my dinner which consisted of boiled fat bacon & bread & water & some [ ] meal with a little something. Oh dear, I’m getting so fleshy—oh yes.
We are expecting an attack every day now. Our pickets have been driven in several times & we have destroyed the bridge crossing Hunter’s Creek in order to detain their coming across. They will meet with a warm reception. Our brigade had a sham battle in the presence of Gen. McClellan & staff. He is a young man & has an eagle’s eye. He is rising with fame/ Remember he is the hero of Western Virginia having never lost a battle while there. You will hear of him soon. Also of the Bloody 27th Regiment.
I have some news for you. There are five New York regiments to return home to recruit. We have every reason to expect our regiment is included in those five. It may be 3 or four weeks before we start as the government will wait until she has more troops to take our place. They are coming on by the thousands every day. We may me in Elmira very soon. If so, I will surely go home (what a delightful [ ]).
How often do I think of home, the dearest spot of earth. I want you to write and let me know how or what kind of a term you had at Mrs. Lockhart’s & if it was the German Society or the Asbury. How I wish you and Bell could be with each other oftener than you do. She has the best disposition of any one I know of. Give her my respects when you see her. Also to her mother.
Has Mr. Clague heard from [his son] John since Mr. Merrill’s letter?
The next time you write, send a postage stamp as I have no money. Yours as ever. Your brother, — J. B. Edson
[near Washington D. C.] [September 1861]
Dear sister Hat.,
Can you excuse a dirty piece of paper. I have no other. You say write a long letter but what shall I write? I know of nothing new. It is you who ought to write a long letter instead of me. There is very little of importance doing near us now with the exception of the erection of the new fort [Fort Lyon] which will be on a larger scale of any in this direction if the Rebels do not take it into their head to rout us out before we finish it, but we would like nothing better than to have them come. What a licking they would get. Excuse the phrase of course.
I was talking with a very wealthy man the other day when on picket duty who has been within a few days within the Rebel lines. He says they are in a desperate condition. A common sack of salt that will sell in Washington for $1.50, cost $7 dollars there. They cannot go so long if they happen to take any of our men prisoners, they strip them of their clothing & put their rags upon them. This man says he is perfectly satisfied that the government will succeed in crushing this rebellion.
So you see the stars and stripes must & shall wave over the land of the slave. Tell Annie McMillan I never expect to hear from her & have given up entirely. She surely could find 10 minutes to write. I don’t care how badly written and all this so I get one. It must be a long one, however, to pay up for waiting so long. Tell Fanny to write me a letter. I wrote Salone a letter and enclosed it in one to Father and you must have received it ere this.
I must close. Write soon. My love to all enquiring friends—Mr. & Mrs. Jackson in particular. I will try and write him a letter soon.
As ever, your brother, — J. B. Edson
Headquarters Army of the Potomac September 20th 
I received yours of the 15th yesterday & will today try and answer it. In the first place, you must not look too close at the piece of paper I’m scribbling on as it is all I have in the world. Not having received our pay yet, it is rather hard for me so if you should not hear from me as often as you desire, do not censure me for if I had the means you should hear from me at the least twice a week. Every other regiment in our brigade have been paid and we know not the reason why they should delay ours so long. I shall enclose this in a franked envelope, not knowing whether it will reach its destination, or as I believe I told you in my last letter that we were hourly expecting an attack, but as yet have had no engagement with the enemy.
The new fort [Fort Lyon] I spoke of in my last is in progress of erection. It is to cover 17 acres of ground & mount 100 guns. It will command 3 roads leading in the following directions—Fairfax Court House, Richmond, and Mount Vernon. Today was the day Gen. Beauregard told his men they should have a fight and march on Washington, but no demonstration of the kind has yet been made.
Our new rifles are a great acquisition to the boys. I’ve made some excellent shots with mine. I’m longing to have another turn at the Rebels now we have such a death dealing weapon. I shot at an object a foot and a quarter square 150 yards distant and put the ball through it. I shall try and take it home with me. I’m living in hopes that this struggle will terminate this winter so that next spring I may be home for good. There is a good prospect of it. While I’m writing I hear they are fighting in Missouri. The report came today that our forces last lost 800 men & the Rebels 4,000.
I was sorry to learn that you were out of work. If you were in Washington Navy Yard, I rather think you could get all the work you would wish for. They are very busy. When I was in Washington, I went all through the machine shops. It was very interesting. Can you not afford to send me a paper at least 3 in a week—that is, if you take any now. If you haven’t the materials for sending–that is, the wrapping paper—just take the papers down town to Ben Swift with the postage stamps and he will mail them. Tell Ben for me that I think he is not doing the fair thing by me—if he would only write me, I would do my best and try and give him an interesting one in answer to it.
There are times, dear Father, when my spirits are very low and much depressed & must have more letters from home. It has been more than a week since I heard from you or the family until I received the one yesterday. I’m now going to ask a favor of you. It is I’m told today that we will not receive any money until the first of next month. If you could get $3 dollars for me, I will send you six for the same when I get my money. I would not ask it but I sent my shoes—those I got of White before I left Rochester over in Alexandria to get fixed more than two weeks ago. I’m afraid the man will sell them. Also a pair of pants & a shirt to get washed. If you could send it, I will more than double pay you for your trouble. Write soon. As ever your affectionate son, — J. B. E.
Army of the Potomac October 8th 1861
Yours of the 5th came safe. Received it this afternoon. I have just returned from picket duty some 8 miles from camp. I was on the outer post. Allowing me to exaggerate, I will say I nearly froze. It was extremely cold. We could not make a fire until daylight as it might be the means of showing the enemy where we were stationed.
This morning a farmer living nearby where we were stationed—a Union man—came and asked two of us to accompany him to Mount Vernon, a mile and a half distant, he having some wheat he wished to bring away & take it to Alexandria to grind. I volunteered at one & in company with a comrade jumped into the wagon with our rifles and ammunition with us. Having arrived near the grounds, we left the man to go for his wheat while we visited the hallowed spot where the mortal remains of the immortal Washington [laid]. The grounds have been left to themselves, having been much neglected. I can tell you I felt proud as I gazed upon the scene and stood upon the same grounds as did the Father of his country. I enclose a leaf that I plucked from a vine that grew over the top of the tomb. It will be a little souvenir of the immortal Washington.
It is reported here in camp that there are 11 regiments to be taken from the Army of the Potomac & sent to Kentucky & that General Slocum’s Brigade is going. It is true that we are soon to leave our present position but where I do not know. You shall hear from me as often as convenient.
I should like to hear from George Carpenter very much. I wrote Miriam the other day but have not yet received an answer. Let me know if Albert has received his horse yet or no & whether the government will furnish it, which of course they ought to.
Remember me to all my friends, I shall send this by a young man who has obtained his discharge on account of ill health, he being consumptive. He will give you a good description of camp life. I remain your affectionate son, — John B. Edson
Camp Franklin November 8, 1861
Your letter of the 3rd inst. arrived this morning & right glad was I to hear from you. I believe I wrote to Emiline on Monday last. Mrs. Barnes arrived some day since. I was disappointed in not getting anything from home. To talk of Scott’s band coming here to the men of this regiment would not be believed by them. We have been disappointed so many times we are almost tired of hearing anything concerning the band.
I was hoping I could get home in time to see Albert before he left for Washington as I have many things to tell him of besides some advice. However, I will see him in Washington. Our regiment expects to get paid tomorrow. If I cannot get a furlough, I will try and send the girls some money. Will do better by them on the next payday. Look at things on their bright side and all will be well. I have many dark days but in God is my trust.
The weather is very changeable & the nights very cold. The days middling comfortable. If the army was on the move, I should like it better as I then should think there would soon be an end to this struggle. I have all confidence in our youthful commander.
In regards to Father getting employment, I should say let him be on the lookout for a chance in some ity like Springfield, Massachusetts. Get acquainted with some of the business men in the city, viz: Rochester. Let him write to Mr. Clark, make enquiries.
In regard to being reconciled to camp life, it is nothing more than I expected to encounter when I enlisted. I wish father would see Ben Swift and ask him as a favor if he will write me. I do not think he is doing right in not letting me know how he is prospering. I have not heard a a word from him since I saw him last in Rochester.
I shall write again in a few days but do not let this deter you from writing immediately on the receipt of this. My love to all. (I am waiting very patiently for those likenesses. When will they come? Echo answers when.)
Yours truly, — J. B. E.
P. S. Please excuse this sheet of paper as I am running short of the same. As ever, your son, — J. B. E.
Camp Franklin, Va. November 26 
My dear Mother,
I received a letter from Father and yourself this morning and was truly glad to get it. We have been having some pretty cold weather here for the last few days. Last Sunday eve, or rather night, we had quite a snow storm here, It looked really queer to see snow here so far south.
We have been kept in rather a fretful condition expecting to go to Beaufort, S. C., hearing every little while of orders to that effect. General Slocum is figuring to get his brigade down south.
Father mentioned in his letter of the probable movement of the Army of the Potomac. There is not much said here about it but ever since the review last week we have been expecting something of the kind.
The government does not provide gloves, mittens, or boots for [ ] the soldiers. I have had to get both of this for myself. I’m in hopes I shall be able from next payday to lay up some money. I am sure I can lend my money here in the regiment to good advantage. I do not know how this will meet with your’s & Father’s approbation. If you or Father think I had better send it home and have Father place in someone’s hands who will pay a good interest on it, let me know what you think about it. I should like to have a little money when I get home.
You had better continue to answer my letters & address them Washington as I should [paper torn]. I suppose Albert has by this time left Rochester for Washington. (God speed him!) May he never experience the hardships that I have is my prayer because I know his constitution cannot stand it.
How is it with Lockhart’s folks? I have not heard from them some time. Has Emeline been there lately?
I have been in hopes that we would [go] down to Beaufort as then we should have warmer weather. If we should make any move in [paper torn]..and let you know.
Move love to all. Ever remain your sincere and affectionate son, — J. B. Edson
Camp Clara, Va. [December] 15 
Dear Sister Hat,
I will again send you a few lines although you do not deserve one for not answering my last. I’m still enjoying good health, thank God.
The weather for the last 3 or 4 days has been splendid. It commenced to rain last evening and the weather since has been very bad. I suppose the folks up North are rejoicing over the late victories at Port Royal and also in Kentucky.
General McClellan reviewed our division yesterday. It was a grand sight, indeed. He appeared in sight with his aides and body guard. The artillery fired a grand salute, then the bands struck up. Just imagine an army of twenty thousand men marching in review. I don’t suppose you can, however.
He—the General—afterwards passed through our camp. Our regiment had all rushed on to the parade ground where they awaited his appearance. When he passed, such shouting and cheering you never heard, I know. I don’t believe there was a man but threw his hat up in the air. As he passed, he gracefully lifted his cap from his hair and bowed (en-militaire) He is the idol of the army. He predicts a speedy termination to this struggle in less than three months.
In regard to getting a furlough, it is utterly out of the question. No man—well man I mean—is or shall be allowed a furlough, so says our General for he says he does not know at what moment he may receive orders to take up the line of march. Our success down soouth will probably call some of Beauregard’s forces away from the Potomac. If so, them McClellan will move on. I rejoice that I am in the service of my country and the prospects so good for having another pass at them & I embrace it willingly.
But what of Albert? I hear nothing of him. I begin to think that the folks are getting tired of writing to me—especially Father and Mother. But I can stand it. If they fo not choose to write, it is all the same to me. I shall not write home again until I get one at least. The money I send enclosed is for yourself. I had hope that I could have sent more but next time will do better. Tell Miriam not to feel hard with me for not sending her some. I sed the photographs to her. Please give my love to all enquiring friends. write immediately on the receipt of this.
As ever your brother, — John B. Edson
Camp Franklin, Virginia December 18, 1861
It is now more than a week since—yes, ten days since—I have heard from home. How is this? If you do not wish to [write], I will relieve you from the task. A soldier of all other men ought to receive all the encouragement friends at home can give them, by writing frequently and when written to, ought to have all the news that can be gathered. Do not think me harsh for thus speaking. It is my nature to be plain. I mean no hard feelings.
In my last letter I mentioned have been over to Washington and seen [brother] Albert. He seemed in good spirits then. Since the there have been several men over here in our camp who belonged to Crook’s Cavalry. They said that their regiment was to be disbanded & if the men would join some of the infantry regiments now in want of men to fill up their ranks, that the government would then pay them for what time they have been in the service. Otherwise, they will be disbanded and sent home without any pay. This is because the government does not want any more cavalry. I wrote Albert a few lines and sent them by one of the men who were over here yesterday. I told him that if I was in his place, I would—if the regiment was disbanded—go immediately home for as I had enlisted as cavalry, I would not enter any other branch of the service—especially the infantry. I also told him before he took any step to come over and see me & then I could better advise with him.
Last week our regiment were out on picket for four days with us about three-quarter of a mile of Annandale & very near to our encampment the first night on our march towards Manassas.
How do you prosper? Does your work pay you well? Have you heard from Uncle Jana lately? I have not since we left Washington, I believe.
The weather in Virginia especially around here is splendid, not having had any wet weather his month. I have recovered my usual good health and am again hale and hearty. I have never had as much flesh upon my bones as at the present. I’m astonished at myself. If I don’t look sharp, I shall come home resembling jolly neighbor Jackson in rotundity. If Albert will conclude to go home, I will let him have money to take with him. The government will of course pay their fare.
Them men are all anxious to be on the march but as yet we do not see any indications that way. Hoping soon to see this struggle ended and of seeing you again soon, I will close also requesting you to be a little more punctual in writing.
Ever remaining your affectionate son, — John B. Edson
to Mr. Elijah Edson
Camp Clara, Virginia January 1st 1862
I received the box you and Mother sent with the contents last evening, it having been brought from the Express Office by our commissary. It having been 7 days on the road, it came just in time on New Year’s eve. If you could have been in camp last night you would have been pleased. Just as the New Year came in—boom! boom! from the different camps and then the different instrumental bands stood up making the night vocal with sweet music. The moon and stars shine forth in their brilliancy causing a delightful halo around the encampments. The weather is as beautiful as May. Still have brigade and battalion drill. Yesterday we were—that is, the whole division—reviewed by our Division commander General Franklin after which we were mustered for pay and will get it probably the last of this or the first of next. We as a squad—four of us—have had to get us a stove for our tent. I will try and send you some [money]. I cannot tell yet how I shall come out. I think I can let you have $10 or 12 dollars. That will help you some.
Albert will get his pay about the time we do. I heard they were making out hteir pay rolls. I have not seen him since I was over there. He is promising to come over here but as yet has not made his appearance. I know of nothing more of importance. Still waiting the word forward. I will now close & believe me ever your affectionate son, — John B. Eden
Dear Mother, I received your kind gift which was thankfully received. I will say nothing to the girls as I do not know whether they had any hand in it or not. I expect I should get a letter from each of the girls. By the bye, I must tell you how we passed Christmas. It was a pleasant day although somewhat cloudy. At dress parade in the morning we were told that there would be no drill so we busied ourselves as best we could. Our dinner consisted of some fresh beef fried & this with the [ ] constituted my Christmas dinner. It tasted too much as good as the best Christmas dinner could possible.
I sincerely hope Father will get into steady and profitable work this winter. Cheer up. I think you will come out all right. The family is a great deal smaller than formerly & Robert is paying his way. Consequently you and Father and the girls might live quite comfortably but if course you know best. I will send some money to you on pay day and that will help you some.
Did you send Emily’s letter I wrote her to her yet? I wrote to Salem some two weeks ago and sent it right through to Magara. Do you know where [ ] Edson is? I wrote Emily a good long letter and shall expect an answer. Have the girls write and let me know how their festivities went off. Is Miriam to be married this spring or next spring? If so, I will be to the wedding. Has her loving Tom [Clements] proved negligent? If so, tell her to send him down here and I will chasten him by putting him in the guard house.
Goodbye from your son, — J. B. E.
Camp Franklin, Va. January 12, 1862, Sunday evening
My Dear Parents,
I write you this under peculiar feelings knowing as I do by whose hands it will be delivered to you—one who but a few months ago I left for one of the slain as I suppose. But thanks be to God he yet lives and by what he says intends to rejoin his company. Yesterday was big day here. About 3 o’clock the regiment got underway and marched towards Alexandria to meet the [exchanged] prisoners. We met them about halfway to camp [and] drew up in line. The Colonel then ordered Open rank and they—the prisoners—marched through, the band taking the lead [and] playing a spirited air. We then marched [behind them] and whenever we would pass any of the many encampments, we would find invariably drawn up in line to receive us, giving the prisoners three cheers. [William H.] Merrell will not be able to join the regiment on account of his arm—it being weak caused by the wound in his shoulder.
I suppose you have or will have before this reaches received my other letter—the one I wrote the other day in answer to Miriam’s. Not wishing to lose the opportunity of sending this by [John T.] Clague, I thus embrace this chance. He can and will no doubt give you a greal deal of information respecting the rebels. I am perfectly satisfied with my condition. I could almost wish I had been a prisoner to receive all the encomiums and praises of a thankful people. It will be difficult for me or any other private to obtain a furlough.
There is no more news of importance just now so I desist for the present. Remember me to all my friends. As ever your son, truly, — J. B. Edson
Camp Franklin, Va. February 13th 
The parcel brought by J. T. Clague has come and am thankful for its contents—especially the ran and needles.
You spoke of a young man by the name of [George W.] Kent having called. I do not wish him mentioned again in any of my letters to me. He is a deserter, he having obtained a furlough for ten days, his mother being sick and not expected to live, as he said. He has been gone 23 days an has no intention of returning to the company. He is a thief in the bargain. He also obtained a coat on a loan of a corporal out of Co. K in this regiment. You would know it. It had two stripes upon each sleeve…the boys all despise him. He dare not come back now. Please send nothing by him for he is not to be depended upon. Have nothing to say to him. I was astonished when I read your letter.
We awoke this morning with the news from Burnsides Expedition ringing in our ears & gladdening our hearts.
I expected to receive more letters by John Clague than I did. Have you got the letter which I sent? It is time you received it and also one I wrote and sent before that one in which I sent home the photograph of General Slocum and Col. Bartlett.
You should have meantime received these letters as I thought a good deal of those photographs. Your truly, — John B. Edson
Camp Franklin, Virginia [Late February 1862]
You no doubt think me a queer kind of brother that I don’t once even in a great while write you. It is not because I do not think of you. On the contrary, every day I think of you and wonder what might you be [like] when I get home—if I ever do.
Bob, I’m soon to hear again the booming of the great guns at Manassas and again hear the minié balls whistling about my ears as I did something like 7 month ago.
You wish yourself old enough to be here no doubt. You may yet have a chance. I hear you have charge of an engine. Go on, study much & gain all the information you can. Spend your evenings at home studying and prying into things. Father will gladly help you in such things as pertain to engineering. Do not pattern by me. Many, many is the evening have I spent in [ ] when it might have been spent so as to prove advantageous in after years.
It may be I shall not be permitted to ever see you again but remember my last thought will be of loved ones at home. It will be a hard conflict but I have no fears for the result. Be a good boy—especially to Father and Mother & Ide—and you will not be sorry. Please write your brother, — J. B. Edson
Camp Franklin, Va. February 27, 1862
I send this box with the letters I have received since the Battle of Bull Run. Also some books that I have gathered together since I’ve been in the army. As we are only allowed so much clothing, I thought it would be advisable to send all these unnecessary articles. The cap I want preserved until I return—if I do. If I don’t, you may give it to Bob. We may start at any moment.
I do not wish to have any anxiety on my account felt by you as it was my own free will that I’m where I am. “Listen.” “Listen” for good news soon. News that will make the heart of the nation glad. Remember me to all inquiring friends. As ever, your son, — J. B. Edson
[Camp Franklin, Va.] Monday morning, March 31st 1862
Here I’m still writing and it’s now 9 o’clock and I have had no breakfast, there being no sugar at the commissary and you know I could not drink coffee with[out] my supply of that necessary article. I always used so little when at home. Well Hat, is Mat Willis married yet? I heard here that she was. John Hall was my informant. He wishes me to ask you to ask May is she remembers the oysters. Please do it. How is Annie McMillan? Give her my respects if you please.
I want you to call on the Lockhart’s and see if they are well. Ask Edna Carpenter if she ever received a letter from me since I’ve been in the army. Remember me to George Carpenter.
I heard George Vaughan was married to Bell Montgomery. Is this true? Please give me all the news afloat & write me a good long letter and send me William Menullery’s letter to you—the last one. I have never heard from him since I have been in the army, or at least since being in Virginia. Now I insist on this. You know I will say nothing to anyone of its content.
So goodbye for the present. Send me something by Scott if he returns. From your brother, — J. B. Edson
Manassas Junction Sunday, April 6th 1862
You no doubt will be surprised when you see this. We left Camp Franklin Thursday morning about 11 o’clock, marched to Alexandria & there took the cars for Manassas. Arrived all safe. As we came through the deserted camps of the Rebs, it was shameful to see the destruction of property. Locomotives & cars burnt right on the track.
Yesterday morning, Friday, I started for the old battle ground of the 21st of July last, arrived there about noon—it being about seven miles from where we are encamped. You cannot imagine my feelings when there & seeing the bones of our boys bleaching in the sun. It made my blood boil. There were a number of bones found of men belonging to our regiment which we buried over and there being a minister present, held a short service of the bones. His name was Parker. I went to the spot where Co. Ellsworth’s Fire Zouaves fought & there were the bones of nearly a dozen of them exposed to the gaze of the passers by. I helped cover them over again. I have now with [me] one of the ribs which was detached from the back bone & intend sending it home when convenient. I also have a piece of one of the Zouaves red shirts which I enclose in this and the girls can work it into a piece or needlework to keep in remembrance of those brave men.
I visited the old stone house where I carried John Clague. 1 It looked natural—only has been torn to pieces pretty well. It still bears the mark of the cannon shot.
This is a rough sketch of the stone house. It was a tough sight to see these bones of our comrades thus exposed.
I suppose by the time you get this you will have received letters I sent by David Scott with the draft in. We expect to go on tomorrow towards the Rappahannock. The whole of McDowell’s Corps are now coming on. I will write again soon but you must answer this as soon as you get it. Give me all the news. So goodbye for the present. Your affectionate son, — John B. Edson
1Bull Runnings, a website managed by my friend Harry Smeltzer, posted a letter in August 20201 that was written by Pvt. John B. Edson on the “Death of Pvt. John Clague.” The letter was apparently printed in the Rochester Evening Express on 26 July 1861 and read as follows:
Camp Anderson, Washington, July 23d.
Dear Sir: – You no doubt have heard of the great battle fought on Sunday last. Our regiment was brought in to the hottest of the affray. I have a painful duty to perform. It is with a trembling hand I inform you of the death of your son John. He fell by my side mortally wounded in the right shoulder. He lived about two hours and a half. Myself and two others carried him to a stone building nearby, used as a Hospital by our troops while in action. I made him as comfortable as possible. He seemed to take everything very easy and died nobly. Our troops had to retreat, and consequently could not bring him off the field. We’ll try however, and obtain it by a flag of truce if the rebels will respect it. John was thought a great deal of in camp. He was quiet and took everything very cool. I am in hopes of getting a furlough for a week or two, until our regiment is made up again, it having been terribly cut to pieces, and then will give you a full account of his death. — J. B. Edson
Camp at Ship Point On Cheeseman’s Creek, Va. April 30th 1862, Wednesday morning
I commence this letter this morning not intending to finish it at this time but add a little to it every day until after the Battle of Yorktown. The weather is now pleasant and the boys are enjoying the oysters and clams with which the creek abounds hugely. They are of a large kind & very fat. All we have to do is to wade out up to our knees & pick them out of the soft mud. The first time I went in after them I cut my feet badly. I have since learned a better way to get them.
Our camp is the best one we have had since we’ve been in Virginia, located in a beautiful pine grove. There is an old Rebel living just across the creek and who owns all the land around here—something like 200 acres. He told me the other day that he paid 25 cents per bushel for these oysters and had them brought from the James river and planted them on his plantation which is nearly surrounded by water & that he had 3,000 bushels before the Union soldiers came here & would not have 100 bushels left when they went away. Whenever he hears a tree fall, he sighs and says, “there goes $5.” Poor old fool. He has 3 sons in and one son-in-law in the rebel army. He says the Rebs used him far better than we do. We have no pity for the old fellow.
You may think it strange that McClellan does not make the attack. I hear he is growing very unpopular at the North. Perish the man who says ought of this man. The rebels are very strongly fortified clear across the peninsula. Two privates were taken prisoner the other day and brought to the prison boat. They say that Yorktown will be ours shortly. They do not believe that Fort Henry or Donelson is taken. They say it’s a lie and that they never can be taken. News came in camp to the capture of the Crescent City (New Orleans). I learn that Magruder has offered to surrender on conditions but it’s of no use, they have got to surrender unconditionally or fight. They are constantly firing to find out the position of our forces. These prisoners say they—the Rebs—are pretty troubled ot know how we are situated. There is no firing allowed on [ ] or loud talking or singing. All fires for cooking purposes have to be under ground.
We are still expecting to go on board at any moment. Some of the field officers were saying that our destination was Gloucester, just opposite Yorktown, and that we would have to land under cover of the gunboats. An order was read on dress parade last eve from General Slocum that when we disembarked, we would have to be upon [ ] before daylight with our accoutrements on & arms in hand & thus rest upon them until reveille. This is to be done every morning to guard against a surprise. We will be then in close proximity to the enemy.
Yorktown, May 5th 1862, 3:30 p.m. We have just weighed anchor having ben at anchor of this place ever since early this morning. Yesterday morning we were astonished with the news of the evacuation of Yorktown & its fortifications. Such fortifications we have never seen before as belonging to the rebs. They are immense. Officers & men wonder why they did not stand. They could have made a grand stand here but the fact of the matter is there is no stand in them. They are fallen back a few miles & have been followed by some 20,000 cavalry. We are now going up the river some 30 miles further & no doubt will see some warm work. A report has lately come in that they—the enemy—have wounded some 500 of our men. No telling how true this is.
I suppose there were great times in Rochester when the news came of the evacuation of Yorktown. You will receive more of the particulars of this affair than I can give you. Gen. Banks is reported as in the rear of them. They will be cut off sure. The rebellion is about a played out concern. You will soon no doubt hear the notes of peace played ringing through the vales of this glorious republic.
They have—the crew—let the anchor go again so we do not know when we will go on. I hope they will land us soon as our company is in the lower deck down to the water line & it is awful warm & no air, and we are packed in as close as the niggers in the hold of a slaver.
I received your letter with the gold seal in last evening & was glad to hear that you were all well. I’m sorry I cannot be home on the 20th. Should like it very much but it is otherwise ordered. I do not understand your saying Albert was at Winchester. How came he there? Has his regiment got their horses or not? Let me know in your next. Send me his last letter.
I shall not be able to send Emily a letter until we are again on terra firma. Is Salomi to be in Rochester the 20th? I must now close so goodbye for the present. Your affectionate son, — J. B. Edson
Mechanicsville, Virginia In Camp 5 miles from Richmond May [21th] 1862, Wednesday afternoon
Your kind letter of the 16th inst. I received day before yesterday & have not until today found rally time to answer it. Since last writing you we have seen some pretty severe marching. We have driven the Rebels step by step until now, as a last resource, they have concluded to make a stand here or on the other side of the Chickahominy in the swamp. All we have to do to get a sight of them is to step just beyond the guard lines of our camp & we can see their pickets and their fires very plainly by night.
Last Monday night I was detailed along with some 150 others from the regiments comprising our brigades to build a pontoon bridge over the Chickahominy. 1 The pontoons were brought over by land. Well, it came on to rain just after we started & rained all night and we poor devils had to stand and take it. We did not lay the bridge as the teamsters were late in getting the boats at the proper place. This work had to be done in the dark and right under the nose of the enemy pickets. Daylight over taking us, we had to hide the boats until the next night. We then started back for camp which we reached at 4 o’clock & found the regiment had marching orders right away & it rained still as hard as it could pound. I was wet to the skin already. I threw myself down in my tent for a few minutes but was soon ordered along with the rest to pack up. With our wet tents strapped upon our knapsacks, we trudged along in mud and water over our shoe tops & in about an hour arrived at our present camp.
The house belonging & situated in the grove in which we are encamped was shelled last Saturday by our batteries, it having been the rendezvous of a number of Rebels. The house is riddled through & through with rifled shells. There are many beautiful plantations around here. The boys have been feasting on green peas & green gooseberries [ ] also sweet potatoes.
We hear Jeff Davis has said the streets of Richmond shall run red with blood before he will surrender Richmond. McClellan is getting some of those guns of Yorktown notoriety which will play mischief with them. Last week our regiment along with the 11th New York [Fire Zouaves] Regiment were out on a reconnoissance and drove the enemy over the Chickahominy & feel their strength on this side. We were accompanied by Capt. Arnold & his battery. We drove them over 3 miles—that is, their pickets, & a regiment of cavalry and a battery.
It is generally believed around here that they will make a desperate fight where they now are in order if possible to save Richmond. But it’s of no use. The [ ] and McClellan will compel them to surrender and that unconditionally. Please send me some papers. Closing, I remain as ever your son, — J. B. Edson
1 At the time of the Peninsular Campaign the area had been subjected to steady rains that turned the entire river valley into a huge swamp. On May 27th a pontoon bridge was thrown at New Bridge but was removed when advancing Confederate troops threatened the site. Another attempt to build the bridge on the night of the 31st also proved unsuccessful. The rising water and powerful currents created by the steady rains made the job impossible in the darkness.
[Mechanicsville, Virginia] Wednesday, May 28, 
I suppose you think you ought to have a few lines. Well so do I. How do you prosper? I suppose you have all you can do & have your time occupied in introducing your Canadian cousin Tom to your many acquaintances. I hope he will try and get a situation in Rochester & remain there until I return which I hope will be ere long.
You will perceive that I made rather an abrupt panic. I wrote this first part of this yesterday afternoon when an order came that the enemy was getting ready to attack us and I with all the others had to fall into line with rifles in hand, but it proved to be only a false alarm. Last eve we heard for the first time of Gen. Banks’ retreat back across the Potomac. It had a tendency to depress to some degree the minds of the boys but I have full confidence in the strong arm of the North. We have a very powerful army directly in front of us and we have to be on the watch constantly. We have to arise an hour before sunrise & remain under arms until daylight to prevent a surprise. This affair of Banks will no doubt prolong the war for a few weeks longer than it would have lasted had this misfortune not have happened. Some here think it a plan to draw [Stonewall] Jackson away from these parts & keep him from reinforcing the Rebels in our front. It will not be many days before we’ll be in Richmond, being only five miles from there. The steeples of the different churches can be seen by getting on a high piece of ground or on the top of a house.
Our regiment expects to go out on picket tonight where we will be within 60 rods of them. Our regiment is in the advance now. General Porter has turned the 13th Regiment of Rochester fame out of his division & says they can not be depended upon & have been detailed for extra duty in the rear of the army. This is a big thing for the pet regiment of Rochester, don’t you think so? There was an account of their running from the enemy at Yorktown. Have you heard of the 27th [New York] running yet? Hey? Well no more boasting. I want you to write me an answer to this & in which you must give me a precise account of the affair of the 20th in which you find such a conspicuous part. I hope you will delay in your matrimonial jump until your bro. Jack can be there to witness it. Have you seen Bell lately? If so, let me know.
Tell Father to send me Albert’s last letter to him to me when he answers this one. I suppose his regiment had to leave Winchester when the Rebels made their appearance & will now probably as a regiment be fully equipped. Let me know all particulars. I shall not probably write again until we are in Richmond. You will soon hear of a big battle near Richmond.
On picket before the Enemy Lines and 5 Miles from Richmond June 2nd , Monday afternoon
My dear Mother,
You must think this a rather queer place to answer your letter. Well, to tell you the truth, I’m somewhat in a writing humor. Your letter of the 25th inst. [ult.] has just been handed to me & I will try and answer it in my poor way. I wrote a long letter last week to Father, Miriam, & Em before I received the box with the cards which latter arrived all safe with the exception of a piece being torn out of the center of the envelopes leaving the letter partly exposed. The cards do very well but I like not the [illegible] the type was not the kind I should have chosen for such an occasion. The letter being [ ] large and not neatness enough about them. Some folks have queer tastes about them, however the present as far as it goes was “well enough” and reflects cordially upon the donor. There is one question I wish—you may laugh at my asking such a silly question—but I must do it. Did Father have the stirring ceremony of giving the bride away? and how was he dressed for the occasion? I’m very particular, you’ll say, no doubt. You were too much so in your letter of the 25th. I like to have the full particulars at all times.
This is the second time within a week that we’ve had to be on picket duty. The first time when we came on at 7 o’clock in the eve all right that night, well about 3 o’clock the next afternoon there came up the greatest thunderstorm I ever have witnessed—perfectly terrific. The rain came down in torrents & we stood & took it lasting until the relief pickets came along. We went back to camp, it being very dark, but the lightning playing fearfully the while, the rain commenced again & also the thunder. I cannot describe it. I could not do it justice but suffice it to say that I never in all my life heard nor saw anthing so grand.
You no doubt have heard of the Chickahominy Swamp in the papers. It is just in front of where I’m writing & the Rebs just on the other side. Our watching is mostly at night, we having to be careful then. How often when sitting or leaning against a tree with no other companion around me but the whippoorwill, the quail, & frogs in the distant swamp singing and grunting their songs, a person has only to be alone in the woods of an evening to realize the beauty of the same. I have read often of the woods being musical. I believe it now. As I said before, when thus on duty watching the enemy, my mind often wanders back to the fireside warm and comfortable, to the white table cloth, & the tea simmering on the stove. How often I’ve wished I could have dropped in upon that circle, if only for an hour. Then stern duty recalls me from my reverie. The busy workings of the enemy in the swamp beyond as they prepare works for a stout resistance to the vigorous efforts of our young Chieftain—the noble McClellan—bids me to be watchful.
Last Saturday the ball was opened on our left wing by General Keys or rather Casey but who had to fall back overcome by superior numbers. Soon General Kearny appeared upon the scene of conflict & turned the tide of battle. I cannot give a description as our Division was not engaged, it occupying the right of the army here, [and] our brigade occupying a bridge and holding it & keeping the enemy from turning our right flank. We have not heard the particulars further than that the victory is ours. You will hear it all before I do. We shall probably cross tomorrow & no doubt will have a pretty hard battle. The Rebs I learn this afternoon [shot] at Capt. Wanzer, missing him, the bullet burying itself in the ground beyond.
I suppose you have heard ere this of the retreat of Gen. Banks back to Harpers Ferry & Williamsport. No doubt Albert’s regiment has had to retreat also and they probably will be furnished with horses. I hope you will send me all of Albert’s letters hereafter as I take a great deal of interest in the perusal of his letters. I admire his spunk, &c. He knows not the severity of a hard and toilsome march. May he never experience what I have in this respect is my prayer.
Our troops are now very near Richmond. It may be before I get a chance to send this we will be in that city. We expect to get our pay now in two or three days, the paymaster being around the camp.
Please send me some post stamps in your next letter as I cannot get them around here. You did right in sending what you intend to Bill. L. although I cannot say that I have much of any interest in the matter. I must now close with love to all, with a large share for yourself. Remember me to all enquiring friends & I remain your affectionate son, — J. B. Edson
In camp 7 miles from Richmond [Mid] June 1862
Your letter of June 1st along with Mother’s I received this morning when on guard. I was pleased to hear of Albert’s safety. He never knows something of what a retreat is and the disastrous consequence. There is one thing I wish to know & that is if they had carbines or the regular infantry rifles or muskets & if they also had their sabers.
We are now back in our old camp having been for 11 days on picket duty at Mechanicsville—a placeI mentioned in my previous letters. I wrote you in the 3rd of this month and send enclosed a draft for $16 with which you know what to do. Please send me Albert’s letter giving an account of the battle. Where does [ ] Clements work now?
Give me all the news you have or may hear & I ever remain your affectionate son, — J. B. Edson
Camp Lincoln, Fair Oaks June 28, 1862
I will endeavor to write you a few lines. We have just had quite a [illegible], the air quality. The weather for the past 10 days has been very warm and uncomfortable. We are still encamped at or near the late battlefield. The division is engaged in building new roads for the movement of heavy siege guns. This is to be another regular investment & siege if the Rebels don’t interfere by bringing on a general engagement which, if they do, McClellan will push right through to Richmond at all hazards. His heavy siege guns have all arrived & are at the station. There is quite an eminence just by and the Rebel picket line which I understand McClellan intends to take possession of & on which he will plant his siege train & which will command the city of Richmond.
They—the Rebs—have tried several times to bring on an engagement. The night before last, or rather in the evening, they undertook a bold maneuver in attempting to get possession of a large quantity of commissary stores which they are in great need of. Our pickets fell back until our batteries could get a chance at them and which soon made sad havoc in their ranks, literally disemboweling a great many.
It is an opinion & sentiment of the North that McClellan intends to be in Richmond by the 4th of July. Allow me to say they know very little about it and it would be a great benefit to the cause of the Union if this set of demagogues would hold their prating. If it had not been for their ignorance with that of a few fanatics in the Cabinet of Congress, McClellan would have been in Richmond long ere this. I just wish I could have the healing of these men. I would give them a dose harder to take than Surgeon [Norman S.] Barnes (camphorated pills).
You do not tell me how you are getting along at Woodbury’s & what kind of work is M. Aylesworth doing at present. I wish you would sed me some papers at all events. Three a week would only be 3 cents, not much. My health is good. Send if you please Albert’s letters after you read them & I will send them back.
Remember me to all enquiring friends. And I ever remain your affectionate son, — J. B. Edson
…steady front 4 ranks deep right up, up to the batteries, on, on, they come. But hard whang goes the grape and canister into them, mowing them down like grass. They reform and still they come only to be received in the same disastrous manner. No less than 4 times have they been known to thus form & press on and in some instances the infantry, who are supporting the batteries getting out of ammunition, have to fall back leaving the gunners to work their guns, there being no way to get the battery off—the horses having been shot down. Thus you have a very faint idea of part of a battlefield. It is beginning to grow dark and I must close. Ever remaining your affectionate son, — J. B. E.
In Camp on James [River] July 4th, 1862
Yours of the 29th I received today. I had begun to think you had forgotten me entirely. [illegible due to crease in paper] since informing you of my safety after the battle of the 27th of June. In it I gave you a faint description of the conflict. The eve I wrote that we expected to be attacked but we retreated from there that night for 5, yes 7 days & nights without rest. But it is alright now. McClellan, I believe, has them where he wants [them]. As our regiment was on its way to its present camp, wading in mud nearly knee deep, Gen. McClellan rode along & says, “Never mind, boys, you will soon be through it.”
We expect to have some rest now & recruit our strength. Thousands have fallen on our side during the past 10 days. I don’t suppose 40,000 would cover the list of the killed on our side. The enemy lost many more. The Rebels have been strongly reinforced lately. Thus their success lately, but now that reinforcements are arriving for us, it will put a different face on the matter.
Let me see, one year ago today I was in Rochester. Little did I then think that I should pass through such scenes as I have. Heaven has been propitious indeed with me—comrades falling around me and I spared. One or two holes through my clothes showing how very near I was being hit. The young man who tented with me all of last winter in Camp Franklin was shot through the heart almost at the first fire we received from the Rebels. They tried again their bullets on John Clague, wounding him in the back of the lower part of his head. It was done by a buckshot. It bled profusely at first. I tied my handkerchief wet in water around his head & he walked back to camp. It was a close call for him. He is now as we as ever.
I suppose you will [have] a good time today in Rochester. I suppose the “home guards” will make quite a sensation. I wonder how they would like to have a few 150 pound percussion shells burst and fall around them? Methinks their pantaloons would be wet. With what? you ask. Not where we did sweat. If they have any manhood about them, they will at once & without delay volunteer to take the places of those whose time of enlistment will be out in a few months.
I expected to see the whole of our brigade taken prisoners on Monday night, we being completely cut off. But by the skillful management of Gen. Slocum & Bartlett, we succeeded in stealing through in safety and by a certain spot where but 4 hours before the bullets that the enemy fired into General Kearny’s men flew through our ranks & the shell & solid shot over our heads. I don’t believe there was a man in the ranks certain that ew would get through in safety.
General McClellan reviewed his troops this afternoon. Sadly & decimated look the ranks to what they did one month ago. There is one thing I wish you to understand—the Rebels fight with undaunted courage. To give you an instance, just imagine an army of 4 divisions in all—something like 50,000 men—advancing & thus to sudden destruction. To be sure, they fought with a courage & bravery worthy of a better cause. They thought to drive us into the James [river] by an overwhelming force but as soon as our tired legions came in sight of this placid stream, “Boom!” “Boom,” came a sound which shook the very earth and great missiles went hissing through the air, then to burst causing panic & dismay in the Rebel ranks, hundreds falling to rise no more.
The little Yankee cheese box—the Monitor—rides just below the camp in the river in her majesty and bids defiance to all the world if necessary.
I received Emilie’s letter the other day & was sorry she was soon to return. If I live, I will endeavor to go over & see her & her folks. I suppose there was a big time in Rochester on the 4th. Let me know all about it. We spent it here amid the booming of heavy guns from the gunboats & light field pieces with the instrumental bands playing the national airs.
My health is still pretty good & feel in good spirits. Would feel much better of it were not so hot but must put up with it nevertheless. I f you wish to send anything to me, send someone over to Mrs. Rogers when you get the box [ ] and see when her brother Ed R. is going to return. He has been home on a sick furlough. I heard he was about returning. Do this if it will not put you to too much trouble. How is Miriam getting along? I think she might condescend to write a little more frequently.
Tell Hatt. to tell me how she & Em spent the 4th. Tell her I saw Tony Walk the other day. He is well & in good spirits. I must now close. I received the letter with the $5 in all safe. Let me have all the news you have. Send me the Express with all the letters from this company in. Do you know what [ ] Tim Edson is in at present. Also [ ] Aylesworth. Closing, I hope to hear from you soon. Your affectionate son, — J. B. Edson
[Camp near Harrison’s Landing] Tuesday afternoon, August 5th 
I will again [write you] today not knowing what may transpire in a few hours to prevent my doing so.
There is a report in camp that General Pope has been driven back to Manassas. This is only a report; hope it may not prove true. If it is so, this army stands a pretty poor sight.
McClellan might have long ere this been in the Rebel Capitol if there had not been such [___]lling in Congress. I will say no more at present on that subject. Our regiment was paid or at least [our[ company this morning. I will give the draft to Capt. Wanzer & he will sent it along with others to his Father, Doct. Wanzer near the [ ] in Buffalo Street. I don’t know a safe way to send it there the old way. So all Father will have to do is to go to the Doctor’s office and get the draft.
Mother, will you purchase me some [baking] soda and do it [up ] in a kind of flat bundle & send it in a paper the same as you sent the Handy & Co,. There is no danger about sending things that way provided the postage is paid on the weight. Do this and oblige your affectionate son, — J. B. Edson
Camp near Harrison’s Landing James River August 8th 1862 Friday morning
Your letter of the 3rd I received this morning and was glad to hear that all were well at home. The weather is very warm at present—Yea, awful hot! You don’t see no such weather north as this.
Our fortifications are about completed and strong ones they are. If the enemy should make up his mind to attack us, I’m inclined to think they would go back with a fl___ in their _____. Just imagine an army of something like 80,000 men entirely surrounded by earthworks & at a distance of about every 20 feet a piece of artillery planted. Just imagine the amount of fire that would belch forth on the approach of an enemy.
Yesterday or rather the day before two of the members of our company who were taken prisoners during the late retreat [returned]. They have fared pretty hard. The Rebs seem confident of whipping us but just hurry up those million men, get them to the field, & we’ll sweep rebellion into oblivion. These men say that the Rebels admit their cause is lost of Richmond falls.
Capt. [George G.] Wanzer goes home to recruit one regiment. When he returns you will have an opportunity to send anything you think would produce benefit to me. I wish I could be one that was to go with the captain but it is otherwise ordered.
I’m glad to hear you have steady work. Should think they would appreciate your services enough so as to remunerate you accordingly. I think if they have not done so, they are mean, unprincipled men.
The box has not come yet. I don’t much expect it now & it don’t much matter if does not. I must close now as I feel ill having been up all night on the [ ]. It is very unhealthy here. I don’t expect to be entirely well until cool weather sets in which is not far off. Closing, I remain your affectionate son, — J. B. Edson
Fort Lyon Alexandria, Virginia August 29, 
My Dear Parents,
I received a letter from Mother dated the 24th. Was glad to hear from you as I always am. Once more in Alexandria, who would have thought it 4 months ago when we sailed down the Potomac for the Peninsula that we would so soon be in our old posts again. “Well, such is the fate of war.” We were told when we got into this camp that we were to stay here but we had but just got our tents pitched after experiencing a heavy rain storm which soon laid them level with the ground, then comes the ominous words, “Strike tents and prepare to march at a moment’s notice.” That order came last night and we are yet here, but as soon as our rations are cooked, we start for someplace—God only knows where.
You say you think I’m having hard times down here. You may well say that but it is no worse with me than with thousands of my brave comrades having made such hard and tiresome marches. We all thought htat we would have a chance to recuperate our failing strength. We have not seen our knapsacks for nearly two weeks and they contain our little all, causing us to wash our shirts & my other things. Well, all this is well enough.
You spoke of Brady proposing to you to send me an under shirt. It would be very acceptable. Only let it be a colored one. You will find some nicer ones of fine soft wool in most any of the stores over the river. Do not get anything that is harsh. You know how tender my skin is. I have never drew but one of those white shorts from the government & that one was the other…Government shirts are too harsh for me altogether. Well, do as you think best & I guess all will be well. This person you call Sergt. Brady is nothing more than a private [William H. Brady] in our company. He was not in any of the battles with his company but came in after they were over so you can judge how much the boys think of him. Our time is nearly out.
If I had more time, I would write more. Give my love to all enquiring friends & I ever remain your affectionate son, — J. B. Edson
Camp Franklin, Va. [August 30, 1862]
Yours of the 23rd I received this forenoon & hasten to answer it.
I have some good news for you. The long wished for time has come. Yesterday afternoon about 4 o’clock the Colonel [Joseph J. Bartlett] gave orders to fall in to line without arms out on the parade ground. He them formed us into a square and read an order somewhat as follows. An order from the Headquarters of the Army for the men to stand in readiness to march at a moment’s notice with two days rations in our haversacks and our knapsacks to contain but one shirt besides the one we have on, it—the orders stating how heavily the teams are to be loaded.
We know not at what moment we will have to start. McClellan’s anaconda is about to make the final strike of the war. He will probably lead on with 250,000 men. General Banks has crossed the Upper Potomac and occupies the same position that General Patterson held when the Battle of Bull Run was fought. He will prove no such traitor as did Patterson and will come down on the Rebs at Manassas like a whirlwind.
Oh! it will be a glorious time when we plant the glorious emblem of our Nation high on the ramparts of Manassas. But I’m digressing. After Col. Bartlett had read this order, you ought to have heard the cheering. He then made us a speech in part of which he said that he was willing to share the fate of the rank and file. He said he knew the metal that the regiment was made up of. (Col. Bartlett will not ask him men to go where he dare not, but on the contrary will lead us into the very thickest of the fight himself fighting like a caged lion.) Just look at his eyes in his photograph and see if you can’t discern a spirit that says, “Never say die.” He is an awful man in battle. If you could have seen him at Bulls Run, just at this point, then at that, always where the worst danger was to be incurred.
When you get this letter, I shall be on the way to Manassas, but you must write all the same and direct to Washington as usual. It may be the last time that I shall have the pleasure of writing you again. No human being can tell. The God of battles only knows. I have longed for the hour to come when we could wipe out the Bull Run defeat.
You no doubt will look at all the news with a great deal of interest but always bear in mind that the 27th will always be in the front ranks of the many eager combatants. Remember too the 27th has the best names of any regiment that was in the field at Bull Run—no exceptions—even the boasted 69th and fire zouaves. I will tell you if I ever see you again.
So goodbye for the present, — J. B. Edson
Look out soon for great news in Eastern Virginia.
Camp near Alexandria, Va. September 5th 1862
I received two letters from home yesterday—one mailed on the 18th of August, the other on the 1st of this month. I was glad to hear of your all being well and am thankful that I still live. Since I last wrote you, we’ve been to Manassas or within a mile and a half of the battleground but not in time to take a part. If we could only have got there—that is, our Division & Corps—no doubt there would have been a different termination. I will tell you if I ever get home about the part our Division & Regiment took in that fight. I am sick of putting things on paper.
Well, I’ve just finished my dinner of pork and beans. I have not yet heard from the box. I think the man who said he would bring it to me ought to [have] made it good in some way or other.
I feel no interest in writing now days. I’m not disposed at all. The news of General McClellan having taken full command of the whole army fills me with delight. If they had not deprived him of his command before, he would have long ere this brought with the help of his brave legions this war to a successful close. “All honor to the Brave Gay Commander & woe be to the man that anyone of us hears abusing or disparaging him, our General.” I’ve been told by persons lately from the North that Gen. McClellan was very little thought of & in some places denounced as a traitor. If McClellan had been on the field last Saturday, things would have been different.
I suppose Capt. [George G.] Wanzer is on his way home by this time. I hear he has been called.
I will close hoping to hear from you often. As ever your affectionate son, — J. B. Edson
Send me some postage stamps and Albert’s last letter.
Crampton’s Gap September 15, 1862
Your letter of the 8th I have just received & am glad that you are all well. Well, I have passed through another terrific battle with the enemy which we—that is, our Division—completely routed. The enemy were strongly posted in the above named gap. It was assigned to General Bartlett to open the engagement with his brigade which he did in gallant [style]. Our regiment was thrown forward as skirmishers to find the enemy and bring on the engagement. On we went right into the teeth of the rebel batteries. They opened on us with grape and canister & case shot but still on we went until the left of our regiment commenced firing. We fought them thus, picking off the rebel gunners and horses until the rest of our brigade came up to our relief which was just in time as our ammunition was just exhausted. Then General Bartlett ordered a general charge of the whole line. We carried everything before us, the rebs running like scattered sheep although having been just reinforced by Gen. [Howell] Cobb with his brigade. The dead and dying are laying all about.
It was a complete victory for us, Slocum having cut their line in two. It was a bold stroke but a successful one. I hear that yesterday they were repulsed everywhere. We are only about 5 or six miles from Harper’s Ferry near the town of Jefferson. You will see it on any of them maps that are in the New York Herald. Probably I shall see Albert in a few days if he is not shot or wounded. There has been heavy firing in that direction yesterday.
McClellan is in the field & I think all will yet be well. Our regiment does its duty everywhere. Remember. I expect we will move every moment.
Ever your affectionate son, — J. B. Edson
On the Battlefield near Sharpsburg, Maryland September 19, 1862
Having a few spare moments, I will use them in letting you know that I am yet in the land of the living. Our Corps arrived on the field just in time to take the front & relieve the men who had been engaged all day. Our Division were not engaged. We did nothing of the offensive yesterday. Last night the enemy moved off. This morning our light artillery went after them. I hear them now thundering in the enemy’s rear. I read in the Clipper an account of Albert’s regiment cutting their way out of Harper’s Ferry. It was a gallant deed. I know not how Albert is. I hear the regiment is about a mile and a quarter from here near Williamsport. I’m expecting to see him every day. I want to see him very much.
We have bivouacked on the battlefield for two nights. The stench is terrible. There was one spot near our company where a Mississippi & Georgia Regiment made a charge, but just as they were crossing the fence, a storm of bullets met them & some sixty were stretched dead upon the field in every for which death by the bullet can cause.
The Monroe County Regiment—108th—were in this battle & young Robert Holmes is reported to have been killed. He was leading on his company while on the charge when a ball went through his breast & he fell. The bullet spares none. Capt. [George G.] Wanzer has not returned yet.
When you write, let me know all the news. How is Miriam getting along? I hear nothing from her. I suppose she has no thought for her long absent brother having [ties?] of another nation to call her attention elsewhere.
There will probably be another great battle soon which will terminate the contest of this fall. I leave you to guess as to what you think will be the result of that contest.
All hail to our young commander, McClellan.
From your affectionate son, — J. B. Edson
Saturday, September 20th—Before ending this, I can tell you that I’ve seen Albert. His regiment was on the move. I had to run from the rear of his regiment to the front in order to see him. He looked well. I’m expecting to see him now every moment having sent word to him to come & see me. Write soon & oblige your son, — J. B. Edson
P. S. Tell Hatt. to write me. Also cousin M. as I did not receive her letter she sent in the box. — J. B. E.
In Camp at White Plains, Virginia and 17 miles from the old battleground of Bull Run November 1861 [should be 1862]
Your kind letter of the 26th inst. [ult.] I received only a few days ago. I not being with the regiment, could not get it when it arrived. I am in good health, thank God. Old winter has set in—snow an inch deep on the ground.
Well, one more in Old Virginia and nearly upon the same ground we have been on before so many times. We have made some tall marching, just back from Harrison’s Landing to Newport News, from there we sailed to Alexandria, marched through there to Bull Run and back to Alexandria, from there to Washington, through Maryland to Williamsport, and then back to Berlin, just this side of Harper’s Ferry where we again crossed into Virginia and are now very near Manassas again. Strange movements.
No winter quarters for the army this winter but strong active war. It is as cold here today & as strong as I’ve seen it in the North in this month. So you can judge how warm & comfortable we soldiers are. I’m in hopes they—that is, our army—will end this affair this month.
You spoke of Albert’s regiment as being attached to our Corps. It is not so. I’ve not seen him since the time near Williamsport, Maryland. I’ve heard while on this march that the regiment is out in front and in the advance & they have lost some in skirmishing with the enemy but where they are, I do not know.
Those gloves you sent by Lieut. Leggett I’m afraid I shall never get. I need the gloves very much as I cannot get any around here. You could send me a pair by mail or you could tell Albert’s mail [ ]. Give him the directions the same as a letter. Hoping to hear from you soon, I close ever remaining your sincere & affectionate son, — John B. Edson
to Elijah Edson, Esq.
In Camp 11 miles from Fredericksburg Stafford Court House, Va. November 26, 1862
Hearing that Father was not in Rochester, I will write to you instead. It has been some time since I heard from home. You know not how I feel when some time elapses before I hear from home. The soldier prizes a letter from home far better than any favors that can be conferred upon him. He needs all the encouragement in the way of hearing from home is concerned that can possible be given to him.
I’m again with the regiment having been at the commissary for the month. It was much easier there than in the regiment for I had my knapsack carried in the wagons. They are the greatest curse that the soldier has.
I received a letter from Annie McMillan a day or two ago which & answered in which she mentions Father’s being in Baltimore. She did not mention what he was there for. I wish you would tell me all about it & if he gets any better wages than he did when he used to go out 2 yeas ago.
Saturday, 29th. I received a letter from Father last evening in answer to the one I wrote when at White Plains. About two weeks ago I heard that Albert was back at or near the junction with some sick horses and that the principal part of the regiment was in the advance along with the 8th Illinois Cavalry. I haven’t heard a word from him since.
I received a letter from Annie McMillan about a week ago. She said in that Father had gone to Baltimore. If he is there, it is but a short distance to where we now are. He could go from Baltimore to Washington, then take the boat from there to Aquia Creek & it is only 7 or 8 miles from there to Stafford Court House and by enquiring for General Brooks’ Division. He—Brooks—has command of our division & has ever since sometime before we left Maryland.
I don’t believe I will ever get the gloves you sent by Lieut. Leggett unless Albert sends them by mail. It would not be policy to send anything by express to anyplace. You could send me a pair of gloves by mail quite easily & not have it cost but very little. I should prefer the pure buckskin glove to any cheap affair for they would not be worth the cost of the mail. We do not expect to be paid now until after the first of January & I should like to have you send me 2 or 3 dollars in money if you can as I need it very much. Also please send me one coarse and one fine tooth comb. Send them in a paper by mail.
The government thinks we can carry on a winter campaign here successfully but we soldiers have our doubts about it. It took 16 hours to pull our rifled gun from the mud into which it had sunk the other day. If we—that is, the army—should go into winter quarters, there is a good reason to believe the two years men will be discharged. If so, Bully for us!
I must now close, remaining as ever your affectionate son, — J. B. E.
On the Battlefield of Fredericksburg December 13th 
This is the second night that we have bivouacked upon the battlefield. The enemy is in strong position before us. We crossed in force yesterday morning the night before after our forces had finished shelling the city. Our regiment was ordered over & deployed as skirmishers and scour the country a short distance in front after which we returned across the river. The next morning—yesterday I mean—the whole left Grand Division crossed. Our position is near the center. Our lines is about 10 miles long so you may judge of the quantity of ground we cover and have to fight over. Our brigade lay under the fire of the rebel batteries all day. Tomorrow we take the front as skirmishers. I may fall. It is a hard contested field. It is (nip & tuck) with both sides so far although I believe the advantage if any is with Stonewall Jackson. I hear [he] commands the rebels.
We attacked them on the left this forenoon with a view of flanking them bit did not make much headway. They have a very strong position. The troops have to spend the night in the open air & tonight are not allowed to unpack their knapsacks. This order is that we may be ready to support the skirmishers in case they are being driven in.
I have not seen [brother] Albert yet. I was near their camp at Bell Plain. I suppose they are doing picket duty still in our rear. If we should beat the rebs here, I think it would be a final one for them.
I will now close this as I write under some difficulties sitting upon my knapsack & it upon the ground. The Rebel campfires are only a little over half a mile distance.
So goodbye. If we meet no more here below, may we meet in a far better world where war & conflict is not thought of. May God defend the right is the sincere prayer of your son, — J. B. Edson
Still on the Battlefield [at Fredericksburg] Monday morning, December 15th 
I will send you a few more lines this morning. Yesterday all day we were on picket and had to lay under their fire all day. Whenever we would put up our heads, they would pop at us. The Rebs are very strongly fortified. It will be a great sacrifice of lives to take their position.
Yesterday being Sunday, they did not commence on either side. I received the letter with the dollar which you sent yesterday.
So goodbye for the present. Your son, — J. B. Edson
White Oak Church, Va. February 25, 1863
Having an opportunity to send a few lines by Chas. W., recon I will improve them. I received the papers sent by Lieut. Roach & was glad to get them…
Albert is no where near me now or was he when I got [ ] He [ ] 20 miles away at Aquia Creek where, consequently, cannot get to him. I heard they had orders to go to Newbern, North Carolina. I let him have my watch some two months since. He then told me I could have the one he sent him so I shall reclaim mine…[ink is too faded to read]
White Oak Church, Va.
[Ink is too faded to transcribe]
Near White Oak Church, Virginia
[Ink is too faded to transcribe]
27th Regt. N. Y. State Vols. Near White Oak Church, Va. April 10th 
Received your letter of the 29th some days ago and have now concluded to answer it. We have just had another muster which will probably be our last.
The President & wife reviewed the army the other day. I was not present on account of a lame ankle. A couple of our boys have just started for the 8th Cavalry. I sent word to Albert by one of them telling him if he wanted to see me again before I went home, this might be his only chance.
The weather for the past 3 days has been exceedingly beautiful….You did not tell me how UncleJohn & Henry are prospering & where they are working & who for.
Father, I wish you to take the money now in the bank in my name & get you a Sunday go to meeting suit of clothes. You can have it in welcome & I want to see them on you when I get home—that is, on the first Sunday afterwards. Noe bear this in mind. If there should be more than you can use, let Mother have the rest to get her a tip top dress—that is, if there is enough now you understand. I will see to Hatt. when I return.
I will now close hoping to soon see you in person. As ever, your affectionate son, — J. B. Edson
We have now (one of Joe Hooker’s days)—the stormy ones.
We expect to start for York State in about ten days. I understand the 13th have given up their arms. I think I saw Albert last. I advised him to get a furlough. I wish he would. I would like to see him in Rochester. You may well feel proud of him for he’s a brave soldier. No fear in his constitution. 27 days at the most have we got to serve but that is short. If I should get my discharge in Washington, I should not go to Rochester with the company and there are a great many others that would not. Our officers have proved themselves to be mere nothings. They have never stuck to their promises. I have an abject…
The government was some 4,000 men to go to California after mules. The men are to be equipped as cavalry, two revolvers, saber and carbine. To proceed to New York City, from thence by steamer to California, to come back the overland route, the regular mail route & bring those mules back with each of us riding one & lead two. Pay $45 per month. …starting first of June. This is what I’m thinking of. I have not yet made up my mind. I have a often wanted to see California. I think it would be a good chance.
I have been feeling somewhat unwell, having a heavy cough, but I guess it will soon pass away. Do you think work will be plenty this summer.
I do not know whether I shall go to work at my business or no. I shall not be in a condition to do any heavy work at the first.
This letter was written by 17 year-old Albert Clarence Aubery (1844-1932), the son of Harvey F. Aubery and Annabella Dodge of Brooklyn. In 1860, Albert’s father was a liquor dealer in NYC. After preparatory school, Albert attended the University of Vermont and then graduated from Columbia College in 1867 and became a lawyer.
Albert wrote the letter to his cousin, Cullen Bullard, Jr., the son of Cullen Bullard (1806-1883) and Wealthy Bullard Aubrey (1812-1894) of Weybridge, Vermont.
Albert’s letter informs his cousin of the grand welcoming party sent to greet Gen. Michael Corcoran—a favorite Irish son of NYC—who had recently been released from Rebel prison where he had been confined for over a year.
New York August 23, 1862
Dear Cousin and Friend,
I wrote to Uncle and Aunt when I arrived and by the letter, you know before this, that I am once more within the limits of this vast city. Last evening I wrote to my friend at __emsters and went down to the post offie this morning so it would go by this day’s mail. On my way home, I thought of you and Vermont and at the next corner at a paper stand, I bought you this week’s Harpers Weekly as on the first page is the engraving of General [Michael] Corcoran who was a prisoner in Richmond, Va., since the Battle of Bulls Run. You have heard a great deal of this man and I thinking you would like to see him, I bought it for you.
Yesterday he arrived in the city. I went down Friday where I saw the procession and the General and then run down some of the other streets ahead of the procession to the corner of Stanton Street and Bowery where I saw him again. The procession was composed of a few military and some prisoners who came from Richmond with the General and a large procession of Irish societies which in all made about 2 or 3 thousand people in the procession and took about an hour to pass. General Corcoran rode in an open carriage drawn by four or six horses (I forget which), all decorated (with plumes on their heads and some of the most beautiful horses I ever saw. He had his hat off and once in awhile stood up to make a bow to the ladies. You know, Cullen, Aunt Wealthy did complain of what a noisy fellow I was. I tell you, if she was in the city when Corcoran passed and heard me yell and scream and shout, what in the world would she think? I think she would say I made more noise than all the rest for my voice was heard above all others.
The city was greatly decorated with flags and ensigns, “Welcome Corcoran—the Hero of the Brave.” Now you want to know something about the crowd? Just before the procession came, you could walk on the people’s heads, when the policemen received notice to clear the streets so the procession could pass. I tell you, Cullen, many a person got a sap over he head with the policeman’s club. I was in such a place that I could not see my feet and my hat being jammed with now and then a thump upon my breast by a policeman’s club and begging, “Stand Back!” when they are pushing like “thunder” behind.
Quite a disturbance took place last evening next door to our house. A man tried to kill his wife. He stabbed her in the head and cut her considerable. He was arrested soon after.
The city is in quite an excitement about the war and the rumor of Gen. Pope being cut to pieces by “Stonewall” Jackson.
Tell Mother I received the letter she sent which came from Danbury. I go to Danbury on Wednesday. Cullen, I am in a great hurry and would write more. I would send and write you the whole four pages full if I had time. You will please excuse all imperfections. Remember me to all enquiring friends. I remain your close friend and cousin, — Albert Clarence Aubery