Category Archives: Battle of Antietam

1862: John McDonald to Sarah McDonald

An unidentified North Carolina soldier
(Adam Ochs Fleischer Collection)

The following letter was written by John McDonald (1833-1897) who was conscripted into service on 20 July 1863 and assigned to replenish the ranks of Co. C, 3rd North Carolina. Most of the members of Co. C were from Cumberland county when it was first formed in May 1861.

John’s letter was written from Richmond on 2 August 1862 after being in the service only two weeks. He joined the 3rd North Carolina just days before Lee launched his Maryland Invasion. They were in the reserve at 2nd Bull Run and Chantilly, only marginally engaged at South Mountain, but at Sharpsburg, members of the regiment burned the Mumma farm buildings and then changed front to the north to support Jackson’s men near the Dunker Church. An intense fire fight followed against the Federals of Hooker and Mansfield and the regiment was out of ammunition when reinforcements from Hill and Hood arrived. Federal reinforcements also arrived under Summner and forced the Confederate line back. Reinforcements from Walker and McLaws arrived and advanced over the regiment as it lay prone at the edge of the field. The reinforcements allowed the regiment to temporarily withdraw and refill its ammuition, after which it returned to the fight. After the fighting died down at the end of the day it fell back to a position near the Dunker Church.

During the day’s fighting at Sharpsburg, John took a gunshot wound to his left leg, fracturing the bone and temporarily disabling him. Left on the field, he was taken prisoner and not exchanged until 15 February 1863. After he was exchanged he was often absent from the regiment due to sickness or on detached service until Lee’s surrender at Appomattox.

John was the son of Alexander McDonald (1810-1879), an emigrant from Scotland who came to North Carolina in 1833. In the 1860 US Census, the McDonald family was enumerated in Carthage, Moore county, North Carolina. John wrote the letter to his older sister, Sarah McDonald (b. 1830).


Addressed to Miss Sarah McDonald, Carthage, N. C.

Richmond, Virginia
August 2, 1862

Dear Sister,

I take my pen in hand to drop you a few lines to inform you that I am well, hoping this may find you all well.

Last Wednesday at four o’clock, we left Camp Holmes and reached Weldon about 12 o’clock that night. Thursday morning we left Weldon [and] reached Petersburg about 12 o’clock. Four o’clock we started for Richmond. Arrived there about 6 o’clock Thursday evening. We then had to shoulder our musket and march 4 miles to this place northeast of Richmond. It was after dark when we came here. There was no tents for us to put up. Some of us got into tents which were not full. The rest had to sleep without tents.

Friday morning we were divided among the companies of the 3rd Regiment N. C. Troops. Myself and 16 more of the Moore County boys are in Co. C, H[enry] W. Horn Captain. There are 450 conscripts in this regiment, 65 of them is from Moore County. 18 of our men were left at Camp Holmes for camp guards. 12 or 13 deserted. About 400 of the conscripts deserted last Sunday night.

I have got a plenty to eat so far but some are complaining. I could write a great deal more but there is so much noise about here so I must close hoping to hear soon from you. Your affectionate brother, — John McDonald

Address Richmond, Va. care of H[enry] W. Horn, 3rd Regt. N. C Troops

1862: Martin Conley to Samuel Welles

I couldn’t find a photograph of Martin but here’s a cdv of Russell Levan who served in Co. D, 131st Pennsylvania. Posted on Civil War Faces by Ryan Lindbüchler in July 2013

The following letter was written by Martin Conley (1831-1906) of Co. D, 131st Pennsylvania Infantry, a nine-months regiment that was formed in the fall of 1862. Co. D was recruited primarily in Northumberland county—Lewistown and vicinity. Martin was among those who enlisted at Lewistown and served from August 12, 1862 until 23 May 1863. During this time the regiment participated in the Battle of Fredericksburg, Burnside’s Mud March, and the Battle of Chancellorsville. The regiment lost during its service 2 officers and 36 enlisted men killed and mortally wounded ,and 1 officer and 44 enlisted men by disease.

Martin was the son of James Conley and Sarah Delilah Lepley—all born in Ireland and emigrated to the United States about 1850.


Camp near Warrenton [Virginia]
November 13th 1862

Dear Friend Sam,

I seat myself down to answer your most welcome letter which was duly received today. This letter found me well and enjoying the pleasures of war. I hope that those few lines may find you all enjoying the greatest of pleasure that life can afford.

You stated that Thomas was shot at the Battle of Antietam. I had not heard that Thomas was killed until I got the letter. It made me feel very sorry when I heard it. In the army, it is very hard getting along. Since I have been in the service, I have seen some pretty hard sights—men lying over the [battle] field and no attention paid to them at all. I heard that John was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel but I heard since that he was going to be Colonel altogether. I hope he is. I would not care if they would promote me to be something else than privacy.

“I have not been in a battle yet nor don’t want to get in one vary soon. The reason i don’t want to get in one is because they shoot at a fellow. But if i have to i will do all i can for my courntry.”

— Martin Conley, Co. D, 131st Pennsylvania, 13 November 1862

I have not been in a battle yet nor don’t want to get in one very soon. The reason I don’t want to get in one is because they shoot at a fellow. But if I have to, I will do all I can for my country.

I wish I was there to get a share of those potatoes and turnips. I well believe that I would be well fed. I would like some apple butter too for i know it is nice. I will tell you what we have to eat. It is hard crackers and black coffee and a little meat and sometimes bean soup. It is pretty hard living for a fellow thats had good living all his life time.

Sam, I want you to get me a good pair of boots made and send them to me. I suppose sevens would be about right. We need them pretty big for we have mud and water to wade. We have been marching for about a week.

We left Sharpsburg on the 31st and are still under marching orders. I tell you that march set pretty hard on me for I had a big knapsack to carry. But I got along as well as I could. I did not get the money for them clothes and if you can get it, I wish you would. The clothes was too cheap, I know, but I can’t help it. Try and get the money for me if you can. I told you I would be back, Sam, but if I live in six months, I will come if that suits you. You know I can’t come sooner for I am under Uncle Sam and he won’t let me go soon.

I must bring my letter to a close for it is supper time. I got a letter from my sister and if I don’t happen to get home, you can send my money to my sister. When I get paid, I will send you the rest of my money. This is the directions how to write to my sister. Bridgeport P. O., Widen River, New Jersey. Her name is Lurensa Robbins.

Answer soon, — Martin Conley

[to] Samuel Welles

1862: William E. Vanauken to his Family

This incredible letter was written by William E. Vanauken, the son of John Vanauken (1810-1856) and Emmaleta Vredenburg (1804-1862) of Chemung county, New York. William enlisted at the age of 21 as a private in Co. D, 107th New York Infantry (the “Campbell Guards”) on 7 August 1862. At the time of his enlistment he was described as standing 5′ 7″ tall, with blue eyes and brown hair. He was promoted to a corporal sometime prior to 10 April 1863 and made sergeant on 5 March 1864. Unfortunately, William himself died in a similar fashion to what he described in the present letter at Dallas, Georgia, on 25 May 1864.

William’s Headstone in Marietta National Cemetery misspelled “Nanauken”

In his letter, William describes the maelstrom the 107th New York found itself in on the morning of 17 September 1862 near Miller’s Cornfield and the East Woods on the Antietam Battlefield. After making their advance, the yet untested regiment soon found itself hunkered down behind a fence on the Smoketown Road near Mumma’s Lane. Across the clearing before them, through the dense smoke of battle, they could just barely make out the Dunker Church and the West Woods beyond. On the right before them was Monroe’s Battery and to the left was Owen’s Battery, both under heavy fire from Rebel cannoneers. And when their right flank was threatened, the regiment was order to change front to meet the new attack, only to find themselves soon afterward prostrate again between two rows of Union artillery, every cannon belching out fire and canister as fast as it could be loaded.  For four hours, the regiment lay pinned to the ground between the rows of artillery, one member of the regiment [Newton T. Colby] telling his father he “tried to get as thin as possible and felt somewhat like a pancake.”

Not all of the boys in the 107th performed as well as they thought they would under fire according to Willie Graham of Co. B. “I honestly think we have a great many cowards in our regiment. We have got a great many of the village loafers and whiskey soakers—great braggarts—swearing what they would do when they got there [on the battlefield] and when we did get there, them very boys was taken sick or skulking behind straw stacks.” [see 1862: William Graham to Libbie Graham]

[Note: This letter is from the personal collection of Richard Weiner and was transcribed and published on Spared & Shared by express consent.]


Camp Third [Brigade] 1
September 27, 1862

Dear Brother and Sister,

I got your letter and was glad to hear from you. We are at Harper’s Ferry now. We are both well. Frank is reading your letter now. I have not seen Frank Vredenburg 2 since he was wounded. He is wounded in the hand. We are up on the hill a half a mile away from Harper’s Ferry. We can see the little village all the time. We went down to the Potomac this afternoon and went in a swimming and washed our clothes. We had a good time. When I got back, the mail had come in and there was jumping to get our letters.

Here is where John Brown was hung. The rebels was here and burnt the bridges to Harper’s Ferry. The engineer company has been here building bridges.

I am writing by candle light and I can’t half see. You need not be alarmed about the rebels coming up there for we give them one of the finest dressings that they ever had. The most of the talk now is that we have got them whipped now. They are a hard-looking set. Ez, I saw a good many of them giving their last prayer to God. I saw them gasp their last breath.

They had a battle here before we came and there was a [Union] General give up his men 3 and he is arrested now for it. That is when they burnt the bridge.

Ez, I went over the battleground the 3[rd] day and they was not half buried yet and they had all turned black. You could not have told your own brother if you had seen him. They reckoned that we killed two to one At any rate, I saw 40 of them in one place where our men had made a charge and there was only 5 of our men was killed there. That was an awful day. I was nervous to get into the fight but I would give my old hat and boots if I had been out of it. I tell you that it’s bad to see your companions dropping on every side of you.

When I first went in, the first thing that I saw was a shell come over my head and went about 6 rods beyond me and hit the ground and bursted and tore one boy’s leg off close to his body and tore one side off his head. He was the worst looking sight that anybody ever saw. I stepped over a good many dead bodies, some with their brains shot out and some with their legs shot off and such cries you never heard. Some of our boys [were] hollering, “Go in boys and kill the sons of bitches!” Horses was killed—lots of them. We saw one man with his horse. He was riding him and there come a shell and cut him in two and the horse ran away with his hind quarters on his back riding him as though he was alive and that looked hard. Ez, you can’t imagine nothing about it.

You must tell Bill Rockwell that Frank is wounded. I wrote a letter to Richard day before yesterday and two yesterday—one to Chloe and one to George Stanley. And tonight I got three letters—one from Richard and one from Emma Crandall. I will write a little more in the morning and let him know that I got his letter. I will write to Em in the morning so I will put them all together. That will be 5 letters. The mail goes out at 1 o’clock tomorrow afternoon. Frank got a letter from Rachel tonight. He is reading a newspaper now. Tell Jim he must take good care of the old fiddle. Rachel, kiss the children for me. This is all from your affectionate brother, — William Vanauken.

I heard that Melissa Crandall was married. I want you to write as soon as you get this. Goodbye. All my love to all of you.

1 I can’t be certain that I have transcribed the name of the camp correctly. It may have been “Third” Brigade, XII Corps, as that is the unit the 107th was part of at the time. After the Battle of Antietam, the 107th New York, 13th New Jersey, and the rest of the Third Brigade went into camp across the Potomac from Harpers Ferry on Maryland Heights, where they occupied a piece of farmland on a plateau on the west side of the ridge. They did not see action again until Chancellorsville.

2 Francis (“Frank”) D. Vredenburgh was 21 years old when he enlisted with William at Elmira in Co. D, 107th New York Infantry. Muster rolls indicate that he “deserted, no date, from hospital.” Frank was a cousin of William’s.

3 William is probably referring to Union General Dixon Stansbury Miles (1804-1862) who surrendered Harper’s Ferry to Stonewall Jackson’s men on 15 September 1862 giving up almost 12,500 prisoners. Miles was mortally wounded after calling for a ceasefire so probably avoided being cashiered. A commission was subsequently tasked to investigate the fiasco and concluded that Miles was probably a traitor and one or more subordinates were found at fault as well.

1862-63: Constantine Alexander Hege to his Family

I could not find an image of Hege but here is one of John Young Shitle of Co. I, 48th North Carolina Infantry. He was mortally wounded at Sharpsburg.

These letters were written by Constantine Alexander Hege (1843-1914), the son of Solomon Hege (1813-1875) and Catharine Guenther (1813-1874) of Davidson County, North Carolina. Constantine was raised as a Moravian and was naturally opposed to the war, but he was never the less obliged to enlist in the summer of 1862 in Co. H, 48th North Carolina Infantry. He served for 14 months during which time he was captured at the Battle of Bristoe Station on 14 October 1863 and was confined in the Old Capitol Prison in Washington. While there he was visited by some North Carolina Moravians working in the capitol, and under their guidance, Hege decided to take the oath of allegiance to the United States. After his release, he went to Bethlehem, Pa., where he found employment in the iron works.

“In August 1865 Hege returned to North Carolina, but a few months later entered the Bryant & Stratton Commercial College in Philadelphia where, upon completing the course, he was employed by a mercantile firm. In the spring of 1867 he opened a small country store at Friedburg, N.C. A few years later he moved to Salem to start a small foundry. After acquiring a steam engine his business expanded, and in 1877 he obtained a patent for an improved set of works for circular sawmills. He then began manufacturing sawmills and wood-working machinery which he also invented. The sawmills produced at Hege’s Salem Iron Works were sold throughout the United States and in several foreign countries. The first sawmill in Alaska was one he gave to the Moravian mission there.

The Salem Iron Works were owned and operated by Constantine Hege, who began the business in 1867 from a small shed in Salem. By 1882 the business had grown and his engines, wood planers, saw mills, and woodworking machinery were in great demand. He erected this three-story building on Salt Street at a cost of $30,000. A group of boys sit on the hill in the foreground viewing the impressive industrial complex. [Digital Forsyth]

Hege was married in 1870 to Frances Mary Spaugh from an area near Salem, and they were the parents of Walter Julius, Ella Florence, and Rose Estelle. Following the death of his first wife, Hege married Martha Caroline Spaugh in 1895.” [William S. Powell, 1988]

Letter 1

Camp Holmes, Raleigh N. C.
August 8th, 1862

Dear Father, Mother, Sister and Brother

I now have the opportunity to drop a few lines to you stating that I am well at present—only I feel very weak. I hope that you are all in good health at home. We arrived at Raleigh this morning at half past 1 o’clock where we stayed until daylight. Then we marched to this place where we are now encamped. My tent mates are Hiram Everhart, Henry Chriesfezer, Christian Fishel, Hiram Painter, Thomas Cecil, Wesley Cecil and Costin Miller. It is supposed that we will go to Petersburg next Monday.

I enjoyed my ride tolerably well. I saw a great many things that interested me very much. I counted 14 engines at the company shops. I also saw the state house and many other fine buildings. We are now in Camp Holmes about 4 miles from Raleigh. We have good tents and a beautiful grove to camp in. There are also several wells of good water in the camp. We are guarded all round by stout looking guards with muskets well loaded.

I will now tell you what I think of camp life. I think it is a very hard life. We drawed 440 lbs. of flour for 4 days. We also drawed 3 skillets & 1 pot for about 20 men to prepare their victuals in. I do not like such fare nor I am not content at present. I feel very much downcast but I think that several of my tent mates are very nice men and I hope that I can after a while do better if I must stay in camp. So no more at present. Do not write until I write again or wait until you hear where we next move to.

Please remember me, and tell Elick and Evander that they shall be contented at home and not to wish to be a soldier. I still remain, dear father, your affectionate son until death.

Yours truly, — C. A. Hege, Camp Holmes, Raleigh, N. C.

Letter 2

Petersburg, Virginia
August 13th 1862

Dear Father,

I now have the opportunity of writing to you this afternoon stating that I am well at present, hoping that you enjoy the same good blessing. We arrived here at Petersburg today about noon and moved to the camp. There  is a battle expected here very soon. They are a throwing up breastworks here very rapidly. It is supposed that the fight will extend from Richmond to Petersburg.

It fell to my lot to go in Capt. [John H.] Michael’s company. I there saw very many of my acquaintances which I had not seen for several months which revived me somewhat but I am not satisfied here. I do not like to hear of going to face the cannons and the muskets. I would be very glad if you could hire a substitute in my place because I cannot stand such a life with any enjoyment at all. I went over to see the flying artillery. There were 12 cannons there, and for a person to see them, it would make the cold chills run over anyone, I think. Therefore, I want you to try to hire a substitute and if you do hire one, get a competent man to bring him to Captain [John H.] Michael’s company, 48th regiment, N. C. troops.

We drawed each of us a knapsack, coat, cap, 1 pair of pants, 1 pair of drawers and shirt. I sent my carpet sack and my pants, shirt and drawers and several other things. Wesley Cecil, and Christian Fishel and I have sent our sacks to A. C. Hege’s store in Lexington and we want you to go and bring them home and pay A. C. Hege the freight if there is any to be paid and sent them home and Wesley Cecil’s wife will pay you for his and also send Christian’s home also.

We left  Raleigh last Monday evening about 5 o’clock P. M. and came on as far as Weldon on Tuesday morning A. M. and staid there until Wednesday morning about 3 o’clock and arrived at Petersburg about 10 o’clock A.M. and remained there a few moments and then marched out to our camp about 3 miles east of Petersburg. We have very bad water here. It is said that the yankees are about 12 miles from here now. I saw about 300 Yankees from Salisbury on their way home at Weldon. I talked with several of them. They seemed to be as fine a set of men as are anywhere. I here send a few shells to Mary & Julius which I picked up on the field where we are encamped. There are a  great many shells about here of different sizes and forms. I ate my first camp supper this evening.

Aug. 14th. We arose up this morning and went out to drill for our first time. We have to drill 4 times a day—twice in the forenoon and twice in the afternoon. I want you to write to me as soon as you can whether you will hire a substitute or not, but if you hire one, try and get one over 50 or under 18. He must be a stout-looking man; I want to know very soon all about it. Samuel and Emry Davis got substitutes from Richmond.

So I must close my letter. Tell all my friends to write to me. Please write soon. Please excuse my bad hand writing and bad composition because I have to write by chance. I remain your dear son until death.

— C. A. Hege

Direct your letters to C. A. Hege, Petersburg, Va., in care of Capt. [John H.] Michael, 48th Regiment, N C. Troops

Letter 3

Petersburg, Virginia
Sunday morning, August 17th 1862

Dear friend,

I now have the opportunity of writing a few lines to you stating that I  am well at present and hope that you enjoy the same good blessing. We left  Raleigh last Monday evening about 5 o’clock and got as far as Weldon about two o’clock on Tuesday morning and staid there until Wednesday morning about 3 o’clock when we started again and arrived at Petersburg about 10 o’clock the same morning. We then marched to our camp which is 3 miles east of Petersburg. We were then divided off in different companies. I fell in Capt.  Michael’s company [H]. I there saw many of my acquaintances. But I do not like the camp life. I would a great deal rather be at home a working than to be here. We fare tolerably well but our water is bad. We have to drill 4 times a day and some of the company stand guard of a night.

There is a massive breastwork a being thrown up about 3 hundred yards  from our camp. It is said to extend 50 miles in length. Nearly all of Wake’s  Brigade were called out last night to go out on Picket guard about 6 miles east of this camp.

I have been thinking about old Friedberg a great many times this morning, I have been wishing that I was there again as I usually was on  Sunday morning. I will now tell you how Sunday is spent in camp. In the  morning we are waked by the sound of the drum, then the roll is called, and about eight o’clock we get our breakfast. I now hear some singing, some reading, some playing marbles, some walking to and for as if in a deep study, while there are some cursing and swearing, some working, and they have the closest inspection of arms on Sunday morning. I have better hopes of the people in camp then I expected. I find a great many devoted Christians in camp whose voices can be heard at night in prayer and songs of praise. There is prayer meetings held in the camp at night and also preaching on Sunday.

We now have a very bad chance for reading or anything of that like, but I have been a studying the bible some and a reading tracts and trying to pray, but I have not attended half to my duties as I should have done, but I am  agoing to try by the grace of God to live more of a Christian life.

We have not tents enough yet for all of our men but we expect some more soon and when we get divided off in tents, we can have a better chance for devotional exercises but the way we now are, the tents are crowded full and then some have to stay out.

If you get to see my father, tell him that I am well at present. I was at preaching today in the camp. Rev. Mr. Johnson, the Presbyterian preacher of Lexington preached. His text is found in second Timothy, Chap 2.2, “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” He preached a very good sermon. He urged Christians to take heed and not to become backsliders but to be the more watchful and prayerful lest they be overcome by the wicked one. He also admonished sinners to repent and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ because they know not what moment death will overtake them.

So I must close. Please remember me in your prayers. I remain your friend and brother in Christ and if I never should meet you on earth, I hope and pray that I may meet you in heaven above where all is peace  and where there is no more sorrow nor sinning.

Yours truly, — Constantine A. Hege

Direct your letters to Petersburg, Va., Company H, care of Capt. Michaels, 48th Regiment N. C. Troops.

Please excuse my bad handwriting and bad composition.

Letter 4

Petersburg, Virginia
August 19th 1862

Dear Father,

I am not very well at present but I hope you are all well. I want you to try to hire a substitute for me if you possibly can. I would rather be at home and work like a negro than to be here in camp. We now have to leave here in a few minutes and we do not know where we will go to. Now you can guess how one feels in such a case. Try and get on until the last of this week if you can. You have no idea how one feels. Get Joseph Delap or somebody that understands how to manage and bring him on to Petersburg and there you can find out where we are.

Your affectionate son, — C. A. Hege

Letter 5

Richmond, Virginia
August 26th 1862

Dear Parents,

I now take the opportunity of writing a few lines to you stating that I am well at present and hope that you enjoy the same good blessing. I wrote  three letters home to you and have not received any answer yet. Therefore, I would like to know what is the reason that you do not write to me because I want to hear from home very bad. I would like to know whether you have any notion of hiring a substitute for me or not. I would be very glad if you would hire one, but do just as you think best. I will do just as you say. If you think it best for me to stay, I will be contented with my lot for I believe that Providence will carry me through safe. I am a little better satisfied than I was at first, but I have not learned to love the camp life.

One thing I like and that is that we  have preaching in camp every Sunday and prayer meeting once or twice a  week. I believe that there are a great many good Christians in camp.

We left the camp near Petersburg last Wednesday morning and marched about twenty-five miles to a camp about 3 miles east of Richmond. We left there on last Saturday morning and marched about a mile farther to another camp. But we now have marching orders again and we do not know where we will go to next. When we march we have to tote a large musket, bayonet, bayonet scabbard, cap box, cartridge box with about 30 or 40 cartridges, blanket and haversack full of provisions for to last 3 days. All the above named articles we have to tote when we are on a march. We had nothing but crackers and fat meat to eat from last Wednesday until Sunday morning. We then drew about a half a gill of molasses apiece.

So I must bring my letter to a close for we have to march soon. Please  write as soon as you possibly can for you know that I would like to hear from you all very much tell my friends and relations to write. If we never meet here on earth anymore, I hope and pray that we may meet in heaven.

Your affectionate son, C. A. Hege

Direct your letters to Richmond Va., in care of Capt. Michael, 48th Regiment N. C. Troops. If we leave here, our letters will follow us. Therefore, direct them to the above-named address.

Letter 6

Gordonsville Virginia
August 30th 1862

Dear Father,

I now have the opportunity of writing to you stating that I am well at  present and hope that you enjoy the same good blessing. I received your letter of the 21st instant on last Tuesday evening. I was very glad to hear from you once [more] and you said that C. Spaugh and J. Miller were a coming to see us and I would be very glad if you would come along.

We left Richmond last Tuesday about noon and started for the cars for Gordonsville. We arrived there about midnight and stopped awhile and then came on about 20 miles further where we [have] taken up camp on a high hill near the Rapidan river and we are here yet. Yesterday afternoon the 15th Regiment came here and camped about 200 yards from where we are camped. I went to their camp and there I saw nearly all of my old acquaintances. I saw Daniel Wilson and talked with him and I was very glad to see them all. He is well. Ephraim Weasner is well. Solomon Tesh is very much worsted, but he keeps with the crowd. Henry Weaver is sick. George Tesh is sick and a good many more of my  acquaintances.

Tell Uncle Christian that I saw Theophilus and that he is well but I did not get to see Emanuel nor Augustus. Theophilus said that they got sick on the march and could not keep up and they have not caught up yet this morning and he knows not how they are, nor where they are. They left  their sick men here for to be taken to the hospital at Richmond while the  balance of the 15th Regiment went on another march and it is supposed that they are going to Stonewall Jackson.

I can tell you that it went hard with us to see our friends leave us so soon again because we were just enjoying the company of our friends. They have been marching for 3 days and had only 3 biscuits and a little meat to eat and they had a heavy luggage  to tote, and when they came here last night, they were very nigh all run down. And this morning they started again on another 3-day’s march. And how they will stand it, I do not know. They said that some fell down dead on the march and a great many are a getting so that they cannot go much further because they are run down. They said that they wanted me to write and to let their friends know where they are and how they are so then you can tell their friends that I saw them very near all and that they nearly all started on the  march this morning except the sick [ones]. But I do not know how long they will hold up.

So I must close my few improper lines, giving you my best wishes and  hoping to return home again. Please write as soon as you receive this letter, write a long and interesting  letter, and tell Mary to write me a long letter also and write all the news about home. I remain, dear father, your obedient and affectionate son, — C. A. Hege

Direct your letters to Richmond Va., in care of Capt. Michael, 48th Regiment N. C. Troops, Co. H.

Letter 7

Near Martinsburg, Virginia
Sunday, September 21, 1862

Dear Parents,

I now have the opportunity of sending you a few lines stating that I am  well at present with the exception of a very bad cold and several boils, but I hope that you all enjoy the blessing of good health. I wrote a letter to you yesterday but I did not know whether you received it or not and therefore I thought I would write today again because I can send it with Mr. Jackson Stafford and I also thought that you would like to hear from me.

I received a letter from you day before yesterday dated August 30th which I was very glad to receive and to hear from you. I wrote some about the battle [Battle of Sharpsburg] which I was in last Wednesday but I will tell you something in this letter also, and also something about our march.

We have been marching for about 20 days and sometimes we have [had] to march all night. We crossed the Potomac River four times and over into Maryland. The first time that we went over, we staid 2 or 3 days and came back safe. And then we went to Harpers Ferry and there we had a  very hard bombing last Monday, but we whipped the Yankees without any musket firing except from the pickets. We captured a great many wagons and cannons and taken about 800 prisoners. We then marched over into Maryland again on last Tuesday evening and on Wednesday morning [17 September] about nine or ten o’clock, we were marched in the battlefield and we made a charge on one of the enemy’s batteries. But when we got [with]in about 75 or 100 yards of them, we were bound to retreat because they were too strong for us, and a great many of our men were killed and wounded. There were about twenty wounded in our  company. Jackson Koontz was killed. Augustus Bryant was mortally wounded and died. 1

I will not write about the horrors of the battlefield at present, but I hope that Providence will spare my life to return home again and then I can  tell you something about the war because I cannot write the hundreth part of the horrors of the battlefield.

You said that I should tell you if I heard from Daniel Wilson’s crowd. I saw some of the 15th [North Carolina] Regt. last Thursday and they said that nearly all of the 15 Regt. was killed, wounded, and taken prisoners last  Sunday [at Crampton’s Gap] and Daniel was in the crowd, but I do not know whether he got hurt or not—but I hope not. And you said that I should tell you who my tent mates are. We do not stay in tents. We have to lie out in the open air, rain or shine, and therefore we have no tent mates but I am with Mr. Pleasant Murphy very near all the time. I march and sleep with him. He is a very fine man and also a Christian. He lives near Thomasville. You said that I should tell you whether Cecil’s boys ran away or not. They run away when we were at Petersburg and Nifong’s boys and William Hill and Henry Mock and Alex Mock left when we were on the march near Leesburg.

I would be very glad if you could come to see us when we get back to Richmond. I will write to you as soon as we get there and then I would be glad if you could come to see us. We now are about a mile from Martinsburg, Virginia, but we will have to leave in the morning and I do not know where we will go to. I am tolerably well satisfied at present. We get nothing to east excepting fresh beef and slapjack cakes unless we buy it sand my money is a getting scarce.

So no more at present. Please write as soon as you get this and tell Mary to write also and I want you to write once every week whether I write or not because I have a bad chance to write.

Your affectionate son, — Constantine Alexander Hege

Just direct your letters to Richmond, Va., in care of Captain Michael, 48th Regt. N. C. Troops

1 The 48th North Carolina Regiment was commanded by Colonel Robert C. Hill. It brought around 400 men to the field and lost 50% casualties in fighting near the Dunker Church. According to the field marker for Manin’s Brigade: Manning’s Brigade reached Sharpsburg on the afternoon of September 16 and was held in reserve until daybreak of the 17th, when it took position opposite Snavely’s Ford on the Antietam, one and a half miles from town. Between 8 and 9 A.M., it moved to the left and supported McLaws in his attack on the enemy in the West Woods. Arriving on the rise of ground 300 yards west of this point, the 3d Arkansas and 27th North Carolina formed to hold the open space between the West Woods and the left of D.H. Hill’s Division east of this road. The remainder of the Brigade advanced on the right of Ransom’s Brigade to and beyond the road at the Dunkard Church, where it was repulsed. The 3d Arkansas and 27th North Carolina co-operated in expelling Greene’s Division from the woods about the church, after which they crossed the road and advanced through the fields to the east, but were repulsed and resumed their original position and were not again engaged.

In this vivid drawing by Frank Schell, curious Sharpsburg civilians watch as Union soldiers excavate mass graves on the Roulette Farm and quickly fill them with corpses. (Atwater Kent Collections/Bridgeman Images)

Letter 8

Winchester, Virginia
October 7, 1862

Dear Parents,

I now have the opportunity of writing a few lines to you stating that I am well at present and hope that you all enjoy the same good blessing. I  received your kind letter dated September the 11th last Saturday evening. It  gave me very much joy to hear from you and I also received 3 dollars in money which I was very glad to get because I began to need money because I have to pay very high for everything that I buy. I have to pay 10 cents a sheet for paper, therefore when you write, I want you to fold up a blank piece of paper large enough for me to answer your letter with.

I have now wrote 4  letters since the Battle [of Sharpsburg] and therefore I thought it not worth while to say anything in this about the battle. We are still resting about 4 or 5 miles north of Winchester, Virginia, but I call it very poor resting because we get such bad fare and the weather is a turning cold and we are so scarce in blankets that we can hardly make out. There have been a couple of right smart frosts here. I hope that we will soon move from here to Richmond. We are between 4 and 5 hundred miles from home and also very near directly north and so you may suppose that the weather is a getting colder.

When we get back to Richmond, or wherever we get stationed, I will then write to you what I want and I want you then to come to see us and bring them along with you. But I do not want you to come before I write that we are stationed and where we are stationed. Tell mother that I want her to make me another haversack and also another book sack out of strong cloth and make them a little larger then my others were because these are nearly wore out. I toted them on all this long march  and you know that they cannot last much longer. Send them with Pap when he comes.

There are very dull times now in camp but the soldiers are in hopes that it is for the better. It is a general enquiry through the camp, “What’s the news? whether good or bad, or whether it be for war or for peace. And it is thought that there will soon be peace and that we will soon get home. There has been but very little fighting a going on since the battle over in Maryland and I hope that the war will soon entirely close and that peace and prosperity may soon reign supreme.

I have been spending a part of my time when at leisure in reading the Bible and in writing letters for myself and for others. I have read the New Testament about nearly through and learned the 91st Psalm by heart since I have been out. I have not much news to write at this time except that I will tell you how things sell. Apples from 25 to 50 cents per doz,  peaches 25 per doz, honey $1.00 and $1.50 per lb, butter $1.00 per lb, bacon 75cents per lb, light bread $1.00 per loaf, and everything else in proportion.

I  want you to write whether you know where any of uncle Christian’s boys are, and also whether you hear anything from Daniel Wilson or not. There are none of them with the Regiment any more. And also write whether Solomon Tesh got home or not and any other of the neighbors.

You said you wanted to  know what I done with my medicine. I take several packs in my pockets and the rest I was obliged to leave in my knapsack which was left at  Richmond. We rest very bad at night and as to avoid exposure is a matter out of the question because we have to be out in the open air day and night, rain or shine, wet or day. But I do the best I can. I sometimes make me a shelter of brush and a bed of straw when I can get it and lie down to rest, trusting in Providence as to the issue. I have enjoyed tolerably good health so far and I hope and pray that Providence will spare my life and health through all this war and bring me safe home again.

A few words to Mary and Julius. I want you to save all the good peach and apples seeds that you can and get Pap to plant them for me in some rich spot of ground and I want you to dig my ground peas and grass nuts and send me a few of them when Pap comes to  see me. I want you to be obedient and smart children and to write to me as soon as you can and write a real long and interesting letter. Tell Elick and Sam to be smart because they know not how good they have got it. So no more at present. Please write as soon as you get this.

From your affectionate and obedient son, C. A. Hege

Direct your letters to Richmond Va. in care of Capt Michel 48th Regiment  N.C. Troops

Letter 9

October 17, 1862 
Winchester, Virginia

Dear Father,

I now have the opportunity of writing you a few lines stating that I am  well at present except a very bad cold, but I hope that you all enjoy the  blessing of good health. I received your letter last Thursday dated September 28th. I was very glad to hear from home. You cant imagine how glad it makes me [feel] to get a letter from home and therefore I want you to write once a week at least and as much oftener as you can. I have a very bad chance here to write to you because a letter cost so much here. Paper sells at 10 cents a sheet, envelopes 5 cents apiece and so a letter will cost 25 cents with the stamp. I would be very glad if you could send me a few dollars in a letter or else by hand if you can. I received a dollar in a letter some time ago which I soon answered.

We are still camped about 4 miles north of Winchester, Virginia, but it [is] thought by some of our officers that we will go back to N. C. before long and I hope that you will then come to see us and bring me some clothing and other things that I have wrote for. I do not want you to try to come to us before I write where are. We are stationed near the railroad. We have been a tearing up the Winchester & Harpers Ferry Railroad for about 12 miles. I had to help to take it up last Sunday. We are here in a very scarce part of the country both for food and water. We have to take our water nearly half a mile. Our rations are nothing but slapjack cakes and beef, and sometimes there is no salt for the broth nor beef and we can scarcely buy anything at all.

It seems to me like as if the head men of the war had any sympathy for human beings that they  would stop this war. It is thought that there is some prospect of peace before long and I hope and pray that the Almighty will interpose and stop this war. So no more at present. Please write and soon as you get this. I remain your affectionate son, — C. A. Hege

Direct your letters to Richmond Va., in care of Capt Michael, 28th Regiment N. C. Troops.

October 17, 1862
Winchester, Virginia

Dear Mother:

I now have the opportunity of writing you a few lines. I received 2  letters from last week. The one was dated September 28th and the other September 6th. You do not know how glad I was to hear from you. You said that Augustus Staugh was dead and Emanuel was sick but you did not say any thing about Theophilus.

I can tell you I have learned a great lesson since I have been in  the army. I have learned to eat such as I can get. Dear mother, you do not know how much good it would do me to get to eat one breakfast prepared by you and to sleep on a soft bed one time more. But I hope and pray that the  Lord will spare my life and health and permit me to return home again to  enjoy the blessings of a comfortable house and home. I have not the time nor paper to write much at present but I hope to return home again before long  and then I can tell you more. Please write soon. With much love, from your affectionate son, — C. A. Hege

October 17, 1862
Winchester, Virginia

Dear Sister & brother,

I received your letter last week and I was very glad to receive it but all I regretted was that you did not write more. I want you to be good and  obedient children to your Parents and be smart and help all you can and learn  your books. I want you to send me some grass nuts & ground peas when Pap comes to see me. Tell Sam I want him to be a good boy and be smart and to catch all the rabbits that he can. Tell Elick that I would be glad if I was at  home with him a plowing. Tell him to be a good boy and smart and I hope that  we will all be permitted to return home again before long. October 18th. I finish this, this morning. We have orders this morning to be ready to march at  day light, but I do not know where we will go to. So no more. Please write  soon. Your affectionate brother, — C. A. Hege

Received this the 25th October

Letter 10

Upperville, Virginia
Tuesday, 28 October 1862

Dear Parents,

I now have the opportunity of sending you a few lines stating that I am  well at present and hope that you enjoy the blessing of good health. I received  3 letters from home the 20th of this month—the one from you, one from mother, and the other from Mary. I was very glad to get them and to hear from you once more. I have not had the chance to answer them any sooner because we left Winchester last Wednesday morning and came on here across the Blue Ridge to Upperville where we have been several days. But it is thought that we  will soon go on to Culpeper Court house. I received a letter this morning from Theophilus Spaugh. He was at Culpepper Court house in the hospital the 15th of this month when he wrote his letter. He thought that he would soon go to his regiment.

There is a man sent home from each company this morning to get  clothing and blankets for the soldiers and if any acquaintances wish to send anything, they can do so. I would be very glad if you could come yourself and bring me the following articles but if you cannot come, send them with Lieutenant Smith when he comes. I want a blanket, hat, 1 pair shoes if you can get them, 1 vest, 1 pair stockings, 1 pair drawers, 1 pair gloves, 1 pair pants, a cravat for round the neck, a haversack, book sack, 2 large strong handkerchiefs, some cotton and woolen patches, a woolen shirt if you can and then I want a box of provisions: viz, onions, garlic, pies, sweet cakes, a little butter, and a little tin bucket of apples, peaches, sody, a small blank book, some No. 3  Perfect, a small coffee pot and some coffee, grassnuts, ground peas, chestnuts and some dried fruit of different kinds and any thing else that is  good. I want you to bring these yourself if you can and if you cannot then do  the best you can. Your affectionate son, — C. A. Hege

I have no time to write much. Direct your letters as usual.

Letter 11

Culpeper Court House, Virginia
November 3, 1862

Dear Father,

I now have the opportunity of sending you a few lines stating that I am  well at present and hope that you enjoy the same good blessing. I have not had any letter from you for about two weeks. The last letters that I got from you I received the 20th of last month. Then I got 3 letters—one from you, one from mother and the other from Mary. We came here to Culpeper last evening awhile before sunset and we expect to go on to Richmond in a few  days. We have had some very bad weather since we left Winchester. Last night a week ago was a very windy, cold, and rainy night and it commenced hailing the next morning and we were all wet and cold. We were camped on the side of a mountain near Upperville, Virginia.

I sent a letter to you with Lieutenant Smith who is gone home after some clothing for us and there I mentioned what I want you to bring to me yourself if you can come, and if you cannot come, send them with him or some other person that is coming to the regiment. Tell mother to send me a pair of goulashes, some soap and a little sody if she can, and anything else that is good. When I wrote my other letter, I thought that perhaps we could draw sloes at Richmond, but I have heard since that we cannot and therefore I want you to have me a large strong and able pair of shoes made and have Rapers Michael to put irons on the heels and  send them as soon as you possibly can because my shoes are about wore out.

I would be very glad if you could come to see us. I think that you would not  begrudge your trip. I think that we will be at Richmond in a few days. When you come, come on to Richmond and there you can find out where the regiment is stationed. Tell mother and Mary that I cannot write to them at  present because the paper and ink is so scarce, postage so high, and I am very scarce in money but I want them to write to me the oftener. Send me some  postage stamps if you can, and also some money. We have not drawed any money yet. So I must close by giving you all my best wishes and respects.  From your affectionate son, — C. A. Hege

Direct your letter to Richmond Va, in care of Capt Michael, 48th Regiment N.C. Troops, Co. H.

Please write soon.

Letter 12

Madison Court House, Virginia
Saturday, 15th November 1862

Dear Parents,

I now have the opportunity of writing you a few [lines] stating that I am well at present and hope that you all enjoy the same good blessing. I received a letter from father last Sunday dated Nov. 2nd and I also received a letter from mother last Thursday dated October 26th. You said that you started 20 dollars in a letter to me the 20th of October, but I have not received it yet. But I hope that I will get it yet because I am in need of money. I think that it would be safer if you could send money by hand, than by mail, because we move so often that it is a hard matter for the letters to follow us. You need not to send my overcoat yet because I have a load to carry without it. I will write when I want it. We drawed 8 dollars of our money wages. I have been borrowing  several dollars and that takes all of my wages to pay my debts. We are obliged to buy something to eat if we want to live like human beings because it would  be hard living to eat nothing but light bread & beef.

I like the army life a great deal better than I did when I first came out, but I can tell you that it is a hard life anyway that you take it, but I can enjoy myself tolerably well by reading, writing and talking with my friends, and sometimes by walking about and viewing the mountains and all the surrounding country. But there is one thing that I do not like and that is the battles which are dreaded by all.

I got my knapsack the 7th day of this month but I lost all of my medicine, 1 pair pants, 1 pair drawers, and several other little articles. I would be very glad if you could  send me some No 6, some composition, and some other medicine as you think I need and also a box of ointment because I am pestered very much with boils.

We have had some very cold weather. We had a right smart snow the 7th  of this month, but it has been very pleasant weather the last week. We now are here at Madison Court House close to the Blue Ridge. We came here this day a week ago and we do not know how long we will stay here, but I think that we will go to Gordonsville in a few days.

Elijah Scott is dead, he died the 6th of this month near Culpeper about 3 o’clock in the afternoon and was buried about 5 miles on this side of Culpeper Court House. So I must close my  letter by giving you all my best wishes and respects and hopeing that you will  remember your son in your prayers.  Your son, — C. A. Hege

Please write as soon as you get this.

Dear sister and brother, I will send you a few lines to let you know that I received a very interesting  letter from you last Thursday dated Oct 25th which I was very glad to receive. You said that Daniel and Solomon Wilson were taken prisoner. I was very  glad to hear where Daniel was because I could not hear anything from him since the Maryland battle. I want you both to be good children, obey your parents, be smart and be thankful that you have a good warm house and home to stay in and comfortable bed to lie in the cold and rainy nights, while we here have to lie out in the open air with nothing but a blanket or two. We now  sometimes have some tents but not half enough for us all. Tell Elick and  Julius that I have a present to send to them as soon as any one comes to see us from that neighborhood.

From your affectionate brother, — C. A. Hege

Direct your letters as usual.

Letter 13

Fredericksburg. Virginia
November 29, 1862

Dear Father,

I now have the opportunity of writing you a few lines stating that I am  well at present and hope these few lines may find you enjoying the same good blessing. I received a letter from you the 16th of this month dated October 20th containing 20 dollars in money, and I also received a letter from you last Thursday dated Nov 11th and 25 dollars in money which Lieutenant Smith brought. I hope that you will not think hard of me for not writing sooner because we have been on a march for 5 days and then after we got in camp, there was no chance to send a letter out of the camp unless by hand. And now I have an opportunity of sending one and therefore I thought that I would write. 

We are here about 5 miles south of Fredericksburg. We came here today a week ago and I do not know how long we will stay here. We had to march 4 days through the mud and water and rain. The 15th N. C. regiment joined our Brigade this morning, I was very glad to see them. I saw George Mock, Leander Mock, John Hartman, Alexander Weaver, Alexander Scott, George Tesh, Franklin Rominger, and a great many more of my acquaintances but Daniel Wilson was not with the regiment. They do not know where he is. If you know where he is, I would like if you would write. The boys are all well.

William Swain, Esq., was out here to see us last week and he said that Mrs. David Weasner left my box at Gordonsville and I am afraid that the pies will spoil before I get them. The clothing that was sent to the company was left at Richmond and I therefore think that we will go there before long. It is now reported through the camp that we are ordered to Weldon N. C. to take up winter quarters. Our fare is bad. We get nothing but bread and beef and we sometimes draw pickled pork and that very scant rations. We draw 1.25 lbs.  flour and 1.25 lbs. beef to the man for a days rations. Things sell very high here. Apples 1 dollar per dozen, pork 50 cents per lb, sugar 1 dollar per lb, and everything else in proportion so that we cannot afford to buy much. I am  very thankful to you for sending me some money so that I can buy me something to eat.

Tell Theophilus Spaugh to write to me when he is coming  back to his regiment. Tell him that his regiment is now in our brigade—namely (General  Cook’s brigade) and that we will be close together from this time on. Tell him that I was over to see the regiment this morning when it came in and talked with several of the boys and that they were well. I have not much news to write at  present. I would be very glad if you could send me some postage stamps because I cannot buy them here. So I must bring my letter to a close by giving you all my love and best respects and if I never meet you on earth anymore, I hope to meet you in heaven above where there will be no more parting nor pain.

Please write soon and write a long, long letter. Your letters are never half long enough.

From your affectionate son, — C. A. Hege

I sent a cartridge box, cap box, gunlock, and several other little things that I brought from The Maryland battleground that I hope you will keep until I come home because I hope that Providence will spare my life to return home.

Tell Alexander Craver and Julius my brother to take each of them one of them caps. I sent them with William Swain, Esq.

Letter 14

Near Fredericksburg, Virginia
Monday afternoon, December 8, 1862 

Dear Father,

I now have the opportunity of writing you a few lines stating that I am  well at present and hope that these few lines may find you all enjoying the  same good blessing. I received a letter and some medicine last Friday which you sent with Charles Perriman. But I have not received my box of clothing yet. I have tried every way that I knowed how to get them but failed and I asked Capt. Michael what to do about it. He said that I would better write to you immediately and he said that you would better come out here yourself and bring me some more clothing, &c., and if I should get my box yet, you could then take some back if I had more than I needed. I need shoes & pants very bad because I am about barefooted and I lost 1 pair pants and therefore have but one pair left and they are nearly wore out.

And now I will tell you what I want you to bring to me; viz: my overcoat, 2 pair pants, 1 woolen overshirt, 1 cotton shirt, 1 pair of stout cotton drawers, 1 pr socks, 1 pr gloves, 1 large cravat, 1 hat and 1 pr shoes if you can get them because I need them very much. And I would be very glad if you could bring me some molasses or honey, some butter, some good old ham, a little salt, and some sweet cakes for Christmas and some ground peas, grassnuts, chestnuts &c. and anything else that is good that you think I need. I want you to bring them as soon as you possibly can because I need them very bad. Try and come before Christmas yet if you can come when Solomon Tesh comes, if you cannot come before. We are here about 5 miles south of Fredericksburg, Virginia, and if we leave  here we will go to Richmond. So I must close. Please write soon as you get this and write whether you will come or not.

I remain your affectionate son, — C. A. Hege

Direct your letters as usual.

Letter 15

Near Fredericksburg, Virginia
Thursday morning, December 18, 1862

Dearly Beloved Parents,

I now once more have or take the opportunity of writing a few lines to  you to let you know how affairs are here. I am somewhat unwell at present. I was taken with a chill and then a pain in my side night before last, but I feel right smart better this morning. I think that it was just a bad cold which I taken because I have nothing but old pieces of shoes on my feet. My toes are naked and my clothing are a getting ragged. I have not got my box of clothing yet and I don’t know whether I ever will get them or not because the boxes are very often robbed at the depots. I wrote to you to bring me a box of clothing as soon as you possibly can and come with them yourself so that you can be certain that I will get them because I need them very much.

There has been a very hard battle fought here last Saturday and our  regiment was in the hardest of the fight. I did not have to go into the battle because I am so near barefooted. The Colonel gave orders that all the barefooted men should stay at the camp. I can tell you I was glad then that my shoes did not come because I would rather loose a hundred dollars than to go in a battle. There were a great many killed and wounded it is said that there were ten thousand Yankees killed during the battle. I do not know how many of our men were killed but I know that there were a great many  wounded. There were 19 men wounded and one killed in our company. The  human suffering, the loss of life, and above all, the loss of many a precious soul that is caused by war. Would to God that this war might close off this year and that we all could enjoy the blessing of a comfortable house and home one time more. I never knew how to value home until I came in the  army.

It is thought that we will go on to Richmond in a few days. Tell Mr. Rights that I would be very glad to get a letter from him. Tell uncle Christian  that I would like for some of them to write to me and I want you to write  oftener and do not wait for me to answer every one of your letters before you write I have not received any letter from you since Charles Perriman was out  here. We have a very bad chance to write out here because we have to drill twice a day in general and then we have dress parade in the evening so I must close by giving you all my best wishes and respects and if we never meet on earth, I hope to meet you in a better world above.

Your affectionate son — C. A. Hege

Please write us soon as you get this. Direct your letters as usual. I want you to come as soon as you can with my clothing.

Letter 16

Near Fredericksburg, Virginia
Sunday morning, December 21, 1862

Dear Father and Mother,

I this beautiful sabbath morning have the opportunity of writing you a  few lines to let you know that I have been sick a few days with the chills and fever and a pain in my side and headache, but I am better and think that I will in a few days be well again. I think it was just a bad cold which I taken from having bad clothes and from being nearly barefooted. But I hope that you all enjoy good health.

I received a letter from Mary last Friday night dated December 7th which I was very glad to receive but I was very sorry to hear that father had the typhoid fever. But I hope and pray that he may soon get well  again very soon. I heard that the small pox was about home. I am very sorry to hear that but I hope that the Almighty will stop it before it goes very far. But I don’t believe it. It is also said that it is in the 15th N. C. Regt., but I hope that it may not be spread among the soldiers any further.

I have not yet received my box of clothing, &c., and I am afraid never will  because I can’t hear anything about it anymore and I am afraid it is stole. I wrote in a letter some time ago for you to bring me another box of clothing and provisions and also to send my overcoat and I want you to bring them as soon as possible because I need them very much, but I am afraid that your health will hardly permit you to come and if you cannot come, send them with a man that you will be certain that he bring them to me and will leave them  again at some railroad station to be stole or lost. I want you also to send me some dysentery cordial, some blackberry cordial, and some more No. 6. So I must close by giving you all my best wishes and respects, and hope and pray that I may come home before long.

Your son, — C. A. Hege

Please write soon.

I have heard since I commenced this letter that the boxes have been broken open and the things stole and therefore I will write for some more things. I need a hat very much. I want some dried peach fruit, peach leather, a large piece of hard soap because I need that very much, blanket, a knife, fork and spoon. a strong sack that will hold about a bushel, haver & book sack &c., some spice, black pepper ground. Tell Julius & Mary to send me some chestnuts, grassnuts and ground peas and pies. I hope that you will not think hard of me for writing for more clothing &c. because I need them very much

Near Fredericksburg, Virginia
Sunday morning, December 21, 1862

Dear Sister and Brother,

It is with pleasure that I take my pen to answer your letter which I  received a few days ago, but it was with greater pleasure that I received and read your letter and it would still give me a great deal more pleasure if I could come home and go to preaching and more especially at Christmas and New Year. I have been thinking this morning of the many sabbaths which I spent at Friedberg, and as you said of the many times that you and I used to walk to  Friedberg. And I have also been thinking of the many times that we used to  get angry with each other and quarrel; that was very wrong of us and I hope that you and Julius do not do so now. I want you to be good and obedient  children and do what father and mother tells you to do.

There has been a very hard battle fought here at Fredericksburg, Virginia, the 13th of this month and our regiment was in the hardest of the battle. But I was not in the battle because I was too near barefooted and therefore I staid at the camp and kept out of the battle. There were a great many killed and wounded on both sides.

You wanted to know whether I received my money. I received 45 dollars. You also wanted to  know whether we will have to be out all winter. I cannot tell how about that. It is said that we will be taken to N. C. before long and there take up winter quarters. Tell Julius that I am glad to hear that he has caught a possum and 12 rabbits and tell him to catch all the rabbits and partridges that he can, and tell Sam that I have not forgot him yet and I hope to be back before long with him on the farm. So I must close. I hope you will all remember me in your prayers and pray that this war may soon stop and peace be made and that we  all may return home again. Your Brother — C. A. Hege

Direct your letters as usual.

Letter 17

Near Fredericksburg, Virginia
Christmas morning, Thursday, 25th December 1862

Dear Parents,

I take up my pen this beautiful Christmas morning in order to write you a few lines to inform you that I am well again and hope that when these  few lines come to hand that they may find you all enjoying good health. I  received a letter from you last evening dated December 15th which I was very much pleased to get to hear from home. But I am very sorry to hear that you and mother are sick. But I hope and pray that the good Lord will soon restore you to health again.

There is a great deal of sickness here in camp such as pneumonia, jaundice, and various other diseases. Alexander Weaver is a going to the hospital this morning. He has been sick for several days. I have not yet  got my box and I expect never will get it because I got Capt. Michael to go to Gordonsville and Hanover junction to search for my box, but he could not see nor hear anything of it, and therefore I expect it has been stole because it is a very common thing for boxes to be robbed about here. And therefore I think it is useless to depend upon getting that box any longer. I am very sorry that it  is lost but I can’t help it.

I got to stay out of the battle here at Fredericksburg, Virginia, by being barefooted and therefore I think that it was ordered by Providence that I should not get my box, because if I had a got my box of shoes and  clothing, I would to a have went in the battle. I would rather loose the box than to go in a battle.

Christmas has come once more and it is a very beautiful morning here.  But Oh! how changed the scene to what it was last Christmas. Here I am in the army today and today twelve months ago I was at home where I could enjoy the blessings of a comfortable house and home of parents and friends and of religious worship, but this Christmas I am surrounded by warriors, cannons, guns, and all kinds of unusual sounds and actions to which I never was  accustomed to. But I hope and pray that the good Lord in His tender mercy may soon bring this state of things to an end and restore peace and prosperity to our beloved country again, and turn the hearts of the rulers to peace forever instead of war.

Dear Father, I want you to bring me another box of clothing like the first and do not grieve because the other box was lost because it may have saved my life. I want you to try to bring it yourself and bring it as soon as you can. So no more at present. Please write soon as you get this letter and  write once or twice every week. Be assured, dear parents, that I remain your affectionate son until death, — C. A. Hege

Direct your letters as usual.

Letter 18

Near Petersburg, Virginia
Sunday noon, January 11, 1863

Dearly beloved Parents,

I this beautiful sabbath day have the opportunity of writing to [you] once more to inform you that I am well at present and hope that you all enjoy  the same good blessing. I have not received any letter from you for a couple weeks and I thought that I would write to let you know that I received my box of clothing, apples, onions, shoes &c., which you sent with Mr. J. Rominger the last time. I was very glad to get them and I am very thankful to you, dear parents, for being so kind to me as to send them because I was very much in need of them. I have not heard anything of my first box you sent to me. I think it was stole.

We are now here about 3 miles northwest of Petersburg, Virginia. We left Fredericksburg yesterday a week a go and marched on by Hanover  Junction and through Richmond and came on here last Wednesday and it is thought that we will go on to Goldsboro or Wilmington in a few days. We have had some very bad weather here lately. We had a right smart snow last Friday and yesterday we had a cold, rainy day.

Solomon Tesh came to his regiment last Tuesday and he brought me a pair of pants, haversack, and book sack. Ephraim Weasmer has also returned from the hospital to his regiment. He is well. He is here in our tent now. Mock’s boys are well. Leander saw Henry Mock at Petersburg in the Hospital. He is nearly well except his old complaint and he thinks he will get a discharge.

We fare a little [better] in the way of eatables now than we did some time ago. We drawed for tomorrow cornmeal, pickled  pork, rice and sugar. It seems to me a little more like home since the 15 N. C. Regiment has come in our Brigade. I now can see some of my friends and acquaintances every day. I hope when we get to N. C. that you and Mr  Weasner will come to see us. You need not be afraid to come because you will not be interrupted and you need not be afraid to ride on the cars. Tell Theophilus Spaugh to write to me. Tell Mary and Julius to write to me. So I must close by giving you my best wishes and respects and hope that the time  may soon come when peace will reign supreme and when we can all once more enjoy the blessing of a comfortable house and home. I never knew what home was until I left home. Please write as soon as you get this.

Your affectionate son until death, — C.A. Hege

Direct your letter to Petersburg, Va., care of Capt. Michael, Co. H, 18th Reg. N. C.  Troops and the letter will follow the regiment if we move.

Letter 19

Near Petersburg, Virginia
Tuesday, 13 January 1863

Dearly beloved Parents,

I now have the opportunity of sending you a few lines to let you  know that I am well at present and hope that you all enjoy the same good  blessing. I received two letters yesterday from you—the one dated January 4th and the other December 31st. I was very glad to get them because I had not heard from you for some time. Mr. J. Rominger came to our camp last night. I received my pack of clothing last Friday night. I got all that you sent. I was very glad to get them because I was in need of them very much. Mr. Rominger said that he found my box which you had sent with him before he found it at Gordonsville. He sent it on to Raleigh, N. C., and is a going to send it home. I have as many clothing as I can carry at present, but I would be very glad if you would bring me a box of provisions before long. Your shoes that you sent me are rather small and they will hurt my feet when I have to march. I will wear my old ones out first and save your pair and if you come out I would be very glad if you would bring that pair that is in my box if they are larger.

We are still here about 3 miles northwest of Petersburg, Virginia, but it is thought that we will soon go to N. C. near Goldsboro. I have sent a small pack of nonsense to Julius which I have picked up. Tell him to save the screw drivers for me and the powder bullets and lead are for Father. I send you a Yankee ball which you can take in 3 pieces.

You wanted to know how we fare. I will tell you. We have hard times. We have no winter quarters to stay in and we have to shelter from the rain and cold the best way that we can. Some build themselves shelters with poles and cover with leaves and dirt; others stretch up blankets in the form of a tent, but the officers and the big men have tents and some have  stoves in them. I and my mess have a fly to stay under at present and we build a large fire before the fly and lie with our feet toward the fire and cover with our blankets and we then keep tolerably warm.

As to our rations, they are very scant. We draw a little over a pint of meal or flour to the man a day and about a pound of beef a day. We sometimes draw a little sugar, rice and  molasses and sometimes a little pickled pork or bacon but it is all very scant and a person is obliged to buy something more if he wants to have enough to  eat.

I drawed my $50 bounty money on Christmas day. I have also drawed  $30 monthly wages, but it goes very fast because everything sells so very  high and a body will buy before they will go with a hungry belly.

So I must  come to a close by saying please write as soon as you get this letter and write all the news and I want you all to write to me because I like to hear from you all. Write longer letters and more of them. Tell Julius I received his letter. Your affectionate son until death. Remember your son, — C. A. Hege

Direct your letters to Petersburg, Va., Co. H, 48th Reg. N. C. Troops

I here send all of my old letters home because I have no way to take care of them. I want you to save them all until I come home because I hope to get home before long. I also send my hymn book home because I just spoil it here.

Letter 20

Near Goldsboro, North Carolina
Saturday, 17 January 1863

Dear Parents,

I now have the opportunity of writing a few lines once more in N. C. to  inform you that I am well at present and tolerably well satisfied and I hope that you all enjoy good health. I feel more now like as if I was at home since I got here in N. C. than I did when I was in Virginia. We left Petersburg, Virginia, last Thursday afternoon and came on to Goldsboro last night and we then came out to a camp about 2 miles south of the town (Goldsboro). I can tell you, I am glad that we are away from the Mountainous Regions of Virginia and back again in the pleasant valleys & plains of N. C. and I hope that you and Mr.  Weasner & Uncle Christian and all of our old neighbors will now come to see us and bring us boxes of provisions, &c. You need not be afraid of the distance now because it is only 150 miles from here to Lexington. You can now take the train at Lexington and come on all the way here without changing cars. I want you to be sure and come to see us now and bring me a box of provisions  as soon as you can because we may leave here in a couple weeks. I want a  hat and a pair of socks, ink, &c., pint cup, tin plates, coffee pot, knife, fork, &  spoon, sody, shortened biscuits & several pounds of butter, pies, dried  peaches, &c. &c. and anything else that is good.

So I must close by saying write as soon as you get this and write when you will come. Your son, — C. A. Hege

Am too cold to write much. Direct your letters to Goldsboro, N. C., Co. H, 48th Reg. N. C. Troops

1862: William Thomas Marsh to his Cousin Maggie

In this letter, 32 year-old Capt. William Thomas Marsh (1830-1862) of the “Bloody 4th” North Carolina, writes his cousin Maggie just seven weeks prior to being mortally wounded while commanding the decimated 4th in the “sunken road” at Antietam.

This is Capt. Edward Stanley Marsh of Co. I, 4th North Carolina Infantry, who took over as captain after the death of his older brother William. Edward & William farmed together in the South Creek District of Beaufort county assisted in their work by more than twenty slaves. The two brothers probably bore a resemblance to one another. [See State Troops & Volunteers]

A wealthy planter and 1851 Yale law school graduate, Marsh was a Whig representative of Beaufort County in the North Carolina General Assembly in 1861. He enrolled for war service on 6 April 1861 and was commissioned Captain of the “Pamlico Rifles,” Co. I of the 4th Regiment on 10 May 1861 as the regiment was first organized. He was reelected to the legislature shortly before the Battle of Antietam but decided to remain with his men. He was in command of the regiment in the Sunken Road at Sharpsburg on the morning of 17 September 1862 as the senior officer present, and was mortally wounded in action there. The fighting in or near the sunken road resulted in over 5,600 casualties (Union 3,000, Confederate 2,600)—including Marsh—during a 3.5 hour period from 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. 

Marsh died of his wounds at Shepherdstown, VA on 25 September 1862. The news of his death was carried home by his servant who returned to North Carolina carrying the captain’s watch which had been struck by the bullet that caused his death. “The watch is a small gold one, and was in the overshirt pocket on his left breast. The ball struck the lower part of the watch, crushed and bent it, and passed into his body.” [The Standard of Raleigh, 8 October 1862]

According to the survey of Antietam field burial graves done a few years after the war (available online), Capt. W. T. Marsh’s body was found buried alongside those of others from the 4th and 14th NC near an apple tree in Ben Graves’ garden on the north side of the Shepherdstown Road. Sometime later these remains were exhumed and buried at the Washington Cemetery at Hagerstown, Maryland. Capt. Marsh, it seems, was transported to Bath, North Carolina for burial in the Palmer House graveyard. A tall white memorial column in his honor stands in the shade of a giant oak behind the historic Palmer-Marsh House (the family residence) in Bath. It reads: “Fell mortally wounded on the field of Antietam, Sept. 17, 1862, gallantly leading his veteran regiment to battle and to victory. He breathed his last eight days thereafter in the home of strangers, who yet soothed his final hours with their sympathy and kindness.”

The 4th North Carolina’s regimental history described the fighting at the sunken road as follows:

“About nine o’clock the enemy’s line of battle appeared, moving in magnificent style, with mounted officers in full uniform, swords gleaming, banners, plumes and sashes waving, and bayonets glistening in the sun. On they came with steady tramp and confident mien. They did not see our single line of hungry, jaded and dusty men, who were lying down, until within good musket shot, when we rose and delivered our fire with terrible effect. Instantly the air was filled with the cries of wounded and dying and the shouts of brave officers, trying to hold and encourage ‘ their men, who recoiled at the awful and stunning shock so unexpectedly received. Soon they rallied and advanced again; this time more cautiously than before. Our men held their fire until they were within good range again, and again they rose to their feet and mowed them down, so that they were compelled to retire a second time; but they rallied and came again, and the battle now became general all along the line. The roar of musketry was incessant and the booming of cannon almost without intermission. Occasionally the shouts of men could be heard above the awful din, indicating a charge or some advantage gained by one side or the other. Horses without riders were rushing across the field, occasionally a section of artillery could be seen flying from one point to another, seeking shelter from some murderous assault, or securing a more commanding position. Soon Captain Marsh was mortally wounded and borne from the field.”

In the letter, Marsh describes how he contracted pneumonia following the Battle of Williamsburg in early May 1862 and was sent to a hospital in Richmond for recovery, fortuitously enabling him to miss the Battle of Seven Pines on 31 May. He returned to his regiment in time for the Battle of Gaines Mill, VA on 27 June where the much smaller regiment lost another 23 killed and wounded. Marsh also describes the gallant, though reckless death of Captain Thomas M. Blount of the 4th North Carolina who was serving as Asst. Adjutant to Gen. George Burgwyn Anderson.

In his letter to his cousin, Marsh also reflects on the effects the war is having on him: “I have been so often under fire with the missiles of death falling around me, seen so many friends and companions slain that my sensibilities have become callous. Such is war.” He also goes on to discuss the hard life of the Confederate soldiers: “This is exceedingly to be deplored as our brave men are making every sacrifice in defense of this country, abandoning home and all its comforts and should not want for sufficient food if in the power of the Government to provide it yet it is often the case.” Towards the end of his letter Marsh concludes by expressing his ardent desire for peace and his belief that that desire is also felt by other soldiers, not just on the Confederate side, but on the Yankee side as well: “None can hope or wish for peace more ardently than myself. Or than the army generally and if I may judge from the language used by Yankee prisoners, the same sentiment prevails in the army of the enemy. Their letters found in the camps disclose the same sentiment among the people of the North.”

[This letter is from the private collection of Richard Weiner and is published on Spared & Shared by express consent.]

Artist’s rendering of Confederate troops fighting in the Sunken Road at Antietam


Camp 4th Regt. N. C. State Troops
Near Richmond [Virginia]
July 29th 1862

Dear Cousin Maggie,

Your oft looked for letter of the 27th ult. was received a few days since after many delays in the Post Office to which those of us in the army are particularly subject—especially those whose letters have to pass through the Richmond Office. The pressure upon it for so vast an army in addition to the usual business of that office is the excuse. It is often the case that our letters remain in the office there two or three weeks before they are distributed—another source of annoyance tending to render he life of the soldier more intolerable. To those whose homes are free from the dominion of our invading foe, this inconvenience is a serious discomfort, but to those situated as myself, it only affects a temporary or transient correspondence with a few friends in the army or elsewhere, and a few home folks who are like yourself refugees.

I can well conceive of the condition Washington and New Bern are in. I have seen several places after the enemy has been driven from them. A blight of famine and age rested upon them. I have seen the horrors of this war, though, so much more sadly exhibited in other respects, that those seemed to be light. Where a country is occupied by the enemy without resistance or any irritating causes to arouse the most passions, or give excuse to the basest for the commission of outrage and devastation, it cannot suffer, as where two great hostile armies confront each other, and where the localities alternately are occupied by first one, then the other. Where such is the case, scarce a sign of civilization is left—scarce a green shrub—or herb—everything bears the evidence of devastation.

On the day your letter was written—the [June] 27th—we were having stirring times here. The series of battles on the Chickahominy which resulted in such signal success to our arms were upon that day inaugurated. They commenced the evening before but on the 27th the enemy were routed and commenced retreating. A fortunate fatality—or more properly, the protecting care of a kind Providence—has shielded me from the dangers which environed and brought me through so far untouched. I have been so often under fire with the missiles of death falling around me, seen so many friends and companions slain, that my sensibilities have become callous. Such is war.

Capt. Jesse Sharpe Barnes of Co. F, 4th North Carolina Infantry lost his life at Seven Pines. He’s wearing his South Carolina Militia Uniform (he initially joined the militia in S. C. before N. C. seceded). (LOC)

The Battle of Seven Pines in which our regiment suffered so severely, to which you refer, I was unable to participate in. 1 The Battle of Williamsburg, fought May 5th was upon a very cold, rainy day. The exposure to which I was there subjected, made me quite sick. I was sent forward to Richmond laboring under a severe case of pneumonia or pleurisy, and was still sick there when this battle was fought and for two weeks after, since which time my health has been as well as could be expected under the circumstances though delicate.

Our friend Perry met a brave and gallant death. He fell in the midst of the battle in the full discharge of his duty. Was taken to Richmond but his wound being mortal, he died the next day. He was but one among many noble friends of mine who fell upon that occasion. Also, it would almost seem that our bravest and best men are the first to fall. In my own company I have lost in battle the best men I had. Other officers remark the same thing. Thirteen of my company have thus fallen and eighteen others been wounded, many of them so as to be unfit for service again, crippled for life.

In the last battle, our regiment did not suffer so seriously as others. We were only once ordered to charge and then the enemy did not stand but fled before us, only firing a few shots. In this charge, we lost one of our best officers—as brave and gallant a man as there was in the army—Capt. Thos. M. Blount [Jr.]. He was a cousin of the Maj. T. H. Blount’s family, the Miss Hoyts & Treadwitt’s. Perhaps you have met him in Washington, N. C. just before my company and Capt. [David M.] Carter’s left there last spring 12 months and joined Capt. Carter’s Co. as a private. Was promoted to be Asst. Quartermaster, and at the time of his death was acting as Asst. Adjutant General on the staff of Gen. G. B. Anderson.

Our Brigade being ordered to charge, one of the regiments—the 30th N. C.—seemed to hesitate or did not move forward promptly as he thought it should. Riding up to the standard bearer, he seized the colors of the regiment and called upon it to follow them. Spurring his horse forward, dashed among the enemy far in advance of any of our forces. This act of rash gallantry cost him his life as he was instantly shot from his horse, pierced by several bullets. No man belonging to our regiment has fallen whose death has been more generally lamented.

I might give you many incidents which came under my personal observation during the six days consecutive fighting on the Chickahominy but doubtless you have seen many of them noticed in the papers and he small space allotted to such a purpose in a letter cannot admit of it. I think I wrote you of the destruction of the confederate property at Manassas when we evacuated that point, but there was no comparison between what I then saw and what I witnessed in the many Yankee camps. Their fairly equipped army feeling secure had gathered around them every necessary and many luxuries. In their precipitate flight, these were hastily destroyed or damaged and abandoned. In some instances, we succeeded in getting articles we needed much for our personal comforts and many of those little delicacies to which we had long been strangers, such as cheese, West India fruits, wines &c.

The Union wounded at Savage’s Station. This image was taken the day before Confederate troops overran the location, taking prisoner those wounded soldiers who could not hobble along on their own. Vast stores of provisions were ordered to be set to the torch by McClellan when the location was vacated.

At present all is quiet with us and we are allowed for the first time since we left Manassas to get some repose though our living is very hard. The country is devoid of gardens or any marketing. We pay 50 cents a pound for fresh meats. One dollar apiece for chickens not larger than a partridge. Irish potatoes 50 cents per quart. Onions 15 cents apiece. Small ones 75 cents per quart. Butter from one dollar to one and a half. All other things in proportion. The provisions furnished to the army are very scanty and of inferior quality. This is exceedingly to be deplored as our brave men are making every sacrifice in the defense of their country, abandoning home and all its comforts, and should not want for sufficient food if in the power of the government to provide it. Yet it is often the case.

We do not anticipate any fighting here soon. McClellan cannot get ready to make an offensive demonstration before some time in November. We indulge the hope that e’re that time, there will be intervention or mediation which will bring with it peace. None can hope or wish for peace more ardently than myself, or than the army generally, and if I may judge from the language used to me by Yankee prisoners, the same sentiment prevails in the army of the enemy. Their letters found in the camps disclose the same sentiments among the people of the North.

Give my kind remembrance to cousins Martha and Mary and let me hear from you again sooner.

Yours sincerely, — W. T. Marsh

1 The regiment’s first major battle was at Seven Pines, in which they took part in the attack on Casey’s Redoubt, losing 369 men and officers out of 678 engaged, or 54%. In June 1862, the 4th was placed in an all-North Carolina brigade under their former colonel and now brigadier general George B. Anderson, consisting of the 2nd, 4th, 14th, and 30th North Carolina Infantry Regiments. They would see action throughout most of the major battles in the Eastern Theater, among them Gaines’ Mill and Malvern Hill, the Sunken Road at Antietam, May 1-3 at Chancellorsville, Oak Ridge at Gettysburg, the Bloody Angle at Spotsylvania, the 1864 Valley Campaign, and the Siege of Petersburg. Only 8 officers and 101 men were present when surrendered at Appomattox.

1862: Bedford Brown to Mary (Simpson) Brown

Though it is only signed “Bedford,” I feel certain this letter was written by 39 year-old Dr. Bedford Brown (1823-1897) of Caswell, North Carolina. Brown grew up on the Rose Hill Plantation, the son of US Senator and planter Bedford Brown (Sr.) (1795-1870) of Caswell county, North Carolina—a leader in the “States Rights” faction of the southern Democratic party and a close personal friend of Andrew Jackson. Sen. Brown was very much his own man, and stood toe to toe with John C. Calhoun on the floor of the Senate when their opinions differed. He has been eulogized as a man that was “true to his convictions in all with an idea that all white men were free and equal and though little lower than the angels perhaps were crowned with glory and honor from above.” [The Times (Richmond, Va), 14 Sep 1897, emphasis added]

I could not find an image of Bedford wearing his uniform but here is William R. Hughes who was a surgeon in the 31st North Carolina. He’s wearing a short military jacket and a NC Belt Plate.

Young Bedford was tutored by the same schoolmaster as Robert E. Lee. At age 21, he was sent to Lexington, Kentucky, to read medicine with Dr. Benjamin Dudley, graduated at Transylvania University, and also from Jefferson College in Philadelphia in 1854. He was married to Mary Elizabeth Simpson (1827-1907) in 1852 and by the time this letter was written in 1862, the couple had at least four children, though only two were still living. After practicing medicine in Albemarle and Fauquier counties, Dr. Brown went back to his father’s plantation but when the war began, he offered his services as a surgeon in the 24th North Carolina Regiment and was assigned to Floyd’s Brigade, serving in West Virginia. Then he was assigned to “Gen. Gustavus Smith’s staff and later surgeon of Daniel’s Brigade. He served under Gen. Lee and Gen. Stonewall Jackson as well, and during the latter part of the war had to leave the service though he was long inspector of camps and hospitals in North Carolina and thereabouts.” After the war he settled and opened a practice in Alexandria, Virginia.

This letter was written just after Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia—including Brown’s former regiment, the 24th North Carolina—had been turned back at Antietam and were being driven back (some would say allowed to retreat) “with thousands of sick, wounded & broken down men straggling” into Virginia. In his letter, Brown acknowledges his wife’s plea for him to consider taking advantage of the Exemption Bill which came to be called the controversial “Twenty-Slave Law.” Brown reminds her that the Bill was not yet a law (it passed the Confederate Congress on 11 October 1862) but does not hint further whether he would consider exempting himself. We know from his service record that he did not.

See also: Bedford Brown tar Healer


Near Drury’s Bluff
September 27th 1862

My own sweet & precious wife,

Your very dear & treasured letter of the 23rd inst. came to me promptly last night. Your letters, dearest one, are very precious to me. Their tone, style & expressions remind me so much of her who is so fondly treasured by me. Indeed, my own sweet Mollie, your tender & loving letter afford me exquisite pleasure. They make my heart leap and bound with delightful emotions of sympathetic love and fondness. The the happy, very happy information that “All” were well. That “All” means really “All.” It is in truth all to me. It is the all with which my fond & devoted heart is snapped up with. It is the very sum and substance of my happiness. All of the trust, fondest and best feelings of my heart are concentrated & treasured up in that “all.”

Since my last, our regiment has returned & our camp is once more all life & activity. The evenness in the amount of sickness is very considerable since their return. I regret to say that by some outrageous mismanagement, my valuable horse was foundered badly and will not be fit for service for many weeks, if at all. This annoyed me very greatly. It may render it necessary to purchase another.

My dearest, your very [n____dist] & delicate allusion to the “Exemption Act”—though it amused me—caused me at the same time to sympathize fully with my darling Mollie, in the hope that I might once more “lawfully” enjoy the sweets of her dear society. The Conscript Act is now a law. The Exemption Bill has not passed both houses. I have been a close observer of their progress & shall [be] very strongly tempted to take advantage of it, but it will not be long before we will be compelled to take up winter quarters permanently & if I remain in the army, I will have my darling little family with me. I still repeat, dearest, that you must be very careful of your precious self. My prayers and petitions, earnest & true prayers go up to our Father daily, that He will protect, shield, and conduct her with His omnipotent hand safely through all her trials, who is the treasure of my heart, & preserve her to me in future.

I was surprised to learn of the death of my old friend B. Guinn. As you say, I fear that he was taken away badly prepared to meet his maker.

One of our officers heard a rumor in Richmond this morning that our army was falling back from the Potomac. There is no doubt that our army is in a suffering condition. There being thousands of sick, wounded & broken down men straggling—our Northern Virginia in a starving condition. Now dearest one, may our Father manifestly spare thee to me, preserve our little darlings to us. Kiss them for me. My love to all at Pa’s. Respects to Miss N.

Ever dearest, your true & loving husband, — Bedford

1861-63: John Boultwood Edson Letters, 27th NYS Vols

I could not find an image of John but here is one of Joseph Seavey who also served in the 27th New York Infantry. Seavey was killed on 27 June 1862 in the Battle of Gaines Mills.

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 May 1861 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)

Letter 1

[Elmira, New York]
Sunday, May 19, [1861]

Dear Mother,

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

Letter 2

Headquarters Elmira [N. Y.]
May 24th [1861]

Dear Father,

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

Letter 3

Headquarters, Elmira, [N. Y.]
[June 1861]

Dear Mother,

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

Letter 4

Elmira Barracks No St Com E. of Union Dpt.
June 22, [1861]

Dear Father,

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]

Letter 5

[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 [1861]

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.

Letter 6

Camp Anderson
Washington D. C.
July 25th [1861]

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.

Letter 7

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.

Letter 8

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

Letter 9

[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

Letter 10

Headquarters Army of the Potomac
September 20th [1861]

Dear Father,

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.

Letter 11

Army of the Potomac
October 8th 1861

Dear Father,

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

Letter 12

Camp Franklin
November 8, 1861

Dear Parents,

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.

Letter 13

Camp Franklin, Va.
November 26 [1861]

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

Letter 14

Camp Clara, Va.
[December] 15 [1861]

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

Letter 15

Camp Franklin, Virginia
December 18, 1861

Dear Father,

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

Letter 16

Camp Clara, Virginia
January 1st 1862

Dear Father,

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.

Letter 17

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

Letter 18

Camp Franklin, Va.
February 13th [1862]

Sister Hatt.,

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

Letter 19

Camp Franklin, Virginia
[Late February 1862]

Brother Bob,

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

Letter 20

Camp Franklin, Va.
February 27, 1862

Dear Parents,

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

Letter 21

[Camp Franklin, Va.]
Monday morning, March 31st 1862

Sister Hatt.,

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

Letter 22

Manassas Junction
Sunday, April 6th 1862

Dear Father,

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

The Old Stone House on the Manassas Battlefield showing the “mark of the cannon shot” (blue dot) where John Edson marked it on his sketch.

1 Bull 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

[To] William Clague.

Harry’s research reveals the following curious discoveries: Per the regimental roster, John Clague mustered out with his company on 5/31/1863. Hospital steward Daniel Bosley of Co. E. reported Clague killed instantly. Pvt. Duncan Brown of Co. E reported Clague died after about an hour. Clague was however reported very much alive after the battle by Co. E’s Corp. W. H. Merrell in his account of his captivity after the battle. John Clague of Co. E died in 1921 per FindAGrave.

Excerpt of article written by correspondent of the Cincinnati Commercial Tribune published in that paper on 12 April 1862.

Letter 23

Camp at Ship Point
On Cheeseman’s Creek, Va.
April 30th 1862, Wednesday morning

Dear Parents,

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

Letter 24

Mechanicsville, Virginia
In Camp 5 miles from Richmond
May [21th] 1862, Wednesday afternoon

Dear Father,

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. 

Letter 25

[Mechanicsville, Virginia]
Wednesday, May 28, [1862]

Dear Father,

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.

Letter 26

On picket before the Enemy Lines
and 5 Miles from Richmond
June 2nd [1862], 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

Letter 27

In camp 7 miles from Richmond
[Mid] June 1862

Dear Father,

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

Letter 28

Camp Lincoln, Fair Oaks
June 28, 1862

Dear Father,

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

[partial letter?]

…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.

Letter 29

In Camp on James [River]
July 4th, 1862

Dear Father,

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

Letter 30

[Camp near Harrison’s Landing]
Tuesday afternoon, August 5th [1862]

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

Letter 31

Camp near Harrison’s Landing
James River
August 8th 1862
Friday morning

Dear Father,

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

Letter 32

Fort Lyon
Alexandria, Virginia
August 29, [1862]

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

Letter 33

Camp Franklin, Va.
[August 30, 1862]

Dear Father,

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.

Joseph J. Bartlett of 27th New York; shown here in Brig. General’s uniform (LOC)

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.

Letter 34

Camp near Alexandria, Va.
September 5th 1862

Dear Father,

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.

Letter 35

Wayside Marker at Crampton’s Gap

Crampton’s Gap
September 15, 1862

Dear Father,

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

Letter 36

On the Battlefield near Sharpsburg, Maryland
September 19, 1862

Dear Father,

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.

Letter 37

In Camp at White Plains, Virginia
and 17 miles from the old battleground of Bull Run
November 1861 [should be 1862]

Dear Father,

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.

Letter 38

In Camp 11 miles from Fredericksburg
Stafford Court House, Va.
November 26, 1862

Dear Mother,

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.

Letter 39

On the Battlefield of Fredericksburg
December 13th [1862]

Dear Father,

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

Letter 40

Still on the Battlefield [at Fredericksburg]
Monday morning, December 15th [1862]

Dear Father,

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

Letter 41

White Oak Church, Va.
February 25, 1863

Dear Parents,

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]

Letter 42

White Oak Church, Va.

[Ink is too faded to transcribe]

Letter 43

Near White Oak Church, Virginia

[Ink is too faded to transcribe]

Letter 44

27th Regt. N. Y. State Vols.
Near White Oak Church, Va.
April 10th [1863]

Dear Father,

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.

1862-65: Samuel Richard Green to Phoebe Melvina (Rockwell) Green

These letters were written by Samuel Richard Green (1826-1865) who enlisted as a private in Co. A, 14th New York Infantry in mid-August 1862, was transferred to Co. I, 44th New York Infantry on 24 June 1863, was promoted to corporal on 28 April 1864 and transferred to Co. A on 23 September 1864. He was transferred to Co. H, 146th New York Infantry on 11 October 1864 and died on 11 May 1865 at Lincoln Hospital in Washington D. C. from wounds received on 31 March 1865 at White Oak Road, Virginia [another source says that his wounds were received in the attack on Fort Stedman].

Prior to his enlistment, Samuel was employed as a mechanic in Utica, New York, where he was born. He was described as standing 5 feet 9 inches tall, with blue eyes, brown hair, and a light complexion. He was married in 1853 to Phoebe Melvina Rockwell (1832-1906) and the couple had two children—Mary Ella (b. 1856) and Lewis Henry (b. 1860).

This cabinet card was made in Utica during the post-war period but it was passed down by the family with the following letters so I’m inclined to believe it was accurately identified as Samuel Richard Green. The A. R. G. at the bottom of the reverse side was Alfred Reynolds Green (1901-1980), Samuel’s grandson. Most likely the image was created from a photograph taken of Samuel circa 1860 when he was about 35 years old.

Letter 1

[While serving in the 14th New York Infantry]

Frederick City, Maryland
September 17, [1862]

Dear wife,

I take the present opportunity to write you and let you know how I am. I have been on the march for six days and I can stand it first rate. Yesterday we expected to get to where the fighting was [at Sharpsburg, Maryland] today some time but we were detached from the brigade and send back about 20 miles with a lot of prisoners and we don’t know what the next job will be or how long we shall remain here. I am well & have been since I left home. I find lots of friends here for soldiers all help each other. I am in Co. A and that is the best company in the regiment. I can’t give you any news for you will get it before we do by the paper.

I wish you would write me as soon as you get this. You will get Mr. Laurence to direct it for you and there won’t be trouble about my getting it. Tell him I am in Co. A & he will know how to direct it to get to me. We get the mail 3 or 4 times a week. If he is not in the office, leave it with the clerk & he will see that it is sent. If you how he directs it you will know how to do it yourself. Send me a paper once or twice a week. They will all be directed alike. It don’t make any difference where the regiment is.

Give my respects to all. Kiss Ella and Louie for me & tell Ella she must be a good girl. Mind what you tell her. Take good care of the children & don’t work too hard yourself for I shall send you money as soon as I get paid. I don’t know when that will be but it will come in a month or two.

The 4th Oneida Regiment have just passed by here since we have been encamped so they will get into a fight before we will at any rate—if we should go back towards where the fighting it. It is a getting dark and I must close. This comes from your ever loving husband, — Samuel

Letter 2

[While serving in the 14th New York Infantry just prior to being transferred to the 44th New York Infantry.]

Camp in Virginia or some other place
June 2, 1863

Dear wife,

Your letter of the 26th it at hand. I am glad to hear from you. I am as much disappointed by not being sent home with the 14th [New York Infantry] as you are. I have done my duty to the government up to the 17th of May which is the time I volunteered for faithfully and what I do hereafter won’t do them any good. I will assure you I shall not give the rebels a chance to hurt me hereafter. They have been trying to form the 12th, 13th, 14th and 17th into a battalion ever since the 14th left but they can’t make it go. All they have got of us yet is a demoralized mob. They boys are determined they shant make anything of them and they can’t. We are a perfect nuisance in the army and mean to be until they send us home. 1

We are in the First Division, First Brigade Fifth Army Corps. This division is guarding the fords on the Rappannock river between Falmouth and the Orange & Alexandria Railroad. We are in the reserve about 4 miles from the river and about 20 miles above Falmouth. We are known through the division as the demoralized battalion & don’t mean to be anything else. We beat the officers that have charge of us at every point. If they tie up any of the boys for punishment, the rest go and cut them loose or make the officers release them to keep from having a mutiny in camp & if they court martial them, they can’t make it stick & we have the best of them & we are having lots of fun.

We are encamped in a very fine place and we have lots of fresh meat and chickens to eat. We get them around the country. We don’t care who they belong to. We take them whenever we find them.

I have been to see if I could get a furlough to come home but they ain’t giving any in the brigade at present. They may be giving them again in a few days. I shall get one as soon as I can.

I got a letter from father a few days ago. He says you shall not suffer for anything unless you conceal your wants from him. The pay master is paying off the army now but I know as our papers are in shape so as to get our pay this time or not. If we don’t, we will get 4 months the next time so it won’t make any difference if you have got enough to last you. If father has not gone away when this reaches you, tell him I will write to him as soon as I find out what they are going to do with us.

1 The 14th New York Infantry was unusual in that it was composed of both two-year enlistees and three-year enlistees. Apparently many of the three-year enlistees had no idea that they had another year of service left when the time came for the two-year men to go home, which caused those with time left to serve to revolt and become demoralized.

Letter 3

[While serving in the 44th New York Infantry. As the 44th N. Y. marched toward Gettysburg, they found themselves brigaded with the 20th Maine, the 16th Michigan, and the 83rd Pennsylvania under the command of Col. Strong Vincent. This brigade would win distinction for their heroic defense of Little Round Top on Day 2 of the battle.]

Aldie, Virginia
June 25, 1863

My Dear Wife,

I received yours of the 26th of May. I have not heard from you since we have been shifting around from place to place. Since I wrote you last, which was soon after I received yours, but we have got in a regiment now where we shall stay. We are in the 44th New York Volunteer [Infantry] commonly known as the Ellsworth Avengers. They were got up from every town in the state or were meant to represent every town when they came out and they are a picked lot of men. I am as well satisfied here as I should be in any regiment without it was the old 14th but I don’t feel very well reconciled to stay here a great while for I consider my time out. But still I prefer to have an honorable discharge if I can get it in any kind of season. If I find I cannot, I think I shall leave without it.

I wrote to Father & directed it to Cleveland. I have had 2 or 3 packages of papers from him since I wrote to him. They were mailed at Gloversville. I don’t know whether he is there yet or whether he has gone back. We have not had any mail here in 10 or 12 days & we don’t know what is a going on anywhere but here.

We are on a turnpike that runs from Alexandria threw Ashby’s Gap & I don’t know how much farther. We were to Ashby’s Gap last Sunday. We had quite a lively time with the rebs. The fighting was mostly done with the cavalry so we did not participate much in it except to drive them away from two or three stone walls where the cavalry could not get at them & then we would start them out & so we drove them to Ashby’s Gap.

I wish you would write soon for I am anxious to hear from you. I expect that Merrill will come here in a day or two & then we can get the papers so as to know what is going on in other places besides this.

I shall write to father again soon and let him know where I am. Direct yours to the 44th Regiment, First Division, 3rd Brigade, 5th Army Corps. Give my respects to all & let me know how you get along & how Ella & Lewis are & if Ella goes to school. I would give anything to be at home to see you and them and I trust I shall be this fall or the fore part of the winter at the farthest. But until such time as I come, I remain your most affectionate and ever loving husband, — Samuel


Letter 4

[While serving in the 44th New York Infantry.]

Camp near Rappahannock Station, Virginia
September 11, 1863

My Dear Wife,

I received yours the 6th yesterday. I was glad to hear from you. I received your letter with the comb and have wrote two letters to you since the one I sent to Utica in care of Mr. Lawrence and after that I received one from father informing me that you was at Cleveland and since them I have wrote you another which I think you must of got before this time but for fear you have not got the last one, I will repeat some that I wrote last.

I sent $20 to Mr. Lawrence as soon as I was paid. I had to send it by mail and I thought it best to send half of it at once. After that I got father’s letter and he said you wanted me to send one half of what I could spare Mr. Lawrence and the balance to you. I got a letter from Mr. Lawrence saying that he had got the money and that you had gone to Cleveland and he had placed it to my credit. I then sent $20 more to Mr. Lawrence and requested him to send that to you and let the first stand as it was. Since then I have had another letter from him in which he said he had received it and would forward it to you as I desired. I think he will send it by Express or send you a check. I don’t know which. The reason I sent it to Mr. Lawrence was that I has to send it by mail and I thought it was the safest way.

I have not got much time to write today for I am going on picket this afternoon and shall be gone three days. we do picket duty three days out of nine all the time now and we had rather be out on picket than to be in camp. I am glad to hear that you like it where you be and that you are having a good time and I should like to be there with you. And I think this war won’t last much longer and you need not be uneasy about my staying three years.

I wrote a long letter to you and directed it to Cleveland to you about the first of this month. I wish you would write and let me know if you got it and if you have got $20 sent from Mr. Lawrence as soon as you get this. Give my respects to all of my friends and take good care of the children. — Samuel

Letter 5

[While serving in the 44th New York Infantry.]

Battlefield near Spotsylvania Court House, Virginia
May 13th 1864

My Dear Wife,

I learn that there is a mail going out this morning and I write a few lines to let you know that I am still alive and well. This is the ninth day of the fight and I [think] it is about over with and I think this campaign will close the war from what I can learn here at present.

There has been a great deal of hard fighting and a heavy loss on both sides and I thank the Lord that I have escaped so far for I have been where it was raging the hardest and we have lost over half of the regiment. Things are pretty quiet this morning but yesterday was a hard day. I have not slept over four hours in three days and nights and I am in no condition to write and if you can make out to read this, I shall be glad. As soon as we are a little settled and I think I can write so that you can read it, I will write to you again but don’t get uneasy if it is a number of days first for if we don’t have any fighting, we will have to march.

I wish you would write to father and let him know that I am alright for it ay be some time before I can. Kiss the children for me and write as soon as you get this so that I may know whether you get it.

From your affectionate and ever loving husband, — Samuel

Letter 6

[While serving in the 44th New York Infantry.]

44th [New York] Regiment
9 miles from Richmond
June 1, 1864

My dear wife,

I received yours of the 18th and was glad to hear that you was well and had bettered your condition by moving. I have attempted to write before but had orders to fall in before I had time to more than head a letter and had to abandon it and probably shall not finish this today for things are rolling—speaking in a soldier’s phrase.

I am well and stand it as well as any I see around me, and, notwithstanding, we have had about as much as men can be expected to endure. They go about what they are called on to do cheerfully for we know that the enemy must be too much exhausted with over taxation as we are and if we take time to rest and recruit our energies, they will have the same privilege and we are anxious to finish this war at the earliest possible moment. And as everything is working fine, let the thing be kept a rolling in our motto.

There was a good deal of heavy fighting yesterday in which we were successful though I expect our progress will be slow hereafter. If it is the intention of the enemy to hold Richmond, and I hope they will defend it to the last, for I have faith in our ability to take it. And if Lee will not abandon it, he must fall within the fortifications of Richmond and that will end the war without following him farther.

I wish you would write to father and let him know that I am well for I have ot time to write without doing it when I should be resting, for when we stop, we don’t know whether we will be called on in ten minutes or whether it will be as many hours, but most likely to be the former.

Give my respects to Mr. Lawrence and Lewis. Tell them I am doing my duty here as well as I ever do anywhere. Kiss Ella and Lewis for me and give my respects to all my friends. Write me as soon as you get this. Hoping that this war may soon close and may return home again, I remain as ever your affectionate husband, — Samuel

Letter 7

[While serving in the 44th New York Infantry.]

Near Petersburg [Virginia]
August 9th 1864

My dear wife,

I wrote you a few days ago and sent six dollars in the letter but for fear you may not of got it, I will write again. In that [letter] I stated I had sent you fifty dollars by Express. After I wrote to you I saw the man that was to take it to City Point to the Express [Office] and gave him ten dollars more and now I have a receipt for sixty dollars from Adams Express. I wish you would write and let me know if you get it and by the terms of the receipt I must notify them in 30 days if it has not gone through all right. Also let me know if you got my letter containing six dollars.

I am well as usual. We are as comfortable as we can make ourselves. The weather is very warm but we have good shades up so we don’t suffer from the heat of the sun but the flies—there is no end to. They plague a man’s life almost out of him. It is almost impossible to read or write duringthe day. We are behind our breastworks about as far from the Johnnies as it is from Broadway to Genessee Street along Pearl Street. There is no firing here in our works except by the artillery. They have a turn at it several times during the day without much damage to either party, I presume—certainly without much to us—but there is a plenty of firing alog the 9th Corps all the time, night and day. 1

We sit on our breastworks and watch the mortar shells going back and forth in the evening. There is deserters from the rebel lines coming into ours every night. Those that come in last night report the capture of Mobile by our fleet which probably is true. They would have the news before we would.

Give my respects to all. Kiss Ella and Lewis for me, hoping that this will find you and them well, I remain your most affectionate husband, — Samuel

1 Burnside’s 9th Corps had a large number of USCT (Black soldiers) in it and the Rebels purposely singled out that sector of the line to fire their artillery shells for that reason.

Letter 8

[While serving in the 44th New York Infantry.]

Camp of 44th [New York] on the Weldon Railroad, Virginia
September 25th 1864

My dear wife,

I received yours of the 11th and was glad to hear from you and that you and the children were well. Tell Ella I thank her for her song and other mementoes the children have sent me as a token that I am not forgotten at home and I trust the time with soon come when I can come and hear her sing it.

The 44th’s time was out yesterday and all the old members that came out with it that had not reenlisted started for home yesterday but there was 180 recruited ready to take their place so the regiment is larger now than it was before and we are expecting 200 more every day. We have not had any fighting on our part of the line in a long time and it is not likely we shall before we move from here.

I will send you a check for twenty-five dollars. I got 2 months pay yesterday which pays me to the first of September. I think it is safer to send a check than to send the money. If it was lost, I think it would not be of any use to anyone else but you and I could get another one. I think you can draw the money at any bank by signing your name to it but any business man will tell you better about it than I can for I am not sure. But you will have to go to a National Bank. I will keep the number of the draft and if you do not get it, let me know and I will get another. Also let me know if you have any trouble to get it cashed and then I will know when I send again.

I don’t know as I have anything more of importance to write at present. Give my respects to all my friends. Kiss Ellie and Lewis for me. My health is good as usual, hoping you and the children are enjoying the same blessing. I am your affectionate husband, — Samuel

P. S. Mr. John Harvey, one of my old soldier friends, promised to call and see you. He started for home yesterday. Write as soon as you get this for I want to know about the check as soon as possible.

Letter 9

[While serving in the 146th New York Infantry.]

Camp of the 146th N. Y. S. V. near Weldon Railroad, Virginia
October 25th 1864

My dear wife,

I received yours of October 2nd and read it with pleasure. I am well as usual. You will see by this that we have been transferred to the 146th. I belong to Co. H. I think I shall remain here the rest of my time as it is out before the regiments is so there will be no occasion for another transfer.

We are having pleasant weather but it is cool nights. We were in two fights the 30th of September before we were consolidated with the 146th but after the 44th had gone home. We were called at that time the 44th Battalion and maintained the good reputation of the Old 44th but the officers wanted to go home and they managed to get us transferred and they have gone. Let them go, I don’t know as it will make much difference to us though the most of the men are very much dissatisfied.

I don’t know as I have anything more of importance to write. I will send a dollar to you. [Give] 25 cents to each of the children, and the rest to you. I get the papers from Gloversville. Kiss the children for me and give my respects to all my acquaintances hoping that this will find you all in the enjoyment of good health and that I may hear from you soon.I remain your most affectionate husband, — Samuel

P. S. Give my respects especially to Mr. Lawrence and son if you see them and as for going out West as father desired you to, you must set your own pleasure as you can judge better where you can enjoy yourself the best—better than I can. But I think I shall go there when I come home. When you write to father, tell him I am well and where I am and give him my respects. — S. R. G.

Letter 10

[While serving in the 146th New York Infantry.]

Camp of 146 N. Y. V. near Hatcher’s Run, Virginia
February 15, 1865

My dear wife,

I received yours of the 4th February and was glad to learn that you were all well. I had wrote one to you the 4th which you must of got before this but as we broke camp the 5th and have had some fighting since, I write to quiet any fears you may have about me as I am all right as usual.

We have established a new line and gone into camp again. We have been very busy the last three days clearing up camp and building quarters. It is about seven o’clock in the evening and it has been raining most of the day but me and my tent mates got our house all done but putting in the fireplace. Yesterday and today we got that in and have got a rousing good fire agoing in it tonight though there is a good many haven’t got theirs near done yet but it is not cold so they will not suffer much. This is the third time we have built quarters this winter and I hope it will be the last. And if we stay here until April, it will be the last for me.

You spoke in yours about looking for me home on a furlough but I have thought it over and think it best to stay until my time is out before I come on several accounts. One is the cost of coming and another [is] that most that go home are discontented when they come back and I am doubtful whether their folks feel as reconciled as they did before, and then my time is getting so nye out, and taking all into consideration, I think it is best not to come for I have commenced on the last six months yesterday and they will soon pass and then I can come and not have the pleasure marred by the thought that I must come back again.

Kiss Ella and Lewis for me and give my respects to all and especially to father and give me his address for I have lost it. Hoping this may find you all well and that I may hear from you soon, I remain your most affectionate husband, — Samuel

Letter 11

[While serving in the 146th New York Infantry.]

Camp of the 146th N. Y. S. V. near Hatcher’s Run, Virginia
March 10, 1865

My dear wife,

I received yours of February 19th. I had wrote to you just previous and think you must of got it about the same time I got yours so I have not been in a hurry about writing since as there has nothing of consequence transpired. I had a letter from father dated February 13th which I have answered. I have also had a letter from Gloversville saying they expect father to make them a visit this month. I would like very much to be at home when he comes down but I shall have to let it go this time. But the time is not far distant when I can come home and not have the pleasure marred by knowledge that I must leave to come back again in a few days.

I sent $25 to you by Mr. Roberts which I think you must of got before this time. I think we will get paid again this month. If so I will send you more. I don’t know what to advise you about your furniture if you should go West this spring. I know it will be a good deal of trouble for you to get them put up in any shape to move and if you don’t go to keeping house before I come home, it will be a trouble to get them stored. I think you and father will know what is best better than I do—that is, if you should go before I come home.

It is very rainy at present—so much so that it is impossible for the army to move. But the weather is warm when the sun comes out. It is like what you have up there in May.

I am in the Second Division. It is commanded by General [Romeyn B.] Ayres and in the First Brigade commanded by General [Frederick] Winthrop, 5th Corps by General Warren. I should not be surprised if our corps left this army soon perhaps to go south with Sherman. I hope we will. There is indication that we will ship for somewhere for we have turned over 90 wagons to the 6th Corps. Still we may not go. It will depend on circumstances but we are ready for almost anything.

I am well as usual. Give my respects to all. Kiss Ella and Lewis for me, hoping that this will find you all in the enjoyment of good health and that I may hear from you again soon. I remain your most affectionate and ever loving husband, — Samuel

P. S. If Mr. Roberts calls to see you after you get this, I wish you would send my old felt hat by him if you have got it yet. — S. R. G.

Letter 12

[While serving in the 146th New York Infantry.]

Lincoln Hospital [Washington D. C.]
April 19th 1865

My dear wife,

I received yours of the 12th [and] also of the 14th containing father’s. I don’t think it advisable for him to go to the expense of coming from Wellesville to Washington to get me home for I shall undoubtedly get a furlough and come home sometime in May—perhaps the forepart of May.

You spoke of having sent me a hat and letter by Mr. Case. He had not got to the regiment when I left it. I am sorry you bought a new hat to send to me. I told him to say to you if you had the drab hat that I wore to the shop you might send it to me but I didn’t want you to buy one to send.

I am getting along well. I am able to walk around and for all the trouble there would be about traveling might come home now but they don’t like to let patients leave the hospital until their wounds have got so that there is no danger of their getting worse by being neglected.

I have been transferred to Ward No. 4 and shall likely remain here so you will direct the same as before, only Ward 4 instead of 17. Give my respects to to all. Kiss the children for me. I remain as ever your affectionate husband, — Samuel

The receipt for embalming services by Dr. Thomas Holmes—the “father of American embalming.” Wikipedia claims that Holmes charged $100 per body to embalm Union soldiers and that he embalmed over $4,000 of them during the Civil War. This receipt, however, suggests a much more reasonable price of $22 which included the box Samuel’s body was sent home to Utica in. Holmes embalmed the body of Abraham Lincoln in 1865 less than a month before he embalmed Samuel’s body.
Samuel and Melvina lie buried side by side in Forest Hill Cemetery in Utica, Oneida county, NY

1861: Garland W. Mead to William H. Mead

This letter was written by 17 year-old school teacher Garland W. Mead (1843-1863), the son of Henry Mead (1794-1860) and Betsy Kent (1796-1853) of Lanesborough, Berkshire county, Massachusetts. Garland wrote the letter to his older brother, William H. Mead (1835-1894).

I could not find an image of Garland but here is a tintype of John Murphy (1836-1862) of Co. A, 34th NY Infantry who also lost his life at Antietam. (Jim Jezorski Collection)

Though Garland grew up in the Berkshire mountains of western Massachusetts, he enlisted with Co. G of the 34th New York Infantry in June 1861. Perhaps he was teaching a select school in or near Herkimer where the company was recruited at the time.

The 34th New York, sometimes referred to as the “Herkimer Regiment,” was composed of five companies from Herkimer county, two from Steuben, one from Albany, one from Clinton and one from Essex county. They mustered into service at Albany on 15 June 1861 for two years. They left the state for Washington on 3 July and were quartered at Kalorama Heights until July 28, when they moved to Seneca Mills. The regiment moved to Edwards Ferry on 21 October, to Poolesville, on 23 October, and there established Camp McClellan, where they remained until late February 1862.

The regiment spent March in camp at Berryville, Virginia, and later in the month moved to Washington where it was ordered to the Peninsula. It shared in the siege of Yorktown; lost 97 members killed, wounded or missing at Fair Oaks, and again lost heavily during the Seven Days’ battles. It was then in camp at Harrison’s landing until Aug. 15, when it was ordered to Newport News, and there embarked for Acquia creek. Subsequently it returned to Alexandria and was again at the front during the Maryland campaign. At Antietam, the regiment lost 154 in killed, wounded and missing, of whom 41 were killed or mortally wounded—over 13% of the 311 engaged.

Garland was one of the casualties at Antietam. William McLean, a sergeant in the 34th, was with the regiment as they marched out of the East Woods to a point 20 yards in the rear of the Dunker Church where they met the enemy coming up the hill beyond in force. He wrote:

“We fired two or three tremendous volleys, which thinned their ranks: but we in turn received quite as warm a fire as we were able to give, and being flanked and cross-fired upon, were obliged to fall back.  We did so at first, in good order, loading and firing as we could: but the advancing of the rebels and their deadly fire was at last too much for the famed 34th, as well as for many regiments, and we broke for a time and ran about thirty rods: then we rallied and turned upon the foe, who gave way before us. The action was short, not exceeding fifteen minutes, and our loss in killed, was 32 and wounded, 108.  All this was the fault of some one who led us into the face of the foe unsupported on the left.  We were within ten rods of the enemy when the first fire was opened, and before we fell back far, they came so close as to take ten prisoners, and others were wounded with gun-stocks, &c.  This we could call nothing better than outright slaughter, and the time and number of victims show it was nothing else.”

Other letters by members of the 34th New York transcribed & published on Spared & Shared include:

Orlando R. Chamberlin, Co. E, 34th New York (Union/1 Letter)
Francis R. Bailey, Co. F, 34th New York (Union/1 Letter)
Francis R. Bailey, Co. F, 34th New York (Union/1 Letter)
Isaac G. Campbell, Co. G, 34th New York (Union/1 Letter)
Judson Hewitt Gibson, Co. I, 34th New York (Union/1 Letter)
James R. McCarrick, Co. I, 34th New York (Union/1 Letter)


Addressed to William H. Mead, Lanesborough, Massachusetts

Washington [D. C.]
July 6th 1861

Dear Brother,

The 34th [New York] Regiment did leave Albany Tuesday at 7 o’clock bound for the seat of war. We were out aboard of an old propeller and as there wasn’t room enough, we had a barge in tow. After steaming all night, we found in the morning that we were approaching Poughkeepsie. From that time till we reached New York, I kept my station on deck looking at the objects which came in sight as we passed along. It seemed more to me that we were on a pleasure excursion than on our way to the field of battle.

Arriving at New York about 3 o’clock, we anchored in the North River. The officers went on shore but the privates were not allowed that privilege so I have not seen much of the city yet. The quartermaster finally came on board with two days rations for each man. These were distributed and we pushed off again and anchored for the night. I slept on deck as I did the night before—[Erwin] Fuller with me. [Albert] Doty was on guard. There was considerable firing during the night but it did not seem like the 3rd of July night.

In the morning we heard some tall firing at the Battery and over on the Jersey side. At 10 we pushed across to Elizabethport about 12 miles and there we got aboard of the cars for Baltimore. We came by way of Harrisburg, passing through Philipsburg, Bethlehem, [and] Allentown. Reached Reading about ten. There we changed engines and kept right on all night. Passed Harrisburg about 3 in the morning and Little York about 6. There we stopped and washed up and eat all the gingerbread, pie and cheese we could find in the place. I don’t believe there was a shop in the place where they kept anything to eat or drink but was bought out.

About ten miles the other side of Baltimore, 20-ball cartridges were given to each company to be used in case we should meet with any disturbance but we passed through Baltimore without any trouble at all. We had quite a march from one depot to the other. At every other town or city we were welcomed and cheered, but here nothing was said. Occasionally we would see a handkerchief waving and hear a cheer but after we got to the depot and the company got aboard, I managed to get liberty till the train started which was about an hour and I talked with some of the men. They said that the Union feeling was strong there now, but if there are any secessionists, they dare not show their heads now for Gen. Banks has taken up their policemen and they have now none but Union men. They won’t allow the news boys to sell secession papers. I tried hard to get one but couldn’t. I got the Clipper & Patriot which I send on to you.

There were five companies of the 22nd Pennsylvania Regiment encamped near the depot and 2 Maryland regiments. The Massachusetts 8th and two or three Pennsylvania regiments are encamped just out of the city. The Allen Guard are stationed at the prison at Baltimore as guard. This a soldier told me at the Relay House. If I had known it before, I could have gone and seen them.

We got into Washington about 10 o’clock at night and we marched about half a mile to the place where we are quartered at present. All but two companies are in a large and commodious building on D Street North. We are on the left flank of the Battalion so we were put in another building which is a dark hole. The Captain says if we don’t get orders to encamp out of the city or different quarters here, he will put his men aboard of the cars and go home. Since [then], we hear that we go out of the city tomorrow certain.

I have been up to the Capitol and stayed an hour or two. But we were expecting marching orders all the time so we came back again. But now Lieut. [Warren J.] Mack says [Albert] Doty and I can go where we have a mind to till night and we are anxious to improve the chance so I must close and write more tomorrow. I am well. Doty the same. Fuller on the sound list too. Love to all, — G. W. Mead

P. S. There is no excitement here among the people and I don’t hear the citizens say much about the war. The Zouaves have just tore down and burned up a drinking house where one of their number was shot last night.

Doty says tell them we are proof against Jersey lightening and Washington flies—the two greatest nuisances we have met with yet. Write soon and direct to Company G, 34th New York Regiment, Washington, District of Columbia, and I think I shall get it wherever we may march in the morning.

— Garland

[to] Wm. H. Mead