The following letters were written by Benjamin (“Ben”) Franklin Blatchford (1835-1906), the son of William Blatchford (1788-1864) and Mary Gott (1806-1873). Ben was married to Emily F. Snow (1833-1917) in Boston in August 1855 and was laboring as a carpenter in Rockport, Essex county, Massachusetts, at the time of the 1860 US Census. Emily was the daughter of David Snow (1793-1869) and Sarah Weston (1801-1850) of Easton, Massachusetts.
Service records indicate that Ben first enlisted as a 1st Sergeant in Co. B, 50th Massachusetts Infantry. He then became a 2nd Lieutenant in Co. K, 2nd Massachusetts Heavy Artillery. He was promoted to 1st Lieutenant in June 1865 and mustered out at Wilmington, North Carolina in September 1865.
The last few letters tell of the fall of Wilmington, North Carolina, to Gen. Terry’s command in February 1865. Growing tired of garrison duty at Fort Norfolk and Fort Woodruff, Ben requested a reassignment to the front near Richmond in the summer of 1864 and he was attached to Co. E, 3rd U. S. Artillery which was in Brig. Gen. Charles J. Paine’s 3rd Division, composed almost completely of U. S. Colored Troops under Colonels, Bates, Ames, and Wright, in Terry’s Provisional Corps. He also describes a skirmish of several hours which took place late on the same day north of Wilmington at the Northwest Ferry site.
Fort Norfolk, Virginia
1863 [should be 1864]
Brother [in-law] Henry [M. Lowe],
I suppose you are somewhat disappointed by not seeing me at Newbern before this but we have been ordered to this place (Fort Norfolk) and in all probability we will stop here some time and I don’t know when I shall see you again except you come where I am for it is impossible for me to get off long enough to come and see you. And being so near together as we are, it seems hard for me at any rate as I have not seen you since December 12, 1861. And if you can manage to get here, you will find me right glad to see you. And if [you] go home without seeing me this time, it will be hard to tell when we will have a chance to see each other again. And the only reason I wanted to go to Newbern was because I thought if I went there I might see you. And the only way I know for you to get off long enough to come and see me is to get Addison [Pool] to hatch up some business that you could do at Fortress Monroe and then you can get here in less than one hour. But that, I know, is hard to do and almost impossible. But I don’t care how you manage so long as you get here without injury to the service. But be sure and come here before you go home if you can anyway as I want to see you very much.
I saw your father a few days before I left. He was the last one of my folks (as I call him) that I saw. He was at the State House in Boston where he has a first rate job. He was well and looks as hearty as ever. I shall write to him this week.
When I left home, father was very slim and I have been very much worried ever since I have been here for fear I shall hear bad news. I almost dread to have a letter from home on that account as I set so much by him that I should worry myself sick. He ain’t been out of my mind scarcely an hour since I left home.
Your boy Frank is a smart, healthy, and good-looking boy, and beside this, he is (to me at any rate) one of the most interesting children I ever saw. I also felt very bad to come away and leave him as well as all the rest of the folks. He can talk and will play as long as he can find anyone to play with him. I would walk miles to see him tonight, and when you go home if you will call this way, I will try to send something home to him. Louisa is also in good health—or decent health for her, as she is never very healthy.
Just before I left home I called to your house and saw your Mother and Susan, They were about the same as usual and seemed to think I would see you before long but they as well as myself have been very much disappointed. I have wrote you a number of letters but as I receive no answer, I suppose you have not got them. But as soon as you receive this, I wish you would write to me and let me know what the prospect is of seeing each other before you go home. And write all the news you have received from home and write often. I will do the same by you. Direct your letters to me at Fort Norfolk, Company K, 2nd Regiment Heavy Artillery Massachusetts Volunteers.
— Ben F. Blatchford
Fort Norfolk, Virginia
1863 [should be 1864]
Dear Mother & Father,
I wrote a letter to you about a week ago and for fear you did not get it, I take this opportunity to write another and I want an answer as soon as you receive this for I am very anxious to hear how father is getting on and when you write, I want you to let me know how Ellen is. I have not had nor hear a word from home since I have been here.
We are still at Fort Norfolk and the prospect is that we will stop here some time. This fort is very pleasantly situated on the Elizabeth River and by water, not much more than a rifle shot from the City of Norfolk, but by land I shoiuld think it is about 2 miles. I can go to the City every four days. All we have to do is guard prisoners and attend to the Company Drills. The last named takes up 4 hours per day—two hours in the forenoon and two in the afternoon. The rest of the time I have to myself except every fourth day when I have to go on as Officer of the Guard and see that the prisoners are well guarded. Yesterday they brought in a very smart-looking man. He is or was a surgeon in the rebel army. He was captured over the river.
I think we have about two hundred prisoners in the fort, most of them are rebels. The Union prisoners that are in there are all soldiers and they have [sentences] all the way from three months to twenty years to serve. They are a hard set of men but we get along with them first rate. We have had no trouble with the rebel prisoners at all and all [the trouble] we ever had is with the Union prisoners. But it did not last long as we are well-armed and ready to shoot a few for an example—and [when] they found we would do it, they have backed down and don’t cause any trouble now.
I like it here first rate and I consider myself lucky to get in a place like this as there are only two companies here and don’t have very hard work. The weather here is fine. I have not seen any ice yet and today it is just like summer. It is so warm that a great many of the men are in their shirt sleeves and the birds sing mornings and it seems like May at home.
I had rather stop here than go to Newbern but I want to see Henry [M. Lowe] very much and when you write to him, I wish you would tell him where I can be found if he happens this way. I will write to him too and I think he will get one of the letters at least. I received a very nice present the other night from the members of the guard. It is a fine gold pen and holder. The holder is silver and is it a pen and pencil combined and the whole thing they calculate is worth about six dollars. I feel very much pleased with the present as it came from members of another company.
I also received a number of other presents at Readville before we started but I will not tell you what they were as I am in a hurry now and I have no room to spare. Write or send this to Em and tell her I am well—better than I have been for a year. I have not had an hour’s sickness since I left home and I think I have not felt better for a year than I do now. Give my love to all and tell them I am well.
P. S. Brother Robert: Enclosed you will find one dollar for Andrew P. Wetherbee. It is from Charles C. Sewall and the other man will pay him as soon as he hets some money. My love to all the folks, — Ben
Fort Norfolk, Virginia
February 20, 1864
Dear Mother & Sister,
I received a letter from you a few days since [and] also a nice cake which I was glad to receive. I have about one half of it left and at this rate it won’t last long. It is first rate and makes me think of home. I also received a letter from Louisa and some candy from Frank, both of which I was very glad to receive. I thank each of you for your letters so full of interest in my behalf and also for your good advice and I will try and profit by it. And while I am away, I will try to do as near right as I possibly can. And wherever I go and whatever I do, I will try to sustain a good name.
I am still at Fort Norfolk and likely to stop here for some time to come and I want each of you to write as often as you can make it convenient. I have wrote to William twice, but as yet I have received no answer. I guess he has forgot where I stop. When you see him, I wish you would tell him that I have wrote to him twice and have not heard from him since. And tell him that if he ain’t more prompt in answering my letters, I shall call on Ellen.
When you write, I want you to tell me how Ellen is getting on . Also how Mary Ann is. She was sick the last time I saw her. My health is good. I think it is much better than when I left home. I like [it] full as well as I expected I should when I started. I have not received any word from Henry [Lowe] yet. I wrote to him when I first arrived here and have been expecting an answer every day for three weeks but I have about give it up now. When you write, please tell me how he is getting on.
Remember me to each of my brothers and sisters and tell them I am well and ask them to write. They all hear from me once or twice every week but I have to wait sometimes two weeks to hear from them.
The Rockport Boys are well with the exception of one or two who are a little of the hooks.
I feel much pleased with Corp. McKenney. He is a fine smart fellow and I like him first rate. Tell his Mother that he is well and wishes to hear from her or his sisters as often as they can make it convenient to write.
I was very glad to hear that you was well. I was afraid you would be sick after so much trouble but we must not complain. It is all for the best although it is hard for us to think so. But we must console each other with the hope that we shall meet him [Ben’s father] by and by in a better world. Tell Uncle Jack that I wrote to Aunt Peggy a few days since. She wrote to Robert about the same time.
I would write oftener than I do but of late we have so much to do that I get but little time to write. Remember me to Dr. and Capt. Haskell and tell them I am well and after work slacks up a little, they will hear from me. Good night. — Ben
North Branch near Wilmington [North Carolina]
March 2nd 1865
Dear Brother & Sisters,
This is the first chance that I have had to write for some time and even now it will [be] impossible for me to write much. I suppose that you have heard all the news about the fall of Wilmington so I will not write much about it. I will only say that we went into Wilmington just as the rebs went out. There was only one brigade ahead of us and this was the first battery into Wilmington and we were not long in going through the city. We did not stop as we were close onto the rebs so we followed them up. We got to the bridge that leads out of Wilmington just as the rebs were setting fire to it. We put two of our guns in position and opened on the men who were trying to burn the bridge. Eight or ten threw down their arms and were taken prisoners and the rest left. So you see that we were just in time to save the bridge. 1
We crossed over and tried to overtake the rebs but we did not do it until just as night when we had a smart skirmish but they got start enough of us to get their force over the river and out of our way. We put our guns on the skirmish line and fought about six hours. I lost three horses out of my section and had the reins shot out of my hand but did not get hurt, but prisoners that we have taken say that we made them leave in a hurry.
Our march through Wilmington was on the 22nd of February. A few days since, I had charge of a squad of men mounted on good horses and went 14 miles into the reb country and returned just at dark with nine reb deserters and a few horses. I had quite a view of the country and was the first Yankee officer who had been so far in that direction. The people were for the Union—or at least they said so. They all sing the same song when the Yanks are around.
I have not received a letter or paper from you for six weeks and have never received but three Gloucester papers. I expect that you will hear from us in another quarter or at least at some distance from here. I think that we will join Sherman’s army now and Schofield commands.
My health is tip top and I feel confident that we will finish the rebellion this year. At any rate, we or the whole army feel that this year will wind up the Southern Confederacy and they are going in with a will. The rebs report that Hoke has lost 700 of his men by desertion since we took Wilmington.
Tell Mother and Lavina not to worry if they don’t hear from me quite so often as they have. Tell them that I will write as often as I can send—that is, if I can get the paper to write with. If we strike for the interior of the country, you may not hear from me for weeks but don’t worry. I think that the rebs will give up this year. If they don’t, I am good for another year or as long as they see fit to fight. Remember me to your Father and Mother, Susan, and all the rest and write often. — Ben
Tell Thomas F. Parsons that I wrote him a long letter a short time since. Write a long letter and let me know how you are getting on. Remember me to Dr. and Capt. Haskell but don’t let anyone see this letter, — Ben
Address letters to me thus:
Lieut. Benj. F. Blatchford, Light Co. E, 3rd U. S. Artillery, General Terry’s Command
1 The army of the Union did not rest at this point, but immediately advanced to press the retreating rebels. The Sixth pushed rapidly forward, skirmishing with the rear guard, and on the 22d of February our forces entered Wilmington in triumph, and drove the rebels in confusion through the city. They fled in the greatest haste, scattering their blankets and knapsacks on the way, but were so closely pursued by the Sixth and other regiments that they had no chance to form for battle till near the outskirts of the city, where they determined to make one more stand. Although they were stubborn, they were finally forced to yield and made their escape across North East [Cape Fear] river. [History of the 6th Connecticut Infantry “Old Sixth Regiment”]
“On February 22nd, the Union army entered the town of Wilmington from the west (Eagle Island in Brunswick County at that time) and from the south (up from Fort Fisher and Sugar Loaf). The Confederates were busy removing commissary stores and Union prisoners awaiting exchange, and the forces still in the general area were ordered to cross the Northeast Cape Fear River north of Wilmington and use the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad to avoid capture.” See North Carolina in the American Civil War.
Camp of Light Company E, 3rd U. S. Artillery
near Wilmington, North Carolina
March 5th 1865
Dear Brother and Sister,
I have been thinking about writing to you for some time but for various reasons I have put it off until now and even now I shall not write as long as I have but a few moments to spare.
I have been in winter quarters this winter but have been on the move most of the time. I was on the first expedition against Fort Fisher with General Butler’s forces but we did not succeed in taking the fort. I was also on the second expedition with General Terry when he succeeded in taking Fort Fisher. I have been engaged in nearly every move that has taken place since.
On the 22nd of February we marched through Wilmington. I was with the first battery that entered the city. The people appeared glad to see us and some of them waved the Stars and Stripes as we marched through the streets. We did not stop in the city as the rebs went out one side as we came in the other. We followed them up and tried to overtake them and give them battle. We came on the rear guard who were trying to burn the bridge and opened upon them with our artillery and drove them from the bridge and saved it. They had set fire to it in several places but we soon put it out and crossed over and followed them up but did not overtake them until nearly dark. We at once commenced a sharp skirmish and kept it up some hours. We went in position on the skirmish line with our battery just at dark and fought until 10 o’clock. We were close to the rebs but it was so dark they could not see us but they fired at the flashes of our guns, but they fired so high that they did not do us much damage. I had three horses shot on my section. The other sections did not lose so many. One shot took the reins out of my hand but did not hurt me. I expect that we shall catch the rebs one of these days but they run so fast now it is no use to try to catch them. They burnt the railroad bridge but we came on them so quick that they did not have time to burn their pontoon [at the old Northeast Ferry site] so it fell into our hands.
I still have the picture of your little girl. I have had it in my pocket a long time and it is not hurt any. I have had it in my pocket in at least a half dozen engagements.
I think that the war will be over by next fall but we shall see hard fighting this summer. We may meet with a few reverses but we will stick to it and I feel confident that we will come out all right. I am just as much determined to see it through as I was when I first started and I am just as confident of success. Remember me to Uncle Nat, Fred, and all enquiring friends. Yours in haste, — Benj. F. Blotchford
Fort Woodruff, Virginia
May 29, 1864
I received a letter from you last Friday and was glad to learn that you are well but was very sorry to hear that Louisa was sick. I suppose that you are very much pleased to learn that we—or I—have not been ordered to Richmond yet while the battles have been going on in front of Richmond. We have had very easy times at Fort Woodruff. Nearly all of the troops have been taken from the defenses of Norfolk. We have not over six hundred effective men to defend two forts and about one mile of breastworks. We are in a strong position and except they come in force, they can’t start us.
We had quite a scare here about ten days ago. The report was that the rebels were marching on this place and had been seen that afternoon so we formed the two companies and went into the fort—or at least the two companies with the exception of Lieut. Smith and myself and 30 men. We went into a redoubt about four hundred yards from the fort and manned three brass guns and stood ready to give them the contents of our guns as they came down the road. We stood by our guns until after 12 o’clock midnight and made up our minds that the rebs would not attempt to trouble us that night, so we placed a guard on the outposts and laid down. We lay under the guns while the companies in the fort lay on their arms.
After we had fairly got asleep, the rain fell in torrents and as we had no tents, we got a little damp, One shower would not hardly pass before another would rise and the remainder of the night was very dark except when lit up by sharp flashes of lightning which was followed by heavy rolls of thunder.
In the morning we went back to our camp and have not heard any report of rebs advancing since, and I hardly think we will again for they have all they can attend to at Richmond. We are very pleasantly situated here. I think the Officers and men have got better quarters than I ever saw or had since I have been in the army.
I see by the papers that John’s regiment is with General Butler and has had some hard fighting. I have not received a letter from John since he went to Florida. I have never received a letter from Elizabeth since I left home, or heard a word from her except once. I have never wrote to her and I don’t know as I shall until after I hear from her. I wrote to William, Robert, & Dudley, and have received no answer from either. I am willing and consider it a privilege to write but they must remember that I am just as anxious to hear from them as they are to hear from me and nothing makes a fellow feel better than to receive a letter from home.I don’t have much more spare time than either of them and not a week goes over my head without I write at least 8 or 10 letters. I know that I answer every one in less than three days after i receive them. When they find time, I would like to have them answer and tell me all the news. If they don’t answer, it will look as if they don’t care about my writing anymore.
The health of the Rockport Boys is good. We have but few sick in the company. Solomon Knight is sick and has been for three weeks. I think he has the chronic diarrhea but I would not tell his mother so until we find out for certain. His mother wanted me to write once in awhile as neither of her boys could write and she had no other way of hearing from them. Robert can tell Mrs. Knight that he has heard from them and he will tell their mother.
I am very sorry that I can’t get home for a short time and see how things are going to work. I think that William and Robert will do the best they can by you and if there is any way to avoid selling the house, it will be done for if the house is sold, you will have to sell your things in the shop at a great discount and you won’t be able to hire a shop like that. If I had the money, I would like to have the house but I ain’t got it. We have not been paid off in three months and I don’t know when we shall be paid. I hope and think that it can be managed so as not to sell the house for I had rather live there than in any other place in Rockport and nothing would make me feel worse than to hear that the house was sold. And not only that, the house will not fetch half so much now as it would in times of peace. I wish I was with you to assist in making things right, but it is impossible and we must make the best of it. I always thought that he had enough to get along without selling the house and I hope he has. If you don’t have to sell the house, you can get along very comfortably and between the whole of you, I think that you can manage to keep it. If you can think of anything that I can do to assist you in any way, just let me know it and I will do it with my whole heart.
My health is first rate. You did not say how you liked my picture. I guess you did not know who it was. After I get paid off, I will try to get a better one for you. I received a letter from Em the other day. It had Father’s picture enclosed. I liked it very much and would not part with it for any money.
When you write, let me know how Frank and Willie is getting on. When you or Louisa see George Cleaves or Frank Jacobs, remember me to them and ask them to write. I can’t think of anything more to write any more…From your son, — Ben
Fort Woodruff, Virginia
June 19th 1864
Dear Mother & Sister,
I received a letter from you a few days since and was very glad to hear from you. I did not answer it as soon as I received it because I could not find anything to write about. There has been no change with us since I wrote to you before. We are stationed at the same fort and have the same duties to perform day after day. The men in this company certainly can’t complain of hard work. All that they have to do is to keep their equipments clean, drill two hours a day, and go on guard once in five days.
We have not had it what I call hard, or even disagreeable, since we left home and if we don’t have more to do than we have had, the raw recruit in this company will know but little more of the hardships of a soldier’s life than those who have remained at home. Here we have only three men in a tent—or at least most of the tents have only three men in them, and every tent is stockaded and three men has more room that was allowed to twice that number in the 50th [Massachusetts] Regiment.
We have a number of men in this company who was in the old 50th and I and they think that they saw and endured more hardships in that regiment in three months than they will (if it goes on at this rate) in this regiment in three years.
The men in this company enjoy good health. It can’t be otherwise if they are careful what they eat. We have not over (10) ten men on the sick list and most of them were not fit to enter the service. We have two Rockport boys who have been on the sick list most of the time since we left Readville. Their names are John & Solomon Knight from Pigeon Cove. They have been sick and off duty for the last two months but they are getting better and will be returned to duty if nothing happens next week.
I am very glad that you are doing well in the shop. I want you to manage to keep that if you possibly can, and if you can think of any way that I can assist you I want you to write and let me know it and if it is within my power, I will do so. I want you to tell Rob to answer my letter when he ain’t too busy adn tell Ann to write a few lines, and when they and you write, I want you to tell how Mary Ann is getting on. I wrote to Dudley and William some time ago but as yet, I have received no answer. I would like to hear from them if it is not too much trouble to write. I receive letters from Nat every two or three weeks. I think that he begins to feel a little ashamed of talk last fall, and he write good Union letters.I guess that I may put a flea in his ear. I receive plenty of Boston papers every week.
Cousin Erastus keeps me well supplied in reading. This I consider quite a favor and I shall never forget him. It may be my privilege to do him a good turn one of these days. I also receive letters from him quite often.
Tell Ann that I have not seen or heard from Ben yet but I may see him one of these days as the Army is not so far off as it has been and I am located right on the railroad leading to Petersburg and this week I think a great many will pass over everyday and he may have business this way—especially as he is an Orderly. Em sent me one of Father’s pictures. I think that it looks very much like him. I would not part with it for any money. When you have Frank’s taken, I want you to send me one.. After we get paid off I think of having some good ones taken and if I do, I will send some home but Ann must have the first one that arrives….
Remember me to Capt. Haskell and tell them that the boys are getting on first rate. We have lost only one man since we left Readville. Company M is close alongside of us and has lost 4 or 5 men. Remember me to all of the family and tell them that I am well. Yours in haste, — Ben
Fort Woodruff, Virginia
I received your letter a few days since and would answered before this if I could find anything to write about, but with us it is the same duty day after day. At the time I received your letter I was sick. I had the inflammation of the bowels which kept me off duty for a week but I am well now and on duty. I think that I have enjoyed better health than any other officer in these two companies. This is the first sickness that I have had since I left home with the exception of a few days at Fort Norfolk at the time that Father died. I did not do duty then for a few days but before adn since that I have enjoyed good health to to this last sickness. I would write to you oftener but I write to someone at home every week and I always tell them to tell you that I am well and I know that you hear from me often and I did not know but that would answer every purpose, but if you don’t hear from me as often as every week, I will write to you oftener. I receive letters from home every week but I don’t receive many from my own folks. Other folks find time to write to me but I suppose that my own brothers and sisters are too busy. I know that it can’t be any fault of mine for I always answer within a few days after I receive them. I have wrote to Dudley twice but for some reason or other he don’t take the trouble to answer…
I am very sorry to learn that Ellen is no better. I did have great hope that she would get well this summer but now I feel afraid that I shall never see her again. But I still hope that she will find help but it looks rather dark in her case as the longer the cough holds on, the harder it is to cure.
I see that there is a call for five hundred thousand more; that sounds like it. I hope that they will get them in good season. I feel confident that if we have five hundred thousand more sent to the field, that this war will soon be ended and that we will be at home if nothing happens in one year at least. I hope that the boys won’t wait for a draft but will take hold with a will and fill up the quota at once. Nearly all that are able have got to come to it and it is much better to be a volunteer than go as a conscript. The sooner they take hold, the sooner we will get through. As for myself, I shall never give up until we do get through and settled as was intended in the commencement of the war.
I guess that I have wrote to you all you want to hear about war and now I will commence in something else. The man that wrote that all the officers drink with the exception of myself made a mistake. I will speak for one at least—that is Capt. [Frederic A.] Lull. I know that no one in this company ever saw him under the influence of liquor, and I don’t think that he has drank a glass of strong drink for at least three months.
Capt. Lull and myself are the only two officers with the company. The rest are on detached service. This makes it harder for us but we get along first rate. I hope that Louisa will enjoy better health when she gets back. I don’t think that she will like [it] very well away down East, but it will be quite a voyage for her and Frank and perhaps will do them good. I wonder if she intends to call on Elizabeth when she comes back. If she does, I shall hear from her from Louisa and that is about the only way I ever expect to hear. She must stop at Newburyport when she comes home so as to see the folks and give them a chance to see Frank. I hope that this draft won’t take Henry [M. Lowe] for he has always been on hand and done a good deal of service and he would feel very bad to go as a conscript. And I think it would be too bad as he has always been willing and remained in the service when he could leave as well as not. I think that he has done a good share of duty and I hope that he will get clear and let others go who have remained at home while he has been doing his duty in Uncle Sam’s service. I have not time to write more. Remember me to all and write often.
From your affectionate son, — Benjamin F. Blatchfield
When you write, tell me what hospital John is in. I will either see or write to him. Rockport boys are well.
August 10th 1864
Dear Brother[-in-law Henry M. Lowe,]
I received from you some time since and should have answered long ago but you wrote in such haste that I could not make out where you was located and for that reason I have put it off until now, and even now I have my doubts about you receiving this as I am not certain that I direct it to the right place and for that reason I shall write a short letter and wait to see whether I have sent it to the right place or not.
We are still at Fort Woodruff and are very pleasantly situated. We have good and comfortable quarters. The men live in tents but everyone is stockaded and well provided with bunks. The men have but little to do during this hot weather, They have many things to make them comfortable, and I know that many of them are having easier times than they ever had before in their lives, and if we don’t have it rougher than we have had it, the raw recruits will know but little more of the hardships and dangers of a soldier’s life than those who have remained at home.
We have been expecting to be sent to the front but I have about given that up. I have got tired of doing nothing so I have made an application to be sent to the front and I receive an answer last Saturday—to hold myself in readiness to go at any time. I expect to take command of a section in a regular battery. They have sent for another section and if they get it, I am to have command. I have been trying to get to the front for some time but this is the first opportunity that has offered and I am sure of going if they get the section.
About two weeks ago Companies F & M were ordered to Newbern so you see that this company and Company L are the only two companies of this regiment in the State of Virginia and even these expect to go to Newbern before Fall. I don’t want you to let anyone know that I expect to go to the front because they might write home and Mother would hear of it and worry about it. I don’t want her to know until after I have been there some time.
Henry, I have my doubts about closing this war in a hurry. We have too many cowards and traitors at the North. It looks rather dark sometimes but the darker it grows the more determined I am to see it through. I often hear men talk of compromising but they can’t talk it in my quarters. I would order out the best friend I have before I would allow him to favor that in my quarters. It almost makes me mad to hear such talk. I had rather see them take every able man at the North than think of such a thing. Why, how would you, or I, or anyone else feel who has been doing all they could to crush the rebellion to be obliged to compromise and allow the privileges or even a part of the privileges they ask. We have got or have had more than two men to their one, and if we can’t conquer with the men we have got and can get, and are obliged to compromise, we will be looked upon with disgrace by all other nations. And if it was not so, it would be hard to hold up our heads after being obliged to compromise with inferior numbers. I for one would never mention war afterwards and never would admit that I had been a soldier. I shan’t write anymore until I find out how to address you and I shan’t write anymore until after I hear from you. Don’t let anyone see this except your father.
Remember me to all the folks. Ask your father to write. I ain’t heard from him for a long time. — Ben
August 22, 1864
I have received a detail to report to the 3rd U. S. Battery which occupied a position on the line about five miles from Bermuda Hundred. This battery was in Mexico at the time of the Mexican War and was commanded by Ringgold; afterward Sherman. But it is now called Hamilton’s Battery. It is a battery that has seen a great deal of service and has a good name. I was detailed here because this battery is short of officers but how long I shall remain here is impossible to tell.
When I left Fort Woodruff my own company was short of officers and for that reason I think that they will make an application to have me sent back to my own regiment but I hope not for I think I shall like it here first rate and if I go back at all, I hope it won’t be until after Richmond is taken or we are ordered into winter quarters.
This battery is in position at the front behind the breastworks and is about 700 yards from the Rebel line. We can see the rebs anytime we look over the breastworks and could pick them off but we have little or no picket firing and both parties show themselves without fear of being shot at. I like it here first rate so far—much better that I did doing nothing at Fort Woodruff. We have not had any firing where this battery is stationed for two days and when they do fire, they don’t do any mischief.
Ben Wetherbee is near me but I don’t know exactly where but I shall see him in a few days. Now if you don’t hear from me every few days, don’t think that I am hurt, or sick. It is not half so sickly here as it is at Fort Woodruff, and I don’t think that I am in half so much danger as I would be if I was at Fort Woodruff. If you see anyone that intends to write to me, tell them to address the letters this:
Light Co. E, 3rd U. S. Artillery
Bermuda Hundred, Virginia
I am in the 10th Army Corps. When you write to Henry, tell him where I am and how to direct his letters. Remember me to all. — Ben
Camp of Light Company E, 3rd U. S. Artillery
Before Richmond, Va.
November 20th 1864
Dear Mother & Sister,
Your welcome letter was received last night and I hasten to answer. I had been looking for a letter from you for some time and when I received the letter, I was truly pleased. It was a very interesting letter to me, and it contained a good quantity of news. Besides, it was the longest letter that you have written to me since I left home. I also received a note from Henry [Lowe] for which I am very thankful. I also received a package of papers which were full of news. Beside this, I received three Gloucester papers from Henry. The Gloucester papers are very interesting to me for they serve to keep me booked up on what is going on at home. I hope that he can make it convenient to send them quite often. Someone sent me three Boston Travelers last week. I did not know the handwriting and I can’t imagine who it is that sent them but whoever it is, he has my thanks and I hope that he will send more.
We have had a good deal of rain of late and today it rains quite hard adn the mud is quite deep. I am afraid that it will put a stop to this campaign (thatis, for the winter). I wish that we could have good weather for a short time longer so that we might strike one more blow. I think that if we could strike together, Richmond would be ours.
The rebs got the best of our pickets on the Bermuda Hundred line last Thursday night. They got in the rear of our pickets and captured about 150 and held the line all day. Friday night our folks made a charge to retake the line. I understand that we were successful. I could hear the musketry quite plain. They kept up a heavy fire for about 20 minutes or a half an hour. It then ceased. I have not heard whether we captured any prisoners or not.
I have been on court martial duty about two weeks. We got through yesterday. My health is good. I have not lost an hour’s duty since I came to this battery. I received a letter from Capt. Lull the other day. He is at home in Cambridge. He thinks some of calling to see you if he gets able before he goes back. He is at home sick. I am very sorry for him for I think that he is one of the best men that I was ever acquainted with. I think that it is very doubtful about my going back to my old company this winter. If I don’t go back this winter, I don’t want to bo back next summer for I like active service much better than I do garrison duty. Remember me to all the folks and write often.
You wanted to know if Hanna was promoted. I don’t know but I think not. I have not heard that he was. Tell Ben Wetherbee that I rode through his company street yesterday. I went to see the sutler. Saw quite a number of his old company. Remember me to all of the folks and don’t let anyone see this letter except our own folks. Dr. Haskell can read it if he pleases. Also Henry’s folks. But be sure and not let a printer get hold of anything that I write. I don’t get much time to write and when I do write, I write quick and often make a great many blunders.
No news. — Ben
You ask when I shall be at home. I don’t know. I have not been from home a year yet. Write soon.
February 16, 1865
Your welcome letter was received a few weeks since, and your not receiving an answer ere this is not by neglect or careless indifference, but its because I have been on the move and have not had an opportunity to answer half of the letters that i have received.
By your letter I see that you take a great interest in the welfare of the soldiers and especially those from your own town but as I am separated from all of my townsmen, I am unable to give you any account of their movements or conditions. But thinking that it might be of a little interest to you, I will give you a short account of the manner in which I have spent my time since I left home 14 months ago. If you remember, the regiment to which I belong was ordered to Fortress Monroe. We proceeded to that place but did not land as we received orders to go to Fort Norfolk. We were then assigned garrison duty. After remaining at the above named place about 3 months, the Battalion was ordered to proceed to Fort Woodruff and garrison that place. I was left behind in charge of a squad of men to take charge of the fort until Admiral Lee sent an officer to relieve me. I remained in charge of the fort two weeks, then turned it over to Admiral Lee and proceeded to join my company which was at FOrt Woodruff, about two miles from Portsmouth, Virginia. I remained with the company a few days when I was ordered (with a detachment of 50 men) six miles outside of the Union pickets. This was at the Dismal Swamp where a squad of men were at work getting timber for the government. We were to protect them. After about two weeks at the Dismal Swamp, I was relieved and proceeded to join my company which was then fairly settled in garrison.
About this time the Spring Campaign opened and I felt a little anxious to go to the front, but I remained with my company until I got almost disgusted with garrison life. At this time many of my friends were going to the front and I felt unwilling to remain behind. I at once made arrangements to go into the field. Accordingly I joined Battery E, 3rd U. S. ARtillery as commander of a section, and have been with it in every march and every battle, and have not lost an hour’s duty since last July.
I was with the first expedition against Fort Fisher and was one of the number who returned to the Army of the James with a long face because we did not, nor could not, take Fort Fisher.
I was also with the 2nd Expedition against Fort Fisher. Was was unable to land our artillery the first day so I had a fine chance to witness the bombardment which wsa said to be the most terrific of anything of the kind on record. On the 2nd day we landed our artillery to assist in the land attack. A line of works was at once thrown up facing Wilmington, the right resting near the ocean and the left on the Cape Fear River. We knew the rebs had a strong force in our rear and knew that they intended to break our line when the assault was made on the fort. Accordingly our guns were placed in position on this line, our left—or the left of our battery, resting on the Cape Fear river.
We waited anxiously nearly all day for the rebs to come and give us a try. At length we found out they were forming to charge us. After they were formed, the commenced to advance but when they saw our artillery, they gave it up and went back. Deserters from the rebs say that they formed twice to charge us but gave it up. This battery is one that I have read about before I came to war. It was Ringgold’s Battery in the Mexican War; afterwards Sherman’s. And now Hamilton’s Battery. It is considered one of the best batteries in the United States.
Last Saturday we had a little fighting and advanced on line about two miles nearer Wilmington. The loss on the part of the line where I was was light—not over 75 killed and wounded. I think that we shall start again soon and not make much of a stop this side of Wilmington.
While I am writing this, our troops are having a brush over the river, It may end in the storming of Fort Anderson. The gunboats are shelling the fort. If we are successful in taking Fort Anderson, we can take Wilmington very easy. We are closing in on the rebs on all sides. Thomas, Grant, and others with their armies will make a peace that will last. I feel glad that Old Abe is going to fight it out. The soldiers never were more determined or more confident of success. Nearly all go in for fighting it out. As for myself, I never had a doubt but we would be successful. All that we have to do is stick to it and we’ll surely conquer.
But as I have but a little time to spare, I will say no more about the war or its prospects as you have the papers and have a better chance to judge than I do. I must draw this to a close without stating half that I intended to or answering half of your questions. But the next time I will do better if I have a chance to write. Now I have hardly half of a chance. I wish that you would let mother know that you have received a letter from me adn tell her that I will write to her as soon as I can get envelopes and tell her that that is the reason that I have not written to her before. I feel very thankful to you for your kind letter and your good advice and would be very happy to have you write often. I don’t get many letters since I came on thus expedition. I have not received a letter or paper from home for over two weeks and we have seen no New York papers since the 4th. So you see that we know but little of what is going on in the world.
Remember me to Mr. Brooks and all enquiring friends. Very respectfully yours, — Benjamin F. Blatchford
Don’t let anyone see this as it was wrote in great haste.