Category Archives: New Bern, North Carolina

1862-64: Henry Martin Lowe to his Family

The following letters were written by Henry “Martin” Lowe (1840-1907), the son of Henry Thurston Lowe (1806-1888) and Rachel Pool (1816-1897), and the husband of Louisa Foster Blatchford (1841-1910) of Rockport, Essex county, Massachusetts. Martin and Louisa were married on 21 April 1860 at Newburyport and in the 1860 US Census, they were enumerated as newlyweds in her parents home—William and Mary (Gott) Blatchford of Rockport. At that time, Martin was employed as a clerk. Louisa’s brother was Benjamin Franklin Blatchford (1835-1906).

I could not find an image of Henry Martin Lowe but here is an unidentified Navy petty officer wearing the typical enlisted sailor’s clothing. (Ron Field Collection)

One of some forty-one men from the fishing port of Rockport, Massachusetts who served in the Navy during the Civil War, Henry M. Lowe was a Paymaster’s Steward aboard the U.S.S. Penobscot. He entered the service in early February 1862 and was discharged in March 1864. According to my friend Ron Field, author of the book, “Bluejackets: Uniforms of the United States Navy in the Civil War Period, 1852-1865,” Paymaster Stewards “wore jumpers with ‘eagle, anchor & star’ insignia on their right sleeves. Although drawn from the ranks as reasonably educated fellows, they were still required to wear enlisted sailor’s clothing. In 1864 they were entitled to wear a blue cloth or flannel jacket with rolling collar—double-breasted with two rows of six medium-sized buttons; slashed sleeves with four small-sized navy buttons. Headgear consisted of a cap without wreath or device.”

During his time in the service, Lowe wrote numerous letters home to his wife and parents. The Penobscot was built by C. P. Carter of Belfast, Maine, launched on November of 1861, and delivered to the Navy in Boston in January of 1862. Initially assigned to the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, she was later shifted to the Gulf of Mexico, joining the blockade ships cruising off the Texas coast. Lowe served on the Penobscot through almost all of 1862 and early into 1863. After spending two or three month ashore in the winter of 1863-64, he was reassigned to the U. S. Steamer Southfield, a pre-war ferry boat that was converted into a sidewheel steam gunboat. While on the Southfield, his position was that of Paymaster’s Clerk. He was assigned to her until he left the service in March 1864—just one month before the Southfield was sunk by the Confederate Ram Albemarle in the Battle of Plymouth.

Apparently Martin also kept a journal while serving on the gunboat Penobscot but his journal only spans approximately one month, describing a number of chases and other actions involving the Penobscot; the activity of other ships in the blockade fleet; the activities of the Confederates, and so forth. That journal was available for purchase at the James E. Arsenault & Company (Rare Books & Manuscripts) at one time but has since been sold.

Some representative passages from Lowe’s diary:

23 Dec. 1862: “As it was quite thick we could not see the shipping of this place when we left the shore. As it was soon dark we hoisted our numbers (two lights at the fore-top-mast-head, one white and the other red). In a few moments they was answered and we hauled down our lights and steamed for the other boats, then we sent up two rockets—one white and one red—but they did not understand this…We soon came within hale of the two steamers. The Genessee was coming with full steam for our port-bow and the DayLight for our starboard. All hands on the two steamers were at quarters, they thinking that we were a strange vessel trying to run the blockade. When the Genessee was a few rods from us our engine was stopped and the Genessee run into our ship, carrying away our bowsprit, [cat]head and [?] and doing us some other damage…”

29 Dec. 1862: “At half past eleven the lookout saw a light again. It was a steamer, for all on deck saw her. We made signals and our numbers. She made signals in return but we couldn’t make out what steamer it was so we got underweigh for her. She put in for the shore and we lost her. At half past twelve raised the Str again and again up anchor again gave chase. She was soon of[f] again like Bob’s horse…This morning the impression is fore & aft that the steamer we saw last night was trying to run the blockade but did not get in. Got underweigh at 4 o’clock this morning and steamed for the shipping. About 10 o’clock heard heavy firing towards the Fort and saw the smoke of the guns … We are now stationed at Topsail Inlet, twenty four miles from Fort Fisher.”

30 Dec. 1862: “Raised a sail about 11:30 two points on our starboard bow. All hands up anchor and went in chase. She proved to be the U.S. Str. Cambridge with fresh beef and mail for us. We also got three contrabands from her (they run away the night before). While the Cambridge laid longside us, we raised another sail and went in chase. At first we did not gain on her but after we set our sail soon came up on her. As we neared her we raised another sail to windward. Both of them were schooners. At last we got within gun shot and brought one of them to with a shot across her bows…”

2 Jan 1863: “Every officer (commissioned) that was on the ship when we went in commission has received their discharge or been transferred to other ships, except the Paymaster. He is quite down-hearted to lose all the old officers. The Penobscot will never have such good officers as we had when we left Boston. The Daylight came down to Topsail Inlet to releave us and we went up to Fort Fisher. Got news that the Monitor was lost.”

16 Jan: “About 8 o’clock spoke with ship Cambridge. We both went in towards her and we came to anchor. It was not long down before the Rebel shot & shell went thick and fast over us. One piece of a shell hit our nigger but it did not damage us any … We got up anchor as soon as we could after the enemy opened on us, and put out. The rebels then fired from three batteries on the Columbia so she hoisted a Flag of Truce … about noon we had quite a battle with the enemy we drove them from their guns without getting any damage to us. I expended from my shell room some 20 pa[?] shell. We now have on board 42 men and three officers. The others will be taken as prisoners of war. Last night the Columbia threw all their guns overboard and some of their shot & shell…”

17 Jan: “Last night we layed to anchor about two miles outside of the Columbia. At 9 o’clock the Cambridge came up to us and ordered us to get up anchor and prepare for action. The ship Cambridge went in and fired the first four shots we then went in and had a great battle with the enemy. Some of their shots were very good ones. They went over us thick and fast. Some hit in the water not more than 10 feet from us.”

Letter 1

The USS Penobscot was Unadilla-class gunboat built for the US Navy in the American Civil War. She would have looked much like this vessel in the forground.

U. S. Gunboat Penobscot
Fort Monroe
March 20 [1862]

Dear Wife,

I think I had better give you short and frequent letters so that you may keep the run of me. I was shore yesterday and stopped three hours. I went around with some of the Rockport Boys and had a fine time. While there, twenty steamboats came in here and landed 16,000 soldiers and 5,000 mules. By tomorrow night, I think there will be 60,000 troops here and 15,000 mules. There is not less than 75 steamers here now.

Published in the Boston Daily Advertiser, 8 March 1862

We had a hard storm last night. Two steamboats and six barges loaded with army wagons went ashore not 100 rods from where we lay. Two drifted by us and went towards Sewell’s Point. This morning we see three more that will fall in the Rebel’s hands. They were loaded with stores for the army. This storm will do us a great deal of damage and I think we shall have to lay here a week or 10 days before we start. The wind is southeast.

When I wrote to you before, I did not ask you to give my love to anyone for I had not time. The best friend I have is the yeoman (except Uncle Addison). He is a fine young man and has been on the water five or six years. He has done a heavy business in Boston but it is not good now. I wish that all of the crew was like him. We sleep in the fore hatch all alone. It is a nice place for us. Father knows him. When I wrote before, I thought we should have a action with the Rebels and I thought I would tell you, but at the same time it was rather hard for me to. Addison is some better than when we left Boston.

[in pencil]

Friday morning. This is a fine morning and it looks quite lively here. I shall go ashore this morning and stop about an hour. I wish you was here to go round with me. It is worth a while to go in the camps and see what is going on. Next time I write to Susan, that will be Sunday. I wish that you would not let anyone see my letters as I may write to you sometimes in a hurry. Give my best respects to all friends, and tell them to write.

From your husband, — Henry M. Lowe

Letter 2

U. S. S. Gunboat Penobscot
York River
April 13, 1862

My Dear Wife,

This is a place of excitement. We can see any quantity of Rebels & Rebel Batteries. There is one on Freeman’s Point about two miles up the river, mounting about 30 guns. Ten of them is 10-inch Columbiads and they have as near as we can make out about 10,000 troops in and around this Battery. The encampments on the other side are very extensive and I think they have a force of 10 or 15,000 troops. Their transports are constantly playing along the shore and at times we can see as man as 15 or 20 schooners employed in carrying troops from the Gloucester side to the other, and sometimes we can see very dense columns of smoke far away over the woods coming, it is supposed, from the Rebel gunboats (for there is three of them up the river).

We can see the American and Rebel flags on shore with the naked eye. They are not more than two miles apart. From our boat with a glass there seems to be a long, low breastwork behind which the Rebels are closely hidden. I think they are determined to wait for close quarters before expending their ammunition. If it was not so, they would have fired at us more than they did the other day and yesterday. We made some fine shots yesterday afternoon at a schooner that was at the mills loading with meal and if she had not left, we would have had her in half an hour for the Captain was agoing to send two boats armed to the teeth after her—one of them in care of the Lieutenant, and the other in care of the Paymaster.

The men are in for sport. On Friday one of the boats went to the rebel shore with armed men and when they landed, the rebels left their house, pigs, cows, and turkeys. As for the house, the boys did not want that. It was pigs and turkeys they was after and they got them too. We had some of them for dinner yesterday.

Last night we slipped our cable at ten o’clock and went up the river one mile of a water battery and would have fired into it if we had not see the enemy making signals from one fort to another. It was 12 o’clock when we cane to anchor again. And at four this morning we was turned out again to put after a Rebel boat. She proved to be a boat from Fort Monroe with orders for us. We have heard very heavy firing all day. I suppose is was at Norfolk and Fort Monroe. There was quite a large fire at Yorktown Friday night. It showed so bright that we could see the men at their guns.

It is a very pleasant place here and I like it very much. I think we shall lay here some time. General McClellan was on board the Flag Ship Thursday and he said it was not of any use for us to try to take any forts around here till we had some eight or ten gunboats. We have 107 men in all on board and they are as smart men as ever I see. Most of them have been in the Navy before. Every Sunday they have to dress in clean blue clothes for muster. I have to call the names of the Petty Officers and the men. They answer (“here, sir”) and take off their cap as they pass by me. I think you would laugh to see them.

I got a compliment from the Captain yesterday. He said he was glad to hear that I was liked on the Berth Deck by the men.

I received a letter from Father yesterday stating that Master Frank was first rate. Has he learnt X, Y, & Z yet? At any rate, I know he is smart enough to go after milk. I want you to send me his Ambrotype the first chance you can get. Send all my letters to Fort Monroe and the Ambrotype too. You must write often as you can and I will do the same. I do not know when this letter will go but I hope by tomorrow or next day. It will go on board the Flag Ship tonight. We have good water now and I can get along first rate. My cold is better. Addison is smart. Hodgkins send his love to his wife. He is well.

You must get Father to buy Frank a wagon. I will send you $5 and you will draw $15 the last of the month. I was glad to hear that Susan was better. I suppose she is up to see the baby most every day. What does Mother think of him? Does your Father sing Dixie to him when he is a bad boy? What is his weight? I wrote to Mother not long since but have not received any answer as yet. I wish you would give her my best respects and tell her I think of her quite often. Payson must write to me and let me know how he gets along with the youngster. Tell Susan to make Frank a nightgown and charge the sum to me. Give my best respects to all friends.

From your most affectionate and loving husband, — H. M. Lowe

Letter 3

U. S. Gunboat Penobscot
Off New Inlet below Wilmington [N. C.]
May 27th 1862

My own dear wife,

On Friday afternoon the 17th, we received orders from Fort Monroe to go round to this and to attack a fort at the mouth of this inlet. The fort [Fort Fisher 1] mounts twenty-eight guns. I do not know the name of the fort because it has been built since the war broke out. On the 18th at 5 o’clock in the morning we got under weigh and came round here. At three o’clock we opened fire on them and it was not long before they returned the fire, I can assure you. Our first shell fell short of their fort. The second one burst over them. The third one dismounted one of their largest guns and laid eight or ten men flat. All of our shots except the first were very good ones.

Published in the Daily Evening Standard, New Bedford, MA, 31 May 1862

The Rebels opened fire on us from ten guns at one time. The men say it was a most spledid sight to see the smoke rise from the guns. But what about the shots? Some went over us, some short of us, and in fact, all round us. I was sick in my hammock at the time but could hear the shot go over us and I heard three hit in the water. I will leave it to you to judge how near they came to us.

On the 21st we had another brush with them but did not fight long for this reason—because if we took the fort, we could not hold it as there are not any troops here.

I have been sick for the past three weeks but I am now on the mend. The Doctor and the Paymaster are very kind to me. They think I had better go home. If I am not well soon, I shall do so. If I should leave, it would be quite bad for the Paymaster as there is not a man on board the boat he would take to do my work.

On the 22nd we fell in with a steamer that was bound to Wilmington. The Lieutenant went on board and the Captain showed him his papers and as he thought all was right, let him go. He said he was from New York bound to Port Royal. In three hours after, she was taken a prize by a gun boat at the other inlet. If we had taken her, my part would have been nothing less than $200, or if we had stopped at York River, my prize money would have been more than that.

Beaufort, North Carolina
May 30th 1862

I am much better than when I wrote the 27th. I have been up three hours this afternoon. This is quite a pleasant place and if I was well, I could have had a chance to spend most of my time ashore. Now dear wife, do not feel uneasy about me for I think I shall be better soon. I was quite sorry that the Paymaster wrote to Father that I was sick. If he had not wrote, you would not have known it till after I was well again. It is quite hard work for me to write when I am laying down so you must excuse me if this is a little hard to read.

As for Frank, I suppose he will be quite a smart one. Look out he don’t get the upper hand of you. Let me know how he grows and if he is well. I feel quite earnest to hear how Father and the rest of you are. It has been one month today since I received a letter. If you have $2 to spare, I wish you would pay it to William Marshall for my dues at the tent and send me the receipt that he will give you.

Give my love to all friends. From your most affectionate and loving husband, — H. Martin Lowe

Write often as you can. I sent you five cents.

1 “Until the arrival of Col. William Lamb in July 1862, Fort Fisher was little more than several sand batteries mounting fewer than two dozen guns. Under Colonel Lamb’s direction and design, which was greatly influenced by the Malakoff Tower (a Crimean War fortification) in Sebastopol, Russia, expansion of the fortress began. Unlike older fortifications built of brick and mortar, Fort Fisher was made mostly of earth and sand, which was ideal for absorbing the shock of heavy explosives.” [North Carolina Historic Sites]

Letter 4

Off Fort Caswell
June 15th [1862]

Dear Wife,

A steamer has just arrived with letters. She goes out at once. I received eight letters. I have not had time to read them but I find Frank’s Ambrotype.

I am well as ever. I will write the first mail. I sent a letter to Father & Mother the other day. Yours truly, — Henry

Write soon. Send your letter to Beaufort, North Carolina

I am well—that is so.

Letter 5

U.S.S. Gun Boat Penobscot
Off Fort Caswell
June 16th 1862

Dear Wife,

Last Sunday afternoon a steamer came in here with a mail for us. I received eight letters and three old papers. The latest letter was the 1st of this month. When the letters come all the men, all the men are piped aft on the quarter deck and the Paymaster Steward calls the names. The number of letters that came was over three hundred and one hundred and eighteen papers. All of them was old ones that had been at Fort Monroe for some time. Some of the boys had quite a large number and others did not get any. You cannot think how pleased they was to hear from home. I was so pleased with my many letters and notes. I had to go away from the other men—my heart was filled to the brim when I read some of them—especially when I read Mother’s very kind note. I wish it had been so that I could have answered some of them in time to send home the same day but the steamer went out in a short time after she arrived and so I will try and answer them today. I will send one to Father & Mother, also one to Susan and Edward Payson. I will write to brother Benny [Benjamin F. Blatchford] next week.

I was sick. I was too sick to go on board of a strange ship when the Paymaster wrote and since then there has not been but one chance, and as I was getting better, I thought it best for me to stop. I have had the very best of care. Most all I have to do is to lay back, eat, sleep, think, laugh, and grow fat, and at the end of the month have $34.20 due me.

Now dear wife, I know just how you feel. You want me to take care of Master Frank, “don’t you?” I was much pleased with the Ambrotypes—especially with Frank’s. I think he must be a P. B. He is as fat as butter and looks as sweet as sugar. I wish I could see him. Payson says you have got a fine carriage for him. You must get everything he is in want of and if you have not got money enough, I shall send you some the first chance. His Gold shows to good advantage. How much does he weigh? I think he will weigh about 25 lbs.

I see by the New York Tribune of the 2nd that we get quite a compliment for opening the ball at Fort Fisher. They say Captain [John Mellen Brady] Clitz is the right man in the right place. They are right. The men like him first rate and will stay by him to the last moment.

There is no news here now among the vessels; we see two Rebel steamers twice a day which come down, look at us, turn round and goes home to report what we are doing. Last week one of our gunboats exchanged a few shots with them but neither hot. He has but a little more careful sense since but never mind, we will have him soon. We are anxiously awaiting the arrival of some transport wit troops so to put in the Forts (for there is three of them) when we taken them. There is five gunboats at this place. The brst looking one is the Penobscot and she has the men and guns that will do the work—at least we have always come out best.

I am very glad our army are doing so well. I hope they will push forward in this great and good cause. I think that Gen. McClellan is in possession of Richmond by this time. If he is not, I think he will have a hard struggle to take it. Let me know at what places the Rockport Boys are and if any of them have been in any battles since I left home.

I sent a gold dollar home by Charles Blatchford fr Frank. Let me know if you received it. Also, let me know how much money you have received from Boston. I hear by the way of Mother’s letter that Rev. W. Gale has left the desk. Why did he do this? I know that he will be a great loss to the Church. I hope that they will get a smart young man to take his place.

I hope that Frank will live to a good old age and make a good enterprising man. I think I shall have a chance to stop with you about a week the last of next month for there’s some talk about our going to Nork York as our engine is a little out of order. My washing bill is about two dollars a month. This morning I got up at 4 o’clock and scrubbed my hammock. It is as white as snow. When I was at Beaufort, the Yeoman bought me a Panama hat for $2. It is a good one. We have enough to eat and that that is good. I wish you had some of our preserved tomatoes. They are good and I know you would like them. I give them out every Tuesday and Friday. Our water is very bad so I got two pounds of Ginger. This makes it go a little better.

The Captain gave me quite a compliment about a week ago. He said that he should call me Mr. Lowe after this instead of Steward. Thee is not ten men on board the boat that know my name. I can muster every man from the Captain to the cabin boy without any book. This I done last Sunday morning.

Has the Rockport Steam Cotton Mills got under way yet? If so, is Dudley in there to work? I came off the sick list last Saturday and I was never better than I am at the present time. Just before I was taken sick, my weight was 153 lbs. Ten days ago it was 140 lbs. I am getting fat as fast as I did last summer and I am as hungry as a bear. I often think of Mrs. Robert Tarr’s squash pies. Some of them would go good in the morning or any other time of day. Robert has not as yet answered my letter. You must put him in mind of it. Ask him to write me all the news.

You have not said one word about your business in the store. Let me know what you are doing and if your mother has been to Boston this summer. As I have wrote two long letters today, I am what you may call played out. One of them was to Father and Mother and one to Payson & Appleton. If you wish, you can read them and I suppose they will want to read this. If so, you can let them have it. Give my love to all friends and ask them to write.

From your most loving and affectionate husband, — Henry Martin Lowe

June 17th. All is quiet. A steamer goes to Beaufort today. I am smart as ever. Paymaster [Addison] Pool sends love. I was glad to hear your Father was as well as when I left home. Kiss Frank for me (not less than ten times). You must call on Father and Mother as often as you can. The next letter I write will be to Mum Pool. Lieut. [Francis Marvin] Bunce 1 says I write more letters than any three men on board.

1 Francis Marvin Bunce (1836-1901) eventually rose the rank of Rear Admiral in the US Navy. A graduate of the Naval Academy in 1857, Bunce was warranted the rank of midshipman and assigned to a scientific expedition to Panama before the Civil War. He was named the executive officer of the gunboat Penobscot and was with her on the York River in 1862 when he was attached temporarily to the army to take charge of the disembarkation of the heavy siege guns used in the siege at Yorktown. He returned to the Penobscot in time for the passage to Wilmington, North Carolina, and the blockade of the port there. He eventually left the Penobscot to become the executive office of the sloop-of-war USS Pawnee.

Letter 6

U. S. S. Gunboat Penobscot
Off Cape Fear River
July 1st 1862

My own dear wife,

Since I last write, nothing worthy of note has taken place but I think I had better write you a few lines. As for my sprained thumb, it is better than it was day before yesterday when I wrote to Mother. The way I sprained it was in getting mackerel out of the prize. We got ten barrels of No. 2. The men like them first rate. We also got some good ham and herring. These do not go bad. I wish it had been so that I could have finished Father’s letter of the 26th but I suppose it was just as well for the Paymaster to do it for me. For the news, you must read Father’s and Mother’s letters of the 26th and 29th.

We have burnt four schooners in less than four weeks. 1 This was the best thing we could do with them as they all run ashore to get out of our way. we have done the Rebels great damage for the last three weeks. We will soon run them off the track. We have been on a cruise today and ew spoke with three schooners, all of which was bound to Port Royal. I am quite smart now. The Paymaster and myself have been quite busy for the last week making out the Quarterly Returns. From your affectionate husband, — Henry M. Lowe

I think I will write a few lines to our Mary Blatchford, mother-in-law to one Henry M. Lowe, the son of Henry T. and Rachel Lowe. We are now thirty-five miles at sea in sight of three schooners. We shall board these and if everything is right, let them go on their way. We are on the move most of the time and we are ready to give the Rebels battle at any moment. You can rest assured that the Rebels are not able to hit the Gunboat Penobscot. They have tried that quite a number of times but it is a no go.

As for Frank, how does he grow? I wish I could see him next Sunday when you have him dressed up to the nines. I suppose he is about as large as William’s boy. How does he like his carriage? I suppose Susan is up to see him most every day. Louisa must send me his Ambrotype the first chance. There is two Gloucester Boys in this boat. One of them was with Chas. Nute last year.

Yours truly, — H. M. Lowe

At Sea off Frying Pan Shoal
10 o’clock A.M. July 2, 1862

Dear Father-in-law [Blatchford],

What do you think of this war? Do you think it will be to an end on one year from now? As we do not get many papers, we are not at all posted up in the affairs of the country. I should like to go home and see that little fellow you have there but I am afraid I shall not have the chance this year.

Six Contrabands went on board the gunboat Victoria day before yesterday. They say the Rebels are sick of the war.

Well, Father, I believe there are many a Rebel who are weary and tired of everything in the shape of the Rebellion. They are unhappy because they know they are not doing that which is right, although they will not confess it. They had better give up their pride, the self-will and the stubbornness of their own ways and come to ours. The sooner they do this, the better.

We are bound to New Inlet of Fort Fisher. I think we shall go to Beaufort Sunday (for we do most of our work, fighting, fishing, and cruising on that day). I sent for some things last week. I suppose we shall get them when we go to Beaufort. If you have not sent them, send the Ambrotypes the paymaster sent for in the box. Mr. Hodgkins sends his love to you. Tell Benny [Benjamin F. Blatchford] he must write. Give my love to all friends. I will write when we go to Beaufort. My next letter will be to Susan and Edward. Let me know how much Frank’s weight is. Has Doctor Haskell received any letter from me? Has Mom Pool got down to Dock Square yet? Let me know at what place the Rockport Company are. I have wrote to Robert but have not received any answer.

I think we shall have to set up our rigging tomorrow for we are rolling like a log. I wish you could see her. It would be a sight for anyone. Enclosed is a note to Grandmother Pool. It is some warm out this way. How is it with you? From your son-in-law, — Henry M. Lowe

1 One of these schooners was the Sereta of Nassau from which carried a cargo of salt and fruit. She was burned in the Shallotte Inlet on 8 June 1862.

Letter 7

U. S. S. Gunboat Penobscot
Off Fort Fisher
July 20th 1862

Dear Wife,

I have not received a letter from you for a long time. The last one I got was Father’s. I think that we will not get any for a month or two. Then I expect to have a fine time reading a large lot of them from you and my many friends.

Since I last wrote, nothing worthy of note has taken place. I am quite smart now and I hope that you and Frank are well. I think I could see the fine little fellow. As for the Paymaster [Addison Pool], he is not as well as when I last wrote. He is under the Doctor’s care now. I hope and think that he will be better soon. Mr. Hodgkins is well.

The USS Transport Massachusetts brought us down some fresh beef day before yesterday. Last Wednesday I sent a letter to Aunt Sarah and Mom Pool. You had better keep what I sent to you in her letter. I will send you a 25 cts. bill in this note. You must keep this too. In a day or two I will write you a long letter. Give my best respects and love to all friends. From your most loving husband.

H. M. Lowe

P. S. Write soon. The bill that I send to you was taken out of one of the schooners we burnt. One fellow got $107 in Rebel money.

“The 25 cent bill” that Lowe sent his wife would have looked much like this one.

Letter 8

U. S. S. Gunboat Penobscot
Off Fort Fisher
July 27, 1862

My own dear Wife and Parents,

The box was received Friday morning and I can assure you that I was highly pleased with the many things that you was so very kind to get and send to me. Everything was in good order. As for the fishing lines, they were just what I wanted for the officers. The officers have enjoyed themselves better for the last three days (fishing) than they have any time since we left Boston. I gave Mr. Caplin one pollock and one mackerel line and some hooks. When I gave them to him, he said, “Mr. Lowe, you shall be well paid for your kindness to me since we left York River.” There is nothing like getting on the right side of the officers. I think that I give good satisfaction to every man on board.

Dear wife, you wanted to know what I had done with my shirts. I have to have three on every week and as we have been away from home five months, some of them are going, going, going, and I thought that I had better send after some of them that have been laying by so long. I have sent to New York after two. When I receive them, I think that they will make out enough to last me till next March. Then I shall go home and see the little wife and darling little boy Frank. Next week I will send you some sheeting (we sell it at 60 cents per yard). It is very good so you must say nothing more about shirts.

The cake was very good. I shall keep one loaf for a day or two. Don’t you think it is a good plan? I am afraid it will spoil if I keep it too long. Mr. Hodgkins was much pleased with his bundle. I did not get one word of news in your letter so I think that business must be dead.

When you weritte, let me know how much money you have on hand. The amount I have due me is $48. If we stop out till January next, I shall draw $100 due me. If you have half of that, I think you will do well.

I see by the New York Herald of July 15th a letter about the schooner we burnt at this place and at Little River, South Carolina. Next time you write, please send me Frank’s Ambrotype if you can. I sent a letter to Mother last Thursday with a note for you in it.

The Paymaster [Addison Pool] is quite smart now for him. I am as smart as ever. I should be very much pleased to receive a letter from Edward & Susan. Ask them to write the first chance. Give my best respects to all friends and tell Benny [Benjamin F. Blatchford] I am much obliged to him for the shark skin. Write often as you can. Your most affectionate husband, — Henry M. Lowe, Paymaster Steward.

Letter 9

U. S. S. Gunboat Penobscot
Off Fort Caswell
August 28th, 1862

My own darling wife,

I suppose you was much pleased with your long letter that I wrote to you on Monday the 25th and think you would like to have another just as long but as nothing worthy of note has taken place since then, I think that you will have to put up with a short one.

We we was at Beaufort, all of the men got liberty to go on shore and stop 12 hours (the port watch went one day and the starboard the other). All of the men that was in debt had to get men to go security for them. There was one fine young man (as I thought) that went security for to the amount of $40. He left with four men for parts unknown. All that run away was in debt. One fellow had $12.50 that belonged to the Paymaster. We got out a reward of $150 for the deserters. I hope that they will be caught and that I shall have the pleasure of putting a musket ball in Lambert’s heart for that is what he should have done to him. Anyone that will desert in such times as these should suffer death. All five of the deserters belonged to R. Island. The first time we was in Beaufort, a Frenchman that we had deserted. He was shot by the pickets at Newbern (just right for him).

When we was at Beaufort, the steamer State of Georgia took a prize at this place. She was a fine schooner 1 of about 60 tons from Nassau, N. P. loaded with salt &c. The steamer Kate run in here about two weeks ago and she has run out before this. She has run the blockade six times. I think that we shall get her before long. There is not a week but what schooners and steamers run in and out of this place. We want about six more boats down here. Then I think that we shall take some prizes.

The Pilot says that next month will be a hard one with us. This is one of the roughest places on the whole coast. Oh how I wish you could see how she is rolling now. It is hard work to walk the decks.

I did not go on shore when we was in Beaufort as the Paymaster was away most of the time. Bumboats (as we call) came off three times a day. They brought pies, cakes, hot bread, fruit, eggs, &c. &c. I bought a small cheese, eighth barrel tongues, 10 dozen eggs, & [ ], 1 ham, and a few other things for Mr. Hodgkins and myself. I think that we shall enjoy ourselves eating them.

The box that you sent by Pilot Dow on the 9th has not as yet arrived. Do not send anymore by him.

When we was at Beaufort, we did not receive one letter. The mail dies not come to that place very often so when we get any letters, we get a lot of them. The man that I was to send the money home by goes in the steamer Massachusetts in a few days but as I went security for the desertion, I shall not have the pleasure of sending you any money. Oh how I wish I could get my hands on him. It would not be long before I would let him know that I was no friend of his.

Our Captain is Flag Officer at this Inlet. Yesterday we had our ship dressed in flags. I will give you the names of some of the flags. It was a most splendid sight to see her. They went from the bowsprit to the main boom. Then we had them from the deck to the topmast on the port and starboard side.

Please let no one see my letters but Father and Mother. I mean just what I say about them. When I write to Father and Mother, you can see their letters if you wish, but I am not willing to have everybody see them. You can tell or read to anyone my letters, but don’t let them see them.

1 Possibly the sloop Lizzie from Nassau sailing under British Colors and loaded with salt, blankets, sheet tin, &c.

Letter 10

U. S. S. Gunboat Penobscot
Off Shallot’s Inlet, North Carolina
Monday, October 3rd 1862

Father Blatchford,

Since my last letter home, something has taken place which I think is worthy of note, and thinking it would be of interest to you, I will address a few lines to you.

Yesterday at 10 o’clock, one of the contrabands raised a sail down the coast. We slipped our cable and gave chase. As we neared the sail, she proved to be a schooner making the best of her way for the shore. We soon opened fire on her from the Parrott Gun as she didn’t heave to. We kept up the firing till we had fired eight shots. She had by this time reached the shore and was hand and foot in the breakers which was running quite heavy. Two boats was lowered and sent on course. In a short time one returned and said that they wanted eight men to get the schooner off. I went on the 3rd boat. We took out an anchor and tried to get her off but as the sea was now so high, we could not do it. All of our boats was swamped and the men was washed ashore on the beach. I was in the boat most of the time when I went on board the schooner. Our boat was capsized and I had to swim for the schooner. Her name was the Path Finder of Nassau, N. P., loaded with salt, boots, shoes, hardware, sweet oil, &c. &c. At six o’clock the schooner was set on fire. The Paymaster and eight men that were on board at the time had to get overboard and swim for the boats. We value the schooner & cargo at $5,000.

We are now at Shallot’s Inlet, 18 miles from Fort Caswell. We have not as yet got the three schooners that I spoke of in my letter to Louisa but I think that we shall have them in a few days.

One night last week 15 men deserted from Fort Caswell and went on board the steamer Genesee. They report that the Kate is covered with railroad iron and ready to run out and that if any of our troops attempt to take her, she will run them down. I am sure that if Capt. Clitz of the Penobscot gets a chance at her, he will not stop for railroad iron. Our Captain is a man that will not be frightened. He has been in the Navy for 28 years and he understands how to attack a ship or fort.

The steamer Daylight captured a prize of the shoals last Wednesday morning. I sent a letter to Louisa the other day with $5 in it for Frank.

The schooner that we bunt was half a mile south of the North and South Carolina line.

With much love to all and a request that you look out for my boy, I remain your son-in-law, — H. Martin Lowe

Letter 11

U. S. S. Gunboat Penobscot
Off Wilmington, N. C.
October 5th 1862

Brother Benny [Benjamin F. Blatchford],

We still remain at our old station without any change in matters. A survey was called on this ship and engine about two weeks ago and it was very much in need of repair and it was recommended that we “go North for repairs,” but a few days ago two of the vessels at the other inlet run into each other—the State of Georgia and the Mystic—and it became necessary for the former of these to go North at once. She left yesterday. I sent a lot of letters in her. I am sorry that we are not going up as we should most likely have gone to Boston which would have suited me first rate and I know that it would have been highly pleasing to Louisa.

The State of Georgia has been on the station about the same length of time as ourselves. The men of my rank have about $500 prize money coming to them. I have not got one red cent. This is the second time she has been ordered North for repairs—not once for us. Well, so mote it be. I have on the whole passed a very pleasant time here. Never enjoyed myself better than for the eight months I have been connected with the good ship Penobscot. There are at present on this station the Monticello, Cambridge, Mystic, Maratanza, and ourselves. The Mount Vernon, Chippewa, Stars & Stripes, and State of Georgia are all gone for repairs and three of those remaining here are unfit for the duty of the blockade, being broken down or something else which prevents them being effective.

What wonder is it that the steamers and schooners run the blockade here. The Kate which got in the other night must have been worth half million dollars and could we have captured her, my share of the prize money would have been $700—not a very bad thing to take, you would say. And I don’t suppose I should disagree with you. But because we have not been fortunate, it is no sign that we are not vigilant for there is not a vessel in the service better commanded than this, nor one where the officers and crew are more willing to assist in any work for the good of our country.

Well, Benny [Benjamin F. Blatchford], I think you are better off where you are than you would be here even if you had an Acting Master’s Mate billet. I understand you are to go as 1st Sergeant of the company—a first rate officer for you. I hope you will make a mark in the first battle, then get promoted to 2nd Lieutenant. When I was in Boston I had Quartermaster Sergeant’s billet offered me but as I had a good place, I let it go.

Oh how glad I am that the Rockport Boys have left for the seat of war. I hope that they all have the pleasure of returning to their friends at Rockport. I want you to remember me to all of the boys. Please ask them to write to me as often as they can. I shall write to [ ] in a day or two. I have wrote this in double quick time. From your most affectionate friend, — Henry M. Lowe

Letter 12

U. S. S. Gunboat Penobscot
Beaufort, North Carolina
6 o’clock A.M. Sunday, December 21, 1862

My Dear Wife,

Today I received a letter from Andrew F. Clark. I have received no letter from you in answer to me letters for the last six week but presuming that you have written and that it has been miscarried, I will address a few lines to you.

First of all, I have enjoyed a Sabbath on shore while at this place. In the afternoon I went to church with the Doctor and the Paymaster. I was much pleased with the [ ] as it had been a long time since I attended a meeting. The Paymaster was at Newbern two days last week. He then saw James Brown and St___ D. Pool of Rockport. Yesterday afternoon the schooner Ellen H. Gott came in here. She went within ten feet of our ship. As I was in my room to work on my weekly returns (at the time), I did not see her till after they came to anchor about one quarter of a mile from us. I shall try to go on board and see how it is there. I think that we shall lay here till Thursday as our engine is out of order. Since we have been here, there has been a very heavy blow. I am glad we was in port for our ship does roll so bad in rough weather. But I don’t expect to be in her much longer. I am in hopes to be ordered to Boston and there get on board some large ship for I think it would be better for me. Should I receive orders to report at New York or Boston, I think I could get a chance to spend one or two weeks with you. That I know would suit you to the nines. At least it would be agreeable to your most humble servant who is now addressing you.

Well, Louisa, I have not as yet received the third edition of Frank Lowe. Please send it on as soon as you can for I am earnest to see him. Andrew’s letter said you was all well. I was much pleased to hear that. As for my health, it is first rate. The men say I am fat as butter. That is about so. I have not received a letter from Benny [Benjamin F. Blatchford] for a long while. Please ask him to write to me.

After the last day of February, your allotment will close. If you wish to have it left for another year, please write and let me know. Next letter I get from home, I hope, will bring the news that H. T. Lowe is in the State House. One reason he will have time and paper so he can write to his son, H. Martin Lowe.

At 10 o’clock this morning, the Paymaster and myself went on board the schooner E. H. Gott. We there found John Thompson, William Witham, George Grimes, George Rowe, & Beny Giles. I can assure you that we was very much pleased to see them and to get the news, When I was eating dinner, I could not but think of home sweet home for the baked beans and the boiled bread was just such as your Mother has. At 3 o’clock the Paymaster and Mr. Giles went on shore to attend church. As I was quite anxious to hear the news from home, I stopped on board till 5 o’clock. John Thompson says Frank is a big boy. Oh how I wish I could see the little fellow. They all say I never looked more healthy than I do now. You will I know be pleased to hear this.. From your most loving and most affectionate husband, — Henry M. Lowe

Paymaster Steward, U. S. Gunboat Penobscot

Letter 13

[January 1, 1863]

My dear wife,

Wishing to make you a New Year’s present, I enclosed Father three dollars to buy you an album. I wish you a Happy New Year. May peace be around you at all time and happiness be within your door. May you be restored to health and when I return may I find you in health and vigor. — H. Martin Lowe

My dear son,

I wish you a Happy New Year. May you live to a good old age and he an honor to your parents, your town, and these United States of America. — H. Martin Lowe

Dear Father & Mother in law,

I wish you a Happy New Year. When I return (April next), I hope to find you in as good health as when I left home. — H. M. Lowe

Letter 14

U. S. S. Gunboat Penobscot
Off Topsail Inlet, North Carolina
Thursday, January

My darling wife,

It is over two weeks since I last wrote you. The cause of the delay was on account of a fever which I have. Today I got up at 10 o’clock and I am much better than for the last 10 days and I think I shall be well enough to do my duty in a few days. The Paymaster has a bad cold and is about sick. Mr. Hodgkins is on the sick list. He has a bad cold. As it will not do for me to write more today, I must close wishing you all a happy New Year.

From your most loving and affectionate husband, — Henry M. Lowe, Paymaster Steward, U. S. N.

Some pages in Lowe’s diary from January 1863

Letter 15

U. S. S. Gunboat Penobscot
Off New Inlet, North Carolina
January 25 [1863]

My dear wife,

Friday I received a letter from you wrote December 30th. For your kind wish, I thank you a thousand times. I wish you had sent me Frank’s Ambrotype for I am quite earnest to see how he is growing. I should like very much to see him in person (but that is played out). I suppose we will have to lay down here five or six months longer. Then perhaps we may not be ordered north of Philadelphia. I shall be at home by that time for I have had the promise to go just when I had a wished to. There is no one on board who would like to go better than your humble servant who is now addressing you but I think it would be better for me to stop till the ship goes North.

I have not received my commission as Master’s Mate. When it comes, I think I shall not take it. I did not want to send for it. It was Capt. Clitz’s doings. I can make as much money where I am as if I had Masters Mate billet. Then I would have to stand a watch every day and night. Now I have nothing to do day or night. I would like the billet if you was willing for me to go to sea for I think in a few months I could hold a good officer in the Navy. Please not let anyone know what I have wrote to you about this billet.

Last Tuesday the Genessee captured a prize. As it was quite rough, she couldn’t send a boat to her so she brought her to anchor under her stern for the night. In the morn she had slipped and put for Topsail Inlet. The Mount Vernon saw her trying to get in so they put a few shot and shell in her and she went to bottom. Wednesday the Checorora captured a prize from Nassau. She was loaded with brandy & quinine. I sent a letter to Father by her. Friday the Cambridge captured a fine prize. She was from Nassau N. P. bound to Wilmington. We have a share in it.

Yesterday we went down to the U. S. Steamer Columbia and sent a boat in to see if the Rebel had left anything. The found a 30-lb. Parrott Gun sent in our launch and got it safe on board. While our men was on board the Columbia we kept up a constant firing so to keep off the Rebels. We drove them from their guns and knocked their sand batteries in a knocked up hat. We learn by the way of three deserters that came off to the Cambridge that the Rebels on the morning of the 16th before light took the crew and officers as prisoners and that when we fired on the Columbia, there was about 40 Rebels on board. When they found that we was putting shot through her, they left for the shore. In their haste, 17 men was drowned in the surf. In the night the enemy came off to her and set her on fire. She didn’t burn much as the sea broke over her and put it out. On the 15th and 16th we kept up a fire on the Rebels all day. They fired on us from their batteries and some of their shots was very good ones. We had out topmast back-stay hit but two or three yams was cut away.

I suppose you have seen by this time an account of our going in and saving three officers and 42 men of the Columbia. At the time our boats left the ship, the sea was running very high. I thought we would lose them. The Columbia was a fine iron steamer. She had not been in commission but three weeks. There was $5000 in money on board and any quantity of provision, clothing & small stores. It is hard to see such a good steamer fall in the enemy’s hands. I think that we shall in a day or two blow her to pieces. 1

Today (Sunday) it is quite pleasant. We have been on a cruise all day. Tonight we arrived back to the fleet and sent ten men on board the Genessee and five on board the steamer Cambridge. I hope we shall get rid of all of them in a few days for we have not room for them.

As for my health, it is first rate. The Paymaster is well. Mr. Hodgkins still on the sick list. The Doctor will send him home the first chance. I will again wish you all a Happy New Year. With much love to all friends and a wish that they may write often.

I remain your most loving husband, — Henry Martin Lowe

1 Columbia, a 503-ton (burden) iron screw steamer, was built at Dumbarton, England, in 1862 for use running the Federal blockade of the Confederate coast. She was captured off Florida by USS Santiago de Cuba on 3 August 1862, during her first voyage in this trade. The U.S. Navy purchased her in November of that year, fitted her out as a gunboat and placed her in commission as USS Columbia. Assigned to the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, she ran aground off Masonboro Inlet, North Carolina, on 14 January 1863. Efforts to get her off were unsuccessful and many of her crew was captured by the Confederates. She was destroyed by fire on 17 January.

Letter 16

Washington D. C.
February 18, 1863

My dear wife,

I suppose you are quite anxious to see me—at least I hope to see you on the 1st day March. I shall have a chance to stay at home two weeks and then shall have to come back to this City and stop two months more. I have had a good look at the Capitol and the City. Last night I was to call on Aunt Augusta but as I fell and hurt my leg, I was not able to go on shore. My leg is quite well this morning.

We had six inches of snow yesterday. It was the first I have seen since I left home. I shall go over to the hospital today to see Mr. Hodgkins. I am quite well. With love to all, I remain your affectionate husband, — H. Martin Lowe, U. S. N.

I will write to Mother in a day or two. Send your letters to H. M. Lowe, Washington Navy Yard, Washington D. C.

Letter 17

Washington D. C.
March 22, 1862

Father [William] Blatchford,

I suppose you will be quite surprised when you hear that the Penobscot will be ready for sea in ten days or two weeks. She is now off the ways, her masts is in, and guns on deck. The Ward Room, Cabin, and Steerage are put in good order. Quite a number of the Boys deserted while I was at home. They all have money due them.

I think I shall have a chance to see you before I go to sea as I do not expect to go out in the Penobscot. I shall have to stay here two months or more with the Paymaster to make out our final returns for the cruise. We will go to sea in the same craft if we can. What one we do not know. At least we will not go in the Penobscot. I have not had time to call on one of the Boys since I came here. Uncle Addison [Pool] is quite unwell. I am as well as ever. Look out for my better half and Frank. With much love to all.

I remain your affectionate son-in-law, — Henry Martin Lowe

P. S. The Columbia’s crew arrived from the South last Friday. The officers are in prison. 1

1 Columbia, a 503-ton (burden) iron screw steamer, was built at Dumbarton, England, in 1862 for use running the Federal blockade of the Confederate coast. She was captured off Florida by USS Santiago de Cuba on 3 August 1862, during her first voyage in this trade. The U.S. Navy purchased her in November of that year, fitted her out as a gunboat and placed her in commission as USS Columbia. Assigned to the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, she ran aground off Masonboro Inlet, North Carolina, on 14 January 1863. Efforts to get her off were unsuccessful and many of her crew was captured by the Confederates. She was destroyed by fire on 17 January.

Letter 18

U. S. S. Miami
Bound to Plymouth, North Carolina
July 17th 1863

My dear wife,

I did not think to write to you again (when I was in Newbern) till I arrived to the Southfield, but as it is quite uncertain when we shall get there, I will write a few lines to let you know I am well. We shall stop at Hatteras on our way down the sound. How long we are to lay in more than I can tell. I shall there get a chance to send this note to you.

When I arrive at Plymouth, I will write and let you know how we like our new ship. I am most tired out with my long journey. So is [Uncle] Addison [Pool]. It is some hot down this way—much more so than you have it at Rockport. I have not heard one word from the war since I left New York on the 11th. I expect that the Rebels have skedaddled to Richmond. When we get the next papers, I think we shall hear of our having Charleston in our hands.

With much love to all and a kiss for Frank, I remain your affectionate husband, — H. M. Lowe

Letter 19

U. S. S. Southfield 1
Off Plymouth, North Carolina
Sunday, July 19, 1863

My dear wife,

I will now tell you about my long journey down South. In just twenty-four hours from home I arrived in the City of Baltimore where I had to stop ninety-six hours for transportation to Fortress Monroe, Va. The four days I was in Baltimore I enjoyed myself first rate. On the evening of the Fourth, I was at the fireworks which was most beautiful. What pleased me the most when at Baltimore was to find so many good Union men. Most of them was the strongest Union men I had ever been with. I not only know them so by their talk but by their kindness to the poor wounded troops [from Gettysburg] that arrived at that City when I was there. Hundreds volunteered to go out to the battlefield and take care of the sick and wounded. I there saw a subscription list for the disabled fighting men—over $3,000 was on the list that was raised in one day. The amounts on the paper was from $5 to $500. Oh! how I wish I had a hundred dollars to give. I would have given it in less than no time. I must say I think that Baltimore is one of the best places we have to send wounded troops. It is Union. Our troops are used like brothers in that City.

I must now tell you about the Rebel prisoners that arrived there when I was in the City. I saw 4,853 come in. It was quite a sight to see them—some with shoes and some without. There was not any two in the whole lot that had hats or caps alike. To make a long story short—they was a [sorry] looking set.

On the 6th we went to Hampton Roads where we had to wait to receive orders to proceed on our journey. I spent two days at that place with Charles Knowlton which was very pleasant for me. We then took a steamer to New York where we had to stop till 3 p.m. on the 11th. I there saw George Gott and sent a note to you by him. I was very much pleased with my passage from New York to Newbern for I had a friend on board who was acquainted with the coast and he booked me up in all points of any account. At Newbern, we stopped two or three days and then got passage to this place in the U. S. Steamer Miami where we arrived yesterday morning.

Monday, 20th

I have a chance to send you this letter at once so I will not tell you anything about the boat today. We are quite well. Kiss Frank for me and give love to all friends. Yours, — H. M. Lowe

P. S. I will write in a day or two.

A view of the USS Southfield after she was sunk by the Confederate Ram Albemarle at Plymouth in 1864

1 The USS Southfield was a double-ended, sidewheel steam gunboat of the Union Navy during the American Civil War. She was sunk in action against the Confederate ironclad ram CSS Albemarle during the Battle of Plymouth (1864). Southfield was built in 1857 at Brooklyn, New York by John English, and served as a ferry between South Ferry, New York, and St. George, Staten Island, until she was purchased by the U.S. Navy at New York City on December 16, 1861 from the New York Ferry Company. She was commissioned late in December 1861, Acting Volunteer Lieutenant Charles F. W. Behm in command.

Letter 20

U. S. Steamer Southfield
Off Newbern, North Carolina
August 1st 1863

My Dear Wife,

Today I received a paper from you. Oh how I wished I had seen a letter so I could have heard how you and the friends at home was. I would give most anything to know how my little boy is getting along. You must write as soon as you can and let me know how Father, Frank, and all of you enjoy your health. I hope to hear you are better than when I left home.

Foster’s Expedition has returned to this place. They brought back with them 60 fine horses, a large lot of cattle, and some 80 prisoners. The camp of the 25th Massachusetts Regiments is about 200 feet from our ship. I saw some of the Gloucester Boys yesterday. They were not well enough to go on the expedition.

One of our mess was transferred today on board another ship. I was very sorry to have him go as he was a fine fellow and a brother mason. There is nothing going on down here. I do not like [it] very well. It is not my style to lay still. I like to smell powder once in awhile but we shall not get a chance to do so in this place. Addison [Pool] is well. I am the same.

Give my love to one and all friends. From your affectionate husband, — H. M. Lowe

Letter 21

U. S. Steamer Southfield
Off Newbern, North Carolina
August 12, 1863

My dear wife,

I received a letter from you this morning. It was the first since I left home. I was glad to hear that Frank was getting along so well. When you next write, I hope to hear you are all as well as ever. There is nothing of any importance going on down this way.

As I have the shakes 1 today, you must excuse this letter. I am not sick. The shakes will go away in a few days and then I can write to you.

We have Rebel papers on board as late as the 9th. Write soon and give my best respects to all friends. Send a few stamps. From your most affectionate husband, — Henry M. Lowe, Paymaster Clerk, U. S. N.

1 Martin probably contracted malaria (“Ague”) which gives rise to periodic paroxysms which people referred to as “the shakes.”

Letter 22

Envelope marked with “U. S. Steamer Southfield” postmarked at Newbern, N. C.

U. S. Steamer Southfield
October 1st 1863

My dear wife,

This morning we received a mail from the North. I had four papers but not my letters. The last letter I received was from Benjamin [F. Blachford] wrote on the 10th of last month.

There is no news worthy of note. I am in the best of health. The Paymaster is well as usual. We have six officers and about forty men sick with the fever and ague.

I think we shall go down to Roanoke in a few days as it will not do for us to stop here any longer. If we do, we shall not have men enough to get her out of the river.

The steamer Phoenix arrived today with fresh provisions for this boat. I received a receipt for $50 that I sent you by Adams Express Company. I now send you in this letter $5.

You will please send me two undershirts in the box with the boots. Give my love to all friends from your most affectionate husband, — Henry M. Lowe, U. S. N.

Letter 23

U. S. Steamer Southfield
Off Roanoke Island, North Carolina
October 12, 1863

My dear wife,

On the morning of the 10th we arrived at this place and I think by what I can hear that we shall stop here for a few days. Then we go to Hatteras Inlet and lay till our provisions run out.

This morning when I got up I was one hundred percent better than I have been for the last week.

A large number of steamers have passed us today (all from Newbern). We do not know where they are bound. We spoke one boat who said their expedition consisted of 1200 cavalry. 1

At 6 o’clock the mail arrived and as most of the officers was sick (I volunteered to go in charge of the boat for mail and do some business for the Captain. I received one letter—viz. from R. B. Pool. The Paymaster or myself didn’t receive any letter from home.

I am quite smart today. Give my love to all friends and a thousand kisses for Master Frank Henry Lowe.

From your affectionate husband, — Henry M. Lowe, Paymaster Clerk, U. S. N.

to Louisa F. Lowe, Cape Ann, Rockport, Mass.

1 “There is a report from Newbern that Governor Vance of North Carolina has been offered the next Confederate Presidency, provided he will ‘wheel the Old North State back into line,’ and that he is ‘wheeling’ to his utmost ability. A recent cavalry expedition has succeeded in frustrating the rebel conscription in the counties east of the Chowan River and south of Albemarle Sound. The citizens have repudiated the rebel government.” [The Pittsfield Sun, 29 October 1863]

Letter 24

U. S. Steamer Southfield
Hatteras Inlet, North Carolina
[late October 1863]My dear wife,

For the last ten days it has been blowing a tremendous breeze. Therefore steamers and schooners who would have went North have been delayed so I have not wrote any letter since the 19th. In the morning we are to go to Newbern for coal and provisions. I think we shall lay there ten days or two weeks. This afternoon I went on board the steamer Delaware to see John Griffin. 1 He is in good health and looks well. You will please tell his Mother (Mrs. Thurston) when you see her.

When I last wrote to you, I thought I could make it convenient to send you $100 but as I have sent $40 to New York for a few articles from which I shall [make] $50 without any trouble, I shall have to delay it till the first of December. I shall send you $50 the first of November.

The Paymaster is well. I am in good health. Give my love to all friends and kiss my little Frank. From your affectionate husband, — Henry Martin Lowe

1 John Griffin of Rockport, Massachusetts, was 19 years old when he enlisted in the US Navy in November 1861. He was described as having black hair, black eyes, a ruddy complexion, and stood 5’7″ tall. John’s parents were Andrew and Esther.

Letter 25

U. S. Steamer Southfield
Off Newbern, North Carolina
November 1st 1863

My dear wife,

Yesterday and day before I got our provisions, clothing, and small stores on board. Therefore, I have not had much time to look around town. Cyrus Pool went on board and took dinner with me yesterday. I sent you per Adams Express Company $50.

After breakfast I shall go on shore and spend the day with George Gott. He is well. We received a mail on Friday and yesterday but there was not a letter for me. I should like to have someone to keep me booked up as to the health of friends and the news.

Addison [Pool] is about the same. I am in good health. Give my love to all friends. I hope that this letter will find you all in good health. Kiss Frank for me. From your affectionate and most loving husband, — Henry M. Lowe, Paymaster Clerk, U. S. N.

To Louisa . Lowe, Rockport, Mass.

Letter 26

U. S. Steamer Southfield
Off Bateman’s Cornfield, North Carolina
January 30th 1864

My dear wife,

I have nothing of importance to write now and if I had, could not do it as I am Officer of the Deck. I am writing now on my knee so you must excuse bad writing. I will write you a letter by next mail. Enclosed you will find $10. I am well. Give my love to all friends. Kiss Frank for me.

From your husband, — Henry M. Lowe

Letter 27

United States Steamer Southfield
Roanoke River off Plymouth, North Carolina
Wednesday, March 9th 1864

My dear wife,

Your letter of February 22nd was received yesterday evening. I was pleased to learn that you and Frank was well and hope to find you so on about the 1st or 2nd of next month.

I have wrote to Benjamin [F. Blatchford] quite a number of letters but have not received any answered as yet. Today I send a Rebel paper to Robert and one to Father. We are having some fine weather.

You will please answer this letter. I think you had better not write any after the 20th or 22nd as I may not get any wrote after that date. We receive no letters through this canal, nor is any ever allowed to go through. If the canal is not open, I cannot see Benjamin before I go home.

Addison [Pool] and myself are well as usual. There is no news. Give my love to all friends. With a kiss for you and Frank. I remain your affectionate husband, – Henry M. Lowe

1864: Robert Downs to Clarissa F. Downs

This letter was written by Robert Downs (1835-1907), the son of Leverett Downs (1796-1859) and Anna Atwater (1801-1895) of New Haven county, Connecticut.

Robert enlisted on 8 August 1862 as a private in Co. H, 15th Connecticut Infantry. He mustered out of the regiment at Newbern, North Carolina, on 27 June 1865. The regiment served in the defenses of Washington D. C. before participating in the Battle of Fredericksburg, the Mud March, the Siege of Suffolk, &c. They were ordered to Newbern, North Carolina in January 1864 which was their base of operations until the close of the war.

The 15th Connecticut Marker at the Newbern, N. C. National Cemetery

Robert’s letter datelined from Newbern in September 1864 speaks of his own sickness and of the large number of sick citizens and soldiers in Newbern where “a good many are dying.” So many of the 15th Connecticut soldiers died at Newbern during the time they were quartered there that a monument was erected by the state honoring their service. In the dedication of that monument in 1894, Senator O. H. Platt said, “We erect monuments, not to the living, but to the dead. A century from now the State and Nation will still be seeking some way in which to testify an increasing regard for the men who saved the Union from dissolution, who made its flag one flag, and its boundaries to encompass one—only one—country. Heroism, achievements, sacrifice are the grand fruitage of humanity, worthy of all honor; but grander yet and worthy of supreme honor is patriotism…Other regiments may mark with their monuments positions on battlefields where their comrades met the enemy in a fierce and deadly struggle to retain their position and beat the enemy back from the field. These your comrades battled with the death angel on a field which they would have gladly abandoned but from which there was no retreat; their struggle involved no passion, none of the accessories of battle strife bore them up, no word of command, no cheer of comrades, no bugle note, no drum, so sound of cannon or rattle of musketry to life them out of themselves and to inspire them to heroic deeds, but in silence and in darkness, alone with themselves, and with the invisible destroyer, far from the homes of love, uncheered and unattended, they met their foe and their fate…”[See Platt Address at Newbern, N. C.]

To read other letters by members of the 15th Connecticut that I’ve transcribed and posted on Spared & Shared, see:

Eli Walter Osborn, F&S, 15th Connecticut (1 Letter)
Charles Griswold, Co. E, 15th Connecticut (1 Letter)
Charles H. Taylor, Co. F, 15th Connecticut (1 Letter)
Henry C. Baldwin, Co. H, 15th Connecticut (1 Letter)
Henry D. Lewis, Co. H, 15th Connecticut (1 letter)
Henry D. Lewis, Co. H, 15th Connecticut (1 Letter)
Walter Howard Lord, Co. I, 15th Connecticut (1 Letter)
John Harrison Hall, Co. K, 15th Connecticut (1 Letter)


Addressed to Miss Clarissa F. Downs, Naugatuck, Connecticut

New Bern, N. C.
September 17th 1864

Dear Sisters and all at home,

I received two letters yesterday from you, one from home from Clarissa, and one from Laura then at Bethany. But I suppose that Laura is at home by this time. I am very happy to hear that you are all pretty well. I am a good deal better than I have been but I don’t feel as well as I did before I was sick. I have got over the shakes, but I am in the hospital yet for I don’t feel well enough to do guard duty. We have now and then a cool day and night but the weather is mostly very warm and it is getting to be pretty dry. It is quite sickly here both among the citizens and soldiers and a good many are dying, but the weather will be cooler before long and then it will be more healthy, I think.

Another boy from our company and from Naugatuck died yesterday here in the hospital. His name was Henry Lord. Perhaps you knew him. He was a good, steady boy. He came out with the regiment and he has enjoyed pretty good health till lately. He died quite sudden.

Both of your letters was dated September the 4th. I think they have been a good while coming though I had been looking for a letter from home for some days. But we heard that one of our mail boats had been taken by the rebs and burnt and I thought that I might have a letter on that boat but I guess I didn’t for you was not at home, the reason that you did not write any sooner. I am glad that you went to the camp meeting. I hope you enjoyed it to your best good. I would liked to have been there too for they have such good times and the place is a very pleasant one for a camp meeting.

I should have written to Laura again but I didn’t think that she was going to stay there so long so I thought I would not write to her for I didn’t think she would get the letter and I knew that you would send the letters to her as soon as you could.

I think it is the best thing that Mother could do to fat[ten] that heifer for I don’t want that you should have the bother of an unruly creature for you have enough to see to without that.

I am glad to hear that you are getting along so well and that things on the farm are in pretty good condition. Some say that the war will be over this fall and I think if things work as it appears, that it will now. I say I think that the war will be over sometime this fall. I hope it may be so so that we can all come home for good some time next winter. But this is uncertain for we can’t tell what is before us. Therefore we must trust in the Lord and be consigned to his Holy will. I know that many times the way looks dark ahead and we can see no way how that we are going to get over the difficulties which appear to lay before us, but three is One who can see through all the future, who will guide us in the right path (when we appear to be in the dark) if we ask Him in faith, trusting to His knowledge, mercy, and goodness. I hope that we shall all trust in the mercy and tender love of Jesus, our blessed Saviour and Redeemer, and ask Him to fit us for a more glorious home than the one we possess on earth. I hope these lines will find you all well. Please write soon.

From your sincere and affectionate brother, — Robert Downs

1866: Lucius Parker Merriam to Caroline P. Merriam

Lucius Parker Merriam (1846-1883) was only 17 years old in 1864 when he travelled from his home in Grafton, Massachusetts, to New Bern, North Carolina, captured by the Union Army from the Confederates two years before, then becoming a “mecca” for thousands of “contrabands”—freed slaves who flocked there seeking protection and sustenance. The humanitarian problem confronting the Union Army in caring for the contraband was given to Worcester clergyman and Army Chaplain Horace James who had already recruited Merriam’s 23 year-old college-educated sister, Sallie Anna (“Annie”) Parker Merriam (1839-1923) to teach school to illiterate Blacks.

By the time Lucius came to New Bern as a civilian Quartermaster clerk, Capt. James had created a small town for 3,000 freed slaves, a “Trent River Settlement” renamed “James City” in his honor. Merriam spent two years clerking for some 20 Army officers and civilian employees who administered this ramshackle Black community, duties assumed, after Lincoln’s assassination and War’s end, by the newly-established Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen & Abandoned Lands, more commonly and simply called, the “Freedmen’s Bureau.” Despite instances of rampant corruption, the Freedmens Bureau would resist the efforts of President Andrew Johnson to abolish it. Spouting Republican rhetoric about “Universal Liberty,” Merriam insisted his Bureau must survive until “the Southerners are ready to give the colored man his just rights and acknowledge his manhood.” [This letter was sold from a small lot of letters written by Merriam by PBA Galleries in August 2014.]

Lucius’ parents were Charles Merriam (1807-1888) and Caroline Parker (1811-1890) of Grafton, Worcester county, Massachusetts. In 1869, Lucius entered Amherst College, graduated in 1873, and later taught school in Norwich, Connecticut, in Springfield, Massachusetts, and served as a high school principal in Providence, Rhode Island. In the 1870s he married Emily Atwell Clemons (1852-1910) but died a premature death in 1883 after fathering three children. He died of diabetes in Knoxville, Tennessee, while trying to regain his health during the winter of 1882-83 with the idea that he might relocate there.

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

Lucius P. Merriam worked as a clerk in the Freedmen’s Bureau at New Bern after the war while his sister Annie taught a school for Blacks at Raleigh and later New Bern.


Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen & Abandoned Lands
Headquarters, Eastern District of North Carolina
New Berne, North Carolina
January 22nd 1866

My dear mother,

You must pardon me for not writing you oftener but the fact is I’ve been very busy lately. I have been employed on Capt. [Frederick A.] Seely’s 1 papers most of the time since I have been with him and have now finished them of this months.

Capt. Horace James, a former pastor of the Old South Congregational Church in Worcester who joined the 25th Mass. Infantry as a chaplain and then took charge of contraband during the war. For a great article chronicling his service to Freedmen, see Joe Mobley’s biographical sketch on NCPedia.

I am now busy in finishing up Capt. James’ papers of December and January. While here a week ago he received a letter from the War Department at Washington honorably mustering him out of the U. S. service in answer to his own request, his services being no longer necessary. The date being January 8th 1866. He has now been a Quartermaster [in the Freedman’s Bureau] from February 18th 1864 to the above date—nearly two years—and faithfully has he discharged the duties and responsibilities entrusted to his care by the government. In many instances have I noticed his economical management, calculating beforehand so that his expenditures on account of the U. S. would be no more than if the money was to come out of his own pocket. We have not in our army a superabundance of officers like him. When I have finished up his papers, it is my intention to write him a letter of regret on parting from his fatherly care and thanking him for his kindnesses to me of which there are many during my first absence from parental care and while a clerk under his patronage. I miss the light of his countenance very much, I can assure you, and the pleasing sound of his voice, whether in regard to official or private matters. It is a luxury, as you well know, to be in his company. When down here, he gave me another invitation to come up and see him which I shall accept at the first opportunity. You know he is civilian agent of the Bureau for Pitt Co., the county in which is his plantation. 2 There is a rumor of a plot among some of the secesh there to take his life. Captain is well aware of the satisfaction they would take in dispatching him and consequently keeps himself armed for any emergency and I understand intends to arm the darkeys on his plantation. Although I am fearful for his life, I know he would sell his life dearly unless he should be assassinated unawares. How contemptible are these secesh! North Carolina will be the last state to get into the Union at this rate.

An 1868 engraving of “James’s Plantation School” in North Carolina. This freedmen’s school is possibly one of those established by Horace James on the Yankee or Avon Hall plantations in Pitt County in 1866. North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library.

Of course I shall not venture across the country alone or unprotected. Even now I think it advisable to confine my horseback rides within the breastworks of the town as a band of marauders are known to be outside in the woods and byways around town, several citizens having been robbed and outraged by them. Capt. Seely is about to arm a band of colored militia and send them scouting in the suburbs and through the county with orders to hang at once anyone who is known to be an outlaw or engaged in plundering and overhauling unprotected citizens or travelers.

January 23, 1866. I have just received two bundles of [Worchester] “Spys” which are very acceptable. After reading them—myself and Annie—I lend them to Mrs. Robbins and Mrs. Johnson, wife of Joe Johnson, whom Father saw with me in Worcester. Late yesterday afternoon, Johnson, being a little “tight,” got into an altercation with (3) three soldiers and one of them knocked him downstairs backwards and then kicked and stamped upon his head, bruising him very severely and rendering him insensible. He was taken home and medical aid restored him to consciousness in a couple of hours. This morning the paper says he has since died of his injuries but on going down to the house, I find him sitting up in bed eating his breakfast. I am glad he was not taken away under such circumstances. When sober, he is a kind, good, honest fellow, but drink sets him fighting crazy. Mrs. Johnson is a real good lady—kind and affectionate—and I have no doubt that Joe’s bad actions are a great trial to her. 3

My favorite pony “Dixie” has gone out in the country for three weeks to carry Lieut. [George S.] Hawley of the Veteran Reserve Corps on a tour of inspection. Mine is the only quartermaster horse that could stand such a tramp so he had to go. Capt. Seely told me he had done something which he supposed I would abuse him about—viz: letting my horse go for a short time. Nevertheless, he has given me the use of a private pony of his during Dixie’s absence. Capt. Seely is a sensible man. He calculates on his clerks have exercise out of office hours. Every one of his three clerks has a horse. Woog, I think, has a buggy. Captain also has a buggy.

How I wish you were here. I could manage so that we could take a buggy ride quite often. The weather is delightful now. The beautiful, bright southern mornings and the balmy air are very exhilarating and are much like our northern spring. I miss very much the skating and sliding and the deep snows of a more northern clime. I really used to enjoy running through the snow banks carrying morning papers.

Lt. Beecher (Fred H.) of the Veteran Reserve Corps and nephew of Henry Ward Beecher was down here Monday. He is acting Asst. Adjt. General for Col. [Eliphalet] Whittlesey at Raleigh. He called at the “home” to see Annie with whom he became acquainted when he was at Raleigh.

I send in a separate envelope addressed to Father my invitation by Mr. Near to a New Year’s dinner; my letter to Col. [Nathan] Goff of the 37th N. C. C. T. [USCT] relative to the death of young [Lieut.] Mellon [shot on 23 September 1865] and his reply, also notice of a meeting of our “Social Sociable Association.” This association is not a rough and tumble conglomeration of everything and everybody as you might think its name implied, but is a company of respectable northern young men mostly who have regular meetings in the capacity of a literary club and its object is as stated in the by-laws for the mutual improvement of all its members in parliamentary rules of debate, declamation, and the proper mode of conducting meetings. They have already given one lecture this winter by Capt. James. They seem to want to have me belong to the club as they voted me in without my wish or consent. All that is necessary for me to become an active member is to sign the constitution and by-laws (and slide into the Treasury a greenback). It is a very good kind of society to belong to and if I was North, I would join it eagerly, but I wish to give my best attention to my business and have time enough for recreation. I don’t want to tax either my mind or pocket unnecessarily or without improvement. The chairman of the lecture committee, Mr. Frank H. Sterns, came up to the office and presented us clerks with complimentary tickets. He gave me two—one for Annie and one for me.

This p.m. we are going out on a grand horseback ride. Mr. [Edward] Fitz, Annie and myself, and perhaps Miss Thompson. Mr. Fitz has gained honor and credit to himself by his decided stand against the popular immoralities of the times. Through my own and Joe Towle’s intercedence, I think an amicable feeling will be brought about between parties lately at [ ]. I think each and all have done wrong in some degree. Those quoted lines in your letter which aroused your suspicions was simply my opinion; they did not relate to Mr. Fitz particularly. I think just so no matter who it hits. Everyone has a right to his or her opinion on matters and things and our judgement becomes more just as we advance in knowledge. 4

Mr. John F. Keyes [1835-1921] of Clifton, Mass., came in to the office to see me this morning. He was Capt. James’ commissary and a chum of Abernethy’s in dealing out rations. He was a detailed soldier of the 2nd Massachusetts Heavy Artillery. He has come out here to start in the carriage business which is his trade.

Our Congregational Society are about to lose the use of the Presbyterian Church….

1 Capt. Frederick A. Seely served as the Superintendent of the Eastern District of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands (a.k.a., the “Freedmen’s Bureau”), headquartered in Newbern, North Carolina, between January and May 1866. He later worked for the Bureau in Missouri.

2 Capt. Horace James “remained as head of the eastern district until December 1865, when Gen. O. O. Howard finally accepted his resignation. After leaving the Freedmen’s Bureau he entered into a plantation and labor scheme in Pitt County. In the enterprise he was the partner of Whittlesey and Winthrop Tappan, a neighbor of Whittlesey in the state of Maine. The plan conceived by Whittlesey and Tappan and presented to James called for the two men from Maine to rent two plantations in Pitt County from the owner, William Grimes. The plantations, named Avon and Yankee Hall, were located about twelve miles from Washington on opposite sides of the Tar River. James received money for expenses and had complete charge of the farms, including hiring and supervising freedmen as laborers and purchasing supplies. On each of the sites he established schools and churches for the freedmen. In overseeing the laborers employed on the plantations, James acted as a civilian agent for the Freedmen’s Bureau; he received no salary, but if the project produced a profit he was to share in it equally with his partners.

“In the summer of 1866, a black laborer was killed on one of the plantations. In September a military court tried James as an accomplice in the shooting and for allegedly exploiting the freedmen in the profit-making venture. The court also tried Whittlesey for using his position as head of the Freedmen’s Bureau in the state to exploit freedmen labor and for not reporting the Pitt County shooting to headquarters in Washington. Both men were acquitted. Whittlesey soon left the state and rejoined Howard’s staff in Washington, D.C.

“James continued to run the plantations until a crop failure in 1867 led to the venture’s termination, after which the land was returned to the owner. James returned to Massachusetts in the same year and took charge of a parish in Lowell, serving also as associate editor of the Congregationalist, a church publication. He then traveled abroad. While visiting Palestine, he contracted a severe cold that resulted in consumption and ultimately his death in Worcester, Mass. He was survived by his wife and son.” [NCPedia]

3 Joseph (“Joe”) Johnson may have been the member of Co. H, 25th Massachusetts Infantry by the same name from Worcester who served as a wagoner during the war and was a machinist by profession. This is the same regiment that Capt. Horace James first served as chaplain. He was married to Lucretia Wheelock (1834-1888) of Worcester county.

4 Rev. Edward Fitz was a Worcester, Massachusetts, clergyman who exercised arbitrary powers of law enforcement in James City. Fitz was charged with practicing “revolting and unheard of cruelties on the helpless freedmen under his charge” which was supported by testimony from those he had harshly punished. An Army Court of Inquiry dismissed the charges as personal “malice” but also dismissed Fitz for administrative “malfeasance.” Defending Fitz, Lucius wrote in another letter, “This is the reward of four years of his labor for the Contrabands. I would not blame him in the least for turning to an Andy Johnson man. These ignorant darkeys are the hardest people to get along with I ever saw. The more you do for them the more they hate you and will trample on you…”

1862-63: Franklin David Child to George F. Child

I could not find an image of Frank but here is one of George F. Hall of Co. I, 44th Massachusetts Infantry

These letters were written by Franklin (“Frank”) David Child (b. 1842) who enlisted as a private in May 1862 in Co. B, 4th Battalion Infantry but was made a sergeant in Co. D, 44th Massachusetts. Infantry in September 1862 when they were officially mustered into federal service. He mustered out with the regiment after nine months service on 31 May 1862.

Frank was the son of Daniel Franklin Child (1803-1876) and Mary Davis Guild (1807-1861) of Boston. Frank’s father Daniel was connected with the Boston locomotive works and the Hinkley & Drury locomotive works as treasurer for more than 40 years. Besides a home in Boston, the family kept a farm in West Roxbury. Frank wrote all four letters to his younger brother, George Frederick Child (1844-1933), a clerk in the Boston firm of Emmons, Danforth & Scudder.

Other letters by members of the 44th Massachusetts Infantry that I have transcribed and posted on Spared & Shared include:

Henry C. Whittier, Co. A, 44th Massachusetts (1 Letter)
James Haynes Murray, Co. C, 44th Massachusetts (45 Letters)
William Carlton Ireland, Co. D, 44th Massachusetts (55 Letters)
Frederick A. Sayer, Co. D, 44th Massachusetts (Union Letters)
James Schouler Cumston, Co. E, 44th Massachusetts (2 Letters)
George Russell, Co. E, 44th Massachusetts (1 Letter)
Herbert Merriam, Co. H, 44th Massachusetts (4 Letters)
Richard Harding Weld, Co. K, 44th Massachusetts (6 Letters)

Letter 1

Addressed to George F. Child, Esq., Care Mess. Emmons, Danforth & Scudder, State Street Block, Boston, Kindness of Lieut. H. P. Tuttle

Camp Stevenson, Newbern [N. C.]
November 20, 1862

My dear George,

When I left Readville I put all the things that I could not carry with me into my valise and sent them home by Tracy’s Express. Whether they ever reached there or not, I don’t know. If they did, I wish you would send me by Adam’s Express my razor, strap, soap, and shaving brush. Please let Hassam Bros. put the razor in good order before you send it. Also send one box of honey soap which you can buy at Brown’s Drug Store, corner of Elliott St. Also a couple of crash towels & 2 or 3 handkerchiefs.

We are now quite comfortably situated in our barracks with some prospect of staying here the principle part of the winter and find such luxuries as these very desirable as well as very scarce. I lost my towel on the last march and cannot replace it here. I would like to have you send me also a fine tooth comb. Any other little thing you happen to find in my valise and which you think may be of use you may put in with the rest while you are about it. I would recommend that you pack them in some spice box at the store and send directly to me at Newbern, N. C. in care of Capt. H. D. Sullivan, Co. D 44th [Mass.] Infantry. If you will be so kind as to do this for me, I will be everlastingly obliged and will remit any amount which you may expend. I expect to be very flush in a few days as we are to be paid off for two months. If fact, we were mustered for it yesterday.

I would like very much to have some good pale brandy. It is something one can hardly do without in this climate where the change in temperature is so great every morning & night. The dews are so heavy here that if you go under the trees at midnight, it frequently seems as if it were raining. The only difficulty is in getting it here as they are very strict about letting liquor into the department. If you could however get some of W. R. Lewis & Bros. meat cans all marked & seal up securely some of Williams’s best pale, I have no doubt but what it would pass. If you could bring this thing about, it would be a big thing. Three or four bottles would be sufficient. And I would cheerfully remit the amount on receipt of the package. Pack them separately from everything else as confiscation of the whole package is the penalty if found out.

In order that you can have some idea of how we are situated here I will make you a diagram of the town & position of our camp. [sketch]

Frank’s Sketch of barracks location in angle between Trent and Neuse Rivers
A close up of the “L” shaped barracks area from the Regimental History

Our own barracks are in form of an angle “L” and marked 1. 2 [is] 10th Connecticut, 3 [is] 24th Massachusetts. There are gunboats within a stones throw of us all the time [and] also on the Trent river—on the other side of the open field between us and the woods. The forts, Totten and a smaller one the name of which I do not know, protect the railroad and common roads leading inland.

Write me as soon as possible & let me know if there is anything new. Your affectionate brother, — Frank

Letter 2

Camp Stevenson
Newbern [N. C.]
January 4, 1863

My dear George,

It was with a great deal of pleasure that I received this p.m. your somewhat lengthy & very gay letter of the 27th December. It is the first time I have heard from home since you had news of our safe arrival back to Newbern. You all must have been very anxious & I was glad that my letter arrived in such good season. It was written when very tired, dirty and lame & I think must have been very unsatisfactory although I did not read it over.

New England Guards, Envelope stationery

Our monitors, if reports about here are true, appear not to be very successful. Rumor goes, for we have no reliable news here except what comes through northern papers, that the Monitor sunk off Hatteras in a storm & that the Passaic had arrived at Beaufort disabled having several feet of water in her hold & her turret so strained as to be immoveable. I don’t vouch for these stories for they have been told & contradicted half a dozen times within the last week. If true, we shan’t probably move for some time. If untrue, and if the two ironclads have really arrived here safe, we shall probably move against Wilmington before many days.

You say Mr. Emmons is much troubled about Frank’s wound. I saw him a few days ago and thought he never looked better. His wound was so slight that I could not even distinguish a scar.

Fred is getting along nicely. He expects to walk up to camp in a day or two.

You mention in your letter that you passed an evening with Mr. T’s & had oysters, champagne, ice cream, &c. &c. On another occasion that you supped on milk toast and baked apples. Now I want to caution you against ever mentioning “good to eat” again for it may cost me my life. So weak has my stomach become by constant application of salt mule that I fear “congestion of the breadbasket” if I even think of the delicacies you mention.

I wish that you would try to trace up about that dog that you say looks like Dick. I should think you could recognize him by the white on his nose, feet and breast. If you could only entice him into the cellar, you would be able to tell for if it was he, he would certainly lay down in his old corner.

My dear George, the mail goes suddenly in five minutes and I must close. I will write again soon. — Frank

Letter 3

Camp Stevenson
Newbern [N. C.]
January 31, 1863

My dear George,

We start tomorrow on a expedition towards Plymouth in the steamer “Northern.” Of course our knowledge with regard to the objects & intentions of the trip is very limited. We understand that we are to have one or two companies of cavalry & 2 boat howitzers to accompany us and that the expedition is under command of Col. [Francis L.] Lee. We understand also that we are not to go more than a day’s march from your gunboats.

I have not time to write more as it is about 11 o’clock and we start early in the morning. I hope to send this by “Mahoney,” [of] Co. C, who has been discharged for disability just to let you know my whereabouts. I have received my box in good order. It came in the nick of time. I will write more about it first opportunity.

Your affectionate brother, — Frank

Letter 4

Camp Stevenson
Newbern [N. C.]
February 12, 1863

Dear George,

I received yesterday & today your letters of January 29th, 30th, and February 5th, also letters from Father, Mary, Sam & Sophie. You will pardon me I know if I answer all three together for I have but a short time before the next mail goes & must write a word to all of possible. I am glad to see that you practice as you preach & write often. I get a letter or two from you most every mail and assure you I appreciate them much.

I have just got back safe and sound from expedition No. 3 to Plymouth, N. C. I wrote twice, one at Plymouth and once at Roanoke, two to father, so I suppose you will have heard of pretty much all we did before this reaches you.

Our march from Plymouth to Long-Acre & back 28 miles in a night and half a day was agreed by all hands to have been a little the hardest thing we have yet seen, although I stood it first rate, being about as fresh when we got in as anyone. We passed through one ford half a mile long and cold as ice almost benumbing our feet. Billy Neal fell down when about half though coming home & got a complete ducking. No bad effects have however followed. When we got to our destination, we found three places where the rebels stored bacon and brought away and destroyed 3 or 4 lbs. We got also some of the best cider I ever drank & chickens & ducks enough to last us back to Newbern. On the whole it was a very pleasant expedition. We had state rooms and bunks on board the transport “Northerner” & a good close room with a fire in it at Plymouth. I went on board the gunboat “Perry” which is stationed off the town & saw your friend Al Brown. He desired to be remembered to you.

I got Uncle Henry’s box all safe just before I started & took several of the cans with me on board the boat. Some difference between hard tack & coffee & fresh salmon, peaches, boiled chicken, & beef soups—hey! It was a splendid present & a most acceptable one. I shall write Uncle Henry and thank him as soon as possible.

I am glad the gaiters are under weigh as the last tramp about finished my old ones. I shall look for them by the “Dinsmore” which brought your letters but which has not yet discharged her cargo.

I was glad to hear from F. Boyd. He writes awful blue. Again in garrison at Baton Rouge he says, just my luck. There are all sorts of troubles in the regiment—court-martials, hard words, &c. &c. He is now trying to get transferred to the Potomac. I am afraid he will never be happy. I have not yet had a chance to have my photograph taken but hope to before long. I don’t think I have changed a great deal however.

I had the pleasure of seeing tonight in Quarter Master’s tent Capt. Billy Hutchings, our Brigade Qr. Master. He is just from Hilton Head where General Foster’s expedition have all safely landed. He says they are now waiting for the navy who are not yet ready. They already have 4 monitors and the “New Ironsides” there but are waiting for more. General Stevenson had made a recognizance to within 3 miles of Charleston & came near being taken prisoner. The “Montauk” had experimented before a rebel fort lying close under its guns for 3 days but did not receive a hurt although dismounting several of its guns. He says there is no prospect of our going down there at present.

It is long after taps & I must close now as I am burning my lights only by sufferance. You will excuse haste and all mistakes I know.

Your ever affectionate brother, — Frank

1862: Henry Augustus Cheever to Mehitable (Felt) Cheever

1Lt.& Adjutant Henry Augustus Cheever, 17th Massachusetts Infantry (Memorial History)

This letter was written by Henry Augustus Cheever (1839-1905), the son of Ira Cheever (1798-1876) and Mehitable Gardener Felt (1802-1882) of Chelsea, Suffolk county, Massachusetts. He was captain of the Chelsea Wide-Awakes in the Lincoln Presidential campaign and also served as a member of Co. F, 7th Mass. Vol. Militia before the war. Henry received a commission as a 1st Lieutenant early in the war and was assigned to the 17th Massachusetts where he was appointed adjutant.

Later in the war, Adjutant Cheever was severely wounded at Batchelders Creek in North Carolina, He was wounded on the morning of 1 February 1864 and was taken prisoner but survived the surgery and recovered to return home. He went into the mercantile business after he war but eventually went to work for the Treasury Department and processed pension claims.

In this May 1862 letter, penned from New Bern after the Union occupancy, Henry tells his mother about the skirmish at Trenton Bridge that took place on 15 May 1862. He also shares his views of the New Bern inhabitants, their customs, farming methods, and the weather in general in the South. He includes some details of a long conversation held with Rebel officers during a flag-of-truce.


Picket Station near New Bern, [North Carolina]
Sunday, May 18th 1862

Dear Mother,

As a few moments are at my command, I will write you a few lines to let you know that I am in the land of the living (also Rebels) and am well—never was in better health in my life. Think that upon the close of the present war, I had better enlist in the Regular Army, hadn’t I? I received a letter from you a few days ago and it seems that you had only received one letter from me. I have written several but I presume they were lost as the mail arrangements are not the best in the world. So you must make up your mind that some of the letters I send you will never reach home.

We still remain here in the same place but we have frequent skirmishes with the enemy. On Thursday [15 May 1862] of the past week quite a force went up 15 miles above our camp to a place called Trenton. We had 800 cavalry [3rd N. Y. Cavalry], 2 pieces of cannon, and the 25th Regt. Massachusetts Vol. and our [17th Mass.] regiment. [We] started about 2 o’clock in the morning and came within two miles of Trenton and the advance guard of the cavalry ran upon the enemy and a terrific fight took place. The enemy were double in force to our men, they having 75 or 80 men to our 37, but our boys drove them from the field and they left in double quick for town where they set fire to the bridge and then evacuated the town. There were 7 Rebels killed, 2 wounded that we got, and one prisoner, while on our side were 2 wounded and 1 Lieutenant taken prisoner. The Rebels left on the field 13 horses killed and we three.

One of our wounded was the Major 1 of the [3rd New York] cavalry who in the skirmish was taken prisoner three times but got away by the help of his men. The 4rd time his captors looked at him a moment and then cooly told him that he must be a dangerous person and that they had better shoot him on the spot. The Major had discharged his revolver but when this was told him, quicker than thought, he raised and threw it at the speaker. It hit him in the mouth and knocked him from his saddle. Another Rebel who helped take the Major raised his saber to cut him down, but at this moment one of our captains struck the Rebel with his sword and cut his right arm off so it hung by the skin. In consequence of this, the Major got away. He is a nice man and a very powerful one. All this took place in less time than I have written. The rest of the cavalry and troops were a mile behind the advance guard but we came up on the double quick to give them a volley, but were too late.

I was in command of the Pioneers and was ahead of the regiments and in rear of the cavalry. After we halted three of our companies were sent out to search the woods and C. C. had a skirmish and killed 4 more. After remaining here a while, we started for home, having marched 30 miles in less than 12 hours and through mud and water up to our knees. The object of the expedition was to capture and steal a lot of horses as this department is greatly in need of them. But they got the alarm and took them away.

Father wished to know concerning the people, habits, customs, &c. I should be very happy to inform him but as there are no people here save negroes, I can’t enlighten him much. When the town was evacuated, the people left also. Some few have returned but not many. There are poor whites here but they are far worse than the negroes for they are so lazy that they won’t work and the consequence is that they steal and starve.

The weather is at the present like our July weather. We have frequent thunder showers. I have read and heard tell of a thunder storm in the Southern States but I must confess that my imagination was not strong enough to conceive what a storm could take place. A person must experience one in order to realize the beauty of it. Peaches and plums are fast ripening, strawberries in quantity, only we hardly dare venture into the fields to gather them for fear that the Rebels may pick us up. It is a sad looking sight to look over the broad fields of the plantations and see their barrenness for no one has planted anything save the negroes who only look out for themselves. Let a hundred live Yankees come down here and in three years time they could make a paradise out of this now neglected country. There is no care taken of the land, merely to drop the seed into the ground and let it grow—is the Southerner’s principle—and it is well carried out. In everything they are 100 years behind our time. Their houses would amuse you. On all of them the chimneys are built upon the outside and contain brick enough to build a common-sized house. Then they are all old style and in such comical shape that it is really amusing to ride a few miles to merely look at the houses. I should not like to settle in this part of the state unless there be a colony of Yankees here.

There was a Rebel Lieutenant Colonel 2 and Adjutant here last week came up with a flag-of-truce. They say that the western part of the state is much more pleasant—it being on higher ground. Speaking of these officers, I went up two miles outside of our lines to carry their escort some rations as they brought none, expecting to return the same day but did not. There were 20 of them. They belonged to the 1st North Carolina Cavalry. I was with them three hours and had a jolly time. They had many questions to ask and I answered all that were proper. They are sick of the war and wish it over. They talk it out. They felt anxious to know my opinion on the matter and they felt or acted pleased when I told them tht I thought it would close virtually in two or three months. I carried up 30 papers which were eagerly grabbed at for they cannot get the true state of the case from the Confederate papers.

I gave one of them a New York Herald in which was a editorial which stated the fact that if Yorktown and Norfolk were taken, that the contest was decided. One of them read it and came along to me and told me it would certainly prove so. I asked him if he did not know that they had already been captured? No, he had heard nothing of it. He supposed they were still in their hands. They were very much surprised at learning the fact. When I parted with them, I told them I hoped that if it was my fate to be taken prisoner, I hoped I might fall into their hands for I felt sure the would treat me well. They gave me the prices of their uniforms. Overcoat $35 (worth $5), pants $17 (worth $3), boots $20 (worth $5), coffee 150 and 200 per pound and other articles in the same proportion.

But I must close. Please tell Electa Brown that I will answer her letter very soon. Also convey my compliments to Anna Misley and say I should be very happy to hear from her. If I had any photograph, I would send her one. Also Electa. But I have none and there are no means of having any taken here so I shall have to wait until I arrive in some Northern City. Give my regards to my friends. Remember me to Sarah Young & Fred. Please write soon. From your son, — Hen

1 The name of the Major is never given in this letter but the Regimental roster indicates that the Major at the time was 35 year-old George W. Lewis of Elmira, New York.

2 The Lieutenant-Colonel of the 1st North Carolina Cavalry at the time was James Byron Gordon who later became a Brigadier General in the CSA.