This letter was written by Alfred Calhoun Belcher (1844-1911), the son of Alfred Belcher (1814-1891) and Julia Ann Stetson (1821-18xx) of Wemouth, Norfolk county, Massachusetts.
Lying about his age, Alfred was only 17 years old when he enlisted as a private on 19 September 1861 to serve in Co. K, 1st Massachusetts Cavalry. He remained in the service for three full years, mustering out in September 1864. Alfred served in Co. K which was one of four companies in the regiment that were left at Beaufort, S. C. in a “detached” battalion. In August 1863, they were permanently detached and made an Independent Battalion, Mass. Cavalry. Things were relatively dull for this battalion but this apparently suited Alfred as he remarked in this letter, “I don’t like the notion of fighting if I can help it.”
Alfred’s letter includes a story of a runaway who escaped Rebel hunting him down.
After the war, Alfred returned to Massachusetts where he found employment as a painter and as a letter carrier.
Beaufort, South Carolina
October 21st, 1863
For the want of something to do, not because it is my turn, I sit down to pen you a few lines just to let you know that I am as well as usual and having good times [even] if I am a snoger [soldier].
There is not the least bit of news here so you must expect none in the letter; there has not been one bit of news here since I can remember—only what we have got by the way of New York, so you may imagine how dull it must be here as far as that is concerned. Almost all the excitement we have here is the now and then taking of a Rebel spy or by the advance pickets, of something of that kind, and we are all getting sick of doing nothing, I tell you. All but me, I should have said for I don’t like the notion of fighting if I can help it and most of the men want to go to Morris Island (where they are doing nothing).
I took a ride again last night with Mena Hale and Mrs. Slattery (a Southern Lady) and we went out in the country and had a fine time on one of the plantations. I wish you could have been there for we had any quantity of fun and funny folks too, I tell you.
I was out to our advance pickets last week and while I was there, there was a nigger come in that had just got away from the Rebs. They chased him and a little boy he had with him six night and five days with dogs (blood hounds) and he hid the last night in house and the dogs followed him there and they searched the house all over for them but could not find him. He was hid under some covert in the attic of the house and after they left he come out and came across the river to our side. And when he was about half way across, we saw the rebs trying to make the dogs follow the boat but they would not so they tried to shoot them but could not—they were so far off. When they got to us, they were so much exhausted that they could not stand and their feet were swollen so that they were as large as two common feet and the boy was so bad that they do not think he will live. He was about 10 years old. The man was taken while he was out fishing about eight months ago. He used to take care of my horse when I did picket duty at Barnwell’s Plantation. He said that he was kept in the same jail with one of our boys that was taken while on picket about a fortnight ago. I believe I told you about that before.
I don’t think of any more to write now so I will close. Yours truly, — Alfred C. Belcher