Category Archives: Siege of Washington, N. C.

1863: Joshua Piles to Margaret Piles

This letter was written by Joshua Piles (1823-1898) who served in Co. A, 168th Pennsylvania Infantry. The men recruited into this regiment rendezvoused at Camp Howe near Pittsburgh during the latter part of October 1862 where they were organized and mustered into service as a 9-months regiment. Muster rolls indicate that Joshua entered on 16 October 1862 with other members of his company under the command of Capt. Hiram H. Cree. He mustered out on 25 July 1863.

After service around Suffolk, Virginia, the regiment was sent to New Bern, North Carolina, in December 1862 where they remained until June 1863. During this time, they participated on the expedition to Little Washington to provide relief to the beleaguered Union force under siege there. This letter was penned in Little Washington while encamped there in May 1863.

Prior to his enlistment, Joshua and his wife Margaret Henderson (1830-1913) and their two children lived in Perry, Greene county, Pennsylvania, where Joshua worked as a semi-literate laborer/farmer. He was still residing there at the time of the 1890 Veterans Schedules, suffering from a disease of the kidneys and bladder.


Washington, North Carolina
May 8th 1863

Dear Wife,

I take this pleasure to write you a few lines to let you know that today find us all well and hearty and sincerely hoping that these few lines may find you all embracing the same blessing. Also to inform you that I received yours which was written April the twentieth and was very glad to hear from you all so to hear that you was all well and a getting along as well as what you are.

We have left New Bern. We left on the twentieth of the month or about that time. for the present time we are at Washington, North Carolina. It is the head of tide water navigation about the mouth of the Tar River about one hundred miles from New Bern but the way of water and about forty by land north. This is a very nice place here. We are the best situated here that we have been since we left home. We are encamped on a high piece of ground. Also we have got more tents and there ain’t so many in a tent which makes it more comfortable. There is only three and four in a tent.

We are a faring sumptuous for grub, the plunkiest that we ever had since we left Camp Howe. We don’t get much soft bread. The flour is here for us but we ain’t got our bakery fixed yet. We will get it done in a few days. We get plenty of coffee and bread, meat, beans, and rice, and sugar and plenty to wear—more than we want—and have plenty of money and no fast friends and White women plenty. This war is a perfect feast. Uncle Sam is able to feed and clothe us and we won’t grunt at it, and able to furnish enough good Union men to whip the South and be enough left to come home and hang all the Copperheads that is back there, if they don’t all go blind in dogs days and bite theirselves. They are so poisoned that their bites will be certain death. Their days will soon be done for they are a living on cornmeal which is ground cob and all together this is a true bill for we have been out on picket where they was and where they done their business. It just looked like hog dung—just about as course. And the cavalry took four of them. They had nothing in their haversacks—only meal cob and all.

We have to do picket duty one fourth of the time. We go three miles from cap and stay three days and nights.

For the want of paper, I must close. Write soon and give us the news.

— Joshua Piles to Margaret Piles

Michael write.

1863: Elbridge W. Whitney to his Family

A middle-aged, unidentified Massachusetts soldier from the collection of Dave Morin.

This letter was written by 44 year-old Elbridge Whipple Whitney (1819-1882), the son of William Knowlton Whitney (1795-1868) and Deborah Woodward (18xx-1841). Elbridge was married to Sophia Ann Billings (1823-1873) and together they had two surviving daughters by the time he entered military service in the Civil War.—Frances (b. 1856) and Nellie (b. 1861).

Elbridge was working as a shoemaker in Athol, Worcester county, Massachusetts, when he was recruited in August 1862 into Co. B, 27th Massachusetts Infantry. He remained with the regiment for one year, mustering out in mid-August 1863 on a surgeon’s certificate of disability. Following the war, Elbridge returned to Athol where he resumed work in the shoemaking business.

Elbridge no doubt joined the regiment in New Bern, North Carolina, in time for the Goldsboro Expedition in December 1862 and was among the eight companies of the regiment in Washington, North Carolina, in April 1863 when they were hemmed in by Gen. Daniel H. Hill’s confederates and subjected to a siege. The following letter was written after the siege was lifted and the 27th Massachusetts had just returned to New Bern.

Siege of Washington, N. C., Map, April 1863 (LOC)

This letter is from the private collection of Jim Doncaster and is published by express consent.


Newbern, N. C.
April 26th 1863

Ever dear wife.

It is Sunday & very pleasant. We arrived here last night. We came down by a steamer. We got about halfway & the shaft broke and we had to cast anchor & lay over about three hours until another steamer came along & then we started again and got into Newbern safely.

Dear wife, I hope these few lines will find you and the children all well. I am well & tough.

We hear that the rebs are a getting whipped & I am glad of it, ain’t you? I think you are. I think the war will be closed before long. We have not had our pay yet but we expect it this week. We have a good many troops here now. I don’ know how many for I have not been here long enough to find out yet. I understand that we are a going to stay here to garrison the place. We are in A tents—four of us in a tent. Charles Sears and myself and Major Hogg & Mr. [Addison] Leach, the fifer. Charles is well.

I can’t write much this time for the mail closes at 12 o’clock so I shall have to cut short this letter & I will write a longer one next time.

Kiss the children for me & take a big one yourself. Remember. The war is a going to close now soon. Bear in mind. My love to my two little girls and Mary Turner.

Your husband, — E. W. Whitney

To Sophia A. Whitney

Newbern, North Carolina
April 26th 1863

Ever dear Mother,

I have not forgotten you yet. How do you do now? I am well & tough & hope these few lines will find you the same. We have got back to our old place again to do garrison duty & I am glad of it, ain’t you? Yes, I know you are. The Rebs are hard up, I tell you. There is hundreds of them bare-footed and bare-headed. They don’t have but one-fourth of a pound of meat a day & it is hard at that & four crackers.

Old General [Daniel H.] Hill was the reb general that attacked us to Washington [N. C.] and Old Governor [Zebulon Baird] Vance was there with them & he came very near getting killed. We throwed a shell over there & it burst & very near killing him. I wished it had, don’t you? I know you do.

I shall have to close now for the mail closes at 12 o’clock. Write as soon as you get this. Yours with respect. Your son, — E. W. Whitney

To A R. E. Billings, Athol Depot, Worcester county, Mass.