Letters of Joshua W. Hawkes — Part 3, July 1862 — Dec. 1862

Camp Morewood, N.O., La.
July 6, 1862.

Dear Aunt

I have been intending to write you for several days past. As each day dawned, I’d think “Well I’ll write to Aunt Wealthy today,” but it was so hot I would feel dull — totally disinclined for any kind of mental effort. I make these apologies as a sort of preface to my prosy epistle.

Though in a decidedly “melting mood,” my ideas do not flow very freely. I can think of you this Sabbath afternoon as listening to a good sermon, while I am seated in my old armchair, minus all unnecessary clothing — writing. It seems considerably like Sunday today — it being unusually quiet. I look ’round — many of the boys are writing, some reading, others are asleep, while others are sitting pensive and alone, thinking of absent friends — occasionally, an oath or ribald jest reaches your ear, but on the whole it is quiet. Go where they will, N.E. boys still entertain a respect for the Sabbath. It is now more than two months since I first set foot in New Orleans, during this time I have seen every variety of “Secesh” and become acquainted with many of the peculiar customs of this modern Babylon. All of Butler’s troops are known as Yankees, to them a term of reproachful contempt, but to us the greatest compliment. I often think of a piece cf poetry I have seen somewhere in times past, the first verse is quite a propos. “Yes, Sir! I’m a Yankee born. I glory in the name. You spoke it in contemptious [sic] scorn; To me it breathes of fame.”

Here let me say Gen. Butler’s order in relation to the ladies seems to have been made much handle of by Beauregard and the Rebel press. On our first occupation of the City, the soldiers were subject to repeated insult in the way of taunts, flaunting Secesh flags, and even spitting in one’s face. Let me relate a case in point. While on guard at St. Charles, I have often seen “animated crinoline” on passing on the sidewalk, or meeting a soldier, take particular pains to turn her head and hold her nose. These things were of every day occurrence. Butler could not put up with it — hence his order. Everything has been remarkably peaceable within the City for the past few weeks. Business is reviving a little and soon as the river is open, which must be soon, New Orleans will be ready for trade again. The “Glorious Fourth” was observed here by an address in Concert Hall by Rev. W. C. Duncan before the N. O. Union Association, &c. There was no great parade of the military, as I had feared there would be. After Dress Parade, our Reg’t fired a few rounds of blanks. Thus closed our Celebration as we thought, but the long roll sounded about eleven, when we had to march downtown. It seems rather romantic to be roused in the dead of the night by the clang of the drums, when we tumble out, forming as soon as possible and march to the Parade Ground. It is anything but fun. ‘Tis surprising to see how quick a sleeping Reg’t will form in Battle array ready for anything.

Gen’l Butler seems to administer justice much to the satisfaction of all — even his bitterest enemies are forced to admit the wisdom of his decisions. Last week, Mrs. Phillips was sentenced to solitary confinement on Ship Island for insulting language at the funeral of Lt. De Kay — jeering at his remains as they passed her house. A man was also sentenced to the same place for having a skeleton which he exhibited as the bones of a “Yankee Soldier”. Again another for having a crucifix made of a Federal’s bones. Can it be that this is America? In the chivalrous South, too! Well may Mr. Sumner speak in such scathing language of the barbarism of slavery.

My health is still good. Shall do my best to keep it so. There are few sick in our Co. “Tis as healthy as any in the Regiment. The Mississippi is now open; only Vicksburg is not yet ours. Com. Farragut is up there with his gunboats actively bombarding the City. I trust they will burn it down. They deserve it for their obstinacy.

You well know the national airs of the North. What do you suppose the South have to take the place of Hail Columbia, Star Spangled Banner, Yankee Doodle, &c.? Their principal song is The Bonny Blue Flag. This is the chorus: “Hurrah! Hurrah! for Southern rights, Hurrah! Hurrah! for the Bonny Blue Flag that bears a single star.” Every little dirty brat in the street is singing it, particularly if a Yankee happens to be going by.  I often think of you and mother living quietly together, trust you take a good deal of comfort. Where is Mr, Benson? Who occupies your farm this season? I was very glad to receive mother’s letter of the 24th ult, on the 5th inst. Several of the boys remarked they wished their mother would write them as long a letter. It is sad to think of the severe loss of the Tenth, but such are the fortunes of war. I expect to return to Mass. one of these days, but ’tis a long look ahead. Wonder if Uncle Thomas is still up to Mobile. Good by. I am always glad to hear from my friends. I remain

Yours truly,

J. W. Hawkes
Co. C, 31 M. V.
New Orleans, La.


Camp Morewood, July 18, 1862

Dear Mother

Most of my time in the past two weeks has been occupied in making out our Pay Rolls, thus leaving but very little time to spend in writing letters, however much I might be inclined. Sergt. T. L. Scott has heretofore made them out, but since he has been reduced to a Corporal, Capt. came ’round one morning with “Hawkes I would like to have you go to work on those rolls — Don’t hurry, stop when tired, and you are excused from all duty till they are completed.” The whole five are done and have been sent to the Col. I had a good place to write over to the Capt.’s quarters, when tired could lay back on a sofa and read from quite a library in the room. One day, chanced to find a young lady’s journal. Knowing my peculiar taste for reading old papers, you can readily imagine I took a favorable opportunity to “Confiscate” the same and have enjoyed reading it very much. I fear however that I am rather wandering.

I suppose you get in the papers all the general news in relation to the posture of affairs in New Orleans. The New York Herald has an able correspondent who writes quite pithy; then letters of T.L.S, in the Gazette & Courier. I trust you admire them, for we don’t. It seems so supremely ridiculous to call the 31st “Butler’s Pet Reg.” I know not where the authority came from. Last week, it was confidently reported here that Richmond had fallen, then came the news by The Nation up to July 2d, that our troops had been obliged to fall back — this filled the heart of Secesh with joy, though owing to the vigilance of the troops, it has not manifested itself in any outward demonstrations.

In addition to the regular guard duty, we now have a detail to patrol the City, as also a few men every few days to guard at the Post Qr. Master’s and a sword factory, recently taken possession, with a large quantity of unfinished sabres which Uncle Sam is now finishing up. The patrol are to arrest all soldiers without passes and disperse all crowds of more than three persons. If anyone offers you or the U.S. Government any insult, to try the effect of a “Minnie” [Minie] on his constitution.

There are at present only three Regts. in the City, viz: Mass. 26th, 31st, Ct. 13th, with Capt. Thompson’s 1st Maine Battery. The rest of the troops have gone up the river. Gen’l Butler having obtained authority to raise several Regt’s of La. Vols., recruiting is going on quite extensively just at present. Lt. Andrews is recruiting a Company with the expectation of the Captaincy. I trust he may obtain it. I notice in this morning’s Delta — Rumors from Rebel sources that Gen. Grant has come down down in the rear and taken Vicksburg — if not already taken, she cannot hold out much longer. Then Hurrah for the free navigation of the old Miss. again, and as a natural concomitant provisions will not be held at such exhorbitant [sic] prices, as at present. Though constantly arriving from the North, flour is from $16 to $20 per bbl., butter 30 to 40 [cents], cheese 30 [cents], eggs 50 [cents] per doz., dried apples 10 to 15 [cents], &c., &c.

It would amuse you greatly to see the little conveniences that the boys have improvised in their quarters showing the inventive genius of the universal Yankee nation. Don’t laugh! In our house we have two armchairs, one table, one cupboard. Our kitchen utensils consist of one frying pan, one pitcher, two tin cups, knife, fork, and spoon, plates, &c. Shall I tell you how we made the chairs? We took two beef bbls., cut off a few staves down half, put in a bottom at that point and the thing is done. The lower story is used as a general storeroom. With a blanket to sit on, ’tis not a bad institution. The table is also homemade. You can get quite a piece of ice for a picayune. Lemons are about three for ten cents. We keep sugar constantly on hand — that comes cheap. Just go into a sugar warehouse with a haversack and if “Massa” isn’t around you can easily get it filled. A pitcher of ice cold lemonade is as good a drink as you can have here. We get soft bread every day now. If we do not wish to eat it, can readily dispose of it at 15 [cents] per loaf. They have chosen me cook of our firm. I warm over beans, making bean soup, boil sweet potatoes, fry fish, make corn starch pudding, &c.&c. Bought some dried apples yesterday and had some bread and apple sauce for supper. It made me think a little of my mother’s apple sauce. I expect to become an adept in all kinds of housework ere my return. Did I ever tell you of the Mississippi water with which the City is supplied? I had heard the comparison “muddy as the Mississippi,” but never realized the force of it till I came here. ‘Tis as near like the water of dirty brook after a long rain as anything I can think of. It really tastes gritty till settled. Most of the buildings have cisterns for catching rain water. With the frequent showers of the past week, we can get plenty of it.

It is real sultry, Dog days weather now — only very much hotter than N.E. It is not the extreme intensity of the heat that is so prostrating, but ’tis so continuous. Clad in woolen shirts, woolen pants, and woolen coats buttoned up to the chin and burdened furthermore with belt and cartridge box containing “forty rounds,” I wonder not that we sweat, but that we have not entirely dissolved. We now have a washerwoman. I am very willing to pay for it, for if there is one thing I hate to do more than another ’tis to wash. Our washerwoman is the most of a lady I have seen in New Orleans, to be accounted for from the fact that she is a Yankee. Her story is rather a sad one. Some 17 months ago, her husband came here, got into business, when his health failed. Through all dark days of Secession here, though closely watched, they — or rather the wife — struggled on, fearless in her advocacy of Union principles, with a husband in the last stages of consumption, and three children. Almost as a last resort, she came to the Yankee soldiers who help her what they can by giving her their washing. She came from New Hampshire formerly.

There has nothing very noteworthy occurred in our Regiment lately. There was a report one night last week that the Rebels had drove in our pickets above the City, so every man was examined and furnished with the required 40 rounds of ammunition. We were ordered to lay by our arms, but nothing happened. On this sheet you will find a picture of a greater part of the City of New Orleans. That large building near the centre with a dome is St. Charles Hotel. Annunciation Sq. is away toward the left corner. That long street with trees on the left side is Canal Street, the business street. At the foot near the river is the Custom House.

July 19, 1862

I had just left my writing yesterday p.m. to black my shoes for Dress Parade when the mail was distributed. I was so fortunate as to receive yours of the 6th inst. Please accept my sincere thanks for the “picture of that old woman” I will keep it to remember my Mother by. I hope you will not be over-anxious about me. Oh! that we might all by faith take hold of that promise “All things shall work together for good to those that love God.” I often think of those lines, “If God be ours, we’re travelling home, Though passing through a vale of tears.” It makes me sad to think how many brave men have gone to their long home within the past few months. I trust however that God has some wise plan in view, though it looks dark to us. We live altogether too heathenish here. Our Chaplain is nothing but a useless incumbrance. He holds no meetings on Sabbath or any time and is rarely seen by us. The less we say of him, the better. Capt. Lee never speaks to his men of any hereafter. I do not wish to judge any man, but Rev. J. W. Lee, M.E. Minister and Capt. J. W. Lee in New Orleans are two different men. I like him as a Captain very well. Do still have prayer meetings in the vestry. I wish I might attend one. I notice in the Gazette of June 30, a letter from “J.L.” forwarded for publication by his folks. I do not aspire to “Newspaper correspondence” — though I have the assurance to think [I] could write equal to T.L.S. Have you ever heard anyone speak of his letters? I wrote in my last in reference to sending me a box of things. Send me what you think I will most need, some cotton shirts and cotton stockings. I have a good many I can write to, but will write Cousin Wealthy. Do you hear from David? I don’t. I got a letter from Willie Tyler, last week. Please send Weekly Republican as soon as you have read them. What is the news in C[harlemont], now? Were any of the Charlemont boys killed in the last battle before Richmond? I have about concluded to follow the example of one of our Sergts., marry a Creole gal, so you need not look to see me home right away. Where is Mr. Farnsworth? Have not heard from him since [he] came here. Good bye. Love to all, ever yours, J. W. Hawkes Co. C, 31 M.V., New Orleans.


Camp Morewood, New Orleans, La.
August 7, 1862

My dear Mother

For nearly a month we have not received a bit of mail, but this week three steamers, the Creole, Blackstone & Roanoke have arrived with mails up to the 25th ult. I have so often told you how very welcome Mother’s letters are. I will only stop to say that yours of the 22nd came safe to hand.

Having been on guard for the past twenty-four hours, consequently feeling rather dull. I cannot promise you a very interesting epistle. The Roanoke sails Sunday, so I must write a little anyway. Since my last, everything has moved on in the same quiet way. Not so, however, up the river. Not long since the ram Arkansas made a rather unexpected debut near Vicksburg, making our fleet considerable trouble. The fleet have been pouring into the town by odd jobs for some time, but she is not yet ours. Quite a large Rebel force, composed of Gen. Lovell’s troops that found it so convenient to “skedaddle” when Com. Farragut appeared off the City of New Orleans, are in that vicinity. Gen. Williams occupies Baton Rouge. This was the posture of affairs on Tuesday. Yesterday morning, several of our boys, who are standing guard at Gen. Butler’s every night, reported a messenger arriving in the night reporting a hard fight at Baton Rouge and Gen. Williams was killed.

I could not believe [it] till the order came to Co. C to pack knapsacks ready to march at a moment’s notice — then concluded it must be so. We are still here, though no passes are granted outside the lines to officers or men. It was a little amusing to see our boys yesterday when the order came to pack up, some were very exultant over the prospect of a chance to fight, others quietly went about picking up their treasures as speedily as possible. Myself was among the latter class, though had got so well settled in our quarters, it seemed like leaving home. I felt a little sad even though there was a prospect of a chance to “draw a bead” on a “live Secesh” and see a little real fighting. From what I am able to learn it seems that about four o’clock on the morning of the 5th, a large force under command of Gens. Lovell and Breckenridge — John C. Breckenridge — attached our forces. There was great loss on both sides, but the enemy were repulsed. Gen. Lovell is reported killed. Gen. Breckenridge as having lost an arm. It is said of Nim’s Mass. Battery, “They thrice repulsed the foe and did them great slaughter.” Brig. Gen. Thos. Williams was killed. He went into battle with the coolness of a man going to church. All the regiments there were with us on Ship Island, so it makes more of a personal matter of the affair than it otherwise would. While there, the 31st was in Williams’ Brigade, beside his quarters were near our camp so I remember him distinctly as a fine noble looking officer and a Christian man. During our stay on the Island, he was regularly to be found at our Sunday service. Men of principle are exceeding scarce in this department. Our fleet have gone up so I trust they will be able to bag the Rebels, yet. Let me whisper very carefully one thing. In case a force attacks this City, Gen. Butler will give each soldier a fire ball telling him to mark his house and fire it. You may think this only a story, but ’tis certain they are making the balls for something. My prayer is, if the time is to come when we are to meet the foe in deadly conflict, I may be able to acquit myself worthy of the town and county from which I came.

I notice in a late number of the Gazette & Courier an account of an enthusiastic “War Meeting” in Charlemont. It speaks of a “patriotic young lady” subscribing $50.00 to aid the volunteers. Be sure and write me who that was. I am glad to learn that the town has furnished her quota so promptly. So Thomas Taylor has gone. I knew he would want to but did not know his parents would consent. Do you know who Capt. Seth Maxwell intends having as his Orderly Sergt? There have been several promotions in Co. C of late. Orderly Sergt. T. L. Scott was reduced to a Corporal and sent down to the U. S. Barracks to drill recruits for the La. Regt. now raising here. He managed to get in Lieut., so is with us no more. Wonder if he will still write for the Gazette? 2nd Sergt. Asa F. Richards was last week promoted to Orderly. Corporal S.H. Bardwell to 5th Sergt. Private Joshua Leavitt to Corporal. This week, 1st Lt. John Cushing having resigned, 2nd Lt. E.P. Andrews is promoted to 1st Lt., and Serg. Richards to 2nd do. Leavitt has been chosen as commissary of the company and there remains a vacancy for two corporals. This is yet to be filled. Two weeks ago, I was on the sick list for a week with bowel complaint, but am now well as ever. Our surgeon treats diarrhoea rather peculiarly. First, he gives a dose of castor oil or salts, and feeds you on meal gruel. I at last succeeded in checking the disease with a medicine I made of equal parts Syr., Rhubarb, spr. Camphor, and Paregoric.

There is a prospect of flour being a little cheaper here now as over 15,000 bbls, arrived on the steamer this week. Last week, we got new caps and brass scales for the shoulders, making more brass to keep bright. It improves the appearance of the Regiment very much, though we have enough to do now. I think it must be that the box you sent me is down to the Express Office, but we can’t get down to see. By the inventory, judge [it] will live a while, at least. The 8th Vt. is now over the river. I will try and find out Richardson the first opportunity. What is the number of the P.O. box to which David has his letters directed? Do you hear from Mary? Anything you can write is very interesting to me. My sincere regards to all inquiring friends. Please excuse haste. Write often.

Your soldier boy

J. W. Hawkes
Co. C, 31 Mass. Vols.
New Orleans, La.


 Camp Morewood, Aug. 16, 1862

Dear Mother

I wrote you a short letter last week also one to Francis’ folks a few days later, but knowing you are always glad to hear from your absent son I will again be so foolish as to spoil a few sheets of paper, which I shall entrust to the care of “Uncle Sam’s Mails” expecting that it will sometime reach the quiet town of Charlemont far away in the “Old Bay State”. Upon such a sweltering day as this, I think “with longing heart and strong desire” Oh! for a draught of water from the spring on the old homestead. Then let me spread my blanket under that large maple out near Mr. Taylor’s and, after a good nap, I would call over and see mother a little while. It being about noon, I can readily imagine she would be getting dinner. There being only two in the family, perhaps [you] would not be cooking anything, though I am very sure you would find a good cup of tea. I am a Yankee (Secesh calls us D-d Yankees) so you need not wonder if I have guessed pretty near. I hope my last letter has not been the occasion of any undue anxiety on my account. The Mass. 31st still occupy their old quarters at Camp Morewood, as secure as at any time since the first night we stretched our weary limbs on the flag stones which compose the floor of the Custom House. We hear reports every day that the Rebels are planning the recapture of New Orleans, yet these rumors are so extravagant that, like most “camp stories,” we believe but little of them. From what I can learn, there is but little danger of an attack here, except in the event of the capture of Baton Rouge, which (I give it only as my private opinion) I think they will undertake, notwithstanding their former warm reception. It is certain that the Rebels are in force near Vicksburg. I suppose ‘ere this you have seen a full account of the Battle of Baton Rouge — one of the hardest fought of any during the present war, yet resulting in the repulse and retreat of the enemy.

Being down town Wednesday, I took the opportunity to go on board the Diana to see the Rebel Prisoners. There were some fifty of them and a hardy looking set of fellows. They were mostly Kentuckians and Louisianians with some Albamians [sic]. There were two or three of the former as rough specimens of humanity as ever I saw. Only a very few seemed glad to be captured, the rest had no hesitation in expressing their determination to fight us if they could get a chance. When first brought down their clothing was filthy in the extreme — it was of all sorts, few having anything like a uniform. They received donations of clothing so as to be able to look quite respectable. They had been kept on 1/4 rations for some time. Knowing we had a large quantity of commissary stores at Baton Rouge, they were very willing to go and take them. The leaders assured them that they should take breakfast in Baton Rouge. They found it hot and served up in a style they did not relish. These prisoners will probably soon be sent down to the Forts or to Ship Island. I think likely to the former place. The St. James Hospital is filled alike with wounded friend and foe who receive the same care. The Marine Hospital is filled (some 700) with sick brought from up the river — one of our boys who is on guard there was up to camp this morning. He describes it, as the saddest place he was ever in, the men being literally wasted away from exposure, &c., many having what is called the swamp fever. I do not know that there is any more sickness in our Regiment than there has been for some time. My health still continues good, which in the main, I attribute to a good bath every morning with a frequent change of clothing. Then when obliged to lose considerable sleep, I take the opportunity to make it up as soon as duty will allow. In one respect, I am my mother’s own boy possessing the faculty of going to sleep in the daytime as well as at night.

Thursday, Charlie and myself took occasion to go over to Algiers to get some melons. The sun beat down so hot we several times wished we had not come — we had been foolish enough to leave the road and strike out into the Plantations — we passed through field after field, all exhibiting the most careless culture. At length, [we] reached the shadow of a large oak, where we halted, having the good fortune to find several other soldiers out on the same benevolent object. Their scouts soon came in with a lot of musk and water melons. We charged on them with our knives and, for some time, the carnage was fearful. We  ate and ate till full to repletion then started for home which we were so fortunate as to reach in safety, though tired. Our days’ adventure did not end here; our Co. was ordered to go down and guard the Battery that night. [We] were divided into squads as pickets, so had to be up all night. That was a long weary night, so hot and the “Skeeters” were merciless. Next time I visit the Algerines, may it be on some day when we don’t have to go out on Picket at night. ‘Twas about nine last evening, and I had just pulled off my stockings preparatory to retiring, when the Long Roll beat; we all hurried on our clothing as soon as possible, seized our guns, and were soon on the march to report at The General’s Headquarters. Many were the whispers of — “What do you suppose it is?”  Where are we going?”  The General had ordered no more Long Roll, except in case of an attack, so we felt quite confident that there was a row somewhere. Arriving at the General’s, we halted and soon marched back to our quarters, it being only a false alarm. Some rockets were sent up which were mistaken for signals. It was past midnight ‘ere Camp Morewood had gone to rest. Gen. Butler issued another admirable order a few days ago. It requires all citizens to deliver up all their deadly weapons, giving so many days to do it in. A great many weapons of all kinds are daily being brought in to the Commanders of the several Regiments. I sincerely hope we may have a chance, by and by, of searching for some of these concealed weapons of war.

The weather has been very hot this week, with not a bit of rain. This is fine weather in a sanitary point of view though exceedingly enervating even to a well man. I was reading this morning in the Gazette of date, another of T.L.S.’ letters. Speaking of the Fourth of July here, he says Nims’ Battery is at the Tivoli Circle. It went up to Baton Rouge early in May and has been there ever since.

So Old Charlemont was the first town in Little Franklin to raise her quota of men. I am glad she is redeeming herself, yet I think if there is any praise to be awarded it should be to those who enlisted without any inducements in the shape of Bounties, &c., &c. I have in this connection several questions to ask which I would thank any one to answer. 1st. What is to be the future policy of this war? Is it a war for Freedom or Slavery? Who is to blame for the sacrifice of so many men by throwing up trenches in Chickahominy Swamp? If we do not take the responsibility of freeing and arming the slaves, may we not expect the South will soon do so? People who are quietly pursuing their usual avocations at the North do not realize how terribly in earnest the South really are. They make the war their business. Anything in relation to the new Regiments raising in Mass., where encamped, or where destined for, is peculiarly interesting to me. Sergt. Wm. Patch of Co. G met with a sad end Wednesday. He was sick at St. James Hospital and quite crazy, so he just jumped out of a window three stories from the ground, and as a natural consequence was dashed to pieces. He was much esteemed in his Company.

What is the news in Charlemont these days? How are all its various classes of people? I am glad to learn that Esq. Tyler is so actively engaged in the recruiting business. Of course, none of the girls are getting married, these days, for all the smart young men have enlisted ‘ere this. Present my kindest regards to any ladies young or old who may express any interest in my welfare. I desire above all an interest in the prayers of all my brethren in Christ that I may live near the side of Jesus. I sometimes think it is no use to try to live a Christian. I read my Bible so rarely, and do so many things I am ashamed of, that I cannot but think if I were Christs would I live so. But I will look up for Christ says I will give you rest. I hear a rumor this evening that President Lincoln has called 300,000 additional troops to be supplied by immediate draft. Is it so? ‘Twill take those who have been waiting to get their courage up to the “sticking point”. Leavitt and myself have not yet received that box, but hope to soon. Do you hear from David’s people? What is the number of his P.O. box? My regards to all the uncles and aunts, cousins, &c., out West. How is Frank and his family thriving? Has he made any improvements on the old farm? Much love to all friends. Tomorrow is my birthday, which I shall spend by going on guard while you will be at church. Taps are beating and I must close. Good night. Ever your son,

J. W. Hawkes
Co. C, 31 Mass. Vols., New Orleans, La.

Monday a.m., August 18

Dear Mother – I was on guard yesterday and did not seal up my letter, so will add a few lines more. We are under marching orders to move at a moment’s notice. I do not wish to alarm you, but ’tis the opinion of the officers that there must be an engagement soon in the vicinity of Carrolton, some eight miles above. I do not venture an opinion. The lines thus far have fallen to us in very pleasant places for which I am thankful. If, before you shall hear from me again, I should be called Home from the bloody battlefield, may you hear I fell with my face to the foe. Concerning the future, I can only embody as my own sentiments, a little scrap clipped from a newspaper, which is peculiarly touching. Write soon. Good by. Ever your son, Joshua.


 23d Aug., 1862

Dear Mother

It is now past ten o’clock and we have orders to start at twelve for Fort Jackson, but I will snatch a few moments to scratch a few lines to you. It was only Tuesday that our Company left Camp Morewood on very short notice and came down here where we were anticipating a pretty easy time. Being Provost Guard, the whole company only went on guard once in four days, beside having lots of fun in seizing arms, &c., &c. Three Cos. of the 31st went to Fort Pike the other day. The rest of us go today to Fort Jackson. No one relishes the idea at all, though it is getting cooler so ’twill not be as sickly down there now. Yet we shall be apt to meet with the fever and ague and it may shake us up. It’s no use grumbling — we’ve got to go. There is a great deal of movement among the military here now. Baton Rouge has been burnt and evacuated by our forces, which are now at Carrolton. I was sent up there yesterday on business and don’t want to go again. Gen. Phelps’ camp is crowded with contrabands. There may be an attack in this vicinity soon, but there is not the probability there was a few days since. We are well fortified at Carrolton. We received that box Tuesday — some bottles broken, otherwise in good order. Good-by. Write soon. Direct

J. W. Hawkes, Co. C, 31 M.V., New Orleans, La.


Headquarters Co. C.
Corner Canal & Camp Sts.
26 Aug. 1862

Dear Mother

I dropped you a hasty line the other day just as I supposed we were on the very eve of starting for Port Jackson. We have not gone yet, though advertised to start at 9 a.m. tomorrow. The mail by steamer Fulton closes this p.m., so I will write a little more for the sake of driving off the Blues than expecting to say anything of interest.

I was seated Tuesday a.m. (19) in our comfortable quarters at the cotton press when the order came to be ready to march in five minutes — so we had all the pleasure of a fatiguing march down town. We relieved Co. I Provost Guard, they with Cos. F & G leaving for Fort Pike that afternoon. We occupy several rooms on the second and third stories and we congratulate ourselves on a good time coming. The duty was the whole company on guard once in four days, stationed at different places under the command of the “Non Coms.” Our first experience was on Thursday — being one of the squad stationed at the Provost Marshall’s office, I had a little fun. Had the pleasure of going out with a Lt. searching for arms. At the last place, there was no one in but an old woman, some 65, and a colored servant. She was so turbulent that we just shut her up in one of the rooms till the search was over. She was a regular “Secesh” up to the ears.

The rest of our regiment have gone down to the Forts. Not having been relieved from here by any other company, we have not yet gone. Yesterday morning, we were to leave in the afternoon, then we were to go in the morning, now ’tis tomorrow morning. If we are going to leave, I trust it may be soon for I sigh for a little rest, something having kept me going most all the time. I am not very well, but think I will come out all right in a few days. I don’t relish the idea of going down to the Forts, having had a kind of dread from the stories of the 26th Boys, but then we were then in the sickliest part of the [blank]. I trust the anticipation may be much worse than the realisation. Things continue quiet in this City. The news of the defeat of Stonewall Jackson has made considerable talk here. I have had no news from the North for some time. I know I ought to get more letters than I receive. So they have had to go to drafting. I can think of several it would [do] me good, if they had to go. Have there any Mass. Regiments been sent down to Gen. Butler? I hear so, though none have arrived. I thank you for that box, though [I] have not fully discussed its contents yet. Please write soon. Your son

J. W. Hawkes, Co. C, 31 M.V.
New Orleans, La.

With love to all.


Fort Jackson, Sep. 1, 1862

Dear Mother

I wrote you two short letters last week which you have probably received. I do not think I am really owing you a letter, but am feeling so “blue’* today that by letting a little of it leak out I hope to feel better. Our company left the City Wednesday noon, with “bag and baggage” on the river steamer Ceres. As we steamed down the old Mississippi leaving the “Crescent City” far behind, I began in some measure to realise that we were again to try some of the stern realities of a soldier’s life. I did not enjoy the scenes as when we went up the river in the spring. Then it had a shade of novelty about it which the monotonous fields of cane now fail to afford. We reached Fort Jackson about nine p.m., but did not disembark till the next morning. The cooks made a little coffee and with hard bread, we essayed to make a breakfast. Moved up to the Fort in the course of the morning, then came the task of pitching our tents. We are not really in the Fort, being on the parapet around the outside. The companies here first were fortunate enough to get into barracks inside.

Fort Jackson is quite a fort, I assure you. Its defensible qualities are so great, I can but wonder that even our navy could succeed in taking it. The Fort proper covers an area of two acres surrounded by a moat filled with water — very deep too. From the water to the top of the wall is not far from thirty feet. The Fort has now only some 60 guns. Our guns made fearful havoc. I have seen places where the shells went through wall 18 ft. thick and large holes are quite frequent where the large shells buried themselves in the earth. The inside is choked with rubbish which is rapidly being cleared out by the contrabands, of which there are a good many here, living in huts down by the shore. The site of the Fort is all made land, the surrounding country being nothing but a soft swamp filled with rushes, bushes, &c., &c. The moat is literally filled with alligators who reign supreme, it being a penal offence to molest them as they consume the refuse, &c. I have seen them here 15 ft. long. In appearance they resemble a great log except when they open their mouths. The duty here is mostly guard duty, on which we must be pretty vigilant as there are about 50 prisoners confined here.

I am not very well — the change of location and water has given me the diarrhoea. The medicine that Uncle Stephen was so kind as to send was all broken. Our doctor’s remedy for such complaints is a dose of castor oil. He is an old Putty-head, anyway. Don’t worry on my account. [I] think I will win out right, but I always mean to tell just how I am. I know you think of me. I often think of you and wonder when will this war end? Those sheets you sent me are very acceptable. It rained considerable yesterday and is today what may be called rather wet. How the rain goes pit-a-pat on the old tent. But goodby. Much love to all. Be sure and write soon who have been drafted from Charlemont? Is Seth Maxwell a Captain in the 34th M.V.? I remain, Ever your son

J. W. Hawkes, Co. C, 31 M.V., New Orleans, La.


Fort Jackson, La.
Sept. 15, ’62

Dear Mother

Methinks I can hear the bells ringing for church, and see the people, some in vehicles and others on foot, wending their way thither — most of them are “old familiar faces” though some are not there. Would I were one of the number — though not with you bodily, I am in spirit. There is a kind of a calmness brooding over the face of nature today. A good breeze is blowing up from the Gulf, which is really reviving. It reminds me very much of a day in the “Indian Summer,” though the sun is warmer and I don’t see the woods decked in such glorious hues as at the North. And the apples, cider and pumpkin pies are needed to make it seem natural. I will not praise the weather longer, for tomorrow it may be “regular dog days” weather. The weather is as fickle here as a girl of sixteen.

But I am wandering from the sober strain with which I began. Yours of the 16th of August was received the 6th, and a few days ago I received one from Mr. Farnsworth. I had been wishing to hear from him, so it was very welcome. My last, if I remember rightly, was rather a dolorous epistle. I have got well of my diarrhoea and my health is as good as at any time this season.

I have an appetite like a bear. You had ought to see me at dinner — you would think I had an attack of consumption. I am getting quite reconciled to life at Fort Jackson, though it is by no means a charming location. Yet, it is a great deal better to put a cheerful face on the inconveniences for they are more than we deserve, I sometimes think. The 31st has never been in any engagement to try her mettle, so she is not spoken of as other Mass. Regts. that have seen active service. Hope I do not say this in a murmuring spirit, but it is very gratifying to a soldier to see something in the newspapers praising his Regiment. For her many virtues, Co. C has lately been assigned the position of “Color Company” by order of Maj. Gen. Benj. F. Butler. Old Ben is sensible of the assiduous care with which we guarded him at “The St. Charles” as his body guard, which position we should hold now, had it not been for the drunkenness of our then 1st Lieut. It would not be surprising if we should obtain the place again sometime. Life here is far more monotonous than at the City.  Co. D is at work on the guns and are going to drilling with them, so there are only five companies to do the guard duty. This is rather severe, not so much the duty as the pesky “Skeeters.” One has to tuck up his net pretty thoroughly around his bunk in order to get much sleep when off duty, so you can readily imagine that totally exposed to their merciless assaults he don’t sleep any.

There are a good many sick here, some however only to get rid of going on guard, then are as well as ever, so they will come on pretty often. When not on duty, all one has to do is to read, write, scour his equipments, or sleep, for he cannot even go down to the river without a pass from the Captain, countersigned by the Major. There is a Dress Parade every afternoon at 5 1/2 o’clock. I have written quite a number of letters of late and the time does not lag very heavily. One day last week, I got a pass and went up the river to get some oranges — about two miles above there is a store where they keep a little of everything. Most of the way thither is through the woods and along on the levee, which in many places is broken, making rather a hard road to travel, particularly through the woods where the path is lined on each side with weeds higher than one’s head. Some of the boys stopped at a plantation just above the store. The rest of us pushed along to the next where there was another fine orange orchard. We got leave to pick up what we could find on the ground and, there having been a smart shower that day, we had no difficulty in filling our haversacks. We had a very pleasant, walk home through the mire, with an unbeclouded sun beating down on our heads with trop1cal fervor. Oranges are very plenty. Though not ripe yet, they are not very sour. The trees are not more than 15 ft. high with thick branches. I think I have seen trees with at least 25 bushels on them. They will be ripe about the middle of next month though they will begin to pick them for packing before long now.

Quite a number of new prisoners were sent down here last week, mostly guerillas, that in my opinion ought to have been shot as soon as captured. Your humble servant has been promoted to the exalted position of – CORPORAL. The duties are a little less than those of a Private, but I accepted it principally as showing the confidence of the Captain. I should never have written it, only I knew you would hear of it some way. Old Charlemont has now three “Non Coms” in the 31st. When I get three stripes, am a going to send you my picture. We live as well as could be expected. Have fresh beef about once a week and soft bread every day. I can go anything except the salt horse and coffee which is decidedly hard. We can’t get vegetables as at the City. The weather for the past week has been pretty warm with “catching” showers — the nights cool toward morning and damp with a kind of miasm arising from the swamps, very friendly to fever and ague. We have to take a dose of quinine and whiskey every morning as a preventive. I have not taken much of it. Do you think it advisable to take it? Some of the boys think it makes them nervous.

Who ever wrote that John Hillman was dead, or Charlie Hathaway very sick? Hillman is a still, and rather eccentric kind of man, though to all appearances enjoying fair health. Hathaway has had the diarrhoea considerable, but is doing duty now, I believe. Capt. Lee is as fat as a pig and as good-natured a captain as any in the Regiment. The U.S. Mail Steamer Creole went up this forenoon and the steamer Matanxas has just run up by, also with mail. By papers from the former we learn that there had been a great battle at Bull Run resulting in the fearful slaughter of the Rebels by the combined forces of Pope, McClellan, and Burnside. When our mail is sent down from New Orleans, I hope we may get big news. Three cheers for our side, if we have really began [sic] to do something. Who have gone from Charlemont to fill up the last levy? I read that the 34th have gone to Washington and are to join Banks Division — they have probably seen “active service” ‘ere this. I see by the roll that there are several Charlemont boys in her ranks. Hope Tommy Taylor will come back, if no one else.

I thank you much for the clothing you sent me, though I suppose it is more healthy to wear woolen shirts now than cotton. I know the latter feel better; also those cotton socks. That cheese, though a little mouldy, tastes real good with bread and is not quite gone yet. Thank you for the ginger. Wish you had sent me a little tea. Can’t you, in a letter? That straw hat is my constant companion. Who braided it? I must not forget those elastics which are just the thing. We expect to be paid off soon, when I shall send you a little more money. I have only had one letter from Mary. T answered that and wrote another last week. Did Hannah ever receive a “Secesh letter” from me written in French? I want the translation. Love to all friends. Hope you will write as often as possible. Your far off son

J. W. Hawkes, Co. C, 31 Mass. Vols., N.O., La.


Fort Jackson, La., Sept. 28, 1862

Dear Mother

Another Sabbath forenoon finds me feeling kind of lonely and thinking perhaps a few lines from me would be read with pleasure. I will try to drive dull care away by scribbling a little. We have now been here one month. It does not seem long to look back upon it, but the future does not look very encouraging. I wish I could learn the lesson of contentment that the Apostle Paul speaks of when he says, “I have learned in whatever situation I am in therewith to be content.” What a happy man he must have been. For the past fortnight, it has done little else than rain. The mud here sticks like putty — it’s not quite knee deep in our tent, but nasty as a pig pen. Today is clear with sunshine, yet it may rain again in less than fifteen minutes. We may expect such weather for the present. I enjoy tenting very well in pleasant weather, but ’tis quite another thing when it rains all the time. Leavitt and myself have been together so much that I miss his constant society, yet I manage to see him quite often. There are 6 in my tent beside myself — as good fellows as the Company will average. We have thus far all managed to get along quite pleasantly. You know I am not naturally inclined to pick a fuss. Life is far more monotonous here than at the City. We were very pleasantly situated there — I realized it then, but not as fully as since we came here. Now you can’t go up or down or even to the river without a pass from your Capt. countersigned by the commanding officer. Going on guard about once in four days with Dress Parade every p.m. are about the only diversions we have. They are drilling some on the big guns these days — when it don’t rain. My health, I consider very good for the place. I have had the fever, but not the ague, yet. For several days, I would have a high fever with severe headache and pain in my bones for several hours in the middle of the day. The Doctor gave me quinine three times per day and I soon came out all right. Have experienced nothing of it for several days past. We take turns in having the “shakes,” being careful to have enough well ones to stand guard. What seems rather singular, most of the “tough” men have the ague first. A few days ago, three of the prisoners got away by swimming the moat. They had not been gone more than ten minutes before their absence was discovered. It was a rainy day, but squads of men were at once sent in pursuit. They were captured some 15 miles down the river, Arriving at the Fort about sunset, they were each treated to a “ball & chain” and consigned to “dark hole” for the night. They have since been engaged in picking brick. Col. Gooding has not been with the Regiment since our Co. went to Annunciation Square — some trouble somewhere. I do not know what, though Col. & Lt. Col. never agreed very well. Well, Col. Gooding joined us again last week — it is said that he is to take command of these Forts, Fort Pike, and Ship Island — that Gen. Dow is going to Pensacola. I have this from good authority, and think it is true. Whether the change will materially affect our fortunes, I cannot tell, but think it will not be likely to hasten our departure.

I suppose the rest of the Regiment will rejoin us before long. Hope we may be sent over to Fort St. Philip. It looks as though there was some land there. The boys grumble awfully about their rations and with good cause. My principal dependence is bread — we draw a loaf every day — generally a mass of half baked dough no more digestible than a stone. I suppose the regular army rations are cooked as well as circumstances will allow, but I don’t see why we don’t have fresh beef often. We only get a little once in a great while. We have not been paid off yet, though most of the troops at the City have. I hardly know what we could do with money here, but it would seem good to feel that you had got some. We got a mail last week — I hoped a letter from Mother, but got none from anyone, not even a paper. Have received two most welcome letters from Mr. Farnsworth since I came here — the last one was received Sept. 21. I wrote him a long letter, yesterday.

The last news from the North, our forces had retreated to Washington after several days severe fighting — Stonewall Jackson had crossed into Maryland, where his army had been nearly annihilated. This lacks confirmation. We are hoping for a good time coming to our arms, but I think God will postpone it till “Ye set my people free”. We do not seem to have any General of marked ability in our army, at least none who are a match for “Stonewall”. I am glad if Gen. McClellan is again at the head of the armies. I enclose a little clipping from the Republican, not that I suppose you have not seen it, but to call attention to several statements it contains when first marked, notice the bravery exhibited, next when it speaks of the men. It was written by one of our Captains. Read it again. How is your health now? I often think of you. The Blackstone is just running by — hope she will bring good news and a letter from you. What is the news in C[harlemont]? How are the young folks? I am glad C. furnished her last quota without drafting. Write often as possible. With much love, Your son

J. W. Hawkes, Co. C, 31 M.V.
New Orleans, La.


Fort Jackson, La., Oct. 18, 1862

My dear Mother:

Three or four mails have arrived bringing, it is true, a few letters from some of the boys, yet none from Mother.
Have been somewhat unwell and consequently inclined to the “blues” so you don’t know how much I wished for a letter from Mother. Now do not torture your minds with the thought that I have been very sick, I have not. Had something of the ague — turn of burning fever every afternoon — then my stomach was out of tune. With little appetite, I have been on the sick list for a week. They gave me quinine and a good clearing out of physic. I am back to duty now, for there is so much playing off sick, I do not wish any such name.

My appetite is not very craving, but hope to be tough, soon. When one has no appetite for the regular rations, he things of Mother to cook him something. I am not be disposed to be discontented, knowing I am tied, and it is altogether better to make the best of it. When will I ever see Old Massachusetts and my friends there, is a question I often ask, but the answer rests only with Him “who knoweth the end from the beginning.” Think it is since my last that Col. O. P. Gooding has taken command of the Regiment again — being a thorough military man, things have to be about up to the square now. There is I assure you a vast difference in officers between those bred in the military life and those taken from the walks of civil life. Col. Gooding being a graduate of West Point and belonging to the Regular Army, he wishes to make us equal in discipline and drill to Regulars. He has a kind of stern, severe way with him, so that his reprimand is by no means a gentle one, nor do you desire its repetition. I have never got “blown up” yet, but do not know how soon I may enjoy such a pleasure. Let me relate an anecdote that will show you some of the characteristics of the man. Passing a soldier on the bridge the other day, the soldier failed to give the proper salute. The Col. turns around with, “Do you know who I am?” “Yes, sir.” “Well, D-d you, salute me then.” The salute being given, he returned it and passed on.

All of the rubbish has been cleared from inside the fort, as they are now putting us through the drill the way it ain’t slow — Non Com drill 9 to 10, Company drill 11 to 12, on big guns 1 to 2 p.m., Battalion Drill 3 to 5, though it generally lasts till dusk. Here at Fort Jackson, we not only have to perform the duties of Infantry, but also of Artillery, as it is necessary for all the guns on the fort to be manned. Co. C has the casemate guns of which there are ten in working order. There are five men to each, beside the gunner, who is either a sergeant or corporal. I have charge of one gun, and a plaguey nuisance it is, too. At least three men must sleep by it every night, and with our other duties, we don’t have the proper time to keep it in order. There is quite a force of guerillas some twenty miles up the river. We have been told how they were coming down to take Fort Jackson. Hope they will come — they may rest assured of a warm reception. Don’t think they are so foolish however.

Only a few nights ago, we had an “Alarm”. There was firing among the pickets, who all came running in — the long roll was beat and all got inside the fort, as soon as possible. We were not long in loading our gun with a “charge of canister” and we stood ready with a “slow match” to touch it off when a signal was given. I thought all the time it was a false alarm, and so it proved, for in the course of half an hour, we were told you can go to bed again, so much for this. I am inclined to think it was a contrived plan to see how quick we could rally. When we came down here, it was said to be for only six days — the time is most up but I do not see any signs of leaving. The Regiment has been so healthy — only two having died and a half dozen or so in the Hospital — and beside we have “slicked it up” so much here, I presume they will think best for us to remain through the winter. I, for one, have stayed long enough. It’s just like a prison here, you can’t even go down to the river without a pass. Going up the river has been stopped long ago, so we are just here. But the drum is beating for roll call, so good night.

Oct. 21 — It is nearly a week since I wrote the above, but have been so busy I had no time to complete it. For several days past, I have been working for the Captain, making out clothing accounts, and the job is not near done, yet. I like the business first rate, as I am excused from all other duty, and for the time being I forget I am a soldier in Fort Jackson.

There is a large plantation some forty miles above here and the Rebel owner is absent. It is now known as “Butler’s Plantation”. Quite a lot of cattle, some cows and calves, also a lot of sheep, hogs, and at least twelve bushels of corn in the ear have been brought down here. The cattle are rather thin,but even such fresh beef is better than salt junk. We hope to make them fatter after a while. There’s lot of sweet potatoes there to harvest by and by.

Monday we had orders to strike our tents and move into the Fort, so most of us are now living in the casemates. It is very much like living down cellar. If we don’t all get the shakes, I shall be glad. My health is first rate now, with a good appetite. The great trouble with us now is we haven’t got any money. The paymaster has been coming down on the next boat for some time past, but somehow he has not got here.

Oranges are first rate now. I manage to get a few by trading off hard bread or soft bread, if I have any. I am in hopes to get so as to like them after a while. I only ate 10 this forenoon. I know they promote my health. You can buy plenty for 10 [cents] per dozen.

Another mail came down yesterday, but no mail for me — not a letter or paper from any one. What does it mean? Are you sick? I cannot help thinking of it. I see in the Gazette of Sept. 29, a letter from Capt. J. W. Lee. What do you think of it? I call it a pretty gassy letter, though I do not think he spoke any too highly of his company.

The weather is delightful now. The days are warm, but the nights quite damp. Indian summer, I suppose. What is the news in C[harlemont]? Leavitt got a letter from his brother who had just gone into camp at Camp Miller. He spoke of their having prayers in their tent every night. Precious little religion do you find in this Regiment. It makes me sad when I take time to think of it. We have had no religious service since we came to New Orleans.
Our Chaplain is at the City running around with the women. When a soldier is liable to be called on at any time when can he read his Bible or attend to devotional exercises?

What is the opinion North as to the length of time the war will continue? How do you all do? What of the Charlemont boys in the 10th? Are they all alive, as also in the new regiments? Do you hear from Tommy Taylor? Much love to all friends, Frank’s folks, etc. Write as often as possible. Excuse haste.

Your affectionate son,

J. W. Hawkes, Co. C, 31 M.V., N.O., La.

Please send me at least 50 c. worth of postage stamps. I can’t get them here and dislike to get my letters franked.


Fort Jackson, Oct. 21, 1862

Dear Mother

I wrote you only last week, but as I was so fortunate Friday morning as to receive a letter from you bearing date of Sept. 26, I think I will write a little more. It is Sunday p.m. and a cold dreary afternoon it is, too. For the past two weeks, the weather has been very pleasant, but yesterday afternoon it suddenly shifted to a high wind and we lay cold all night and it is cold and bleak today, reminding me much of a day in Mass., about the middle of November. You may ask, how do you manage to keep warm — the cooks occupy our casemates with us and they have a fire for cooking, so when the wood is piled high in the fireplace, we keep comparatively comfortable. The cook’s room embraces the inside where the cannon is — a room some thirty feet long and twelve wide — a window at one end, where the gun is run out, a fire place at the other end. We are obliged to have our bunks in the passage leading from the room outside. Hope we will get along if we all try and keep good-natured.

There has not much of interest happened in our isolated little community since my last. Last Thursday morning, there were just one hundred men with forty rounds of cartridges, and blankets were sent up on the “Bee” in charge of the Col., accompanied by one Captain and the Adjt. There were many stories afloat that the Guerillas had committed some murders and they were going up to visit vengeance on them. It proved that they only went up to the plantation to load a lot of sweet potatoes. The end of the expedition was yet to come. About two o’clock that night, I was woke by the long roll. I was mad, for I knew well enough it was only a fake alarm. So I very deliberately put on my pants and shoes, even to tying them up, then loaded my gun. It proved to be only the men returning on the “Bee”. A big thing, but we could not see it.

We live first rate about now — plenty of sweet potatoes, which though I do not like quite as well as Yankee Potatoes, are not bad; roasted they are nice, though it needs a little butter to make them complete. For dinner we had fried fresh beef and gravy and boiled sweet potatoes. With the dinner and roasted potatoes, I feel quite rational. We don’t fare as well, every day. I don’t venture to hazard an opinion as to how long we shall remain here. [I] shall think we are going to leave when I see a Regiment landing to relieve us. If they would only pay us off, I do not know but I had as lief remain here during this winter, as to run our chances though I would like to go up to the City. I am still at work for Captain Lee, making out clothing returns. I shall do my best to prolong the job as long as possible. Speaking of clothing, we have all we want, for Col. Gooding is very particular that the men should keep clean. I think we can, for by a recent order all contrabands that receive rations from the U. S. must wash for the soldiers without pay. We are obliged to change our shirts and wash our bodies at least twice a week.

I have never received my letter from you dated at Conway — it may come after a while. I was glad to know that you had been enjoying a good visit at Conway, Whatelv, &c.

It is a little singular how some folks think every one else’s boys can go to the war, while theirs are too good to go. We are not entirely debarred from all privileges or knowledge of the other world for every steamer is obliged to halt here and the officers are sure to get papers. So if there is any news of importance, we are sure to hear of it. All our mail is obliged to go up to the City, so we do not get that as speedily. I shall write to David’s folks soon now that I know where they are. Who is there left in C[harlemont]? It seems as if almost every one had gone to the war. I hope it may soon be brought to an end, but my expectations are not very sanguine. Please thank Aunt Wealthy for her kind letter. I hope cousin Hannah is better ‘ere this. Much love to all friends. Write often. Your absent son.

Co. C, 31 Mass. Vols., New Orleans


Fort Jackson, Nov. 16, 1862

My dear Mother

I was very glad to get your letter of Oct. 12 last week, and also another a few days ago of a little later date. I had thought to write you last week, but was very busy all day and at night would not get to it.

Let me tell you how we live in our casemates. As I have told you, the cooks occupy the inside, and there are six other boys beside myself, and I have to exercise a general supervision over them — if things are not OK, the blame comes ultimately on me. That’s all right, though. As we always have a good fire, which all the casemates don’t have, it is very natural for the b0ys to come in evenings, and then there is always a lively time till after “Roll Call”. I wish I might say that the conversation was always of an elevating character. One cannot, without [being] in contact with them, realize how easy it is to fall into temptation when far away from Home and the refining influence of female society. But enough of this now, for — something else. We are still at Fort Jackson, despite constant rumors that we are going to leave in a few days. I do not think we ought to complain, for thus far we have been highly favored with good health and have had comparatively few hardships to encounter. I have not put on my knapsack since I came down here, till at Inspection this morning. This is not like the many forced marches that our troops have had to make in Virginia and the North West. We often hear boys muttering that we are doing nothing and wishing that we could go into a fight. I always say keep cool, it will come soon enough. We are holding this fort, which is honor enough for the 31st, without losing half her men on the bloody battlefield. I do not think the 31st will ever dishonor herself or the Old Bay State. We left Mass. with no State colors, but sometime during the summer Gov. Andrews sent them on. A few Sabbaths ago, we had a review after which the colors were presented to the Regiment, the Col. making a neat little speech.

Let me tell you a little story I had from an officer the other day. I don’t pretend to vouch for its truth. When Gen. Weitzel was about to organize his brigade, Gen. Butler says what Regt. do you wish on the right? The 31st Mass. That is the very one you can’t have, was the reply of “Old Ben.”

You have probably ‘ere this, seen an account of Gen. Weitzel’s expedition into the Oppelousas country. It was quite a success. He had two nigger regts. They would not stop fighting, plunging through swamps where the officers were unable to follow. The third colored regiment is now forming at the City.

Now I am telling stories I will give you another. Col. Gooding is no “nigger catcher,” but on the contrary, if they come within the lines, he sets them to work. A few days ago, two men came to try and get back their niggers. “No, sir, you can’t have any niggers. I hain’t got as many as I want. I’ve got lots of work to do, levee to build, all these ditches to clean out. Gen. Butler has promised to send me down 100 more by the next boat. Besides, I mean to gobble all I can around here. No one can have one of them without an express order from Gen. Butler. That’s all. I wish you a good morning.” The niggers are still here.

The weather has been warm and pleasant lately with the exception of two hard rains, and consequently “awful muddy” for several days after. I can hardly realize that it is the middle of November, as that month has always been associated with cold fingers, bleak winds, and snow squalls. Up the river, people are setting out cabbage plants. It is quite changeable now — just the weather for fever and ague. There are very few in our Company who have not had a turn of the shakes. Since we came over here, my health has been good. I never had the shakes, but may when I get on to active duty again — am not yet done writing for the Captain. Knowing how to swing a pen has saved me considerable hard drill and given me many a good night’s sleep. I’ve got a pretty good bed — took one of those sheets, sewed up the side and end, then filled it with husks — it is rather softer than a board I reckon. I hope you will not be unduly anxious on my account. I shall write as often as I can think of anything.

Did I ever tell you of our surgeon? He is about as tall as Gleason Sprague, and if one puts on a long face, he is sure to get excused. He goes by the name of Pill Driver, U.S. Lightening Rod, Old Quinine, &c. Dr. Sanger, Post Surgeon, is a good Doctor. A little man, but smart. The boys can’t impose on him with any stories. Our Chaplain has never been down here. We have no religious service on the Sabbath. It is a day of rest, and every one spends it as he choses [sic]. I wish Leavitt and I could live together now, but as we are both corporals, we have to live separate, each taking charge of a squad of men. I will send you my picture the first opportunity I have of getting it taken. It seems as if there must be few young men left in Charlemont. Who could stay at home in such a time as this? You never write whether you are glad your boy has gone, or wish he had stayed at home. I Co. is not full. I wish some of the boys would come down and join us. I was much affected on learning that cousin Hannah was dead. I cannot think of her except as I left her in blooming health. It must indeed be a hard stroke to Freeman.

What is the news in Charlemont? Capt. Lee has written for his wife and expects her when “The Parkersburg” returns. Wesley Hawkes has been sent for and I do not see how he can get rid of coming on to his regiment. Please tell us of the destination of the different Mass. Regts. I am much interested in “Dun Browne’s” letters in the Republican, which I get quite often. I have a good letter from Mr. Farnsworth which I shall answer soon. Also got a letter from Charlie Ballard and Cousin Wealthy, a few days ago. Write often. I remain

Your son

J.W. Hawkes, Co. C, 31 Mass. Vols.


Hd. Qrs. 31 Reg. M.V
Fort Jackson, La., Nov. 27,1862

Dear Mother:

It is already half past ten in the evening, and all are sound asleep, but Brown and Newton. They are writing. I think I will begin a letter to you so as to have it done to send up to the city by the next boat.

Saturday — I was very glad to get yours of Nov. 10 yesterday morning. Hope I may be able to profit by the good advice you gave me. Today has been Thanksgiving in old Mass., though not personally with you, I have thought of you as seated around the table and partaking of the many good things so pleasing to the taste of which Thanksgiving dinners are wont to be composed. I have thought several times of the persons with whom I sat down to dinner one year ago today — one has already been “called higher” — whose lot it may be to go next is indeed a solemn question. How true it is that we know not what a day may bring forth.

We, that is the cooks and the boys of our casemates, had been thinking to have something a little extra for dinner today, but we sent up the river yesterday to buy a turkey — could get none less than $2.50, and no good chicken, so just bought nothing. Had some buttered toast for supper, that wasn’t bad. Bought a fish this p.m. that would weigh at least 20 lb., and rather reckon we will have some fried fish and griddle cakes for breakfast. Speaking of eatables, must tell of my experience in making nutcakes. Not long ago, I took a notion that some would taste good. Brown was up to the City and Newton, the other cook, sick in his bunk, so went at it myself. Mixed up my dough with water and put in some saleratus — dropped a little one into the fat, waited at least five minutes, but it did not rise. Put some more saleratus into my batter and tried another, that would not rise. What should I do? Newton says dissolve some more and put some vinegar with it. I did some, and as a result of my perseverance, had some cakes that even Mother would have pronounced good, though a little too short. I am enjoying myself first rate these days and growing fat — I weighed today 140. I now have the honor of being Co. C Commissary and Captain’s clerk, I am thereby relieved of all other duty. Think I will like it first rate. One feels like a free man not to be obliged to turn out at every sound of the drum.

The weather is very pleasant these days, though the nights are quite cold, but it does not seem like the 1st of Dec. in Mass. More like the last of Sept. The wild ducks are very plenty this fall — a great many are to be seen on the moats. The officers can shoot them, but soldiers can’t, as it is within the limits of the camp. We are still at Fort Jackson and I hope we may remain until spring. The mosquitoes are rather rare now. Were we at the City, many would get drunk, which they cannot do here. The Paymaster is here. The payrolls are ready, and tomorrow we are to receive two months pay. You may ask what I did with the four months pay I received a few weeks ago. I will tell you. I loaned $30 to my friend Cardell with good security till next spring, and kept the rest.

Gen. Dudley, Inspector General of this Division, is coming down in a few days to inspect this Reg’t. Everything will have to be in the best possible order, as everything will have to be inspected. There is considerable activity in this Dept., though I hear of no fights since the fight at La Fourche. I predict that Vicksburg will be taken soon — though I thought so last summer. I have considerable confidence in Gen. Burnside and hope that the several Naval expeditions now fitting out will accomplish some good purpose. I hear that the probable destination of Banks is Texas. Billy Wilson’s zouaves went up to New Orleans last week. They seem to be full of evil, as six were sent down here by the last boat, and seventy-two are in the Parish Prison at New Orleans. Old Ben will surely inflict punishment on evil doers, no matter who they may be. His latest order is prohibiting the sale of liquor to officers or privates, and rewarding police who may give him information of any violations. I wrote about you sending me some shirts. Did I say anything about some buck gloves unlined? I want some.

A recruit from the North S. Falls arrived to join our Co. a few nights ago. His name is Dexter M. Ware. I wish we had more as good Christian fellows in the company. Good night, I shall add some more before I send it.

Friday Eve — Nov. 28. We have been paid two months pay today ($26). I think Leavitt and myself shall send home some in a few days. I will write you then.

We had our Thanksgiving supper this morning — plenty of fried fish and some Irish potatoes. Bought 3 dozen at 3 for 5 [cents]. What would you think of apples at 5 [cents] each? That is what they are worth here. Butter is 50 [cents] per pound. Cheese 40 [cents]. Yet I must have a little bread and butter once in a while. Everything is very high here. I hope you will write often as possible. Much love to all who may inquire for me. Your aff. son

J. W. Hawkes, Co. C, 31 Mass.Vols., New Orleans


Head Qrs., 31 M.V., Ft. Jackson, La.,
Dec. 16, 1862

Dear Mother

I have very little to write, yet as I know you like to hear from me often, will scribble a few lines to send up to the City by the boat, Wednesday. My health is first rate, though I have hardly enough to do to keep me from moulding. ‘Tis like this, sometimes the Captain will have some writing that will keep me snug at work several days, then, nothing but to draw the rations, and pass away the time till there is another job. Yesterday was the most exciting day since we came to the Fort. About ten o’ clock, we got a telegraphic despatch from The Passes that 7 steamers of Gen. Banks’ expedition had just hove in sight outside the bar. About 11 o’clock, the first one, the “North Star” came in sight, her decks crammed with soldiers. Gen. Banks being upon this one, the Fort gave him a salute of 11 guns as they passed the Forts. Other steamers came in rapid succession till at noon 8 had gone up. The third was said to have had the 52d and one of our boys on guard at the river says he heard them give three cheers for the 31st. It made me feel good all over to see these big steamers running up the Mississippi freighted with some more of the hardy sons of New England. It was exhilarating — the boys literally lined the parapet and the band played “Hail Columbia” and the other national airs as the steamers steamed by, which were greeted with cheers from the boys on ship. Three more have run up today and more are represented as being outside. They ran up in the following order, viz, — North StarMaria BoardmanUnited StatesIllinoisNorthern LightArago MatanzasO. R. SpauldingNew Brunswick, and today three more, the Haze and two others whose names I have not learned. We are all anxious to know what Banks is going to do up to New Orleans, though it seems to be the general opinion that he will just pay a visit to Vicksburg and open the Mississippi now, before he goes to Texas, if indeed he goes at all. I hardly think however that he came down here to supercede Butler, though we will probably know more when we get news from the City.

Tuesday Eve. I have nothing of interest to add; it is so monotonous here. Yesterday was very warm, but we have some sudden changes here, and last night it was windy and cold, and today has been cold. We hear nothing more as to the destination of the troops that have gone up. Several other transports have gone up today. We have had no soft bread for more than a week. They tore down the oven and have not had time to repair it, so we have to live on hard bread — I can’t go the stuff at all. Got enough on the old Miss. What is the news in C[harlemont]? I don’t hear from anyone there except you and Mr. Farnsworth. I would like to be at home and take a good sleigh ride, for I reckon there is some snow there. I will write a little more in the morning, if I have any news by the boat tonight.

Wed. morning. The news came by the boat last night that Gen. Banks relieved Gen. Butler yesterday at noon. Your aff. son

J. W. Hawkes, Co. C, 31st M.V., New Orleans


Hd. Qrs. 31st M.V., Ft.. Jackson, La.
Dec. 20, 1862

Dear Mother

It has been my custom to write a letter to Mother every Sunday, but as the “Columbia” will be down tonight on her way to New York, I will scribble a little this p.m. I sent you a letter by the last steamer giving an account of the destination of “Banks Expedition”, and a postscript giving the rumor that he had superceded Butler — Well, it is so: N. P. Banks is now Maj . Gen’l Commanding Department of the Gulf. Feeling a strong desire to see some of the boys in the 52d, Leavitt and myself got a pass and Wednesday morning found us on the way to the City. [We] had a pleasant journey, though it was rather tedious as the boat made a great many stops to take on sugar and molasses. I saw a sugar factory in full operation, there are a good many processes from crushing the cane till it comes out nice white sugar. We did not arrive at the Crescent City till three at night, so I did not get off till next morning. Before it was light, we were out and learning that the “Illinois” was anchored at the upper landing. We start at quick time up the levee, but in the words of — well, somebody — “When we got where they was, they weren’t there.”  As we must return by the night boat or be considered “deserters,” we concluded it wasn’t prudent to follow on to Baton Rouge, whither they had gone the day before. We were sadly disappointed, but there being several fellows there that we knew, [we] passed the time quite pleasantly. [We] went up to Annunciation Square, formerly Camp Morewood. The Square is now occupied by the 2d Vermont Battery. The cotton presses we once had for quarters are now shut up and look lonely in the extreme. New Orleans seems very much like a city. The people are good natured and there is considerable bustle in the streets and some trade. Not much cotton, but considerable sugar and molasses, on the levee, for as it commands so high a price, the planters send it as fast as made for shipment.

Gen. Butler has held a pretty tight rein on them, so the citizens are well enough pleased to have him removed hoping that Banks will give them more liberties, and perhaps restore their City government. If I am not mistaken, and judging from his proclamation, he will be full as stern with them as ever Picayune Butler was. I sent you a paper containing Gen. Banks’ Proclamation and Gen. Butler’s farewell address, which I hope you have received ‘ere this. Banks’ Headquarters are at present at the St. Charles. As near as I can learn, there have about 30,000 troops arrived — a part came up the river, and the rest from Ship Island via the Lake. I think the Beautiful Thirty-oneth will come together now. Lt. Col. Whelden has been mustered out of the service and is going home. Cols. O. P. Gooding and Whelden have always been at logger-heads, the cause of which I will explain so you may see how things have been. Col. Gooding was commissioned by Gov. Andrew and as an Andrew man, while Whelden is a Butler man and a fellow mason. They had a flare-up at the City and Whelden swore he would never act under Col. Gooding. So to humor Whelden, the Regiment has been divided, Col. Gooding is not a man of peculiarly attractive manners — though the ladies say he is — but a man of much military ability. Better fitted for the position than Gen. Dudley, formerly Col. of the 30th. I predict that we shall leave before the first of January.

Report tells the following story, that Gen. Banks asks Gen. Dudley what is a good regiment to hold an important position. “I know of none better than Col. Gooding’s the 31st Mass.” That is report. This much I know, that the boat went back immediately last night to take Col. to the City. The soldiers are sorry to have “Old Ben” leave, though rather have Banks than any other Gen’l. I reckon Butler has been speculating some, but think they want him to take charge of some other expedition. Cannot think they mean to give him an inferior command.

The upper fleet have begun to bombard Vicksburg again and, with the cooperation of the land forces, it must soon fall. The Dept. is getting strong. You may expect to hear that there is something being done here. I reckon you were somewhat surprised when you found out that Banks had gone to New Orleans.

My health is still first rate, though have considerable to do just now. The days are pleasant now, though the nights are cool. Have had a little frost. The roses are still in full bloom. I received Aunt Wealthy’s letter of Nov. 22, by last mail. What does she mean by complaining of the cook. Hope you will some of you write often for a letter does me a power of good. My next may be dated from many miles from Ft. Jackson, but I shall ever remain Your aff. son

J. W. Hawkes Co. C, 31st M.V., New Orleans


Hd. Qrs. 31st M.V., Ft. Jackson, La.
Dec. 28, 1862

Dear Mother

Your kind letter of Dec. 9 was received yesterday morning and perused with much pleasure. I calculate on getting a letter from home every mail and am not generally disappointed. It costs but very little for our friends to sit down by their fireside and pen a letter to us soldiers which when received “doeth good like a medicine.”

Judging from appearances the time is drawing near when the Mass. 31st will bid adieu to Fort Jackson.

For active service in the field, Col. O. P. Gooding has been assigned to the command of a brigade to be composed of two old regiments and three new ones, or in other words Col. Gooding is an Actg. Brig. Genl. Report says that the 52d are in our Brigade, but we are not sure, but hope it may be true. The officers say we are to leave here this week and go up to Annunciation Square, where the Regt. will get together, and then go up to Baton Rouge. The Col. has been very anxious to get the Regt. into the field, and now that Lt. Col. Whelden has gone, he has probably accomplished his object. One thing seems certain — we must leave here very soon or we will not have a chance to assist in taking Vicksburg. We have been favored remarkably in not having to go into a fight ‘ere this, but if that time shall come, I hope God will watch over us. My prayer is that he will do with me and for me as he sees best. Oh, that I might keep more in mind those words of Christ “Be ye also ready, for in such an hour as ye think not, the son of man cometh.” It would seem a great privilege to step in with you to church this afternoon and I often think of the Sunday evening prayer meeting and wish I were there. We had some prayer meetings in the Regt. while at the City, nothing of the kind since we came here, not any kind of services on the Sabbath. When a man dies, Capt. Lee reads the Episcopal service over his grave and — that is all. There are two ministers among our officers, but I have never learned of their asking a soldier if he had a good hope in Christ. I am sorry to say it, but a regard for truth compels me to. I do not know a single officer but what uses ardent spirit and that openly. A good example that.

I hope Aunt Wealthy will consider my letters as to you both and write me once in a while. My love to all the good people of C[harlemont]. All the Charlemont boys are well, except Hathaway. He has been in the Hospital sometime, but is improving slowly. Please tell me when you get my letters, the date. That you may see how much provisions we draw from U.S., I enclose you a hasty copy of one of my requisitions. Do you think they ought to eat that up in two days? We have just got full particulars of the slaughter at Fredericksburg. What an awful sacrifice of life — and nothing gained. I don’t wonder that the people North feel disheartened. It is a noticeable fact that most of our victories have been achieved by those portions of our Army at a great distance from Washington. The reason for this is perfectly plain to my mind. I am much afraid we shall not get Richmond this winter, if indeed at all. What is the news in C[harlemont].? I am always right glad to hear from there. How are all the folks “Up Town”? Where is Levi? Where is Freem Lathrop? I wrote him a short time since, but have not heard from him. Is Mrs. Gleason still living on her old place? Who are teaching the various schools in town this season? My regards to any who may inquire for me. I hope you will write often. This is the second letter I have written this afternoon and it is most supper time. Good by. I remain Your son, Joshua.

Requisition from Dec. 11 to 20
82 men 2 women                          Whole number of rations 840
lbs.                                                      No. of rations
189 pork                                           252
315 Salt beef                                   252
315 Fresh ”                                      252
84 Tongue                                       84
126 Beans                                        840
84 Hominy                                      840
54 Coffee                                          672
2 1/2  Tea                                         168
126 Sugar                                        840
8 gal. Vinegar                                840
10+ lbs. candles                           840
33 Soap                                            840
11 qts. salt                                       840
2 2/5 gal. Molasses                     240

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s