Orderly’s Office, Camp Seward, Pittsfield
Head Quarters of Butler’s Brigade, Western Massachusetts
Col. Whelden, Commander in Chief
6 1/2 o’clock, Nov. 14th, 1861, Thursday
Dear Friends all,
To the right flank and right about face and open ranks and prepare to listen to one of the Hardwick volunteers. At last I have obtained a candle and stuck it into a nail and with about 250 hollering and bawling around am going to see if I can scribble a few lines.
Albert’s letter was received yesterday enclosing one from Sophie. I am glad the Hardwick Ladies have become somewhat aroused and have got the War Spirit in them. Today we were all out on a dress parade, the whole Battalion under inspection of Col. Whelden, although we have not got our full dress, it was a beautiful sight, covering a space of about one half mile, four abreast. ‘Tis said our Company is the best trained Company on the Ground. We have the honor of escorting other companies on the Ground and to welcome them to Camp Seward.
Our Company are all good fellows with a few exceptions. A company from Pittsfield of about 60 men, all Irish, poor, miserable, ragged vagabonds, who are continually getting into a row. We put 10 of them into the Guard House last night about ten o’clock. The Key had not been turned upon them but about five minutes when they knocked the doors all off, and they put the irons on them for the night and in the morning they had the pleasure of carrying water, and their diet was rather cheap food for that day. Two more fellows were put in yesterday for running the guard.
We are not going to have any prayer meeting tonight. We have turned our room into a hospital. The Col. has promised us one just as soon as he can procure lumber enough. I am feeling first rate, with the exception of a cold, but am in hopes to recover soon, as I am becoming used to the floor for a bed, don’t think I could sleep upon a bed now. The way we do we take four benches and put them together and spread our blankets and take our coats for pillows. The boys call it the parlor chamber, as the rest are all around us on the floor. One night after we had all got down to sleep our 1st Lt. Allen came around and said “Here’s where the aristocracy repose”.
I have not been detailed for anything yet, should have been today had there been any lumber to fix some bunks for us to sleep in. Southworth has been detailed several days as corporal to make spouts, spit boxes, &c. Some are detailed to dig trenches, some to wash dishes, and in fact everything there is to do is done by the soldiers. There are about 20 on guard night and day. I am expecting every day when I shall be detailed to guard the ground. It will be a little rough in the night I imagine. They are on two hours and off four — for 24 hours. At this moment there are drums and fifes that make noise enough to make one go crazy and they are dancing and running around. You will see my paper is somewhat jammed in my valise, you know it is rather small. My boots take up some room, and everything I have got. I am obliged to lock up everything or I should not have a single thing left. We have a guard over our baggage. Some of the boys have lost shirts and have had their blankets taken. We have thieves, black-legs and drunkards in our Camp, but then we keep an eye out for them.
Don’t know whether I shall go home Thanksgiving or not, don’t know whether I can get a furlough or not, shall come if possible. Tell Jennie to write me, and all of my friends at home. Doctor said he would come to Pittsfield. Hope he will. If he comes tell him to bring some butter and cheese, pies, &c., &c. Jim has gone to town tonight. We went last night to see Libbie. We have nice times down there — calling upon the young ladies — although I don’t like the idea of seeing them with a blue shirt on.
Friday, Dec. 6, 1861
Frank S. Knight,
Yours of the Wed. 4th is received. I send immediately one pass. Hope you will get a good squad of men.
W. Irving Allen
Lt., Co. D
Head Quarters Camp Seward
Pittsfield, Mass., Dec. 20th, Friday
Dear Sister Wealthy:
As I sit here alone in the office I can but catch up a pen and have a short talk with you, I wish I could look in upon you all this pleasant evening, to see what you are up to — I think of you as just through with your evening meal, and all quietly seated around the grate — Mother with her knitting and yourself mending some of the children’s clothes; Freggie just lighting a short six preparing to go out to one of the Emporiums, either Knights or Spooners; Fannie out in the kitchen plagueing the life out of Phoebe; Tino guessing about how he would like to be a “Sojier Boy”; Amie feeling a little out of sorts, and wishes there were more oranges in the world. Have not I set the thing out about right?
We had a most magnificent Battalion and Knapsack drill. We went down town — Tupper, Young Sears, and Rust and myself. We represented the Col’s Secy., Qr. Master Sergt., and Qr. Master’s Clerk and Hospital Steward. The place assigned to us was in front of the Regiment and in the rear of the Drum Corps so it brought us near the front. I am much afraid I shall not finish this letter tonight on account of being so sleepy. I was up most of the night last, the Col. and all the rest of the officers went down town to a wedding and I was obliged to stay in the office as a sort of a regulator.
Warm but cloudy, think it will rain before dark. I have just taken my morning rations and now feel “tip-top”. I never was freer from a cold than now, think that it must be owing to this warm spring like weather. We have now in the hospital 7 that have the measles. Do you think there is any danger of my having them? If I thought there was I would leave pretty quick. Newt Bacon seems to like it first rate. He told me that he thought his son would come. He is down to Gilbertville. If I thought he would, I would see that he has a pass. I must hurry up this letter so you can get it Saturday.
Please write often. Remember me to all. What’s to be done Christmas? Anything particular? I still hold the secy. position. The Col. told the Capt. that he did not want to let me go.
P. S. I enclose Capt. Hopkins’ photo. He gave it to me yesterday. I think it good. I told him that I should send it home. I wrote to Uncle Bliss last night and to Sam also.
Head Quarters Camp Seward
Jan. 6, 1862, Monday
Thinking that you might expect a letter from me Tuesday, I take these few minutes to write. I arrived safe and sound at camp on Monday 3 o’clock P.M. I was glad when I got here for I was pretty well tired out. After leaving Springfield, I met four young ladies from the Maplewood Institute, Pittsfield, and it made it quite pleasant. The Col. was glad to see me back as well as most of the officers and men. The Col. did not say one word because I staid over my furlough. He took me by the hand and gave it a hearty shake. The young man who took my place beat a hasty retreat. I guess the Col. did not like him much, as near as I can find out.
We are no nearer leaving here than we were before I came home as I can see. The Regiment went through the inspection of Knapsacks and Blankets this morning and in the afternoon went down town to attend Church. The staff who go through with the inspection consists of the Col., Adjt., and Qr. Master. It took about all the forenoon. The fellows are sorry that Mason and Slidell were given up, but thought if they could have all the rations they wanted, and the State aid provided, they would whip the South and England too. I see in Gov. Andrews’ address that there is some prospect of obtaining it.
We are having most beautiful cold weather now. The Barracks are cold enough but the boys manage to keep warm. We had a very pleasant Sabbath eve. One of the boys plays the guitar and sings, and he has been in the office all the evening. The Col. is fond of such. Jim was glad to see me back. I think the boy was real homesick while I was away.
I found a letter from Sam and one from Wealthy. I will send you Sam’s. I don’t see how I happened to leave that coat — thought I had everything in my box.
I have just been writing notices to each one of the Capts. and Lieuts. to this effect — There will be no spirituous Liquors of any kind allowed on the ground or used in or about the quarters of any officer, signed Col. Whelden. I am real glad of it and so is Howell and Allen.
I must bunk in. Good night
Western Bay State Regiment
Head Quarters – Camp Seward
Feb. 4, 1862, Tuesday
I am obliged to announce to you this morning the sad intelligence of the death of one of our Reg’t. He was in Co. G, Capt. Conant’s Company. He has been sick at the hospital several weeks. He was from Petersham. I do not know him. The first I knew of it the Hospital steward came to me for a requisition on the Quarter Master for lumber for a box to put the deceased in to take to Petersham,
Your letter came safe to hand last eve for which I am much obliged and also the letter from Albert and contents. They were both very acceptable and were salted for future use.
The Col. came back from Boston last Saturday evening Feb. 1 with the Payrolls that he took down and was obliged to take them back on Monday, Feb.3, with a very slight alteration. He also took a complete roster of the officers of the regiment to procure their commissions. The Pay Master will probably come back with him. We are beginning to pack up and are making arrangements to leave Camp Seward. We will no doubt go from here by the middle of next week en route for Boston, for what place I cannot say. I don’t know for what reason Jim thought we were liable to be disbanded. That is not so — prospects look bright for a long and glorious war, and my opinion is, we the Western B.S.R. will see our share of the smoke. We are all ready to go down South into the Enemy’s country. Most of the men are anxious to be in the fight. We mean that our battles shall be battles of principal, truth and justice, and if we fall ’twill be a glorious death to die, fighting for one’s Country.
I attended a Temperance Lecture last Sabbath evening. The house was full, and the lecture gave general satisfaction, I believe. I will send you a roster of the regiment before we go so you can see the names of all the officers and the companies they belong to. I have received a letter from Sam this week. He is very well and feeling gay. He says he watches the Eastern papers for the movement of our regiment thinking it about time for us to go. I will try and let the Hardwick people know when we go through West Brookfield. Shall be glad to see all of my friends but the time will be short — only about five minutes. We may stay in old Faneuil Hall one night before we embark.
It is snowing again today. We have got lots of snow, but the sleighing is poor enough. I will send you the photo of my particular friend — the one who gave me the beautiful diary. She is one of the first families of the town. Her name is Fannie Hurlbert. Can play the piano beautifully. I have spent many a pleasant evening at her house, listening to sweet music, but I must close. I want you to send the photo back the very next letter you write.
Head Quarters Western Bay State Reg.
Camp Chase, Lowell, Feb. 13, 1862, Thursday
I feel it my duty to drop you a line from this place. We were a pretty tired lot of fellows when we arrived at Camp. At 3 o’clock Wednesday morning, we began to take breakfast — some did not go to bed that night. I did not for one, neither did the Col. It was rather hard to leave those old Berkshire Hills, finally, we became so attached to them. But you would have been surprised to see the mass of people both old and young that congregated at the depot to bid us goodbye. They said they were sorry to have us go, and when that long train moved off many were the damp eyes and moist handkerchiefs. The air was full of white cambric and loud rang the voices until lost in the distance. Upon arriving at Springfield, we were entertained to a good dinner by way of sandwiches and apples. I got out and had a long talk with Abbie Marsh. Charley came to the window and asked one of the boys if Frank Knight was aboard & while the guns were firing — & in fact, all the way they kept up a continual firing — I was overjoyed to see such a large number of my friends at West Brookfield. I some expected to see you. The basket of cake and apples were good and I have some of it on hand now. Mrs. Aiken kept putting things into my pocket all the time, when we arrived at Worcester I saw David Burgess and he took me in and carried me from that depot to the other.
I am much pleased with the Barracks here. They are lit with gas and the office is very pleasant — two large rooms with carpet on one, and nice easy chairs, &c.,&c. I never went to bed so completely tired out as I did last night. I had not been abed but about half an hour when I begun to vomit and I guess I vomited about 20 times — this morning I felt better. I understand we are to leave here one week from today on the beautiful ship Mississippi. The Reg’t. have all been vaccinated today. They say the smallpox rages on Ship Island. The surgeon looked at my arm and he said I had such a good scar that I would not need to be vaccinated. What do you think about it?
What do you think of the picture of Camp Seward? I think it good. This evening I have been calling on some of the fellows in the Zouaves. They are a good looking company.
I must close and go to bed it is 11 o’clock. Write soon.
The Gen’l and Pay Master are coming today to pay us off.
18 miles below Ft. Jackson
Dear Bro. Albert
Thus far has our gallant ship run up the River without firing a gun. We are now laying at anchor awaiting further orders. We are in full possession of the River up within 2 1/4 miles of Ft. Jackson and Ft. St. Phillip. Our mortar fleet have been engaged since the 15th of this month — keeping up a steady fire — they have thrown about 10,000 shells into and around the Fort. Three times has the Fort been on fire, which we could plainly see from where we are. It makes us feel very uneasy to lay here so near and hear the cannonading going on day and night and not be in it. Before the attack commenced the commanding officer of the navy came on board the Mississippi and went up to Gen. Butler and asked his opinion as to what he had better do. Gen. Butler replied, “Give them fits — to you I look for success, and you are wholly responsible for these forts and when taken you will not find me wanting. I shall be there with my men at the point of the bayonet and when once with my force on land we will make quick work.” The Gen’l is very calm and collected and seems to know what he is about. And I think he must. He has not been to me to ask one single question in regard to the plan of battle.
Last Friday one of the mortar boats was sunk, but no lives were lost. She received a cannon shot through her lower deck, carrying away about five feet of the bottom of the boat which filled with water immediately, and today we received news that one of the gun boats had also sunk carrying 15 guns. Several lives were reported lost. About 25 wounded soldiers were brought down — some mortally wounded, and others quite slight. The general hospital is just below us at a place called Pilot Town.
Evening, 9 1/2 o’clock p.m.
News has just come down the River that they have cut the chain that holds the raft just below the Fort. Intense excitement is felt on hearing such good news. It was a pretty dangerous piece of business, for they were obliged to go up under their fire to do the work. Now we have free use of the River past the Fort. Three round cheers went up from the mouths of about two thousand men with a “hip hip hurrah”. I acted very naturally — I went up on deck myself and as soon as I thought it prudent, I said “hooray” several times in a loud tone of voice — so much so that the Major came around and told me to shut up. I did so just to please him, for he is a good fellow and I know him well.
I have just witnessed one of the hottest and most daring fights ever known in these parts. We were within about a mile of our fleet and 1/2 mile from their guns. At about 1/2 past 3, it commenced and lasted about 2 1/2 hours. I was on the topmast from 12 o’clock until 5 this morning, looking at the bombardment. The sky was full of fire all the time and a continual round of shells going into the Fort and around it all the time. It was terrible. You will see by the paper so it will be no use for me to write more about it.
April 26th, Saturday.
Oyster Bay, back of Ft. St. Phillip. We shall land tonight and scale the walls of this fort — the 31st, [the] 26th, Everett’s Battery and one other one. The boat is just going that takes this letter to Ship Island. John wishes to be remembered to all. The boys are all well. Remember me to all and I will write next from New Orleans, if at all. We expect a hard fight soon. We have a wide difference — they outnumber us.
I am very well . Good by. In haste,
Affectionately your bro.
Head Quarters of the Gulf
31st Regiment Mass. Volunteers
New Orleans, May 9th, 1862
My dear Mother
Six months today my name was enrolled upon U.S. paper. Never shall I forget my feelings that night as I lay upon my comfortable bed thinking that tomorrow I should bid adieu to my dearest friends on earth to go forth to fight the battles of my country. This day has not passed unmindful of my birthday and I feel grateful to God for having spared my life thus far. It is a painful task, for me to inform you of the death of young Ruggles at Ship Island. He died in the afternoon of April 16th. Yet the steamer was out of hailing distance which bore his comrades in Arms to this City. Alfred was much respected and universally beloved by every one of his company and his death is deeply felt by all of us. He was a patient sufferer through a long series of acute diseases and Dr. Bidwell, our assistant surgeon, who had attended him from the time he first came down with the Croup at camp Seward, said he never heard him utter one word of complaint. He always charged me never to write to his folks how sick he was, and if I said anything, “speak of me as being much better”. I saw him and had a long conversation with him the day before we sailed. He felt badly because he was obliged to be left behind the Regiment. He was left with his friends and did not want for attention. Alfred was one of the first to enlist in Co. D from Hardwick, and to do so he gave up a pleasant home and fireside and many bright prospects, but he promptly relinquished all the comforts of home to defend his Country and Cause. While the cheering news of the glorious Union victories is carrying joy and hope from one end of the country to the other, I cannot but feel sad to think of the desolation and sorrow it brings to those who are called to mourn the death of a dear departed one. For his father, mother, brothers, sisters, I feel for them with the sincerest sentiments of sympathy.
We are still quartered at the Custom House, but most of our Regiment have been taken away to do guard duty, and more tonight than usual on account of expected trouble. The General made a haul of 2 millions of specie today in the house of the French Consul, and considerable excitement is up in consequence, otherwise the world renowned and long dreaded City of New Orleans is very quiet as far as rebellion is concerned. The terrors of masked batteries and rebel guns no longer make us falter. “The City is ours.” Active preparations are going on for the advance up the River. Several Regiments have already gone and more are all ready. The 31st will stay here to do Provost duty, we now occupy the most central building in the City for our hospital and barracks. Gen. Butler is going to set all the idlers and unemployed people about the City to work. We are also raising a Battery. We have several recruiting offices in operation. Those who enlisted to fight for the Union are mostly foreigners.
This morning I got up quite early and done up my writing and went over the River to Algiers. We had a nice horse and buggy and after driving around the place we came back to New Orleans and took a turn on the shell road (2.40).
Tomorrow, Sunday, Gen. Butler distributes 1000/bbls. of beef to the poor and also pork and rice. We have made some large confiscations of sugar, molasses, rice, and beef, cattle (wild Texas). Butler has ordered every method of furnishing food to the poor of this City. The hunger does not pinch the wealthy and the leaders of the rebellion, who got up this war. They have caused provisions to be carried out of the City for Confederate service. Since the occupation of U.S. forces, they have burned cotton, and tumbled thousands of bbls. of sugar into the River, which otherwise might have been exchanged for food, but instead of which they have destroyed property and eloped with the specie stolen from the U.S., thus leaving them to ruin and starvation. I pity from the bottom of my heart the poor fellows who have been seized and forced into the army, while the nabobs have had the handling — they made their sons and nephews officers. I would like to see these streets run red with blood and piled up dead bodies of these leaders, but you cannot find [BLANK].
But I must close my letter for it is now after ten o’clock and the whole building is hushed in sleep and nothing is to be heard save the sentinels’ tread on the pavement. We have a heavy guard on all the time, both day and night. Our cannons are placed at each corner of the buildings and two on top, also around the St. Charles. The weather has been delightful for the last two days — about an even temperature. We have none of us had the “Yellow Jack” that the Secesh are chuckling themselves over — on us Yankees. The fear of being sick troubles me more than anything else. I am very careful what I eat and drink, and don’t touch much fruit. Oranges come in now by the cart loads as big as my head. Bread is very scarce — flour being worth from $25 to $50 per bbl. — butter cannot be had at any price — milk 10 [cents] per qt. — sugar and molasses cheap enough and lots of it. I shall expect to hear from you in a few days. Tell Fannie I received the walnut-meat and eat it — am much obliged. Remember me with much love to all the family and hoping this letter will find you in good health, I am, Dear Mother,
Your affectionate son,
Direct New Orleans
Care of Col. O.P. Gooding
31st Reg. M.V.M.
Midnight, 12 o’clock
I have been to bed, but the mosquitos are so thick could not go to sleep. They almost take one out of bed. You can hear them buz [sic] all around the room. I wish I had one of your veils.
Head Quarters – 31st Regt. Mass. Volunteers
New Orleans, June 1, 1862.
Dear Friends at Home
This is Sunday moaning and the first day of summer, yet it seemed to me we have already had summer weather.
I did think last night I should accept the kind invitation to go to Church today, but little knowing what I should find to busy my hands when Sunday morning came, and instead of going to Church I have been busy writing all day. I have not been inside of a Church since I left Pittsfield, and that was at Dr. Todd’s. One short month has elapsed since we first set foot upon Louisiana soil. The streets are filled with smiling faces — business has again thrown open doors. The wealthy have left the City for summer watering places, property is secure, and I think Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States (and thank God the only one) might walk unharmed and unaccompanied at any time through these streets in full safety, and to the joy and delight of very many, who have heretofore been accustomed to link his name with curses and execrations. This is the month that I would delight to spend at the North, “the merry month of June”, when the weather is clear, bright, balmy and mild — but on the contrary, here I am sweating, blowing, puffing, and brushing away the blue tail flies, or in other words mosquitos. I positively dread to go to bed nights; to be bothered so by them is perfectly horrible. I have a good bar, but they will get under some way or other.
Deserters continue to flock to our Reg’t quite numerously from the Rebel Army. I have talked with no less than 20 from Beauregard’s Army. They tell many queer and marvellous yarns — they say our shells drop so plaguey thick around them, “too close to be healthy”. None but those who have friends who will vouch that they are “true blue” are permitted to put on a federal uniform.
I saw Commodore Farragut today. No one need to ask is he smart, could they see him, although his deeds proclaim it, but he is a man and an officer to please every one — a perfect gentleman — very polite and seemingly unassuming. The mortar fleet as you know, have been the bone and sinew of the service. Without it our progress up the Mississippi would not be so speedy or effectual. The 30th Mass. Vols. (Col. Dudley) were ordered up the River last night to reinforce Gen’l Williams, who was in a slight skirmish a few days ago in which a Lieut. on his staff was mortally wounded. He was shot by one of their Rebel pickets.
Monday Evening, June 2d.
Have just returned from a patrol and as the McClellan goes tomorrow will close this letter before going to bed. We had exciting times tonight. 5 of us,- 3 Lieuts., and Serg. Carrol and myself went to examine an empty house to see if we could find any Contrabands of war. I picked up a nice revolver worth about $25 which I just stuck away in my belt for future use. We found the house as they left it with all the furniture, glass and silverware and a nice 7 octave piano with pearl keys. I sat down and played “Home Sweet Home” and my other favorite airs and after eating a few oranges and banannas we found in the cupboard we came back, and now it is just 10 o’clock p.m. I expect to be the Sergeant Major of the 31st Mass. Vols., as the one we have now is under arrest and not expected to retain his place. If I get it, I shall fill the position with all the dignity imaginable. I will send you some papers that will better post you upon the news of the City. You ask me if I am in need of shirts. I am — I would give any thing if my old white shirts were here and a lot of cotton stockings. It is abominable to pay the prices they ask for things here — $10 for a pair of shirts, 25 [cents] for a collar, and everything in just such proportions. I guess you had better make up a small box and send by express of a few things.
Let the Deacon make me a pair of low shoes or ties, about two sizes smaller than those boots he made me. Make them out of calf. They are just what I want. I can’t stand wool socks and these big boots. I priced a pair of shoes here yesterday and they only charge $7. As for linen collars, I don’t care for them — I had rather have paper ones, if they can be had, size 14 inch “garote”. It don’t cost anything to wash them or turn over collars either I am not particular. I would like some thin clothes — one brown linen coat and pants. We expect to get paid off next week and then we shall have some money. I will send you five dollars that I have on hand and will send the remainder by express when paid off. If you send box direct to New Orleans, care — well, you need not send it at all. I countermand the order. The Col. has just come in and said it would be no use, it would be two months before I could get them and we might be here and we might not — so let them go. I will send the five dollars for you to take care of and salt for future use. Will send $50 next week by express, I shall want to keep some on hand, if the River should open I should go to St. Louis and find Sam and purchase some things there — but I must close. Remember me to all.
Affectionately your son and brother, nephew &c.,
Head Quarters, 31st Reg’t Mass. Vols.,
Camp Morewood, New Orleans, La.
Aug. 22, 1862
Having a few moments before the mail goes down to the office I hasten to drop you a few lines. Your letter together with Albert’s came safe to hand, informing me of the death of little Robert. When you last wrote me of his sickness, I was afraid he would never recover. When I last saw him, he was a frail little fellow, and could not stand a long sickness. One
consolation he has gone to a happy world and will never know the troubles, wickedness and sorrow of this.
Albert writes that you are having lots of apples and grapes and fruit of all kinds — how I should enjoy eating some of them with you. Wonder if I shall ever have that pleasure. We can’t tell. If we have no more active service here than we have had up to the present time, I think the chances somewhat in my favor, but appearances at the present moment are of such a nature as to lead me to believe that the time is not far distant when the 31st Mass. Reg’t will have its share of the work to do. God grant that if that time shall ever come, we may all prove ourselves equal to the occasion. The report here last night was to the effect that the Rebels had appeared in large force in front of Baton Rouge. The report was that they had ordered us to evacuate Baton Rouge, giving us twenty-four hours notice to do it in, or they would raise the “Black Flag” and give us “no quarters”. Officer in command of the force at that place sent back word that they might come on with the Black Flag — he should not evacuate, except by the order of Gen. Butler. He immediately sent a dispatch to the General and he, Gen’l B., replied ordering the evacuation of the place, and this Sunday morning, transports have gone up there to take our troops on board. This comes from such sources that I believe it to be true. The troops will probably return to Carrolton [sic], six miles from here up the River, and then the next thing we shall hear of, I presume, that the Rebels are on the way to this City, which perhaps they will also order us to surrender. Very likely we will, though I can’t see it with the naked eye. They will meet with an awful warm reception, if they attempt it. We have received orders to hold ourselves in readiness to proceed to Carrolton [sic] at a moment’s notice. All the troops in the City are to go with the exception of the 26th Mass. Reg’t and the Louisiana Reg’t. They are ordered to be left, to guard the City. Well we came here to fight and we are ready to try it, though some of us will have to bite the dust for it. It will do our Reg’t good to have a little skirmish — let a man feel that he is soon to go into a fight and that the best way for him to withstand an assault is by being skilled in the movements — then he will pay attention to drill and try to learn all he can; but situated as we have been in almost perfect security, he goes through a company drill rather because he is compelled to. “But time will tell.”
I think the weather is getting a little cooler — 94° to 95° in the shade. For a week or two past, it has been 97°, 99° right straight along. The nights and mornings are quite cool. I am feeling tip top now. The last letter I wrote you I was feeling a little ague-ish, but a few pills and a pail of hot water to my feet brought me all right again. Do you hear from Sam? Will he be drafted to go to the war? Write me what he says about it. Who is going from Ware that I know? Are the Home Guards from Hardwick all going? Then the Doctor is examining soldiers, tell him I will send him on some certificates of disability for discharge.
How are the rest of the children? I do hope they have got better before now. You need not send me the butter nor cheese that I spoke of — it will cost too much (unless you have already done so). How long did Miss Brown stay with you? Am sorry none of you went to Uncle Knight’s funeral — they will think it very strange. Bond had a letter from Willie Tucker the same day I received your letter. He told Bond he began to see and realize a soldier’s life. We had a good laugh over that — been in Camp only three days, and had already seen hardships. John has got the box, it was forwarded to him. I did not see John when he was down here. I thought he would call up to our Camp. O. Hervey is now in the City — quite sick and poor as a crow. He jumped out of bed at the time of the engagement at Baton Rouge when he was not able to stand upon his feet. I must go down and see him.
Do you remember of my telling you about a young fellow from Bloomington, Sergt. Clark? I first met him at Ship Island. He was wounded while on a skirmish at Baton Rouge and was brought to the St. James Hospital. He sent me a letter in a day or two after he arrived here wishing me to call upon him, which I intended to do, and went down with that intention after waiting about two days. I went to the Hospital and inquired for him and they told me he was dead and buried. I felt bad enough. I was expecting to have a good many more good long talks with him about our Bloomington friends. The hospital is filled with the wounded — from 15 to 24 die about every day. I shall write to one of his friends in Bloomington of his death. He was a particular friend of Dr. R. O. Warren.
How is Lucy? Tell her I will take dinner down to her house next Sunday after you receive this letter. She must put a chair for me and plate and knife and fork. Cooked tomatoes is my favorite dish — shall expect lots of them. But I must hasten this letter for the mail closes at 3 p.m.
Remember me to all and write soon. Tell Wealthy she has not written me for some time. I hope because I do not happen to answer all her letters that she will stop writing, for when I write a letter home I mean it for all.
Affectionately your son,
Fort Jackson, La.
Sunday, Sept. 14, 1862.
My dear Mother
Your letter together with Wealthy’s and Albert’s came safe to hand on Thursday last, Sept. 11th. On that morning the hearts of the gallant 31st were brightened when they heard the news at an extremely early hour, that a large mail had come for us. It affords me the deepest pleasure once more to hear from Home. It has been a long time since I have had the gratification of hearing from you. You never can know the feeling with which a soldier greets letters from friends at Home, and especially from you — to know that you are able to write. May that God who has thus far had you in his holy Keeping defend you from all disease and danger and in His own good time return me to my home and friends, is the earnest prayer of your affectionate son. Your letters and papers are almost our only communication with that world, where but a short time ago we were taking an active part and enjoying all the comforts of home. While we were in the City we had the daily papers in our reach, but now we are so far away that we must depend wholly upon our mail matter for the news. To be sure we can stand upon the Parapet of the Fort and see the mail vessels steam past, but that is little consolation when one knows it will be a week or two before he gets any information there from.
There is now some painful evidence that the Rebels are getting a little the start of us. We cannot conceal the fact, if we would. Things have of late been growing rapidly worse. They seem to be creeping Northward into the state of Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia and Ohio — out of which they were driven six months ago. It is time the tables were turned. I am glad to see that the Volunteers are coming forward so encouragingly to start anew and fight the battle we fought one year ago. Soon we shall hear of a terrible slaughter, a battle that will make a clean sweep of rebellion. It has cost the confederacy its utmost strength to keep our present army at bay, and what chances can there be against twice that number?
The City and the Forts have been filled with rumors lately, the import of which is that great disasters have resulted to the Federal Army near Washington. I think it is generally believed here — however by the wiser portion — that the disasters are “all in your eye” and that Jackson “Stonewall” has got himself into a trap. We hope to have new Northern news — the North Star from New York, 5th inst., is momentarily expected, and the Matanzas is past due. Gen’l Butler has already begun to send troops to Pensacola. The 15th Maine left on the Ocean Queen, and some say Wilson’s zouaves are coming here. I see the Trade Wind has again returned to N.Y. The Roanoke and Philadelphia go today.
Later, 3 1/2 p.m.
The Creole and Matanzas have just passed. Oh, Dear! I wish I had the mail, if they have any. Anything to save our Country. Well, I’ll go and get a little supper and afterwards take a smoke — that’s the best way. Chandler has got his discharge — poor fellow. I feel glad for him. He was up before the Medical Board (Directors) and got the necessary papers, also Gibbs from Ware. Two new companies have come to this Fort from Fort Pickens. Some of the officers pitched for my quarters and ruthlessly demanded me to evacuate and change the base of my operations to some other locality. I couldn’t see the point “you know” — they thought they were going to make me “skedaddle” out of my comfortable quarters. I thought I was very successful and strategic in my movements and was very much complimented and think there is some chance for my being promoted for my conduct.
George Richardson is looking poorly and I guess whiskey and quinine cannot save him. He ought to return to the bosom of his family. The N.Y. 75th are at New Orleans at the U.S. Barracks. Rev. Philander Reed is a private in the New York, I understand. I guess I must make myself known to him. Jim also has an old college acquaintance — I think a Lieut.
25 guerillas were brought down to our Fort yesterday. 350 horses were taken at the same time “all saddled and bridled and fit for a fight”. The riders had taken to the swamps when they saw the Maine Battery and 21st Indiana after them. The famous monarch of the Mississippi “The Essex”, the iron clad ram, now lies at the City of New Orleans and crowds of people are down on the levee looking at the monitor. The 23d of this month is the last day of grace afforded to Rebels and Rebel sympathizers, to save their property from the action of the Confiscation Bill — those who, when that time expires, shall not have complied with the law must suffer the penalty. One of our guards overheard one of the prisoners
whom he was guarding talking about the future operations of the Rebels. He said the fate of New Orleans was sealed. I think it is and sealed so tight that no Rebel force can get into it.
Never while the Father of Waters bears on his proud bosom the wealth of the North and West and conveys it to the Gulf of Mexico will any flag but the “Stars and Stripes” float over the “Crescent City” — they can rest assured of that.
I read that letter from Horace Greely [sic] to the President. Those were rather grave charges — shows rather a want of respect for the high office which “Abe” holds and fills, too. I call that rather insolent. As for Greely [sic] and Wendell Phillips they had better dry up and shut their mouths. How well the President replied to him?
In about one week, oranges will begin to get ripe. I wish you could see the orange orchards, now. For several miles above the banks are lined with them — a pleasant sail or row up the river, and visit two or three orange groves, a return by moonlight — is it not enough to tempt you? There are really many things about life in Fort Jackson, but all the romance is destroyed by the presence of so many insects, termed “Mosquitoes”. Here the flies do patrol duty in the day time in full force — at night, they subside and are relieved by the mosquitoes who do the night “picket” duty.
I have just returned from a negro meeting. About 300 contrabands get together about twice a week and have prayer meetings — and such meetings — the real old plantation negro praying. They pray for Father Abraham Lincoln and all the officers in the 31st Reg’t. They pray that they may all come North soon and live as “Old Peter lives.” Then comes the singing — “Oh do Lord remember me” all the time — that’s the winding up of everything.
The day you wrote your letter, Sunday, Sept, 24, you spoke of its being cold and pleasant. It rained all day as hard as it could pour with us. Don’t mention Mercy Fay’s and Tupper’s marriage to me again. Every letter I have received from home, you have always told me of that. I wish I could see Ann Harvey. Tell her to send me one of those corncakes I used to like so much. Everybody here is taking quinine before they think of having a chill — they seem to think they are surely going to have one. I have not taken one bit yet, don’t [BLANK]
Enclosed, I send some music to Jennie — the leader of our band said he guessed it could be played on the piano. They played it grand Monday while on inspection.
Fort Jackson, Oct. 7, 1862
I have only a few moments to a scratch down a few words to send by Chandler who will go on the McClellan next week, I
received your letter and also Albert’s and quantities of papers. Tho’ clouds of darkness which have for a long time hung over the Union cause, begin to break away and we can see daylight once more.
News came last night by the Daniel Webster of the death of Stonewall Jackson and the capture of Gen’l Lee. We can’t quite credit the news, although we would be glad to. We have been expecting an attack in the rear of our Fort for two days past. A dispatch from the City stated that about 2500 Rebels had passed Carrolton [sic] and were making for this Fort to storm us. We were in readiness that night — the guns from the Parapet and facing to the River were turned about also the guns in the casemates were in order and loaded with “grape” and the remaining companies stood ready for a bayonet charge. We have had pickets out every night, thinking they would take the night time, there being a good moon for their operations. I have not heard from Tupper for several days. He is railroading, I understand — quite a change in his position.
I am now a Sergeant in Co. D since Wednesday Oct, 1, 1862. Since that time, I have felt better. I feel now as though I stood some chance for promotion. The non-commissioned officers have a drill every afternoon from 4 to 5 o’clock. Lt. Bond told Howell that I was pretty well posted in Sergt’s duty and would soon, he hoped, be 2d Lieut.
Is Sam coming home this fall? I had a long letter from him saying that he would be glad to send me a cart load of peaches could he get them to me. How I should like some apples and vegetables. Yesterday we had some potatoes for the first time since we have been to this Fort. I am afraid Louise Aiken did not do justice to those cooked tomatoes — am glad she took my place. I am waiting before ration time, it being about 6 1/2 o’clock a.m., and the boat leaves at 7 1/2 for the City, so you must excuse me from writing more this time. I would be glad to receive a small box of cake, cheese, &c., apples. Fruit cake comes through nicely without moulding. We get nothing but hard bread and salt meat to eat. We have beef, but it cannot be caught, it is so wild.
Gen’l Neal Dow leaves for Pensacola this morning — Col. Gooding takes command of both Forts. We are making great
improvements in our port by way of policeing the grounds and surroundings, &c. I wish you, if you conclude to send me a box, ask Pepper to do something for his country and send me a box of cigars. How I should like to see you all. Remember me to all and write soon,
Affectionately your son
I received a long letter from Louise Tupper last week from Philadelphia. Tell Jennie and Libbie to send me their pictures. I would like yours — can’t you send it to me? And the Dr’s. Wish I could get Frazier’s and Wealthy’s and little Theo, Fannie, also.
Fort Jackson, Nov. 3, 1862
I am not forgetful or ungrateful to you, although my long silence might indicate both. This is the first morning since the first of October that I have felt really well. I have had what the Doctor calls the Swamp Fever. It does seem to me that I never was so sick, burning up with the heat, no perspiration whatever. I have escaped the chills thus far, but I suppose dosing with quinine has kept it away. It did seem to me that if I could get something good to eat I should feel better, but we have no accommodations whatever. I managed to keep out of the hospital and the surgeon came to my quarters two or three times every day, look at my tongue and most generally order 3 powders (quinine) during the day, or else a dose of oil, one or the other in every case. It is not healthy here at this Fort, and I shall be glad when we get away. You would laugh if you saw me in my tent, sitting on a camp stool at a box with four legs to represent a table. The furniture of my tent consists of a bunk for a bed, just wide and long enough to lay on, with two blankets and my overcoat for a pillow and good pine boards for a mattress. A steamer passed up last night with dates up to the 23rd of October. I hope to get a mail from home. I have not heard from Sam for a long time, have you? If so, please let me know. I have been excused from duty now for two weeks, but propose to go on again tomorrow as our Sergts. are almost all sick, there being but one for duty in our Company, and it comes hard upon one. I caught cold in the first place. I was Sergt. of the pickets one night and did not bundle myself up sufficiently and took a little cold. I had a bottle of red pepper and I took about a teaspoonful and it broke up the cold, and that night the fever came on. The next morning, I got a contraband to rub me
all over with cold water and a crash towel, then I drank down a cup full of orange tea (orange leaves) and put a brick to my feet and piled on the blankets. I am in hopes to have got over having fever. The boys say I shall have the shakes next. I guess I shall not.
Monday, 5 1/2 p.m.
It has been a dark gloomy day, the sky black and lowering and the rain descends in torrents, and I have been meditating just now on this blank scene of cheerless solitude. My only companions at present, a sergeant who has been far sicker than I have. I am feeling quite like myself today and am congratulating myself upon the hopes of being O.K. in a day or
two. Lt. Bond sent me a piece of bread buttered today and it tasted better than anything I have had. I wish I could get a
good pickle and a piece of brown bread and cheese — it would be like a Thanksgiving feast to me.
We were paid off Saturday Nov.1. We expected to get six months pay, but only got four. I only got my $52 as I get my extra pay from the Quarter Master which is $60. He being at the City, [I] shall be obliged to wait. I am in hopes to get it before they make out the express, so as to send $100 home. We are glad enough to get some money, but now we have it it does us no good, for we can buy nothing down here. But it does us good to look at the greenbacks and count it over.
The weather is almost cold enough for a stove. I wear my overcoat every day. Nights and mornings are cold and in the middle of the day ‘ tis very warm. I have not heard from Jim for a long time. I would like to see the boy.
Wednesday, 5th, 3 o’clock p.m.
I am feeling first rate today, am getting along nicely now. The companies are all out drilling and, as I am seated alone and apart from the noise and confusion, my thoughts travel back to the old Bay State to those happy scenes and pleasant associations connected with a circle of kind friends. But the spell is suddenly broken by the drum and fife, this gives my thoughts a different turn and reminds me that instead of being at home I am very far from it with a prospect of
being no nearer for some time. Yesterday we received a mail. I received 25 newspapers from Albert which I was glad enough to get, but was a little disappointed in not receiving any letters from anybody. I had made up my mind on one of Wealthy’s everyday communications. I will not complain. I had so many papers, they will occupy my leisure time in reading until another mail comes. I have this day sent by express, marked Mrs. T. B. Knight, Hardwick, Mass., care of A. E. Knight ($50) fifty dollars, which I trust will arrive safe. I paid the express through. And in regard to that box that Jim and I sent home, I left it altogether with Jim because I left the City for Fort Jackson the next day after it was packed, and I told Jim if he sent it to be sure and pay the express, and I supposed of course he did as he wrote me a few days after that he had got a receipt and the box had gone.
As to the contents, I shall value them very much if I ever get home. Many think our winter quarters will be here, although it has been reported that we were going to the City. “Report” you know is a very common word at the present time. The weather is now very pleasant after the rain — still quite warm. I can hardly realize that it is November here. If I did not know the month I should call it August except when night comes. One year next Sunday since I signed the Rolls to “stand by the Stars and Stripes through thick and thin.” And in view of that fact, think I must celebrate on that day by getting double rations and eating a big dinner. ‘Tis the best I can do, for everything else except our rations is very scarce and dear.
A large guerilla force is hanging around our outposts and threatens to do us serious damage, beside constantly annoying us, and we are obliged to keep a double strong picket guard. We expect an attack from them every night. We really want them to just try it on. Our guns (42 lbs.) are loaded with grape — canister. How the guerillas’ legs, arms,
heads and such things would, fly should they be so foolish as to attack us.
The President’s Proclamation of Emancipation is a good thing and I think will be the means to hasten this war to a close. I wish now they would take Gen’l G. B. McClellan and set him into Kansas during the remainder of the war. That would be the very best thing old Abe could do. I never have liked his movements or his Generalship. I believe him a traitor to the backbone.
When is the Doctor going to write me? How are all the children? I hope they are all well, and yourself. I hope you will not get sick, as you almost always have a hard cold winter. I am sorry I did not get Miss Abbott’s letter. She could not
have directed it right. But I must close, hoping to hear from you soon, and all the rest of the inhabitants remaining in Hardwick. I am glad if you have commenced to call upon your friends. Wealthy spoke of you visiting Capt. Paige with Mrs. Paige. Tell Wealthy I sympathize with her deeply in her affliction in “soft soap”. I wish some days I had a little soft soap. Wish I had some apple “sass”, too. Give my love to all and accept a large share for yourself
From your affectionate son
Fort Jackson, La., Hospital
Dec (Nov.) 6, 1862
The Gen’l Williams, a steamer running from New Orleans to the Forts, came to hand this morning with Wealthy’s, yours and Albert’s, and Anna’s letters. The occasion for my not writing is because I have been flat on my back. I am now sitting before the fire making an attempt, but I am very weak. The fever left me with legs swollen, just as you remember they did once, and my belly and bowels have been very much bloated, and are now. I am just beginning to have an appetite and can walk around the room. The “Doc” says I shall be out in a few days. I have felt very uneasy laying as I do just side the River where I can see the steamers passing by for N.Y. and no letters on from me. I hope to be in a few days so as to write a good long letter to you. I thought of you all Thanksgiving. Am glad you heard from Sam.
My box and apples have not come, probably they are at the City, shall get them soon. Will be good when I get them. Give my love to all.
Will write soon
Don’t feel frightened about me. I am all O.K.
Franklin S. Knight died of his illness in January of 1863.