Letters of Joshua W. Hawkes — Part 1, 1861

Camp Seward, Pittsfield, Mass,
Nov. 23, 1861

Dear Mother:

Having nothing to do for a little while and being tired of setting around as many are doing, I have betook myself to my “bunk” and will spend a short time in waiting to you.

After a long and tiresome ride we arrived at Pittsfield about 3 p.m. — at the entrance of the grounds we were met by the Franklin Co. and escorted to the barracks.

We were mustered in and received our blankets that even­ing and began to feel quite at home.  We who came that day got acquainted immediately and after considerable search found a place to spread our blankets up in the fourth story. There was was quite a transition from a bed to the soft side of a board, even if it was a pine one. Yet I slept very well, though my bones felt a little sore the next morning.

But, I must pause for the call is “Franklin Co. fall in for drill”!

Sunday, P.M.

We have been to dinner. Bill of Fare. Soup. Wheat Bread. Fresh Beef boiled, and water. We have plenty to eat and if you should see us eat you would think we had good appetites to say the least. Yesterday was my first day here and if each suc­ceeding one is as full of stirring events I shall want for ex­citement. In the forenoon one fellow was put into the Guard House for insolence to the Col. At 9 1/2 p.m., the drum had beat for all hands to bed and we had just pulled our blankets over us when the cry was heard Capt. Lee is stabbed — every one jumped out — I have heard of dire confusion, but this was one degree be­yond.

The facts in the case, as near as I am able to learn them, are these — The fellow, no the wretch, who committed the deed is an Irishman of Springfield — a member of the Pittsfield Co. — named Sullivan. In the early part of the evening, he seemed crazy, wringing his hands and declaring that some one was going to kill him. Capt. Lee, being officer of the day, ordered him to the Hos­pital. He was rational enough there and, after a while, came down and inquired at the officers’ quarters for Capt. Lee, and salut­ed him with. “Damn you. You are the man I want to see,” and stabbed him in the bowels. He was immediately secured and bound.

Captain cannot speak today, is bleeding inwardly, so to all human appearances the chances of his living are very small.

As regards the disposition of the culprit, General Butler has been telegraphed and will probably be on tomorrow. Report says he has replied saying take the man out and shoot him. I do not credit it, however. Capt. Lee is universally liked by his Co. and I hope we may not lose him, for it wil be hard to get a man who can completely fill his place, though it is not as though he was not prepared to go.

I, so far, like camp life better than I expected. I was for­tunate enough to get into bunk with Leavitt, Wesley Hawkes and Palmer of Heath; Charlie Scott, Rowe; Clark, Shelburne Falls — near a stove and one of the lamps so we can lay and read as nice as you please.

I am on guard today. The guard is divided into three re­liefs, serving alternately, two hours on and four off, for 24 hours. I am second relief, first on from 11 to 1 a.m. I wanted to go to Church so I got the Sergeant to get me a substitute. The cry is guard to fall in for supper.

7 p.m.

Just came from guard and then went into prayer meeting. It was nearly over, but I enjoyed it very much. There is an opportunity for doing a great deal of good here and there [are] many here who wish to do a little, at least.

What is the news in Charlemont?

Lathrop is not here. [He] did not come on Friday farther than Springfield.

Hope you will write as soon as convenient.

My love to all friends and ask them to write. I cannot write to all first and letters are very acceptable here.

I remain your affectionate son,

J. W. Hawkes
Franklin Co. Co.


1 Dec. 1861

Dear Mother:

Sunday has again rolled round bringing a little leis­ure, though not much quiet. All that there is to distinguish it from other days is the fact that we do not have to drill.  The Col. will not allow card playing. Yet of many, it is too true “there are no Sundays in Camp.”

I attended Dr. Todd’s church this morning and listened to a first rate sermon from the text “The just shall live by faith.” I think I never felt it such a privilege before to go to Church, and hope I may be able to carry much of truth into the work with me.

There is no evading the simple fact that the Camp is a try­ing place for christian character — the natural tendency of the heart is to evil, and there are times here to everyone when feel­ing lonely, time hangs heavily on his hands. Then he is tempted to many ways of killing time, not among the least of which is playing cards and trifling talk. I desire, my dear mother, an in­terest in your prayers that I might live as a christian and be enabled to do some good.

Do not think by what I have written that I am discontented. I only desire to “live as becometh the Gospel of Christ.”

The week has, on the whole, passed quite pleasantly and very rapidly. We have not drilled much for the weather [has] been quite unpleasant considerable of the time, so if not on guard, each could spend his time as best suited his taste. I improved considerable of mine in writing letters and reading.

Would the friends of soldiers know whether their letters are acceptable, they should see the soldiers press around the post as he distributes the letters, see the smile that lights up the countenance of those who get one, and the sad disconsolate look of those who have none as they turn away with “no letter for me!”

Would friends do good, let them write affectionate letters to their soldier friends, for if written in the spirit of kindness some affectionate word of warning may reach the heart and bring forth fruit after many days.

My health was never better in the world, aside from a cold, but as many have far worse ones than myself, I will not grumble. Catching cold is the experience of everyone on first going into camp.

Our Company is full and Thursday we were “sworn in” and offi­cers appointed — Smith of Hadley is 1st Lieut., E. P. Andrews, 2nd. Lathrop has not been here. I have my own private views of some of his proceedings which you shall have when I come home. He had better look at the definition of HONOR.

None of the boys have as yet received any pay. It is said that the paymaster is coming up tomorrow — hope this time it may prove true.

We have got our Fatigue Suits consisting of cap, short sack coat, pants of blue, also drawers, shirt, stockings, overcoats. The cloth is not of the finest texture, but they keep us warm, though the buttons will come off.

The Camp is full of stories as to when we leave here. My opinion is that what companies are full will soon be forwarded either to Lowell, or as I more think, to Annapolis, Md.

I shall try and come home soon for fear that we may go off in a hurry and I not be able to come at all.

Did Leavitt call and see you? He went home last week and said he would do so. What is the news in C[harlemont].? How are the few good people thriving? Will you not knit me a pair of army mit­tens? Remember me to all enquiring friends, write as often as convenient.

With much love I remain,

Your affectionate son

J. W. Hawkes
Camp Seward, Pittsfield, Ma., Co. C

I am very glad I took that blanket.


9 Dec. 1861

Dear Mother

I intended to have written you yesterday, but we had so much to do that I did not find time. Washing and breakfast over, I had to be at “Guard Mounting,” then came “Dress Parade,” leaving us only a little while to get ready for church in the afternoon. Dinner being over, we marched downtown in battalion. We thought it rather hard taking us down through the mud, but I for one, felt repaid for all the fatigue, as we had a Regimental Sermon by Dr. Todd from Job 12:23. It was a very able discourse and seasoned with much good advice.

After supper, [I] attended the prayer meeting, then several friends came into my bunk and we spent the time till “roll call” in con­versation — so much for yesterday’s labors.

Reports to the contrary notwithstanding, no one had received a month’s pay in advance, as promised, so there began to be con­siderable muttering among those who had families, and to add to this almost mutiny, every day we would hear “the Paymaster is com­ing tomorrow.”

Tuesday afternoon, he did come and the next morning, four com­panies that had the minimum number of men were “paid off,” each man receiving a Ten Dollar Treasury Note and the rest in gold.

There have been several cases of drunkenness since then, though none that I know of in our Company. Capt. Lee was moved downtown a few days ago and is getting along very well, at least so well that he was out to Church yesterday.

The Col. assures us that the remaining arms and equipment will arrive this week, which looks as though we were not to remain here many weeks. I hope not, for it is morally certain that the Hospital will have to be enlarged, if we stay here. We splash around in the slosh and get wet feet, which we have to dry the best way we can. For the past few days, I have changed my stockings about three times daily. We are also positively assured that Brig. Gen’l Benj. F. Butler will be up in the course of the week, and every one of course wishes to see him.

Tuesday, P.M.

I was very glad to receive a letter from you yesterday. I had thought that I should probably come home before this, but cannot tell exactly when I may come — possibly Saturday, as more furloughs will then be granted. I would like to get my “dress uniform” first.

I received a letter from Lathrop, a few days ago, rather apologizing for his non-appearance here. I shan’t hurry myself in answering it. All I care is that perhaps his influence might have helped me to a situation a little better than a private.

Please write as often as convenient. I will try to write at least once a week. Give my respects to all inquiring friends. Hoping to see you soon, I remain

Your son

J. W. Hawkes
Co. C, Camp Seward,
Pittsfield, Mass.


22 Dec.

Dear Mother

I have just returned from Church and, as there is a little time before supper, I will improve it in talking with you through the medium of the pencil.

There were no other passengers, so I had rather of a lonely ride over to Adams, I had time to think and am sure that it did me no hurt.

I took a last long look at all the old scenery of Charlemont, the impression of which will remain upon my mind as long as time shall with me last. I was, however, speaking of my journey to Pittsfield, so excuse the digression. Looking around at the de­pot at Adams, I saw a trunk marked “E. E. Hibbard, New York City.” The coincidence of the name with of a lady I used to know, made me watchful when the person came to get a check and I saw that it was indeed Miss Eunice E. Hibbard. I entered the cars, deposited my carpet bag and, after looking again to assure myself that I was not mistaken, went up and called her by name. She looked up rather surprised with, “I don’t know you.” She shook my hand nearly off when I made myself known. She was feeling very sober having just bid a nephew good bye at Florida, so she began to upbraid me for enlisting, but soon gave that up and we had a pleasant visit all the way to Pittsfield and [I] saw her off in the cars. So you see, if I had not gone that day [I] should not have seen her. I stopped on the street a little and saw the Reg’t march down with guns and knapsacks on, but soon got tired of staying there, so went up to Camp about dark. Found that the guns had been distributed during my absence, yet no changes to speak of. We have begun to drill with the guns, which is rather harder work.

I have not done anything for it, but my cold is wearing off. Was on guard yesterday, but it was Barrack Guard, and it so hap­pened that I was not called on to do a single thing.

It was awful cold here Friday night and yesterday, yet we managed (thanks to plenty of blankets) to keep warm some of the time.  The boys in our bunk think that when the present supply of pies are consumed, they will petition that I have another furlough.  The boys send their hearty thanks to the knitters of those mit­tens.

There are a good many sick ones and I am afraid there will be many more if we stay here, for it is on one of the coldest lo­cations in Western Mass.

I found a letter from brother Charlie Ballard awaiting me on my arrival. It contained considerable that I have not time to write, so I will enclose the letter.

I hope you will write as soon as convenient, and write me all the news you can think of. I have written this in a hurry and with but little light. Good night.

Your son

J. W. Hawkes
Co. C, Camp Seward, Pittsfield. Mass.


30 Dec. 1861

Dear Mother

I intended to have written you yesterday, but not feel­ing very well, thought I should be liable to write rather of a dolorous epistle, so concluded to defer it.

Of the doings of the past week, I have nothing very exciting or unusual to chronicle. We had some rather tough weather I as­sure you, so that drilling was suspended for a time and only a very few guards were stationed outdoors.

I had the good fortune to be on guard Tuesday – one of the coldest days. For the first two hours, I was in the guard house guarding some prisoners. As night came on, it was bitter cold, so they took him into the Quarter Master’s office and then we had to guard him sitting by the stove, hearing the officers tell stories, &c.,&c. So on the whole, I had a far more comfortable time [than] if I had not been on guard. We were on guard Saturday and Heaven deliver me from another similar experience in this climate. It was pretty cold, so instead of taking off the guards at nine o’clock they relieved them every hour so that the sleep we got was an infinitesimal quantity.

I had a bad pain in my bowels the latter part of the night and yesterday, but by sleeping most of the day and eating very little, I am tonight as well as usual.

Today we had a little foretaste of what is perhaps to come. This forenoon we marched down town with overcoats, knapsacks, and guns and did not get back till near one o’clock. After dinner, I took a little nap, had just woke up when the order was given to “Fall in”. We anticipated nothing more than a dress parade, but were marched downtown again, put through on the double quick and a variety of manoeuvres, and did not get back to Camp till near seven, rather tired but not as much as I expected.

I now wish to give you a few of my private views on this Reg’t, &c., &c., but do not wish you to say anything of it. Most of the towns refuse to pay the State Aid. Gov. Andrew does not recognize this Reg’t, saying this State has already furnished her quota.

The Camp is full of rumors and dissatisfaction and I shall not be surprised at anything that may happen here. I am quite sure that the married men will not leave here till the State Aid is decided.

I would add more, but the companies are falling in for roll call, so good night.

Your affectionate son

J. W. Hawkes
Co. C, Camp Seward
Pittsfield. Mass.

P.S. I wish you would casually inquire whether the Select­men of Charlemont are paying the State Aid to Butler’s Brigade. Please remember me to all inquiring friends. I would be pleased to hear from any of them, but have not much time to write.

It is rumored that we are to go to Lowell soon but you see if we do. I have written this very hastily when awful tired and amid much confusion so excuse the appearance.

Yours &c.,

J. W. H.

I want a woolen vest made to button all the way up and warm. Mr. Leavitt is coming over some time, but do not know as you can find out when.

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