The original documents are at the Hardwick (Mass.) Historical Society and these letters are published here with their kind permission.
From Camp Seward
December 24, 1861
Dear Sister Libby,
It was so cold and blustery this morning I didn’t think you would go to Troy. I was expecting to go down and see you off but when I went out of doors the state of the weather was such I concluded I wouldn’t venture. I went down this afternoon and learned that you had left. It’s been a dull day at Camp Seward. The fellows staid [sic] in the house amusing themselves as well as they could. Frank sent a note down to you which I will enclose since I had no chance to deliver it in person. I heard from Charles Chandler yesterday. He has the Whooping cough and his health is so poor he is afraid he won’t be able to go to Ship Island with us. A great many are sick, over 40 with the measles & the rest with pleurisy, colds, etc. The Hospital is full and the rest lie around in their bunks depending on the kindness of their comrades and officers for proper treatment. Frank and I stood it first rate. Col. Briggs of the 10th was up today.
There was a little row in our camp last night. A deserter had been taken and confined in the guardhouse and a crowd went to rescue him. The Quartermaster came rushing in & loaded his revolver & the Col. dispersed the crowd & the supposed ringleader was tied hand & foot & stowed away in one of the storerooms. The Quartermaster Sergeant cut his hand yesterday quite severely and went home this morning so I have more work to do. The Quartermaster is sick tonight. Anderson, the deserter has been in the guardhouse ever since and he was taken with a log chained to his foot & a guard over him. They thought it was most too hard for the guard to have them in so cold a place so they brought the prisoner into our office. He sits on the bench by the fire quietly & two soldiers with their rifles to guard him. He will be court-martialed.
I hope you will have a merry time this Christmas Eve. If you will let me know in season I will meet you at the depot when you return. Give my love to Uncle & Aunt, Lib, Alf & Willy. I should love to see them before I leave for the seat of war but suppose I can’t.
Wish them all a Merry Christmas & write if you can only a line. I will send my pictures I will send my pictures to Uncle’s folks.
Your affect, Bro.
Camp Seward, Pittsfield
December 25, 1861
Dear Parents & Sister
Your letter was rec’d this p.m. I don’t think it’s best to try to get the post of Sgt. Major. One of the duties of that officer is to drill the non-commissioned officers of the regiment so they want man who is better in the drill than the orderly Sgt. of the companies. I don’t much think I shall be obliged to go back into the ranks as a private. When Lieut. Allen came back he said he was glad I had got in here, when he had been fishing to get me in, so I presume he will use his influence to keep me in this or a similar position. Capt. Cushing & I agree first rate and I hope he will get a place in this regiment.
Deacon Day and Tommy called to see me this afternoon. I got started to go and show them around the premises when I was called away and had to keep running and didn’t see him again. I have had to run today. The Quartermaster has been so unwell he hasn’t been to the office at all & the Quartermaster Sgt. being away I had my hands full. I have had to deliver clothing, keep track of all of the shovels and utensils that are called for constantly, and tend to all the calls of the office, and having the keys to all the storerooms and buildings when anything was wanted I had to run. The Quartermaster has charge of everything. If a nail is wanted or shirt, if a man wants some straw to put in his bed, or his shoes don’t fit, he runs to the Quartermaster. A load of straw came and as soon as it was off, in they came to get their tick filled. The ticks for the Hospital came first. They had 30 filled, then the men who had to sleep on the floor came next. The ticks are double, that is two men sleep on them. Each man is entitled to 12 pounds of straw per month, but as I had no means of weighing it I let them have as much as they wanted for the ticks, estimating one bundle at 8 pounds. The boys began to halloo “I wish you a Merry Christmas” before light in the morning & they have had nothing to do today except shovel snow from the parade ground. Capt. Hopkins has not been up to camp for some time being sick at Dr. Cady’s. Canterbury is at Ware on a furlough and Grant is in the Hospital with the measles. I am sorry I didn’t buy some shirts at Lawton’s or Knight’s as mine is pretty dirty & I haven’t any money to get any but perhaps Mr. Davis will trust me.
I spend my evening sometimes drilling with a rifle. Capt. Cushing is very willing to instruct me. Frank and I have given up our pillows to Grant to make him comfortable. I don’t know but I shall have to sleep in the office tonight.
Thursday 26th of December – I will now go on to say what I was going to: I didn’t know but I should have to sleep in here as it was 10:30 and the Capt. who generally sleeps here had not come, but before I finished my sentence he came in.
There were quite a number in the guard house last night who had been having a jolly Christmas. I went in about 10:30 with some officers to stop a man who was bellowing like a mad man. They tied a towel over his mouth as tight as they could draw it and he would snort through his nose in an awful style. Anderson slept in here again last night. When anyone runs the guard & goes down town or stays a great while over his time, they send a Sergeant with a squad of men after them. They have to go most every night. Bond went night before last with armed men after some who did not report themselves in camp in the proper time. He went into the picnic at the South Church but didn’t find anyone there except Sagendorph & Fletcher and some others who had passes. They had a splendid time at the festival and brought up some cakes & wreaths & bouquets for Allen and Howell thinking, I suppose, if they gave them those they would let them go down again. There is one tonight at the Methodist Church. There was a pedler [sic] came around yesterday and finding some of his old friends in camp down town they had a Christmas drink all around & feeling pretty jolly they wouldn’t hear anything, but he soon came up to camp and spent the night. He thought it would be pretty “cute” to enlist so he joined the Chicopee company & got his uniform, knapsack, cartridge box, and all of the traps he could lay his hands on. But this morning, come to get sober & think of his wife & children, he felt so bad he couldn’t eat any breakfast — that isn’t so remarkable though — but he went to the Capt. Nettleton & told his story & he got off.
The sick were all removed today that were able to the house that has been hired for a Hospital. 43 were carried down. I believe I won’t prepay the postage to this letter as soldiers are not obliged to have them prepaid if they have the signature of the Quartermaster or one of the staff so I put on the Quartermaster’s name. I went down town this forenoon to order some coal. I got some undershirts at Dan’s & had them charged. A fellow spoke to me this afternoon & wanted to know if I had heard from Warren Johnson lately. He said he was acquainted with the girl he was waiting on & had seen Warren. His name is [Hugh] Frain from Chesterfield & belongs to Co. G, Springfield Co. He said Nettie had told him I was here and wanted he should get acquainted with me.
Frank is almost sick tonight with a sore throat. The Hospital Steward is sick with the typhoid fever. I wish you would write my name on some cotton cloth in indelible ink and send to me so I can sew them in my shirts, etc. Then I can get a woman here to do my washing. I shall want 10 pieces. The Quartermaster’s a little better today. I must turn into bed as it is after 11. Sagendorph has gone down town tonight to a festival. I let him wear my dress coat. I got one as I am in the Quartermaster’s office. They have not been given out to privates. They are very pretty coats — blue cloth & brass buttons, frock coats with pockets in the tail & hooks & eyes so they can hook up & make a swallow tail out of them.
Remember me to Chas. Chandler if you see him Sunday and all friends. I wrote to Charles a short time ago.
My shirts cost $1.00 a piece. Stone, Southworth, Ruggles, Richmond are all well I believe. Richardson is sick. I don’t know what with, measles I presume. I don’t get time to go around & see who are sick and who are not. I am thankful I have my usual health, & that I had the measles when I was where friends could tend to me. How bad it must be for those who have to lie crowded in the hospital with such accommodations as they must have here. Some stand it well and heroically & some cry like babies. Capt. Hopkins came up on the ground today but is not able to stay so he went back to the Dr.’s.
It is much warmer tonight and I’m glad of it for the sake of the guards as I am comfortable enough anytime. I must close now anyway as I have got through my sheet almost. I hate to have any place left unwritten. One more sentence will fill up this sheet — there ’tis — good night.
Your aff, son & bro,
Friday evening, January 3, 1861
Dear Parents & Sister,
The tattoo has just sounded for roll call and for bed, but I will write a letter before going into the barracks. I go to bed just as it happens anytime from 9 1/2 to 12 [o’clock]. I don’t have to get up in the morning till 7 1/2 or about that time as I don’t have breakfast before 8. It is been very cold weather since the rain Wed. afternoon but they took the regiment & marched them down town yesterday & took with them their knapsacks on but without the guns. They can’t drill around here any on account of the ice so they take the road.
The fellows can hardly keep warm in the barracks and you can see them lying around in their bunks with their overcoats and mittens on covering themselves with blankets when they are not on duty. Last night about 8 o’clock the fellows tipped one of the stoves over in the barracks. It was red-hot and they hollered “fire” but they threw on water and no damage was done.
I got a letter from Augusta, Henry & Maggie last night. I thought I should hear from Frank before this but he hasn’t written to anybody, but the Cpl. Wilder of our Co. who takes Frank’s place was yet sick of the job and wants Frank to come back. Wilder is a fine fellow from the Junior class in Amherst Coll. and belongs to the Alpha Delta Phi Society. Today when the regiment went down town, a lady treated the whole regiment to whiskey & water. I went down town this forenoon but as it was study hours I didn’t call on Libby. It will be 8 weeks tomorrow since our company came to camp.
Sunday morning January 5 – Charlie, the Quartermaster Sergeant is going down to church this morning & the Quartermaster said he wanted somebody to stay at home so I had to stay. Frank is going this morning. Each company has an inspection this morning of arms, clothing, etc. They are forming now with their knapsacks on & their blankets both woolen & rubber rolled up & buckled on top. Some roll them up so bunglingly that they stick up over their heads and most cover them up. The Hardwick boys are wearing their havelocks which gives them a military appearance & are very good to keep their head & ears warm. They are a new thing here and the boys like them first rate. I was glad to have Frank come back. I didn’t much expect him till Monday.
The wind must’ve blown pretty hard to blow over those sheds. You can imagine the state of the weather here on the hill. I went down town last night. Capt. Hopkins went home and is to return tomorrow. I called on Libby a few minutes. I then went to Mr. Harding’s. It was after 9 but I stayed and talked till after 10 and then he brought out some “rations” in the shape of cold turkey & apple pie & I came on my way rejoicing. I got up just as they were relieving guards at the gate. Joe Richmond was just going on to stay from 11 to 1. Frank Canterbury and I hugged up together last night, covered ourselves with blankets and slept well.
9 p.m. went to church with the regiment this p.m. & heard Rev. Mr. Chubb.
Camp Seward, Pittsfield
February 2, 1862
Dear Sister Augusta,
It was 12 weeks yesterday since the Ware Company came to camp and we still linger among the snowdrifts and New England storms waiting for Butler and Andrew to settle their controversy and take us to a more genial clime and give us active work in the service of our country. I was down to see Libby yesterday and I saw a letter which you wrote thinking our regiment was in that detachment which left Boston some time ago and I was much amused at your questions, “How I felt at leaving, etc.” and the idea that you could scarcely realize that I had gone so far. Perhaps you have heard of the trouble between Butler and Andrew, the former having enlisted us contrary to the Governor’s orders and he having thereupon refused to give the officer’s commissions. The officers have got their commissions from the President but the Gov. has kept the breach open by vetoing the bill granting State Aid to this regiment in common with other Mass. volunteers, which is quite an item with the married men
but is nothing to single men. Some arrangement will be made probably and the regiment get off in the course of 2 or 3 weeks. The men are getting rather mutinous and there will be trouble if the promises which the officers have made to the men are not fulfilled in regard to State Aid, but if it’s made right the Western Bay State Regiment will do the fair thing in this struggle and enroll its name high on the scroll of fame.
Libby has had the measles. She has been sick for two weeks and she thinks some of going home for the rest of the term. I went into the Matron’s room where Libby was yesterday, played backgammon with Libby, ate cake and apples, and heard Miss Smith the Matron’s granddaughter play in a touching manner “Home Sweet Home” with Thalbey’s variations and came away with a box of cakes and pie which they gave me for refreshments.
I got a furlough and went up to Lanesboro to spend the Sabbath with Libby a while ago. The place looked about as it used to. We staid [sic] at Mr. McLary’s & called at Mr. Whitney’s, Dea. Day’s, Mr. Rockwell’s, Mr. Newton’s. I went up to Pontoosuc to a Soldier’s Knitting Club one night at Mr. Campbell’s. The Squires were there & the Colts & Rockwell’s & aristocracy of Pittsfield.
There have been 3 or 4 here talking in the bunk & I can’t write very well. They have been talking & telling stories & were much amused at my peculiar laugh. You will have time to write before our leave I presume. Perhaps the next letter I write will be dated at another place then this enchanted camp.
I went to church this afternoon at Dr. Todd’s. Give my love to Henry & Maggie & the young one. I shall be around to see the niece at the end of the war from New Orleans & the Mississippi River.
Your aff. Bro.
Tuesday morning February 4, 1862 – I tried to get a furlough this morning to go up to Williamstown & come back tomorrow but they wouldn’t let me go. I didn’t much care as the Capt. promised me a pass tomorrow to be gone all day & some Williams fellows are coming down.
The Ware Standard has a list of all the men in our company. The occupations of the men are: 1 Lawyer (Capt. H.), 8 Students, 1 Printer, 1 Bleacher, 6 Clerks, 3 Smiths, 1 Wool Sorter, 34 Farmers, 1 Artist, 9 Laborers, 4 Carpenters, 2 Saddlers, 3 Sailors, 5 Painters, 1 Teamster, 1 Landlord, 1 Mason, 1 Tailor, 4 Ostlers, 3 Mechanics, 1 Butcher, 1 Weaver, 1 Baker, 1 Cabinet Maker, 2 Shoemakers, 1 Scythe Maker. 28 are married men.
A man died in the Hospital last night, the first death that has occurred in Camp though 4 or 5 sick ones have gone home & died. The returns show about 60 in the Hospital & there are as many men lying around the barracks unfit for duty on account of colds, etc. I have not had to be excused from duty once for sickness, while these big strong fellows have most all been sick. My turn will come though, perhaps at a worse time than this.
The paymaster is expected this week when I hope to get my $13 in advance which has been due me 3 months. Ruggles has been quite sick with the mumps, Chandler was home sick with measles and whooping cough a good while, and Richmond has been sick & Frank went home with a sore throat & all the Hardwick delegation have been on the sick list except me. Your bro. James
Camp Chase, Lowell
February 16, 1862 Sunday
My dear parents and sister,
I sit on my bunk this Sunday evening, Canterbury writing on one side and Southworth occupying another portion, some are cleaning up their guns below and others reading, writing, or singing. There was an inspection this morning of guns, knapsacks, etc. Gen. Butler was not here so they will have another tomorrow when he or our Col. will be present.
It was pretty cold, though this camp is more comfortable than Camp Seward. There is not so much snow & the ground is not so much exposed to the winds. It took a long time to go through the inspection of all the companies & we drilled when they were inspecting other companies so I got pretty tired and relished our dinner of beans, pork and bread.
Last night they distributed a little prayer book to each soldier with selections from the liturgy of the Episcopal Church adapted to worship for troops. Some of the fellows make a good deal of objection to the Episcopal form of worship but I reckon they will get as much good from that as anything. We have had no religious exercises in camp today. Some fellows opposite have got their prayer books which contains hymns & selections from the Psalms as well as the liturgy & are singing Coronation.
A corporal & 8 privates were detailed today to attend the funeral and fire a salute over the grave of a soldier who was killed at Newport News recently by the explosion of the Sawyer gun. That is the funeral escort of a private. For a Sergeant, a Sergeant & 14 privates. For a Lieut., half a company & a Capt., a whole company.
Last night at roll call I fainted away. They carried me into the officer’s room & I soon revived. I was asleep in my bunk when they halloo-ed for the company to fall in & I got up in such a hurry & climbed down the bunk, that it upset me. I have felt perfectly well since. The fellows are all wishing we could put up tents. They are so warm &cozy. They can warm water & boil eggs & have plenty of room. The greatest trouble with us is we can’t get water enough. They have to bring it some ways in big cisterns and sometimes we have to wait mornings till long after breakfast before we get a chance to wash. Our Cooks have refused to wash our dishes because some lost their plates and laid it to them so we have to clean our own plates, cups, etc.
Monday evening February 17 – the order of exercises today has been an inspection and review before Col. Dudley of the 30th Regiment or Eastern Baystate. He put things through in a hurry and we were out only a short time. We had rice and molasses for dinner. Mr. Howland and Charles a Stevens have been up to CS today. The paymaster is here and paid off a few companies today. Our turn will come at 9 tomorrow morning. The fellows are very impatient and say they don’t believe they will ever get it. Those that got paid have bought all the pies and cakes the settler had and he has nothing but crackers and cheese left and they are howling around and stoning his shanty like a pack of hungry wolves.
They are very stringent in regard to having liquor brought in to camp. The rule is to have everyone that comes into the grounds searched and they would no doubt be successful in keeping it away if it wasn’t for the noncommissioned officers the sergeants and corporals who went at it and offered to get fellows bottles filled one Cpl. had his stripes taken off and was put in the guardhouse for bringing liquor on they will have it. Though in spite of all the regulations. The fellows were quite rejoiced at the good news from the West today and somewhere afraid they would get the war finished up before we had a chance to get away. The report is now that we shall get away Thursday. We can’t tell certainly but they are very active in loading and moving things.
Tuesday, February 18 – Our company was paid off this morning. We were paid up from the time we enlisted to the 1st of Jan. I received $22.96. I got nothing extra for being in the Quartermaster’s office. Frank got nothing extra for his work either. He received only $22.53 as I enlisted one day before he did & we get 43 cents a day. My pay was $20 treasury note, a $2 bill on a Boston bank, & 96 cents in specie. I shall send $5.00 to Mr. Lincoln and pay up what I owe him and send most of the balance to you by Mr. Knight if he goes to Boston, if not, by letter. I went down street this forenoon to carry a telegram for Frank to Albert to come on to Boston. We go tomorrow I suppose. I took a bath down town and got washed up clean for the voyage to the Gulf. I suppose there will be better facilities for bathing down there.
Butler was up to Camp this morning. We are doing nothing today but pack up and I got our blanket Mrs. Mixter gave us into the company box and also my dress coat. The sutler has been patronized quite well today. A big crowd has been around all day. One would step up & say “give me 5 cents worth of figs.” If he didn’t have them, he would say “a plug of tobacco” then. They didn’t seem to care what they got, if they only got rid of their money. Quite a number are intoxicated and one of our company has just been put in the guardhouse for swearing at the officers and making a fuss. He talked awfully because he couldn’t go down town and have his miniature taken for his wife. Candy boys are around camp and pedlers [sic] selling knives, paper, etc. A man just now is halloo-ing a soldier’s letter to his sweetheart, Roanoke Island & Tennessee fighting “only 3 cents” being some songs in the victory at Tennessee & Roanoke & so they work it every way to get the money from the Soldiers who have been so long without it that they feel rich & don’t know how to prize it when they get a few dollars. I cut out a little piece from a Lowell paper which I will send about our Regt. You will find some account in the Boston papers about our leaving probably, which I would ask Mr. Knight to cut out. They will have them at the store.
I will send a little sheet which was on the portfolio Mrs. Morewood gave me.
Tuesday evening – Frank has just been around with letters for Co. D. Ruggles, Chandler & Frank got one but there was none for me. There were quite a number of letters for the company & they crowded around eager to get them.
Quite a lot of fellows went down to the city today in squads under Sergeants. They wanted to get their pictures taken some of them & buy little articles as this will be the last chance. A few of our Co. were coming up and got into a row with some rowdies. Some got knocked down. Southworth got knocked down with a club & his face is quite swollen. The soldiers were insulted first & took it up, when a whole street full rushed out & pitched in. We are not going tomorrow after all. Frank will have to telegraph again. I have written enough for one letter so will close. I sent off that money to Mr. Lincoln tonight. Write soon.
Your affectionate son and bro.
Steamer Mississippi Gulf of Mexico
Monday 17th of March 1862 8:00 a.m.
My Dear Parents & Sister,
We rounded the Cape this morning and are now sailing in the waters of the Gulf approaching Key West and the Tortugas. We shall not probably stop at either place but continue on in the direct course to Ship Island. When I sent my last letter a week ago today, we had just got aboard and got into our quarters. I told you where my bunk was, but we had orders soon to change and take our old bunks which we occupied on the voyage from Boston. We started down the creek Monday afternoon, but had got but a short distance when we got grounded. If you can get Frank Leslie’s War Maps, which you can get at Cutters for a small sum, you can find where we landed and have a better idea of the location of Seabrook Plantation than I can give. Well we got aground and as luck would have it remained on the bar 36 hours. It was hoped that at high tide Tuesday morning at 2 o’clock she might get hauled off, but after taking the whole regiment off the steamer and breaking our night’s rest, the tide went out and left us on the bar. They found it would be necessary to unload part of her cargo which was done Tuesday, the soldiers getting off onto other boats as often as the tide came in & at last at high tide Wednesday morning, we floated off. We then sailed to Port Royal & anchored off the Fort on Hilton Head till Thursday. Many of the officers went ashore while we laid there. I was struck with the amount of shipping in the harbor. It seemed like the port of a large city & I thought there must be
A fleet or some expedition fitting out, but I suppose it was only the necessary amount for defending and cruising around those waters as well as transports tugs and shipbuilding with stores for so large a force as is concentrated at that point.
Thursday morning 13th of March, we set sail. The Susquehanna saluted us with 13 guns and dipped her colors, the band played Dixie as we passed. The Matanzas, with the Maine troops, started at the same time but we have not seen her since the first day, whether ahead or behind, I do not know.
Soon we had passed Bay Point & Hilton Head [illegible] of the soldiers & the Forts & bid good-bye to the hospitable shores of the Palmetto State. We were glad to be moving to our destination so as to be off from the ship some time. Although 400 are on another vessel, we are still crowded so you wouldn’t know it.
Frank just came along & gave me some bread & butter & a piece of ham. I have been teasing him for it ever since we started & he finally got some from the officers’ table. It was the first piece of bread or butter I have tasted since I left Mass. more than 3 weeks ago. If I could get a little of such food now and then I should eat well, but I have no appetite for our rations. I don’t suppose I have eaten 2 hard crackers for 3 days. I have not touched a piece of meat or drank but little coffee. The consequence is that I am quite weak. As soon as I get on land where we can have our regular army rations of beans & rice, I shall be well enough.
I see I have greased up my last sheet & this somewhat, but I couldn’t stop to wash my hands. It’s as much as I can do to wash once a day. There is water enough all around us but pails to dip it up with are scarce. The water we have to drink is miserable. It’s made from salt water, condensed some way & warm & smells so strong I can’t drink but a swallow at once. The officers have good water & I have got Frank to get me a cupful frequently so I manage to get along pretty well.
Since we started, we have had good weather although the wind has been against us and we have not made very fast time. We are not much farther south than we shall be when we get to Ship Island. The weather is warm & sultry and if it wasn’t for the stiff breeze, which is blowing constantly, I don’t know what we should do. A good many bring up their blanket and sleep on deck nights, in preference to their hot & nasty bunks.
I think of the snowbanks of Dist. No. 3 & think this little the best climate. Yesterday, the shores of Florida were in sight and now & then we could discern a lighthouse. Little yellow birds hopped around on the ropes of the ship and tamely flew among the soldiers. It pleases us to see the little creatures & we had no inclination to molest them, though they were within our reach. We see a sail occasionally though we have come near enough to speak but once. She was from Boston & bound for Ship Island.
Yesterday I was guard and could not attend services on the quarter deck. Some fellows who had been stealing sugar & one thing & another were detected a day or two ago and put in irons and while their handcuffs were taken off, subjected to hard work such as drawing a large stone back and forth on the deck and cleaning and sweeping the deck. It has put a damper on the thievish propensities of the men. At one time, the fever ran high. They opened boxes and took most everything you can think of, quantities of tobacco, cans of concentrated milk, cans of preserved meats, jellies, nuts, etc.
I found a graduate of Dartmouth College class of ’61 the other day. He is a private in Co. K, the Zouave Co., and his home is Everett. He belongs to the Zeta Psi Society. He saw my pin and inquired what college I was connected with and so I made his acquaintance. I thought I was the only graduate in the ranks before. There are 3 or 4 officers college graduates.
There have not been so many sick of our company on this trip though there are some that can’t stand the salt water. Orderly Bond has been unwell and looks feeble. Ruggles is improving. Richmond & Chandler are hearty. I don’t know as anything ails the rest of the Hardwick boys.
I hope to find a mail for me when I get to Ship Island. I will write as often as I can. I hope to try and write Emily and the rest must not complain if they don’t hear as often as they would like. I must write home first and then, if there is time, write to the rest.
Now it has got warm and the boys stay on deck. There is a great call for reading matter. Old religious papers, a year old, pass from one to another and are read with interest. Fellows look at their prayer books more than they would. There isn’t much to occupy our time except once in a while guard duty & keeping your equipments clean, though they have to work whenever there is any coal to be hauled and, as we use up so many tons a day and the coal lies way down under the barrels and boxes, it keeps some to work all the time.
I am sitting up on top of the cabin writing. Wilder sits side of me reading the February number of the Atlantic. It has got to be about 10 and the heat would be so oppressive I couldn’t stay, but the clouds kindly screen Sol’s burning rays. I suppose you are washing today. I have got a couple of dirty shirts and a pair of drawers I should like to send home to get washed. I must now go down and take out my blankets and give them an airing and wash out a towel if I can’t find facilities. I will conclude the letter and send it as early as I can. Let me know how long it takes a letter to go from Ship Island to Hardwick. I don’t know, but our location will be changed before this can go home and an answer returned.
2 p.m. — We are in sight of Key West and I will close the letter and send it.
Your affectionate Luke
Letter from Ship Island March 26, 1862
Dear Parents & Sister
Our Regiment landed yesterday morning. An old steamboat which had been captured from the rebels brought us from the Mississippi to the wharf. Some of the hands on the boat were darkies with whom I engaged in conversation and learned that they had run away from their masters in Mississippi, escaping in a small boat. They said they thought our side was the strongest & didn’t think the rebels would fight a great deal.
We landed in the sand and the first thing after we got into line Lt. Col. Weldon’s horse began to run. The rider couldn’t manage him & dropped his sword, & the battalion, as only five regiments landed at a time, stood & laughed until the vivacity of the beast was diminished & he returned & we started on the line of march. For some ways, we had a plank walk, as the sand is so deep that it would be difficult to wheel all the provisions, etc. to the different regiments. They are stretched along the island for a mile or two, a perfect city of tents. After marching over a mile, we halted and after some delay the tents came and we commenced setting them up. While we were waiting, some of the 21st Indiana brought us down some ham & coffee which we were glad to get, as it had got to be noon and we were tired, hot, & hungry.
There are 4 tents to each company now, though I believe we shall have another. Our tents are pitched next to the Michigan 6th, which is in the same brigade. There are 24 in each tent, each in the charge of a sergeant, and they put them in just as they came in the ranks — the first 24 men in the company in the first tent, etc. Sergeant Clary has charge of our tent. I lie side of Brainerd, a fine fellow from Ware, Gleason, Chandler, Bassett are in the tent & a pretty good crowd generally. We have no swearing & Sergeant Clary proposed to read a few verses in the Bible & offer a prayer when we got ready to go to bed, which proposition was received with a manifestation of approbation by all, so the first night of tent life was marked in a manner different from what many expect from soldiers.
We couldn’t get our rations for supper, but the 6th Michigan gave us coffee, etc. They have done a good deal for us, giving us coffee, bean soup, and bread, robbing themselves for the sake of providing for us. We shall remember the Michigan 6th. The hospitality of Western people was fully demonstrated. They have big hearts & I am glad we have them in our brigade.
The water here is obtained very easy. We scoop out the sand & have to dig only a little ways before water flows in. Then they set a barrel in and we have a well sufficient to supply the company. Each company has one. The salt water filters through & is [illegble] to good, though not very cold.
During the afternoon with heard incessant firing north of us. We are all anxious to know what it was & there were various conjectures & rumors. I understand it was the New London (a little gunboat which has got to be a favorite with the boys already from its speedy movements through the waters & its activity when any vessel shows itself) engaging 3 rebel boats. It returned slightly damaged, but we feared it was captured.
The sand is all we have for our tent floor, but we shall get some palm leaf and cover it when we get time. We put our rubber blankets down & cover ourselves with our woolen, with our overcoats for pillows & I, for one, slept well last night.
This morning the company was about all detailed for some service. Some had to go up to the woods for a few miles east & get wood and poke it down along the shore for a fire for cooking. Then our tents were all taken up & the ground was leveled off. I went down to the shore and washed two shirts & a pair of drawers. I can’t get them washed here, so I had to do as well as I could & hung them on the strings of our tent to dry. They slipped down in the sand & I guess they are full as dirty as they were before. The sand is very troublesome. It is getting on our clothes when we sit down & you get your cup of coffee & sit down to drink it & somebody brushes along & about a pint of sand gets into your cup. We are quite crowded in our tent, but it isn’t so bad as on board the boat.
I walked out about breakfast time through the encampment of the Michigan Regiment & one of the fellows pressed me to partake of a breakfast. He gave me a cup of coffee, a piece of soft bread, some fried pork and potatoes. If anything tasted good, that did, and the kindness of the Michigan boys was rewarded by my hearty thanks, all I could give.
I went down to the wharf this afternoon. The business seems to center there. Fort Massachusetts is there, the Post Office in a building looking like a new barn, the Post Sutler’s, etc. A frame holding is in process of erection & the wood building with the sign “Adams Express” looks quite civilized. They were unloading horses today at the wharf. 200 started on the boat from Boston and 100 died on the passage. Goland, of our company, who was left behind & was considered a deserter, came on in that ship.
The Post Sutler’s is in a wooden building & they seem to do a big business. A guard is stationed at the door to keep too many from going in. The room is about full all the time & as fast as one comes out another is allowed to go in. They keep most everything necessary for the comfort of the men, palm leaf hats, paper, ink, turkey preserved in cans, which they sell for $1.00. I tried to buy some molasses, but they had neither that, sugar, or butter. They have had butter for 45 cents a pound, and molasses for 15 cents a quart. We have no sutler in our Regiment though there are plenty on the island. Also little stands where they sell lemonade and beer. There was one place where they were cooking doughnuts & fried pies, but there was such a rush for them that those that wanted them had to hand in their names a good while before they could get them. They asked 2 cents apiece for doughnuts. I got a bottle of pickles for 45 cents. Some of the sutlers have little tickets which are valued at 5 or 10 cents, which they give in place of change when it is scarce. They are just as good as money to buy anything with. I bought a little bottle of ink, which couldn’t cost more than 6 cents at home, and had to pay 20 cents for it. If there is any money left after the fellows get what they want, there is an arrangement for sending it home. Adams Express will convey it through for 1 per cent & insure it for 2 1/2 per cent.
This afternoon a sailboat came to the beach with a flag of truce. A company went down to meet them with a white flag. I don’t know what it meant, but think likely they were refugees from the rebels. They come over from the mainland, now & then. John Phelps came to see us today. He has grown fat since he left Mass. He is 2nd Lieut. in the 6th Mass. Battery & is attached to our brigade. He said he has sent home for 50 lbs. of maple sugar. Each tent is supplied with a candle. Ours is stuck into the shank of a bayonet with the point in the ground & I sit on a cartridge box writing, while the company is chatting & talking. We have tattoo at 8:30 & have to put out lights at 9.
Friday, 28th March — After two days given us to clean up and get [illegible], we commenced drilling yesterday. We had breakfast at 6:30 & drilled from 7 to 10, battalion drill. Then in the afternoon from 4 to 6. This gives us some time in the heat of the day to ourselves & all together it makes the day seem longer. Between drills, we are not restricted by guards & can travel around the island as much as we please, except we can’t go beyond a guard a mile or so east. We have to drill with our knapsacks on, but as we don’t have our blankets on, or any more in them than we have a mind to put in, it doesn’t seem very hard. Our company is drilling the skirmish drill. We have the order to take intervals & then we march in front of the battalion in squads of 4, twenty paces apart. When the order halt is given, we “deploy”. We separate 5 paces apart, so there is a line stretching along in front of the Regiment each man 5 paces from his comrade. Then we fire alternately. One man loads & when he is loaded, the next one fires, so half have their guns loaded. We have to learn to load sitting down, kneeling, lying, and marching. Now we only go through the motions, but we shall have cartridges when we get so we understand the motions. We have orders to “assemble by fours” when the same squad of four come together, “rally by fours” which is the same except we go on the double-quick and fix bayonets, “rally on the reserve”, “rally on the battalion”, “assemble on the center”, etc. The drill is very pretty & we all like it.
The chance is that we shall have no fighting except the skirmishing & reconnoitering. Our regiment has no brass band, but there are several on the island. The weather is quite warm here in the middle of the day. At night, there is a heavy dew & it is quite chilly. It is healthy here and although someone is buried almost every day, it is nothing strange among 12 or 14,000 men. I have not seen anything of Ruggles, Chandler, or Richmond since we landed. They were left at the hospital when we came ashore. They are, I presume, in the hospital tent. Chandler was troubled with dysentery & Ruggles was almost well. Richmond was sick the same as half the fellows — the voyage and the fare didn’t agree with him.
There are alligators in the marshes on the east part of the island, but they are not very frequent before warmer weather. One or two have been seen. There are plenty of seashells in the sand and on the beach. I have seen two or three kinds of flowers in the low marshy places, but they are only a sort of violet or grasses. There is a specimen of cactus which grows in the sand.
King, a sergeant in the Zouave company, writes I believe for the Barre Gazette. You will see his letters. He used to be a lieutenant in the rebel army & deserted.
Yesterday, we had beef for dinner & today we have beans. We have not had any soft bread yet, except a little piece which the Captain brought for us. The bakery can supply the regiment with it only once in about a week.
There is one fellow in the Michigan Regiment who had a novel arrangement. He had traded buttons with the regiment from different states, so he had no two buttons on his coat alike. The buttons have the seal of the state on them & he had a Mass. button, etc. He had one rebel button he got from a Virginia cavalry. It had the coat of arms of the state with “sic semper tyrannis” on it.
As I am going down to the post office this afternoon, I will drop the letter in though I don’t know when it will go. I am in hopes to hear from you soon. It seems as if we were out of the world. It is almost 4 weeks since I saw a newspaper. I mean the latest paper I saw was dated about four weeks ago.
Remember me to all Hardwick people. I am in tip-top health, enjoy Ship Island society & presume I weigh more than I ever did.
Your affectionate son and brother
Saturday evening March 29, 1862
Dear friends at home
Last night I got hold of a Boston Journal February 21, the day we left Boston, and the fellows wanted I should read the news to them. I read about the gunboats going up the Tennessee River & a letter from Ship Island, which was quite interesting to us.
This morning a man fell out of one of the companies and had to be carried back to the tents. He had a fit & probably sunstroke. Chandler & Richmond came back from the hospital today.
Saturday afternoons we have no drill, but the time is given to us to do our washing & cleanup our equipments for Sunday inspection. A squad went over to the east end of the island after wood. I went & got a lot of shells & cut some rushes which I’d packed down for a carpeting, so I shan’t have to put my blankets down on the sand. Twas a long ways & I should think 5 miles over where we went. There are some pines scattered among the sandbanks & once in awhile, marshes or bayous where they say there are alligators & snakes, but I never saw anyone that has seen any. But there were mosquitoes of considerable magnitude & quite numerous & plenty of crabs on the beach.
This island is a barren place any way, but we shall not stay long. Three or four regiments have orders to start tomorrow — the 21st Indiana, 6th Michigan, & 4th Wisconsin & 26th Mass. They do not know where their destination is. Some think they go to Texas, some to New Orleans. They belong to Gen. Williams brigade; our regiment is attached to the same brigade. Gen. Shepley for Col. of Maine 12th command the brigade consisting of the 12th, 13th, 14th & 15th Maine. The other regiments on the island are 30th Mass., 9th & 12th Conn. & 8th N.H. More are expected soon. I suppose they are under Gen. Phelps. There are several batteries & some cavalry companies, making 14 or 15,000 men in all — quite a city. There have been some changes in our regimental officers — Commissary Cushing is dock master & tends to unloading vessels & storing goods, etc. Lieut. Cooley of Co. A is acting as Commissary now. Quartermaster Cushing is acting as Post Quartermaster. I don’t know how long he will continue in that capacity. Dr. Bidwell came on as Assistant Surgeon, instead of Dr. Train. I never have consulted him & I hope I never shall have to. The boys complain of him & I should think from the way he treats cases, he didn’t know anything. If a man has the dysentery, he gives him a pill. For a cold, fever, or anything else the remedy is the same. He don’t know when a man is sick & fellows go to him & get excluded from drill, but he won’t excuse anyone if he is able to stand.
Some fellows got some cheese today for 25 cents a pound. Our company box, which I supposed was thrown overboard, came in on the Saxon. It was not in our boat.
Sunday 30th March — Very warm day. Inspection at 9 a.m. No exercise, as we could not stand out in the hot sun in the burning sand as it got to be late before we got through inspection. We may have it in the cool of the day. The 13th Conn. has arrived. The 9th & 12th Conn. leave today. I have just picked up a few little shells which I will put in, though they may be broken.
This morning a rebel gunboat came up and fired away in this direction. The New London gave chase & came back in a few hours with her prize. I hope the mail will come soon. I hear the mail goes out tomorrow. Love to all.
Your affectionate son and brother
Tuesday, 1 April 1862
My dear Parents and Sister
Yesterday afternoon we had a regimental inspection. We have a company inspection every Sunday & regimental the last day of every month. Frank let me have the New York Herald of March 10 which he got & I read all the evening to the boys. The principal news was about the fight at Newport News. Frank says he has been ordered to report to his company & will have to go into the ranks. I am sorry, as it will come hard for him to put on a knapsack & shoulder gun. The Col. said he had no right to have a clerk & the Adjutant could do all his writing.
Today, Frank brought Oscar Hervey around to our tent. He is Sgt. Major in the 21st Indiana. I had quite a talk with him. He said he went as a spy to Richmond last September & came back with full plans of the fortifications which he laid before the Secretary of War. The 21st Indiana had orders to leave Sunday, but they didn’t get ready to go. There is an Expedition on foot of a big character. He thinks they are going to the mouth of the Mississippi & work up to New Orleans, they suppose. John Phelps’ battery goes. Our regiment will be left on the island.
I sealed up the last letter supposing a mail would go out, but they say Butler won’t let a mail leave until he has made a strike, so you may get two or 3 letters together. Hervey said he had seen a paper of 12th March & that Manassas & Savannah were surely taken. I don’t think it much of a victory for McClellan to take Manassas after it had been evacuated, but then it must a depressing influence on the South. You don’t know how much we need papers here & how eagerly we inquire if there is a mail, every day. We are daily expecting a big mail here and I should think it was about time.
Eugene Southworth is working down to the wharf making scaling ladders for the Expedition that is going out.
Wednesday, April 2 – Last night we set up a new tent & there was a little different disposition of our company. Howland is Sgt. of our tent. Chandler, Eugene Southworth, & Brainerd are in our tent. Last night Howland read a chapter in the Bible & Chandler made a prayer, so I suppose we shall continue & have devotional exercises in our tent.
Frank says he’s going as clerk to the Adjutant, so he won’t have to go into the ranks. We got an order from the Capt. that is our tent [sic] & had it countersigned by the Commissary & managed to get a keg of molasses. There are 14 gallons & costs $7.10, a little over 50 cents a gallon. It is tip-top syrup & quite cheap for this country. We had soft bread given us for rations today. We got a loaf a piece to last one day. We consider we live pretty well now — have a pint of good coffee morning & night, sweetened with sugar, had rice & sugar for breakfast, and beans & pork with vinegar on it for dinner. We have had only hard pilot bread since we left Boston, before today.
The weather continues warm with no rain. We have had no rain since we came here, but there is a heavy dew every night.
I went to the beach & took a good bath before breakfast. I think it is a good thing & I shall try to repeat the operation. Richmond is in our tent now, so we have four Hardwick fellows.
Thursday, 3 April – Eugene Southworth is now at work on a building down to the wharf & will be detached for extra duty as long as we stay here, probably. He gets extra pay — 25 cents a day, I suppose.
Yesterday, there were 40 of our company detailed to go down to the bakery & bring up bread. I went down for one & brought up 9 loaves.
This morning on Battalion drill, we fired blank cartridges. The whole Battalion fired together. It was the first time I ever fired my piece. The cartridges for our rifles contain the ball & powder all together. We have the order “load”. We load in nine motions. First, bring the rifle between our feet, 2nd “handle cartridge” i.e. take it out of the box, 3rd “tear cartridge” by biting off the paper close to the powder, 4th “charge cartridge” by putting the cartridge at the muzzle of the gun & pouring in the powder, 5th “draw rammer”, 6th “ram cartridge”, 7th “return rammer”, 8th “prime” i.e. put on the cap, 9th “come to shoulder”. The next order is “ready”, then “aim” & “fire”. A blank cartridge has no ball in it & consists of nothing but powder & the paper it is done up in.
I went over to the hospital today to see Ruggles & Woodis, the only ones of our company there. The hospital is in a large tent & the beds are on canvas raised a little from the ground, so they won’t get into the sand. It is quite a comfortable place & I guess there are none there very sick. Ruggles says he isn’t going to write home till he gets a letter. He thinks he will get out soon. Woodis has an abscess on his neck. Brainerd & I went over & carried them two fried pies, which we bought for 25 cents. We thought they would relish them & I guess they will, though Ruggles has such a sore throat he can’t eat much. The Brigade Surgeon, Dr. Sanborn, has been insane since we came here. He came on with our regiment & they say his instruments, medicine, etc. were all thrown overboard while we were aground & to come on here with no medicine, etc. worked on him so, that he lost his reason.
Friday 4th April – I am on guard today & have just come off from the first relief at 11 o’clock a.m. We had brigade guard mounting. Our regiment is brigaded with the 6th Michigan, 21st Indiana, 4th Wisconsin, & 26th Mass. That expedition which had orders to leave & was expecting to go to the mouth of the Mississippi has been postponed. They say they did not have enough stock of provisions to start on. One or 2 Conn. regiments went over to the mainland to Biloxi or Mississippi City, day before yesterday. The story is that a sail boat was found with a child in it & thinking that its parents had been drowned, Major Strong of Butler’s staff & Capt. Conant went over with it under a flag of truce. They were ordered to surrender & fired on & Butler told them to go over with enough force to take the city & burn it down, if necessary. That is the story but I couldn’t say how true it is. The report was circulated yesterday that they had taken the place & 300 Mississippians & lost 30 men. There are so many stories that one can’t believe anything. I shouldn’t believe anyone had gone over if I hadn’t seen the 9th Conn. leave. The official report is made out by the Gen. & sent to Washington. I suppose so you will be more likely to get correct news of our war matters in this vicinity — except when our Regiment is engaged — than I should.
I wrote last Sunday about the New London bringing in a rebel gunboat after a little engagement. I believed it because I heard it from what I thought good authority, but learned afterwards that it was false.
The report is around this morning & believed by many that our Regiment & the 30th is [sic] ordered back to Washington. I consider it groundless.
We guards have to remain at the guard tent through the day & when the officer of the day approaches, the guard who is on his post cries, “Turn out the guard. Officer of the day” & we have to spring to our arms & stand at “present arms” till he has passed. The officer the day has charge of the camp, prisoners, etc. & is next in command to the Col. There is a “field officer of the day” also, for a brigade & he is next in command to a brigadier general & when he, or a general, or any person of rank, approaches the guard tent, the guards are paraded & the same honors paid as to the officer of the day. The Officer of the day is one of the Captains & the Field officer of the day, a field officer, Colonel, Lieut. Col. or Major.
12 1/2 p.m. – I’ve just been to dinner. Ham & potatoes, soft bread & molasses. I’ve got so I eat very hearty & the fellows all say I’m growing fat. It seems about as warm now as it does at home in July. The sun is beating down now as I sit on my rubber blanket in the sand outside of the tent. Dr. Sanborn died last night. He refused to eat anything & starved himself to death as much as anything. He was a scholar & a man respected & esteemed by the Regiment. The Great Republic came in today. Probably she brings troops & stores.
You see this paper has the stamp of the Michigan Regiment on it. It was given to me. The Michigan boys, when they had orders to leave, gave away a good many things which they couldn’t carry with them.
Saturday afternoon, 5th April – I slept out of doors last night & passed a comfortable night of it. Pants have been given out to us. They are light blue & quite pretty. Some of the fellows were in sad condition for clothing & some had to drill with nothing but drawers on. They are dress pants to wear on dress parade & any occasion except fatigue duty, such as getting would, digging, etc.
The 9th Conn. returned from Biloxi & Pass Christiana today, having dispersed a rebel force there. They brought back 3 prisoners & some niggers, a rebel flag and other trophies. The battle or skirmish was not very desperate, as only 3 were wounded on our side & those not seriously. Capt. Conant of Co. G of our regiment went with them & was wounded with a shell in the leg. They brought back a steamer which they captured.
Sunday, April 6 – We had services today at 11 o’clock. Each company falls in with their side arms on, that is, our bayonet in its sheath, belt, & cartridge box, & are marched to the chaplain’s tent where they sit down in the sand through the service. Brig. Gen. Williams was present. The text was Matthew 9.8. & the subject the qualifications of officers & duties of soldiers.
John Phelps came up this afternoon. He fired the first gun from his battery in the fight with the gunboats before they landed at Biloxi. They say it killed a Captain & one or two others, but I doubt it. He said there was one Regiment of rebel infantry, a company of cavalry, & a battery. They ran so fast they couldn’t get very near them. They left guns loaded & our men burned their tents, blankets, etc. At Biloxi, John said there were oranges which they got. He expects to go over again, soon.
Yesterday, we had no bread, but drew flour instead. They got up a dish for supper called “duff.” It was nothing but flour & water, mixed & cooked. It tasted just like paste we use to paper with at home. We couldn’t eat it, except some who eat anything. We had besides, a flapjack apiece. It was the same stuff, flour & water cooked in a spider. With molasses it went first-rate. Today we drew a loaf of bread.
Yesterday two or 3 men were put in the guardhouse for firing in the ranks before the order was given. The first time our battalion fired, the Colonel said, “Now fire when the order is given & not before. Don’t get nervous & fire when I give the command ‘ready'”, but after that caution, as he hallooed “ready”, “aim”, at the latter order about half the regiment fired. I was one of the greenhorns & supposed, as the rest were firing, I must. It made the Col. quite provoked & he swore to the men. Now we do better & fire regularly.
Yesterday the boys were all pleased to see a fellow, Gage, just down from Ware. He belongs to John Phelps’ battery. They gathered around to receive the papers & letters he brought & asked all sorts of questions. He brought Boston Journals, Ware Standards, & Springfield Republicans. Frank had a letter from Albert. The Republican was March 8th & had a letter from this Regiment giving quite a correct account of the storm & our getting aground.
I went up last night & called on Oscar Hervey. He said the chaplain of their regiment saw a paper down to the wharf of March 22 & offered a dollar for it, but couldn’t buy it. One of the Boston papers speaks of short commons at Ship Island. We were 21 days rations ahead yesterday, before 5 or 6 ships came in & there is no danger of getting ashore on that. The 8th Vermont came in yesterday. Ships are lying around the wharf & it looks like a big place.
As I was out this afternoon I saw a funeral procession marching along. There were three unpainted coffins containing the remains of three of the 4th Wisconsin Regiment who died yesterday of typhoid fever. Two companies followed those to which the deceased belonged & their slow tread, the muffled drums beating, & the escort of a corporal & 8 privates with arms reversed, made a solemn site. I followed up to the burial place. The chaplain made some excellent remarks & the band played a tune & the escort fired three volleys over the grave & the procession returned. There are quite a number of graves, each regiment having a separate place. Several graves have a pine board at the head with the name of the deceased, age, etc. painted on it, but many have no memorial & the sand heap only shows the resting place of the soldier. There were 5 graves dug for two of the 26th Mass. & 3 of a Maine Regiment who were drowned while in bathing yesterday. They got beyond their depth & were carried away by the current.
Monday, April 7 – There are the greatest rumors afloat today. It would seem the fellows had nothing to do yesterday, but originate stories. For instance, Gen. Butler is superseded & Fremont will take his place, none of our officers have their commissions & we are ordered back to Mass., a mail came in two or 3 days ago on the Saxon & Butler won’t let it come ashore so as not to let us know that he is superseded, etc.
Southworth gets his rations down to the wharf & stays there nights. He is at work now putting up bunks on the ship Undaunted for the sick to return on. There are 3 or 4 in our company who will never be able to do duty & will return. Southworth works hard & says he don’t have time to write home.
A new tent has been put up, making 6 for the company. The new one is for the cooks & the company commissary, Sgt. Canterbury, & the stores, & one or two others.
Latest news – Gen. Butler went off last night on the Saxon & they say he is has gone to Washington to be tried by court-martial. New Orleans is taken according to reports according to report everywhere & “peace has been declared” several times since we came. When no steamer comes in they get up a story that someone is going to be shot for sleeping on his post or hung for some offense.
We appeared today on brigade drill for the first time. We went through a few maneuvers, “on the right by companies to the rear into column”, etc., but it was sort of blundering work for us, as we couldn’t hear Gen. Williams’ commands & there are so many Colonels, Lieut. Colonels, Majors, etc. yelling. I don’t see how a general can issue orders in battle, but I suppose he sends his aides around to the regiments.
Frank was just in & said John Phelps told him if he wanted any letters sent by private conveyance to bring them to John tomorrow, so I will close & send this. I have made out quite a letter though I have not much to write about. It’s discouraging to write and get no answers. Love to all.
Your affectionate son and bro. James
Ship Island Mississippi
Wednesday, 9 April 1862
My dear Parents & Sister
Having finished a hearty supper I sit down this evening to commence another letter. I drank my own ration of coffee, a little over a pint, & bought another ration for the rice which I shall draw for breakfast tomorrow, had plenty of soft bread and molasses. Chandler gave me half a big griddle cake he had cooked for some molasses to put on his other half & I bought a fried apple turnover for 11 cents to top off with. Quite a big supper. You see my appetite continues good. The drill seems to be easier than it ever was before. I think I must be growing stronger. I don’t feel any more tired than the rest. I sleep first-rate, get up at daybreak & take a bath before breakfast & my physical condition is about as satisfactory as it ever was. I take care not to venture too far into the water so as not to endanger my life. It is delightful to let the waves roll over you. It is the first place I have been where we had water plenty. Water enough to drink & to wash in.
Yesterday we had some rains, the first we have had since we came. The wind blew when it didn’t rain & the sand flew like snow, filling our necks & ears, making it quite tedious to be out. The water rushed up on the island & I didn’t know but it would cover it. They say it does sometimes when the spring tide is up. The island here is about as wide as from our house to Mr. Trow’s. I should think but if there was any danger of any such thing happening, there would be time enough to get us into the vessels in the harbor. We banked our tent up with sand before night so it wouldn’t blow in under it & it made the tent stand stronger. The tent next to us blew down in the middle of the night. I woke up & heard the fellows talking & hallooing. They had to fix it – it took some time. This morning was a cool, clear morning & we could see the trees over on the mainland very distinctly.
Richardson got a box from home yesterday. The cake & apples were about spoiled, the butter & liquor was [sic] in a good condition. This afternoon there was grand review of all the troops on the island. The line extended up the island a long ways. There were 16 regiments of infantry, 4 batteries of artillery, & 2 companies of cavalry — so those said that counted. Gen. Butler & staff rode along the line & then we marched in review before him. We went out onto the line at 3 1/2 o’clock & it was sundown before we got around. Some think this looks like an early leaving of the island & they have begun to circulate reports that 3 brigades have marching orders in three days & that we go to Mobile.
I think if Butler is going to do anything he will start soon, but I don’t place any confidence in rumors. But still we are getting ready. Today the officers inquired of each man if there was anything the matter with his gun & if it wouldn’t snap a cap the first time, he was told to get a new one. Some said they would fix it themselves, but Lieut. Howell said we couldn’t wait, as we should want them. Evidently a movement is in preparation, but whether our regiment will go I think doubtful.
Thursday, April 10th – The sergeants have all gone into a tent together. There are 17 now occupying our tent & it is in charge of Corporals Bassett & Garland. It is a pretty good crowd. Every night after devotions & the light is blown out, they go to singing till they go to sleep. Last night they sung “Boylston”, “We’re Going Home”, etc. This morning there was a conversation arising from Sally making the remarks that Chandler made good prayers. Gleason said there was no man he like to hear pray or preach better than Mr. Tupper. I didn’t know as he ever went to church before. Brainard said there was more in his “amen” then in most person’s prayers.
Friday, April 11th – Today has been cold, windy & rainy. I didn’t drill any, but was in the Captain’s tents assisting in making out the pay rolls. We have had no marching orders yet, but are expecting them soon. It is decided that we go with several other regiments to strike at some point. It is the opinion of the officers that we shall go up the Mississippi to Fort Jackson. Porter’s mortar fleet, which has been off the mouth of the Mississippi, will reduce the forts & we occupy them. You may hear of the engagement before you get this. The Michigan Regiment next to us have been changing their Springfield guns for the Austrian rifle & our men have been fixing up their guns, changing them, & getting ready. I don’t imagine our regiment will be much exposed & I should be glad if we could take New Orleans without firing a gun, but we have to go prepared, of course.
Saturday evening, April 12 – This afternoon, I had just got my hands in the washtub & was commencing to wash my dirty close, when Orderly Bond came from the Captain’s tent with the mail for our company. We surrounded the orderly’s tent & the letters & papers were distributed. Your letter was dated March 15, four weeks ago today, & mailed the 17th. I received also a letter from Charlie Peck & the papers Republican of the 14th & Puritan Recorder. You speak about the papers containing old news, but as I have told you, papers are very scarce here & I was very glad to get them. I had not seen so late a paper as the 14th before. Mother speaks of writing two weeks before. That letter, I have not yet received. I hope my letters reach you sooner & with more certainty than they come this way or there would be little encouragement to write. I write most every day & if you don’t get them, it is not my fault.
I find some encouragement for us soldiers in the war news & I believe our forces will hold New Orleans, soon. I hope some more letters will come soon. Just think — seven weeks from Boston before I get my first letter. Gore inquired if I heard from home & when I said yes, he wanted to know if they spoke of a note he wrote from Fortress Monroe. I told him they did. Chandler was surprised not to hear from his folks. Frank got a good many letters from his folks.
I am glad Louisa has got so as to play “Greenville”.
Last night we had a terrible thunder shower. It seemed as though I never saw it rain so. It poured down on the tent & it came through in some places & the fellows had to get up. I have a dry place & occupied it all night. The guard tent was struck by lightning. It was occupied by prisoners & guards. Three of Co. K who were prisoners were killed & some 10 or a dozen others injured. Gleason was on guard & was laying down with his feet near the center pole. The shock made him senseless, but he has got about over the effect of it. One man’s gun was struck & knocked to pieces while he held it & the only injury done to him was scorching his arm & his clothes. The funeral service was this afternoon.
The Episcopal service was read over one & the Catholic service, by the chaplain of the 9th Conn. an Irish Regiment, over the graves of the other two. The whole regiment marched to the graves. The Idaho & Great Republic were driven ashore by the storm, but were hauled off by steam tugs this morning.
A corporal of Company G was reduced to the ranks for standing at “rest” when he ought to be at attention when the Regiment was in line a few days ago. It was read at Dress Parade.
P.S. Monday 14th April – We expect to embark today. Our destination is unknown. I hope the conflict we may engage in may not be very bloody, but I cannot expect to see it bloodless. I am in good courage & whatever happens, know it is for the best. We have three days’ rations. Grout died last night of diphtheria or some throat distemper. I will write every day, but I may get no chance for a few days. Love to all
Your aff. son and bro. James
New Orleans Louisiana
Monday, 26 May 1862
Dear Parents & Sister,
This is the week you had planned to start for the West. I hope your plans will not be frustrated for I think a journey there will be a benefit to you & a source of much pleasure to our friends. This morning I went up to the Arsenal with Charles Salter & Capt. Sprague of the 13th Conn. This is Homer B. Sprague, formerly of Worcester. I think he lectured in Hardwick a few winters ago. There are several trophies, which I mean to box up & send home by Adams Express. They will be worth when I get home all the expense of transporting them. There are some pikes there, which it was prepared to arm some regiments with. They are about 15 feet long & have an iron or steel spear-like head. A regiment would look formidable with such weapons, but they would be apt to get shot before they could get near enough to poke anybody & I presume they have no regiment in the field with such arms.
They talk here about the Mississippi, an iron ship which they were building when we came up, but destroyed so we cannot use it. It was to be a terrible engine of destruction & persons who have interest in the rebellion say it must have [illegible] everything before it. They say the Merrimac was nothing to it. It would have been completed in 3 or 4 weeks & it may have been provident that we came up as we did. They say here that the ram Manassas was of no account. They didn’t say so though until the wooden frigate Mississippi had sunk her.
Gen. Twiggs, the old traitor, lived here in the city till we came, but when we got around the old man had fled with his daughter. The soldiers have gone through his house but found nothing. He is an old man & had no office in the rebel army. He lived long enough to see his home, where he thought he was safe, occupied by the forces under the old banner which he so ignobly surrendered.
The Quartermaster paid off the laborers today that they have employed since we came. They paid them mostly in treasury notes & a new currency will be established here. Some got a dollar or so in specie & they could scarcely recognize the old Coin, it had been so long since they had seen any.
Tuesday, May 27 – I have just been up to Annunciation Square to dinner. It is nearer than where I take breakfast & supper & I frequently go up to dinner. I had rice & molasses for rations. I saw Bank [?]. He has been about sick for 3 or 4 days. His face was all swollen up, but he is well now. A cold which he took one night & the toothache was the trouble.
A little girl just now gave me a little flower & said, “Will you give me a ticket?” The beggars here, instead of “Give me a penny” say “Give me a ticket.” They have no pennies & a ticket is one of these omnibus or saloon certificates — “good for one ride” or “good for a drink.”
I went up to the arsenal with Mr. Salter & Capt. Sprague, this morning. I brought away a rifle & one or two pike heads which I intend to send home.
A man yesterday gave me a little alligator which I thought I could send home for my museum. It was dried up, nothing but the head & the skin left, but someone took it away from the office last night. They say I can get plenty of young alligators soon. The boys bring them around to see & I can put one in a box & send [it] off, as they will live several months without eating anything. Perhaps I will send one to Geo. Mixter if he wants one. Little ones about a foot long are perfectly harmless & boys take them in their hands & carry around.
Some malicious rebels have been trying to cut the levee up beyond Carrollton. They have to keep soldiers up there watching it all the time. They managed to cut one place yesterday, but our men stopped it before any damage was done. They told the folks when ’twas done that Gen. Butler ordered them to do it. I suppose some of those scoundrels would like to drown the whole city just to spite the Yankees.
Thursday, May 29 – I still continue to have charge of the warehouse at Reading Press & have today superintended the reception & delivery of large quantities of hay & oats & other merchandise. I have frequent orders for 10,000 ft. of lumber. I couldn’t measure a thousand feet if I had a measure, but having none, I put on all the airs of a man of business & tell one of the workmen about the building to go & give the man who comes 10,000 feet. I have men frequently apply to me for work as carpenters or blacksmiths & I begin to think I occupy quite an important position in society. Today a man wanted to get a recommendation so as to apply for the position of policeman. I never saw him before, but I asked him if he had ever taken the oath of allegiance to the Southern Confederacy. Then I asked him if he was willing to take the oath of allegiance to the U.S. His answers were satisfactory & I wrote him a recommendation saying I considered him honest & capable of fulfilling the duties of the station to which he aspired.
I got paid today for extra duty in the Quartermaster’s — for 24 days at 40 cents a day. I got $5.00 Treasury note & $.46 in specie. The Ocean Queen came in yesterday from N.Y. the 18th. She brings news of the repulse of our gunboat on the James River. The paymaster came & will commence paying off our troops, soon.
Some Texans have destroyed all the bridges on the New Orleans & Opelousas R.R., which the Indiana boys have been running since we occupied the city. They took 2 lieutenants & several privates prisoners.
The number of contrabands who have sought protection in our lines is quite large, though no encouragement is offered them. On the other hand, women are not allowed in the Custom House and a great many were crying the other night when the order was issued, as they had no place to go.
Sunday, June 1 – 1st Day of Summer [sic]– I went to church with Chas. Salter this a.m. We attended Dr. Palmer’s church in Lafayette Square — one of the most fashionable in the city. I don’t know who preached, some rebel. He was guarded in his expressions but he spoke about the “late United States” & you could easily see where his sympathy was. I found a sergeant in one of the companies of the 13th Conn. Regt., an Alpha Delta Phi graduate of Yale class of ’61 — Kinney. I saw his name in the Independent among the list of ministers’ sons in the army. My name wasn’t among them. Last night I went to a Union Meeting. There were only a few present, over a hundred though. They were organizing, choosing a president, nothing very interesting, though a cheering sign to have a Union Meeting here & no trouble made. The 30th Mass. Regt. & one or two others have gone up the River to Baton Rouge or Vicksburg. They expect a brush with the enemy. Success to them. I long for the opening of the river. Weather getting warm. Three of our regiment fell down yesterday at guard mounting – sunstroke – one isn’t expected to live. Thermometer 90°. I see in the papers a large fire in Troy, 6th Street Church & Union Depot burnt. Did Uncle Adornos’ house escape the conflagration! I am afraid not. I should expect you won’t get this till you return from the West. Love to all. Write as often as you can. We are all well, all Hardwick boys.
Your affectionate son and brother
New Orleans, La.
Monday evening, June 9, 1862
Dear Parents, sisters & brother
As the Ocean Queen is expected to leave Wednesday, I will write to Waverley instead of Hardwick as I think it will have time to reach there before “the Monday after the first Sunday in July” though I can’t stop to look for the Farmer’s Almanac to know how long that will be. I received today, the letter written just before the folks left Hardwick — mailed May 27 and directed care of Lieut. Harral, Post Quartermaster. The letter which came in the same mail, one from Emily, I got yesterday. They were directed to the Regiment, so I went to the chaplain and got them as soon as he got the mail.
Last Saturday was the day that will long be remembered here in New Orleans. Mumford was hung for tearing the American flag from the Mint, which was put up before we came. He was hung about 11 in the forenoon & a large assemblage witnessed the execution. The gallows was at the Mint in the yard & above the corner on the same place waved the flag which he had disgraced. There was not the least attempt at rescue & no extraordinary excitement was manifested by the thousands of witnesses. I was not able to be present on account of the pressure of business. It would be a sad sight to witness, but my curiosity would have led me to have gone if I could. For my part, although I like to see the course of action which indicates the power & strength of our government, I don’t think Mumford ought to have been hung more than 10,000 others in the City. Here are men having clerkships under government officials who have been recruiting sergeants for the Confederate service. Men are working for the government as teamsters at $17 a month who have completed their terms of service in the rebel army — having been in arms against their country & done all in their power to kill the defenders of our flag, now making money out of the Yankees. This poor fellow who, in the excitement of the hour & urged on by a mob, tears down the flag when our army was not yet in the City, hung. I can’t see the justice of the thing.
Another performance Saturday was the raising of the American flag on the City Hall by the citizens of New Orleans. 34 guns are fired & a band discoursed patriotic airs. The leading citizens of the city are coming out in favor of the Union & every sign is full of hope for the reestablishment of peace. The Union men go as far as Butler & farther. They want half the men in the city hung & I don’t blame them. They have been trod down so long, have been obliged to keep still so long, that now they have a chance to speak their sentiments, they talk wild. Six men were sentenced to be shot recently for violating their parole & enlisting again in the service of secesh. Mr. Salter conversed with the convicts the night previous to the day set for their execution or death by shooting. He seemed to think the extenuating circumstances of their crime demanded a lighter punishment & conversed with Gen’l. Butler on the subject. The General gave him no hope. The next morning at about 6, the fellows were taken out & put in Army wagons & their Coffins placed in another & women were crying & wringing their hands as they were taken to the limits of the City. But after they had been placed on their coffins & were about to be shot, their reprieve came & they are sentenced to go to Ship Island. One said he would rather be shot.
Our Regiment will be paid off in a day or two & then be sent up the river, to what point I don’t know – perhaps to accompany Porter’s mortar fleet to be the first to land at Vicksburg as they were at New Orleans. I spoke to the Adjutant about my going. He said I should stay, as I was detailed by order of General Butler & wouldn’t follow the Regiment. Two of our company, Sagendorph & Stevens, are detailed for the Signal Corps. They will have a horse & carry flags & signals. I don’t think our Regiment will go farther than Baton Rouge.
Business at the Reading Press, my place of business, continues brisk. I despatched the other day to Baton Rouge 30,000 lbs. of oats & nearly 40,000 lbs. of hay. A large corps of indigent females are now occupied in making mosquito bars for soldiers under the Quartermaster’s care. Good thing. S. Fisherdick, of Ware, Co. D, died this morning. He was a large, fine-looking man – 6 feet, 2 or 3 inches – good figure. All who have died of our company have been from head of the company – Grout, Ruggles, & Fisherdick. It is disease — I don’t know what the doctors call it. His constitution impaired by a severe attack of measles at Camp Seward, weakened by continued diarrhea, couldn’t stand the Mississippi water, the heat & the damp, unhealthy nights. Six of our company have got discharges & will go home soon — five besides Fisherdick, who had got his discharge. They are Woodis, Salley, Woodard, Robbins, & Wilcox, all of Ware except Woodard of Warren. Orderly Bond is still in the hospital – not dangerous. Southworth is in the hospital, but is well enough to go off with the Regiment. Capt. Hopkins has been sick. His health is not good.
I saw a Lieut. in the 17th Mississippi Regt. just from Richmond. He belongs in Philadelphia & enlisted hoping he would find an opportunity to get North. He was at the Battle of Bull Run, Ball’s Bluff, & Williamsburg. His Regiment enlisted for 1 year & when their term expired, they were forced into service under the Conscription Act & great dissatisfaction exists. He says 50,000 of the Army of the Potomac [sic] would lay down their arms if they had a chance. A gloomy feeling settles down over the whole Confederacy, for if Richmond is ours & Halleck conquers at Corinth, the South can never raise another Army. I hear Beauregard has evacuated Corinth – “the water isn’t good.” If he thinks water is all that troubles his soldiers, he’s mistaken.
The call for 100,000 new volunteers made us laugh here. We thought it must be one of old Abe’s jokes, though I can’t see any point to it. Here, our little Corps D’Armee, if you can dignify 15 or 18 regiments of green, undisciplined Yankees by the title, holds in subjection the opulent city of New Orleans & has driven to the wilderness of Camp Moore. The N.Y. Scavenger Lovell with his crew of 30,000 (so reported) occupies Baton Rouge. He’s gone as far as Grand Gulf, Miss. & flattered itself that they had broken the backbone of the Confederacy & thought it needed no new levy of troops to put on the finishing touches to secession. But if McClellan, after keeping the Grand Army of the Potomac inactive for almost a year before the wooden guns of Centerville, wants 100,000 more men to help take fortifications after the rebels have evacuated them, or if Baltimore, after being garrisoned since the war broke out with a force as large as our whole division & hasn’t suffered yet the penalty of her first transgression so as to be trusted when federal bayonets are withdrawn, give them 100,000 more & let them do the work over again & make a clean sweep as far as they do go. But if it’s Abe’s latest jokes, as I said, I see no point to it. To fool 100,000 more young, green patriots to take up arms to fight for slavery, Brigade Sutlers, & contractors for Army shoes, is tough.
Tuesday evening, June 10 – After getting off the above, I felt exhausted & retired without further ado. I went to the prayer meeting this evening, where Mr. Salter took leave of his charge. He has endeared himself to his Regiment & is my idea of a chaplain. His interest in the contrabands has been shown by the pains he has taken to keep them from being returned to their masters & providing them with employment, etc. He takes home one slave in whom he is particularly interested. I got but a moment to speak to him. His friends all had a word to say or a message to give to their friends at home. I can’t think it is Mr. Salter’s duty to leave the good work he is engaged in here, but he knows best. It has been a great pleasure to me to meet with him & the short acquaintance I have had with a man so genial, generous, & noble, I have highly prized & feel like parting with an old friend.
Refugees are continually coming in & the stories they tell are alike. They tell of destitution, of outrages unheard of in civilized life, of miseries which the South is undergoing — the penalty of past crimes & this last culmination of their iniquities — this great & wicked rebellion. One man said he had seen 8 Union men hung in Alexandria, La. & was obliged to attend their execution & swing his hat. Is this America, the land of the free? It makes me despair almost of republican institutions.
I hope the journey West will improve father’s health & that you will be favored by Providence in all the wariness & dangers of travel & get back to Hardwick safe & sound. Write soon.
Your affectionate son and brother
New Orleans, La.
Tuesday evening, June 16, 1862
Dear Sister Louisa
I am in doubt now whether it is best to write to you or not, as I am afraid you will not be in Enfield when this gets there.
The old Mississippi goes to Boston tomorrow. The 31st has been aboard of her so much she seems like an old friend to us & we hate to have her leave these waters. I wrote to father & mother at Waverley and sent by the last steamer, the Ocean Queen. I have got the letters you have written lately — the last was 26th May. The one directed Ship Island 23rd of May, I didn’t get so quick.
Did you see the correspondence in the Boston Journal May 24 from New Orleans[?] The 31st Mass., it says, look like a set of prisoners, “dirty, woebegone, with tears in their eyes,” mostly foreigners & boys. Some miserable secessionist wrote that, you could see easy enough. One of the boys in Co. K has written a letter to the Boston Herald in answer to it. I hope you will see it.
Four men were hung today — one soldier, Frank Newton of the 13th Conn., two sailors & one citizen — for stealing while pretending to search for arms. I think it’s too bad to hang them. If he would hang about hundred rebels all right, but to hang fellows for stealing from them when they ought to use every cent of property they have is too bad. The confession of Newton is very touching. His parents belong to the church at home & he has an Affectionate wife. A great many went to see Mumford hung for tearing the American flag from the mint, but I had so much to do I couldn’t get away.
I had a letter from Uncle Adorno & Elisha, May 31st. They sent to me, also by the Marion, 20 or 30 papers — New York & Hartford. I suppose from what I saw in the papers Uncle A.’s house must have been destroyed.
The last mail here left New York the 31st. We are very anxious to hear the northern accounts of the Richmond battle, as all we have gleaned has been from southern papers. Some of the wounded have found their way to the city. They say McClellan was defeated & 30,000 Yankees taken for prisoners. That’s just as much as you can believe from these southern liars. I wish Butler would shoot some of these soldiers, just come from shooting northern men & getting excitement up here by circulating such stories.
I don’t go up to the Regiment very often. Was up there yesterday & saw Frank. He is well & flourishing. I wrote to Emily last steamer. Watermelons & muskmelons are plenty now. The weather is quite hot, but the soldiers stand it well. Capt. Hopkins has gone home on 60 days furlough, but we never expect to see him here again & the company think he ought to resign. Orderly Bond is in the Hospital. I’ve just been in to see him. He will be well soon. I expect he will be Lieut. to fill the vacancy occasioned by the promotion of Lieut. Allen. I wish Alonzo Johnson could be Chaplain in the 13th Conn. in place of Mr. Salter, resigned. I thought a great deal of Salter. He was a splendid fellow.
New Orleans is getting to be quite a respectable city. The people consider Yankees just as good as anybody else & as I walk along the street folks bow as politely as though I was an old resident. I sleep now at 25 Magazine St. at the office of the Quartermaster of the Post. I feel sleepy enough to go to bed, too. May add a word in the morning.
June 17 – I heard a mail for the soldiers had arrived & went up to Annunciation Square this morning to get my portion. I rec’d an old letter dated April 29 from you & Father & a bunch of papers. Letter was nearly 7 weeks old. It came on a sailing vessel, I suppose. I saw Frank, but he was busy & I was in a hurry so I didn’t hold a very animated conversation with him.
That box sent to John Phelps is in the Express office here. John is up to Baton Rouge, 120 miles up the river. Frank tried to get his box so as to get the things that were sent to him & me & some of our company, but they wouldn’t let him open it without an order from John. The letter you sent then will be valuable for its antiquity. Before the war is over, I think we shall get the box.
The boys have flattered themselves that the war was going to come to a sudden close since they came to New Orleans. Some were sure we should be home in July. I have told them we had another winter to spend South & I guess they will come to that conclusion. The call for fresh troops opened their eyes & they thought it must be one of old Abe’s jokes. Now they say they will be home by Thanksgiving. When the war is over & the South restored to the Union, I shall be ready to hear the bugle note sound for the evacuation of New Orleans. Five or 6 have been discharged for ill health from our company. One has since died, Fisherdick, another Woodis, both of Ware, is not expected to get up & the rest will die if they don’t go home soon. That is just the way. If they get their discharge before they get ready to send them to their friends they are growing worse.
I have got letters from all of our folks recently & hope to hear regularly now. It is a good thing to open the Port of New Orleans. I feel so much better to walk along the levee & see ships loading & unloading & know they are all Yankee ships. Already provisions etc. are coming down & New Orleans might thank Porter & Farragut for getting her out of the grasp of Secessionists, but she ain’t out of the woods yet & it will be a long time before her former prosperity will return. Give my love to all Enfield relatives. I believe Lottie or Warren owe me a letter.
Your aff. Bro. James
I enclose some Confederate stamps for Lottie.
New Orleans, La.
Tuesday evening June 24
My dear Parents & Sisters
By the time this reaches you I expect you have all returned from your summer trips – Father & Mother from Illinois, Louisa from Enfield, & Emily from Philadelphia. You probably found your family & relatives all comfortably situated & if you had continued your journey to New Orleans, you would have found your promising scion, who has made war his vocation, enjoying city life un-seduced by the temptations of the metropolis & having the confidence of the community. Just so, since the evacuation of Corinth, all interest in the war news is centered on the Army of Virginia & our fleet in the river above. Nothing satisfactory reaches us from either. Vicksburg still holds out & if the river is opened, it will be dangerous for boats for some time as the length of the river will make it difficult for our troops to prevent batteries being planted at any time along the banks.
There is not much going on in this Division. On the Opelousas R.R. across the river skirmishes occur & a few are killed, wounded, & missing occasionally & skirmishes with guerrilla bands near Baton Rouge are reported, but we get nothing definite & I am to rely on New York papers for information about most everything of importance.
Our Regiment was paid off yesterday. We received 4 months’ pay from January 1 to April 31st. I got $52 & will send home $50 when I find how the rest are going to do. Maine has a state agent here to take all money which the soldiers want to have sent to their families. They have 4 regiments here besides one or 2 batteries of artillery.
I was up to the Regiment last night & saw a fellow in Co. K, enlisted here in the city, drummed out of the service. Stripped of the uniform of a U.S. soldier & arrayed in whatever clothes he could obtain, he was paraded back & forth along the line of the Regiment, the Guard behind pointing their guns at him & the drummers beating the Rogues March. He was escorted by the Guard & drummers outside of the lines, one or two blocks, followed by crowds of women, darkies, & boys & then left to his own reflections. His crime was insubordination and a uniform vicious character. Our Regiment is getting its name up for drumming fellows out. Sullivan, who stabbed Capt. Lee at Pittsfield, & one other were drummed out a few days ago. Sullivan had been kept in confinement ever since, most if not all the time in irons.
Our Regiment has got a band. The musicians were enlisted here in the City & every night they play in the square popular national airs.
Our Regiment is very pleasantly situated. The officers have finely furnished houses all around the park & the soldiers occupy Cotton Presses in the vicinity, good bunks with mosquito bars. Very few guards are detailed and they are ordered to keep in the shade & very little labor is expected from them. Charles Chandler is, and has been since he was sick, at home suffering from a cough. He does no duty & I believe is getting over it. If he hadn’t the constitution of a horse, he would wear out. I hope he will get over it this summer. Joe Richmond, I believe, is well. Frank & the rest of the Hardwick Braves, also.
Met Holden, who worked for Deacon Tyler when I did, the other day. He had to stop & tell all about Frank Holden & his family matters & about Charles Tupper, who he insists is a second cousin of mine, & asked all manner of questions about you, & as I got away almost out of reach of his voice, he hallooed out, “Mr. Tupper, where do you think Elmira is?”
Cleveland is poor & sickly & I guess wishes he was home. I saw him today around the Louisiana Bakery, the government bake house, where he is detailed. He used to live in Hardwick, but I don’t know as you recollect him.
I went aboard the sloop of war Pensacola yesterday. She lays opposite the Reading Press undergoing repairs. A man in the Submarine Armor was down in the water taking observations under her. I was shown all about the ship & she bears all about her the marks of the great naval battle out of which she came with only the loss of 6 killed & 30 or 40 wounded, after being an hour & 20 minutes under fire with 3 or 400 men on board. There is a company of Marines onboard under a Lieut. who preserve order, stand guard on the wharf, etc. One of the sailors was shot last night while attempting, with several others, to get out into the city. They ran by the guard, & the marine on guard fired & killed the poor fellow. He was buried tonight. The Pensacola carries about 28 guns & is of the same size as the Richmond, Hartford, Mississippi, and Brooklyn.
Thursday, June 26 – Sergeant Blodgett of our Regiment was married the other night to a young lady he got engaged to since we came to New Orleans. He was married by Capt. Lee.
I had quite a talk with a Frenchmen yesterday. I carried on quite an animated conversation with him in his mother tongue & he said I could talk French better than he could English. I got off several phrases. Said I, “Vous etes Francais, je pense, Monsieur” “Combien de temps avez vous resle en Amerique?” “Il fait chaud, aujourd hui.” But when he began to talk, I couldn’t understand a word & I had to acknowledge, “Je ne parle pas Francais. Je ne le comprends pas.”
A mail from N.Y. is daily expected. McClellan moves slow at Richmond. I think about, as the rebels say, if he gained such a victory at Fair Oaks, why didn’t he go in & occupy the city when he was so near? The rebels here have been encouraged by reports that France has recognized the Southern Confederacy.
I wish I could see the the rest of my class. What did some of them say? Just give me a few quotations. I will be older by the time my 3 years is out. I ain’t sure, but you better send it & run the risk of its being lost. Write soon.
Your aff. Son & Bro.
New Orleans, La.
Monday evening, 30th June ’62
Dear Brother & Sisters
I sit here alone in the office of the Quartermaster of the Post, Capt. Mark Prime, No. 24 Magazine St. & to pass away the time till bedtime, I will write to you. The streets are quiet save the rumbling of the city cars & an occasional coach & I am the only occupant of the office. The other employees are out seeking amusement in the streets & purlieus of this wicked metropolis. I have charge, as I have told you, of the warehouse in one of the Cotton Presses on the levee where I am engaged from 8 a.m. till 6 p.m. Some days I have scarcely anything to do. At other times, when a ship is unloading, I am busy all day receipting for lumber, hay, oats, etc. & issuing them. Today I have had but little to do, delivered only about 2 tons & a half of hay, 72 bushels of corn, 4 cords of wood, & about 1000 feet of lumber, but I have had 15 men to work sorting out the lumber, etc. All the laborers that the Quartermaster can’t find employment for, they send them to me. They are mostly Irish & they give them $1 a day & rations. I won’t have anything to do with contrabands. It is more bother to watch them & keep them to work than they are worth. The idea of confiscating slave property is very good in the abstract, but if they should go into the business here they would have to establish a special department. The Quartermaster’s office is laborious enough when confined to its own office of providing for the wants of the Army. Butler is not much of an abolitionist & about all the niggers that have claimed the protection of Uncle Sam are those who are claimed by no one else. I spend my evening generally in the office here and unless I have papers to read or letters to write I find it somewhat dull. I don’t visit the Regiment very often as it’s quartered a mile or two away & since Mr. Salter left, I make but few calls at the Custom House.
Three of us sleep here — McClackland of the 13th Conn. & Reid of the 4th Mass. Battery, detailed for service in the Department. I get 40 cents per day extra pay, but if I had only the pay of the soldier it would seem preferable to standing guard in the hot sun. Our Regiment was paid 4 months’ pay recently. I shall send $50 home as soon as I get my extra pay for this month. I draw my rations & have them converted to flour, which is now from $20 to $24 per barrel & as a months rations is equal to a barrel of flour, I can afford to board at a restaurant where they charge $5.00 a week for board.
We are now in the midst of the heated term, but there is no great amount of sickness. If no epidemic rages, we shall be fortunate. As it is, deaths are frequent & it takes the labor of 2 or 3 men to make coffins for the division. The 13th Maine, left on Ship Island, lost 7 men in one day last week & 19 coffins were sent up to Baton Rouge the other day. New Orleans seems to be as healthy as any place although the high lands at Baton Rouge are considered in this season the healthiest locale in the state. I find great reason to be thankful that I have enjoyed such good health, not having during the eighth months since I enlisted, seen a sick day or had to be excused from duty.
I saw tonight Gov. Moore’s proclamation to the people of Louisiana which you all probably see. I hope it does not find a response in the heart of Louisianians. If it does, where is the hope of the restoration of the Union? After all our endeavors to show that we [illegible] “not in anger, but with sorrow”, that we came to restore peace & friendship, to deliver misguided & deluded actions of southern tyranny & oppression. To see them organizing “partisan rangers” to murder the so-called robbers & “plunderers of their fireside” & the “insulters of their wives & daughters” & apparently not disheartened when their case looks hopeless, it seems to me the end is as distant as ever. Although I do not undervalue the prowess of our arms as shown on the ensanguined fields of Williamsburg, Shiloh, & Chickahominy, or the strength of our Navy & the wealth of our people, still it appears to me that we are engaged in a struggle which must last through the century. It is a conflict of civilizations antagonistic – the solving of a problem where human philosophy is vain & I can only hope that amidst this destruction of life & property & the derangement of the machinery of our republican government, the agency of God is working out the salvation of a race.
New Orleans is in a sad state. Provisions come in slowly & the consumption by the large population is greater than the receipts. Gov. Moore forbids intercourse with the city & sugar & cotton cannot come in. If they could, they could be readily exchanged for provisions, but northern merchants won’t take Louisiana currency & with nothing to exchange, their case is hard. When the river is open, it will be only a military thoroughfare. All along the bluffs & banks from here to Memphis, guerrillas will gather with their batteries & rifles & there will be no safety for boats, except gunboats. If they are cleaned out of one place one day, they will appear in another the next. Vicksburg still holds out. What Farragut & Porter are up to, I can’t imagine. We have had no mail for some time, but expect the Rhode Island daily. Write when you can.
Your aff. Bro.