(Note: These letters from Joseph L. Hallett I to his Mother, Brother, cousin Judah and Aunt “E Ann” were transcribed from scans of the handwritten originals by Cliff McCarthy in October and November 2019. In some places, spelling and punctuation have been modified for readability. The original letters are currently in the possession of Joseph Hallett III. He has graciously provided scans for use in this project and all inquiries about the original letters should be directed to Mr. Hallett.)
Camp Seward, Pittsfield
10th January 1862
I had intended to have come home today, but circumstances will not admit it and I shall not be at home before next Wednesday or Thursday unless I am called. I have made up my mind that unless it is thought best and the matter urgent I shall remain with the regiment for the present. Although my position is one that keeps me busy most of the time, I am nevertheless intent on serving my country in time of war.
Capt. Bridgman is in Camp recovered from his late illness and appears out with the company on drill. I should come home tonight but Lieut. Darling is unwell and wants to go to Boston to spend a few days. I shall try to get to Springfield next week as above if Darling returns.
Gen. Butler was in Camp last Tuesday and reviewed the regiment. Capt. B. and Lieut. Darling were both away and I appeared out as 1st Lieut. of the Co. Col. Weldon introduced me to the General who shook hands with me heartily and we had quite talk together while reviewing the company. He liked the appearance of our men and seemed satisfied with the way they were fitted out, that is having a full uniform when some companies had half uniformed men. In the afternoon I took command of the company and marched with the Regiment downtown. Got along first rate, marching in file and in platoon. The Gen. gave us a first-rate speech at the Berkshire house.
Yesterday we were surprised at the appearance in Camp of Major Usher, Gen. Butler’s Paymaster, and this morning (our company being filled up) we got a month’s pay, the privates due $13 each.
I drew my past as did the other officers and realized more than ever that I hold, not only in name but in fact, a Lieutenant’s position in the Army. I felt quite proud with so much money ($105.50) and shall bring it home when I come.
I shall want my equipments forthwith, if I am going to the war, and think it best if it is best to go. I’m going to get an army overcoat made here in Pittsfield. The officers got theirs made by one man to get them all alike.
Tell Solomon if you see him to come to Camp. At least to return with me if not before.
It is not as yet ascertained when we shall leave Camp for the South, but probably within 14 days.
I shall want my shirts and bedclothes all ready to pack and bring to Pittsfield when I return.
Please send me word how matters are progressing in Springfield by Monday’s noon mail.
Give love to all enquiring friends and neighbors. Excuse this bad writing for it has been a miserable day without and noise and confusion within doors.
Don’t fail to write me Monday. Hope mother is improving.
Much love to all from yours truly,
Camp Seward, Pittsfield
January 24, 1862
According to agreement, I write you that you may learn of my welfare and prospects of leaving Pittsfield, which I will give soon. On coming to Camp last Tuesday I found all of the Officers anxious to see my Camp Chest and presents, and they were well pleased with the Chest which will afford me ample room for all that I can carry away with me. As for the sword I was told that it is the best in Camp. The first time I appeared out with it was in command of the company and it may be that the Lieut. will need to be [illegible] and another title put in its place before many days. A good beginning surely. I have not had time to use the pistol much, have only discharged one shot. Lieut. Darling has the mumps and Capt. Bridgman is at home. I have made out muster rolls prepatory to the Paymaster’s visit which is expected soon and I shall be glad when he comes, too.
As luck would have it, it came my turn to act as Officer of the Guard Thursday which keeps me up all night and as I shall sleep tomorrow I write tonight, having visited the guard and instructed the Sgt. in his duties. It is about 2 a.m. and I write that you may get a letter by Saturday as you desire.
With some of the officers I had an invitation out last evening to a very wealthy townsman’s residence about 3 miles from Camp and of course (getting a Lieutenant to take my place as Officer of the Guard until my return) went. We rode to the house in sleighs and a nice time we had. The house was decorated with flags and brilliantly lighted. Among the officers present were Col. Weldon, Adj. Bache, Quartermaster Cushing, Capt. Nettleton, Lieut. Morse, and others. There was music singing dancing etc. It wouldn’t do to say what refreshments we had passed around on silver waiters. Guess Aunt can tell. Some of the officers have invitations downtown most every evening. The people of Pittsfield are very patriotic and will do all they can for us. I like soldiering.
I heard today that we should leave Pittsfield next Tuesday, but can hardly think that we shall go before the last of the week if then. Should we leave Tuesday I shall probably find time to see home a little while as we pass through Springfield. I think that we shall not get to Ship Island yet awhile, Probably no further than Fortress Monroe. We are to have a new style uniform caps and light blue pants.
I received Henry’s letter Thursday afternoon and think he may as well send the boots and order me at Bridgman’s bookstore a copy of the Army Regulations and the latest edition of U.S. Infantry Tactics (Hardees). If Bridgman has to send to Boston for them it may be well for him to forward direct to Pfld.
Rubber boots are not popular and I shall not want any, and I know of mother’s view that I need that I am without.
Tell William to finish the chests as soon as he can. Make them lightly.
I shall expect Arthur Fay up next week and you will be notified through the paper when we leave Pfld. Send me word as often as you can. Remember me to all inquiring.
Your affectionate son,
[on outside of letter]
Tell Henry I will keep a statement of accounts and report soon.
February 4, 1862
Camp Seward Pittsfield Tuesday
Dear Friends at home,
I came to Pittsfield today after a long and unsuccessful search for the Deserters, though not wholly unprofitable trip having brought to Camp two stout hardy fellows that are far better than the ones missing and I think that the Deserters will be brought to Camp ‘ere long. I started from S. last Friday morning at 7 a.m. for Windsor Locks and at the Locks took a team and drove until three in the afternoon when I came back to take the train for Hartford at eight in the evening on my way to Canaan Ct. where I thought I might find my men, and at 1 o’clock I took the night express for Bridgeport where I was to take the cars for Canaan. I called on Mr. Bacon at his place of business a few moments Saturday morning. He did not recognize me and was surprised to know of my connection with the Regiment. His family are well. At 10:30 a.m. I took the train on the Housatonic Road and arrived at Canaan at 2 p.m. It snowed hard, but anxious to get my man had a man drive me to Sheffield where it was supposed he resided and after diligent inquiry led to no account, I dismissed my driver and put up at Miller’s Hotel to consider what further to do in the case. The next day being Sunday I concluded to dismiss all care and enjoy the day in as quiet a way as becoming the sacred day.
I was very tired and did not therefore hurry up in the morning, and had only time for a careful though somewhat hurried preparation for church. I went to the Methodist and heard an excellent sermon by Rev. Mr. Draper on prayer. It was communion in the afternoon and in the evening there not being a Methodist meeting near the hotel I attended at the Congregationist. Monday morning I went with a young man as guide onto Mount Washington a most dreary and an awful hard place to get to. Some of the way the road is almost perpendicular but I got a recruit by my journey. A man some 20 years old who looks just like Lenoir family, a partner with Given and Stately [?]. We rode back to Sheffield and after lunch we walked in the snow storm to Great Barrington six miles in order to take the train for Pfld. this morning, put up at a public house and came to Camp this a.m. There you have a sketch of my journey. I forgot to say by the way that I wrote to Mary Harvard on Sunday giving her an account of my life in Camp and what our prospects are. I think that I shall hear from her this week in answer.
I got a bundle from home this p.m. which is acceptable and I believe contains all that I am in need of for the present. The copy of Tactics are just the thing and the apples were to. I gave Matson his Hymns and knife and he was well pleased with them. I think he will not have an opportunity to get to S[pringfield]. We are forbidden to grant any furloughs which makes some feel very sore. The reason for such an order is that we are expecting to leave for Camp Chase in the course of a few days. I should not be surprised if we should go Sunday the road being then clear, however we shall go certainly ‘ere another week comes around. The Paymaster is expected to pay us off again before we leave Pittsfield, and I hope he may. Will you say to William that Capt. B[ridgman] and Lieut. D[arling] have received their chests and like them much, and will pay for them at the next govt. pay day which will be soon. Their recruiting expenses have been so large that they are short of funds. Our Company now numbers 96 men with 90 in Camp but few on the sick list. In fact we have a fine company and I know not its equal in the Regiment.
Spooner[?] is wise. He has sold his [illegible] for $300 to a Rice of the United States Hotel Boston. Spooner would hardly have gone as Lieut. Cook has been reduced to a 2nd Lieut. I think I would prefer to begin low and rise rather than start high and fall.
I sent you a photograph of Capt. Bridgman which is very good save the hands. He wore cotton gloves. I will get a picture of Lieut. Darling when he has them taken.
Remember me to William and family, Mrs. and Mr. Munson and all who may inquire after the welfare of the Lieut.
[across the top]
Our colonel is not appointed.
Camp Seward Pittsfield February 10, 1862
We have been ordered to leave Camp Seward for Camp Chase Lowell Wednesday morning at 8 o’clock and shall pass through Springfield about 11.
I shall not be able to get home before we get to Lowell but will try to come home the last of the week and spend Sunday.
I am out of money, having spent 20 dollars to find a deserter and paying for the sash and belt. I shall get my money back that I have lent only for the deserter, in time, and had thought the Paymaster would have been around ‘ere this, but he has not come yet.
Meet me at the depot Wednesday and give me $10 if convenient.
I am well and doing well. Have not practiced on pistol much. Shall when I have more time.
John Matson is more contented since my return. Thinks much of his presents. You must go through the cars and see our men when we stop in Springfield. We turn out the largest and best company in Camp on parade and drill.
I got a letter from Mary Howard today which I enclose for you to read.
The officers have most all of them got their photographs on Cards and when I get mine shall get theirs in exchange and send home that you may have a likeness of my associates.
I wish some good lady would knit or crochet me a smoking cap to wear in camp and to sleep in. they are made without any frontispiece[?].
Remember to all who may be interested in yours truly, your brother
Camp Chase Lowell February 16, 1862
Sgt. Pulver returned to Camp last night and said you were coming to Lowell Monday. I write that you may bring me what articles I need. I want a smoking cap and that package of medicine and one or two handkerchiefs would not come amiss (white).
I suppose we shall leave for Boston Tuesday or Wednesday, and we are to sail in the iron Steamer Mississippi, a new one. Some of the officers went to Boston last Saturday. The officers are to occupy staterooms nicely furnished one room to each company’s officers. Gen. Butler goes out with us. Get me a box of white cotton gloves, $1.50 per box. I don’t think we shall get any money before we go away, as our day of pay commences from January 1, as is the talk.
But I can talk it over with you when you come.
I shall send home by you some photographs of myself and officers for Aunt to keep for hers always.
Remember me to Nettie to Aunt to Judah and to neighbors. I shall write to send a letter by you to mother.
On Board Mississippi February 20, 1862
We came on board the steamer yesterday afternoon and swung into the harbor at 3 o’clock. Our accommodations are excellent. I went to my bunk about 9 o’clock and enjoyed a good night’s rest. We have a first-rate table set for us and I think that we shall have a pleasant trip. Shall sail sometime today as all have been ordered on board. The soldiers are enjoying themselves nicely. Henry and William left for home I suppose last night. I did not see them before we left the wharf. I shall write the particulators of our trip when I get to Fortress Monroe.
Love to all from,
At sea Sunday evening February 23, 1862
Dear Friends at home,
This is the Sabbath and we are lying at sea under short sail some twenty miles from Fortress Monroe the Captain of the Steamer not willing to run in until morning on account of the dense fogg [sic] that hangs over us and we shall probably anchor when in the right depth of water. As I write the engine is blowing the whistle to warn approaching vessels and lights are hung at mast heads. We have had a fine run with but little rough weather and very little hard seasickness although nearly all have complained more or less. For myself this is the first time since we left Boston light that I could steady myself and even now I feel a sort of feeling down in the mouth not quite natural. I have not suffered from seasickness as some have, though I have eaten but one meal since we left Boston. One of our men a drummer is quite sick and begged of us to throw him overboard. We sent him to the hospital and I guess he will come out bright.
I will give you a kind of journall [sic] of our trip as near as I can though I have been unable to write any since we started. I believe I wrote that we were to sail the day I wrote home Friday as we did. Being the trial trip of the ship quite a number of gentlemen and soldiers in the ship came aboard early in the morning and at 12 o’clock the engines began to work and by the aide of two steam tugs we were sent on our way for Dixie. We had a very pleasant sail out of the harbor passing Forts Independence and Warren which are formidable and to appearances impenetrable. I think the rebel prisoners are in safe quarters. At 3 o’clock being pretty well out at sea the tugs were signaled and the Boston gentlemen got aboard and amid cheers from the soldiers steamed from us and the Mississippi started at 10 knots an hour for her destination. I began to get sick about this time and took to my bunk and did not leave it until 7 o’clock when someone cried out Cape Cod light and wishing to take a look at the Cape once more I mustered courage and went on deck but soon returned and after a few moments fell asleep and did not wake until morning when we were far out at sea running opposite New York. I stayed on deck much of the day feeling better in the open air than shut up below. Nothing happened of importance Saturday save an increase in the rolling and pitching of the steamer that made more sickness.
Sunday morning was enjoyed on deck by the officers until 11 o’clock and it was beautiful. I assure you the air was clear and the sun shone bright over our heads. We were opposite the Maryland sure and we could note the change in the climate, just like May. And we walked over the decks and sat around without overcoats talking and viewing the scenery about us. The scenery however was nothing but water for miles on either side. The men would watch for birds and flying fish which we would fire at. At 11 a.m. we went below and listened to a sermon by the Rev. Mr. Moore chaplain of the Maine regiment. We sang Welcome seventh day of rest and the hymn when I can read my title [illegible] and we listened to a sermon from 2 Ch. Heb. thus through death etc. The sermon was fine and listened to by most of the officers. Our chaplain Mr. Chubbuck preached to the soldiers on deck. This evening Mr. Chubbuck preached to the officers below from 35 Isaiah. I lay in my bunk when he preached but could hear every word and I am now writing having been on deck and got the air. I will close now and write more in the morning when I can tell you I hope something about Fortress Monroe.
Monday morning. 9 o’clock I have just got through a [illegible] good breakfast and thru the fogg [sic] that has arisen caught a view of the shore of Virginia. We are driving through the waters at 10 knots an hour and soon we shall land at the Fort. The air is warm and I imagine a green shore. How can I but laugh when I think of you in Massachusetts hugging the stove and Henry out shoveling the walk from snow when I am comfortable with my coat off. I think however that when we get into the Gulf I shall envy your cool weather. We are now entering Chesapeake Bay and I will go on deck to see the sights and write a few lines more when we get at anchor.
Fortress Monroe Tuesday, February 25, 1862
We are laying at anchor yet. Gen. Butler came aboard about three hours ago and as soon as a few stores are loaded onto the steamer we are off. This morning I got a spy glass and could clearly discern Newport News, and from the deck of the Mississippi saw the big guns on the walls of Monroe. Looking south on the Virginia shore I saw two rebels on horseback riding back and forth on the beach, probably they are spies. An officer from Newport News who came aboard tells me that the shore is lined with them and that opposite to where we lie there are many [illegible] batteries. The men are a little anxious to see the rebels and try their skill at shooting and think it a pity that they can’t go ashore and have a brush with the enemy. A boat with a flag of truce came by ours this morning with some women and children going to their homes.
We have onboard a reporter of The New York Herald who goes to Ship Island with us and will stay until we have a battle or the matter matter is settled. It is thought that the Gen. will not let us lay idle long, and that he will either himself or Gen. Phelps head the column soon for Mississippi City or New Orleans.
Send me the weekly Republican as I directed in my last, J Co. Ship Island, Gulf of Mexico. I shall send this ashore by a tug that leaves here soon. We have a fine day to sail down the bay and doubtless shall enjoy the trip to the island. If I am not seasick I shall keep a journal and send home a copy.
We have not received our commissions yet. Col. Gooding says that he is to try our skill in military before he commissions us. I tell you what it is our commissions will be well earned and not a little feeling is there among the officers on account of them. We have fulfilled our part and more, why does not Gov. Andrew [do] his. Love to all and much for yourself from your son, Joseph.
Fortress Monroe 2 PM. We came up the bay amid a perfect hurricane which carried away the main sail. One of the seamen fell from the mast but luckily was not seriously injured. We are now anchored opposite the Fort which is a [illegible] I tell you. The big Union gun lies by the Fort. On our left is Sands Point where the rebel batteries are stationed and within 40 rods are the Rip Raps. Around us is stationed several man-of-war vessels and further up the river is a large fleet of smaller craft. We passed some gunboats when coming up the bay and they looked savage enough. Many cheers went from the men on both sides for the Stars & Stripes. Col. Weldon is a fine man but much like Mark Trafton though much shorter in stature. His regiment the Maine 13th have a fine set of officers. Our Colonel is a fine man too. He is not a drinking man I judge from the fact that he refused to take any brandy when sick the other night with the remark that he would rather be sick than use any. I do not know when we shall leave here. The wind blew so hard that it is impossible for us to land at present. A tug boat is coming out by which we shall send our mail and I will send this by someone and if I get a chance to visit the Fort will write again. We are to remain here but a short time when we shall sail for Ship Island. General Butler and staff will go with us from here. You may direct my letters to Ship Island Gulf of Mexico Co. F 31st Regt. Mass. Vols. and they will come up. You must excuse my poor writing for the steamer rocks to and fro and it is impossible to be correct. Remember to all my friends.
When we get to Ship Island I will write all particulars of our passage and the number of Jeff Davis privateers we capture. Also the number of black folks we pick up running away. Hoping that you may all enjoy good health and prosperity. I remain yours as ever,
Lieut. Joseph L Hallett
[across the top of page 2]
It is 8 days run from here to Ship Island
On board the Mississippi March 1, 1862
Dear Friends at home. You cannot imagine what a time we have had since leaving Fortress Monroe. I never expected to be shipwrecked at sea and to come so near death and escape, but by a kind Providence we are safe and lay at anchor off the entrance of Cape Fear River North Carolina. In writing from Fortress Monroe I predicted a pleasant trip, but alas the fine steamer which brought us to Monroe in safety lies with her bulkheads stove in and 50 men hard at work with pumps and buckets bailing her out and over two hundred miles out of our course to Ship Island. I will give you an account of our trip that you may picture what we have been through the past few days. We left Fortress Monroe the 24th at 8 o’clock in the evening and in a few hours were driving hard at sea down the Virginia shore. I sent ashore at the Fort for a map to see as we went along where we were which I found to be of great value to me. Wednesday the 25th we had a beautiful sunrise and Thursday continued fair and was enjoyable by all, the sea smooth and very little sickness on board. It fell upon me to be Officer of the Guard which is no small job onboard ship. I had some 60 men to look after some stationed over water casks to prevent the men using the water too freely. Others at the hatchways and in fact all over the steamer which kept me moving the whole day and night. I had the privilege of being the first one to march a company of Guard in review before Gen. Butler and Staff and the Officers of the 31st.
Thursday the morning was spent below, the weather being foggy and considerable wind. I grew seasick and kept the most of the time in my stateroom. At noon running off Cape Hatteras the wind increased and it began to rain and increased until in the evening when it blew a gale. At two in the morning all hands were called on deck of the ship’s crew and all sailors belonging to the regiment. The waves dashed furiously against and over the steamer while she pitched and rolled so that the men at the wheel could have no command over the wheel at all, and the officers of the steamer knew not where they were going. Heavy breakers came with such force over the decks that the lights over the cabin were lifted up and the water came pouring down onto the carpet and tables, smashing the glassware which hung above and frightening us all. In the meantime the hatches were nailed down and 1500 men were shut down in a close confined atmosphere. As for myself I lay in my bunk turned by the steamer first on one side then upon the other and obliged to hold on at that to the side. I occupy the lower berth and the washstand sits at the head of the berth which containing water was thrown onto me and a deep pan used to vomit in and hung on to the side of the berth came down, hit against the stand and of course came on to me which made it worse than the first. I could hear the men running through the cabin shouting as loud as they could to one another. The engine room began to fill with water which would have surely sent us to the bottom had not the men kept it from the fire. At or about 3 o’clock the engineer came on deck and saw that we were within sight of land and fast going on to the shore. He ran below and immediately reversed, but for which we should have been lost. The storm subsided at break of day and at 12 p.m. the sea became calm. Yesterday Friday early in the morning we were going at a good rate when to our surprise we struck and the steamer was upon the rocks and within the bounds of a secession fort Fort Caswell Cape Fear. We expected nothing but that we were prisoners and doomed to a summer resort at the Fort or at Richmond. However Gen. B[utler] ordered the Stars & Stripes up the mast and trust to luck and as luck will have it a blockading steamer the Mount Vernon hove in sight three hours after and after firing guns from our deck as a signal she came down upon us. But we were upon the rocks and it was impossible for her to get near us and the sea running high we could land on her but [illegible] our men which we [illegible] small boats at great risk. Great fear was felt by all as we knew that if we stayed on the rock all night there was danger of our going to pieces and that would have been disastrous to many. So great effort was made to get us off by clamping a hauser to the Mount Vernon and increasing the steam in the engine which proved to succeed for at 9 last night we started amid cheers from both steamers. I cannot write all particulars now as the Mt. Vernon is going to leave us in a few moments for Phila. with a prize schooner that she brought in this forenoon. Handsome little craft loaded with coffee and sugar bearing the British flag. I saw her crew as they were taken on board the Mt. Vernon. The reporter of the New York Herald sends a letter to that paper and you can get particulars by looking at that.
We are going to Port Royal this afternoon and doubtless shall remain there for a while and I will write from there.
I am in the best of health and trust that this may find you all the same.
Write again in the greatest haste,
Joseph L. Hallett
Sea Brook Landing, South Carolina, March 5, 1862
I said that when I got to the land of cotton and niggers I would write you an epistle. The last letter I sent home was written as we lay in a long bay off Fort Caswell, North Carolina, in which I gave an account of our sad and well-nigh closing up the career of 1500 of John Brown’s pet lambs on her shore, so that I will begin where I left off and write our adventures to this Point.
We found the Mississippi in a very poor condition, not to say unsafe, as we lay off the Fort, and the only way by [illegible] she could be kept afloat was by putting men some hundred at a time bailing water all of the time. And that even was not sufficient, as the water came in continually and we could perceive that she was gradually sinking. It would not do to run into the fort for then we should all be taken prisoners, and we concluded that it was best to make an effort to get to Port Royal, and land the soldiers if it was a possible thing. The federal gunboat the Mount Vernon stationed at the mouth of Cape Fear river to prevent vessels from running the blockade and which has kept one vessel with a cargo of cotton worth $200,000 which we could see from our anchorage for six months, was called upon and at the close of the day the 1st unit was moved off with the Mount Vernon following to render any assistance that we might need. The sea was calm and ordinarily we could have made 10 or 12 knots an hour but we were obliged to go very slow. I did not sleep much that night and lay down with my pants on ready to jump at any moment for I knew that the ship if she did sink would go down without giving us a great deal of warning.
Sabbath was a delightful day. It was delightful and were it not for the sad and critical state which we were in I should have enjoyed it much more. We found it necessary in order to lighten the load to throw overboard our stores of potatoes bread sugar tea and coffee and considerable baggage and to get the men aft in the quarter deck. I tell you what it is, Aunt, had you seen the steamer and the anxious looks of the men huddled together as close as they could pack and witnessed the care on the minds of the officers as they walked to deck you might have some idea of our precarious position.
As good fortune favored we made Port Royal at 5 o’clock that afternoon and getting a pilot run into the harbor we got ready the men with their knapsacks strapped on their backs to go ashore but found it impossible to land and if we had we should have been under the necessary [necessity?] of camping on the ground. We were disappointed but felt [illegible] that we were so near the shore, having escaped a watery grave and lost but one man who belonged to the Maine regiment who died on the passage from Fortress Monroe. Men were kept at the pumps all night and we [illegible] feeling a degree of safety in that we were so near [illegible].
Monday morning we were up bright and early, breakfasted at 6 o’clock. I went on deck to take a survey of the renowned Port Royal. The harbor is quite a large one and quite a number of steamers and sailing vessels lay around. I think about 50, many were vessels captured by the blockading ships.
The shore looked green and I longed to get under the broad palmetto trees and pick me a few and to gather some flowers, for I knew there might be some. At 7 o’clock we began to move and as I thought to the wharf, but instead of nearing the shore we moved out into deeper water and were carried along a piece when we entered a channel, and after sailing a half hour along the banks came to Sea Brook, four miles from Hilton Head.
As soon as the steamer was brought to an anchor the men were put ashore. Our company was the first to land and I the first officer to form and march a company of any of the 31st on secession ground. Sea Brook is a large island containing cotton plantations and very pleasantly situated. The men were delighted to get on land again after being shut up on board ship for 11 days. They ran and jumped and wandered over the island, but the greatest feature of all is their [illegible] the negro shanties for hoe cakes and coffee. The officers joined in with the men and [illegible] you didn’t the cakes have to suffer, there was about 20 men and one officer to each hut waiting for their chance at them and watching the darkie cook. They have little cabins with two rooms and a great many little ones trailing about like so many chickens and it is quite amusing to see them talk and eat, their white teeth shining like ivory and their wooley heads uncombed. We are camped on a plantation of about 100 negroes and they are without a master, he having cleared out when the federals took the forts about here, Forts Walker, Pulaski and Beauregard. They seem friendly and don’t care much whether their master comes back as the government are in possession of the island and pay the darkies 75 cents a day to work the land and help at the forts. We are camped in tents and enjoy ourselves finely. We go to the shanties when hungry and buy hoe cakes, take them in our hands, get a dipper of coffee and go to our tents, sit down on our camp chests and eat hearty and grow fat. We also get oysters which are abundant at10 cents a pint which answer for variety. Sunday in company with a Lieutenant of the Maine regiment I went onto an island about two miles away where our pickets are stationed and had [illegible] time. The soldiers who are on picket duty showed us every attention, carrying us about the island showing where the rebels are. They said that every day they could see them and often got shot at there and by accounts from negroes who had escaped were told that they had killed quite a number. The rebels in this quarter have the flint musket and our men the Enfield rifle a superior arm and whenever our men approach they run and never fire unless safe behind trees. Some of our pickets have been injured by them, but none killed.
There are ten plantations on this island and 400 negroes. One of them Billy the driver told us that when the fort was taken he went with his master on to a vessel with other of the negroes to go to the interior but was sent ashore with instructions to kill the horses burn the cotton and the cotton gin together with the horses that they might not fall into the hands of the Yankees and to join him at a plantation up the country. Billy said he would but instead of burning the property as directed he waited until dark and then took a boat and rowed to Fort Walker and told them that there was a large amount of cotton and they sent a company to take possession.
I am ordered on duty and cannot finish this as I would had I time. The mail leaves here in a few moments.
I am enjoying good health. We shall not go to Ship Island on the Mississippi. She will not ever be fit for sea again. We shall probably go to Ship Island in a few days.
Love to all. Capt. Bridgman sends his compliments and I will send William pay for charts when we get any.
Your aff. Nephew, Joseph L Hallet
I would like to finish this but if I kept it any longer you could not get it for a long time.
Sea Brook, March 6, 1862
Dear Brother, I was ordered onboard the Mississippi as I was closing a letter to Aunt E. and did not have time to finish as the mail was to leave here for Hilton Head before I could write more and I wanted to send it that you might know where I was and if I waited another mail might not be sent for a week or more.
My duty has been light having only to superintend getting out the cargo, as it is settled that we cannot go to Ship Island in her. It is now 6 o’clock the lights are lit and it rains, as that I cannot work longer and have come into the after cabin to write. I closed Aunt’s letter stating the circumstance of the negro driver Billie’s master leaving when the Yankees came. Lieut. Darling asked a negro Sambo do you want your master should come back again? At which Sambo replied no, he wanted to be free and I find among the negroes considerable intelligence on that point and believe that they would readily fight against the South if they had opportunity. They hold prayer meetings Tuesday Thursday and Sunday evenings and I mean to attend some if we stay here long. Where our camp is situated is very pleasant just by the sea and by the side of our tent (the Fremont pattern) is a beautiful orange tree and every morning the birds gather and sing in the branches charming. Since I came here I have gathered new buds and wildflowers. The rebel pickets came reconnoitering into our camp last night and three were seen by our guards. We followed some way but we did not have our guns loaded and could not fire.
I expect we shall have some play ‘ere long certainly if we stay here.
John Matson came to me yesterday with two dollars that he desired me to send to you to be given to the Missionary cause. It appears that he got terrible frightened during the storm and promised the Lord two dollars for the missionaries if he would spare his life. John is a good boy and soldier. Our company is doing first-rate and we have but a few sick. Our duty is considerable. I have to get out at rollcall at 5 o’clock drill the company from 5:45 until guard mounting at 830 and company drill again at 9 until 11 and 2 to 3 dress parade at 3:30 supper at 5 which clears the day’s labor. All lights are put out at 8:30. Capt. B[ridgman] and myself got our beds filled with moss and we put our chests side-by-side and have a tiptop place to sleep. I think we have as good accommodations as any officer. Col. Gooding is a very energetic man and we are under strict military discipline. I wish you would write me what you have done about the melodeon. I shall send some money home when I get it which will be when we arrive at Ship Island and if Ed Chapin has not been paid and Dunham has the instrument you may pay him then. Direct letters to Ship Island as I understand two steamers are engaged to carry us there soon. I don’t want you to forget sending me the weekly Republican. I don’t know of anything more of importance to write now. Hope that mother is getting better and everything going well.
Our servant who keeps our clothes in order and runs errands is from S. Boston near where Abby lives. If we remain at Sea Brook long I shall write again from here, but if we leave soon I will wait until we get to Ship Island. Love to all.
Your aff. brother,
Joseph L Hallet