Letters of Joshua W. Hawkes — Part 2, Jan. – Jun. 1862

5 Jan. 1862

Dear Mother

It is Sunday eve. I have just finished a bountiful repast of slosh surnamed soup, bread, and a scant allowance of tea, so I ought to be in pretty good spirits.

Picture to yourself your humble servant with overcoat and other accoutrements on seated in my bunk trying to write. I am not alone — one of the boys is asleep — another reading, and two more laying across my feet telling stories with the fellows opposite.

It has been very cold the past week. Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Leavitt came over. His arrival was rather unexpected, yet it seemed quite natural to see him. He returned the next day.

I did not attend a Methodist Watch Meeting, yet watched out the old year nevertheless. As I stood shivering on my post, [I] could not help (though not mumuringly [sic]) contrast my situation with one year ago. New Years Day was devoted to a general cleaning up, both outdoors and in. In the afternoon, we marched down town professedly to meet Gen’l Butler — he did not come, so we drilled about town till the approaching darkness warned us that it was nearly night. Had not got more than a half mile from the village when the rain began to pour down in torrents, so we arrived at camp wet, cold and rather cross.

I got up the next morning feeling as if I had been drawn through a knot hole. To add to our discomfort, it was very cold and our overcoats, hung up to dry, were frozen stiff. I will descant further only to say that we marched off five or six miles every afternoon — the only time in the day when we get our toes warm.

We cannot drill to any advantage, so we are anxious to leave. I expect when we do go, it will be to Ship Island down near New Orleans.

We had a little excitement Thursday evening. Some of the boys made a grand charge on double-quick across the hall and knocked down our stove, letting a lot of coals out upon the floor. For a minute, it seemed as if the bunks near by would catch, but a few pails of water extinguished the fire. The stove was set up again, though it was rendered nearly useless.

The Col. was foremost in putting things to rights again, showing that he could work in an exigency.

My health is pretty good, though I am at no time entirely free from a cold. We have secured three ticks, which we have filled with straw, making a decided improvement. Leavitt and myself occupy one and, with four blankets, sleep as warm as toast — rather better than the soft side of a board.

I was very glad to get your kind letter — hope you will not “borrow any trouble” about me, for we have the promise that “all things shall work for good, to those who love God.”

I sometimes feel as if some of my friends might write to me, for a day’s experience in camp would convince any one that a soldier does not have much time to write, but however —

I have spoken to Capt. Lee in relation to those things that the ladies wish to make a disposition of. He wishes me to say that they will be very thankfully received and distributed among the boys of his company, if sent to him, directed to Camp Seward. So much for that, so send them along.

What is the news in C[harlemont].? Remember me to all friends. I am confidently expecting that we shall leave here, soon. If so, you will hear from me and soon, at all events.

With much love I remain

Yours &c.,

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

P.S. I have been two days writing this.


12 Jan. 1862

My dear Mother

Another Sunday forenoon finds me seated in my bunk trying to collect a few scattered thoughts for your perusal. I wish I could spend the day at home, where I might go to church or take a little quiet, as best suited my fancy.

I am led to begin in this strain for all were required to turn out to shovel snow off the parade ground. I have laid low, so thus kept clear.

It is not pleasant, remaining here week after week on this bleak hill hoping each will be our last, yet still we are here. The news of yesterday does not make us any more contented. Two Reg’ts that for ten days past have been waiting on the Constitution, expecting daily to sail, have been ordered to disembark and go into camp for orders. This does not look very flattering for our leaving Camp Seward, soon. If we are not here the first of March, I shall be disappointed.

Brigadier General Benjamin Franklin Butler

Brigadier General Benjamin Franklin Butler

Gen’l Butler’s long visit is now numbered with the things that were. He arrived in town Monday evening. Tuesday morning, every man not on duty must fall in to receive the Gen’l. His arrival was heralded by the discharge of cannon and the Reg’t drawn up in line, at present arms. After presenting the colors, he marched up and down the line, then after going through various evolutions, we were drawn up by Companies for Inspection. The Gen’l personally examined every man’s arms, clothing, &c. If things were not all right, he did not fail to speak of it. While we were at dinner, he passed around sticking his fingers into the meat pans and going out munching a slice of bread. In the afternoon, we marched down town, where he gave us a short speech. As we marched home in the gathering darkness, but one sentiment found utterance — “I’m glad Generals don’t come every day.” As to Butler’s appearance, [I] can only say that his picture is a very truthful one — of medium height, broad chest, and large head, squint eyed. In repose, a very ordinary looking man, but when excited, action is stamped upon every feature.

Sunday Eve,
Just after the Company fell in for shovelling half an hour. Then, all who wished had a chance to go to meeting. It was hard walking with a prospect of rain, but at last 200 went down and got wet coming back. I was glad to go, for we had a chance to sit still awhile, beside getting something to think of.

I call myself well, but I do not have much of an appetite. I fairly loathe the hash, so I take a little bread and coffee and come away. Hash and beans are the staple articles of diet, poor articles at that.

I am getting accustomed to marching with guns and knapsacks so that it does not tire me as much as at first. We only strap our blankets and put in our Government things.

Several tents arrived last week, as also camp stoves, but I do not anticipate that we are going into tents here. The tents are round, calculated to accommodate from 10 to 15 persons.

Three other companies full, were paid off Friday. It is said that we should have been too, had our payrolls been made out.

But enough of Camp Life; let me talk of something else. What is the news in Charlemont? I would like much to see some of my friends over here, but do not expect to. It is only a good ride over here by sleighing. I see by the paper that Mr. Kingman is dismissed. Do you have any preaching now? I wish you would find that pamphlet sermon on Manliness and send it to me. I have not heard from Lathrop. I may drop him a line by and by. Remember me to Frank’s folks, Uncle Stephen’s people, Mrs. Gleason, and all who may enquire for me.

Do not know as you can read this, for I have written very hastily.

With much love I remain

As ever your son

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


 20 Jan. 1862

Dear Mother
It might perhaps be as well for me to lie down for a nap after being up a part of the night, but as for that very reason I am off duty this forenoon. I will improve it in scribbling a little.

I have but little or no news to write for life here is but the same monotonous round.

For a week or two past, we have did very little but shovel snow — would hardly get the parade ground cleared once, than we would be obliged to resume the business.

I am by no means sick of soldiering, but I enlisted to go South, not to freeze in Pittsfield.

Rumors are rife in Camp that we leave in a few days, but they have been repeated so often that all such stories are received with, “Yes! Who believes it!”

Two things are settled in my mind that we do not leave here till we are paid off and the state aid is decided.

Yesterday afternoon, the Camp was in commotion on the discovery that we had a foe to contend in our very midst — in the shape of body lice. They are thickest in one part of the Barracks and mostly in one company, though a great many fellows find on examination that they have enough for seed. I do not wonder that they are prevalent. We have had no conveniences for washing our clothes or bodies. You must first secure a pail, then comes the at all times difficult and often fruitless task of getting some warm water when not on duty. I was not able to wash a shirt and drawers till last week. I have now another lot to keep on hand.

Can you tell me what is good to keep the critters off, and what to put in your clothes to prevent their coming. I wish your advice on keeping clean and free from vermin.

But let us dismiss this ticklish subject.

I really want to come home again. If you should write me a short letter stating that it was necessary for me to come, I should stand a chance. I would like to see some of my friends over here, but suppose they can’t spend time.

That box of things has not arrived. Have you sent it?

Perhaps you thought to surprise me by the news that brother Charlie was going to take a better half in the person of Miss Hibbard. I had the news from the lady in person, but with the request that I would not tell of it till I heard of it from someone else. The various items of news in your last were quite interesting. My letters seem to me so dull that if they afford you any satisfaction, I am glad of it. If there are any things about camp life that you wish information on, just name them. Sometime, when in the vein, I will try and give you a view of Camp Seward by gaslight.

But it’s nearly dinner time. Good by. Much love to all. Write soon.

Yours &c.

J. W. Hawkes

P.S. Monday Eve. Yours of Saturday was received this afternoon and as I have not sealed my letter will add a few words. I cannot blame you for hoping that we shall not leave here soon — yet I do not think we shall see much fighting so would like to get into some place where we could be free from lice. I was really unwell for two days last week with diarrhoea and pain in my bowels but came out of it feeling better, and have had a pretty good appetite since. I wish you had sent me another coverlid. Though we are comfortable, it would not come amiss.

I do not wish you to say anything of it now. There is trouble brewing in our company, when it comes to a head I will write particulars.

Who has Avery rented his hotel to?

I wish to come home once more, but am afraid I shall not unless there is something urgent.

I wish Frank might come over. My regards to them and to the children.

As ever your son


Send me any kind of reading matter if you have a chance.


26 Jan. Sunday p.m.

Dear Mother

It is a dreary winters day — the snow-laden blast howls fiercely without and [is] a fit accompaniment to the spirit of unrest that reigns within.

I feel it particularly today — mainly caused by a severe cold and consequent irritation of my nervous system.

I have been trying in vain for the last hour to get my feet warm at the stove — have now betook myself to my bunk and with feet wound up in my blankets hope to get them warm after awhile.

Had I not kept tally of the days of the week, [I] should not know it was Sunday. True, you do not see card-playing as prevalent as other days, but as much profanity, scuffling, and every species of commotion.

Though no one sees the advantage yet, each company is exercised an hour in shovelling snow. A Sunday to myself to go to Church if I wished would be enjoyed very much. We used to have prayer meetings nearly every evening, and their influence was beneficial, but the room was taken for other uses and I have heard nothing of meetings since. Yet there is the same God here as at home and though I often forget Him and dishonor his cause, I realize the truth of the promise “The Lord is nigh unto them that call upon him, that call upon him in truth.”

We have received orders — or at least the Col. has to grant no more furloughs to officers or men, and hold ourselves in readiness for marching orders. The matter of state aid for this Regiment has not yet been settled, and we have not been paid off — two events that must transpire before we start. There are many men who have families here — enlisted with the promise of state aid, but week after week passes. The towns will not pay it. He gets no pay. Can you wonder that he is discontented, for there are few men who cannot in some way manage to support their families.

It is the current report down town that we shall disband.

Nothing very notable has transpired during the past week. The pleasant days were improved in “drilling.” Friday afternoon, the Regiment marched downtown where, halting in front of the common, they were treated to a collation of l bbl. ale, 1 bbl. crackers and cheese. Being on guard, I lost the treat. Leavitt received a bundle of cookies, also a small ball of butter, from home last week. With us what one has is shared with the rest, so we have hooked two or three slices of bread apiece and with patience managed to toast them and have a good plate of toast. I need not assure you that it was not bad to take.

I was very glad to receive yours of the 24th last evening. In connection therewith, I beg leave to say a few words on the louse question. Last Sunday, I found on taking a wash, three of the “varmints” on my shirt — though I have made several close examinations since, I have failed to find any. Have rubbed unguentum [sic] on the seams of my shirt and drawers, also sprinkled camphor and sulphur [sic] around in the bunk. It was undoubtedly a want of cleanliness that bred them in camp, though as they are predatory in their habits, they will get on to those whose habits are clean. I wash my clothes as often as I can get a chance, though I wish my mother had made me learn to wash when at home for I don’t understand it. You wash woolens in hot water, do you rinse them in cold? Common sense teaches me no. The sleeves of my undershirts are wearing out. Had I better buy me a pair of new ones before I leave? Wish I had me a pin cushion, needle book and some such little things, but do not know how I will get them. Any hints you may be able to give on domestic matters will be put to practical use.

Do not know as I have mentioned it in any previous letter Mr. Chas. Sanderson’s wife is dead — died about Christmas. I was surprised to hear of so many deaths in C in so short a time. I had always supposed Dea. Ballard to be a man enjoying very good health. It must indeed be an affliction to the family. So Willie Hawkes has an heir! As he had it baptized according to the old Jewish custom, why did he not obey it to the letter and have him circumcised?

What, do you think of brother Charles’s choice of a wife?

Do you have any preaching now?

Judging from hereabouts, you must have considerable snow. I would like a good sleigh ride myself.

Remember me to all friends, to Frank’s folks, &c. My love to Eli, Charlie and Stephen. I shall write again soon though I still hope to come home.

Good night.

Ever your son

J. W. Hawkes


Sat. p.m. Feb. 1

Dear Mother:

I have only time to write you a few hurried lines on a little matter of business.

I am certain that Leavitt has gone home today. I wonder he did not tell me, but though furloughs are prohibited by the Col. yet, the Capt. can let a man go home if he chooses. Leavitt was called off and I am positive he has gone home — but then he has friends and the Capt. positively promised his father he should go.

I am bound to come at some rate myself. Leavitt will probably be at home several days. I wish some of you would see him.

Anything that you may wish to send, he will willing take charge of.

I am not homesick, but I wish that you or some one else would write a letter to Capt. Lee stating that it is absolutely necessary that I should come home a day or two, as you cannot come and see me.

You know that evening that the Capt. called, he promised I should have a chance to come home at least twice.

The matter of State Aid is making considerable stir, here. I do not anticipate we shall leave here till that is settled.

My health is good with the exception of a cold and bad cough which I do not seem to get rid of.

Have you really sent that box of things? Have not heard anything of its arrival.

In haste,

Your son,



Camp Chase, Lowell
Feb. 15, 1862.

Dear Mother

I had hoped after Leavitt’s return to be able to come home on a short visit — was disappointed in that however, and the orders for our removal came so sudden, that amid the consequent confusion, concluded it would be as well to wait ’till we got to Lowell. The Col. returned from Boston late Saturday night — an Inspection of the Regiment to see that every man had his equipments complete. This, with going to church in p.m., consumed most of the day. Monday, active preparations for departure commenced in packing clothing, &c. On Tuesday, Feb. 11, every one was astir. Friends coming to bid “Good Bye” to their soldier friends, so when I stopped to look around, [I] could not restrain the tears of sympathy. Wives, Mothers, Lovers, taking a long adieu. Very little sleep did we get that night — up at 3 a.m. for breakfast, and by six every man with knapsack loaded to its utmost capacity. I know mine was — belt, cartridge-box, cap-box, haversack with rations, canteen — was in line and with three rousing cheers, we left camp Seward.

After marching to town and through the principal streets, we left at eight a.m.

At every station on the route, crowds were gathered, so that our whole journey was a kind of perpetual ovation. Arrived at Lowell about dark. The camp is within a few rods of the R.R, though out of the City, so the train ran up there. We were then taken into the barracks and dismissed. Following came a great scramble for bunks — only two can lodge together — Leavitt and myself are still in partnership. I was awful tired, so didn’t I sleep, though.

We now begin to realize something of the realities of Camp Life. We are not boarded here, but each company is allowed so much provisions. It is then cooked and portioned out to the men. Our breakfast was half a cup of coffee a slice of wheat bread, one of brown, one slice of beef. For dinner, the same minus the brown bread and coffee. It seems rather short allowance, but with a cook who knows how to cook and make a variety, there will be a surplus of rations. All the trouble I find is we have to take our rations and eat them anywhere we can.

The building we occupy is two stories high, shaped like this: [HAWKES SKETCHES HERE A THICK CROSS] In the day time, it is well lighted by the windows — in the evening, by gas.

It is said that we are to embark at Boston next week for Fortress Monroe. I do not think we will leave as soon, for if this Regiment has been transferred to Gov. Andrews, he will have everything all right. Then we are all to be examined and mustered.

There are at present here, beside our Regiment, 26 men of the Maine Battery with their pieces. Their companions went with Butler’s last shipload. Also one Company of Zouaves for our Regiment, so we are now complete.

There is nearly as much snow here as at Pittsfield, though we are not on a hill top so not as cold. As at Pittsfield, we are encamped on the Agricultural Grounds.

I hope you will write me immediately, and if I do not leave, you shall hear from me again in a few days.

I thank you very much for the rations you sent me by Leavitt.

Please give my best regards to Aunt Harriet for those magazines, &c.

Remember me to all inquiring friends. Ask all to write.

Ever your son

J. W. Hawkes
Co. C, Camp Chase
Lowell, Mass.

Perhaps you will think I am increasing in rotundity, but that vest cannot be buttoned with any comfort.


Wednesday, Feb. 19, 1862

Dear Mother

We are all hurry and commotion this moaning, as we expect to leave tomorrow morning for Boston, and there to embark for Ship Island. We expected to leave this morning, but the order was countermanded. I enclose you my picture, though not taken in my dress uniform, as I had hoped to have it. Also a certificate which you can present the Town Clerk and draw the State Aid from the date of my enlistment, Oct. 17. We are Mass. Volunteers, now, so you can get it — $1 per week. I have sent Frank $20 of my wages for him to take care of. We were paid off Monday up to Jan. 1st.

Our quarters are better here, but not as good opportunities for washing &c, as at Pittsfield.

My health is pretty good now.

I do not know how you will need to direct letters — will write you when on the passage or as soon as I find out.

I hope you will remember me at the throne of Grace.

Much love to all.

Your affectionate son

J. W. Hawkes
Co. C, 31st Reg. M.V.M.


Wednesday P.M. Feb. 19, 1862

Dear Mother

I have sent off my other letter so am obliged to write a few more lines. In regard to that State Aid certificate, probably it will draw as it is, but to make it sure you will please in the phrase his family erase, by drawing a mark of ink over it, the word family, writing over it mother. Then there can be no quibbling. It will make no difference whether you write it or the Capt.

In much haste I remain

Ever your son

J. W. Hawkes
Co. C, 31 Reg. M.V.M.


On Board Str. Mississippi
At anchor between Fortress Monroe
and the Rip Rap
Monday, Feb, 24, 1862

 Left Camp Chase
20th Feb. 1862

Dear Mother

I snatch a little time to assure you of our safe ar­rival thus far on our outward voyage.

We left Camp Chase Thursday morning, arriving at Boston about 3 p.m., marched through the streets in slosh nearly knee deep and at length arrived at Long Wharf where we immediately embarked on board the Str. Mississippi. She put off in the course of the afternoon, laying at anchor in the harbor till next noon, when we were towed out of the harbor and soon lost sight of old Mass.

Show me the man who wrote the story “A Life on the Ocean Wave.” I would like to have seen him during my first two days’ ex­perience here. I began to grow sick, Sea Sick, before dark and did not get over it till yesterday (Sunday) morning. I was pretty billious [sic], so didn’t I heave some. I wished I could see mother more than once, but consoled, myself with the reflection that Sea Sickness never killed any one. I would like to picture to you a scene where we were all spewing over the rail, but must hurry if I wish to send this now. We had (so the sailors say) very good weather. There are some 1400 men on board — Mass. 31st and 4 Companies of Maine 13th. Our company is quartered on the lower deck, poor ventilation, so it is very close here. I feel a sensible difference in the climate here, the wind is blowing terribly from the shore, lashing the waves into white foam — I’m glad we are not at sea. A sailboat with six men has swamped within sight since we anchored.

I got your letter the night before leaving Lowell, right glad to get it.

Don’t know how long we stay here.

I would be thankful to get a piece of bread for fairly loathe this hard bread since [I] was so sick.

Much love to Louisa and children.

Excuse haste, have written in almost darkness.

Ever your son

J. W. Hawkes
Co. C 31 Reg. M.V.M.
Ship Island, Miss.


Headquarters 31 Reg. M. V.
Seabrook Plantation, Hilton Head, S.C.
March 7, 1862

Dearest Mother

It is with feelings of devout gratitude to the kind Providence that has watched over me that I embrace this opportunity of dropping a line – My last was from Fortress Monroe.

We did not land there as we hoped. General Butler and staff came on board Tuesday p.m., Feb. 25, and we sailed about eight that evening, and Wednesday morning dawned upon us as warm as heart could wish, yet a good breeze. It was said we should stop at Hatteras, so I busied myself on waiting, on deck. A storm was brewing however — toward night the sky began to assume a dull lead color and by sunset you could see, here and there, a white-crested wave betokening — even to my inexperienced eye — gale. Well it came. The old ship rolled and lurched all through the night. May God in mercy deliver me from such another. The waves would roll over the deck and it seemed absolutely certain that we should land in Eternity before morning. With every surge the ship would quiver — while of the men, some were blanched with fear, others swearing. As I sit and think of it, I am surprised at my own calmness. It seemed terrible thus, to face death, yet I felt to say with the Psalmist “I know in whom I have believed.” While an invisible voice seemed to be whispering in my ear “We shall come out all right.” Morning at length dawned, but the storm had not abated. Determined to see the sea in its fury I managed to get on deck, where a most majestic scene lay spread out before me. One moment the ship was riding high on the top of a huge bil­low, then she would leap into the abyss below – as far as the eye could reach, one broad expanse of angry waters. The storm abated as the day drew to a close, so we made good progress during the night.

I now come to chronicle the adventures of Friday, Feb. 28.  It was so pleasant we seemed sure of a prosperous journey the rest of the way when about eight a.m., the ship — run aground. Those not already there, were immediately ordered below, the en­gine reversed &c., but of no avail. A signal of distress was hoisted, but immediately ordered down by Gen. Butler. Then a signal-gun was fired. We had a reply and about eleven a ship was seen bearing down upon us — being on [the] rebel coast, her charac­ter could not be determined, so the General issued the order for every man to see that his arms were in good order and to be in readiness. It seemed the height of rashness, weak, and debilitat­ed as we were by long confinement and meagre diet, but we could only obey. She proved the gunboat Mt. Vernon of the blockading fleet. She made fast to us and, though we were constantly throw­ing stores overboard, her efforts seemed fruitless. About four p.m., we were ordered on deck with all our possessions, antici­pating a removal to the other ship. The rush was terrible. After squeezing and sweltering, I got on deck. Three Companies had gone. After going fore and aft several times &c. &c. we got her off. That night was spent in bailing water. The Mt. Vernon lay alongside, returning the troops taken off. The next morning, Saturday, was a fine day, yet we lay there only some three miles from the Rebel coast where the Palmetto flag was distinctly seen floating. The Mt. Vernon (it was said) had gone for assist­ance. She returned about noon with a prize — a schooner taken trying to run the blockade. I do not know why we could not have done so before, but did not weigh anchor till evening. Hands have to be constantly at work at both pumping and bailing, we are making for Port Royal. It is warm and we have to stay below most of the time so as to give room to manage the ship. All are very hungry, yet our diet is salt junk and hard bread. Much having been thrown overboard, we only get a very few boiled potatoes and salt. To make a long story short, we got into Port Royal Sunday, Mar. 1, about sunset. Gen. Butler assured us we should land that night, but after again getting ready, the pilot was obliged to wait till morning, the tide being out. Monday morning, Mar. 2, 1862, they ran us up here where we landed. Wasn’t I glad to get off ship on to terra firma once more though my legs were so weak I could hardly stand. This plantation was,at its capture, occu­pied by a Dr. Seabrook – now in the Rebel army and his mansion is deserted. The negroes still live here with no one to make them work when they don’t want to. The troops who first landed here stole their chickens and committed many outrages upon them so they feared us at first. Our soldiers have always paid them for whatever they took so they are very familiar now.

There is quite a change between the climate here and what it was when I left N. E. Yet, it is quite cold nights. March is said to be the coldest month of the year, here. Here we see the cotton,which was not more than half picked last year, also fig, lemon, and the much famed palmetto trees. The plantation is lev­el and very large.

There are a few companies of the Pennsylvania 45th in pos­session of this Port. The Rebels are within three of four miles of us. Beaufort is about five. Part of our tents were thrown overboard, so our company bunk in an open shed, –rather cool, but I would not complain of that if we had enough to eat. The quantity provided by the Government is amply sufficient for every man, but we only get a little salt beef, hard bread and coffee. I know our commissary has not much of a variety now.

The steamer Mississippi is still here; she leaks badly and I do not see how they can repair her without she is in a dry dock. I do not wish to sail any more at present — she seems to be an ill fated ship. I do not think we shall leave for Ship Island at present. I can’t get any clothing here and am in want of some boots, soap, perhaps some kind of shirts or undershirts, pair of buck gloves, light. If you think it advisable send them by ex­press, filling up the box with some kind of dried fruit and eat­ables. What do you think of the proposal? My love to all.

Must close now time to drill. Goodby. Write immediately.

Your son

J. W. Hawkes

Co. C 31 Reg. M. V.
Hilton Head Island
Seabrook Landing, S. C.

It is the general opinion that the Captain of the Mississippi is a Rebel, as he came very near wrecking us twice.

My health is good; this sea breeze agrees with me though sleeping so cold I do not get as much cold as in N.E.

I often think of you sometimes. [I] am almost tempted to repent the step I have taken, yet I know that God watches over me and I desire an interest in your prayers that I may live near to Him. Remember me affectionately to Francis and family. Also Uncle Stephen’s people and all who know me. Did you receive my last letter, written previous to leaving Lowell? Confer with some one as to the propriety of sending anything.

Ever your son Joshua, Co. C. 31 Reg. M. V.


On Board the Str. Mississippi
March 14, 1862

My dear Mother

It is a beautiful afternoon and almost stifled by the close air of my quarters I have with paper and pen betook my­self to the deck there to spend a short time in communion with one who is often present in my thoughts by day and dreams by night. I wrote you a few days since, from our Camp at Hilton Head, giving quite a detailed account of my adventures up to that date. I trust you have received it ‘ere this, so I will recapitulate. It was rather tough there. Not supposing we should tarry long, no more tents were put up than absolutely necessary. Several companies, ours among the number, were quartered in a shed used for storing hay. We covered the sleepers to some extent with boards, yet there was a free circulation of air beneath, making it – cold. During the entire time I have been in the ser­vice, I have not suffered from cold as much as a part of the nights we were there. The night sea wind was cold, yet unlike the frosty cold of Camp Seward. They drilled us pretty hard, yet I for one, got plenty of fresh air — getting well and hearty again. The Mississippi, in the meantime, was fitting up again and Monday p.m., March 10, the 31st again embarked, the Maine boys having left a few hours previous on the Str. Mantanzas. I had been hard at work on board for 48 hours previous and was hoping to get a lit­tle rest, but [it] seemed our misfortunes were not at an end — for she had not gone more than a mile when we were aground again. This, it seemed permanently, being very near the beach in very shallow water at high tide to boot. I will not go into detail as to the number of times we left for other ships, then back again, then on to the beach to fasten a hawser, then at the next high tide off again to lighten her, but simply say that at high tide Tuesday night, her freight having been discharged with the aid of several steamers and tugs, she once more floated in the briny deep. [We] Ran down to Port Royal that night. It being foggy, [we] did not weigh an­chor till yesterday at 11 a.m. We fired our big gun — weight 8580 lbs. — and received in return a salute of 13 guns, as we passed the largest of Uncle Sam’s war dogs, I forget her name, the band playing “Dixie”. We have had fine weather ever since and the old ship, despite her hard usage, has kept swiftly on her course, beaming us away from home, friends, and all the associations of youth — to meet we know not what hardships and privations, or in what guise death may overtake us. Would I could sound it so as to be heard all over the land: Don’t forget the soldier. Let him feel that he has your sympathy. Above all pray for him (not prey on him) that he may preserve his character as a man — not degrade himself to a brute — for there is danger that he will, far away from the restraining influences of home, do many things he would not wish his mother or sister to know of. I find in my own case, that I am in great danger of forgetting that there is anyone else than self. In the morning my first thought is to get a cup of coffee — two if possible — and so on through the day. It is an old adage “Hunger will drive a man through a stone wall.” I fully coincide with the opinion. I never thought once that I could make a meal three hard crackers (hard hacks, we term them) and half a pint of so-called coffee. I think as delicious a morsel as ever passed my lips, was yesterday noon — three potatoes and a piece of fat pork about two inches square. When you sit down to something nice and neat, just think of me as with a piece of salt junk in one hand, a hard hack in the other, grinding away for dear life. I have thought a thousand times of that Thanks­giving dinner at Uncle Stephen’s. I can taste it now. Wasn’t it good? Leavitt and myself have contrived to get a very few cans of Soldified milk. We put a little in our coffee making, it seem more rational and keeping us in better health, this salt meat having a great tendency to make one costive.

It is a great place here to breed lice I assure you. I had an inspection yesterday; found none then. O, how I dread them.

We expect to make Key West before morning. Load up there with shells and get to Ship Island Monday. We have been so long on the way, I anticipate Butler will not suffer us to remain idle a great while. I am very sorry to say it, but as regards our officers, there are very few men among them. They fail to show an interest in the welfare of their men, preferring to let them shirk for themselves. As examples of morality and temperance, they are not worthy of imitation. Col. Gooding was appointed only a few days previous to our leaving Boston. He is a young man and understands the tactics. Cannot speak of his character, he not having been with us long enough. The Captain of this boat is under arrest, secession letters having been found on him.  I think he intended to give us up to the Rebels by running us onto the Frying Pan Shoals, Feb. 28, but he did not succeed.

Lt. Sturgis of the United States Navy from the Mt. Vernon piloted us into Port Royal and is our present commander. The Mississ­ippi is a finely finished and strongly built boat — had it not been for a water tight apartment both fore and aft, she would certainly have gone to pieces when we ran aground. When I reflect on what we have gone through, I cannot but admire that wisdom that hides futurity from our view. “Take no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself,” I feel to be peculiarly applicable to a soldier’s life.

Must stop now, for it’s time for rations.

Wednesday p.m., March 17. I have not had much time to myself for a few days past. Saturday our Company was put on guard, so of course, I was among the number. This guard on ship board is a perfect nuisance. Some are posted on deck where your gun quite likely gets spattered with salt water, causing rust. Then comes cleaning, and do your best, often reprimanded for not cleaning your equipments with more care. We did not get relieved till about 11 Sunday morning — my station was below, so I felt pretty much fagged out — every man must turn out, however, to meeting. I succeeded in getting where I could hear the text — “Wherefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” A sense of solemnity rested upon me, though it did not seem like meeting at home. I think our Chaplain is a good man, but the Episcopal service does not seem natural. I have been on duty nearly every Sabbath for a long time. Sunday p.m., we had to go to heaving up coal from the hold, working two hours and full as hot as the first of June in Mass. Monday at eleven, Co. C had to haul coal for two hours. We got a little molasses and water, which was very agreeable. At dinner, which did not come till near three, we had boiled rice and molasses, a rarity. Passed Key West about noon, but did not stop. Tuesday. nothing worthy of note with the exception of a general inspection of knapsacks.

Amid all the movings of the cargo, many things have been stolen or taken, for as short as we have been kept, it hardly seemed like stealing, especially anything eatable. Among some companies, a large quantity of tobacco was found. Our boys had not much. Today has been spent in work, setting on deck, &c.&c. as best suited my fancy.

Packard of Co. B died last night, of diptheria it is said. He was well when we left Seabrook, yet he is gone. He was wound in blankets, and with two shells tied to his feet, consigned to the deep. It seemed sad thus to bury him.

At noon, we were reported 90 miles from Ship Island, so hope if prospered to run in, in the course of the night. Then will come work. I often think of Charlemont and wonder if there are any there who will think of me. I think I will not tell you some things that I may, some other time. If I have my health, I hope to return at the end of three years, if not before, better fitted for the duties of life than ever before.

I hope to be able to write to Mr. Farnsworth and Mr. Kingman and Willie Hawkes soon, though when I get writing, I spin out so long. [I] do not write as many as I would. You need not send me anything now. I will write, if I really need. Wish I had some cotton shirts and stockings.

I wish now to ask a few questions. What is a remedy for costiveness? Also diarrhea on the other hand? And advice as to my health will be very gratefully received. If you see Charlie Crittenden or Freeman Lathrop, please say I would like to hear from them. Remember me to all the friends you are accus­tomed to hear from. Did Frank get the money I sent  him from Lowell? I would like to hear from them. You must tell the children about me. And they must go to school and learn all they can and try and be good.

What was said in the papers about our Regiment? Were we re­ported lost? Please write about it. Will you not ask some of the friends to send me a paper occasionally? Papers are very useful, when we have done reading. I would willingly pay for two or three papers every week. I wish you would make me a Havelock. Do it up in a paper and forward it to me. Also sometime, a half yard or so of cotton cloth. I trust you will write as often as you can — anything will be of interest. Did you recognise [sic] the picture I sent you? I wish you could send me yours.

Thursday, March 20, a.m. Had a rather rough night. Are now anchored off Ship Island, our destined haven. It is only a barren sand waste — judging from the distance. It looks rather gloomy, but we may like it better when we get ashore. But Goodby. Write and ask every one to do so. With much love I remain

Your far off son

J. W. Hawkes
Co. C, 31 Reg’t M.V.M.
Ship Island, Gulf of Mexico

I enclose a little cotton picked by myself when we were stranded off Hilton Head.

Ship Island, Mississippi (Image from Harper's Weekly)

Ship Island, Mississippi (Image from Harper’s Weekly)

On Board Str. Mississippi
At Anchor off Quarantine
April 30, 1862

Dear Mother, I sometimes imagine that my friends in “Old New England” have forgotten that there is perhaps somewhere in Rebeldom a fellow named J. W. Hawkes, who was foolish enough – so some say – to leave a good home, all for the sake of being a soldier. I come to this conclusion the more readily that I have not receiv­ed a solitary letter since I left Boston, Feb. 22, 1862.

Again we are at home on board the Str. Mississippi, and to have everything correspond, we are on the river Mississippi bound for New Orleans. I am getting a little fast, so will go back and tell my story. Ship Island is little but a barren sand plain, so that our stay there of between three and four weeks was not particularly delightful, the more so as we had to drill in sand ankle deep, haul wood five miles in the water, &c. &c. We had good water, to be obtained by digging a few feet, and good opportunities for sea bathing.

Tuesday, Apr. 15th, the Mass. 31st bid adieu to Ship Island again embarking on the Mississippi. We thought it crowded coming from Boston with only 1500 men, but with two Regiments of infantry (Mass. 26th and 31st) with two sections of Mass. 6th Battery, we had to live standing.

Thursday, 17th, we arrived at South West Pass, obtained a pilot and ran up the river a little way. We could hear the dis­tant booming of the guns, indicating that the expected attack on Forts Jackson and [St.] Philip had commenced. 22d, we ran up within three miles of the fleet, consisting of mortar and gunboats. The former lay near a point in the river, screened by woods, where they could throw shells into the Fort; the latter came more di­rectly in range of the enemies [sic: enemy’s] guns. About 9 a.m. Thursday noon [?], we started down the river again and, to shorten the story, we ran up another Pass laying there till yesterday, when we came back again, entering the Mississippi about 2 p.m.

This morning, Leavitt awoke me by saying, “Come up, we are passing the Forts.” I had heard that they were taken out. [I] failed to realize it till I went on deck and saw the Stars and Stripes wav­ing. Ft. Jackson is built of brick or stone, some 18 ft high, mounting two rows of guns. Ft. [St.] Philip is on a bend nearly op­posite, not very formidable though they both command the river. But they are ours!

We sailed up by, and about noon, anchored where we now are. There is a wharf here and several large brick buildings. It is called a Quarantine; that’s all I can say about it. We start tonight for New Orleans, which, it is said, has already surrender­ed. The 26th have gone off several days ago, so we are not now crowded as much and my health is good. I am in a hurry as it is said we much [SIC] close all letters tonight. Goodby. My love to all friends. I trust my next will be dated New Orleans.  I shall write the first opportunity. You can direct to

Your aff. Son

J. W. Hawkes,
Co. C, 31st Reg. M. V.
Butler’s Coast Expedition


On Board Str. Mississippi
New Orleans, La.
May 1, 1862

Dear Mother

I wrote you a hurried letter yesterday but as the mail has not gone, I will write another this afternoon.

Last night the mail came, long looked for and doubly welcome, I received two letters from you — of March 11 and April 3. I need not assure you that I was glad to get them. I often think of you — sometimes reproach myself for leaving you in your old age, yet I trust that the same kind Providence is watching over you, and that his promises are to all.

Sugar Plantation in Louisiana

Sugar Plantation in Louisiana

This has been one of the proudest days of my life! Secession is at a discount. The Yankees have sailed up to the braggart city of New Orleans without so much as a gun being fired. We weighed anchor about nine last evening. I woke early this morning and hastened on deck. We were rapidly steaming up the Father of Waters through the most charming country imaginable. The river was lined on either side with plantations, level as a floor. The houses and negro quarters indicating the owners were tolerably well off. Fields of sugar cane extending as far as the eye could reach, with the orange trees and the deep green of the tropical vegetation, was a scene ever to be remembered. We sailed quietly up the River, past the fleet, and cast anchor off the Levee about two this afternoon, within a few rods of the shore. As we passed each gunboat, cheer after cheer went up till I reckon they were hoarse. I know we were. Quite a crowd gathered on shore, yet the Stars and Stripes were to be seen only on a very few of the most public buildings. A Kind of Sabbath stillness seemed to pervade the entire City. But goodby for the present. Lt. has just given the order for Co. C to fall in on deck immediately. On deck with all our equipments on, which looks very much like going on shore. I don’t know what kind of a reception we may receive, but think we shall have no trouble. If they want a street fight — as at Baltimore — we are in.  Goodby for tonight.



Custom House, New Orleans, La.
May 4, 1862

Dear Mother

I have the prospect of a little leisure this afternoon, so I will add a supplement to my letter of the 1st.

Well, Mother: We are in New Orleans. My surmise as to the prospect of our landing proved correct. After standing on deck a long time, the Regiment proceeded to disembark, forming in Battalion line on the Levee. Quite a crowd had assembled, but with the exception of a few suppressed cheers for Jeff Davis and Beauregard, with occasional mutterings of “If it wasn’t for your gunboats, you wouldn’t come in in this way.”

Let it be chronicled by history that the 31st Mass. was the first to land in the Crescent City.

Well! We marched up into the City, halting several times and as darkness began to close around us, it seemed as if we would never halt. We at length brought around to the Custom House, and entering, took quarters, as tired a set of fellows as it was ever my luck to see.

Custom House, New Orleans

Custom House, New Orleans

A few words now in regard to said Custom House. The foundation was laid in the year 1853, Beauregard being commissioned by President Pierce to plan its construction. As a proof of Southern enterprise, it is even now only about half finished. It is now five stories, high built of granite — some five hundred feet on a side. There is no roof or windows, so there is plenty of air. The Post Office, Court House, and several other offices were formerly here. These rooms are occupied by the officers, while we occupy the unfinished rooms, sleeping on the stone floor. It is better than the ground, being dry. Beside, we have water in the building. Our Regiment, with the 7th Indiana and the 4th Wis., are quartered here. As a specimen of Yankee inquisitiveness, before we had been in the building an hour, the boys had made an entrance into every room in the building, seeking what they might devour. Talk of maple sugar for the past two days, I have managed to have a little sugar or molasses by me most of the time, which helps the hard crackers down. There are a great many things here imported and duties having never been paid they remain. Everything is now guarded as, of course, it should be.

The next morning, our company was sent up to the City Hall. We remained there on the park until late in the afternoon and, on return, were put on guard all night. Yesterday morning, I began to feel the need of a little rest, but don’t talk of rest to a soldier. We were sent up to St. Charles Hotel on guard for twenty-four hours.

I have not had much fun, yet. The place is very quiet, comparatively speaking, though it is nothing but the presence of our gunboats and troops that keep the fire from bursting out.

Until Butler’s proclamation came out, yesterday morning, we were subject to all kind of abusive language while on guard. D-d Yankees, &c.,&c., but now we are instructed not to bear anything from anyone. Give them the cold steel or a blue pill.

This a.m., I was one of sixteen who went to a house and forcibly entered the same in search of a Captain in the Confederate Army. We did not find him, but he came and delivered himself up. The City is under martial law which will be enforced.

My health is good, so far, but they prophesy the Yellow Jack will thin us out. The mail is said to go tomorrow so must close. It’s after taps now. Write soon.

Direct to your son

J. W. Hawkes
Ship Island, Miss.
Co. C, 31 Reg. M.V.


St. Charles Hotel, New Orleans, La.
May 23, 1862

Dear Mother

I have just finished my dinner, and though still very warm, [the] climate is not conducive to an easy flow of ideas. Yet [I] trust that Mother will not look for the same faultless letter from a “Soldier Boy” as a “Student.”

Often do I review the past few months with the thought, “Did I do right to enlist and leave my mother thus alone?” I cannot answer it satisfactorily. I am glad I have a mother — were it not for the old associations of home, much restraint would be gone.

My last was written in the full flush of victory. I am now prepared to look more calmly and will try to give an account of the present state of affairs, here. I will begin with the subject nearest at hand, ‘my humble self’.

Butlers HQ in NO

General Butler’s Headquarters, the St. Charles Hotel

May 4, our Company was ordered to the St. Charles Hotel where we performed guard duty for twenty four hours then back to the Custom House. The next morning, we took up our baggage and returned to the Hotel, where we still remain. Our business is Continued Standing Guard around the premises. There are five reliefs making eight hours off, though you cannot count on the minutes to yourself, being liable to be “called out” at any time to assist in making an arrest, or “salute” General Butler.

I am not disposed to find fault, though we are kept close and our duties are rather wearing. In the first place, it is quite an honor to be selected to guard the Headquarters of the Commanding General — then we have the name of having as good quarters as any Co. in the City. We occupy what was formerly the Bar Room. It is large, of circular form, a marble counter runs around about one half — this is the bar. It was also [a] kind of general auction room. There are several stands and I have the testimony of a “resident” that on two stated days every week there was an auction of “niggers” held here, at which time liquor and blood flowed freely. So you can think, of your boy as sleeping on the very spot where souls were formerly struck off to the highest bidder. The room is lighted by gas, and with plenty of water in an adjoining room, it seems rather preferable to laying in the sand. As regards my health, I call myself pretty well. Many of the boys have been troubled with a bad diarrhoea caused by a change of water, &c., &c. I have been able to avoid anything serious.

The nights are quite damp here, and exposure, as on guard, is apt to produce sore throats, coughs, and such like. Inhaling the night air has brought a cough upon me with soreness of the chest &c. I hope to be able to rid myself of it before long. If I should chance to get sick — which by the way I do not mean to do — please recollect that St. James Hotel is used as a Hospital, where the sick are quite comfortable.

Could you, unobserved, look down upon me as I am on guard for example, [I] think you would hardly recognize me. My post is at the “Ladies Entrance” where I am to pass no persons without a ticket signed by the proprietor of the house. I meet all classes, and though a D-d Yankee, I have my say. As a general thing, I am treated with civility, though occasionally some high-bred Southern lady forgets for the time that she is not ordering her “niggers,” coming up with “I must see General Butler,” accompanied with a look of supreme contempt intended to make poor mudsill cower at once. These ladies don’t generally go in without making their business known.

When I think of the threats that have so long been breathed out against “Union Men” and N. E. Men in particular, I am surprised that in the short space of three weeks the city should have become reduced to such a good degree of order. No violence has been offered to any soldier within my knowledge. We always carry loaded pieces, but I feel no more fear of being molested than were I walking the streets of Slab City instead of a somewhat larger one termed the Crescent City. Judging from observation, a more kindly feeling is daily growing in the hearts of the people towards the soldiers. There are many true Union men who will show themselves in due time.

About a week ago, three men were “finished” for taking the oath of allegiance.

Two days ago, the General came with a proclamation appointing Gen. Shepley, Mayor of N.O. till an election could be held and a loyal man chosen in his place. Rather of a bitter pill, but ’twill do ’em good. Also after May 27, Confederate currency is no longer passable. This will cause some suffering among the poor, but all drawers of Shinplasters will be obliged to redeem them. The fact is, the City was on the verge of starvation at the time we took it. Let me give you a sample of prices: Flour $20 per bbl., Beef (salt) 75 [cents] per lb., Pork $50 per bbl., Coffee $1 per lb., and so on. Owing to the wanton destruction of cotton, sugar & molasses on the day the fleet ran up, Sugar is now retailed at 10 to 14 [cents], molasses 40 to 60 [cents]. Going into a store with the intention of inquiring the prices. Calicoes worth at home 12 [cents] sell at from 40 to 50 [cents] here. Boots $15 or thereabouts. A common 25 [cents] hair brush 75 [cents]. Fine comb same, &c., &c.

Our troops seized a lot of beef destined for the C.S.Army which he has been distributing to the poor. There was a crowd of several thousand around the Custom House on the days of delivery. The poor have worked for this confederate money and now the issuers refuse to redeem it. Speaking of the poor, I will give you a case in point. The other day, an old gray haired man with a wooden leg came along. He was an old pensioner of 1812. Being an old federal, when these troubles broke out he stood by the flag. At length he began to want, but “Secesh” would give no aid. As a last resort, he came to see if General Butler could not help him. On receiving the intelligence that he should receive some provisions in the morning, and also farther aid, he grasped the officer’s hand while tears rolled down his cheeks. “Thank God! Thank God! I’ve had nothing for three days. It’s more than I expected.” This is a sample. There is little business here now — the stores are only open a few hours every day. There are more now than one week ago. I have not had the opportunity of looking about much, so cannot say much of the City. There are a few fine streets — and many very ill built and nasty ones. Our troops occupy the Custom House, Mint, Med. Coll., Odd Fellows Hall, &c. Our men are so scattered that they overestimated our numbers. Several Western Regiments have gone up the river. The 31st Mass. Vol. is encamped at Enunciation Square in the suburbs of the City. I want to go up and see them, but have not been able to get away, yet. It don’t seem natural not to be with them. It is Report[ed] that this Regiment is ordered to report in Boston by the first of July. I rather doubt it, for we have just drawn a new blouse and pants. It is, however, my candid opinion that if I ever see Mass. again, it will be before I am six months older.

Say to Aunt Wealthy that I thank her for her letter, will answer soon. I can hardly realize that I am so far away from all my friends. I should not say all, for Leavitt is a first rate fellow and we study to get something good to eat if possible. Today we have made a cake of crackers, pounded fine and soaked soft, then sweetened and a little wine put in to flavor it. There is a bakery connected with the hotel, so we can get them baked. Were we allowed to exchange our rations, we could live first rate. As it is, the staple articles are salt beef and hard bread. But I must close, if I wish to send this. Love to all. Write soon.

Your son

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


St. Charles Hotel, N.O., La.
May 31, 1862

Dear Mother

Yours of the 20th of April enclosing a Havalock [sic: havelock] was received last evening. I need not say I was glad to hear from you, for your letters are always welcome and I hope that the good advice they always contain is not wholly lost upon me. I have written three long letters since we left Ship Island (Apr. 16), some of which I trust you have received ‘ere this.

One month has passed since we landed in the “Crescent City.” Very swiftly it has flown, and taking a retrospective view, I cannot but be thankful to that Providence that has shielded me from danger to the present time. Others of our company have been, and still are, sick, but despite the warm weather, damp nights, and sameness of diet, I have escaped the diarrhoea, and am pretty well. We are still doing guard duty at “The St. Charles” — are very much confined and it is rather wearing, being up so much nights, but we have comparatively cool quarters in doors, which is more than the Regiment can boast of. My turn comes once in eight hours, then we have to turn out to salute the General at 9 a.m., 3 p.m., generally have to wait from one to two hours for his arrival. This with my washing and keeping myself cleanly does not leave much time for rest. My motto, however is — Do present duty to the best of my ability and let the future take care of itself.

The greatest inconvenience I have experienced is a want of a little spending money. In this warm climate, one hankers after a little more variety than salt beef and hard bread with beans once a week. By swapping off crackers, I have managed to get a little milk occasionally.

The Paymasters are in the City. I helped complete our Pay Rolls this morning, so think we will get a little change soon.  New Orleans is fast becoming quite civilized, everything seems remarkably quiet. Mayor Monroe, refusing to take the oath of allegiance, Gen. Butler just deposed him, so now Gen. Geo. F. Shepley is Military Commandant of New Orleans. The old police would not take the oath, so the City government has started new. The opinion — yes, the forced conviction is daily gaining utterance “That Secession is about played out”. President Lincoln’s proclamation opening the Port of New Orleans is heartily welcomed by the press. We got the news last night that Richmond was taken. I have been expecting to hear as much. A few Regiments have gone up the river. A great victory near Baton Rouge, as the Rebels boasted, proves by Gen. Williams’ report to have been a skirmish in which we lost one killed, four wounded. The Rebels running as a matter of course. Our Regiment may be ordered up the river soon, but my private opinion is that we stay in N.O. for the present. The 8th Vermont (by the way, Geo. Eddy who married Nancy Jillson is in that Regiment) and the 30th Mass. left the City last night for somewhere.

It is hot here and no mistake. Take it about noon with coats buttoned close, don’t we sweat? The “Skeeters” here are “very ferocious”. You lie down at night for a little sleep — you are fortunate if you get asleep — only to wake, smarting from the bites. My face looks much as if broken out with the measles — nothing but “Skeeter bites,” however. But the boys are getting their dinner so good by for the present.

Sunday p.m. I can hardly realize that it is the Sabbath. Many stores are open and it seems more of a holiday than a holy day. I am sorry to say that the General makes it as much of a business day as any other.

The City is very dull, business of all kinds being at a standstill. Our life here is so monotonous, I have not much to write. A few days ago, we made quite a haul of clothing for the Confederate Army. It was all packed in boxes ready to forward. Some of our boys also dug up a large cannon, a few days since. It had been buried for safe keeping.

Stories are floating about that the 31st is going home soon. I hope it may prove true, though I am unable to find out where it started from. I want to fire my gun before I start. I am greatly obliged for that Havelock, though the forepiece is too small to go over my cap. I wear it without any cap. Soldiering is hard business yet I’m not sorry that “I’m in.” I like the officers very well. Lt. Smith resigned while at Ship Island. He was prompt and energetic so the boys would try to drill under him. I for one was sorry to have him leave.

It seems a long time between your letters. I hope you will write often as possible. You needn’t wait, not knowing where I am. All letters directed to the Regiment follow the Regiment. I received a first rate letter from Mr. Farnsworth, a few days ago. How do things go on over to the old Homestead? Those old familiar scenes, how they linger in my mind like the rosy glow in the western sky — long after the sun has departed. What is the news in C[harlemont]? I know there must be something to talk about. Who teaches the school this summer? Uncle Stephen and Aunt Harriet, how are they? And the girls, too — are they teaching? My regards to them all. How are things prospering at the Majors? Remember me to Frank and Lizzie and the children. How are Carter’s people?

You remember those new boots I got last fall. Well, I wish you would sell them, or perhaps if Bishop is still there, you can exchange them for something in the shoe line you need. They cost $5. If I had them here they would bring more than twice that. Do you ever hear from David? Or Alvin? How are all the friends “Out West”? What comments did the press make on Butler’s taking possession of New Orleans?

Again, I say write as often as you can make it come right. Much love to Aunt Wealthy and yourself. Please excuse this scrawling.

Ever your son

J. W. Hawkes
Co. C, 31st Reg’t M. V.
New Orleans, La.


Camp Morewood, New Orleans, La.
June 15, 1862

Dear Mother

I had just come off guard Thursday p.m. and was trying my best to keep cool when the intelligence that a mail had arrived for the Regiment set me to thinking — Wonder if I will get a letter from Mother, this time. Suffice to say on going over after my supper, I left the coffee and hard bread untouched for the more agreeable contents of your letter.  I own to have been rather dilatory with my correspondents [sic] while on Ship Island owing in a great measure to the irregularity of the mails. I have written every week since we arrived in New Orleans, so I trust you will hear from me oftener now. I sometimes wonder how you can manage to find anything interesting in my letters, or in fact, to read them at all, written as they are amid so many interruptions. eg – just now I learned that there was a chance out to the gate to “swap crackers” for blackberries, so up I gets and forthwith strikes a bargain, five crackers for a pint of berries. It is a soldier’s motto — Live while you do live.

I will now revert to something else. Since my last, we have changed our location. Some ten days ago, the story began to circulate that Co. C was going up the River to Baton Rouge with Gen. Butler. It proved however to be only a story for neither the Gen. or Co. C went. Last Tuesday morning, we bid farewell to The St. Charles to rejoin our Regiment — Co. I, 15th Ct., taking our place. I wish them much Joy for on the score of comfort, we get more here. Co. C is now quartered in “Louisiana Cotton Press No. 2” on Robin St., only one block from Annunciation Square. It is a large roomy shed some 100 ft. long by 60 wide, built of brick, with a floor — it is open on one side. There are four other sheds of about the same size, the area being enclosed by a high board fence. All of the companies occupy like sheds with the exception of two that are tented on the square. On the whole, I am very well suited with our present accommodations. I have been absent from the Regiment so long — about five weeks — that I have hardly got to feeling quite at home, yet. My hardest work is to keep cool, as we only drill one hour. Company drill at 6 a.m, and Dress Parade at 5 1/2 p.m. with an occasional march on a cool evening. Dress Parade is the time when a regiment shows off to the best advantage. Every man is required to appear in his dress coat and pants, with all his equipments in good order, shoes blacked, &c. The Company’s are formed in Battalion Line, then exercised in Manual movements. If there are any “orders,” they are then read and the companies dismissed. Having just received our dress coats and pants, we present quite a respectable appearance.

I will now give you a little incident that somewhat varied the monotony of events a few days ago. Friday night, I had retired to my bed as usual, i.e. divested of everything but my shirt with blanket wound around me. [I] was sound asleep when about eleven I was woke by the beating of the “long roll” — In three minutes, every company was in line and the Battalion on the move. There was no disturbance of any kind — it was by order of Gen. Butler to test the prompitude [sic] of the troops. We simply marched down to the St. Charles, about two miles, and back again. Got to bed the second time about two and were permitted to sleep the rest of the night, much to our satisfaction.

There have been various rumors that the Regiment was going up the River soon. I see no signs of it, but hope we may. The weather is awful hot here. The sun of itself is very hot, but taken in connection with the air, which seems as though from a furnace, it is calculated to take away the little energy that a fellow may be so fortunate as to have. I am quite well at present and hope with care to remain so. The principal diseases here are those arising from a derangement of the bowels. There has been no yellow fever here, yet, that I am able to hear. But few of our company are in the Hospital; none have died. The general health of the 31st is as good as any Regiment here.

I have just received and finished reading another letter from you, bearing date of May 4. The one previously referred to, was the 26th ult. I also received a good jolly letter from Moore, so I had quite a feast. You need not be so solicitous; we shall be comfortable so long as we remain here — enough to eat and wear. They have recently given each man a mosquito bar, or netting, so I trust we shall sleep more quietly in the future. We have received no pay since leaving Lowell — have been expecting it for several weeks, but though the Paymaster is here, we don’t see the pay. I suppose it is coming, so is Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The City remains very quiet. In fact, it is said by citizens to be more orderly and the police regulations better enforced than for years. Gen. Butler is forbearing, yet when you see him knit his brows and turn up that squint eye, something is going to be done.

A few days ago, I forwarded to Uncle Stephen a paper containing an account of the execution of Wm. B. Mumford for tearing down the U.S. flag — also other news. I suppose you have seen it ‘ere this. Three soldiers are to be hung tomorrow for appropriating some $1500 to their own use.

It is said there will be mail communications with the North three times in future, vessels of all kinds are coming in every day and business begins to revive again.

I miss the Northern daily papers very much.

It is said that Richmond is taken, and only Vicksburg to hinder navigation up the Mississippi. That is a strong point, being built on a high bluff. Com. Porter went up with his mortar fleet, last week, and if they have raised the black flag as report says, the C1ty must be burnt. I hope we may go up soon, for I’ve seen about enough of N.O. Have there any new Regiments gone from Mass.? Are they enlisted for the three years? Has there any one else from C[harlemont] thought of going?

There were several items of news in your last that particularly pleased me. So it seems that Edwin Hawkes has found some one to his liking? I am glad of it, though there is no accounting for tastes. When is the noose going to be tied? I wish them much joy. Then Coates will acknowledge the paternity of his heir? Well, well! Accidents will happen.

I wish I could see you all, but there is no use wishing, for if ever I live till the war is over, I’m bound to come back to Mass., again. I’m glad to hear youv’e [sic] got a minister again. I often think of the church, of which I am so unworthy a member. I would enjoy a good sermon or a prayer meeting. I am indebted to Aunt Wealthy for her letters. My next shall be to her. Please write as often as convenient. Love to all.

Your affectionate son

J. W. Hawkes
Co. C, 31st Mass. Vol.


Camp Morewood, June 30, 1862

My dear Mother

Doubtless I deserve a good scolding for not writing last week as per agreement, but the fact is the weather is so hot here that I live in a kind of listless, torpid state. Consequently, my ideas do not run very freely. I assure you it requirels considerable resolution to write a letter such as I would write with the sweat oozing from every pore of my body. Life is more monotonous here than when we were at the St. Charles — [we] are now retired, consequently have very little excitement, except the common routine of camp life. I am happy to say that pay day actually arrived, just one week ago. Money was getting very rare in camp. I had not used my purse for so long that, when I came to have occasion to open it, ’twas with difficulty I could do so, it being rusted together. We received four months pay from Jan. 1, 1862. Leavitt and myself each sent $30 home, we sent it together to Mr. Leavitt with instructions for him to pay $30 to you. I should have sent more, but I am a long way from home and should I chance to get sick could not get much care without money. If you have any need of it, I wish you would take this money and use it. If not, you can give it to Frank to put with the other I sent him. It is my request that you use it, if you wish it.

For some time, I thought we should go up the River, but have given up that idea and try to content myself with remaining here this summer. I long to get out and roll on the green grass, out in the country where there is a little air. So long as I am well, I can get along even in the scorching climate of New Orleans. I am still able to report myself in comfortable health. Many are sick, so that the duties of the well are much harder. My turn on guard is about once in three days, too often to suit my complexion exactly.

The temptations of this City are many and varied. Women and Strong Drink are two prominent rocks over which many a young man who left home temperate, will make a wreck of his character. I desire, my dear mother, an interest in your prayers that I may be able to withstand all the attractive temptations of the wicked City and live near to God — that I might read his word more and find greater delight in holding communion with him.

One week ago yesterday, I stepped my foot inside of a church for the first time since leaving Pittsfield. A few of us went to the 1st Pres. Church, a fine church, where we listened to a very good sermon from 1. Cor. 3 21, 23. It made me think somewhat of New England, though I would more enjoy a good prayer meeting.

Things move along quite quietly in the City in striking contrast with previous seasons when “The Yankees” were far away. Gen. Butler’s course seems to win the unwilling approval even of the most ardent lovers of “The Confederacy”. The police is now something more than a mere name, and the streets are not general reservoirs of filth, emitting a horrible stench — as they promised soon to do on our arrival.  With a lot of “live” Yankees at the helm, I think business will take a fresh start as soon as the Mississippi is open, which will be soon, as only Vicksburg now obstructs the navigation. Sat. p.m., eight of us went down to Lt. DeKay’s funeral. There was a detail of eight men from each company. Lt. De Kay was one of Gen. Williams’ aids [sic], a young man who left his studies in Europe at his country’s call. He was wounded in a skirmish up the river about the last of May and has been confined to St. James Hospital ever since. I well remember him at Ship Island, tall with dark hair, florid complexion, one of the handsomest (if such a term is ever used) men I ever saw. Now he is gone, leaving a widowed mother and sisters to mourn his untimely end.

Col. Gooding has left to take command at Ft. Jackson, so the Regiment is now in command of Lt. Col. Whelden, whom we like much better than the Col. I do not wish to brag, but Co. C is the most orderly of any in the Regiment — though we have been used rather mean from the start. Lt. Smith, a prompt, energetic officer whom the boys all liked, left us at Ship Island. Lt. Cushing who took his place, was a military man, and quite a man when free from the influence of liquor — then cross. He is now at the fort. Lt. Andrews is Provost Sheriff — so we have no officers but Capt. Lee, who is as good a Capt. as in the Regiment. It sometimes seems as if he were too lenient. He is obliging and looks out for the men. Orderly Sergt. T. L. Scott sustains the same reputation here as at home. He has not many friends in the Company. Suffice to say, he is now under arrest for issuing passes on his own responsibility. It seems to be the general wish that he might be reduced to the ranks. My abilities as a writer &c., have been brought into requisition several times, yet I am an applicant for no office, for a private’s duties are the easiest with the least responsibility. We do not get much war news, of late. I suppose the 10th were in the fight at Richmond. I hear that Capt. Miller was wounded. Were any of the Charlemont boys injured?  Is it the opinion North that the war will close very soon? Leavitt is in pretty good spirits, though has had the diarrhoea for some time past, so he is rather discouraged at times. I have become so attached to him, [I] should hardly know how to get along without him. I would like to step in to tea tonight, the plainest meal you ever got would taste good. What is the news in C[harlemont]? I know the gossips must have something to talk about. My kind regards to any who may inquire for me. I have had no letters from any one of late. Hope I may soon. Excuse haste &c. Write as often as convenient. Some day when it don’t come so hard, I’ll write to Aunt Wealthy.

As ever your affectionate son

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

I wish you would confer with someone who can judge somewhat, and if you think the war is to last many months longer, send me a small box of things — 1 pair of cotton shirts for sleeping shirts, never mind the color provided they are not woolen and strong, also 1 pr. cotton drawers, 2 prs. light woolen or woolen and cotton socks, 1 pr. slippers, a little of any kind of dried or preserved fruit, and anything edible, a wash basin, &c., &c. I suppose it would be impossible to send butter or cheese, so I’ll say nothing about it. I would like your picture. Sent by Adams Express, a small box would cost some $2. Leavitt wrote home something about some things, perhaps you may be able to see them. If you think it advisable, please send me what you think would conduce to my comfort. Everything is awful high here. Please prepay express. J. W. Hawkes.

1 pr. sheets, as we now have bunks. 1 case knife. 1 tumbler. 1 tin pepper box. 1 tea spoon. A pillow would not come amiss. Linen thread.

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