Letters of Joshua W. Hawkes — Part 4, 1863

Head Qrs. 31st Mass, Vols.
Fort Jackson, La., Jan. 1, 1863

Dear Mother

If ever I felt how good it was to have a mother, it was yesterday when that box arrived. As I put on one of the shirts, I thought while making them mother thought often of her absent son, and hoped they might suit him as indeed they did to a charm, they are soft as silk. I have never wanted for clothing yet preferred a good pair of woolen shirts to the kind the Government furnishes.

Let me tell you how I am dressed when I get on my best suit. Dark blue cap and coat, with light blue pants a black stripe 1/2 inch wide down each seam, and with shoes well blacked. Then if she could see [I] think Mother would call me a “pretty good looking fellow.”

I mean to send my picture as soon as I can get an opportunity of having it taken then you can judge for yourself. For two weeks past the report has been we are going up on the next boat but I shall not believe it till get fairly on to the boat and past Quarrentine [SIC], I am well contented here and had as lief remain till the end of the war as to move but that of course will be pretty much as Gen. N. P. Banks says on the subject.

I got a piece of mince pie today, good too – one pound apples, another flour another sugar another raisins (3 lbs.) and our ration of fresh beef. Brown made them and we got them baked at the bakery. There were 11 of them and have been offered $1.00 apiece, they are fat ones the mince being about two inches thick. So much for Fort Jackson pies.

There has been nothing new in our community since my last except that yesterday the “Old Mississippi” went up loaded with troops. The old craft looked natural as life, wonder if she has forgotten her old habit of running on to sand bars. I have just finished the pay rolls for November and December so we hope to get a little more pay soon. The Captain does not find much time to drill his company now that his wife is here. Maggie (Capt.’s mulatto girl) says they are as loving as a couple just married.

I will write you when Mrs. Lee goes home and want you should go and see her i.e. if you choose to.

Capt, Lee’s wife arrived the day before Christmas and looks as natural as life. Being up to the Captain’s writing for a few days past I have seen considerable of her. It really seems good to see a woman from the North and I almost imagine myself there again.

We had a holiday Christmas and a first rate dinner. Let me describe. We had for dinner baked pork – a pig weighing 95 – baked beef, plenty of nice potatoes, bread, butter and apple sauce. We got some boards and made a table the whole length of the casemates so the whole company sat down. Lieut. Andrews sent down two gallons of whiskey to the boys and the Captain bought two more so all that wished had a drink before dinner.

The Capt’s wife was present and all had a good time, well satisfied with the dinner. After roll call they had two pails of hot flip. There was plenty of liquor in camp that day and plenty of men that were ”more than half tight” yet by order of the Col. no man was to be put into the guard house for anything he might do on that day, so on the whole the boys had a pretty high old time. The weather has been very mild lately and when January is over winter will be about gone. I see by the N. Y. papers of the 15th and 16th that there has been a great battle at Frederickburg, with a loss to us of about 10,000 men, and I cannot see of any material advantage gained. Oh! war! when will thy appetite be satisfied. You need not be at the trouble to send me the Republican any more, as three of us have subscribed for it six mo and now get it regularly and of earlier date than yours reach me. I received the tea you sent me by Mrs. Andrews and have had several good drinks. If we stop any time at the city I will have my picture taken and send you. So Louisa Bissell is teaching the village school again. Where are the other Bissell girls? I enclose you a note which I wish you to keep. ’tis money that I loaned a friend this fall, I shall [have] him send it to you when he is ready to pay it. The Goodnow you speak of is I think in Co. G. what is the news in C?

Please turn to the 46 & 90 Psalms and John 14. I read these more than any others. Good by write often. My next may be from the city. Ever your son,

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

Is Lib working as much as ever? I would like to see Frank first rate. How are the children? How is little Stuttering Stevey? I often think of the old homestead and Its old familiar haunts, I pray I may see them again.


Hd. Qrs.31 M.V.
Ft. Jackson, La.
Jan. 13, 1863

Dear Mother –

Our every day life here is not varied by many startling events so that when I sit down to write a letter, am obliged to draw upon my imagination for a large share. If my letters are as interesting to my correspondents as theirs are to me, I’m glad of it. Here it is near the middle of January, I can hardly realise [sic] it is mid winter having always been accustomed to associate that season with the jingling of sleigh bells or the fierce fury of the snow laden blast salutes you. It is a lovely climate here in winter, and yet I would not exchange “Old New England” for the whole Southern Confederacy. If there is anything that I am proud of it is that I am a “Yankee” and above all that I am from Mass.

It is a curious and yet a wretched state of society at the South, all the result of slavery I venture to say that there are very few virtuous women above the age of 15. Every man has as many white mistresses as he can afford and if a slave holder plenty that are not as white. The wife finds out the husband’s unfaithfulness, so she is bound to have revenge in the same coin. There are very few federal officers that did not find a “cousin” while at the city last summer. I could tell some rather scandalous stories about some officers in this Reg’t but you might not credit them, and they might leak out in some way. These “Southern Cousins” are some how very enticing!!  You may set down the following as an axiom, especially at Fort Jackson. If any one up the river here has 2 chickens they are entitled to a guard, if 25 orange trees to five guards. If a wife and pretty daughter to a whole Regiment. Most every one up the river has taken the oath of allegiance, though many only to save their property and are as much Secesh as ever. I think it is time that this guarding property so zealously had “played out”. The boys did not come out here for that and they don’t like it. Only a few evenings since some ten men were taken out of each company and sent up the river as they thought to arrest some one as it was important business. Yet ’twas only to stand guard around a plantation, and for what? to keep niggers from stealing oranges. You had better believe there was some tall swearing when they got back.

Notwithstanding reports varied and multitudinous we have not got away from here yet. The very latest is that we are to be relieved as soon as troops can come from Ship Island and then are to proceed at once to Baton Rouge. You have this for what it is worth. I vouch for the truth of no more than I see. Gen. Augur and staff paid a visit to the forts on Saturday and there are two engineers here to superintend various repairs on the fort. Monday morning all the wood and iron workers in the various companies were detailed to work in making the needful repairs. Does this look like leaving?

The Rebels are again in possession of Galveston you have probably got full particulars ‘ere this. We will have it again soon if not already – For some time past we have been bombarding Vicksburg. We have no news but through Rebel sources but even that reports encouraging progress, they may have a hard struggle there, but Vicksburg must fall as it is the only impediment to a free navigation of the Miss. river. I hear that there have been some resignations in the Cabinet lately & that Gen. Butler has been appointed Secretary of War, but I have not seen it in print yet. Capt. Lee and his wife are now at the city but will probably be back on the boat tonight. I hope to get some letters as we have had none for most a month. Do you think I write “very whining letters” home [?] if they are just tell me as it is not my intention, though I write many things to you that I would not to any one else. I have some pocket maps at home one is “500 miles around Washington” the other “500 miles around Cairo.” Please send me the latter by mail, the postage will not be much.

My health is good and during the Capt’s absence have not much to do except write letters. What is the news in C? How are you and Aunt Wealthy getting along through the “long cold winter”? I often think of you and imagine what you may be doing at the time. My regards to all. And believe me, Your aff. son

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

Wednesday morning – Your letter of Dec. 21 was received this morning.


Hd. Qrs. 31st M. V.,
Camp – Near Carrolton, La.,
Jan. 26, 1863

Dear Mother –

Well Mother! Our long talked of removal from Fort Jackson has at last taken place and we are again experiencing some of the pleasant realities of “life in the tented field”. Thinking it may not wholly devoid of interest to you I will give an account of my migrations. Last Thursday morning a negro Reg’t arrived at the fort by the steamer “Laurel Hill” and were equally divided between the two forts making five in each – They were the 2d Reg’t La. Native Guards – Col. Stafford, Rev. Mr. Barnes formerly orderly Sergt. of Co. F is their chaplain. They have been out in the La Fourche country with Gen. Weitzel, and are a good looking set of men. Several of the Capts. are colored and nearly all of the Lieuts. Chaplain Barnes says there are not more than forty men in the whole Reg’t but that can read and write. They did not come into the fort but occupy tents outside. I confess to some feelings akin to those of contempt that the occupation of a soldier should be filled by negroes, yet I know that is not a right spirit.

Thursday afternoon about three o’clock, the order came for the cook to cook two day’s rations, as the Major had received a telegram that we would be relieved by three Cos. from Fort St. Phillips and we were to go up on the boat that night. All the cooking utensils had to be packed up so you can imagine that Commissary Hawkes had to fly around some particularly as Brown was flat in his bunk with a “shake” yet we all managed to get on board with everything all right, Brown getting over his “shake” and about 10 1/2 [10:30] we bid adieu to Fort Jackson for we knew not what, though they said for Baton Rouge. The “Laurel Hill” is one of the largest of these river Steamers being some 150 by 40 with two decks and a flat top so there is a good deal of room. It being very foggy and the river full of flood wood they tied up about 3 a.m. till day light, arriving at New Orleans about noon on Friday. After coaling up we had orders to lie by till next morning and it began to be noised about that we were only going to Carrolton after. I was disappointed as we had hoped to see the 52d boys. Well we started about noon and soon arrived at Carrolton it being only about 7 miles from New Orleans by the river. The troops landed and marched off so after getting our things off, Brown and myself started off in pursuit – we found they had halted out on the shell road, several Regt’s were there but we were [in?] doubt about camping there – On our way back to the boat we met our things coming on a team and went back, to the Reg’t, the teams were ordered to turn around and proceed to Camp Lewis about a mile from the depot in another direction, we halted there till the Reg’t came up and all rested sometime, in fact till the sun began to sink in west and no place to camp. Soon the order came to “take knapsack” mine happened to be on wagon, but I pitied those who had to carry theirs, we took a street near by and proceeded towards the river about half a mile when we “halted” again and this time much to our satisfaction the order came to pitch tents, by the time they were well up we had some coffee cooked and after tramping around so much the boys were very grateful for it.

There were only four tents for a company, and as Brown and I wished to keep track of our things we took a bedstead of the Capts., spread a tent cloth over it, then spread our blankets on a three foot table with a stand for a pillow so we were well sheltered from the weather though had a good laugh when we thought how pleasant it would be if it should happen to rain. Want that a night to be remembered. I woke up several times just on the verge of falling off, then would laugh and go to sleep again yet I got a good night’s rest after all. Yesterday morning we had to shift our tents again as they wished to lay out the Camp mathematically – There was no tent for the cooks so last night Brown and myself just slept under the table. I don’t know where we will be tonight but am bound to have a change some way.

This P.M, we have been paid off received $26 up to Jan. 1, 1863. Brown put in $25, Leavitt $25 & myself $25 making $75, which we sent to Mr. Leavitt by Adams Express.

This camp has not been named yet, it in a pleasant place – a smooth green meadow though it will be wet when it rains. We have some new tents of the Sibley pattern. I cannot tell how long we may remain here though I do not think a great while. We have not drilled yet nor do I know that we are in any Brigade though I think so. I got a letter from you at the city the other day dated about the 1st of January, Please excuse haste as we do not have the conveniences of Fort Jackson, write soon. Ever your son

J.W. Hawkes,
Co. C, 31st Mass. Vols.,
New Orleans.


Camp Kearney, La.,
Feb. 9, 1863

Dear Mother

The mail does not leave for the North till Thursday but think I will begin a letter today.

My heart was made glad Thursday by the reception of three good letters, one from Mother and Aunt Wealthy, one from sister Lizzie and one from bro. Alvin and wife and Susie. Wishing to hear from them I had previously written to Susie and she wrote me sixth a neat piquant letter and so free and unconstrained that I was forced to admit that instead of a little girl she was now a young lady of seventeen. It had been a cold dreary day, but after reading my letters I was soon in good humor. It is very cheering I assure you for a soldier to get good long letters from “the friends at home”. My last was written just after we had got settled to our new life in tents at “Camp Kearney”. In the time that has elapsed we have experienced nothing of startling moment. We are still here though are liable to leave at any time – though not really under “marching orders” we have to keep three days cooked rations on hand so as to be ready. This somewhat interferes with the cooking arrangements.

Col. Gooding is now an Actg. Brig. Genl. commanding the first Brigade which was composed of the 31st and 38th Mass and 116th and 156th N.Y. The 31st has the right as also the right of the Division. Within a few days the 116th N.Y has been transferred to another Brigade, and they have gone up to Baton Rouge. Some other Reg’t will probably be assigned to our Brigade soon.

I wrote that Brown and I fared rather rough when we first came here, but are now as well situated as any in the Company. Five of us have a whole tent to ourselves, viz Sergt. Bailey & Corporals Leavitt & Miller, Com. Hawkes & Brown. Leavitt and myself have a luxury possessed of no one else in the company – a bunk – and so have managed to sleep quite comfortably these cold nights – I have never suffered more from the cold than I did several nights last week. Wednesday it was cold and squally (not snow) all day, a little after dark it began to rain – or rather pour, several tents came down but by clutching round, the centre pole and hanging on we managed to keep ours upright. The Camp was literally flooded and one would have had very little difficulty in rowing around in a skiff. Next day was very cold with a bleak wind that penetrated in a manner not so pleasing. Upon several mornings there has been ice seen but the weather is softening and today has been very pleasant.

Let me tell you a little circumstance that happened a few nights since. The night it rained so, the officer of the guard sent Scott and Roberts of Co. “C ” to a house near by to get some wood from a wood pile. Mr. Secesh fired on them, hitting Roberts, then knocked down Scott, hearing the rumpus others were sent, and he was taken to the Guard House and next morning before the Provost Marshall at Carrolton and sent to the Parish Prison, New Orleans to await his trial. I think ’twill probably go rather hard, with him as he is one of Gen’l Butler’s Registered Enemies. Says Col. Gooding yesterday to the boys I only blame you that you did not Kill the D-d Rebel on the spot. Roberts received 45 shots in the back and 4 in the wrist but is not seriously hurt. Not content to let us have Sunday as a day of rest the order came Sunday P.M. to fall in for Skirmish Drill and the boys had to drill more than two hours. I need not say that it made some “grumbling” but that amounts to nothing in this traveling caravan. I have not drilled any for some time and am well satisfied not to. My time is pretty well taken up in drawing the rations, writing, etc., but my health is first rate. We were rather “taken down” on learning that Capt. Hopkins had been commissioned as Lt. Col. for Maj. Bache is a good fellow and we had supposed he was sure of the place.

Tuesday Eve 10th. The 49th Mass, landed at Carrolton yesterday P.M, I was up there today. The boys are in good spirits and glad to land. Had a pleasant visit with Capt. Judson Rogers. You wrote that Edwin McFarland was in the 53rd Mass.

I was there today but unable to find him though made diligent search. Write me what Co. he is in. I got some pictures taken at the city the other day and they were sent up by mail. I have not got them yet but hope to. The papers this P.M, say that the Union flag floats over Charleston, this is to [SIC] good to be true.

Let me assure you Mother I do not drink liquor and trust I never shall. ‘Tis enough for the officers. If the Methodist sisters hear no more from their ministers than I write they will have to guess it out. Tell Elo I am going to write her a letter next time. Ever your son,

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

Feb, 11. We have orders to leave this morning at ten. Good bye.


On Board Steamer “Kepper” off the
village of Plaquemine, Mississippi River,
25 miles south of Baton Rouge, La.,
Feb. 17, 1863

My dear Mother

As the mail was to close in ten minutes I had only time to scribble a few lines the other evening. I will now try and give you rather more of a detailed account of myself and our adventures since leaving Camp Kearney though if the narrative partakes of the spirit of our present situation and its surroundings it will not be very cheerful but on the contrary gloomy in the extreme, I added a postscript to my last letter from Camp Kearney stating that we had orders to leave that day Wednesday Feb. 12, at 10 A.M, Well! we packed up of course but ten o’clock came but we were still there. About 4 P.M. the baggage was loaded and as the Reg’t was to start. Soon Brown and myself started to see to unloading our things. We got them all on board about eight o’clock, and having got possession of a good berth concluded it was best to remain, which we did, had a good night’s rest too – Next morning early the Reg’t came on board, the tents having been left standing and the sick in charge of a Sergt. We did not get started till about noon – It made me feel sad to see Mrs. Lee around with Capt. with tearful eyes thinking of the “long and last adieu”. We had a pleasant voyage that day though made slow progress as the boat was heavily loaded, We saw many fine residences by the river side, but all deserted by white men, but some women were to be seen and plenty of negroes who saluted us with cheers and clapping of hands as we passed. That night two men fell overboard, one fell over from the effects of liquor, the other tripped while on guard and fell over with gun in hand. Next day passed without incident, but while trying to run at night in a dense fog we ran aground. Well! we were there fast. Next morning the “Iberville” came along and ran alongside with such violence as nearly run over us. She made fast to us, our boat began to snap and I expected nothing but the old boat would be torn in two, or the boilers would burst as they ran very near it, but at length we got off and it was only five miles more to this place. In the course of that day and next six more steamers arrived with troops, but we lay off waiting for the arrival of “Barrataria”, a little Iron clad. We were to run down a bayou nearby and were to cut off a railroad that supplies Port Hudson from Texas. The “Barrataria” has arrived and gone down the Bayou to Indian village, nine miles distant, where there are some 4000 of our troops. The Bayou is there stopped by the Rebels who have driven in spiles so that the flood wood chokes it up. Co. D & E marched down yesterday to help clear it.

Plaquemine is considerable of a village though low and dirty. Two Cos. of the 52d were here but left the day before we arrived.

Wednesday, Feb. 19. We came off the boat last night and took possession of the No. End. Church, but moved this morning and are now in a large Cooper Shop. Have a very good place though do not know how soon we may move. I need not ask you to write I know you will often. Believe me Your son

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

Gooding’s Brigade. Brown says tell my wife I am well but have not time to write today.

Feb. 19,- We have all been ordered on the boat again, and now (about eleven A.M.) we are starting down the river. I expect we are going back to Camp Kearney again. Indeed! that is the report.

I have not got my photographs yet that I had taken at New Orleans, so being out yesterday morning not to be cheated out of a picture to send you I went in and had it taken. It is just as I looked after laying on the boat 7 days unshaved and dirty. Please write me soon. Your son,

J.W. Hawkes.


Camp Kearney, La.,
Feb. 27, 1863

Dear Mother

There has one mail gone North this week – but, think I will not let the next leave without my writing, at least a few lines. We are still at our old Camp, whither we returned the 19th. The day after our return we had to move our company tents as we now have a different place in the Battalion Line being on the left.

I have been very busy of late making out pay roll,etc., but my health is still pretty good. It has been raining very hard all day so that water is quite plenty tonight. There are many Rumors afloat about our leaving here but I for one would not be surprised if we remained here for some time. I do not see why they do not make the attack on Port Hudson but probably they are waiting for the Rebels to erect a few more Batteries, I wish Gen. Butler would come back for Banks does not seem to know how to run New Orleans. He is disposed to make friends with the rich, while Butler was no respecter of persons, but wished all to have their rights.

I have had but one letter from you since we came from Fort Jackson though I did get one last week from you written at Conway last summer. I got Uncle Stephen’s letter written at the same time. Mrs. Lee is still here though expecting to go home soon. Little did I think when I left home that I would be absent so long, but – here I am. It is discouraging to the soldiers to hear so much vile Secession sentiments at the North. The army is not getting demoralized, ’tis the people at home. For Shame! What is the news in C? I often think of you all and imagine what you may be doing. Have you got my profile and how does it look?

You must excuse this scrawl for I have stole the time to write it – after taps when all lights are supposed to be out. Please write often. Much love to Aunt W – and all friends. Your aff. son.

J.W. Hawkes,
Co, C, 31st Mass. Vols,
New Orleans, La.


Camp Magnolia,
Near Baton Rouge, La.
March 12, 1863

Dear Mother

The mail arrived last night but no letter from Mother or any one else, though a Springfield Republican partially compensated for the absence of letters. I am not in very gay spirits today but for all that you are no doubt anxious to know how fares your soldier boy. As you will see by the heading the 31st has changed its destination recently. We again left Camp Kearney on the evening of Mar. 5. Five companies with most of the baggage went, on board the “Algerine”. Cos’ B & C were so fortunate as to get on to the “Sallie Robinson” one of the fastest, of the river steamers. We did not leave that night. Next morning the 175th N.Y. came on board – and with the freight, etc., the boat was loaded to the water’s edge. It rained most all that day. We got off about 2 P.M, and without any startling adventures arrived at Baton Rouge about nine Saturday eve the 7th. Had hardly struck the bank when Ed Field came on board as also Ed Leavitt. Next morning saw Gus Bisseil and it really seemed almost like going home. We have now been in Camp here several days and under marching orders all the time – expect to move on Port Hudson soon.

March 19. We left Baton Rouge on the night of the 13th and have been marching about ever since, but have not seen any fighting – are now in Camp about five miles from Baton Rouge though expect to move again soon. I am not very well but I hope you will not be unduly anxious about me. Brown says tell his wife he is well and will write soon. I would write more but have not time and my head aches so I can hardly see. I will write again soon. Ever your son,

J.W. Hawkes,
Co. C, 31st Mass. Vols.,
New Orleans


Camp Magnolia, Near Baton Rouge,

Mar. 25, 1863

Dear Mother

My letter written a few days ago was so incoherent and withall must have given you such a vague idea of my wanderings that will write another. We are back again to our old Camp at Baton Rouge, arriving last evening after an absence of eight days. During this time we have seen some of the hardships of Soldiering in the shape of marches with consequent extreme exhaustion to this frail tenament [SIC], – We did not expect to lie still here long and in fact we were under marching orders from the very day of our arrival. Going to take Port Hudson of course.

At length on the evening of the 13th our brigade started, We could only get the rations carried so we, i.e. Brown, Darkie, and myself had to carry three Camp Kettles, our Knapsacks, &c., as far as town, where we tied the Kettles on behind a wagon. “Let ’em break we won’t lug them”. There were but few forces left in the city, so there was quite a wagon train, with ammunition wagons and ambulances, making at least 400 wagons, we halted in a wood about midnight. I lay down and slept soundly till four when the
teamsters were ordered to feed their teams. We did not move till near seven – the troops going ahead. This was only some 4 miles from town. Not far distant was Bayou Sara. The Rebels had burned the bridge but we had thrown over a pontoon bridge – near the water – consequently the banks were very steep – all the teams got over safely, and, on we went – About noon came to to a large field where the 1st Division train had halted. Ours did likewise. Then came dinner – and not having taken any breakfast were somewhat ravenous. Had some fresh pork we had captured – went to a neighboring house and got sweet potatoes so we had a pretty good dinner. After getting rested began to enquire where the Regiment was, learned they were some 2 1/2 miles distant out on Picket. Made

[section missing]

ing through the night on the river. About 3 1/2 [3:30] in the morning orders came for the train to start in five minutes. About this time there was a terrible explosion in the river nearly opposite. It proved to be the “Mississippi”. ‘Twas a beautiful sight I assure you. Some of the officers looked quite pale as it was said the Rebels had beaten us on the river and their gun boats were coming down. At any rate the whole train made good their retreat, back over Bayou Sara where the troops camped the first night. Oh didn’t it rain that night. Many troops came back and encamped nearby but our Regiment did not arrive till about nine next evening.

With the 4th Mass they had been around in a Kind of circuit seeing no Rebels but killing lots of turkies [sic], chickens, &c. Having had a good time though some hard marching. Next morning started again – this time Brown and I went along. After going a little way the Reg’t halted to wait for the rest of the Brigade. I grew sick and vomited terribly but somehow managed to Keep along. The Brigade camped about 3 P.M. having marched about six miles over an awful road. About midnight we were aroused, the retreat of another Brigade who were some distance ahead. “The Rebels were surely coming.” They were terribly scared – We did not stir till next morning when we marched back to Bayou Sara again — where we remained in camp till the 20th when we marched back to our old camp at Baton Rouge. Just before we started on this expedition our large tents were taken to Baton Rouge for storage and we received the little shelter tents. My experience with them has been short but amply sufficient. Each man has a piece
of cotton cloth some two yards square, loops at two corners for pins, and buttons and buttonholes on the other side. Two of these pieces go together and make a tent, stretched across a pole supported by two crotches. By four putting their pieces together it makes a more roomy apartment, which is not four feet high in the middle. When the troops started out they supposed it was to attack Fort Hudson so they are not very suited that the attempt was not made to do so. Though Gen. Banks says the expedition accomplished all that it was intended to. The soldiers have not as much confidence in Gen. Banks as before.

I forbear criticism. Though by a bold dash I think the place might have been taken. We are to move our camp down town, they are fortifying here – so I don’t know what may come next.

I came very near getting flat down sick but am gaining now though my stomach is weak and appetite not very good. I hope you will not worry on my account. I hope I may trust in the Lord at all times, am thankful that I can make known my wants to him at all times.

Yours of Jan. 28 was received two days since. I thank you for all your good advice. Pray that I may not be entirely corrupted. That I may always remember that “Thou God seest me”. It makes me shudder to hear so much profanity.

So you are going to Heath I am afraid it, will not seem home to you. Oh! how I wish that this war was over that I might go home and see my mother and friends again, but the end looks no nearer than one year ago. So you saw a letter from me in the Gazette, you are sure it was me. Well! I shall not deny it then. How do folks like H’s letters? Have you got my picture yet? I sent one several weeks since. Can you tell me a good remedy for diarrhoea [sic]? Something that I can get. Goodby. Write soon. Your son,


Direct as before.


Camp 31st Mass. Vols.,
Baton Rouge,
March 29, 1863

Dear Mother

I have been thinking considerable of home today – not I trust in a murmuring spirit – but wishing I might see you – that is impossible so I will do the next best thing – write – I wrote a few days ago, which I trust you will receive in due time though I directed it, to Charlemont.

We moved our Camp a few days ago and are now down in the City. Have a very good location, the ground not being level but considerably rolling, so that the water can run off. Have got our large tents again but have no floors in them. The great trouble has been we have had no water to drink but such as can be obtained by digging in the hollows – which will give a man the diarrhoea the worst kind, seemingly if he drinks ever so little. Most half the Regiment has the complaint, but though the river is not half a mile off, we can’t get the water. My health is better than when I last wrote you, though my bowels are by no means regular. If I could get a sure remedy for diarrhoea and bowel complaint I would give a month’s pay. You go to the Dr. here he will give you oil one morning, then opium pills the next, then perhaps oil again. If you can give any advice or send me anything by mail of otherwise please do so.

Since Gen. Banks recent expedition to Port. Hudson and his brilliant retreat back to Baton Rouge again I confess to feeling rather discouraged about affairs in this Department. Gen. Banks came here with a large force, but what has he done? Simply to re-occupy this place. I am not desirous of moving again – There is no probability of our getting any further North, or of seeing any fighting, so we might as well stay here as anywhere.

It is said we are now under marching orders but I do not believe it though several Reg’ts have gone down the fiver within a few days, among others the 52d. Yesterday Leavitt and myself went down and saw his brother Edward. He is detailed to oversee the contrabands. Has a good house to stop in, so it hardly seems like soldiering. We staid to supper, it seemed most like home as we set down to a table and had bread and butter and tea with preserves. It is amusing to talk with these nine months men.
They can tell you to a day when they expect to get home again and many of them are as homesick as you please.

I have not much news to write. Think I have grumbled enough though there is [MISSING?] when officers have no more regard for a soldier than a dog. I suppose you are now at Heath. I hope you and Aunt Wealthy will enjoy yourselves as well as possible. Has the present been much of a sugar season? My kind regards to Aunt Wealthy. Please write as often as convenient, with much love I remain Your aff. son,

J.W. Hawkes,
Co. C, 31st Mass. Vols.,
New Orleans, La.


Camp, 31st Mass. Vols.,
Algiers, opposite New Orleans,
April 3, 1863

My dear Mother

I expect that you never hear from me too often so I will improve a little leisure this morning to put a few of my scattered thoughts into something that I will call a letter. I had read a great deal of the movements of our army in Virginia and other places but have never experienced any of its realities till this spring, when seemingly we have been moving all the time. In my last written from Baton Rouge last Sunday I thought we would probably stop there some time. I rather wanted to go there but was very willing to come away. It seems to be quite unhealthy though perhaps not extremely so, as there was a large number of troops there – at one time some 40 Regiments and 22 Batteries.

Last Sunday 17 died in the General Hospital there. During our stay it would average 15 to a Company per day – on the sick list.

A word now as to when and how we removed. Just after dark Tuesday evening I got notice to draw two days rations of meat and have it cooked immediately as we were to leave at six next morning – could get nothing but pork. Think of two days pork in this climate. It ain’t fit to eat. You must always leave a wide
margin when a particular hour in set for leaving. We got on to the boat next clay about 11 A.M. There were many reports as to our destination. Some said to Donaldsonville thence down a Bayou to Brashir City – others said to the city, in fact there were as many different opinions as men. All I know is that we arrived here at Algiers about three o’clock in the morning. Our stuff was immediately put on board the cars, We were going out to re-inforce Gen. Weitsel out in the vicinity of Brashir City. But about the middle of the forenoon, the whole Brigade having arrived, we marched out about one half a mile and went into camp. The whole Brigade is together and camped on a large open field embracing I should judge some 50 acres. It is a kind of a pasture lot well grassed over and level like our camp at Carrolton. ‘Tis said if we had arrived two days before we should have been sent on. I dare make no calculations as to how long we may stop here – though I wish it might be for at least a fortnight – so that the boys might get recruited up a little, I don’t know as I ought to say so.

The war ought to be put along but it is very natural for a fellow when snubbed around to think he paid rather a dear price for the honor of being called a soldier. I think I can say it now you are up in Heath and consequently will not have to read my letters all over the village. I will say I wish the show was out. Our being here seems simply to amount to getting us into unhealthy places, feeding us on no meat but pork and drinking stagnant water then wondering why so many have the diarrhoea and mad because you are sick. Some of these officers have no more regard for a man than a mule. This is particularly the case with some of these petty Lieutenants. There are several that the boys say there is a question as to whether God made them or they God. If I were at home now I might be anxious to enlist but rather doubt it. I was never made for a soldier, it don’t suit me, but if I live through it shall never be sorry I went.

As regards myself I am fortunate in not having to drill, but when we move as often as of late it is no small job to look after the stuff. I am feeling rather better than when I last wrote you – Hope to be all right again in a few days – If I stand it through this summer without getting sick shall think I am proof against anything. Leavitt is out of tune too, in fact there are a good many boys who need mother to nurse them, up a few days. How I would like to step in and take dinner with you some dried beef and baked potatoes, or ham and eggs would either relish well. How I would like to drop right down and see you and Aunt Wealthy. It would take you by surprise but perhaps you would let me stay all night, as I should think it first rate to sleep on the floor, and two hard breads with a cup of coffee would answer for breakfast. I carry your picture in a little pocket in my cartridge box so I can look at it at any time, which I never do without thinking that I am the only son of my mother and she a widow. I have not yet had a chance to go over to the city, so I cannot speak of things there. It is nearly time for “taps” so good night, I need not say that I like to hear from you often. With much love, I remain, Your aff. son,

J.W. Hawkes
Co. C, 31st Mass, Vols.,
New Orleans, La.


St. James Hospital,
New Orleans, La.,
April 17, 1863

My dear Mother

After glancing at the heading of this sheet, I can almost hear you say:

In the Hospital! He must be pretty sick to get there. Now I consider it very fortunate, perhaps I should say Providential that I am here, where can get rest and treatment, hope to soon be able to return to duty with my Regiment again. I cannot help thinking much of the “boys” as I left them just as they were on the eve of marching on to attack the enemy – But I am anticipating, so I will go back and tell my story.

My last was from Algiers. Well! on the 9th the Division broke Camp, proceding [SIC] to Brashear City – 80 miles distant – on the cars. Most of the route was through heavily wooded swamps so not very inviting. We got there about 4 P.M, and at once crossed, the bay or Bayou, over into Rebeldom. The Rebel Cavalry Pickets having been seen there only the day before. We did not move on the 10th though momentarily expected orders to do so. I felt pretty badly with a diarrhoea that kept me running. I was in no condition to march. Next morning the Surgeon sent several of us over to the General Hospital at Brashear City. I did not want to leave my Company just as they were going to fight, but knew it was best.

At the Hospital all was confusion, so many sick having been sent there from different Regiments. We had to lay around anywhere with nothing to eat but “hard bread” & water, and no medicine did I see. Leavitt and I thought it rather tough but consoled ourselves by thinking we were only seeing some of the realities of soldiering.

On the morning of the 12th we were all examined. At least 200 of us received the sentence Go! They took enough freight cars to accommodate us by laying pretty thick, littered them with hay, and in the course of the P.M. we were off for New Orleans. I was sorry to leave Leavitt behind but so it happened. Did not get to Algiers till near 11 P.M. so lay on the cars all night. Next morning I was taken to this place. Several others of our company came down but none happen to be here but myself. Was pretty tired and faint on my arrival so I at once threw myself on to the bed for a little rest. Have now been here four days but hope to get away soon. I try to be contented but my mind is with the Regiment as I know they have been in a fight. Have licked the Rebels and are still after them.

I am in Ward 5 on the fourth story of the building. Have a nice cosy little room with a bed all to myself – My room mate is a member of the 1st La. Cavalry, has been here since Oct. last with bronchitis, is not very sick and seems to take life quite easily. My diarrhoea is nearly checked but am afraid it would come on to go to army rations again. Think I shall try it here a few days. My appetite is good and I am troubled to get enough to satisfy. We get bread so I can get along. It is a hermit’s life here you can’t get out without a “pass” which as there are so many is not often – But there is a library so you can get books to read. This Hospital must be nearly full. My number is 3522.

Several wounded officers came this morning. Not having been there I can’t write about the fight, you will see the particulars in the papers.

I got a letter from you dated Mar. 18, a few days ago. so my picture got broken. I will put in another, not a very good one – was not well and look haggard. I trust my next will be from the Reg’t. Love to all. Write
often, Your aff. son,

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


St. James Hospital,
N. O, La.,
April 26, 1863

My dear Mother

I do not Know that my letter will go for several days, neither do I feel in a very cheerful mood today – much like a little child who disappointed in some trifle comes in from play and runs to Mother to unbosom all his troubles. So would I like to sit down by your side and enjoy a good talk with you. I would not murmur, “for surely Goodness and mercy have followed me all my days.”

Since leaving Mass, all things considered I have enjoyed good health, and “for soldiers” we have had many comforts. Would I could think more of our blessings but I forget them, forget their Author, forget often times my Bible. I feel that God may well say of me, Cut it down. Why cumbereth it the ground. Hope you will pray for me that Christ might turn and look upon me even as He did upon Peter. Oh! that I could step into some church this P.M, and hear a good earnest, practical sermon. Trust I may enjoy that privilege even in Old New England.

There are some things in a soldier’s life that I am going to tell you not with a desire to increase your anxiety on my account but that you may understand how some things go in the Army, especially in the 31st Reg’t Mass. Vols. In going into any of the “nine months” Regt’s I am struck with the familiarity with
which the officers associate with the men, as a natural consequence the men respect them. The officers of our Reg’t are seemingly a superior race of beings from the men – rarely speaking to them except to command. I would except Capt. Lee, he is around joking with the boys considerable, so that other officers have remarked that “Capt, Lee is altogether too intimate with his men.” I know several men who declare they will shoot certain officers the first favourable opportunity – and they are men who will remember their word too.

I have a question now to propose. I know a man who has not done a day’s duty since we landed in New Orleans. He has had the chronic diarrhoea — there is no prospect he can do anything for “Uncle Sam” yet his Captain will not give him a discharge. Now what is the object of this? I thought I realized on leaving home what it was to be a “soldier” but you can only learn it by experience. The untold suffering
and agony which this war has produced will never be known till the”last great day when the books shall be opened.” I was struck by a remark I heard yesterday. “It seems as if could I only live to get home I should be satisfied.” How beautiful those words of the Psalmist, “I shall be satisfied when I wake in thy likeness.” I am much better of my complaint than when I came here. They will probably send me back to my company in a few days. If the Reg’t, is not on the move think I shall get strong again faster there than here, though am afraid that on going on to Army rations again might bring it on. When the Dr. sees fit to send me of course I will have to go.

As near as I can learn by the papers Gen. Banks is now way up on the Red River somewhere. Do not know of the whereabouts of our Reg’t. Cannot learn that they suffered much loss. I would like to have been well and with them, for a Battle is something new.

It is probably all ordered for the best but I don’t see how. I don’t know whether Leavitt is with the Reg’t or still at Brashear City. I want to see him very much. Several mail steamers have arrived from the North since I came here, probably bringing letters from you but they have gone to the Reg’t. I shall write a little more before the steamer goes. Truly your son,


Monday P. M. Apr. 27,- I learn that the “Continental” leaves for New York tomorrow morning at 8 o’clock so I will finish up my letter. It Is pretty warm today though considerable of a breeze if it could only reach you. We have got this morning what the boys call “Our new uniforms” consisting of a white knit cotton
cap with a green tassel, a dressing gown of a gray color of knit woolen bound with green and with a green cord around the waist, cotton shirt and drawers and cloth slippers. These are given up when we leave. The dressing gown is tip top.

I was going to ask a lot of questions about Charlemont people, but happen to think you are now a Heathen. Does it not seem awful lonesome up there? Much love to Aunt Wealthy, I am going to write her some of these days. It is nearly the first of May – a year since we came to New Orleans. I shall be home at the end of the 3 years. Write often. Much love to all friends. Your son,

J. W. Hawkes,
Co. C, 31st Mass. Vols.,
New Orleans


Saint James Hospital,
May 11, 1863

My dear Mother

If you have received my two previous letters dated at this place – you are probably anxious to hear again even though it be but a short letter and very prosy at that.

I was feeling very down hearted one morning last week, when a friend brought me in two letters from Mother – one of the 13th the other of the 22nd – never was anything more welcome, though I think it no weakness to say, I had a kind of quiet cry after reading them. They were so motherly it seemed almost like hearing her speak. Rest assured that you cannot write too often.

Perhaps you think I am going to take up a permanent residence here, having been here a month. Not if I can help it I assure you. Should have been away ere this but about ten days ago began to be very feverish with a great deal of pain in my limbs and head, also sick at my stomach all the time – for two days my time was mostly occupied in vomiting – a bitter, billious kind of matter, and running to the back house, could not keep medicine down so my diarrhoea grew worse. After my vomiting scrape was over the Dr. ordered a blister to put on to the pit of my stomach. Well! said blister appeared – a big one too, some 6 x 8. I put it on on going to bed and did not take it off till morning it drew a beautiful blister, though I would not want one every day. Am now feeling very well though I do not know that my diarrhoea is much better than when I came in here. If I keep putting down their pills, can keep it considerably checked – for instance – Had nothing pass my bowels for three days till yesterday, then four times, today not as many – Try to be careful about what I eat. Let me tell what we have to select from. I do not go down stairs to eat now – For breakfast, a slice of bread with a little butter on it, sometimes a little mush and molasses. I don’t dare eat that yet or only sip a little coffee. For dinner, generally a small piece of boiled fresh beef, slice of bread, sometimes a spoonful of rice. Supper, cup of tea, slice of bread. I occasionally manage to get a second slice of bread.

I will not complain of the fare however. If I only had some money so I could buy a few little things should not think so much of it. I now have four months pay due me. If I had my Descriptive List could get it here but can’t get it so long as the troops are constantly on the march.

The Dr. spoke this morning about sending me back to my Reg’t. Don’t think I could march as the troops have had to, but think it would be well for me to get out of here. If they think at Brashear City that I am not fit to do my duty they will probably have me stop in the Convalescent Camp there. Some have been
sent away and then sent back to New Orleans again, but enough of this for the present.

Tuesday Morning, May 12th. I will add a little more this morning. The Dr. has just been around and said nothing about sending me off today, still I may go. I do not find myself feeling any worse. As near as I can learn, since I left the Reg’t, they they have been almost constantly on the move. The orders are very strict about straggling so I cannot help thinking of this one and that, wondering how they stood it. Take a map and you will have no great difficulty in finding Brashear City. They crossed the bay here to Berwick City just opposite then marched on up through Franklin & to Oppelousas, and Washington. Several of the 6th N. Y. who came in here a few days ago said that when they left,the troops were starting for Alexandria some 75 miles distant on the Red River, The place has been taken by Com. Porter. The troops may be still “marching on.”

I feel lonely without seeing Leavitt, We have been together so much he seems like a brother. Have not heard a word of his whereabouts since I left him at Brashear City. There seems to be considerable
activity in the war just but for all that I do not see much to encourage one to believe that the end is near. It is all for place, power and a chance to get hold of Uncle Sam’s purse strings.

Doubtless God will bring good out of evil, but it looks dark. We get vague news through Rebel sources that Hooker has been fighting on the Rappahannock and got awfully whipped. I wait for news from the North. I can imagine that it must be quite pleasant this morning even in Heath, the snow is gone, the grass is springing up green, and all nature is rejoicing that winter is over. I often think of the old homestead, endeared as it is by many pleasant recollections. Would I were farming instead of soldiering.
Maybe I will if my life is spared to return. The weather is quite warm for a day or two, in fact it seems about as hot as the nights in July, North. My love to all friends. Much obliged to Aunt Wealthy for her cheerful letter. Hope in my next to be tough and hearty. Please write soon. Your aff. son,

Co. C, 31st Mass, Vols.,
New Orleans


Tuesday Eve, May 12,

Dear Aunt:

Much obliged for your letter received a few days ago, and as I think “Uncle Sam” can carry a little more for three cents, will just scribble a little to you and put into the letter I have already written to Mother. I am writing in my shirt sleeves and perspiring quite freely, which I imagine you are not doing up in Heath. How I would like to step in and see you and Mother. I wonder what you are doing this evening. It is now not far from eight o’clock, you have a candle lighted of course and are talking over the events of the day, or the war, or it may be are wondering how “your soldier boy” is getting along.

Have I guessed near the truth. I do not like this staying in the Hospital had much rather be well and take the privations of life with the company. It seems as though our Northern Doctors did not understand how to treat many of the diseases incidental to this climate. I suppose however they do as well as they can. Dr. Smith, ex-mayor of Boston, is one of the Drs. here – a very pleasant man – he does not attend our ward.

His name is Dr. Cole. I like him very well. He came in the other morning, I was standing up, and began to tap my chest with his hand. You ain’t fit for a soldier! Were you ever examined by a surgeon? Yes, what they called an examination. I guess they called it – and went out – but it is against Capt. Lee’s principles to discharge any of his men. Had rather they would die here, as in the case of Hathaway.

Billy Wilson’s Regiment’s time is out they being only two years men, and they expect to start for home in a few days, do not know as it is right but must say that I envy them.

I am glad to learn that you and Mother think of visiting the friends in New York this season. Trust you will have a pleasant time as no doubt you will. To look back I cannot realize that it is now more than a year since we entered New Orleans – about a year and a half more and our time will be out. It’s a long look ahead ain’t it?

Do you like the man who now carries on your place as well as Mr. Benson? Do not think I have written much that will interest you but you must excuse the will for the deed. Do not know much about what is going on in the City. Good by. With much love. I remain, Your aff. nephew,

J. W. Hawkes.


14th of May.

Dear Mother

Do not know as I ought to say it but I suppose you will like to know just how I am. Do not feel as well this morning. A good deal of pain in my bowels and have to run quite often. Still I try not to be discouraged though I feel lonely as there are no others of my company in this Hospital. A fellow who was sent out of here a few days ago and then sent back tells rather a hard story about things at Brashear City. All who are not fit to march are kept in Camp there but have to cook their own rations and get along as best they may. Have not really made up my mind to ask the Dr. to send me away, will see in a few days. Your son,



Saint James Hospital,
New Orleans,
May 22, 1863

Dear Mother

I learn that a steamer leaves for the North tomorrow, and as I have let one slip away since my last I will trouble you with a few lines now.

As regards myself – I am still here in this Hospital, though by no means a contented inmate. Am at times feeling quite well for a few days, then worse again – when I am the worst it is not so much in the frequency as in the pain attendant with soreness of the bowels. The Dr. tells me to have dry toast and crackers – can occasionally manage to get a piece of toasted bread. The patients don’t all get what is ordered for them. My appetite is pretty good so I have to keep constant watch over myself that I don’t eat something I ought not to. It seems rather slim if a fellow can only get a slice of bread and some tea for breakfast. I get no medicine but pills – I think something to warm up my bowels, think that prescription of Uncle Stephen’s would do me good but I have no money to buy it with. The Hospital i.e. all who had their Descriptive List – got two months pay yesterday – nairy a red for me. I try not to be discouraged, when I look around and see so many who are much worse off.

I went to the Head Dr. the other day told him I had been here some time and would like an “examination” he asked me a few questions and put my name down in a book so I will get it by and by. Two of our company have been sent in here this week, Rhodes had some of his ribs stove in and wrist broken by being thrown from a mule – Charlie Wright of Conway is worn out by marching also has the diarrhoea. They are not in my ward but I manage to see them frequently. I do not know of the whereabouts of the Reg’t at present, the last I knew they were at Alexandria. They have seen some hard marching and to think of the exposures endured it seems really wonderful that any man can keep well, I cannot help thinking and perhaps worrying a little lest Capt. Lee should think I am trying to play off – have about concluded to let him think – if a man don’t look out for No. 1 in the Army, no one else will. But I will regale your ears by no more of my useless grumblings, though you know it does one good to ease their mind.

I don’t know much about what is going on in the City, though we all feel much interested in the progress of the war, of which we hear through the newspapers. Our latest from the North is to the 12th. Gen. Hooker had crossed the Rappahannock, had a fight, lost 10,000 men – crossed back again. It seems shocking to contemplate the immense sacrifice of life attendant upon this war. There seems no other way however to end it however but to go on and whip out the Rebels as fast as possible. I think affairs are brightening here in the South West, for the opening of the river before long.

The weather of late has been quite warm with frequent showers, to use a “Yankee” word “muggy”. It seems much like Dog Days at the North. It must be pleasant there now. The farmers are finishing up their planting and. the trees are again putting their livery of green. Those dear old woods and mountains, how I love them! Have had no letters from you since the two I mentioned in my last.

I see that Gen. Banks has issued an order, offering those of the nine months men who will enlist for one year a bounty of $50 – for two years $100 – and a furlough of sixty days with free transportation to New York and back. Don’t know whether many will enlist or not for they seem far more sick of it than the three years men. Were I at home think they could hardly draft me under the new conscription law. Don’t know but it is asking a good deal but can’t you send $5.00, I will return it when I get some pay. If you could send it in a U.S. Treasury note I would try not to spend it foolishly. You may direct your next to J. W. Hawkes, Co. C, 31st Mass, Vols., New Orleans, La., Saint James Hospital. If not there please forward to Regiment.

Give my love to all friends reserving a good share for yourself. Please write as soon as convenient. I remain Your grumbling son,


You Speak of coming on to see me if you were not so old a woman – I know it was motherly interest that prompted that expression, but ’tis a great undertaking and I would not ask you to without I was very very sick. I have a relative here in the City if I only had brass enough to introduce myself. It is Charles K. Hawkes formerly of Northampton. He holds the office of Dep. U. S. Marshall, I think. But I was never much of a hand to hunt up relations. The weather for the past week has averaged as high as 90°. Yesterday it was cooler. As many as 6 or 8 die here daily.

I got Frank’s picture, think it looks very natural. Please thank them for sending it. I wrote a long letter to Lizzie last week. I wrote a letter to Freeman before I went to Baton Rouge.

Love to all friends. You know I like to hear from you often. Good by. Your aff. son,


Your last was directed just right so if I am not here it will follow me.


My dear Mother

It is now probably not far from 10 o’ clock. A.M. My head feels decidedly dull and heavy – more like trying to take a nap than writing a letter to Mother, but as I know she likes to hear from me I will at least put off the nap till after dinner.

As you see I am still in the Hospital, your first inquiry will be to know how I am getting along. I hardly know how to answer this – my complaint is so variable – I have told you before that all the medicine I get is pills, mostly camphor and opium. Think they do me more hurt than good, instead of alleviating the pain in my bowels they seem to increase them and the pains are sharp and griping [sic] especially when my bowels move, thus it was when about a week ago I made up my mind to stop taking them. Had a box of Holloway’s Pills, you know they are recommended to cure everything, at first to clear me out, then smaller doses for a day or two. The soreness in my bowels seemed to lessen but still griping pain when they moved, and I was not getting much stronger, though my head seemed clear, but when nature said go I had to start in a hurry. After trying two or three days I yesterday managed to get a pass to go out – had learned that Capt. Lee was at Lieut. Andrews’ sick, and wished to see him. Well just as I was getting ready to start after dinner my room mate begged to take the pass. He wanted to get him a little tobacco.

He had always used me well and I had no reason to doubt his word so I let him take it,    with the charge to be back in half an hour. He agreed and was off. Half an hour – an hour passed and I began to get impatient. An hour and a half, two hours. I was mad – so disappointed could almost cry. The pass extended till 5 P. M. came up to my room a little before that time to find him lying on his bed “full three sheets to the wind” with a black eye into the bargain. He soon got stupid, remaining so for several hours. So you see what liquor will do to a man. I was much disappointed in not going out. Was in hopes that the
Captain would loan me a little of the “company fund” and see what could be done about getting Descriptive Lists for us fellows who are here in Hospital. I may not be able to get another pass for a fortnight, only three are granted per day to a Ward. Here the giving of them is left to the Head Nurse so there is chance you see for partiality. But there is no use in “crying for spilled milk”.

This reminds me that having one stray picayune that troubled me I expended it last night in buying a pint of milk. It relished well with my bread and I do not know but set as well as anything. If I had money should try and get some medicine outside and with something light to eat think I could cure myself in spite of the Doctors. I felt considerably better yesterday.

On going to bed took a pill – not knowing what else to do – It made me nervous and restless all night. Would wake with a start thinking pins were sticking into me – then drop asleep again.

Today my head is dull and heavy – my ideas wandering. Don’t you think this the effect of the pills? The Doctor ordered me some other medicine this morning but I am not sure of getting it, for I have known medicine to be ordered that the nurse never brought to the patients. No other Dr. than ours seems to use pills for the diarrhoea. I have had a little sherry wine three times a day for a week past which has helped to strengthen me. There are several remedies for diarrhoea in your cook book – what are they? What is good for me to eat? I try and keep up a good heart and now that some of my Company are here though not in this Ward, I can see them – They are getting along well. One came in here with a very bad diarrhoea but he has got that checked and is doing finely.

I have had no letters from you since my last, Hope you are not sick. I do not know where the Regiment is now. Probably in the vicinity of Port Hudson. There has been considerable fighting going on there within a few days but I do not learn that we yet have the place or that the Rebels have evacuated. Gen. Grant seems to be investing Vicksburg. Hope he may be able to take possession of that stronghold. The battle of Chancellorsville turns out to be not so much of a victory after all. At least I don’t see it.

There is one thing I seem to miss. I chanced to leave my Bible in my knapsack – that is not here – I have no testament – so though plenty of time, I canot [SIC] read the word of God. I wish some friend would give me one.

I enclose a clip from a New Orleans paper, it was published some time since out I had not been able to get hold of any paper.

If you could send me $5.00 I would be so obliged. Please write me a good long letter soon. It is cloudy today but it is oppressively close. Much love to all. This is kind of a scrap letter as I have written it on such paper as I have. It’s now dinner time, so good by.
ever your son,

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


Saint James Hospital,
New Orleans, La.,
June 4, 1863

Dear Mother

I could not for a moment harbor the idea that Mother had forgotten me, or but that she would write if well, yet my desire to hear from you has not been gratified for several weeks till yesterday – when I got two letters – May 4th and 18th. The Chaplain picked out the letters of those in Hospital so I got the latter “freighted with a Mother’s love” – quite fresh. Am still here. It seems scarcely possible that I have been here nearly two months, but a glance at my card fully establishes the fact. Some boys of more determination than your vacillating son (I had almost said cowardly) would have gone to their Reg’t ‘ere this “Whether or no” – I am perhaps disposed to magnify my ails, but when I have seen men brought in here who had been forced to march with diarrhoea attending till nature gave out, then laying about in some Regimental Hospital, coming here too weak to walk and living but a week or two, then I have thought it was not best to beg to be sent away to the exposures of an army on active duty in the field. They can call me a coward, a shirk, what they choose, but I think it a duty to take care of my health not only for myself but on my mother’s account. what do you think of this logic? Am happy to say that I have been considerably better for a few days past being comparatively free from that severe pain in my bowels that I spoke of in my last – Take no pills now, but mixture of paregoric, camphor, cinnamon, &c., night and morning.

We have got a new nurse now, so am able to get to eat what is ordered for me. Get an egg in the morning, a piece of toasted bread each meal and a little claret wine. My room mate made the proposition the other day that if I would go down to the door morning and night when the milk man came and get some milk he would find the cash to pay for it. I gladly assented. Tis rather hard. I have to stop and rest coming up, but I go down at least once a day and get sometimes a pint, sometimes a quart. It seems to do me good. Many of the patients get a little milk but so long as Rowe will furnish the money I will not ask the Dr. to allow it to me. He is very good natured and has never refused me anything that I asked him for. My appetite is good. I have to be very watchful that I don’t eat too much. I eat very little meat, it don’t seem to agree with me. My diet is mostly bread. If had money could get me some crackers, &c., taut [?] now try to make the best of it without. 5 or 10 dollars would seem a Godsend to me.

Last Saturday a lot of wounded were brought down to the City from the battlefield at Port Hudson. I should judge there were fifty brought to this Hospital. It seemed sad to look at them. Here is a man with an arm off – another with a leg, others shot through the breast – hips – neck – face – then comes the reflection that only a few days ago these men were in their full vigor. Now – many, such is the heat of the climate, will soon die, while others after long days of pain will recover, but not to mingle in the busy scenes of life, as once. Such is war. We get no news from Port Hudson through the papers. From some of the wounded I learn that Gen. Banks, via Red River landed above and Gen. Augur advanced from Baton Rouge so the place was completely surrounded. On the 28th we began to close up and with terrible slaughter drove the Rebels into the Fort, took their first line of intrenchments [SIC] and planted their flag in the second but were obliged to fall back – being in range of their guns. When they left we held possession of the first line and were throwing up additional earthworks. ‘Tis reported that Gen. Pemberton offered to surrender the fort if Gen. Banks would allow his troops to march out with their arms. Of course Gen. Banks would not listen to any such plan. We are expecting news from there every day though probably there will be nothing published till the contest is over. That may be some time if we have to take it by siege. Report says that two Co’s of our Reg’t were left at Baton Rouge as Provost Guard – the remainder acted as skirmishers, losing 7 killed and 16 wounded. So a man of the 38th told me who said he fought with them on the 28th. According to all accounts Gen. Grant is also investing Vicksburg. Won’t it be a triumph when they both fall as I hope and believe they will, soon too. Flour will not then be $12.50 per bbl., butter 40 [cents] per lb., cheese 20 to 30 [cents], etc., etc.

My room mate is expecting to go North in a few days. They are making out his discharge papers for him. Well! he has certainly been here long enough – 8 months. If a man has his Descriptive List they can discharge him from a Gen’l Hospital – no matter where his Capt. may be. Quite a lot will go from here soon. The weather is really hot here these days, there is some air in the day time if you can only get where it is, but the nights are very close. You conjecture rightly, our Brigade is in Gen’l Emory’s Division, 7rd [?] Brigade, 3rd division. Thank you for all your good advice. I will try and profit by it though I have no Bible here to read for which I am sorry. When I get to desponding I look around and see others who are worse off and try to cheer up again. Your allusion to Father was quite affecting, I often think of him and all that he done for me, and my prayer is that I may emulate his virtues and be as prepared as he was to enter into that rest that remaineth for the people of God.

How do the people of the North look at the War? I do not wonder that labor is high. I wonder that the Gov. has not begun the drafting ‘ere this, for the nine months men will go home soon and there will be no troops to take their places. It seems as though I would enjoy working on a farm North this summer. I picture it out to myself many times and say why did I not go to farming instead of coming to fight? It seems the latter was God’s will. May I be willing he should do with me as he sees best. I would like to board with you and Aunt Wealthy this summer. I think you would not charge me very high as I should not wish any rich food. I hope yet to see Old New England and her Cloud Capped Granite Hills and snuff her gentle breezes once more.

You see that I am getting rather hard up for paper. This is decidedly a scrap letter. Hope you will be able to read it.

I hope that my next will be from me well though it is getting very hot. I have the promise of a pass tomorrow. Will see how I feel out doors again. Wish I might get to some light duty that I could do better than march with the Regiment though I would like to be with them when they enter Port Hudson. Much love to all. Had a letter from David’s wife not long ago. I need not say do write often – Your aff. son,

Co. C, 31st Mass. Vols.,
New Orleans, La.


St. James Hospital,
New Orleans, La.
June 13, 1863

Dear Mother

As there is a steamer leaves at 9 o’clock tomorrow morning “for New York direct” I will trouble you with a few lines. I am happy to say that since my last I have been rather on the gain – As I am now can live very well on bread & tea and a little meat (fresh) at noon, but dare not eat beans, peas, salt meat, &c., such as you would get in the Regiment.

When I come to go out on the street and travel about find that I am still quite weak. I think I could not march far in this hot sun. I cannot get my bowels regular. I will take medicine and check it so that perhaps will have no discharge for two or three days – then three or four times with more or less pain. I had one dollar that I had been saving for the purpose of buying some medicine. Well I was out last week and went around to a Druggist’s. He fixed me up a bottle full – Ess. Pept., Prep, Chalk, &c., &c. I have been taking it since considerably – think it has helped me, out. ‘Tis most gone and I have no money to buy more. The Dr. this week has prescribed 20 drops Laud, just before going to bed. It has not always been swallowed.

Capt. Lee was brought here to this Hospital yesterday. He is very sick with fever. I was in to see him this morning and after a little conversation he surprised me with the following question – Did you ever write home to your mother anything against my character? This was a stunner, I had always meant to be so
guarded, though did not know but I might have lisped something to you. Not that I am aware of, was my reply. My [?] wrote that she had been told some things by ladies who said your mother told them and you wrote it to her.

Now Dear Mother I do not believe you would get your son into a fuss by retailing around town any little expression that I might have let drop in any of my letters, which are to you, not to the town.

Have I written anything derogatory to Capt. Lee’s good name? I may have said in regard to Chas. Hathaway – something, but I don’t know what. Captain said that his wife was going up to see you to find what it was I had written. I very much mistake the character of my Mother if she goes away much wiser than she came.

I think much of Capt. Lee. He has always treated me with uniform kindness. He is by far the best officer in the Regiment and I would not say anything to injure for the world.

Port Hudson is not taken yet that we can hear of though we get no news in the papers whatever in regard to the movements of our troops there. By sick that came in last night who left there two days before I learn that the night before it being very dark the Rebels tried to force their way out but were driven back again. We have cut off their supply of water from the fort and when they go to the river to get it, our Gun Boats just open on them. ‘Tis reported that we have a Tunnel nearly completed that will afford us entrance into their works. These are stories but I think the place will soon be in possession of our forces.

This is awful weather for our soldiers up there – without any tents. For a week past the Thermometer has averaged nearly 95 every day. It is said that the Gov. has taken possession of St. Charles Hotel for a Hospital. ‘Twill accommodate at least 1500 patients. I guess “Uncle Sam” has not moved in yet. Have had no letters from you since the last I acknowledged.

Have you ever sent me any money? If you have not I wish you would – an X if you can spare it. Don’t know when we will get any from U.S.  Love to all. Write soon. Ever your son,

Co. C, 31st Mass. Vols.,
New Orleans


St. James Hospital,
New Orleans, La.
June 25, 1863

My dear Mother:

My heart was again made glad on Saturday evening by the reception of your affectionate letter of the 5th inst, the money came safe to hand, though if you had sent a $2.00 Treasury note instead it would have been better, as it being a Northern bill there will be a discount on it. You did not think of this and
I thank you just as much.

I am still in the Hospital though much better, indeed, I hope almost well. Have taken no medicine for the past week, my diarrhoea is checked in a great measure but my bowels are not yet in a regular, healthy state. Last week the Doctor sent me down stairs to my meals and I have been ever since. I cannot eat everything they have there, for instance, mush & molasses, beans, salt horse, &c. I was fool enough this noon to eat some cabbage. True there was but a little yet it sets like a stone on my stomach. When a fellow is real hungry he don’t seem to have any judgment. Maybe I will eat some more but I don’t believe it. They live rather hard down below now, and as my appetite is good it is not as when you have just so much brought to you.

Let me tell you what a breakfast we had this morning. A cup of so-called coffee. A slice of bread say four inches square by 1 1/2 thick – some molasses very strong and burnt to boot. I ate the bread and a little of the coffee – The Hospital is quite full now which makes a difference in the living. It is much easier to lose than to regain strength here in this climate – I go out on a pass occasionally but find I cannot walk more than a couple of blocks without stopping to rest. How would it be with all my equipments on? Yet I feel considerable strong here in doors. I feel that I have cause for gratitude to God that I am as well as
now – I pray that I may be prudent in all things.

We got more news from Port Hudson through Northern papers than any other way. This much we know however, that the place is not taken. It must be a work of time. Another assault was made last Sunday but we were repulsed with great loss. Over 600 wounded were brought down to this City. Most of them were taken to the “St. Louis” – formerly a hotel, nearly as large as the St. Charles. ‘Tis said to be capable of accommodating 1500. The Rebels seem to be trying to make us withdraw some of our troops from Port Hudson by dashes on to other places. I suppose Gen. Banks did not leave a great many troops to guard the Oppelousas country, so it would not be a wonder if they got back some of those places. Last Friday a body of Rebels made a descent on Plaquemine – burning four small steamboats and parolling [SIC] some 40 sick soldiers.

The 26th Mass, with a Company of Cavalry and the 25th N. Y. Battery left the City Saturday P. M. for Brashear City. There are all sorts of reports, that they are all captured, cut to pieces, &c., &c.., but as yet we have nothing reliable. But I will not attempt to tell you any more “War News” for you will get much more in the Northern papers. I think Vicksburg and Port Hudson must both fall, but when! That’s the question.

I often think as I lie down at night upon my bed, of my companions & friends who are sleeping in the open air with no covering but a blanket, or perhaps “on guard” where they are every moment exposed to an enemy’s bullet, and I ask the question, Why am I here? God of course has some purpose in it.

I hear that the 31st is pretty badly cut up. There have no wounded from the Regiment been brought here except Capt. Allen of Co. “D” wounded in the shoulder. Capt. Lee is still here sick – and quite sick too, has been quite delirious, but is getting more rational. Has the Typhoid Fever.

My Descriptive List is made out, but the Captain cannot sign it. The Hospital will probably be paid off within two weeks. When I will get my pay is uncertain. If you could send me a U. S. V or X if possible I would be very thankful. The 1st of July there will be six months pay due me. That will make quite a little handful of greenbacks. Uncle Sam is good but rather tardy in paying up.

I once told you I had no Bible to read. I got mine out of my knapsack at Algiers a few days ago, so I have “God’s word” now to read all I choose – what parts do you find most comfort in perusing? I feel at times that Christ is near me – to comfort and sustain – but often He is afar off and when I try to pray thoughts of the world will intrude, so that it is vain. Pray that I might enjoy the presence of Christ, that I may ever lift up my heart to Him for a blessing on all my ways. How beautiful and how impressively grand is the 90th Psalm – How pathetic the 14th chapter of St. John – Let not your heart be troubled –


Room 90,
Ward 5,
June 26, 1863

Dear Mother

I know that a full stomach is not provocative to an easy flow of ideas but as a Steamer leaves early tomorrow morning I will jot down a few ideas and send them along – You will be glad to hear that since my last I have been getting along first rate. Yesterday was out on a pass, went around considerable and got pretty tired, but don’t know that I feel any worse for it today. I want exercise now to help me gain strength – can only get a pass about once a week from 9 A.M. to 5 P.M., and the fervid rays of a summer’s sun wilt me like a toadstool.

I got $1.75 for that bill you sent me, shared the balance with another of Co. C as destitute as myself so it did not leave a very large balance in hand – not enough to buy another bottle of that medicine that I thought did me so much good. Well! I hope not to need any more. Not long I made out three Descriptive Lists for us who are here in this Hospital, partly from memory, as was not able to get at all of the Co. books, but now Capt. Lee will not sign them – must have all the books, and see them made out – I know a Captain who made out one for one of his men here simply from the fellows word as to amt. of clothing received, so he will get paid. All patients who have Descriptive Lists will be mustered for pay the last of this month and be paid soon after – I really feel provoked. You will of course say nothing about this?

Hope I may see more of “Uncle Sam’s” greenbacks – sometime. They are handy.

Life is very monotonous here especially to a convalescent. Breakfast at 6  – that don’t take long – then its a good while to noon, after dinner sometimes take a nap – Supper is anywhere between four and five – much too early – go to bed at 9 – the nights are awful hot so I sleep some – and some I don’t. The weather is so enervating one don’t know what to do. Am now reading Dr. Kane’s Artic [sic] Explorations for the third time – they have all the interest of a romance.

Capt. Lee is still very sick, but improving a little – Several of our Company are here in the city wounded but have not been able to learn who they are – Sergt. Clary is killed – shot through the windpipe. Always said he should be killed in the first severe engagement in which the Regiment was engaged – and
so it proved. 0h, that all might be as ready as he was. I hear of no fighting at Port Hudson since my last. Don’t know when the end will be.

Let me tell you what I was thinking of just now when taking a drink of this warm Mississippi water, Oh! for a draught from that spring below Mrs. Taylor’s or from some good well. I think it would taste good. The weather is very hot here now – One cannot do much else but – sweat. Have had no letters from any one since I got the last from you. Hope the next steamer may bring me at least a letter from Mother.

The Rebels have been making a raid west of the Mississippi but I cannot learn they have accomplished much. I feel anxious to know who is drafted from our vicinity. It must be very pleasant up on Heath hills now. How I would like to happen around about sundown and have a good bowl of bread and milk. Love to all. I need not say write often. Your aff. son,


Excuse haste.


Ward 5, Room 90,
July 3, 1863

Dear Mother –

The mails for the North do not leave very regularly, sometimes two in a week – then perhaps not for ten days or a fortnight – This may serve to account for the long interval between some of my letters – I mean to write as often as once a week.

I was very glad a few days ago to receive your kind letter of June 13. I look for one by every Steamer, and am rarely disappointed. I know it must be quite a job for you to write a letter, so knowing this fact I certainly ought – and I believe I do – prize them more. None are so interesting as those from home. I have a blinding headache this morning. The sweat is running in little cold streams down my back, and take it all in all, I cannot promise a very interesting letter. Have several topics to touch upon but may not be able to think of them all till my letter is mailed.

First I suppose you would like me to “give an account of myself.” My diarrhoea is much as at date of my last. It does not trouble me much at present though I must abjure beans, peas, molasses, and drink but little coffee. I do not get strong, ’tis very tiresome to come up stairs, and brings on a severe pain in my left side as does any active exercise. I sweat awfully nights so that the sheets are quite wet, this is seemingly more than natural. Am thankful that I have a good appetite – can sleep pretty well nights – and am able to walk about.

A letter was brought up to me yesterday that Dr. Cole had received from Uncle Stephen, with the request that I would come in and see him, so in the afternoon I went down. He asked me a few questions and at my request, sounded my lungs, said they were all right but “your heart beats away like a sledge hammer.” Dr. Whittemore, who attends in our ward, was in the room. When he came around this morning he took down my card with the remark to the nurse “Send his card down for an examination” – So I will get an examination from the head Doctor – Dr. John Homans – in the course of time. This is what I want. I do not expect to get my discharge – indeed, I never have. Do not speak of what I have said so that it will get about town. Do not form the opinion or indulge in fond anticipations that I am coming home for that there is very little probability of such an occurrence till my three years are out. I pray that God will do with me and for me as He sees to be best,- above all that I may be submissive to His will. Have always thought I should yet see Old Mass. again with the many friends I have left behind, that I should again see my Mother, Have sometimes thought I could be a better son
to her than before I left. Have often thought of the maxim you quote “Some people don’t know when they are well off.” In my present condition am satisfied that I am better off here than with the troops before Port Hudson.

Speaking of Port Hudson, a Sergt. of our Regiment right from there called in the other day. Said the place was closely invested, and our heavy siege guns were pouring in the shells almost constantly, but for the past few days; the Rebels had scarce replied. Said the place must fall soon.

I said, that there was little prospect of our getting any pay for the Capt. would not sign our Descriptive Lists, since then I have verified the adage – “All is well that ends well.” Two of us went over to Algiers, got all the Co. books – and made out some new ones – then the Captain signed them – They are making out the Hospital Pay Rolls and will probably pay off in the course of a fortnight. Capt. Lee is gaining – and seemed to be in pretty good spirits. He has applied for a furlough and will probably go North in the course of a few weeks.

The weather is pretty hot these days and in the heart of the city here we cannot get the good of what little air there is. Tomorrow is the “Glorious Fourth”. There is to be quite a Celebration here in the city, but I cannot give you the Programme. Will the next “fourth” find us a country still dismembered – engaged in deadly strife, or united and enjoying the blessings of peace? Who can tell?

Does it seem natural to have Mary with you again? My best love to her. By the time this reaches you I suppose the farmers on the river will have begun haying. How I would like to roll in the new mown hay. I always enjoyed that work the most of any on a farm. You will readily see that I am not very much in love
with this southern country. Give me the north with its rough mountains and clear water,

‘Tis a report and I guess it is so – that all the wounded soldiers in this Department are to have a furlough of 40 days granted them with free transportation to the North. The climate here is not favourable for them to get well. Last night the Major of the 156th New York was borne from this Hospital to his long home. There was considerable ceremony of course. More than over the poor soldiers who die every day.

Believe I have not told you that Chaplain Chubbuck is married and gone North. ’Twill make very little difference here I am thinking if he should not come back. Any newspapers you can send me will be very acceptable. The library here does not embrace a great variety of books they being mostly picked up – confiscated, &c. I will try to tell you war news – you will get all that in the newspapers. You must excuse the dullness of this epistle. The principal that I have to write about is just what is going on here in the Hospital. Much love to Aunt Wealthy and all who may inquire for me. Write soon and as often as convenient. Your aff, son,


Please tell me when you received this.


Room 90, Ward 5,
July 14, 1863

Dear Mother

Have just received yours of the 27th ult. and I think I will have time to write a short letter before the “Mail for the North” closes.

The last few days have brought “Glorious News” as regards the War. On the forenoon of the 9th I heard the newsboys crying that Vicksburg was ours, but was very faithless till I saw the paper with the “official notice” of the fact from Gen. Grant to Gen. Banks then I could not help believe it. Next day we got news that Port Hudson was ours, this news was better yet for I felt full as much interested in the fall of Port Hudson, but I won’t undertake to say any more in regard to the news of the war for you will see more explicit accounts in the newspapers, beside my ideas seem all befogged today.

This reminds me that you will want to know how I am at present. I am very much as when I last wrote in regard to the diarrhoea. My other troubles that I spoke of are no better, but more troublesome. Have violent palpitation of the heart with a dull heavy pain keep I ever so still and a sharp pain when walking about especially when coming up stairs. I look tolerably well in the face as I have a good appetite to eat but I do not gain strength. Perhaps walk around more than is good for me but I cannot be contented to stay in my room all the time. There are several fellows of the Reg’t here and though they are in another part of the house and way up in the top story I generally go up and have a chat with them every night.

Capt. Lee is still here though expecting a furlough home soon. The fact is when I go in to see him he throws the most of the conversation upon me and I cannot somehow feel free in his presence so perhaps I do not call in to see him as often as I ought. He knows I am sick and if he wants anything of me he can send for me. Of course whatever allusions I may make to Capt. Lee are for Mother and no one else. Do not flatter yourself that I am going to get discharged and come home for there is very little probability of it. It’s much easier getting into the Army than getting out.

Yesterday I was called down for an examination. I went before the Head Dr. – Dr. Homans – he asked me a few questions, and simply said “that will do” but did not give me an idea of what he was going to do with me – My room mate has today been sent to the convalescent camp, but I am still here with a room all to myself. Hope I shall not get the blues now, for though he was rather rough he was a good hearted fellow.

This Hospital is not as crowded as it has been. I learn today that the 52nd Mass. are to start for home very soon via up the river. We have only got news from the North to July 3d, when there was a great
battle raging in Pa. What is the opinion North as to the duration of the war? People here feel considerably encouraged that Secession is making what will prove to be its death struggle – God grant it may be so.

It seems odd for you to speak of having a fire in the morning to keep comfortable when the thermometer here for the past two weeks has averaged as high as 90° – The nights here are very warm.


Room 90, Ward 5,
July 18, 1863

My dear Mother

Another mail goes tomorrow so I cannot resist the temptation to trouble you with a few lines – though I may not be able to write much of interest, yet will serve to pass away the time and keep me from having the blues. Why was I not born with more of a cheerful disposition? One more disposed to look on the bright side? What I seem to want is a cheerful companion then I can keep in better spirits. You very well know that I am no hand to pitch in and laugh and joke with every one I meet — more disposed to retire within myself something like an oyster. I can’t seem to shake this off either. My room mate has gone away and Charlie Wright is going home tomorrow and as I have no other particular acquaintances the days drag by pretty slowly.

I do not like our new doctor as well as either Dr. Cole or Dr. Whittemore. I wish the latter had kept along in attending on our ward. I think it is a well conceded fact, that fleshy persons are generally good natured. I know he was and withall disposed to grant you any little favors you might desire. But enough of this! It looks as much like grumbling as anything though I did not intend to get into that strain. I am thankful for the comforting truths of God’s word to fall back upon. Oh! that I might feel their perfect adaptedness to all our wants.

By this time you will begin to ask – Well, how do you do this morning? Not feeling “very rugged” I assure you, for the past day or two my diarrhoea has rather come back on me with some of that, old griping [sic] pain in my bowels. By strict attention to what I eat I hope to be better of that, soon. My other troubles that I spoke of in my last are no better – if anything, more troublesome. This dull, cloudy, close, damp, muggy, rainy weather is enough to make a well man sick – and a sick man miserable. Without I
have some little thing to busy myself about I feel so ambitionless so weak all over that I involuntarily throw myself on the bed, there to lie till I get fidgetty, then up again. When it comes clear weather I am going to try to go out again. I cannot help thinking – How I wish I was at home though I do not allow
my mind to build any air castles that are liable to be so easily demolished. My constant prayer is Oh! God if it can consist with Thy will grant that I might be sent home, out in all things, help me to say not mine but Thine be done. I feel that it is safe to leave the matter in His hands. That He will do what is

Night before last Dr. Homans sent up for me. I went down to his office, he examined me again as also another Dr. present – then he dismissed me. I had it on my tongue’s end to ask him – What are you going to do with me? But have noticed that you don’t gain anything with him to be inquisitive, so determined to wait a few days and see what might turn up. Probably after the Hospital gets paid off I will be sent down to the Convalescent Camp, or else to the Regiment.

I am happy to inform you that Capt. Lee starts for the North tomorrow, on a furlough, between you and I, I don’t believe he will ever come back again either. You see if he does. Charlie Wright of Conway is also going home – Discharged. Dea. Wright wrote to a friend who resides in this City. He made it convenient to call in and see Dr. Homans quite frequently so the thing was pushed right along. Well Charlie ought to go home, he has got the consumption and I am afraid would not live many months in this climate. He is a good hearted fellow always cheerful with a joke ready, so that as regards my selfish enjoyment
I am rather sorry to have him go.

There is no particular war news that I know of. You may believe that the Mississippi is really open for two steamboats have arrived here from St. Louis. The nine months troops are being sent home as fast as possible up the river. The last I heard of our Reg’t they were still at Port Hudson – But I have written so long that my side begins to ache so I’ll stop. I wish you would make me a plate of good milk toast and send it in for dinner. My love to all inquiring friends, to Aunt Wealthy. Mother pray for me. Write – Ever your son,


Direct as before.


Ward 5, Room 90,
July 25, 1863

Dear Mother

Not knowing exactly how I may feel tomorrow I will write a letter tonight – thus I hope to complete quite an epistle before the mail leaves. I have just finished my supper of a piece of bread and butter and a little tea – have had enough too. Don’t know where my appetite that I had a few days ago has gone to, but it has left me for somewhere.

Your letter of July 10 was received a few days ago, and as usual was very welcome. But I am feeling sort of sick and faint and think I will lie down a few minutes. I will now resume again – And first I suppose
you will be anxious to know just how I am at present. The description I gave in my last two letters will apply with equal force now. I ate something that did not agree with me, or from some other cause my diarrhoea returned to me about a week ago and I had a repetition of those old griping [sic] pains and to
trot to the rear pretty often for a few days but I at once put myself on to a diet of bread and tea – so with the medicine used it is not now much more troublesome than before. I still have that pain in my side and palpitation of the heart and do not seem to get strength a single bit. Was out on the street a
little way the other day but found I could not walk the distance of a block without having to halt to rest. This was rather discouraging. We have had a Navy Doctor – a young man and is very attentive to his patients, visiting them all both morning and evening. I am not prepared to form an opinion as to his skill
in the profession. He is giving me as medicine, three pills per day, one after each meal – they are composed of ox, iron & quinine – I cannot see that they have done me any good yet.

The days seem pretty long to me particularly as they are very hot – I cannot help thinking much of home, and. sometimes almost hope they will discharge this poor, miserable — who is only occupying a bed in one of Uncle Sam’s Hospitals and drawing pay while he is rendering no service in return.

Capt. Lee has not gone yet – he has been waiting several days for a transport to leave. It seems to me were I an officer I could afford to pay my passage on a Mail Steamer rather than lay around in this enervating climate.

There is no news that I know of. The Vicksburg and Port Hudson prisoners are to be sent to Mobile for exchange – Everything seems to be quiet up the river – You say you hope that ‘ere this I have got the letter with the $5 in it. I wish I had but I have not seen any such letter yet. It may have gone to the Regiment – Hope to get it yet.

I am finishing this letter in the morning – Am feeling a little brighter though did not sleep more than three hours last night. Love to all. Good bye, Your aff. son,


Direct as before.

I cannot help thinking of the soldiers who have no mosquito bars. We have not yet got paid but hope to some time. Love to all. I need not say write often. Would add more but have not time. Ever your son,

J. W. Hawkes