1847: John Abner Harris to Ann E. Harris

This letter was written by John “Abner” Harris (1831-1862), the eldest son of John Harris (1802-1877) and Ann Maria Stevens (1802-1884) of Newville, Cumberland county, Pennsylvania. He wrote the letter to his older sister, Annie E. Harris (1828-1904) who married John J. Crawford (1828-1891) in 1848.


Addressed to Miss Ann E. Harris, Newville, [Cumberland county] Pennsylvania

Havana, Island of Cuba
July 18th 1847

Dear Sister,

I take the pleasure of writing you once more for to let you know that I am yet living but not in very good health. I left Vera Cruz on the 3d of July and reached here on the 12th. It is very sickly at Vera Cruz at the present. People are dying here hundreds daily. The poor soldiers are dying off very fast & it is very sickly here at present. There is a good many people dying here daily. This is the greatest place yet I have seen for ancient things &c. They have the greatest fortifications here of any place in the world. I thought Vera Cruz was well fortified before it was taken but it is nothing to this place. Two-thirds of the people here are soldiers and all Spanish.

I am going from here to Baltimore and I want you to write to me there as soon as you receive this letter. I intend to go from there home to see you all and tell you all about my escapes, travels &c. whilst in Mexico &c. I want you to let me know all the particulars about home as soon as you write. I want you to let me know all about the marriages, deaths, &c. I expect to hear of all you gals at home being married—you in particular. I want to know how everybody is getting along that I am acquainted with.

You would not know me now. I have altered considerable. I have growed to be 5 ft. 9 inches high and altered otherwise in appearance, &c.

I shall have to bring my letter to a close. I expect to see you all in about 2 months from now. I want to spend some time in Baltimore. Nothing more at present but remain your affectionate brother, [—Abner Harris]

You will please excuse my bad writing as I have not taken a pen in my hand for the last 18 months before I sat down to write this one. My love to all enquiring friends and old acquaintances in particular.


1847: Thomas Chrystal to Charlotte (Clark) King

This intriguing and rare letter was written by Thomas Chrystal from San Francisco prior to the gold rush in California. Unfortunately I cannot learn anything more about Thomas from on-line records beyond what he reveals about himself in this letter.

The subject of the letter is what makes it intriguing. Written to a woman named “Mrs. Charlotte King” in Fairfax, Franklin county, Vermont, Thomas claimed that he had been authorized by a business associate he had befriended in California to offer an unusual proposal to Mrs. King. He stated that his friend — J. T. Smith — informed him that he had carnal relations with Mrs. King prior to leaving Vermont and that he may have left her carrying his child. Feeling some remorse about abandoning the child, Thomas informed Mrs. King that his friend Smith was willing to take custody of the child and to have it properly raised and educated if she was agreeable to the proposal.

24094347_120100459269A search of the US Census records resulted in confirmation of Charlotte King’s residence in Fairfax, Vermont. Vermont Vital Records reveal that Charlotte (Clark) King (1818-1864) was the widow of William King (1812-1843). The couple had been married in Fairfax on 15 October 1837 and Charlotte gave birth to at least two children prior to her husband’s death in 1843. Their names were William Y. King (1839-1862) and John P. King (1842-1864). [Note: William Y. King served in Co. H, 2nd US Sharpshooters, and died 26 March 1862 at Falmouth, Va.] Charlotte was born on 3 October 1818, the daughter of William and Sally Clark of Reading, Windsor county, Vermont.

In the 1850 US Census, the widow Charlotte is enumerated in Fairfax with these two boys and a third child named Amina Smith (b. 1845). Could Amina (or Armina?) be the bastard child of Mr. J. T. Smith?  Curiously, I found buried in the same small cemetery as Charlotte and her two sons was “Armina” (King) Curley (1844-1929), the wife of Peter Curley (1844-1900) — a native of Lowell, Massachusetts. Digging further into Armina’s vital records, I discovered that her Washington county, Vermont death record (under name “Arimina Ann Curley”) names her mother as “Charlotte Clark” of Vermont and her father as “—— Smith” of “Don’t know.” In the 1910 US Census, Armina informed the census taker that she believed her father was from England.

Regretfully I cannot confirm the identity of J. T. Smith. On several occasions, there are emigration records showing the passage of a man by that name enroute to or from California in that timeframe who was born about 1819 but I could not find a record for him in Vermont.

[Note: This letter is from the private collection of Richard Weiner and is published by express consent.]

Addressed to Mrs. Charlotte King, Fairfax, Franklin county, Vermont

San Francisco, California
September 15, 1847

Mrs. King,

Although an entire stranger to you, I take upon myself the entire responsibility of writing you upon a subject which I doubt not interests you.

Last winter I became acquainted at this place with Mr. J. T. Smith. Business transactions of a frequent occurrence since that time have made us quite intimate. He informed me of you & the occurrences between yourself & him prior to his leaving home. He often desired to know whether you gave birth to a child after his departure but he resolved never — either upon that or any other subject — to write you. I obtained permission from him to write you and I do it willingly, hoping it may be the means of benefitting both parties.

He wishes to know from you whether you have a child by him, and if you have, he makes to you this proposal — that he will come back to [the] United States, and if you consent, to take this child and put it with some of his people. He says further that he will give you bonds, that it [the child] shall be well taken care of, and that it shall receive a good New England education — you to have the privilege of seeing it when you wish.

In relation to the difficulties between you, he says he does not blame you so much as he does Mrs. Miller ¹ and others who you allowed yourself to be led by. He acknowledges if it had not been for them, he should never had any troubles with you. He blames you, however, for being their dupe and for placing confidence in them, instead of him.

Mr. Smith requested me to say that he wishes to get the child (if there is one) that it may be well brought up and that it may receive a good education, knowing as he does that he is better able to take care of it than you are. He says on the other hand, he will never consent to help it to the value of a farthing while it remains with you.

If you consent to the proposal he has made and will write him, he will return and fulfill what’s here written. If not, upon you rests the responsibility of the child.

Things have reached such a crisis that under no circumstances will he ever have anything to do with you. Therefore, as a friend I advise you to make up your mind to that effect, neither to expect aid from him nor even to see or hear from him again without your consent to his taking the child, which consent being granted he will go to Vermont and see you and enter into the necessary arrangements respecting it. That being accomplished, he will have nothing further to do with you — this you may rely on.

He says that if you are suffering from want or any other cause, you may attribute it all to those you have called your friends and in time he says you will see — if you do not already — they were your worst enemies.

As Mr. Smith is situated here very comfortably at present, he will be governed by your decision in relation to the child. If you should consent that she should take it — no matter whether it be boy or girl — he will return & take care of it. As he is trading in the interior the most of the time, you will please write to me and I will immediately transmit your letter to him. As there is no United States Post Office here and the mail for Americans being carried by the Navy Department, you will please direct it as follows,  “To Thomas Chrystal, on board U. S. Ship Independence, Pacific Station, through Brooklyn Navy Yard.”  The mail will come to the ship and then the letter will be forwarded to me. Mail it in your town and it will reach me. Please write on the reception of this.

Hoping you will accept Mr. Smith’s proposal both for your sake and for the child’s, I subscribe myself very respectfully your obedient servant, — Thomas Chrystal

¹ Possibly Joanna Miller (1817-1853), wife of Daniel Miller (b. 1809) of Fairfax, Franklin county, Vermont.


1862: Lester Bishop Filley to Hila (Corey) Filley


CDV of interior in Squire Filley’s Home in Otis, Massachusetts, prior to its restoration

This remarkable letter was written by Lester Bishop Filley (1829-1887), the son of Lester Filley, Sr. (1791-1859) and Corinthia Twining (1793-1838).

Lester Sr. — known as “Squire Filley” — was a noted lawyer, a member of the State Legislature, and founder of the local Episcopal church in Otis, Berkshire county, Massachusetts. Filley’s eight-room, red-brick residence, built in 1812, was the first grand home in Otis.

In the 1860 U.S. Census, Lester Bishop Filley and his wife Hila A. Corey (1837-1911) are enumerated as residents of Carlinville, Macoupin County, Illinois. Lester and Hila were married on 26 March 1854 in Jerseyville, Illinois. Hila (Corey) Filley was the daughter of Luther Corey [or Cory] (1789-1850) and Hannah Miner (1796-1873) of Kane, Greene county, Illinois. Lester and Hila’s children (in 1860) were Cora (b. 1855) and Dora (b. 1859). By June 1862, another daughter — named Elizabeth (“Libbie”) — had been born.

At age 33, Lester enlisted in Co. D, 61st Illinois Infantry on 22 March 1862. At the time of his enlistment, he was described as standing 5’4″ tall, with dark hair, gray eyes, and a light complexion. His occupation was recorded as “merchant.” Lester served with the 61st Illinois from 5 February 1862 until he was discharged for disability on 22 March 1863 (another source says 2 May 1864). After the war, Lester left Illinois with his family and settled in Green Island, Albany county, New York, where he took a clerk/bookeeper’s job.

According to accounts from the first day at Shiloh, 400 men of the 61st Illinois Infantry were formed in line in time to receive the first assault of the enemy and they stood their ground for an hour and a quarter. They were then ordered to support a battery of the 1st Missouri artillery, and at 1 P.M.. were ordered to the support of Gen. Hurlbut – coming to his support at a very critical moment, and maintaining his line until relieved by a fresh regiment, their ammunition being entirely exhausted. When the second line was broken the regiment retired in good order and took a position supporting the siege guns. Its loss in this engagement was 80 killed, wounded and missing, including 3 commissioned officers.

In this letter, Lester informs his wife of the death of her brother, Marshall Smith Corey (1816-1862), who served with him in Co. E, 61st Illinois Infantry. He also mentions several other soldiers from Greene and Macaupin counties.

[Note: This letter is from the personal collection of Richard Weiner and is published by express consent. Another letter by Lester B. Filley written on 13 June 1862 may be found at 1862: Lester Bishop Filley to Hila (Corey) Filley.]

"Plenty of Fighting Today": The 9th Illinois at Shiloh

“Plenty of Fighting Today” by Keith Rocco


Pittsburg, Tennessee
Thursday night, April 10, 1862

My Dear wife,

I have just received yours of April 1st — the first one I have had since I left St. Louis. ¹ I have passed 4 as hard days as ever I saw. You have, I suppose, ere this seen an account of the terrible battle fought at this place last Sunday, Monday, & Tuesday. It was the worst fighting I ever saw. Thousands of lives lost and among them our brother Marshall [Smith Corey of Co. E]. He fell after having fought from six A.M. till about 2 P.M. Sunday. He was shot in his left side above the hip bone. I did not see him [but] Robt. Wilder and others saw him. He fought like a hero all day. He threw down his gun, unbuckled his belt, threw off his cartridge box, & fell face down. I did not hear of it till that eve. I could not get to him till Tuesday. I then dug a grave, wrapped him in blankets, and buried him. James [A.] Gentry [of Co. E] was the only acquaintance with me. It was an awful sad time for me. I cut off a lock of his hair and will send it in this letter. Doubtless you will have read the account of this terrible battle before this comes to you. I will not relate particulars till I come home. I will mention a few items.

[Lt.] David [G.] Culver [of Co. A] is mortally wounded. Capt. [Robert E.] Haggard [of Co. F] was wounded and can’t be found. Also Capt. [Martin J.] Mann [of Co. B]. There were 13 killed, 30 missing, and 43 wounded in our regiment. Old man [Hiram] Holliday ² [of Co. D] is among the missing. Col. [John] Logan [of the 32nd Illinois Infantry] is very badly wounded. I staid one night with him. [He was] shot in the back. You will see the list before I shall. I wish you would save a paper till I come home. I would like to see it.

We expect hourly another big battle here. They are not yet satisfied. The Secesh took everything we had. They smashed my trunk. I found my broom, hair brush, and today I found your bible out in the woods wet and ruined. I tell you, it is a sad sight here. The field for five miles square is covered with dead. The camps, boats, & everything convenient is filled with the wounded & dying. We have not begun to get the dead buried yet. I am completely worn out. I have not had a night’s sleep this week. 3 nights I was out in the rain. I have had nothing but raw ham & hard crackers to eat. I have seen enough of war. If it was in my power, I would leave for home tomorrow on foot. If I live to see you there again, I shall be a happy man. I never shall enlist again.

Poor Marshall — he was enjoying himself I believe up to his death. I wish I could have got a coffin & sent him home but this was impossible. He looked very natural, I think. He must have died instantly. I could not find anything in his pocket but a letter from Samuel Longstreet. I send it.

Tell Cora I promised to write her this time but I felt too bad to write her such a letter as I wanted to. Kiss her & Dora for me. How bad they will feel to hear of poor Mack’s death. I must quit for tonight. Will write more in the morn if I can.

Friday Morn — 3 o’clock A.M. — Our pickets have been driven again and the army are drawn up in line of battle. It is raining hard. Our poor soldiers are having a hard time. I do not have to go into battle but I believe it is worse to see the outside horrors.

We have just heard that Island No. 10 was taken. If we beat them again here or at Corinth, they will, I think, give up. Wm. Vedder would give anything if he was out of this [place] but no one can leave. We have to stay and take it.

Now my dear, I have thus written you a hasty letter in pencil as our ink was destroyed by Secesh. My mind is in no condition to write. I don’t know as I could say anything more in regard to Marshall’s death. It was as sad a blow to me as any ever I had. He was the only one here I could go to with my little troubles. We met often after we got here. He was very healthy. It is strange that he should be the one selected but such is life. It is is strange to me how anyone escaped ball, shell, & bullets fell as thick as hail. I can’t realize. It all seems like a dream or ledger story. Should we go into another battle here, I don’t expect to come out as sound as I did this time for my turn must come with the rest.

Now wife, keep up good cheer. Think and pray often for me. I will do my best to come out safe and hurry back to see you. You don’t speak of getting the letters I wrote on the boat coming here. Give my regards to all. Kiss the babies for me. Accept & receive a big one for yourself and much love. Write twice a week. Direct to Pittsburgh Landing via Cairo although I believe we shall leave for the Mississippi river in a day or so. I will write just as often as I can. Write Wm. & Caroline for me. Tell them I am yet alive.

(Kiss) Goodbye, — Lester

¹ According to Leander Stillwell of Co. D., the 61st Illinois made the trip from St. Louis to Pittsburg Landing riding on the hurricane deck of the steamboat Empress. The 61st Illinois had been drilling at Benton Barracks from early February until 25 March when they left for Pittsburg Landing, arriving 31 March.

² Corp. Hiram Adolphus Holliday (1794-1862) of Co. D, 61st Illinois Infantry was a resident of Jerseyville, Illinois. He was 68 years old when taken prisoner in the fighting at Shiloh on 6 April 1862 and died of disease while a POW on 14 August 1862 at Macon, Georgia. A letter posted in Ancestry.com written in November 1862 by a fellow prisoner to Hiram’s wife relayed the following: “He was taken prisoner at Shiloh…and taken to Corinth, from there to Memphis, then to Mobile, from there to Tuscaloosa, thence to Montgomery, from there to Atlanta, and finally to Macon. His health up to the point he arrived at Montgomery had been poor as he was very much exposed. He got better then and when he arrived in Macon, he enjoyed tolerable good health till about the 9th of August [when] he was taken with the chill and fever, accompanied with the flux… On the 14th he was taken to the hospital and [placed] under the care of the Secesh doctor…and he gradually grew worse till the 24th of August at 6 o’clock p.m. [when] he died. …I first got acquainted with him at Tuscaloosa…[and] became must attached to him on account of his age, and uniformity and kind and happy disposition. …He was decently buried, and his grave marked by a board with his name, company, and regiment carved on it.” [letter written by 1st Sgt. Wm. B. Harvey, Co. E, 37th Indiana]




1862: Noah Deaton to William Deaton


John Tuttle of the 26th North Carolina Infantry

This letter was written by Pvt. Noah Deaton (1838-1922) of Co. H (“Moore’s Independents”), 26th North Carolina Infantry. Noah was the son of William Deaton (1813-1894) and Flora Bethune (1813-1900) of Caledonia, Moore county, North Carolina. [Note: Six of Deaton’s letters are housed in the William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan. In these letters, Noah wrote mainly about military movements and interactions between his regiment and Union soldiers, including several skirmishes in Virginia and North Carolina. On one occasion, North Carolina Governor Zebulon Vance accompanied the regiment, as the Yankees broke up telegraph and railroad lines and eventually skirmished with the rebels outside of Goldsboro, North Carolina (December 19, 1862). Shortly after the Battle of Gettysburg, Deaton expressed his fear that the conviction of his fellow soldiers was waning, but he staunchly refused to submit to “Old Abe” (July 8, 1864). Deaton composed the final letter while imprisoned at Point Lookout, where he manufactured rings and breast pins for the Union Army. He described his condition as tolerable, but expressed pleasure at hearing news from home (October 10, 1864). There are also letters by Deaton published on the website: Company H, 26th Regiment N. C. State Troops]

In this letter, Noah tells his father of Burnside’s expedition to take control of Newbern on the Neuse river in North Carolina.  Newbern was only lightly defended by confederate forces led by Gen. Lawerence O’B. Branch. The confederates were attacked by Burnside’s land forces on the morning of 14 March 1862 at Fort Thompson and succeeded in holding the Federals off for several hours but eventually retreated, burning the bridge over the Trent river into Newbern behind them. The confederates fell back to Kinston where they regrouped.

In the fighting at Newbern, The 26th North Carolina “was assigned to defend the right section of the Confederate line following Bullen Branch from the Atlantic and North Carolina Railroad, west to Bryce’s Creek. The right wing of the 26th NC’s line covered Weatherby Road and was manned by companies B, E and K of the 26th NC and several attachments, all under Lt. Col. Burgwyn’s command. The center of the 26th NC’s line, companies C, F, H and I, were under the direct command of Colonel Vance. The left wing of the 26th NC was defended by companies A, D and G, and was under the command of Major Carmichael. From this line, east to Wood’s Brickyard, occurred the most intense fighting of the day. For over three hours the 26th NC, with assistance from the 7th NC and 33rd NC, repelled the enemy’s assaults along the railroad and Bullen Branch. A final Union assault on the brickyard succeeded in breaking the Confederate center.” [Source]

Later in the war, Noah Deaton was taken prisoner at Bristoe Station on 14 October 1863. He was confined at the Old Capitol Prison in Washington D. C. and then later transferred to Point Lookout in Maryland. He was finally exchanged on 24 February 1865.

[Note: This letter is from the personal collection of Richard Weiner and is published by express consent]


Scenes in Harper’s Weekly pertaining to the Federals Taking Newbern, North Carolina


[Fairgrounds hospital, Goldsboro, North Carolina]
March 20th 1862

Mr. William Deaton
Dear father,

I seat myself to pencil you a few lines. I am in the hospital yet but as I have gained my health, I expect to start to the regiment tomorrow or next day. I am in the Fairground at Goldsboro, North Carolina. I hope this may reach and find you all well. I wrote you a few imperfect lines the other day — and as yet I am unable to give any correct account about the battle.

On the 13th of March, Burnside with his fleet of about 120 vessels sailed up the Neuse river throwing large quantities of shot and shell to both sides of the river and routed the 35th Regiment North Carolina volunteers, wounded 2 of Capt. Kelly’s men from Moore County. They retreated just before the 26th [N. C.] Regiment reached the place. It was five miles below our camp which was 5 miles below Newbern. The enemy landed large forces that day and our forces all gathered to the entrenchments and — notwithstanding the wet and disagreeable night — our men remained in the trenches until overpowered and driven back by the invading host next day. The fight lasted about 3½ hours but with what loss on either side I am unable to say. The enemy’s loss is very heavy and our loss is said to not be very great in killed but we lost most of our clothing and baggage and a great many arms. I believe if all of our men had displayed the same valor that was done by the 26th, 33rd, and 7th [N. C.] Regiments, that the enemy would have been defeated.

The 26th [N C.] Regiment held their position about 1 hour after all the rest of our men had retreated and come within an inch of being taken prisoners. When they reached Newbern, the bridges was burnt down and they were forced to swim a creek or be taken. They tried swimming and lost nearly all their guns and everything else. After a long and tiresome travel, they reached Kinston and joined our army. Our company was most wonderfully lucky to come out from such showers of balls. Capt. [William Pinckney] Martin was shot through the head and [Lewis] Brock Tysor ¹ was shot in the thigh. And while Dr. was dressing his wound, he was shot in the head. There was only 1 wound. Mr. Charles [Edward] Jones [1839-1915] was hit on the side of the head, glancing the bone but the would is not dangerous. Our Major [Abner B. Carmichael] was killed. He was shot through the head. There was one of Capt. Kelly’s men killed and 4 or 5 wounded.

The Yankees are living in Newbern now. There has been reinforcements coming in to Kinston ever since the fight and I think if the invaders come up there, they will get into a hornet’s nest. Our men was truly shielded by Providence or our loss would certainly have been great. I must close by saying God help us all and shield our heads in the hour of danger and at last save us in Heaven for the Redeemer’s sake. I remain your affectionate son till death, — Noah Deaton

P. S. Address to 26th Reg. N. C. V. [Co. H], Kinston, North Carolina

¹ Lewis Brock Tysor (1840-1862) was he son of Harris and Sally Tysor. He died of his wounds on 17 March 1862 — three days after the battle.


1866: Anna Bishop Schultz to Matthias Gray


Madame Anna Bishop

This incredible letter was written by 56 year-old Anna Bishop Schultz (1810-1884) — an “internationally acclaimed” opera singer who was “probably the most widely-traveled vocalist of the 19th Century. Born Anna Riviere in London, she initially studied piano at the Royal Academy of Music with composer Henry Rowley Bishop, whom she married in 1831. She switched to singing in 1837 and made her professional debut that year in a concert directed by her husband. Soon afterwards she fell in love with her frequent accompanist, the famous harp player and conductor Nicolas Bochsa, and the two scandalized England by running away together in 1839. From 1843 to 1845 Bishop was ‘prima donna assoluta’ at the San Carlo Opera in Naples, triumphing in works by Bellini and Donizetti, and in 1847 she and Bochsa launched an extensive North American tour. She did much to promote Italian opera in the United States and also produced and starred in the US premiere of Flotow’s “Martha” (1852). After Bochsa’s death in Australia in 1856 – Henry Bishop had died a few months earlier, refusing to the end to grant a divorce — she married an American speculator [named Martin Schultz] and continued her globe-trotting schedule solo. During her 44-year career Bishop conquered most of Europe’s opera houses and performed in Mexico, South America, China, Singapore, India, and South Africa. She survived a shipwreck near the Sandwich Islands in 1866. Her constant tours were at least partly necessitated by her need for a large income and only when her voice gave out completely did she retire, at 71. She died of a stroke at her Park Avenue home in Manhattan.” [source: Bobb Edwards — Find-A-Grave]

Anna wrote the letter to her friend Matthias Gray, an early-day music publisher in San Francisco, California


Guam, Mariana Islands, Pacific Ocean
April 24th 1866

My dear Gray,

I am taking the chance of any passing ship that I could send a line by to inform you and all friends of our having been shipwrecked on Wake Island ¹ (uninhabited), lost all boxes, costumes, wearing apparel, music &c. but thank God have been spared to reach this (Spanish) Island and are now anxiously awaiting the arrival of some vessel to take us to Manilla on our way to Hong Kong. We are well. Will write all particulars when I have means of forwarding a letter. I know all will sympathize with us.

Yours truly, with kind remembrances from all our party to all — Anna Bishop Schultz

¹ “Wake Island was the scene of the terrible demise of the German barque, Libelle. In 1866, the ship hit a a storm while en route from San Francisco to Hong Kong, colliding with the eastern reef of Wake and stranding Captain Tobias and his passengers on the wee coral atoll. Among the 30 shipwrecked were members of an English opera troupe on their first world tour, along with their star, opera singer Anna Bishop. Anna’s husband and New York diamond merchant Martin Schultz was also onboard.  After 21 days, the performers along with the rest of the survivors decided to sail a longboat and the gig out in hopes of reaching Guam. The boat containing Anna Bishop and Martin Schultz made it to the Spanish island, the other did not. The captain and much of the crew of the ill-fated Libelle perished when the gig capsized on the 14-day journey. It was said that Captain Tobias buried a small fortune on Wake Island before attempting to reach Guam—coins, stones and flasks of mercury in the value neighborhood of $150,000. The rumor was solid enough to motivate salvage attempts by five different ships, but the treasure was never recovered.” [Source]


One of many articles published in American newspapers; this one from 8 September 1866 in the Louisville Daily Courier


1838: George Lott Phillips to Hugh White

This letter was written by George Lott Phillips (1782-1852), an army officer, teacher, and school master. He was born in England, the son of Rev. John Lott Phillips (1747-1802) and Mary Ann Seale (1787-1832). Rev. Phillips was born in Philadelphia and graduated from Princeton College in 1774. He moved to Wake County, NC, where he was accused of being a Loyalist. He was imprisoned briefly in GA and then went to England. George entered the British Army and served as Captain of a unit that guarded Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte during his captivity on the Island of St. Helena. He emigrated to the U. S. and settled in Savannah, where he worked as a tutor. Around 1832, he moved to St. Augustine and established the Phillips Preparatory School, which he operated until 1847. During the Second Seminole War, he served 1835-1836 as Captain of a company in the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Regiment, of the Florida militia. George also served as a Justice of the Peace in 1838-1840 and as Acting Coroner in 1840. On January 1, 1849, he advertised the opening of an “evening school,” offering classes in arithmetic, navigation, surveying, French, and other subjects. George served as Mayor from 1851 to May 1852. He probably resigned his office due to ill health. On October 24, 1853, he died of “paralysis” at St. Augustine.

The letter was sent to Hugh White (1798-1870) — a noted cement manufacturer, U. S. Congressman, and banker. He was born in Whitestown, NY, the son of Hugh White Jr. (1763-1827) and Tryphena Lawrence (1768- 1800). After graduating from Hamilton College, he worked with his brother, the famous engineer Canvass White (1790-1834), on the construction of the Erie Canal. In 1828 Hugh married Marie Mills Mansfield (1808-1883). In 1830 he moved to Waterford, NY, near the village of Cohoes, had a grand mansion built, and became manager of the Cohoes Company. He later manufactured cement known as “White’s Cement” near Rosendale in Ulster County. In 1835-1836 Hugh visited St. Augustine and bought property there. In 1848 he sold all of his interest in his firm to the Newark & Rosendale Lime & Cement Co. He was a member of the Whig Party and served three terms as U. S. Congressman 1845-1851. The Hugh White Collection at Cornell University’s Division of Rare and Manuscript Letters contains numerous letters that mention Hugh White’s activities in St. Augustine. See The History of Ulster County, New York (2007), Bond of Union (2009), and Memorials of Elder John White (1860).

A substantial portion of this letter is devoted to a discussion of Hugh White’s property that was sold or taken by his cousin, Thomas Bulkley White (b. 1797). Thomas was the son of Joseph White (1761-1827) and Lucy Bulkley (1751-1810). It seems that Thomas went to St. Augustine and served as a private in the Florida militia for three months in 1836 during the Second Seminole War. This letter shows that Thomas left Florida in 1837 after absconding with some of his cousin’s property. On January 22, 1838, Thomas enlisted at Buffalo, NY, for three years as a Private in Co. C, 8th US Infantry Regiment. The maximum age for enlistment was 35 and Thomas, who was 40, stated that he was 34. His commander stated in June 1839 that Thomas had honorably completed his service by finding a substitute. On July 12, 1839, Thomas again enlisted as a private in the U. S. Army and was sent to Fort Shannon in East Florida. He served for five years in Co. A, 7th Infantry Regiment until his discharge on July 12, 1844, at Fort Wood, Louisiana. We could find no further information on him.

[Note: This letter is from the private collection of Richard Weiner and is published by express consent.]



St Augustine
1 April 1838

To Mr. Hugh White
Dear Sir,

I received your communication of the 12th of March the night before last, and I hasten to reply to as much of its contents, as I can do, in so short a time, but I have made all the enquiry I could & I find that Mr. T. B. White disposed of the following articles belonging to you, but which he gave out as his own property for services rendered. I am trying to find the names of the purchasers – and am aided by a gentleman who knows of some of his transactions – but I would first mention that I believe Mr. Henry left here chiefly on account of Mr. T. B. White’s conduct. All the trees in the lot sold to Messrs. Andrews & Lytle – side saddle to Lieut. Dansey – rifle to Mr. Woodruff – a gun to a gentleman who has left here – 2 barrels pork, 2 ferkins butter, 2 feather beds, safe, crockery, 1 single harness – log chains, pole chains – wheelbarrow, 3 kegs of nails. hoes, rakes and spades – sold. the wine and brandy & gin had all been consumed.

The following is a list of the things attached as his property by Mr Barcalaio, who since died & his executor came on a few weeks ago, and as no replevin had been made, they were sold to pay $26 and costs but they were in a perishable condition excepting the chains and axes – a balance of the sales of about $6 is in hand.

The following is a list of the things taken from the house when he [Thomas B. White] was driven from it for gross misconduct, taken by the constable, by Major Lytle & my Order. 1 Shot Gun, 1 wash and stand, 1 old carpet, 2 watering pots cracked – 1 tea kettle, 2 tin pails broken, 1 pair fire dogs, 1 bake kettle, 1 double harness attached, 1 shovel, 4 ax handles, 4 hatchets, 1 pick Axe, 4 augurs, 4 bunks sold by Mr. White after account was taken, before they could be recovered – 2 shot bags, 2 canisters gunpowder, ½ bag shot, some balls & lead, 1 candle stick, 1 broom, 2 fishing lines, 1 empty trunk taken afterwards by Mr. T. B. White, a fine table Mr. T. B. White’s, 1 basket of dirty clothing, 1 safe sold by Mr. White (before we could remove it) to Col. Gue – Mr. T. B. White broke into the house after he was turned out, and took the articles to which his name is affixed – 1 shovel and pr. tongs, 1 broken looking glass (of no use), 2 pair of hinges, 1 empty gin case bottom broken out, contg 12 square bottles – 4 chisels, 1 p. cotton cards, 1 pair door handles, 3 hammers, 1 adze, 2 iron squares, 3 planes, 1 p. whaffle irons, 1 box of nails about 3 lbs, 1 pine bed sted & [illegible], 1 wash and basin, 4 mason’s trowels – 3 blankets, 2 pillows, 1 pair of sheets, 4 straw paillasses [mattresses], 2 mattresses, 1 old umbrella, 2 shoe brushes, 1 pocket compass taken by Mr. T. B. White, 6 empty bottles, 2 chamber pots, 1 ink stand, 6 chairs taken by Mr. T. B. White also 2 saddles, 5 axes, 3 empty demi johns, attached with the harness and sold last Month. This inventory was taken the 10 May 1837.

You mistook me, if you think Judge [Elias B.] Gould ¹ [of St. Johns County probate court] did not get your letter in which was a power of attorney. He showed it to me, but did not act — only asked me not to allow the constable to sell the things attached until the last moment. He told me he had written to you, but you never answered his letters. When the executor of the late Wm. Barcalaio came on last month, he insisted upon the sale’s taken place. Mr. T. B. White left here under very suspicious circumstances, his conduct for some time had been notoriously bad. But after being found in a swamp at the back of the city half dead from excessive drink & exposure, Mr. Gould had compassion on him & took him to his house. He had not been there more than 5 or 6 days before Mr Gould’s pocket book with $93 in it was taken from off the table – and Mr. T. B. White left the city next morning at daylight & has not since been heard of.

I will not sell your things until I again hear from you. They are now in the garret of my house and during the meantime, I will see Mr [illegible], who resides here, and likewise endeavour to find out the purchasers of the articles sold by T. B. White.


Article from 26 March 1838 Southern Patriot, (Charleston, SC)

No charitable — no reasonable man — can have a doubt as to the cruelty the government has exercised to these miserable men. Had they been left alone, Florida would at this moment been doubly peopled and in a most flourishing condition. But now it is a scene of desolation, ruin, havock and murder. Last week no less than two gentlemen & 3 Negroes were killed by the Indians near Newnansville in Alachua. They had gone out to plant but fell under the rifle of the Seminole or lawless Creeks. It is next to an act of madness to think of planting or going into the country under existing circumstances. About three weeks ago two whole Families were murdered within 9 miles of Tallahassee.

Your friend old Dr Weodemann has suffered dreadfully – he is well, so is his family – he desires his respects. Dr. Peck ² is at present indisposed, he is building on the vacant lot that had the walls of a building standing opposite to Mrs. Gurthrie ³ – she is well. Genl. Sken Smith † purchased Dr. Anderson’s house near the Episcopal Church, pulled it down, & is now building a very large dwelling on that lot. Judge Wilkinson bought Mr. Gibbs’ new house near Fort Marion & the waterside – he is farming. I hope he will succeed.

Our orange trees begin to make a show – some think there will be a few oranges this year. We had cold weather but not severe until very lately – now we are in quite warm weather. The weather 81°.

I believe I have now ended all my budget – excepting that Dr. A. Anderson ‡ who lost his wife about 7 months ago, was married to Mrs. Fairbanks last Thursday night & his eldest daughter is to be married in 15 days to a Mr. Northup — a lawyer in Charleston.

I open the letter again to say I have just seen Jacob Brown who tells me that Mr Levy — a young lawyer — has the papers, & that he believes they are all ready. He said you have still $400 to pay. I hardly know how to advise you on this matter, but Mr. Brown does not seem to be in haste. I will see Mr. Levy and write again. You will hear again from me soon – but as I have the articles left in my house, I shall not dispose of them until I again hear from you unless I have a very fair offer for them. Our strangers are being off and markets will become dull. You had better write to Mr. Brown. He lives in this city, but is at present up the North River [sentence crossed out]. I shall see him and do the needful. I do not think Major Lytle will live long – he is in the large stage of a consumption.

I am dear sir, yours very respectfully, — Geo. L Phillips

¹ Elias B. Gould (1786-1855) was a well-known figure in St. Augustine. He served as a Justice of the Peace (1827), Captain in the Florida militia (1837), newspaper publisher, Probate Judge, and County Judge for St. Johns County. His son, James M. Gould (1808-1878), married George L. Phillips’ daughter Mary A. Phillips (1808-?).

² Dr. Seth Smith Peck (1790-1841) moved from Whitesboro to St. Augustine in 1833. In 1837 he purchased a deteriorated house and made repairs and alterations. It became known as the Pena-Peck House. His granddaughter Anna Gardner Burt (1850-1931) donated the house to the city for a museum. In 1932 the Women’s Exchange of St. Augustine assumed responsibility for this historic house. See Historic Homes of Florida’s First Coast (2014) and St. Johns County Will Book C (p. 56, July 22, 1930).

³ Mrs. Gurthrie” refers to Rachel Thompson Girty (c. 1790-1863). Rachel was born in Ireland and emigrated to Charleston, SC, in the early 1800’s. In 1817 she married William Girty (17xx-1817) in Charleston. Shortly after her husband’s death, she moved to St. Augustine and in 1821 she opened a school in the basement of the City Hall. She purchased a house on St. George Street in Lot 5, Block 15, across from the Pena-Peck House. Rachel was a close friend of the Peck family. She passed away in St. Augustine and is buried in the Huguenot Cemetery. Rachel bequeathed her house to the Peck family. In 1930 Anna Gardner Burt donated the house to the Memorial Presbyterian Church. See The South Carolina Historical Magazine (1941), Minute Book of the St. Augustine Council 1821-1823, Historic Block and Overlay Maps (Block 15, St. Augustine, 1954, Univ. of Florida Digital Collections), Daring Daughters (2002), and St. Johns County Will Book C (p. 56, July 22, 1930).

† General Peter Sken Smith (1795-1858) was an investor, speculator, newspaper publisher, and militia officer. He was born in Utica, NY, the son of Peter Smith (1768-1837) and Elizabeth Livingston (1778-1818). He was the brother of abolitionist Gerrit Smith. He began working as a merchant and then studied law, practicing for a period in Chenango County. He moved to St. Augustine and established a business partnership with Dr. Andrew A. Anderson. This letter shows that he purchased Dr. Anderson’s house, demolished it, and built a large and expensive house on the site. By 1844 Smith moved to Philadelphia, became a leader of the Native American Party, and edited the Native Eagle. Smith died at Springfield, MA, and is buried in Peterboro Cemetery, Madison County, NY. In 1847 Smith’s house and lot in St. Augustine sold for $2,000. Years later, Lewis H. Tyler operated it as the Tyler House hotel. In 1887 Tyler enlarged it and renamed it the Hotel St. George. In 1941 Trinity Episcopal Church bought the St. George Hotel, demolished it, and used the site for a parish hall. See St. Augustine in the Roaring Twenties (2012), Heaven’s Soldiers (2013), The Websters: Letters of an American Army Family in Peace and War, 1836-1853 (2000), The History of St. Augustine, Florida (1881), The Liberator (June 4, 1858), and The Opal, Vol. 8 (Utica, 1858).

‡ Dr. Andrew A. Anderson (1790-1839) was a New York physician who moved to St. Augustine in 1829 with his wife, Mary Watt Anderson (1795-1837). Dr. Anderson served as an Alderman, Justice of the Peace, and Elder in the Presbyterian Church. His house was located on St. George St. opposite the Post Office. His second wife, mentioned in the letter, was Clarissa Cochran Fairbanks (1800- 1881). Dr. Anderson passed away before the completion of his new home “Markland.” This historic mansion was completed in 1840. See The History of St. Augustine, Florida (1881).

Other people in this letter include:

  • “Lieutenant Dansey” refers to Francis Littleberry Dancy (1806-1890). In 1826 he graduated from West Point and served as an Engineer. In 1836 he resigned his commission and began working as a civil engineer for the U. S. Army. One of his projects included the construction of a sea wall at St. Augustine 1836-1838. He served as Mayor of St. Augustine 1838-1839 and then served as a Colonel in the Florida militia 1840-1841 during the Second Seminole War. Afterwards, Dancy lived on his plantation at Orange Mills in Putnam County, where he became one of the largest citrus growers in FL. The Dancy Orange is named after him. See Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the U. S. Military Academy… (1868) and Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army (1903).
  • “old Dr. Weodemann” refers to Dr. Philip Weedman Sr. (c. 1785-1839), a prominent physician and surgeon. He was born in Mainz, Germany. In 1803 he emigrated to the U. S. and settled in St. Augustine. According to an account in the Newbern Spectator (NC, December 13, 1839), Dr. Weedman was “shot at by the Indians” and killed while traveling on the stage from St. Augustine to his nearby plantation. See Ponce de Leon Land and Florida War Record (1902).
  • “Mr Barcalaio” refers to William Barcalow (1794-1838), the son of Farrington Barcalow (1771-1854) and Hannah Bennett (1775-1854) of Somerset County, NJ. In 1826 William was operating a tavern in Somerville, Somerset County. By 1836 he moved to St. Augustine, where he worked as a merchant. On March 20, 1838, William’s son Farrington Barcalow appeared before County Court Judge Elias B. Gould to enter his father’s will in probate. George L. Phillips was one of the witnesses to Barcalow’s will. See Somerset County Historical Quarterly, Vol. 8 (1919) and The St. Augustine Record (July 4, 1937).
  • Francis Gue (?-1847) was a St. Augustine merchant. He served as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Florida militia during the Second Seminole War 1835-1836. See Florida Militia Muster Rolls, Seminole Indian Wars, Vol. 8 (online edition, 2010), and the Jacksonville Courier (FL, August 6, 1835).
  • Major Christopher Andrews and Major John S. Lytle (1800-1839) both served as Paymasters in the U. S. Army in Florida. They formed the partnership Andrews & Lytle to speculate in the acquisition and development of lands in and around St. Augustine. See The Territory of Florida (1837), Army and Navy Chronicle, and Scientific Repository (1837, 1839), Official Army Register for 1840, and Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army (1903).
  • Jacob Brown (1812-1841) was born in Brownville, Jefferson County, NY, the son of General Jacob Jennings Brown, Commanding General of the U. S. Army. Jacob entered West Point in 1827 and later lived in St. Augustine.
  • “Mr. Levy” was David Levy Yulee – the son of Moses Elias Levy, a Moroccan Jew who made his fortune in timber in the Carribean, then bought 50,000 acres of land near Jacksonville, Florida, hoping to create a New Jerusalem for Jewish settlers. David went to school in Norfolk, Virginia, and then studied law in St. Augustine. When Florida was admitted to the Union in 1845, David became one the new state’s senators and, at the same time, became the first Jew elected to the United States Senate. Soon after his marriage in 1846, David Levy changed his named legally to David Levy Yulee after one of his ancestors.



1812: Joshua Lewis to Edmund Pendleton Gaines


Judge Joshua Lewis (1772-1833)

This intriguing letter was penned by 40 year-old Judge Joshua Lewis (1772-1833) — cousin of Merriweather Lewis (of Lewis & Clark Expedition fame). Judge Lewis wrote the letter from New Orleans where he was serving as a judge of the Superior Court of the Territory of Orleans created after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. He had previously served in New Orleans as a commissioner of land titles. During the War of 1812, Lewis served as a captain of militia under General Andrew Jackson.

Judge Lewis wrote the letter to Capt. Edmund Pendleton Gaines (1877-1849) who, in anticipation of a war with Great Britain, had just recently returned to the U. S. Army and was in command of Fort Stoddert, upriver from Mobile, Alabama — an outpost placed very close to the territory of Spanish Florida. Gaines had earned a name for himself when he arrested Aaron Burr on a charge of treason for his conspiracy to create a Southwest republic on Spanish territory.

What makes Lewis’s letter of special interest is his cryptic reference to events which, by the early summer of 1812, were expected to result in “a change in the Government of Florida.” Lewis was probably aware that, before hostilities began between the U. S. and England, President Madison had commissioned an ex-Govrenor of Georgia as a secret agent to plot the seizure of Florida from Spain. U. S. troops were already marched into Spanish West Florida in 1810 after Americans there had launched a rebellion. So it was no great surprise to knowledgeable men when, on 14 March 1812 — a month before this letter was written — that an “East Florida Revolution” had broken out, the rebels being expected to wrest St. Augustine from Spain and then request annexation to the United States. No doubt Lewis and other New Orleans officials believed that this “Patriot War” would soon lead to American control of all Florida. Little did they know that the Madison Administration would yield to British protests of the revolt against their Spanish allies and disavow their secret agent and the American settlers revolting there, leaving them to carry on without any federal support. Not until Gen. Andrew Jackson led federal troops into Spanish Florida several years later to suppress Indian border raids would the U. S. make a play for Florida.

The content of the letter may pertain to the licensing of lawyers within the bounds of the newly created State of Louisiana which won its statehood just three days after this was letter written.

[Note: This letter is from the personal collection of Richard Weiner and much of the research is his as well as most of the introductory material.]

Addressed to Capt. Gaines, Ft. Stoddert
postmarked New Orleans, La.

New Orleans
27th April 1812

Dear Sir,

I received your letter with the certificate it enclosed and ought to have answered it sooner; but it will make little or no difference as I presume the object sought for would not have been advanced by it. The certificates were satisfactory and I have no doubt there would have been no difficulty in licensing the gentlemen named in them had a personal application been made. The Statute makes it our duty to examine before we license. I know of no instance in which we have granted license where the applicant had not in person satisfied, at least, one of the judges of his fitness &c.


Edmund P. Gaines in the late 1840s

The other judges are now on circuit and will not be here until the first of June. And there will, in all probability, by that time, or shortly after, be such a change in the Government of Florida as would render a license of very little use. If however those gentlemen are desirous of obtaining license immediately, they will not, I presume, find any difficulty upon a personal application at any time that suits their convenience.

Please make my best respects to Judge Toulmin ¹ and family and accept my best wishes for your happiness & prosperity.

— Joshua Lewis

¹ Harry Toulmin (1766-1823) was a Unitarian minister and politician. After serving as the Secretary of State in Kentucky, President Jefferson appointed him Superior Court Judge for the Tombigbee District of the Mississippi Territory.  He was the first U.S. district judge to hold court on Alabama soil. As the highest-ranking authority in the large territory, he tried to prevent residents in his jurisdiction from conducting raids against the Spanish in West Florida and from participating in the Creek War between two rival factions of Creek Indians. When the state of Alabama was formed from part of Toulmin’s district, he helped write the new state’s constitution and was elected to the state legislature.



1836: Theodorick Alexander Bennett to John Bennett

Ark statehood logo 1836 r1

Arkansas entered the Union in 1836

This letter was written by 22 year-old Theodorick Alexander Bennett (1814-1838) to his brother, John Bennett (1805-1885). They were two of at least nine children born to Richard Everard Bennett (1779-1828) and Ann Carter (1783-1844) of Halifax County, Virginia.

Theodorick was married to Mary Nelson (18xx-1848) in Mecklenburg, Virginia, on 12 January 1838. In the letter he mentions his newborn daughter, yet unnamed, who was born on 20 June 1836. They would eventually name her Lucy Anne Bennett (1836-1879). They would have one more child, Mary Nelson Bennett, born 1838), before Theodorick died in June 1838.

The letter was written from Springhill township, Hempstead county, Arkansas, just two months after Arkansas entered the Union as the 25th state. It contains a great description of the frustration felt by land speculators in Arkansas in the period immediately following President Jackson’s issuance of the “Species Circular” on 11 July 1836 — an executive order that declared that federal land could no longer be bought with paper money but only with gold or silver.  [See President Andrew Jackson issues the Specie Circular]


Addressed to John Bennett, Esq., Petersburg, Sangamon county, Illinois

Spring Hill [Arkansas]
August 14, 1836

Dear Brother,

Yours of the 18th July came to hand yesterday covering the deed to Mrs. Lucas. I will have it acknowledged as soon as our justices are qualified under our new state laws. We have no justices of the peace nearer than 15 miles of us now.

I have not much to tell you that would interest you. The health of our country is improving fast. Mary’s health is now entirely history & she is fattening fast. Worborne nor myself have neither been at all sick. Our little girl is one offenist [?] children in all the world. She grows very fast. We have not yet found a name for her. I shall go to New York some time in January next. I want you to make an arrangement to meet me there. My business is first rate yet & will continue so as long as I can keep the goods. The profits are good enough.

I am sorry to hear that mother has had a return of her chills & cough. I hope they will be of short duration. I am very glad to hear that your country is yet healthy. I hope it may continue so.

Mr. Nelson & family will all be off from Va. for Arkansas in September. He has instructed me to have his house built & buy provisions for his family & Toms. Nathan D. through Mr. Waldo enquires whether I think he could do anything in this country. You may say to him for me that anybody can do well here that will try. He can get a school at this place worth 6 or $800 the first year & perhaps [more]. In fact, I have no doubt but the next year a school at this place would be worth $1,000. As for clerking here, I can’t say what can be done. $600 has been good here for some clerks & can be had at many places on the rivers but I would not live on there now for $6,000. He can perhaps get 5 or 600 dollars at Washington from some of the merchants but I can’t say anything positive about. I don’t know whether Nathan would like this country, but I am sure that no Virginian would exchange this for a dozen such states as Illinois. This is a much more desirable country in every respect than Illinois, for everyone who is not so much prejudiced against Negroes. There is more satisfaction to be seen here in ever respect & in fact, I would not exchange it for any in the Union although the country is a complete graveyard on the rivers. Vines Browderick [?] is the only man now living on Red River. Nearly all have died or moved to the hills. The old settlers say they never saw such times before. The reason is that there are 6 persons here this year to one last & will be 3 next year to one  this. Spring Hill & all the hills far enough from the river & lakes are as healthy as can be desired — in fact, as healthy as Va. or any other place. Tell Nathan that Yankees get on pretty well here. There are a good many here & all doing well.

I am improving my lots in Spring Hill pretty fast. Houses are in great demand. Our country is crowded with land hunters. Land is rising fast. No uplands in 6 months I am sure can be bought for less than $10 & I hope from high land crops this that the best high lands will sell for a good deal more.

If I had paper & time I could write a week but it would be nonsense so I will conclude by telling something about our friends. Mrs. Cunningham is in bad health. She has consumption. Her health has not been good this year. Little Bob is sick with worms but not much. All our Virginia friends here are well & all satisfied. Mrs. Loots has become well and has better health than when she lived in Va. Remember all our dear relations & kiss the children for us.

Affectionately yours, — Theo. A. Bennett

August 16th

The late land arrangements have frustrated the land speculators very much indeed. I went to Washington yesterday to enter some land & could only file my application [   ] being absent & the office was crowded with people all cursing Gen. Jackson or anyone who had any hand in making the late arrangements. The fact is we are in a bad fix being compelled to buy land with gold & silver when it is next to impossible to get it here.

I intend to go to see little Robert & Cunningham this morning. I heard last night that he was dangerously sick but I hope the news was not true.

We are all well this morning. The baby is a great deal prettier than she was or when I wrote the first part of the letter. — T.A.B.


1865: J. Lewis Pierson to Mary Emma Durie

I assume this letter was written by J. Lewis Pierson of Co. C, 39th New Jersey. It seems clear from the letter that he served with William Britton Durie (1840-1916) who was in that company and regiment in May 1865 when this letter was written.

The author wrote the letter to Mary Emma Durie (1846-1927), the daughter of Samuel Durie (1814-1901) and Nancy Maxwell (1817-1891) of New Providence, Union County, New Jersey. Emma’s brother, William Brittin Durie (1840-1916) was in Co. C, 39th New Jersey during 1864 and 1865. The 39th New Jersey manned the breastworks at City Point, Va., October, 1864, then moved to Poplar Grove Church. Battle of Boydton Plank Road, Hatcher’s Run, Va., October 27-28, 1864. Siege of Petersburg till April 2, 1865. Appomattox Campaign March 28-April 2, 1865. Assault on and capture of Petersburg April 2. Pursuit of Lee April 3-9. Appomattox Court House April 9. Surrender of Lee and his army. Moved to City Point, thence to Washington and Alexandria April 20-27. Grand Review May 23. Mustered out June 17, 1865.

The 39th New Jersey Infantry was attached to the 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, 9th Army Corps.


Addressed to Miss M. E. Durie, New Providence, N. J.
Postmarked Alexandria, Virginia

Headquarters Second Div. Ninth Army Corps
Office Assistant Commissary of Musters
Near Alexandria, Va.
May 11th 1865

Friend Emma,

Your note of the 4th instant duly received on the 8th and I thank you for the prompt response my last met with.

Your letter has not been answered before for this reason — excuse me if I speak plainly — I have waited in order to think what kind of a letter I should write in reply. The first time I perused that letter, I thought you had tired of the correspondence and wrote as cooly as you did to give me the hint — and then again I thought the reports of Miss M. E. Condic’s had lessened your friendship for me — that you would sooner believe the statements of one of your own sex than the mere appearance of one of the opposite sex, and had I given your letter an immediate reply, it would have displeased you. But now that I have taken a “sober second thought” (I was not intoxicated when your letter reached me) I hope I was mistaken. At least I will write as if I was and if you are displeased with me and wish to end the correspondence, please say so plainly for I endeavor to treat everyone candidly and hope to secure the same treatment from them.

If the ladies of the North consider it a pleasure to receive letters from the soldiers, they in return consider it both a pleasure and an honor to correspond with the fair damsels of the North.

I too hope it may prove time that we may soon retire to the society of the loved ones at home. One regiment in our Division has received a sixty days furlough and will soon leave for home. We all feel that if our work is done we should be at liberty and if it is not, it should be completed now. I would give one hundred dollars in gold to be at home for one hundred hours — but am not homesick.

I should like to see that “fashion of your own” you are going to establish in reference to your bonnet. You must be exceedingly independent to transgress the rules of society.

No, Emma, I have not forgotten that promise to send you one of my cards [CDVs] and will fulfill it just as soon as possible. As yet, those I ordered in Newark have not arrived but I will have some taken in Washington just as soon as possible and you shall receive a good one. And while speaking of promises, allow me to remind you that promised me a longer letter next time.

I sincerely pity your brother Britten. They are just killing him at these headquarters. If you will believe me, they make him do two hours duty out of every twenty-four and both he and I are getting most outrageously lazy.

Today the sun shines for the first time this week and I reckon it is a welcome visitor.

Does William give you any description of Alexandria and its inhabitants? If his ideas coincide with mind, he will pronounce the whole set a disgusting spectacle. I am disgusted with the whole Southern people and wish we could establish a protective tariff by making a wall in the Atlantic Ocean by piling them up in it. Now is not that a barbarous idea?

I cannot write more and if you knew the circumstances under which this has been written, you [would] excuse all errors and insufficiencies.

Please let me hear from you very soon and tell me just what you think of this letter.

I remain your sincere friend, — Lew



1862: Rufus Greenleaf Norris to Albert Lane Norris


Asst. Surgeon Albert L. Norris, 114th USCT (1864)

This letter was written by Corp. Rufus Greenleaf Norris (1839-1873) who mustered into Co. B, 11th Connecticut Infantry, on 24 October 1861, and was discharged from the service on 7 November 1862 at David’s Island in New York. Rufus was the son of Greenleaf Rufus Norris (1796-1840) and Lucinda Lane (1811-1899) of Epping, Rockingham County, New Hampshire.

Rufus wrote the letter to his brother, Albert Lane Norris (1839-1919) — a physician in Boston. Albert received his medical degree from Harvard in 1860. Norris later served as  an assistant surgeon with the 114th USCT.


Addressed to Albert L. Norris, Esq., 94 Hanover Street, Boston, Mass.

Newbern, North Carolina
May 1st 1862

Dear Brother,

I wrote you on the 22nd of April and sent you a box by Adams & Co.  Express. Presume you have received them ‘ere this. Pay the Express with my money as I could not pay it here. I did not leave the hospital until the 29th. Came up on the Steamer General Burnside. Arrived here last night. Am gaining strength every day but am not fit for duty yet &c.


Patriotic Letterhead on Norris Letter

Am glad to get into camp again. It is much pleasanter here than at Hatteras. It seems quite like summer today. Find there have been some changes in Company B. Capt. [Timothy D.] Johnson and Lieut. [William] Horton have resigned and gone home. Lieutenant Samuel G. Bailey (of Co. A) is our captain, Lieut. [Joseph H.] Converse is First Lieut., Orderly Sergt. [George A.] Fisher is Second Lieut., Sergeant Charles Warren is Orderly Sergeant. One of our number was killed in the Battle of Newbern, two wounded, and since then, three have been taken prisoners. Find the men in excellent health and spirits. There is but one man in the hospital now &c.

Have not received your box yet. Doctor [Charles H.] Rogers says he will send it to me from Hatteras when it gets there. We expect a mail tomorrow when I shall expect a letter from you &c.

Thursday evening. Your letter of the 21st inst. is duly received and as I understand the mail is to leave early in the morning, I hasten to reply. I have received only three of your letters. Sergt. [Charles] Warren says Capt. [Timothy] Johnson took one of them with him on his way home intending to call and see me, but he did not call so I suppose he took it home with him. Please send me that letter of seven pages written on your return from Epping. It is now roll call. Good night.

Yours truly, — R. G. Norris