1862-1863: Henry Dana Parmenter to Lois Maynard (Damon) Parmenter

These letters were written by Corp. Henry Dana Parmenter (1834-1907) who enlisted on 17 September 1862 in Co. F, 45th Massachusetts Infantry. Henry was the son of Jonathan Dana Parmenter (1794-1865) and Lois Maynard Damon (18xx-1874) of Wayland, Middlesex County, Massachusetts. Henry and his brother Maynard (1831-1921) were cattle farmers; neither of them ever married. Together they amassed a considerable fortune after the war by investing in cotton mills.

The 45th Regt. Mass. Vol. Mil., or Cadet Regiment, was one of the new militia regiments raised in response to the call of Aug. 4, 1862, for nine months troops. It received the title by which it was commonly known because of the fact that over forty of the commissioned officers of the regiment were former members of the Boston Cadets. Its commander, Col. Charles R. Codman, had served as Captain and Adjutant of the Boston Cadets during their period of service at Fort Warren in the early summer of 1862. Organized at Camp Meigs, Readville, in the early fall of 1862, the first eight companies of the 45th were mustered in on the 26th day of September, and the other two, “I” and “K”, on the 7th of October.

On Nov. 5, the regiment embarked on the steamer Mississippi for Beaufort, N. C., arriving at its destination on the 15th. Transported by rail to Newbern, it was here assigned to Amory’s Brigade of Foster’s Division. The regimental Camp was established on the banks of the Trent River near Fort Gaston. Here the 45th remained, following the regular routine of camp life, until Dec. 12, when it set out with Genl. Foster’s expedition to Goldsboro. Only eight companies took part in this expedition, Co. “C” having been sent on special duty to Morehead City, and Co. ” G ” to Fort Macon.

At Kinston, Dec. 14, the regiment had its first taste of real wax, losing 15 men killed and 43 wounded. At Whitehall, Dec. 16, it was again engaged, losing 4 killed and 16 wounded. At Goldsboro on the 17th the 45th was not in action, and on the following day it began its return march to Newbern, arriving at its former camp Dec. 21.

On January 17, 1863, the 45th started on a reconnaissance to Trenton, returning on the 22d. From Jany. 26 to April 26 it served as provost guard in the city of Newbern. During this period, on March 14, occurred the Confederate attack on Newbern, of which the 45th was an interested spectator but was not called into action.

On April 27 it started with Amory’s Brigade on an expedition to Cove Creek on the railroad toward Goldsboro. On the following day it was sharply engaged, taking a Confederate work which crowded the railroad near its intersection with the Dover Road, and losing one man killed and four wounded.

This expedition being ended, the regiment returned to its last camp, near Fort Spinola, just below Newbern, on the Trent. Here it remained until June 24, when it proceeded to Morehead City, a suburb of Beaufort, N. C., and there took transports for Boston.
Arriving at its destination June 30, the regiment was formally welcomed, then proceeded to its old camp at Readville where it remained until its muster out of the service July 8, 1863.

CampAmory

Camp Amory on the Trent River, December 1862

TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE

Camp Amory on the Trent [near Fort Gaston]
Newbern [North Carolina]
December 7th 1862

Dear Mother,

I had been waiting so long for a letter from home that I was almost discouraged — the mail had been delayed so long. I wrote my last letter home on the 28th of November & as I had written so many, I thought I would wait for an answer from one of them before sending another. Yesterday I received yours dated the 28th ult. I was glad to hear from home but had hoped for more cheering news. I am very glad that Mike is with you this winter & that [brother] Maynard is getting better. I think he was fortunate in having the biles for they probably saved him from a bad fever.

I am well — never better. The climate is delightful most of the time. It seems like spring. Last night and today have been the coldest that we have had. Water froze a little outside the buildings but the Trent River did not freeze at all. The Trent runs right beside our camp & we wash & bathe in it every morning. I wrote [sister] Louisa last and gave her an account of our Thanksgiving.

Sunday morning we had a grand inspection of everything we possess or have charge of & of our persons. The Regiment were marched out on the parade ground with knapsacks packed and equipment all on and rifle in hand and were there personally inspected. I have my clothes washed by a negro woman. She charges five cents apiece for shirts and drawers which I had rather pay than undertake to do myself.

codman

Col. Charles R. Codman, 45th Massachusetts

Monday morning we were aroused at about three o’clock in the morning by the long roll being beat. We all sprung to our arms and in five minutes from the time the drum beat we were all formed in line before our barracks & ready & waiting orders. We were ordered to load our rifles which we did. The boys were all ready and anxious for a brush but were to be disappointed it proved. Our pickets are out three or four miles and are placed at five different stations. Their orders are to “Halt” everyone whom they see in the night which if they do & upon being required, give the countersign it is all right, but if they do not halt immediately at the word “Halt,” the picket is to fire at them, which fire is repeated at the next picket station nearer to the camp which fire three guns & rouses the camp. It seems the outer picket saw a stump in the dark which deceived him & caused him to fire & we were aroused. The Colonel [Charles R. Codman] sent out a messenger as soon as we were formed in line which returned in about an hour and a half during which time we were kept under orders & then allowed to return to our barracks.

Brig. General Foster is very highly pleased with our regiment. Co. C of the regiment is now at Morehead City doing garrison duty & Co. G is at Fort Macon also doing garrison duty. Co. G contains Stearns, Smith & Warren. It is said to be a mark of honor for a regiment to be divided up as this seems to be. I should like to go to some place like Fort Macon if we have got to be separated from the regiment.

I have just heard that Banks with a fleet of forty-seven vessels has just been signaled off Beaufort harbor. If that is the case, some fighting may be expected near Charleston, I reckon. An expedition is underway from here, I have heard, but our regiment has not been notified of any. We drill in Battalion drill every afternoon now — the 23rd, 43rd, 45th, & 17th Massachusetts Regiments. The drill of the 23rd & 17th is very fine but the officers say that we are improving very fast and shall soon be equal to the old regiments in drill.

I was out on picket duty last Thursday. I had charge of Post 2, distant about one mile from camp & had three men under me. My orders were to keep one of the men awake and on the alert all of the time. Carried out one of Cooper’s works & sat down under a brush shelter & read two hours & told one man he was relieved & ordered another to take his place. During the day we had a good fire & cooked our beefsteak & roasted sweet potatoes but in the night we were to keep a smothered fire. Not a Rebel has been seen at any of the picket stations since our regiment has been on picket duty. My labor on picket is very light but I have to keep awake for the whole twenty-four hours. I wish you would send me the papers now and then as often as you can economically.

stone

Rev. Andrew Leete Stone

I received a letter from Ellen Damon when we laid in Boston Harbor & have answered it since I have been here. Our Chaplain [Rev. Andrew Leete Stone] is liked by everyone in the camp. He is very earnest & mingles with the men easily. There is to be a Pioneer Corps sent out from Newbern. Lieut. [Samuel C.] Ellis & Sergeant [Joseph H.] Bird & Private George Haynes will leave from our company. I cannot say about its being a permanent division from the company. Haynes is Emery Haynes’ son. He goes as carpenter.

Our food in camp is better than it has been. We are allowed one loaf of soft bread a week and as much hard tack as we wish. Today [Sgt. Homer] Rogers & myself took a walk a little ways outside of the lines through the woods. All the timber used here is the fat southern pine which we use north for floorboards. The pines grow very large on the banks of the Trent River. At a farmhouse a few miles out, milk can be bought in limited quantities at twenty-five cents per quart. Not much anything happens to interrupt the monotony of life. The arrival of the mail yesterday made the boys feel happy for a time, I assure you.

Jane could have any quantity of pets in the shape of little pigs if she was here. They are all contrabands of the government — feeds hundred of men in Newbern. The roll of contrabands is called every morning & they take their food and set at work if there is anything for them to do.

Write often & give my love to all who may enquire. — Henry


kinston

Battle of Kinston showing attack route through the swamp by the 45th Massachusetts

TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO

Camp Amory on the Trent
Newbern [North Carolina]
December 24, 1862

Dear [sister] Louisa,

I received yours dated 3rd inst. last Sunday immediately after my return from our late expedition I found four letter awaiting me — one from home, one from Ellen [Damon], one from Theodore B., & one from you. I have complied with your suggestion & have written to Mr. Draper an account of our late expedition. We have done nothing as yet since our return — not even drilled at all. Many are laid up with sore feet & other afflictions incident to a long hard tramp. We were successful in every point & the idea was prevalent amongst the whole of our force that there was a general movement throughout the entire army & the beautiful weather seemed so favorable that we were all in good spirits & bore the hardships of the expedition with a much better feeling than we otherwise should.

I will not write you anything about the battles as I have written a pretty full account of them which you will probably see. I got through safely & did my duty. We generally bivouacked for the night on the march on a large plantation where were large piles of sweet potatoes & droves of swine which we had perfect liberty to take for our own use. Plates, sticks, & everything you can think of were improvised for cooking utensils. If there was any honey or poultry near us, it was so much the better. Corn shucks were gathered for a bed & we piled together as thick as we could to keep warm. [Sgt. Homer] Rogers, [Corp. Arthur] Dakin, & myself usually managed to get together & cook what we had together.

Kinston is a very pretty place & looks more like a Northern town of any I have seen. Nearly all of the buildings in North Carolina are built with the chimneys outside the house but in Kinston they are not. I saw some very pretty young ladies here but could not have any conversation with them. I saw large fields of cotton not gathered as we passed along & nearly every plantation had its cotton gin.

Daland

Capt. Edward F. Daland, Co. F, 45th Mass.

I saw Capt. [Joseph Lewis] Stackpole [of the 24th Massachusetts] quite often during the trip riding up and down from the advance to the rear of the column. He superintended the foraging of beef & pork & our foraging party spoke highly of him. I heard him give an account of the Battle at Goldsboro at which our brigade was not drawn in. When we were scrambling through the swamp at Kinston during the fight, my blankets slipped from my shoulders unbeknown to me & were lost. After the battle, I went back with Capt. [Edward F.] Daland but could not find them, but took some others as near like them as I could.

Much as we hear about the want and misery of the rebels, I “cannot see it.” They were clothed in a light grey suit which looks shabby but is really a comfortable suit. Their arms are not equal to ours to be sure, but I think they know better how to use them. They are well shod as far as I have seen & as far as I have seen are as intelligent & fight like the very devil. Those that were taken in Kinston said that they had not been compelled to join the army & a person whose property was guarded in that place & who professed to be for the Union said that he had always spoken his sentiments & had never been molested — true or not, you have it as cheap as I.

I have stood the tramp as well as any. [Sgt. Homer] Rogers is well & desires to be remembered to you. [Corp. Arthur] Dakin is somewhat the worse for wear but is improving. Doct. [Edward P.] Bond drove a mule cart on the expedition & carried the Colonel’s baggage. Contraband flocked in upon us on our return & crowds of them came into Newbern. The boys hired many of them to carry their blankets for them. I got mine carried the last three days. [Pvt. William] Scott of Sudbury foraged a mule & took his traps & rode ahead and reached camp a day before we did. We now use him to draw wood, etc. I have not received that for which the folks sent yet but believe that all the letters & papers have got here safely.

Write often — Henry

swamp

The 45th Massachusetts in the Kinston Swamp


TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE

Camp Amory on the Trent
Newbern [North Carolina]
January 4th 1863

Dear Mother,

I received yours dated 14th December and expect another from you tomorrow as I hear that there is a mail in Newbern which will be distributed then. I am in very good health & live as well as circumstances will allow. Yesterday we were paid off up to the first of November being a little over a month’s pay. we were paid in greenbacks & they were very acceptable to many of the boys. The allotment roll which we signed at Readville is of no value for some reason & we were paid the full amount. I shall send home a little reserving a sufficient sum for my own use.

Mr. Bond (the gentleman with whom Bond — the connection of the Wrights in Wayland is in business with — has been here visiting his sons, one of whom is 1st Lieutenant & the other Orderly Sergeant in Co. B.

We are having beautiful weather now. Have hardly had a stormy day for six weeks. New Years Day was a little blustering but it is now warm again & today it seems like a warm day in November at home. There are more troops collecting at Newbern than have been ever here before & another expedition is supposed to be on foot, probably to Wilmington.

You will probably have heard before receiving this of the loss of the Monitor near Hatteras. She was swamped, drawn under & sunk. The vessel towing her going too fast for her, drew her under & she sank & everything on board went under.

We seem to have nothing but reverses in Virginia & in order to counteract the effect of such news, Gen. [John G.] Foster’s success in our late expedition is blowed about until it is fairly disgusting to read the accounts. To be sure, we were successful in destroying the railroad communication at several points & beat the Rebels in every engagement, but with the exception of the battle at or near Goldsboro, our loss in killed and wounded was greater by far than theirs. Everybody here say that they make too much of a hue & cry about the [Goldsboro] Expedition.

Sturgis

Major Russell Sturgis, 45th Mass.

Major [Russell] Sturgis has been up toward Kinston with a flag of truce in order to bring back the bodies of several of those killed in the engagements. He reports that the Rebels have established their pickets down to nearly the same distance from Newbern that they were previous to our going out. They would not allow the Major to go only twenty miles out from here, but allowed one man and a team to continue & get all that was wished. So much for taking Kinston & not garrisoning it & I presume if we were to go over the same ground again, we should have to fight harder than we did before.

I am glad to hear that you are so well now at home. I want you should write me all that is going on. How much milk you sell & about the cattle &c. There is not a day passes but what I think of some of you & imagine what you are about.

Our Colonel is very particular about our appearance [and] now makes us appear on guard or on dress parade with polished shoes, clean hands & faces, & well brushed & clean clothes. I have been fortunate enough to escape censure so far but many a fellow has suffered an extra amount of guard duty as a penalty. We drill now everyday & have Brigade drill every other day. We have been relieved from doing picket duty for a week past & our labors are comparatively light now.

Please to write me in your next how you make out about sending me another box. Homer [Rogers] says he wrote his folks that they had better join as they did before in sending a box together. I wish you would  send me out some sauce or jelly to eat with my other food when you send. I could live well here if they would only let me go a gunning. The River Trent right close to us here is swarming with ducks all of the time & large flocks are continually flying over but not a gun will be allowed to be fired.

I hear the old Sixth Massachusetts Regiment is in Newbern & I am going down tomorrow to see the Littleton folks who are in it. Write soon & write me everything that is going on in town or vicinity. I believe I have written you once before since I received your last. I am living & enjoying myself a great deal better than I thought I should before I enlisted. Tell Jane some more of her good pies would be acceptable & tell Michael to take care of himself. — Henry


Written just days before the 45th Massachusetts participated on a reconnaissance from New Bern to Pollocksville, Trenton, Young’s Crossroads, and Onslow, January 17-21, 1863.

TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FOUR

Camp Amory on the Trent
Newbern [North Carolina
January 11, 1863

Dear [sister] Louis,

We are under marching orders again. We heard this afternoon of it and expected that they would be read on “Dress Parade” but for some cause they were not. This evening, however, Captain [Edward F. Daland] came in and ordered the cook to cook up three days rations tomorrow for us to take with us on Tuesday. Also ordered us to take forty rounds of ammunition in our cartridge boxes. It is said that only a small force is going with us & that we are going on the same road which we went before in order that the enemy may be mislead while the main force will move on toward Wilmington. It is also said that we are to carry three days rations in our haversacks & two days more will be carried in waggons from which we infer that we are to go as far as Trenton or Kinston.

I have written thus far this Sunday evening but I will wait until tomorrow before I mail it in order to catch any items of information to send you. I have not heard a word from home for a fortnight which is not very pleasant, I assure you.

I am well & hope to remain so. Captain [Daland] says the reason why that the orders were not read on “Dress Parade” tonight was because they were afraid that there would be too many sick tomorrow.

Tuesday evening, January 13th.

I have delayed mailing this in hopes that I might get some light on the movements here & so write you of the prospects but I am still in the dark. Our cooks are ordered to keep three days rations cooked ahead to be ready if we are called upon. We drill hard every day. A disease called the “Congestive Chills” has appeared in our regiment & has proved fatal in three cases. It is very sudden. I saw a poor fellow whose name was Wellington from Lincoln, Mass., led into the hospital the other morning & in less than twenty-four hours he died. It is prevalent in the 44th Regiment, I hear.

Young [Benjamin F.] Hoar [of Co. D] from Lincoln, son of Leonard Hoar, was in the Battle at Kinston & was lying down loading his rifle. He was laying on his side when a ball from a cannon struck him in the rump & took the skin off & mashed the flesh. It lamed him some but he kept on to Whitehall with us but he took cold & an abscess formed which makes a bad sore but he is recovering now & is quite nicely.

Today has been very pleasant & warm & seemed like a June day. Some of the officers have their wives & families here in New Berne & some young ladies we see everyday riding horseback with young sprigs of officers accompanying them. Whenever we see a young lady, we all pay her particular deference. I will write you more tomorrow.

Wednesday evening, January 14th.

This evening the Captain says that we shall probably start tomorrow at half past six, but where we are to go, we have no idea. The last letter I had from home was mailed about the twenty-fifth ult. I am afraid that “The [CSS] Alabama” has taken the mail ship. I think that our expedition is not intended for any purpose other than to draw off the attention of the enemy from the main one which is expected to leave in a few days. I think, however, that I should rather go on the main expedition than on this one. I wish that you could be here this beautiful day & witness or Brigade drills. On this large plantation covering over a thousand acres of level plain, some three or four brigades of from four to six regiments each are on drill every other day & look finely.

The last month has passed very quickly & it don’t seem possible that it is more than that time since the fight at Kinston. I think I will mail this tonight & then if we do not go tomorrow, I will write home again before we do go. I do not imagine that we shall be gone more than five days. Do write often & send me papers. [Homer] Rogers is well & [Arthur] Dakin also. — Henry


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One thought on “1862-1863: Henry Dana Parmenter to Lois Maynard (Damon) Parmenter

  1. Pingback: List of Soldiers Letters | Billy Yank & Johnny Reb Letters

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