Categotry Archives: Jamie & Katie

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Sharpsburg, MD ~ September 21st, 1862: Details About the Dead

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This letter expands on Jamie’s previous account of the aftermath of Antietam, describing the way in which several of the soldiers died. He urges Katie once again to write to Mrs. Macarty to tell her that her husband has died, and to specifically mention that he was shot in the head and died instantly.

#12 Sharpsburg, MD - Sep 21st, 1862 Envelope #12 Sharpsburg, MD - Sep 21st, 1862 Page One #12 Sharpsburg, MD - Sep 21st, 1862 Page Two

 

            Sharpsburg md

Sunday morning Sep 21, 1862

 

To my Dear Loving wife,

as I have a few moments to write you a few lines I am well hope this to find you the same I received two letters from you last night at 8 oclock was glad to see them and hear from you I gess you can think so any how I do I wish could get another soon I should be so glad it is good to hear from you my dear and all at home. Corporal Harras that the rebels took a prisoner has been paroled and got back to us just now we was glad to see him back Horace money to him that was good thing for Horace when Horace was shot he gave Harris his money for he did not expect to get away alive then it is all right now. we exspect to march to for some place I but dont know where. Some say we are a going to Richmond I dont know as it is true. The 8 & 11 Co Reg are with us Eugene Comstalk in here he is well. Colon Kingsbury. J. H. Kingsberry was shot dead last Wednesday in the fight with us. Capt John Griswold was wounded that day has since died in our Co I. Capt Drake through hart, first Leu Horton through head. Ordley Sgt. Ovil Campbell shot in head & body 1 [Sgt.] Maccarty shot through head. Jason E Twiss in the brest. Steven Himes st in the brest. A Truesdell through brest.

Corporal Evians shot through body. James Grugan through body shot dead on the field. 8 of them, 20 others wounded, 3 taken prisoner one got back Corp Harras. he will take this letter to a postoffice some where on his route home he has been parolled by the rebels so he can go home he is [off] in a few minutes so I have got to hurrie up my caks[?] I should like to see you first rate but I cannot so I must not think about it I shall be glad when can Horace has got one broken leg the other is woundid badley to I gess he will get along in time if he has good care I had to leave him at hospitle yesterday morning I felt bad enough to part with him tell you but it cannot be helpt in war times we have to put up with many things. I mean to do my douty as near as posable god being my helper and strength I hope to see you some day when tell you better than I can write I cannot think of halv what I want to say but never mind I send thousands of good wishes, kisses to you Rosa. must close this nonsense for this time you must write Mrs. Macarty to tell her that he was shot through the head killed instantly he fought bravely died with a good hart I believe it to be true he and Twiss both died Christians I think. good by with lots of love to you my dear wife and all of my friends

kiss dolly for me give my love to all inquiring friends

 

James W P

Your loving husband write soon the same

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Time Table as Remembered by James

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This was presumably written not long after the previous letter detailing the aftermath of Antietam. Some of the place names were near impossible to read, so there was some guess work involved – in particular, “Pensaluary” and “Rafam.” Jamie admits that his spelling is bad, but there are some locations that are easy to recognize, such as New York, Baltimore, Washington, Annapolis, and Rockville.

#11 Timetable Page One #11 Timetable Page Two

 

            James W Peckham                                    time table

We left Hartford Aug 25th 1862 on board city Hartford down river. stopt Wethersfield. Middletown. Essex. Saybrook. Saybrookbar. 1 hour. Then up sound to New York. Stopt one hour and Breakfast on board Ferryboat to Elizabethport on the cars. East Pensaluary. To Rafam. To Brattalboro, to York, Pen. To Brooklin, Pen to Baltimore. To took dinner. To Raleigh house. To Annapolis junction. Washington City. Stopt one night. To long Bridge. To Fort Scot Vir. To Fairfax Sema. Vir. Lofed two weeks Started. To Washing camp one night. To Leesboro 3 days. To Rockville one night. To Brookville one night. To Lebanon Chourch do. to New Market do. to Frederick City do. to Middletown 4. Hours. To Boonsboto one hour. To Pottsville stoped one night. 17th We marched to Antietam into the Battle at daylight in morning fought all day until dark when we was marched into a corn field to chase on and take a Battery we took it but paid dearly for it we was cut all to pieces by Grape and canister shot them 2 Brigades of Rebels witch drove us back and they posesion of the cornfield where our dead and wounded lay so we could not get to them until next two days so our mounded had to lay on the ground from 5 oclock Wednesday till Friday at noon when we drove them off so we could get them you better believe I was glad to find Horace alive but he was bad off I tell you it was meeting between us tell you he was so glad to see me he shed tears so did I could not help it although I can stand most anything to see him was to mouch for me my feeling gave way we went from there to here that ends my diary for this time so good by I mean to keep a memberrandum of all of any amount if can as poor as it is if you can read it I shall be glad Excuse bad spelling for I am a bad scholar you know

Jamie says that the wounded had to lay on the ground where they fell from Wednesday evening until noon on Friday. That is a long time to be injured and stranded without food or water. Horace and the other wounded were left to fend for themselves in a cornfield while the other Union soldiers were driven back by the Confederate soldiers. Thankfully, Jamie and Horace were reunited after the battle, and although my grandmother told me according to family stories Horace really wasn’t the nicest of people, he was happy enough to see Jamie that he cried. Both of them did. Horace was actually one of the lucky ones, since he at least got away with his life. Jamie and Horace’s other tent mates were not so lucky.

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Battle of Sharpsburg Valley ~ September 18th, 1862: List of Missing, Wounded, and Dead

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The Battle of Sharpsburg, otherwise known as the Battle of Antietam, was a huge turning point in Jamie’s life. As far as I can tell, it was the first time he ever saw real combat. Before this point his days had been filled with constant marching and drilling, and the closest he came to fighting was only hearing the sound of it off in the distance and seeing the remnants of previous battles near his campsites. His handwriting changes after the battle, becoming even more jumbled and difficult to read due to the spelling errors and frantically written notes in the margins.

I’ll let you read the letter.

#10 Battle of Sharpsburg Page One #10 Battle of Sharpsburg Page Two

 

on the field

Battle of Sharpsburg Valley

Friday mor Sep 19, 1862

My dear wife,

I am well unhurt but am sorrie to say Horace is a missing dont know where he is the last I saw of him he was in the corn field with the rest of us we are going to day to see if we can find him the battle was day before yesterday Just at night the Rebels held the feild yester to day we have drove them away so we can get Cap Drake Luten Horton, the Ordly(?) Sa Macaty. Twiss, Horace are missing dont know weher I am in ahure to finish this so it will get to you dont worry. afor Horace [may] be safe­­

Thursday afternoon Dear wife

we got on to the battle field this fornoon keep up good cheer I found Horace there in corn field where we fought night before last wounded in both legs in the nee just above the right nee and a slite woun in the top of his head he was in good spirits & not much pain was so glad to see me and I so glad to see him you don know how we felt when we met. he I took a blanket two rails made a strecher carried him to a barn used hospitle to have his wounds drest, his left leg is broken just above nee the other woun is flesh one I think he will get along well in time he will come home you must write to Charlott tell her all I cant have not got time now dont know where the rebels have got into Virgen we have got to Chase them I have got to leave Hor here he has not much pain I am well so dont feel bad about me we exspect to fight before long do not know when nor where you must take good care of yourself I shall do my fiting and Horaces to blast thir picturs I am shure I shot two of the rebels I am shure I dont love to brag of it but I hate them more now then ever. Lewis Halley is wounded in hospitel I must close soon for they are a waiting

good bye Katie all

for this time

write soon as posable

from James your hus

Please write to  Mrs. Macarty

Tell her he was shot in the head killed instantly

Horace gave his money to Corpol Harras and he was took prisoner soon after so horace lost it­

list of killed Co I

Cap Drake found                                     Dead on the field

first Lt. Leutin Horton found               Dead

Ordly Sir Campbell (?)                           Dead

Sir Marcarty (?)                                       Dead

J. E. Twiss two of my [tent mates]     Dead

Stiphen Himes                                         Dead

8 others found                                          Dead

in Co I. I dont know ther names

some taken prisoners

15 or 20 wounded some where we got our Dead and  buried them all to gether under one then drove stakes down wrote ther names on the stakes I have not time to write  half what I wanted to

our men was woundid with shot and shell grape shot canisters I moust draw this to a close so this will got to night so good by my dear wife and friends at home

Write soon. I have not heard from home since I left Hartford

I want to hear from you dreadfully we have not had any mail for a long time

 

Almost everyone whom Jamie set out to look for turned up dead. Many people whom he wrote about in previous letters died during Antietam, save for Uncle Horace who managed to escape with two leg wounds and a superficial head wound. This was one of the letters that always got to me the most because Jamie gives Katie this long list of the deceased and tasks her with writing to Mrs. Macarty to tell her that her husband is dead – shot in the head and killed instantly, at least. That is not a piece of news easily given to someone.

Jamie’s comments about the rebels in previous letters seem practically lighthearted compared to what’s written here. After having to bury his friends, he seems less like a sports fan declaring that his team will be victorious and more like a soldier bent on revenge. Needless to say, this letter is an artifact from one of the darkest moments in his life, not to mention in the entire Civil War, and physically handling it gives me the chills.

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Unknown Date and Location

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#9 Rosa - No date or place - Page One #9 Rosa - No date or place - Page Two

 

Well Rosa,

I had to throw away my clothes and get new ones two new shirts one pair of draws paire Stockings the two shirts $4.75 Draws .75 ct woolen stockings .50 ct my pants and blows they let me keep, but had them off brushed [aired] one day night gave them back to me I told I had no money wanted to go with Charley Parker he was luckey a mr. Smith from Avon his old minister the town sent him down to look after the Avon boys he brought box to C.P. let him have $20 in money, Charley got new Leant(?) all though, he lent me $5.00 to get my shirts with. I would not have him leave me for any thing so now I have got to send for more money to pay him with you will have to go to Hartford and draw $10, dollar and send it to me soon as you can get it ready to send when I get to a stoping place. 5 D at a time it is to bad I do not see as I can help it, now, when I get paid off can send it to replase it if we ever get paid.

Excuse all mistakes, if you can read this letter you can do a good more than some

this is wrote on a book in my hand could not hold it still   Good bye with lots of love to you Rosa

and all inquiring friends

from your ever loving

Husband James W Peckham

When I get to a stoping plase I will give you the Directions

 

“If you can read this letter you can do a good more than some” – I can’t help but feel this is somehow addressed to me as well after spending all this time trying to decipher his handwriting. I wish I could send him a clipboard and some decent pens and paper through time, though his writing tools are about to be the least of his problems.

Two shirts for $4.75, good god.

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Frederick City ~ September 14th, 1862: Burnside and Rebel Prisoners

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See how he scrawls in the margins? It’s so hard to read, but I’ve done my best and referred to my grandmother’s old transcription.

#8 Frederick City - Sep 14th, 1862 Envelope

#8 Frederick City - Sep 14th, 1862 Page One #8 Frederick City - Sep 14th, 1862 Page Two

 

 

            Frederick City, md

Sunday [afternoon] 4 ½ Oclock

Sept. 14th, 1862

 

My Dear Wife,

I now sit down to pen you a few lines let you know how we get along we are well ex the rheumatism I have it in my right leg so has Horace in his r leg it hurts us to march but we hoble along and keep up Twiss & Macaty as well.

we camped at new market last night started from there this morning at 7 Oclock got here at 12 OC Dis of 8 miles without any Breakfast not a mouth full here I got one loaf of bread about as large as your fist for 15 cent the rebels eat up every thing could get in Frederick while they was here, 500 rebels prisoner here in a brick building I have been down to see them. They look tough I tell you they are fiting 8 miles from here we can hear as plain as day a constant fire of cannon the sick wounded are coming in to this city all the time lots of them. but you need not worrie about me fore we shant have a chance to fight for Burnside drives them faster than we can go Burnside will kill all of rebels and kill us trying to get up with him he is on one side of the river Macll on the other Jackson in a tite place. we are on the ground where they fought Thursday now and then a spot of blood on the ground in the next lot to us. I went [off] after some water just now into the city I stoped to a house and got some dinner the woman was strong union I got two cups of tea some ham tomatoes bread Butter she would not take any pay I took her husband’s name Lewis V. Schole. She took my name told if I ever came this way again to stop her husband is with Burnside fiting the rebels good.

I have just been at roll call now I must close this so it will go to night if possible. we have good news Burnside has just brought 250 Rebels prisoners in to the city by our camp I saw them they looked bad enough they are not two that are dresst alike, dirty & [ragged] barefooted at that

we get along first rate for soldiers so don’t worrie about us I have wrote all about us you wanted me to

They are fiting like tigers I tell you we shall load our guns to night for the rebs.

So good night

we all send love to all

Horace said he did not feel able to write this time you can tell Charlotte

Please excuse this writing for is is in hurri wrote on a plate good by from your loving husband James

 

You may send me stamps if you please they are hard to get

Direct as before C I 16th W.D.C.

 

A couple of brief notes: Ambrose Burnside was a general and I’m pretty sure the “Macll” Jamie refers to is George B. McClellan, who was a major general. Both of them played very important roles in the Battle of Antietam, during which they spent a great deal of the time bickering about tactics via couriers. As you may know, that battle ended up being a huge bloody mess with over 22,000 dead, wounded, or missing. But we’ll get to Antietam later.

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Leesborough, Maryland ~ September 9th, 1862: Running Low on Rations

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Today is my grandmother’s birthday, so I felt that now would be a good time to add another post while I take a quick break from working on finals, since I did start this blog partially in honor of her 90th. I haven’t shown her this blog yet, but I plan to at some point today before the horde of partygoers descends upon us. Here is the letter:

#6 Leesboro, MD - Sep 9th, 1862 Page One

#6 Leesboro, MD - Sep 9th, 1862 Page 2

Leesboro, Maryland Starvation Hill
Tuesday morning September 9th, 1862
My wife and friends at home,
I now take this opportunity to give you the news. Horace is well except a sore foot his
heel is blistered. I’m well, hope this will find you the same. Last Saturday Robert &
Charles Parker & your James went to [Alexandria?] got back to camp at two Oclock PM and
found it all in a heap for a long march to start Sunday morning 5 Oclock but we did not
until 1Pm. Hastied from Fairfax Vir and marched to Washington 9 miles halted for 1/2
hour then marched 5 miles out of Washington halted as was 11 Oclock at night stopped
until morning. Slept upon the ground. At 7 Oclock we started went 6 miles farther to
Leesboro got [there] Monday morning 11 Oclock marched into a field and stopped here
[where] we are now. I have not had sleep under a tent since we left Hartford. Slept on the
ground.
Every night we have got some shelter tents came this morning large enough for two men
Horace and me got our tent together this morning. I have [not] got any cold now, got so I
can stanit first rate. The 8 & 11 Reg Ct. Vol. is here with us, we are in Burnside’s Brigade
now, we expect to go into action soon. We have not had any rations since we left Vir, only
what we bought on our way along the road that was a little we got one [loaf] of bread [a
piece] this morning 10 cents a [loaf]. Horace [and] I got some corn yesterday and [roasted] it. It was good for we was hungry. I [have] got to drill now. [Goodbye] while I get through
[the] drill I have got through [the] drill we have just got orders from the [Colonel?] to [?] to march at ten minutes [notice], don’t know where as yet. There is 10 of our company sick some of them in Virginia some is here with us.
My [knapsack] is in Virginia and all of my things, paper any and all I had. To barrie this of
some of boys. Tell Mary and mother I will write as soon as [I] can get paper to
write on. Give my love to all of my friends far & near I hope they are all well, I am.
Much love and respects to all.
Write soon as [convenient].
From your loving husband,
James W
Starvation Hill
Sunday, Monday, Tuesday
To his wife
Mrs. Greenfield
Lyme Conn.
My dear wife, [goodbye]

When I first read this letter and saw the name Leesboro, or rather Leesborough, I was interested in where that was exactly, because I’m from Maryland and couldn’t recall ever hearing of it. “Oh, I wonder if it’s a nice small town surrounded by nature, maybe with a historical museum or something,” I thought. Yeah, so turns out Leesborough is now Wheaton. If you’re from Wheaton or know it, then you probably won’t have a hard time imagining the expression on my face when I found this out. Wheaton’s only a couple of minutes away from my hometown, and let me tell you, it’s not exactly a picnic destination (all right, this is partially a lie as there is Wheaton Regional Park which literally does have a picnic area). It is, however, known for its mall parking lot stabbing incidents. Leesborough was eventually renamed Wheaton, after General Frank Wheaton who was a local folk hero according to Wikipedia, in 1869. Now when I try to imagine Jamie and his brigade camping out in Leesborough, I can’t exorcise the image of them sitting in Westfield mall across from Hot Topic with cups of froyo.

I can’t find any record of anything really called “Starvation Hill”, so I’m going to go ahead and guess that this was Jamie being hyperbolic. Or maybe not so hyperbolic – they were running low on rations and getting really excited over corn, after all. Horace (or Horrace, he’s spelled it both ways so I don’t know what’s going on), is still having a rough time of it, what with his stomach ailments last time and his blistered foot now. Jamie still seems to be in good health, though he did leave his knapsack in Virginia for reasons that I can’t quite understand. They’re also still sleeping completely exposed to the elements. I can’t help but think that by this point it’s really starting to sink in for Jamie just how challenging and miserable the life of a soldier can be, and that even though his spirit still seems mostly intact, he’s becoming steadily more and more disenchanted.

Also, it might be important to note this mention of Charles Parker. He’ll become an important player later on.

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Fairfax Seminary ~ Thursday, September 4th, 1862: One and a Half Miles from the Rebels

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This letter was written from Fairfax Seminary, which is now the Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria. The Fort Ward museum is nearby. There’s also a bunch of high schools, Inova Alexandria Hospital, and the Bradlee Shopping Center if that means anything to anyone. Here’s a picture of what it looked like back then. It looks pretty much the same today.

Fairfax_Seminary,_Alexandria,_Va_-_NARA_-_529388-1 Cropped envelope Fairfax Seminary - Sep 4th, 1862 Page One Fairfax Seminary - Sep 4th, 1862 Page Two

Fairfax [Seminary] W Vir, Sep 4 ‘62

Close by Fort Ward, Thursday morning 7 O’clock

My dear Wife,

I now take this opportunity to pen you a few lines to let you know that we are all well. H.J. we have not got our [tents] we sleep on the ground [at] night. I made H and me a hut out of brush, so have some of the rest [have] done the same. Robert and Fred & John day come over to see me yesterday but I was down to Fort Worth about a mile [digging] rifle pits and did not see him. 4 Conn. A.D.F. rifle pits around the fort. The rebels pickets is within a 1 mile & ½ from where we are so they say, I have not seen them yet, our army has fell back to where we are a about one hundred and fifty thousand of them. [Cavalry] artillery and [rifles] by lively times here. At 8 forts & 1.50 thousand men within 6 miles of us all in [sight], I can’t write more now I got to black my boots & [?] for the drill, good morning Katie.

We have guns and ammunition.

Good morning Katie­

Friday [morn.] I now sit down to finish this letter to you. Horace has got a [diarrhea]. I am well and [hardy] except a little cold, we expect to have warm work here soon. The Rebels pickets is in [sight] of our camp 1 mile long we have got lots of contrabands to work on them beside our soldiers. I have not seen Robert since that day but he is well, saw some of his men this morning. I am going over to see him today if I have time. We sleep on the ground yet but that is nothing bad plenty to eat, well [goodbye] at present I must close [for] this to go in the mail this morning love to all from your ever-loving husband,

James

Direct your letters to James W. Peckham Co. I. 16 Reg

Ct Vol

Washington, D.C.

In write soon as you get this I want to hear from you [goodbye]

My R[?] wife

From Fairfax [Seminary] Virg

 

Though James is mostly in good health, poor Uncle Horrace is suffering from an unfortunate gastrointestinal situation. Like most of James’s letters to Katie, he’s primarily just writing to reassure her that he’s okay and to update her on where he is. He may not have been receiving all of her letters due to his regiment moving around. However, he seems to have been in good spirits during the writing of this, keeping himself busy by checking on his friends camped out nearby, tending to Horrace, building more makeshift huts for them to sleep in, and of course by writing to Katie.

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Fort Ellsworth, Virginia ~ Tuesday September 2, 1862: Within Earshot of the Battlefield

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Here we find Jamie camped out with Uncle Horrace and their regiment 12 or 10 miles away from the battlefield. I’ll let you read the letter before I say anything else.

Fort Ellsworth - Sept 2nd, 1862 Envelope CROPPED

Fort Ellsworth - Sept 2nd, 1862 Page One Fort Ellsworth - Sept 2nd, 1862 Page Two

 

Fort Ellsworth Virginey 12 miles from Washington

Tuesday Sep 2 , 1862

Morning six o’clock pm

My dear wife                        it is just half past six.

Horrace & I are sitting on the ground beside a brush fire. Horrace is shivering with cold & wet. It rained all night and we all slept on the ground, the Reg and officers & all slept together. I went down into the bushes, [piled] up some brush, spread Horrace’s blanket on them then we lay down, put mine over us & went to sleep until morning. I feel first [rate?] we’d all got wet through to our skin, I expected to have the [rheumatism] but have not. We shall have our tents [today]. We marched from Washington yesterday, we [passed] a train of sick and wounded soldiers some with an arm, leg gone. 8 Oclock I have just been over to Fort Ward the first Lt. Ar. Is there 2 Comp E.L. Cor A.B. is in Fort Blinker about ½ miles from here. They say Robert is there. I am going over there after breakfast if I can to see him.

We are within 10 miles of the battlefield­ where they are [fighting], can hear every gun that is fired, it sounds nearby I tell you but we are ready for them, let them come. The pickets took 3 rebels [Cavalry] last night and brought them in to the fort [within] 50 rods of where I am writing, [goodbye] I am going over to see Robert.

20 min to 4 oclock am. I have been over to Fort Blinker and found Robert, [they’re] all well, he had a letter from Bub Brown last night the first he [knew] about my [enlistment] but he did not that I was so near him. I was glad to see him so was he to see me, he went back to camp with me and [stayed] a hour. He is not so fat as he was when he left home. He wrote home just before I got over there this morning, we are close together now so we can see each other every day if nothing happens.

He does not stand it as well as I do. I am well hope this will [reach] you the same. Tell Mary I will write to her next. Give my love to all. I don’t know as you can read this letter if you can’t I will write the next letter.

Lots of love to you

And good wishes

I was [sorry] that we did not stop to Lyme that night.

Wrote in a [hurry]

[Goodbye] wife.

Direct my letter to

Washington

Co. I. 16 Reg Ct [Val?]

Washington DC

{scrawled message on page 2}

I am in a hurry to get this in the mail wagon.

[Goodbye] O friends at home.


The conditions Jamie describes sound fairly miserable but were probably very typical for a camp that hadn’t even set up their tents yet. The image of Jamie and Uncle Horrace huddled together underneath his blanket on a makeshift bed made out of a pile of brush makes me smile. Sometimes when trying to transcribe these letters, I get really frustrated over his horrible spelling and find myself assuming that he wasn’t the brightest of men, but he clearly had a sense of humor and was very resourceful which are much more important indicators of intelligence, or at least of a more useful kind of intelligence than being book smart. If you threw me out into the woods to fend for myself against the elements, I’d probably end up dead within the first ten minutes because I’d trip over a tree branch and bust my head open on a rock.

Something else here that I found interesting is that Jamie isn’t keeping all of the disturbing stuff from Katie – he tells her that they passed a train full of sick and wounded, some of them missing arms and legs. He also tells her just how close he is to the battlefield, but assures her that they are ready should anything happen. I am happy that he didn’t keep these things from her for two reasons – 1) I wouldn’t have much to write about here if all he said was “yeah, we’re fine nothing too interesting going on don’t worry about it, and 2) it shows that he had enough respect for Katie to want to share the truth with her and to know that she could handle it.

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Hartford ~ Wednesday, July 30th, 1862:

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So this letter is kind of a mess, but there is some interesting information just the same. We have a huge jump in time from the last letter, and I’m not entirely sure what was going on in everyone’s lives at this point. I should probably point out that James’s affectionate name for Katie (which was already an affectionate name for Ezrena) was Rosa. None of those names are at all alike, I know. Also, Jas is short for James. That seemed weird to me at first, but then I remembered that in Peter Pan Captain James Hook goes by Jas Hook and now I find it completely acceptable.

The second part of the letter is from Charlotte Lay to her son. There are a few Lays in my family tree, but I’m not entirely sure where she fits in. I’ll ask my grandmother and update the “Cast” page once I get the details.

Hartford - July 30th, 1862 Envelope CROPPED Hartford - July 30th, 1862 Page OneHartford - July 30th, 1862 Page Two

Hartford

Wednesday July 30th, 1862

I write a few words to you. I received your good letter to night, was glad to hear from you. You was well and friends. I am well and to work on Prospect street yet. Uncle Hor, Aunt Chas is well. Hope Eddy will be well while he is down to Lyme. We had a heavy thunder storm last night and another to night rains hard. Joey Branch is here to night going to stay all night. Jimie is sick had the [Doctor] last night. [Doctor] said it was [diphtheria]. I went to the boad to meet Harriet but got told [she?] went home in the rain.

I have to wrote all of the news I must draw this to a close. Let Chast fill it out. Chalt & I went to the [Union Church?] Sunday fournoon took a walk in the afternoon I will close.

Please give my love to all, May, Richard, all to Whipperwill your father & mother & Lottie, Eddy, all inquiring friends.

That is all.

Good night,

From you husband to his Rosa

James,

N.B. Josephine sends her respects she had a tooth pulled to day.

Jas to Katie

{the part in pencil}

Thursday morning,

Rosa you must write us soon [I’ll answer?] & come home soon as you can it is lonesome without you. Love to you Rosa, Jas.

{Charlotte’s note}

My dear little son

I received your letter yesterday, was glad to hear from you. You must be a good boy and mind Aunt and Uncle Greenfield. Write soon as you can. I cannot write much for Harriet and I are going down street and I want to put this in the office. I shall come before long. From you Mother.

When I come I will tell you all the news which is not much.

Charlotte T. Lay

 

We’ve got diphtheria, a dental situation, and a bunch of names I only vaguely recognize. I don’t know about you, but I really want to know who Whipperwill is. I’m not sure what this Chalt and Chast business is. There’s an Aunt Chas, but that’s not who he’s talking about I don’t think. I do, however, know that Lottie is Katie’s sister. I have several pictures of her that I’ll post soon.

The next letter is much more interesting, I promise. It was sent when James and his regiment were camped out near a battlefield.

by

Hartford ~ December 8th 1861: Consent to Enlist

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This is where things start to get dark. Jamie still hasn’t found much work, but believes he has found a solution. You’ll notice if you look at the original letter that there’s a sense of urgency in Jamie’s writing, as he begins to scrawl notes in the margins and he even shoved in a little extra piece of paper with more writing that I almost didn’t find because it was still hidden inside the envelope.

Hartford - Dec 8th, 1861 Envelope

Hartford - Dec 8th, 1861 Page One Hartford - Dec 8th, 1861 Page Two Hartford - Dec 8th, 1861 Extra Page Part One Hartford - Dec 8th, 1861 Extra Page Part Two

Hartford Dec 8th 1861

Sunday Eve

My dear wife,

I received your kind letter Friday evening and was glad to hear you was well and all of my friends was well too. You must try to take good care of yourself fore I shall want to find you alive and in good health at the end of three long years fore I am going to enlist to go in the 12th Reg to go for three years or for the war with Uncle Horrace. He and I are going to enlist next week that is our determination now and I want your consent. I [promised] you that I would not enlist without your gave your consent but I have not got much work now. I got though work at Phelp’s last night but Friday morning I went in [search] of work I found a job down to Colts on the new factory for a few days but when that is done I [shall] not have any work and I think that it is the best thing that I can do is to go in the army to fight for my country. I shall be just as well off at the end as I should of if I [stayed] at home. You will draw six dollars from the State per month. I shall get ten dollars when I enlist extry and ten [dollars] from the State a month 13 [dollars] from the government a month and 30 (80?) [dollars] bounty a year from State. 100 from the government at the end of three years. Do you not think it best for me to do it. Say yes my dear wife and I will go.

Do not be [frightened] when you read this fore thousands have gone it is duty to go in war.

My dear wife

I hope this will not make you feel bad. It must not my [?] make you feel bad because I shall see you before I go if you are willing I should. You can come up here as soon as you want to and stay with me until I leave Hartford fore the [l__t?] of war. I will do the best with you that I can. I can lend my money home to you. You can use all of it that you want and put the rest of it in the Bank as do what you are a [mind] to with it. Katie I want to hear from you before enlisting. Uncle Horrace and I went out to the camps the 11th & 12th Reg. I saw Augerine Comstock and John Baley from Lyme. Bill and Charles Slate had gone home. I did not see them. John Handal Parker from Deep river and Joseph Rozzi from East Haddam they all like first rate and think that I shall like it [too]. What do you think about it Katie. You must not feel hard of me but I do want to go with the soldiers. I cannot see all of them in the war me a looking on I feel lazy to think they have all gone me to home. But I shall not enlist without you are willing fore me to do so. I want to do things as near right as possible if there is no work it is no use to stay at home.

Good by my Katie

Fore this

Write soon

 

Jamie’s reasons for joining the Union are strikingly similar to the reasons that many soldiers in our day and age decide to join the military. The Union was offering steady pay which he wasn’t able to find on his own, and he felt a sense of guilt when watching so many of those around him enlist while he remained a civilian. He knew Katie wouldn’t be crazy about the idea, that’s why he’s so apologetic, but his mind had clearly already been made up. I don’t know what Katie’s reaction to this letter was. What I can tell you is that Katie and Jamie were very genuinely in love, so I can’t imagine she felt lightly about his desire to enlist. When my grandmother was little, Katie used to talk to her about Jamie all the time, calling him “my Jamie” when she did, and that was in the 1920s, decades after the Civil War.

I’ve been debating how much to reveal about Katie and Jamie’s fate as I go along, and I think I’ve decided to leave out as many spoilers as possible as so to leave it up to the letters to tell the story. I’m just going to warn you now though – it gets rough.

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