I love reading Civil War letters. There is an innocence and vulnerability about them that sharply contrasts the soldier's wartime realities. This one is particularly fascinating because it has a lot of new-to-me stories about occupied Alexandria, Virginia. Other than the fact that the soldier is writing to his sister and some company movements and dates, there are very few clues about who wrote it.
Can we figure it out together? We have before, but I don't know about this one. The last time we did, we had a lot more information, including a name! See VOTE: Did I Correctly I.D. The Right GW Aughenbaugh—Civil War Soldier? This time, I think we are missing the closing pages of the letter, and thus, the soldier's name and other personally-identifying information.
Stranger things have happened, however. For example, have a look at this message I received the day before yesterday. It is from the great-great-granddaughter of Private Lovejoy mentioned in our article six months ago, Private John M. Lovejoy Writes to His Cousin… AND Future Wife in 1864?
"John and Cynthia were my great great grandparents. Thank you for sharing all this information. It was nice reading a couple things I didn't know about my gg grandfather!" -Donna
That's the third time something like that has happened. It is really amazing, and it demonstrates the value of sharing hidden history in a public setting, searchable on the Internet. By crowdsourcing history, we can connect more dots than we imagine.
In today's effort to make connections, let's begin with a mix of interesting facts and clues from the letter, then I will give you an UPDATE on the OurHistoryMuseum web & mobile apps, and then I will present you a transcript/images of the full letter. The details and prose are gripping, so please keep scrolling.
Clues about his company's movements are listed below. Does anyone have a suggestion about how I could narrow it down from here?
- The letter is dated September 2, 1862
- We left Lynnfield Aug 14th at 1200 and marched thru Boston to the Providence Depot.
- we started for Providence about 6 oc arrived at Stoneton about 11 oc
- got on the Boat, and arrived at New Jersey City 10 oc left there at 3 oc for Pennsylvania
- got there 10 oc at night and had supper then we got in the Cars for Baltimore
- we Started for Washington we arrived about 10 oc
- We stopped at the Soldiers Rest over night
- the next Day was Sunday, then we marched to Arlington Heights
- Then the next Sunday we marched to Alexandria
Could it be one of these regiments? I'm just Googling and guessing. UPDATE: SEE INDENTED TEXT BELOW LABELED "UPDATE"
Details of occupied Alexandria (as written by the author of this letter):
- This City is under marshall law
- The inhabitants are Negroes
- no one is allowed to pass after half past 10 or Daytime unless they have a pass. It is hard for the Rebels to get in
- We thought the Rebels was coming on to us it [the sounds of nearby battle] was so near, but then we are under the cover of 6 forts there is one across the Potomac that can this City in half an hour the cannons did roar awfully.
- Yesterday there was a fight in a house and 3 of our boys got shot. The woman says she would Poison the whole Regiment the Col sent some Boys and pitched the furniture out of the house and tore it down and took the boards to balance our tents
That really is all pretty interesting, particularly the last item. Not exactly winning hearts and minds.
UPDATE: 1,000 thank you's to Elisha L. for narrowing down our search to a single regiment, the Massachusetts 33rd infantry. See below, the movements match up perfectly (Source):
Using the Massachusetts 33rd to narrow the search down to 1400 - 1800 soldiers, we can now attempt to match up the handwriting with our letter.
UPDATE on the OurHistoryMuseum web and mobile apps.
We are really close to a private beta release of both the web and mobile apps. We will do some testing internally and externally, build out content, and then plan a national release. Over time, this blog will evolve from one primarily focused on Alexandria, Virginia (my hometown and testing ground) to one that highlights great historical content posted by our users.
If you are interested in investing in early-stage companies and have a passion for saving history, let's talk. I would love to have more of our readers involved in the business, so let me know if you would like to take a look at the prospectus/business plan. There is still room, but not much time, to get involved before the valuation increases post-beta release.
Next step, I'll be asking a small group of people from all over the country to contribute content.
Here is a teaser image of the mobile app. I am so excited!
Back to the letter...
Camp Near Alexandria VA
Sept 2, 1862
I received your letter last night and was glad to here from home, it seams
good to get a letter from home I want you to write at least 2 letters a week.
You wanted me to give account of our journey out here I will as well as I can.
We left Lynnfield Aug 14th at 1200 and marched thru Boston to the
Providence Depot. They was waiting on the Common to receive us but we was late
and we had no time. So we started for Providence about 6 oc arrived at Stoneton
about 11 oc and got on the Boat, and arrived at New Jersey city 10 oc left there at 3
oc for Pennsylvania
got there 10 oc at night and had a Burning Supper provided by
the Ladies of that City then we got in the Cars for Baltimore. We did not get by one
Solitary Cheer in that City then we Started for Washington we arrived about 10 oc
We stopped at the Soldiers Rest over night you may be assured that we was pretty
well played out and the next Day was Sunday, then we marched to Arlington Heights
it was about Dark when we got there we was to tired to pitch our tents so we
camped out on the ground. Then the next Sunday we marched to Alexandria. This
City is under marshall law. The inhabitants are Negroes. Sunday Night 60 of our
Co was on Provost guard no one is allowed to pass after half past 10 or Daytime
unless they have a pass. It is hard for the Rebels to get in. the Battle that is going on
when it commenced we were ordered out and loaded our Rifles. We thought the
Rebels was coming on to us it was so near, but then we are under the cover of 6 forts
there is one across the Potomac that can this City in half an hour the cannons
did roar awfully. That night there was 60 of our Co detailed to go down to the Battlefield for Pickets e took 3 days rations. We was an hour late missed the cars so we
come back if you could see the wounded that comes. Nothing but ambulances
coming from the field and going. Friday Gen Case Brigade went thru here 80,000
men Artillery, Infantry, Cavalry.
Yesterday there was a fight in a house and 3 of our boys got shot. The
says she would Poison the whole Regiment the Col sent some Boys and
pitched the furniture out of the house and tore it down and took the boards to
balance our tents. It is a caution to Traitors they begin to think it is time to draw in
their Horns. They are fighting like thunder to day. To day there was 50 men
detailed out of our Co to go to Falls Church to do Guard duty on a bridge. There is a
lot of Rebel Prisoners here they are the hardest human beings that I ever saw there
is not one of them got a suit of clothes alike there is some young Boys that don't
know what they are in for some 12 to 15 years old the rebel are in fort Elsworth.