1863: J. Milton Whipple to Electa Bertha Masten

17th New York Light Battery

This letter was written by J. Milton Whipple (1842-1870) of East Shelby, Orleans County, New York, who enlisted on 21 August 1862 in the 17th New York Light Battery for three years. He mustered out with the batter on 12 June 1865 in Richmond, Virginia.

Milton was the son of Griffin Whipple (1797-Aft1870) and Louisa Barber (1816-1847) of Gallopsville, Schoharie County, New York.

After returning from the war, Milton married Electa Bertha Masten (1842-1903) but he died in June 1870. The envelope is addressed to “Electa, Hattie, & Co. and appears to have been hand-carried.


Camp of 17th New York Volunteer Battery
Fairfax Court House
October 21st 186[3]

My Dear Friend,

I wrote to you last week amidst considerable excitement thinking we should soon be engaged with the enemy but we are here yet [and] well as usual. It seems we are alone — the Army of the Potomac have left us [and] are pursuing Lee. Meade had his headquarters at this place two days. The baggage lay here until day before yesterday. On Thursday last we were assigned to the Army of the Potomac, Fifth Corps, under command of Maj. Gen. Sykes which was thereto countermanded by General Meade. On the eve of Friday last, the Fifth Corps received orders to move to Centerville at once. The order read as follows —  “The Fifth Corps will move at once to Centerville except the original command of General [Rufus] King.”

Gen. Rufus King — “is familiar, kind and merciful, and a friend to soldiers.” — JMW

The railroad has been in operation no further than Fairfax Station which lies a little south of here. Consequently the transportation of the army was left here which was immense. If I should tell you the wagons and mules would cover the whole town of Shelby, you would not believe me.

Saturday night just as we had retired the Captain came to our quarters and ordered us up as quick as possible. The enemy were reported in large body towards Vienna. We sat up all night but they did not disturb us. The next morning, General [Rufus] King took leave of this command. He has been appointed Minister to Rome. He is one of the finest men in the army. He is familiar, kind and merciful, and a friend to soldiers.

General [Michael] Corcoran is [now] in command. We had not been in his brigade as you suppose but have had to report only to King. Corcoran is a fine man and a brave man but I don’t like his brigade — the Irish Legion. They are so rough, reckless, and disorderly, I am afraid they are not to be depended upon. One of them told me an interesting incident which occurred on the Blackwater near Suffolk about a year ago. Corcoran ordered them to charge on a rebel battery that was firing into them. They commenced the charge on double quick but the line soon became broken. Someone sang out, “O-be-Jesus, we’ll get kilt.” Others more eager to complete the charge would say, “come now boys, don’t disgrace the Colonel.” Corcoran finally ordered them to the rear and sent another regiment to do the work.¹

Gen. Michael Corcoran — “is a fine…and brave man.” — JMW

Have you gave up visiting Vermont? If you go, write me a good letter while you are gone. I received a letter from Ezra the other night. So that Hattie is visiting western New York? I can write to you all at once. Tell me how she looks after a year’s enlistment. I would like to come home and see you all but O dear, I am afraid I can’t. I hope you will return with Hattie and visit Albany and Schoharie, won’t you? How is all the young men? I hear there are a great many unwell or at least are troubled with physical disability. It is astonishing. I believe if I had been home, I should have escaped the jaws of that awful draft.

There is three hundred thousand more called for. If you have any influence over any of single men, urge them to enlist. Tell them soldiering is not so bad as they think it is. I have received two letters from Miss Courser of Nasua V.M. [Nashua, N. H.?] ² She says a public speaker advised the  young ladies of that town to write to soldiers to keep up their spirits. She did not know who to write to but me. Is Elly at Brockport? Tell her I am waiting patiently for a good kiss from her the next time I meet her. I have written to you, I guess I will write to Hattie at all for three cents.

Write to me soon and remember me your best friend, — Milton

¹ I believe this is a reference to the Battle of Deserted House or Kelly’s Store on 30 January 1863. The assault on the rebel battery was carried out by the 30th Indiana and the 130th New York, followed by other regiments in Corcoran’s command, including the Irish Legion.

² There was a Lucy A. M. Courser who married William H. Greenleaf in September 1865 in Nashua, New Hampshire.



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