This letter was written by Sgt. James C. Aldrich (1837-1863) who enlisted on 15 August 1862 in Co. D, 136th Pennsylvania Infantry. The regiment reached Washington while the second Bull Run battle was being fought, and was stationed in the defenses of the city until the close of September, when it moved to Sharpsburg, where it was assigned to the 2nd brigade, 2nd division, 1st corps. Early in November it moved into Virginia, marching via Warrenton, Brooks’ station and White Oak Church to Falmouth. It was hotly engaged at the battle of Fredericksburg, as part of Lyle’s brigade, Gibbon’s division, 1st corps, Franklin’s Grand Division, on the left of the line. Its loss in the battle was 140 in killed, wounded and missing, Capt. Chapman being killed and Capt. Marchand mortally wounded. It then returned to its old camp, where it remained without incident, except Burnside’s “Mud March” in Jan., 1863, until the opening of the Chancellorsville campaign. On the night of May 2 it went into position on the extreme right, where breast-works were hurriedly thrown up, and this intrenched position was maintained during the last two days of the battle. On the expiration of its term of service it returned to Harrisburg, where it was mustered out of service on May 29, 1863.
James Aldrich was the son of Halsey Aldrich (1797-1873) and Matilda Works (1805-1886) of Westfield, Tioga County, New York. This letter was addressed to James’ brother, Horatio N. Aldrich (1832-1876). Though regiment records indicate that James mustered out with his company in May 1863, he died less than six months later and is buried next to his parents in Potter Brook Cemetery in Tioga County, Pennsylvania.
Addressed to Mr. Horatio N. Aldrich, Westfield, Tioga County, Pa.
September 1, 1862
Dear Parents & friends at home,
Being excused from dress parade, I take the first opportunity that has presented itself since I left Camp Simmons. You will therefore excuse me for not writing before. We are situated in very clean place — far more comfortable than it was at Camp Simmons for it was so dusty that it was impossible to keep clean or even get a clean meal. Not so at Fort Lincoln. It is located on the height of ground and commands the railroad that runs from Baltimore to Washington and the East Branch of the Potomac [river]. You need not be in any fear of Washington being taken as there are forts all around on every side. The[re] is six or eight in sight of this one.
We started from Camp Simmons Thursday about 5 o’clock P. M. and got to Baltimore about 3 A. M. Took breakfast at the Soldier’s Welcome. Started from there at 9 and reached Washington at 1 in the afternoon. Took dinner at the Soldier’s Retreat — if you would call it such. If he had an appetite like a starved hound, a fellow could make out quite a meal but it was what I call rather tough — tough beef anyhow.
We reached the fort after marching three ½ miles which seemed like twice the distance as our knapsacks were rather heavy besides haversack with some provisions, canteen and gun. We got here about 4 [and] had just time to pitch our tents. The next morning we went at 3 into the rifle pits. We have to go into the pits every morning to be ready in case of an attack which they have expected ever since the fight last Saturday between [Stonewall] Jackson and our forces [Battle of Second Manassas]. There is so many rumors, I will not say that I know anything about it for you will see it in the papers before this reaches you.
There is some talk that our company will practice on the big guns and leave the Artillery drill. There is fourteen guns mounted on Ft. Lincoln — twelve 32 pounders, one Howitzer, one small rifle gun, and [a] large Parrot gun.
The weather where we now are is no warmer than it is at Harrisburg. The night air is quite chilly. The boys are all well but Sam Donaly. ¹ He has been sick about two weeks.
It is a beautiful country but shows the evils of slavery. I have not seen a school house since I left Harrisburg. We cannot get a pass to go to the city. I could not [get] such a picture taken at Harrisburg as I wanted and thought I would wait till I got to Washington but can’t get there.
Direct to Fort Lincoln. J. C. Aldrich, Co D. 136 Regt. in care of Captain [Sylvester D.] Phillips, Washington D. C.
¹ Samuel Donaly was discharged on Surgeon’s Certificate on 23 February 1863.