These two letters were written by Henry T. Blanchard (1841-1864) of Co. K, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry. Henry was the son of Erastus Edmund Blanchard (1812-1894) and Elizabeth Jones Aldrich (1815-1894) of Providence, Rhode Island.
Henry was a 21 year-old machinist when he enlisted as a corporal on 5 June 1861 in the 2d Rhode Island Infantry. He was promoted to sergeant on 5 October 1862 and was killed in action on 6 May 1864 during the Battle of the Wilderness. The following condolence letter to Henry’s family was written by his Captain John P. Shaw the day before his own death:
Camp of 2d R.I. Vol., Spottsylvania Court House, Va.
May 11, 1864
It is my painful duty to inform you of the death of your son Henry. He was shot through the back of the head in the engagement of the 6th in the Wilderness and killed instantly. Immediately after his death we were forced back and was unable to secure any of his effects. His loss is mourned by everyone acquainted with him. He was every inch of him a soldier and a perfect gentleman. I will furnish you all the information I can gather as soon as possible. We are now expecting to be engaged at any moment. The loss of Regt. is over one hundred killed and wounded. We have suffered very much as a Regt. you will see.
Very Respectfully, your Obdt. Servt., — John P. Shaw, Capt. Comd. Co. K
Henry wrote these letters to his parents; the envelope with the second letter was addressed to his younger brother, Horace K. Blanchard (1844-1906).
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Camp near Falmouth, Va.
February 12th 
I have received your letters of the 3rd & 5th inst.—the first night before last and the other yesterday morning. Also the paper you sent. I was glad to hear you were all enjoying good health. My health is tip top now. I have just come off from Guard duty of 4 days. The regiment has been on picket duty of the Rappahannock 3 days. Lieut. West was left in charge of camp and as there was to be a sergeant from our company, he wanted me to stay with him. We had a fine time while the regiment was out. I dined and slept with him. The boys had a grand time on picket talking with the rebels and sending papers over to them and receiving some from them.
While the regiment was out, our new Colonel arrived. His name is Horatio Rodgers. ¹ Yesterday the officers were all up to his tent, and he made a speech to them. The officers who talked the hardest against him, and his coming went to him and congratulated him on his being appointed Colonel of the regiment, &c. What a world this is.
The rumor that the army is going to be broken up is true, I think, for the 9th Army Corps has left here and the 3rd & 2nd Army Corps have received marching orders. It is talked of that the Grand Division will be left for the defense of Washington. I mean Franklin’s formerly, now Smith’s. A large detail of men are at work building bakeries to bake white bread for us. That looks as if we were going to remain here awhile.
The long looked for schooners have arrived at Fortress Monroe where they are discharging the boxes of vegetables for the 4th, 7th & 12th Regiments. They are in the 9th Army Corps. The schooners are expected to be at Aquia Creek Landing in a few days with the boxes for our regiment and the cavalry & batteries. I suppose that by this time all the eatables are spoiled. It is reported that Gen. Hooker is under arrest for issuing furloughs. I don’t think there is any truth about it.
Yesterday Capt. Stanley received his discharge and left for home this morning. We have now only 6 captains in the regiment now. I suppose there will be a lot of new promotions before long to fill up the vacancies. Gen. [Frank] Wheaton & Col. Gaugh [Goff] left for Providence last night. They were ordered there by [Gov.] Sprague, I hear.
But I must begin to bring my letter to a close for I have written about all I can think of. You wanted to know what made me think so much of McClennan [George B. McClellan]. Well in the first place, I think that he is the only man that is fit to command an army large as this is, a general that can gain the confidence and love of over one hundred thousand men, and keep it through hours of danger and suffering is worth 40 men who are hated and despised by their followers. If you could have seen the enthusiasm caused by Gen. McClennan’s [McClellan’s] appearance on the battlefield of Malvern Hill when the shell and bullets were flying thick as hailstones, you would have thought that the whole North were shouting at once. Let those who think him a traitor read the accounts of the Seven Days fighting before Richmond as it was written and published by a Prussian officer belonging to the rebel army. He said that if McClennan [McClellan] had had one division of fresh troops then, that Richmond would have been taken. The rebel leaders even went as far as to send a dispatch to Richmond that their army could not hold out any longer and the authorities began moving the state papers &c. from Richmond with all speed they could muster. If McClennan [McClellan] had been a traitor, there would have been no Army of the Potomac now except as prisoners or paroled men.
But I must close. I thank you very much for the Composition you sent me. I don’t know but I shall have to get you to send me a couple of dollars if they don’t pay us soon. I don’t suppose we shall get paid before March and then we will probably get 4 months pay. You need not have any fears of my ever doing anything that will disgrace myself or any of my relations—especially my parents. I would rather die a [d____ ] death on a battlefield than desert or in any other disgrace you by doing anything of the kind. The boys are at work making rings & pipes out of Laurel wood. I have got one which I made from a piece of Laurel which was brought from Bank’s Ford on the Rappahannock. I am afraid this letter will not be very interesting for my ideas are rather scattered for the reason I have not slept much of any for 4 nights.
I send my love to Father and and a good share to you. Write soon. From your affectionate son, — Henry
I will endeavor to write a few lines to you. I was hoping to learn you were going to have a vacation for I think that you deserve one after having studied so diligently. I wish I could be at home to go skating with you. What a grand time we would have, wouldn’t we. But never mind. I shall arise there some time. And the longer the separation, the happier the meeting will be. How proud I shall be when I get home to have a sweet sister to escort to church &c. But you must not grow too fast. Mother wrote that you wanted to have a surprise party. I should like very much to come home without letting any of you know it until I had arrived. You would then have a surprise, truly. But I must close my letter. You must write often.
So goodbye with a kiss. From your affectionate brother, — Henry
¹ Horatio Rogers, Jr. of Providence, Rhode Island, was formerly the Colonel of the 11th Rhode Island Infantry.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
Camp near Falmouth, Va.
March 18th 1863
Dear Father & Mother,
I received your kind and affectionate letters of the 11th last night and was happy to learn you were well and enjoying good health. My health which when I last wrote was not very good is entirely recovered now and I am getting along finely. The regiment is out on picket duty of 3 days. Capt. [John P.] Shaw thought that I had better stay in camp or else I might catch cold as it was rather stormy when they went out so I am here alone almost and trying to pass the time away as best I can.
Yesterday nearly all day we could hear heavy firing up to the right of the lines. One rumor is that Gen. Stoneman was out with a brigade of cavalry & flying artillery on a reconnoissance and drove the rebels some 4 or 5 miles. Another rumor is that the 2nd Army Corps commanded by Major Gen. [Darius] Couch was out on a similar errand and had a small battle with Johnny rebels. The first is more probable. Last night two rebel soldiers belonging to the 6th Louisiana Vols. deserted and came across the river, gave themselves up to Lt. Gifford who brought them into Headquarters this morning. They formerly lived in Rhode Island and now say they will take the Oath of Allegiance.
I am glad that the Republican and Democrats have nominated the men they have and wish it was in my power to give [William Warner] Hoppin a vote — not because the Democrats have nominated him but because I think of the two men, he is the one who will make the best Governor. He is kindly remembered by a great many soldiers yet for the little present and kind words he gave them while we were on Camp Burnside. But I don’t suppose it will make any difference to either of you or me who is Governor now if they would only put in some old crony of mine, why I might get a commission. There is one or two of the men in this regiment who have got commissions in the 6th Regiment. That is as good as a discharge for I doubt if the regiment ever leaves Rhode Island.
But I must bring my letter to a close for I have exhausted my news box and can think of nothing more to write. My love to Mary and tell her I will try and write to her next time. My love also to all kind relations and a good share to each of you. Write soon.
From your affectionate son, — Henry
P. S. Enclosed is a note to Uncle James. I did not know where to direct it so send it in this. H.