This letter was 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 this letter to his parents but the envelope was addressed to his younger brother, Horace K. Blanchard (1844-1906).
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.