1861-63: George W. Fernald to George H. Fernald

UNCEM_1449450792801
George’s headstone at Arlington Cemetery

These thirteen letters were written by George W. Fernald (1840-1918), the son of Richard M. Fernald (1801-Aft1870) — a master mariner — and Mary E. Golibart (1806-1859). George’s father was a native of New Hampshire; his mother a native of Maryland. In the 1855 NYS Census, 15 year-old George is enumerated in his parents household in Deerpark, Orange County, New York, where his occupation is given as “boatman.” Enumerated too was his 9 year-old brother (b. 1846) Golibart Fernald, who is mentioned in these letters. [Note: the surname is sometimes spelled Furnald]

George enlisted on 21 May 1861 at age 21 in New York City to serve three years in Co. C, 82nd New York Infantry. He was wounded in the chest at Gettysburg on 3 July 1863 and later pronounced “unfit for active service” but, being unable to receive a discharge, he was placed on detached duty as a payroll clerk under Major Elliott in Baltimore. He was later returned to his regiment and transferred into Co. A. but he did not re-enlist when his time was up and he mustered out of the service on 27 May 1864 at New York City.

Ten of these thirteen letters were written in 1862 when the regiment was encamped at Poolesville, Maryland, until it arrived at Harrison’s Landing on the James River in Virginia at the end of the Peninsula Campaign. Two were written in the spring of 1863 just before and during the Battle of Chancellorsville.

George wrote all of these letters to his cousin, George H. Fernald (1832-Aft1910). In 1860, 17 year-old George (1843-Aft1910) resided in New York City with his mother, Eliza Fernald (b. 1809) and his six siblings. In the 1870 US Census, George’s parents are enumerated in Brooklyn. Golibart (age 24) was residing with them and his occupation is given as “works on ferry.” Also in the household was a son named Edward, born in 1858.

George married Martha Ann Graham (1838-1904) in 1866. Their daughter, Flora Parsons Fernald, claims to have been born in Syracuse, New York. We know that George served as a pension off clerk after the war. He started receiving an invalid’s pension himself in 1867.

findley
Findley House in Georgetown

The Evening Star (Washington D. C.) published the following incident involving George in its 30 November 1908 issue:

George W. Fernald, seventy years of age, who has held a clerkship in the pension office since January 1, 1883, was removed to the Casualty Hospital this morning in an unconscious condition, having inhaled illuminating gas. The gas in his room at the house of George Cook, 120 C. Street, northeast, had been accidentally left turned on last night and his death would probably have occurred had not the odor attracted attention to his room about 7:30 o’clock this morning. Shortly after reaching the hospital, Mr. Fernald regained consciousness and this afternoon it was said he would recover. the sick man is prominent in G. A. R. circles, and many anxious inquiries were made about him at the hospital. He is a native of New York.

George died on 8 September 1918 at Washington D. C. and is buried in Arlington Cemetery, site 19244.

George was the owner of the Findley House at 3606 N. Street, N. W. in Georgetown in 1908.

aacivvale95

TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Addressed to George H. Fernald, New York City, N. Y. 118 Cannon Street

Camp Gorman
November 23, 1861

Cousin George,

Your most welcome letter of the 13th arrived at camp last Monday but as our company was out on picket, I did not receive it until last night. But I am glad to hear you are all well & enjoying good health.

Battle_of_Ball's_Bluff
Death of Col. Edward D. Baker at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff, by Currier & Ives

You wanted to know if we had any men killed at the late battle. We had not. Our regiment did not cross at Conrad’s Ferry where Baker’s crossed at. We crossed at Edward’s Ferry which is three miles below so we were not in the fight on the 21st of October ¹ but on the 22nd our company and Co. I of the [1st] Minnesota were out on picket when the rebel infantry of three thousand strong made a charge on us but out batteries opened on them which made great havoc among them. There was one man killed ² & five wounded in the Minnesota Regiment but none in ours. But we had a tough time of it for it was cold & rainy all the time. We were there & we had nothing but our overcoats with us!

I have not heard from sister in over a month but when I heard from her last, she was well.

You say you have plenty of rain in New York [City] but we have a little more than a plenty here & cold rains at that too. And there is quite a difference in living in a warm house & a canvas tent. But I hope we will soon move farther south where it is warmer than it is here!

But I must close now as I have to go out & drill so give my love to all the folks & keep a large share for yourself.

From your cousin, — George

P. S. Please excuse this as I wrote it in a hurry. — G. W. F.


¹ This is a reference to the Battle of Ball’s Bluff in which Col. Edward D. Baker was killed.

² The soldier killed was Lewis F. Mitchell of Co. I, 1st Minnesota.


aacivfern1

TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
Addressed to George H. Fernald, New York City, N. Y.
118 Cannon Street

Camp Gorman [Poolesville, Maryland]
January 15, 1862

Dear Cousin,

Your most welcome letter of the 8th arrived here Monday night & I was glad to hear from you & that Aunt Liza is getting better. I am glad to hear that you enjoyed yourselves so well on New Years Day. You say that Brother Edward wants to know what is the reason that I do not write to him but I have written three letters to him & have not got any answer to them yet & have not heard from him since we left Camp Brady. I received a letter from Sister last Saturday & they are all well.

Tuesday night it snowed & the snow is about three inches deep here. But now it is raining & hailing here. Yesterday we had our yearly inspection & today we have just sent a sick man out of our company & a corpse out of [our] company to home. The sick man’s name is C[harles] Haight but I don’t know what the corpse’ name is.

You say you don’t think we will move until spring but there is no telling what movement we may move for we are under marching orders all the time & I hope we will move before long for I am tired of laying here so long & the sooner we move, the sooner it will be settled.

I am very much obliged to you for sending me them papers & that Yankee Notions. But I must close nows so give my love to all the folks & keep a large share for yourself. From your cousin, — George

G. W. F. to G. H. F.


aacivfern4

TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE
Addressed to George H. Fernald, New York City, N. Y.
118 Cannon Street

Camp Gorman [Poolesville, Maryland]
January 28, 1862

Cousin George,

I received your most welcome letter of the 21st last Thursday night & am glad to hear you are well & enjoying good health. But you must excuse me for not answering your letter before as we had to go out on picket last Friday morning & just returned last night & we had a cold time of it for we had a cold storm of rain, hail, & snow & it is raining here now.

It seems as though we are never going to have any more clear weather here. One day it hails & snows, next day it rains & thaws so that the mud is shoe deep. It is very bad weather to move troops now for the roads are very bad & I don’t believe they could get artillery over them at all. When they relieve artillery along the river, they have to leave the cannons there & just relieve them men & horses so you can tell that the roads must be very bad from that.

That was a good victory for us out in Kentucky ¹ & I expect we will soon have another when Burnsides Expedition strikes along with the Mississippi Fleet.

The Rebels have built a large fort back of Leesburg ² & yesterday they were trying the range of their guns.

I am very much obliged to you for sending me those papers but I must close now so give my love to all the folks & keep a large share for yourself. From your cousin, — George

G. W. F.


¹ Probably a reference to the Battle of Mill Springs in Kentucky, fought on 19 January 1862.

² Probably Fort Evans which was built by the Confederates between Leesburg and the Potomac River. There were two other forts surrounding Leesburg — Fort Johnston and Fort Beauregard — but the guns at these forts probably did not have sufficient range to reach the river.


aacivfern6

TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FOUR
Addressed to George H. Fernald, New York City, N. Y.
118 Cannon Street

Camp Gorman [Poolesville, Maryland]
February 7, 1862

Dear Cousin,

I received yours of the 2nd last evening & was glad to hear you was well & enjoying good health, I am well except that I have a sore leg which troubles me a little this wet weather.

You wanted to know if I had got that box of stationery yet but I have not received yet. I got the papers that you sent me & am very much obliged to you for them. Also the box of stationery which I hope [will] reach here all safe.

The snow has been about four inches deep here but yesterday it rained which took it pretty well off & today it is thawing pretty fast. It is very disagreeable weather out here. One day it rains, next day it snows, & then it thaws so it makes it very unhealthy. There is some forty sick men in our regiment.

You wanted to know if things looked like a move out here but the roads are so bad that the army can’t move. But I expect that as soon as the roads get so that we can move, there will be a move all along our lines & some hard fighting is to be done then.

You say that you & Eliza went to the ball at the Apollo Rooms. ¹ There was one of my tent mates at the same ball by the name of James McCord. Probably you may have saw him there.

But I must close now so give my love to all the folks & keep a large share for yourself.

Your cousin, — George

G. W. F. to G. H. F.

P. S. Write soon & often


¹ There was a Ball held at the Apollo Rooms in New York City on Tuesday Evening, January 14, 1862.


aacivfern8

TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FIVE
Addressed to George H. Fernald, New York City, N. Y.
118 Cannon Street

Camp Gorman [Poolesville, Maryland]
February 24th 1862

Cousin George,

I received your most welcome letter of the 12th in due time but you must excuse me for not answering it before as I have been sick a bed all the week with a heavy cold & I am not much better now. But I am doing duty again. I am glad to hear you are all well & enjoying good health.

I think that the backbone of Rebeldom is broke now from the looks of things out West for we have got them pretty well hemmed in all round. There was one hundred guns fired here on the 22nd in honor of Washington’s Birthday.

We ar under marching orders & expect to leave this week for Washington but then we have been going to move so often & have not that we can’t put any dependence in what we hear at all. We have been shelling the rebels across the river last week which annoys them quite a little.

It is raining here now & the wind is a blowing a gale here. But I close now for our tent is blowing down. So give my love to all the folks & keep a large share for yourself.

From your cousin, — George

G. W. F. to G. H. F.


aacivfern91

TRANSCRIPTION LETTER SIX
Addressed to George H. Fernald, New York City, N. Y.
118 Cannon Street

Hampton, Virginia
April 2nd 1862

Dear Cousin George,

I received your welcome letter of the 30th of March & am glad to hear from you & that you are well & enjoying good health.

We are bivouacked out in an open field about a mile west of Hampton Village which the Rebels burned last fall. It is a complete ruins — worse than Harpers Ferry.

We left Alexandria last Saturday on the steamer Salvor & arrived at Fortress Monroe Monday night but did not leave the ship until yesterday morning when we marched to where we are at present. But how long we will stay here or where we are going to is more than I can tell. But I think we are bound for Richmond.

We had a hard time of it on the ship. We were stowed away like cattle & some had to stay out on deck & it was snowing & raining. But we weathered it through all safe.

You spoke about some friends you had in our regiment. I don’t know them but I will hunt them up.

Mary Elizabeth & family are well.

Tell Goll [Golibart] I should like to see him. But I must close now so give my love to all the folks & keep a large share for yourself. From your cousin, — George

G. W. F. to G. H. F.

View_of_the_ruins_of_Hampton,_Virginia,_August_7,_1861
Robert Knox Sneden’s drawing of Hampton, Virginia, after it was burnt by Confederates

aacivfern93

TRANSCRIPTION LETTER SEVEN
Addressed to George H. Fernald, New York City, N. Y.
118 Cannon Street

Camp Winfield Scott
Old Point Comfort
April 15th 1862

Dear Cousin George,

Yours of the 8th arrived in camp last night & I am glad to hear that you are well & in good spirits.

We are bivouacked about 700 yards from one of the enemy’s batteries. We left Hampton on the fourth & marched to Big Bethel that night & encamped in the Rebel’s entrenchments. Next morning we took up out line of march & marched to within six miles of Yorktown where we bivouacked at until the 11th when we took up our line of march again & marched to where we are at present, which is about three miles from our old camp. We had to make the road through a swamp & the ground is very wet & marshy where we are now. But I hope we won’t lay here long before we open on the enemy.

We are so close to them that we can’t have any fires nor no drums beat. I see by those papers you sent me that we have had a bloody battle out in the southwest [Battle of Shiloh] & also that Island No. 10 is ours. I don’t think the war can last very long if we keep on going at the rate we have been.

There was a Pennsylvania regiment took a prisoner yesterday & he says he thinks we can take Yorktown but we can’t take Fort Donelson or Island No. 10 but when they told him we had them both, he seemed very much surprised & said then the South had better give in. He says they don’t get much news in the southern army.

but I must close now so give my love to all the folks & keep a large share for yourself.

From your cousin, — George

G. W. Fernald to G. H. Fernald

P. S. Please excuse bad writing as I have to write on my knapsack.


aacivfern96

TRANSCRIPTION LETTER EIGHT
Addressed to George H. Fernald, 118 Cannon Street, N. Y. City

On picket near Yorktown [Virginia]
April 25th 1862

Dear Cousin,

Yours of the 20th arrived in camp last night & was glad to hear from you & that you are well & enjoying good health. But am sorry to hear that you burnt your hat at the party. But never mind for accidents will happen to the best of folks. You say I must do some grand exploit at Yorktown to get the stripes on my arms or bars on my shoulders. I shall do all that is in my power at the battle to help my country along but not for the stripes or bars for that is not what I come out here for although I have the stripes already on my arms & shall do honor to them.

We are out on picket today & are on the reserve. But last Saturday night our company was on the outpost & we had like to have been all taken prisoners. I had charge of the five outer posts which ran along a swamp & it was very dark & rainy. There was two regiments came out & formed in the shape of a letter “L” & was just closing in on us when we discovered them & fired on them. Then they opened a whole volley on us but their shots all passed over our heads without hurting a man. But some of the boys got lost in the woods & did not find their way out until morning. But we had an accident when we got in camp.

Gen._William_Francis_Bartlett_-_NARA_-_528713
Col. Bartlett — shot in the knee

On Sunday morning, one of our corporal’s musket went off & shot a tent mate of mine in the foot which will lay him up for the rest of the war. We have an alarm about every night & have to sleep on our arms. Also, some time yesterday night the Col. of the 20th Massachusetts Regiment was shot in the knee & it is feared that he will lose his leg.¹

But I must close now so give my love to all the folks & keep a large share for yourself. From your cousin, — George

P. S. Please excuse bad writing as I had to write it on my hat. — G. W. Fernald


¹ The colonel was William Francis Bartlett (1840-1876). During the siege at Yorktown, on 24 April 1862, he was shot in the left knee by Confederate pickets. The wound required the amputation of his leg. Bartlett returned to Boston to recuperate.


aacivfernie1

TRANSCRIPTION LETTER NINE
Addressed to George H. Fernald, 41 Broom Street, New York City

Cumberland Farms, [Cumberland Landing] Va.
May 20th 1862

Dear Cousin,

Your most welcome letter of the 15th arrived in camp last night & I was glad to hear from you & that you was well.

We are encamped in a barley field about a mile & a half from the river. We arrived here on the 18th. We left Eltham [on the Pamunkey River] for here on the 15th but after marching about six miles, we had to halt as it was raining very hard & the roads were so bad that we could not get our artillery over them. So we halted until the 18th when we took up our line of march & marched to here. But we are under marching orders now & don’t know what moment we may leave for some other place.

I hear that our advance drove the enemy across the Chickahominy [River] on the night of the 18th & they say they will make a stand at Bottom’s Bridge & they say they will die in their last ditch before they will surrender. I think that Jeff Davis & some of his generals have gone to pick out a good spot to dig that ditch on for if they make a stand before us, they will need a good, large ditch to put themselves in. ¹

You wanted to know whose division we are in. We are in Gorman’s Brigade, Sedgwick’s Division, & Sumner’s Corps. You will please send me Uncle Daniel’s directions if you have them.

I am very much obliged to you for sending me the papers so often. But I must close now so give my love to all the family & keep a large share for yourself. From your cousin, — George

P. S. Please excuse bad writing as I have to write it on my knapsack. Yours, — G. W. F.


Federal-Camp-Cumberland-Landing-VA
Union troops at Cumberland Landing in May 1862

¹ On 20 May 1862, Maj. Gen. Erasmus D. Keyes’s Federal Corps crossed Bottom’s Bridge over the Chicakahominy River and were unopposed.



aacivfernie3

TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TEN
Addressed to George H. Fernald, 41 Broom Street, New York City

Camp near Harrison’s Landing, James River, Va.
July 18th 1862

Dear Cousin,

Your most welcome letter of the 13th arrived in camp last night and I was glad to hear from you and that you was well but am sorry to hear that specie is so scarce in the City as it will make it very bad for poor folks. I think there should be a law passed to stop those bankers from buying it up as it injures the Government as much as anything else. I hope that they won’t have to draft to make out the 30,000 men from New York for I think it would be a disgrace to the state and we would be nearly on a level with the South then. And what will other nations say when they come to see that we have to use shin plasters and draft some of our men? I should think the sons of the Old Empire State would respond to the President’s call in a moment and when they come to think how we suffer out here for the want of more men, they should come at once.

The weather is very hot out here but we had a cooling shower last night which makes it a little more pleasant today. There is nothing new here. We have company drills, dress parades, and build breastworks. There was heavy cannonading heard up the [James] River yesterday which I guess was from our gunboats shelling the woods to see if there was anything in them.

You wanted to know how it was that our regiment was called the 82nd N. Y. Volunteers. That is our number among the volunteers but we are still the 2nd New York State Militia when we get home.

wolfe
Udolpho Wolf’s Schiedam Schnapps

I have been sick ever since I wrote your last letter but am better now and am doing duty again. I was sick when we were at Fair Oaks and had just reported for duty when the retreat commenced and the fatigue of the fighting and marching brought on the complaint again which is the swamp fever and I have cramps all through my body. But as I don’t feel very well and my pen is poor, I must close. So give my love to all the folks and keep  large share for yourselves. From your cousin, — George

P. S. Please let me know what Udolpho Wolfe‘s directions are and what he sells his Schiedam Schnapps a box for as we want a box for medical purposes in our company. I think his place is in Broad Street but am not certain and if you will see to it for me, I will be very much obliged to you. Yours, — Sergt. G. W. Fernald

G. W. F. to G. H. F.


aacivfernie6

TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ELEVEN
Addressed to George H. Fernald, 41 Broom Street, New York City

Camp near Harrison’s Landing, Va.
July 28th 1862

Dear Cousin,

Your most welcome letter of the 23rd arrived in camp last night and I was glad to hear from you but am sorry to hear that you have caught cold in your eye and hope by the time this reaches you, your eye will be all right again.

We are encamped in the same place as when I wrote to you before. There is no news here except that we still work in the breastworks and have two company drills a day and a dress parade in the evening. I am better but still have the cramps yet in my stomach.

Yesterday I was up to Sickles’ Brigade and saw some of the Port Jervis Boys which are the first persons I have saw that I knew since I left New York — except sister’s family. I received a letter from her last night and she is well and sends her love to you all. I have written several lettres to Uncle Daniel but have received no answers to them and so I think he must be moved away from there. But as there is no more news here to write, I will close by sending my love to you all.

From your cousin, — George

P. S. Please excuse this as I don’t feel very well and my pen is poor. I am very much obliged to you for seeing about the schnapps for me. Yours, — Sergt. G. W. F.


 aacivfernie8
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWELVE
Addressed to George H. Fernald, 41 Broom Street, New York City

Camp near Falmouth, Va.
April 20th 1863

Dear Cousin George,

Your long looked for letter of the 2nd arrived in camp last evening & I was glad to hear from you & that you was well. I had began to think that you had not received my letter of the 21st of March but I see you have & that it is not your fault that your letter has been so long in getting here but it is the fault of the Post Office Department in not forwarding it sooner. There are some clerks in that department that don’t attend to their business very well for they are always sending letters wrong or else they don’t send them at all to their destinations.

I am glad to hear that Golibart is going to school & hope he will be let [allowed to] continue  going to school for a year or two.

I am well at present but have been a little under the weather since I wrote to you last month. We are having rather heavy duty to perform at present as we he to go on picket every other day so we only have three nights in bed out of a week & we think ourselves very lucky when we get that many nights in bed without being turned out for some detail duty.

You may soon hear of the army being in motion here as we are under marching orders to march at a moments notice & we have eight days rations with us — five in our knapsacks & thee in our haversacks. We have sent away our blankets & most of our clothes to Aquia Creek so that we can make pack mules of ourselves for Uncle Sam is getting too poor to find us transportation for our grub. So we have to do without our blankets & clothes to carry our grub on our backs. But we must not mind that for it is only some of Joe Hooker’s strategy. He thinks the enemy have had clothes enough from us so he wants to give them grub now.

The most of Stoneman’s Cavalry went out towards Warrenton last week & rumor says they made a faint at Kelly’s Ford & crossed at Culpepper & came down on the south side of the Rappahannock & turned the enemy’s left flank & have captured Gordonsville & cut the Virginia Central Railroad. If the rumor is true, it is pretty good for us for now the enemy will have to evacuate Fredericksburg or they will be in danger of having their retreat cut off to Richmond.

I am very much obliged to you for sending me the postage stamps. We have had quite a good deal of vegetables this winter & also some soft tack but they are all played out now & they are only issuing marching rations to us now. I should like to have a piece of turkey first rate but you are mistaken when you think I have not had any for a year for I had plenty of turkeys, chickens, & sheep last October & November when we were on the march up here for you know the President used to confiscate the Niggers & free them & so of course it is no more than right that his soldiers should confiscate the poultry & eat it. But the poultry is all used up around here now & so we have to live on government rations.

It is raining here today but I think it will clear off before night — at least I hope so for I will be on picket tomorrow & I want a dry day of it. As there is no more news here, I guess I will close by sending my love to all the family. From your cousin, — George

G. W. Fernald to G. H. Fernald


 aacivfernie94
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THIRTEEN
Addressed to George H. Fernald, 41 Broom Street, New York City

Picket Post on the Rappahannock
May 2nd 1863

Dear Cousin,

Your welcome letter of the 26th of April arrived in camp last night & was glad to hear from you & that you was well.

I am quite well but you must excuse me for not writing much to you this time as I have not much time to write now as the army has all left here except our division & we have to picket the whole front now & guard the telegraph as well as the railroad. There has part of our army gone to the right & part to the left. There is heavy fighting going on both of the right & left. It commenced last Thursday & we are driving the enemy on both flanks but they still hold Fredericksburg. There has 75 thousand of our troops [crossed] the Rapidan River & are getting in the rear of the enemy. There was about two hundred prisoners passed our camp last night that were taken on the Rapidan & they say they think it will be the bloodiest battle that has been fought yet. They think the hardest fighting will be about Sunday or Monday. They think it will be about Hanover Junction as the Rebels will fall back to there. We are looking for orders to cross here & attack the enemy in front at any moment. We have broke camp & got everything with us.

But I must close now as I have to go on post so you will please excuse this. Give my love to all the folks & keep a large share for yourself. From your cousin, — G. W. Fernald

P. S. You wanted to know if my time was not near out. It should be out on the 21st of this month but the government says we have got to stay for three years. But I am not agoing to do it. I am going to leave the regiment when my time is out. I am very much obliged to you for sending me those papers. Your cousin — George


Advertisements

One Comment Add yours

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s