These letters were written by Colman Tilden, Jr. (1840-1927), the son of Colman Tilden (1810-1898) and Hannah Berry (1811-1882). Tilden was born in Scituate but came to Chelsea with his parents in 1848 where he was apprenticed to learn the mason’s trade. He married Eliza Emeline Howard (1842-1935), the daughter of Charles Howard, in Chelsea on 19 January 1864.
These letters were written during the Civil War while Colman served as a private in Company H, 43rd Mass. Volunteers. He enlisted on 6 September 1862 and was mustered out with the regiment after nine months service on July 30, 1863. All of the letters are addressed to his parents and are long narratives blending his longing for home with anecdotes of his daily life, including some battle content.
This collection includes only a portion of the numerous letters Colman wrote. Excerpts of a couple of others I found on the internet that were sold at auction include the following:
On board Steamer Merrimac
Nov. 14, 2 o’clock morning .
…..the ship rolls a great deal. We have had a long passage owing to being obliged to keep our convoy in sight. We passed the light house on Cape Hatteras last evening. It is awful warm — soldiers sleep right on deck. We saw a very large steamer in the distance supposed to be the U. S. Steamer Vanderbilt, formerly of the New York line. We were stowed away on board here. It was awful while we lay in that storm. We were just like hogs. It is better [now]. They having taken out about three hundred of the Forty Sixth. Our quartermaster shot himself through the foot [1st Lt. Henry A. Turner, right foot amputated on Nov. 15, 1862] by carelessly holding his pistol and will probably be obliged to go back to Boston. The boys did not have much pity for him. Mr. Howard did not tell me you tried to come to see me. I want to get ashore. It is not my element on the water. I could not be a sailor for anything. This is the ninth night we have been aboard this vessel — about five too many. I stay on deck most of the time. Your affectionate son, — Colman Tilden, Jr.
New Bern, N. C.
Nov. 23, 1862
….We went on guard with loaded muskets Friday morning. The guard fired at a target. The three best shot to be excused from guard the next time. Mine did not go off and I had to draw the charge — it being so damp it having rained all the time we was on guard. Stood two long hours while we were inspected by Brig. Gen. Avery and staff. We stood at shoulder arms one half the time. Last night there was two guns discharged and the long roll sounded. Across the river, they say, there is rebels within eight miles of us. The remarks of our chaplain today was on our duty to God, our country, and our families. We were given twenty rounds of cartridges. Most every man in camp has had a vomiting spell, but no one knows the cause of it. I was taken. It came on in about, but I didn’t vomit. Everything was well in half an hour. We have been brigaded with the 17th, 23rd, 45th regiments under Colonel Amory [future bvt. brig. gen. Thomas J. C. Amory] of the 17th acting Brig. Gen. I do not care about having you say anything about what I tell you of our officers, but our colonel is nothing but a stick — a regular slow coach. He has got his wife in Newbern. We have scarcely seen him since we came and [he] has no life or energy. I saw Lieut. Col. [John F.] Fellows [17th Mass. Vols., POW Batchelder’s Creek, NC, 2/1/64] and Colonel [John] Kurtz [23rd Mass.] on brigade drill. Colonel Fellows looks much grayer than he did at home.this afternoon on drill we were the poorest drilled regiment on the field. The forty fifth. We looked like old veterans. By the time we go home, instead of being called the Tiger regiment, [we] will be called the fizzle regiment. It has been a fizzled so far. I have visited Newbern for the first time. Your affectionate son, — Colman.
Addressed to Mr. Colman Tilden, Chelsea, Mass.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Camp near Newbern [North Carolina]
December 3, 1862
It is raining a little so we cannot drill and I will try to write a little. I received your letter Monday and very glad I was to get it. I have not received the paper which probably went by the regular mail that ought to have been here long ago, but has not arrived.
There — what do you think, I had just got that written when the captain sent for me to report to the hospital tent. I went up there and they wanted me to build a flue. I felt rather cross because we have worked hard lately and I thought I should have a good time writing today, but I said nothing and went to work to build a flue twenty feet long underground. You would have laughed to see me. We have no trowel so I made a wooden one out of a shingle. My mortar was clay mixed with sand. The brick came from the old house I told you about which is now all torn down. I had two tenders — one to make mortar and dig and the other to clean brick and bring them to me. I finished all inside this forenoon and now it is raining hard and i have just been there and told them that I should not do anything this afternoon. I just as leave have done it as not if it had been pleasant but I should not have been obliged to do anything today and I did not care about working.
Now the captain wants me to build him a kind of oven in his tent. I shall do it for him but take the time when the rest are drilling. I shall also build one in our tent for I guess we shall have to live in tents all the time. Our colonel, they say, had his choice to go into barracks or stay in tents and he chose to stay in tents — for what reason, I do not know. For my part, I had just as leave be in tents if there was plenty of room, but I tell you, seventeen men with guns, equipments, and knapsacks, and a big stove in a little Sibley tent is rather crowding the thing.
We have drilled hard lately and it has not rained but one day since we have been here till today and that day I was on guard. It has been just as warm as it is at home in summer. We have scarcely a minute to ourselves. Last Wednesday I was sent with some others to get some lumber out of an old house about three miles from here through the woods. It was a nice pleasant walk. The house belonged to a plantation there. The soldiers had been there and torn it all out. It was a pleasant place and looked as though the folks might have taken comfort. We loaded ourselves with boards and started for home tired enough. The next day — Thanksgiving — some of the men went up there and burnt everything up. There were two or three skeletons of horses there. I do not know how they came there unless they starved to death. They were shut up in the stable yard.
Thanksgiving day we had a holiday and I went to Newbern. It is a queer sort of a place — nothing but soldiers and darkies. A guard on every corner of the street and you have to be asked for your pass by every guard. It might be a pretty place if the folks took any pains to make it so. The streets all run parallel with each other — good wide streets — and trees all along the side of the street. But the houses are most of them small, miserable things — regular ten footers. There are but few nice buildings in the place and they are all occupied by the officers.
I saw Major General Foster’s headquarters and the house where Burnside lived while he was here. I picked a rose on the side of the road opposite General Foster’s headquarters which I sent to Eliza. What do you think of that — a rose on Thanksgiving day!
Friday, Lieutenant [William] Bradbury took is on a skirmish drill through the woods in the forenoon. Had a jolly time. Did not trouble ourselves about drilling too hard. Saturday was on guard. It was a splendid day. Did not get off until half past ten Sunday. Went to church at eleven and then at two went out on inspection by the colonel which lasted the entire afternoon. We had to stand all that time with knapsack and everything we possess on our backs. Then dress parade after dark.
We do not have any Sundays here at all. We work harder if anything than we do on other days. I fired my gun after coming off guard but did not hit the target.
Sunday night about three o’clock, the long roll sounded and started us from our sleep. Every man rushed for his gun and cartridge box. I got mine and was the first man out with the exception of the Sergeants [Charles G.] Butts and [John] Edmunds. They got the alarm first and so were out first. But in five minutes every man in the company was in his place and the company formed. No man stayed behind that time. We stood for about an hour. The regiment formed in line, then we were told we might turn in but to sleep on our arms. So we had to lay down with all things on. I never have found out the cause for the alarm — only that the pickets across the river fired their guns. I felt first rate and just like having a little time and suppose it will not be the last.
Monday we went on Brigade drill and if we did not sweat. It was awful hot and the sand blew in all directions making it very disagreeable indeed. We drill every day by companies from half past nine till twelve, then dinner, and brigade drill at half past one till quarter past four. Then dress parade and supper. By that time, it is pretty near six o’clock. We hardly have time to clean our guns and if it was not for writing home evenings, I should go to bed pretty early.
Lieutenant [William] Bradbury with two men from this company have been detached to go as pioneers, a Lieitenant and twenty men from the regiment. Bradbury asked me the first one to go with him. The pay is seventeen dollars a month. But I told him I would rather stay with the company. I did not care about going on such duty. I think it must be hard, dirty work. They are going to start tomorrow to make a road through the woods about five miles above here. I had much rather stick by the company and fare as they do and see the same service than to leave them and go off from them to do anything and everything.
About the allotment, I believe I shall not allot any. I do not know when I shall get paid off. If we ever do, I shall try to send it home some other way. I do not know whether you wrote any letters before the one I received or not. You did not say. Eliza says she wrote two. I have received neither. I suppose they must have gone by the regular mail via New York which has been due here for a long time. I am getting rather anxious about them. You did not write whether you were all well or not, but I take it for granted you are or else you would have said so. Phillie wrote a letter to Dr. Adams and she said Mother was rather low-spirited. She must not be so about me at any rate. I am faring very well and never was better in my life. I do not believe we shall have a great deal of fighting here right off. The rebels are not very bold around here. They are getting ready for another expedition here. I do not know whether we shall go or not.
These brigade drills seem to mean something. The 8th and 51st arrived here Saturday. The 8th went to Newbern and the 51st are in barracks alongside of us. They seem like a good set of fellows. Eliza wrote me that she was in our house a great deal and was afraid you would get sick of her. I told her I guess there was no danger of it. You would be glad to have her come in. You did not say anything about Katie — only that she sent her love. Is she well? Give my love to her. Kiss Sammie. Tell him that some of these drummer boys cannot drum near as well as he can, and I guess we shall have to send for him to come out here. Mr. Howard send me some postage stamps and stamped envelopes. I am going to try and find time to write him a letter. But I don’t have time to write much.
We are getting settled here now and get along very well. We do not seem to have much but inspections. No Sundays to ourselves here. And no time except rainy days, and then perhaps I have to work same I did this morning. I was in hopes I should not have to do any mason work but they know I am a mason and I suppose they will have jobs for me about all the time if we stay here — building ovens and fireplaces for the winter.
How are all the men in the gang? Do they ever ask if you hear from me?
It has been raining hards all day and I have been spending my time cleaning my equipments and writing a letter to Mr. Howard. I received your paper yesterday together with three from Mr. Howard. I was much pleased to read the news. I hope you will send papers often. There is one thing I forgot to tell you before I went away. I want Mother to look at my clothes once in a while to see if everything is right and those boots of mine that you carried home I want kept in good order so that I can put then on as soon as I get home as probably my shoe leather will be about gone by that time. The mail with those other letters have not yet come. They think here that they are keeping all the steamboats in New York for Bank’s Expedition. If so, I do not know when I shall get another letter. However, you may keep in writing. I shall get them sometime and they will probably seem better to me, having to wait for them a little. But everything is so dull here that I cannot find anything to write. Perhaps you may not get a letter for a good while for the same reason that I do not get one — no mails. So you will know what to expect. I hope you are all well. SEnd me word if anything is the matter. Give my respects to all. Take good care of Eliza. I should like to see you all but shall have to wait some time yet. However, it will be all the better when I get there.
I am in a great hurry. The mail goes in an hour. I lost a mail last night by not knowing there was one. I received six letters today — three from Katie and three from Eliza. And tell Katie I was so pleased as I could be to have letters from her. The next mail I will send a letter to her. I would write more now to her but have no time. I am first rate health. Feel good because I have heard from home. Give my love to Uncle William and Aunt Azelia. Also to Siah. But I must close so goodbye from your affectionate son, — Colman Tilden, Jr.
P. S. I do not know as you can read this but I am in an awful hurry. — C. T.
Addressed to Mr. Colman Tilden, Esq., Chelsea, Mass.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
Newbern [North Carolina]
December 9th 1862
I sent you a letter this morning but tonight on dress parade the order came to prepare for a march. We are to go in light marching order — that is, overcoats and both blankets, and an extra pair of stockings. We are to have three days cooked rations and seven days uncooked rations to be carried in teams, I suppose. There have been lots of new troops arrived today. I suppose they are all going. We have been ordered to march in thirty-six hours — that will be about Thursday morning.
I am well, in good spirits, and anxious to go. Probably you will know all about it by the papers about as soon as we do, Keep on writing to me. I shall get them sometime. I will write the first opportunity which probably will not be for some time, but I cannot write any more as it is now past six and I want to write a line to Eliza. Do not worry about me at all. You shall hear the first opportunity. All the troops here are probably going. We shall now have a change and I shall have something to tell about. I do not know whether we are to march or go in transports. No one here knows anything about it. But good night and God bless you. I have no time to write more.
From your affectionate son, — Colman
P. S. You may show this to Eliza.
Addressed to Mr. Colman Tilden, Esqr., Chelsea, Mass.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE
Newbern [North Carolina]
December 21st 1862
I have at last been permitted to write you another letter. We have just arrived from an eleven days tramp and we have had a hard time. We have also had three battles and hard ones too. I am just going to write a short letter now to send it as soon as possible and then I will write another giving the full particulars.
I said we had been in three battles. The expedition has. Our regiment has been in but two and yet is has not fired a gun. We were in the hottest of the fire at the Battles of Kinston and Whitehall and yet were in such a position that we could not fire. We have had but two men killed and about four wounded — none in our company. But we had some narrow escapes.
Ed Benner of our company was struck in the breast by a spent ball which went through all his clothes — even his overcoat and cape — and just grazing his skin, not hurting him a might. Our boys are just about played out. They are tired to death. I feel first rate. I had no idea I was so tough. This last two days my feet have been pretty sore, but I do not believe there is a dozen in the regiment that have stood it better than I have. It has been dreadful hot day times — fairly roasting, and cold in the night — so cold that it has been impossible to sleep much.
We started a week ago Thursday morning at daylight and since that until today at noon, have not been a minute under cover. Just think of it, eleven days and ten nights in the middle of December out-of-doors. I have been in first rate health and in first rate spirits. I cannot bring my thoughts together to write anymore now. I merely write this to let you know that I am safe and well. It is so long since I have written. I will write you everything as soon as I get time. I want to write a few words to Eliza.
I received six letters today as soon as I got here — three from you at home and three from Eliza. Glad enough was I to hear from you all. You told me in one of them that you had sent me a map in one of the letters. It was not in there. You must have sent it by another letter or else forgot to put it in. My castile soap has not come either. My box I shall look for every day. I am sorry it is not coming by Adams express because there are a great many coming by that express to this company and I want mine to get here soon as any, but I suppose it will be here sometime. I shall be glad enough to have it. I feel just like eating something nice. I feel as though I could sleep a little tonight. It is some time since I had a good sleep. I shall write a long letter to you and one to Eliza. I shall finish them both before I send them so possibly there may be a mail before I send them. I write this short one so that you may hear at the first opportunity. I suppose you have worried considerably about me.
I have had a hard time but got through it first rate. There is not a man in the regiment who can say he has heard me utter a word of complaint. I am as tough as a brick. I am all out of paper and this march has played out my stockings so those things have come in good time if the box gets here. You could not have done better. But I cannot write more tonight. Give my love to all. Write again soon. I am so sleepy that I shall turn in early tonight. I am glad that you are all well.
I shall have considerable to write about in my next letter but I do not know when it will go. Watson of this company has just this minute opened the letter containing the news of his father’s death. poor boy. I pity him. He has but just come to the place now and is commencing to cry. I know how I should feel if i were in his place. We must do our best to comfort him. But good night. Look out for the next letter. God bless you all.
From your affectionate son, — Colman
Addressed to Mr. Colman Tilden, Esqr., Chelsea, Mass.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FOUR
Newbern [North Carolina]
January 3, 1863
It is sometime since I have written anything — not since Sunday; but I have been a little sick this week. I have not drilled any since Tuesday. I had a violent cold and my stomach, I think, was not of order. I went to the surgeon [A. Carter Webber] and got some medicine and am now as good as new. I have got but very little to write. I received a letter from father; also some papers last Wednesday, I think. My box by the Rifle corp conveyance has not yet arrived though I understand the vessel is at Newbern. Probably get it Monday.
There is another expedition on foot probably to start by the middle of the week. It will be larger than the last. A great many new troops have been coming in here this last two or three days from Virginia — probably ten or fifteen thousand. I think the destination is Wilmington. Possibly we may not go as troops will be required to take care of this place. I had about as leave go as to stay here though should be pleased to stay.
New Years Day we were paid off up to the day we enlisted so as I enlisted the 6th of September, I got almost two months pay. I received about twenty-three dollars. I am going to send some home by this letter. A great many are going to send their home in a package directly to Mayor Tracy by Adams Express but I am going to risk it and send by letter — not all at a time, but part in this and part in my next. I want you to take out what I owe you and when I want anything, buy it with that money.
Do you remember Capt. Dale of Chelsea that used to be superintendent of the horse cars and Charlie Farnum who used to be carpenter of the Ferry boats? They have just been into camp to see us. Dale is captain of the transport steamer Maple Leaf and Farnum is carpenter. It looked natural to see them. If your things should happen to get here and the next day we should be ordered off, it would be unlucky, wouldn’t it? I think likely it will be so, but it cannot be helped. We must take it as it comes.
The Monitor — the great ironclad — was lost it is supposed off Hatteras the other night. It is thought that she was on her way here to help take Wilmington though nothing is known.
I suppose you are not having much work now. I wish you would keep run of all the days you lose by there not being any work because when you do not have work, I certainly should not have any if I was at home and I should like to see how many days I should have lost.
It has been splendid weather ever since we have been here. It has not rained more than four or five days in all. And it has not been cold enough a single day to wear mittens. Just think of that (nights it is colder, and on guard mittens are quite comfortable). I have often wondered whether Mr. Anderson ever enquired about me. You said in your last that he had. I suppose the people at home will think we were driven back to Newbern. It is not so. I suppose that we did retreat because what could twenty thousand men do right in the midst of the enemy’s country with no chance to get supplies? But we done all that was intended to be done at the commencement. It was the plan to go up there and wake them up a little and destroy that railroad and then to go back to Newbern. The object of destroying the railroad is clear enough to be seen if this next expedition is going to Wilmington. It does not give the Rebels a chance to use the road to transport troops to Wilmington.
All the papers we have yet seen do not mention the 43rd [Massachusetts] in the fight but in two places where it speaks of the 44th and 45th, it ought to have been the 43rd instead. Three more companies were detached last Wednesday for picket at a place called Batchelder’s Creek about twelve miles from here. They were Co. A, E & D. So we have but six companies left now. Co. C being at Beaufort. The 23rd has been detached from our brigade and the 51st substituted. We are sorry for they have a bully regiment.
Suppose you have heard that Barney Mann was wounded. They say he volunteered to burn the bridge at Goldsboro, but was wounded in the attempt. If it was so, he showed great pluck. Col. Amory could not get commissioned Brigadier General though he is still acting. I do not know the reason why.
I do not feel much like writing this afternoon. I feel mad and ugly. You remember the Sunday you were at Readville when they had the trouble about when our time commenced? How discouraged I felt then because they said our time had not commenced and would not until the field officers were sworn in. They were sworn in that day, the 25th of October, I think. The question was finally settled that our time commenced when we were sworn in. It is reported now that the Colonel told Capt. Rounds that we had served but two months the 25th of last month when we thought we had served three months the 25th of the month. And today at church our Chaplain made some remarks and said that nearly three months of our time had elapsed. Now don’t that look as though our time did not commence until the 25th of October, and we are obliged to serve over a month after we were sworn in before our nine months commenced. According to that, our time is not out until the 25th of July. It makes me feel blue enough. I would be willing to stay in the service of the United States for nine months and would not grumble one night, but when it comes to cheating us in our time over a month, it is enough to discourage a fellow. I suppose we might as well make up our minds that we have yet got over six months to serve, while we thought we had but little over five. I don’t understand though how they can swear us in for nine months and keep us in ten or eleven. According to the way it is now, they need not have commissioned the field officers yet, or until now, and our nine months not commence until now although we had been sworn in four months. But I suppose “might makes right” and we cannot help ourselves. If I was sure I could be at home next Fourth of July, I would not say another word about time.
They are making great preparations for the next expedition. It expect it will be a big thing. There seems to be a rumor that we shall not go. But I believe I would rather go. It will be a long march being some eighty or ninety miles, I believe, but I should like to be with the army although I am not by any means spoiling for a fight. You read in the papers about soldiers being so eager for a fight. You need not believe it. They would all like to be out of it, although when the battle comes, they will fight as well as man can fight. It is not natural for a man to wish to go where the chances are that he will not come back. A man sees things in a different light here from what he does at home.
It makes a man feel a little mad to see all the darkies here doing just as they please — loafing around doing nothing and getting fed and clothed by government while we cannot do anything at all. The niggers are the nastiest, laziest set of vagabonds that ever you saw, and let any man come out here and if he would not get sick of them, he ought to be made to live with them. I wish Obed Merritt was out here. I always had an idea that the Morris Brother Minstrels exaggerated a great deal in their performances. They do not begin to come up to the mark of what they really are. All the darkies here can do is to dance and they can do that to perfection — any of them. You ask any of them to dance and they will do it in a minute. [It is] the only thing they are willing to do. And it is a comical sight enough. If they can’t dance, then no one can. They make their feet go in every direction. one half of them you cannot tell which side of the leg the foot is on as the leg comes right down in the middle of the foot. Their heels are as long as their feet.
But I cannot write anymore this time. I shall send ten dollars in the letter. Write and let me know as soon as you get it. Give my love to Katie and all hands. Kiss Sammie for me, If I have to go off, I will try and let you know. My love to Eliza. If I go off, keep on writing. I shall get them sometime. I feel better in health today.
Hoping I shall be with you all sometime or other in the course of a year, I am your affectionate son, — Colman
P. S. Sunday evening. I have just received a letter from Katie and one from Eliza. I forgot to wish you all a Happy New Year, but I do a great many. And also wish that before the end of the year we may all be together again. — Colman
Addressed to Mr. Colman Tilden, Esq., Chelsea, Mass.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FIVE
Newbern [North Carolina]
January 11th 1863
I have only got time to write a few lines. The order was read on dress parade tonight to prepare five days rations for a march. We are to go sometime within forty-eight hours — perhaps tomorrow morning and perhaps not before Tuesday. We do not any of us know where we are going. There is to be a great expedition go from here, I think to Wilmington, but I do not think it is where we are going. There are but three regiments going as near as we can find out — the 43rd, 51st, and 45th. I think we must be going out scouting somewhere.
Week before last, I was not very well but I have got real smart now — as well as ever. There has been no mail go home here for a long time and it is said none will go until the expedition starts. This is the second letter to you and one to Kate that will go by the next mail. I have been writing a letter to Mr. Howard today.
Yesterday Dr. Adams and I went to Newbern to the Colonel’s house to chop wood. We worked all day and was to go again tomorrow but I guess we shall not now. I shall be a great wood chopper, I guess, when I get home. I have not received a letter for there has been no mail since last Sunday. I hope I shall get a letter before I go. The Torpedo — the vessel that the rifle corps boxes are to come in — arrived at Beaufort and is now on her way to Newbern as it does to go from Boston to Newbern as they have to go out of Beaufort Harbor into Hatteras Inlet and so up the river to Newbern. I do not suppose we shall get our eatables now until we get back. The vessel that you sent my Castile soap by has been wrecked. I have been told so. I shall not get that probably.
But I cannot write more now. Possibly I may get back before this mail go. I shall write again as soon as I get back and let you know how we get along this time. Give my love to all. I hope you are all well. I hope when I get back I shall have another batch of letters. It is about all the pleasure we have — hearing from home. If we go on a march of five days now, I do not believe we shall go on the big expedition but shall probably stay around here. But I must close. Kiss Sammie and Katie for me — Eliza too. Pray for me and believe me your own affectionate son, — Colman
God bless you all.
P. S. I do not think I shall send anymore money until I get back. — Col
Newbern [North Carolina]
January 15, 1863
When I wrote the last letter I thought it would be the last for some time as we were ordered to get five days rations ready to march within forty-eight hours. Well, we have been all excitement ever since waiting for orders to move. They did not come until last night. We were ordered to be in line at half past six this morning. We were routed out at four o’clock, got into line at half past six, and stood till nine o’clock when we were sent to our quarters to wait further orders. They came at eleven. We got ready, formed in line, stood for fifteen minutes, and then and aide came from the General saying we should not go today. So here we are. Whether we shall go tomorrow or not, I do not know. I do not know where we are going. There are but three regiments and a company of artillery — the 43rd, 45th, and 51st are all that is going. The 17th will stay at Newbern.
If you look on the map, you will see a place called Swansboro on the coast between Beaufort and Wilmington. It is rumored that we are going to take that place. At any rate, I do not believe we are going on the big expedition which is now preparing probably for Wilmington. I suppose there are fifty thousand men here now. A large force will be left here to defend this place as an attack on it is thought likely. There are two of the large monitors in Beaufort Harbor to go with the expedition.
I hated to start until I had got another letter from home but the prospect was bad, when lo and behold, after we came back to our quarters the first time, a mail was brought into camp, so I received three letters — one from you, one from Katie, and one from Eliza. But I was surprised that I received no later dates than January 2d as some of the boys had letters dated the 7th.
The Rifle corps boxes arrived Tuesday. Those cakes were splendid and in first rate order but the pies were completely spoiled — all moldy. I do not understand the reason. Some pies the same as mine and some that were all open were spoiled, while others were just as good as the day they were cooked. Those sausages were first rate and are tip top things to carry on the march. There has been no mail go for a long time as they are afraid news will get away about the expedition. I suppose it will be some time that you will have to wait to get these letters but they will be just as good when you get them. I have sent three or four letters to you already which I suppose will go in the same mail with this.
We shall not muster seventy men in this company on this expedition as a great many are exempt — some from real pains and a great many from fancied ones, I think. However, your boy is tough and I guess will stand a march. At any rate, he is going to try it. He is not beat-out yet. I am glad the folks in Boston are thinking of us out here in North Carolina. They cannot do too much for us. I do not know when I shall write again — probably not for some time as it is impossible to tell where we shall be or how situated. We may be back in camp in a week and perhaps not for a long time so do not get impatient if you do not hear from me. I will write as soon as I possibly can. I did not intend to write again, but having this afternoon to myself, and being sure now that we shall not go before tomorrow, I thought I would write a few times to let you know that we are still O. K.
I wish you would send me the Harper’s Weekly every week. It is quite interesting to us out here. One of them arrived here today with pictures of our battle grounds. They were pretty fair. If you saw the pictures, you will remember in the one of Whitehall a regiment right in the road. That is the very spot where our regiment was and likely enough that picture was sketched at that time. Somehow in all the accounts of our expedition, where the 43rd ought to be, some other regiment got the praise. We did not do much anyway, but I think we ought to have the praise for what little we did do. But the 44th and 45th are always mixed up in our mess. You ought to hear the boys laugh when they read some of those 44th letters in the papers. If they are not blowers. you cannot find any I’ll bet.
But I cannot write more now. Give my love to all. Kiss Katie and Sammie for me. Respects to Uncle William and Aunt Azelia. Keep on writing. Tell me all the news and I will do the same. My respects to all the gang at the locker. Tell them it is full as comfortable loafing here as there. I guess I will write a line or two to Eliza.
So goodbye till after the expedition from your affectionate son, — Colman
9 o’clock evening
Dear Parents, I have only time to write a few lines. I have just received another mail and a letter from you and one from mother. Tell mother I like to have letters from her. I wish she would write oftener. I received a receipt for the box but have no time to say anything more about it. Everything you say you sent is first rate and just what I should want you to send. I would write more if I could but the lights ought to have been out before this so I must stop. I will write again as soon as I get back from our march. We are to be in line at five o’clock in the morning. So good night and pleasant dreams. If the mail had come before dark, I could have written more. From Colman
Addressed to Mr. Colman Tilden, Esq., Chelsea, Mass.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER SIX
Newbern [North Carolina]
March 3d 1863
Thinking I could do no better to improve the hour that I have to spare than by writing to you, I will see what kind of a letter I can make. Friday night I received your box. Everything was in good order. The preserves — or that part of them that I have opened — are very nice. Tell Aunt Azelia and Mrs. Cook that I am very much obliged. That horse radish that Katie sent was a first rate thing to send. It makes the salt-horse taste much better. That popcorn was quite a rarity. The pepper that you sent is something we do not get here and was very acceptable. The salt I did not need as we get a great plenty here. There was a mail arrived Sunday. I was on guard. It is the first Sunday since I have been here that I have not been to church but I could not go there as it was my two hours on at that time.
I saw Henry Merritt and Andrew Poole here Sunday, but did not speak to them. They are both in different vessels I believe. Poole came here some time ago but his vessel was confiscated by government having spiritous liquors on board. She was sent to New York. From that, Andrew Poole went to Washington and got a permit to bring her back again, so here he is again.
We shall have a full regiment again in a day or two as our companies are all coming back, companies from the 51st being sent to relieve them. It will make guard duty lighter for us. Now we have to go on about once a week. These companies coming will make in once in a fortnight.
Do you read the Chelsea paper? If you do not and would like to read an account of our first expedition, you had better get it. The letters are written by Orderly Sergeant Edmunds and gives a very minute and truthful account.
Here it is the third day of spring. I can hardly realize it. We have had so little winter. Well, time is flying and it will soon be June, and then I can be with you all once more. I am afraid it will not seem natural to be at home when I get there. Eliza tells me that her folks have got a house to move into, and you are going to move soon. I hope wherever you go that there will be a good pleasant room for me. I liked the house that you live in now because I had such a good room.
I believe we have the easiest time of any regiment round here. Our Colonel is not going to hurt us with hard work. I will tell you an incident which happened here a few days ago, which perhaps will show you a little what kind of a man our Colonel is. Our Lieut.-Colonel ¹ is a man, who, if he was in command of the regiment, would put the men through, I tell you. He cannot bear to see the men having an easy time. The other day he told the Colonel that the men did not drill enough. The Colonel answered, “Yes they do drill enough. I am not going to kill the men. I want to take just as many men back to Boston as I possibly can.” He never says much. He is no talker at all, but I guess he thinks enough, and he is a man that will have command of his regiment too, and the other officers can not influence him much. In two other instances he has shown his thoughtfulness of the men — once on battalion drill and once on dress parade. Both times the Lieut.-Col. was in command and it was commenced to rain, but he took no notice of it, and kept on drilling, when the Colonel came up and told him he had better send the men to their quarters. The men notice such things quick enough. We have never seen Col. [Charles L.] Holbrook lose his temper yet — something that cannot be said of the other officers.
The 45th and 44th have to drill hard enough. They get put right through. I have no doubt that they are better drilled than we are, but such hard work don’t make the men feel any better contented.
Lieut. [William] Bradbury of our company, but detached as Lieut. of pioneers, has got a big job. He is building a road from here to Newbern. The distance is about two miles and most of it through a thick swamp. He has got a large gang of darkies to work and he bosses them in great shape. The pioneers cut down the trees and the darkies do the toting, as they call it. If you want a darky to carry anything for you, you must tell him you want him to tote it. They would not know what you meant if you should say anything else.
I see by the papers that there is quite a row at Ship Island between two companies of the 18th Maine and a nigger regiment there. It is not going to do for government to put them — the darkies, I mean — on the same footing with the whites and try to mix them together. There will be a row in the field right off. They will never be much benefit to the government, I reckon. There is Sgt. [Charles G.] Butts calling out, “Fall in for drill!” so I must close in a hurry.
Tuesday, six o’clock
The mail closes in a very few minutes. I did not know it until this noon and have had no chance to write since. Give my respects to all. I will try to write more next time but as I want a letter to go every mail cannot now.
Goodbye from your affectionate son, — Colman
¹ John C. Whiton, future colonel and brevet Brigadier General of the 58th Massachusetts Volunteers. He was wounded in action at Cold Harbor on 3 June 1864.
Addressed to Mr. Colman Tilden, Esq., Chelsea, Mass.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER SEVEN
Newbern [North Carolina]
March 8th 1863
Here we are still not having gone on any expedition and in my opinion are not likely to. I will explain the reason of that order as well as I understand it. The order came Thursday. well Friday, a large expedition started. One part of it went by the Kinston Road, and the other part — consisting of seven regiment infantry, one half regiment cavalry, and twelve pieces of artillery — went by our camp on the road towards Pollocksville. As near as we can learn, there is a large force of rebels somewhere above us and this expedition is to drive them off. And in case the enemy is too much force, to send to Newbern for help and we shall have to go. So the orders still hold good. All the troops remaining here have the same orders. They have been gone now three days and we have heard nothing from them so I guess everything is right as yet and we shall not have to go. We were only to have three days rations while those that have gone had ten.
There is a great deal of talk now that we are going to Newbern to do guard duty there. I understand it all lays with our officers. I do not know whether I want to go or not. Probably it will not be so healthy there and the duty is quite hard. But on the other hand, if we go there, we shall not have to go on any expeditions so you see that will be an advantage. I do not care much either way. I shall be contented in one place or the other.
There has been a queer quarrel going on here between our Colonel and Colonel Codman of the 45th which may interest you so I will tell you as well as I can on paper. It is rather laughable to us, and has ended good for us. You see Colonel Codman was commissioned by the government before our Colonel was, but our Colonel was sworn into the U. S. Service first by about an hour. First they swore our Colonel in and went right from him to Codman. Well Codman has claimed and taken the most honorable position in line because he was commissioned first. Holbrook couldn’t see it, claiming that he was sworn in first. Therefore was senior officer. Codman would not give in so they wrote to the Secretary of War. He said that Holbrook was right, but General Foster said no, they were nothing but militia and it made no matter when they were sworn in. It was the commissions that told. “Well,” said Holbrook, “if we are nothing but militia, we are state soldiers and I shall carry nothing but the state flag.” So on drills and reviews while all other regiments carried all their colors — State and United States — we have always carried nothing but the old State Flag. Now the question has been settled. Col. Holbrook is senior and will, I suppose, now take his rightful position. It has just been settled and yesterday on drill, the old Stars and Stripes were brought out, saluted by the regiment, and will now take their place in the line. We also raised a new flag thirty-six feet long and twenty wide on our new flag staff. I suppose our Colonel would not hoist them until the question is settled. I tell you, he is stuffy and if he starts on a thing, he is bound to put it through, but he is careful to be in the right before he starts.
This is about the first chance I have had to write to you since Sunday. Yesterday I was on guard and it was a damp, nasty feeling day. Here we are anxiously waiting for a mail, none having arrived since a week ago last Sunday. The Adams Express steamers arrived at Beaufort Tuesday night and reports that the mail steamer left New York the day before she did, but I suppose she is some old tub of a thing that will take forever to get here. It makes the men dreadful dull and impatient when they have to wait so for letters. They would be a great deal more contented and happy if they could get letters about twice a week.
Last night orders were read on dress parade that the regiment need not keep their cooked rations on hand as the expedition had returned and we should not be wanted right away. The expedition arrived Tuesday night having been gone five days. The went the same route that we did on our last expedition. The other part that went the other way, I do not know whether it has returned or not. I do not know where it went either.
Yesterday, one of Co. K’s men died in the hospital at Newbern. I do not know what the matter was. Two or three days before, Co. C arrived here from Beaufort. One of their men [William H. Kingsbury] who was sick with the Typhoid Fever escaped from the hospital and jumped overboard. He was rescued but it caused his death. He was probably crazy. That makes four deaths from sickness since we have been out here. One from Co. B; he was sick when he left Boston. One from Co. K who died from exhaustion on the first march. And the other two as above. We have also had three men killed making a loss of seven men which is not very bad. The 43rd is said to be the healthiest regiment in Newbern. There is a regiment here — the 58th New York, I think — which has been in service fourteen months and all the time in Virginia until within two months and it has not lost a single man killed in battle. It seems queer that some regiments will go right into the battle and be all cut up — like the 35th Mass. — while others will be here a year and over and not be in a fight at all.
Major Charles O. Rogers of the old Second Battalion and the editor of the Boston Journal is coming to visit our camp today. So I suppose before long you will see our regiment spoken of in his paper.
Our company is dwindled down to quite a small number. We have not got but about forty men for guard duty; all the rest being on some other duty. Out of our sergeants, only three are able for duty, and out of eight corporals, only three do duty in the company. Of the sergeants, Sgt. [Horace P.] Eldridge is on the ambulance corps. Sgt. [John] Edmunds, our orderly, has been on the sick list for some time. He was taken with the sore throat and as he did not give up when he should, it operated for the worst. He is getting better now but he looks bad. The boys are all sorry enough. He is one of the best men in the company. His position is the most trying of all and yet he has fulfilled his duties in such a manner that he has the best will of all in the company. There is not one than can find the least fault with him. He is spoken of by all in the regiment as the best orderly here. So three sergeants do the work of five.
Of our corporals, Adams is boss of a gang of niggers building a new road under Lieut. [William] Bradbury. Bryant is corporal on fortifications. Pitman is detached for service at the hospital. King is company commissary. Colesworthy is color corporal and so gets clear of all duty except drill where the colors are carried, so that puts all the guard duty and all other duty on the shoulders of three corporals — [Charles M] Coburn, Barnes, and Butler. Then we have but two commissioned officers — our Captain and Second Lieutenant — so that on drill our company shows rather small and yet we have as many men as any in the regiment.
We do not know but we should go to Newbern but by appearances now I guess we are not going. Yesterday I received a large package of letters, papers, by the way of Mr. Gilmore. I should judge by the writing on the covering that it was from Mr. Howard. I do not believe there are a great many of the men here who are so often remembered by their kind friends at home as I am. I have been kept well supplied in everything since I came out here. I guess you will have to wait as long for a letter as I do, There has been no mail go from here since last Thursday night — just a week. It is now a little over six months since I enlisted as I signed my the name the 6th of September. Six months ago today I was in Scituate with Eliza. I had a jolly good time. Things are a leetle grain changed, now ain’t they? Never mind. Time is flying. July will soon be here and I shall be in Chelsea.
I suppose Aunt Azelia is looking anxiously for Gus now. I shall expect every letter now to hear that he has got home. I suppose he will be a regular old salt. He will be home in first rate season to be taken by the conscription. I suppose I shall be clear of it for a year at least as I see by the law that those persons now in the service shall not be enrolled. But as the enrollment is to be made yearly, I suppose the second one will take me. I am sorry they have to resort to such a measure, but if they do put the law in force, there are some men I know of who I hope will have to come.
The company have been out this morning to get trees to set out in our street. Yesterday I got a whole bunch of peach blossoms which I picked off a tree here. I do not suppose the trees in Chelsea have begun to think of blooming yet.
There has been no mail arrived yet and we are beginning to be rather anxious. Today I received another package containing a letter and paper from you and some envelopes from Mr. Howard. There was also a small package enclosed for Charlie Bassett which I gave him.
So you did not think that picture was natural? Well, the boys here say it was a tip top one. There was one fault with it. It was a little might too dark but that does not hurt the looks. I do not see why you did not get some letters with the picture. Either they have been lost or else they were detained some way so that they did not arrive until the last of the week. I put two or three letters in at the same time as the picture.
We have just arrived home after a short expedition and as the particulars may interest you, I will write them. Newbern was taken from the rebels the 14th day of March 1862 so that today is the first anniversary. The rebels have said that they would be in possession of the place again in less than a year. Yesterday towards night, we heard some pretty heavy firing but supposed it was the artillery practicing. At nine o’clock in the evening, just as we ere turning in, our Captain came to the tent and said that as today was the anniversary, Gen. Foster was going to celebrate it by a grand review in Newbern and we was ordered to be there at eight o’clock this morning. The Captain also said that our pickets had been driven in and quite a sharp skirmish had taken place, and that we must be prepared to be called out to fight while we was at Newbern occasion. We were ordered to carry forty rounds and be in readiness. About twelve o’clock in the night, we were awakened by orders to march. The rebels were going to attack Newbern. We were to get our breakfast and at four were in line on the parade ground. We carried nothing. Well, after we had got in line, we were ordered to get our blankets and haversacks filled with hard tack. After we had formed in line again, the Colonel said new orders had come and we should not want our blankets and rations, If we needed them, they would be sent to us. We carried them back and then formed again, making the third time that we had formed in line this morning. Finally we got started and marched about three miles when we met our folks coming back — the rebs having skedaddled. So we turned and came back and arrived here about eight o’clock, giving us quite an appetite for breakfast. I feel pretty tired now as we have been up most all night besides the march. I do not know how much force the rebels had but I guess it was simply a raid of a small force. Probably they thought they would celebrate the day by putting us to so much trouble as they could. It is said, with how much truth I don’t know, that they threw four shells across the Neuss River right into the 44th [Massachusetts’] Camp. Our folks at Fort Totten having been shelling the woods across the river all morning. I wish all our expeditions could be as short as this one.
The fourteenth of the month seems to be quite an eventful day. The Battle of Newbern was the 14th of the month. We arrived at Beaufort the 14th of November four months ago today. The Battle of Kinston was the 14th of December, three months ago today. And now we have another skirmish on the 14th of March.
The mail that we have been expecting so long has at last arrived although we have not yet got the letters. It is a fortnight tomorrow since a mail got in. Then I got one letter from Eliza. It is just three weeks next Tuesday since I heard from you with the exception of the letter which came by Mr. Gilmore.
Saturday after I had written the above, we received orders to march with one days rations. In less than fifteen minutes from the time we got the order, the regiment was on the march. We went to relieve the 25th on picket. Since that, we have been chasing the rebels. We only arrived home last night having been gone three days instead of one. Yesterday we marched twenty miles. You can never see what a soldier’s life is. Here we had to go away on a march of three days without a minute’s notice.
There was a mail went when I was gone so that I couldn’t send any letter. I shall not write anything in this letter about the expedition but save it until the next as I want to close this so to be sure that it will go in the next mail. Since Saturday morning I have received lots of letters and papers. Two mails have come in together. I am glad Gus got home. I guess he had rather a hard time. Will he go again? Give my best respects to him. I should be pleased to receive a letter from him. I shall close this letter pretty soon and commence another one right off.
Last night after we got home, Gen. Amory through our Colonel gave our regiment great praise for the manner in which it performed its duty on this march. You see there are only two regiments — the 46th and our own. But I shall close this now. I shall write a short letter to Sammie on the bottom of this page and if you want to, you may cut it off for him. I am in first rate health and good spirits. So many letters coming in at once does a great deal of good. I hope you are all well. Give my very best respects to all my friends. My love to Katie. So goodbye for this time and believe me your affectionate son, — Colman
P. S. Is there any of the stuff that my shirts are made of at home. I have worn a hole through the pocket of these shirts and should like a piece to patch it. Please send some if there is any. — Colman
Addressed to Mr. colman Tilden, Esq., Chelsea, Mass.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER EIGHT
Newbern [North Carolina]
April 7th 1863
I received two letters today — one from you and Mother, and one from Eliza. I was glad enough to get them. I have not got much to write. We have had some considerable excitement here lately and we are now under marching orders to be gone ten days to start at a minute’s notice, but I don’t think we shall have to go anywhere. All the troops that could possibly be spared from here have gone to Little Washington. We can not find out anything reliable as to how things are situated there, but we hear firing everyday and I have no doubt that they have had some fighting. I suppose that our orders were to go there too, but it is said that five thousand men came from Suffolk to reinforce them and I guess that is the reason we have not gone. I hardly believe that we shall go away now. The 17th and our regiment are in a place where is is of utmost importance to keep troops. It would not do to take all the troops away from this side of the river. Until a week or two there has been eight regiments near us. Now there are but two — the 17th and the 43rd. If the rebels make an attack on Newbern, it is more than probable that they would send a force this way by the Pollocksville road, and so they have got to keep troops right where we are. If the rebels should only come by that road, the 43rd would see the first of it. I cannot tell what they intend to do. They have got batteries placed on the banks of the river that goes to Little Washington in such a manner that transports with men and provisions cannot get up there, so that place is kind of cut off. But a land force has started from here which will engage the enemy and probably take them. Some of our boys wish that they could go up there. I am satisfied here. We occupy one of the most responsible positions here and it is just as much honor to us as though we went on that expedition. However, we may go yet. If you should not hear for some time, you may know that we are off. I have no fears that we shall either go away or that we shall be attacked here. A little while ago, if orders to have ten days rations ready to march at a minutes notice, had come, all the boys would have been excited and talk about it all the time until they started. Now you would hardly hear a word said at all. They take the orders just the same as they would an order to drill.
About our taking that cavalry was all gammon. We saw none at all. But it is well enough to make them think that the 43rd is wide awake. I cannot think who could get up such a story as that was. That letter that you cut out of the Traveller and sent me was the nearest sight of any letter I have seen. I am glad to see that the 43rd is mentioned once in awhile. It was no one in this regiment that wrote it. Willie is a smart fellow, ain’t he? The last time I saw him he had quite a war fever on. You gave it to John pretty well. I had rather fight a thousand such men as he is than the same number of rebels. I wish he would get drafted, You was lucky in finding that bracelet. I can imagine that Obed felt a little mad because he did not find it. I don’t believe he would have been quite so honest. He would have kept it himself. I suppose you would have felt better satisfied even if you had not got anything for it than to have kept it. I should at any rate.
Tell mother I know a boy by the name of Warren in our company. Father would know him too if he could see him. He always used to go over in the boat with us and walk up the street ahead of us. He got a letter from his mother by the mail that I did not get a letter and he told me mother had been to see his mother and that his mother wanted him to always mention how I was in his letters. He is a first rate little fellow. He is well, fat and hearty. I am glad you are going to let Liz sleep in my room. I have got all over the piles and am in tip top health. Never was better. It pleases me to have you invite ‘Liza to go round with you to see the folks. O was pleased enough to have mother write me a letter. She does not write very often. I do not believe I shall write to Katie in New York as she may go home before my letter would get there. I suppose she is having a pretty nice time.
I don’t like these long, hot days. The time seems as long again. The days last winter passed quick, they were so short. But now it is getting to be such an old story that the time passes slow enough. It was five months ago last Sunday since I saw any of you, It was seven months ago yesterday since I enlisted. A year ago at this time I was sick enough. I was in some pain, I tell you. I can see the place on my hand now where the sore was. How do you think work will be this summer? Will there be plenty?
I see by the papers that gold is falling, or rather the premium on gold. I should think that that would make the price of everything lower, and that times would be a great deal easier for poor folks at least. There go the drums for drill and the orderly is singing out, “Fall in Co. H for drill,” so I shall be obliged to stop.
Half past nine at night.
In a great hurry. We had just got to bed when we were routed out to march. We have just got our rations. We are to have ten days. The mail goes tomorrow. Probably I shall not have a chance to write for some time now. Keep on writing. I shall have them when I get back. The first minute I have to write you a letter, probably it will not be for ten days though. I can write no more as the men are getting ready to fall in. Don’t worry about me. I am all right.
From your affectionate son, — Colman
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER NINE
Newbern [North Carolina]
April 27th 1863
I intended to have written a long letter to you yesterday but I could not. I had no time. I wrote some to Eliza and then had to stop. I thought we should stay in camp for a spell but last night after we got to bed, the order came to be ready to march with three days rations at day break this morning. It is now six o’clock and we have not yet fell in but expect to every minute.
I am in good health. I do not know where we are going or what for . It is only for three days, or at least that was the order for rations. Do not worry about me. Bu the time you get this letter, I shall be home again and I will write just as soon as I get back. I wanted yo write you a good letter but they are bound not to give me a chance. They seem bound to put us through. Well! A soldier’s life is always gat it is said; perhaps it is. But I can write no more as I must get ready to go. Try not to worry so much about me. I am well as I can be.
Give my love to Katie and Sammie. Take good care of yourselves. God bless you all.
Your affectionate son, — Colman
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TEN
Newbern [North Carolina]
May 1st 1863
I hasten to inform you all at home that I have once more arrived at Newbern in safety. We arrived in camp at half past four o’clock having been gone five days instead of three as we supposed. I suppose the first thing I had better do is to give you an account of our expedition. You know we arrived in camp on Saturday morning. Well we hoped to stay at home for a little time but it was not to be. Sunday night about ten o’clock, our Captain came round and said orders ha just come into camp to be in line at daybreak with three days cooked rations and one hundred rounds of ammunition. The powder part of the order rather started the boys. They thought something pretty serious was up as on the Goldsboro tramp we only had sixty rounds and have never had but forty since. The cooks had to turn out and go to work cooking our meat. In the morning, orders came that we need not start until eight o’clock and be at the depot in Newbern at ten. So we found out that we were not to march. When we got to Newbern, we found all our brigade with the exception of the 51st and part of Lee’s Brigade consisting of eight companies of the 27th, eight of the 5th. and two of the 46th. Lee’s and Amory’s brigade compose Palmer’s Division and of course he was in command. We did not get aboard the cars until past twelve o’clock. Then we started and went as far as Batchelder’s Creek — about eight or ten miles from Newbern. Here we all landed except the 45th and seven companies of the 17th. They went ahead. We were ordered to be ready to start in a short time so we laid down on the track and waited and waited but no train came along. We waited until eight in the evening when the train finally came along and the 43rd started for somewhere, we did not know where. We rode about eight miles farther when we espied a camp and found it was the 45th and 17th. We landed and camped for the night. That was nine o’clock.
Now for the other brigade. The 58th — a New York Regiment doing picket duty at Batchelder’s Creek with two pieces of artillery — joined Lee’s Brigade and started by the road to march to a certain crossroads. The next morning it rained, pouring a hard thunderstorm. We had no shelter except what we could make with our rubber blankets stretched across on rails. Companies from all our regiments were sent out scouting and about noon all the troops except the 43rd were started off. We did not know where they were going but congratulated ourselves that for once, we were going to be let off easy. It seems that they had word that the rebels were throwing up earthworks some ways up the track. Our brigade went up the track and the other troops went up another road to try and bag the rebels. They marched about eight miles when they came across the enemy and engaged them. After a sharp skirmish, one or two companies of the forty-fifth charged and planted their flag on the works. The rebels had no artillery and skedaddled pretty quick when our folks charged. The forty-fifth had one man killed and three or four wounded. It is said on good authority too that the man was killed by their own fire and not by the rebels. The twenty-seventh had two or three wounded, Our folk took but one prisoner and he was wounded.
The next day we laid still except companies out scouting. On Thursday our regiment received orders to go up the railroad and guard the pioneers who were repairing the road. We marched up four or five miles and then went into the woods to camp. I thought we were to have a fine time and had got ready to make some coffee when the orderly had orders to detail ten men for scouts. Well, as it came my turn to go on guard and as it was intended to post pickets if needed, I was detailed. There was thirty of us — ten from each of three companies under Lieut. Chadbourne. We started and went into the woods where we deployed as skirmishers. We went out at eleven and staid till about two. It was hard work. It was all swamp and sometimes we were over our knees in water and mud, and then through thick brush where we could hardly make our way ahead at all. I got all scratched up with briars. We saw nothing of the rebels but saw a number of places where they had been but a short time before. We got back to camp pretty well tired out.
I had to leave off writing last night to go to bed so I will now try to finiah. We remained in that camp overnight and in the morning marched back to our old camp ground and about noon took the cars for Newbern and here we are once more. What the object of the expedition was or what it accomplished is more than I know. It seems to me as though all that was wanted was to keep us going all the time. There was but two days last month that we were not under marching orders and since the 7th of the month, we have been but two days in camp. We have not had a hard time with the exception of the Spinola march, unless you call loafing round with nothing to do and nothing to eat hard work, and I think it is. They have kept us going pretty well this month back and I hope they will now give us a rest — for awhile at least. Dr. Adams did not go this time, not being able. I have been on all marches so far and everywhere the company has been, I have been with them, and I hope I shall be able to be with them all the time and get home safely. Still I hope that we shall not be called upon to do anymore. It is coming warm weather and these marches begin to tell on the men.
Since we have been off or since the 7th of April, I have received quite a number of letters from all at home, and there were quite a number of things I wanted to answer but I cannot now for the reason that always when I start off, I burn all the letters I have. I have done so all the time and therefore have not got any letters of yours now and cannot remember what it was I wanted to answer. If there was anything in particular that you asked me, if I have not replied to, you will know the reason and if you ask again, I will try and answer them.
I have received a number of papers from you — also the flannel you sent for my shirts by Mr. Warren. Last night when I arrived home, I found an envelope containing a picture of Gus. It was postmarked Chelsea, March 12th, and just arrived. It came by a Washington mail and I suppose has been laying in Washington for some time. My thanks to Gus for it and I wish you would tell him that I will try to write to him if we ever get settled again, but we have been chased around so that I have had no time to write letters to you even. I have been reading accounts in the papers of Gen. Foster’s scrape at Washington [North Carolina], and also of the adventures of the 43rd Regiment. Some of the accounts are very laughable as the stories are stretched so much. Some do not say enough. The most correct, I think, of the march of the 43rd with Spinola, is contained in a letter written by Old South (Mr. Manning) in the [Boston] Journal of the 21st or 22nd, I forget which. One piece in the same paper about the 5th Rhode Island is false in a great many particulars. In the first place, they were not on the Spinola March at all. And in the 2nd place, they were ordered to go just the same as they were to Washington, and did not volunteer as the paper says. I shall know how much to believe of these paper stories if I ever get home again. They did run the blockade, however, and a dashing thing it was too. We went there for the same purpose and why we did not go by, I do not know unless it is for the reason that is reported — that the captain of the boat we were on said he would not run his boat by those batteries. In all probability if the question had been put to vote of our regiment as it was the 5th Rhode Island, whether they should run by or not, every man would have voted to go. But at the same time they were pleased enough that they did not have to go. It is nothing to be ashamed of, to say that all hands were glad enough to be excused from that duty. It was one of the most dangerous things of htis war.
When those men of our regiment who ran the blockade reported to Gen. Foster as they were ordered to do, he asked the sergeant what regiment they belonged to. They told him that they belonged to the 43rd and they were waiting below in the Thomas Collyer to run the blockade. He asked how many men there were with the regiment. The sergt. told him (some 650, I believe). Gen. Foster asked where the rest were. Why they staid at home, he answered, that they were sick at camp with the Spinola complaint. Foster laughed and turned away. He was not very well pleased with Spinola I hear, and for good reason too. The soldiers here are down on him too, I tell you. It is lucky for the army that he did not command at Washington. If he had the place, it would have been surrendered right off.
You know that I wrote you that we have had some picture of the camp taken. I have spoken for two of them. One is the “hollow square” and the other “dress parade.” The “hollow square” I want you to keep. The other one I am going to give Mr. Howard of ‘Liza does not want it for herself. I have written to her about it. If she wants it, it is for her, but if she had rather her father would have it, he is to have it as a present from me. The pictures were sent to Boston to be copied and when they will be ready is more than I know. If you do not hear anything about it there, I will send you word when I find out and you can go and get them. There will be nothing to pay as I shall pay here.
This morning I was called away from my writing to get paid off. We were paid for four months up to the first of March. We got fifty-two dollars. The company clubbed together and gave what money they wanted to send home to Lieut. Bradbury. He is to send it to the City Hall and the money will be paid there. I am going to send forty (40) dollars and shall send the receipt for it it in this letter. By presenting it at the City Hall, you will get the cash. The money will go by Adams Express so it may get there before this letter does and it may not until after. They owe us for two months now but probably we shall not get paid again until we are discharged. Tell Katie that I want one of her photographs and if it is not to much trouble for her, I wish she would have some taken at my expense. Probably other of her friends would like some too so she may as ell get a dozen and distribute them. Send me one as soon as she gets them.
I suppose you thought of me often last Sunday as it was my birthday. I happened to be in camp that day to enjoy it. We got in the morning before and started off again the next morning. Last Sunday I saw some ripe strawberries and had the pleasure of eating two myself. Everything begins to to look green here and flowers are in bloom — any quantity of them. Yesterday was May Day and I could not help thinking that if some of those children who go round Boston on that day with so many paper roses could only be out here, they could get as many as they pleased of real flowers. Roses, honeysuckles, jasmines, lilacs, and a great many other kinds that I do not know the names of are all in bloom. If I could only send a bouquet home to you, I would. Apple and peach trees have been in bloom for very near a month and when I was at Hills Point, in the garden of a house that I had to guard, I saw peas a foot out of the ground. What do you think of that? Have you seen it at home yet?
Today I went down to the river to wash myself and some clothes. Most of the boys took them off some time ago but I thought I would wear mine long enough. It is very warm here now. Last Saturday I drew another pair of pants as mine were about worn out. I had to take a miserable pair as our Quartermaster’s Department is rather poorly supplied. I guess though they will last till I get home. The pair I drew in Readville were very good ones. I want you to give my best respects to all the men in the gang — Mr. Anderson and Sam in particular. Tell them that we have been put through some this last month but I stand it like a brick. I see by the papers that Parker has given notice of intention to build on Chapman Place. Will Anderson get a job there? I hope so.
I wish I could say something to keep you from worrying about me when I am off, but I don’t know what to say. I stand it first rate and guess I shall. There is but very little to worry about. I don’t think we shall see a great deal of fighting. The most that I have to fret on is thinking that all of you at home are worrying about me. If it was not for that, I could get along first rate. I do not suppose you can help it altogether, but I have no doubt you worry about me when there is no need of it. I hardly know what to do when we are ordered off about letting you know. If I let you know, you worry about it. And if I do not let you know and you do not get any letters, you worry for fear I am sick. So I suppose you would worry anyway. I think, though, I shall always tell you. If I don’t, you will hear from someone else. I should not think they would give us much marching to do this warm weather and in fact it seems as though we had marched all over North Carolina lately. I shall not be at all sorry though when our time is out. I have seen just enough and hope I shall not see anymore of the rough of a soldier’s life. As our time draws near its close, I feel less and less like doing anything and more like going home.
General Hooker of the Army of the Potomac has issued an order which if we are to be treated in the same way will be a good thing for us, as according to that we shall be mustered out the 20th day of June when our time is actually out. I think that we shall be served the same because I do not see what right Hooker has to issue such an order without the sanction of the War Department and if the nine month’s men in Virginia are served so, I do not see why we should not be too.
But it is getting so dark I cannot write any more now. I have already written a very long letter and shall now stop to commence a letter to Eliza as soon as lights are lit, as I must send a letter to both by the next mail.
I shall have to finish this letter without writing anymore. They have made a new rule here. Every man in the company is to take his turn on the fortifications to help build it. Six men at a time to serve a week. I am one detailed for this week so I do not think I shall have much time to write. I shall send the receipt for my money by this letter. You can get it at the City Hall. You can do nothing about the pictures until I send you a receipt which i suppose I shall get as soon as the pictures are ready/ I have got to go to work at half past seven. So I can write no more now. If I have time to write again before the mail goes, I will.
Goodbye from your affectionate son, — Colman
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ELEVEN
Newbern [North Carolina]
June 3rd 1863
I am on guard today and although it looks as if it would rain every moment, I will try and make out a letter for you. It is the first time I have been on guard in this camp since the 3rd day of last April — just two months. It does not seem so long but yet we have passed through a great many exciting scenes since then — the Spinola March, the voyage to Washington, and the trip to Cove Creek all have taken place since. There is nothing talked about in camp now but our time. I thin it is settled that we shall not be home till July but the boys are mad enough about it. They can talk of nothing else. They talk about what they will do and what they will not do if we are kept but I think that Uncle Sam has got us and we have got to do as he says. I think though after the 20th of June, if an expedition is started, that a great many men of this regiment will not be able to go. It is making a great deal of dissatisfaction among the nine months men here, although our regiment will fare the worst of any. If they call for any more volunteers from Massachusetts, they will not get many of these men. The boys lay it all to Gov. Andrews and Schouler and so do I. I think that if they chose, we could get home when our time is out. The 44th will probably go in lees than a week. Their time is all right as they were all sworn in the same day. We ought to be getting ready to go too but we shall have to stay for another month.
There has been some thirty men enlisted in the heavy artillery regiment and I guess they have got all they can get. The officers that have been taken so far from the regiment are Lieutenants — Bates of Co. F and Lieit. Paine of E for captains. Clapp, sergt. of Co. F, Fiske, orderly sergt of C, Uphapm srgt. of Co. E for Lieutenants. Four men from Co. F — one of them was Alden’s son, the one you saw at Readville one Sunday, four from Co. C and seventeen from Co. E. — the Cape Cod Company, most of them, will probably get appointed sergeant or corporal. The colonel has appointed Sergt. Sherman of Co. F as color sergeant for meritorious conduct (running the blockade at Washington). John Prontz did not get it. He has been color corporal all the time but since the appointment of sherman, John has not been out with the colors, and I guess does not like it and so will not be color corporal any longer.
It will be just nine months next Saturday since I enlisted and it was Saturday I enlisted too. The time seems to have slipped by pretty fast. I wondered at that time where I should be and how I should feel nine months from then. I hardly though then that I should get along as well and easily as I have. Now if I could only go home the 20th of this month, I would never complain a might but should always think that I had had a good time. But I suppose if we are kept here it will spoil all. I dread having to stay here such hot weather. A person can take no comfort at all. What with the fleas and heat, it is as much as a man can do to live at all. Since I was weighed last, I have lost fourteen pounds of flesh. I did weigh one hundred and seventy-nine and a half. Now I weigh but one hundred and sixty-five and a half though that is five pounds heavier than I was when I first went into camp. This hot weather is what takes the flesh off of a man.
I forgot to tell you that I received that box yesterday. I cannot imagine where it has been all the time. Most all the cake was spoiled. The loaf cake, by cutting off the outside, was good but the biscuits were completely spoiled. All mold through and through. Everything else came first rate and was just what I wanted. The milk, sugar, and butter, I was glad enough to get. I would much rather have them than the cake. Those tamarinds were nice. To all who contributed to the box, I return my sincere thanks. You need not tell Mrs. Cook (I believe you said she sent some of the cake) that it had spoiled. Let her think that it was good and tell her from me that it was first rate. That apple sauce came a week ago and I had it scalded over so that it was first rate. I am in hopes that I shall be at home again long before I need another box. There, it is beginning to rain and I shall have to go into the guard tent or get wet.
Since I finished the above, we have had some good news which I hope will prove true. Capt. Whytal of this regiment went to Gen. Foster yesterday to see about our time and he said that we were to start the 16th of this month. Capt. Whytal asked him if he might tell the regiment and Foster said yes. So we were told of it and such a crazy set you never saw. But today the boys feel rather anxious as it is said that all of the other colonels of nine months regiments are trying to raise a row about it because we are going home first. I know that the 43rd would feel bad to have the other regiments go home first so that I cannot blame them, but I hope and pray that we shall go at the time Foster said. You need write no more letters after you receive this as the probability is we shall leave before they arrive. I will write the same as ever so that you may keep posted as to what we are doing. Foster spoke very highly of the 43rd. Col. Holbrook is working hard to get us home. The time of the 3rd and 5th [regiments] is out pretty quick and their colonels are working against us. Also Col. Codman of the 45th. He is down the hardest kind on this regiment. I suppose we shall be anxious enough until we find out for certain. You need not write anymore letters but in about two weeks from now you may be looking for me to get home. I hope you will see me too. They may make such a fuss that Foster will think it will create so much dissatisfaction that he will change his mind, but if he does it will make us dissatisfied so where is the difference? There is no notice up for a mail leaving but the 44th is going to leave for home tomorrow and possibly there may be a mail go to Boston in that vessel. Some of our regiment are going at the same time and I may give the letter to one of them and let him drop it in the office at Boston.
I don’t feel much like writing. This news puts everything out of my head except going home. I should be disappointed enough if this news does not prove true. They ought not to tell such stories unless they intend to fulfill their promises. If the orders come to get ready, I expect the boys will be perfectly crazy. They tell me that a mail has arrived. I hope so for I have not had a letter for almost a fortnight. But I must close and bid you goodnight, hoping that about two weeks from this coming Sunday I shall have the pleasure of going to church with you in Chelsea. Don’t put too much dependance on this because it may all prove to be false, but I am telling you what is told us. I will write every mail andlet you know all.
Give my love to all and believe me your affectionate son, — Colman