These five letters were written by Joseph (“Joe”) Herman Vaill (1837-1915), the son of Rev. Herman Landon Vaill (1794-1870) and Flora Gold (1799-1883) of Litchfield, Connecticut. His siblings included Catharine Harriet Gold Vaill (1824-1898), Charles Benjamin Vaill (1826-1881), Elizabeth Sedgwick Vaill (1828-1909), Abby Everest Vaill (1829-1897), George Lyman Vaill (1831-1833), Theodore Frelinghuysen Vaill (1832-1875), Sarah Hopkins Vaill (1834-1862), Clarissa Champlin Vaill (b. 1836), Julia Maria Vaill (1839-1912) and Mary Woolsey Vaill (1842-1871).
Joseph H. Vaill enlisted in Co. E, 8th Connecticut Infantry on 17 September 1861. He was promoted to Quarter Master Sergeant on 28 May 1862; promoted to 1st Sergeant on 20 February 1864; transferred to the 2nd Battalion, Veteran Reserve Corps 18 on May 1864; and mustered out on 20 September 1864.
A sixth letter was added to this grouping because it was written by Charles B. Holman to Joseph H. Vaill and sheds some insight to nature of Joseph’s business on Roanoke Island after the Civil War.
This letter was written in December 1861 by Joseph Herman Vaill (1837-1915) to his sister, Mary (“Mollie”) Woolsey Vaill (1842-1871) while serving with the 8th Connecticut Infantry. He wrote the letter (or at least the first part of it) from the state room of his coousin, Capt. Edward Eugene Vaill (1833-1904) — the commander of the U.S. Steamer “Admiral.” It isn’t clear how Joseph came to be a passenger on his cousin’s vessel while serving with the 8th Connecticut; I can only assume he was hitching a ride to join his regiment at Annapolis where they had been quartered since mid-October.
During the Civil War, Capt. “Ned” Vaill was the commander of the flagship, “Guide,” [also known as the “Admiral”] at the capture of Roanoke Island during Burnside’s Expedition in 1862. After the war, Ned moved to St. Augustine, Florida, where he opened the St. Augustine Hotel — the first resort of its kind in the city.
Ned Vaill was the son of Charles B. Vaill and Cornelia Ann Griswold of Litchfield.
In this letter, we learn that Capt. Vaill’s steamer, the “Admiral” was grounded while attempting to assist the “Eastern Queen” from a similar situation. The two vessels were transporting the men of the 24th Massachusetts from New York Harbor to Annapolis, Maryland. The Admiral had made its way down the coast and up the Chesapeake Bay to the Severne river where it anchored four miles from Annapolis to await the arrival of the Eastern Queen which had followed. On the morning of 13 December, it was discovered that the Eastern Queen had run aground several miles away. After unloading her cargo of soldiers, the Admiral returned to assist the Eastern Queen but also became grounded. [See: The 24th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers by Alfred Seelye Roe, page 34]
4 o’clock Saturday afternoon
December 14th 1861
On board the United States Steamer Admiral
Capt. Edward E. Vaill, Commanding
In Latitude 38° 55′
Longitude 76° 29′
Dear Sister Mollie,
I believe I have not answered your last letter yet so as I have plenty of time now I will pay up my debts. I have just written to Charlie and I presume he will send the letter home, so I need not repeat the story of the whys and wherefores of my present position. I am now writing in the Captain’s room with my paper resting on a book and the book sitting cosily on on one end of a tête–à–tête that makes up a part of the furniture of his State Room. At this present moment, there are two little steam tugs tugging away to float the Admiral but up to the present time they have not been able to get us off. About an hour ago they were both tugging at the Eastern Queen ¹ which lay about 10 or 15 rods from our stern, and they succeeded in starting her and drawing her for ten rods and then she would go no farther. So there she lies — fast — equal to Bill Hull — the sterns of the two steamers being only 4 or 5 rods apart.
The soldiers have all been taken up to the city by two sloops & one revenue cutter and two loads on the tugs. I presume the boys are glad to get on terra firma as nearly all of them were seasick on the trip and nothing would seem quite right till they stood on Mother Earth.
Monday morning, 9 A.M.
December 16th 1861
I returned to the city and camp on Saturday evening and stayed overnight, and Sunday forenoon went down to the city and then found some tugs going down to the steamers so I went down with them. There were three tugs and two sidewheel steamers going down — 5 in all — to see what could be done. The tide was nearly three feet lower than common at high tide at 4 P.M. yesterday. So they all 5 tugged and pulled — & vice versa — but all to prove that they were not able to stir wither steamer an inch. So they concluded to lie by till high water this morning and try her again. During the night, two more tugs came down from Baltimore and at 4 this morning at high water, with wind favoring, the Admiral was floated — and soon after, the Eastern Queen — and a government schooner that got ashore on Saturday night near them.
You may imagine that Cousin Ned is glad to get off as he went down to get off the Eastern Queen and for pay for his kindness, got aground [himself].
10 A.M. Monday. I am now at the P. O. on my way to camp and must close this letter now to have it go this P.M. Received letter from Charles Saturday. Have not heard from home in a long time. Why don’t some you of write? I will write again as soon as I find out what is going to be done about our leaving.
Love to all. Your affectionate brother, — Joseph H. Vaill
¹ The “Eastern Queen” was built in 1857 at New York, and was 700 tons gross, 220 feet long, 29 feet of beam. She ran the route from Boston to Bath, Maine until the spring of 1860 when she was damaged by fire. After she was repaired, she was taken over by the government for a transport ship during the Civil War.
This letter was written by Joseph H. Vaill from Knight General Hospital at New Haven, Connecticut. He wrote the letter to his family in Litchfield, Connecticut.
Knight [U. S. Army] General Hospital
New Haven, Connecticut
September 5th 1864
Dear Folks at Home,
I have not forgotten you though I failed to write to you last week, but I thought I had done so. I have had so much work on my hands of late that I have scarcely been able to tell what work I had done and what I had not, and I shall be full of work most or quite all of the time while I remain here, which will be (16) sixteen days longer. I now begin to count the days, and they will soon pass away, and I shall see you once more, no longer to be obliged to report in time or be “considered a deserter!”
As to my plans, I can only say that they are not fully developed as yet, but there is a prospect of my going to be chief clerk for Captain George W. Mason, A. Q. M., as he has made me the offer, if he is situated as he expects to be, and as he probably will be. Major [Pliny Adams] Jewett ¹ expects me to remain here but I shall enlighten him tomorrow, and when he finds that I have an offer from Capt. Mason, he will see at once that he will have to dispense with my services as he is only allowed to pay $24 per month with rations & quarter for his help — though I suspect from what Dr. [Levi D.] Wilcoxson told Bill Hull that the Major would increase my pay from the Hospital fund, but he would not think he could to more than $10 per month, I presume, making my pay $34 & board. But that would not do, for I can get $84.00 including rations if with Capt. Mason, and I could board myself for $20 per month, leaving a balance of $60 & +.
I hope to hear from George again as soon as he can let me know definitely on the subject so that in case I do not go with him, I can look out for a job elsewhere. I would rather be with George than anybody I can think of — (except — Emily Bouton] — or Nealer — they looking much alike and that’s why I like them). I wish George could get “Good” detailed to be in his office. I think we would be a happy trio and perhaps it will turn out so yet. I shall ask the Major tomorrow if I may be relieved here and spend the remainder of my time in Capt. Bullock’s office downtown, Assistant Q, M. Gen’l., where I can get my hand in for a few days. But i suspect that if he finds that I am really going, he will keep me at work here till my time is up.
I went to Norwalk Saturday night and spent the Sabbath with Henry M. Stanton (as per invitation). Mr. Stanton was one of my particular friends here last year — a sergeant in the 27th Connecticut [Co. C], wounded at the 1st Fredericksburg. I had a very pleasant time.²
Called at Mrs. Bouton’s by request of the Emily before mentioned, and had a pleasant time. Johnny [Benedict] Bouton, Emily’s brother, is here with a severe wound — improving however — and as was an acquaintance of mine in the 8th [Connecticut Infantry], I feel quite a good deal interested in his welfare (and his sister too).³
We are now at work on our pay rolls and they are the largest we ever had — 15 sheets, 4 sets, = total 60. 1100+ names. But we hope to finish them in the course of the week. I am glad I do not have to make out a set.
Cornelius was here about an hour last Saturday and went home the Sunday. His furlough will be out next Sunday so he will be here on Saturday. As to a furlough for Amos, I have heard the Major say nothing about it since he received your letter. I noticed it lying on your desk. But I am sure he will refuse it for the reason that if he gives one, he must 100 just such applications. Ashes! And the Major has decided that no man shall have two furloughs till all the men have had one, and you can see the justice of the thing at once. We are now allowed a percentage of men in hospital, and there are a great number who have yet been unable to go home. I would gladly get Amos home but the case is plain to see that the Major must have a will for his guidance.
As to Amos going to his regiment, the Major has nothing to do with that branch of the service at all. The Ward Surgeon’s recommend their convalescents for examination and the Board of Examiners (3) examine the men & as they report for duty, Veteran Reserve Corps, or retained for treatment. So the decision remains, and the Major never interferes with their decision. The probability is that he will not be returned to duty until he is able so Mr. Kilbourn will not think that Amos is going to the field before the Surgeons find out what ails him.
I can write no more tonight. 10:30 P.M. Write soon again. Love to all from your affectionate son & brother, — Joseph H. Vaill
¹ When New Haven, Connecticut, was chosen as the site for a new military hospital, Pliny Adams Jewett, next in line to become chief of surgery at Yale, sacrificed his private practice and eventually his future in New Haven to serve as chief of staff of the new thousand-bed Knight U.S. General Hospital.
² Henry M. Stanton (1833-1922) served 9 months with the 27th Connecticut as a sergeant. He enlisted in October 1862 and was mustered out at New Haven in July 1863. After the war, Henry earned a living in Norwalk, Connecticut, in the straw hat industry.
³ John William Bouton (1845-Aft1870) was the son of William Smith Bouton (1814-1890) and Margaret F. Hudson (1816-1884) of Norwalk, Connecticut. He enlisted in Co. H, 8th Connecticut Infantry in September 1861 when he was less than 17 year old. He reenlisted as a veteran in December 1863 and was slightly wounded in the attack on Fort Macon, North Carolina. He was later severely wounded near Petersburg, Virginia. He married Harriet Dunscomb of Danbury, Connecticut. His sister, Emily Virginia Bouton (1838-Aft1887), married Edward D. Taylor in 1874.
Addressed to Rev’d H. L. Vaill, Litchfield, Connecticut
Knight General Hospital
New Haven, Connecticut
November 29, 1864
While I am waiting for breakfast, I will “write you a few lines to let you know that I am well and hope these few lines will find you enjoying the same blessing” — or words to that effect.
I arrived here safely Saturday evening to the office direct, but found most of the boys out as they usually are after supper. Mr. Brown being “on pass,” I occupied his bed, but took my old seat at the table with the ladies, Medical cadets, and a few clerks. There are two tables of clerks — one that takes in everything and the other only the older and more responsible clerks. I found a great many changes here & a great many improvements. Since Dr. [Pliny Adams] Jewett came back, he has been at work on improvements in great earnest. I cannot tell you what he has done for I have not time, but I can say that he is now building a railroad from the kitchen to Wards One & Two for the conveyance of diet for those unable to leave their beds.
Sunday morning when the Major [Jewett] arrived , I went into his office and found him glad to see me. He said he would like to have me take charge of the Quartermasters Department and he said he would try Capt. Bullock, the Quartermaster at New Haven, who is responsible for the issue of clothing &c. and perhaps he could get some extra pay for me. I told him I would take all he could get for me, but don’t suppose there is any great probability of my getting anything extra.
Since I took charge of this Department, I have been very busy, but shall not have very much to do after I get caught up. I have a cosy little office all to myself with my bed in it, a little coal stove, and everything comfortable. I have an orderly to make my fire at 6, make my bed, and sweep out while I am at breakfast, and to look after the wants of the office generally.
I can find much more time to read by being by myself so, than formerly when I quartered with the other clerks. The boys in the office told me when I came that they hoped the Major would put me [in] my old place as Chief Clerk as they do not like Steward Morris at all, but I had much rather be where I am.
I close for breakfast. Yours affectionately, — J. H. Vaill
I am anxious to hear about Jeannie.
Joseph H. Vaill wrote Letters 4 and 5 from the north end of Roanoke Island, a little over a mile from a home belonging to the heirs of Esther Meekin’s called “Sunnyside” which served as a dormitory for the lady teachers — most of them from New England. These teachers were affiliated with the Industrial School established there (1865-1866), in conjunction with the Freedman’s Bureau. At the end of the Civil War, some 3,500 African Americans were estimated to live on the island. [See also. Lucy Chase to Sarah Chase, January 12, 1865]
I have yet to learn what Joseph was doing on Roanoke Island in 1866. His letters suggest clerical duties, perhaps with the Quarter Master Department, though I suspect this was in a civilian capacity rather than military.
Addressed to Miss Julia M. Vaill, Litchfield, Connecticut
Roanoke Island, North Carolina
January 8, 1866
My Dear Sister Julia,
One thing I am not accustomed to do and that I am doing now — writing private letters during “office hours.” But it is a very cold wintry day and there is nothing in particular to hurry me at my desk so I take the liberty. I must beg you pardon for being such a delinquent correspondent, and I will promise not to do so anymore. But really the cause of my delinquency is not — as you may surmise — that I am too much engaged in the mysteries of Thorough Base, or that I have found charms in Yankee school moms that have unfitted me for writing letters. I like to receive letters as well as anybody — and good letters too. And I mean to answer them all, but your last epistolary production has almost overwhelmed me and I have just sufficiently recovered to know that I am but a common mortal and not of kin to the Gods. I am considered quite graceful (by myself) in the saddle — on an easy horse — but I dare not mount Pegasus for fear of lowering my fame as an equestrian. So you must content yourself with seeing me in proxy performance.
I have not heard from Litchfield since the church was trimmed so I do not know how it looked, or what the people said about it, or whether anybody had the audacity to put a cross! I hope there was one in every wreath. But I suppose I shall have shock the good people’s nerves a few times before they will submit to see that beautiful symbol grace the walls of an orthodox church. I would have enjoyed it very much to have been home during the Holidays but there seemed no way, so I remained quietly on Roanoke & went home mentally.
I am very sorry to hear that Mr. [George] Richards ¹ is lost to Litchfield for when and where shall we find the man to fill his place? Capt. Brown with whom I am now is from Boston and used to sing in Mr. Richard’s (Winter St.) [Congregational] Church and liked him very much. Capt. Brown is a very fine tenor and has sung with Mr. Gordon who used to play at Strong Place. We have fine times singing duets and occasionally we have a quartette though Dr. [Richard] Westerling, ² our base, has gone now, and we have to do the best we can.
The Holidays passed very pleasantly here. I did not attend any of the churches on Christmas but understand that the services at the 2d Baptist were very inspiring! The church edifice of the 2d Baptist Society is a grand structure — 30 x 20 — and the material in imitation of used pine boards and the imitation is so perfect that few can detect it.
New Years Day was a very pleasant season and we made our usual New Years calls which were very pleasant. Two other clerks were with me when calling at Sunnyside and we were invited to stay to dinner which we did and Mr. Merrill did the honors at one end of the table and I at the other, leaving Mr. [Charles R. (or B.)] Holman — the third clerk — to make himself generally agreeable. There are no gentlemen at “Sunnyside,” it being the home of the lady teachers connected with the “Freedman’s Association” so of course when we go up there we are made a great deal of. Nearly all of the teachers are from New England and it makes it very pleasant for us to have intelligent and refined society here.
There is a young lady from Litchfield here — Mary Green (Campville). — a niece of Mr. Green of Washington. She is acquainted with a good many whom I know in Litchfield & Washington. Mary Vaill, among others. Through Mary Green I heard some of the particulars of the “Brooklyn Tragedy” in which Fanny Stanwood (Dayton) was such a sufferer but the full particulars I have not learned. I suspected it must be her from what I saw in the Enquirer but did not know she was now called Dayton or that she had a brother. I notice in the Herald of the 5th that [William H.] Russ is dead. How is Fanny? I do not know whether she has survived or not. I would like to get the full particulars.³
From your affectionate brother, — J. H. V.
¹ George Richards, the fifth son and eighth child of Peter and Ann Channing (Huntington) Richards, was born in New London, Conn., Nov. 2d, 1816. He taught school for a short time, and in 1842 entered Andover Theological Seminary. A year later he removed to the Yale Theological Seminary, and 1844 became a Tutor in this College. He was ordained, Oct. 8th, 1845, as associate pastor of the Central (Congregational) Church, in Boston, where he remained until 1859, having become sole pastor in 1851. After a visit to Europe, he took charge of the Congregational Church in Litchfield, Conn., in Dec. 1860. Thence he removed at the close of the year 1865 to Bridgeport, Conn, where he was installed over the First Congregational Church, Jan. 3d, 1866. He was dismissed from this pastorate, Aug. 1870. For a year or two previous, Mr. Richards had been afflicted with a nervous disease, which was accompanied with partial loss of sight and impaired reason, and which finally resulted in his decease, at Bridgeport, Oct. 20th, 1870. In July, 1868, Mr. Richards was chosen a member of the Corporation of Yale College. He married, in 1846, Miss Anna M. Woodruff, of Philadelphia. [In 1871,] she [was] still living with five children: of whom the eldest son [was] a member of the Junior Class in this College. [Litchfield Historical Society]
² Richard Westerling was a surgeon with the 30th Maryland USCT.
³ Joe is referring to the 23 December 1865 attempted murder of Fanny M. (Stanwood) Dayton, a former resident of Litchfield, by William H. Russ — a deranged clerk — who fired three bullets into her head and then turned the gun on himself, firing two bullets into his own head. He died on 3 January 1866. She survived. A new Haven newpaper reported on 24 March 1866 that the three bullets had been extracted from Fanny’s head, adding that she “must be ball proof.”
Addressed to Miss Julia M. Vaill, Litchfield, Connecticut
Roanoke Island, North Carolina
February 28, 1866
My Dear Sister Julia,
Business, however important, must stand aside now in order that I may write you a birthday letter. But I fear that you will get well on toward another birthday before this reaches you for there will be no mail steamer here from New Berne until next Saturday night so that the 3rd of March will see my letter still here. To tell you the truth, I am fully occupied with official writing now-a-days to feel like writing letters, and it is the greatest luxury to get way from my desk and feel that my Tri-Monthly Report has gone, and that there are not a dozen letters to be written to the Heads of Depts. It was not always thus with me here for I used to have plenty of leisure. But then we had two other clerks and they relieved me of a great deal of the work. But they were discharged the 31st of January and all of their work falls upon me so if I fail to write interesting letters, please say to yourself that Joe has so much writing to do and so much head work in making up his Abstracts of ___ that the poor fellow’s brain is beginning to soften.
The weather here now is most beautiful and equal to May’s weather in Litchfield. As I write, the birds are giving me a matinee (I am up early and have not had breakfast) and I can imagine that it would sound sweetly to your ears to hear it. I feel as if I ought to go out and hunt for Arbutus but I suppose there is none here. In a short time, the spring time flowers will appear and I hear that they are very beautiful — especially the jasmine. I can hardly realize that there may be cold weather and snow banks around the dear old homestead. I have been sitting at my desk some of late with my coat off & with no fire in the office! What do you think of that for February? But the weather has not all been so for we have had some very bitter weather even in February and then we couldn’t see the Sunny South.
I would like very much to drop in upon you about three days and help you boil sap and try the quality of the syrup on buckwheat, and I would also like to be at the school house to assist in spelling schools and in going home with the girls, but as I can’t, I must content myself with such entertainments as Roanoke Islands affords. Night before last, we had a quartette sing at the school house of the Rev. Mr. Nickerson and as it may be pleasant to know, [how] we get them up here, I will tell you.
At 7 o’clock P. M., I mounted my little black pony and taking a six mule team with an army wagon, proceeded to Sunnyside — a distance of little over one mile — where I found the ladies ready and waiting for me. I jumped them into the wagon and esconsed themselves down in the hay as we used to in the “old music box.” After gathering my load from three houses, the driver turned his leaders heads toward Mr. Nickerson’s school house and on our arrival there we found that the invited guests were all present to the number of 18 or 20. So Capt. Brown opened his Cabinet Organ, which had been sent up before dark, and I was requested to preside at the keyboard, which I did, and then came the familiar tunes from the Plymouth Collection. to name which would fill this whole sheet, and then the Greterox Collection absorbed our attention, after which came certain pieces of sheet music. Rock of Ages, Come Holy Spirit, and then I played the accompaniment to the Battle Prayer which Capt. Brown sung, which was encored. Capt. Brown is a very fine tenor and has sung in Boston a great deal and once sung in Mr. Richards’s Church, Winter Street.
But breakfast is announced and I must aways.
Saturday, March 3d 1866
I have been too busy to complete this letter and must send it as it is or it will have to wait until next Wednesday. Please tell Nettie I will try to get a letter off for her in the next Wednesday’s mail. The boat is coming. In haste. Your loving brother, — Joe
This letter was written by Charles Bradley Holman (1841-1910), the son of Peter and Martha Park (Newton) Holman of Boston, Massachusetts. Charles enlisted as a private at Buffalo, New York, to serve 3 years in Co. D, 116th New York Infantry. For periods of time during his service, Charles was detached from his company to serve as a clerk for Alexander Goslin (1840-1919), the regimental quartermaster of the 116th New York. Charles’ service record indicates that he mustered out with his company at Washington D. C. in June 1865. Charles married Mary C. Gunn on 4 June 1870 in Boston, Massachusetts. She was the daughter of Rev. Samuel Lewis Gunn (1806-1875) and Charlotte Barbor (1811-1904) of Cornwall, Massachusetts — formerly of Litchfield, Connecticut, where the Vaill family lived. Mary Gunn was probably the “Miss Molly” Charles referred to in the opening paragraph.
From this letter we learn that Charles was once again working — probably as a civilian — for Goslin who took over for Capt. Brown as the assistant superintendent of the Freedman’s Bureau on Roanoke Island. By the time this letter was written in May 1866, however, things were not going so well on the island. When Dr. A. B. Chapin (mentioned in this letter) could not get anything but hard bread for his patients in the Freedmen’s Hospital at the site in the summer of 1866, he complained to superiors and even accused Holman of “selling government property and pocketing the proceeds.” Holman later left the island “abrubtly without permission, suggesting that he had been guilty of something, but Goslin’s reports for July gave no indication of any malfeasance.” [Time Full of Trial… by Patricia C. Click, page 185] It may be that Charles was an informant to Generals John Steedman & Joseph Fullerton in their investigation into the management of affairs of the Freedman’s Bureau on Roanoke Island? In any event, it was Goslin who was later found guilty of misappropriating funds during the performance of his duties at Roanoke Island. He spent seven months in prison, was fined three thousand dollars, and was dismissed from the service in April 1867.
Unrelated to this letter but as a point of interest, Charles B. Holman’s younger brother, James Henry Holman (1845-1864), served as a private in Co. A, 12th Wisconsin Infantry — enlisting when he was only 16 years old. On 25 July, 1864, in the fighting before Atlanta, his left arm was struck by a cannon ball that left it so badly mangled it had to be amputated the following day. Unfortunately for the young private, now 19, he died in a hospital at Marietta, Georgia, on 17 September 1864.
Addressed to Joseph H. Vaill, Esq., Litchfield, Connecticut
Postmarked New Bern, North Carolina
Isle de Roanoke
May 23d 1866
I have just heard from you, that you still live etc. indirectly — thro. Miss Molly. Why in thunder don’t you write me? Molly says you write that you have written me several times, &c. The only word I have received from you is the note you wrote from the “Fountain House,” Baltimore.
There is nothing whatever doing here. Dull as damnation. You got away just in time. The Peoples line have fizzled — never made but one trip after you left. We got a northern mail yesterday for the first time in about six weeks. We get the mail from E. City by small boats. Capt. Brown has gone to Hatteras with the co. We have Sgt. Tucker and eight privates on duty here. Capt. G[oslin] commanding post — Big Thing.
I was in hopes to to have got away from here ‘ere this but don’t see any prospect of getting off just now. Shall leave as soon as the Capt. will let me. ¹ Things are getting too much mixed to suit me. I think the prospects are that the “Bureau” will play out pretty soon.
Mrs. F[reeman] has not yet returned but Molly will tell you the news about “Sunnyside.” I expect she’ll tell you I’m a great bore (“re,” not “ar”) as I am up there about every eve. But honestly, Joe, Mollie is just the dearest little girl I know of.
You see I’m writing in a deuce of a hurry. I have got a large correspondence to get off by the boat expected today. We have about shut down on the Ration business — only 200 this morning. Have you see [John] Steedman & [Joseph S.] Fullerton’s report [alleging mis-management] about the [Freedman’s] Bureau? Big thing that. Truth too.
Joe, this is a desolate looking hole now. The Commissary Building rears its diminished head at Nag’s Head. The saw mill [“James’ Folly”] ² has disappeared. The halliards on the staff are broken and the flag of the free no longer waves over the Isle of the Ocean. Talk about banished. What’s banished but set free?
I don’t know as I ought to write to you, “you miserable ***” — a la Griggs. ³ I wish I could think of some more of his “pet names” to bestow upon you.
Yo may get this letter in the course of a week but the probabilities are that you won’t get it under a month. Let me hear all about your pleasant home, what your prospects are, &c. Little “G” still remains on the island and condescends to bestow the light of his countenance upon us poor, benighted Islanders. [Dr. A. B.] Chapin also yet blesses us with his company and edits the “daily slanderer.”
Miss Norton has gone home. Miss [Ella] Roper is going on the first boat (“bully for her”). Holbrook is at home after goods. Miss [Lydia G.] Stinson, by the way, has fallen in love with Hamilton — or he with her. They are always together and create no little scandal by their actions.
We — Capt. G[oslin], Little G, & myself have left the Hotel and started a mess using the house & kitchen where Capt. Brown lived.
Well, this is all of very little interest to you, I know, but what can a fellow write here in this confounded hole. Have you heard anything from David?
Let me hear from you soon and believe me, very truly, your sincere friend, — Chas. B. Holman
Remember me kindly to your orphan parents.
Do you intend to make any provision in your will for the maintenance of orphans on Roanoke Island — and if so, how much?
Address care of Capt. [Alexander] Goslin
¹ According to Patricia Click (personal communication) — After reporting that he had arrived on the island to replace Alexander Goslin, Hugo Hillebrandt wrote the following: “The Clerk Charles Holman has left the island for parts unknown day after Dr. Hogan left consequently unable to comply with the order arresting him.” [Hugo Hillebrandt to Col. Clinton A. Cilley, 19 August 1866, Letters Received, Headquarters, Records of the Assistant Commissioner for North Carolina, Record Group 105, series 2452, National Archives (M843, reel 7)] Dr. Hogan was M.K. Hogan, who at the time was Surgeon-in-Chief of the Freedmen’s Bureau in North Carolina.
² Capt. [Horace] James from Massachusetts was the assistant quartermaster of volunteers on Roanoke Island in 1865. It seems that he commandeered a mill and raised money from citizens in Massachusetts to purchase the machinery for the mill which he put up prior to June 1865. Subsequent to that, he became the disbursing officer of the Freedman’s Bureau on Roanoke Island.
³ I believe this is a reference to Lt. James H. Griggs of Co. L, 37th Regiment USCT, who garrisoned Fort Macon on Roanoke Island in 1866.