This letter was written by Hiram Belden (1831-1864), the son of Walter Belden (1811-1852) and Elizabeth Belden (18xx-1853?) of Hartford county, Connecticut. He wrote the letter while serving in Co. G, 16th Connecticut Infantry.
In the 1850 U. S. Census, 19 year-old Hiram was enumerated in Berlin, Hartford county, Connecticut in the household of Hezekiah W. Sutliff. Hiram gave his occupation as “Tin Tool Making.”
By the 1860 U. S. Census, Hiram had married a woman named Francis A. Belden (1831-1860; perhaps a distant relative, born at Rocky Hill, CT) and they continued to reside in the household of Hezekiah W. Sutliff and his wife (Mary Welch). Both Hiram and Hezekiah gave their occupations as “Mechanic.”
From Hiram’s pension file we learn that Hiram and Frances were married at Berlin on 21 October 1858 by the Rev. A. B. Pulling. A child named Elizabeth (“Libby”) was born to the couple on 1 August 1860, but its mother (Francis) died of consumption on 9 December 1861 when the little girl was 16 months old. When Hiram enlisted in the service in August 1862, Hezekiah W. Sutliff became the legal guardian of Libby. [Libby grew up to become the wife of Gladding.]
Three months after this letter was written — on 20 April 1864 — Hiram was captured at the Battle of Plymouth, North Carolina, and taken to Andersonville Prison. On or about the 1st of September 1864, Hiram was later transferred to the prison at Florence, South Carolina, where he and other members of the 16th Connecticut — including his younger brother Orlando Belden (1836-1865) — were held until their release in February 1865. After months in prison, both Belden brothers were in such poor health by this time, however, that neither of them survived. Hiram is believed to have died while at Florence, too ill to be transported to Annapolis, Maryland. His death date is recorded as 25 February 1865; Orlando died two days later — 27 February 1865 — at Annapolis.
Hiram wrote the letter to Hezekiah (“Ki”) Westley Sutliff (1817-1869) who died of rheumatism in 1870.
Addressed to Mr. H. W. Sutliff, East Berlin, Connecticut
Plymouth, North Carolina
January 27th 1864
As I received your letter of the 17th inst. and I was was much pleased to hear from you so soon for we have got so far out of the world I did not think that I would ever hear from home. But I have and hope I will [hear from you] again. I am well and cooking yet and I think I will learn the trade by the time I get home. Well, I was glad to hear that you think that [my daughter] Libby is a getting along so well. I want to send her some money but I think I will not until I see if this letter goes safe.
Well, Ki, you tell me that you have all the work that you can do and I am glad of that and I wish that I was there to help do some of it. Well the time is passing away fast. Well, you spoke about me a getting work in the U. S. Shops. Well, I would like to have you if you could. I think that boss Sam would when he off for it is just what they want now is good workmen. Now if I could get into a good shop, I would be alright.
Well, we had a good time on our voyage. We went about 500 miles. We went to Newbern, North Carolina, and from there to Plymouth, North Carolina, and I think that is the [worst] place that God ever made and that he never finished for it is nothing but wood and swamp and a few old houses and the rest are burnt. Well, I think that I will see a great many things before my time is out. Well, you spoke about coming on to see me. I would like to have you but I think now that I am so far away that you won’t come now but you can write to me for all that. I think, Ki, that you are all the friend that will write to me for I don’t have any letters from anyone but you and I hope you will not stop because the rest do.
Well, I must close my letter now. Tell Libby her papa sends her a kiss.
Yours truly, — Hiram Belden
January 31, 1864
Well, as it is Sunday night and I have not sent my letter [yet], I thought I would write a few lines and let you know that I am well and that I am in my shelter tent and my old mess pan full of fire for it is a cold night and warm days. It is so warm in the day that I have my coat off and then it is too warm for me for I am so fat. Well, Ki, if you could see me a writing to you, I think that you would write more to me for I sit on the ground to write my letters and I don’t think that you have to do that. If you did, I don’t think I would hear from you very often.
Well, Ki, I would like to see you all and my Mother and Libby too. I suppose that my little girl will be a little lady by the time I get home. The Reb talk as though the war would be over this summer for we can get their money for 5 cents on a dollar here and then it is good for nothing. That is one thing that looks like it. Well, Ki, we can’t most always tell.
Well, I must close for this time. I hope to hear from you soon. Yours truly, — Hiram Belden