This letter was written by Cpl. Henry D. Lewis (1841-1937) of Co. H, 15th Connecticut Infantry. Henry was the son of Lucien Franklin Lewis (1804-1882) and Susan Hitchcock (1814-1875) of Naugatuck, New Haven county, Connecticut. Henry served from August 1862 until June 1865.
Henry wrote the letter to his cousin, Charles Dwight Lewis (1841-18xx), the son of Asahel H. Lewis (1807-1895) and Harriet Newell Horton (1818-1907) of Naugatuck, New Haven county, Connecticut.
Mentioned in the letter is another cousin, Rufus W. Lewis (1836-1909) — the son of Lawrence Sterne Lewis (1804-1884) and Nancy L. Hull (1810-1881) of Naugatuck. Rufus also served in Co. H, 15th Connecticut Infantry until his disability caused his reassignment to Co. E, 18th Veteran Reserve Corps in 1863.
See also — 1863: Henry D. Lewis to Charles D. Lewis [Letter dated 10 October 1863 from Portsmouth, Va.]
Addressed to Mr. Charles D. Lewis, Naugatuck, Connecticut
Postmarked Norfolk, Virginia
[Camp near Portsmouth, Virginia]
Thursday Evening, December 17, 1863
Dear Cousin Charlie,
Suppose you come in & stay awhile this evening. I would cheerfully lay by [my] pen, ink, & paper to talk with you instead of writing. It is quite warm here but I think that it would not be particularly out of place to take off your coat & sit in your shirtsleeves, I have not invited any ladies for they are far & few between except with the officers & a few favored privates. I don’t think it is very beneficial to get the ladies down here — especially not so for them, is my opinion.
I suppose that about the time of receiving this, you will begin to look some times expecting to see a soldierly-looking individual — especially as regards the uniform — accompanied by a lady making an excursion & calling on your worthy self. In this you must be disappointed for the present as furloughs have stopped, yet from appearances only for a short time. I do not give up yet the idea, but that I shall have a sleigh ride this winter, but for soldiers there is room for disappointment if there is for anyone, & this is certainly a world for disappointment & anxiety.
A large proportion of the old regiments are re-enlisting, consequently a large number are absent on furlough, & for this reason furloughs have stopped for awhile for those who have no desire to re-enlist or belonging to regiment not yet two years in the field as is the case where regiments are reorganizing.
I am feeling first rate now & I don’t know as I have been better since I enlisted. I don’t know but I told you before that I weighed 125 [lbs.] I was on picket again last week at the same place where I was before and had a good time as usual. You either did not understand the other letter or else I made some serious mistake, or you were disposed to make fun. I guess the latter is as near to it as anything. I am getting quite lazy of late; we have so little to do. I have nearly every day to myself but I have done not even as much as wash a shirt. It looks much better to have it done where there are better conveniences than we have.
I suppose that you have heard that [cousin] Rufus [Lewis] has gone into the Invalid Corps. He has been there only two or three weeks, however.
It is a capitol idea that you have of taking instead of coffee a glass of cider now and then; with plenty of walnuts. But I can’t do as well. I received a few walnut meats last Sunday from home brought by a friend who has been home. They went very good but the cider I shall have to take hereafter. I almost wish that I could have as good time singing as you do, but somehow I sing but very little. I must confess I am not very enterprising, but perhaps I can turn up a little when I come home. You will help me a little of course. You will show me of course some of the young ladies in the vicinity of your school — not that I care anything about them — only to give you a little advice who is the prettiest & the smartest-looking.
The Naugatuck boys are all well & Henry [C.] Lord ¹ is talking & joking like all soldiers in the next tent. Farther up [the] street, an Irishman from Naugatuck is getting considerable music out of a clarinet & he has a very good selection of tunes. Henry Baldwin ² went on picket yesterday morning & has probably seen — or at least felt — a little rain, for it has been a rainy day. We have not as yet seen a flake of snow unless it was a little squall, but we sometimes have a frost that makes everything look as white as snow nearly.
Darkey regiments are all the rage down here — especially they (the darkies) are interested & they make pretty prompt soldiers. Even the officers of the regiments are losing their servants, but I don’t care how many. I had rather they would fight than to do it myself. Give my respects to all enquiring friends & remember me in the kindest manner to Uncle, Aunt, & cousin, & kiss the little “sis” for me.
Your affectionate cousin, — Henry
¹ Henry C. Lord died on 16 September 1864 while serving in Co. H, 15th Connecticut Infantry.
² Henry Chalmers Baldwin (1842-1897) was the son of Lucius Baldwin and Maria Willard. Henry graduated at Yale Law School in 1872 and was admitted to the bar in New Haven later that year. He married Melicent A. Bingham, daughter of Elijah W. Bingham and Rozilla Daniels of Middletown, Connecticut.
~ RELATED ~
The following letter was written by Henry C. Baldwin of Co. H, 15th Connecticut to Charles D. Lewis of Naugatuck, CT.
Sunday, February 1st 1863
My Old Friend Charley,
Your last came duly to hand & now I am seated with the intention [of] answering the same — not that I can write half as good a letter or one half as well written. Blast it all — the drum sounds and out goes the lights. Good night.
Evening 2d Feb.
I was stopped short last night for they are beginning to come Camp Chase on us again & drum for everything even to putting out lights.
I have just finished reading a Baltimore paper & now Stiles is reading it also. A daily paper here cost only ten cts. — rather costly when we consider we are working for $13.00 per month.
I must tell you what gladdens the hearts of us fellows & makes us feel natural like. Last week we were paid up to the 1st of Nov & now the way the Sutlers are raking in the greenbacks is a caution. Our friends from the North show their love for the soldier in a curious manner by bringing down a cargo of articles as soon as on we are paid off & in nine cases out ten seem hardly content [without they get] 100 percent profit on everything they [sell]. And now to demonstrate the truth of the above I will add a few facts. Someone from Connecticut brought down a few barrels of cider & in less time than it takes to write it, the tent was thronged by the eager sons of old Conn. anxious to get a taste of the cider. They were soon gratified by paying 25 cts per quart or one fifth that sum for about enough to fill one’s mouth so you see we are not forgoten by the patriotic men of New England.
There is one thing I must not forget to mention which is that there is a prospect of our having soft bread once more as they are building a large oven for the purpose of giving that article in which we have lived without since the 1st of December.
Those fellows what got the $500 and then vamoosed may think it quite a gallus game but of all things I despise a man of that stamp.
I have read Gen. Butler’s address & I think it quite apprio. I don’t care how many negroes he arms or how many get their heads broke if it will help to end the war.
I can’t say I agree with your Cousin Henry [Lewis] about the capture of Richmond. I do not think the Army of the Potomac can ever take it — that is, I don’t believe the Fredericksburg road is the right one. Gen. Porter took the right road to Richmond & if he had been supported as he ought to I believe it would have been ours today.
You ask me what I think of the war now. I think a great deal. My faith is yet strong & in spite of greedy owl-like politicians, I believe the starry flag will yet wave in triumph over a united and happy country. It may be a long way in the future, but it must be.
I have no more time to write at present write soon and oblige — Henry Baldwin