1863: James Reid to wife Lizzie

1872 Advertisement in NYC Newspaper

This letter was written by Lt. James Reid who enlisted as a private in Co. B, 79th New York Infantry (aka, the “Cameron Highlanders”) in May 1861 to serve three years. He rose in the ranks from private to first sergeant before being commissioned a 2d Lieutenant of Co. H, and then a 1st Lieutenant of Co. I. He resigned his commission on 28 April 1863 at Lebanon, Kentucky. At the time this letter was written in February 1863, it appears Reid was detailed as AAG to the 1st Brigade where his excellent penmanship was put to use in writing dispatches.

Reid was born in England in 1835. He was married to a woman named Lizzie, born 1843 [died 1895, age 49?], in Ireland. In the 1863, Reid is found in the New York City Directory at the address given on this envelope; his occupation was given as “Malster” — a maker of malt. After the war he went into business as a liquor importer and distributor under the name of James Reid & Co. with a store at No. 45 Broad Street. It appears that he used his profits to invest heavily in land speculation, however, and went bankrupt in 1878. By 1880, James was keeping a candy store in New York. It is believed that both he and his wife died before 1900.


Addressed to. Mrs. James Reid, 278 West 31st Street, New York City

Headquarters 1st Brigade, 1st Division, 9th Army Corps
Opposite Fredericksburg, Va.
February 10th 1863

We are still in front of Fredericksburg, Va., but we expect to move either tonight or tomorrow morning early so by the time this reaches you we will probably be at Fortress Monroe. The other divisions of our corps have all left this place and are on board of transports at Acquia Creek.

We cannot tell where we are bound for but I guess it will be somewhere in North Carolina. Whenever we arrive at Fortress Monroe or anywhere where we can find out, I shall write and tell you.

Meantime, I have nothing of much importance to tell you. In fact, I am so completely disheartened of not getting home that I do not feel fit to write much of a cheering letter even to my Bonnie little wife. However, such as it is, I send it to you. It at least lets you know that I am well and that I don’t forget you.

My dear Lizzie, every night since I came back I have been dreaming about you. It is a are thing for me to dream at all but thank God, my dreams about you were all good ones. Even you could make nothing of them but good. Do you ever dream about me? Tell me.

Has Ann been to see you again? Poor lassie — I fancy I see her look of disappointment when you tell [her] I cannot get home. However, as I said in my letter of the 8th, I shall try and try again until I succeed.

Orland Bolivar Willcox — “he is really is a brave and gallant man.” (JR)

The field and staff officers of this brigade had quite a good time of it yesterday welcoming back General [Orlando Bolivar] Willcox to his old command. He deserves a hearty welcome as he is really a brave and gallant man.

Now Lizzie dear, I wish you to write me very often. If I cannot get home, I can at least have the pleasure of receiving and reading your letters. The United States cannot prevent that, thank God. I have sent you 9 letters lately and I expect an answer to, say every 5 of them at least. However, as I know how inconvenient it is for you to write, I shall be content to receive what you choose to send me. I wish you would send me out the handkerchief which Ann gave me. Send it by mail. It will not cost much and I require it badly.

Give my love to Ann, to Frank & family, and to all enquiring friends. My compliments and thanks to Mr. & Mrs. Carville. ¹ Also to little Charlie & Kitty.
And now my darling little wife, I must bid you goodbye for a short time. I shall write you whenever we reach Fortress Monroe. I send you a thousand fond, fond kisses.

Your affectionate husband, — James Reid, Adj. Gen.

¹ Probably Charles Carville (b. 1808 in England), a New York City dry goods merchant, and his wife Julia (b. 1811 in Ireland). In 1850, the had a 10 year-old daughter named Eliza who was born in New York City though one wonders if she grew up to become Reid’s wife. Their son was Charles Robert Carville, Jr. (1844-1863). See Civil War Biographies.

Major David McLellan sporting the uniform of the 79th New York “Cameron Highlanders”

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