1863: Unidentified Soldier to Mrs. Mary E. Smith


Unfortunately I have not been able to identify the author of this letter though we know he served in the 24th Massachusetts Infantry. He wrote the letter from the post hospital at St. Augustine where the regiment was garrisoned at the time. The content leads us to conclude that the soldier had served with the three-year regiment since it was organized and he does not seem to be inclined to re-enlist.

I attempted to identify the addressee — Mrs. Mary E. Smith of South Danvers. I believe this was Mary E. Taylor (1831-1879), the wife of John Mason Smith (1822-1881), and the daughter of David Taylor (1804-1886) and Mary Waldron Nourse. I could not find a soldier with the surname Taylor serving in the 24th Massachusetts that could connect to to this family, however. Perhaps someone else will be more fortunate.

See also — The Civil War Letters of William Hunt Goff, Co. H, 24th Mass


Addressed to Mrs. Mary E. Smith, South Danvers, Massachusetts
Postmarked St. Augustine, Florida

St. Augustine, Florida
Saturday, December 19th [1863]

Dear Sister,

Yours of November 17th arrived away down South on Thursday afternoon last. I am glad to learn that the family is not entirely broken up and that you had the most respectable part at your board on the anniversary of Thanksgiving. How sad it is to think that a family who but a few short years ago were wont to assemble around the family board and had lived together from childhood, prosperous and happy, should now that some had taken new homes, be so much at variance. It grieves me to think that the oldest and the most favored of all the rest, and to whose lot it had fallen to guide the feeble steps of our remaining parent to that home where every weary traveler finds rest from his labors, should be the one to cause his few remaining days to be spent in grief. Think of the care that has been bestowed on us from our birth. What more could have been asked for than we have received from them, and it has come our turn now to show our gratitude for the overwhelming favors we have received. Shame rests on Nancy and Alice that can never be erased.

What can I say of an Uncle that will so far degrade himself by giving vent to a fiery temper, as to call without a blush, one of his own blood, one that always had felt anxious for his welfare, one that has passed away from earth leaving none among the large circle that could ever say she had wronged them. Surely if ever a Christian lived, one was found in her. Although he knew not what he uttered, it has passed from his lips and never can it be recalled. Miserable man, shut yourself up in some closet where no light can ever enter to reveal the image of him that has let fall from his tongue the vilest language, while at the same time he cast his poison on the ones he sought to befriend as well as on the one he thought to abuse. He is an old man but had I stood in my brother’s shoes, I fear he would have measured his length on the ground where he stood. I am glad that no notice was taken of it, however, for when he reflects, the greater will be his shame.

You speak about my getting a furlough. Have you not become aware that I belong to the 24th Regiment and that it is almost impossible for a man without the use of his legs and arms to get a furlough or a discharge? About the Veteran Regiment, if you at home could only realize what the three years troops have been through, you would never say a word to one of them about re-enlisting without you first knew his mind. If three years service does not satisfy the army at home, they must take to the field themselves.

I came back to my summer residence again yesterday, having had chills for four days in succession. I took a couple of camphor and opium pills last night — one at 8 and another at 9 o’clock, and having a comfortable bed and a warm room, had a good night’s rest.

Sunday, December 27th 1863

I am still in the hospital but am feeling better today than any time since I have been in this place. What should you think at home this time of year to see a running rose bush full of buds and blossoming out in the open air? Such is the case at my residence. A large horse shoe geranium is also in bloom and everything is as pleasant as June generally is in Massachusetts. But for all their fine weather, give me the opportunity of getting home and I would not be long in improving it, I assure you. We have been looking for a boat but none as yet is in sight.

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