These nine letters were written by Eleazer Byron Foster (1824-1862), the son of William Foster (1774-1848) and Keziah Mason (1779-1857) of Union, Tolland county, Connecticut. They were written to Lucy Rhoby Corbin (1828-1897), the daughter of Healy Corbin (1799-1878) and Nancy Coye (1803-1878) of Union. Lucy was first married in 1853 to Philip Foster Gage. After his death in 1857, she married Eleazer on 14 September 1862. Two of these letters were written prior to Eleazer and Lucy’s marriage. The other seven were written while he served as a sergeant in Co. G, 22nd Connecticut Infantry.
In the 1860 U.S. Census, Eleazer (age36) was enumerated as the head of a household with older sisters Louisa (age 40) and Rachel (age 49) in the town of Union, Tolland county, Connecticut. His occupation was given as farmer.
The last letter — started on 27 October and finished on 7 November 1862 — is extremely difficult to read and has only been partially transcribed. By that time Eleazer’s handwriting had obviously deteriorated suggesting the onset of Typhoid fever — the disease that would abruptly end his life only a week later — just two months after his marriage to Lucy. His death on 14 November 1862 was recorded at Trinity General Hospital in Washington D. C. This hospital was established in June 1862 at Trinity Church on the corner of Third and C Streets.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
I have concluded to address you again but it is not without some hesitation for I don’t know but I am taking to much liberty as I have not had any conversation with you in regard to my last nor received any reply from you but I ask your indulgence and wish you to overlook all my mistakes you can for I think we have been quite confidential with each other and I trust it will not be any disadvantage to us for I think you are a person that will keep it to yourself and I think I can. If I had not thought that I knew you pretty well, I should not dared to have written as I have or talked as I have, but whatever I say I mean although it may be taken in a different light from what I wish so I should like the privilege of explaining sometimes. I probably have not the art of making myself understood as well as some. I take this time to speak of some things as they appear to me but I may hit far from the mark.
It is now more than a year since I first spoke to you about visiting you and when I look back and think how much my mind has been occupied with one subject and see what a change there has been in some things, I must admit the ways of Providence are far from being anticipated by anyone. I have been impressed with the thought all through the fall that something would take place concerning my destiny in this world but little did I think things would turn as they have. My mind has been ill at ease and I have thought that I should have to have something more exciting to my mind or I should be miserable in mind at least. When I am alone, my mind seems to be on you the most of the time for I can’t make myself quite believe but you have more than a common interest in my welfare.
The death of brother William ¹ takes all by surprise and admonish us to be in readiness for life is uncertain and death is certain. He was one we looked up to as a family as one of the most worthy. Although he was different from the others in some things, but had as many friends as most men and will be likely to be missed as much as any man in the place where he lived. It seemed to be the wish of [my brothers] John and Elbert that I should go out and help close up William’s affairs this season but I don’t feel competent to do it for it is more responsibility than I want to take. But if it is the desire of the others, I don’t feel as though I can refuse. It may occupy my mind so much that it will be better for me. John is there and was connected with William in business and it seems proper that he should help do it but he says he can’t do it alone as he and I have always been very intimate. I suppose he had rather I would help him than anyone else. I shall be likely to know before long whether I go or not.
When I left Wisconsin last year, I little thought of being back so soon on such business but someone may be called to settle up my worldly affairs within the year and I mean to keep them so as not to give anyone any unnecessary trouble. It seems to be the general opinion among folks that the reason for my attending meeting was to gain favor with you. Now I will be frank with you. It might have some influence on me but it was not the whole cause for I think all communities ought to keep up meetings and I thought no more than right that I should do something and the more I think of it the more I think it my duty. I knew full well what would be said but I thought it right so I have done as I have trusting you will approve of my course in this care if in no other.
I have wrote over one sheet of paper [and] still I don’t see where to stop so I take another. You may think by what I have written that I think more of this world than the world to come but I hope that I do not. I think likely that I have enjoyed life better than some the most of the time but I can’t say that I have for awhile back although it is my fault, I suppose. I hope that I do not fear death as much as some as this is a world of trouble as you remarked. I don’t expect to go through it without my share and as it is said, the prayers of the righteous availeth much, I ask to be remembered in your devotions.
The principle reason of writing you when I did was that I did not understand your meaning fully or to my satisfaction at best. It seemed to me that you were blaming yourself more than you ought and thought I might see things [in a] different light from what I did so I wrote to let you know that I did not wish you to blame yourself atall. It struck me that you were willing to have more correspondence and I thought I would give you a chance on my part if we did not have an opportunity to have a talk but it has been so long that I don’t know but I come to a wrong conclusion. And if I did, I would like to know it. That morning that I called at your father’s, I did not much expect to have a talk with you as it was washing day with you but as I wished to see your father I called and wish you to excuse me for it if you did not think it a proper time. I had pretty much given up the idea of your feeling more than common interest for me until the last Sabbath in December when I saw you at meeting. I thought something troubled you and as we were coming out of the slips at the close of services, our eyes met and I judged from your look that you felt for me. Please excuse me for alluding to this for such things weigh on my mind more than any other. If I was wrong, just tell me so and let that be the end of it. The truth is that I dare not trust myself to return a gaze from you in company for fear of betraying myself to others.
I might as well come to the point that I have been aiming at in this and my last, for I want to act the manly part although I am uncouth in manners and leave the matter with you to say whether you have any desire to have anymore correspondence with me at the present time or not. If not, I will try and dismiss it from my mind as much as I can but I think it will be better for me to leave town for the present at least.
Yours very truly, — E. B. Foster
To Lucy C. Gage
¹ William Mason Foster (1809-1860) died on 29 December 1860 (confirming this letter was written in January 1861, not January 1860). William died in Mayville, Dodge county, Wisconsin. He and a couple of other men were the founding fathers of the town on the Rock river. There was a large influx of German immigrants into the frontier village after 1852.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
January 3d 1862
Yours of December 19th was received on the first day of January. It sees that it was delayed somewhere for it ought to have been here last week. [My brother] John received a letter from William last night which was mailed the 28th at Union, it being only six days coming Sunday. That is as quick as we are in the habit of getting one for it most likely laid at Stafford until Monday. Yours was mailed at Staffordville the 21st and came out most likely so it took nearly three times as long as it did for William’s. I thought it rather strange that I did not get one from you before but it seems it was not your fault.
I wrote you on the 25th which you have probably got before this time. William don’t write much news. He says you have some snow or had at the time he wrote. We have not had any snow since I wrote you until today. It is snowing today quite fast but don’t know whether there will be enough to make sleighing or not. It was quite cold yesterday and day before but it is moderating some today.
William McPall got back into these parts day before yesterday. He has been up north hunting for some ten weeks. He brought home some venison with him and let John have some so I had some for breakfast this morning which is the first that I ever ate that I knew of. I like it very much but I don’t see as it is superior to other meat.
The Germans have had a good many holidays, it being all holidays from Christmas to New Years and I guess it has took some beer to go through with it. The schools all stopped for a week and there has not been much work done by most of the folks. I went to S[amuel] D. Crawford’s [at Williamstown] to New Years. So did John and his folks. Dwight had a letter from Burt a few days ago. I think it was dated the 22nd. He wrote that Mr. Clark was dead. George Clark’s father and Palmer Burley died with the fever. Burt wrote that his wife was getting better but not able to do all of her work. I believe they get along without a [hired] girl.
We don’t make much headway in settling up the affairs. We have been making some proposals to the other owner to make an exchange of property so we can own some portion alone — the mills I am speaking of. One of the owner’s health is quite poor so that he don’t get out at the present time and some think that he will run down. I don’t know how long I shall stay here yet for I have not set any time to leave. I have got rather sick of loafing and think most likely that I shall leave before long if we are not able to come to some agreement with the other owners. If we should, it may take some time to get things all arranged so you see that I can’t set any time to get home.
I calculated to stop at Fort Atkinson on my way home but don’t know how long I shall [stay] there. I have not been to Appleton yet and I think it doubtful about going. If I do, it will make my stay longer. You wished to know if I was not enjoying myself. I don’t know but I do as well as I can expect. At any rate, I don’t blame anyone. I was glad to hear from you for I began to grow rather uneasy for I did not know but you might be sick or some of the folks. William says he has been unwell for a few days but was better when he wrote.
Please excuse all mistakes. Respectfully yours, — E. B. Foster
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE
Camp Halleck ¹
September 28th 1862
I take this time to write you a few lines. I got back in to camp the night I left home and have been well since. The report is now that we have got to leave on Tuesday but I think it is doubtful. It may be so but it seems to me that we are not ready yet. We had ten dollars paid us yesterday. We have not got our arms yet and I don’t know whether we get them before we leave or not. If we don’t, we shall not have the care of them on the road. There is not many men on the ground today but I think most likely that there will be most men back tomorrow. Wright don’t get back yet although his furlough [ ] mine did. It don’t seem as though I had got you [ ] soon and not see you again for nine months of both of our lives are spared so long. But I suppose it is so.
It seems the Union [Tolland county] boys suffered badly in the 16th Regiment.²
There is so much noise that I can’t think of anything that I want to and I think most likely that I shall spell bad, but never mind that if you can make out any sent. I can’t give any direction where to direct a letter but will try and let you know when I find out. There is some talk that out letter will be changed but don’t know how it will be. We are not drilled well enough to leave but we can’t keep the men together here so as to drill. When we get away, the men will have to stay so it will not be so hard for the Union [Tolland county] boys for I think they have to do more than their share of guard duty.
Miner [Healy Corbin] ³ was on guard yesterday and William is today. There is not hardly enough men on the ground for two guards. The sergeants above me are most of them away so I have got to call the roll at noon and make the noon report and call the men into line for inspection at ten o’clock which is on hand soon. I have [to] draw the rations for the company so you see my time is taken up.
Now you will have to excuse me this time. Yours in haste, — E. B. Foster
¹ Camp Halleck was located at Hartford, Connecticut. It was the training camp for soldiers enlisting from Hartford and Tolland counties.
² Out of 779 men, the 16th Connecticut lost 43 killed, 161 wounded, and 204 captured or missing in the Battle of Antietam on 17 September 1862. See John Banks’ blog: Antietam Visit: 16 Connecticut’s demise.
³ Miner Healy Corbin (1840-1919) was the youngest brother of Eleazer’s wife. He served with Eleazer in Co. G, 22nd Connecticut Infantry.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FOUR
Camp Halleck [Hartford, Connecticut]
October 1st 1862
I take this time to write you a few lines. Your father got into camp last night about 6 o’clock. He missed the train at Willington. I was glad to get a line from you but should have rather had seen you if it had been convenient but did not expect you. I wrote you last Sunday but you have not got it yet. The report was that we were to leave yesterday but did not get away. We have had orders to go tomorrow and I think most likely we go. It is raining this morning quite fast and will be rather bad here in camp.
I am glad that you keep up good courage and give me so good advise and I hope that I shall be able to keep up spirits. I fear you have some gloomy hours but I want you to dismiss things from your mind and I will try and do the same as much as I can and hope for the best trusting that things will turn out for the best.
It is a bad place to write here as the tent is full and a good deal of noise so you must excuse my writing and spelling. If you can get into such a hubbub, you will know how to pity them that do.
I don’t know where to have letters directed to me. The report is that we go to Washington but how long we stay there is uncertain. If I can find out, I will try and let you know. You may see in the papers where to direct. I don’t know as the letter of our company is to be changed. If you do not get a letter from me, write me if you can find out where to direct.
There is a good many things that I would like to write about but shall have to let it go until another time. I sent a cup home. If you get hold of it, you may do what you have a mind to with it.
Yours with much respect, from E. B. Foster
to Lucy C. Foster
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FIVE
Washington D. C.
October 7th 1862
As I have arrived here, I thought I would write you a few lines. We left Hartford last Thursday in the rain and got into New York [City] the next morning. Stayed until afternoon, then started for Baltimore by way of Harrisburg. Got into Baltimore Saturday about 8 o’clock in the afternoon. Stayed until Sunday afternoon. Got into Washington about ten o’clock at night. Laid on the ground the rest of the night. Had to move again yesterday about two miles. Had to go on guard yesterday at 10 o’clock and stayed on the most of the time until about seven without anything to eat and have been on drill since. We have had the hardest drill we have had since we came into the service. It is so dusty here that we get so dusty and we don’t have much chance to wash as we don’t have any water within the lines. I think we don’t have as good accommodation as we ought to but I know it is a difficult thing to have all right among so many men.
The boys are all sound but some of them are not very well. I hope we shall be well for it is bad enough when one is well. I don’t know but I am getting homesick but I don’t [want] you to let anyone know it if I be. I should not say as much to anyone except you. I don’t want you to worry on my account for I am in hopes to feel more reconciled to it in time. If I don’t, I don’t. It will be a long nine months to me if I live so long. I wish the war might be closed up so all might go home but I fear the nine months will not be long enough to finish it up but hope all will turn out for the best.
We have had our guns delivered to us this forenoon but they are not a very finished gun but they be a good gun to shoot.
I want you to write me. Please direct to me at Washington D. C., 22nd Reg. Co. G, C.V.M. and I hope that I shall be able to get it. If you don’t get an answer, I want you to keep writing to me and I will try and writ you as often as I can.
My convenience is not very good for writing so you must excuse my writing. I wrote home when I was in Baltimore and [since] Minor wrote home I concluded to wait until I got here. I don’t know how long we shall stay here but I want you to write me at any rate for I want to hear from [you] badly. Please write a long letter and give me all the news you can. I am in a good deal of a hurry.
Yours truly, — E. B. Foster
P. S. Please direct to Eleazer B. Foster, 22nd Reg. Co. G, Capt. George W. Johnson, C. V. M., Washington D. C.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER SIX
Fairfax County, Virginia ¹
October 13th 1862
I take this time to write you a few lines hoping they may reach you in due time. We left Washington Saturday about half past 3 o’clock P. M. and marched some 8 or 10 miles that night. It rained the night before we left Washington and some that day but it did not rain much on the march. It was muddy some of the way but I think not as bad marching as it would have been in the dust. We stopped over night and lay on the ground without any tents, moved again yesterday morning about a mile, and have encamped again on the highlands near Fort Ethan Allen, I believe, but don’t find anyone that seems to know exactly our location. But don’t matter much about the name of the place as I think that it will be the way to direct your letter to Washington for the present. I expect the chaplain will carry the mail every day. I don’t [know] when you got my letter but I am looking for one from you and one from the girls. [Your brother] Miner received one from [his sister] Elvira when we were at Washington. I think it was the next day after it was mailed. He is looking for another soon. Miner was a good deal unwell yesterday but I think he is some better this morning. Frank Walker and Francis James have both been sick but I think are some better.
The tents hold six persons and I am with Edwin & Miner, John & Melvin [Booth], & George Thayer make up the six. William is with Milo & Sanford & Frank & the [John F. and ?] James boys. Their tent is next to ours. Francis Cleveland, & [Henry H.] Burnett & Boovidare [Joseph Boovia?] together [with] the [Robert B. and William H.] Horton boys and Mr. [James M.] Woodart are together.
I don’t know how long we may stay here but it seems to be the opinion of a good many that we make something of a stop but I think it is uncertain about it. I saw Charles Shepard [10th Conn.?] the day we left Washington but I have not seen but few that I knew since I left Hartford except our own men.
The 11th Rhode Island are encamped close by us. We came over chain bridge. I think the 16th Connecticut came over the same place but I am not certain. I think there is something wrong about our rations for we have to take up with what we can get. I think a good many of the men have spent as much as their wages at the sutler. I thought I would not eat much of their things if I could live in my ration. The day I left Washington I got my cakes and it was well that I did or I should come up short. Everything is high here. Apples about two cents apiece and poor at that. I want you to eat all you can on my account. Just call up to our house and eat for I think they will need some help.
I want you to write a long letter for you need not be afraid of my poking fun. I make too many mistakes myself and I think it will do you good. Keep up good cheer and not cry about me for I don’t want you to do that. I try and make the best I can of my lot. We had a good rain last night but our tent is as good a place as any in our company. Miner is thinking of writing Rose and putting in with this.
Yours with much respect, — E. B. Foster
¹ The regimental history states that the 22nd Connecticut was attached to the 2nd Brigade, Abercrombie’s Division, Military District of Washington for picket duty at Langley’s, Va., on the Washington and Leesburg Turnpike.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER SEVEN
Fairfax county, Va.
October 18th 1862
Yours of the 12th was received today and right glad was I to hear from you for it is the first time I have had a letter since I left Hartford. Our company have been out on picket duty for two days or I should have received yours yesterday. We went out about four miles. There was four companies but only one from our regiment. Today there is four companies from our regiment and three out on fatigue duty. I believe they are chopping wood and some are on guard duty so there is only one company to drill today. We went out in the Leesburg & Fairfax road. My duty was not hard but I have been about sick for two days. I did not eat but a very little yesterday. I ate some this morning—not very hearty as I did not have any appetite. Hope I shall feel better soon for if anything will make one think of home, it is to be unwell.
I have received a line from Rachel since I commenced writing. I should judge from her writing that they are quite lonesome. I expected they would be as I knew it would be different from anything before…
I don’t know what our destination will be but the general impression is now that we stay here through the winter. If it is to be so, I think it would suit me as well for i have no desire to take the field if I can do the government as much good a chopping, I had rather do it—not that I want to dodge any responsibility but you know I was no hard for fighting.
Miner [H. Corbin] was unwell when we went out on picket duty but he fees somewhat better. Edwin is somewhat off the hooks today. He had a turn of [____ing] last night.
October 19th. I suppose this is Sunday but it don’t seem much like a Sabbath at home. We have been busy all the morning and it is nearly 11 o’clock. We had to march out of camp and fire off our guns, then come back and some of ….[?] We have roll call at noon and at 3 PM service at a half hour before sundown dress parade so you see it is necessary to be here all of the time. If I could have the day to myself and not have to fall into line, it would suit me much better but it is not for me to say. I feel some better today but I don’t feel as if I could endure much now.
We are in Abercrombie’s Division. Heintzelman’s Corps. for the defenses of Washington. The headquarters are at Fort Ethan Allen which is about a mile from our camp. We had to go over to the fort and take our stations so we might know where to go in case of necessity. We are liable to be called out any night. I think there would be some confusion if we do. Our Captain [George W. Johnson of Suffield, CT ¹] is quite excitable and don’t seem to be able to give the right orders and I fear if we had to come into action, we should suffer badly for in these things we want a leader. Our men seem to be dissatisfied with the Captain. I feel sorry for him but I don’ think he is the man for the place. This is confidential and I don’t want anyone to know it as it might do a good deal of harm if all the folks in town should know it. If I did not have perfect confidence in you, I should not have written as I have but I thought you would like to have me write free with you hoping you would not give yourself any unnecessary concern about me and I think you will hope for the best, trusting in an all wise [God]. If we are to come out of this war alive, I think it will be so and I don’t know as we ought to try to alter the course marked for us.
There is so much confusion that I hardly know what I have wrote. If I write the same thing twice, you must excuse me. Our first sergeant [Robert J. Clarkson] is sick and gone to the hospital. I hope he will be able to come back for he was one of the best fellows in the company and understood his duty as an officer. The 2nd Sergeant [George F. Lipps] is complaining a good deal and I don’t know but we shall lose him also. I often wish I was a private as there is more responsibility in my position and I have not confidence in myself to do as I would like to. I am ready to go into the ranks anytime if the company want me to—if they will only let me know it. If our commissioned officers understood their duty better than they do and explained more to the non-commissioned officers, I think we should learn our duty faster. I think if I could have things explained to me, I am not so thick-headed but what I might learn. The fact is our company is the laughing stock of the whole regiment on account of our blunders.
You wrote if I wanted anything that you might send in a letter, you would like to send it. I don’t think of anything now but if you are a mind to, send a newspaper….
….Give my respects to all our friends and tell them I should like to hear from anyone of them. If it is a trouble for you to read this, just mention it in your next and will try and write with ink but it is rather difficult. Yours very truly, — E. B. Foster
¹ Capt. George W. Johnson (1837-1883) served as Captain of Co. G, 22nd Connecticut Infantry, from September 1862 until early February 1863.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER EIGHT
Miner Hill, Fairfax county, Virginia
October 24th 1862
I received a line from you last night and was right glad to hear that you are well and enjoying the comforts of life. I think I mailed a letter to you last Monday in which I wrote that the general opinion was that we should stay where we were then but I find there is no use of indulging in anything of the kind that we are to stay in any one place much time. We have moved again. We left camp on Tuesday morning and come on some two miles and stopped through the day and night and then moved again to where we are now. I think we are nearer Washington than we were in our other camp. I don’t know the need of moving us around so much but I suppose somebody thinks it to be necessary.
Our Brigade consists of the 133rd New York, 40th Massachusetts three years men, and the 22nd Connecticut and the 11th Rhode Island, nine months men. Brig. Gen. [Robert] Cowdin has the command of the brigade.
It has been much cold here for a few nights back. If we have to lay out such nights as these are, we must suffer — and how it rains too, which will make it a great deal worse for it will be muddy. I don’t know what will be done but one thing I am sure of and is that man can’t stand too much exposure in a climate like this. There [is] no one that wants to have things moving [more] than I do but I want the men to have some of the comforts of life so there will not be so much sickness and complaint. I suppose when the rainy season commences that it will be almost impossible to move an army so I think the program is to do all they can before the rainy season begins. I don’t [know] what may happen but should not be disappointed if we should be brought in to battle soon. But it is no use speculating in the future for realities come along fast enough.
I have not been very well for more than a week but I think I feel better this morning than I have for some time. I have had a diarrhea but it is checked some now. My appetite is not very good but is improving now. The rest are all about [the same] but some are not very well. I don’t keep posted in war news here as I did at home and there is so many stories that we don’t know what to believe.
William received a line from Rachel dated the 19th — day before yesterday. The papers that were sent come in the same mail with the letters. I have not had much time to read yet but hope to get some. I ought to write one or two more letters today but I guess I shall fail to do all. I expect we shall have to go on picket duty again soon — perhaps tomorrow. If not, it will be guard duty but I had rather go on guard for we don’t have to march so far and only 24 hours duty. Picket duty is 48 hours and the places to sleep are poor. I am glad to have good sympathy but I don’t want you to make yourself unnecessary trouble on my account for I will try and do the best I can under the circumstances.
Give my respect to all. Write soon. Yours with respect, from — E. B. Foster
to Lucy C. Foster
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER NINE
Miner’s Hill, Va.
October 30th 1862
I received a line from you Tuesday night. Thought I would try and answer it but don’t think I shall be able to write much. I went to the Doctor this morning for the first time. He did not give much to take but thought I needed rest the most which I agree with him for I feel weak. If I can get some appetite I might get along. He gave me four days. We have but two reviews within a four days and I had to go to the Gen. Headquarters on guard 29 hours within the time.
I had a letter from Louisa the same time I did from you. I have made out to answer hers as I wanted to have her to send me some money. The most of the boys are so to do duty. The boys are coming in from drill so there’s a crowd to write now but I will try and write more sometime. I have not given the particulars so much as common but I guess you will get them through some of the others.
November 7th 1862
I thought you might be uneasy but I don’t know as it has troubled me so much. Our doctor thought [ ]. I hope for the best. If I should not to have you [?]. I might telegraph if I should for you to go to our house and send some money. I have got 26 dollars. If you should [ ]. I think Louisa would to come if she is [ ].
It is snowing some… [illegible]
— E. B. Foster