1862: Isaac Bradley to Ida J. Bradley

This letter was written by Isaac Bradley (1832-1866), the son of Jason W. Bradley (1809-1888) and Elizabeth Sperry (1810-1870) of Bethany, New Haven county, Connecticut. Isaac was honorably discharged 27 July 1863. He wrote the letter to his little sister, Ida Jane Bradley (1853-1915).

Isaac wrote the letter two weeks after the Battle of Fredericksburg in which the 27th Connecticut participated in their first engagement as part of Col. Zook’s Third Brigade of Brig. General Hancock’s First Division. As the Third Brigade attempted to scale Marye’s Heights, the regiments became inter-tangled, resulting in an ineffectual assault and staggering casualties — so staggering that Isaac and others preferred to dub the Battle of  Fredericksburg as the “Burnside Slaughter House.”

[Note: Letter 2 is from the private collection of Sheila McCreven as is published by express consent. She has a letter written by Isaac’s father from Washington D. C. on 25 December 1862 which is transcribed and posted on her website, Town History.]

aacivbats7
Embossed envelope with patriotic image of Gen. W. Scott. Addressed to Miss Ida I. Bradley, Westville, New Haven county, Connecticut
Care of J. W. Bradley, Esq.

Letter 1

Headquarters 27th Regiment Connecticut Volunteers
Capt. [George F.] Hotchkiss, Company E
Camp near Falmouth [Virginia]
December 28, 1862

My own dear little sister,

dec5burnside
Burnside — “a black dark-whiskered looking fellow reminding me of Black Bess, the highwayman…” (IB)

I have not had time to answer your letter before. It was a good one. I wrote to “Tate” last week but forgot to say that I wished you all a Merry Christmas. We worked on our long [   ] all day. It was not much different from others for us. The day before we went out on a review by Burnside, Hancock, and Sumner. The waving of hats were scattering and the cheering rather faint. Burnside does not take very well since the battle [of Fredericksburg]. The old soldiers want McClellan to lead them. He is [a] black, dark-whiskered looking fellow reminding me of Black Bess, the highwayman in Claude Duval. Hancock looks whiter but Sumner I liked the best. That little, profane, cursing Yank was there.

We have not heard of [George] Brown, [James G.] Clinton, [Edward] Thompson, or Andrew [B.] Castle since although we have looked for them. ¹ Jenett Morris has been here and says that Father is in Washington. If this is so, I wish he would come here for he could as well as not & go over to Fredericksburg, I think. We have been moving the sick today to Washington which we think indicates a march soon or as the papers would say, [to] make room for “probable emergencies.” We soldiers think the latter means fight but we don’t know whether there is to be a fight or march. The defeat has discouraged many of the regiments. We call Fredericksburg the “Burnside Slaughter House.” ² I do not think the place could be taken by a force of 5 times as large as it was. It is a strong place & why the Army was not all cut up was because the “Rebs” did not choose to do it for it might have been done easily.

I enclosed some leaves of the Holly tree before & now I send some more & also some of the berries which I think will sprout if you plant them. They are quite ornamental — loaded full of red plums.

There is a rumor that we are going to Washington & another that we are going to Yorktown — a distance of 160 miles — but we don’t know when nor where. Dwight Hitchcock is quite sick & has gone to Washington. I think he will get well. Ed Carrington ³ was in the fight but did not get hurt. He sends his respects to all. Jim [James W. Rice] is well and I am as well as he is. We have put up a log home & try to take comfort. A great many of the regiment are sick & many of them die.

I am to be sergeant of the guard tomorrow & perhaps I will be an officer before I come back. Charley Joiner, I guess, will go home.

I wish you a Happy New Year & all the folks. Tate’s letter was mailed the 8th of December but I did not get it till last week. I suppose the ground is covered with snow with you & you are sliding down hill most of the time. It has all gone from here & the ground does not freeze much nights. We have things very comfortable. Jim went over to the 13th today. If you are sending a club list for the Rural this year, put my name down & I will forward the pay to you as soon as I can get it. Have it directed to Westville.

Be my good little sister and answer this soon. I will write again soon. Your Brother — Isaac [Bradley]

Direct the same as formerly.


¹ All four of these soldiers belonging to Company E, 27th Connecticut, were killed during the Battle of Fredericksburg on 13 December 1862.

² In his book, Defeating Lee: A History of the Second Corps, Army of the Potomac, Lawrence A. Kreiser, Jr. wrote that Private Rodney H. Ramsey of Co. G, 5th New Hampshire Infantry “fumed on Christmas Eve that he would not actually mention the name Fredericksburg,because the ‘title of the Battle is Burnside’s Slaughter House!…Our army was badly whipped.'” 

³ Edward H. Carrington (1836-1894) was a sergeant in Co. C, 27th Connecticut Infantry. 


Letter 2

Camp “Hard Tack” near Falmouth [Virginia]
January 11, 1863

Dear Sister,

I shall not tell how many times I have been killed but as for running or joining the Rebs, I did not, but was at my post with the rest of the boys all the time. I would not care if my body was on the way home but not in a box.

I received yours of Dec. 7th and Dec. 30th. I answered father’s from Washington. I was glad to have him write but it reads very nervous I wish he could have come to see us. I have not said much about the war till recently for I wished to be sure that my opinion was correct and the folks would say to that I was homesick. I have been watching the movements as far as possible with impartiality & what I have written the boys all endorse. I am not homesick nor blue but well and in good spirits, but I cannot think of this war without getting mad at the way in which it is carried on & the treatment of the soldiers. But we are learning pretty fast & they don’t come it over as much as they did I don’t think.

The government gives enough but the speculators do not. They all have to grab a little & by the time it gets to us, half is gone. “Burnside & the Union have played out” with the Army of the Potomac. They may fight but only for a name. I think that in a few days we will be at it again from appearances. Our new guns came last night. We had orders to march with six days rations last week & ever morning early we packed our knapsacks but have not gone yet & I guess we shall not till we move on to Fredericksburg again. I had as soon live with Jeff [Davis] as [Uncle] Sam for what I can see now. So if they trap us, I shall not care much but they won’t keep us is the worst of it. John M. played smart, they say. Hernance & Sherwood have gone to New Haven sick, we hear. Dwight–I hear nothing from since he went to Washington. I think he might [have] got home. Seth Woodward has gone home.

Hernance says the worst sight he saw was a soldier with his upper jaw shot out & yet he was walking about, his eyes and lower jaw all sound. We can learn nothing of the missing boys. I have inquired & looked as far as possible but no traces of them and we have about given them up. Yet they may be among the Rebs all right, but it is doubtful. We miss them much. Dave wrote a letter of consolation to their friends. I wrote of the box & your letter with stamps is all safe. I thank you all much. I wrote to father to send some letter paper & envelopes &c. for we cannot get much here. I shall have some sent on soon I think if it will come by mail.

Your letter is kind and good and does a fellow good. You say cheer up & I have been cheerful most of the time, and well. We know that behind the clouds, the sun still shines but many, many a poor soldier that has looked upon its beauty and greatness and felt its genial warmth will never behold its light again or cheer up at its glorious rising and so it may be with us. But such thoughts are not for soldiers they tell me. We must go in expecting to come out all right.

Tell mother my wants are limited now, not as numerous as they used to be. I want to be in a storm at sea, descend into a volcano, and go up in a balloon a few miles or so, & then I shall be contented, I think, for I have been in a cave & a battle, & there is so much less.

It has been cold and cloudy here for some time. Yesterday it rained. I will write as soon as I can again if I can get paper. We miss our chaplain about getting our letters and boxes &c. We all liked him—what little we saw [of him] for he only arrived just before our march. I sent some berries of the holly. I will write to Ida the first opportunity. The boys are all well. Ed Carrington has lost 46 lbs. Charley Prime grows poor & pale. Jim received a letter from you last night & from Howard. I will write if I get hurt. Remember me to all. Write soon. Direct the same. From brother.

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