This letter is signed “Ell” and it believe it was written by Seymour Witherell (1812-1896) who was a 44 year-old farmer when he enlisted on 28 August 1862, at Geneseo, New York, to serve three years as a private in Co. E, 33rd New York Infantry. In May, 1863, he was attached to the 49th New York Infantry and was transferred to the Veteran Reserve Corps in September 1863.
Seymour was the son of Joseph Witherell (1775-1863) and Mary “Polly” Fuller (1785-1856). He was married to Euphemia (“Famy”) Scoon (1812-1896) in 1832 and a resident of Ossian, Livingston county, New York when Seymour enlisted. Seymour and Famy had at least five children: John S. Witherell (1831-1911), Susan Goss Witherell (1836-1920), Isaac H. Witherell (1839-1905), Walter Scoon Witherell (1840-1929), and Margaret Witherell (1843-1878).
Headquarters 33rd [New York] Regiment, Co. E
Camp near Clear Spring [Maryland]
Wednesday, October 22nd 1862
Dear Cousin Hannah,
I have just received yours and Mary’s letters dated the 7th and 11th inst., and read them with pleasure. George received three — two from Mary and one from Hellen. John [Hanby] has gone down to the village of Clear Spring with [John] Gummer. ¹ There are 3 letters and 2 papers for him. It is very curious about our letters not coming for I know of several letters that have been written 2 and 3 weeks ago that we have not received while those that were written but a few days ago come straight through. Mary speaks in George’s letter of Walter’s writing me 5 or 6 letters but I have only received 2 from him since I left home. Well, Hannah, if I keep on in this way long, I am afraid my letter will not be very interesting.
We were at Washington when I last wrote you. We left there on Sunday night about 12 o’clock, the 5th, when we got aboard the cars for Harper’s Ferry but stopped at Sandy Hook about 6 P. M. and marched about a mile above Harper’s Ferry and camped for the night on the ground but a little ways from the battlefield of Sharpsburg. There were lots of dead laying on the rocks that not been buried yet. In the morning we made us a cup of coffee and chawed a few “Hard Tack,” shouldered our knapsacks and started for the regiment. We marched 15 miles and halted about a mile from the regiment, too tired to go any farther. The 104th were camped a little ways from where we halted. George, Bela ², John [Hanby] and I went up and stayed with them all night. You would not believe they were the men that left Geneseo last winter to see them now. They entertained us to the best of their ability and went part way with us towards our regiment in the morning where we arrived on Wednesday the 8th about 9 A. M. We were soon initiated and began our “sogering” in good health and spirits.
We had only just got settled in our brand new tent (as they call them but about as much covering as a sheet would make cut in two in the middle and buttoned together over a stick) when we were ordered to pack up and march again. We started about 1 A. M. on Saturday for Hagerstown 14 miles, halted about a mile beyond, and immediately sent out pickets as the Rebs were trying to cross the river above us. We stayed in camp near Hagerstown until Sunday 1 A. M. the 19th when we again started on the turnpike and marched 14 miles to here where we arrived about 9 A. M.
I had the pleasure of going on guard again as soon as we arrived and standing all that day and night — 2 hours on and 4 off. The next day, Monday, the regiment were again ordered off on picket about 3 miles from camp and at the ford where the Rebs crossed the time they made such a raid on Mercersburg and Chambersburg. We were situated in a ravine in the woods about 30 rods from the ford. We expected a “brush” that night but were disappointed and were relieved at 5 P. M. by the 77th and came back to camp where we are now, the wind blowing a “hurrycane.” It blowed our tent down twice on our heads last night. George and Bela are on camp guard today, John [Hanby] downtown with [Lt.] Gummer, and your humble servant endeavoring his best to pencil a few interesting lines to Cousin Hannah. George and Bela were both on the first relief and are off now for 4 hours and just in time to get the letters. We just drawed fresh meat. It is the first we have received in so long that George quit writing, borrowed a spider, and is frying some steak. He just came up with it and we put ourselves on the outside of in instanter.
I am sorry about those photographs of mine, Hannah, for I told Walter to give you one but I suppose Father has disposed of them before he received my letter, but if we ever get where I can get one taken, I will send you one certain. George received yours alright. It looks very natural indeed and with the other side that you promised to send, it will be a very handsome pair.
Now Hannah, my sheet is pretty near filled and I must try and write Mate a short letter also. Give my love to Mand. when you write her — also to all the folks and all enquiring friends. Hoping to again have the pleasure of reading one of your interesting letters soon, I close, right well &c. I remember the many pleasant times I have had in your society.
I remain your true friend and cousin, — Ell
¹ John Gummer enlisted in Co. E, 33rd New York Infantry, at age 42 on 9 May 1861 at Geneseo to serve two years. He was mustered in as a second lieutenant and was promoted to 1st lieutenant on 28 June 1862. He mustered out on 2 June 1863.
² Bela P. Richmond enlisted as a private in Co. E, 33rd New York Infantry, at age 27 on 14 August 1862 at Geneseo to serve three years. He was wounded on 3 May 1863 at Fredericksburg and later attached to the 49th Infantry.