This letter was written by Homer R. Johnson (1837-1893), the son of Franklin Johnson (1812-1886) and Salome Holt (1814-1850) of Wallingford, New Haven county, Connecticut. Homer served in Co. B, 27th Connecticut Infantry. He was married on 25 October 1863 to Mary Emeline Bradley (1838-1926).
The 27th Connecticut arrived in Washington, DC, on 25 October, 1862, and went into camp at Camp Seward on Arlington Heights. On the 27th, it was placed into the Division of General Abercrombie, along with the 24th New Jersey, 28th New York, and 127th Pennsylvania. On 30 November, the regiment marched off to join the Army of the Potomac at Falmouth. It was subsequently assigned to BG Winfield S. Hancock’s 1st Division on the 2nd Corps, under MG Darious Couch. Their new brigade commander [3rd Brigade], Samuel K. Zook, took one look at the regiment’s old Austrian rifles and remarked, “Boys, if you can’t discharge them, you can use the bayonet.” By early January, these antiques were replaced by the Whitney rifled musket, but in the meantime, they had fought in their first major action.
As the Army’s commander, MG Ambrose Burnside, made his long-delayed move against Fredericksburg, VA, Company B helped to lay the pontoons across a stream uniting with the Rappahannock below the town. In mid-afternoon rebel batteries opened on them but they were sheltered by the steep bank. The men of the 27th Infantry crossed the river, marched up to Caroline Street and formed in line of battle behind Franklin’s Division. General Hancock was said to have addressed the regiment with these words: “You are the only Connecticut regiment in my division. Bring no dishonor upon the state you represent.” Hancock’s division suffered heavy casualties in its attack upon Marye’s Heights. The 27th Connecticut lost about one third of its number. After the battle, the regiment was engaged in picket duty.
At the battle of Chancellorsville in May, General Hancock informed Col. Bostick that his regiment (minus two companies on detached duty) would probably not be needed during the fight. His only order was that the regiment should hold its position at all hazards. When the Confederate advance made this impossible, Hancock issued orders for his brigades to fall back. For reasons unknown, this order was not delivered to Col. Bostick, who was finally notified under a flag of truce carried by a Lt. Bailey from the state of Georgia, that his entire command was surrounded and must surrender. Bostick at first refused to believe this statement, but upon inspection, he saw that his regiment’s situation was indeed hopeless and surrendered. Col. Brooke implored Hancock to let him charge with his brigade to rescue the 27th Connecticut, but Hancock saw little to be gained but bloodshed by such an action, however noble its intent. Bostick and his men made the humiliating trek to Spotsylvania, then on to Richomd, where they were installed in Libby prison and waited to be paroled.
As a result of this unfortunate incident, the 27th Connecticut had only 2 companies of men at the battle of Gettysburg (1-3 July), under the command of Lt. Col. Merwin. They participated in the bloody fighting in the Wheatfield on day two of the battle, during which both BG Zook and Lt. Col. Merwin were mortally wounded.
The 27th Connecticut was soon afterwards mustered out of its nine-month’s enlistment.
Addressed to Franklin Johnson, Esq., Wallingford, Connecticut
Postmarked Washington D. C.
March 2, 1863
Your letter of the 16th inst. was received yesterday and read with the usual interest. It must have been some time on the way — nearly two weeks. Perhaps it might have been miscarried.
Mrs. Robert Wallace and her son has been here to see the one that is here. He has been in the hospital for some days. They would like to get him home if they could but I hardly think that they can just yet.
I intended to send home a letter by them and some money but I was detailed to go on picket duty and they left before I came back to camp, but I think that I shall have a chance to send home some of my money in a few days by someone that is responsible. Lieut. [Daniel] Fields ¹ intends to go home if he can get a furlough and Billious C. Hall is thinking some of it. As regards my going home, I don’t much think that I shall be very likely to see Old Conn. till my time is out which may be in June. There is a report in camp that the government was thinking some of sending home the nine months men thinking that the most of them would enlist for a longer term or during the war, but I do not give much credit to the reports that are circulating in camp. I think that we shall do well if we get discharged when our time is out.
I learn that they are a going to draft in a few weeks as a bill has passed Congress which if carried out will swell the army much larger than it now is. But if the law is carried into effect, I think that some will not go very readily if they can help themselves and I am fearful that there might rebellion spring up in the North as a good many would say that they would as leave fight at home as to come here to fight.
I don’t think that the army is as well united as it was six months previous to this as a good many do not like the President’s Proclamation as regards the freedom of the slaves as they think that more hurt than good will result from it.
I wrote to you last week and I think that we had received a part of our pay. We received pay from the time of enlistment up to the first of January which amounted to 48 dollars and in addition to this we have received a note payable at New Haven which is ten dollars of the State bounty that has become due. I received the five dollars that you sent in return for the one that I sent home all safe but I shall not need it at present. I don’t think that we shall receive any more till our time is out.
I have not received our box yet but look for it soon as the quartermaster has gone to try to forward them. Quite a number came last night and perhaps ours may [be] to the depot or on the way. As regards your sending a pair of boots, perhaps I might as well wait a few days and see how the going is as it somewhat muddy now but is improving a little.
I think that your selling a yoke of cattle and buying a yoke that is improving is a very good idea. I will enclosed the note or due bill for you to collect. You can present it to Wm. Fitch and put your name on the back of it. You can find him by enquiry. I will send some money soon as convenient. Excuse all blunders.
This from your affectionate son, — H. R. Johnson
¹ Lt. Daniel Fields was wounded in the Battle of Fredericksburg in December 1862 and resigned his commission in March 1863.