1862: John Allen to George Hugh Hancock


ccb955191b1e1ab11ba939ea9cda6802This letter was written by Pvt. John Allen, a 24 year-old, English-born painter, who enlisted on 21 August 1862 at Huntington, New York, in Co. E, 127th New York Infantry. John mustered out with his company in June 1865 at Charleston, S. C.

The 127th New York served during the siege of Suffolk in the spring of 1863 in Hughston’s (3d) brigade, Gurney’s division, and in June was engaged in minor affairs at Diascund bridge and at Nine-mile Ordinary, Va. In August it was ordered to South Carolina, where it participated in the various operations about Charleston harbor in 1863, including the siege of Fort Wagner and the bombardment of Fort Sumter, attached to the 1st brigade, Gordon’s division, roth corps. It was present during the actions at Bull’s island in March, 1864, and at Fort Johnson in July, sustaining its first severe loss at the battle of Honey Hill, S. C., in November, its casualties in this action amounting to 7 killed, 49 wounded and 15 missing. It was then serving in Potter’s (1st) brigade, Hatch’s division, and was again warmly engaged at Deveaux neck in December, losing 14 killed, 67 wounded, and 3 missing. Shortly after the evacuation of Charleston, the regiment was detailed by order of Gen. Sherman for permanent city garrison, on account of its good reputation for discipline, Col. Gurney being appointed post commander. It was there mustered out on June 30, 1865. The regiment left for the war about 1,000 strong, and returned home with 25 officers and 530 men. It lost by death during service 35 men killed in action; 1 officer and 94 men died of disease and other causes, a total of 130.

John wrote the letter to his friend, George Hugh Hancock (b. 1843), the son of Monroe W. Hancock (1817-1881) and Sally Anne Cole (1820-1897) of Morris county, New Jersey. In the 1860 U.S. Census, 17 year-old George was enumerated on his parents farm and his occupation was given as jeweler. By 1870, he had relocated to Macoupin county, Illinois, and by 1880 he was the postmaster in Scottsville, Macoupin county, Illinois. By 1900, he had relocated to National, San Diego, California.


Addressed to Mr. George H. Hancock, Madison, Morris county, State of New Jersey

Camp Morgan
October 1, [1862]


I suppose you think that I have forgotten you all but I have not. I got a letter from you before I left home — perhaps never to see it again — but I have hopes of seeing it again. George, your mother’s words came true when she said I would be a soldier before this summer was over for I am a soldier now — and if ever tried, I hope to be a good one.

I enlisted the 20th of August in the 127th Regiment N. Y. V. for the term of 3 years or the war. When I left home I had plenty to do and I was going to build a home. But I thought the time had come for me to serve my country and I hope you will think so [too.]

We camped on Staten Island until the 10th September, then we left for Washington. Got there [the] 13th. We come to Elizabeth Post from there to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania [and] from there to Baltimore, then to Washington. We got there 3 o’clock P. M. Then we had to foot it 12 miles to Camp Morgan. That was the hardest march I ever had. There was a good many give out on the way. One man died. As for myself, I got along very well. ¹

Camp Morgan ² is on the Virginia side of the Potomac — the roughest place I ever was in — nothing but stones and stumps. We get plenty to do cutting down trees & standing guard, drilling, &c. I am on picket now 4 miles from camp. I am sitting on a pile of stones writing this letter with musket by my side, loaded & [with] 40 rounds in my cartridge box. I have not saw any rebels yet & don’t think I will in this place.

We get plenty to eat — such as it is — viz: hard bread, beans, pork, beef, & coffee sometimes, rice — it is good sometimes but most always gets spoiled in cooking — [but] that is not Uncle Sam’s fault, but the cooks.

From title page of McGrath’s book

I should have come to see you before I left but I was disappointed. The officers promised me a furlough but after I enlisted, they did not let me have it. The regiment was not long in getting up. We go by the name of “Monitors.” It is a good regiment. We have prayer meetings every night when in camp.

I suppose you would like to hear from Mary. I have heard from her very often since I came here. But the letter I got yesterday brought me very painful news — it was the death of my beloved daughter. She died on the 26th of September. I did hope to see her again but it was not to be on this earth. But I hope to meet her in heaven. Mary is as well as can be expected at this time of trouble. I left her very well cared for. My bounty was $175 cash before I left. I am to get $75 more after I return — if ever I do. I feel contented to know that she will not want for anything.

George, if you see George Allen, give my love to them all. Tell him if [he] will go to Mary’s, he will get what I owe him. I should have paid him myself but I could not get off the island.

I must come to a close, hoping to get a letter from you soon. Give my love to your Father & Mother, to ______, Will, Martha & all enquiring friends. I shall never forget the kindness I received at your home.

Accept the same yourself from a friend, — John Allen

Direct to Camp Morgan near Chain Bridge, Va., 127th Regt. Co. E, N. Y. I. Vols.

I wish an interest in your prayers. May God bless you all.

¹ McGrath’s regimental history states that soldier who died was Christopher Corblay of Co. D. He apparently ruptured a blood vessel trying to keep his place in the ranks, and subsequently died. He was buried the following morning.

² Camp Morgan was located on top of a hill near Fort Marcy and between the banks of the Potomac and the Georgetown and Leesburg Pike, with the Chain Bridge nearby.




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