1864: Francis D. Bacon to John Dexter Cooper

This letter was written by Francis D. Bacon who enlisted in June 1861 in Co. F, 2nd New Hampshire Infantry. He was discharged for disability in September 1863 but was later commissioned a captain in the Adjutant General’s Office under the command of Brig. Gen. Natt Head. He served in that capacity from 1864 until 1866.

Bacon wrote the letter to Major John Dexter Cooper, Jr. (1825-1865), the son of John D. Cooper (1802-1875) and Sarah Bullard Newton (1805-1835) of Mendon, Worcester, Massachusetts. Cooper enlisted as a corporal in Co. B, 2d New Hampshire Infantry in May 1861 and worked his way up through the ranks to Lt. Colonel before his death from disease on 1 March 1865.


General Headquarters State of New Hampshire
Adjutant General’s Office
Concord, November 7th 1864

Major John D. Cooper
My dear friend,

It being Sunday evening I have a few moments at my own disposal, and will therefore answer your favor of date Nov. 21st — also your “unofficial” communication addressed to [Adj.] General [Natt] Head of date November 18th. I will commence with the last first.

General Head is not at all pleased with the non attention that has been paid to his communication of date October 18th. Your letter being “unofficial,” he does not consider that he has as yet received any reply whatever to his most important communication. As short as the time is in which to obtain the back records of your regiment, there being but one month intervening before he will place the first sheets of his report for the ensuing year in the hands of the printer, he considers it damn rough and inexcusable that a month should pass away and no notice whatever paid to his request.

When he made that request for copies of back monthly returns, he was in doubt whether or no you was able to furnish them, and that was exactly what he desired to ascertain. It was his determination to procure in Washington what he could not obtain from your regiment.

The prospect is now that his report for 1865 will have to be published with little or no record of the 2d N. H. Vols. for the two following reasons. First, Lieut. Col. [Joab Nelson] Patterson has shown such culpable indifference for the best interests of his command and his duty to the State, in not promptly answering a communication that was of such vital importance. Secondly, the time intervening between the publication of his report is so short that it is hardly possible for him to attend to the onerous duties of the office & at the same time superintend the procuring in Washington copies of back returns of regiments, of which the office is deficient.

As much as the General is doing for the regiments in the field, more than he is authorized to do, and more than any other man would assume the responsibility of doing, he feels somewhat indignant that certain officers in the field should manifest such little interest in assisting him. No sooner have officers in the field made a request than he has ordered the same to be complied with whenever it was possible for him to do so. By the way, a superb set of state colors have been ordered for your regiment.

Col. Patterson may argue that it was the duty of other officers to furnish reports for ’61, ’62, and part of ’63. That of course is admitted but if other officers did not know their business or at the least, did not attend to the same, it is no reason why he should not take interest enough in his command to furnish the state with all such information concerning the same, as may be in his power to do.

If Col. Patterson had requested the proper authority for permission to send some person to Norfolk to obtain the back records of his regiment, it is believed that the request would have been granted.

The commanding officer of the 13th Regiment requested permission to send the regimental clerk to Washington to obtain copies of all its monthly returns since it has been in service. The request was granted. The copies have been obtained and the clerk is now at home engaged in making copies of same for this office. All this has been done since the Generals request to the commanding officer, 13th Regiment of date October 26th, It has been hard work but two parties certain will receive credit for it. A sergeant of the 11th Regiment was this last week commissioned as 1st Lieut. for the principal reason that he had labored hard in furnishing this office with copies of back monthly returns. If it affects privates or non-commissioned so, how must it affect field or even line officers.

For any officer that might desire promotionm it would not be to his credit or disadvantage to have it said that he took not interest enough in his command to furnish the State with information of the same, of which the State was deficient when it was possible for him to do.

Not only back returns are desired but a history of the regiment if possible to obtain. If Col. Patterson can not be of service, can you? It would not look bad to have it appear in the report that the State was indebted entirely to Major John D. Cooper for an official record of the 2d New Hampshire Regiment, he being the only field officer capable of furnishing the same. If not official, then original. (rhyme) I was named after the poet Rike, don’t smile.

Although more returns have been received from your regiment than from any other or from six or seven that I might mention, all put together, still there is nothing on file to show that the 2d Regt. has ever participated in any battle, engagements, or even skirmish, only from the casualties that have been reported.

The way I look at it is that it is damned rough on the regiment and even more rough on the rank and file than the officers. I might add that I was a private much longer than I was an officer, up to the handle on tactics, but in one or two most important points, they are not capable of becoming good privates. The chief reason being that they are not able to command themselves. They are good friends of mine but I would cut their throats before I would have them commissioned on my recommendation.

I think you and I would agree on what constitutes the qualifications of an officer. There are too many incompetent ones for the good of the service now holding commissions.

Henry is stopping at Father’s brother. Ned keeps him busy. I believe he has one or two prospects in view. I do not know exactly what they are. I gave him your last letter on Thanksgiving day, I believe. He will no doubt answer it soon and furnish you with the particulars you desire.

Your letters of dates November 18th & 21st I will this moment destroy.

We have no descriptive roll of 101 substitutes forwarded to your regiment since October 13th. If you never received a M & D [Muster & Discharge] Roll of them, I think you can readily obtain the same by applying to Capt. William Silvey, A. A. P. M. G. of N. H., Concord, New Hampshire. He has conformed with similar requests from other regiments.

I shall always be happy to hear from you. Taking all things into careful consideration, I think you had better destroy this somewhat lengthy and “unofficial” effusion.

Believe me, Major, very truly yours, — H. P. Bacon

P. S. John, Natt Head ranks as Brig. General [but] nine out of ten address him as Col. — B.



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