This letter was written by William H. Cross (1841-1930) who enlisted at the age of 20 on 21 October 1861 at New York City to serve three years in Co. I, 61st New York Infantry. William transferred into Co. F. in September 1862. Months later — after Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville — William was one of only 90 men in the 61st New York Regiment to enter the Wheatfield at Gettysburg on 2 July 1863. The regiment was turned back by Anderson’s Georgia Brigade in the melee that followed and William was wounded in the retreat. He convalesced at a hospital in Baltimore before returning to his regiment. He mustered out of the service on 3 November 1864.
According to his enlistment papers, William stood 5’9″ tall, had grey eyes, light hair hair and a light complexion. He was born in Fabius, Onondaga county, New York, and gave “farmer” as his occupation.
William wrote the letter to his friend, Joseph Cutler Pollock (1844-1833), the son of John Pollock (1800-1875) and Elizabeth (“Betsey”) Cameron (1798-1881) of Pompey, Onondaga county, New York. In the 1860 US Census, William was enumerated as a farm hand in the household of Lewis H. Robinson whose farm was adjacent to the Pollock’s farm.
Headquarters 61st Regt. New York Volunteers
Camp near Falmouth Stations, Virginia
Saturday P. M., March 28th 1863
J. C. Pollock, Esqr.
Fabius, Onondaga Co., Excelsior State
My much esteemed, scholastic friend,
At the present time, soldiers (except a few) have a leisure spell on account of a rain storm which has prevailed since morning incessantly and violently. Perhaps I cannot more profitably occupy that same, than in a visit to a distant friend like yourself, by invoking the aid of a third person called “Cadmus.” Through him I should say to you that the perusal of your very able and interesting letter this day gave me rich enjoyment & satisfaction. Each succeeding epistle furnishes proof indubitable that its author is a person of great intellect & high mental development. That your letters are the emanations of a mind stored with useful knowledge can be known & appreciated only by those who have the high honor of scanning their pages. I declare it must be you have procured (since a former writing) a copy of Webster unabridged.
It grieves me somewhat to hear by you today that my letter was “exceptable” inasmuch as I had previously supposed them slightly acceptable to you. Pray what were the exceptions to which you allude. News I had not. Nonsense is always on hand. Of the latter I sent a large supply. Ditto of this letter.
Again after a period of nearly 9 months, I perform the duties of a soldier in the ranks. My labor in hospital dept. having terminated a week ago — it is somewhat tedious to go through our daily drills, but, like hanging, goes along well when one gets accustomed to the business.
Until today we have enjoyed quite pleasant weather a short time back, but I think in this latitude, changes in the weather are more frequent than in your climate. Now we may have a cloudless sky & one hour hence, a pelting storm. Showers seem to follow in the course of a river, and I opine that were the Rappahannock miles from us, wet hides, in number, would be materially diminished.
When the weather becomes settled again, the army will doubtless move, but where no one knows. Rumors prevail that this the 2d Corps D’ Armíe is to relieve the 9th (Burnside’s Old) Corps at Fortress Monroe.
I suppose you have heard in the papers of the death of Maj. Gen. E. V. Sumner — one of the “tried & true” generals of whom we have but few. At Camp California last spring he commanded this division on the advance. He was entrusted with the command of a Corps. In the Peninsular Campaign, he gained a great reputation by skillful disposition of his men in the great Seven Days Fight & Retreat. Later & previous to the Siege of Fredericksburg he was appointed to command that portion of the Army of the Potomac designated the “Right Grand Division” which position he held till removed for unknown reasons. Gen. Sumner was emphatically a fighting man & the intelligence that enemy were in his front, was to him an immediate signal for an advance. In justice to him, it be said his name should be recorded along with that of a Warren & Putnam and other distinguished patriots of the land whose greatest interests were sacrificed on the altar of their beloved country & who fought in support of its free institutions. But enough — “Peace to his ashes.” The veteran rests in peace.
I have not heard from Don Fin one year by letter, nor from Charley but once since he enlisted. C. belongs to the cavalry & has been in many battles — his address, unknown to me. As to one A. W. Madison, Esqr., he never has written to me, I believe, since he last left Uncle Reuben’s. Understood he has been acting pedagogue the past winter at Owego, New York.
Have been threatening to write John this 3 months but I don’t know as he would particularly desire to hear from me, or so much as to be induced to reply. I suppose you will do as much as give him my respects in your writing.
If I can judge of the state of our troops in this locality, it [is] evident that they are not in the least demoralized — that they are in good spirits is on the contrary plainly apparent. What they want is fair play and they will fight bravely, but one more Fredericksburg slaughter & these troops would make war on the persons responsible for such folly & they ought to.
Well, friend Cutler, I have made out miserably this time, but this pen is dreadful poor. I will send you some poetry to read in another package. Let L. H. R.’s people read it after you & yours. Remember me to all with good wishes and let me hear from you again with your usual punctuality.
Ever your friend, — Wm. H. Cross
[to] J. C. Pollock