This letter was written by Corporal Roscoe Green Mitchell (b. 1835), a deserter from the 7th Maine, Co. D who was initially in Co. F when he enlisted in October 1862. The letter was written to the regimental commander, Col. (eventual Brig. General) Seldon Connor, requesting reinstatement back into the unit. According to Mitchell’s listing in the American Civil War Research Database, he did not return to the regiment. He undoubtedly deserted sometime prior to 5 January 1863 which is the date he was dropped from the company rolls.
The difficulty in researching the identity of this letter’s author is compounded by the surprising fact that “Roscoe Green Mitchell” appears to have been a common name in Maine at the time. At least two of them (and nearly the same age) served in the Union army — one in the 28th Maine and the other in the 7th Maine. Simultaneous service clearly ruled out the possibility of their being the same soldier. I believe the Cpl. Mitchell who wrote this letter was born on 23 September 1834, the son of Peleg Mitchell (1802-1863) and Caroline Bradford of Turner, Androscoggin county, Maine. Curiously, the widower Peleg volunteered at the age of 60 in Co. D, 16th Maine Infantry and died of chronic diarrhea in Washington D. C. on 19 December 1863. His body was retrieved and taken home to Turner’s Village in Androscoggin county by his brother William H. Mitchell and daughter Mary. Peleg’s Maine death record was registered in Canton, Maine, however, where Peleg was residing in 1850. For this reason, I feel certain that the Roscoe G. Mitchell who appears in the U.S. 1850 Census in Canton, Maine, is the same Roscoe who was Peleg’s son. In that census, Roscoe was enumerated as a 15 year-old in the household of John M. and Thomas M. Deshon — traders that were born in New Hampshire. In the 1860 U. S. Census, I believe Roscoe is enumerated in Minot, Androscoggin county, Maine, where he is identified as a “shoemaker” and living with his wife “Geneva” and 5 year-old son, William.
Roscoe Mitchell wrote the letter from Coaticook, Quebec, a small town that is located on the border between Canada and northeastern New Hampshire. Coaticook was, at the time, located on the rail line between Montreal and Portland, Maine (where Mitchell says he would go to enter back into the Union army). At the time there were English-speaking people in Coaticook (it was initially settled by British loyalists). Undoubtedly Mitchell had fled to East Canada to avoid being arrested as a deserter. In all probability, Mitchell remained in Canada with his family as I could not find any further record for him in the United States.
[Note: This letter is from the private collection of Richard Weiner and is published here by express consent.]
Coaticook [Canada East]
September 24, 1863
I wish to enquire of you if you can get me back again without being treated as a deserter. If I can, I will report at Portland forthwith. I left on account of my health partly and partly by the advice of others. I am well and wish to return to my regiment for I think it is a good one as ever left the state. If you will let me know, you will oblige me much. I want a pass to report to Portland safe. If not I shall not come.
I did wrong by leaving, I will own, but never mind. Take me back and I will fight the better. Let me know by return of mail if you can.
Yours with respect, — Cpl. R. G. Mitchell, Co. D, 7th Maine Volunteer Infantry
N. B. ¹ Direct to R. G. Mitchell, Coaticook, Canada East
¹ “N. B.” is short for Nota Bene which means “note well” in Latin.