This letter was written by Irish-born William Dalzell (1823-1863) of Co. C, 142nd New York. Dalzell enrolled at Ogdensburg, New York, on 29 August 1862 to serve three years. He mustered in as 1st Lieutenant on 29 September 1862, and retained that rank until his death at age 40 from typho-malarial fever on Folly Island, South Carolina, on 24 August 1863. During the summer of 1863, he served briefly with Co. G, 142nd New York Infantry.
The 142nd New York left New York on 6 October 1862 and served in the defenses of Washington D. C. from October 1862 until April 1863 when they took part in the siege of Suffolk, Virginia (16 April – 4 May 1863); the siege of Battery Wagner, South Carolina (9 August – 4 September 1863); and the bombardment of Fort Sumter (17-23 August 1863).
Dalzell wrote this letter to his wife Elizabeth Caroline (Stone) Dalzell (1823-1868) — “Lizzy,” who lived with their three children, William, Ella, and Frankie, in Waddingon, St. Lawrence county, New York, during the Civil War.
Addressed to Mrs. William Dalzell, Waddington, St. Lawrence county, New York
Camp Davies, Va.
January 4, 1863 ¹
It is but a few days since I last wrote to you. I then told you all the news but I know you will be looking for a letter about Thursday so I will write you a few lines. I am very well at present and have been all the time since I came to Virginia. The most of the officers is now boarding with the quartermaster. It seems good to sit down to a table again and have ladies to cook and wait on the table. There is three of the men in the regiment that has got their wives with them. They now work for the quartermaster. We can only board with him while we stay where we are. When we move, we will have to board ourselves again. We were mustered last week again for two months pay. I think we will be paid soon.
I think Doctor Boland will go home soon. If they accept his resignation, he will probably start this week for home. If he does, you must get some medicine from him if you need it. I would like to go home before another winter. I hope it will be so I can.
[Amos] Wells that was our Orderly Sergeant is now our Second Lieutenant and T[homas] Allison is our orderly. Allison sleeps with me and the Captain [John D. Ransom] and the Second Lieutenant. We have got plenty of blankets and sleep warm.
I don’t think Colonel [Roscius W.] Judson will command this regiment anymore. He will have to resign and go home for he never will make a military man. I think he has taken the hint and will try to get off on a sick excuse. Lieutenant Colonel [Newton Martin] Curtis will be our Colonel. He has been in command for a few days. He will make a good one. We all like him but he puts us through in drills. But we like that he give our company one gallon of oysters today for having their quarters so clean this morning at inspection. ²
Our cook house is the model cookhouse. All visitors is taken to see it that comes to camp.
They have commenced to drum close to my tent for roll call that is half past eight o’clock. I will have to stop and tend to roll call. I will bring my letter to a close and write more next time. Tell Bob he might run down to Washington this winter and make us a visit. I would like to have him come first rate. It would not cost a great deal and I know he would see enough to pay him well.
Dear Lizzy, I would like to see you best of all and those dear children. How much I want to see them. Dear little Frank — the little rogue. How does he do? I will write to Ella and Willey soon. Tell then to write often. I like to get a letter from them. Good night all.
Your loving husband, — William Dalzell
¹ Fifty-two of Lt. Dalzell’s letters, written to his wife Lizzie between 8 October 1862 and 19 August 1863, are archived at the Robert M. Woodruff Library, Emory University. The description of this collection reads: Dalzell’s letters begin with his departure from New York State in October 1862. His regiment served in the area of Washington, D. C., and was stationed at fortifications at Suffolk, West Point, Yorktown, White House, Warrenton Junction, and Newport News, Virginia, and Folly Island, near Charleston, South Carolina. He describes camp life, pickets, hard marches, drills, inspections, raids on Southern farms for food, and confiscation of whiskey; he also recounted skirmishes with rebel forces, the capture of prisoners, and gunboat activity. He advises his wife on the management of their farm in his absence and sent money to pay debts, even though he was paid irregularly. He debates whether to stay in the army a month longer and then muster out (July 31, 1863), or to take a furlough of twenty days and stay through the winter. Shortly thereafter, he contracted typho-malarial fever (August 9, 1863); however, he made the trip on the America with his company from Newport News to Charleston, South Carolina. In his last letter, he mentions that he is very sick and has put in for a discharge (August 19, 1863); J. D. Ransom, Captain of his company, notified Dalzell’s wife of his death in an addition to this letter, dated August 24, 1863.
² Newton M. Curtis stood 6’7″ tall and weighed 225 pounds — one of the few officers President Lincoln had to look up to. On first meeting Curtis, Lincoln was reported to to have asked, “Mr. Curtis, how do you know when your feet are cold?”