This letter was written by Pvt. John H. Hughes of Co. C, 26th New York Infantry. Hughes enlisted at the age of 23 in May 1861 at Utica to serve two years with the regiment. He was wounded on 30 August 1862 in the Second Battle of Bull Run where the regiment lost 4 officers and 50 enlisted men killed or mortally wounded. Hughes recovered from his wounds, returned to his company, and mustered out with the regiment in late May 1863. In November 1863, John enlisted as a private in Co. B, 24th New York Cavalry. He was promoted in rank to sergeant in January 1864, was captured on 30 September 1864 and died at the Salisbury Hospital (N. C.) while a prisoner-of-war on 4 December 1864. Papers offering him a commission as 2d Lieutenant in the 24th N. Y. Cavalry were submitted by he was never mustered at that rank.
In this letter, John mentions his brother, Pvt. Thomas (“Tommy”) J. Hughes, who served in the same company. Tommy was six years younger than John. John and Tommy Hughes were the orphaned sons of Robert G. Hughes (1803-1861) and Elizabeth Abrams (1810-1863) of Trenton, Oneida county, New York. He wrote the letter to his sister, Sarah E. Hughes (1842-1917).
Fort Lyon, Va.
April 8th 1862
I received your letter in sue time and I was very glad to hear from you. I have nothing new of any importance to write in regard to this war — no more than you hear in the paper. We went down last week to Occoquan about 11 miles from here to drive the Rebels from there and they left about five hours before we got there. If they had stayed there until we got there, we would [have] showed them what the Yankee boys could do. We can whip them five to one. We was gone 4 days. All we had to eat was hard bread and the morning before we started for home, our breakfast was two hard crackers and a fish that we caught before we started.
Tommy thought that was war time but he stood it well. I did not care because I was used to it. Perhaps Tommy wrote about it but he may not tell you the whole because I plagued him about it saying that he run when we was shot at at night. But he was brave. He stood his ground. It was in the night when we was shot at out of the woods but they did not hit us. We could [not] see anyone. I wish they had showed themselves. We would have had some fun with them. The Rebels shot three of our men the night before. We will show them Yankee trick[ery].
Sarah, you spoke about that money but we hain’t received no pay in four months and we won’t until the first of Mar and then we will get four month’s pay. Now and then I will send it to you without fail and you must try and get along until then. I would send it now but I hain’t got it. I tried to get what I have lent but they have not got [it either]. But I will send it the first of May and my likeness with it. I would send it now but I have no money.
Tell Amelia I will send her some earrings and a finger ring after pay day. Tell her I will send her little money so she can send me her likeness and I want you to send me your likeness too, Sarah.
I have no more to write at present. Give my love to Bill and also to yourself. So goodbye. Yours truly, — John H. Hughes
Co. C, Col. [William Henry] Christian‘s 26th Regt., New York Vols., Alexandria, Va.
One word more. Please write soon. I would send you a stamp but I have not got any.