These letters were written by Arthur Sidney (“Sid”) Nesmith (1833-1877), the son of George Washington Nesmith (1800-1890) and Mary Moore Brooks (1799-1885) of Franklin, New Hampshire. He addressed the letter to his sister, Annie (“Nan”) Nesmith (1841-1906) but added a note to his mother as well.
Sid first enlisted in May 1861 at age 28 as a private in Co. G, 1st New Hampshire Infantry—-a three-month service organization. Following that service, he enlisted in the 3rd New Hampshire Infantry where he was appointed the regimental quartermaster. He was discharged from the 3rd New Hampshire on disability in November 1862. In July 1863, he was received a commission as captain in the regular army and served as an Asst. Quartermaster until he was discharged in July 1865.
Sid died in August 1877 at Franklin, New Hampshire.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Hilton Head, [South Carolina]
January 29th 1862
My Dear Sister Nan,
Your letter came to hand today after being on the road about seven days. How soon the mail will go out is difficult to tell. Gen’l. [Thomas West] Sherman has given orders with reference to the project on foot. He will not allow the rebels to get at his plans if it’s possible to prevent it & possibly the mail will be detained in account of this.
There is heavy firing today in the vicinity of Ft. Pulaski. General [Egbert Ludovicus] Viele & Sherman are both in the work & some good work is going on. The 48th Regt. has gone from our Brigade & when the right time comes, the balance of our brigade will have their part in the drama.
The intelligence of Wm. B’s death was sad indeed. He was a man of great worth. It must be a severe blow to the family although he was better prepared to go than many of us. I think William was an upright, honorable & high-minded man. This is reminding us all of the transitory things of life but we forget so soon & rely on our own strength when we know it is weakness.
Major Watson has gone home the last week. The probability is that he will recover & be able to join his regiment again.
Capt. [Pierre C.] Kane, ¹ Assistant Adjutant General on the [Egbert L.] Viele staff, I don’t know that I have ever written to you about him before. He is a friend of our cousin to the celebrated Capt. [Elisha] Kane of the cold regions. He was very highly elated today in consequence of receiving a letter of recommendation from General [Winfield] Scott. This you know would be likely to elevate one’s feelings if anything would. He is expecting to be appointed Major of the 47th New York Regiment & through the influence of his friends, probably will succeed. General Scott complimented him very highly having known him from his youth. I said to him that it was a compliment that very few can boast of & would think more of it than a present of untold riches.
I was at Pembroke the other day when General Viele went away, it being my duty to get the boat in readiness to receive the regiment. I was sent in advance [with] a large lot of small craft boats & barges & three small transports. [I] was up nearly all night & came with Capt. Kane. I could tell you the whole plan of action but if successful, you will know it and if not, it will do when I go home—if I should be permitted to do so. It is a beautiful game if it works. Will the result will be all that could be wished for. We expect to receive orders to leave at any time. The men are very anxious to go. They are so tired of _____ seeds & sandy bottom. They are constantly manufacturing stories every day. They have something new & plenty that will take stock in them.
The two Maine regiments—-8th & 9th—are very poor. They appear to be badly officered & many of the officers have resigned & gone home. We get excellent news from Kentucky. This is ____ to contemplate _____ war of this kind but the curse will fall where it belongs. The evil will be routed out ‘ere the war closes. While I think of it, I will acknowledge the receipt of some papers. The 4th Regiment has gone under General [Horatio G.] Wright but I will wait until tomorrow before I close this letter.
30th. Today I have had the first buggy ride that I have had since we left Concord. We found one of the buggy wagons that one of the Captains had taken on the island & put in my horse with the wagon master’s & had a fun ride. The style was a little ____ but answered very well. Nothing new today except Com. [Josiah] Tattnall’s Fleet & ours were engaged part of the day yesterday. The Rebels were trying to send in provisions to Ft. Pulaski & our gunboats thought to prevent them. But the Commodore was not that _____ & could not go far without orders. We are all very anxious to hear from them & receive our orders.
The weather is as mild as October—quite hot in the middle of the day. One of Co. I died very suddenly last night. Only sick 10 hours. Those who have died of congestive fever are taken crazy at first and seldom recover. The strongest are as likely to be taken as the weakest.
General Viele is expected back every moment. General Sherman went home last night & went down again today. Col. [Enoch Q.] Fellows is now in command of the Island. The Colonel of the Maine 8th [Henry Boynton] has been unwell for a week past & I just let him have my _____ to take to night, No doubt it will be the means of his recovery. Yesterday I was afraid that Mr. Hill would be sick but he come out right in the morning. We cannot live here in the summer & do not mean to. I wrote to mother last week. From your brother, — Sid
¹ Pierre Corné Kane (1828-1878) was promoted to Major of the 47th New York Infantry on 15 January 1862. He rose to the rank of Full Lt. Colonel prior to mustering out of the regiment in November 1862.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
Headquarters 1st Brigade
Port Royal, S. C.
March 22, 1862
Your kind letter dated March 9th has been received. You seem apprehensive lest I am to leave the Army but I have never entertained the thought although we feel unpleasant at times on account of having so little part in the active scenes of life. But when we do all that is required of us, what more can we do? Certainly I ought not to complain. Kind Providence has been dealing gently with me & rewarded me beyond my deserts.
Our 3rd Regiment have been on Bull Island after a party of Rebels who do picket duty there at night. They succeeded in capturing four of them & sent them in to the Provost Guard while they are to remain out there & ____ for a few more. The town of Bluffton is only a short distance from there where the Rebels have a force of four companies of Cavalry & one Regt. of Infantry. Lieut.-Col. [John H.] Jackson is in command of our regiment. He had some experience in the Mexican War. Capt. Donahue come in yesterday & says they intend to go to Bluffton. They have two pieces of artillery. The Rebels have burned the plantation on the mainland yesterday, burned all the negro houses &c.
In consequence of some misunderstanding between the officers, Major [John] Bedel was not permitted to go & as I could not go without orders, am patiently waiting to hear the news from the boys.
Gen’l. Sherman is at Tybee getting things in order to bombard Ft. Pulaski. They are obliged to work at night to keep out of the fire of the Fort. Col. [Enoch Q.] Fellows is in command of the Post & had been somewhat excited in consequence of a report from the picket on the west side of the Island that the Rebel officers had been seen with their grey clothes. Our scouts are out in all directions [looking] for them but I anticipate the story arose from our men who came back from Bull Island. They had their old gray clothes furnished by the state on as they do always when on fatigue duty.
It is expected that our enemies will make an effort to gain possession of Vale’s Batteries on Daufuskie Island for they are a great annoyance to them as they cut off completely the communication to Savannah from Fort Pulaski. Bar Vale’s force has been strengthened within a few days.
The weather continues mild with high winds. I judge from the papers that Gen’l. Burnside has control of this state — consequently of this command. If we could work in concert with his forces we could give all the same ______ they have received elsewhere. South Carolina is a bad country to march an army into as was proved in the Revolution.
The leaves on the trees are getting quite large. The Orange trees are in full flower & as fragrant as Apple trees if not more so. The darkies are planting sweet potatoes &c. I see by the paper of the 12th (the latest we have) an account of the evacuation of Manassas &c. & that Berry is elected Gov. of New Hampshire. Also that the great party called Union is likely to have about a 1000 votes, This is all very good news, The vote was very small & I suppose the taxes make the people look cross. How will the war tax bill sit on their stomachs? I imagine it will be as good as a dose of Hop Tea such as Jay drinks.
I see that this sheet is full & think you could not stand another so goodbye & love to all. From your brother, — Sid
Mother, I will direct this to you as I remember that Nan said she was going to Lowell & may be gone ‘ere this. It matters very little which views it first. Your affectionate son, — Sid