1862-65: Isaac L. Mead to Esther Mead

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Sgt. Isaac L. Mead, 17th Connecticut

These ten letters were written by Isaac L. Mead (1834-1913) who enlisted as a private in Co. I, 17th Connecticut Infantry in August 1862. Mead was promoted to 5th Sergeant in November 1862 and fulfilled the duties of that rank until becoming so ill that he had to placed in a hospital in Washington D. C. in June 1863 and later in a Union convalescent camp in Alexandria. In August 1864, Sgt. Isaac L. Mead was transferred to Co. C, 6th Infantry Veteran Reserve Corps (formerly the “Invalid Corps”). While serving in the Reserve Corps we learn that Isaac played in the regimental band — probably as a fifer. He was discharged on 5 July 1865 at Cincinnati.

Isaac was married to his second cousin, Esther Amelia Mead (1836-1920; the daughter of Daniel Seton Mead), in November 1855. Before the war, Isaac earned a living working at a steam planing & sawing mill. Isaac’s father, Jonas Mead (1805-1876), was a Greenwich undertaker —  a business that Isaac eventually took over following his father’s death. Isaac’s mother was Abigail Mead (1808-1892; the daughter of Zennas Mead) and he had two younger sisters: Emeline Mead (1836-1854) and Lucretia Mead (1846-1880). [Note — it seems the Mead family tended to select their spouses from the extensive Mead family of Fairfield county.]

By the time Isaac entered the service, he and Esther had three children: Willis Truman Mead (1859-Aft1913), John Kinney Mead (1860-1890) and Sylvester Warren Mead (1862-1951).  Some of Esther’s war-time letters to Isaac can be viewed at 1862-65: Esther Amelia Mead to Isaac L. Mead.


aacivmood5

TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE

Fort Marshall
Baltimore, Maryland
September 27, 1862

My sweet little wife,

I would like first rate to see you. There is some talk of our going from here soon. This has been talked of so long that I fear we shall not go. This is a pleasant place now but when the wet season comes on, I think it will be very muddy. I expect our company will be called to do picket duty tonight. Last night a man in the tent opposite ours had fits. His shoulder was put out of joint while coming on the cars. He fell, I guess. The doctors did not do right about him.

I have been sewing for some time back. I made two towels for Henry Held ¹ and marked his name on them. He gave me 12 cts. One of the drummers had me put stripes on his blouse and pants. He gave me 25 cts.  George [C.] Peck,²  the orderly sergeant, had me make two towels and two bandages (flannel). He has not paid me anything yet. I paid 9 cts. for tape for strings. I put two pockets in each. They are made double the edges catstitched down. It took me a good while to make them and they are very nice, I think. If he does not offer pay, I shall not think any better of him than I do now. He is very peevish. I don’t think the men like him much. If there could be another nomination of officers, I am sure there would be a great change in them. I am afraid if we were called to battle, we should not get much credit. I have got the blanket that I lost. We have fixed our tent so that it is more comfortable.

Nathan Peck ³ arrived the night before last. He says it looks desolate in Greenwich [Connecticut] since the 9 months men went away. Ask my father if he knows William Platt — a blacksmith who worked in Round Hill. He is in the tent next to ours. I think he is a nice man. He is pleasant.

A while ago I was hungry for fruit so I bought 25 [cents] worth of tomatoes. I had a good eat. Now I feel better satisfied. We have to spend some money. Sometimes we have nothing but hard crackers for a meal. Then I get 3 or 4 cakes to finish up with. I think if my sewing does not pay better, I shall spend more time on other things. I have not had as much time to write as I wanted. This accounts for my not answering you sooner.

We have just had a regimental drill. We have been practicing loading & firing. We didn’t fire any — only made believe. I would like very much to be home tomorrow & so go to church with you. If I could only be home once in a while I would be very well satisfied. I have felt a little troubled about the boat. I wish it could have been delivered before I came away. It might have been if Ephraim had done as I wanted. He waited so long before it was fixed that I didn’t have time myself to go with it. Mr. Cable wanted it to hire out so that each day counted with him. I hope he will not refuse to take it as the cost of fixing it will be considerable and selling a boat is not so easy every day. It is cheap enough at $20.00.

Send a letter as soon as possible as news from home is precious. You don’t know how much I prize your letters. Goodbye.

From your loving husband, — Isaac

Don’t let the folks at home forget to write to me. A letter cheers me up very much. — Isaac


¹ J. Henry Held — Residence: Greenwich, enlisted Aug. 14, 1862. Mustered Sergeant. Wounded July 1,’63, Gettysburg, Pa. Promoted 1st Sergeant Feb. 3,’65; 2nd Lt. June 29,’65 (not must.). Mustered out July 19,’65. 

² George C. Peck — Residence: Greenwich, enlisted Aug. 14, 1862. Mustered 1st Sergeant. Appointed Sgt.-Major Nov. 1,’62. Promoted from Sergeant-Major to 2nd Lt. Apr. 18,’63. Captured May 2,’63, Chancellorsville,Va. Paroled May 23,’63. Promoted 1st Lt. Mar. 5,’64. Appointed Adjutant Mar. 30,’65 (not placed). Mustered out July 19,’65.

³ Nathan E. Peck —  Residence: Greenwich, enlisted Aug. 12, 1862. Transferred to Company G, 10th Regiment Veterans Reserve Corps July 10,’64.


aacivmood3

TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO

Fort Marshall
Baltimore, Maryland
October 1st 1862

My dear wife,

I received a good letter from Ophelia & today one from Grandfather. Now I have just received yours. Each one has done me much good. Ophelia’s advice is to answer your letter first. I agree with her.

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Allen G. Brady

We have been reviewed today by Gen. [William Walton] Morris. I feel some tired. The review was this morning. This P.M. was regimental drill by Major [Allen G.] Brady. ¹ He gave us some praise. I think he is the smartest of the officers. Gen. Morris is an old man — his hair & beard as white as snow. His aids came  with him. They were all on horseback.

I am very glad the boat has gone. I hope it has not injured by waiting. I have taken a great deal of comfort in it. Mr. [James S.] Crawford (the picture man in Stamford) agreed to let me have all the pictures for $6.00. I did not speak for any frames. You may do as you like about getting any. That would be extra. Don’t pay more than six dollars for the pictures. From your description of Johnie’s cap, it must be very pretty. I like to have you all look nice.

As far as I am concerned about the ring, I would like to have it fit you, even though you have to change it. The ring of itself is of little consequence. The act of giving it to you, the remembrance of which, and of the giver are brought to mind by seeing it, and I much rather have it neat fitting than otherwise. So I shall feel perfectly satisfied to have you change it even though you take another pattern. And you may feel that it is my gift the same as though it was the original. I am very glad you are not lonesome. I feel very contented only I would like very much to see my darling Essy & the children. I would like to see all my friends. I hope to be spared to see you all. I am sometimes almost surprised that I am so happy here. We have enough to eat now and that which is good as first we were very poorly fed so that my health suffered in consequence.

I like to have you visit. It will do you good. I think I haven’t paid Mr. Sniffen yet. There is $6.00 for 3 loads of manure at $2.00 a load and about $1.50 or $1.60 besides. He will know. I can’t expect you to remember all such things. Has your father got the money from Mrs. Hunt yet? I do very well washing my clothes. The last time I borrowed a pail of one of the boys & had a better chance than in the wash basin. I don’t need another blanket. I sleep in my overcoat. I may need a vest when it gets to be colder. I shall want a single breasted to button up to the chin. Sillick will know my size.

We have good food now. I often buy .02 cts worth of milk for a meal & have bread & milk. I have done but very little sewing since Pecky’s. The reason it took me so long, I had but little time each day. I think I succeed very well in making the best of things. The bandages suit very well. That verse is very good.. Tell Willis I am very glad he is good. I want him to grow up a very good boy. Tell him he must try and see how quick he will learn his letters and then learn Johnie his. Try and not be naughty any. Then he will not learn Johnie. I don’t remember what we thought of calling the baby. Does he grow? Can he laugh & crow any?

I am learning to fife. Some of the companies have no fifer & if I can be exchanged for one of the privates of one of the companies to be a fifer, it will be better for me than being on guard &c. The fife will cost me $1.00 which will take the last lot of stamps you sent. I have to spend some money but am not so extravagant as some. Some have spent nearly $50.00 since being here for provision &c. Father told me when he was in Bridgeport that I might have his fife if I wanted to learn but the fifers expect soon to use a different kind than his. Purdy ² bought one for himself & will let me have it & he will get another. He says it is a good one.

You must get Ophelia, Lucretia, & the others to let you read their letters from me as I don’t mean to put the same news in more than one letter.

From your affectionate husband, — Isaac

Take this 10 ct. stamp to Mr. Brush & let him exchange it.


¹ Major Allen G. Brady —  Occupation – manufacturer, married. Residence: Torrington, enlisted July 18, 1862. Promoted from Captain, Company B on August 29, 1862. Wounded on July 2, 1863 at Gettysburg, Pa. Discharged for disability on October 21, 1863. Mustered in as Major, 20th Veteran Reserve Corps on November 23, 1863.

² John J. Purdy — Residence: Greenwich, enlisted Aug. 6, 1862, as a fifer. Mustered out July 19,’65.


TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE

Chantilly, Virginia
November 23, 1862

My darling Essie,

Another mail and no news from home. You don’t know how anxious I always am to hear from the dear ones. Here I am away from friends and exposed to privations. One of the best things I can get is a letter and when the mail comes in, I expect something and often get nothing. Perhaps you think you write as often as I. I know you do, but then you have more conveniences for writing than I. For instance, today has been cold and windy so that it seemed impossible to get warm by exercise. Tonight the wind has gone down and I am writing in my tent, a fire outside by the door. I ain’t scolding — only coaxing.

We have had no religious service today. It has not seemed at all like Sunday. Did you go to church & was the church warm? How much I would like to be home! But I mean to be contented and do my duty. The Adjutant ¹ is our acting Captain now. He is a young man of good education and I think will make a good captain. He is strict.

This morning we were inspected at about 8½ o’clock. After inspection we had to go & fire off our pieces. We then had to go about ¼ of a mile after wood — each one bringing a rail (we burn rail fences). This was to cook dinner with. We have to go the same distance another way for our water. Tonight we have had hte first ration of soft bread since leaving Tennallytown (Wash.) except a little at Manassas Junction. I hope we may get to some place where you can send those dried apples to me. We had some dealt out to us today. I have cooked Oliver’s ² & mine.

As I write, I suppose the folks at church are having a good meeting & perhaps are remembering the country. I believe when Christians die nowadays they will wonder that they didn’t pray more for their country. It seems to me that our country’s trouble will have much to do towards hastening the abolition of slavery & coming of Christ’s Kingdom. I am sure this war will be the death blow of slavery. If peace should be declared now, yet the raising of slaves to sell will be unprofitable because they must be taxed so high to help pay the war dept. Cotton is being raised in other countries now as the South is not the only place to get it from, and then again the slaves have been looking to this war as the means of their liberation, and if they are not freed, it will be very difficult to manage them.

Monday morning. I have just finished my breakfast. I had soft bread, apple sauce, & coffee. The sun is shining nice & warm. We have a fire by our tent door. I am sitting outside with my overcoat on. I have an idea that we shall not stay here long. I think we shall have a call from Gen. Burnside before long. I believe we are held as a reserve — that is, in a fight a part of the troops are not brought into battle unless they are needed. They are kept to strengthen any weak part of the army.

If we get into winter quarters, I shall want a pair of boots & a plenty of dried fruit for their health. If we move farther off from Washington instead of nearer, I think I shall buy a pair of boots, apples, &c. Boots cost from six to ten dollars — just double what I used to pay. I wish I had bought a pair before i came from home. I have lost my knife this time & no mistake. I am sorry but it can’t be helped.

I like to hear about all the folks. I understand that before long soldiers will not be permitted to send letters home. So you must write double, one letter for you & one for me.

Noon. We have just been out on battalion drill. We have had a skirmish drill. I can’t describe it very well but some of the men are sent ahead & are scattered about. I will write a little letter to Willis. I can’t write as well as I can talk. I think there will be a storm again in a day or two. Thanksgiving will be by the time you get this. Tell me about it.

From your affectionate husband, — Isaac

P.S. We have not had any pay yet. We are waiting patiently.


¹ Albert H. Wilcoxon — Residence: Norwalk, enlisted July 16, 1862. Promoted from Adjutant Nov. 15,’62; Lt.-Colonel Sept. 1,’63.

² Oliver S. Ingersoll — Residence: Greenwich, enlisted Aug. 7, 1862. Mustered Corporal. Captured May 2,’63, Chancellorsville, Va. Paroled May 15,’63. Promoted July 1,’64. Captured Feb. 5,’65, St. Augustine, Fla. Paroled Apr. 21,’65. Discharged June 8,’65.


aacivmeady92

TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FOUR

Chantilly, Virginia
December 1, 1862

My darling Essie:

I received your letter this afternoon & it did me as much good as a Thanksgiving dinner. I was very glad to get it indeed. I am sure I have very good reason to be grateful for such a wife as you are. You say you pray for me. It is a pleasure to think that  we have a Heavenly Father who is always ready  to hear us when we pray and although we are separated from each other, yet our Father is near to both of us. He knows what we want and I know he answers prayer for I feel a contentment that I am sure nothing could give if it were not for His help. I am sure of the prayers of all the dear ones at home. Pray that I maybe enabled to do my duty. As for my health so far I have been full as well as when I was at home. I have had no headache to speak of. I am not troubled much with sour stomach. One reason may be sometimes I don’t have enough to eat the sour. I get along pretty well in the eating line now by some contrivance. I haven’t had any cold to speak of. Some have had bad colds & coughs & some I suppose have taken colds they want to get rid of. I don’t speak of these to brag of but as a reason of thankfulness. I have a little touch of rheumatism in my right leg that bothers me a little in running when on drill, but I get along pretty well. I told you in my last that we had brigade drill on Thanksgiving day. We had the same today.  We were drilled in fighting.

Tuesday evening. About 3 o’clock this morning we were called up double quick to [be] ready to fight the rebels. It was said they were coming. We were told to get our breakfast. Lieut. Haight wanted some meat fried & asked me if I could do it. I told him I would try. He told me where to borrow a frying pan & I set to work. The pan was a common stove oven pan like what you roast in sometimes. I had to cook over a fire in the fireplace. I did very well although it was very unhandy. After cooking as much as they (Capt., 1st & 2nd Lieut.’s) wanted, they gave me a small piece of [    ]. I cut it up fine & made a kettle of soup. It was very good. After eating it as there was no order to march, I lay down & had a good nap. About sunrise we were called together & had a short drill. Oliver [Ingersoll] & I then got permission to go & get wood. We brought & cut enough for a day or two. By this time we came to the conclusion that the rebs wouldn’t trouble us at present. We were told to get ready for regimental inspection this P.M. at 3 o’clock. We had our things to put right. Oliver had to go on picket duty.

Regiment inspection is rather tedious. We had to stand in the cold quite awhile. At the close of the inspection, we were marched into our street. Capt. [Wilcoxon] told the company that he would make the appointments to fill the vacancies in the officers. Orderly Peck has been promoted to be Sergeant Major. Dennie Vagan, our 3rd Sergeant, takes his place. The other two sergeants — that is the 4th & 5th — step up a step & become the 3rd & 4th. Henry Held was 2nd Sergeant & is the same now. Private Isaac L. Mead is put in 5th Sergeant & William J. Platt of Round Hill (blacksmith) is Corporal in place of Frank Elliott who is taken for a teamster. I expected until last Sunday that one of the corporals would be our 5th Sergeant, but Sergeant Major [George C.] Peck told me then that I was the one selected. It is quite a jump to go from private to sergeant. I thought perhaps I might be a corporal was one reason I did not think best to join the band.

What do you suppose my light is? I am lying on my stomach, my head to the fire, writing by the light of bones burning. I have had some salt pork that smelt & tasted too strong to eat & I have burnt it. A ration of of candle is very short & Oliver & I burnt ours for tonight last night. How will poor folks get along this winter when things are so high? Is there much work for them? How does Father’s wagon house get along? I feel very much interested in it. I think from what you said about it, it may be very convenient. Where is it to be? I suppose about where the carriage house & wood house are. Tell me about how far from the barn & from the house. Does he expect to use a part of it for a wood house? Will he have doors both sides so as to drive through? I feel great interest in all that is done at home.

Have you found a name for the baby yet? How is he — good or bad about crying? Does he sleep good at night? I suppose he begins to notice a good deal now. How does Johnie act? Is he good to mind? Be careful that he does as you tell him now and it may save all of us much sorrow bye & bye.

Has Theodore Mead (Carman) paid what he owed me for coal yet? Has Theodore H. Mean paid what he owes? He promised to pay it before I came to war. If he has not, I wish you would let me know the amount and I will write him a “dunning” letter. He is able & ought to be willing. Has Tom Ritch paid yet? (about $4.50 or near it)  My new office will probably make a little difference in my wages ($17 instead of $13, I believe). I believe I haven’t told the name of our new Capt. His name is “Wilcoxon.” He doesn’t scold when on drill but waits until we get to our street and then gives the lecture.

Wednesday noon. I am on guard at one of the Gen’ls. Headquarters. I am sergeant of the guard — rather soon for a green officer to be put on duty. I asked the Capt. to excuse me until I knew my duties but he told me I would do well enough. We had regimental drill this morning. Our Lieut.-Col. [Charles Walter] told the regiment to fix up nice for a review tomorrow. When we came in from drill this morning, Capt. [Wilcoxon] cautioned the men about being noisy & spoke about some manifestations of dislike to one of his appointments. He said he had appointed a faithful soldier. He said a little more intimating that he was satisfied with his choice. Last night some of the boys were calling, “Sergeant Mead” &c. Some did it for fun. I took it all in good part. Some of the corporals are dissatisfied because a private is put over them but I guess things will be right soon.

We like to have a muss just now with some dutch men of another regiment. We settled it easily.

I have just received L’s letter. I am very glad to get it and also the envelopes & stamps. I am sitting on a secesh wagon. They drive different here from what they do North. They ride the hind near horse & guide the forward horses by one line fastened to the near one. They pull the line to make them come left & jerk it to make them go to the right. They drive mules in the same way.

I enjoy myself here on guard very well. As yet I have had no difficulty. I write a few words at a time as I get a chance. It is 7 o’clock & I am lying on my stomach again writing by the light of a candle this time. I have not written to William Long in some time, partly because I am not sure of his being at Newbern. I was thinking the other day that if I were home this winter, I should be discontented. But little work, probably poor pay, & high prices for things. I would like to see all the dear ones & especially my Essie. I am afraid I shall not get your likeness. It  is a week since I got your letter saying that you had sent it. I may not write to L. in a day or two. Goodbye for this time.

From your affectionate husband. — Isaac


aacivmeady9

TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FIVE

Stafford Court House
December 28th 1862

My darling Essie,

Last night I was much gratified to get a letter from you. I have not written for a number of days for I have been very busy at work on our log house. I suppose you are somewhat curious to know how we are making it. We put a crotch at each end & a pole across. We then stand sticks up the top end leaning against the pole, the bottoms slanting out each way. We put cedar boughs over the sticks to keep out the wind & rain. We haven’t got our chimney finished yet. This we build of logs laid cobhouse fashion & dirt piled up against on the outside.

We haven’t been anywhere since coming to Stafford Court house. The court house is used by one of the brigade’s commissary. The brigade Provost Marshall has his office in the same building. I was in there a few days ago. The jail is close by. Near are houses which I suppose were taverns. They are large old fashioned low houses. I am in hopes of going with Lieut. Haight in a few days to Falmouth to see the battlefield Fredericksburg &c. Some of our boys have been.

George Marshall (John’s brother) was here a day or two ago. He is fat & looks healthy.

It is 12 o’clock & I suppose the folks are going home from church or attending Sunday school. I wonder if Essie has been to church this morning? I haven’t. If we have no service this afternoon, I shall begin to think our Chaplain ¹ ain’t much. He has preached but once as yet. That was the Sunday that we were in Antioch. We have had no service any Sunday since. He has offered prayer to or three times. Once was on Thanksgiving day. I suppose the reason he would give is on account of the weather. Today is quite pleasant. We have had very pleasant weather for a week past.

5 P.M.  We had service at 2 this P.M. The Chaplain ¹ preached a short sermon & said he would have done better if he had had more time to prepare his sermon. I wonder how much more time he wants than he has had since he preached before.

I wish you would tell me what is going on in Greenwich. Ask Daniel or someone. I want to know all about everything around home for home is sweet. I take a great deal of pleasure in looking at the likeness. You do look so good-natured. I wish I could be home for a week or two. It would do me a great deal of good. The Mr. [William R.] Booth ² who started for home is the old man. While I have known him as a soldier, he has acted far better than when he was home where he could get liquor. Although he is rough, yet he is good-natured & obliging. It may be he has not got his discharge paper at Washington yet.

We heard some cannonading today. ³ I believe some troops were sent out either yesterday or last night.

We are in hopes the war will end by spring. I believe the two-years men’s time is out in June. That will take a large part of the army. I understand that the war is costing 3 millions of dollars each day and all the time costing more & more. Some think that neither the North or South can stand it much longer. Others think if we don’t settle this soon ourselves, some foreign nation will interfere & settle it for us. I wish you would tell me what father thinks about it. He has an opportunity to read the papers more than i do. We here are very anxious to have this job finished so that we may go home.

I haven’t heard from Uncle D. yet. Write always as often as you can. Don’t wait for me to write. Tell me about the children. From your affectionate husband, — Isaac

I am not particular about the envelopes. I like the white ones well enough. Send a sheet of paper & an envelope in each letter until I get the box. I am out of paper & envelopes but I can buy here.


¹ The Chaplain of the 17th Connecticut at the time was William K. Hall of New Haven. He enlisted on 27 October 1862 and resigned on 6 November 1863.

² William R. Booth — Residence: Greenwich, enlisted Aug. 6, 1862. Discharged disability Dec. 10, 1862.

³ The cannonading was at Wolf Run Shoals which was followed by Stuart’s cavalry raid in the rear of Fairfax Court House.


aacivmeady5

TRANSCRIPTION LETTER SIX

Camp near Brook’s Station [Virginia]
May 20th 1863

My dear wife,

For a few days back I have felt but little like writing. Today we shifted our camp. We now are about ¼ of a mile east of where we were. This is a very pleasant place. I think it will be healthier here than in our old camp for there was an old dead smell occasioned by the decomposition of one thing and another that collected during the winter. This camp is on high ground. Near us are two or three old houses. We see but very few houses that would be called decent in the North. The most of them are out of order. In the first place, the building of them was imperfect. They don’t have as good carpenters here as Henry Mead & Stephen [A.] Stoothoff. Next, they don’t seem to see the necessity of keeping a place in good order.

I bought my dinner today of the sutler. I got 10 cakes for 20 cts. & a small piece of cheese for 10 cts. All we have drawn today to eat is a loaf of bread for each man. This we got this afternoon. I used to hear some say that a soldier has enough to eat and a plenty to spare, but generally we don’t have much to throw away. It get along very well most of the time for if I am hungry the food tastes sweeter when I get it. I could have got along this month without buying as I had hardtack but I felt dainty. I gave one of the men who had to go on duty enough hardtack for his dinner as he had none. I am broken out with the heat. Perhaps it is on account of the woolen clothes that I wear. I itch sometimes so bad that I can’t help digging.

In your last letter you ask if I lost my testament, needle book, and money. I didn’t lose either. They were all in my pockets except my needle book that you gave me. That I sent with some of my clothes to be stored at Hope Landing. I have another needle book which is much smaller that I carry in my pocket. Lieut. found it while we were at Stafford Court House. He took the contents out and I have taken care of the needle book since.

Lieut. [George C.] Peck ¹ was with us on picket before the fight. I heard a lieutenant say he saw Lt. [George] Peck in the garden by the [Talley] house near where the [13th New York Independent Light] artillery was stationed lying on his face and with his hands trying to dig down into the ground to hide from the enemy. It guess he has been taken prisoner. ² It is possible some of our company are killed but I think the most of them are prisoners. Two are in the hospital wounded. One of them (John Doharty) is a prisoner paroled. John was shot through the side. He is able to be around. He came to camp yesterday for a short time. ³

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Sketch by Augustus C. Hamlin of the area on the battlefield between the Talley House on turnpike at left and the Chancellor Tavern at right

I am sorry Ophelia got hurt. Do you remember when I got hurt in my ankle at the mill and George Williams brought me home? As soon as my ankle was in the hot water, the pain was gone. I expect you will have a very good garden this summer. I feel quite anxious to know how the things will grow in the part next to the house. I think the dose [of manure] I gave it last spring will take effect this summer.

Friday morning. I received your letter yesterday afternoon. Yesterday morning I thought I would look into the state of affairs in my pants. I found they had been rented by a few grey backs [lice]. I at once gave them notice to leave for although my pants are one size too large for me, yet there is hardly room for more than one. I saw enough to convince me that these gray backs had planned to have their descendants occupy the same place so I thought I would have a house warming. I got a camp kettle and a plenty of soap and after my breakfast, I started for a brook in the woods. I took my pants off & gave them a good boiling, then washed them thoroughly, wrung them out and hung them up to dry. I next took my shirts & socks and washed & boiled them. After washing myself thoroughly without boiling, I arranged my toilet. My pants were not quite dry but dry enough. Last night I scratched a good part of the night.

I don’t know anything to write about Oliver Ingersoll. He is missing. You spell Smith Smyth. It may be they spell it your way. The Morrell you spoke of who came from New York & died suddenly was brother to the George Morrell in our company.

I am very well now with the exception of the scratching. You spoke of the meeting at Jerome’s. I used to like the meetings at private houses; they seemed more sociable than the meetings held at the chapel. I have a very poor place to write and as it is almost mail time, I will close this.

From your affectionate husband, — Isaac L. Mead


¹ Lt. George C. Peck — Residence: Greenwich, enlisted Aug. 14, 1862. Mustered 1st Sergeant. Appointed Sgt.-Major Nov. 1,’62. Promoted from Sergeant-Major to 2nd Lt. Apr. 18,’63. Captured May 2,’63, Chancellorsville,Va. Paroled May 23,’63. Promoted 1st Lt. Mar. 5,’64. Appointed Adjutant Mar. 30,’65 (not placed). Mustered out July 19,’65.

From a previous letter by Isaac we learn that the boys of Company I had somewhat unfavorable views of Lt. Peck and so it is likely this hearsay anecdote suggesting cowardice on the part of Lt. Peck was a gross exaggeration. It should be remembered too that this surprise attack upon the 17th Connecticut at the Talley farm was their first exposure to enemy fire.

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Sketch of Talley House on Battlefield

² In the late afternoon of 1 May 1863, the 17th Connecticut was ordered into line of battle along the Orange turnpike, and placed into position supporting 4 guns of Captain Julius Dieckman’s 13th NY Independent Light Artillery. The left wing of the regiment, under command of Major Allen Brady, was placed to the rear of the battery along the turnpike. The right wing, under Colonel Noble and Lt. Colonel Charles Walter, was placed south and west of the Talley house, in the small garden of the residence. The house itself served as Division and Brigade HQ for General Charles Devens and General Nathaniel McLean, respectively. 

When Stonewall Jackson’s men attacked the right flank of the Union line in the late afternoon of 2 May 1863, the 17th Connecticut Infantry was still in the above-described position. In the garden of the Talley house, Lt. Colonel Charles Walter (commanding the right wing of the regiment) had ordered his men to lie down behind the modest breastworks they had created behind the garden fence. Walter told the men to stand their ground and not fire until he gave the order. As regiment after regiment began to give way under the overwhelming Confederate forces, the situation for the Seventeenth was becoming critical. Still holding his position in the Talley garden, Lt. Peck saw a signal officer rip the signal flags down, mount his horse and ride quickly away, as did several other couriers and staff officers at the Talley house. Many of those who failed to hear the order to retreat were captured near the Talley House.

³ John Doharty — Residence: Greenwich, enlisted Aug. 6, 1862. Wounded and captured May 2,’63, Chancellorsville, Va. Paroled May 15,’63. Discharged disability May 27,’65.

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Columbian College Hospital

TRANSCRIPTION LETTER SEVEN

Colombian College Hospital
[Washington D. C.]
June 9th 1863

My dear wife,

I received the letter you mailed from New York the 18th on the 19th. I wrote to Lucretia by the next morning’s mail which I suppose you have found out by this time. Another man died last night in this room making the third since I have been here. I continue to gain very slowly. Yesterday I was troubled with the piles. Towards evening the ward master gave me some ointment which seemed to ease the pain somewhat. It is not so bad today. This morning I had a cup of coffee and some bread and butter for my breakfast. I have had bread and milk most of the time.

One of the men in this room is out of his right mind. Sometimes it is very annoying to hear him talk. Night before last he wanted his horse watered and in the night he drove his horse.

That picture of mine that I sent you is hardly worth any better frame than it has as although it cost a dollar, yet it is a very cheap kind of picture. I may possibly send a better one if I have a good opportunity while in Washington. I don’t receive quite as many letters as I would like but perhaps the folks at home have as [valid a] reason for not writing as I have had. The reason I haven’t written oftener is I have not felt able. I have written the days I have felt the brightest. I must give you credit for some letters you have sent but I have not received. I have received only Lucretia’s letter dated June 5th and yours of 18th since Father’s. So you see news from home is very scarce. I want you the next time you write to commence about 15 minutes sooner and so fill your sheet full. Write a little coarser hand if you can’t do it any other way.

Yesterday I didn’t sit up any to speak of on account of that difficulty (piles) but this morning I sat by a table and ate my breakfast. After breakfast I sat in the kitchen nearly an hour shaving and washing myself. Now this afternoon I guess I have been up an hour. I have some good reading. This morning I read some about the Fulton Street prayer meeting — its origin — the way it is conducted, &c. I like to hear about the meetings at home. I am very glad to hear of the conversion of so many of the young folks I know. I hope the work may go on for there are many more out of the ark of safety. This is the time for Christians to grow strongly by working in the vineyard. I wish I were more of a Christian. Tomorrow I am in hopes of getting some strawberries. The Dr. says I may eat them but I have not as yet been able to get any. Are newspapers scarce in Greenwich? I have to pay 5 cts for those I get here so I generally let the news go. Once in a while I learn a little of what is going on but not often.

Your affectionate husband, — Isaac


aacivmead99

TRANSCRIPTION LETTER EIGHT

Convalescent Camp [near Alexandria, Virginia]
November 5th 1863

My darling Essie:

I received your letter yesterday but did not feel at all like answering it. Yesterday morning the men in this barrack were examined before the division doctor. Today those who were recommended to the Invalid Corps were examined by the board. The doctor told me to come to him this morning. He ordered a dose of tincture of iron, I should think it was. He did not tell me what I might expect. I suppose I must stay another month before we are examined again.

If I trust in Providence, all will be right. But I have not as much faith as I wish I had. We would be very much better off if we would “cast all our care on the Lord.” It is good to feel that that “He careth for us.” I hope Mrs. Bixby will board with you. She will be good company. If I knew I should stay here two or three months, I would like to join a string band there is here and play the bass viol with them. They play in the city for parties and get pretty well paid.

As you spoke of starting for home today, I will direct this to Greenwich. I received a letter from [sister] Lucretia this noon. Meetings are held three times a day now. I don’t go only on Sundays. The reason is on account of the confusion in the meetings. The shouting Methodists take the lead and carry on at a great rate. They number a few converts. I don’t know how many. I don’t know but I am some better than I was when I was home. As I think my health will not stand the Southern climate in the summertime, I do not wish to look very well until I am put in the Invalid Corps. This may seem hard talk, but the doctor goes as much by looks as anything. I very much fear I shall not be put in the Invalid Corps but I have felt more trust in Providence today than in some time before. I wish I did more as my conscience tells me. Pray for me, dear Essie, that I may not grieve the Spirit away from me, but that it may always be with me to comfort me and encourage me to do right. It is good to put our trust in God. Yours with much love, — Isaac


TRANSCRIPTION LETTER NINE

Sandusky, Ohio
March 2nd 1865

My very dear wife,

Here we are all right in sight of our regiment. I wrote to you from the Soldier’s Home in Pittsburg on Tuesday evening. The next morning we started to see the city. We saw a good deal the night before, but not all by any means. On the east side of the city there is a high hill called Prospect Hill. We went to the top of it. We could look down and see the tops of tall spires some way below us. The hill is so steep that to look down on one side made me a little dizzy. If it had not been for the dense cloud of smoke we could have seen a great distance, but as it was we could see but a little ways. The smoke in Pittsburg is something to notice. Everything is smoky. Even the people are smoky. I noticed the ladies wore dark clothes — especially stockings. I didn’t see all the stockings but the fashion seemed to be to wear black. Pittsburg is so near the Pennsylvania coal and iron mines and being where the Allegany and Monongahela join and form the Ohio river makes it a great business place. Great quantities of iron are worked there.

I think I told you about the big gun that we saw. It is about 25 feet long and 6 feet [in] diameter. We saw a glass bottle factory. It looked nice to see the little boys running around with the hot glass. They make 3000 bottles a day. I enjoyed our stroll around the city very much.

At two o’clock we started for Mansfield. The track runs on the bank of the Ohio [river] for a number of miles. I saw some river steamboats. They didn’t look much like the steamboat that used to run from Stamford and our place (the Ella). We arrived at Mansfield between two and three o’clock this morning. As we had to wait until 9 o’clock this A.M. for the train to Sandusky, we lay down — some on benches & some on the floor. This morning Mr.  [William F.] Vinton ¹ found that someone had taken his watch, chain, and money. It scared him somewhat. After awhile he found that it was one of us. One of the boys had done it while he was asleep so as to bother him.

We got washed and soon the train came. We arrived here in Sandusky about 12 o’clock today. We can’t go onto the island where the regiment is because the ice is unsafe to walk on and boats can’t run yet. Two men were drowned within a day or two. They broke through the ice. We have tramped around some this P.M. I am very much pleased with the looks of the city. It looks more home-like than Alexandria or Washington. I enjoyed the ride here very much. We passed through a very fine country.

Mr. Vinton and Miller asked me when we were walking around Pittsburg if we had as nice a church in Greenwich as some that we saw. I told him we had a nicer and larger house than any I had seen. Miller thought that Marion McKelvy is a very pretty girl and that there were others in Pittsburg almost as handsome. I told him we had handsomer girls in Greenwich than any I had seen as yet so Mr. Vinton and he would ask me every time we passed a girl if I wouldn’t give up that there were handsomer girls there than in Greenwich. I told him, “No sir, not at all,” and every church we passed they would ask if we had any nicer & larger than that. I told them, “Yes.” Of course it was all in fun. We enjoyed ourselves well.

I sent a half of shelter tent in the small box to you. I want you to save that for me, that is unless you want it for something. I sent a few small buttons for you to put on the children’s clothes if you like. The brass rings I want for ferrules. They are in with the buttons. I don’t remember as there is anything else that I want you to save. Use the old clothes for the children if you wish. One vest was given to me as I was about nailing up the box. Use it if you like. It’s too small for me, I guess.

My address at present is Co. C, 6th Regt. V. R. C., Johnson’s Island, Ohio

I shall expect a letter with all the news as soon as you can answer this. I am enjoying myself well and hope you are doing the same.

Your affectionate husband, — Isaac


¹ William Ferdinand Vinton (1838-1920) served as the “Principal Musician” (band leader) of the 6th Veteran Reserve Corps. He served previously with the 154th New York Infantry. Vinton was a native of Ellicottville, New York. Vinton was taken prisoner at the Battle of Chancellorsville and was confined in Richmond for less than a month before he was paroled.


aacivmead1

TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TEN

Johnson’s Island
April 27th 1865

My dear wife,

Your letter of the 24th I received this P.M.  You say you received a letter from me on Saturday but do not give the date of the letter. I mean always when I acknowledge the receipt of your letters to give the date. Then you know what one I have reference to. I had got my paper to write to you when I received your letter. I guess you forgot to put the “Band” on the directions.

I wish you could have been here yesterday. I think you would have laughed hard. Permission was given to citizens to visit the island through the day and witness the dress parades in honor of passage of the funeral train of the president. I must begin back and tell what happened the day before.

In the morning Col. [Frederic S.] Palmer asked Mr. [William F.] V[inton] ¹ to go to the city [Sandusky] with the band in the P.M. and play for the citizens. At 2 o’clock we started. We played going over and when we got there people were ready to see us — how do you do — shakes hands — glad to see you, &c, &c. etc. We roamed around the town until 5 o’clock when we marched to the park and discoursed sweet music to admiring crowds of — children and a few grown folks. Well, we played until we played out and then quit. Some went one way and some another. I went to the quarters of the provost guard and got supper. The majority of the band are so well acquainted with the natives that they were provided with good grub and lodging.

The next morning we came back to the island. (This is awful poor ink.) In the morning, guns (cannon) were fired. Nothing very much happened until P.M. There was to be a brigade dress parade and Col. [Frederic S.] Palmer told Mr. Vinton that the band must come out in blue jackets. Mr. V. told him that the jackets had not been fitted. No matter — they must wear them. So we rigged up. My jacket came up to my ears and was too big other ways. George Merriman ² and Jack Reed ³ looked as bad if not worse than I. We were suited as long as we had to wear them and if anything, made them look a little worse than necessary (not much though). We were about as comical-looking soldiers as are often seen.

We marched to the parade ground of the 128th Ohio Regiment and as soon as the other band (128th) saw us they commenced laughing. A good many citizens were looking on and no doubt enjoyed a good laugh. What made us look worse was the other band were as nice as though they had just come out of a band box. We played a funeral march down the line and the other band played a march back. The drum corps went ahead, our band next, and the other band behind. Some say that we played well. Mr. V. said he didn’t care how we looked but we must play as good as we could, and so we did.

A Lieut. is very sick near here and I think by the officers going in there — so many of them — that he must be dying. I heard this morning that he was not expected to live long. I feel sorry for his wife. She is here.

I am glad you got Wm. Mead to make garden. Has Mr. Gallespie done anything in the other part? If not, you had better see if he expects to take it & if not, get someone else to — Wm. Mead perhaps.

From your husband, — Isaac


¹ William Ferdinand Vinton (1838-1920) served as the “Principal Musician” (band leader) of the 6th Veteran Reserve Corps. He served previously with the 154th New York Infantry. Vinton was a native of Ellicottville, New York. Vinton was taken prisoner at the Battle of Chancellorsville and was confined in Richmond for less than a month before he was paroled.

² George Merriman, Jr. served as a private in Co. K of the 16th Connecticut Volunteers before being transferred to Co. E of the 6th Veteran Reserve Corps (VRC). George was from Bristol, Connecticut. He enlisted in July 1862 and was transferred to the VRC on 19 June 1864.

³ John B. Reed served as a private in Co. C of the 6th Veteran Reserve Corps.

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