These four letters were written Esther Amelia Mead (1836-1920), the daughter of Daniel S. Mead (1778-1831) and Huldah Mead (1812-1882). She became the wife of her second cousin, Isaac L. Mead (1834-1913) in November 1855. Esther wrote all of the letters to her husband while he served in Co. I, 17th Connecticut Infantry and later when he was transferred to Co. C, 6th Infantry Veteran Reserve Corps (formerly the “Invalid Corps”). While serving in the Reserve Corps, Isaac played in the regimental band — probably as a fifer. He was discharged on 5 July 1865 at Cincinnati.
The three siblings of Esther Mead most often mentioned in these letters included Ophelia Mead (1834-1884) — the wife of 1st Sgt. William Long of Co. I, 10th Connecticut Infantry (1834-1863); Daniel S. Mead (1839-1888); and Oliver Deliverance Mead (1843-1930).
Before the war, Isaac earned a living working at a steam planing & sawing mill in Greenwich, Connecticut. 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).
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).
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
August 30th 1862
I have not heard from you since father came from Bridgeport. Ophelia & Oliver are going on today and I thought I would write a few lines to you. Do write if it is only a few words. I thought you would be home yesterday.
They rang the bell Thursday night. I guess they forgot. Lucretia wanted me to tell you for her that Frances Cable expects to be married next Monday. She is about Lucretia’s age — between 15 & 16 years old.
I cannot write much for the time is short. Do you think you will be home again? If not, I will bid you goodbye & may God be with you and keep you safe, and help you to be faithful to all you hold dear.
From your ever loving wife, — Esther
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
November 6, 1862
Another beautiful day, but many, very many hearts are sad. Thomas is dead — Capt. Thomas R. Mead. ¹ The news came very suddenly to us all. He died at Washington, North Carolina — about one hundred and sixty miles from where William [Long] and B[enjamin] Wright are. It is a week today since he died. I think it is very strange that we did not hear of his death sooner. He was twenty-six years old — about my age. Who will be taken next? It seems as though cousin Thomas’s people are doubtless afflicted. But God doeth all things well. It seems as though people could not believe that Thomas is dead. One an another will come and ask, did Ophelia’s letter say so? We answer yes. Then it must be as an Englishman in the same company with William has recently died. He commenced to write a history of the Burnside’s Expedition. He kept an account of the most prominent events until the day of his death. He was taken sick. He was sick one week and then died.
Andrew Lockhart wanted me to ask you if you could find out how much it would cost to have his nephew [Archibald Cromma] brought on here.
Charlotte Howe is married to Mr. Hinsdale. They live in Bridgeport. Adaline Rich is also married to Mr. Smyth of Portchester.
I received your letter with the squirrel’s tail [on] Monday, Nov. 3rd in the morning and Lucretia got hers at night. Was it a gray squirrel’s tail? It felt very soft and nice. Johnie was afraid of it. Your Father came up on the cars with William Todd, your cook that used to be, so we heard from you. Father had been to New York to get a coffin for the Held’s little boy. I went to church all day last Sunday. It was communion in the afternoon [and] a great many were absent, but the absent ones were remembered. The Monday evening prayer meeting, the giving people that are gone are especially remembered so I hear. Last Monday night Hannah B. said it was a very sorrowful but interesting meeting. So many of the young men are gone. Some are away and some have died. They spoke about Thomas and Randolf.
Last Wednesday we went over to Stamford and had our Ambrotypes taken — that is, mine and Willis and Johnies. Mine is in one side of the case and the children’s in the other side. The man tried three times to get Johnie. He had one of these dancing images that he told Johnie to look at. The second time he tried he says now look right at this all the time and Johnie bowed his head as much as to say yes, and so spoilt it all. I couldn’t help but laugh. Do you think I had better send them by mail, or wait until you get settled again and send them in a box with the boots and some other things?
Friday, November 7th. The wind is blowing very hard and the ground is covered with snow and it is still snowing very fast. I did not get the you wrote last Sunday until last night. It took a long time to reach here. What do you suppose was the reason? The letters are all right now. I sent a letter to you last Saturday morning and you sent one to me. I saw the writing upon the outside of the envelope. I hope you will reach your place of destination safely and I hope too that your health and life may be spared to those who love you. Write soon as you can and tell me all the particulars of your journey.
You wrote to Lucretia about getting a coffin for [Archibald] Cromma ² but nothing about the burial. Father has gone to New York today to see about bringing Thomas’s remains which arrived yesterday. Sopher took him down to Portchester this morning to the early train. I think he will have a very tedious time. It snows and blows so. I had a letter from Sarah J. Bartley Monday. She wished to be remembered to you when I wrote. May our Heavenly Father watch over you and may you be faithful to Him and to all is the prayer of your loving wife, — Essie
¹ Thomas R. Mead (1836-1862) was born in Greenwich, Connecticut, on 23 April 1836. He enlisted as a lieutenant in I Company of the 10th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry on 6 September 1861. A short time later, the regiment joined the forces of General Burnside in North Carolina. By September of 1862, Mead had been promoted to Captain of Company G for gallant conduct during the Battles of Roanoke Island and New Berne, North Carolina. Captain Thomas R. Mead died of typhoid fever in Washington, North Carolina, on 25 October 1862.
² Archibald Cromma — Residence: Greenwich, enlisted in Co. I, 17th Connecticut Infantry on 8 August 1862. Died 25 October 1862.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE
July 9th 1863
I came down to my father’s yesterday and so stayed down last night. It rained very hard last night. It is about five o’clock in the morning. I am waiting in Daniel’s room — or the boys room, I should say — for it is both Daniel’s and Oliver’s. This is the room where we spend our first night together. I have thought of many things that are past while sitting here.
The breakfast bell has rung so I must leave this for awhile.
Mr. Joseph Brush wanted me to as you if you knew anything about the Dougherty (do not know whether that is spelt right or not) boys. ¹ Their mother is very anxious about them. She has not had a letter from them since the Battle of Fredericksburg. She heard that one of them was wounded then. Do not forget to tell me all that you know about them when you write next. Are there any of your company at Washington with you?
The flags are flying all around the town on account of the recent victories among our troops. Henry Held ² was one of the wounded in the company from here — not seriously, I believe. Are you better than when you last wrote? I am looking for a letter every mail. It must be very hard work for you to cook for so many this warm weather. The rain we had on Saturday and Sunday spoilt nearly all the cherries. Ophelia is in New York with sister Libbie now. Libbie How stayed at our house all night Monday. She says Mr. Shepherd hasn’t any look about him as she can see. His face is nearly all covered up.
Charlotte Webb was married last week, I think to a Presbyterian minister [but[ I do not know his name.
Tuesday afternoon I with the children and Fanny went down to the lot to pick some of the currants. The bushes were loaded. I made jelly yesterday morning. [Henry] Waring Howard and [John] Hanford Ferris have hired the upper part of your shop for awhile by the month. They are to pay three dollars a month. They expect to build George Sillick’s house. I think I told you Mr. Sillick had bought a piece of land next to where Merritt and Louisa used to live. A family by the name of Jackson live where Merritt did. They have a number of different sorts of flowers in their yard and they have different kinds of birds caged. The cages are fastened up on the front stoop. I should think they were very fond of music. I heard a base viol as I went by the other day. Mrs. William Lyon and three of her children board up to Uncle Elkanah’s this summer. And three of her children are at boarding school.
I told you about Fanny’s going home Saturday. She told a very wicked story. If she does not try to do better, I cannot keep her. If she does not stay with me, cousin Sally will not have anything to do with [her]. Now she gives her a good many nice things. She sent her a nice new sack and pair of new cotton stockings to wear for a Fourth of July present. I am going to send Fanny up to the [post] office with the letter so I must bid you goodbye.
Your ever loving wife, — Esther
¹ John Doharty — Residence: Greenwich, enlisted in Co. I, 17th Connecticut, on 6 August 1862. Wounded and captured May 2,’63, Chancellorsville, Va. Paroled May 15,’63. Discharged disability May 27,’65.
² Sgt. J. Henry Held, Jr. — Residence: Greenwich, enlisted in Co. I, 17th Connecticut Infantry, on 14 August 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.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FOUR
March 3rd 1865
My dear husband,
I received the letter you wrote at Pittsburg, PA. [on] February 28th this morning, March 3rd. My feelings quite agree with the heading of your letter, “Let this sheet hasten to those who wait for tidings.” Many wait for tidings from the absent one day after day but they do not come. I have many, very [many] things to be grateful for. There are many worse off than I am, and I feel real sorry for them. I am glad you are so well and happy and hope you may continue to be so. It seemed rather strange that you should want to get a paper of Col. McKelvey about your goodness. Did Col. McKelvey go with the band boys? I wish you would get something for [your sister] Lucretia — a present — either before you come home or when you do come. Does Mrs. McDonald remain in camp? Did you fire off that great shooting iron? If you did, I think we would have heard it up here.
I guess I will write a little about the machinery now. Well Wednesday night a letter came directed to Mr. Isaac Mead and it had been opened. It was from New Haven from a man by the name of Merrill Loomis. ¹ He wanted to know if you would sell it and take land out West for it or if it could be rented and what you would sell it for, and wanted to have an answer. Father did not see as it was necessary to answer it but mother and I did. Father said he could not answer that night or the next day and did not know when he could so mother said she would take care of the children the next day and let me go down and see Mr. Sillick [Silleck] and then answer the letter myself.
Mother came over the next morning and said that Uncle Dr. thought that it would be better for me to answer it without saying a word to anybody, but he said it was father’s place to answer it. I thought perhaps Daniel knew this man and would write for me. I went down to see him. Daniel said perhaps Mr. Wellstood had concluded to take it and thought it would be better to see him first so he went down there and saw Bob, but his father was in New York and coming up at night. Daniel told him they must give a decided answer in the morning. I thought perhaps it was the best way to do. Uncle Dr. did not approve of the way I did. He said he would not have said a word about it to Mr. Wellstood. He had had time enough to think about it and decide before this. He said he would have answered the letter if he wanted him to if father wouldn’t but he did not want us to think he was meddling. I told him we would not have thought so, but would have asked him to sell it but for the fear of making him too much trouble.
I then asked him if he would answer the letter now. He said he would. Daniel was to come up early in the morning but had not come when I was talking with the Dr. but came soon after, but uncle Dr. had gone to the store. My father came up with Daniel and they were in the ware room talking with father so I went out to hear what Daniel had to say. Mr. Wellstood has decided not to take it but will rent the shop for a hundred dollars a year. Daniel says if he wrote he would tell the man the machinery is for sale and for how much and that he could rent the shop for so much or he could move it on the other street on a spot of ground that he could have for three or five years or less period for a very small sum and then say in what way he could pay for the machinery.
You offered it to Mr. Wellstood for $2,000, didn’t you? Daniel said since they have decided not to do with it now, it is worth a good deal more. Your father was in favor of all Daniel’s thoughts. We told Daniel that if he went around to the store then perhaps he would see Uncle Dr. I have not heard about it. I expect it will be sold now since Uncle Dr. has taken hold. I do not know as you will understand what I have written about the machinery.
Saturday night. I had to stop writing last night to mix up some doughnuts and to do several other things and then it was too late to write any more. Sister Sarah stayed with me Friday night — last night — and expects to stay until Monday. We have real nice times. I am enjoying myself very well now. My health is better and I am not near so low-spirited. How nice it is to have my sisters come up once in awhile and stay a night or two, They do not know how much good it does me, and I guess they like it as well as I do or they would not go home and ask to come back again as Anna did last Saturday and Sarah today. I feel a great deal stronger that I did last Saturday. I went to meeting last Sunday. It have not been but once before in six Sundays. Guess what I heard and saw for going to church. I do not think you will guess so I will tell you. I heard that Zachariah ² had got home and I saw him and shook hands with him. Anna stayed with the children and had dinner all ready when I came home from meeting in the afternoon. Wasn’t that nice?
Wednesday I went to the sewing society at Uncle David’s. There were between eighty and ninety there to tea. Zach. was there and Miss Welch. Estella came up the Friday before and Lizzie on Saturday. She did not see many people. She had a room by herself and a fire in it. They had some very good singing when I came away. I rode up with Mr. Button as far as the corner and then walked alone. It was about eight o’clock when we left there. Zach. has twenty-five days furlough. He acts very much as he used to. It seems like old times to have him around. Wasn’t it nice that he could be there when they had the society?
The boxes came last night or in the afternoon between four and five o’clock. [My brother] Oliver brought them up. I feel very grateful to him for his kindnesses. The things were all safe as far as we could see. That little lamp — where did you get it? It is giving light now for me to see to write this. The whistles the children were very much pleased with. We had plenty of music for awhile. The baby was as pleased as anyone. He was trying to whistle and felt so proud he could not help but laugh. They all thank you for them and Willis says tell papa I am so pleased I cannot thank him enough. I thank you very much for my present. The pictures were very good. We had a great laugh over one of them. Was that short-legged man with the —- really your bunky? If so, how could you help telling me about him? I do not know what to make of you or it. Perhaps you have been fixing up some india rubber concern for the sake of having company. He is such a curiosity. I do not see how you did to keep it to yourself. Are you trying to have a little fun or was he your bunky for certain? He looks as though he might be pretty big fooling, and yet good-natured.
The two large pictures I think I will have framed sometime. You sent quite a good many clothes home, didn’t you? That thin coat, I think I have seen Lem. Richmond wear. Am I right about it? I found a two-cent piece nicely stowed away in the leather pocket in your vest. I have laid it away for a keepsake. I took the whistles over to father last night and he did not know when he could fix them and said he did not suppose Mr. Talbot would ask much to fix them as I thought it would be the best way to take them to him and not trouble father when he has so much to do. I took them down this afternoon and they are to be done on Monday.
I have already made use of the box you sent your things home in. I have been wondering what I could put my carpet rags in and that box is just the thing. I got my money last Saturday and it is all gone but about five dollars and a half. I expect you are saying or will say to yourself, I wonder what she has done with all that and only one week gone. Well, I will tell you. I paid eleven dollars for wood, six for freight on your boxes, one and a half for having my watch fixed, about two for a paper of flour. The other four has gone to various little things. Your father has $60 that is yours that Mr. Weed paid for rent in advance, but I did not know he had it until this week. I do not like to ask for that.
Monday afternoon. I received a letter from you this morning and I shall try and finish my letter and send it this afternoon as you wished me to write and send you as soon as I could after receiving it. I guess you will not complain of it for want of length, but you may for want of goodness. I read your letter with a great deal of pleasure. I am glad that you felt well so you could enjoy the journey out to Sandusky [Ohio]. I expect you will tell a great deal more when you come home than you can write. Is it very cold there?
Willis and Johnie have been pressing hay this morning. They got some dried weeds down in the garden and laid them straight and then put a round stick each side and then tied ropes around each end and put it on their cart. I do not know where they put it. They broke the cart wheel off this morning. Willis came and told me about it. The children want me to tell you about our white rooster. He would not let the red ones come into the henhouse and I thought it best to kill him. He looked almost too pretty to kill. It weighed four and three quarters lbs. Our hens are laying pretty well now. I am going to take 42 eggs down to fathers. The eggs will pay for more than a gal, but I am only going to get a half gallon. Eggs are only three cents apiece now. Mr. Gallespie can only take care of the lower part of the garden this summer. He said he could not attend to the upper part as it ought to be attended to and he rather I would get someone else. Who do you think I had best to get? It is time now to engage someone. I have thought of John Lockhart.
We have some very good corned beef. Won’t you come home and take dinner with us some day? I have a nice large piece already cooked. I will give you some for your supper if you will come and take supper with us. I suppose by the time this reaches you, you will be nicely settled there. How are you enjoying yourself? You kept one of my letters, didn’t you? I missed one but not the last one. Tell Porter his picture is good and if he sent it to me, you may thank him for me. Willis got his first Sunday school book last Sunday. I cannot have the washing done on Monday now. Mrs. Evans cannot come until Wednesday. It makes it bad not to have her until then as Wednesday is society day and there are other reasons to. I have had her twice, once in two weeks. I had her to wash last Wednesday and shall try to get her this Wednesday to wash a certain lot of old pants, coats, shirts, and jackets, as I do not feel strong enough to do it.
I must tell you about a surprise party. Stephen White ³ talked about leaving the choir and some of the people felt sorry to have him leave as he had been a member of the choir a good while and a valuable member too, and so they each gave some money as much as they chose. Last Tuesday night, those that gave took refreshments and met at Uncle Alvin’s and presented Mr. White with two hundred and two ($202) dollars. It was quite unexpected, so it is said. The rest of the family knew it but Mr. & Mrs. White did not.
Well, this is a queer kind of letter, don’t you think so? But I hope you will enjoy reading it. With many wishes for your continued enjoyment, I remain as ever your loving wife, — Essie
¹ The 1860 & 1870 US Census Records show Merrill Loomis (b. 1828) of New Haven to be a “sash and blind maker.” Therefore, I assume the “machinery” mentioned in this letter refers to milling machinery.
² Zachariah Mead enlisted in Co. I, 10th Connecticut Infantry in August 1862. He rose in rank from private to 1st Sergeant in his company during the Civil War and was mustered out of the service on 15 June 1865.
³ Stephen Green White (1826-1881) worked as a manufacturer in Greenwich. Stephen married Cornelia Mead, the daughter of Alvan Mead of Greenwich.