1863: Albert Gallatin Sprague to Ellen (Duncan) Sprague


Albert G. Sprague, MD

These letters were written by Albert Gallatin Sprague, Jr. (1836-1908) to his wife Ellen (“Nellie”) Tryphosa (Duncan) Sprague (1840-1924). Albert was the son of Albert and Mary (Fiske) Sprague. He attended the Jefferson Medical School in Philadelphia and graduated in 1859.

Albert enlisted on 26 May 1862 with the 10th Regiment Rhode Island Infantry as 1st Lieutenant and Asst. Surgeon. He was mustered out with the regiment in Providence, Rhode Island on 1 September 1862. He soon after reenlisted in the 7th Regiment Rhode Island Infantry on 22 September 1862 and remained with the 7th until the end of the war when he mustered out on 9 June 1865.


Camp near Newport News, Va.
February 26th 1863

My dear wife (Nellie),

Your letter of the 21st was received last night. I was surprised to hear that you were home, and still more so to hear that your Father was so sick. I hope to hear in your next letter that he is much better. Be careful about yourself that you do not do too much for I think if you get reduced in strength but very little, you would come down with another bilious fever. We have a hospital full of patients sick with Typhoid fever & measles. One poor fellow here by the name of Brown is dying with chronic diarrhea. He has had Typhoid fever and now this has come on him which will be his last. His father is here and I pity the poor man, for he lost a son with Typhoid fever in the 7th [Rhode Island] a short time ago and now he will lose this one. I expect he will die before night comes.

I have had a diarrhea ever since I left home until last week. I have attended to my duties regular. Now my bowels are all right, and yesterday I got on to the scales to see how much I would weigh and it said 157½ pounds good. Three weeks ago, I weighed 135. I feel tip-top and I expect to come up to 200 before I come home.


Surgeon James Harris, 7th Rhode Island Infantry

The other day we had quite a snow storm but it soon passed by and now signs of it remain. Yesterday General [John A.] Dix reviewed the whole 9th Army Corps.  I came out for the first time on review. Dr. [James] Harris was thrown from his horse and bruised some. I took his animal and went on to the field. It was a splendid sight. Some 15,000 men were out. Quite a number of ladies made their appearance which added considerable to the scene.

The 36th Massachusetts are nearby us and I intend to go over and see the Dr. soon. I looked for him on review yesterday but could not see him. I saw his regiment. Has George Snow gone back to his regiment yet? They are at Falmouth, I understand. Capt. [William H.] Joyce went home on furlough this morning and I sent a note to mother by him. I wish you had been at home to see him for he and I have had “Bully” times together.

Write to me soon how your Father is getting along for I am anxious to know. Take care of yourself. There is nothing of particular interest going on here, except the robbing of a hens roost now & then. Our apples have all gone and you can imagine that I ate my share of them. We live well here and I expect it is that which has fattened me up so much. I hear of no particular rumors floating around camp. The review of yesterday is a precursor of important movements and you must not be surprised to hear of a change of locality. There is a rumor current that General Burnside is coming here tomorrow to take command of the Corps.

I must close for I cannot think of any news. Give my love to your Father. Tell him that I hope he will soon be well again. Also love to your Mother & Em.

Your husband, — A. G. Sprague


9th Army Corps Hospital
City Point, Va.
February 1st 1865

My dear wife Nellie,

Just think of it — today is the first of February and a short month it will be, if I am not mistaken. The month has opened with a splendid day — as warm as a day in May. Just such a magnificent day as I always enjoy — neither too hot or too cold. If my horse had been down here, I should have had a splendid ride.

I received a short letter from you this evening and immediately sent you one and am now as you see writing another. Do not worry about my thumb for it is well long ago. It was only a simple cut made while performing a post mortem examination, but I immediately put on some of the embalming fluid and thus destroyed all the poisonous qualities. My thumb ached pretty bad for awhile but now it is entirely well.

Your photographs, to tell you the truth, I do not like very well. The one where you attempted to smile looks as if you had a severe stomach ache. It looks decidedly distressing. Probably you were laced so tight that it made you uncomfortable. Is not that the secret of it? The other one does not flatter you. Somehow they never can get the right expression of your countenance for if they did, they would [have] made a pretty good looking woman out of you. I should not be ashamed of you then, for to tell the truth, I am a little ashamed of those pictures. I shall keep them shady. I think the ones you had taken first far exceed these and should prefer them to any I have yet seen. I will send you that colored one when I send the box. I have made a frame for it which is quite unique.

There is a big movement on foot, if I can judge by the signs. All the hospitals at the front have been cleared out. Today we received about 300 sick & wounded, and tonight I expect another hundred. I am officer of the day today and have got to sit up until they come. It is said that Lee has sent off a large number of troops down South to oppose Sherman and we are going to make the attempt to break through their lines. If we succeed, then Richmond goes under. We shall feel the strength of their lines the whole length. I saw Grant today with his wife and daughter riding around the hospitals.

10½ P.M.  I have just been round inspecting a ward under the charge of a contract surgeon. Some doubts were entertained about his attending to it properly. I found that he had just been through and prescribed for the men at random. He will probably get dismissed. I am down on a contract for they are a nuisance and it would be better for the army if they were all out of it.

I am getting sleepy but cannot go to bed until the train gets in and probably it will not be here before 1 o’clock. I did not sleep much last night owing to the noise outside. A lot of ambulance drivers were in the rear making night hideous with their howls. I expect a large number of the sick & wounded will go off in the boat tomorrow and that will be quite a relief to us.


Col. Percy Daniels, 7th Rhode Island Infantry

Did I tell you that Dr. [James] Harris went home the other day of a 20 day leave? Col. [Percy] Daniels came last night, so I heard. I am glad if it is so, for Capt. [William H.] Joyce was spoiling the regiment. He is doing all he can to set the officers and men against Daniels, and that makes it ten times worse, for as a general thing, they do not like the Col.  I heard quite a number of them say that they wished he never would come back. I should not like to have them feel that way towards me. Daniels is too strict with them and if a man happens to go a little astray, he punishes him severely. If he was a little more merciful to them, I think they would like him well.

You have probably heard by this time that [Alexander] Stephens is in Washington and no doubt it will create quite a sensation North. I hope that everything may be adjusted amicably and honorably for the U.S.  It will be a joyful day when peace is declared and Fourth of July will be thrown in the shade then.

Friday, February 2nd

I sat up last night until 3 a.m. waiting for the train to come in but I saw no signs of it and then I went to bed. Hall was down from the front today and he says that a general movement is to take place, but he thinks the 9th Army Corps will go into the middle dept.  Col. Daniels sent a note down that you had written. I received a letter from home this evening. Father is going on a fishing excursion with Duly Grau [?] and Mother is going out to see Charlie. I am rather sleepy and must go to bed, but before I do so, I have a letter to write home. Give my love to Harlan & Ann & Frankie. Tell Mary Maynard that I will show her what love is when I see her next time in the shape of something that will astonish her.

Accept much love for yourself and a good night kiss. From your true husband, — Albert G. Sprague


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