1862: Elphonzo Gilman Colby to Sarah (Turner) Colby

These two letters were written by 48 year-old Capt. Elphonzo G. Colby (1814-1892) of Wolfborough, Carroll County, New Hampshire. He wrote the letters to his wife, Sarah D. Turner (1814-1870).

Elphonzo served as the Captain of Co. I, 8th New Hampshire Infantry. According to the regimental chaplain’s diary, Capt. Colby and Lt. Burpee returned to the North on 12 September 1862, both discharged for disability. Regimental records indicate that he served until 5 May 1863, however.


On board of Ship E. W. Farley
Lat 25.48 off Bimini Island
March 4th 1862

My Dear Sarah,

I am still on the wide ocean becalmed. How long we may be here the Lord only knows. The opinion of our Captain is it will be at least 10 days before we arrive to our place of destination [Ship Island]. I sent you a sketch of our voyage up to Friday the 25th ult. by the Bark Villa France bound for Matanzas. Nothing of particular note has transpired since up to this day excepting the visit of the natives to our ship trading shells and sponges from the Stirrup Keyes. Our boys amuse themselves by day in fishing. Have caught two sharks that would weigh about 150 lbs. apiece.

Our progress is slow indeed and navigation extremely hazardous — so many islands and rocks off the Florida coast. Our Captain is all anxiety. This is the most perilous part of our voyage. The most of us will get enough of sea life. Last evening we had a tremendous squall of wind and rain. It came on the first of the evening suddenly — a cloud of the most intense blackness — and the rain came in sheets. It literally poured. However, we out rode the gale and this morning [is] pleasant with  a fresh breeze. We were able to only little more than regain our position and this leaves us in gulf stream with poor prospects.

The great change in our feelings from the cold weather to mid-summer weather in the few weeks we have had cannot be described. Our warm water affords our boys facilities for bathing like ducks, prattling round on deck without covering for in between decks it [is] almost warm enough to roast.

March 5th

This morning I resume my pen to close my letter. We have now a fair wind on our way. We may meet a sail today by which I may mail this. I want you to write me as often as once a week or oftener and direct to the 8th New Hampshire Regiment at Ship Island. Transports will be leaving Boston at least once a week by which we can obtain our letters. You must know I am in continual anxiety to hear from home and know how you all are. Any matters in law about our affairs you had better write a line to Esq. Carter of Ossipee to look after them for the present. I expect to have some pay on reaching Ship Island and shall send home to you. Send me if you have the semi-weekly Post regular and if you have got your hog and the weight.

I now close for the present hoping and praying you and my little ones are in good health and spirits. I feel gloomy much of the time. Can hardly see a ship pass us homeward bound or think of home without shedding tears, but all is for the best. I will write soon again. I now have a cold. Am not quite as well as when I last wrote. My cough has mostly left me. I have not been sea sick. Very hearty ever since aboard ship.

Love to all, — E. G. Colby


Addressed to Mrs. Sarah D. Colby, Wolfborough, New Hampshire
Postmarked Ship Island, Miss.

Ship Island, Mississippi
April 25, 1862

Dear Sarah,

I just learn a mail leaves in a few hours although I have nothing new to write since my last letter. A part of our forces are still up the River and what success we have learned but little as yet. You will get the news by papers before you can from me. How long they are to keep us on the Island we do not yet know but hope not long.

My health has been poor for a few days. I am off duty. Hope to get better soon. Sore throat and cough is what most troubles me. Write often. Let me hear from you. Love to all. In haste.

Your Old Soldier, — E. G. Colby



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