This letter was written by Pvt. Garret Cornelius Hopper (1833-1863), the son of Cornelius Abraham Hopper (1797-18xx) and his third wife, Elizabeth Hopper (1801-1878) of Bergen county, New Jersey. Garrett’s siblings included: Hester Ann (Hopper) Van Riper, b. 1825; Elizabeth Jemima (Hopper) Ackerman, b. 1826); and Albert Hopper, b. 1830. Garret was born on 20 September 1833 and died on 2 December 1863.
Garret enlisted on 1 September 1862 as a private in Co. B, 22nd New Jersey Infantry. He was promoted to corporal on 1 November 1862 and he mustered out with his company of nine-month’s men on 25 June 1863 at Trenton, New Jersey — seeing only limited action at the Battle of Chancellorsville the previous month. He was enumerated in Union Township, Bergen county, New Jersey in the summer of 1863 when he registered for the draft — the record indicating his prior service of 9 months with the 22nd New Jersey.
Family notes suggest that Garret died while in the service but he was mustered out in the summer of 1863 and I can find no other record of a re-enlistment. In fact, a pension paid to his father for Garret’s military service only sources the 22nd New Jersey.
Garret wrote the letter to his sister, Hester Ann (Hopper) Van Riper (1825-18xx), the wife of Henry Van Riper (1825-Bef1860), who resided at 46 North Main Street in Paterson, New Jersey at the time. They were married in December 1842.
Also mentioned in Garret’s cousin, Albert G. Hopper (b. 1833) of New Barbadoes, Bergen county, New Jersey, who served as a corporal with him in the 22nd New Jersey Infantry. The letter contains a good description and location of Camp Perrine in Trenton, New Jersey.
Trenton, New Jersey
Monday, September 15th 1862
Amid the many changes of life — though they may seem dark and uncertain — how many causes we have still to feel thankful and I can this morning feel particularly so for the many blessings I am still permitted to enjoy, the first of which I consider to be life & health, and next the privilege we have of communing with our friends though they be far away.
Dear sister and friends (for I write this for all whom it may concern), I have been blessed with remarkable good health since I left home and have been very comfortable in every respect. We are getting plenty to eat of fresh beef, good fat ham pork, potatoes, bread, rice & good coffee, and all the pie, cake & fruit we can desire can be brought in and around the camp so that all my temporal wants are well supplied. I have not for one moment felt sorry that I have left my comfortable home with all its advantages and privileges for this apparently slavish and risky life, for I have and ever hope to have full confidence in that Almighty Power which is able to protect us in whatever position He may be pleased to place us.
I feel perfectly satisfied with our officers & men with the one exception of the idleness and profanity of some of our men but I have great comfort in being able to turn my back on them all and say in my heart, get thou behind me Satan, for I have no pleasure in any of thy ways. But I have another source of comfort which I hope may ever be continued to us all to keep us in the path of duty — it is the prayer meeting which we have established in our barracks and are being carried on every evening with great warmth and spirit though it is conducted by but few. I also had the privilege of attending divine service in the Camp Ground yesterday, both morning and evening. The morning text was taken from Mark, 16th Chapter 16th Verse (not very good). The afternoon from Exodus, 14th Chapter & 15th Verse (very interesting). So you can see I am not so badly off after all.
None of the men have their uniforms yet nor do we know when we shall get them. There is two regiments formed in this camp — the 21st [New Jersey] composed of the Hudson & Passaic county men, and the 22nd [New Jersey] of Bergen county and I believe part of Passaic. Capt. [Robert W.] Berry’s company of Hackensack is letter A — the first, and our company, [led by] Capt. [Abram] Van Emburgh [is] letter B — the second post of honor in the 22nd Regiment.
Our camp is pleasantly situated in a nice lot in the rear of the arsenal with the canal & railroad on the west with plenty water, very good & handy. The camp is composed of 24 barracks with 48 double berths in each which are roomy and quite comfortable. Each man has a straw bed and his blanket with which he can make himself very comfortable. My bed-fellow & I make up our bed every morning and evening and keep it clean and comfortable.
Our company has four cooks taken our of our ranks who attend to all cooking and preparing our meals. One of them is our cousin Albert G. Hopper. He has taken it to be free of drilling and of being on night duty. It is all well that ends well but I doubt if he will be satisfied even with his own choice. I am perfectly satisfied that he or anyone else shall have it as far as I am concerned for I have not come here to learn to be cook but a soldier and if I am spared to return after 9 months, I think I shall be able to show you that I have not tried in vain.
And now dear friends, I must close for I am getting tired of writing in my present position lying in my bunk. Hoping these few lines may find you all enjoying good heath and the many comforts of life, and my kind regards for you all, I would remain most sincerely your affectionate —
Soldier brother, Garret C. Hopper
Tell all my friends to write but to be patient for an answer. Address:
Garret C. Hopper
Co. B, 22nd Reg. N. J. V.
Trenton, New Jersey