This letter was written by Gilbert A. Talmadge (1842-1919) while serving in Co. C, 7th Connecticut Infantry. Gilbert enlisted on 6 September 1861 and mustered out on 12 September 1864 after three years service. He had previously served for three months in Co. K, 3rd Connecticut Infantry.
The 7th Conn. Vols. spent its entire enlistment prior to the Battle of Olustee (20 February 1864) in the Department of the South. Among other actions, it fought in the siege of Fort Pulaski, and the battles of Secessionville and Battery Wagner. During 1863, the regiment formed part of the garrison of St. Augustine and Fernandina, Florida. Because it was in the same brigade as the 7th New Hampshire, both regiments were often jointly called the “77th New England.” In January 1864, when this letter was written, the 7th Conn. Vols. was further weakened by the furloughing of over three hundred enlisted veterans. The regiment was left “quite forlorn with its depleted ranks” — many of them newly arrived substitutes who turned out to be bounty jumpers. They entered the Florida campaign with barely three hundred men. By that time, however, they were equipped with new Spencer carbines that bolstered their fighting strength.
This letter was written just one month before the Battle of Olustee in which the 7th Conn. Vols. entered the fighting with 250 men on duty and lost 80 killed, wounded or missing.
Gilbert was the son of Alson L. Talmadge (1810-1864) and Lucy Phelps (1814-18xx) of Meriden, New Haven county, Connecticut. Gilbert mentions two of his younger sisters in this letter; Carrie and Ellen.
Addressed to Mrs. Caroline Wheeler, West Meriden, Connecticut
St. Helena Island
January 19th, 1864
I received your kind letter and picture. I was glad to hear from you and Uncle Edwin and to hear that you was well and was happy to get your picture and I wish that I had Uncles too and I would give anything if I could get Mother’s but I don’t suppose that I could persuade her [to] get hers taken anyway. And when I get where I can get one taken, I will have one taken and send to you. I can’t see as you have changed any since I left home. [Sister] Carrie — she thinks that I have not changed any since I left home. I may not [have changed] in looks but she will think that I have in action when I get home, I bet.
But [she will have to] wait 8 months longer and then I will come home and see the folks and I think that I shall stay there for awhile. I won’t say as I did when I was in the 3 month campaign for I see that men change their mind sometimes — at least I have — and I see that some has here. They have been out over 2 years now and they are going to try it for 3 years longer for the sake of coming home for 30 days and 475 dollars. But they can’t get this child till he has been free and I think that it will be hard to get me then. ¹
[When I was in] the three months [campaign], we did not know what war was. And now they that has been in the 7th Conn. Vols. in this department know what it is to be a moving around by this time. And they that are a going for 3 years longer are fools — [that’s what] I call them — but they call me a fool for not going, but I can’t see it. Everyone to their notion, I say. I won’t write anymore about [re-]enlisting.
You tell Mother that she does not think of me anymore than I think of her and no often[er] either. Oh! I wish that I was where she is tonight and give my love to her. And tell [my little sister] Ellen that she owes me a letter yet. And give my love to Uncle. I wish that I was where I could see you and him.
There is not much war news here to write here. Ed, he said that he was a going to write to you so that I won’t write much about him — only he is as tough as a buck. Write as soon as you get this. You can see that I have [ ] the when drying the ink. Accept these few lines from — Gilbert Talmadge
Direct the same as before.
¹ Re-enlistments commenced in December 1863. There were 333 re-enlistments — three-fourths of the original members of the 7th Conn. Vols. who remained on the regimental rolls. This letter was written just four days after the re-enlisted veterans sailed for home on a 30-day furlough.