20 October 1863

Gloucester Point, Virginia
October 20th 1863

Dear Brother,

Your letter of the 12th came to hand in due season & glad I was to hear from you again. Although you had but little news, yet a letter from home is always welcome. You perhaps think I don’t write as often as I might but I assure you since I wrote to you last, I have scarcely had time to write to anyone. It is not for want of news but for want of time that I don’t write oftener. I will now write you a sort of a diary of the events of the past ten days which perhaps might be interesting to you. I will begin my diary on the 3rd of this month.

Saturday night about eight o’clock we got orders to have one section of our battery ready to march by 6 o’clock Sunday morning as there was an expedition going to start at that time on a raid into Gloucester county & the adjoining counties. The order was very unexpected and on account of so many of our company being sick, it required a good deal of work to get ready in so short a time. But we were ready at the appointed time with four days rations with us. According to order, we left Yorktown at 6 A.M. for this place where we were to report. On account of some delay, we lay all day here expecting to move but got no orders until night when we were ordered to encamp for the night & be ready to move at five o’clock Monday morning. At the appointed hour, we were on the march. The Expedition [Wistar’s Expedition] consisted of the 11th Pennsylvania Cavalry, the 4th U. S. Colored Regiment (which is stationed at this place) & a section of Battery E, 1st Pennsylvania Artillery, and a section of our battery — the artillery [all] being under the command of Gen. [Isaac Jones] Wistar.

Gen. Isaac Jones Wistar & his staff, Yorktown, November 1863

We kept on a steady march until about one o’clock when we halted for a short time and fed our horses, eat a little hard tack & bacon, and again started on our march. Nothing of interest having occurred, we did not halt again until about four o’clock when we encamped for the night, having traveled nearly twenty-five miles which is considered a big march for one day. But we had not been encamped but a short time when the Darkie Regiment made its appearance having marched nearly as fast as the cavalry & artillery, but they are able to stand it & enjoy such raids the biggest kind — especially if they are allowed to take what they can from the secesh for there is such a hatred between the rebels & the colored soldier that they would rather see us take all they had than give a colored soldier a mouthful. But Sambo is not afraid to help himself & Mr. Secesh must stand quietly to one side & look on or take the consequences. We got orders to march next morning at five o’clock & report at Gen. Wistar’s headquarters.

Tuesday morning at the time appointed, we left camp for headquarters about a mile distant where we arrived in due season & encamped near the house & awaited further orders. We lay in camp all day. Nothing of much interest took place. Some prisoners were brought in by the cavalry which is out scouring the country in Mathews county for fifteen or twenty miles. The weather was very pleasant & favorable for camping out. The day passed away & everything remained quiet.

Wednesday morning, weather cool & pleasant. I was sent in charge of a squad of men to get corn for our horses from a plantation about a mile from camp. We took what corn we wanted & returned to camp. The barns on the plantation were filled with corn, wheat, & tobacco in abundance. The owner of the plantation is now in Richmond. It is a fine farm & is situated on what is called the North river which runs into the bay above Fort Monroe. In the afternoon I was again sent back to the plantation with more men to get some sweet potatoes and any other eatables that we could find as we had been out nearly four days & our rations were getting rather low. I went to the overseer of the plantation & told him we had come after potatoes. He did not like the idea of letting his potatoes go but it was of no use trying to make excuses to us — the potatoes were there for the digging so at it we went for have them we must. We dug what we wanted but did not feel satisfied to return to camp without something to eat with the potatoes so some of our party went to the house to see if they could not buy some chickens, turkeys, or geese, but he would sell none, giving as a reason that he had but two left. But such reasons would not go down as the noise from the hen coop gave some evidence that such reasons were false. The boys made a charge on his hen coop supported by a part of the colored regiment who was present at the time. They done their part well & we captured a large supply of poultry with which we left for camp, leaving Mr. Secesh to count the cost of feeding Uncle Sam’s boys on sweet potatoes & chickens.

Nothing more of importance occurred with us during the day. The cavalry came in with some more prisoners which they had captured & while out today they hung one bushwhacker [Sands Smith] who shot one of their men. They hung him on a tree as he was taken in the very act of shooting the man. Col. [Samuel Perkins] Spear considered lynch law the best in his case & so he took the easiest plan of putting him out of the way. ¹

Thursday morning the cavalry all came in & brought in some eighty head of cattle. We got orders to march about ten o’clock A. M. & started for Gloucester Point.

[no signature]

¹ The bushwhacker’s name was Sands Smith II, a resident of Mathews county, Virginia. Smith was treated brutally and finally hanged after he shot and killed a Union cavalryman on Wistar’s Expedition. He was buried in a shallow grave with the following inscription placed on his grave, “Earning to damned bushwhackers. Every damned man we catch with arms in the woods, we will hang so high that the birds will build nests in them. So take warning. Such will be your fate, you damned cowards. Here lies the body of an old bushwhacker.” A descendant of Sands claims an oral history of the incident that purports Sands was merely defending his family after the Union troopers got into barrels of whiskey stored underneath the house and, after some consumption, taunted the ladies of the family. When Sands went to their defense with his gun and was ordered to drop it, he was shot — an order he did not hear because of his deafness. Col. Samuel P. Spear resigned in May 1865 after facing charges of “drunkenness on duty and conduct unbecoming an officer.” [See Faded Lines of Gray]



29 September 1862

Yorktown, Va.
September 29th 1862

Dear Brother,

I received your letter of September 22nd last night and also the paper containing the muster rolls of the Delaware Regiment. Although I had seen the muster rolls before, yet there was much interesting news to me in the paper. I should like very well to get a county paper once in awhile as the county news is something that we don’t get very often.

We are still lying inside the Fort. We have nothing to do but once in awhile to help mount some large guns on the fort. The fort is being repaired and more large guns mounted. As a general thing, we live pretty good. Although we don’t have many friends here to present us with firkins of butter and barrels of milk, yet we can buy butter for only fifty cents a pound and milk that isn’t more than half water for twenty-five cents a quart. The butter is not of the best quality but as the saying is, “It is strong enough to walk itself.”

The Delaware boys are having good times now and I hope they may enjoy it for they will often look back and talk of the good old times they had in Delhi. When they come to experience the realities of a soldier’s life, they will then know how to prize the blessings of a good home — a home where they can enjoy privileges which they will prize when they can no longer enjoy them, It is impossible for anyone to imagine what privileges a soldier is deprived of until they have a trial of it themselves — even the privilege to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience in a great measure is denied as for on Sunday morning, as a general thing, there is more work to be done than on any other day.

In the first place we have inspection every Sunday morning — (i. e.) we have to dress up in the best that Uncle Sam has furnished us and take our respective posts at our guns and remain there until some General, Colonel, or perhaps [only] a Captain rides along our lines to see if each man has every button of his jacket buttoned and stands in the position of a soldier &c. which of course takes up much of the time which God has declared should be spent in worshipping Him and thus depriving those who would feel inclined to do so of the privilege. I hope to God that the time is short for such thing to last.

There is no news here at present. The health of the company is good. I am well and hoping this may find you all the same. I remain yours &c. — H. S. Murray

Direct your letters to [Erasmus D.] Keyes Reserve Artillery, Yorktown, Va., — H. S. M.

17 July 1862

Camp on James River near Harrison’s Landing
July 17th 1862

Dear Brother,

I again sit down to write you a few lines and I must confess that I have been longer in writing to you this time than ever before. The reason for not writing to you sooner is that we have been quite busy fixing up our new camp and in making things as comfortable around us as circumstances will allow for it appears to be the general opinion that we will remain her for some time.

The Monitor & the Galena cover the Army of the Potomac’s retreat at Harrison’s Landing

We are now encamped on the banks of the James River — and a very pleasant place it is. It is about half a mile from Harrison’s Landing where all the provisions for the troops are landed. There are several gunboats lying near the shore among which may be seen the old Monitor, the Galena, and several others. The river is almost covered with transports and other small steamers which are continually coming in and going out and gives the place a very stirring appearance. We go down to the river and bathe every day which I think adds much to the health of the troops, for without cleanliness it is impossible to prevent disease, and I believe there are hundreds of instances where sickness is brought on because some are too lazy and indolent to keep themselves clean and will go without using water for weeks except what little they use for drinks. And I honestly believe that if someone did not take pity on them and bring it to them, there are some who would die rather than get it for themselves. I never saw as much laziness in my life as I have since I came into the army. They become idle drones who eat up all the honey but don’t do any work. If there is any work to be done, they will play up sick and thus get rid of doing their duty and swell the list of sick to thousands when in realty there are but a few hundreds. It is in this way that so many get their discharge if they can only get a United States Surgeon to report them as unfit for military duty — it is all that is necessary. They can [then] go home with an honorable discharge while others  who have not their pockets as well filled with money, or perhaps have not as many influential friends, are kept lingering for months in the hospitals and finally die for want of that care which might have been bestowed on them by a loving mother or sister had they been sent home at the proper time. Thus it is that men of high position will sell their honor for a few dollars and rob the poor soldier of his honest earnings.

It is unnecessary for me to say anything about the change of position in the great Army of the Potomac for you are acquainted with all the circumstances connected with it better than I could tell you. It is sufficient for me to say that we were not in any of the engagements [of the Seven Days Battles]. We were sent back near the Chickahominy [river] shortly after the fight commenced on the right to guard some of the bridges and were moved from one place to another until we finally got here without having a sight at the rebels at all.

I must agree with you that this is indeed a singular war. There is something mysterious about it — something that has not yet been fathomed. There will be some strange revelations before this war is over which will show some of our leading men the dangerous position the government is now in and will arouse them to more activity in putting down this unnatural rebellion. I think the late change of position in this army must show them the necessity of at least having half the number of men in the battlefield that the rebels have in order to make a victory in some degree sure and save the expense of having to fight the same ground over again, for it is very evident that had McClellan had sufficient reinforcements, the late movement would have been an advance instead of a retreat and we might now have been in Richmond instead of being twenty miles from it. But we need not speak of what might have been done. The call for three hundred thousand troops must be attended to and it is certainly the duty of every lover of his country to do all in their power to induce young and able bodied men to enlist in this noble cause and help to hold up the glorious old Stars and Stripes and sustain the government. Let these young Nero’s who are fiddling and fooling away their time by attending Fourth of July celebrations and ballroom dances enlist and help to put down this rebellion and then when peace is once more restored and the old Stars and Stripes are once more in triumph over every state in the Union, let us return to our peaceful homes and have a National Celebration in which everyone can take part, and one in which the heart of the nation can rejoice.

Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan — “I have yet confidence in McClellan.” — HSM

There is one thing sure — and that is that the reinforcements must be had and certainly there is great inducements held out for men to enlist as I see that Gov. [Edwin D.] Morgan offers a bounty of fifty dollars from the State to all who will enlist besides the bounty which the government gives. And besides, it is not likely that those who enlist now will ever see a battle unless the war continues much longer than is now expected for the new troops will be left in places which are now held by the old ones and they will be sent here to reinforce McClellan while the new troops will be left at such places as Washington, Baltimore, &c. So I think now is the time to enlist. It is true, there are some things that look rather dark at present, but I believe that if the reinforcements are sent on in two months. that before the snows of another winter, the last battle will have been fought. I have yet confidence in McClellan. There may be something wrong in him, but I can’t see it.

But what is this? I see the State Militia are going to be called out. How is it with the Bovina Company? Are you ready to take to the field? Is the gallant Twenty-seventh Regiment ready for action? If not, it is high time that you were out recruiting.

But I must close as my sheet is full. Write soon and give me all the particulars about it.

— H. S. Murray

19 May 1862

Camp 8th [N. Y.] Independent Battery
May 19th 1862

Dear Brother,

Your letter of May 9th came to hand last Friday which was the first I have had in some time. It is now nearly dark and having a few leisure moments, I now sit down to write you a line to let you know how we are progressing in our march to the seat of rebeldom. We are within eighteen miles of Richmond. The rebels were here where we are now encamped last Saturday but retreated as our troops advanced. They are nary nine miles from here and it is said they are going to make a stand at that place which no doubt is true. And in all probability before this reaches you, there will have been a decisive battle fought and the City of Richmond will be in our hands. It is reported here that the rebels have a large force at that place but yet I doubt not but the result will be a glorious victory for the Union forces.

There is not much news of importance here. The weather is now very pleasant. You can get the correct war news before we can get it here for there is nothing but camp rumors here and we can’t place any dependence on what we hear.

There is a good deal of sickness here at present in our company. Jim McNair and William Ludington was left at Kent County Court House sick and was to be sent back to the hospital at Fortress Monroe. There is several others left at the same place. We have had a pretty hard time since we started on this march. We sometimes march in the night and sometimes in the day time. Saturday night we marched about six miles after dark which took us until two o’clock in the morning.

I am well as usual, thank God. I have had good health ever since I came into the army. Bob White is also well as are all the rest of your acquaintances. I must now close as it is getting late. No more at present. Hoping this will find you all well, I remain yours, — H. S. Murray

11 May 1862

In Camp near West Point, on way to Richmond
Sunday Morning, May 11th 1862

Dear Brother,

I now sit down to write you a few lines to let you know how we are all getting along on our way to Richmond. In my last letter which I wrote to you last Tuesday, I told you that we were then encamped on the battleground [at Williamsburg] of last Monday. We remained there until Friday morning when we again started on the march and this time it is, “On to Richmond” in reality. It is no longer the feeble dry of a few aspiring politicians and newspaper editors, but it is now the order of the Commander in Chief of the great Army of the Potomac and, with him at its head, we are now moving slowly but surely to the city of Richmond — and, in a few days, we will be in possession of that great Capitol of the Southern Confederacy which so long has been the boasted stronghold of the rebels, but which must soon fall before the onward march of this great army. And then, when the old Stars and Stripes are again floating in triumph over that rebellious city, we may consider this rebellion as nearly at any end for with Yorktown and Richmond in the hands of the government, it will be impossible for them to make a stand anywhere in Virginia.

It is said that the rebels are going to make a stand some twelve miles from Richmond and that they are now throwing up fortifications and making every preparation for a desperate battle. But very likely it will turn out like Yorktown — when our forces are ready to make an attack, they will evacuate for I think from the appearance of their forts in front of Yorktown that if they could not make a stand in such forts, it will be impossible for them to build stronger forts before this army reaches there.

We passed through Williamsburg on our way here. It is a small village and everything in it gave evidence of a hasty retreat. In the streets were to be seen wagons, forges, and ammunition chests having stuck in the mud and were set on fire or cut to pieces to prevent them falling into our hands. Horses and mules were lying on the road dead as we came along this side of Williamsburg, and as we came along, we met several who had deserted from them and they say that rebel soldiers are getting disheartened and are almost in a state of mutiny.

I got a letter from you last Tuesday dated May 2d. I was happy to hear from you all. I got one this morning from William Elliott.

We are now encamped in a wheat field and will not move until tomorrow morning. I have seen hundreds of acres of wheat as we came along and we can’t find room enough to encamp unless we go into a wheat field. It looks rather bad to see so much fine grain destroyed but it belongs to secesh so of course it must go. Every house we come to there is a white rag stuck out as a protection and no one is alarmed to take anything that belongs to them, but our boys will not pass by corn without helping themselves for they must have feed for the horses.

But I must close. It is a warm and pleasant day and the roads are getting very dusty but McClellan is here and he will not let his army march on Sunday as he does not consider it necessary. No more at present. The boys are all well. Bob White is strong and hearty as usual. I am in good health. Write soon. — H. S. Murray

6 May 1862

On Road to Williamsburg
May 6, 1862

Dear Brother,

Before this can reach you the glorious news that Yorktown has been evacuated will have reached you. We are in pursuit of them. We left camp on Sunday morning about eight o’clock as the news came into camp that the rebels were evacuating. There was a heavy cannonading kept up all Saturday night but it stopped on Sunday morning before we left camp. we marched about two miles when we came to a small fort that had been left but a short time before by the rebels, but the old Stars & Stripes were waving over it when we arrived in sight of it, having been planted there by Gen. Casey. We did not stop at this fort but kept on about a mile farther where there was quite a strong and large fort. Near the fort were found several shells which were buried in the road with a cap placed on them in such a manner than when stepped on, they would explode. The infantry were in advance of us and — while near the fort — a shell was stepped on by one of them whereupon it exploded, killing him instantly — blowing him to atoms and wounding five others. They were in the 52nd Pennsylvania. There was several of those infernal machines found in and near the fort but were dug out before any more accidents happened. ¹

We went into the fort and stayed over an hour when we again started in pursuit of the flying rebels which were on their way to Williamsburg. We kept on our march until near dark when we encamped for the night.

Monday morning was a very wet morning. We again started on our march toward the forts near Williamsburg. We could hear a heavy firing from the forts in possession of the rebels. We advanced about two miles and halted. The battle still continued fiercely. We were so near that we could hear the firing distinctly and could hear the cheers of our men as they routed the rebels from their entrenchments and drove them back. From seven o’clock in the morning until near three in the afternoon, it is said than ten thousand of our men fought against sixty thousand rebels. The firing continued until dark when it ceased. We were kept on the reserve all day but expected to be called on every minute. There were camp rumors of all kinds during the day but I need not endeavor to tell you what the result of the battle was for you will have heard before this reaches you. But I will give you the names of some that were killed in Johnson’s Company ² from Delaware. Their names are [Francis B.] Cormack from Delhi, [Joseph W.] Goodrich from Walton, and [Timothy] Warren from Hamden. Capt. [Robert T.] Johnson himself was slightly wounded and some six or eight others.

We left where we remained all day yesterday this morning and went to the right toward the York river and in sight of it. We remained there a short time when we again went about two miles farther to the battleground. We are now encamped by the forts and the battleground is but a short distance from here. I went through it after we got here, but for me to attempt to describe the sights that I saw — it is impossible. The dead were lying in heaps, men and horses were lying in all directions, guns were scattered around and other things beyond description. Our men were burying the dead but the rebel dead were lying unburied. There is hundreds of them scattered around the field and in the woods. What the loss of the rebels were I have not heard, but judging from what I saw, I should think it heavy as they did not leave the field until after night and no doubt buried many of their dead. What the loss on our side is, I cannot say. You will have an account of it, no doubt, before this reaches you.

The rebels have retreated and our troops are in pursuit of them. Where they will make the next stand is impossible to say but wherever it may be, they will find a force that will crush them out of existence. There is a great many rebel prisoners here and they say that Gen. Magruder made a speech before the battle and wanted them to lay down their arms and surrender, but Johnson stepped up and said their cause was just and he would fight to the last.

Sickles’ Brigade has lost a good many men. They were in the hottest of the fight. I saw John [M.] Gordon today. He is well and escaped unhurt. He says he has not heard from home in some time. I had a letter from you last week dated April 23rd. We have been on the march since last Sunday morning.

I am well as usual, hoping the Gods will continue the same blessing with me and that this will find you enjoying the same blessing. I remain your affectionate brother, — H. S. Murray

Wednesday morning, May 7th

The weather is now very pleasant and the roads are beginning to dry up. The roads for the last two days have been almost unpassable. We will follow in pursuit of the rebels. — H. S. Murray

¹ “Magruder is credited for being the first commander to employ mines on a large scale during the Civil War.  With orders from Magruder and guidance from Brigadier General Gabriel Rains, Confederate soldiers began hiding crude explosive devices made from artillery shells or other materiel in the sandy soil around Yorktown, along the town’s streets and roads, inside houses, and around telegraph poles.  After Yorktown was abandoned in early May 1862, Union forces reported several serious injuries and a few deaths from these “booby traps.”  While ignoring his own superiors’ concerns about using “deceptive devices” in land warfare, Rains was conflicted about using buried shells on the roads leading from Fortress Monroe to Yorktown.  With so many civilians on the few roads fleeing the Union advance, Rains decided against indiscriminately burying the mines.  Mining the fortifications and the town was a different story.” [See Mine Warfare in the Civil War by John Grady]

The name of the soldier who stepped on the mine killing him instantly was 19 year-old Pvt. John Pruyne, Jr. of Co. F, 52nd Pennsylvania Infantry. Military records indicate he died on 4 May 1862 “by the explosion of a torpedo” that the rebels had planted in the road near Lee’s Mills, Va.

² Capt. Robert T. Johnson led Co. I, 72nd New York Infantry — the first company organized in Delaware county, New York. He was in command of the company at the Battle of Williamsburg (4 May 1862) where he was wounded.

26 April 1862

Camp near Warwick, Va.
Saturday, April 26th 1862

Dear Brother,

I received your letter of April 13th in due season although we do not get mail here very regular. We left Newport some time ago as you no doubt know ‘ere this, and are now drawing near the enemy as we are now within some six or eight miles of Yorktown and we can hear firing every day from the forts which are being built — some within three miles of here.

We were ordered out the other day to go and shell rebel fortifications that they were building about two miles from here. We started and got about a mile when we got news that the rebels had left so we had to return to camp without having a chance to get a shot at them.

There has been four rebel prisoners captured here yesterday. They were supposed to be spies. They were examined and their clothes searched and some papers found, sewed in their overcoats. What the papers were, I have not heard, but they are now confined in a log cabin a short way from our camp. They are rather suspicious-looking characters and I think if they are a specimen of the rebels, they are a degraded-looking race of men. They were dressed in uniform the same as our troops. In their knapsacks were found some clothes which were stained with blood (which they could not give a very strict account of). They are to be sent to McClellan’s headquarters for further examination.

Everything around here has the appearance of a rapid preparation for the coming battle which will soon take place at Yorktown. There is roads being made and fortifications being thrown up in almost every direction from here, and there is troops coming in around here by the thousands. Sickles’ Brigade is now stationed some five miles from here. Some of our company have been to see [Capt. Robert T.] Johnson’s company but I have not had an opportunity to go yet. I have heard from John [M.] Gordon. He is well. I intend to go and see him as soon as possible.

You spoke in your last of having asked me some things in your letters which I have not answered. I am of the same opinion with you. I do not think I get all your letters as I do not receive on an average one letter a week from you and I do not think you get all mine as I write at least once a week to you. I think I have answered all that you have asked me but if there is anything that you want to know, I want you to write and I assure you. I will answer whatever you may ask me — cheerfully.

The weather is quite wet here at present and it makes it very disagreeable for us. It has been a very backward season here. The trees are just beginning to leaf out but there is not the least appearance of cultivation. Everything is in a state of ruin. There is scarcely a house to be seen as they have all been burned or town down by the rebels as they retreated before our troops when they made their advance toward Yorktown. It is fine land around here. There is a good deal of pine and oak timber and not so swampy as some places we have been.

The boys are all well. Bob White and myself are in our usual good health — thank God for it. Hoping this will find you all enjoying the same blessing, I remain yours, &c. — H. S. Murray

15 April 1862

Newport News, Va.
April 15th 1862

Dear Brother,

I now sit down to write you a few lines as we have again received orders to march from here in the morning at eight o’clock. I understand that we are to go towards Yorktown about fourteen miles from here to a place called Young’s Mill. Casey’s whole division will leave here tomorrow. The whole division was out on drill this afternoon about a mile from here. It was a fine sight to see about twenty thousand men all under march at one time. There is one artillery company attached to each brigade and maneuvers with the infantry. We are attached to the Second Brigade. ¹ Our Brigadier General’s name is [Oscar E.] Kline.

The weather is now very pleasant and the roads are getting quite dry so that it will not be so bad moving as it would have been a week ago.

There is not much news here at present. One of our boys got badly kicked yesterday by a horse. He was cleaning his horse when the horse turned round and kicked him on the head, knocking him senseless. He was taken to his quarters and the doctor called but he still remains insensible and was taken to the hospital at Newport News today. His recovery is thought doubtful. His name is [George D.] Eighmy. I think he was from Roxbury.

Our company is now full. It has been filled up out of the brigade to which we belong. There was two men out of each company transferred into our company in order to fill our company up.

Our mail does not get here very regular. I have had two letters from you which were written before we left Washington. I had a letter from Campbell yesterday which was written nearly two weeks ago. There is but little sickness in our company at present. I am well as usual. I think the Southern climate is going to agree very well with me. We are getting as brown as Indians. When we get a chance to look into a mirror, I am afraid we won’t know ourselves. Bob White  and all the other Bovina boys are well.

I will have to close as it is getting late and my candle is nearly burned out and the boys are all gone to bed — but I must write as long as I can. I have said that we were going to march towards Yorktown tomorrow. There will no doubt be a bloody battle fought there before long but whether we will be called into action there or not, it is impossible to tell. The battle at Yorktown will no doubt be the decisive battle. If won by our troops, it will crush the rebellion as Richmond will most likely be taken about the same time as it is said here that Banks and Fremont are marching on to attack it. May success follow them is the earnest wish of your affectionate brother, — H. S. Murray

¹ The Second Brigade of Casey’s Division was commanded by Brig. Gen. Oscar E. Kline. The Brigade was composed of four regiments — the 90th Indiana, the 26th New Jersey, the 17th Indiana, and the 10th Ohio.

Bob White (ca. 1900)

² Robert (“Bob”) Alexander White (1833-1913) is frequently mentioned in Murray’s letters. Bob was born in Ayreshire, Scotland. He was a blacksmith in Bovina before enlisting with Murray in the 8th New York Light Artillery.  Like Murray, he enlisted for three years but was discharged on a surgeon’s certificate of disability in September 1862 after only 11 months.

12 April 1862

Near Newport News [Virginia]
Camp 8th N. Y. Battery
April 12th 1862

Dear Brother,

All is quiet around here this morning. The Merrimack [CSS Virginia] has not made her appearance again. No doubt she has made up her mind that she is safest to stay where she is as the large guns from the Fort gave her some pretty heavy guns before she got out of their range. We could see the shells as they struck the water around the old Merrimack. There was two English and one French vessels lying nearby at the time of the engagement. They were no doubt taking notes of the proceedings. They are heavy gunboats carrying some forty guns each. They have been lying near here for some time. We passed by them when we came down here.

There is nothing unusual here today. The weather is pleasant. There is three of our company who have got their discharge on account of ill health and will return home in a few days. Their names are [George D.] Buckley, [Thomas] Blake, and [George D.] Seath. Seath is from Andes. He is a son of James Seath — you may perhaps know him. Lieut. [Zachariah H.] Sloat also resigned before we left Washington. I think that we are as well off without him as he never done anything while he was with us. All that he wanted was to get his pockets full of Uncle Sam’s money and then resign when we were about to come into action. There is plenty of such men but their time is short for it now requires men of courage and men who will make some sacrifice for their country for officers.

But I must close for the present. You must not forget to write for we receive mail every day. I send this letter by Buckley who is returning home. I thought he might carry it more direct. You may direct your letters to 8th N. Y. Independent Battery, Washington D. C., in care of Capt. [Butler] Fitch.

— H. S. Murray

31 March 1862

March 31st 1862

Dear Brother,

We are now in the land of Dixie within sight of the city of Alexandria and about a mile from it. We are encamped by the side of the railroad which leads to Manassas. We got orders to march last Friday about two o’clock and by four o’clock we were under march for Alexandria with Casey’s whole division. We crossed the Long Bridge a little after dark and kept marching until two o’clock in the morning when we encamped for the night. Taking the canvas which we have to cover our guns for beds, we laid down on the ground and slept until morning when I assure you, the camp presented rather an amusing appearance. Some were lying under the guns — others out in the open air with nothing but their blankets over them. Officers and men were all on a level then, and all glad to take mother earth for a bed and the canopy of heaven for a covering.

On Saturday morning the infantry troops commenced marching towards Alexandria to embark and continued to do so all day Saturday and yesterday. Most of them have now embarked and we have just now got ordered to pack up and march so I must close.

I don’t suppose I will have a chance to write to you very often as we will not have a regular mail and may not get a chance to send. So goodbye for the present. I am well and hope this may find you all enjoying the same great blessing.

Yours in haste, — H. S. Murray