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

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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

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.

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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.