Civil War Letters

2020 Republished Article Series > Civil War Letters

From the Mansfield Historical Society Newsletter, Vol. 39, No. 5, October 2003 

As a result of this year’s Civil War exhibit, much of the Civil War material in our archives has been transcribed. Ann Galonska and Jane and Leonard Seeber worked on this extensive project. A number of letters from local soldiers and a diary written by Alfred P. Hanks are now in typed format.

Below is an interesting letter written by Henry E. Hall of Mansfield, a private in the 6th Regiment, Co. F. of Connecticut Volunteers, in which he describes his departure for the front.

Later, on May 16, 1864, he was taken prisoner at Drewry’s Bluff, Virginia. A letter written by fellow soldier John Hunter describes his capture. Henry Hall spent the rest of the war incarcerated in Andersonville Prison in Georgia. This prison was notorious for its terrible living conditions. During the fifteen months during which it was operated, almost 13,000 Union prisoners died there of malnutrition, exposure, and disease. Henry Hall was fortunate to survive this ordeal and was paroled on February 22, 1865. (Note: Misspellings remain but punctuation has been added to enhance readability.)

Hilton Head, S.C. Oct 30th, 1863

Dr Father & Mother

Having an opportunity between drill hours I thought I would improve it in writing you a few lines. I started from Fair Haven Thursday night with the rest of the Conscripts marching down to the wharf, got aboard an old shell of a ship, had to lay down on the floor all cramped up till towards morning when we anchored off Rickers Island on which were encamped 500 York State recruits. We waited there till towards night for the Steamer which was to take us and the York State recruits to Hilton Head. The York State recruits went to Morris Island. We sailed within sight of Fort Sumpter, could see the flash of the guns and hear the report from some of our batteries that were firing on the Fort. Also from ships. We arrived at Hilton Head Monday night about 9 Octb. did not land till Next day noon. I was seasick as a horse a day or two. There were between 7 and 800 men on board the Ship so that we did not have much room to spare. Some of them were pretty rough. A good many lost money and watches. Some had their pockets cut open and the money taken. Others were choked. The Sea was awful rough Sunday. We all had to come on deck to get our rations of coffee, salt port and hard tack. The deck would be wet and slippery. The ship would rock first to one side then the other, and the boys would slide this way and that with their hot coffee scalding themselves and others. I am in the 6th Regt. C.V., the 8th Maine and 76th Pensylvania are encamped here with us. It is considered quite healthy here. I am well all but a cold. The nights are quite cool here…

This part of the Island where we are encamped is a complete bed of sand. There is some grass growing but not a stone to be seen. The timeber is chiefly yellow Pine. We are encamped close by Fort Beauregard which fires a gun every noon as a signal for dinner. We have soft bread and coffee for breakfast, Salt beef or pork and bread for dinner, bread and coffee for supper. I wish you should send me a paper once in a while. Now write all that is going on.

This From Your Son Ed

Bermuda Point Virginia May 23rd 1864

Mrs. Henry Hall

This is not a very pleasant subject to introduce to you, a Parent of the missing son, Henry E. Hall. One week since this morning we was lying in the rear of Fort Darling and in front of there breastworks. They attacked us Early. It was a heavy fogg. They got close to us before we see them. We had a general engagement all along the line but they drove us. At last they had superior numbers. The last I see Henry was the night before when we was going on picket guard. I told him to go to the Leut. & get excused. He did so & was excused. The Wagon came along after we had gone and sent him out but he was seen by several of our Co when we was on the retreat. I have not fears of him being shot. I have no doubt he is taken prisoner. There is a number of our Regt. & Co that is missing.

The night previous to the attack we was out skirmishing. He got hit with a spent ball. It stuned him at the time. I took him on my back and carried him across the wheat field when he came to his senses. It was on this circumstance he was excused by the Leut.

We left Fair Haven in that lot & I have tented with him most of the time. I have helped and befriended him all I could because he was a cleaver weakly boy. He was loved by all. You will notice on this sheet a letter he comenced to his sister the day we got to march on Fort Darling & the day after the fight at Chester Station which we was engaged. He threw away all he had with him. All he has got here is 1 shirt, 1 pr drawers & Knapsack… It may be a lucky circumstance if he is taken prisoner. Hope for the best.

John Hunter

Lithograph - Andersonville Prison Camp
Detail of a color lithograph by Al. Jer. Klapp, 1903, that depicts the Andersonville prison camp
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