1861: James Delmage to Virginia (Lattimore) Delmage

These three letters were written by Pvt. James Delmage of Co. G, 5th New Hampshire Volunteers. He was killed at the Battle of Fair Oaks (or Seven Pines), Virginia on 1 June 1862. A history of Claremont by Otis Reed Waite (page 114) states that James “was killed instantly by a Minié ball, by the same volley that killed Charles N. Scott, and John W. Nash, and mortally wounded Charles W. Wetherbee. He was buried by his fellow soldiers in the same grave with them.

James was born at Champlain, New York, and came to Claremont, New Hampshire, in 1858. He was 26 years old when he enlisted on 3 September 1861. He was married to Virginia Lattimore (1835-18xx) in May 1855. They had two children — William Edward Delmage (b. 1860), and Ada Mary Delmage (1862-1939). Ada was born four months after this letter was written and three months before her father was killed.

Battle of Fair Oaks
Battle of Fair Oaks

Addressed to Mrs. Virginia Delmage, Claremont, New Hampshire

Camp California [2½ miles from Alexandria, Virginia]
December 2nd [1861]

Dear Wife and Son,

I take these few moments to write a few lines to you to let you know that I am no better today — only worse if anything — but hope before many days to be well again and hope this may find you and dear little Eddie well. There is quite a number of sick in our tent — David H. Nichols, Sylvanus M. Tyrrell, Daniel Cummings, Charles F. Colston, Walter O’Shea, and myself — so you may know how many poor fellows is sick out of 18 men. We are the right of the Division and the furthest in advance of the Grand Army of the Potomac.

I went to see the doctor this morning. He gave me a lot of powders to take. I have to take 1 every 2 hours and hope they may do me good. I do hate to take their medicine. As you know, I am no lover of medicine. The doctor told me this morning that there was 150 men sick in the regiment.

I have no news to write today. We have not got our pay yet and I think it is a shame for to use us poor volunteers as they do. If I was at home, I could cure myself in a day so as I would be alright again. I have an awful lame back and am weak and dizzy and cannot speak loud — my throat is so sore. [Albert] Howe went and got me some pepper and vinegar and a piece of flannel. I put it around my neck and I hope it will help me. I cannot eat their hard bread. Albert [Howe] went to the captain and borrowed 25¢ and bought me 2 pies and made me a good cup of tea, I shall remember him as long as I live and am glad to have such a friend in need.

I am going to write a letter to Frank and put it your letter so as you may know what it is for and when I write to you again I shall send a letter to Margaret and want you to answer as soon as you get this. And don’t fail for my sake. I sent that letter of yours back again in the other letter of yesterday.

We have miserable camping ground now. It is wet and muddy. I have learnt today that there is 150,000 men this side of the Potomac now and I should think they would begin to do something if they are going to before every man is sick. There is nothing transpired since we came here but one thing certain, there will be more men die by disease than by the bullet.

Congress met today and you will soon be able to form an idea what will transpire before long — whether peace or bloodshed — and I think it will be the latter. You may send any of my letters you choose to mother and do just as you have a mind to. I wish you would send mother some papers so as they may know what is going on in the states.

We have prayer meeting every night here and have established a Sunday school and think it will be a good thing. Give my love to all enquiring friends. I remain your ever true and faithful husband, — James Delmage

Goodbye and may God bless you and my son.



Camp California, Virginia ¹
February 1, 1862

Dear Wife and Son,

I am going to address you a few lines to let you know I am well and hope this may find you and my dear son the same. We are still in the same place yet and any quantity of mud and rain. It commenced to snow and rain last night and has continued ever since. It seems as though it rained on purpose so as to keep us here in this misery and mud. I am going to send you John Straw’s letter but do not let living person see it as it is not fit to be seen and I am going to send one that I got from Jack Davis. I am in hopes that you may get the $2½ that I sent you but I feel some afraid of it as Mr. Austin sent $8.00 the day before I sent yours. He has had a letter today from his wife and she has not received hers as yet but still she may get it and Joseph Craige has not heard from his. He feels bad and I think that there will not be many that will send money in letters again as it is not safe to send it so far.

I sold my watch for $18.00 to get my pay on payday. I think I might as well make money as the rest of them. I bought 200 sheets of fancy paper and paid $2.00 for it and sell it for 2 cents each and I think I shall not send any more money this time as I think it not safe as there is so many that have not heard from theirs, as I think you will not suffer.

Dear Virginia, I should rather be with you at home and eat only one meal a day than to be obliged to stay here one year and I hope and trust in God that this cruel war will end so as I can return. And I know, dear wife, you will welcome the day if ever I do return to you and never part again.

There is no appearance of any battles as yet near us as it is impossible for the rebels to advance on us and I do not think that we will advance on them. You can see by the picture on this paper where we be. I have made a mark from Washington to about as near where our camp is as I can tell where we are now. The next place where we came to is Alexandria. I think this is handsome paper.

O, Virginia, I must tell you I got a letter from Mr. Demaning and I was glad to get it. Dear wife, I am lonesome by times for you as my thoughts wander back to you both night and day. And my dear little boy that I think so much of. Dear wife, these are trying times for us both to be parted from each other, not knowing but we never shall meet on this earth again. But dear wife, let us put our trust in Him that reigns on high. O dear wife, it seems curious when I think of by-gone days and of things that have passed and gone, never more to return again. But keep up good courage for the present as we have both been very lucky since I enlisted on account of sickness as I must expect to not enjoy good health all the time on account of being exposed to the weather that is so changeable—especially in the winter season. But spring is drawing nigh and I am glad of it.

Perhaps there will soon be some fighting to do. If we have to fight, the sooner the better and have it done with. But I honestly think we shall not see the end of this war for one year to come.

Dear wife, I shall get a furlough if there is any granted to the men but it is no use as yet for they will not grant any before we have been in the service 6 months. Give my love to all friends and may God bless and protect you in all your trials and bless you with good health. So no more this time.

From your loving husband, — James Delmage

¹ Camp California was the home of the 5th New Hampshire from 30 November 1861 to 10 March 1862 — approximately 100 days. The camp was described as an oblong square, the Sibley tents arranged in ten rows with five tents in a row.


Saturday Evening
Camp California ¹
February 22, 1862

Dear Wife and Son,

I commence this evening to send you a few lines to let you know I am well and hope that this may find you the same. I received your kind and welcome letter today with 6 stamps which makes 18 stamps I have received from you and I can assure your letters are welcomely received by me. Give my love to all friends and you are the only one that answers for all. I write so many I begin to think that I shall quit writing to all but you.

You spoke about answering Delias letters. I have written to her last. As for letting Mrs. Gear’s folks read my letters, you may do as you have a mind to about letting any person reading them — only the one that reads them to you.

There was great times here yesterday among the soldiers and we enjoyed our time very much. The New Hampshire Battery was here and had dinner with us and fired 50 rounds in their cannons and we supported them and had fifteen rounds of blank cartridges which made quite a noise. There is some talk of us going back to Washington and be Gen. McClellan’s guard but I do not think it is true for it is too good news as I think we shall go the other way towards Richmond.

You spoke about fancy paper. I do not know what you mean. I wrote you a letter that was written on a fancy sheet of paper with a map on one side which costs 10 cents a sheet and I hope you have got it as I should hate to have it lost. I did not send you only 4 letters this last week as I was on guard one day and could not write to you.

Our Second Lieutenant [C. O. Ballou] is discharged from our company and has gone in Company K as First Lieutenant and our Sergeant [R. G.] Austin in color bearer of the regiment.

I am glad that John Lawrence is promoted. ² They have to get the Claremont boys if they want a smart man. John Young is in the hospital yet but he is getting better and Albert Howe had a letter from his wife. She is in Rhode Island. There is any quantity of men here. Be sure and direct your letters to me in this way: James Delmage, Alexandria, Va., 5th New Hampshire Volunteers, Co. G, care of Captain [Charles H.] Long, and then I shall be sure and get them all. I have lost Jack Davis’ letter but I expect a letter from him every day and then I shall send it to you.

There is some stirring news here today. They say that the rebels are evacuating Centreville and it if it is so, we are off soon and I hope that victory will crown us as far as we advance on to them. I have sent a letter to Israel’s wife and let me know if she has got it. tell Israel he must let me know all the news. Kiss my son for me. We are going to have a general inspection tomorrow at 10 o’clock so no more this time. From your loving husband, as ever, — James Delmage

P.S. Goodbye dear wife and son for this time, — J. D.

¹ Camp California was the home of the 5th New Hampshire from 30 November 1861 to 10 March 1862 — approximately 100 days. The camp was described as an oblong square, the Sibley tents arranged in ten rows with five tents in a row.

² John W. Lawrence of Cos. E & C — a resident of Claremont — was promoted from sergeant to 2nd Lieutenant of Co. C on 16 February 1862. He was wounded on 1 July 1862 at the Malvern Hill and resigned his commission in October 1862.


2 thoughts on “1861: James Delmage to Virginia (Lattimore) Delmage

  1. Hi – one of the soldiers identified in this letter (Nathan Shea) is actually Walter O’Shea. You can see the first name is Walter in the letter image. I checked the 5th NH history and here is Walter O’Shea’s detail: O’Shea, Walter. 5th New Hampshire Infantry, Co. G; b. Ireland; age 19; res. Charlestown; enl. Sept. 27, ’61; must. in Oct. 12, ’61, as Priv.; wd. sev. Sept. 17, ’62, Antietam, Md.; tr. to Invalid Corp. Sept. 1, ‘63; to Co. B, 21st Veteran Reserve Corp.; re-enl. Apr. 20, ‘64; tr. to 5th Independent Co., Veteran Reserve Corp.; des. Sept. 29, ’65, Trenton, N. J.


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