1863: Elias French to Family

How Elias might have looked
How Elias might have looked

This letter was written by Elias French (1838-1933) of Co. H, 11th New Hampshire Infantry. He mustered in as a private in September 1862 and mustered out June 1865 after nearly three years’ service during which time he participated in the Battle of Fredericksburg, Burnside’s Mud March, the Siege of Vicksburg, the siege of Jackson, the siege of Knoxville, the Battle of the Wilderness, Spottsylvania, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg.

This letter is undated and may, perhaps, only be the last two pages of a four-page letter since there is no dateline. Based upon the content and the regimental history, my hunch is the letter was written in December 1863 after the siege of Knoxville but before Longstreet was driven out of East Tennessee.

Elias was the son of Jesse French (1795-1892) and Ann Chamberlain (1813-1897) of Plainfield, Sullivan County, New Hampshire.

To read other great letters from the 11th New Hampshire by a soldier named George Morgan, see When I Come Home.


[Dateline missing]

… I did think at one time that we should go back to Baltimore and stay this winter but Grant says there can [be] no troops leave this Department until Longstreet is drove out of East Tennessee.

All of the 9th army Corps that have been out here two years and over are enlisting again for three years. Our regiment is trying to get a chance. Do you think I had better enlist for three years more or wait until I get through with the first three? Those that enlist over get $400.00 bounty and 90 days furlough — 30 of it to home and the rest in their state.

I think we shall get furloughs in our regiment again as soon as it gets so we can travel from here to Cincinnati. You can’t imagine how bad the roads are down here this time of year. One day it will be froze up solid and the next the mud will be two feet deep.

I guess you worry yourselves too much about me. If I get so sick that I can’t take care of myself, I will be sure and let you know it and it happens so sometimes that I can’t write for quite a number of days, but that no need to hinder you from writing. A letter directed to the regiment will always come to me. Have you sent them gloves yet? They don’t get along here yet.

I am going to try and write oftener than I have and wish you all would. I have been paid off for September & October so I suppose the allotment will be there soon. If you want any money to use, take it.

Give my love to all, — Elias French


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