1862: Unknown Soldier to brother

First Maryland Reenactors
First Maryland Reenactors

The identity of this soldier has not yet been discovered though my hunch is that he served in the 1st Maryland Infantry. The letter is incomplete, consisting only of the first sheet of what was probably at least a two sheet letter. It is addressed to his “dear brother” but the content suggests the recipient was more likely a brother-in-law. The author claims that he has an older brother named Samuel who has “left for the West” and only one sister named Maggie — neither of whom correspond with him very often.

The First Maryland Infantry (Union) served during the summer of 1861 in Frederick, Maryland, and then along the Upper Potomac where they guarded fords and ferries throughout the fall and winter of 1861. By mid-January they were encamped near Hancock. The author datelined his letter from Camp Wilson. I could find no camp by that name but the Major of the First Maryland was John W. Wilson and the camp may have been named after him.

Written not long after hearing of the fall of Confederate Forts Henry and Donelson in Tennessee, the author opines that the war is likely to be over “very soon….by the way they are flailing them around.”

The author also complains of drunkenness among the officers of his regiment. The captain of Co. G, 1st Maryland Infantry, James S. Baer, was a notorious drunk and was eventually court-martialed. So was Capt. Henry Haugh of Company B.  One source states that if soldiers were able to smuggle whiskey into camp, they would invite their officers to join them so as not to be disciplined if caught drinking. [Source: By Legal or Moral Suasion Let Us Put it Away: Temperance in Baltimore, 1829-1870, pg. 216]


Camp Wilson near Hancock, Maryland
February 22nd 1862

Dear Brother,

I received your kind and welcome letter this morning and was very glad indeed to see a letter from you once more. It gave me much pleasure to see it although it was short.

I have the same opinion about the war being over very soon for I don’t see how it can last much longer by the way they are flailing them around. Romney [Virginia] is a good ways from here but still we will be a little closer together than where we are now. But I think we will move to Hagerstown before very long. There is some talk of us going there on next Monday for provost guard [duty] and I am glad of it for we have trotted along the Potomac till I am sick and tired of the God damned thing. I hope it might be soon ended but I ain’t tired of soldiering yet. But we have such a hell of a time with our officers for they are drunk all the time and they have us out drilling in wet weather a little more than dry for there is a good deal of we weather here and as sure as there is a nice day, we can all lay in our tents and play cards and so on. And when there is a wet day comes, then we have to go out and drill.

You said you didn’t think that Beck and Josey was very well matched for Beck was the oldest. The age don’t make much difference. I suppose they didn’t look to that for they had a very long courtship at any rate, and I think they will get along very well together. Beck is one of my best correspondents. I get more letters from her than I do from Maggie — my only sister — and she lets me know the particulars too. I haven’t had a letter from Maggie for a month, I guess, and I haven’t had one from Samuel since he left for the West. And I always think that he is the oldest and I think he might write first, but I shall write him a letter some of these days for I suppose….[rest of letter is missing].


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