1863: Henry Ephraim Beeby to Oscar Beeby

How Henry might have looked
How Henry might have looked

This letter was written by Sgt. Henry Ephraim Beeby (1836-1921) who was 24 years old when he enlisted 6/13/1861 at Syracuse, New York, in Co. B, 3rd New York Cavalry. He was later promoted to sergeant and reenlisted as a veteran in January 1864, mustering-in as a 2nd lieutenant, Co. F, 22nd NY Cavalry. Henry was captured during the Battle of the Wilderness and confined ten months in the Macon, Savannah, and Columbia prisons before he was paroled and returned to duty.

He was promoted to 1st Lt. in April 1865 and remained with the 22nd NY until mustering out at Winchester, Va., 8/1/1865. He married in 1864. In 1880, he and his wife, Catherine (Devendorf) Beeby (1838-1922), were residing in Hastings, Oswego County, NY with their children: Florence (1866), Mary (1868), Charles (1870), Nellie (1873), Kittie (1875), and Fred (1879). Regretfully, his pension file is missing from the National Archives. His wife applied for a widow’s pension in 1921.

A biography for Henry reads:

Beebe, Henry E., was born in Hastings on the farm he now owns in 1836, son of Jacob Beebe, who was born in England. The grandfather, John Beebe, was a farmer. Jacob was one of six children, came to the United Sates when he was eighteen years old and settled in Hastings, where he spent the remainder of his life. His wife was Electa Snow, and their children were: Oscar, Henry E., Cornelia, Isabell, Mary and Nellie. In 1857 Henry E. went to California and engaged in mining. In 1861 he enlisted in Co. B., 3d N.Y. Cav., served two and one-half years, re-enlisted in another regiment in which he received another comission and served until the close of the war. At the Battle of the Wilderness he was taken prisoner and confined ten months in the Macon, Savannah, and Columbia prisons. After the war he returned to the homestead of 200 acres, one-half of which he purchased in 1883, where he has since resided. In 1864 he married Catherine Devendorf of Hastings, and their children are: Florence, wife of Dr. W.H. Conterman of Cleveland, N.Y.; Mary, deceased wife of Judsen Clark of Syracuse; Charles; Nellie, wife of Judsen Clark of Syracuse; Kittie, Fred and Edith. Mr. Beebe is a member of Isaac Waterbury Post, and has served as overseer of the poor, and is one of the Board of Excise commissioners. [Landmarks of Oswego County New York, edited by John C. Churchill, L.L.D., assisted by H. Perry Smith & W. Stanley Child, Syracuse, N.Y., D. Mason & Company Publishers, 1895. Part III]

Henry was the son of Jacob Beeby (1805-1882) and Electa Snow (1812-1882) of Central Square, Oswego County, New York. Henry mentions the recent marriage of his older brother Oscar Nathan Beeby (1835-1927) who married Josephine Elizabeth Gardner in 1863. Henry Henry went to the mine fields of California in the late 1850s but returned to New York to enlist in the service of his country.

1863 Letter
1863 Letter

Addressed to Oscar Beeby, Esq., Central Square, Oswego Co., N. Y.

Newport, North Carolina
June 14, 1863

Dear Brother,

I once more take my pen in hand to write a few lines to you and hope they may reach you all well. I have nothing to write but I thought I write a few words to let you know that I am alive and well.

It is raining like sixty here today. It has been very dry until now. We are still at our old place and how long we shall stay, I do not know or care much. We shall soon be on the last year and then a month counts. I believe I had about as leave stay here as anywhere and I hope they will let us stay.

There is plenty of new potatoes and peas here now and blackberries but I do not trouble them much. I suppose you are very busy training hops and planting tobacco now. I wish I was there to help you. Soldiering has got[ten] to be an old story and I am tired of it. I want to be relieved. I expect to hear every day that you and Jim has been drafted. You must not volunteer until I get home for it will not do to do too much for our country at one time. We must nurse the thing along — that is the style now-a-days.

What do you think of Hooker? It is a wonder his head hasn’t come off. He is like the King of France — marched up the hill with ten thousand men and then marched down again with not quite so many. I think they want the never-tiring 3rd New York Cavalry before they can accomplish and whip Old Lee. We shall have to come, I suppose. As soon as we left Poolesville, [Maryland,] they were there. They never tried to cross the Potomac when we — the 3rd — was there. But I have bragged enough.

How is Albert getting along I should like to know. And was Capt. Hopkins taken prisoner? I saw he was among the missing. I saw in the paper that Capt. [Ebenezer G.] Townsend of the 149th [New York Infantry] run and left his command. He use to be chaplain in our regiment. We did not think he amounted to much and I guess we were right. But that will do. ¹

I sent one hundred dollars to Father on the 8th of this month. You must let me know just as soon as you get it. As I have nothing more, I will close. Goodbye to you all, — H. Beeby

¹ Capt. Ebenezer [“Eben”) Grant Townsend (1813-1887) attended the Auburn Theological Seminary and then “went to Ohio and became tutor of Greek in Oberlin College, occupying rooms with President Mahan, and continuing his theological course with Professor C. G. Phinny. He afterward went to New Haven, Connecticut, and graduated in the theological department of Yale College. His first settlement and ordination to the ministry was at Michigan City, Indiana. Afterward he accepted a call to Sackets Harbor, New York, and at the same time acted as post chaplain to Madison Barracks, at that place. Here he continued a successful and pleasant pastorate for some ten years. Afterward was successively pastor of the church at Camden, Oneida county, New York, and Elbridge, Cayuga county, New York, till the commencement of the civil war in 1861. At this time he was invited and accepted a chaplaincy in a cavalry regiment known as Van Allen’s Cavalry, from which he was transferred to a captaincy in the 149th New York Infantry. He was first wounded in the neck at the battle of Chancellorsville May 3, 1863, in the same engagement in which Stonewall Jackson fell. He was afterward transferred with the Eleventh Corps, under command of General Slocum, General Geary being division commander, to the Army of the Cumberland. He was again wounded severely in the ankle joint at the battle of Lookout Mountain, being the first officer who fell on the Union side in that engagement, as was reported in the New York Times of that date, for which bravery he was brevetted major and transferred to the Veteran Reserve Corps, Washington, D.C. Here he continued in service until sent by military orders to Virginia to superintend the transfer from military to civil authority and the registration and first voting of the negroes in this State. Here he resigned his commission and has continued his residence to this time, but retains his ecclesiastical connections as an honored and the oldest member of the Onondaga Presbytery in Central New York. [Source: Hardesty’s Historical and Geographical Encyclopedia, H. H. Hardesty, 1884.]


Addressed to Mr. Jacob Beeby, Central Square, Oswego Co., New York

Pongo [Pungo] Landing, Virginia ¹
November 27, 1863

Dear Father,

I take my pen once more to write a few lines and hope they will reach you all well as it leaves me in good health. I have not been sick a day since I came from the Hospital. You see that we have moved again. Our company and C Company came here about a week ago or C is about twenty miles from us with the 81st Regiment and we are with the 98th [New York] Regiment. Our duty is to hunt guerrillas and protect the boats on the river. It is away out of the world but the boats run most every day to Norfolk. I shall go down today to draw forage and clothes and stoves for the men.

I should have written before but we have been scouting around every since we came here. We have nabbed twelve of the gentlemen and have got track of forty more that the company are going after tomorrow but I shall not be with them. It will take me two days to do what I have to do.

I received Oscar’s letter of the 17th [on] Tuesday and was very glad to hear from him. Just ask him how the married life suits him. I suppose it suits him. It can be no other way now.

Father, I have sent $140 which you will find at the Express Office in Syracuse. Tell Mother to please send my box to Norfolk. It will come very quick and I can get it any time. I have no news to write so I will close. Give my respects to all inquiring friends.

Direct to Norfolk, Va. Your most obedient son. Goodbye.

— H. Beeby

¹ The Yankee post at Pungo Point was at what is now Old Pungo Ferry Road in Virginia Beach on the east side of North Landing River.


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