1863: Charles Kimball to George Russell

416 E. Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn today
416 E. Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn today — still a confectionary shop!

This “newsy” letter was written by Charles (“Charley”) Kimball to George Russell of Boston, Massachusetts, who served in Co. E, 44th Massachusetts Infantry. Charley gives his return address at the end of the letter as 416 Fourth Avenue. This was the address of his brother’s confectionary shop in Brooklyn. Charley informs his friend that he is still working at Clark’s in New York City but believes that he will soon lose his job when the firm loses its government contract. Unfortunately I could not identify this firm.

George Russell (1844-1891) was the son of Joseph G. Russell (1804-1893) and Catherine B. Watson (1807-1878). George married Anna Clara Holton (1849-1946) in 1867. George’s father was “a gentleman well known in Boston for his wealth and enterprise.” In February 1859, his “mammoth” Boston Steam Bakery on Commercial Street, just days in operation, was burned to the ground [see Boston Steam Factory Fire, 1859]

There is a collection of housed a a library (where?) under the heading “Letters to George Russell of Boston, Mass.” from his father Joseph G. Russell, his sister Levian (Russell) Dimick, Charles “Charley” Kimball, Mary Elizabeth “Lizzie” Dana (later De Cordova), George Wales, and others, primarily on Russell family matters, health, local news, education, and the Civil War. Letters from his father, sister, and teachers, written while Russell was a student at Bedford and Newton, Mass., 1853-1858, advise him to improve his character, stay away from bad influences, and quit smoking. The collection also contains letters written to Russell during his Civil War service with the 44th Regiment, Mass. Volunteer Infantry, and one letter from Russell at New Bern, N.C. describing the trip there and life at camp. Also included are letters related to his courtship of Lizzie Dana; letters from Charley Kimball about Kimball’s work, the Civil War and public opinion, political subjects, and mutual friends; and letters to Russell and his wife Anna C. (Holton) Russell from his father in Florida, 1888, 1893.

1863 Letter
1863 Letter

Addressed to George Russell, Esq., Co. E. 44th Regiment, Massachusetts V. M., Newbern, N. C.

New York
February 5, 1863

Dear George,

I was delighted on reaching home last evening to find your letter of the 24th ult., and I hasten to answer it. I am doing it at the store and not having anything but a pencil, I suppose that will not make any difference. I am very glad to hear that you are well and receive a “Blue Pill” — as you call them — in the next engagements. Yes, I see by the papers that your expedition is an immense affair and trust it will be successful — especially more so than the one that went to Charleston, for form the reports published in this morning’s papers, we have lost two gunboats, two set on fire, and the entire blockading fleet drove away. It has created great excitement in the City, but as it comes from Rebel source, I do not put much faith in the report. But as things have been going, I should not be much surprised if it was true.

I received a letter from Charley Silva the other day. He is in Newbern looking after the “Niggers.” Joe Sinnott is all “OK” in Boston and is soon to be “spliced” and may be a “Father” before long. I’ll tell you more anon.

Adams, I believe, is in your regiment and of course you know how he is. If by good chance you should see him, please remember me to him. I am still at Clarks but have got through with our government contract and I presume will have to leave next week although I have not received any notice to that effect yet.

We have been enjoying beautiful weather for a long time but day before yesterday it commenced to grow cold & yesterday it was only 5º above zero. Commenced to snow in the afternoon & we all thought that we were a going to have bully sleighing or some skating as we have only had one day so far this year. But it began to get warm about 6 o’clock & it soon set into rain & thus continues ever since. It’s warm as spring today. I don’t know what we will do for ice next summer. It’s considerable colder in Boston and I believe they have fine skating. Don’t you wish you was in “Cambridge” and having a “gay time” with the “girls and boys” Eh! They are having great times there now over “Little Mc.” The closed most of the stores there yesterday so the clerks could go and see him at “Faneuil Hall.” Among the firms that closed their stores I see Frothingham & Co. and most of the Franklin Street firms. Last night he was serenaded by all the bands in Boston at the Fremont House. It seems that McClellan has some friends in Boston. ¹

I suppose you know that Gen’l [Ambrose E.] Burnside has resigned the command of the “Army of the Potomac” and that little Joe Hooker has the command now, but my dear fellow, he will never be able to do anything more than the rest of the generals as long as the keep [Henry W.] Halleck and [Edwin M.] Stanton in office. McClellan was the boy and you see if they don’t have him back before the army takes Richmond. Gen’l Hooker has done nothing yet owing to the roads being in such bad condition, but we all live in hope.

My brother has sold out again and has given up housekeeping so I have no home now, but am contented as long as I have plenty to do. There is nothing new stirring here at present. Business is rather dull and there not being any skating, the young people keep very quiet. I will write as often as possible and will try and write something more interesting next time, but you will have to excuse this as I am up in the fourth story of our store sitting on a box, waiting for my man to return from dinner. I trust you will be able to read this and whenever you write home, please remember me to all, and whenever convenient, you must write me. If you would like to have me send you a paper now and then, I will do it with pleasure for I do not suppose you see a great many down your way.

So goodbye George, and believe me as ever, yours affectionately, — Charley

Direct 416 4th Avenue (the same as before)

¹ In a letter from Grace Heath, a Boston Socialite, to Col. Francis L. Lee, dated 15 March 1863, she described McClellan’s recent visit to Boston. A description of that letter reads: 

“In this letter, Grace Heath vividly depicts how General George B. McClellan, recently relieved of command of the Army of the Potomac, received an overwhelmingly enthusiastic welcome from many Bostonians when he visited the city in February 1863. She notes that “Beacon St. laid down and begged to lick his shoes,” while many women who met the handsome general “treasured up their gloves which had shaken hands with him.” McClellan had been invited to the city and given star treatment by Democratic supporters who hoped he would oppose Lincoln in the 1864 presidential election.

Members of Boston’s Somerset Club, a gentlemen’s social club in the Beacon Hill neighborhood, were among the “Mclellanites.” Earlier in the winter several supporters of the Lincoln administration abandoned the Somerset Club, forming the Union Club. This new club dedicated itself to promoting loyalty to the Constitution and unfaltering support for the federal government’s war policy. Heath displays a keen sense of irony as she comments that since the members of the Union Club were determined never to speak against the government, ‘shouldn’t you think conversation would flag.’ “

This letter is from the Francis L. Lee Papers. The collection contains numerous military papers generated during Lee’s command of the 44th Massachusetts, in addition to Civil War era correspondence. More can be learned about the life and death of Grace Heath in the Susan Heath Diaries.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s