1865: John S. Tenbrook to his friend Wesley

This letter was written by John S. Tenbrook (1836-1913) of Cambria, Niagara County, New York. He enlisted as a private in the 23rd New York Battery in August 1862, was promoted to corporal in June 1865 and mustered out with the battery in July 1865. His enlistment record states that he was born in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania; his occupation at the time of enlistment was farmer; and that he had blue eyes, brown hair, a light complexion, and stood 5 feet 8 inches tall.

John was the son of Matthew Tenbrook (1803-1887) and Mary Ann Sample (1808-1884). He married a woman named Margaret (1836-1913) in 1866.

Background to letter:  At the end of February 1865 the port city of Wilmington had fallen to Union troops under the command of Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield. Schofield was then to move his forces inland from the coast and join with Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman’s forces at Goldsboro, North Carolina, where three Union armies would move against a Confederate army being gathered under Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston. Schofield, with the units from Alfred Terry’s Expeditionary Corps, moved north from Wilmington, while Maj. Gen. Jacob D. Cox took his XXIII Corps division and sailed up the coast and landed at New Bern, North Carolina.

At New Bern, the Union forces were increased to three divisions and formed into a Provisional Corps with Cox in command. Moving towards Goldsboro, the Union forces repaired the railroad which was to function as a supply route for Sherman’s Army Group. Johnston’s army was too far away to move against Schofield’s divided forces, but General Braxton Bragg’s forces, falling back from Wilmington, were within striking distance. Bragg moved against Cox near Kinston. [Wikipedia]


Newbern, North Carolina
February 10th 1865
23rd New York Battery

Friend Wesley,

I read your kind letter with much pleasure some time since and have put off writing from time to time. I was glad to hear from you and know that you are well. I am well at this time and hope this will find you the same.

The weather has been fine here this winter. We have had some cold weather for this place but no snow.

I had a letter from Arthur this week. He said it was cold there. There was one of our boys come back from a furlough. Said the folks was all snowed up. I don’t see how the boys stand it that goes home on furlough. I am glad that Jerome Worden ¹ has got home. He had been wanting to go for some time. There is some 6 at home now. William Delaney is all that is from our part.

We are having troops coming in here now. I think there will be a move made here before long.

There was some engineers and pioneers here last week fixing the old railroad that runs from here to Wilmington. There is 100 of the men here yet the talk is that there is 3 brigades coming here. The men that is here look rough, I tell you. It makes one look hard to be at the front, laying out in the dirt. Some of the soldiers in this place you will see have standing shirt collars on and look like clerks in some store. But those poor fellows has saw hard times, but feel well and hurrah for [John M.] Schofield.

I had a letter from Jesse Kieffer ³ yesterday. They still stay at Fort Stedman yet at Petersburg.

Write soon. Truly yours, — John S. Tenbrook

¹ Jerome Worden enlisted in the 23rd Battery at age 19 at Wheatfield, in August 1862. He mustered out three years later.

² William Delaney enlisted in the 23rd Battery at age 22 at Wheatfield in August 1862. He mustered out three years later.

³ Jesse Edmond Kieffer (1841-1924) of Lockport, Niagara County, New York, enlisted in October 1862 with the 19th New York Light Artillery. He served with the unit until it was mustered out in June 1865. 


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