1861-3: Lemuel Martindale Bolton, Jr. to Family

These three letters were written by Lemuel Martindale Bolton, Jr. (1844-1865), the son of Lemuel M. Bolton (1811-1857) and Mary (“Polly”) Flagg Taft (1808-1900) Heath, Franklin County, Massachusetts. Lemuel’s brothers — both mentioned in these letters — were William (“Bill”) Henry Bolton (1840-1912) and George C. Bolton (1846-1924). William served in Co. D, 22nd Massachusetts.

Lemuel enlisted at age 17 in Co. F, 10th Massachusetts Infantry on 12 September 1861. He reenlisted in December 1863. He returned home in February 1865 to marry Martha Lucy Spooner, the daughter of Nathaniel Wales and Persina (Brooks) Spooner, on 21 February 1865.

Returning to the battle front in Virginia, Lemuel was transferred to 37th Mass. on 19 June 1864 and killed on 6 April 1865 in the Battle of Sailor’s Creek near Jetersville, Virginia, just days before Lee’s surrender.

The first two letters were written from Camp Brightwood which was on the location where Fort Stevens was later constructed north of Washington D.C. The 10th Massachusetts is credited with much of the construction of this fort — originally named Fort Massachusetts.

The third letter was written from the winter quarters of the 10th Massachusetts near Falmouth, Virginia, where they endured severe February weather, settled into a routine of fatigue and guard duty, and longed for boxes full of goodies sent from home.

The encampment of the 10th Massachusetts at Brightwood in the fall of 1861 before the winter barracks were constructed (image from Regimental History)


Washington [D. C.]
December 19, 1861

Dear Mother,

I received your very interesting letter yesterday and read it with great pleasure. I am well and am glad to know that you are the same. We are having easy times at present. The captains drew lots to see who would have the duty to draw logs for barracks first. It happens we are the last and se we do not have to do anything but drill one hour in the morning and have dress parade which takes about a half an hour. We have cut some logs but the boys think that they will buy boards to build barracks with. It will cost them about one dollar and fifty cents a piece.¹

The report is again that we are a going to Kentucky to join General Buell but I do not believe it.

I had a piece of Aunt Sarah’s cheese she sent to Harry Utley. I had a letter from Aunt Sarah yesterday. She said they were all well and that Bill was there and stayed a couple of days. She said they had killed all their hogs and she had made a lot of sausages and if I come home on a furlough she would expect me to eat some with her but I do not think I shall eat any sausages up north at present. I shall never come home until I come for good unless some of you are dangerously sick. Then I shall apply for a furlough.

I see a piece in the paper that the ladies in Heath are getting blankets for the soldiers. They can do just as they are a mind to. You need not send me anything until after payday. Then I shall want some things if you have a mind to — that is if I send you any of my money home — if I am alive and well. You think myself grown old in that picture? I think that looks just like myself and so do all the boys. I wish you would send me your picture and I would like [my brothers] Bill’s and George’s too. Their fare from home down here and back would cost about forty dollars. If Bill can raise it, I think he had better take a trip down here if you can afford it. But I do not believe you can and so I will be contented without.

We are all well and like first rate. I believe that is all I have to say at present. I will send a paper today. I sent one yesterday.

From your affectionate son, — L. M. Bolton

Brother George, I received a few lines from you by the way of mother’s letter. I should like to go to that donation party to Mr. White’s but I do not care anything about it.

We have some pretty good times. We get a fiddle and the boys dance and tell stories and pass away the evenings first rate. I am glad you like your school. You must attend to it steady. Your school days will be your best. I did not see it so when I went to school but come to get out in the world, I can see that I was wrong in improving my time more than I did when I went to school. You say you want to buy my skates. You need not pay me anything for them if you want them or anything else — that is, if mother is willing you can use it for all I care.

I never see anymore pleasant weather that it is down here. We have not had any snow yet. I received your letter the other day and sent two papers full of pictures. You have not said anything about receiving any papers. I have sent seven or eight picture papers. I do not know where my skates are. I wish you would make me a present of a couple of eye stones — they would be very useful to me because the boys often get something in their eyes. You must write. Tell Bill to write. I have not heard one thing from him. I have no more room to write.

From your brother, — Lem

Write soon.

¹ The regimental history (pg. 47) states that, “During December the Regiment applied itself diligently to the building of barracks, it becoming quite evident that the winter would be spent in Brentwood. Tents could not keep out the cold of a Washington winter and more substantial provision was made. Subscriptions were taken up among the officers and men for the purchase of boards and nails for roofs, bunks, etc., and all the expense was borne by the men from their scanty pay, as well as for the small stoves that were to hear the interiors. Some part of the small outlay came out of the respective company funds. Some companies had one long structure for the entire membership; others built a number of smaller huts; equal to the needs of the men occupying them. The body of the structures was made in real pioneer log-house style, the material being for the most part cottonwood, the same being easily cut or split.”



Camp Brightwood
Washington D. C.
December 26th 1861

Brother George,

I received your letter of the twenty-third and read it with much pleasure. I also received a letter from Judson.

We have moved into our barracks and have plenty of room. Charley Robbins ¹ and myself bunk together in one bunk. We are quite comfortable in the daytime, but not so nights. It is pretty cold nights after the fire goes out. Mr. Powers thinks that box will start soon. I wish you would send me another comfortable. I received a pair of mittens on Sunday. I wish you had put the forefinger on. I cannot handle a gun with them very well.

Mr. Powers says the folks are a going to send the box to the regiment. If so, all right, but if they want to send it to the boys they had better direct it to some one of the boys from Heath. It will not make any particular difference which one but if you direct it to the regiment, it will be given to anybody and we shall not get anything.

We have not got our hut quite done. We have got plenty of room. I wish you would send me a box of butter and I will pay for it as quick as we get paid off. It i most payday again the first of January, but they will probably run over a few days. Dick is a going to send for some butter. I wish you would send me some and get it off Mrs. Robbins. That is the best you can get around there. Yesterday one of the boys had a box from home with a big turkey, a molasses pound cake, and a lot of cookies, so we had something for Christmas. There is sixteen of us in one house and when we have things from home, we divide and so we all enjoy it.

Dick was here to my bunk last night. We was on guard Christmas. I think I shall get a pass to go to the city after we get paid off and then I shall have something to write about. But the first thing I do after I get paid off will be to put thirteen dollars certain — if not more — and send it home.

I am glad you like your school this winter. I hope you will get through your arithmetic. Does George Kunnum go to school? Tell him he must write to me. There is not much going on here. I don’t think there is much chance for us to have a fight. I think we shall stay here this winter. I wish you would send me the Greenfield paper instead of the Sun. Why don’t Bill write? I have not heard from him for a long while. Charley [Robbins] is a going to write home today. I guess he will send for some butter and other things. I must go and help build a cook house. I believe I have given all the news.

From your brother, — Lemuel M. Bolton

Please write soon and all the news.

I will try to explain the hut. I wish you would send some needles and thread and some old rags to clean my gun if you have a lot of them.

That stove takes in two feet of wood. I mean two feet long.

December 27 — I went to brigade drill today. There was five or six regiments commanded by General [Erasmus] Keyes. We started about 8 o’clock in the morning and got back about one o’clock. I wish you would send me an eye stone. It would be very useful to me.

¹ Charley Robbins, b. Deerfield. Farmer. He mustered out on 16 July 1865.


Patriotic Cachet on Bolton’s stationery

Camp near Falmouth, Virginia
February 26, 1863

Dear Mother,

I received your kind letter last night and now sit down to answer it. It is a rainy day. Co. F is on guard in camp. We have had a large snow storm since I last wrote. I am well. I should think the Heath boys were getting pretty well thinned out. I hope Mr. Warliell will come down and see the boys. He can get here if he wants to. I should like very much to see him or any of the Heath folks.

I have not received the money you sent me yet and I guess never shall. It is the first and only letter that I ever lost. I wish you would send me one dollar the next time. I have had to borrow envelopes to send my letters in. We shall get paid, I think, about the last of March. There is four months pay due the first of March.

Somebody has told Mr. Powers that I played cards for money? You must not worry about any rash stories for they are lies. I would like to know who it was that started such a report. If William does not think enough of his brother to write to him without urging, let him do as he pleases. In regard to my sled, tell George if he wants it to write to me and I will tell him on what terms he can have it. I do not think I shall ask a price high enough to make him fail trying to pay for it.

I wish I had friends enough to get me a Second Lieutenant’s commission in one of those nigger regiments now forming in Massachusetts. It would suit me first rate.

If you send a box, you had better direct care of Rev. George Cook, Washington D.C.

I must draw to a close. Written in haste. — Lem Bolton

[J.E.B.] Stuart’s Cavalry crossed the river yesterday and our cavalry are after them now. More stamps.

A drum belonging to the 10th Massachusetts



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