These two letters were written by Ebenezer (“Eben”) Buel (1827-1887) who enlisted at age 33 on 4 November 1861 at Westfield, New York as a sergeant in Co. B, 9th New York Cavalry. He later served as the quartermaster sergeant before being discharged from the regiment in February 1864 to re-enlist in the general service. He does not mention any fellow soldiers of the 9th New Cavalry.
Eben wrote the letters to his wife, Almira (1837-1915). Both are addressed to their home in Sheridan, Chautaugua County, New York. There is no mention of their son, Edgar Buel (1858-1895) whom they called “Eddie.”
Eben was the son of Joel & Hanna (Day) Buell. He was born 25 December 1827 in Essex County, New York. Before his enlistment, Eben earned a living as a carpenter/joiner. In the 1860 Census, Eben’s mother, Hannah Millspaugh (Age 64, a widow) was residing with Eben’s family in Sheridan. Hannah and her second husband, “J.” Millspaugh lived in Chautaugua County in 1850.
These letters were written just before and after the Battle of Fredericksburg. We learn from the first letter that Eben named his horse “Billy Seward” in honor of Lincoln’s Secretary of State. We learn from the second letter that the horses as well as the men suffered for lack of rations in the vicinity of Fredericksburg where the lack of forage and cold winter weather made for desperate times.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Addressed to Mrs. E. Buel, Sheridan, Chautaugua County, New York
November 20, 1862
Your more than welcome letter of the 9 & 10th came to hand on the 17th but in consequence of the frequent movement of the camp & the rain, I have not had an opportunity of writing till now. I wrote you from Aldie. We made a stay there on only one day. When finding the country free of Rebs, we moved to Hopewell — a little place in the mountains about 18 miles southwest from Aldie. Arriving just at dark & getting orders to move at 5 the next morning, we travelled all day in the rain and arrived here at night as comfortless as you could wish any poor devil to be under any circumstances.
We made the best we could of it, however, & in the morning yesterday shifted position once more. And though we moved only about 1 miles, still it was just as much trouble as tho we had gone a days march. It rained slowly all day & all last night & this morning it is pouring down as if the winter rains had really set in.
The boys are more comfortably prepared for such storms now than they would have been three or four days ago as we had shelter tents distributed to us. I suppose you do not understand the term “shelter tents.” They are constructed in pieces & buttoned together so that four pieces makes a tent that four men can lie down under & be quite comfortable. You may think a house only about five ½ feet square & all gable end at that — a small one for four men but I tell you it is a great deal better in this stormy weather than none.
I shall expect to hear from you at Albany by the next mail we get and am in hope everything may go as you wish. I got a letter from [my brother] Shaler ¹ the same mail that brought yours. They are all well. Mother seems to like living there better than she expected.
Royce also wrote about the same time that they had moved to Lansingburgh across the [Hudson] River from where they did live. They are just as conveniently located for you to find & perhaps moreso than if they had not moved. If you have not gone ere you get this, their house is No. 82 Congress Street [now in Troy] between North Street and Hoosick Street. You can take the Horse Rail Road from the depot at Troy & go right past their door. Royce is working for the Horse Rail Road Company.
My health is first rate save that I feel a little touch of the rheumatism since the storms have come on. The worst calamity I have to complain of is that “Billy Seward” — the poor fellow — has got so bad with overwork that he is so stiff & lame I am practically a dismounted trooper. He can only go at a walk. He has been a fine horse and has done me so good service I greatly regret to lose him. In fact, there is hardly a companion in the service whom I shall miss so greatly as he.
I do not know what move will be next made. Some are of the opinion we shall stay here a long time & others that we shall soon advance towards the Rappahannock by way of Culpepper Court House & the mouth of the Rapidan. All is uncertain but I hope ere we have to go to hear everything is right with us at Albany.
We do not get our pay yet and money is scarce as hen’s teeth. “Boots & Saddles” has just sounded & I must quit writing for this time.
P.M. The summons was to go out for inspection. We all fell in line and after standing in the drenching rain about an hour & ½ were informed that in consideration of its being a bad time for the troops to turn out, the inspection was postponed. All very well if it had come about 2 hours sooner.
I have just been informed that a large column of Gen. Burnside’s troops passed through Centerville on the way to Alexandria where they are to ship for Fredericksburg via Aquia Creek. I like the complexion of the movement & have some hope now that the war is going to be earnestly waged & that Virginia is soon to be reclaimed. Once the Rebels are routed from this state, they will soon fall a prey to the hosts that will hem them in on every hand.
I notice with deep concern the clause in your last [letter] relative to your throat. I hope, however, it is not as bad as I am led to infer from your account of it.
That effort that raised the money to hire substitutes that the draft might be evaded in Sheridan speaks better for the condition of their pockets that their hearts. I am glad they found the substitutes lest they might have brought dishonor on the town if they had come themselves. I’d hate to see a Sheridan man run.
Yours truly & affectionately, — Eben
¹ Shaler Buel (1829-1905) was married to Emily Kellogg (1829-1886) and residing in Titusville, Crawford County, Pennsylvania in 1861.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
Headquarters 9th New York Vol. Cavalry
Camp near Stafford Court House, Va.
December 19, 1862
Another day of anxiety has passed & still no letter from you or message comes to tell how you get along. Would that my presence could accompany my thoughts & how soon should you behold me at your bedside. When I when shall this wicked war cease that dear ones may again come to enjoy in peace that communion they now so much long after.
I sent mine of 18th by a friend who was going to the City of Washington, else I could not have sent it till tomorrow as there is an order from Gen. Burnside that no mail shall leave the army till the 20th. There will remain but four or five days of this month after you get this letter and if our matters have not already come to the result desired, you had perhaps — if you are able — go and see Gov. Patterson at Westfield and pay him his passage to Albany & back. If necessary, he will go and see the Gov. before his term closes and have our case concluded.
There are several more vacancies in this regiment which I will give that you may represent the case to him. There are the 1st Lieutenancy & also the 2d Lieutenancy in Co. F, the Captaincy in Co. K, the 1st Lieutenancy in in Co. L, the 1st Lieutenancy in Co. E. the 1st & 2nd Lieutenancy in Vo. G, and also the regimental Quarter Mastership. There is no doubt that if Ex-Gov. [George Washington] Patterson makes a personal appeal, Gov. [Edward Denison] Morgan will grant his wish. If as I once remarked we do not get a favorable issue to the matter before Gov. [Horatio] Seymour takes the seat of power in the state, the game’s up with us.
There is yet no definite report from the late battle but we met a serious repulse and for the present everything is in a state of uncertainty. There has just come orders into camp for all to saddle up & our squadron is to go out at midnight on a reconnaissance. I shall not go this time but remain to take care of things in camp. The roads are in a most dreadful state & a movement is a calamity — especially if in the night. The weather is cold & piercing — especially in the night.
I do not know how long we shall be here but most likely not a long time. I hope not for it is not possible to get forage for our horses. The country is so lean hereabouts, it affords no help and the going is so bad transportation for it cannot be got. Our horses have been for sixty hours without a mouthful of anything & they only get 5 quarts of oats at night & then in the morning & no hay or straw. What do the boys think of fattening horses on this amount of feed.
The men get served but little better than their horses having been two days without rations & several days on short ones. I was so fortunate as to get my rations being with the waggon train. Tell Eddie to eat apples everyday for Pa and try to be a good boy. I shall hope to get a letter tomorrow & hope to hear you are well again. Write oftener if you can.
Affectionately yours, — Eben