1861: Joseph Leavitt to Sarah Leavitt

Leavitt Headstone at Arlington Nat’l Cemetery

This letter was written by Joseph Leavitt, the 19 year-old son of John Leavitt (1798-1871) and Eunice S. Shaw (1801-1884) of Portland, Maine.  Joseph enlisted on 23 June 1861 as a private in Co. G, 5th Maine Infantry. He re-enlisted on 28 December 1863 as a veteran and was with his regiment at the Battle of Spotsylvania where he received a mortal gunshot wound on 18 May 1864. He died on 15 July 1864 in the First Division General Hospital at Alexandria, Virginia.

Joseph had an older brother named George Washington Leavitt (1835-1862) who served  in Co. F, 5th New York Infantry who died on 30 August 1862 in the Second Battle of Bull Run.

Note: The Special Collections at the University of Virginia Library has a ledger which contains transcriptions of all of Joseph and George Leavitt’s Civil War letters entered by their father, John Leavitt, in October 1865 “because they are of value to me and I was fearful that they might get mislaid.” 

Patriotic Cachet on Leavitt’s letter


Camp Franklin
St. John Seminary, Alexandria, Virginia
November 10th 1861

Dear Sister,

I received your kind and welcome letter of October 20 and would have answered it before this but I did not know how to direct one to you so I had to send home to get them to tell me how to direct it to you. I am well and hope this will find you the same.

Last Friday we was paid off twenty-six dollars — two months pay — and this morning I sent home ten dollars of it to Father in a letter. I would have sent home more but there is a great many things that I would like to have to wear such as boots and gloves and a lot of other little things. We have to go through a knapsack drill every morning from nine o’clock to twelve at noon and a company drill every afternoon from three to five in the evening and every Sunday morning have an inspection of arms and our clothing and have the laws of the United States read to us and they are strict laws to go by. There is one thing and that is this — we have a plenty of clothing. But there is some little things that we need but the men ought never grumble of the care  that is taken of them because Uncle Sam is a good provider and a good pay master.

I do not wish to go home now till this war is over and I am bound to stay. I would like to see you all again and I hope I shall too. You know that I am in a place where there has got to be another battle and I can tell you it is not going to be another Bull Run fight but going to be a long and bloody one. I don’t believe this will last much longer.

I received a letter from George and he wrote that he was well. Give my love to mister Stevens and to the children. If you receive this I want you to answer just as soon as you get it.

From your affectionate brother, — Joseph Leavitt



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