1863: Unknown Soldier to son

Unfortunately there are no clues that could aid me in identifying the author of this letter from a Union soldier to his young son “Little Fred.” Most likely the letter accompanied a second letter enclosed within the same envelope addressed to the boy’s mother but the 2nd letter and addressed envelope are missing.

The letter was written from a winter camp near Stafford Court House on 30 January 1863 — some six weeks after the Battle of Fredericksburg and only a week after Burnside’s Mud March. A significant number of the Union troops engaged in the Battle of Fredericksburg or who participated in the Mud March were camped near Falmouth, just across the Rappahannock River from Confederate-occupied Fredericksburg. A considerable number of Union troops were also encamped further north in the vicinity of Stafford Court House. One source places the size of the Union army (Army of the Potomac) encamped in Stafford County during the winter of 1862-1863 at 120,000 men (or roughly 120 full-strength regiments).

The author says that he thinks of his son and “the General” quite often; my assumption is that the General was the name of the family dog or horse. Since a comparison is made between his winter hut and a chicken coop, my hunch is that the author was from a farm or rural area. Based upon the author’s description of his hut, an educated guess would place him in the 17th Connecticut but this is only a guess. Readers may want to check out the letters of Willis McDonald of Co. F, 17th Connecticut for a comparison [see I Long to See You Again].

TRANSCRIPTION

Camp near Stafford Court House, Va.
January 30th 1863

Dear Little Fred,

Your Papa has not much time to write today and as he has written Mama quite a lengthy letter, I suppose you will excuse him if he only writes you a few lines. Papa thinks of you and the General quite often and wishes that he were with you. Mama writes all about your cunning capers and Papa imagines just how you look and act.

It is not very pleasant down here. The ground is covered with snow and the little hut Papa lives in is not much larger than a Chicking [Chicken] Coop and he sometimes thinks it not half as warm. We stop up one end with pine boughs and keep a large fire at the other end, and [even] then Papa does not sleep warm for he has to get up a good many times a night and warm himself by the fire.

You must know that Papa’s bed is not as cozy as yours for he sleeps upon a board erected about six inches above the ground so that in this muddy, stormy weather he can keep himself dry. It makes Papa’s bones ache sometimes and many nights he does not sleep well at all.

But Papa’s dinner is ready and he must draw his letter to a close. You must mind Mama and help her all you can. Papa went over to a house the other day and there he see a little girl just about as large as Little Sue — only her eyes were not near as black. You and Brother must play together and enjoy yourselves all you can.

From your Papa

Off to War

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