1862: Leroy Weller to Theodore Vembley Weller

These two letters were written by band member Leroy Weller (1843-1894) of the 48th New York Infantry. He mentions fellow band members, Stephen B. Bennett, James C. White, and Eloin K. Mandeville. The band was mustered out of the service in the fall of 1862 under General Orders No. 4, War Department, dated 17 July 1862. [Note that most records indicate spelling of surname to be Weller, though Leroy wrote the name as “Wellar” on the envelope addressed to his father.]

Leroy enlisted as a private on 9 September 1861 at Havana, New York at the age of 17. He was the son of Theodore Vembley Weller (1815-1888) and Catherine Bennett (1819-1876) of Veteran (Millport Post Office), Chemung County, New York. Leroy’s older brother, Edwin Weller (1839-1908), served with the 107th New York Infantry, rising in rank to 1st Lieutenant.

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TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Addressed to T.V. Wellar, Esq., Millport, Chemung Co., New York

Port Royal Entrance, South Carolina
January 9th 1862

Dear Father,

Your letter of the 26th come to hand night before last and I was glad to hear from you once more and also to hear that you are all well. There is not much to write about — only that we had a small fight with the Rebels above Beaufort on the mainland the 1st in which the 47th and 48th New York and the 8th Michigan was engaged. Three of the gunboats was along. They took the ferry and one big gun that was in the battery that commanded ferry. After the ferry was taken, our men landed and went over to the woods which was about 3 miles from the river. When they got there, the Rebels sent a volley into our ranks but did not do any damage — only killed one man in the 8th Michigan and wounded one in our regiment. Our men did not return the fire for they could not see the Devils, the brush was so thick. Nor the Rebels did not fire on us again. Our men did not come to the boat until the next morning. Then they all come on board & the gunboats shelled the woods for about two hours steady. We come back to Hilton Head that day and left Stephen’s Brigade down at the ferry to hold it.

Mary wrote that you was not Depot Agent any longer. I am very sorry to hear such news as that. What are you going at now? I have got 25 dollars to send home and Monroe has got 50 dollars to send. It is so near our payday now I think it would be best not to send it until we get paid again and then we can send it all at once.

The officers say that they have sent for a new set of horns for us but the general opinion is that it is not so. The new set of horns that was sent to us was not so good as the old ones. The band plays very well but it would play better if the Boys all liked their leader. They don’t care how they play. I don’t think I will hurt myself blowing for 17 dollars per month (would you?). The Boys are all well but cross as Old Harry. If you see anything about discharging bands, write about it and send the paper that has it in. I think Congress will discharge them for I don’t believe that they think they are any good to the army. Tell Edwin to write. No more this time. Write soon.

From your affectionate son, — Leroy


TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO

Dawfuskie [Island], South Carolina
February 8, 1862

Dear Father,

Your letter of the 26th was received with great pleasure and I was glad to hear that you are all well. There has quite a change taken place since I wrote you last. On the 25th of January while on parade, one of General [Egbert L.] Viele’s staff brought orders for us to march to Seabrook which was 4 miles from our camp and from there take the steamer Winfield Scott for parts unknown. So we packed up and at noon started. We got to Seabrook at dusk and stopped over night. We had to sleep just where we could get a place so Jim White, Stephen Bennett, and I strolled around and found some cotton sacks and so we made a bed and slept there all night.

Got up in the morning and got a cup of coffee for my breakfast and then the band played two or three tunes and then put our baggage on the boat. The boat started about 4 o’clock in the afternoon up the creek toward Savannah. At dusk we had got up where we could see Fort Pulaski very plain. We stopped there all night. In the morning I woke up and found that we had advanced up the creek about ½ a mile and stopped. At eight o’clock A.M. we started on up the creek and in trying to turn a bend the old Winfield Scott got aground so hard that she could not get off and the tide just commenced going out so that made it worse for the old ship. You know that she come very near sinking in the storm of November 1st. And after the tide got most out, the old Winfield Scott began to crack in the center. As soon as she began to crack, we landed on the island which is about two miles long and one wide. It is called Pine Island. It took a good while to take off all the baggage. And just before we got all the stuff off the old ship, broke in two. So there we was on a small island, exposed to an attack at any time from the Rebels, for we could see the Devils about 4 miles from us.

We had to stay there until the Mayflower went up about 2 miles and landed one company of the 3rd Rhode Island which is to erect a battine so as to work on Fort Jackson near Savannah, and also land some artillery. It was two days before she got back to take us to our destination. That was the 29th. We got all landed about 8 o’clock in the evening so we had to pass the night on the boat. In the morning we started down to the lower end of the island where we landed  the right wing of the regiment two days before and landed. We took our quarters in a cotton house where we could look on the old Scott which was high and dry up on the shore, broke in two. That is what they call getting shipwrecked on land. The old [Winfield] Scott has an engine worth 150 dollars. We left a dozen men there to guard her until Gen’l Sherman could send a gun boat up to guard her until they could take her engine out and other stuff. ¹

We stayed at the lower end of the island two days, then started to the other end of the island which was three miles. When we got there, we found the 7th Connecticut Regt. encamped close to our camping place on Dawfuskie Island, S.C. about 7 miles from Savannah by going up to the beach where General Viele is staying. We can see Fort Pulaski very plain and can see the guns on the fort. Also the dirty rag a flying and a sentinel walking. We can see Savannah by climbing up a tree very plain. Our gunboats — six in number — lay off in the channel which after we get the Battine done are to help work on Fort Jackson and if they take it the Rebels might as well give up the city for then Fort Pulaski can’t do a thing. We are between the two forts and they are so far apart that they can’t help each other.

You wished me to tell you how E. K. Mandeville come to get his discharge. Well, I will tell you. Ever since we got to Port Royal he pretended that his ankles was so sore that he could not do duty and his being a true mason and the most of the officers, he was excused from duty. And he has been a figuring for his discharge ever since he first got to Port Royal on the grounds of disability. And I think he was just as well as any of us. Did you ever know that he had both of his ankles broke? If any of the Boys wanted to jump with him, he was always ready and could beat anyone at it. I will bet he can walk to Havana and not feel it come to the conclusion he got his his discharge for disability. I will tell you more when I come home which I think will be in a short time. You say you think of going to Pennsylvania the 1st of April. What do you think of doing? I should think you would hate to leave the old city of Millport.

The box you sent us has not got here yet but I think it is at Hilton Head and will get to us soon. I have talked with Charles King about the horn and he said he did not want to keep the horn but Mike told him he must keep it until our new horns come which they did about a week ago. We got a whole new set and they are good ones. I don’t think we can fetch them home with us for the officers say they are going to have a band if they have to pay them out of their own pockets, so they will retain them. I have not paid anything on mine not I shant until I know how things is going. I was very sorry to hear of the death of Aunt Sophia. It is singular that none the rest had it. The Boys is all well and things is going off some better since E. K. M. went home. I think I have wrote you a long letter this time so I will close.

Excuse my bad writing for my pen is not worth a straw. Write soon. Goodbye.

From your affectionate son, — Leroy


¹ In his book, So Rudely Sepulchered: The 48th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment (pg. 67), Luis Evans wrote, “Meanwhile, the wing still aboard the Winfield Scott [which included the band] now found itself in an unfortunate situation. The ship had become stuck on an oyster bed shoal that protruded from Long Pine Island through ‘Pull-and-be-damned’ creek. As the tide went down, the ship broke in the middle and, thus, left the men stranded on that barren sea island. Fortunately, there were twenty days rations aboard the ship and all were saved. The men had to await a new vessel to rescue them and to pass the time, they found entertainment amongst the local wildlife. A goat was located and adopted as the regimental pet. Eventually the steamer Mayflower arrived to pick up the shipwrecked members of the regiment, and it transferred them and the regiment’s supplies and luggage to Dawfuskie Island at a point known as Cooper’s Landing. The wing remained in that location until February 1st when it joined the other wing at Dunn’s Plantation. A fine, permanent camp was erected near a wood and back from the river…”

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