1864: William Henry Mix to Eva Knapp

Lt. William Henry Mix (1864) — NY State Archives

This letter was written by William Henry Mix (1840-1922) of Warsaw, Wyoming County, New York. His parents were Charles Knight Mix (1814-1877) and Caroline M. Worden (1817-1855). In his lifetime, William was employed as a dry goods merchant, a farmer, and a real estate agent.

William H. Mix enlisted as a private in Co. K, 2nd New Hampshire Volunteers on 21 April 1861 serving with the unit for over two years. He survived a chest wound received at the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863. He was later offered a commission as Lieutenant in Co. I, 19th U.S.C.T. [Colored Troops] and mustered in at Camp Stanton, Benedict, Maryland on 9 January 1864.

The 19th Regiment left Camp Stanton at the end of April. The men marched to Baltimore, where they boarded ships which took them to Annapolis. The Regiment became part of the newly-constituted Ninth Army Corps under General Ambrose Burnside. The Ninth Army Corps consisted of four divisions. The Fourth Division under Brigadier-General Edward Ferrero consisted of two brigades, each containing four regiments of U.S. Colored Troops. The 19th Regiment was part of the Fourth Division’s 2nd Brigade under Colonel Henry G. Thomas.

The Ninth Army Corps marched from Annapolis to Washington, D.C., where they were reviewed by President Lincoln as they passed in front of the Willard Hotel. The soldiers then continued across the Long Bridge over the Potomac River and into Virginia where it joined up with General Ulysses S. Grant’s Army of the Potomac. As Grant fought his way south towards Richmond and Petersburg during May and June 1864, the 19th Regiment saw action at the battles of the Wilderness, Spottsylvania, Topolotomy Creek, North Anna, Cold Harbor, and Old Church. Arriving at Petersburg, the 19th Regiment joined other Union troops in the trenches outside that besieged city. During the siege of Petersburg, the regiment saw action at the battles of Weldon Railroad, Poplar Grove Church, and Hatcher’s Run. The 19th Regiment’s largest battle was as part of the Union Army’s July 30, 1864 assault against Confederate forces outside Petersburg, Virginia. Many of its men were killed or wounded. The assault was later popularly known as the Battle of the Crater.

This letter was written just 10 days prior to Mix’s capture while leading black troops into the Battle of the Crater on 30 July 1864. Mix was first confined in Macon, Georgia. By November he was imprisoned at Columbia, South Carolina. He was paroled after six months and eventually mustered out of the service on 15 January 1867 at Brownsville, Texas. [Note: The New York State Library houses 15 of Mix’s letters written during the Civil War]

William’s bother, Lawrence Wesley Mix (1843-1923), served during the Civil War with Co. D, 12th Infantry Regiment, US Army. He was slightly wounded on 18 August 1864.

Mix was married to Susan (“Susie”) Helen Yeaton (1843-1894) on 8 March 1864 at Portsmouth, Rockingham County, New Hampshire. Susie was the daughter of Moses Yeaton and Caroline Norton.

Mix’s aunt, Roxcynthia Wordon Knapp & daughter May Evelyn Knapp (ca. 1847)

Mix wrote the letter to May Evelyn (“Eva”) Knapp and her mother. Eva was born on July 9th, 1844 to Charles Harlow Knapp 1803–1894 & Roxcynthia Matilda Worden 1811–1894. Though Mix called them “mother” and “”sister,” they were actually his aunt and first cousin. Eva married Alvah C. Manson (1841-1922) in December 1866.


Addressed to Miss Eva Knapp, Warsaw, Wyoming County, New York

On Picket east of Petersburg, Va.
July 20th 1864

I wrote to you July 4th. Today is the 20th & no answer yet! Does your long dark-haired lover keep you too busy writing to him, Eva, that you cannot drop a word now & then to favor me?

Susie’s mother is sick & like a dutiful little girl that she always was, she has gone home to take care of her! Had she not gone under the circumstances it would not have been Susie. Even as my own little sister Cass would have done whether visits to her husband’s relatives which she had looked forward to with much pleasure had to be deferred to some indefinite period or present visits cut short. Had this not have happened Susie would have made you a long visit & I know she would have enjoyed it and as well as you for I am certain you would have liked her. But of course you would have looked upon her with different eyes than a devoted young husband’s whose chief wish is her happiness.

She has had an awful time with her teeth & finally wound up in having them filled or extracted. Specie is very high now & she has had to use up what money Uncle sent her for that & other things. She is such a sensitive little thing. She has not asked me for any more yet I know she wants it for one thing especially for her mother sent her ten dollars for a new summer dress. But filling her teeth cost so much she says confidentially, “Henry, I think I will go without the summer dress as I have had no use the money mother sent me for my teeth instead of the purpose she sent it for & know one will know the difference but you & I & I must economize as it is so hard for you to get money. You have not been paid off in so long a time, my little husband.”

Now I want her to have this dress & some other things for I am a little sensitive on some points as you well know. I would not have some meddlesome acquaintance of hers closely scrutinize her clothes & discovering a dress she had turned(and she has to my knowledge) or an old one she had _____ seen them circulate the report that Susie’s husband is a mean, sneaking fellow & does not give her money enough to buy her decent clothes &c.

Of course Susie says Ma thinks of all this but it trying to piece here and darn there to economize all she can. Yet you mother & Eva too know the verdict of the people who are always prying into new married people’s private affairs instead of attending to their own concerns. Tell me am I not right in saying this of them! Well, I think so & will you please tell Uncle I am much obliged to him for sending Susie 30 dollars which arrived safe & I would like to have him send her as much more immediately if possible. If not, as soon as he possibly can, & the moment the year is out, to withdraw the money he lent of mine to Markham & send it to my wife, though perhaps you had better get the first and send it on before you speak about the latter to him for I am quite anxious that she should have it soon — i. e., the 30 dollars. Direct to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Box 900. Perhaps it would be well to send it in a check as you did the other if it does not cost much, as it may be safer.

We have not been paid off yet. Nearly five months pay [is] due. I hope that the bankers in New York will agree with our new Secretary for another loan so that he can pay the army the sooner. The better for us & many poor privates whose dependent families must be suffering. I have not yet seen Wesley since I wrote you last for we have been backwards & forwards from the James River to the Weldon Railroad almost ever since we have been here. Ah! that reminds me in the still hours of midnight last night, I heard the long steady roll & quick puff of heavy loaded trains on this road owing to the 6th Corps leaving from our left. The rebels hastily repaired it. We have been throwing up some very heavy forts all the way round our lines front & near, connected with rifle pits. We have just finished an immense fort capable of holding 3 or 4 thousand fighting men with flanking rifle pits on either side. This is back ¾ of a mile. The thousands of gabions being & already manufactured betaken ___ advance mark for us before a great while.

Eva Knapp (ca 1860)

I have not seen Capt. Knapp since I wrote last or your lover, Eva. Don’t mourn about him, little one, for he is not in much danger as long as he keeps his place on the staff in battle. He is back to the rear with his guard keeping up the stragglers.

Oh! how I hope Wesley will be spared a short time longer. If I am not mistaken, his time is up in August. Then, if he lives, won’t there be a warm meeting in Warsaw. Bully! Think of it, mother. Three years without seeing friends & a mean boy too — fighting all the time so bravely, almost to death. I am proud of him if he is my brother!

When you write, tell me all the Warsaw patriots who of late fear the draft, have managed to go through the war for a few days — say 100 for instance. Regards to all enquiring friends & do please write when you can if you are not sick & I hope you are not. Still you do not write as of yore when I was impatient for your letters as I am now for my own little wife’s. Ma writes me usually twice a week while I answer her when I can. Your affectionate son & brother, — Wm H. Mix

Oh, give my congratulations to Mrs. ____ formerly Miss Bailey when you thought I was caught at once, Eva, when I was home on French furlough from parole camp. I forgot all about it before. How does Ed & his wife get along?

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