This letter was written by Pvt. Mark Langdon Elwell (1837-1906), the son of John T. Elwell (1790-1850) and Mary (“Polly”) Batchelder (1800-1888).
In 1860, Mark was enumerated in his mother’s household in Phippsburg, Sagadahoc County, Maine. After the war, became a dry goods merchant in Sedgwick, Hancock County, Maine.
Mark was married to Rose A. Friend (1866-1910) in 1860.
Mark served in the 4th Maine Battery during the Civil War.
The postage stamp and postmark have been cut from the envelope partially removing the surname of the friend to whom Mark directed the letter. Only “Mr. George W. Sm___” appears on the envelope but it was sent to the care of Robert J. D. Larrabee who was a supplier of artist’s music and sheet music. Mostly likely George worked for Mr. Larrabee. The recipient may have been George W. Small.
Camp 4th Maine Battery
City Point, Va.
May 2, 1865
I was much pleased (after waiting some time) to get a letter from you and find that patriotism still lingers in the City of Portland and where honor has been done to our great and good President. He finished his well begun work that was to crush out treason and as he said at the onset to repossess the forts of the United States. But they have slain the lamb and have forced out the lion at Washington and no small number of tigers under the man who receives once in awhile an army or so from very supple men such as Lee and Johnson adding some hundreds with them of the same style — only more so.
How do you get along on Union Street and over the store and across the street? How many letters do you pin up in the windows and what makes you think curlhead knew what it was. I suppose you think yourself a Yank. Keep on guessing. The world and the girls are somewhat sly than Miss Annie has been permitted. I am glad think she deserves the promotion. Singing at the church will not be so pleasant now for you but you have the same chance before you. You have the power to make a good singer. All you have to do is to persevere and no doubt but success will be yours.
George, what makes you think I received letters from — you know — when you promise you are a man to keep that promise. So am I. I shall soon be in Maine and as a citizen do not know as we shall be discharged in Washington or go to Augusta, Maine. It makes but little odds.
Let me tell you about three of us guarding a Union house full of girls. We — John M. & Joseph W. Akers & myself — some three weeks ago was detailed by the captain to guard a Union family about half a mile from camp. We took our traps and rations and arrived at the house about dark (of course we had our sabers or swords), marched into the house, informed the ladies that we had come as a safeguard to protect them from ill-disposed soldiers, [and] told them we wanted a room to stop in. They were much pleased and gave us the room. I wish I had room to tell you all that transpired in the ten days that we were there. Perhaps I will make room and tell you some things.
First let me tell you what they had around the house to be looked after. Cows that gave milk, hens, eggs, pigs, bacon in a barn and a nice beehive full of honey. This the soldiers wanted the most and last but not least, a hut full of Negro women (not slaves). This the soldiers — some of them — would use the same as they would some girls at the North who take things sometimes. Now you see what we had to look after. Our orders were to turn in at night any time we chose and if wanted, they would let us know for a large dog would give the first alarm.
The first two nights was quite still but the third night our watch (the dog) gave the signal of the advance of the enemy. They drove in our pickets and before we could get into line, they had charged on the black girls in the hut. But it so happened that a Negro man — a friend of theirs — came that night to stop with them and that checked the advance a little. By that time we entered the hut with drawn sabers and such a sight — the women half naked with such a noise. But at the sight of a saber, they were willing to stop and tell what was wanted. They turned it off by saying that one of their men had deserted and they had been told that he was stopping in this hut. We told them we did not believe a word of it and should take them as prisoners and deliver them over to Captain [Charles W.] White but after promising not to repeat it, we paroled them. Thus ended the third act.
The fourth night our four-legged sentinel gave the alarm but he was too late. The beehive was gone and some soldier got sweet enough to last him some time. The lady of the house was very sorry but did, nor could not blame us. We acted under orders and lots of little scrapes that would take much time and paper to write. But enough. We had a good time.
If Virginia is the Sunny South, I want none of it. Give me the rocky hills of Maine. Give me my home in Maine and away with all plantations. I shall expect a letter from you. Direct as before. My respects to all. I wrote Cosby and Leyman a few days ago.
Yours, — M. L. Elwell