This letter was written by Warren P. Searles (1842-1864), the son of Warren D. Searles (1814-1907) and Achsah (“Axie”) Spalding (1814-1889) of Nashua, Hillsborough, New Hampshire.
Warren enlisted in Co. C, 40th Massachusetts Infantry in August 1862. The regimental record indicates he was taken prisoner during the Battle of Drewry’s Bluff on 16 May 1864. He may actually have been killed that day; he was never heard from again. At the time he enlisted, he was living in Lawrence, Massachusetts.
Addressed to Warren D. Searles, Nashua, New Hampshire
Postmarked Old Point Comfort, Virginia
West Point, Virginia
May 2nd, 1864
We came up here yesterday. West Point is the same place it was last year. Nothing is changed. Our old fortifications are in good condition. We encamped within a hundred yards of where we were last year after we came in from our three weeks picketing.
We have one brigade here composed of the 3rd, 89th, 117th, 142nd New York Volunteers and the 40th [Massachusetts], all under command of Col. Guy V. Henry of our regiment. We got orders this afternoon to keep four days rations cooked and be ready to embark at any moment. Probably we shall not stay here long and we may go to White House or to Gloucester Point or Yorktown or any other place. Very few troops except negroes are left in the Department of the South now. Nea[rl]y all of them are in this army now and troops are coming from all quarters.
Unconditional Surrender Grant believes in concentrating his men so as to have a superior force at the point of collision and I think he will succeed in conquering Virginia this year. I shall not be disappointed if we have to move pretty often now for there will be any amount of maneuvering and marching and countermarching.
When we left Florida, blackberries were ripe — one kind. Oranges are ripe there in the winter and spring. They are sour and bitter and make a drink as good as lemonade. It is called “Orange Ade” and was sold in the shops and sutlers stores in Jacksonville in large quantities for a common drink. The sweet oranges are ripe in August and later. They are now as large as butternuts. Peaches were as large as walnuts though I never [saw] but one peach orchard there. Green peas were in their prime. Also many other kinds of green sauce. Strawberries are in bloom here now. Note the difference between this and Florida.
Everybody has taken cold since coming here. Sore throats are abundant. I think we shall get over it soon, however.
The boys keep telling wonderful, plausible stories in regard to our being mounted again soon and it would be no more than we have a right to expect.
I have see three torpedoes taken out of a shop here where they were nearly finished. One was placed under an old wharf today and fired and the wharf was “no whar” in a twinkling. The heavy timbers flew high in the air and if it had been under a steamer, it must have torn it to pieces.
We have not had a mail for today owing to our moving so often. I don’t know when this will go. I shall put it in the bag now and let it take its chance. I presume you will get [it] before many days. Write soon and let me know how you all are. Very respectfully, — Warren