These three letters were written by Allen Joseph Clifton (1843-1931) of Co. B, 51st Pennsylvania Infantry. Allen mustered into the service in October 1861 and he mustered out in October 1864. Though he claimed to be 20 years old when he entered the service, he was actually just under 18.
Allen was the second son of Alexander James Clifton (1814-1868) and Sarah Ann Nagle (1820-1905) of Easton, Northhampton, Pennsylvania. The first son, Sgt. John L. Clifton (1841-1924), also served with Allen in Co. B, 51st Pennsylvania.
In 1870, Allen married Mary Alice Mettler (1850-1906); they lived the remainder of their lives in Northampton County, Pennsylvania. In 1870, Allen worked on the railroad at Easton.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Headquarters 51st Regt. P. V.
June 23rd 1862
Yours of the 11th was received on the 21st. I was very glad to hear that you was all well. Yours found me in excellent health. It had been some time since I had heard from you. Them dried rusk [hard bread] were very good. I put a couple of pieces in my coffee mornings and it made me feel good all day. The rest I give to a very sick man. He is getting well very fast. He says he believes he would have had died if it had not been for that.
So John is daddy. Is he well now? I declare I am [an] uncle. I want to know how it is coming on in your next letter but I won’t buy it a new dress because John would not let me name it. He named it Jennie. You think that I and John don’t agree together why we are the best of friends but I must give him a blowing up once in awhile to keep my hand in.
So the Lehigh [River] got its back up once and tore out things generally. Well I suppose it wanted to keep up with the times — war times, I mean. ¹
I wrote you some ½ dozen letters asking in every one where Andrew was but you have not answered my question yet. I would like to know where he is. I will give a few nicknames so you will know who I mean. General Burnsides we call the Old War Horse and Gen. Reno we call Papa Reno. The Old War Horse is laying off on his ears. He ain’t doing anything at all. We had [a] Grand Review on the 20th. There was about 12,000 soldiers there. Burnside was presented with a sword that day worth $800.
There’s nothing going on on around here at all — nothing that we hear of. John was reduced [in rank] because he was out in town and stayed over his time. You say that I am lazy. The boys say I am lazy. I begin to believe that I am lazy.
Give my love to the family. Your affectionate son, — Allen J. Clifton
I received them stamps & paper. Don’t send me anymore papers. If you want to send any papers, send me the New York Ledger or the Mercury or the weekly. We have to pay 10 cents apiece. When you send them, get 4 or 5 together and make a package of them, or any way — I don’t care. Direct to Allen J. Clifton, Co. B, 51st Regt. P. V., Col. [John F.] Hartranft, Burnside’s Coast Division, Newbern, N.C. Via New York
¹ A freshet on the Lehigh River caused significant damage to Easton, Pennsylvania, in early June 1862. The water reached the second stories in the lower part of the town.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
March 10th 1863
I now take this opportunity of writing you a few lines. I am now in Barracks. I passed one night in them miserable tents. I was examined yesterday and was sent to quarters. The greater part of this Barracks were sent to their regiments!
It is a snowing here right smart. I think when I get examined again that I will go before the 2nd Board. I am about as well as can be expected under existing circumstances. We get plenty to eat.
I wrote a letter to John and did not get an answer. Is he at home yet or not? He left here last Friday a week ago.
In two days will be your birthday. I will celebrate it as well as I can. How is the family? All well or not?
I forgot my furlough the day I left. Keep it in readiness to send to me when I write again for I can draw some money on it — ration money. I got nothing more of any importance to communicate so I will close. Give my love to all and nothing to outsiders.
Your affectionate son, — Allen J. Claflin
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE
March 20th 1863
I received your kind and welcome letter yesterday. I am very glad to hear that you are well. I suppose you had a splendid time at that supper. I wouldn’t a mind having been there myself. I am sorry to hear you sent that furlough to Washington for it was worth $10. Try and get the Post Master to get it back.
We have awful weather here. It snowed today again and it is pretty cold.
I am also glad to hear that you was pleased with my picture.
So Aunt Soph wants to know all about me. Tell them all you know and a little more too. If you wait till I come home, I will go out there with you.
My back is pretty bad yet and my arm is getting worse. Tell me what [2d] Lieut. [Robert M.] Burrell said about me. Did he say he would do anything for me if he could? I would like to know.
I have nothing more particular to write about so I will have to close but I think there will be something in a few days. We will be examined again pretty soon. Give [my little sister] Lillie a kiss for me.
Your son, — Allen J. Clifton