Friday, May 24, 2013

Letters from a Maine Soldier - Part 2 - "I Sometimes Think I Ought to Have Staid at Home..."

This letter from Nelson Jones to his parents occurs about a week after the first letter he sent home. The short war thought to end at one great battle near Manassas, Virginia turned to a Confederate rout, with many of the Union troops in full retreat to Washington, D.C. Weeks afterward, blame was thrown around, and General Irwin McDowell was removed from command. Morale was low in the ranks, and Jones' letter reflects that general despondency. Many of the letters found in National Archives pension files, involves soldiers' pay being sent home to support his family. Thirteen dollars a month, a private's pay, was good money for many of the new recruits who had some from urban slums or as in Jones' case, a rural farming town. As before, I have used minimal editing to preserve the style and syntax of Jones' original letter.


Clermont  Alexandria  Virginia August 7 1861
Dear parents I seat myself down this morning
to write you a few lines to let you know I am
well and hope and trust these few lines will
find you the same.  I have not rec’d any letter
from home for some time but look for one every
day and I guess I shall look in vain. I wrote several
home since I have been here and have rec’d know
answer from them. I wrote one about the 26 of July
and enclosed five dollars in it to mother and sent
it about the 27 but I am afraid it got lost or some
thing or I should have rec’d an answer from it
before this time but perhaps it laid in the
office some time but before you got it. I hope you
got it fast I suppose you nead it worse then
I did it was main money that I swaped gold
for and I shall be sorry if it is lost but
mother don’t say nothing nor say you are sorry
for when I am paid of again I will send you
ten in the ____ of five and I shall be paid
of in about a fortnight or three weeks but
I was going to send that to father and I guess
I shall as it is for I suppose he would like to
have something to encourage him a little 5 dollars
or so and I will send it to you when I get it mother
I should like to see you very mutch to day and father
and all the rest of my folks oh. I should like to
be at home a few days this hot weather and see all
of my friends and folks that I used to love and
respect but I guess it will be some time first
fall I guess and not before but I am in hopes
to get a furlow for two months this fall if I can
so I can help you about your falls work and
help eat apples, and so forth I don’t know as
I can but it is so lonsome here that I do wish
I was at home or some where else for a spell but
I don’t wory any only I am afraid you will get
out of health doing your work alone I sometimes
think I ought to have staid at home and helped
you instead of inlisting and come out here to
fight and be run to death as we were at bulls
run there were more beat out and now are sick
in the hospital then there was killed in that fight
this reg is over half sick I guess or near that I guess
it don’t look mutch as they did in augusta. I
tell you there they were a fine healthy looking set
of men as you generaly see
but now they are scrimping around and look pale
as a piss a bed there has a good many gone home
out of this reg privates and all there has amost all of our
officers gone some companies aint got any officers every
one has resigned and gone home our company has not
got many lieutenants for they have got their discharg
and left but Capt lakeman aint gone and says he
wont till his company goes but the most of them would
like to go well enough if they could. Col’l howard
says they cant hold us but three months from the time
we were sworn in at meridian hill in Washington and that
was the 27 of june but I don’t know nor I dont mutch care
whitch way it goes I suppose I might as well be here as any
where but I dont like the plan of being run double
quick 7 or 8 miles when it was hot enough to roast
eggs out dores I am willing to fight any time but I
aint willing to be run to death and then have to
Come in sight of a battery to fight them with an old
musket as we were at bull run there was two batteries in
plain sight playing when us and our artilery was laying
still without any amunitions to fight with but when
 there is another attack made it will be in different style
then it was be fore that so or I will not fight but they
are going to take 200 00000 two hundred thousand men next
time and cannons to match them to there is going to be eighty
mortar cannons to throw hot tar in among their batteries and
forts to burn them  out and throw into the woods to set them
on fire Gen Skott says it was against his will to run men to death
as thy were run but he will bring it out all wright in the end
I think. father please write me how your health is and if it is hard
work for you to do the work all alone and if you can do your falls work
without hired help if you cant I will try and help you all I cane
towards your work.  I have not got know letter from you for some
time I dont know but you are sick or some of the family if so let me
know it and I will send some more money if I can hire it I almost wish
I had not enlisted sometimes and others times I do b__ aint agoing
to be sorry for anything I do out here I suppose you will think I am
homesick but you are mistaken for I aint but the same time I
should like to be at home a spell through the hot weather for it
is pretty warm through this month and next to the Virginians
say but I stand it well I was up to fast elswar the last friday
afternoon and saw a man hung, he shot a woman in cold blood
 and the he was hung for it as an example for all other bad
people or men like himself he belonged to the new hampshire
2 regiment and was a reckless fellow and was hated by all
who knew him I will close pretty soon by requesting you to write as
soon as you get this and write and let me know if you want some
help this fall and all the news Please write if the graps are good
and if apples is good crops this year tell silas I wrote a letter to
him a few days ago give my love to all hands and also to anson
and Lydia and Amelia and west Silas and mary, and all hands
Mother please write if you got that money but if you aint dont
go a man was arrested in new york the other days for Robbing the
mail and on searching him 3 three hundred dollars was found
on him and a berrel of letter he will be sent to state prison
for life if not hung he ought to be skun alive the miserable ____
I will close by requesting you to write or rec’d this letter and
for I want to hear to hear from you very fast Please Direct to Washington
D.C. 3rd Reg Company I Maine Volunteers From
your Son Nelson W Jones to my folks in maine

 Source: Nelson W. Jones Pension File, WC 19616, National Archives

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Nelson Jones - Letters From a Maine Soldier, Part 1

Nelson W. Jones, circa 1862.
(Maine Historical Society)
Nelson W. Jones was born in 1843 in Palermo, a rural town near Maine's rocky coast. His father, Nelson, Sr. was a farmer near the town. As many young men did at the time, Nelson enlisted in the 3rd Maine Infantry Regiment on June 4, 1861. During his time in the army, he wrote to his father and mother Hannah, multiple times. Here is one of the first letters after his enlistment, written after the Union defeat at the Battle of Bull Run:

[ed. note: all spelling and syntax have been preserved from the original letter.]


Claremount Virginia
July 28, 1861
Dear parents I will write you a few lines
to let you know I am well and hope thise
few lines will find you the same I was paid
of yesterday the balance due me from
maine nine dollars and I will send you
five of it I shall be paid from the United
States in about 20 days and I will send
you some more I am well and have
written to you third this week before and once
to Amelia I suppose you have heard of last Sundays
Proceedings old mcdowal is going to be hung
they say if it had not been for him we should
got the victory he has been courtmarshaled
and Seceasion papers found with him but generall
mcclelan is going to be our general now I shall have
to close as it is most mail time write as son
as you get this: From Nelson V. Jones To his parents
direct as usual Washington D C 3 reg Co I ME In

Source: Nelson W. Jones Pension File, WC 19616, National Archives