This letter was written by Hugh Morison Ives (1841-1908), the son of Rev. Caleb Smith Ives (1797-1849) and Katharina Duncan Monson (1806-1883). It is believed that Rev. Ives celebrated the first Episcopal rite of Holy Eucharist in the Republic of Texas in Matagorda, Texas, in 1838. He and his wife operated the Matagorda Academy. Hugh was born in Texas. By 1860, the widow Katharina and her children lived in Orange, New Haven county, Connecticut, where she worked as a school teacher.
Hugh enlisted on 28 July 1863 as a private in Co. B, 6th Connecticut Infantry. He was promoted to corporal on 1 December 1864 and to First Sergeant on 23 May 1865. He mustered out of the regiment on 21 August 1865 at New Haven, Connecticut.
Hugh’s letter summarizes the three battles in which the 6th Connecticut participated during the month of May 1864 after joining Butler’s operations on the south side of the James River and against Petersburg and Richmond. During this time, the regiment was commanded by Col. Alfred Perkins Rockwell. The engagements included the Battle of Chester Station on 10 May, 1864, and the Battle of Proctor’s Creek, May 12 to 16, 1864.
Chester Station, Va.
Sunday morning, May 29th 1864
My Darling Mother,
It has been almost an impossibility to write at all. I have not written anyone but you. The work is so tedious and there is so much to do. I am working all day and watching almost all the night for an attack. What little rest I get is upon the damp ground and my gun in my arms. I could write you all and everything about the battles we have been in but it would worry and make you more uneasy so I will write little or nothing about them. I will give you the number of actions and how many officers and men lost. I have been in three distinct fights which lasted from 4½ to 7 hours. I was in the last fight which lasted from Thursday morn to Monday night when we were obliged to (“Skeedaddle”) retreat in great haste, losing a large amount of ammunition and provisions. Out of 36 officers, we have 12 left. Men killed, wounded and missing nearly 300. This is all I will write you about it.
It—the regiment—is doing fatigue duty at present. I have not written you as I wished I could have done. They have been short and soiled and untidy but circumstances would not permit me. I thought if you knew I was safe and well, you would excuse all the rest which I hope you will. I am excused today so I will try and write you a good letter.
I am very weak and am completely worn out. My strong constitution is broken down, I fear, past recovery. The sun is much warmer here than on the [Hilton] Head. There we had the sea breeze at all times and it was quite cool in the shade but here we are upon the mainland and get no breeze and the heat is very severe. It affects my head. We are constantly moving from place to place but my direction is the same. You must not think strange if a little time elapses between my letters and the answers to yours for I will write you every chance I have. We may be upon the march or on board of a transport or in the battlefield so you see I could not write you. And let me beseech you, my dear and devoted mother, not to be uneasy or worry on my account. Mother dear, my life is sweet to me. You, sister and brother love me and you may be sure I will not expose or hazard it in the least so I will be more happy and contented if I have to remain in the service if you do not worry or give yourself any uneasiness about me.
You have better apply immediately for the relief money due you. I would rather Dr. Richardson would do the business with the Secretary of War than Mr. Woodruff. I would not seek him (Mr. Woodruff) again. I pray this matter will be settled before long to our entire satisfaction. I wrote you my Colonel’s name is Redfield Duryee (a free mason). My Captain was killed.
When you write to Hattie, tell her I cannot get time to write her please. The mail leaves here everyday at 2 p. m. and arrives every day at 8 p. m. Hoping to hear good news soon and that this will find you in good health as it leaves me at present. I am, dear mother, your affectionate son, — H. M. Ives