1864: Henry Erastus Richmond to Harriet (Smith) Richmond

These letters were written by Henry Erastus Richmond (1822-1896) who, at age 41, mustered in as a 1st Lieutenant in Co. A, 11th Artillery on 21 June 1863 to serve three years. This company became Co. I of the 4th New York Heavy Artillery when it was reorganized. He later rose to Captain of the company and Major in the regiment.

The regiment served as heavy artillery and infantry in the defenses of Washington until 1864. It then joined the Army of the Potomac at the beginning of the Wilderness campaign and took part in every important battle leading up to the final surrender at Appomattox, being attached most of the time to the 2nd corps. It gained a splendid reputation as a hard fighting organization, being actively engaged at the Wilderness, Spottsylvania, the North Anna, Totopotomy, Cold Harbor, assaults on Petersburg, Weldon railroad, Deep Bottom, Strawberry Plains, Reams’ station, Amelia Springs, Deatonsville road, Farmville and Appomattox Court House.

Henry wrote the letters to his wife, Harriet (Smith) Richmond (1824-1896) whom he married in 1844. In the 1860 US Census, the Richmond family was enumerated in Riga, Monroe county, New York, where Henry worked as a Justice of the Peace. In that same census, we learn that Addison H. Richmond was Henry’s 12 year-old son. Addison would have been 15 when these letters were written and I don’t see any evidence that he served in an official capacity with the 4th New York Heavy Artillery. Most likely his father paid him to assist the officers with camp chores.

See also—1864: Henry Erastus Richmond to Harriet (Smith) Richmond

[Note: Letters 2, 3, & 4 are from the private collection of Jim Doncaster and are published by express consent.]

Letter 1

Fort Marcy. Va.
February 10th 1864

My Dear Harriet,

Yours of the 4th and 5th came to hand in due time Monday 8th affording much pleasure as I had been waiting with anxious expectancy for two or three days. I don’t know whether I can answer all your questions or not but will try to answer in order to gratify your curiosity.

I suggested the “Ball” or “hop” in a high degree. I danced 2 figures only—the Lady was a Miss Amanda Crocker brought there by Mr. and Mrs. Church, & introduced to me for protection during the evening. I found her to be highly social & very interesting—was good looking—light complexion, auburn hair, large blue eyes—in form & size small & a perfect figure; on the whole, a “polished diamond.” The supper was discussed in a genteel manner & elicited much praise & compliment from the little miss. On ascertaining that I was a married man with “11 children.” she seemed much disappointed. Yet she said I was “very much of a gentleman” & didn’t care if I was married. I will tell you the rest some other time if this does not satisfy your curiosity.

In regard to money, I can get along pretty well until next pay day by letting my board run behind until that time which I can do just as well as not. Still if you should succeed in getting any of the accounts & have I to spare, you may do so. Have Carver bring your 5 cords of wood & have Hadley put the pump in.

I am sorry you did not get my letter. I sent by [First] Sergt. Bruce Harrington ¹ on the 28th of January.

Addison continues to feel contented & is in the enjoyment of good health. If he does not think to speak of our health, don’t be concerned on that score. If anything is the matter, it will be mentioned. Hanford gets no worse—his name is forwarded for discharge.

I am sorry you begin to feel “old age” creeping upon you. I feel myself as if the “poetry of life” was giving place to stern reality. Why shouldn’t I, when I think of “Bloomers,” & the like. I hope you can soon begin to ease up on your excessive labors—at all events I would occasionally get help to do large washings & big jobs of heavy work. I can’t bear the idea of your growing old. As for myself, I know the years are creeping on with their contributions, cares, & pains & depressing influences—this I expect with the changes incident to my life. A well ordered life will do much to avert a drooling premature old age. This shall be my study & aim. But to lose the ideal of my youth & manhood in a rheumatic old woman in unfashionable “Bloomers” is horrifying—excruciatingly mortifying.

Let us both aim at a youth fun outward appearance & with hearts still untouched by the gloomy tinging of despair or ugly hues of jealousy, we can be ever young—ever hopeful—ever happy. You will see I have enclosed my “Valentine,” expressive of my real sentiment. How do you like it? Tell me in your next. I have not had an opportunity to get anything comic for the children. It is possible Addison will find one tomorrow so as to send in time. He has a good many letters to read & does well in answering them all. We both are feeling tip top.

Tell grandmother her cake has just given out. “Ad” gets along first rate without daintiness or whining. The coffee is good. Enough bread, meats, beans & soups. On the whole he is a going to stand the dare well. I offered to let him board with the sergeants where they take the rations & cook them in good style for $6 per week—a very good table—but he is too saving to do it. Said he had rather have his $6 every payday than the board. I don’t know of his spending a cent at the sutler’s yet. I appreciate the advice of yourself & Sarah to him. It serves to nerve him up & make him hopeful. Continue to do so. Give this ten center to Saint to but the “Nick Nack” or use as he pleases. Tell him to not misuse the cow but to take good care of her. Sarah, let me hear from you. Your letters are always acceptable. Our love to you all. Addison wishes to be remembered to you all in love. Good night. A kind good night as ever.

— Henry

P. S. Excuse jokes & my play when your curiosity. I think you can go the 18th if you can get a good beaux or “very much of a gentleman” to escort you. We have a “hop” at Ft. E. Allen on the 18th also. More anon.

¹ Bruce Harrington enlisted at age 20 in June 1863 to serve three years in Co. A, 11th Artillery, which became Co. I, 4th New York Heavy Artillery. He was promoted to First Sergeant before being killed in action on 25 August 1864 at Reams Station, Va. He had previously served in Co. D, 14th New York Infantry.

Letter 2

Camp 3 miles in rear of Petersburg, Va.
November 2, 1864

My Dear Harriet,

After writing you a hurried letter Sunday evening, I immediately went out on picket & for a short time in the evening we had a spirited time along the lines in consequence of thew Rebs coming into our lines in some force & very cooly & ingeniously began to relieve them one post after another until the game was discovered when our men began to open on them, which caused a general fusillade along the lines as usual is such cases. I suppose, as near as can be known 30 or 40 were thus relieved in the darkness of the night, and by a rope the “Johnnies” had for them to take hold of were directed into their lines (so goes the story). We captured a few of them in return, however which made a pretty even thing.

The “Johnnies” have since helloed to our men wishing to know if we didn’t want them to relieve us? Rich, wasn’t it? This occurred about a mile below us on the left of Fort Motron. We were soon relieved by the 2nd Division, 2nd Army Corps, coming to take our place in the fort & on the picket line.

Monday morning early we left Ft. Morton & camped during the day in rear of Ft. Haskell where we were mustered for 2 months more pay. Addison from some cause did not come up. Perhaps he mustered there—he being detailed in the sanitary cook house under the charge of one Mrs. Hancock as I learned from young Farewell who saw him last Saturday 30th in good health.

Monday night 11 o’clock P. M. marched 4 miles & camped here—our Brigade 1st—being held as a reserve. We are on the Norfolk Railroad, south side, & about 3 miles from Petersburg. For the 1st time in a long while, we are away from the screaming shell and whizzing bullet.

Yesterday and today, have been full of life and activity in arranging camp and putting up permanent quarters. It is said the most of the troops have had orders to built winter quarters. One or two artillery regiments have not, however. Yet, we are putting up good log quarters that will make us comfortable. I don’t think much more will be done this fall in active campaigning around Petersburg or Richmond at all events until after election.

Harriet, it does seem good to have one night’s good rest & free from the excitements and orders incident to the soldiers life at the front. I know it would seem still better to enjoy the comforts of home and feather bed snoozes for a short season, warm slippers, & a few evenings of social chat by our own fireside with companion & children. As the long, tiresome, wasting campaign of the past summer & fall are about to close, and ourselves given a few hours opportunity to reflect upon their sad experiences, Oh! with what feelings of gratitude to our Heavenly Father do I life my heart in thankfulness & prayer to Him, that we have been thus far shielded by His goodness & mercy from injury or death. With what feelings of sadness do I travel back & review the cruel, bloody scenes of the past summer. And with renewed love & interest, how fondly do I turn my thoughts homeward—the brightest spot of my whole life—and wish myself with dear companion & loved children.

These long seasons of hardships & struggles, although hardening in their tendencies to some only serve to renew my attachments for home & home influences—friends & loved relatives. And methinks it may be thus, when life’s toilsome business is dine, our hearts may be made better & Heaven rendered to us truly serene & happy. Let us hope for this & toil for its realization. At all events, let us make our budget of cares so light that they wukk not trouble our friends or neighbors, I have come to the conclusion that I will nt make myself a pack horse for imagined troubles at least. And, give me back my family & home enjoyments, & I think I can appreciate them without murmurings, or repining at the heartlessness of supposed friends & the world.

One day’s freedom from the strain of duties in the field—in garrison & in the rifle pits–gives a wide field for thoughts and feelings to play. But time even now admonishes me. I must restrain from both & bring these lines to a close.

Today is cool & rainy, with a prospect of bad weather & muddy roads. Should our Brigade & Division remain quiet for a season as is now talked, I shall try and get a leave of absence ere long to make you & the children, Fathers and Mothers & relatives a visit. I am in hopes I can write you some news in my next that will be of more interest to you. In the meantime, hoping to hear from you all often, & of your continued health and happiness. You must receive by assurances of as in the past, of fidelity and love. As ever affectionately yours, — Henry

P. S. I almost forgot to say I am tip top in health with an appetite adequate to all the biscuit & good cookery my cook can furnish. We live well and still look well (?) of course.

Letter 3

Headquarters 4th New York Artillery
December 28th 1864

My Dear Harriet,

As tomorrow will be my usual time of writing & as my boy goes to City Point tomorrow, I thought I would employ the few moments I have this evening (after a busy day in business & drills) to talk with you. I suppose you are having pretty good winter weather up there, but here it is now warmish, frequent showers & quite agreeable. We have had some cold nights—say about 18 or 20 degrees above zero or perhaps 10 degrees below freezing point—yet with all the cool weather we have had the army is making it hot for the “Johnnies.” They seem to be coming into our lines more now than usual and we all begin to feel as if the shell of the sham Confederacy was being effectually broken. A few more raps, or one vigorous summer’s campaign will use up the rebellion & restore an honorable, lasting peace to our afflicted people.

I certainly feel encouraged and glad to know you appreciate a “husband”—“a good looking husband” who is “in the Army.” Harriet, I shall never regret the labors & hardships I have endured in the service, if I can but get out alive—with the loss of one army or leg even—for I shall then know I have served my country well in the most just and holy cause in which a people ever engaged—to preserve their nationality & institutions of freedom, civilization, & learning. Besides, I shall also feel as if I have discharged my duty to my family in promoting their interests & welfare, although our present absence seems to be so grievous & productive of unhappiness. Let us hope still for reunions & brighter days & years of golden promise.

An item in confidence. I got a letter from your Uncle Hanford—the one I expected on business—& it is just the thing. I showed it to the Maj.—Williams—-& he told me he would do all he could for me when I desired. That he would take my application in person to General Miles & try & put it through successfully. I told him I did not want it until we mustered & got the company business completed for the last quarter of the old year. He told me he hoped by that time I would have my commission of Captain here, as he had sent for it. I understand by Maj. Gould that I am the only one Williams has nominated & that I am to have his old Company K to command. If so, I wish to remain until it comes so I can “muster in” before leaving. Wouldn’t you? On the whole, I can see it has thus far been for the best that I have been disappointed. Harriet, as you say, our disappointments sometimes turn out for the best. I shall try and sell the shop when I get home—if I do.

It is now raining hard—very dark, yet comfortably warm in my quarters without a fire. But must hurry to a close by wishing continued happiness, contentment, and a safe accumulation of wealth to you all—financially, physically, morally, & intellectually, which God in his goodness has bestowed in mercy & full measure. Again, adieu. Believe me as ever affectionately yours and the children. while life remains, & ever in the bonds of love, — Henry

N. B. I set a $10 greenback to you in my letter last night. Acknowledge the receipt of same as soon as received.

Letter 4

Headquarters 4th New York Artillery
March 15, 1865

My dear Harriet,

Wednesday eve has come quickly—almost too soon, to find myself in just the fit mood to have an agreeable talk with you. Let me explain why. Last night I was up with a company at the breastworks until daylight & with the usual excitement of receiving “marching orders”—making the necessary preparations for a summer’s campaign by cutting down baggage, assorting, packing, & sending all surpluses to the rear—fixing up papers & forwarding monthly returns, all serves to make me feel tonight like going to rest, & getting sleep that has not visited my eyelids for one good half hour for the last 36.

Last night we received orders to send all surplus baggage to the rear, then to be in readiness at a moment’s notice for a march—sutlers ordered to the rear & the army stripped fairly for action & active campaigning. This looks like soon doing something. We are still under the same orders but may not move after all—& yet ere this reaches you we may be on the gallop for Johnnie’s works somewhere. May our condition not be long worse than mere marching. Well I have sent the old trunk to the rear with 2 blankets—my blanket pants—pillow, overcoat & a few [ ] articles—have rolled the new sword in the cloak, cape, & got it ready for Addison to take to City Point tomorrow, as he is now here with me, having come up this noon with my boy who went down yesterday. “Ad,” like myself, is tip top * of course good looking in proportion to our good feeling. If Addison should be obliged to, he will Express the sword, cape & belt home; but for the present he will keep them at Miss Hancock’s.

The weather is a little threatening tonight & there may be no move for a few days. I have no letter from you since yours of 6th. Shall look for one in the morning. “Ad” tells me Sarah has written him. This is encouraging & gives me much more hope. Harriet, I am too sleepy to continue so will bid you all a kind good night & trust to luck in finishing this tomorrow.

May God’s guardian care be over you all.

March 16th. A warm cloudy day—threatens rain some. Addison left for City Point this P. M. at one o’clock feeling like myself—tip top. No great indications of a move today. The order to strip the army & put it in a condition to move & in fighting trim was, I guess, only preparatory—not for a sudden or immediate move. Yet we must expect to leave our good quarters and pleasant camps for the field & hard campaigning soon.

I have reconsidered my hasty step yesterday. Sent today & got back my trunk & have put 3 blankets & my old silk sash in a box to Express to you as they may do more good so than to be left somewhere to be received next fall. The cloak, cape, & sword & belt, Addison took to City Point and will Express them home, if necessary.

No letters from you today. Hope to see one tomorrow. If you send a greenback, let me know, will you? Lt. Burghardt is well pleased with his Churchville correspondent. I received from him a vignette of M. J. H.—a fine one.

Harriet, the woolen blankets now are 7.00 so you need to be choice of them. I had a fine visit with Addison. It is now most dress parade time & must close as I often have to take charge of them as senior officer in regiment being now senior Captain present.

But the call sounds & I must again say my hasty kind adieus. As ever in love, — Henry


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