These letters were written by Daniel Colby Currier (1841-1905), the son of Hiram Currier (1806-1881) and Julia Colby (1810-1880) of Grantham, Sullivan county, New Hampshire.
Daniel served in the Civil War, enlisting on September 26, 1862, in Co. I, 14th New Hampshire Infantry, and mustered out on July 8, 1865, in Savannah, Georgia.
In his letters, Daniel speaks of two major battles. One letter speaks of the Third Battle of Winchester (or Opequon) that took place on 19 September 1864. In that battle, the regiment suffered 32 killed, 12 mortally wounded, including Colonel Alexander Gardner, and 10 wounded. The charge of the Fourteenth—holding the right of the line—was a remarkable performance from any standpoint of criticism. Losing one third of its number in thirty minutes, the regiment advanced persistently until all semblance of formation was destroyed; and the scattered remnants retreated only on repeated orders.
In another letter, Daniel speaks of the fight at Cedar Creek in which Jubal Early caught the Union camp asleep or only partially dressed in an early morning attack on 19 October 1864. The fighting was desperate—hand-to-hand—but ultimately resulted in the Union forces falling back in a disorganized fashion, leaving so many supplies that the triumphant Confederates could not resist the temptation to stop and plunder the Union camps, sometimes referred to as “the fatal halt.” Falling back to a ridge near Middletown, the Union soldiers rallied—particularly after the arrival of Gen. Sheridan who quickly organized a counterattack using Gen. Custer’s cavalry in a flanking movement. Despite suffering twice as many casualties as the Confederates, the Union army “seized victory from the jaws of defeat.”
[Note: These letters are from the private collection of Jim Doncaster and are published by express consent. The header image, entitled “Sheridan’s Ride” by William Sartain, depicts Gen. Phil Sheridan arriving on the field and rallying the troops for a counterattack.]
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Letter No. 3
July the 13th 1863
I will now write you a few lines that you may know I haven’t forgotten you. Mu health is good and courage as good as ever.
I received your letter of the tenth the twelfth, yesterday, about noon; making about thirty-six hours in coming through. I also received the postage stamps.
You wanted to know how much money Clinton let me have. well he let me have twenty dollars and some postage stamps.
It rains good now, I tell you, making it feel quite comfortable. It has been very warm indeed for the past few days—little warmer than I ever knew it in New Hampshire.
There has been quite a move in our army for the three last days I should think by the way the regiments pass through here. Twenty regiments, quite a number of batteries, and a few cavalry have passed through here for the last days going to the front to see Old Lee, I suppose. They were mostly New York and Pennsylvania men and Michigan and two Massachusetts [regiments].
I am on duty every four hours night and day as long as I stay here, but our living is tip top, and lodging the same.
We are having some good victories in our army about these times. If they continue to whip them, I think this rebellion will soon close. God grant that it may for there has been blood enough spilled already. If you could see the wounded come in here as I have, all sorts of cases.
The G[rantham] boys are all well as usual. There was three hundred deserters sent off from here last night. Some of them were at Fort Independence when I was there.
I can’t think of any more to write now so I will close when I get through. There is a company of sharpshooters just passing for the depot. They are New Yorkers.
You wanted to know what they said to me when I got back here. Well they only said that they thought I had left them. The Adjutant Gardner said he was about to write a letter of condolence to you for the loss od a son. All in fun, you know.
I must close now and tend to my duties. Give my love to all enquiring friends. Write as soon and often as you can.
From your affectionate son, — Daniel C. Currier
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
Navy Yard Bridge
Washington D. C.
December 3rd 1863
I will write you a few words before I go on guard. I sent you a letter this morning. Lyman and I are well as usual this morning.
I saw by the morning paper that the Russian Fleet is a coming up to the Navy Yard today or tomorrow. They will have to come up this river—the Eastern Branch. So you see we can have a good view of them—the Navy Yard being only a few rods from us.
We are a going to have a chicken stew for dinner. What do you think of that? We had one the other day. It went good, I reckon. They just took a corporal of the 1st Vermont Heavy Artillery by under guard. He has got to be courtmartialed for sleeping on duty. His stripes are a gone goose. Indeed they are.
I can’t write anymore till after I get off from guard. I will write a few words this evening as it is not time to return yet. It has been warm and pleasant on duty this afternoon. I had some damning to do but not so much as some days. I just took hold of one man’s horses and guided them where they belonged and then I told him what he might do or have the pleasure of marching down to the provost Marshal under guard. He obeyed for I had him, you see.
The old Monitor Sangamon left this afternoon. She is a going to Charleston. There are five or six vessels down at the mouth of this river in the Potomac. We can see them from here; gunboats—boomers too, I reckon. I don’t know but it may be a part of the Russian Fleet.
In your next, I want you to inform me what they are a doing, or are a going to do, about raising men to fill the last call. How is Uncle Sam’s health now? When did you hear from him last? and where? and what is he about these days? I guess I won’t write anymore tonight but will finish this by Sunday morning.
Dec. 4th 1863
I will write a few words this evening. Lyman is a going to write too. We are well and I think in good spirits. The same old thing—guard duty. It has been very pleasant and warm today for the season.
The President passed here today. He has a nice carriage drawn by a span of beautiful white horses and his driver was dressed up in great style—a splendid team, indeed it is. His son and another man were with him.¹
Several vessels has sailed out and several came in today. Those that came in were loaded with salt, coal, wood, lumber, and the like. A number of gunboats have come in and some have left.
I see by today’s paper that the Army of the Potomac has returned to their old quarters. I was in hopes that they would do something this time but I suppose it is alright. They had better fall back than get cut all up. There is no news here that I know of so I guess I will close by bidding you goodbye for this time.
Give my love to all. write as often as soon as you can. From your son, — Daniel C. Currier
¹ This sighting of the President in his carriage in curious because the ride is not acknowledged on the Lincoln Log (a day-by-day record of the President’s activities) and newspaper accounts from the period suggest that he was not seen for several days during this period as he was suffering ill health and confined to his office working on the Annual Message to Congress. Mrs. Lincoln was in New York City at the time.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE
January 12th 1864
I will write a word this evening as I have an opportunity. I sent you a letter this morning. It is pleasant and quite mild. Mr. Brown and Corp. Darling have gone down to the President’s Reception tonight. Thomas has been down to the city with him today.
I expect that Thomas and I will have to go down to the Old Capitol Prison tomorrow. There has been nothing new going on today that I have heard of. Thomas is down to the Orderly’s tent singing his evening. Some of our boys started for Fort Delaware this afternoon. They take up some prisoners.
There comes the bugle call for tattoo. I must close now for the night.
January 17th 1864
I will write a few words this evening. I went down to the Old Capitol Prison yesterday. I meant to have carried my writing duds down with me and finished this letter and sent it this morning but I was in so great a hurry the Orderly didn’t detail me till the rest had fell into line that I forgot it.
After I got in this morning I went up and got a pass and went down to see the big boys in Congress. I went into the Senate Chamber and heard the Senators. They spent most of the afternoon in discussing the Conscription Act. Some were for striking out the three hundred dollars clause; others for retaining it. Some were for exempting ministers, quakers, and others who conscience forbid them from bearing arms, &c. Those against it had it tough and tight, I reckon. It was quite interesting, indeed it was.
While on my way back to camp, I come in contact with a drunken teamster. He had been fighting and was pretty mad, indeed he was. He had a brick in each hand and he was driving about twenty citizens and teamsters that stood around. When I came up, I asked them what they were running from a drunken man for. I went up to him and said I guess you won’t hurt me, will you. He threw down the bricks, came up to me, took hold of my collar. I talked with him. He asked for a chew of tobacco. I gave it to him. Then he thought that he must fight anyhow. He said that he could lick any God damn man. I told him that I guess he could too—that he had made them run. Upon that, he threw off his hat and was a going to lick me. He struck at me. I knocked off the blow with my arm. It turned him right about face. I was about to give him what he deserved when one of the teamsters grabbed him and took care of him. I told him he might take care of him or I would.
The boys are all well this evening. Thomas has gown down to Seventh Street on duty—down where they are building our barracks to [ ] the stuff. Mr. Brown is with me tonight. He is well and is pretty contented. I guess I won’t write anymore today.
January the 15th 1864
I will write a word today. The boys are all well today. It is pleasant. We have got a Second Lieutenant now. His name is is George H. Stone. He was Fifth Sergeant in Co. C. He has been acting Lieut. in Co. C this some time. He is a tip top good fellow, “Indeed he is.” Our 2nd Sergeant Paul has been promoted 2nd Lieutenant in Co. A. Orderly Sergeant McCurdy id Co, H has been promoted 2nd Lt. in Co. H. Sergeant Major Bryant has been promoted in Co. D. Some others will be made soon. I will close now for today.
January the 17th, 1864
I will write a few lines this morning. I am down to the prison. It is now three o’clock A. M. My relief has just been relieved. My health is pretty good now. Sergeant Page and I went over to hear the Senator’s blow last night. They are blowing in the Conscription Act yet.
Some more promotions in our regiment. Sergt. Fisk of Co. A has been promoted to 2nd Lieut. in Co, E. Sergeant Blanchard of Co. promoted 2nd Lieut. in Co. C. Sergeant of Co. H promoted to 1st Lieut. of Co. D. 2nd Lieut. Co. F Fosgate, promoted 1st Lieut. Co. H. A few others to fill. I understand that Capt. Ripley, Co. F, and 1st Lieut. Phelps of the same company have resigned. Sergeant Jinks, Co, C, promoted Sergeant Major.
The took in about thirty rebels here last night. They deserted—the Rebs. I don’t know any important news to write now.
O! I received a letter from you Wednesday. I think Uncle Sam is pretty spunky. You tell him when he gets home that I say that he has acted the part of a man and a true patriot. and I am proud to have an Uncle that thinks so much of his country that he is willing to suffer that this rebellion may be put down, and our country restored to its former peace and prosperity. Give my love to him and the other boys in the Sixth.
It would cost you about forty dollars to come out here and return in good shape, but what is that? You won’t live always. I want you should take a little comfort and see the Capitol of our country [and] not think that you must work and kill yourself just for me. Come out and see us and stay a week or fortnight, or as long as you like. It will not cost you anything here—that is, if you can put up with our style of living. I suppose it would be no use in asking Mother to come out.
Who have the Democrats—or Copperheads rather, nominated for governor, or haven’t they found one yet?
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FOUR
Camp Sherberne, Hall’s Island near Harper’s Ferry, Va.
February 22nd 1864 [Washington’s Birthday]
I will just pen you a word today. We are a going to have some fun today, indeed we are. Going to have a greased pig to catch. Five men from each company have the privilege to try their luck at it. The one that catches it and holds it is to have it and be considered as the bully of the regiment.
We shall have salutes fired at twelve from the big guns around here and there are some right smart ones, “Indeed there are.” It is cloudy and cool today. Lyman is on guard at the prison today and so is Brown. Whitaker is on picket. The rest of the G[rantham] boys are in camp. We are all well and in good spirits. John has just been in our tent. He is the same boy day in and day out.
Newton and I have just been out and got us some wood so we can set up a fire and chat comfortable as you please. I must close now for we have got to get ready for the exercises of the day.
We have had a pretty good time this afternoon. The officers of the regiment met last night and adopted the program. The first in order, we were marched out on the parade ground and formed in solid column and listened to a few remarks from the President, Maj. Gardner, and they were tip-top too, “Indeed they were.” Then we had a dirge by the band and a song under the charge of our Fifth Sergeant: Charles E. Foster. Fourth, the farewell address of Washington was read by the Adjt. Fifth, a dirge by the band. Then we were excused for twenty minutes. Then we were marched out and formed into a hollow square in one rank. Then we had first a race in a bag. Six or eight boys were put into bags up to their necks. They were to run twenty rods or get there the best way they could. The one that got there first was to have three dollars.
The next was a wheelbarrow performance. It was as follows—a stake drove into the ground. Then another one about two rods off. The wheelbarrow was put about four feet from one stake. Then the man was blindfolded and had to take hold of this stake and put his head down and whirl around this stake four times. When he was to find the barrow and wheel it as near the other stake as he could and had to do it in so many minutes. A number of them tried it. Some couldn’t find the barrow. Others would wheel in off some other direction.
Then came the greased pig performance. It was fun to see them catch him. That ended the performance.
I can’t write anymore this time for it’s about tattoo. So I will close by wishing you good evening. Give my love to all. Write as soon and often as you can.
From your son, — D. C. Currier
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FIVE
Camp near Harrisonburg, Va.
October the 2nd, 1864
I will pen just a word that you may know that I am still alive and in good health. I wrote you the other day here. Since then we marched out to Crawford about ten miles. We started from here at five A.M. day before yesterday and returned yesterday. Got here about dark. I was on camp guard at that place. I expect that we shall return to Harper’s Ferry now, having accomplished all that we intended—routed the Rebs out of the Valley.
It is rainy and cool today. The G[rantham] boys are all well as usual. Thomas [J. Morrill] is in command of the company now. Our Orderly [Asa Richardson] having gone to the rear sick. Our captain [William H. Chaffin] having been killed and 1st Lieutenant [George H. Stone] wounded so we haven’t got a commissioned officer with us and the Orderly is in the hospital. So Thomas is in command. We are in camp about a mile from the city now. I don’t know when we shall get a mail. We have had one since we left camp near Berryville the day before the battle at Winchester. I hope that we shall get back before a great while for it is getting late in the season, and it will be rainy and muddy soon, so it will be almost impossible to move an army over the roads here.
I can’t find anything to write so I guess that I shall have to wait awhile. I can, shan’t I?
I think we have done a pretty good thing in the Valley, don’t you? We have met a strong army of the Rebs under a good general and given them an awful licking and driven them out of the Valley. We have got a general—that is, Gen. Sheridan, and the boys have confidence in him. They say the they will follow him and he don’t ask them to go where he won’t. When he comes around, the boys receive him with cheers, showing that they respect him.
Capt. [Theodore A.] Ripley of Co. F, late Inspector General on Gen. Burge’s staff, he is the Senior Captain presently. I think he will be our next Colonel. He will make a smart one. I reckon he is all business. Indeed, he is. I tell you, we miss our Captain. We never shall get one to fill his place for they are few and far between. Lieut. [George H.] Stone, they say, never will be able to come back to the company. He was a mighty good man. “Indeed, he is.” Our Lieutenant, we can do better with him than with[out], for the boys neither love nor fear him. I tell you, our regiment don’t look like the regiment a year ago. We have lost many a good boy, but we that are left are in good spirits.
I will close now by bidding you goodbye. Write soon and all the news. I shall get them sometime.
From your son, — Daniel C. Currier
P. S. Please give my love to all enquiring friends.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER SIX
Camp near Harrisonville, Va.
October the 3rd, 1864
I will pen a word today as I have an opportunity to devote a few moments to devote to that art. It is rainy [and] cool. The G[rantham] boys are all well as usual. Thomas [Merrill] is eating his supper now; he has got some biscuits and butter he bought down to the city; have to pay ten cents apiece for them, and a dollar for butter. I sent you a letter yesterday. We were paid off yesterday for four months. We got orders yesterday P. M. to be ready for a move. It was an account of cannonading but we were not called out. They had a brush with the johnnies. Took five hundred prisoners. Had them licked up good. Our men had some masked batteries. The Rebs marched down in solid columns [and] when they got right [in front] of us, we opened on them with grape and canister. It mowed them down good, “I reckon.” They were ready to pick up and get in a hurry too, “”I reckon.”
We had orders this morning to be ready for a move at five but we are here yet, but liable to move at any moment though. We had a mail yesterday but I did not get a letter. I was disappointed for I expected [as] much as two from you. I hope that you are not sick. I can’t find anything to write now so I will close now for tonight. I will send this the first opportunity I get. So good evening. Now for supper—hardtack and coffee, “I reckon.”
October the 4th, 1864
I will pen a word this morning as I have an opportunity to write a few moments to that art. We are here yet. It has faired off warm and pleasant. We have cleaned up our guns and got them in good fighting condition. There is nothing new here that I know of. The G[rantham] boys are all well and in good spirits. There is some talk of our going to Culpeper soon. I don’t know how true it is. We may not. Can’t tell yet. But we are ready to go anywhere—only give us a victory. We have done well so far, don’t you think so?
We haven’t heard anything from Whitaker yet. We expect he is a prisoner. Our 1st Lieutenant [George H.] Stone is dead they say. It seems almost too bad to lose two so good officers as Captain [Chaffin] & Lieut. [Stone] were—but so is war. They say that the last they heard from Col. Gardner, he was but just alive. I don’t know of anything more to write now so I will close now for awhile. More anon.
I will pen a word more. I have just been out sweeping up the streets. They are out mounting the picket now. I didn’t have to go today but I shall have to take it tomorrow, “I reckon.”
Horace F. Brown had my note for five dollars and probably the note will be sent home. When they receive it, I wish you would pay it and I will send you some money when I think it safe to do so.
Thomas is tickling me with a straw when I am writing. What shall I do with him? Thomas is in command of Co. I now and makes a good commander too. He will be promoted son, “I reckon.”
In about a month a new President will be chosen, I suppose, and Old Abe will be the man too. I wish we could vote. I don’t know a man in our company that would vote for McClellan. We would as soon vote for Jeff Davis upon the platform he now stands upon. Give us Lincoln & Johnson and we are saved, but if McClellan is elected, then we are lost. But Lincoln & Johnson are the men and they will surely be elected, I think, don’t you?
Thomas [Merrill] sends his respects to you. Capt. [Oliver] Marsten, Co. H, joined us yesterday. He has been absent sick ever since we came from Louisiana so we have eleven commissioned officers now. Thomas [Merrill] has gone out just now to get some apples. Here he comes.
My warrant is dated October the 1st, I am not under any obligation to Gardner for it neither. Capt. [Theodore] Ripley knows right from wrong, “I reckon.” And so does Thomas. I have just been reading “McClellan’s Military Career.” That is bully, “indeed it is.” Don’t you think so?
Here comes fresh meat for us. We have plenty of that. I don’t know of any more to write just now so I will wait a while “I reckon.”
October the 9th, 1864
Camp near Strasburg, Va.
I will pen a word this morning. We started on the return march the 6th about six A. M. Got to a halt this side of New Market about dark. Started again the next morning about six A.M. Got about two miles this side of Woodstock a little after dark, pretty tired, “I reckon.” Started again the next morning. Got here about dark last night. The G[ranthem] boys are all well as usual and in good spirits. It is cloudy and pretty cool.
I got a letter from one of the boys at Winchester this morning. He said that Whitaker had been sent to Harper’s Ferry so I suppose that he is wounded. I don’t know how long we shall stay here but I think we shall continue to move back towards our supplies. I don’t know when I shall get a chance to send this but will as soon as I can. I can’t write any more now so I will close bu bidding you goodbye. Give my love to all. Write soon and all the news.
From your son, — Daniel C. Currier
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER SEVEN
Camp at Cedar Run, Va.
October the 23rd 1864
I will pen a word today that you may know that I [am] still alive though we have had another very hard battle. We were taken by surprise bu the johnny’s and they drove us back about three miles pretty lively, “I reckon.” But our Phil [Sheridan] came up at that critical moment. He had been to Washington on business. The boys cheered him with a will—“Indeed they did”—for they feel safe when Phil is at the helm. He said that we could whip them and said if we could hold them while he sent the cavalry to the flank, Old Custer would go in with a “vim” and we would drive them back and camp at night on the old ground we left and we did that and a great way beyond. It was a hard fight but “I reckon” that they got enough of it at last for we have taken a great more than we lost.
We had one killed in our company—Albert Boyden from Newport and seven wounded. [William] Welch from Lempster, [Ziba] Barton from Newport, Sergeant [Benjamin F.] Pierce from Bradford, and four new recruits—not any of them mortally. Capt. [Theodore] Ripley, commander of the regiment, was taken prisoner. Lieutenants [Russel F.] Smith & [Kerry] Sullivan were also taken [prisoners]. Lieut. [John N.] Bruce was taken but we pressed them so hard that they left him at Strasburg, just beyond here. He was wounded in the head. We have only seven officers with us now. We have men missing; Osgood in our company.
We have now in our company thirty men all told and we had five new recruits the other day. The G[rantham] boys are all right. We came out of it without a scratch. I lost most of my things though. I have got partly supplied again. I got a letter from you the 21st dated the 10th and was glad to hear that you were enjoying so good health.
I am sorry for Uncle Samuel. Hope that he will get his discharge and get home soon before it is too late. I want you to write once a week anyway. I get most of them.
No Father & Mother, I do not think more of stamps than I do of your letters. I think everything of a letter from you. You do not know how anxious I am to hear from you often. You want to know whether we had got paid off yet. We have and I have written twice about it. I can’t find anything more o write now so I will close by bidding you goodbye. Give my love to all enquiring friends. Write soon and often as you can.
From your son, — Daniel C. Currier