1864: William Hazen Flanders to Millie E. Stevens

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Photograph of William H. Flanders from Boston Home Journal, 1900

These two letters were written by William Hazen Flanders (1841-1905), the son of Timothy Flanders (1796-1852) and Lydia Dustin Chase (1807-1865) of Haverhill, Massachusetts. After his father died, William’s mother remarried to a man named Franklin Rollins (1821-1897) and by 1850, when William was only 10, he was living in the Boston household of Melinda Emmaline (Drake) Flanders (1808-1901), the widow of Hosea Hatch Flanders (1808-1846)—a relative. A brief biographical sketch of William claimed at that the age of 12, he “was left to his own resources” but that he “had inherited that which was better than one—ambition and integrity.” These qualities landed him a job at the dry goods house, Chandler & Co., in Boston where he worked his way up to full partner in 1883. During the Civil War he served for nine months with the 44th Massachusetts Infantry and then, in late December, 1863, he enlisted again in the 11th Massachusetts Light Artillery. with whom he served until 16 June 1865. [Source: Boston Home Journal, May 19, 1900]

After the war, William married (in 1869) Susan Frances Wells (1849-1946) and became a successful dry good merchant in Boston. In 1879 his business was located at 80 Broad Street in Boston. His home was in elegant Hyde Park. He died in 1905 and was buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge.

These two letters were penned when William served in the 11th Massachusetts Battery. The first one is datelined from Camp Berry (pictured in header) near Washington D. C.; the second one from Bristol Station in Virginia where the Battery was deployed guarding the railroad supply line for Grant’s Army of the Potomac as they were ready to launch the Overland Campaign.

William address both letters to Miss Millie E. Stevens, No. 67 Brighton Street in Boston.


Headquarters 11th Mass. Battery
Camp Barry, D. C.
March 30, 1864

Friend Millie,

I will state at the commencement of this letter I feel very tired tonight having been writing constantly since early this morning and with my poor substitute for gas “a la candle,” and it is constantly flickering so that it makes my eyes ache very much. I have my doubts if I shall be able to write an interesting letter in reply to yours received the 22nd inst. and trust you will excuse e for not answering more promptly when I state my reasons.

On the last of every month I have a very large amount of writing to do and this being our 1st Quarter in the U. S. Service, I have had various monthly reports and returns to make to send to the various Departments in Washington besides quarterly returns of ordnance and ordnance stores to be sent to the Adjt. Gen. of U S. and an unusual number of private letters for Captain Jones so that I have been unable to answer any letters I have received the past ten days with the exception of one I wrote after midnight a few evenings since to my sister.

We have received our Battery and are now making active preparations for immediate service in the field. We will leave this camp soon with 4 other batteries to join the 9th Army Corps, Burnside Expedition at Annapolis, Md. Where this expedition is intended to go, I do not know but I have every reason to think we are to cooperate with the Army of the Potomac again at Richmond. We may leave Annapolis in transports for North Carolina and attack Richmond in the rear and I trust if that is the order of attack, we shall be victorious and the ill fated Army of the Potomac under Lieut. Gen. Grant for a commander will be able to operate with us in the reduction of that stronghold of the Rebels and result in a glorious triumph of our army and noble country. It will be a fearful contest with great loss in both sides, but with God and right on our’s, I trust we shall be able to drive the Rebs before us like wind. I cannot believe we shall be defeated this time. If we are, I hope I shall be fortunate enough to be spared from being killed or wounded, and above all the rest, keep me from being taken a prisoner to endure the horrors of the Libby Prison or Castle Thunder. But I will not indulge in these gloomy reveries but wait till we encounter the stern realities of the tumult of battle.

If we are successful this coming campaign—and there is every indication we will—I shall then begin to think about returning to Old Massachusetts next spring. If not, I shall endeavor to get a furlough for 20 or 30 days next fall to visit my home and friends.

Since my last we have lost another of our comrades—W. D. Prickett—who died at the Post Hospital at this camp the 22nd inst. of typhoid pneumonia making two of our number in less than three weeks. Who will be the next? God only knows. I am strong and well now but in 24 hours, I may be numbered with the dead. We voted to pay all expenses for the burial of our comrade and had his body embalmed and sent to Boston by Express to his bereaved widow and two little ones. On last Thursday 24th inst., we had funeral services at this camp by our worthy Captain after which we escorted the body preceded by a band of music to the cars at Washington. “ere this his afflicted widow and little ones have received the lifeless remains of him who was husband and father and have committed it to its final resting place.

I have written to you about our little Association We are gaining new members every day and now number 75 members. At our regular weekly meeting last evening we had a very interesting one. We chose a committee of two to wait upon Capt. Jones and extend an invitation to him to address the members which he did. We voted to present him with a sincere thanks of the Association and I being Secretary shall write he letter to him tomorrow in accordance with the vote. the following is a copy of the letter I intend to write.

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Capt. Edward Jenkins Jones, 11th Massachusetts Battery

Camp Barry. D. C.
March 31, 1864

Capt. Edward J. Jones
Dear Sir,

At the weekly meeting of this Association last Tuesday evening, it was voted to present to you the sincere thanks of the members of said Association for your speech to them that evening. Hoping you ever will find the members of this Association ready to do their duty on all occasions wherever we may be placed, not only as soldiers but men. And we assure you, Captain, you always will be sustained by us in the hour of danger and will not turn our backs to the enemy until so ordered by you and we hope and trust the Old 11th will never receive such an order but that we shall be an honor to you not only as our worthy commander, but to Old Massachusetts. Hoping you will always feel at liberty to address our little Association when your official duties will permit.

I remain vert respectfully, Captain, your obedient servant, —  Wm. H. Flanders, Secretary

I should judge by your account of the party at Union Hall that you had a splendid time with your Baltimore friend. I sympathize with the young man that wouldn’t go down to supper with any other young lady. I shouldn’t thought he would have been able to eat much supper. I think you served him just right for his impertinence.

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Edwin Forrest as Richelieu in 1861 

I have been to Washington twice lately but did not go to see [Edwin] Forrest on account of his playing Richelieu. I have seen that so many times I had no desire to see it again. Accordingly I went to a concert with some friends of mine from Boston who are here on business. I had a splendid time with them. If we do not leave here too soon, I shall see Forrest in Metamora as I never saw him in that and have a desire to see him.

You are welcome to both photographs if you wish them. I have sent an order for 4 dozen more to distribute among the boys in the Battery.

I am happy to inform you Sergeant [James W.] Dolliver is now convalescent and improving very fast. I trust before many days he will once more be with us. He has had a very severe time of it but has received the best of care from his nurses and intimate friends in the Battery.

Capt. Jones wished me to say to you he would be pleased to have you call to his house—No. 108 Brighton Street—and make yourself acquainted with his wife and family if you are so disposed. I would like to have you as Mrs. Jones is a very estimable Lady and I think you would like her very much.

I must conclude now with kind remembrances to you and Lizzie G.

Yours friend, — W. H. F.

P. S. Midnight. I have just filled my pipe and now intend to enjoy a nice little smoke before retiring to my rude couch, and indulge in pleasant reveries of past days in the little city of Boston. Our usual assembly took place this evening but nary dance for Will.



11th Mass. Battery
2nd Division, 9th Army Corps
Bristol Station, Va.
May 3rd 1864

Friend Millie,

We have not received any letters for ten days and those we write are not allowed to go farther than Washington for the present probably will after our Army advances. I am well as usual only I would like to have something good to eat as have lived on Salt Pork and Hard Tack since we left our old camp. We left Alexandria last Wednesday morning, marched all day and arrived at Fairfax Court House in the evening where we halted and camped over night. Next morning at 7 a. m. we started on our march passing through our old camp at Centreville, also across Bull Run battlefield Manassas Plains, arriving at this Station Thursday at 5½ p. m.  We are now camped on the old battlefield of October 14th 1863. Our Division is stretched along the railroad guarding the communications &c. It is a very important post to hold as all of the supply trains pass through here for the main Army above us. 30 trains pass daily. We have our guns in battery ready for the Rebs whenever they show themselves and there are indications now that they will attempt to cut our communications if possible.

Our cavalry had quite a skirmish with the Rebels last Sunday but finally drove them off, Every night since we have been here from 5 to 5 men of the infantry regiments have been captured while on picket by the guerrillas. While in our march we captured several Rebel spies.

You would hardly know me, I have tanned so much. I am of a very dark complexion now and by next fall I shall have a good color on to enter a Ball room in a citizen’s suit if I am so lucky as to obtain a leave of absence I shall try to procure one if possible.

You will excuse me for not writing more this morning but I have to write short letters often now on account of us moving so often. I thought I would write you a few lines to let you know I still live and am in hopes to do so till our terms of service is up. Be sure and direct your letters 11th Massachusetts Battery, 2nd Division, 9th Army Corps, Washington D. C.  Goodbye hoping this will find you enjoying the best of health, &c.

I remain as ever, yours &c., — Will

P. S. Since we have been here over 10,000 men have passed us for the Army and are again going on that way this morning. Six regiments have passed since I have been writing. If the Rebels whip us, it will not be on account of not having men enough. —William H. Flanders


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