1862: George L. Hersum to wife Mary

These letters were written by George L. Hersum (1834-1890) who enlisted in September 1861 at age 26 in Co. A, 5th New Hampshire Infantry. He mustered in as a corporal and was with his regiment at Antietam when Col. Edward Cross led the boys of the “Fighting Fifth” into the Sunken Road, better known as the “Bloody Lane.” Slightly wounded in the fight, George returned to his regiment at Harper’s Ferry the following month at which time he accepted a promotion to sergeant. In January 1863 he was promoted to Orderly Sergeant and in October 1863 he received a commission at 2nd Lieutenant. He was promoted to 1st Lieutenant of Co. G in July 1864 but not mustered. He was discharged in October 1864.

George’s first letter was written from Oak Station, Virginia, and refers to the Battle of Fair Oaks (Seven Pines). The second letter was written from Bolivar Heights near Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. after he returned to his company.

George was the son of Elihu H. Hersom (1812-Aft1862) and Druscilla Wakeman of Milton, Strafford county, New Hampshire. George had a younger brother named Charlie, born in 1851. George wrote these letters to his first wife, known only as “Mary.” His second wife was Ann Adeline Wiggin.

[Note: These letters are from the private collection of Jim Doncaster and are published by express consent. The cdv of George Hersum in the header was taken in 1863 or 1864 when he was a lieutenant. The links to Capt. Sturtevant and Lt. Cummings are connected to Davie Morin’s website, “The Yankee Volunteer”.]


Oak Station, Virginia
June 2, 1862

Dear beloved wife,

I take this opportunity to write you a few lines to let you know that I am safe. We had a fight yesterday and a hard one it was too. Our company went into action with 65 enlisted men and two commissioned officers. Our Captain [Edward E. Sturtevant] and 2nd Lieutenant [Albert Gallatin Cummings] was both wounded. Captain slightly, Lieutenant severely.

Of the Milton boys in our company there was 3 wounded. William S. Kimball severely, George W. Hayes ¹ severely, Alonzo Corson ² slightly, John C. Dore of Co. K slightly and Israel [Morrill] Nute of Co. H mortally. He died this morning. Our company lost 23 killed, wounded and missing. We had 2 killed, 19 wounded, 2 missing.

I cannot write more at present. We whipped the rebels and last night they retreated for Richmond. I shall write again as soon as I can. Dear Mary, keep good courage and all will be well.

From your loving husband, — George L. Hersum

¹ Private George W. Hayes died of his wounds received at Fair Oaks.

² Private Alonzo Corson survived the wound he received at Fair Oaks but used the opportunity to desert while in hospital and was not apprehended for two years.


Camp on Bolivar Heights. Va.
near Harper’s Ferry
October 7th 1862

Dear beloved wife,

I received your letters yesterday. I received 2 from you & 1 from father. I should have received them before and answered them but I was in the hospital and didn’t join my company until yesterday. Dear Mary, I have fully recovered from the effect of my wounds. My health is very good with the exception of the diarrhea which troubles me some.

I was very glad to hear that you and the children and all the folks was well and I wish you may always continue so. I received the tobacco you sent me and was very glad of it.

Dear Mary, you mustn’t think I have forgotten you. That can never be while I have my senses. If I do not write as often as I should, it is because I do not have the chance. I shall write just as often as I can.

We are encamped on a very high hill which overlooks Harper’s Ferry & the Potomac [river] and a large extended of land in all directions. It is a very healthy place and I am in hopes we shall stay here some time.

You wrote me that Mrs. Duntley wanted to know how bad [her son] John was wounded. He was not wounded very serious. He was shot through the side of the foot but it didn’t injure the bone. He is doing well and will join his company soon. I have not time to write much more at present for I have to write to father and Charley today.

You wrote about sending me some papers. I haven’t received any from you but once. I should like them very much. No more at present. Give my love to grandmother and all friends but keep the largest share yourself. From your ever true and loving husband, — George L. Hersum

To Mary Hersum, Milton, N. H.

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