1864: Thomas Jefferson Burgess to Lillia Burgess

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Image on Page 152 of The Story of a Cavalry Regiment; “Scott’s 900” Eleventh N. Y. Cavalry

This letter was written by Thomas “Jefferson” Burgess, Jr. (1837-1885), the son of ship carpenter Thomas J. Burgess (1798-Aft1880) and Elisa Bloomfield (1803-Aft1880) of Kingston, Ulster county, New York. He probably wrote the letter to his sister, Elizabeth “Lillia” Burgess (b. 1842).

Jefferson enlisted at the the age of 23 on December 24, 1861, at New York to be a private in Co. G, 11t New York Cavalry. He was appointed sergeant major almost immediately and was commissioned a second lieutenant of Co. D on August 5, 1862; a first lieutenant of Co. E on November 1, 1862, and captain of Co. C, to date January 24. 1865. He was discharged on September 30, 1865, at Memphis, Tennessee.

He wrote this letter to his sister from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in the fall of 1864 while serving on the staff of Gen. Albert Lindley Lee. He also mentions Col. William Jennings Landram of the 2nd Cavalry Brigade.


Baton Rouge, Louisiana
October 2nd 1864

Dear Sister,

For the first time for a long while a mail was received from the North without my getting a letter from you, but I got a letter from a friend in Poolesville in its place which partly took its place although of course I would have given two or three such epistles for one from you. But as it is raining (as usual out), I will take up my pen this evening and have a letter chat with you.

In the first place I must tell you that we expected to have had a Grand Review of all the cavalry and artillery of the division this afternoon and I received a little note from the A. A. S. to appear at the General’s (Lee) Headquarters dressed in the best manner possible to attend with the rest of the staff of the General while reviewing the troops. So I went to work and after two hours labor with the assistance of my boy brushing up of cloth and scouring up of brass & gilt I had got myself up in a gorgeous state—at least so said my boy Ruben and a thick-headed Irish chamber maid who were looking on in silent admiration and I must say that I did not feel very much flattered by their compliments as I haven’t, to tell the truth, got much of an opinion of their ability to judge of a person’s good dressing judging from the patterns with which their wardrobe is made up.

However, I hoped to have a more appreciative crowd when I emerged into the street, and I had just put on my cap to go forth when Bang! Bang! resounded Heavens artillery and splash, patter, splash, came the gentle dews of Heaven, descending by the bucket full and still continues to fall without the slightest sign of its stopping for a week to come. So that was the end of the review.

Our cavalry division still remains in camp and although there are rumors of our soon having to match, I don’t see any prospect of it myself. I still continue to have [   ] times although expensive, but I don’t grumble as I expect before long we will have enough to do to make up for it.

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CDV of Gen Albert Lindley Lee

I will send you a lot of photographs for your album and will number them and describe the for you. The numbers of the cards is on the back. No. 1. is a picture of Gen. [Albert L.] Lee, Col. Landrum (commanding the 2nd Brigade) on above staff—I was at the time it was taken just before I come on the Gen’s staff—and some of his staff officers. I would have been in the crowd but I had gone to town and just got back about five minutes too late. No. 1 is Gen. Lee, No. 2 Col. Landrum, No. 3 Major Montgomery of 2nd Ill. Cavalry, No. 4 Capt. Bradley on his staff as Chief Quartermaster, No. 5 is Lt. Gillett—Quartermaster if the 2nd Brigade on Kandrum’s staff, No. 6 is Major Craig of the 4th Wisconsin Cavalry. No. 7 is Lt. Simpson—A. D. C. to Col. Landrum.

Card No. 2 is a view of the Camp of the 2nd Brigade Headquarters after it left the Magnolia Grove. Those 4 tents in the foreground with a porch in front of them made of bushes are the headquarters. Tent No. 1 was the Quartermaster, No. 2 Lt. Simpson’s (the A. A. C.) and my own, No. 3 Lt. Dennison’s—the A. A. A. Gen. for the Brigade, and No. 4 Col. Landrum’s, commanding the 2nd Brigade.

Card No. 3 is a front view of the Deaf & Dumb Asylum now used as a hospital for the U. S. Troops in and around Baton Rouge [see header image]. It is situated on the outskirts of the town on the Highland Road and is in fine view of the river and town.

Card. No. 4 is of Gen. Sickles and staff that I bought in New Orleans in account of its being the best I have seen yet. No. 1. is Gen. [Daniel E.] Sickles, No. 2 Col. [Orson H.] Hart—his chief of staff, No 3 Maj. [Henry] Tremain and the others I can’t remember their names although I knew them when we was with their division in Virginia.

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Major General Daniel Sickles and his staff following the Battle of Gettysburg. From left to right: Major Henry Tremain, Lieutenant Colonel Orson Hart, Major General Daniel Edgar Sickles, Captain Thomas Fry, Captain Alexander Moore.

Card No. 5 is Major S[eth] P[ierre] Remington, commanding the 11th N. Y. Cavalry of which your humble servant and brother is a worthy member. There I think I have made quite an addition to your album besides writing a sort of descriptive biography for you.

Well there is nothing more to write about that I know of. I would like to hear very much how Willie gets along. I hope he will be able to get home now on a sick leave. The weather is getting quite cool down here. In fact, too cool to be comfortable without a fire mornings and evenings. Trust the war news [is] good. They fired a salute last night from the fort in this place in honor of Sheridan’s victory in the valley.

But I must close. Give my love to Mother and Father and remember me to all enquiring friends. I am enjoying good health and spirits and hoping that you all so the same. I remain your affectionate brother, — Jefferson


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