This letter was written by Daniel W. Hall (1838-1863), a teacher in Somerset county, Maine, who enlisted on 3 May 1861 to serve three months in Co. B, 1st Maine Infantry. After mustering out of the infantry in August 1861, Daniel decided to try a difference branch of the service, enlisting once again—this time as a sergeant—in Co. H, 1st Maine Cavalry on 5 November 1861. Sergt. Hall was mortally wounded in action at the Battle of Aldie on 17 June 1863 while attempting to capture the flag of the 4th Virginia Cavalry. He died the following day.
In the 1860 US Census, 22 year-old Daniel was enumerated in the household of John Holbrook of Starks, Somerset county, Maine.
[Note: This letter is from the private collection of Jim Doncaster and is published by express consent.]
November 28, 1862
Friend C. L.,
Yours of the 9th inst. was received the 25th.
Thanksgiving Day has come and gone and yet no change. It came this year minus roast pigs, turkeys, chickens, pies, cakes, &c. and nought for excitement but a horse race, and this to me was not real excitement for I have seen so much horse racing—especially in retreats—that I was not really interested the last holiday. Much more interesting and joyous was a little charge through Shephardstown a few days ago—a place on the Virginia side of the Potomac about as large as Skowhegan [Maine]. The night before we went over, the 2nd Massachusetts Infantry were there and captured a bad of guerrillas except the captain whom they—the Mass. boys—shot dead.
Our squadron of cavalry was ordered over to make such captures as the commanding officer might deem proper of both citizens and soldiers. Just at the edge of town we drew sabres and charged through the principal streets in a great fury and surrounded quite a number of the principal secesh hotels and private houses thinking to bag some of the officers of the bushwhacking party, but they were too wise for us. They took their exit at or before daylight that morning. We searched the houses to find papers, munitions of war, &c. Not much, however, was found of consequence to either us or them. We found no secesh soldiers except one picket who fled hastily at our approach.
The citizens of Shepardstown are about two-thirds secesh and they will not permit a Union man to live among them in peace. There a “heap” of pretty gals there and they dashed around “right smart” when we entered the town—some with smiles and some with frowns upon their countenances, and many even with fear and trembling. I tell you, Charles, it is not half the labor and trouble to build a good, comfortable house that folks pretend it is in Maine. Only think, Dan and I went to work one morning about 8 o’clock, I reckon, and commenced felling trees and getting out timber and in just two days from that time we had up a nice 5 by 9 house. The next morning we went to work to finishing it off inside and out and at the next morning at the crack of days we had it all completed, furniture all in and our crockery ware and our bed and bedding &c. in proper order. One thing, however, we in our haste forgot and that was to build a fireplace, but we have a good large one out of doors and do not suffer with cold yet. but I think with Uncle Sam passes round his money box again so that I may be flush with spondo, ¹ I shall buy me a very little stove just big enough to stand alone. Mind ye, I am going to have quite a lot of money soon unless Uncle Sam fails—five months pay due us to this day.
We are having a right smart little snow storm here today but it dissolves almost as fast as it comes down and forms mud and water. This month has been a very pleasant one for the time of year with the exception of the first week which was as cold as I ever saw in Maine.
You mentioned the fact that spiritualism was prevailing pretty extensively in our neighborhood. It seems that is necessary for something to prevail around there to keep up the spirits of the people, so many have departed thence. I was not at all surprised to learn that Uncle Corson’s folks were absorbed in the principles of spiritualism for I have believed for quite a long time that they were virtually spiritualists.
I forgot in my last to thank you for your kindness in tendering me money if I were in need. The fact is I am short of money purposely for I have no particular use for it at present. We have any quantity of good food so that we need not buy pies, cakes, &c. as is customary with soldiers. All that is necessary for us to spend is a little for stationery and papers, &c. If I do not receive a payment in the course of a month, perhaps if you have the money on hand I would accept a few dollars, but I will let you know if I do.
We are having good soldier times at present. I must now close. Please address me as follows: Co. H, 1st Maine Cavalry, Gen. Gordon’s Brigade, Sharpsburg, Maryland
Yours in love, in haste, in health, and in a good log house, — D. W. H.
¹ Spondulix is 19th-century slang for money or cash, more specifically a reasonable amount of spending money.