This letter was written by Hiram P. Teed (1833-1923), the son of farmer and postmaster Lebbeus Lathrop Teed (1810-1899) and Letitia Page (1810-1876) of Tompkins, Delaware county, New York.
Hiram enlisted as a private in Co. A, 144th New York Infantry on 27 September 1862 at Tompkins, New York. The Regiment assisted in the defense of Washington D. C. until April 1863 when they were relocated to the Department of Virginia and assigned to Gurney’s Division in the defense of Suffolk during Longstreet’s siege of that place. In May, they were placed in Gordon’s Division of the VII Corps at West Point, where the Pamunky and Mattapony Rivers merge to form the York River. It was while encamped at West Point when the following letter was penned. Hiram survived the war and was mustered out with the regiment on 15 June 1865.
Hiram wrote the letter to his wife, Elizabeth (“Libby”) G. Wakeman Teed (1831-1918), the daughter of Jabez Jennings Wakeman (1793-1884) and Polly E. Butler (1801-1889) of Delaware county, New York.
Though he is not mentioned in the letter, Hiram had a younger brother named Elanson Knapp Teed (1843-1912) who mustered into Co. B, 51st New York Infantry in September 1861 and re-enlisted in December 1863. He was promoted to Corporal in March 1864, and to Sergt. in September 1864. He was taken prisoner at Poplar Grove Church, Va. on 30 September 1864 and survived the ordeals of Confederate prisons before mustering out on 25 July 1865.
[Note: This letter is from the personal collection of Jim Doncaster and is published by express consent. The header image is a sketch of the defenses at West Point, Virginia, by John Emery Morris of the 22nd Conn. Vols. He shows the camp their camp next to the 141st New York Vols, which also were briefly at West Point in May 1863.]
Camp of West Point, Va.
Sabbath morning, May 10, 1863
My dear child,
This morning I got the first letter that I have received in ten days—only one from you, my dear, one from H[anson Teed], and the other from [Fanny] Irene [Teed] & Ma with knife enclosed although I have three or four letters and one written yesterday enclosing $2 for which I want to pay for stamps which I have had & I want some more now for I am out of the article.
I am in usual health. A beautiful day. Forgive [me] for writing [on] Sunday but I expect to do worse things today—work in rifle pits. One week ago about one hundred miles from here, it was a different program. It was the sharp musketry volley that we had in the fierce skirmish fight & the roar of cannon. Since them we have not heard the sound of artillery and it is quiet here in our sylvan camp in the bright green wood. But the boys are playing cards in every direction—too bad—& then they keep us busy to [help us forget] of the great battle on the Rappahannock of one week ago where thousands of our brave boys fell. We fear [the] fighting has been wasted and His fortunes affect our future movements. We feel worse now both for our country & on [our] own account. Oh that the Lord will give us the victory over our enemies for war is dreadful, it is, dear one.
I made a mistake in yesterday’s letter, dated in one day ahead. You wrote me a good, loving letter just like your own dear self. Thank you for that. [Illegible] wish I might walk with my sweet one over it this morning—our own door sill. When will it be, I wonder. I thank you for writing me lovingly for I think of you still in love, in dear desires & deep ardent passions—a loving embrace would not come unwelcome truly from you, my sweet loving pet. Well, hope on. Trust & hope ever, my sweet birdling—my nightingale of eve. Wish you could serenade me some night in love’s sweet melodies & practice on others their string instruments.
I am a bad boy you will think. You will forgive, won’t you? I now you will for what true trusting woman will not? I ought not to write big today but our stays are so transient now-a-days. We may not move from here this month & we may be before tomorrow far away from here. I must write when I can.
I expect the Dept. would hold Pa to the contract they claim war times. Every Dept. in government must pay if it can. But I would not be for subscriptions to pay [ ]. I suppose you will do as you all like about letting the mail go down. But if I were there after I had got some with that Dept. & they allow $25 for carrying, if it will pay that, I would let let run and try & get it extended through to Unadilla. I have to stop here & go & work on rifle pits until noon. ¹
1 o’clock. I have eat my dinner and now I will try to finish this. I will not advise about the mail matter, but I will share the loss with Pa. But I think if I was in Pa’s place, I would try to get a semi- or a tri-weekly rout—a regular one through to Unadilla, and Pa ought to avail himself or some of the privilege he has of franking his own letter & account them as such in the free column in the account of his letters sent, &c. It is no more than right & be particular & keep accounts true and right. I will not dictate any more in the matter. You, sweet one, will do what you think is for the best. If you would rather go away, act your own pleasure, for I do not know as I shall get home these two years, if ever.
Not much news here from Fredericksburg but this silence is ominous & the last rumor that we had from secesh in Suffolk before we started for this place [was] that Hooker was getting whipped and I fear it is so. He has had to recross the Rappahannock with a greater loss than Burnside. Sometimes I can see but little hope in the future. We as a nation have become so wicked, the South not much worse than the North, leave out their two monstrous crimes—Rebellion and Slavery. I fear that the Lord will suffer us to go on & nearly exterminate ourselves for we are such a vain, wicked, stiff-necked people [and] do not trust in God as we ought.
You had a fast day, did you? Well I am glad of it. I hope the Lord heard the petitions offered up and I believe He will from the true and faithful worshipper. I got my deposit paper of 2.50 but we have not yet got any daily here. I presume if the Army of the Potomac is or has been forced to fall back, we will make no advance this spring but stay here the rest of this month & fortify ourselves against the Rebs. I do feel bad in regard to these bad reports from our main army, if they are as bad as rumor says. Dear me, what will become of everything. The Rebs here & at home [will be] encouraged.
What day you mean when you say that the contract awarding $25 per year will take effect in 1861. Love, which one are you thinking of—before the Rebellion? Well I wish it was after. Pa and you must do as you think best about carrying the mail by private express awhile. But I am afraid when you got it a going again, if you ever did, you would lose custom. And as for making some folks appreciate anything or blessing, it is impossible with many to do so. I hope the course set will make some men think, appreciate, and realize the comfort of a soldier’s life and that soon, for sure, will soon need more men.
My sweet, loving, dear, affectionate wife, forgive the blue post of this letter & I will kiss you lots of times when I see you & do all I can otherwise to make you feel contented & happy when we do meet. And until then, goodbye. Your affectionate, — H
¹ The 144th New York Infantry shared the infantry encampment at West Point, Virginia, with the 22nd Conn. Vols. The two regiments shared guard and fatigue duty which included working on the breastworks, or rifle pits as Hiram called them. In a letter dated from West Point on 19 May, nine days after Hiram’s letter, John E. Morris of the 22nd Conn. wrote his uncle, “We are still engaged in the old business, digging, though not so furiously as at first, we do not work nights, now, nor Sundays. Yesterday we moved our camp a short distance back from the breastworks, and now that we have got comfortably settled, we shall probably have to pull up stakes and leave before long, in fact a rumor is current in camp that we are to go to Yorktown to do pickaxe duty. I dont think now that we shall get any nearer to Richmond.”