This letter was written during the US Civil War by Hiram A. Chambers of the 15th Regiment Massachusetts, Company C, out of Worcester. He wrote it home to his family. The letter was dated November 24, 1861, and offers additional details of Hiram’s experiences at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff in Virginia. I was given permission to document these letters by my dear friend Jane Richardson. Hiram was Jane’s great-uncle.
Here is the full transcript of this letter. I’ll note I added punctuation and paragraphs to make it easier to read.
Headquarters Fifteenth Regiment Company C
Camp Foster November 24th 1861
McClellan – Commander of the Federal forces on the Potomac
I received yours of the 17th last Thursday and now seat myself to answer it. I am well and doing finely. The only fault I find is that it is awful cold out here but not so cold as it is in Mass I suppose, but is cold enough here the ground freezes up every night hard as a rock and it comes tough to stand guard every third day the companies are so small.
We have heard from our boys at Richmond, and sum it up the only ones that are killed are W.R. Lawrence, G.W. Cutter, G.W. Warner of Lancaster, John Kirchner, G Walker of Clinton, and L. Turner of Lancaster who died of wounds received on the battlefield.
You speak about sleeping on my post. You need not be afraid of that for I can keep my eyes open two hours at a time I guess for awhile longer. We have been paid off again and as I want a pair of boots and some other things which I have purchased and its is two months before we get paid off again I propose not to send any home this time for money is a good thing to have by oneself out here for there is postage stamps to buy and our washing to hire done for we do not have time these short days to do it ourselves.
You ask if I want anything. I should like to have you knit me a pair of gloves, and a pair of blue flannel shirts wouldn’t come amiss. Good long ones, I mean. That is all I want.
Now to make me comfortable as I can be I have got two blankets which keep me warm nights. Charlie and the rest of your acquaintances send their respects to you. My love to you my dear parents and my friends.
From your loving Son,
Dear Brother C.
Yours of the 17th was very acceptable indeed to me for I am always very glad to hear from you as well as Father or Mother either. You said you and Mason were going to Clinton, Lancaster and Athol. Well did you go? Did you have a good time? I hope you did. O that I could go when I was a mind to, but no you cannot go over the lines without a pass signed by the Colonel or Major. I hope ere long this war will close its career and I can return home to go out somewhere without being stopped by a guard.
You say you had a picture copied from the one I sent home and it looked better than the one I sent. I am glad of it, if does, “but I don’t believe it.”
What did Grandmother say about it and the battle? I suppose that is letter you carried wasn’t it? I mean the one that told about the battle. Did she say how many letters she had received from me? Let me know in your next.
Sarah’s mother thinks I am a real good looking fellow, does she? Tell I am much obliged for the compliment. She started died she when you told I was shot did she? Tell her I wasn’t a bit scared.
Then you think letters come and go quite often between Marilla and me do you? I have not sent her so many near as I have sent home. But then I know that when I write to her if there is any news you hear of it. You say that they work nine hours in the shop? Well that is better than soldiering although soldiering is pretty work enough.
Bully for the McClellan guards. I hope they will be well drilled enough when I get home or we I mean to escort us through the streets. That will be quite a pretty uniform blue and red. I tell you it is cold down here as you call it. Yes the naval fleet did do a tip top thing didn’t? I had not heard of that scrape at Biddeford before. Quite a thing wasn’t it. Bully for the Union.
As I have got several others to write to I believe I must draw this to close. What made Jimmy Clifford run away? Do you know? If so write to me in your next. How is the recruiting business getting along? Slowly I suppose. Three cheers for the old 15th. Good bye.
From your loving brother,
Tell Father I have got one of those under ground stoves and they are nice things. I tell you they keep a fellow’s feet warm nights.