1862: John Randolph Mandeville to friend

How John might have looked

How John might have looked

This letter was written by John Randolph Mandeville (1840-1923) of Co. E, 1st New York Engineers [records sometimes show middle initial as K.]. John mustered in as a private in October 1861 to serve three years. He was appointed artificer prior to being mustered out of the service at Bermuda Hundred, Virginia in October 1864. John was the son of James Mandeville (1807-1860) and Effie Riker (1805-1873). He survived the war and became a carpenter in Passaic, New Jersey.

John’s letter was written from Birds Island in the Savannah River not far from the Confederate-held Fort Pulaski near Savannah, Georgia. It contains a good description of the construction of “Battery Hamilton” erected on the northern end of Bird Island, about three miles upstream of Fort Pulaski. Despite being made of marsh mud, sand bags and wooden planking, the battery was well engineered. Battery Hamilton was only occupied for a little over two months. It was abandoned after the fall of Fort Pulaski in April 1862.

The forces engaged on these works up the river to isolate Fort Pulaski were the 48th New York Volunteers, two companies of the New York Engineers, and two companies of the Third Rhode Island Heavy Artillery.

Showing location of Birds Island in Savannah River

Showing location of Birds Island in Savannah River

TRANSCRIPTION

Birds Island, Georgia
March the 23rd [1862]

Dear Friend Hen [Henry?],

As you had been so kind to write me a letter, I thought I would be sure and answer it so you could not find fault with me. Your letter was dated the 2nd of March. I was happy to hear that you were well and also that you and Jim was having nice times. I would like very much to be there and have some fun too but that cannot be for I am here and my fun consists of building forts and the like. But I trust I will be there by the 4th of July and if I am, I will make up for lost time.

I suppose you can get some of them pretty things of the girls. I was in the habit of having them when I was up there. When you get it, you must let me know about it and thin of me — a poor soldier boy out on an island in the Savannah River. I heard that you and Jim was raising old Ned with the women. Now if you get any of them in a scrape, I will send for Squire Berry when I come back and then you know what he will do with you. For fear you won’t, I will tell you he will fix you the same as he does those colts he operates on. So you must look out if you do not want to get in trouble.

We are at work building a battery on an island in the Savannah River in Georgia. The island is between the Forts of Pulaski and Jackson and the Rebels are on all sides of us. We can see the forts where they are and often we can see one of them climb up the flag staff and we can see their camp fires on the mainland very night. And almost every day there is a boat are to comes down within 4 or 5 miles of us but they know enough to stay out of range of our guns which I think is the best they can do for we might hurt them if they come any nearer to us.

We have not had any pay in nearly 5 months which I think is not to our government’s praise very much for I think that if we have not earned our money, nobody has. And more than that, I do not see but what we will not get paid until we get back to New York.

And now I will close by sending my love to all my friends and especially the ladies, but the largest share for yourself. I remain your friend, — John R. Mandeville

P.S. Please write soon as you can and direct the same as before back to them.

Hamilton

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