1862: Edwin Moses Sherburne to Jane A. Cate

Patriotic Cache on Edwin's Letter

Patriotic Cache on Edwin’s Letter

This letter was written from the outer banks of North Carolina by Private Edwin Moses Sherburne (1840-1916) of Co. I, 6th New Hampshire Infantry. Edwin was the son of Capt. James M. Sherburne (1811-1867) and his first wife, Betsey Chesley Blake (1812-1854).

Edwin enlisted in October 1861 at Epsom, Merrimack County, New Hampshire and was discharged on a surgeon’s certificate for disability on 18 November 1862 from Echington Hospital in Washington D. C.  He stood five feet eleven inches, had blue eyes, and was a carpenter by trade. In 1865, he married Emma L. Baldwin (1851-1903) and had four children, living most of his life in Pierrepont, St. Lawrence County, New York. He died in a home for disabled veterans in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Edwin M. Sherburne kept a diary in 1862 which has been transcribed and posted on the internet. From the diary, we learn that Edwin was admitted to Echington Hospital on 3 September 1862 suffering from chronic diarrhea. Following his discharge, Edwin started for home on 21 November 1862. He weighed 137 pounds when he reached home.

Edwin addressed this letter to his “Aunt” whom he does not refer to by name and there is no envelope to further aid in the identification of the recipient. It seems clear, however, that the aunt resided in Epsom and Edwin’s diary refers to his Aunt Cate and her son Almon so I’m going to conjecture the letter was addressed to Jane A. Cate (b. 1822), the wife of John G. Cate (b. 1818). This couple had a son named Almon (b. 1844) and they are enumerated in the 1860 Census in Epsom, New Hampshire.


Camp Winfield
Hatteras Inlet, North Carolina
February 12th 1862

Dear Aunt,

I now take my pen (as I have a leisure moment) to write you a few  words how we are getting along. My health is good. I hope this letter will find you all the same.

All the Epsom boys are getting along very well. William [B.] Perkins is well & John [M.] Weeks is a little unwell. H. B. Haynes’ health is good. Benj. S. Robinson is well and in good spirits. James [William] Marden is well. He has a lame ankle now. He spraint his ankle a little & is getting better.

This morning the sun rose bright. It is warm and pleasant today. We packed our knapsacks and strapped them on our backs, haversacks, canteens, &c. and went out on Battalion Movements. The was three regiments besides the N. H. Six & two thirds of the R. I. Battery that was out on our drill ground. They formed into a ___. We formed a hallow square. The Battery was opposite of us, the 89th N. Y. was behind the N. H. 6th, the 11th Connecticut, R. I. 4th, Penn 48th is here. I believe there was four regiments & battery that helped form the square.

Our commander is Gen. [Thomas] Williams. He is under Burnside, I suppose. He received a letter from Burnside last night & one of his aides read the letter before us all — that the Feds had taken Roanoke Island & Elizabeth City, 6 forts & a number thousand of arms and a lot of prisoners &c. I think you can tell me better than I can tell you about the expedition. I hope they are getting along first rate.

We drill now everyday. Dress parade in the forenoon at half past eight & then we drill until quarter to ten. We then come back to camp and stay around until one. The officers, sergeants & corporals drill until noon. We go out after dinner & drill in companies until lately the Colonel drills us altogether in battalion movements. It looks pretty well to see the whole regiment — or three or four regiments — marching along together & have a band of music to go with it. We had ten drummers and ten fifers when we started from Keene, but now we have from two to four drummers & the same with fifers on dress parade. I wish that we could have a band for our regiment. How much better a band sounds than a lot of drummers & fifers.

The New York 9th was here when we came. That had a band & good music. That regiment is gone with the expedition. There is one band here now.

Today our company furnishes the guard. Our Co. — a part of it — was on picket guard before. Our Co. is on guard once in ten days.

It is a warm and pleasant day today. The birds are enjoying their time in singing. There is sheep and lambs, hogs and pigs, cattle &c. that belongs to the inhabitants. They let them run everywhere on the island. What they live on is more than I can tell. There is live oak leaves and some stuff that they get in the swamps. The wood here is mostly live oak. The tops branch out and look some like N. H. apple trees. There is a tree here that the inhabitants use the leaves for tea. It has a red plum the size of a currant. Benjamin S. Robinson & I has had some a number of times. I think it is pretty good for a change.

The inhabitants here don’t want the trees cut down because one of them said the land here would blow all away if it weren’t for the trees. The sand here blows like snow in N. H. Out on the beach, there is a place if it was only white, it would look like a snow drift.

A fireplace with one seat inside.

The inhabitants here raise sweet potatoes and a few cabbages. The commissary finds them flour & other stuff to live on. Their houses are curiously built. Their chimneys are built out at the end. Some of them are built very well and others ain’t. I was in at one of the houses & the fireplace was built so that they had seats each side of the fire in the fireplace. They have no stoves or ovens to cook in. They cook over the fire the old fashioned way, I should think. [They] put their dough into a iron pan and hang it over the fire and put some coals on top of it and they roast their potatoes before the fire. Some of them keep hens & other guinea hens and others have got geese.

There is two forts on the isle. Fort Clark is the nearest to us. Fort Hatteras is down on the point beyond Fort Clark — west from where we stop. And now I will tell you what I have to eat. We have fritters twice or three times a day. Coffee morning & night. We have pilot bread, fresh beef, salt beef, salt pork, sugar, tea, molasses, vinegar, beans, potatoes, rice, had some dried potatoes once since we have been here.

Ambros Haynes of Epsom died Sunday night Jan. 26th. I suppose you have heard that he was dead. He had the measles when we left Annapolis, broke out on the boat. I wrote this letter on my knee. Correct all mistakes & burn this. I like [it] here well but I like to be moving for I can see more places. How long we shall stay here, I do not know. Uncle hasn’t gone into the army yet, has he? You & all write as soon as convenient.

From E. M. Sherburne, 6th Regt., C. I., Hatteras Inlet, N. C.

A view of Cape Hatteras Inlet with Forts Clark and Hatteras in the background

A view of Cape Hatteras Inlet with Forts Clark and Hatteras in the background


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