These two letters were written by 40 year-old Alvin Ozro Brigham (1824-1865), the son of Alvin Lucas Brigham (1799-1870) and Flora H. Baxter (1804-1871) of Roxbury, Vermont. Alvin was married to Lomelia Ann Cady (1829-Aft1901) in May 1854 and resided in Fitchburg, Massachusetts when he enlisted in Co. F, 57th Massachusetts in January 1864.
Described as standing 5 ft. 7½ inches tall, with a fair complexion, blue eyes, and black hair, Ozro (as he preferred to be called) was first battle-tested in the Wilderness where 25 out of the 42 men in his company were down or taken prisoner. The first letter was written just after the fighting at Cold Harbor. A month later he was wounded in the assault on the works before Petersburg on 17 June 1864. The second letter was written while Ozro was convalescing in a Washington D.C. hospital. After recovering from his wounds and returning to his regiment, Ozro was killed on 25 March 1865 while on picket duty in the pre-dawn attack on Fort Stedman in what proved to be Lee’s desperate attempt to break through Grant’s Petersburg defenses and threaten his supply line at City Point.
Ozro’s wife, Lomelia Ann (Cady) Brigham, was the daughter of James Bigelow Cady of Alstead, New Hampshire. After Ozro’s death, Lobelia married (in 1870) Levi Bean Bickford of Hyde Park, Massachusetts.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
near Chickahominy River
June 7th 1864
We have advanced about 3 miles towards Richmond since my last was written & as I was detailed last night for picket & nothing to do—only look out for the enemy, I thought I take my pencil & scribble a few lines for your perusal. Our lines now, they say, extend to within four miles of Richmond but I suppose we shall have to take Fort Darling before we can take Richmond. Last Sunday night [5 June], the Rebs attacked our front line supposed with the intention of breaking through to get at our supply train but they found us ready for them & our grape & canister piled them up awfully. They were obliged to retreat. At the same time, our regiment was at work all night building our entrenchments. And last night I was one that was detailed in the woods. The woods here seems some like the Vermont woods—the forests of the Green Mountains. Virginia abounds in extensive forests & swamps & large corn fields.
June 8th. Since commencing this letter we have marched about 2 miles towards Richmond & built our entrenchments. We are now near Gaines Mill where McClellan fought a great battle. We are ready for an attack from the enemy but we may have orders to march in 2 hours. There were 2 men hear from the cattle guard & they said there was one or 2 letters there for me. They come to the regiment when I was away & they sent them to the cattle guard & I don’t know whether I shall ever get them or not. I would like them now.
You spoke in your letter about [how] you would send me anything I wanted. I don’t think of anything you can send me that I want. I have money enough for the present & I think enough until we are paid off. A man don’t need much money here unless he drinks spirits or uses tobacco & that is useless. I will say I am quite comfortable although I have not much strength to endure much hardship.
Oscar Davis ¹ is still our Orderly [Sergeant]. He tells a fair story & I suppose he is all right, But I understand that the report is that Lieut. [Charles] Barker ² is at Washington but just alive & his wife is with him. Have you seen Mrs. John M. Hasting lately? ³ I fear he is not alive. He has not been seen since the 11th of May. They say he may be prisoner. We expect that Mr. [William T.] Peabody and Dr. [Austin K.] Gould [both of Co. F, 57th Mass.] are prisoners. I don’t see as Fitchburg needs to be very scared about the draft. I don’t see many men drafted except those that are already in the field. Orderly Davis has written to Mrs. Hastings about her husband. We miss him as much as anyone in the company. I hope he is yet alive & will get home safe.
The land where we have traveled through Virginia is not cultivated until we get within 20 miles of Richmond & the people very destitute. We have not seen or heard of a church bell ring since I have been in Virginia. I heard a rebel engine whistle for the first time. We have not heard a sermon preached since we left Mass. Now dear, [I must] say goodbye. — Ozro
¹ According to the regimental history, Oscar D. Davis was 30 years-old when he mustered into Co. F, 57th Massachusetts Infantry at Fitchburg on 18 February 1864. He apparently deserted on 12 June 1864—just a few days after this letter was written.
² Lt. Charles Barker was wounded in the Battle of the Wilderness on 6 May 1864. He survived the war.
³ Sgt. John Minot Hastings (1826-1864) of Co. F, 57th Mass., died as a prisoner of war on 12 May 1864 from wounds received in the Battle of the Wilderness.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
July 19th 1864
I received your kind epistle dated 13th last eve. It came into the 16th but I did not happen to be at the Office so I did not get it. I must say in answer I was glad to hear that you was well but I fear you will be a little disappointed when you come to receive my last dated the 10th as I supposed by the way you wrote that you had not received it when you wrote & it may be just as well if you did not as it may not be necessary for me to get a furlough from here as the prospects are now that we shall be transferred in a few days. They have taken our names for a transfer as far as New York & a man told me this morning that the Mass. men was to be transferred to Reedville, Massachusetts. I say good if it is so, don’t you?
But I fear it will not prove true. But if I get to New York, I think I can get a furlough from there & go home. We got ready to go yesterday as a lot went, but they took only those that were the worst off to go by water & those that could go without crutches & can help themselves, they send by railroad. And they told us yesterday that probably we should go today or tomorrow, but after all, we don’t know what will happen. We may be disappointed. This world is full of disappointments & we don’t know who to trust on earth but there is one that we can trust — our Father in Heaven. His promises are sure & we will trust in Him & all will be well. And if it please Him to so arrange things that I can go home, He will do it. And if not, we must submit to His will. I think it will all come around right in the end. And if I get to New York & stop there so that I can write you, I will, so that if I come home you can meet me at John’s if you think best. I should like very much to visit them if it is convenient. I think they have done big things, don’t you? I wonder where they found such a big girl?
My health is good & my wounds are getting along as well as could be expected. I feel sorry for Mr. Wilkins. He is such a good man — always ready to help anyone in trouble. I hope he will get well.
I have been paid for my last two months pay — 26 dollars — & I have the 10 dollars you sent me which makes me just 40 dollars I have now. I have spent 2 dollars of my pay here at the sutlers & I fear if I stop here long he will get it all. You know I think a great deal of something good to eat but if I could get the money to you, it will be safe. But I will not write anymore this time. I hope I shall be in your arms before I write again. My love to all.
Goodbye from Ozro