1862: Edward Nelson Steere to James B. Coman

How Ed might have looked

How Ed might have looked

These letters were written by 21 year-old Private Edward Nelson Steere (1840-1878), the son of millwright Charles Hunt Steere (1810-1896) and Mehitable Ann Tourtellot (1813-1878) of Glocester, Providence County, Rhode Island.

It is my conclusion that Edward served in Company F of the 3rd Rhode Island Infantry. This unit was organized in Providence in the fall of 1861 but was disbanded in December 1861 and its members were transferred into the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery. From his first letter written in late April after the bombardment and surrender of Fort Pulaski, we learn that Edward was with the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery prior to that engagement in early April. He may have joined at the same time as his hometown friend Amasa Hammond, who is known to have enlisted in Company K on 7 February 1862. Amasa is mentioned a couple of times in Ed’s letters suggesting they were together in the same company.

In 1860, 20 year-old Edward N. Steere is enumerated in his parents household in Glocester, Providence County, Rhode Island (Chepachet P.O.). Edward’s father, 49 year-old Charles H. Steere is shown as the head of household with an occupation of “Millwright.” His mother is identified as “Mehitable A.” and he had a sister named Mary A. Steere, born 1833 and working as a “weaver.”

Edward Steere's boyhood home on Snake Hill Road in Glocester, Rhode Island (ca 1890)

Edward Steere’s boyhood home on Snake Hill Road in Glocester, Rhode Island (ca 1890)

From Edward’s letters we know that he served with the Rhode Island Heavy Artillery until the spring of 1863. By summer 1863, he is enumerated among the residents of Glocester, Rhode Island, employed as a farmer.

Edward married on 18 February 1865 to Emily Victoria Wakefield (1844-1866), nee Cooper, widow of Francis Wakefield. He married second to Josie E. Wilcox in June 1868. In 1870, Ed and his wife were enumerated in Norwich, Connecticut, where Ed was employed as a house carpenter. He died in Poquetanuck, Connecticut in 1878. He is listed among the Civil War veterans buried at New Poquetanuck Cemetery, but unlike most of the other veterans, no regiment accompanies his name in the cemetery record and moreover, I cannot find his name in the regimental records or in the pension files.

Edward wrote the letters to his friend, James B. Coman (1840-1918), a mason who learned the trade from his father, David Coman (1812-1891). James’ mother was Moriah (Bowen) Coman (1815-1876). James married Ed’s cousin, Lucy Emma Steere (1852-1922) in 1872. Lucy was the daughter of Seth Hunt Steere (1825-1884) and Lucy L. Smith (1831-1898).

James B. Coman grew up in this farmhouse in Glocester, Rhode Island. His father, David (in vest), stands at center. (ca 1875)

James B. Coman grew up in this farmhouse in Glocester, Rhode Island. His father, David (in vest), stands at center. (ca 1875)


1862 Letter

1862 Letter

Addressed to Mr. James B. Coman, Greenville, Smithfield, Rhode Island

Fort Pulaski
April 23rd 1862

Friend James,

Your letter I received this morning and at once hasten to answer it. This morning we arrived at the fort and expect to take charge. We though we should go on a besieging train to attack Savannah but I think that is knocked in the head for which I am very sorry for we are all on the fight and anxious to bring this war to a close.

This morning we received letters stating that they had stopped enlisting men in the North. If this is so, this war will soon be at an end. You seemed to blame me for not answering your letter. It is not my fault for I have answered every one that I have received, and have written when I had not got any from home or you. I have been obliged to send one or two without any stamp for it is almost impossible to get any here. Perhaps this is the reason that you have not any more from me. But believe me, Jim, I shall always answer my letters that I get and hope you will mine.

You said that Amasa [Hammond] had written to father and told him that we had nothing to eat now. I will tell you what we had. In the morning we had white bread, warmer than any man could eat in all day, beans boiled, and potatoes and beef for dinner, coffee included, and as much hard bread as we wanted, until now. We have rather hard living at present but it is owning to our not being settled down. I think that we shall have better [living] now we are in the fort.

Jim, Fort Pulaski is the worst looking fort that you ever saw. Our shot and shell done dreadful work. You said that you was as steady as a clock. I am glad to hear it. Jim, tell the folks that I have ben through one battle — the taking of Fort Pulaski — which lasted thirty hours [of] constant firing. But enough, I shall write soon again. I am well and in good cheer as I hope you and all of my friends are.

By the way, I saw Ed Luther this morning. He is in the fort checking for his company. Tell father I should have written to him but I wrote only two or three days ago and I await his answer. You said that you had got work. That I am glad to hear. Jim, take care of yourself and the girls. So now, adieu until you hear from me again.

Your friend ever, — Ed

P. S. Jim, you can see a piece of the secesh flag for I sent a small piece home that floated over Fort Pulaski. Write soon, be sure.


1862 Letter

1862 Letter

Addressed to James B. Coman, Greenville, Smithfield, Rhode Island

Tybee Island [Georgia]
May 11th 1862

Dear Friend,

This evening I received your letter with the utmost pleasure. For nearly three weeks I have had no news from home or you and the last I had was from you. It seems that my folks have entirely forgotten me for I have no letters from them. But when you get this, just tell them that all is well and we will soon whip out the damed rebels and come home. Jim, I am glad that you have got plenty of work and you say that father has plenty. We have nothing to do now but to lay off in the sun, which is very hot, and in two months it will be very sickly. But I hope that I shall not be here for to home is far better for you can sometimes see the girls and have a walk or ride.

Jim, you said that you had run my angel of light the Sunday before you wrote and yours also. You must be cautious and do not get Phebe Durphy mad or the devil will be to pay. You did not say much about my folks. I believe you do not visit very often, but jim remember it is always the same home to you for my folks always wish you to act the same as you would at home. Go as often as you can and when you write me, [write] all the news and particulars about and in the vicinity of Glocester and the top of the hill. ¹

Friend, I will soon be with you and by heavens, times must sing for I did not have them when I was there last winter for I had been gone so long that it would not do to carouse too much. But I am coming to stop at home when I get there again. I shall get married, have a house full of children, and a scolding wife. Apropos overtime I read that beautiful missive that I received from Hannah down here — that member that to them are so much dreaded but are so desired. When I read that, it reminds me of the many evenings that we four have spent together.

I can write no more at present for the fleas are biting so that my writing looks as if it had been the crow’s scratching. Give my love to all the folks and tell them I am alive and well.

Give my love to the fair H. E. B.  Kiss Sarah for me and H if you like.

Jim, write soon. Your friend forever & ever, — Ed

¹ I believe Ed’s parents lived on Snake Hill Road in East Glocester, Rhode Island.


North Edisto, South Carolina
June 1st 1862

Friend James,

Your letter I received this morning and was glad to hear that all the folks were well and that things were in a thriving condition. You remarked the trees were just putting forth their leaves and everything seemed to remind one of the approaching summer. You know — or at least must have some idea — that the things down here are far ahead of there at home. We have oranges and lemons, plumbs, and blackberries without number, sweet potatoes, and plantations of cotton all growing. But enough — let this suffice.

I am now on Edisto Island and we expect to march on Charleston every hour. We shall have one hundred and fifty thousand men to attack the city. If this be successful, this game is about played.

Jim, you wrote that Miss B. had once more ventured to spend the summer with you. I suppose that more than common school duty prompts her to take the rash step. But never mind. Before I get back, you will have her in a family way and if you do not, mind yourself you will become husband. Sarah H. will bring you to the wind with your fore too frail all aback. But go on with your cunting up that school marm. I think her battery mounts guns enough to bring you too. You said that you had not run the up road ladies. I suppose not for the magnet is somewhere else. Oh, by the way, you said that your Cousin was visiting at your house and says, “how fair?” You tell her I fair well and wish her the same. Jim, tell her that I said that you must kiss her for me, and you must for this once. I will do it myself next time which will be soon.

You hinted about the black skin down here. There is plenty but Jim, I shall never run my sucker into any such stuff for I am coming home again to see the live stock. Perhaps I may have another fine story in circulation. Jim, you have asked me twice to tell you the lady’s name. You have the ambrotype but I cannot trust you with that yet. I have something besides an ambrotype with me but I will tell you all about her when I come back and that will be when there is good sleighing. But I shall not go alone to Chepatchet again for you will go with me. I want you to keep that until I come, and that other fine picture I suppose you will show to Miss B to excite her under your passion. You said that report was that Amasa [Hammond] was dead. It is false for all the boys — Amasa, Henry, and George Edwards and brother are all in our camp and well.

You said that this war could not last much longer now for Charleston is the last place of any amount. Jim, I shall be at home next September. Tell N. F. Place that I shall see him and have another suffrage party at his house yet. You said that you would gather all the news that you could and I hope you will and write me a good long letter. Tell the folks that I am well and hearty and to write me. I should have written them but I have had no news.

A. Mitchel wrote that mother was not very well. If this is so, I want you to write me the truth.

The postage stamps that you sent me were very acceptable for it is almost impossible to get any out here. The sutlers charge from five to seven cents for them and none to be had half the time. If you will send me some, I will send you some money in the next letter. Jim, kiss and give my respects to all inquiring friends.

From your absent friend, — Ed

Write me as soon as you get this.


Hilton Head [South Carolina]
July 4th 1862

Friend James,

No doubt you are in the very whirl of excitement but out here it is the damdest day for a fourth that I ever celebrated. Jim, if I make more than a thousand mistakes, you must pardon me for there is everything going on in my tent. Some are preaching from Dow, Jr. and all sorts [of] sport is going on that can be kicked up in camp. I wish myself at home with you today for we would have a ride somewhere to see the girls and get some peaches. But I suppose that you are now with your arm around the neck of S. H. [or] H. B., I cannot tel which for I believe you would as soon do it as eat.

Jim, I will leave this page for I wish to ask you if you have ever seen the original of that miniature. Oh ho.

Jim, hold one moment for I forgot myself. I did not remember that the idol of your heart — Miss B. — was yet in your presence. Perhaps it is her that you are tearing and coaxing instead of Miss H. No matter. Success to you whatever you do. But God damn you if you do not write me a letter soon and tell me all the news for I cannot hear hear of anything out here until you have heard it two weeks before. But I cannot write anymore at present for it don’t pay for I get no answers.

Give my love to that cousin of yours and tell that Ed has not forgotten her nor will very soon. If you see Hannah, squeeze her hand for me and look her in the eye and ask her if she has ever thought of Ed. But shit, Jim, I am as full of the devil as the north wind. Whiskey is only 3 dollars per bottle but to hell with it, they do not fool me down in Dixie.

No more. Yours &c., — Ed




Camp Stephen Olney
3rd Rhode Island Regiment, Co. F
Hilton Head, South Carolina
July 13th 1862

Respected Friend,

As no letter came from that part of the land, I amok the opinion that you are all dead or do not deem it worthy of note to answer my letters. I have written you several times and have not as yet received any answers. The mail steamers have been to and fro several times but no news from any of you. You cannot imagine the feelings of one out here writing often as I do and to have no answers in return. But enough. If you are tired, I will not impose the task of writing on you. I cannot believe it’s owing to the mails for other letters come through safe to others in our company and from Providence so this shall be my last if I get none in return.

I am now staying at Hilton Head and am well and hearty and hope that this will find you the same and all my friends. If you get this letter, I wish you to say that I am well and give my love to all enquiring friends. Expecting that you will write soon, I bid you good day and heavenly happiness by night for I enjoy the greatest of pleasure nights among the fleas and mosquitoes which are as big as a cat.

The weather is tremendous warm and it is sickly out here but the drum beats for dinner and I must away.

Ever your friend, — Ed

P.S. Kiss Miss Burdick for me and all the rest. Send me two or three stamps and I will send you the money. Tell Mary Ann that I should like to hear from her. But hold, I hear the orderly calling my name for letters and it is one from her. Thank God, Jim. Tell my sister is was a Godsend to me to receive some news from home and now I want to hear from you.




Camp Stephen Olney
Hilton Head, South Carolina
July 31st 1862

Friend James,

Your letter I received this afternoon and this morning I have time to reply to it. You gave me a description of how you spent your fourth. It seems that you enjoyed yourself finely although not in the presence of Miss Burdick. But perhaps you was under the guidance of some of the fair — angel fair. There are many that are always ready to accept an offer but do not let any of them run away with your heart and drive you away to the war.

You said that they were giving two hundred dollars bounty to entice men to enlist but do not let them entrap you. If they do, you will wish that the devil had you for soldiering is not what it is cracked up to be. If you could be used as they tell you, it would be well enough. But they tell you a pack of damned lies to get you down in Dixie and then they do just as they please with you. So mind your business, Jim.

I shall be at home before you think somehow or another for I have got sick of this business. You said that you had not seen any of the uptown folks but I suppose that they are all well. You never mentioned about any of the folks at home which I thought rather singular.

I am well and hope that these few lines will find you enjoying the same blessing. Jim, you must excuse me now for I am called to go on duty so I must close. But in my next I will fill a ream. Give my respects to all the folks.

Your friend down South. — Ed




Camp Stephen Olney
Hilton Head [South Carolina]
August 18th 1862

Respected Friend,

It was impossible for me to answer your letter sooner for I have been busy and not a moment to spare. It is constantly with me a source trial. On guard today and expecting tomorrow, but this will not last forever for we expect to move towards Richmond before long and then there will be more to ____ their minds. There is rumor here that they are drafting at home but Jim, look sharp and mind they do not draft you for them that come out now are going on to Virginia at once and are immediately on the battlefield. Look towards your interest and banish the idea of war forever from your mind.

The weather here now is very pleasant and quite cool and if this only lasts, I shall soon be on my toes. Give me health and I care not for the devil, nor any Secesh.

Jim, you can get more news at home than I can write you. All I can do is to describe to you a soldier’s life which is anything but delightsome for sure. You can find all kinds — both good and bad. There are pickpockets, murderers, and escaped prisoners. Then everything is so dull. You can see nothing new. It is the same old thing everyday — the same kind of food and no change whatever. Then you find a chance, pass the guard, and go sleep with a nigger wench, or go and steal figs or hens for the fleas are so thick that it is impossible for one to sleep. But I hope that before long I shall be able to sleep once more in a good bed — [even] if I am deprived of a companion.

I suppose that by the time that you have seen the favors of Miss Burdick and have ravished her charms for you was in in a fair way to when I left home. Jim, it is tough out here for one can not have a nice white girl to sleep with but must put up with a nigger wench as black as hell and smell like a muskrat. But this is sufficient for I shall be crazy if I go on in this strain. I beg you to give my love to Messr. Burlingame and also to your cousin ______ and tell them that Ed is alive and shall come home to have a nice spree before I leave the United States again and forever, for I must inform you as soon as I am discharged, I shall come home for a week or that matter and then take a farewell adieu of my native land for it is a curse to me. Remember me as a friend ever true.

Yours &c., — Ed




Camp Stephen Olney
Hilton Head [South Carolina]
September 12th 1862

Friend James,

Your letter I received this morning and was glad to hear that you was well and more that you had not enlisted to make a fool of yourself as a great many have. Glad that you enjoy yourself as your pen has represented the fine times that you must have had down to the shore. I almost envy you the good times, but never [paper torn]. When I return — if I ever do — then we will make things shake, but under no circumstances do you enlist. You must know that if you should, that you at once will be sent down South and it is so hot and sickly that half that come here now are in the hospital. Today we received some new recruits and nearly all are in the hospital already and when once you are sick, it is not much use to think that you will ever be any better.

You said that the folks was all pretty well. I was glad to hear it and that you stopped and drank tea with mother. Thank you for that. It does her so much good now that I am away and that we always were good friends. It does her a great deal of good to have you come up and see her. You spoke of the boys in the Seventh [Rhode Island] as enjoying themselves finely. All right but there tune will turn when they get in Dixie — especially when they are making [paper torn] ___arge on Charleston  or some other city. Never mind, let them come and satisfy themselves. But enough on this subject.

Jim, how are all the girls and where is Sue & Em & Sarah & Hannah all there you say nothing about. I suppose you have cut short their acquaintance and have taken another road but look out that you do not run into any snag, or have your masts ____. Jim, this is a great placer black f____g. But damned few whites are there here and I suppose that you have got all that you can lay too for there is Miss Burdock and Phebe D. I suppose that she will still give you all that you want but, by the way, how is George Waldron? I understands that he is lame and does not consider himself an able-bodied man and cannot think of the sweets of the South. Brave boy O.O.O.

Jim, I cannot think of much to write you for our camp is a dull place and the same old thing all the time. Gun boats are going and coming all the time and we expect that there will be lively times around here before long. I suppose that we will be here all the winter although the regiment is split up — some are in Fort Pulaski, some in Bay Point, and some at Fortress Monroe. But I think that we shall stop here. I hate this place above all others for no one can sleep at night for the fleas and the mosquitoes are the thickest and the largest that I ever saw. And [as] for the fine oranges and other fine things that they say you can get down here, those fine things are what I have written you before.

Jim, I must close this for my dinner is now ready and we have to be very punctual or go without. And what a pity to lose such a fine meal. Tell my folks that I am well and am waiting an answer from them before I write. Jim, write soon and give me a full description of all that turns up. So adieu for the present.

From your friend ever, — Ed




Camp Stephen Olney
Hilton Head [South Carolina]
October 3rd 1862

Friend James,

Your letter I received this morn and you cannot imagine the exquisite pleasure it gave me to know that you was well and tough as a buck. It also found me quite well and my usual mood. I was happy to hear that you had not been enticed to enlist and I pray to God that they cannot entice you by any of their flattery that they are so well accustomed to me. I was also glad to hear that you enjoyed yourself as well as your pen represented.

You must excuse me for thinking that you would seduce Miss Burdick but I thought that you had her so very near you that it would be impossible to resist the temptation and I had also forgotten the two Miss Plummers. I suppose that in them you find your magnet. Ah! Jim, if I had one out here I think I that I could plum her. At least I could only try. But about her that was Phebe Steere, what do you know about the elegant letter you said I wrote her? I do not remember that I ever wrote her any letter but I suppose that I did. You said that you had good times grasping her and I guess that you would tell of more than merely grasping. I think that you could describe their under clothing if you were questioned very hard. But enough. You say that you can give me no information of the uptown girls. Well, I do not wonder at it much, but I should not have taken the mitten without some satisfaction. Jim, I have got a stiff p___ for all of them if I ever return and I am convinced that some will get it. I suppose that you think I cannot see a hole through a ladder for you gave me quite a good excuse for being at. N. Placer so very often. You must know that I had quite forgotten Cynthia but you damned rascal, you look out or N. Placer will kill you if you broach her virginity. Jim, you must excuse me and not be angry for I write what comes first and then I am on guard today and its written in the guard house for the day seems so long that I can not wait until tomorrow when I shall be sleepy as the devil.

Jim, I can live through almost anything after this. If the reports in the papers are true, and about the President’s Proclamation to restore to the rebels all their property &c., it seems that they will embrace this opportunity and that peace will once more be restored throughout the nation. All down here hope that they will hear to this for it is their chance to save themselves and property.

Jim, perhaps you think that some that I have written home is not true but you can enquire of anyone that has been down here and see what they will tell you. Last week we received some five hundred dollar [bounty] men. I suppose that they can fight better than them that come out here for fifteen dollars bounty but God damn them, they will soon have a chance to show their pluck for there is a report that the 11th Regiment is coming to relieve the Third and that we are going to cut our way North through the Rebels for Mitchell says that this island is not large enough for him and that he will lead us and be at our head in battle. He says he will whip the damned Rebels or die. Jim, never think of going to be a soldier. Better die at home and amongst our friends and be buried decent. But enough of this damned rabble.

Keep your pecker in trim until I return and then we will drown sorrow. I must now close or the hour of five calls me to duty and it is written within a few minutes of that time now. Believing you my only childhood companion and friend, I bid you adieu.

Your friend forever, — Ed




Camp Stephen Olney
Hilton Head, South Carolina
October 13th 1862

Friend James,

I received your letter today and was glad to hear that you was well and free from enlistment as yet and I hope that you ever will be for to be a soldier is worth more than 500 dollars when one does not know what one is fighting for, for I do not believe that one half of them know what they are fighting for. But you did not say much about the war. But I suppose that your mind is taken up with matters of more importance to your own dear self and perhaps the soldier widows. Mother wrote me that you had been up there and was well.

Jim, I am well but not so heavy as I was when I left Providence. But never mind. Some brandy and something to eat will refresh me and a few nights to Charlton Heights will enable me to floor any of the Rhode Island boys. By the way, how is __ Waldron with all of his rigs and twists? I suppose about the same. Tell him when you see him that we are all going on to attack the City of Charleston or to cut off all communication from railroad and there will be some bloody fighting but we are ready for it, and a man to lead us. Mitchell means [to] fight and he wants us to follow and all are ready. We are every moment expecting orders to move but I cannot write half now. You may judge something from my writing whether I am in any hurry or not. When I write again, I will write more particulars. Give my respects to al enquiring friends.

From your friend ever, — Ed

Write soon and all news.




Camp Stephen Olney
Hilton Head, South Carolina
October 16th 1862

Respected Friend,

Being excused from Battalion Drill, I will improve the opportunity by scratching you a few lines to let you know that I am well and hope that when these few lines reaches the pleasant North, they will find you the same. You may think it strange that I write you so soon again but I have heard that several of the boys have been foolish enough to enlist, but if you have not, do not think of [it] for a moment. Now take the advice of your best friend for you will surely rue the day that you enlist. Stop at home and be of good cheer. I will be with [you] sometime [soon] and I hope have more good times together. ____- a great many that we knew will lay low in Carolina or Virginia, but some will be there and all the girls will not be married, I know. If they are, why then we will love old bachelors and keep a tavern and sell whiskey and keep girls.

I said we. I beg you to excuse me for including you for perhaps the fair face that Miss Plummer will take your heart along. If so, then I shall be obliged to go it myself all alone. I shall tune some of their fiddles for them, I can assure you, for when I come home I shall not make a very long stop for Europe is by far a better place than America for there you can have sport and everything that your heart can wish for.

You spoke about your going down to the shore a hunting and fishing. I am thinking of a fine time you will have down there. I wish that I could be at home to go with you, but very likely my company would not be acceptable although I should make an advance. If then refused, I should then go and spend a week at Charlton Heights with the girls, so I think that I should have about as good a spree as yourself. But enough.

How is times and how many parties have there been for you to go to this fall? I should like to go to one more over at Dick’s before I die and I guess that you would. But then I did not know perhaps the Plummer girls would not be there although you could just ride up and see and call to Chepachet and get your pint filled up by the way of a toast and a treat to a friend. Jim, when you hear that we are to land in Providence, I should just like to see you with something good to cheer the spirits of a fellow. But here I am running on just the same as if I expected to be there in a day or two. But never mind. It will all come around some day and a happy one it will be to me.

Jim, you can just tell the chaps that have just enlisted that we expect them to help us to look at Charleston for we are expecting every hour to get the word move. It is not far distant for we have been getting everything ready for this last week and all is now completed. Today I was at work on board a steamer fitting her out as a gun boat to run up the creeks with and shell out the damned Rebels. Our General is awaiting to have his old troops land. Then all is ready to give them Jessie. Mitchell says that he wants to root them out and work his way right through to the North.

I suppose that you will read an account of some daring exploits very soon headed by the gallant Third that fight so bravely and do not falter. Some future time shall write you more. I hope to tell you with my own lips but enough. Good night and pleasant dreams.

Ever your friend, — Ed




Camp Stephen Olney
Hilton Head, South Carolina
October 31st 1862

Respected Friend,

Your letter I received a few days since and was pleased to hear that you was well and I can assure you that it found me the same although the devil is to pay down here for the officers are dying off three and four a day. But there are none of the privates as yet gone. Some seem to think that it is the yellow fever and others that it is poison for it takes none but our officers and they do not live more than twenty-four hours. It is something that works very quick.

You say that you have not been doing anything but racing from one place to another. That is enough if you can keep all accounts posted as well as old Zeph used to. Do you say that Martin Bishop has enlisted? I suppose that he is satisfied now. If not, he will be when he comes down to Dixie. But enough. Time solves the great mystery.

You say that you had a good time to husking. No doubt of that for you told me the reason the Miss Plummers were there. That was quite enough for you to have a good time. And you say that Miss Holbrooks was there too and you seem to intimate that if I had been there I should have a fine chance to ___. You do own that I have resolved the mystery of your going to N. Placers so often and well you might for you have no excuse whatever. You say that there is a man down here by the name of Isaac Bishop. I do not know for I have never seen nor heard of any by that name. You say that there are plenty of war widows but I guess that the Plummer widows suit you the best and I think that by what you wrote that they have made quite an impression on your heart. But be of good cheer. You will soon overcome all those obstacles and come out as closing as ever.

You say that you were up to see the folks and say that they are all well. I was glad to hear you say it for I have not had any letters from them for some time and I did not know but you had stopped going up to the old house. But I hope you will not. You say that you are a going to enjoy life whilst you have a chance. Well, I hope you will but look out and do not go it too strong. If you do, you will repent the day that you ever was born. All these things on a moderate scale and do not be too wild and reckless. Then when you get married, life will be more sweet and you will enjoy yourself much better. Ask Miss Plummer, and if she does not say so, then I will say no more for you must allow that I have had some experience in matters like these. But Jim, away with all fun and joking, when I come home I will show you some ___ for the brief period od a week and then bid adieu to America — perhaps forever.

I am going to write home for a box and I want you to send me a drink of cider and a cigar and I will send you some oranges if I can possibly get them. When you get this, tell the folks that I am well and as tough as ever although the times are quite exciting and a skirmish is no infrequent occurrence. Jim, when you get this, drink a glass for me and kiss all the girls. But I’ve no need to tell you to kiss the girls for I know that you will and perhaps more too. But I will trust you and let it rip. Give my love to all the smiling beauties and to that Miss Plummer I would say but I do not know her, but if I were at home I would — before this day week.

Jim, mind that you do not show that picture that I gave you before I come away for if you do, it will perhaps make her feel rather frisky. Well then, God only knows what will take place. But enough for present. So good luck attend you and yours.

Your friend ever, — Ed




Camp Stephen Olney
Hilton Head, South Carolina
November 18th 1862

Respected Friend,

This morning I sit me down once more to communicate to you the news that I am well and also hope that this will find you enjoying the same blessing. It is now a long time since I have had any news from you on account of our mails being intercepted by the pirate Alabama. As to the truth of this statement, I am unable to say but we know that something is in the wind for we have not had any news from Rhode Island for over four weeks. May the long watched for steamer bring the glad tidings of peace.

Jim, this war is about played, I hope, for I am heartily sick of it. In our camp, it is the same dull and monotonous times that ever attend a camp life. Today is raining and it is impossible for me to write on account of the damned jabbering in my tent for they are all talking and raising the very devil so you must excuse me if I make a hundred mistakes. I suppose that you are having a good time smoking your cigar and playing for some evening sports, perked or to enjoy the pleasant smiles of Miss ________. Jim, I wish that I could be with you if no longer than one evening. I know that you would speak a good word for me — perhaps to the _____ ____ Miss _____.

But Jim, I may be at home before long to have a look at you and then away to some distant part to enjoy the pleasure of the fair sex or to travel to enjoy the beauty of the old world. Jim, I am determined never to settle within the limits of the once United States but to banish them entirely from my mind for there is nothing that I care about, nor nobody that cares about me. Had it not been for my friends, I should never have come back to them again. But enough. If this war does not close by January, you may expect to see me home on a furlough for I shall surely come to bid you all goodbye and once more to look upon the spot where I was born.

Jim, when you get this, tell the folks that Ed is amongst the living and when you see the uptown girls, say how fair you are to them for me.

When you write, be sure to give all the particulars about everything that is passing in that vicinity. I suppose that you are having some fine parties by this time, but I doubt it you have any of N. Burlingame’s wine or not or have any finer maids to grace your parties that his daughter Hannah. But enough. If I do not stop writing, you will grow tired of reading it for it is of no consequence anyway you can fix it.

Give my regards to all enquiring friends and kiss and squeeze the hand of every maiden.

P. S. There is a great stir amongst the soldiers about enlisting in the regular service for Cavalry and Battery Infantry and Artillery for the remainder of their time and a furlough home for twenty or thirty days. Probably I shall see you in a few days so bid you a good morning. From your friend forever, — Ed




Camp Stephen Olney
Hilton Head, South Carolina
November 30th 1862

Respected Friend,

With pleasure again I take my pen in hand to inform you that I am alive and still among the living. Today, being the Sabbath, it f=gives me plenty of time to communicate to you my thoughts in regard to the settlement of this war — if there ever will be any. But the cloud still hangs very heavily over us at the present time but the darkest time is just before the break of day.

Jim, we spent the greatest Thanksgiving that ever any man spent. We had a very sumptuous dinner served for us troops of the United States. It consisted of some water and about half a dozen beans in it. This they called bean soup. Our supper I will not attempt to describe for it will only waste paper. But I need not complain for I am at present off duty being troubled with the rheumatics so as to grub, I care but very little about. I am limping around and have plenty of time to write to you and you can bet that I shall improve the opportunity as long as my paper and postage stamps last for when they are gone, I can get no more for the damned shits have not paid us yet and we have now got six months due us.

I suppose that you are having fine times sleighing with the girls and especially the Miss ___ but Jim you can sleigh it all you like and seduce all the girls you can and there will be one ____ there left for me. I can get plenty out here but they are rather dark complexion. Still they have to do for the present. There has been a great many young lady from York here and they are quite pretty and agreeable but enough.

How are all the old and young at home and around in that vicinity — even to the top of the hill and around that quarter? How is your cousin Sue? Damned fine girl that, and how is the weeping Sarah? Also the broken-hearted Phebe? Ah, Jim, you are a ___ cure for the girls, but never mind. we shall all turn up right yet. By the way, you can look at the Southern Lady that I sent you. Perhaps you know her or more have spent a night of pleasure with her. If you have, I do not care a fig. Jim, when you write me, be so kind as to give me a full description of everything in and around that vicinity. You can give me ten times more news than I can and do my best, so just let me hear from you for I expect that you will keep the books.

You say that the parties are about played out but I just wish that I was at home. I think I could kick up some kind of a time for there are still plenty of young men around and five times the number of ladies. but if ever I come home, I will just show you something that will make your hair stand straight. While I have been out here, I have thought of that letter that mentions about the rapturous delight by day and heavenly pleasures by night. I often think of the times that we have had to parties and at Eld. Phillips, but I must close for you can see that I have wrote at random. Be so kind and condescending as to give my respects to all enquiring friends. Let father know that I am well and oblige.

Your friend, — Ed




Camp Stephen Olney
Hilton Head, South Carolina
December 13th 1862

Respected Friend,

I received your letter yesterday and I have nothing to do but to reply at once. I am  laying around like a horse on three legs but I am in good spirits and intend to keep so for faint heart never won a fair lady. Jim, I have done no duty for four or five weeks now. I do not know when I shall be able to do anything. It is such cursed weather out here for it is a July and November all in two days. So you can judge that the weather is somewhat changeable.

But I had expected to hear that you had had some fine sleighing and more had had some good times with the girls. It seems that the Miss ____ have fell in the sewer. Perhaps the mitten is around somewhere or perhaps you have got your eye on some other object. If so, go for it for by the great hook block, if ever I come home, I am going around as Tow row setter for I think that will pay about as well as anything. I can get nothing but black __ and some of that is rather dangerous.

You say that you’re at work and I am glad to hear that you have stopped your racing for it is better for you. Now do not think that I am a giving you a lecture for I am not. When I come home I hope to find you on your muscle and ready for any scrape for I am bound to go it for a few days when I come back. You say that you are not yet married. Well that is rather clever, but I suppose that you will get some of them _____ and then be obliged to join the holy bonds of matrimony. Jim, you are a damned fool if you do not send some of the girls up salt river but I suppose that you wish to keep out of all such scrapes. By the way, you say that Martin Van Buren Bishop has enlisted. I wonder if he does not think that today is tomorrow. If he does not now, he will before a month. But enough of this.

Jim, mother wrote me that you sent me a bottle of cider and I thank you a thousand times. I shall drink it in remembrance of old times that we used to have at my house. Jim, go there and make yourself at home for it gives mother great satisfaction for we have been together so much. but Jim, excuse this for I have had to scribble it anyhow for the mail closes at twelve o’clock and I do not know but I am too late now. Write me soon.

From your friend, — Ed




Camp Stephen Olney
Hilton Head [South Carolina]
January 10th 1863

Dear Friend,

Your letters of the 31st and 3rd I received last night and when reading it you mention of Christmas and the happy times we spent one year ago. Ah! Well do I remember it. But alas, how vastly different this one is. Perhaps it is all for the best. All that day I thought of you and if you were enjoying yourself. Yes, I thought, I hope he is — far more so than myself, for there is no difference in the days here. You say you wish me a happy New Year. Thank you and many the one to you may the same rays ever smile upon you and the smiles of the fairer sect ever gladden your heart, and I guess they are if I can interpret your last letter.

You say that there are no parties to go to this winter. Well I suppose there is not for the most of the young men are gone to fight for their country and it will make a lonesome look when this war ends — if it ever does. But enough. You say that you have sent me a bottle of cider and some cigars. Thank you. They will be very acceptable and the cider I shall do justice to in remembrance of the old times. You spoke of the probability of a nigh’t excursion with the fair Cynthia included, not that you would think of me if circumstances admitted an opportunity of gently pressing the (no doubt) very willing hand of your fair mistress. You spoke of me having intercourse with a black negro wench. There you are very much mistaken for Jim, there are women from New York out here and some very agreeable too and more beautiful.

But Jim, I have had black and white and I know what they are from actual experience. When you have roved around the whole globe as I have and have seen and tried all kinds, you can then judge for yourself. I beg you to excuse me for writing in parables but I write as it comes — a little of all sorts.

You spoke of having a snow but not enough for any sleighing. It is all out of the question here although there are some very cold nights but of short duration.

James Coman, you ask me to imagine myself seated beside Miss Burlingame driving as you say to some pleasant place to enjoy a few hours. I would not, for do you think she would be seen with a soldier if she knew it. No, I think not — nor will any girl look at a soldier when he comes home if he should happen to live until that blessed day. But enough.

Jim, I can tell you more than my poor pen can when I come home. At present, I am in the hospital and have been some time but thought best not to write home so for fear it would make mother feel so bad. You must not let anyone know that I am — not a soul. But write me often.

From yours forever, — Ed




Camp Stephen Olney
Hilton Head, South Carolina
February 19th 1863

Respected Friend,

News has just at this moment reached me that a mail leaves here today and I feel it my duty to answer your kind letter to let you know how I am progressing. Alas, it is slow but still there is hope. I am no better than when I last wrote and I never shall be out here. The doctor told only yesterday that he nor any other man could do anything for me for they have not got the instruments to work with nor can they make them for they must be made by a medical man. I have got to be put into a box or whatever you may call it and screwed up to get me in shape again.

You must not tell the folks that I am all out of shape for it would only worry them and do no good. Tell them that you have heard from me and that I am about the same but no more.

There is nothing new at present to write you. Hoping that you are in good health and enjoying yourself as well as circumstances will admit. I will bring this to a close. Jim, I am expecting to come North somewhere before long for they do nothing for me now and I have had a talk the Colonel and he asked the doctor what he was keeping me here for and he told him that I had been before the board and did not pass. So what they will do, I do not know, but shall before long.

P.S. Write soon and oblige. — Ed


Camp Stephen Olney
Hilton Head [South Carolina]
February 22d 1863

Friend James,

I have just received your letter and at once sit me down to reply. I had nearly given up all hopes  of ever hearing from you again for I have not heard from anyone North for a long period. I wrote a few lines home a few days ago and that will be the last until I hear from some of them. You said that you was up to Fathers and that they were all well. That was enough for it is a great consolation to know that all at home are well.

When I wrote you before I think that I mentioned something about my getting a discharge but I have not got any yet but may before long. Everyone says that I shall be sent home for I shall never do any more duty out here — if I do anywhere. All the doctors say that they can do nothing for me and I think that they will send me home before many weeks. I am still in the hospital and am no better but worse. Do not let he folks know that I am any worse for it would only trouble them and do no good.

The weather is very changeable and unhealthy. The peach trees are all in full bloom and all seems like spring. Hunter is in command here and a heavy blow is to be struck down here soon for all is bustle and preparation for the expedition. It is supposed that Charleston and Savannah are the places for attack but no one knows. This is all I have to say about the war for it is too disgusting to talk about.

You say that you wish that had enlisted when I did. Yes, and you would have wished in hell more than once, I should think, that you could read enough in the papers to sicken you of ever thinking of war. You must excuse me for not scribbling you a few lines more but I cannot sit in any position long enough. You will see that this looks as if I had the chills and was shaking with a fever. Hoping this will find you in fine spirits and good health. I bid you goodbye.

From your friend — Ed

P. S. I hope my next will be written better so that you can read it. I shall give you all the particulars and I will send you a paper.




General Hospital
Hilton Head, South Carolina
April 10th 1863

Friend James,

Nothing to do O will scratch you a few lines to let you know how I am getting along which is very slow, I can assure you, for I am no better nor am I likely to be. The doctor does nothing for me nor even says anything and there are a hundred others in the same situation as I am. But we hope to come North with some of the wounded for they are now bombarding Fort Sumter with success. If I can get sent to some hospital north, I shall come and see what they can do. The doctors say that they can do nothing here nor do they much. I suppose that I shall stop here sixty days. Then they will discharge or send me North. I have got so that I do not care a damn whether they do anything or not. Time takes its course. It is a long river with no bend.

We have a great noise about the draft that is expected to come off in a few days. If they draft you, don’t you ever [leave] Rhode Island. Rather be shot down at home than to come out here and then be shot like a dog. I hope the people of little Rhode Island will never allow it. If they do, they will open their eyes when they get out here. Hoping to see you before long, I must close for there are no news to interest you that I can write.

When you see my friends, tell them that I am the same but still live in hope. I have been in the General Hospital now ten days and the first chance to get to come North I shall acquaint you. May this find you in good health surrounded by all that’s beautiful and lovely, even to the fair Sarah. Tell Mother that she shall hear from me soon and all the particulars from other points. In a short time there will be a great number of men sent to the same place North and I hope to be in the gang. Write me soon.

From yours ever, — Ed

[Note: this letter out of chronological order but I’m not sure of the date]



Hilton Head, South Carolina
____ 3rd 1862

Respected Friend,

This morning ar roll call I received you letter dated the 10 Aug [?] and at once sat to reply for it found me in very good health and I was very happy to hear that you enjoyed the same blessing. I had commenced to think that I should get no more letters from you but it seems that I have. It is on account of the mails for they are not very regular. I have written you every month but I expect that this letter will not reach you very soon but as soon as it does I wish you to reply. You said that when you wrote again you would write me the particulars and oblige your friend. I was glad that you wrote how the folks were for I have not heard from them for some time. You wished to know if ___ had received your letter. He has not as yet. You also wished to know how I fair in regard to eating. We have bread and salt beef that stinks and our bread is full of worms.

[You asked] how our time is occupied. I will tell you. the first thing in the morning is roll call directly after we get what they call breakfast and at 8 o’clock, all hands to drill, recall from drill 4 o’clock, then to our sumptuous dinner which is the same as our morning meal. After dinner we drill until five in the afternoon and at six all hands for dress parade, then to supper. After that is roll call …. and then we are free until we sleep for after nine o’clock all lights are supposed to be out. As for the chance of getting a peep at the Southern beauties ….

Remember your friend, — Ed


3 thoughts on “1862: Edward Nelson Steere to James B. Coman

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s