This letter was written by 31 year-old Pvt. Benjamin Howard Britton (1833-1899), a shoemaker from Marlborough, Massachusetts. He was the son of Benjamin and Adeline (West) Britton of Littleton, Massachusetts. Benjamin enlisted on 19 September 1864 in Co. I, 2d Massachusetts Heavy Artillery. On 15 January 1865 he was transferred into Co. D, 17th Massachusetts Infantry. He was discharged from the service at Greensboro, North Carolina on 30 June 1865.
Benjamin wrote the letter to his wife, Emily (“Emma”) Eliza (Wright) Britton (1843-1938) who was apparently visiting relatives in Keene, New Hampshire at the time.
Addressed to Mrs. Benjamin H. Britton, Keene, New Hampshire
New Berne, North Carolina
December 25th 1864
Christmas Day (No. 9)
I wish you a Merry Christmas — Aye, and many a happy one also. I am well & hope you are the same. I have just been writing to Brother Lawson. I have not received a word from him since I have been in the army.
27th. Emma, I did not have time to finish this letter Christmas Day so I will take this opportunity to do so. I am well and hope these few lines will find you the same. I had a pass yesterday to go down town as we call it and I had a chance to go around the city some. I have been down before but not to stop so long. The city is more lively than I have seen it before since I came here. There is considerable business going on there now. I went into an Ambrotype Saloon and had four pictures taken. I wanted something to send you for a New Year’s present and could think of nothing else I could send you very conveniently. I thought perhaps you would like to see how your soldier boy looks. I hope you will accept it as a New Year’s present as I can get nothing better to send you. It is not New Year’s yet but I expect you will get it about New Year’s. It is not finished up in very good shape — they take them so fast — but I think the features are pretty good. I put them in my pocket when I came home and one of them got partly rubbed out & I gave it to one of the boys in my company. I paid one dollar and a half for 4. I will send you one of them & if you wish to give it away to anyone at New Hampshire, I will send you another or two if you want them as I have two left. You must write me if you want both of them.
There is a story in camp now that the recruits are not to stop in this regiment much longer. They say that they are to go into the 17th Massachusetts at Newport Barracks. I do not know how far it is from here but I have heard that it is between Morehead City and this place. Forehead City is not over 40 miles from here so it cannot be more than that distance. But they have so many false reports here, I do not credit it much. It is evident we shall have to go into some other regiment for there is not so many allowed in a regiment as there now is in this, and the recruits keep coming for this regiment all the time. They seem to think that the 2d Massachusetts Heavy Artillery is a nice regiment to enlist into but if I do not stop in this regiment, I think I will enlist in the cavalry for I do not want to go into an infantry regiment if I can avoid it. There is room in this company for 12 recruits and that number will be taken from us and the balance will have to go somewhere else.
Colonel [Jones] Frankle has made an application at Washington to get leave to fill each company up to 200 but has failed to do so and I suppose most of us will have to go into something else. If I can have my choice again, I think I will find some other place where I shall like as well as this if not better.
When I had my pictures taken, I did not have the scales on the shoulders or my equipments — waist belt, cross belt &c — for I wanted to look as much like a citizen as possible. Perhaps you would like it better with all the trimmings on. If so, perhaps I will have some more taken for you some time. Please accept this with much love. Give my regards to all our friends.
Yours, — B. H. Britton
I received your letter (No. 5) last evening and was glad to hear from you and hear you are well and enjoying yourself so well. It seems odd to hear you talk about sleigh riding. We have not had snow enough to make the ground white yet. It seldom snows here.
Please write to me about two weeks before you go to Marlboro and let me know when you are going so that my letters may not go to Keene after you go to Marlboro. B. H. B.