1863: Alonzo Freeman to Eliza M. Folsom

How Alonzo might have looked

How Alonzo might have looked

This letter was written by 20 year-old Alonzo Freeman (1843-1888), the son of Joseph Freeman (1815-1873) and Mary Emeline Folsom (1815-1874). He wrote the letter to his cousin, Eliza M. Folsom (1843-1868), the daughter of Levi Folsom (1804-1883) and Eliza A. Freeman (1812-1899). In the 1860 Census, the Folsom’s resided in New York City’s 8th Ward where Levi was employed as the proprietor of a saloon/restaurant. Levi’s wife was employed as an artist.

Alonzo Freeman was a member of “Scott’s 900” — the 11th New York Cavalry. He enlisted as a private at age 20 on 27 June 1863 at Washington in Company C. He was discharged on 21 July 1865 with the rank of “hospital steward.” The regimental history indicates he was captured at Doyal’s Stockade on 5 August 1864. His father, Joseph, also served in the same regiment. He enlisted at age 43 on 3 January 1862 at New York City in Company G and was discharged on 1 March 1864 due to disability. His rank was “saddler’s sergeant.”

There is a tragedy connected with this family. When Alonzo’s father (Joseph, Sr.) died in 1873, he left his sizable fortune to Alonzo’s mother, Mary Emeline (Folsom) Freeman. When she did not distribute the money to her sons, one of them — Joseph, Jr. (b. 1847) — became disgruntled and threatened to shoot himself with a pistol if she did not give him $2,000 for a business venture. When she refused, he turned the gun on her and shot in her in the back as she was exiting the room, killing her almost instantly. The defense attorney argued that the shooting was accidental, and that the defendant was of “unsound mind” but the jury did not believe it. We learn from the coverage of this incident in the newspapers that Alonzo Freeman used his hospital experience to become a physician after the Civil War. A search of the catalogue for the College of Physicians & Surgeons at Columbia University reveals that Alonzo graduated in 1869.

1863 Letter

1863 Letter

Addressed to Miss Eliza M. Folsom, 22 Vandam Street, New York City

Hospital, Scotts “900”
September 25th 1863

Dear Cousin,

I received your letter safely — also one from Theodore — and am very sorry to hear that you and Uncle Levi are so sick. It was too bad that Rinalds & Egerton had to leave New York so soon. I suppose they have joined the “Army of the Potomac” again.

What do you think of the war out West? I think that Rosencranz [William Rosecrans] did first rate [at the Battle of Chickamauga] but it was strange that General [Ambrose] Burnside did not reinforce him. At Charleston we are getting along very slowly. Fort Sumter is in possession of the rebels yet. We have seven companies stationed about sixteen miles from here. They are skirmishing with the rebels almost every day.

Father was up there this week but came back the next day. The Doctor says he thinks he will send me there with medicine for the sick. I hope he will do so. Our hospital is filled with sick. We are very busy.

I have enclosed a letter to Harriet which is important and I would like to have her get it as soon as possible. This only an apology for a letter as I am in a great hurry. I will write again on Monday. Father and I are both well and send love to all.

From your cousin, — Alonzo Freeman


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