This letter was written by Pvt. Edgar C. Sterling (1838-1917) of Co. D, 1st Connecticut Infantry — a three-month enlistee. Edgar was the son of Heman Bradley Sterling (1802-1883) and Harriet Cross Sterling of Goshen, Litchfield County, Connecticut. [See comments below.]
Apparently Edgar’s service was extremely brief. Regimental records indicate that he enlisted on 22 April 1861 but that he mustered out on 1 May 1861 due to a disability. From this letter we learn that his service extended beyond 1 May, but probably not much longer.
Washington [D. C.]
May 23rd 1861
Proceedings from March 23 
Thursday morning, leave camp with James Breckinridge to the Union House, get breakfast, then to an [photographic] artist, then to camp. The regiment form into line and the colors present[ed] to the Waterbury Company. In afternoon at 3 o’clock P.M., march through town to long wharf amid cheers and shouts. [May 10, 1861,] Go on board the Bienville bound to Washington. It being a first class steamer, we had comfortable quarters at 10¼ o’clock. We started on our voyage. The wharf being crowded, we had many a parting cheer. I stood on deck and watch[ed] the crowd where many a friend stood watching the retreating steamer. I went down into my cabin and went to sleep. The next I knew, we was far from Connecticut.
The sea being smooth made the day pass pleasantly altho’ once in awhile a thought wandered back to the friends left behind. About 5 o’clock Friday, 24 March P.M., it began to wind and the rain fell in torrents. There was a good many sick as soon as the boat began to [get] tossed. I went into my cabin and lay there until there o’clock in the morning [and] went on deck. The waves rolled high and tossed the boat nicely. I felt well until I went to breakfast when I was taken sick but got over it soon. When the sun rose, it looked splendidly. We were then off the shores of Maryland, but being so far from shore we was not able to see how it looked.
Saturday morning we was near the Chesapeake Bay. Saw several Man-of-War. At 4 o’clock P. M. we was in the Potomac with Maryland [on] one side and Virginia the other. And at six o’clock, anchored, and on each side of us the waving fields of grass and the trees with their green plumage. The scenery beautiful.
Sunday morning [12 May 1861] at 4½, we started past Mount Vernon about 9 o’clock and Fort Washington. We received cheers from the fort. The next in sight was Alexandria. The first we saw was a secession flag waving from the Burton House. There was a large Man-of-War lying at the wharf of the United States Navy which cheered us. We was then in sight of Washington. We anchored about halfway between the two places and the Colonel [Daniel Tyler] went to Washington, came back with President Lincoln and Gen. Scott. ¹ We hoisted anchor and landed at the Arsenal and a splendid place. We staid there overnight. ² The next day [13 May 1861] we marched for our encamp[ment] [at “Glenwood, ” about two miles north of the Capitol] and it being a very warm day, a good many was not able to stand the heat so they had to be carried in hacks.
— Edgar C. Sterling
¹ The Lincoln Log, a day-by-day account of Abraham Lincoln’s life, does not mention greeting the 1st Connecticut Infantry upon its arrival at the wharf in Washington D. C. on Sunday, 12 May 1861. It does state, however, that Lincoln, accompanied by Secretary Seward and Thurlow Weed left the Navy Yard at 10 A. M. for a three-hour cruise on the Potomac.
² The National Republican issue of 14 May 1861 reported that, “The first of Connecticut regiment, Colonel Alfred H. Terry, arrived at the Arsenal about 5 o’clock on Sunday afternnon, and, yesterday morning [13th], they formed into line and marched to their quarters prepared for them at Seventh street Park.” The same paper had printed on 13 May 1861 the following, “The first of Connecticut volunteers, Colonel Daniel Tyler, 780 men, with ten baggage wagons and thirty or forty horses, embarked on the Bienville, at New Haven, Thursday evening, for the seat of war.”