These letters were written by 30 year-old Pvt. William H. Hibbard (1832-1863) of Co. B, 160th New York Infantry. He enlisted on 5 September 1862 at Owasco, New York, to serve three years but he died of dysentery on 25 June 1863 at a hospital in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Ironically, Hibbard’s letter on 7 February 1863 foretells his own death as he tells his wife, “We have got the meanest doctors there is in the war. They don’t care whether the soldiers live or die.”
William wrote the letters to his wife, Delia L. Hibbard of Palmyra, Wayne County, New York. The couple were married sometime in the early 1850s and resided in Dix, Schuyler County New York in 1855 where William worked as a carpenter.
After receiving word of her husband’s death, Delia applied for Widow’s Pension on 2 September 1863. She remarried 7 September 1868 to Joseph L. Lines, but after his death in April 1913, she reapplied for a widow’s pension again. At that time she resided in Port Gibson, Ontario Co., NY.
Addressed to Delia L. Hibbard, Hillsdale County, Michigan
Thibodaux, Camp Stevens
February 7th 1863
I will sit down this pleasant morning to answer your kind & most welcome letter which I received the 5th & was glad to hear that you was well but sorry that you are so lonesome. My health is very good excepting my back. It has been so lame for 2 or 3 days that I would not do anything. It ain’t well yet. It is caused by sleeping on the hard floor. I went about 2 miles out on picket last week. In the morning, when I was relieved, I had all I could do to walk into camp & carry my gun. We had a heavy rainstorm here. It has been pretty cold for 4 days — the coldest weather I have seen since I left New York. It is some warmer now. All the stove we have is a log heap on fire. We sleep very warm. We have got 7 blankets. Some of the boys hasn’t got but one. All the fault I have with sleeping is lying on the floor. It makes me so lame all the time.
This regiment is a going to leave this place tomorrow the 8th. They are a going to Berwick Bay. I hope they will go to some bay for I have got tired of this place.
Dear wife, you wanted to know what I thought about your working out. I think it is too hard for you to work for Mrs. Walker. If you intend to work out, I hope you will get a place that ain’t so hard as it is to Mrs. Walker’s. If you work out, don’t go out of the village to work. I don’t think you will go to the poor house if you don’t work out. You was speaking about Maria in your letter. I hope that she will move to Palmyra. She wanted to know where I was. I am down south in no place at all. I haven’t see any place that I call a place yet. If she moves to Palmyra, you can move in the house with her if she is willing & get room enough.
I hope that I shall be home in course of 6 or 8 years. This is the damnedest war that I ever heard of. They allow the rebels to come back on their farms if they take the oath. They take the oath & that is all they care about it. The Union folks is guarding their property for the. If they get a chance to help the rebel army, they will do it. The Yankees can fight until the day of judgement & they never will whip them if they go on in this way. I don’t think they will. Anyway, that is my opinion. Some times I don’t care which way it goes.
There has been 6 or 7 deaths in our regiment since we came from New Orleans. Clark Heath ¹ is the first in our company — & I hope the last. One of the soldiers got shot. He went out one night to steal some chickens & he got 7 shot put into him. He lived about 12 hours. He belonged to Co. G. ² The most of them died with the fever. If they only had good care, there wouldn’t be so many deaths. We have got the meanest doctors there is in the war. They don’t care whether the soldiers live or die.
Honey, I have got my pay & I sent you 30 dollars by Adams Express. It cost me 1 dollar to send it. I thought that it would be the safest way to express it to you. It is too far to send money in a letter. I have got those stamps that you sent me. I think I have got all of your letters. I have had 6 letters since I left New York and I have answered them. I hope that you will continue on to write & let me know when you get that money. It ought to get there in 8 days after it leaves here. Take good care of it & don’t lend it. I will send you more next time.
I can’t think of any more at present. I have got to cook myself 3 days rations. If ever I get home, I can live cheap. I can cook a piece of meat, sit down on the floor, & eat it.
Give my love to all of my enquiring friends. Tell them I would write but I don’t get much time. Give my love to James & May & Margret Brown. Keep a good share for your dear self. Write soon. Goodbye.
From your husband, — Wm. H. Hibbard
¹ Clark Heath enlisted in Co. B, 160th New York Infantry at age 32 at Palmyra, New York. He died of typhoid fever on 1 February 1863 at Camp Stevens, Thibodaux, Louisiana.
² William doesn’t give the name of the soldier from Co. G who was shot stealing chickens and someone recently erroneously labeled Andrew J. Schoonover of Co. F as the thief. A more thorough search of available on-line records, however, reveals that the chicken thief was 18 year-old George Maurice Simpson who enlisted in the 160th New York Infantry at Almond, New York in August 1862 and died on 3 February 1863 “of wounds received at Thibodaux, La” according to regimental records. Another source states that Pvt. Simpson died on 3 February 1863 “of wounds received while marauding [military euphemism for stealing] at Thibodaux, La.” Simpson’s parents were William Henry Simpson and Phoebe Eliza Jacobus. The Town of Almond paid a bounty of $50 for Andrew’s enlistment. Andrew was born in Middletown, New York on 29 November 1844. Prior to his enlistment, he was employed as a farmer and as a Tanner/Currier. He stood 5 ft. 8 inches tall, had blue eyes, and brown hair. He is buried in a tomb in New Orleans.
Addressed to Mrs. Delia L. Hibbard, Palmyra, Wayne County, New York
Postmarked New Orleans, LA
Bashear City [Louisiana]
Feb 10th 1863
As we have got moved & our tents fixed all right, I will write you a few lines to let you know that I am well at present. I hope that these few lines will find you the same.
This city is like all the rest of the cities I have seen since I have been south – two houses & a thousand niggers. This regiment is camped right close to the river. It is a very pleasant place considering the times. We can see the rebels pass up & down on the other side of the river. The pickets fire across the river at each other but it don’t amount to much.
I think this place is more healthier than where we was to Camp Stevens but it is bad enough here. The weather is very warm.
One of the soldiers in our regiment got discouraged & jumped into the river & drowned. ¹ What a fool he was. He might of lived & had a fight. It is no use of being so down-hearted for we are to work for Uncle Sam’s big pay as privates [and] all will get rich. Ain’t I glad I am a soldier. Only think, 13 dollars a month. That will almost buy my tobacco.
There is 4 gunboats here & that is all the good they are. If the gun boats and the regiments lay around & doing nothing, I think they will soon wipe them out. I hope there will be something done soon for it is getting pretty warm here.
Dear wife, when is Maria going to move to Palmyra. Write & let me know. Are you a going to work out? If you do, get a easy place for it is hard work in hot weather. I hope I shall be home before many months & then we can be our own masters — as you say. I think I shall know how to appreciate a home if I get one again.
Dear honey, keep up good courage for I do. I keep a stiff upper lip & pitch in. Our picket guard that went out this morning took a rebel prisoner. They brought him through the camp while I was writing. I thought I would put it down for it is the first prisoner they have taken.
Honey, I am about out of stamps. I had to pay 3 that I borrowed. Those stamps you sent me came through all safe. I hope that 30 dollars will come to you all safe. Honey, send me the Rochester Union. It don’t cost much & news is scarce here. I can’t think of any more to write so I will draw to a close. Give my love to all. Give my love to my folks. Tell Charley that I wear his ring yet that he gave me before I came away. Take good care of my tools.
My love to you, honey. Write soon. Direct to New Orleans. Co, B, 160th Regiment New York State Volunteers. Gen’l Banks Corps.
From your husband, — Wm H. Hibbard
¹ The soldier committing suicide by drowning himself in the river was Isaac Vandermiller of Sodus who was 29 years old when he enlisted in August 1862. He was in Company D. Regimental records indicate that he drowned at Brashear City on 9 February 1863.
Addressed to Mrs. Delia Hibbard, Palmyra, Wayne County, New York
May 14th 1863
I have got a chance to write to you once more. I will let you know that I am alive & well. We have had a hard march. We have marched 430 miles in 24 days. We would stop about sundown & start at 4 o’clock in the morning. The days would be so hot & dusty sometimes I would think I must drop. Anyway, honey, I begin to think I can stand most anything. I have tired out stronger men than I am on this march. I can sleep just as sound on the ground as I did at home in a feather bed. I have been wet through with the rain & laid down on the wet ground [and] got up alright in the morning. Honey, I am a good deal tougher than I thought I was.
We drove the rebs before us, killed & wounded & took prisoners 2,000. Took 400,000 bales of cotton. I hope that all the armies have done as well as General Banks has.
Keep up good courage, honey. We will have them trapped before long. They are pretty well starved out at Port Hudson. They allow the soldiers 12 ounces of meal & 10 ounces of beef. No salt. They can’t hold out long at that rate. Banks’ army is a little over a 100 miles from Port Hudson. I don’t know but we shall go there. The news came this morning that it was surrounded by our troops. I hope the devils will have to give up soon. We had a lot of rebel prisoners. They said that we lived better on a march than they did in camp. They said they had their allowance of meal & they would sift it & use the siftings for coffee. They burn it. They would have to make their own johnny-cake. They said all they used was water & sugar. When they was with us, they would get their coffee 3 times a day & they has crackers & meat all they wanted. The most of the prisoners are tired of fighting. They was glad they was taken for they said [they] could get a chance to go home. I felt sorry for some of them. They said they was forced to fight.
I have told you all the news. I could tell more but I ain’t got paper. You musn’t look for letters very often until I get in camp. I want you to write often. Direct your letters just the same as you have done before. Write soon. Give my love to all, to my folks. Tell Es to write. I haven’t got any pay yet.
From your husband, — Wm. H. Hibbard