These seven letters were written by Pvt. William Henry Harrison Rideout (1841-1920) of Co. B, 13th Massachusetts. We learn from the letters that he enlisted at Quincy on 16 April 1861 but wasn’t mustered into the service until 16 July 1861. He was wounded and taken prisoner at the Battle of 2nd Manassas on 30 August 1862. He mustered out with his regiment on 1 August 1864. After discharge on Aug 1 1864 he worked as an employee of the Quarter Master Department in Philadelphia until March 31 1865.
Rideout wrote the letters to Lydia (“Lillie”) Ann Waymouth (1847-1885) in June 1864. She was only 16 years old when Rideout wrote her this letter and 17 when he married her.
William H. H. Rideout died at Dorchester, Mass. on January 25, 1920, at the age of 79 years. He was one of the original members of the regiment and he served the whole term of three years. For many years he had been employed in the Boston Custom House as an inspector of cigars which position he held at the time of his death. A fellow soldier of the 13th Massachusetts remembered Rideout: “What a handsome, manly looking soldier he was. He could cut us all out when the girls were about, and alas, did so frequently.”
[Editor’s Note: Most of these letters were contributed for posting on this blog by Herbert A. Rideout — a great-grandson of W. H. H. R.]
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Washington D. C.
February 15th 1863
Yours of the 10th was received with much pleasure but I was much surprised when I found you had made up with Lydia S. & if I am not mistaken, you will one day regret having done so for the regard she has for you is for advantage & after she accomplishes what she wants, she will disdain to look at you. As far as I am concerned, I do not care a snap about it & had just as leave signed my own name to those letters as the one I did. And as for her photograph, you must be very foolish if you think I want it, for I do not. I have two of her pictures at home at present & if I felt very bad about one, I could send for it most any day. I wrote to her for more pastime & I was much pleased to see her so shrewd in her answers. I suppose by this time you have told her all the particulars, so I shall have no occasion to write to her again.
I cannot make out what you mean by saying Carrie was a naughty girl & that you saw the answer to her letter. She wrote to me that you & Abbie were at the house & stopped over night & that she enjoyed it much & said I ought to have been at home for she thought I could have enjoyed myself & I told her I thought if her account was correct, I should rather been excused — especially three in a bed. I begin to suspicion there was something more than a good time or else you would not have said so much about it. I think I shall have to enquire into the matter & find out a little more about it.
Today it is raining hard & the laboring men have all gone home & the clerks — those that have not gone to church — are sitting around the stove asleep. I begin to like my situation very much for I have made the acquaintance of a great many friends & the more I see of them, the more I like it.
I went to Alexandria last Monday to see Maj. W. H. Wood ¹ about my discharge & have everything just as I want it. I am almost sure of my discharge & can keep the position I now hold or accept the position of a Quarter Master at Fortress Monroe.
There are a number of young ladies from Boston stopping in this city & some that are pretty gay. I have had a number of invitations to call on them but have made it an excuse I did not have time. I went to the Canterbury last evening & meet Lt. Charley Porter ² of the 39th Massachusetts & we passed the evening very pleasant. He is here on a furlough for a few days & is anxious to have a good time. I expected he would have been down to office before this for he is anxious I should go out this evening to call on some friends.
You must excuse the looks of this letter for Mr. Moore, the Supt., has gone home & he locked up all the pens excepting this miserable thing that I am using.
Hooping you will enjoy yourself with your dear friend Lillie F.
I remain as ever, your brother, — W. H. H. R.
P. S. If you have told Lillie S. who has been writing to her, I can never forgive you for i done it simply for a joke & thought you would take it as such.
¹ Major William H. Wood (1821-1887) served as the Asst. Provost-Marshal General of the Army of the Potomac in 1862 and superintending, mustering, and forwarding to the field Convalescents, Stragglers, etc. near Alexandria, Va., from late December 1862 until May 1864.
² Charles Hunt Porter (1843-1911) was a 19 year-old clerk from Quincy, Massachusetts, when he enlisted as a 2d Lieutenant in Co. D, 39th Massachusetts Infantry. He was promoted to 1st Lieutenant on 29 January 1863 (Co. A) and as a Captain (declined) in September 1864. After the war, he lived in Boston.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
Washington D. C.
Sunday, February 22nd 1863
As it is a stormy, disagreeable evening & I shall not go to church, I will do my best to write a short letter, but will necessarily be very short for my finger is so sore it pains me very much to write & for the past week we have had very disagreeable weather & therefore I have not much news to write.
I received a letter from Fred this week & he tells the same old story that he is expecting his discharge papers every day. He sent me his photograph & if it does not flatter him. He is looking much better than when he left home. I received a letter from Lillie F. this week, but I shall not answer it for I suppose by this time she knows who it is that is writing to her (but I hope you did not tell her).
My roommate — Mr. Worcester ¹ — thinks he shall go back to the regiment next week & is very anxious to have me go with him but I hardly think I will for I am very well satisfied with the position I now hold.
I went to Falls Church last Monday with a train of forage & six men. We had quite a pleasant trip & stopped at Upton Hill & Munson Hill & arrived back at Alexandria about eight in the evening — too late to go up to the City. So I took the men to the Hotel to supper & then down to the steamer so as to be already to go up in the morning. Here I left the men & went up to Nixon’s Circus, ² but as it was a poor affair, I did not stop but a little while & then came back to the steamer & went to bed & did not get up until the steamer arrived in Washington.
Last evening there was two or three officers here from the 13th [Massachusetts] in furloughs & we went to Grover’s Theatre ³ & passed the evening very pleasant. They all think I am very foolish if I go back to the army.
For the past few days we have had a severe snow storm & tonight the sleighs are skipping along the avenue in gay style. It reminds me of the little sleigh ride & tip over we had the night before Thanksgiving. I wish you could be here this evening. I should admire to take a little ride out to Bladensburg or some other place just for pleasure.
Hoping to hear from you soon, I will close this apology for a letter & remain your most affectionate brother — W. H. H. R.
(When you have some photographs taken, I hope you will not forget your Brother for I should prize one very much — especially my adopted sister’s.)
Write soon & let me know some of the particulars of your friendship with Lillie F.
¹ George S. Worcester; age, 22; born, Boston; clerk; mustered in as Corp., Co. B, July 16, “61; mustered out as major, 3d Mass. H.A.; promoted to sergt., April I, ’62; 2d lieut., 3d Mass. H.A., April 18, ’63; capt., Aug. 14, ’63; and major, Oct. 13, ’64; wounded at Antietam, Sept. 17, ’62; taken prisoner, by Wade Hampton, at Chambersburg, Pa., Oct. 10, ’62; address, 99 Chauncy street, Boston.
² It appears that James M. Nixon’s Circus performed regularly in Washington D. C. every afternoon and evening at 7th and Pennsylvania during 1862 but in December 1862, Nixon divided the company and established a theatre in Alexandria. The company consisted of gymnasts, acrobats, horse riders, and clowns. In May 1863, one of their tightrope walkers named Miss Josephine Devenier was severely injured when she fell seven feet to the ground. In December 1862, the circus featured “Pete Jenkins” — a performer “dressed as a rube who would stumble about the ring to the merriment of the audience.” [Source: Clowns and Cannons: The American Circus During the Civil War, by William L. Slout.]
³ Mr. Barney Williams and his wife Maria — a “comic couple” — were most likely the performers at Grover’s Theatre on the night that William attended. They had a two-week stand at the theatre during this period.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE
Washington D. C.
February 26th 1863
Yours of the 20th was received with much pleasure & answered but as I feel a little homesick tonight, I think I cannot improve the time with more pleasure than in writing to you. It is now past ten o’clock but it is pleasant & moonlight, I cannot think of going to bed.
I have been out this evening taking a little walk with a friend of mine & I expect him in (every moment) to sleep with me so I think I will stay up & write until he comes but my letter will not be very interesting for I have written twice this week & sent all the news. My roommate — Mr. [George S.] Worcester — is to come back next Tuesday & then I shall not be quite as lonesome.
You need not be surprised if you see me drop in some evening next month for I have been thinking of coming for two or three weeks & you know when I make up my mind to go or come, I most always do it. I am in hopes you will change your mind about going to California & come to Washington [instead], for I think you would enjoy a trip here much better. If Washington is a miserable City, it has many attractions for a stranger. Anyone traveling might stay in Washington a week or two & enjoy themselves very much, but to make it a home is not quite so pleasant as it might be.
I think I will stop writing to Lillie S. for if she has not already found out who it is that is corresponding with her, I fear she will & then she will be so mad with me she will be for retaliating in some form I might not like. You said you would not tell for you thought it was too serious a matter. I cannot see anything very serious about it. I promised her some time ago I would write to her but I did not promise to sign my own name. This corresponding & signing a fictitious name is nothing very serious; I know of hundreds that have done it. When I was at work in Boston, I carried on a correspondence with a young lady at the Ladies Seminary at Worcester for more than six months & neither of us ever saw each other & probably never will. I wrote for mere pleasure & she probably done the same.
You will please not inspect this letter too strong for I scratched it off in somewhat of a hurry & it will not bear inspection.
Hoping to hear from you soon & that you have given up all ideas of going to the land of Gold. I am your most affectionate brother, — W. H. H. R.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FOUR
Washington D. C.
Tuesday Evening, March 24th 1863
Yours of the 22nd was received this evening with the usual amount of pleasure & I will endeavor to answer immediately — but my letter will be short for I sent you one yesterday which contained all the news.
Today has been very warm & pleasant & I have enjoyed myself much. I have been on the wharf all day with Mr. Colbert checking the different loads of hay & grain as they came off the barges. There is a boat leaves the wharf for Alexandria every hour & it is always crowded with good-looking young ladies so the time slips away quite pleasantly (& so do the ladies).
This evening it is dark & cloudy & will rain before morning — just the way it has been ever since I have been in this City. As soon as the mud dries up & it is good walking, it is always sure to rain.
I received a letter from Carrie this evening but it contained nothing of importance. Said she had not seen you for a long, long time. She is very anxious to know how I spend my evenings & if I have any serious intentions of selling myself to any of the Washington ladies (if I do). Says she will make me some presents if I will only let her know.
I shall be greatly indebted to you if I receive one of those photographs but if those are the only terms by which I am to receive one, I am afraid I shall never receive it for I am so busy at present, I do not get time to go & have mine taken for I never come to the Avenue — only in the evening unless I come up horseback & then I am generally in such a hurry that I do not have time. And as regards that one I took from home, I am afraid that is amongst the missing for I have looked after it a dozen times. I think I must have burnt it by accident in burning up some old letters. But if you can look at it in the light of forgiveness & send me one of yours, I will promise to forward one of mine as soon as I can get time to go & stand for them. As regards the style of picture. I will let you use your own judgement for I know you are a young lady of good taste.
You must excuse this writing — spelling & everything else that is wrong about this letter — for my roommate & Mr. Supplee & Mr. [Walter] Callender ¹ are kicking up such a time that I hardly think I could spell my own name. I have laughed so much at their jokes & performances, my head spins like a top.
They say if I do not stop, they will kick the table over and black my mustache with the ink so I think it best for me to close but as soon as I receive the photograph, I will write a good, long letter.
From your most affectionate brother, — W. H. H. R.
¹ Walter Callender was born in Stirling, Scotland, in 1834. He came to the United States in 1857 and worked as a clerk for a Boston merchant. In April 1861, he enlisted in the Fourth Battalion Rifles of the Massachusetts Militia which was afterwards merged into the 13th Massachusetts as Co. C. He participated in the battles of Bolivar, Hancock, Winchester, Slaughter Mountain, Rappahannock, Thoroughfare Gap, and Second Bull Run before being detailed to the Quartermaster-General’s Department at Washington D. C.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FIVE
Washington D. C.
March 31st, 1863
Yours of the 29th was received this evening and also one from C. E. Pierce, but as you were so very kind as to send me your photograph, I will try and answer yours first. As regards yours of the 23rd being received with unusual pleasure, there must be some mistake for it was not received — or at least it did not afford me any more pleasure than the rest. All of the letters I receive from home & friends afford much pleasure. If I wrote you it was received with unusual pleasure, it was a mistake on my part & I must have used the word unusual for “usual.”
The one I received this evening was received with unusual pleasure because it contained the photograph which I am a thousand times obliged & in return will send one of mine as soon as I can make it convenient to have them taken.
I was pleased with the good advice you sent (not to work too hard) for the work that I do at the Office would not injure the most delicate lady in the world. I am obliged to be at the office all day, but do not work some days more than ten minutes. This past week I have been very busy on account of the arrival of so many barges & probably shall be busy until about the middle of April, but I always manage to enjoy myself “busy or not” for when it is pleasant, instead of sending the messenger to Headquarters with my reports, I go horseback & take them myself.
The past week we have had extremely pleasant weather, but last evening it commenced to snow & continued snowing nearly all day. This evening it cleared off & is quite pleasant (over head) but the walking is very sloppy.
This evening there was a large mass meeting on the green in front of the Capitol & I should think from the crowd I have seen going that it must have been largely attended by both ladies & gentlemen. While I am writing, I can hear the noise & sheers of the crowd & the music of the bands quite plain.
Mr. Supplee is with me in my room this evening sitting at the opposite side of the table writing to some young lady in Baltimore — his intended, I suppose. He keeps asking me so many foolish questions. I shall get some of them down in this letter if I am not careful.
As my steady, quiet life affords me but little news of importance, I think I will bring this to a close for as you say, if I write too much at once, I shall have nothing to write next time. Give my kind regards to all inquiring friends & write soon.
From your most affectionate brother, — Will
P. S. I was extremely sorry to hear my Mother was sick & hope it will not prove serious. I think instead of writing to C. E. Pierce this evening, I will improve the rest of it in writing to her. — Will
¹ There was a very large Union Meeting held in the U.S. Capitol on 31 March 1863. Both the Senate and House Chambers and the associated spaces were filled to capacity to see the President and most of his cabinet who were in attendance. Admiral Foote and Andrew Johnson of Tennessee (not yet Vice President) were the featured speakers. We learn from this letter that the event must have spilled out onto the lawn in front of the Capitol despite the snowfall.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER SIX
Washington D. C.
April 14th 1863
Yours of the 12th was received this evening & I am greatly indebted to you for so early an answer. I was a little surprised at first that you should keep me waiting so long but after hearing Fred was at home, I was surprised to think I should have received any. I am in hopes he will enjoy his visit & as for returning to York, I do not think there is any danger of his doing that at present. I think he and John ought to be placed on the retired list of soldiers & receive a pension of a thousand a year for they have suffered much for their country’s good.
My letter this time will necessarily be short, not for the same reason you had — because you did not feel like writing, but because I have nothing interesting to write about except the weather for the last week that has [been] delightful. And taking everything into consideration, I have enjoyed it much. The out door plants are in bloom “& everything looks as fresh & green as grass” (but in reality everything is not as green as one might take them to be at a distance).
I should have written Sunday but not having received any for a fortnight, I thought it best to wait for I would not intentionally tax your patience with these cheap letters of mine. I managed to pass the Sabbath very pleasantly. In the morning, I took a ride over to the Navy Yard & satisfied my curiosity by looking at the different articles got up expressly for destroying life & property & protecting our seacoast. In the afternoon I went to Alexandria just for a sail, took a stroll around the different forts & entrenchments & returned home early in the evening a wiser, if not a better man.
As I have an engagement this evening at Brown’s Hotel, I shall be obliged to cut this letter short. I promised to be there at eight & it is nearly that now. Hoping you will enjoy Fred’s short visit & write again soon, I am as ever yours most affectionately, — W. H. H. R.
(Those great attractions you spoke of in Washington — if I understand your meaning correctly — I believe there is quite a number of them here, but I have never indulged in any of them as yet. And as for enjoyment, if I could not enjoy myself more in Boston in one day than I can here in one week, I would never say so).
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER SEVEN
Washington D. C.
Wednesday, October 14th 1863
My Own Dear Lillie,
Yours of the 11th I received last eve with much pleasure & had I not sent you one last evening, I should feel as though I ought to answer, but as it is I will endeavor to write a few lines. You ask why I sent that Poetry & if I thought you needed to read it. No! Lillie dear, I did not. I sent it because my letter was a short one & as it contained more truth than poetry, I put in in to fill up. I did not send it because I thought you needed it — far be it from that. I know or at least I take you to be a young lady that is smart enough to look out for No. 1. However, a little advice will do no person any harm & I know very well there are plenty of jealous dispositions in Quincy & Braintree that would do anything in this world to wrong you or me — & especially you, when I am away.
When I am with you to love & protect you, I have no fears & I hope the day is not far distant when I shall be with you always. I often look back to the day of my enlistment & think what a fool I was, but then when I look at it again, I think it was not quite so foolish as some might think, for what I have seen & learned I shall never forget. And I have got out of it safe & sound & for all I know, as good — if not better — than when I enlisted. I think it was a gift from God that I left them when I did, for had I been with them at Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, & Antietam, I should have probably been killed or crippled for life.
I enlisted on the 16th of April 1861 but was not sworn into the U. S. service until sometime in July, but the Col. told me in Brown’s Hotel, two or three weeks ago, that the regiment — or rather the Old Boys of the 13th — would be mustered out sometime in May. So you see it will be only seven or eight months at the longest. But my coming home will have nothing to do with that for I can come most anytime. The only trouble is I cannot stay any length of time after I get there. Never mind, Lillie dear, when next I enlist, I will not enlist in infantry, but infancy, & you know pretty well whose company I intend to join [Law] & I am under the impression after the company is once started or formed, we can raise as many recruits for home guards as we wish — about the size of that one you took care of at the beach for ___ Presby’s wife (how are you young___). I guess I have written enough of my chin music & as I have no news, I will bring this to a close & go down on the wharf & see how my men are working, for they have been lounging about so much for the past few days I almost afraid they have forgotten how to work.
Hoping this will find you as gay & happy as you always seemed to be. I will bid you a most affectionate adieu & remain yours most affectionately & devotedly. — W. H. H. R.
[to] Lydia A. Waymouth.