This letter was written by G. Edward Bishop (1837-1870) who enlisted as a musician in the band of the 1st Rhode Island Infantry (3 Months) and then re-enlisted in the band of the 4th Rhode Island Infantry in September 1861. Edward was the son of George R. Bishop (1811-Bef1870) and Adeline Coe (1812-1887) who were married in Ashford, Connecticut in October 1836.Edward was with the 4th Rhode Island Infantry at the Battle of Antietam on 17 September 1862. Most likely he and the other band members did not cross Antietam Creek with the 4 Rhode Island and the other regiments in Burnside’s Corps, though he may have been on detail to care for the wounded during and after the battle — an extra duty often assigned to band members. The Fourth Rhode Island remained at Sharpsburg after the battle, tending to the wounded, and burying the dead, and were still there when President Lincoln arrived on 1 October. Lincoln visited Burnside’s Corps on 3 October and later that same day Edward and other members of the regimental band were mustered out of the service. Their discharge was connected to General Order No. 91, issued in July 1862 by the War Department, directing that all regimental bandsmen be mustered out of the service as a cost saving measure. Musicians who were recruited from infantry companies to serve in bands (some bandsmen were recruited in this manner), were ordered to be transferred back to their units. Bandsmen who had been mustered in as musicians were to be discharged from the service or, with their consent, to be transferred to brigade bands.
Following his discharge from the 4th Rhode Island, Edward enlisted in the regular army as a musician in January 1864 at Fort Trumbull, Connecticut. Army enlistment records show that he stood 5’9½” tall, had hazel eyes and dark brown hair. He served in the 14th Infantry Regimental Band until his discharge in February 1867.
In the 1870 Census, G. Edward Bishop is enumerated in Hartford, Connecticut where he was employed as a “musician.” The Hartford City directory listed him as a resident of the city — always employed as a musician — until 1882 when he relocated to Woonsocket, Rhode Island, and became a clerk for the Hautin Sewing Machine Co.; his brother Fred being the treasurer of the same company.
For “Decoration” Day in 1871 in Hartford, a piece composed by G. Edward Bishop was part of the grave decoration ceremonies.
Addressed to George R. Bishop, Esq., Ashford, Windham Co., Ct.
Beaufort, North Carolina
June 29th 1862
Being under marching orders and expecting to leave Beaufort tomorrow, I will write a very few lines. I sent home, by Adams Express, on the 24th of May, 40 dollars. I have had no letter from home since. If you have not received it, please write accordingly. If you have, you have probably written ‘ere this. A mail is expected here tomorrow night. I may get a letter. I received a letter from [sister] Susan a week ago yesterday. You must write to her for me. I may not have time at present. I don’t know whether we are to return to Beaufort or not after we have accomplished the work which is in store for us. Neither am I able to inform you where we are going. ¹
My health continues to be excellent. Capt. Green started for Providence a few days ago with orders to recruit the band of 25 pieces. He is going to get a new set of instruments if he succeeds in procuring sufficient funds. Gen. Burnside headed the subscription list with $35. They will cost about 800 dollars.
You will probably see an account of the review and sword presentation ² of the occasion. Our regiment with the 5th Battalion escorted the general and staff onto the field. I shall not have to give a description of the ceremonies but I know you will see a better description in the “Patriot” than I should be able to give.
I think we have work before us as all who are not able to endure the hardships of active service are ordered to remain. The Col [Isaac Peace Rodman] was at our quarters today. He said we might go as far as New Bern. Beyond this, he did not inform us. The officers do not generally tell the men all they know. I don’t think we shall find another as healthy a place as this. We have stayed longer here than at any place since we left Providence. It is quite time for this regiment to be on the move again [“That is sarkastical” — Artemus Ward] I suppose it will get ready to rain about the time we start.
Mother, I will send you a geranium leaf. Keep it until I return and I will tell you about it. No more at present. Write soon. Direct via New York instead of Fortress Monroe.
Love to all. Your affectionate son, — Edward
¹ The regiment sailed from Beaufort on 1 July 1862 but returned soon after and returned to their quarters at Beaufort. On 3 July 1862, they received word that McClellan was beaten from the doorstep of Richmond in the Peninsula Campaign.
² This is a reference to the presentation of a sword to General Burnside that was voted by the General Assembly of Rhode Island. The presentation took place at New Bern on 20 June 1862.