These letters were written by Charles Eliphalet Walbridge (1841-1913) to his brother, George Walbridge, while serving in Co. H, 100th New York Infantry and later as the Assistant Quarter Master at Bermuda Hundred in Butler’s Command.
Charles E. Walbridge was born in Buffalo on 24 July 1841. Shortly after the death of his father — George B. Walbridge, a well known merchant of Buffalo — Charles left school and entered the employ of Pratt & Co., who were at that time the most extensive hardware dealers in the city. He remained with them until September, 1861, when he enlisted in the 100th Regiment, New York Infantry, and was made second lieutenant of Co. H. He served with this regiment until 1864, being promoted to first lieutenant in July, 1862, and to captain in January, 1863. In February, 1864, he was commissioned by the president as captain and Assistant Quarter Master (AQM) of volunteers. In February, 1865, he was brevetted major, and shortly after was appointed chief quartermaster of the Tenth Army Corps, with the rank of lieutenant colonel. After receiving his discharge Walbridge stayed for several months in the South. He purchased surplus horses and mules from the army and sold them to Southerners who were affected by Sherman’s march.
In 1866 he returned to Buffalo and re-entered the service of his former employers, remaining until 1869, when he engaged in business for himself. In 1884 the present firm of Walbridge & Co. was formed and it became one of the largest hardware establishments in Buffalo. He married Annie F. Noble of Brooklyn in 1868 and they started their lives together in Buffalo. The Walbridges left a considerable paper trail dating from the 1840s up to 1913, the year of Charles Walbridges death.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Folly Island, South Carolina
April 18, 1863
I think I received a letter from you about a week ago and one from Minnie, Annie & Harry at the same time. I cannot find your letter and am not certain about having received it. You must excuse me for being so outspoken, and must not imagine from my remark that your letters are not precious to me, but lately we have been bumming around so much, and everything is so topsy turvy, that it’s hard for one to keep things straight.
I wrote a letter to mother the other day giving a detailed account of our doings. I mentioned at the tail of it that we were once more upon the noble isle of Folly. Nothing unusual has happened. We use extraordinary precautions against a surprise. We detail three companies every night to go out and support the pickets. Last night Co. H was on the duty. We had everything nicely fixed, I can tell you, and I was almost in hopes that a few rebs would come over so that I could get pay for the men I had wounded and captured. The enemy are in very strong force on James Island.
When we returned to this island, it was intended to evacuate, but day before yesterday, the authorities concluded to hold it, so I suppose we will be here some time. I believe we are to be reinforced. There are now but four (4) other regiments on the island, all of them smaller than the 100th, and a battery (of course it is needless to remind you that the figures which I give you, especially in the letter to Mother, should not be generally known).
The weather is very warm. It almost reminds one of Harrison’s Landing. If it were not for the sea breeze, I don’t know what we should do. The island is mostly wooded, has a sandy soil, with some swamp land. We have very good water which is a great desideratum.
The 100th are camped about the center of the island; the 39th Illinois occupying the camping ground which we had when on the island before, which is about a mile further up. We are greatly annoyed especially in the evenings & nights buy a species of sand fleas or gnats. They torment one terribly; when I came off picket at the head of the island, my hands & wrists looked as if I had some cutaneous disease. The bites swell up in great white bunches, and smart for five or six days after they are inflicted.
I expect we shall get a mail today or tomorrow; it is more than a week since we had one.
It seems perfectly natural to be on duty with my company again. I really enjoy it. Being detached for a few months has broken the monotony, and it seems like commencing a new quarter at school to start in again.
I don’t suppose there is much prospect of my getting the position of Adj. Quarter Master. If the attack on Charleston had been successful, I should have had much more hope, but I hardly think the Dept. at Washington will feel like bestowing any favors on this Department at present and i don’t myself think it deserves any.
I have not seen a paper of later date than the 1st though there is a paper in camp of the 7th and one at Headquarters of the eighth. The Herald of the 7th, they say, contains an account of the landing of the 100th [New York Infantry] on Coles Island. Capt. Payne was telling me that he saw in one of the papers an account of a very extensive bread riot in Richmond. If such riots get into fashion in the confederacy, goodbye to the present administration.
We received orders yesterday to make out muster rolls to send to the Provost Marshal General, for the purpose of having the regiment filled with drafted men. The same order has been sent, I suppose, to the whole army. I think the drafting policy is the true one, and much better than the plan of offering bounties. I also am decidedly in favor of putting the drafted men into old regiments in preference to making new regiments of them.
I am much pleased with Welhelmine’s photographs; she has changed considerably since I left you. I presume I shall find a great change in all the younger members of the family when I get home. I suppose the 21st [New York Infantry] will reach that consummation devoutly to be wished in a short time now. From all accounts, I expect they have never recovered from the cutting up they got at Bull’s Run, Antietam, &c. They were a splendid regiment once.¹
I hope you will excuse all imperfections in this as I did not sleep over one hour last night and only laid down two hours and I have not slept any today. Give my love to Mother, the Butlers, and all the rest of the family. I will write again soon.
Yours truly, — C. E. Walbridge
P. S. Do you know whether Jake Davis ² was on the Keokuk during the bombardment and whether he got off safe, if he was? The Keokuk is visible at low tide off of the point of Morris Island; the rebs attempted to meddle with her yesterday morning, but our blockading fleet drove them off. Remember me to Capt. Dye; — if you haven’t spoken to him about the mess chest, don’t do it. — C.
¹ The 21st New York Infantry fought at the Second Battle of Bull Run and Chantilly, at South Mountain and Antietam, losing 71 members in the latter engagement. The regiment was mustered out of the service on 18 May 1863 having lost during its term of service 75 by death from wounds and 42 by death from other causes.
² Jacob (“Jake”) Davis served as the Paymaster’s Steward on the crew of the Keokuk.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
Folly Island, South Carolina
May 10, 1863
I was gladdened this afternoon to receive yours of April 29th, a letter from Mother, one from Louise, do. from Sarah, do. from Annie. Also newspapers from the 22nd to May 1st. The latter contains news of Hooker’s successfully crossing the Rappahannock at four points. Yesterday the Rebel pickets told ours that Hooker is in Richmond! About noon we heard that papers of the 7th had reached the island containing the same information; while just at dusk the Colonel’s orderly arrived, who informed me that there was a paper in camp containing the news of Hookers having been driven back across the river with the loss of six thousand [at Chancellorsville]. So you see we can do as the showman told the little boy, “take our choice.” You may imagine we feel some anxiety and desire to get the real particulars.
The same orderly tells me that my commission has arrived; also [George H.] Stowitz’s, & several others. Stowitz [or Stowits], he says, is assigned to Co. K and Lt. [Elmer] Howell, 2nd Lt. of Co. K, promoted to 1st Lt. Co. H. I supposed that this would be the arrangement. Howell is a good fellow, a trifle slow, but steady and sure, which i much prefer to having a fast man lacking the latter essential.
I had a letter from Bishop today; he is at Beaufort, North Carolina, which is [James] Nagle’s Headquarters. He says Nagle is bound to have his old brigade again, and he was to have gone to Washington on the morning after date of Bishop’s letter (29th). Bishop says he called on you and would like to have made the acquaintance of the rest of the family. He says he thinks “George is the nicest boy in the family.”
I was surprised to hear that Jake Davis was home again. Was he in the Charleston fight? Quite a lucky thing for him, that mustering out arrangement. Give him my regards. I should like to see you up to your eyes in dust & hardware. I have no doubt you will succeed as a salesman; there is no doubt but it is much more necessary for a merchant to be a good purchaser, and salesman, than to be a book-keeper. How about the traveling? Do you think you will be sent off on a trip this summer? I was quite surprised to hear that Pat was at work in the garden. I think he is about as good as a gardener as we have ever had; he works so faithfully. I wonder if his views on the enlistment question have changes any since I used to expostulate with him on the sly in Mrs. Foote’s barn.
Gen. [David] Hunter has issued an order that in accordance with the recent Act of Congress, furloughs will be granted to five percent of the enlisted men of each company, for a period not to exceed thirty days. I have accordingly recommended four of the “old stock” of Co. H, choosing those who have families as the first squad. As you may imagine, there was quite a commotion among the officers as well as men. I went down to the regiment to see about it yesterday afternoon and learned that Gen. [Israel] Vogdes was not going to grant leaves of absence to commissioned officers for the present. I am not quite certain as to the truth of the report, although I had it from the adjutant who is very good authority. I have had, and still have, strong hopes of getting home this summer. I should prefer to go home in July or August but of course would be only too happy to get a leave at any time. As there will now be three officers in the company, perhaps I will stand some chance if leaves of absence are granted.
I received your note acknowledging the receipt of the $500 and I suppose you got the other sum (I think $60) of the Chaplain. The 5 20’s are in my opinion the best stock in which you could invest. After the 1st of July, I think they are certain to bring a premium, besides the large interest which they bear. After you fix matters, I would like to have you give me a little statement of my affairs, if it is not too much trouble. I concur in your opinion in regard to the Salt Stock, and in fact leave all these little matters entirely in your hands; as financiering is at present out of my line. I presume the expense of fixing up the garden this year will be on the upper side of a hundred dollars, will it not?
I enclose the checks signed payable to your order. If we succeed in getting furloughs for the men, I will have some of them call on you, as it will be a good opportunity to send anything. I am not in any particular want of clothing; I bought a couple of negligee shirts a day or two ago which will answer for all summer. I also have undershirts and drawers. A few pair of stockings would be acceptable, also a couple of handkerchiefs and a couple of crash towels. My needlebook is emptied of every individual thing except the needles and a few lengths of black thread. I also want a good pocketbook. If you get an opportunity, I would like to have you send some reading matter — “Jomini” for one thing. Also my “Tennyson” as that is small and will do to read over and over. I sent home “Jomini” unintentially as I supposed the Captain’s trunk would follow us. I transferred those articles which he took to his trunk in a great hurry and was quite mortified to hear that my old flannels, &c., had been carried home.
If the furloughs are granted, I may think of other articles which I need; I will write again soon. Give my love to all of the family and believe me your affectionate brother, — C. E. Walbridge
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE
Folly Island, South Carolina
July 29, 1863
I sent you the other day by Express $500 but did not have tome to write. Please hand $100 to Mother and use the balance if you need it to help you out of the wilderness.
I am writing this laying on my back so you must make allowances for the chirography. I am a little unwell and have concluded to lay off today and take it easy.
Our troops are working hard on Morris Island, planting guns, erecting batteries &c. The rebels bother us some with their shells. They fire a shell almost every minute. From my tent door, I can see the whole field of operations. Wagner on my right, the Cumming’s Point with Battery Bee, then Sumter stands out plainly in the centre of the circle, then comes Mt. Pleasant — a village on the opposite shore of Charleston Harbor, while clear round to the left rise three spires of churches in Charleston. Besides this, I have a fine view of the sea with the blockading fleet, monitors, &c.
We have not heard a word from [Lt. Charles H.] Runckel [Runckle] ¹ or [George N.] Clark, my orderly sergeant. ² I fear they are both dead. I have sent over to the regiment for Runckel’s trunk. I thinkI will express it to you and you can find out his relatives and send it to them. I think he had a grandfather living in Buffalo.
Your truly, — C. E. Walbridge
¹ Lt. Runckle was killed in the attack on Fort Wagner on 18 July 1863. Charles enlisted at Buffalo as a corporal in Co. F in September 1862 and was promoted to 2d Lieutenant of Co. H on 13 January 1863.
² George N. Clark was killed in the attack on Fort Wagner on 18 July 1863. He mustered in as a private into Co. H in September 1862, was promoted to corporal in November, 1862; to sergeant in January 1863; and to first sergeant in May 1863.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FOUR
Folly Island, South Carolina
August 6, 1863
Your very welcome and interesting note of twenty pages, July 24th, has just been received. I cannot imagine why it has been so long coming. I have also received a letter from Louise, Annie, & Russell, all of which I will answer soon.
You were all very kind to remember my birthday; you may be sure I thought of you all a great many times that day. We have had large reinforcements from North Carolina and Norfolk. I was at Brig. Gen. [John G.] Foster’s Headquarters yesterday and was very much surprised to find Leon Brown there. He says he has been perfectly well all the time. He has not grown an inch.
I think that you acted very judiciously in selling the 7 30’s and investing in 5 20’s. In fact, I have a great confidence in your financiering. I am glad to know that steps are being taken to get a title to the “Potato Lot” as the taxes and expense will be materially lessened when I get a title to it. I hope you have, or will succeed in selling the whole or part of the Park lots. I believe I have before this advised that they be sold as soon as Mother can get anything near their value. Of course it won’t do to spoil the shape of the lot so as to make the balance unsaleable.
It was a pretty expensive job fixing the fence & sidewalk &c. around home, but it certainly was very much needed. I have a distinct recollection of the condition of the fence (and indeed everything about the place, at the time of my leaving home) and I know that the fence then could not stand alone, but required supports to keep it up.
I also remember the very weather-worn condition of the shutters and woodwork on the house and I think that you had better accept Lanphere’s propositions and have them painted up at once.
I am glad to hear that you were on hand to quell the riot, had one occurred. I can congratulate you on having become a military man. There is no doubt but the United States is destined to be hereafter a great military nation; there are so many specks of war in the horizon besides the little affair now on our hands, that it is hard to guess when we will have peace again. It cannot come too soon to please me. I hope the Buffalonians will take the draft sensibly and peaceably. I notice in the New York Times which you sent me that in Auburn the draft passed off quietly and that the drafted men formed a procession and marched through the town with music and banners and in fact, had quite a patriotic time.
We are getting along pretty well with the siege but are not quite ready yet. I think we will be in about a week. We have had a real misfortune; this is nothing else than the capture of Captain [Lewis S.] Payne [of Co. D]. He was captured in a small boat in Charleston Harbor night before last. He had some ten men with him. I believe they were all killed but one. He escaped and reports that Capt. Payne was not hurt. The Rebels were undoubtedly laying in wait for him. He has rendered very efficient service ever since we first came into this region. He is a personal friend of mine and one of the finest men I know. His absence will be a great loss. Only a few nights ago, he went into the harbor and waited until a steamer (which was known to be in the habit of coming down nightly with supplies for [Fort] Wagner) came down to that Fort, when he sent up a couple of rockets & skedaddled. Our gunboats which had previously been notified and had the range opened fire and drove away the steamer which has not been down to the fort since. The Rebs opened fire on Capt. Payne but didn’t hurt him; at last, however, his good fortune has deserted him.
Gen. [Israel] Vogdes has returned and reassumed command of this island. I am not, however, on his personal staff this time, thank the Lord. His name is pronounced Vogdees, pronouncing the “g” hard. Please direct my letters, A. A. Q. M., Folly Island. I do not know that there is any prospect of my getting the appointment of A. Q. M. I commenced to write to P. P. the other day, intending to solicit his influence with E. G. Spar__ling but it being something unusual for me to write a begging letter, I gave it up. I should like very much indeed to get the appointment. I have got to ride down to the South Point of the Island & back, distance 14 miles, and it is now after four o’clock so I must stop. I will endeavor to write oftener and hope you will do the same. Give my love to Mother and all the family. I forgot to say that I have recovered entirely from my sickness. I had an attack of dysentery but by keeping flat on my back and taking care of myself, got over it quickly. — Charlie
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FIVE
Folly Island, [South Carolina]
August 21st 1863
As there is a boat leaving this morning for Hilton Head, I take the opportunity of writing a few lines. The bombardment commenced Monday morning and has continued ever since. The fire has mostly been directed at Sumter. The wall on this side appears to be half down. It is completely shattered. I think it can’t hold out much longer. Sumter does not reply to our fire at all. Night before last, Sumpter fired her sunset gun (the first she had fired all day) and hauled down her colors. Did you ever see such impertinence? Her flag has been down half a dozen times but it is always raised again. The firing seems to be as heavy this morning as at any previous time. Everybody is very hopeful. I go whenever I can get time up into the maintop of a brig. which lays in the inlet and which I suppose is as good a point of observation as there is in the vicinity. From it, one can see the whole of Morris Island and Charleston Harbor, the fleet, and in fact the whole battleground, if I may so call it. Every minute or two a shot ploughs up the dirt in [Fort] Wagner, then a shell perhaps explodes over our own batteries. It is quite exciting to look at it. I have been writing the above in the office while Ed. Cook is settling up with a Quartermaster, so you must excuse the disjointed sentences, &c.
We have had a severe blow and a few days of cool weather. It’s hot again this morning though — about 90° I should think; but that is only a pleasant temperature. I can stand anything under a 120° — in fact, I am getting to be a regular salamander.
My carpenter has just come in and reported that Sumter’s flag — pole and all — has just fallen over. I wish it might never be raised again.
Well, George, I begin to have strong hopes that the end is drawing near. It cannot come too soon to please me. I want to quit soldiering and become civilized again. Give my love to all. Yours affectionately, — Charlie
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER SIX
Folly Island, South Carolina
October 10, 1863
I have received within a day or two, yours of October 1st, a letter from Sarah, and one from Minnie.
I am sorry to hear that my affair will have to wait so long because I am in a hurry to visit to home, but I suppose what can’t be cured must be endured. In the meantime I will try and get more letters to help the matter along.
I have not received the shaving case yet, but hope it will come today. There is great negligence I think of the part of the Express Company. I think I will sue for damages as I haven’t shaved in two weeks and I am quite certain that I look very slovenly. Once or twice after I lost my implements I borrowed a razor from the boys, but it pulled so that I concluded to wait for the Wade & Butcher’s Frame Back. N. B. [Nota Bene means “Note well.”] The borrowed razor pulled because it was dull, not from any fault of the beard.
Business has been rather dull with me lately as my present post has not been a very important one. I probably will have more to do, bye and bye, as it is proposed to build a railroad from Pawnee Landing (about the centre of Folly Island on Folly Railroad) to this point; also to construct ferry slips on both shores of Lighthouse Inlet, and run a New York ferry boat back and forth. This is in view of the fact that it will soon to be so stormy as it make it unsafe for light draft steamers such as an come over Lighthouse bar, to go to sea, and it will be necessary to ship all supplies in large vessels which can only enter Stono Inlet. Supplies for Morris Island will then be landed at Pawnee & transported by rail & ferry to Morris Island. There is a railroad with rolling stock in abundance at Fernandina, Florida, which is not in use; it is proposed to bring that up for the purpose.
But now, as I said before, business is slack. I have read considerable lately. I finished “Jane Eyre” yesterday. It is a very interesting book. I have read several novels lately — more than I have read before since I donned a uniform — and they hardly satisfy me. I should like to get a hold of something more solid. If you send me anything again, please put in something; I would prefer military works or history.
We are enjoying unwonted luxuries at present, for instance, apples and cabbages. I have coldslaw for dinner everyday; it not only tastes good, but reminds me of home, for coldslaw is certainly a standard dish in our house from September till April.
I expect it would seem odd to me at home with Sarah & Butler away. The family must be very small now, with Louise & I absent. Though I dare say Lou is back again by this time.
The latest date we have are up to October 3rd. I was disappointed when we received them. We had had all sorts of rumors to the effect that Burnside & Rosecranz had united and thrashed out Bragg; also that Meade was doing wonders in Virginia. But alas, it turns out that nothing has been done in either army and that everything apparently in in status quo throughout the whole country. I begin to fear that the rebellion will drag its slow length, into, or maybe through another year. If the same success could attend our arms in the month of October, November, and December, that crowned them in the three preceding months, there would be precious little “confederacy” left on New Years eve. Well, let us hope for the best. I verily believe that the rebellion is on its last legs.
By the way, there was rather a singular affair occurred on James Island a few days ago. Our lookout observed a squadron of cavalry and eight or ten regiments coming down from the direction of Charleston on the double quick. They disappeared in behind Secessionville and shortly after musketry and artillery were heard, as if a smart skirmish was in progress. The theory was that a meeting had occurred. I heard a day or two after that two deserters had come in who stated that a North Carolina regiment had mutinied but I have not heard the story confirmed. There is no doubt though about the troops being seen and the firing being heard.
We still enjoy magnificent weather. We have not had a gale for nearly two weeks and the air is delightful. I have no fault to find with Folly Island as far as climate goes. Some of the troops recently arrived from the Potomac Army (those who came in July) have suffered considerably with diarrhea. Frank Waters (the Quartermaster of the 112th) died a few days ago at the hospital in Beaufort of chronic diarrhea. I was very well acquainted with him. He used often to come up and visit me. He used often to speak of father. It seems he used to buy goods of him.
Give my love to all. — Charlie
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER SEVEN
Assistant Quartermaster’s Office
Bermuda 100, Virginia
September 11th 1864
Yours of the 7th is just received. I have not heard a word yet from Bishop and since you are safe for this draft, I don’t think it is worth while to think anything more about the matter at present. As I have already mentioned to you, I think this is the last draft it will be necessary to make.
I thought I had mentioned to you that I had received my pay for the months of June and July. I sent Mother one hundred dollars and it took the rest to pay some money which I had borrowed. I should have notified you that I drew out the balance due me at the Erie Co. Savings Bank before I left home. If you have drawn on them for it, your draft has of course gone to protest. I was intending to write you that if the Oil stock went up to a pretty good figure, to see as soon as the original stockholders commenced to sell — whether they were New Yorkers or Pennsylvanians. There are so many new companies forming nowadays which have no other object in view than to sell their stock, that it behooves a man to steer carefully.
We are to have a new Chief Quartermaster, viz: Capt. [George Sullivan] Dodge, who you saw in the Astor House when I first arrived. He has been made a full colonel and Chief Quarter Master, “Army of the James,” which means General Butler’s command. He will probably be announced tomorrow. When is fairly installed, I propose to pitch in on the Majority Question.
Strolbridge arrived last evening feeling and looking very well. His county (Yates) have their quota full and a few to spare. He represents the enthusiasm throughout New York State and Pennsylvania as very great. He says it is almost as it was in the beginning of the war, with this difference, that now all the recruits get big bounties. Lockport, he says is paying seventeen hundred dollars a man. They are coming down to the army in considerable numbers, and the strength of the army is growing daily.
The City Point Railroad which only ran up to within about two miles of Petersburg has been extended to Ream’s Station. This extension (I think about seven miles in length) was laid in about ten days. You must not wonder at Grant’s laying still for the present for everyday increases his army while it cannot possibly be the case with the rebels.
In regard to politics, it is my sincere believe that McClellan will be knocked higher than a kite next November. I do not think he will poll a very heavy vote in the army. The soldiers cannot swallow the Chicago platform and his being nominated by such men as Vallandigham (whom every soldier hates like poison) and the Woods. I saw a man from Baltimore the other day — colonel of a Maryland (white) regiment, who says that Maryland will give a good majority for Lincoln. What do you think of that?
I will drop a hint to Leon in regard to the matter you speak of, He owes me twelve dollars. I lent him ten last winter before he went home, and two when he came from Cold Harbor. I am afraid Mother is not going to be able to sell any of her property this fall. I am most sorry that she didn’t take offer for the Park lots. In case of peace (which in my opinion seems more probable than it ever has before), I suppose real estate and everything else except taxes will go way down out of sight. If this supposition is correct, it will be the time for people who have any spare cash to go in.
I write no news for the excellent reason that there is none to write.
Yours affectionately, — C. E. Walbridge