1861: Henry C. Long to Deborah P. (Whitman) Long

How Henry might have looked

How Henry might have looked

This letter was written by Pvt. Henry C. Long, the son of Miles and Anna (Bridgham) Long of Buckfield, Oxford County, Maine. Henry was 23 years old when he enlisted in the 11th Maine Regimental Band in September 1861. Before enlisting, Henry was employed as a boot maker, learning the trade from — and residing in the same household as — master boot maker, Elijah P. Whitman (b. 1822). In the 1860 census, Deborah P. Whitman, a “boot fitter,” is also enumerated in the same household. She was, presumably, a relative of Elijah’s (younger sister?) and was most likely the same “Deborah” who married Henry prior to his enlistment. Deborah was the daughter of Joshua Whitman (1788-Aft1850) and his wife Catherine (1800-Aft1850).

Regimental records indicate that Henry C. Long died while in the service. His death is recorded as having occurred on 7 July 1862 in New York.

Widow’s pension records confirm the date of Henry’s death and also tell us that Deborah subsequently married Sgt. Henry E. Hay of Co, I, 4th Mass. Heavy Artillery. He died in 1917.



Camp Washburn, Augusta [Maine]
October 6th 1861

Dearest Wife,

The regiment does not go until next Monday. Therefore, I can go home again. You need not look for me until I come for I do not know what day I can get off. I am better than I was yesterday but I am not well now and it makes me feel homesick. If I felt well, it would not seem so lonesome. It is a going to be a pleasant day and I wish you could be here with me but I must not be homesick now. If I do, I can not stand it when I get out there. I cannot write anymore. This is all of the paper that I could find. I do not believe the regiment will go soon as that but they may. But I hope not. I will write no more this time. So goodbye. — Henry


I wrote you last. I have been quite sick with bad cold and sore throat.

Camp Knox, ¹
Washington [D.C.]
October 14th 1861

Dear Wife,

I have taken the first opportunity possible to write you which I suppose that you are anxious to hear from me and if I am well and how I like &c ___. I am well considering the long tedious ride I have had. We got here Saturday morning at 3 o’clock and went into camp in the afternoon. We are encamped on Meridian Hill, 3 miles from the city. I like as well as I expected. It was colder here yesterday than I see it in Augusta while I was there and it is not much better today. We have not fared very well since we got here. All that I had breakfast this morning was hard bread and coffee but they say we shall fare better when we [get] better settled. I expect that I shall want something to eat besides my rations, but I shall try to keep up good courage and stand it as well as possible and I am not going to be homesick if I can help it. And I want you to do the same if it is in your power.

It is worth something to come out here [if] only to see the country and especially the Capitol. I went up on the dome of the Capitol yesterday and it was worth five dollars. I could look over into Virginia and as far as I could it was covered with tents in all directions. But they told me that what I could see was not a handful compared with the great army’s. I could see down the Potomac [River] a long ways — could see Alexandria, Arlington Heights, and all round the vicinity of Washington!

We were used well on the road as far as eatables was concerned. We had a colation [cotillion?] in Boston, Philadelphia, and Baltimore.” Baltimore is the dirtiest city that I ever saw in all my travelings. It is made of dirt, pigs, and niggers. I want you to write as soon as you can conveniently how you got along in moving and how you got home and all of the news. I have not much to write this time but will more next time. I don’t know how long we shall stay here. Perhaps it will be all winter & perhaps not 3 weeks.

I have signed allotment roll in Augusta so that you will draw thirty dollars per month of my wages, so I shall have four dollars left to spend if I want to. I think the money is sent to you from Augusta. I suppose that you have seen all of the Buckfield folks by this time. Give my respects to all of them. All of the band are writing home. [Alexander] Fuller is homesick as he can be. He just said that he would give five dollars if he could go home. He will be a regular baby. I don’t believe that he will feel any worse that I shall but he will make more fuss than all the rest of the band. They are writing with lead pencils as well as me so you must excuse all mistakes and write me very soon.

I can not think of any more now so goodbye and accept this from your affectionate husband, — Henry

Direct your letter to H. C. Long, 11th Maine Regiment Band, Washington D. C.

¹ A regimental history states that, “Camp Knox was beautifully situated on a slope of Meridian Hill. The camp overlooked the city of Washington and a stretch of adjoining country, its rear resting on a deep-bordered ravine, through which flowed a stream, the fountain-head supplying us with an abundance of pure water.”

[@ 1st November, 1861 — no dateline, probably missing first half of letter]

… I and [Roscoe G.] Buck went over to see Charles Bridgham ¹ and Al Buck last Friday. They are encamped about a mile from us. They was very glad to see us. I quip that they were some homesick. Charley had just got a letter from his girl and it made him feel lonesome. Addie Williams’ father is a private in our regiment, so Charles said. I have not seen him nor should I know him if I did. Charlie met with a mishap the other day. He went down to the city without a pass and consequently got put in the lockup. He was not in there but a little while. I could not help laughing to hear him tell his adventure. I don’t think that he will be caught in that scrape again. He is a going to be a bugler in his company so he will not have to carry a rifle.

I can write no news about the army for you get more news there than I do here. We do not know what is going on outside of our encampment. The papers contain nothing of importance. They had a little skirmish over the side of the river last week but it was not much of a fight — a few killed and wounded. It is impossible for us to know much about what is going on. If they make any movement, it is not allowed to be circulated in the papers. Regiments are coming in here and going off every day. Over twenty thousand troops went over the river last week. The general opinion here is that there will be a great battle before the first of January and some think the war will be ended by that time but I do not believe any such thing. But I hope hat it will be so.

I have been here a fortnight and it seems as if I had been here a month. That is the way it seems to all of the band, but they all appear to enjoy it and I guess that they all do. There has none of them been sick. I expect that they will be paid off this week. If we do, you will get some money soon. They keep a month’s pay behind so you will receive about forty dollars, I guess, and if there is anything that you want, I want you to get it. I do not want you to deprive yourself os a single thing for the sake of keeping money for me. It is yours as much as it is mine and I am not afraid that you will spend it for anything that you do not need. When you receive, I want you to write as soon as you get it for if there is anything about the arrangement that is not right, I shall want to know it and shall feel anxious about it after we are paid off.

I cannot think of anything more this time but i will write often and I know you will do the same. Sometimes when they all get letters, it makes me feel lonesome. I expect that it is because there is none for me. You know that I have not had but one. I wish that I could hear from you every night but that is impossible and I will not ask it. I know that you will write as often as you can. I want to know how you get along and all the news. So goodbye for a little while. My love to all.

— Henry

Tell Andrew that I am going to write to him by and by. Tell him if he knows when he is well of that, he better not enlist for he could not stand it.

¹ Charles Bridgham (b. 1841), married Addie M. Williams. Charles became a physician and they resided in Cohasset, Massachusetts.

Camp Knox
Washington [D.C.]
November 24th 1861

Dearest Debbie,

I received your letter this morning and was very glad to hear from you and that you was well and arrived home safe and well and that you did not have to move your things for I was worrying about it thinking that you would do it all yourself and by so doing make yourself sick. I think that Mr. Kimball will take good care of them.

I was not surprised to hear that you were loved by your acquaintances in Gardiner. I knew it before and if they knew you as well as I do, they would love you a great deal better. You need never lack for friends as long as life is yours. I never had a friend before that was a friend. Friendship will not fill your title as regards to me — wife, mother, sister, and all you have been and are to me. And I love you more now than ever. Nor time will not eradicate but strengthen it.

I cannot say that I have no been homesick but I can say that I shall not be so any more than I can help, and I don’t want you to worry one might about me. I have enough to eat now and I sleep warm nights. It is not so cold now as it was when we got here, but they say that we have some very cold weather here as well as down east. It does not seem to me that I am so far from home until I look back and think of the journey I had which I shall never forget. The night before we started there was not one of us slept a wink for we had to pack our baggage at 8 o’clock Tuesday night. All but our tents were put aboard the cars so we had nothing to sleep on. But I stood it considerable well. We rode two nights in the cars besides.

There is considerable many in our regiment that is sick in the hospital but not dangerously.

Almost all of the band fellows got a letter last night. Mine came but the chaplain did not give it to me and I am a going to blow him up for it. I went to church today. The whole regiment has to go to. The church is as large as the parade ground and the walls are as high as the sky. Last Thursday we went to a review — five regiments of us — and we have another next Tuesday. All of the regiments on this side of the Potomac [River] will be there — forty thousand of them will be in all. I do not mean all of the troops on this side of the river but all in and near Washington. They will be reviewed by McClellan and the President so we have got to scour up our horns and look as well as possible.

I saw the President and his wife the other day. They rode by our encampment in great shape. Servant girl (I expect it was), two drivers, a span of black horses, and a better carriage than there is in Buckfield “I’ll bet!” He looks just like the pictures of him that I have seen before. He is nothing but a man, but I expect he is a good one.

I guess you would laugh if you could see how we get along. Our table is on the ground just where we are a mind to have it and when we eat, some are on a stone, some are on a woodpile, and anywhere and anyhow. We have got a fireplace in our tent. We made it by digging a ditch from the inside of the tent out and then covering it with brick. It is not very nice but it helps to keep our toes warm these long evenings when we are playing cards and smoking and raising Ned. We have some good times when we forget home and those that are far, far away. But it does not last a great while at a time. There is some long faces sometimes but I guess that they will outgrow it in the course of three years if we should have to stay so long. But I hope that we shall not have to stay so long as that, and I don’t believe that we shall.

[Alexander] Fuller wants to go home now. He told me last night that he would give me five dollars if he would get him discharged. He says that he is sick and that he spits blood but I don’t think that he can get his discharge but still he may. I should advise him to if he can. He is a nice man but he is not fit to go to battle. I should like to stay here about six months — long enough to make it pay for my coming out here.

The Band Boys are all writing home today. We don’t have a very good table to write on. I am up in one corner sitting on my straw tick with my knapsack on my knees for a table, so you must excuse my poor writing on that. Some are writing on the drum and some on a chest but I think that mine is as comfortable as any of them.

I hardly know what to tell you about going to work for Allen & Thomas. I want you to go where you can content yourself the best but there is one thing I don’t want and that is I don’t want you to work atall if you have got to work as you did when you worked for them before. I should like to have you keep house by yourself for you would not have to work so hard as you would at home if you can go to house keeping and work a little just when you are a mind to. I will have no objections and I want you to make such arrangements with them if you do any work. Don’t go to working hard, will you? Do just as you want to in everything else but don’t work hard and you will be well again.

I will write again soon and you will do the same without fail. It is so dark that I cannot see to write anymore so good night, dear one.

That picture is a good one and they all said so and that it was a good looking one to and it is.

— Henry

Washington [D. C.]
December 1st 1861

Dearest Wife,

I have done as you wished me to do — not to wait for your letters. I have not received any from you this week although I suppose you have written before this.

My health is good except a slight cold and that is the prevailing disease among us all. The weather is so unchangeable is what causes it. Last Monday night it snowed and last Friday night we had a thunder shower. So one day is it cold and the next warm and pleasant as can be. But I think I can stand it better now. We have got a floor to our tent. We have had to sleep on the ground until last night. Yesterday a New Jersey Regiment that was encamped close by us struck tents and moved farther down the river so we Band fellows just went over and took a few boards that was left and made us a good floor. I don’t expect that we shall have to sleep on the ground again this winter for the talk is that we are going into winter quarters ¹ on the same ground. They are a going to build barracks for all of the soldiers. If they do, we can live as nice as can be.

Perhaps you think that I have a hard chance and fare hard. To be sure, it is not like living at home. But I am living a hundred times better than any there is in the regiment. I cannot help thinking sometimes how much better I fare than some of them poor fellows in they regiment & they are granted no liberties at all and have to do guard duty. They have to stand guard all night in the cold and rain. They are there at all hours. I went by some of their tents the other day. It had rained the night before and they were full of mud. Their beds were wet through. they had to lay there or sit up, just as they chose. They was no other place for them.

I have not been down to the city but once since I have been here. Last night a few of us got the countersign and went down. If a soldier is caught in the city without a pass or countersign, he is put in the lockup and kept until his colonel takes him out. We traveled round what we wanted to and some of them proposed that we should go to the theater as there was one that night. So we all went. It was very good and served to drive dull care away for a couple of hours. Then we came home and camped down to dream of, “Home, Sweet Home,” and the loved ones that we have left far, far behind. I dreamt of seeing you and that we was having a sleigh ride. Perhaps it will come to pass before spring if the brass bands are cut down as they all think that they will be. I should not be surprised is my dream comes to pass. But I shall not come until I am sent as long as I can have the pay that I now get, nor would you advise me to, would you?

Mr. [Alexander] Fuller is going home if he can get his discharge. [Our band leader, ] McDonald has given his consent. Also the colonel. And I expect that he will go before long. They all think that he is homesick but he denies that it is so. The boys plague him some. [letter unsigned; probably missing a page]

¹ A regimental history states that, “On New Year’s Day, 1862, …the brigade went into winter quarters in Carver Barracks, on the crown of Meridian Hill. Each regiment was now domiciled in a dozen or fourteen one-story wooden houses; shell-like structures of from fifty to sixty feet in length, twenty-five or thirty feet in width, and separated from each other by a street of perhaps twenty-five feet in width.”

[@ Mid January 1862 — partial letter]

…through these. I went to the Capitol. Congress was in session and I stayed until night to hear them talk. In the House of Representatives they were trying to abolish the franking privilege (so that we soldiers could not send anymore letters free) and in the Senate they were fighting about liberating slaves in the District of Columbia. It was quite interesting. I would give anything if you could be here and go with me and see these places. I believe that I have seen all now but the White House. I have seen that but have not been inside.

One of the clerks in the Senate told one of our fellows that all the bands would be discharged before a great while. Said that was actually so. I shall feel very sorry, but I suppose you will be glad of it. We can live a little while if they do, can’t we?

Our regiment will not leave this place before next spring for they are not fit to go into service yet. There is a great many of them sick. About three hundred of them, I believe, are on the sick list. I cannot tell how many have died but there has as many as thirty, sure! The hole regiment got cold the first day we got here and has been the cause of all the sickness.

I am glad that Wallace & Mary call on you so often and that you think so much of them. I doubt not but what they do a great deal in lightening your burden of loneliness. I wish that I had some such one here.

I suppose that Mrs. Hussey has some funny feelings and when they come on, she had rather Uncle Jim would put his leg over her than his arm, don’t you? I presume that she has such spells quite often. Jane used to.

I don’t know what to say about Mc, ¹ but what thoughts I do have are not in his favor, I assure you — or his foolish other half. I will tell you this, that after I get out of this scrape, I will never go near him again as long as I live. The more I think of them, the worse I hate them. I don’t know as they have done me a great deal of harm, or ever will, but I am sick of hearing about them. [Alexander] Fuller & [Roscoe G.] Buck know them better than I do and they don’t make much of telling me their opinion, but I will say no more on this subject for it is not worth the time it takes.

We were paid off last Monday. They paid me $8.00 and sixty has gone to you. I do not know when you will get it, but expect it will be soon — perhaps this week. There is about twenty dollars due me now on the next month. They were all paid up to the first of January and will not be paid again until March. This is all that I can think of this time, so goodbye. Write soon.

Excuse my many mistakes and accept from — Henry

I would give good deal to see you and I hope I shall before long. I will never go South if this regiment does. That is so.

¹ This might have been band leader James W. McDonald.


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