1862: Moses W. Pillsbury to Lemuel P. Foss

This letter was written by Pvt. Moses W. Pillsbury (1842-1863), the son of John C. Pillsbury (1808-1872) and Mercy F. Jones of Strafford, Strafford county, New Hampshire. Moses joined the NH 4th Regiment, Co E on 28 Aug 1861, and was with the regiment in Florida from March until September 1862 at which time they were relieved by the 7th New Hampshire. Moses received a disability pension and was discharged from the service on 26 Oct 1863. He died a few days later in Concord, New Hampshire, on 9 November 1863.

Moses wrote the letter to his friend Lemuel P. Foss of the 13th New Hampshire.

Readers may also be interested in other letters written by members of the 4th New Hampshire Infantry:

1862-65: Leonard A. Gay, Company B, 4th New Hampshire

1864: William W. Whitney, Company A, 4th New Hampshire


St. Augustine [Florida]
June 19th 1862

Friend Foss,

I received your kind letter yesterday and was very sorry to hear that you had been sick but was glad to hear that was a getting better. Hope that you may enjoy better health in the future. I hope that we may meet each other soon. I had begun to think that mine had not reached you. It is of no use to rely on mails for they come very irregular. There has not been a boat in here for three weeks. The other day a little small pilot schooner came in and brought the mail. If there don’t one come in before long, we shall get out of provisions.

We have got a new way of living. The company kicked & turned up a regular row about the cooks and the captain said that as many as wanted to could draw their rations raw and get them cooked downtown, so all but twenty of us go downtown and the others hire a negro to cook for them. Myself and eleven others draw our rations separate and carry them a little ways below here and pay 25 cents a week for cooking. After we got started, we calculate that we shall have extra rations enough to pay for it. A dollar a month I think is cheap. She cooks our rations as hers — just as she chooses. It is good living.

John is well. He has not received any answer from his letter which you say you have answered three times. It must have been delayed. He has not received neither of your three. He may the next mail. He wants you to give his love to the girls. Don’t say anything about his having any girls out here that he goes to see. He has a very few here but that is nothing.

I am glad to hear that business is coming up. Business is dull here. The citizens can’t find anything to do. They have no flour and you may as well no nothing. Flour is twenty dollars a barrel and none at that. A citizen told me the other day that before we came here, it was $25 a barrel. When that schooner was taken, we sold the flour at twelve dollars a barrel. There is none in the place now.

Bully for Ben & Mander. What [does] Charlotte say about it? I should have thought that they both would have been scared almost to death. I guess that it made her squeal some a mile off. Hurrah for William. I am glad that he has got him a girl at last. I suppose that he takes the shine off from everyone else in the town and a part of Barnstead. I should think that it would make the rest of you boys ashamed to think that he has got ahead of you. Joseph Prime, I understand, is at Madbury to work. I shouldn’t think that he would like to be so far from his sweetheart. I don’t know though but what he has taken her with him. He is a good fellow but in hard luck.

You wanted me to write where we were, about the place and inhabitants, &c. &c. In the first place, we are at St. Augustine, East Florida — about 800 or 900 miles straight steamboat line south of New York. It is a small place of about 2200 inhabitants in times of peace. There isn’t but three good-looking houses in the place and they are owned by folks that came [from] the North — one by the name of Mrs. Gardner from Maine, one by the name of Mrs. Anderson from New Hampshire, [and] one by the name of Mrs. Cobb from New York, who has gone home to New York. These are all the good looking houses i the whole place.

St. Augustine during the Civil War

St. Augustine during the Civil War

This is an old Spanish town founded by the Spaniards not far from the year 1615. It has had hard times and been in former days subjected to very hard rulers. The houses are all very old and had a good deal of hard usage. Here is the oldest church in the United States. It is a Catholic Church. Also here is the oldest fort in the United States. It was built when the town was first founded of free stone that is found on Anastasia Island. To look on the map you would think that the town lay right upon the sea but it is one mile from the beach of the sea to the town. There is a river called the Matanzas runs in front of the city. Between it and the sea is a large island about twenty miles long running length wise the coast.

This is a very healthy place being surrounded by salt water in front, the river which is salt, and back behind the city are the salt marshes. There is at night a westerly wind which sweeps across the place and in the day time in the heat of the day is a strong sea breeze which renders this the healthiest place on the whole line of southern coasts. There is not much diseases here — but very few in the hospitals. There have only three have died of sickness and there is one that was wounded at Jacksonville by the rebels while on picket. He was wounded in the bowels so that every thing that passes through his bowels come out in a bullet hole in his side. He is doing well. He was wounded last March. The doctor thinks he he will get well again. I hope that he will, I am sure. ¹

Last week a corporal and eight men went out in a sailboat and when coming back, one of the men jumped up on the side of the boat when it tipped over and they all went overboard. The corporal and two of the men were drowned and the other six saved by themselves by swimming ashore and tried to save the others. The men that were drowned were the best swimmers in the company. One of them by the name of [Luther] Libby has been found. They have tried to find the others but cannot. ²

I see that I shall have to close as I have written all that I can think of now. Give my respects to all that enquire after me. I will close. Excuse bad writing and the shortness of the letter. Write as soon as you receive this and all the news you can think of.

From your humble servant, — Moses W. Pillsbury

Please direct to Moses W. Pillsbury, Co. E, 4th Regt. N.H.V., Port Royal, S.C.

¹ In the book, Roster, Fourth New Hampshire Volunteers, two men are identified as having been killed at Jacksonville: Martin J. Stanton on 16 March 1862, and George W. A. Goldsmith on 25 March 1862. There is no mention of a member of the 4th New Hampshire being wounded at Jacksonville and dying later in St. Augustine, though there are instances of soldiers who “died at St. Augustine.”

² A regimental history states that, “At St. Augustine, Fla., June 13, 1862, by the upsetting of a boat in the harbor three of this company were drowned — Charles C. Cofran, John Lamy, and Luther L. Libby.”


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