1865: William Burr Dole to John B. Gilpatrick

How Will might have looked

How Will might have looked

There is no envelope accompanying this letter and the author has only signed his name as “Will” but I feel confident it was written by William Burr Dole, the 23 year-old son of Albert Dole (1809-1861) and Miriam Macdonald (1814-18xx) of Limerick, Maine — later Bangor, Maine. In the letter, Will refers to his younger brother, James Albert Dole (1843-1918) who served initially in Co F, 18th Maine Infantry, but later with the 1st Maine Heavy Artillery where he rose in rank to First Lieutenant late in the war. Albert was wounded in battles at the Harris Farm and before Petersburg but survived them both.

The Dole family was related by marriage to the Ilsley family of Limerick, Maine, and Will mentions his cousin, Lt. Col. Edwin Ilsley (1837-Aft1900) of the 12th Maine Infantry in the letter as well.

After the war, Will and his younger brother Albert took over their father’s furniture manufacturing business in Bangor, Maine, which they ran for twenty-five years. Following that, they relocated to Pomona, California, where Will became the President of the People Bank of Pomona and of the San Antonio Light & Power Company. When he died in 1897, his estate was estimated at $1,000,000.

I cannot find any military record for Will and published family histories of the family don’t mention military service either. The government hired a lot of civilian clerks in the quartermaster department and my hunch is that Will was at City Point as a civilian.

Addressed to Mr. John B. Gilpatrick, Limerick, Maine
Postmarked from Old Point Comfort, Va.

Office Depot of Repairs
City Point, Va.
January 12th 1864 [should be 1865]

Friend John,

Nothing gives me more pleasure than to receive letters from my friends, and especially those with whom I have had such fine times as I have had with you. Everything, I hope, is progressing finely with you and Annie. At least you have my good wishes for your prosperity and welfare.

Brady photograph of

Brady photograph of “Quartermasters Headquarters” at City Point 1864-65

Since I wrote you last, I have been assigned to duty at the office of Gen’l. R[ufus] Ingalls, Chief Quartermaster on Gen’l. Grant’s staff, for a short time until he gets a clerk, which I suppose will be in a short time now, for I have been there 3 weeks. I see General Grant quite often as he comes into his office some days.¹

I presume that you have seen in the papers that General Butler has been removed from the command of the Army of the James and as he has a great many friends North, I suppose  that they will not like it very well, but John, I think that he had never ought to have received the command of an army for I do not think he has much military genius, or enough to maneuver a large number of troops. I think he makes one of the finest Provost Marshals or Military Governor of such a place as New Orleans or Norfolk, and that to such places he ought always to have been assigned. I do not think that the President would have removed him if he did not suppose it was for his interest of the service. You know as well as myself that he has not been very successful with his army and probably this late affair at Fort Fisher sealed his fate. I was very sorry that the expedition against that place was not successful but we expect to meet with some reverses.

Benjamin F. Butler

Benjamin F. Butler — “I do not think he has much military genius…” — W. B. Dole

I saw a Richmond paper of the 9th and the editorial censured Col. [Richard D.] Arnold and the citizens of Savannah very severely for the course they had taken since Gen’l Sherman had taken possession of Savannah, but the account of it is they see that their “very dear cause” is about gone up and they hardly know which way to turn. Even they see a spirit manifesting itself among some of the people in favor of returning to the Union and they are beginning to get frightened. Sherman will soon be on the march again and they do not know at which point to look for help. [Gen’l John B.] Hood is pretty effectually used up for awhile, and according to appearances, Gen’l. [Robert E.] Lee will soon have to evacuate Richmond or lose his army, and on the whole I think that their cause looks very dark, and that we are beginning the new year with very bright prospects.

My brother Albert has received a commission as 1st Lieutenant. I do not know anything about cousin Edwin Ilsley — his command being in the Shenandoah. I do not hear anything about this regiment. You probably hear more than I do.

I received a letter from John Hayes this eve and he said that all was going along lovely — that Martha Dole had been over to see them and Myra Harmon was right on her muscle. I should like to be there a week this winter, as my health is nicely now and I think that we could have one grand old time, and should not apprehend any difficulty from Mrs. Knowlton or anyone else that lives near her “Hole in Wall.”

I expect you are thinking every moment that I shall hint something about cider and to tell you the truth, I should like to call in and take one of my “small drinks” with you, but such a thing is impossible just now and you must do it for me. I have asked about Dominick’s health this cold weather but seems to me you do not appear to take much notice of your fine young representative. How does Prof. Favor get along in teaching? Does he have good success in learning the young ideas how to shoot, or does he send them shooting out the door?

I have heard the story that Martha thinks it is not well to spend this life in single blessedness and is going to get married. How is that? Is the story true? I have had the promise of being [one] of the groomsmen, but if the affair is being hurried up, I am afraid that I shall not have the opportunity.

Give my love to all and when you are having a good time, just remember me. Write soon and oblige. Your old friend, — Will

Brig. Gen. Rufus Ingalls at City Point

Brig. Gen. Rufus Ingalls on horseback

¹ Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant arrived at City Point in June 1864 and used it as his base for conducting military operations against Petersburg. Initially Grant and his staff occupied tents on the east lawn of Dr. Richard Epp’s home at City Point, but as the winter weather came on, they had log houses erected and Dr. Eppes home (“Appomattox Manor”) was repaired so that it could be used as an office by Brigadier General Rufus Ingalls (1818-1893) — the Chief Quartermaster for both the Army of the Potomac and the Army of the James. Rufus Ingalls was from Denmark, Maine.

Grant's Headquarters at City Point; Dr. Eppes house in background. Drawing by A. R. Waud (1865)

Grant’s Headquarters at City Point; Dr. Eppes house in background. Drawing by A. R. Waud (1865)


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