These three letters were written by George H. Staples (1830-18xx) of Freeport, Cumberland County, Maine. George was the son of Captain David Staples (1781-1841) and Elizabeth Bartol (1793-1887). He wrote the letter to his sister, Anna M. Staples (1833-Aft1863). In 1860 U. S. Census, George was employed as a “caulker” and Anna as a “tailoress.”
George enlisted in Co. E, 13th Maine Infantry in December 1861. He mustered out of the service in August 1865.
The first letter was written from Fort St. Philip on the eastern bank of the Mississippi River downstream from New Orleans where portions of the the 13th Maine had garrison duty for several months in 1862-63. The second and third letters were written from Lakeport, at the lake end of the Pontchartrain Railroad where Company E had to guard about ten miles of the lake shore, from Bayou St. John on the west to Bayou Cochon on the east, including the Pontchartrain Railroad. Every vessel entering or leaving Bayou St. John and Lakeport had to examined to prevent smuggling.
[Note: for another letter written by a member of the 13th Maine, see — 1862: Daniel F. Smith to Olive H. Smith]
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Fort St. Philip
December 4th 1862
Dear people at home,
I put a letter in the office yesterday but it was too late for the boat so that [letter] and this may go together. The box opened well, but stop after the captain sent an order for the box that did not come. I began to feel like [ink smudged]. We then sent up by Corporal ____ of our company & the box came Wednesday morn just before guard mounting. James came to my tent & says, “Come Staples, our box has come. Let’s open it. Where’s your hatchet?” I took the things out and handed them to him. Everything was well till we came to the forbidden fruit and that was them currants which was all right and done no harm but James had a box like that full of jelly or preserves and sealed with rosin or something else. It leaked, however, and run down through James’ paper and spoilt a few sheets. He says I should think my paper was under his but wasn’t damaged but two packages of my envelopes — 1 buff & 1 white — ever wet across the end and spoilt, I think. I shall make them do if possible. James cautioned his folks not to send anything of the kind. He had two apples — one was rather rotten — with the exception of everything came safe.
The handkerchiefs were just right. I hope I shan’t have sores enough to use that salve all up. I can sell what thread I don’t want. I see that the tooth brush has bristles in both ends which I suppose is to clean the teeth of two men at once, ain’t it? The pen stop and pencil rubber head came very handy. Pins a lot. I wanted ____ ___ for rivets to an ion [?] framed wallet that I am going to make but I can get big ones enough out of the mixed ones. I wanted the leather for the same purpose which I guess will do first rate. I had a plenty of yarn that I brought from home. I had a hunk of salt water soap that I bought on board the ship Mississippi when she unloaded at Hilton Head. It is beautiful — the best I ever saw. Wish you had a box of it but if I stay two years, I shall need it and am glad you sent it. I had a plenty of beeswax. The flag root was first rate and I needed when I had the other wa___. The needle case is a fine affair and cheap to one sold at auction here for $1.25 — buttons, a lot of thread and tape a plenty. The gum looks good. The aralic I put some to soak. C____ ____ pens I guess they are good but O that old thimble — nothing looked so natural as that. I now have it on. I love to look at it. It carries me back to early childhood. I have played with it hours. Most of them names look very faint. I shall have to put in a shoe string right away. Looking glass first rate — can see very plain in it. [Ink smudged] and a dollar for the suspenders. They cost that here. I would not sell them. Sand & emery paper just right — 5 cts a sheet here. More emery paper used now than sand paper. It wears longer and scratches less. The emery done up in that form takes less room that a strawberry would. When I wrote for a vest, I thought I left one but I believe I wore them all out so you need not send one.
How was the Freeport boys? Were they in good spirits? How did you like the looks of the Sold___ city? I think Frank very fortunate in getting rid of Maria so easy. A note to Charley. Send it to him in Miss Chase’s letter.
Dec. 6th. I receipted for my clothing yesterday from the date of enlistment to the 1st of January next & I have taken up 42 dollars & 32 cents worth. They owe me on the clothing account 7 dollars. I shall save all I can to not need so much as last year, that being the first outfit we had to have many things that we can do without this — an overcoat & dress coat, for instance. You will find a two dollar greenback in this letter. Have you got the watch fixed? Tell me what the army is doing with Burnside as leader. [What] did they do with McClellan as they ought shoot him. Watch Congress.
Yours with love, — G. H. Staples
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
Lakeport, formerly Milneburg, Louisiana
October the 6th 1863
I received yours of September 22nd (No. 32) about dinner time after which I took it and Mother’s onto my post to read. It contained a statement from Henry with which I am satisfied and he says Mother has the notes but I suppose that he still has the mortgage which you must get when the next twenty dollars comes which we expect every day and the balance you can keep to buy peppermints with.
The weather is just right — very pleasant and beautiful.
The dumb ague is an aching of the bones and head severely and a consequent general debility with some fever but no chills and is more obstinate than fever and ague. If this is not plain enough, I will get our MD to write it plainer.
Letters come regular now from Freeport. I have got all the stamps. I did not write to Ed Chase. Mother said he was coming home. That Halifax gentleman — as you style him — won’t want an old maid. I am going to pull out the red hairs pretty soon so as to have them all of a color for Brindle, you know, is not pretty and the whites ones are beginning to outnumber the red.
We have had no frost yet. If all the neighbors get musical instruments, it will cost you nothing for music and you ought to be very thankful and buy a fiddle so that you can play to men when I get home. Then we can dance, Ann. This will go Saturday.
I will now stop until the box comes. I will send a Sergeant’s mess bill in this against Holbrook of one dollar & thirty cents which I don’t care whether you collect or not as I don’t like Sergt. Nelson Howard one mite.
8th. Sick all day yesterday with dumb ague. Better this morn. This is the coldest morn we have had.
A lot of prisoners went through here yesterday to Ship Isle — one a Captain sentenced to three years hard labor there for permitting smuggling when it was his duty to prevent it. He probably made money by it but has now got his comeuppance.
The box didn’t come but will probably come in the next steamer next Saturday. Not paid off yet.
A white woman made complaint against her husband — a black Spaniard nigger Creole or something else — who beat and would have killed her but for the interference of a 3rd party. Her face and hands were torn and bloody as well as her clothes. Not a pretty sight, I can assure you. He was taken charge of by the police. A portion of the 9 Connecticut who went to Ship Island with prisoners the other day returned this morning — the 9th — and stacked their arms before our quarters and waited for the train.
A boat came yesterday from the rebel lines with 6 kegs of tobacco, a few dry goods, some books, &c. &c. Having no pass, they were taken to the Captains and a guard put on to the boat who discovered and fished up from the water a bag which they had thrown overboard and which contained a mail and orders for goods of various descriptions on Orleans traders — also a plan of Ft. Pike and how to get to it unawares by the garrison, and various other interesting and important documents. Their case will be investigated and if justice is done, we shall get something for our severe guard duty. A barrel of whiskey has been placed on tap by order of the surgeon. It is said in consequence of our guard duty being hard and those that want it get a drink every day. Some think more of that than they would of 50 cts every day if they could have their choice. I really believe I will get a Sunday Era every Sunday when I can for you. Leave the weather tables. — George
I suppose Almanacs will soon be out. Send one…
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE
October 15th 1863
It is most sunset and I went to Gentilly Station halfway from here to [New] Orleans extensive entrenchments ever built here by the rebels. A small detachment of artillery with one gun and three howitzers are stationed here. From here we went two miles to a confiscated plantation, got some nice oranges and our pockets full of pecans or — as the natives say, pecons. We saw an old Negro there who in answer to my inquiries as to how many slaves used to live there said a right smart heap of ’em, by which I understood a good many. It was a large and beautiful place — needed somebody on it. I should like very much to own it. Good night.
16th. Three men — one of them had a wife and child — came from Mobile the other day in a small boat. Few troops there, they said. Most of them with Bragg. Not much resistance would be made. Their bread [and other] stuff very high. Poor folks could not buy it.
Beautiful weather. The box came the 13th — 23 days coming. I found cake in the pockets which had two or three little specks of mold on it but not enough to hurt it any. But the acorns were all squeezed up and black. The pills had begun to mold but they will soon dry. Sawyer’s apples had the mellow spots in them a little rotted and his preserves leaked some but no damage was done. The shoes, shirts, and socks all fit complete and many words were spoken in praise of them by the boys who all wanted to buy. Anything that comes from our homes brings a better price that that we get here of the same quality. I pulled on one of the shirts and a pair of the socks this morn and like them very much. The shoes will save drawing one pair at least and are very easy to my feet.
We are expecting to be paid off and you can remunerate yourselves. My Halifax Corporal admired my shirt very much this morn and thought it was a fine thing to have such a good Mother & Sister. I mailed a letter today to Gus and two papers to you one of which was sent to him. They go tomorrow. Mail steamer is due here tomorrow.
The boys killed a wild pig in the dooryard this morn. The Freeport boys are all well. On guard in the night.
17th. Washed two shirts, a pair of socks, and a towel. This morn the 12th Maine are at Carrollton, a few miles above the city.
18th. Sunday. Got into a little flat boat and went into the woods. A man cutting wood there with shirt off. They cut their wood and boat it out in these things that draw about four inches of water when loaded, 3 or 4 of which they hitch together and can navigate all through the woods which is all swamp. The wood is cypress and there is a plenty of wild shrubbery and palmetto husaks.
19th. About 25 of our company went in a schooner this morn on an expedition across the lake prepared to be gone 3 days. A letter came from you October 5th (No. 33), also one from Mary of the 27th of September. Will send paper with this.
October 20th. This will probably be the last letter that you will get from me here as we have just got orders to report at the City in marching order at 5 o’clock today P. M. with everything that is necessary for taking the field and it is now about eight o’clock A. M.
10 A. M. Relieved by the 9th Connecticut. Our boys haven’t come from the expedition yet but we are about ready to move — all packed up. We expect to go to Texas. Can’t tell though. Give Fanny Curtis a picture is she wants one. Haven’t heard from M. Bartoll for some time.
Direct your letters to New Orleans, La.
I think you better stay at home and buy coal — that’s the cheapest. Notes are always given together and then endorsed on the back of each note until taken up and then torn up. Pay Henry and then ____. Not paid off yet. Don’t know when we shall be. I sold my bedstead to one of the new soldiers for fifty cents. Warn’t he a fool. I couldn’t carry it with me. A good many Irish and just about how are you. The people all say we are the best soldiers they ever saw and of course we think so. The box come just the right time, didn’t it?
Sawyers got a letter wrote but nothing in it. About going away, did not know it when he wrote. He is well. The Coffins went on that expedition so you must tell them Wyman and Soule have just come from the Bayou St. John all well and in good spirits. Don’t any of you stop writing but keep writing good patriotic letters and don’t cry for that won’t do any good for we shan’t be killed. Do you believe it? Hey, I don’t want to burn your letters up but can’t carry them. We don’t know where we shall go. I shall write ever chance and tell you all about what I see &c. &c.
I can think of nothing more. Write to Poland and tell Mary I will write to her the first chance.
— G. H. Staples, Co. E, 13th Maine Vols.
Pack up is ordered.