1861-62: William Hazen Noyes to Parents

Pvt. John E. Gilman wearing the uniform of the 12th Massachusetts Infantry

Pvt. John E. Gilman wearing the uniform of the 12th Massachusetts Infantry

These letters were written by Pvt. William Hazen Noyes (1842-1868) of Company E, 12th Massachusetts Infantry. William was the son of William H. Noyes (1816-1895) and Mary S. Ayer (1817-1890) of Haverhill, Essex County, Massachusetts. In the 1850 Census, William (age 7) is enumerated with his folks with a brother Raymond Noyes (b. 1847) and two sisters, Ann L. Noyes (b. 1845) and Mary Ayer Noyes (b. 1849). In the 1860 Census, William (age 19) is enumerated with his parents, the other siblings previousy mentioned, as well as two younger sibling brothers: George W. Noyes (b. 1852) and Frank A. Noyes (1855-1876).

When William enlisted in June 1861 at the age of 19, he gave his occupation as “shoe cutter.” He is listed among the “sick and wounded New England soldiers” arriving in New York on board the troop transport ship Daniel Webster on 9 October 1862. In June 1863, William was transferred to Company E, 10th Infantry Regiment, Veteran Reserve Corps. In October 1863, he promoted to sergeant and in June 1864, he was mustered out of the service. Though he survived the war, he died on 7 May 1868 at the age of 26.

These letters were all written from Camp Hicks near Frederick, Maryland, where the 12th Massachusetts spent the winter of 1861-1862 in self-constructed log huts.

[See also — 1862: William Remington Carr to Sarah E. Carr]

[See also — 1861: Lt. Benjamin Franklin Cook to Julia (Friend) Cook]

12th Massachusetts at Camp Hicks near Frederick, Maryland

12th Massachusetts at Camp Hicks near Frederick, Maryland (February 1862)


Addressed to Mr. William H. Noyes, Walnut Street, Haverhill, Massachusetts

Camp near Frederick [Maryland]
Monday Eve, December 9th 1861

Dear Parents,

I sit down to answer the two letters that I have received from you this evening & was very glad to hear from you as I have not had a line from home for near four weeks & you mention in your first that you did not have any from me for two weeks. But it was not my fault. About the box, I have not received it yet but probably shall in as quick time as it can get here. I am quite sure that I should have got it before now only for the move as they were making preparing to move for a week before we started & the sutler did not go to Washington as he usually does & he brings most of the boxes for the boys.

About the contents, hearing that we ere a going to move & expecting it would be very muddy, I started for a pair of boots & found a pair that suited me — price seven dollars — about two dollars more than what I should have to have paid at home, but it is better than it would have been to bother you with them. If I had known that I could have got them when I wrote, I should not have sent home for a pair, but all right. As to the blanket & other clothing, if I do not use them, I can probably sell them for what they cost you. Was afraid of the tin can to put the cranberries in after they were stewed. That was the thing you wanted to put them in.

It is fine weather. Go to Mrs. Bedell’s on Fleet Street & get that package for there is a Christmas present for Franky. There is nothing new to write. Return my respects to Aunts Hall & Ann. I am first rate. The second picture that I sent in Bedell Box looks a little more like the genuine. You do not mention it — that is, the receipt of the first one in either letter. But it is of not much consequence for he did not know how to take pictures.

From your son, — W. Hazen Noyes

Addressed to Mr. William H. Noyes, Walnut Street, Haverhill, Massachusetts

Camp near Frederick [Maryland]
Saturday Eve, December 14th 1861

Dear Mother,

I received yours of the 8th & as usual was glad to hear from you but I have not yet received the box that you sent, but I have no fears but what it will reach me in a few days but I think that if you had sent it by Adams Express that I should have got it before this time as they are more prompt & are better known. But I shall probably get it in a few days.

Perhaps you have seen in the papers of great marching. If you have not, I have & the distance being 38 miles. The most that I have heard it stated was twenty-eight miles — & I think that is about right — & their marching it in 11 hours. I think their watch must have stopped unless their teams carried their knapsacks, guns &c.  [Then,] perhaps, they could do it.

The weather yesterday and today has been warmer than it was for a few days before.

Last night Charles Pearsons arrived here from Haverhill. He lives in Bradford. He came out here as Lieut. Davis’s cook but when he went home he cooked for another Lieutenant for awhile. When he went home on a visit, he had with him for company Alonzo Cram, brother of Harvey Cram of Company C but is in the hospital at Alexandria. Also Daniel Ellsworth is there but I believe not very sick. There is a mail comes & goes every day, Sunday excepted, & the letters are received here in a short time after mailing at home. I wish that you would be prompt in sending what papers that you send. Send the Journal every Thursday or Friday — I forget what day it comes out. The chaplain [Edward L. Clark] says that you can send all the papers that you wish now as he can take care of them. We have the Baltimore papers about everyday — also the New York Herald & Tribune.

I sent a line to Louisa a few days ago in the care of Charles Smiley which she has probably got before this. There is considerable activity in a building houses for the officers. They have board from the city & they get up some very comfortable quarters. They have a small sheet iron stove which makes it warm.

There is to be a review of the First Brigade [by] Gen. Abercrombie  [on] Monday, I suppose. I see by the papers that the 2d and 3d [Brigades] have had one. The first consists of the 12th and 2d Massachusetts, 16th Indiana, & the 30th Pennsylvania. This camp is known as Camp Hicks.

There is no news of importance.

From your son, — W. Hazen Noyes

Camp Hicks in 1861

Camp Hicks in 1861


Camp Hicks, Frederick [Maryland]
Sunday, December 25, 1861

Dear Mother,

I will write a late answer to yours of the 17th. I have not, I think, received the letter that you mentioned the receipt of my first picture & I begin to fear that I shall not get my box. If you send another after, send it by Adams Express & get a receipt by Express & send the receipt to me by mail & then I shall be pretty sure to get it. I may get this but it ought to have reached me some time ago as others have got theirs promptly if it was directed properly which you ought to be careful about. I received Mr. Hook’s letter shortly after reaching here & have answered.

The boys are at work making themselves comfortable by building log houses. An order has been issued to tear down the houses covered with mud as they are considered unhealthy.

Last night it was colder than it has been for some time & today it is about as cold a day as we have had since I have been out here. There is no news of any importance here. Two or three nights ago about nine o’clock, the 29th Pennsylvania Regiment passed by here toward Frederick for Williamsport & heard that the 5th Connecticut went another way for the same place.

Good news from Missouri. We get papers about every day here. I received night before last a letter from Louisa.

It is so cold that I will not write no more until tomorrow morning as it is so cold & there is nothing to write anyway. I should not be surprised to see a “right smart” snowstorm now anytime, “I reckon.”

So I close for today. — W. H. Noyes

Monday, Dec. 23rd 1861

Last night we had a visit of a very unpleasant storm of half rain and half snow — a kind of sleet — which is very uncomfortable & muddy underfoot & quite cold & it continues at the present time about one o’clock.

There is nothing more to write that I know of so I will close. I am well. From your son, — W. Hazen Noyes

I guess Frank will be surprised when he wakes up Wednesday morning & looks in his stocking. — W. H. N.


Camp Hicks near Frederick [Maryland]
Wednesday, January 1st 1862

Dear Mother,

I will write you a few lines this morning to let you know how we get along in camp. We are at work on our log houses. We build them about six feet high of logs & the top is boarded & the top ends. They are about 14 to 15 feet square & a floor is laid. Then there is 8 bunks for two to sleep in. It is heated by a small camp stove. The holes are plugged up with mud. Most of the companies have got theirs done but Company E will have the best set of houses in the line. The boards are bought with the company fund raised by selling back rations to the quartermaster. We had about $1500 in the captain’s hands & it will cost near that to finish the houses.

There is nothing unusual going on in camp lately. I sent a line by Mr. Bedell Monday but possibly this may reach you first as he goes by Haverhill down east as his wife is on a visit down there but it will be sure to reach you. I am well & most of the regiment are in fine health.

Yesterday we had a regiment muster & inspection. We had to answer to our names on the pay roll so to get our pay the next time the paymaster comes. Give my respects to all.

I received a journal day before yesterday.

From your son, — W. Hazen Noyes

I wish you all a Happy New Year.

— W. Hazen Noyes 1862


Addressed to Mr. William H. Noyes, Walnut Street, Haverhill, Massachusetts

Cantonment Hicks [near Frederick, Maryland]
February 18th 1862

Dear Mother,

I cannot help writing to you and tell you how the news are received in camp. Yesterday we were startled by the band playing the National Airs (& it was raining at the time). We all rushed out & found that Fort Donelson had been captured with fifteen thousand prisoners including two generals & today the news are confirmed. I should think that the Rebels would feel discouraged after all the reverses of their arms — the Battle of Somerset, the capture of Fort Henry, the success of Gen. Burnsides Expedition, & last but not least the surrender of Fort Donelson. The news came by way of Lieut. [Samuel] Appleton, formerly of this regiment, & Lieut. Orne in this company — he is now Gen. Abercrombie’s aide. The cheers that were given made the camp sound. I begin to think that the cattle will not have a chance to fight although if they did they would fall right & left. They would not disgrace the name that those Mass. troops have won at Ball’s Bluff & Roanoke Island.

The recent victories that have been won by the Federal troops puts a new enthusiasm that will cause the Rebels to run or surrender by their courage & daring deeds. Massachusetts is ahead, yet the way I take it and the way that things look, they are liable to meet with more defeats. Also the leaving of Bowling Green, also the occupation of Winchester by Gen. Lander.

The drums are beating for roll call & I have to close for tonight. So goodnight.

Wednesday morning.

I will try & find something to finish this with. As I have said before, anyone confined to camp cannot find much to write except what you will see in the papers & those you get before we do.

A man named Beals of Company D died last night at the hospital with the typhoid fever making four deaths in the regiment since we left home.

I will repeat a story that is going around camp but whether it is true or not, I cannot tell. It is this — that Gen. [John Buchanan] Floyd has been captured about 12 miles from Fort Donelson & his men (4,000) were completely used up — nothing to eat or hardly anything to wear. Also that Fort Pulaski had surrendered & Savannah was taken procession of by the Federal troops. Such is the story, if it is not true as I think as likely as not. You can see what kind of sources they invent for one day only. I can think of no more mow.

“My health is about the same.”

— W. Hazen Noyes

It is just commenced raining & will be a nasty day. I am glad that I am not on guard. — W. H. Noyes

I see by the paper this morning that the capture of [Gen.] Floyd is a camp story but the paper confirms the capture of Savannah. — W. H. N., Co. E, 12th Regt. Mass. Vols.


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