This letter was written by Maurice Leyden (1836-1906), the son of Michael Leyden (1809-1901) and Catharine Carhart (1813-1889). Maurice enlisted in June 1861 at the age of 22 in the 3rd New York Cavalry. He was commissioned a 2d Lieutenant in Co. B in July 1861, a 1st Lieutenant in Co. C in June 1863, and Captain of Co. B in April 1865. He was taken a prisoner of war at Darbytown Road near Richmond on 7 October 1864 and confined at Libby Prison in Richmond, Danville, Va. & Salisbury, N. C. After his release from prison, he was transferred to Co. B, 1st New York Mounted Rifles until he resigned in July 1865.
After the war, Maurice served variously as the president of the American Dental Association, the Rochester Savings and Loan Association, the Davis & Leyden dental equipment manufacturing company, Monroe County Clerk, first secretary of the Rochester Title Insurance Company and as supervisor of Rochester’s 8th Ward.
Maurice married Margaret Leora Garrigues (1841-1928) in 1865. She was one of fifteen women who registered to vote with Susan B. Anthony in the November 1872 election.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Headquarters Co. B, 3rd New York Cavalry
Camp near Newbern, North Carolina
September 6th 1862
My dear friend Maggie,
Your very kind letter of August 29th came safe to hand. I was glad to hear from you although I began to think you were not intending to write me again. It seemed a long time since I heard from you, but I find consolation in the old saying, “Better late than never.”
I am pleased to learn that you are having a pleasant time at Syracuse. I think you were wise to accept Mary’s invitation. You ask if I remember our ride to Mesina Springs. I do very well — a pleasant ride it was. I also remember that “Pride did not take a fall.” I think you must have been in great danger — more so than I ever was, or any soldier, even before the cannon’s mouth — but a miss is as good as a mile.
When I wrote you last our company was acting as bodyguard to [Military] Governor [Edward W.] Stanly, but we are now in the field again and have been for about four weeks. Our Company occupy the advance post on the road to Kinston.
I have been out twice within two weeks to meet Flags of Truce and once this week with a Flag of Truce. Those I went to receive brought in ladies and men from the North who had been unable to get home until now. The one I went out with took three ladies — Southern — who had been visiting at the North, and this was the first opportunity they could get to return to their homes. So you will see that I have had good opportunities to meet the enemy on friendly terms, as well as hostile. I always prefer to meet them on the latter — it affords me much more pleasure. I talked freely with the rebel officers. Those I have chanced to meet from time to time have always appeared very friendly, and acknowledge that we have always treated them well when they met us under a Flag of Truce. But some of our officers say that when they have been out with Flags of Truce, they have not only been insulted by the rebel officers whom they met but by the very ladies they had been escorting and protecting on their way to their friends. I say ladies as there has been no men allowed to pass our lines under any circumstances. Some, not all, of these ladies would be very polite to our officers and men until they came in sight of their rebel friends, and then their insults and abuse has been almost intolerable.
There was a man who came in from the rebels lines in our camp this morning. He made his escape last night and informed us that a strong force of the enemy were coming down to attack us to[day] or tonight some time. I have strengthened our picquet and am on the look out. I do not propose to be surprised. Capt. [John F.] Moschell & Lt. [John] Ebbs being in town sick, I am left alone with our company and two companies of infantry. I only hope that the enemy will attack us and try to cut us off. I should like very much to see the game played although our force is not very strong here. I think they would be obliged to fight some before they could take our post and pass into Newbern. Should they come, I will fight my company until the last — even at the sacrifice of having one half cut to pieces before I would give up. I think it high time we began to avenge some of the wrongs that have been imposed upon us.
Since our regt came to North Carolina we have suffered much. It is the only cavalry in this department and we have had rebel cavalry, infantry and guerrilla bands to contend with all the time. I will not write you more this afternoon but wait until morning. I may have some news for you.
Sunday morning. As I was in my saddle all night, you must not expect me to write much. After I sent my report in to Gen. Foster last evening, he sent out at ten o’clock P.M. three companies of infantry to reinforce us and form an ambuscade which we did, but we had our labor for our pains. [The] secesh did not make us their intended visit but we cannot tell what moment they will. The rebels say that they will occupy Newbern as winter quarters. If the reports are true that I hear today as to our army in Virginia, I should not be surprised if they did. We only have here in all about five thousand troops. I should like to know what the people of the North and our government are thinking about.
You ask me if I am not glad that I did not wait to be drafted. Did I not tell you once on a time that I should never suffer myself to be drafted. I will answer by saying that I am glad to think I did not wait to be drafted — and more than that, I did not wait for bribery, or as some may choose to call it, extra bounty. I will not say more on this subject as I may be too severe.
Say to Aunt Maggie that I am much obliged to her for those few lines. I shall ever be thankful for small favors and large ones in proportion. I am sorry to hear that she hurt herself. I hope she is now better. Remember me to Em, Anna, and all your folks in Rochester. Also to your friends in Syracuse. Write soon and accept much love.
I am truly yours, — Maurice
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
Bivouac near Point of Rocks, Virginia
May 31st 1864
My darling Maggie,
I should have written you last Sunday if but a few lines had I known when Sunday came. But really I knew nothing about it. That day — like many others — came and passed without my knowledge. It was not until yesterday that I was aware of the fact that a Sunday had passed and I had not written a single word to my “Little Pet.” Now you must not think strange of all this and I know you will not when some day I tell you my excuse.
When I was writing you last — I forget what day it was — I mentioned that aright was then going on at our right [and] that I was in hopes they would not disturb me until I had finished writing you. Well they did give me an invitation to “fall in” my company and be ready for action. Therefore, I was obliged to finish my letter to you in haste. The fight did not amount to much after all. A shell came over from the “rebs” killing one officer and wounding six men.
The line of “earth works” which our division of cavalry have to hold are about three miles in length. The First Brigade, composed of the 3d N. Y. Cav. and the 1st D. C. Cavalry, commanded by Col. [Simon H.] Mix ¹ have the right of the line. Gen’l [Augustus Valentine] Kautz has now attached to his command the 1st N. Y. Mounted Rifles [and] the 1st and 2nd US Colored Cavalry. Each regiment and each company have a certain proportion of the “works” to hold. They are bivouacked in rear of and about two rods from the edge of the ditch opposite their allotted place. We have nothing but “shelter-tents” with us and in fact just as little of everything as we can possibly get along with — and less too.
We have several batteries of artillery with us. They are stationed at the most important positions along the line — one on the right and left of our brigade. I can see from where I now write [them] throwing shell at the enemy who are in plain sight. This kind of amusement is so common an everyday occurrence that we think nothing of it. In fact, it is nothing unusual for this battery to play on to each other for hours at a time — day and night.
We had a “right smart” fight yesterday afternoon. The enemy opened the ball, but it resulted in their being driven back and one of their guns broken in pieces by a solid shot from one of ours. The picquets fire more or less at each other both day and night. Our horses are about two miles from here at Point of Rocks — a landing on the Appomattox River. A detail from each company of one man to ten horses [is] in charge of them. We are only dismounted temporally — the exigencies of the service requiring it, and to let our horses recruit from the very severe effects on them of our two last raids. I have no objection to being dismounted so long as we have no marching to do and can remain behind “breastworks.” It’s a good idea to have something before you to stop bullets — something cavalry men do not usually have. I could hear the bands of the “rebs” last evening playing Dixie.
Severe fighting was going on across the James River yesterday. We could hear the cannonading all day. It has just commenced again this morning 7½ o’clock — quite too early. I think they should wait until 9 o’clock and then have an hour at noon for rest, refreshments &c. Quit for the day at 5 o’clock P.M.
Well I have written all that I can think of. Yes, I guess more than you wished I had. If it is the best I could do, you will say. But you must remember that when I write you now, it is at very great disadvantages. In the first place, I must use a pencil. I have a pen, but can not carry ink with me very well. No table — no desk — and sometimes not even a bit of board. Again, it is with difficulty that I can get the time to write you however much I may wish to, As I have no convenient way to carry envelopes and paper, I must trust to luck and take my chances on getting any. I am determined to fill up this sheet of paper as it cost me the whole of five cents. I guess you will think so at my desperate attempt to write something when in reality I have not succeeded in writing anything. Well here is nonsense enough. Now for something else.
How are you and how have you been? In fact, how are all your folks and the friends in Rochester? Also those in the “Old City of Salt.” I have not heard from any of them in a long, long while. What has become of Mary and my adopted mother?
It is a mystery to me how Mr. Hetfield and our folks should have heard that I was sick in a hospital. When we left Portsmouth, several of our officers were left behind sick and Lt. [James W.] Ring of B Co. was one of the number. But I had no such good luck as to be sick on that occasion. And to tell you the truth, had I been sick on that occasion, I should have gone even if I were to break down on the way.
What say you? I think of sending to you for safe keeping the letters I now have with me that you have written of late. Should anything happen, you know that someone might come in possession of them who would have no business to read or ever see them. I mention this and will do as you may think best. The letters which we write to each other are of more interest to us perhaps than they would, or should be, to anyone else. At least I can speak from personal experience. Perhaps I should not have thought of this precaution were it not for what I saw on one of our raids. Some of our men went in to a house and, as was usual the case, the occupants had gone to the woods when they saw us coming. The first thing looked for was any paper that might give us valuable information. In the search some man found a package of letters which proved to be “love letters” and in fact all the correspondence that might have passed between the man and his wife previous to their marriage. As soon as this gentleman — for he really was — discovered what they were, he at once burned them to prevent others who might get them from reading that which they had no right to. I thought this very honorable in this man and am sorry that there are many who would never have done as he did.
Hoping to hear from you very soon, I will now bid you an affectionate goodbye. With much love and kisses.
Yours forever, — Maurice
¹ Col. Simon H. Mix organized and led the Third New York Cavalry. On June 15, 1864, Col. Mix was killed leading a cavalry charge before Petersburg, Va., and was buried on the battlefield.