1861: John Albert Yeckley to Josephine Shoemaker

This letter was written by Pvt. John Albert Yeckley (1837-1909), Co. E, 28th New York Infantry. John enlisted at the age of 20 on 25 April 1861 at Canandaigua to serve two years. He served as the brigade teamster from March 1863 until he mustered out of the regiment on 2 June 1863 at Albany.

John Albert Yeckley, Jr. was the son of John Albert Yeckley (1799-1838) and Catherine Hershey (1804-18xx) of Perry City, Wyoming County, New York. In 1860, John Yeckley was working as a farmhand in Gorham, Ontario County, New York. He wrote this letter to Josephine Shoemaker (1845-1906) whom he would later marry in Rochester, New York (1863).

The 28th New York — the “Niagara Rifles” — was composed of five  companies from Niagara county, two from Orleans county, one from Ontario, one from Genesee and one from Sullivan, and was mustered into the U. S. service for two years on May 22, 1861, at Albany. A month was spent in camp at Camp Morgan and on June 25, the regiment left the state for Washington. It was assigned on July 7 to Butterfield’s brigade, Keim’s division of Gen. Patterson’s force, which it joined at Martinsburg, W. Va. Camp was occupied at Berlin until Aug. 20 when the regiment left Berlin and encamped near Darnestown; October 20th, left Darnestown and encamped at Muddy Branch. From this point it was ordered in the movement which resulted in the affair at Balls’ Bluff. It reached Edward’s Ferry on the 22d, too late to take part in the battle.


Muddy Branch, Maryland
November 15th 1861

Friend Josephine,

I received your letter last Friday but have not answered it because I have been waiting for Jim to come back. He has been at Darnstown taking care of the Capt. He was here yesterday & I gave him his letter & picture but he did not say anything about writing so I thought I might as well write now as anytime.

Our boys that are here are all enjoying tolerable good health. I had a letter from Walt the other day. He is getting along first rate. He will probably soon be in camp with us. One of our company died in Baltimore on the 12th. I had a letter from Dan Dixon the other day giving a full account of Slab City & the dance. I think they they must have had a nice time by his tell.

We are [having] very pleasant times here. The weather has been pleasant so far, but it is raining today & is rather cold. We are encamped in a pine woods so there is not much wind can touch us.

Tell Alice that I presume Jim will send that picture soon as he gets back to camp for there is a man only a few rods from here that takes them very good. Can’t say whether I will get any or not. Time will tell. Jim & I have got the promise of a furlough sometime this winter but they won’t give anyone a furlough now. It seems to be the opinion of the officers that we will go further south before long.

There is nothing of interest occurring here. we have sham fights every day. It is fine fun & good exercise but the boys get in earnest sometimes & go in on their nerve for a real one. We had one yesterday [in which], after we had shot away all our ammunition, they charged bayonet on us. One man got shot with a wad & hurt pretty bad & some four or five got cut pretty bad with bayonet.

I don’t know of anything more to write today for my head is thick as a beetle. Write on the receipt of this & don’t think I will tire reading long letters. write often. That letter that you directed wrong has not come to my hands yet. Give my love to all enquiring friends & believe me your friend & well wisher.

— J. A. Y.

P. S. You must not think strange if this paper is not very clear for it [is] about as clean as my hands. I have been cleaning my gun & have not washed them.

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