This letter was written by Loring Harmon Larrabee (1839-1865), the son of William Pellam Larrabee (1811-1895) and Cynthia J. [ ] (1815-18xx) of Dover, Piscataquis, Maine. He wrote the letter to his brother, William F. Larrabee (1842-18xx).
Loring [or Lorin] was 22 years old when he enlisted in Co. A, 6th Maine Infantry in July 1861. He was transferred to the Veteran Reserve Corps on 15 February 1864 and he died on 5 October 1865.
Loring was married to Harriet M. Cole (1839-1898) and their only daughter Annie M. Larrabee died as an infant. Pension records indicate that Loring contracted chronic diarrhea in the early summer of 1862 in the Chickahominy Swamp and suffered from illness until he was eventually hospitalized at Hampton, Virginia. Owing to his disabilities, he was transferred to the Invalid Corps (the Veteran Reserve Corps) in February 1864 and subsequently contracted typhoid fever (“of malarial type”). His wife’s initial pension application was rejected upon the ground that the fatal disease was contracted after his discharge. This decision was later overturned after an appeal.
Loring wrote the letter to his brother, William F. Larrabee, who later served in Co. I, 22nd Maine Infantry. William survived the war but suffered from chronic health problems the remainder of his life.
Addressed to Mr. William F. Larrabee, Dover, Maine
Camp No. 7 in the woods near Yorktown
April 11th 1862
The last letter that I wrote you was at Camp No. 4, April 2nd. I sent it with a Frank Leslie [Illustrated Newspaper]. I have not heard from you yet. We have not had any mail at all for over one week but are expecting one tomorrow. I understand that we shall have a chance to send out letters tomorrow. I have got no stamps but thinking you be glad to hear how we are getting along, I will write a few lines anyway & let it go if it will go. Some say that Franklin is not good now. I don’t know how that is, I am sure.
The 4th we left Camp 4 and drove the Rebels from their batteries and camped there that night after a good march that day. They burned their barracks or a part of them when they left. We found Rebel letters & papers there & if I had time, I should like to write you some of their accounts. We took one prisoner there.
The next day we marched forward & took three prisoners & camped in these woods that night. The 7th Maine lost a number of men that day & night. The Rebels fired shells in the woods where we were. Some burst & some did not. We got one that fell in our camp close by the color line where our guns were stacked.
The country is low and flat and full of water — bad about camping. We have to move our camp about every day & it rains about every other day. Last Sunday our regiment & the 5th Wisconsin went out under Gen. Hancock. That day our regiment won a big name. We had quite a smart skirmish & had three men wounded. We killed & wounded quite a number of them. The 5th Wisconsin did not stand the fire & the General put us into it. We stood our ground & drove Rebels. ¹
Day before yesterday our regiment had another brisk brush. We wounded a good many of them enemy & they only wounded one for us — Co. G’s men. He was shot through the neck & will not live long the doctor says. We were out-numbered but our powder was dry & a good part of the Rebels guns did not go. It rained hard all of the time. The General has given us the right of the brigade for our good conduct while under fire.
Oh! Will, we took four prisoners last Sunday [April 6] & I was one that guarded them into camp. We marched them in in front of the regiment. They belonged to the 14th Alabama Regiment. We have took more prisoners than any regiment here. We got a good deal of information from the prisoners and went right under the Rebel forts & found three.
Gen. McClellan was here to see us today. We have had to march & skirmish from daylight till after dark everyday — rain or shine. Yesterday the General moved us back one mile to give us a chance to rest but we have to stand picket & build roads here. For three days we had nothing to eat but fresh meat — no bread at all. We would shoot down cattle, hogs &c. & frizzle it in the fire & cook it the best we could, put on a little salt, & eat it & drink cold water. We get enough now & shall hereafter, I think.
We are all well and have not had a man hurt in this company yet. It is evening & I am writing by the fire. We are in [Erasmus D.] Keyes’ [IV] Corp. The army here is getting ready to take a very hard place for the enemy have got a line of forts from York River to James River. I will write again in a day or two if I get time. Write often. Direct to Fortress Monroe or Washington either. — L
Write just as soon as you get this for we don’t know a thing that is going on in other parts of the army. Get no papers at all.
¹ On April 6, 1862, men from the 6th Maine Infantry and 5th Wisconsin Infantry, under the command of Brig. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock, performed reconnaissance around Dam Number One, where Magruder had widened the Warwick to create a water obstacle nearby. They drove off the Confederate pickets and took some prisoners. Hancock considered this area a weak spot in the line, but orders from McClellan prevented any exploitation. Keyes, deceived by Magruder’s theatrical troop movements, believed that the Warwick Line fortifications could not be carried by assault and so informed McClellan.