These letters were written by George Washington Peckham, Jr. (1843-1878), the son of George Washington Peckham, Sr. (1800-1856) and Eliza Barker (1804-1870) of Middletown, Rhode Island.
George first enlisted on 5 October 1861 in Co. C, 3rd Rhode Island Artillery. This unit was organized in Providence in the fall of 1861 but was disbanded in December 1861 and its members were transferred into the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery. George was discharged at Hilton Head, South Carolina, on 19 January 1864.The following day he re-enlisted and was finally discharged as a corporal at Richmond, Virginia, on 9 June 1865.
See also — 1862: Edward Nelson Steere to James B. Coman Edward Steere also served in the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery and also wrote several letters from Camp Stephen Olney on Hilton Head.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Camp Stephen Olney, Hilton Head, South Carolina
December 15, 1862
I am well at present and hope these few lines will find you and all in good health. I received your letter the 11th and am much obliged to you for your blowing up. The boys are all well except William Smith. He is in the hospital yet. I think he will get his discharge. Isaiah came out today. Edward Maguire has got his discharge and gone home. I had a letter from [brother] Leander the other day. He wrote that he was well.
We have taken our battery to pieces to paint. We are short of forage yet and go out to graze twice a day. We have different weather here from what you have there. Sometimes it is warm enough to be round with your jacket off; then it is cold enough to freeze. We have had ice here all day and that is more than we had last winter. The boys were round sewating with their jackets off today.
Lee wrote that he guesses he should send a box. Tell Mother if it is not too much trouble, I should like her to send me one. I don’t care if it’s being as large as the other one. I don’t want any clothing this time. I want some black pepper — that is most gone, some thick envelopes, one or two thick combs, and the rest eatables. Son’t send anything that will spoil. I will pay for the box and the freight of it. Don’t put anything in the box warm for it is apt to spoil. As I cannot think of more to write, I must close. Give my love to all enquiring friends.
From your brother, — George W. Peckham
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
Washington D. C.
April 12, 1864
I now sit down to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well and where I am.
We left Providence last Thursday afternoon for New York, arriving in New York Friday morning. Stayed in New York until Saturday afternoon when we left for Baltimore. Arriving at Baltimore Sunday. Left Baltimore yesterday for Washington. Arrived here at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. I went up to Uncle Gideon [Barker]’s while I was in Providence and took dinner. I gave Hatty one of my pictures. ¹ I suppose you have got them by this time. Tell Patience their apples are not all gone yet but are going fast. I eat the last cake in Baltimore. We are waiting here in the barracks for the regiment to come on. How long we will stay, I do not know. If I had stayed in New York Saturday night, I would have been in Rhody Island Sunday. Some of the boys went back as it was.
We had quite a pleasant time coming on having no guard on the boys all the way from Washington to Rhode Island. When we got here all they had to do, if they was left, was to show their furlough and get transportation on it. Did not cost them a cent.
The boys are all well and in good spirits. You must make this answer at present. Give my love to all enquiring friends.
From your brother, — George W. P.
¹ Harriet (“Hatty”) E. Barker, born 1848, was George’s cousin, the daughter of Gideon Barker (1819-1883) and Sarah Cornell (b. 1829) of Providence, Rhode Island.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE
In the Field before Petersburg, VA
September 14, 1864
I now sit down to answer your kind letter which I received on the 11th — also two papers — and was glad to hear from you. I am well at present and hope this will find you and all in good health. Our artillery in front of Petersburg fired a salute in honor of Atlanta being taken. They were not very particular about the kind of ammunition they used. About it being blank cartridges. But socked the shells right over to them. It made me think of the time I was on James Island when the Johnnies fired a salute in honor of Jeff Davis at the time he took his seat. The first thing we knew of it was Mister Shell coming over. Not only one shell but shells — the first thing in the morning at that.
Our artillery are playing on Petersburg today quite lively. We have got a mortar back here that does some tall climbing once in awhile. Not the mortar, but the shells. Petersburg is not much of a city but it takes a good many men to keep it from running away. Some on this side. What the Johnnies have got on their side, I don’t know.
Tell Leander to take one of those pictures when Joel gets them. You can have one for Cousin Julia but mind and not take all of them. I want two of them for my own use, as the Captain says in his orders on the quartermaster for rations.
Well, sis, I suppose you have read nonsense enough do I will close. There is not much news so goodbye. From your brother, — George W. P.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FOUR
Headquarters Battery C
Signal Hill, Va.
Sunday, November 20th 1864
I now sit down to answer your kind letter received yesterday morning and was glad to hear from you. I am well at present and hope this will find you and A.L.L. in good health. I have not enlisted yet but am thinking of that $1,400 bounty.
Yesterday was a rainy day in Old Virginia. Rained all night and bids fair to rain all day today. As we are in good quarters, we don’t mind it much. Our horses are out in it which makes it bad for us drivers. The Johnnies are trying our lines most every night now but have not made out much yet. The attack is mostly up by Dutch Gap.
Tell mother not to forget her promise now she has got her teeth. Tell her not to trouble herself about paying those notes. She is welcome to the use of the money as long as she wants it. Tell Joel not to forget to send me Brother John Bond than this year. Eliza you must excuse my letters if they are short. There is no news to write except war news and you get that in the papers. I suppose Joel will be a carpenter before a great while. He is getting the start of me.
I would like to be home with you this winter but I suppose I have got to soldier it awhile longer yet. I close with my love to all from your brother and well wisher, — G. W. P.