These eleven letters were written by Henry P. Chard (1844-1864), the son of Philadelphian William Chard. In 1850, the Chard family resided in Washington, Burlington county, New Jersey.
Chard served in the quartermaster’s department in a civilian capacity during the American Civil War, first as supervisor for military work parties at Giesboro Point’s Union cavalry barracks and stables. Later in an unidentified position, Chard served on two Union navy vessels as a member of the quartermaster department. In April 1864, the USS Althea (originally the Alfred A. Wotkyns) was commissioned into the Federal navy’s river service for duty in Grant’s Overland Campaign. The vessel served successfully throughout 1864 until she was sunk near Mobile, AL, in April 1865. In mid-1864, Chard was transferred to the Barque Mary Emma.
Harry died in late December 1864 in Philadelphia in his 21st year. His cryptic obituary notice published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger on 31 December states that he died “trusting in Jesus.”
The letters were all addressed to his friend, John C. Stevens, a Philadelphia carpenter who resided at 938 Hutchinson Street in 1863.
Wartime photo of stables at the Giesboro Cavalry Depot (Library of Congress)
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
December 14th 1863
I suppose you would like to know something about me and what I am doing. I am situated at this place which is about two miles below Washington and am at work here. I guess I will stay about six months for I am getting good wages and plenty of fun but not quite as much as we had on Friday nights at Frankford road and York with the social.
I would like to know how you are making out there with sister Usuris. I wish you would let me know how S. W. G. is making out. I hope she has got a nice partner for W. S.
When you go over to the Temple on Wednesday night, remember me to all the members and tell them I hope they will succeed in getting the Regalia they are so anxious about. Remember me to all the brothers and sisters at the social.
John, I have been thinking over what you told me about my future hopes and I am trying to do what is right. Remember me to all inquiring friends and let me know what is going on when you write. I do not want you to run away with any of the social ladies while I am away but wait until I come home and we will talk over matters at Frankford road and Adams while they are passing.
I am getting tired writing so I will close. Excuse the pencil writing for ink is scarce and writing tables scarce yet. My table is a pine board on a pile of hay in the bunk of a soldier’s barracks with about 200 men in it — some reading the Bible, some playing cards &c.
No more at present but remain yours in friendship, — Harry Chard
Write soon and address to Quartermaster Department, Giesboro Point, Washington D. C., Care of Capt. David F. Brown
Pages 2 & 3
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
December 23, 1863
I received your very welcome letter dated the 19th this evening and it does my heart good to hear from you and to have such good advice from you, and I shall try to act upon it. It surprises me to hear that you did not know I had left Richmond. I am a kind of an underboss here. I came on with a young man named Fogg that I got acquainted with. He has a rich uncle in Washington and he got us in. The fun is in the Barracks where we sleep. There is six of us here who have from 20 to 25 men and they do make a terrible fuss tonight. They flew at the Superintendent of the mess house and would have hurt him but he drew a revolver on him and that settled it.
I should like to be to the festival in New Years but I can’t do it for last Sunday I had to call my gang out to work and work all day. I have heard from M. Lange long ago. This is a great country down here where you cannot do anything without being locked up.
I was very glad to hear that our S. S. & W. T. of H. & T. is getting along so well.
I tell you it is a great trial for a Templar down here for all hands are drunk tonight getting ready for Christmas.
When you get this letter, I wish you would go over to our house and tell Sallie to send me some more postage stamps for I lost all of mine yesterday through the negligence of the watchman. I will now close for it is getting late. I now say good night. My best respects to all my friends and write soon for I am anxious to hear more from you. Direct as before.
Friend — Harry P. Chard
Pages 1 & 4
Pages 2 & 3
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE
January 3rd 1863
Your very welcome letter came duly to hand and I was glad to hear that you are well. I am well at present with the exception of a bad cold. I am trying to put all my trust in God, the giver of every good and perfect gift but I find that in my own strength I am weak and when temptation beset me, I fail. But I hope the time is coming when I will become a good Christian. I hope you will pray for me for I try to pray for myself. I would like to have been home when the Golden Rule & F. paid a visit to the Mount Vernon for I expect you had a nice time of it. I expect you had a nice time at the Wingo hockings supper on New Year’s night.
Today is one of the finest Sundays we have had since I came down here. The sun ish shining bright and everything has a cheerful look. What would you think of me going to California? There is a report out that there is a squad going after horses and if the report is true, I am going to go and see something of the world. I have not got anymore news to tell you so I will have to draw my letter to a close. I have not heard from home for two weeks nor have I received any stamps so I have a great deal of trouble in sending letters. I wish you would tell my folks so.
God be with us all, now and forever. Remember me to all my friends and to the W. F. of H & T & S. F.
Yours in Friendship, — Harry P. Chard
Pages 2 & 3
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FOUR
March 9th 1864
I received your very welcome letter and was very glad to hear that you are well. I am also very glad to hear that you received the two dollars for I was very much afraid of being expelled which I should have hated. I am very sorry to hear that A. MacGregor has again taken his old path to ruin but I hope that he will be reclaimed again.
I am very glad to hear that Temperance has another pillar for it needs it. Sellers has joined the Temple and that Richard Rila__ is going to be initiated, You say that you sent me a letter and wanted to know whether I sent a comic valentine to a person living on Frankford Road. No, John, I did not send a Valentine to anybody since I have been on this Point. Neither did I receive your letter and I thought it very strange that you did not write. I thought you had forgotten me entirely.
I am well at present and if nothing happens more than I know of, I will be home about the first of April for I can’t live where we kill about a handful of grey backs (body lice) a day. I can tell you we are overrun with them. There is about four hundred dirty Irish lying in a large bunk room next to ours and they got crummy and the grey backs crawled through and run us out of our beds so that we can hardly sleep in them. We have had a great time here with a parcel of drunken men tonight because we would not give them their supper. Mr. Eddie had to go for a guard who came with loaded muskets. The men are now fighting in their bunk room and do make a great noise, but it [is] all the effects of that body and soul destroyer rum.
As it is now getting late, I will have to close with my best wishes and prayers for you and all other friends. Remember me to all inquiring friends. Write soon. — Harry P. Chard
Pages 2 & 3
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FIVE
April 9, 1864
I arrived here safe and sound yesterday morning after running around Washington three or four hours for a pass. I found the tug and have got along first rate and like it very well. Andrew [G.] Room who enlisted in [the Col. Charles H] Collis’ Zouaves ¹ is dead. His father came on with me after his body. Alexandria is the same old place.
As I have no news of any account, I will draw to a close with my best wishes for all the family. Remember me to the W. T. of H. & T., also S. T. when you go over. Write soon.
Yours in Friendship, — H. R. Chard
Address: Harry P. Chard, Steam Tug A. A. Wotkyns, ² Alexandria, Va., Care of Capt. Bowen, Harbor Master
¹ Col. Charles H. Collis — an Irish immigrant who settled in Philadelphia — was the commander of the 114th Pennsylvania Infantry. Andrew G. Room (1843-1864) enlisted in Co. C. He was the son of Nathan Davis Room (1818-1890). He was killed at Brandy Station on 6 April 1864. According to Find-A-Grave, Andrew was buried in the Culpeper National Cemetery in Culpeper county, Virginia. Their interment records indicate that Pvt. Room was originally buried in “M. Wood’s, Brandy Station, Va.”
² The Alfred A. Wotkyns — a screw tug — was purchased at New York on 9 December 1863 and fitted out by Secor and Co., Jersey City, New Jersey, and placed under the command of Acting Ensign J. Boyle. She was assigned to the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron and served in the James River as a tug, temporary torpedo boat, and tender to the ironclads. She departed Hampton Roads 28 July 1864 and joined the West Gulf Blockading Squadron at Mobile in August 1864 under hte name Althea.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER SIX
Belle Plains, Virginia
May 23rd 1864
You must excuse me for not writing sooner as I have not had time. Ever since we came back, they have kept us busy day and night. Sometime we would have to turn out four or five times through the night and carry dispatches. And now we are ordered off. Nobody knows were but all judge up the Rappahannock river to Fredericksburg. Yesterday we were sent to this place and tonight we move again and I expect we will see some fun before we get back for it is reported that the U. S. Steamer Eclipse was blown up by a torpedo on the Rappahannock two days ago and all on board killed so I guess we will get a dose of them and the guerrillas on the river as it is reported there is plenty of them about but our gun boats are trying to drive them away before we go. I wish you would remember me to the S. F. and also to the W. T. of H & T and all enquiring friends. My respects to your Father and Mother. As it is getting dark, I will close with my prayers to God for strength and wisdom.
Write soon and address H. P. chard, steam tug A. A. Wotkyns, Alexandria, Va., Care of Capt. Bowen, Harbor Master
And I will get it.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER SEVEN
June 7th 
I received your ever welcome letter and would have answered it before but being on that expedition and only getting back yesterday, I had no chance. Instead of going up the Rappahannock river, we went up the Pamunkey [river] to the White House and we had a glorious time. We seen one old greyback on the shore but he did not fire at us because we had some bluecoats with us.
Enclosed you will find two dollars which I wish you would give to Mr. Allen for me. I am glad the social also the Temple are doing well.
As I have no news, I must close with my respects to all enquiring friends. My respects to your Father & Mother.
Yours in F. L. & F. — H. P. Chard
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER EIGHT
June 23 
I received your welcome letter and was very glad to hear from you. I hear the Social is making out well and I am glad of it. You talk about Dauphin St. I say, “How are you Huntington Street?” There is no news of importance except there is a great many wounded coming in from the front but I am glad to say I don’t see anybody I know. As my hand is very sore with a boil, I will have to close with my prayer to God to watch over us and lead us safely to Heaven. Remember me to all inquiring friends. Also to your F. L. & F.
— H. P. Chard
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER NINE
July 9th 
Yours of the 5th came to hand duly and I was very glad to hear that you and all [were] well. I am also very glad that you enjoyed yourself so well on the Fourth of July. I enjoyed myself very well. I have been laying here about a week but expect to go up the river in a few days. You did not say anything about the W. T. if H & F or the S. T.
You want to know when I changed my position. I done it about two weeks ago. You also want to know when I am coming home. I cannot tell when I will come for it is so uncertain now. I will like to know how Huntington Street also Dauphin. I don’t know. Have you been over on York Street lately? If so, let me know all the news.
As I have to go ashore now I will close with my prayers to God for strength and guidance. Remember me to all inquiring friends. Also to your Father & Mother. Write soon.
Yours in F. L. & F, — H. P. Chard
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TEN
Washington [D. C. ]
August 19th 1864
I received your ever welcome letter and was glad to hear from you. I would have answered it before but I have been so busy that I could not. I have just returned from Fortress Monroe where I went on business the 17th. You say Richmond is the same old place. I would like to come and see it. I tried my hand to get home when I lay in Baltimore but could not so now I do not expect to get hoe soon. When you get those letters, send them on to Fort Monroe. I am glad to hear that the W __ also the social are doing well. You say that Dauphin St. look pale & worried. Why did you not ask her what it was about. I hope tat you have not forsaken her? If you have, it will certainly kill her.
I had a nice time in Baltimore. I hunted for two days & nights for a Temple but could not find one but I know there must be some there as there is no news. I will close with my prayers to God for us. Remember me to your Father & Mother to all inquiring friends. I hope you will not forget to pray for me that I may be kept in the right path.
Yours &c. in F. L. & T. — H. P. C.
H. P. Chard
Barge Mary & Emma
Washington D. C.
Care of Capt. Allen, A. Q. M.
Pages 2 & 3
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ELEVEN
Washington [D. C.]
September 1st 
Yours of the 29th inst. came duly to hand and I was glad to hear that all is well. I am still laying at the wharf foot of Sixth Street light and waiting like Macawber for something to turn up. Everything is dull as can be and Washington is the meanest city in the whole Union. No sport except drinking rum and gambling which is poor business at the best. Talk about coming home soon. I don’t think of getting home for three months yet if I do then. I suppose that you are not sorry that Dauphin Street has moved up to Richmond or would you rather Huntingdon Street would move up for convenience sake. I suppose you would. I heard from the Social yesterday. They are all well and increasing fast. How do you people feel in Richmond about the draft? The weather is getting very pleasant now days and nights are not so warm and close as they was.
Did you hear about L. Bailey’s boat being blowed up at City Point in the late explosion? But neither he nor his wife were hurt but the boat was a total loss. It belonged to Pickup in Ann Street.
As I have no news, I will draw to a close so remember me to all enquiring friends. Also to your Father & Mother. May God watch over us and keep us from sin.
Yours in L. P. & F. — H. P. Chard