George L. Maltz was born in Brooklyn, New York, on 30 September 1842. His family relocated to Michigan in 1845, taking up residence in Detroit where George attended public schools. His first job was ticket agent in the office of the Grand TRunk Railroad.
When George was 18, he enlisted in Co. I, 4th Michigan Infantry and was immediately made a corporal. In September 1861 he was promoted to sergeant and a few months later made first sergeant. In March 1862, he was promoted to sergeant-major and he was commissioned a 2d Lieutenant in Co. E on 13 December 1862, just prior to the Battle of Fredericksburg. In this capacity he served as the commanding officer of his company through most of 1863 but did not receive in promotion to 1st Lieutenant of Co. E until March 1864. He mustered out with that rank in late June 1864.
These letters are published here by the kindness of the Burton Historical Collection and the Detroit Public Library.
Before the Battle of Chancellorsville:
Camp 4th Michigan Vols. Hosp.
Near Falmouth , Va.
April 5, 1863
My Dear Sir,
I write these few lines hoping that they may find you enjoying good health which leaves me the same at present. There is nothing of any importance transpiring in the Army of the Potomac that will interest you. Genl. Hooker is conducting the affairs of the Army under a strict Military system. The army is always under marching orders to move at a moments notice. But the weather has detained the army from moving. A year ago today we arrived in front of Yorktown works. Last night we had a heavy fall of snow. But today it is just melting away and I think by tomorrow’s sun, it shall be dried up. We were in hopes last week that this week would move us on to some unexpecting events. This may detain us another week. The “Virginians” can’t account for this kind [of] weather. They say they never saw such cold and changeable weather before. I think the “Draft” from the North has something to do with it.
Colonel Jeffords has had command but now is under arrest and to be tried by Genl. Court Martial for over-staying his time on leave of absence. But I think he shall come out all right. It was not his fault. Col. Smith ordered him to stay to bring on the drafted men and other soldiers to the “Army of the Potomac.” Colonel [Jeffords] is well liked by his officers and men. We hope he may be soon released. My captain resigned about a month since on account of “ill health” and 1st Lieut. has been dismissed on staying overtime on [a] pass to Washington. I have been in command of the company since Feb. 18th. I have 62 men present for duty. My company numbers 77 men, 15 absent, sick, and on detached service. I have not received my commission yet from Michigan. The Adj. Genl. Has been authorized to forward commissions several times and particularly when Col. J[effords] was in Detroit. I suppose the Adj. Genl. has a great deal to attend to at present and may have overlooked the matter. Captain Monteith of Genl. Porter’s staff will be the successor of my captain. He is a fine fellow and [a] good officer. John Cooper is still at Genl. Griffin’s Hd. Quarters. He is expecting a commission from Michigan. Lt. Bancroft is in good health. I wrote to Col. Chapin a few weeks ago. My respects to B. Vernor and friends.
Geo. L. Maltz
N. B. You had a great riot in Detroit. I would like to have had command of that Provost Guard in Detroit. There would be many more killed than there was.
To Theo. H. Hinchman Esq.
Following the Battle of Chancellorsville:
4th Michigan Infantry
Near Falmouth, Va.
May 12th 1863
Theo. H. Hinchman Esq.
My Dear Sir,
Yours [came] to hand several days before the grand movement of the Army of the Potomac, and contents duly noted. You will see by the heading of my letter that we still hold the same position as when I wrote you last although we have ventured to do something since then. But [we are] still in our camping ground. I cannot give any reason for this and we are still ignorant of what caused us to fall back to this side of the Rappahannock. Of course we are in duty bound to obey orders and not to ask questions concerning the military movements.
Our Corps had some rather hard work to do. We done all the reconnoitering, both night and day. Our Brigade was at one time cut off — this was in the night — and we kept moving and counter-marching till at last we found a place for our safety. We thrown up breastworks but this was for other troops. When we had them finished, on Sunday morning, we were ordered to relieve the 11th Army Corps — “composed of Lager Beer principally.” We were then kept in the front until we changed our base when our Corps covered the retreat of the Army.
Our regiment was sent out to feel the enemy on Tuesday afternoon, May 4th. We advanced as skirmishers — our Brigade to support us, which lay in our rear. We had to advance through a piece of woods which was well filled with “Rebs” watching our movements. They were taken some by surprise and the first thing [they knew], we were rushing on them in double-quick style and they had to skedaddle to their main force. We took 8 prisoners and killed and wounded several.
As we came up to their works, they gave us 3 or 4 volleys, and shell, grape and canister, &c. We laid down and an order came from Genl. Griffin that we should retire as they were satisfied about the force of Rebels. We were cheered by the different regiments of the army. Our attack was with success as the Rebels would not follow us back. We lost killed and wounded about 18, and was very fortunate.
The next night we were on our way to this side of the river. The troops had the fullest confidence in Gen. Hooker’s plans on the battlefield. Cheer after cheer would be given for Genl. Hooker. We are now waiting patiently for what the future brings forth. A rumor is in circulation we shall soon move, but we have had these orders everyday since our return. 9 month’s troops and 2 year’s troops are leaving everyday. We had one division commanded by Gen’l. Humphrey leave since our return, besides many other New York regiments of our corps. The 14th New York of our brigade left today. I am under the opinion that we shall be reinforced with about 50, 000 before we leave. We must have more men. Every man in the South is a soldier and when we attack, these men rally to fight, leave their work, and go in with a will. I think the North will learn in course of time what has to be done. Give us enough men and we can save the Union. Draft, conscript, or anything else. I want to see it out now and the “Union” must be preserved if it takes 700 years to do it in. The army is not in any way demoralized by the recent movement.
Our Colonel was presented with a fine horse and trappings by the enlisted men last evening on Dress Parade. My kind regards to Col. Chapin and friends,
Your obedient servant, — Geo. L. Maltz
Lt. Bancroft is in good health and sends his respects to you.