Hubert D. Smith

Hubert Dwight Smith enlisted as a Sergeant in Co. H. of the Fourth Michigan Infantry on June 20, 1861, at age 23. He was discharged at the expiration of his time of service on June 13, 1864 at Detroit, Mich.

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Adrian May 30, 1861

Thursday morn.

Dear Mother, Father & all,

Last night I was on guard all night which excuses me from drill this forenoon & I am glad that I may have an opportunity to write home. The Tecumseh, Hudson, & Grosvenor Guards formed ranks at the depot & marched nearly two miles to our quarters at the college, escorted of course, by the citizens.

Adrian College 1860s ~

Adrian College during the 1860’s. Many soldiers from the Fourth Michigan Infantry stayed in the North hall during their training in may and June of 1861. Photograph provided through the courtesy of the Adrian College Archives, Shipman Library, Adrian College, in Adrian, Mich.

There, we were divided into families of sixteen and shown our rooms, which are very large, including a closet [as] large as your bedroom. The rooms are all furnished with eight or ten straw beds & each soldier has a horse blanket. These cool nights we all have suffered from cold. My shawl is just what I need. Yesterday the Monroe company arrived. They have their uniforms & muskets. Three fire companies led them through the city to our camp (which is called Camp Williams). That company has tents, without the accommodation of beds. Our regimental companies are all here, though we want fifty or a hundred [men] to make up the 1000 needed [to fill in the ranks of a full regiment]. When all out on parade we would look quite like an army, had we our suits and arms. [They are} a fine company, physically better, I am afraid, than morally. Yesterday P. M. we were all sworn into service for three years if needed, & should bear examination. About ten [men] of Hillsdale, one of Hudson, one of Sturgis, & one of Jonesville companies would not take the oath. That [one] from Jonesville was at once recognized as one Orville Cady, who enlisted first in the Monroe, then in the Tecumseh, Hudson, Hillsdale, & finally the J.[Jonesville] company. staying about a week in each of the four, boarding on the people. He enlisted in ours the morning we started. Our soldiers concluded to make a sample of him, so after groaning him out of the field they run him as fast as he could go down Main Street, hurrying him up every step with the toe of their boots. Just before entering the town he was seized, made to straddle a sharp rail, hold up his hands & had a free ride through Broadway on double quick time. This was all done without the officers sanction. I was very much against it, yet I do think he did not receive his just deserts, harsh and humiliating as it was. Cady is about 30. Now for board. We are made as comfortable as possible, yet if the Captain would allow me, I would hire my own board, at my own expense, rather than eat in that hall. A board shanty, large enough for three tables & six rows of seats, designed to seat six hundred, tin plates, spoons, & cups, knife & fork, nasty half cooked beef, pork, potatoes & beans, & a corps of 30 negroes for cooks, & 40 waiter boys, coffee, resembling rain water & vinegar mixed, & you have our breakfast & dinner, with the exception of bakers bread & butter, that goes very well, & I have [to] eat nothing else. I can’t. I do not complain. I know they do as well as they can perhaps, yet I would like food, so long as my eyesight remains good, that it is not full of niggers hairs & all other kind of uncleanliness. Were there no alternatives between this & starvation, I could relish it, but it is not come to that yet, though it may. And then the smell arising from the kitchens, as you pass by is preferable to Leobelia [Lobelia] for an emetic. Layfaette1 & I try each day noon to march into the woods & read part of the Bible & some of Pollak (?) and analysis. By so doing we help one another & Layfa looks up to me for some cause, for advice, & protection. I shall try & not to give [him the] wrong advice. Our officers think we may be called away in three or four weeks & stationed in Fort Monroe, south of Virginia, I believe somewhere. Mother, I see my lines are falling down, so I shall stop for the present. I have been writing in the woods about [a] quarter of a mile from college. Last night, J. M. Gregory lectured in the college. I wanted to go, but duty on guard hindered me. Good bye to all.

Write me & direct H. D. Smith                                                                                                                                                Grosvenor Guards Adrian, Mich.

Your Afft. H. D. Smith                                                                                                                                                                 (I saw Libbie)

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1 Private Lafayette Young, also of Company H

 

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Washington, July 2nd/61

Dear Sister Libbie,

How strange it would have sounded one year ago to have been told I should address you from the Capitol of our “glorious republic”. The cold jealous city of Harrisburg we left yesterday morning (Monday) at six o’clock on board a cattle train for W.[Washington].

Harrisburg RR depot ~

The railroad depot in Harrisburg, Pa., circa 1861

Our regt. was said to have be the best appearing one that had passed through Harrisburg & yet we could not have been more coldly received, and all on account of the jealousy of that dutch state. The whole appearance of the city indicates the natural propensities of the people. No dooryards, poor unpainted buildings, though well streaked up with whitewash, the fronts facing & lining old, dilapidated sidewalks, with every third house having a lager beer shingle [sign] over the door. The city is very prolific in one thing – that of raising children. So many on every street & doorstep you have no idea of, and all want to be kissed, and bade goodbye by the soldiers. I had made up my mind that handsome young ladies were scarcer in H. [Harrisburg], but at one dress parade through main streets Sat. evening, I was obliged to reverse my conclusion. Simple and unaffected they all appear.

Harrisburg, Pa. 1861 LOC

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in 1861 (courtesy of the Library of Congress)

I had a very pleasant time Sat. in the [company of the] family of one Mr. Fullem, a bookseller. While calling at his shop, his daughters, twelve & fourteen their ages, invited me into their sitting room & as they appeared like fine people (Yankees) the invitation was gladly accepted. Their father is superintendent in the sabbath school of the Presbyterian church. Sunday, we were drilling most of the time with our arms, preparing for our march through Baltimore. The reason such abominable cars were sent [to] us was on that account [of] so many first class cars had been smashed by brickbats and balls on that route that all soldiers from Harrisburg to B.[Baltimore] are carried on such trains. We left B. [Baltimore] at seven P.M. [and] were well used by the people. Our Col.1 was fearful of an attack, and probably would have been troubled some, had not all the commissioned police been arrested that day & put under guard & Union men installed in their place. Good for Baltimore. About four miles from B. [Baltimore], we halted for two other trains to pass us, but after waiting some three hours, our Col. & officers began to be alarmed, suspicious [that] all was not right. Instantly, every soldier was ordered to load and be prepared. The night, you remember, was dark & rainy, yet all our men were calm & courageous. At twelve the trains passed all right. At about one we arrived in Wash. [Washington]. It had rained considerably through the night, making the streets wet & muddy. Are camp[ed] for this day in an empty brick building until we get our tents up. Took a stroll with Lafayette before breakfast around the capitol & grounds. Will describe them more fully after viewing them again. Have just had a call from Jasper Dresser2 , [he] seems very cordial & has taken us around the city somewhat. He is a soldier & also a clerk in the Land office. Called Lafayette “Cousin” which rather astonished him. It is the opinion of most that the next two weeks will witness our hardest battles. The President & [General] Scott are determined to put down some of the rebels strongest holds immediately. Should we be in the actions, which probably we shall, it will be an honor to our state & ourselves. ‘Tis rumored that our Mich. Regts. are to remain as the Home Guards in Wash.{Washington], the highest post of honor we would have. I am ordered to attend our baggage, so [I] must “halt”, though reluctantly.

Direct [your letters] to Company H., Mich. Volunteers, 4 Regt., & my mail will follow us.                                            Love to all   Hubert D. Smith

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1 Colonel Dwight Woodbury, commander of the Fourth Michigan Infantry

2 Quite likely Private Jasper M. Dresser of Company A of the Third District of Columbia Militia who enlisted on April 16,1861.

 

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Camp Blackberry, Richard’s Plantation

July 17th, 1861

Dear Mother,

Your & Libbie’s letters, long expected, were duly received. [I was] glad to learn [that] you all were well at home. I am quite well, but tired out with care & work. Nearly all of [the] regiment has been severely troubled with summer complaints, as I wrote you. [They] are recovering now. {My] friend Lafa has been unwell for more than a week, first with the same difficulty, but for the last three days it has assumed a chronic inflamation of the bowels; [though it] appears [to be] better this morning. It pleases me to be able to wait upon our invalids, and for some time [I] have had plenty to do. Last Sat. we had orders to leave Camp Mansfield early [the] next morning for Alexandria. The news was joyfully received by all, and Sunday morning all was bustle, striking tents, packing knapsacks , etc. After that was over, we had a round at target shooting to assure us our arms were all right. My musket made the second best shot. At nine o’clock we left for our destination, marching about two miles to the wharf & taking passage on board of [a] couple steamboats, captured of the rebels. [We] were landed in the desolate city of Alex. [Alexandria] about one o’clock p.m., where the boys had to form again in order and make a five miles march out of town, to our camp near “Fairfax Mill”, that our brave “first” [Michigan Infantry had] captured. It was a hard days work for all, having charge of the baggage of our company, it was dusk before I left the wharf. Our tents are pitched on the old plantation of Squire Richards, now covered with thorns, briers & weeds. Blackberry bushes surround us, well loaded with fine ripe fruit, which is a luxury we are truly thankful for & appreciate, judging by the amount picked. Did wish you all could [have] been with us Monday. We went [a] half a mile out into a field, covered with these low kind [of bushes] & such large ones, & in such abundance too, you never saw. They have given up tilling this plantation & the lady owning it raises “negro stock”,- it being more profitable. Her husband is now in Washington, a prisoner of war, & she has one son in the army at Richmond. [On] Monday evening we were told to cook three days rations, as we were to leave in the morning, forming into a brigade in company with our First [Michigan Infantry] & march, take Fairfax Courthouse, & then Manassas Gap, where they expect the hardest battle is to be fought on Virginian soil.

Fairfax Courthouse in 1863 ~

Fairfax Courthouse, Virginia, as it appeared in 1863

Wishing to give our company a good breakfast, C. Hadley1 & myself armed ourselves with revolvers & went on a foraging expedition. [We] called first at this secession lady’s hen house, found it barred against “traitors” with a lock on the door. But chickens we went for, & chickens we would have, so, notwithstanding the lights in the darkies huts, we broke open one of the windows & in I entered, [with] Mr. Hadley standing outside to take the plunder. We took three large, fat turkeys & six hens, leaving nothing but one old hen turkey with a small brood of young ones. On our way back we found some cows, & you know milk adds much towards making a good cup of coffee. Ed Tripp, E. Todd2 , & I went back & milked [them]. The boys have [given] me credit before for “buying” milk, & will have the chance to do so again. I have no fear at all going out, even alone, on such trips & it certainly is right, according to the army regulations. Then take into the consideration the poor fare [that a] number of our sick [are in], etc., it looks to me like a duty. In the morning, the boys, provided with only a blanket, thin rations, & ammunition, started on their work “death to traitors, victory & honor to themselves”, appearing in good spirits. The sick were left behind to guard the tents & baggage. Thirteen of us were left, myself being the only well one among them. For me to stay behind was the hardest thing I have done, but acting as wagoner, I had to submit. It was all I could do to find one [soldier] to detail as guard in the daytime, & then, when five was called upon at night [to serve as guards], it seemed hard to make sick ones do such duty. But the boys saw the necessity of it and acted bravely , doing all they could. I went [on guard] for one, making the third night running, [that] I have been up, besides working [as] hard as possible through the days. Lieut. Hadley3 shook hands with all the boys, speaking words of cheer to them on leaving. We have not heard directly from them, only through the report brought us by a Zouave who went with them yesterday. He said they had discovered the rebel battery at Fairfax & had send out regiments to surround them, designing to close upon them last night. We have heard no firing of artillery yet & probably the report is not true. Twenty thousand [troops] passed here yesterday for Richmond. How I do want to join them, news just received that the battery had been taken without a single shot being fired, the soldiers running. Six good pieces [of artillery] were taken, & our boys are beyond Fairfax. Good. In looking this over some many mistakes have been made, I am ashamed to send [it]. How can one write [being] half asleep, with others talking to them?

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1 Corporal Cornelius Hadley, also of Company H

2 Private Edwin Tripp and Private Elan Todd, both of Company H                                           

3 First Lieutenant Simon Hadley, also of Company H

 

 

Wednesday P. M. 17th / 61

Tell Mrs. Jones, Miles1 was tickled enough to receive her note. [He] had written before to his Father & I saw the letter mailed. He does not appear excited at all, but courageous. Last night, many of the boys were afraid of an attack upon our camp, and to have been so nervous as they through fear, cowardly fear. I had nearly as live [than] suffer death. We were in a precarious situation, to be sure, to resist successfully, even [with] a few well men, yet I could not make myself believe any danger need be apprehended. Our Captain Crane, left in charge of those remaining, was quite sure of trouble and expressed himself [just] as the boys, which was wrong I think, he might have cautioned them without expressing his own candid fears, if such he had. Edward, you will wait some time [I] am thinking, until you see my name under a letter to the Independent. Hadley has been trying to have me write, but quite a number of the boys, at every new move we make, write to the Editor, and I can see no use for more, & then again it looks as if you wanted to see your name in print. And not until [I] can write “Statue” without the r will I attempt it certainly. How careless I am becoming in penmanship & alas in spelling. To sit, lay down, or any other posture, with so many around, I do not feel like taking [it on]. But to use the word stature for statue , I can not excuse myself. Who was that letter from [that] advertised for me in the Independent? Is wheat very low with you? Then it seems Ranch has left Canada. What I was fearful he might do when I wrote. He’s not answering my letters, & from what I gathered from More TenEyck1 , portended some design, not altogether fair on his part. As it is, I shall write to Mr. Streight. [I] was in hopes [that] Father had got enough from him to pay Burchard & Smith anyway. The soil around here is a very light sandy loam. The streets are laid out with no regard to sections hardly, but [rather] to suit the convenience of the land owner. [The] fences are torn down, the hedges [are] grown up & extending some two or three rods in the field on each side. Solomon describes the condition of these old plantations when speaking of the fields of the slothful. No grain grows here of any consequence. Alexandria is fully as desolate [and] woeful appearing a place as [ever] described. Nearly all the farmers have left. Fields & gardens have been planted & the planters [have] left, making good the scripture “one shall sow & another reap”, & our soldiers are reaping these verdant spots by letting their horses in, etc. The Sergeant Major of our Brigade has been in camp and reports 250,000 men, Federal troops, near Manassas Junction & 100,000 rebels, [and he] says ” ‘Tis a sight to behold. Will not be much blood spilled, can be taken without.” In all appearance the war will be ended in a short time. Hoping to hear from you soon, I will stop, sending love to all,

H. D. Smith

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1 Private Miles Jones, also of Company H

2 Private Morely S. TenEyck, also of Company H, was discharged for disability on September 24, 1861, at Fort Woodbury.

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Friday Morning, July 19th

Reports of a brisk skirmish at Centreville, a place six miles this side of the junction. We know they met with resistance there because the firing of the cannon we distinctly heard at our camp. Some of us counted 250 rounds of cannon [being fired] in forty five minutes. Brisk work, that for a small battery, as the reporters say that is at Centreville. A Lieut. came through this morning who was there and said our men were badly cut up and had to beat a retreat, being unable to take the battery, but that, I think, cannot possibly be the truth. We probably shall leave here today. Am anxious to do so. Day before yesterday some ten thousand [troops] passed our camp on their way to the Gap. Among one company marching by the side of a Lieut. was a lady, dressed nearly in uniform, with the rest, carrying her knapsack, haversacks, gun, etc. In another was a lady dressed in [a] bloomer costume with her regimentals on. In a wagon belonging to the same regt. was a third [woman], a real handsome, robust & young, going as [a] nurse for the sick. It was cheering to witness their patriotism, yet [as for the] female friends of mine, I would rather have [them] exercise theirs in some other way. If they wish to go with the hospital I should not object so much, but to shoulder arms & fight in the ranks is unnecessary. Be of good cheer, keep up courage, & the Ruler of armies will soon enable us to drive the enemy from the field.

H. D. Smith

 

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Camp Mansfield

Washington D. C. July 24 / 61

Dear Parents,

A dishonorable retreat (as I view it) finds our Regt. encamped on its old quarters on Meridian Hill. You of course have heard many flying reports of that hard battle [that was fought] last Sunday, and I know you must feel anxious, as all friends must feel, to know whether their sons, brothers, & friends were among the missing or wounded. And especially as the New York dailies gave our gallant 4th a compliment undeserved, by saying [that] we “were in the thickest of the combat and did the best work of any in the field”. Had we but been there, no doubt the praise would have been merited. A part of us were at Fairfax Station – the rest at the [Fairfax] Courthouse as guards. [I] myself was still back at Camp Blackberry with our invalids & baggage. At seven o’clock Sunday morning, the first shot was fired at Bull Run, the contested place, and near Manassas Junction. The booming of cannon was distinctly heard by us in quick succession through the whole day until five p.m., when the order to retreat was given, and hastily obeyed. Not because our troops were frightened, but it was useless to undertake to drive the enemy from their stand. That the South have a great advantage by being on their own soil, it is useless to deny. Having their masked batteries stationed on those Virginian hills entirely concealed from view rendered it impossible for our troops to advance without being mowed down. That was the cause of their victory Sunday. Three of those batteries [were] so situated as to open fire on three sides the instant our men aligned themselves in battle array, [and] made it useless to attempt it. And we, being in the valley, to approach near enough for our artillery to do much was out of the question, so that the Infantry were the only ones to depend upon. Discouraging as were the circumstances, braver men never handled arms, than the Fire Zouaves, Maine 4th [Infantry], [the] New York Twenty Sixth [Infantry], & our own First1 [Michigan Infantry] Regt. [At] about ten in the evening, the soldiers began to pass our camp bound for Alexandria, and the road was filled until noon the day following. A melancholy sickening sight as they presented in the morning, I never want to witness again – soldiers hobbling along with only one arm, hand, leg, or mangled bodies in some form. One man had his face all shivered to pieces – “tis hard”- said he to me –”but I have a brave heart that death itself cannot make to know fear”. All along the road, soldiers, fatigued with the march & weakened by the loss of blood, had lain down to die, unless perchance, some good Samaritan should pass along and take them in. On one wagon [there] were four dead bodies lashed on, dangling along.  But why undertake a description! ‘ Tis what we expect in war. At midnight our Regt. was ordered to leave their stations for Washington. At sunrise we commenced tearing down our tents and piling them upon wagons, already loaded too heavily for the teams, and by three o’clock p.m., we had the last [wagon] ready for Alexandria, where we arrived at five, and unloaded for the night. I then mounted a horse and rode eight [miles] to the long bridge in search of our Regt. & returned, wet completely through, it having rained all day.

The Long Bridge at Washington 1861 LOC ~

The Long Bridge at Washington 1861

[The] next morning I found teams and transported our goods over to Washington, [and] found our men awaiting us, all in good spirits, having met with no misfortunes, except John Pittwood2 [who] had accidentally shot his thumb off too close to his hand. He will soon return home. The fears anticipated, or the circumstances connected with this retreat, probably I do not fully understand, yet it does seem like a cowardly affair retreating farther than Fairfax, thus giving back fortifications already won off [of] them so easily, and now, while I am writing, our stars & stripes, which we hoisted over Centreville, Fairfax Station, & [Fairfax] Courthouse, have been demolished and the rattlesnake banner floats in their stead, and if [General] Scott suffers, the flag nailed to the rebel’s pole over the Hotel in Alexandria [is] to be rended by them. I cannot but give vent to my execrations against the affair. My blood would be freely given and thousands of other young men’s, rather than to see the last daring act of [the] noble, truly loyal Ellsworth, torn and trampled by those Cainish Devils. I think it never will be, although it is hourly expected, that [the] place will be invaded by them. The three month’s volunteers are going home soon, their time having transpired & Pres. Lincoln has ordered two hundred and fifty [thousand] more. When the South [should] gain another victory, it will be many years hence, like the one [they] just achieved. Yet according to the reports, they lost more men in this than we, 2,000 killed on their side & 1,000 on ours, is the lowest estimate now given. Of all barbarians, those damnable traitors are the most barbarous. To give an instance – one poor wounded soldier of ours [who was] unable to crawl off, asked an officer for a drink of water, & the reply was “After I let my sword drink of your blood” & [the officer] thrust him through. Does history record parallel acts like that among a professedly christian nation? And that was only one of hundreds of similar cases. Lafayette is [feeling] quite poorly. What the matter is, I do not know, but he feels weak. Ira Murdock3 is [feeling] very poorly – [he] will return home probably. Lafayette had a letter from Geo. Skidmore last night & said it “took nine days for a letter to reach you, mailed at this city” – Why it should be so, I cannot divine, as we receive yours [on] the second day, & I do not think you get one quarter of the letters [we’ve] sent, at least answers [to our letters] do not come. Found a paper for me last night – an Independent. Wish I had each number. Prospect now is that our Regt. will be stationed in the Navy Yard here. You would like that, would you not Mother, as we will not have to fight probably? No more at present.                                  Your affectionate Son,

H. D. Smith

P.S.    Paper is scarce for want of money. These leaves were torn from an old journal belonging to a secession Merchant who is now Head Quarter Master in the Southern army. If they are coarse they are honest. Good bye.

Love to all. Hubert

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1 The First Michigan Infantry regiment                                                                          

2 Private John Pitwood also of Company H, was discharged for disability on July 29, 1861.

3 Private Ira Murdock  also of Company H, was discharged for disability on July 29, 1861.

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July 26th / 61

Dear Mother,

Last evening, as the gentle dews of heaven were falling upon the parched soil of Meridian Hill, cooling the atmosphere, making nature glad and beautiful, our social natures were enlivened by friendly missives from near and dear friends who were anxiously waiting to know if their sons were yet spared, and your long, kind, motherly letter was received, like a spring in the desert by the thirsty traveler. If a week passes without a letter from home it seems an age, especially when two or three are sent [in between] from me. One reason of so long delayance in ours reaching you must be that they are delayed here for want of time to frank them, & after this I shall endeavor to procure stamps [for you].

U.S. postage stamps from 1861 -1862

U.S. postage stamps from 1861 -1862

I mailed you a long letter yesterday, as I knew how anxious you would be to hear the position of our Regt. last Sabbath and it’s maneuvers since. Your “box” will be very acceptable indeed. Don’t you think we have had horse beef dealt us for our ration of corned beef! Now I am not going to stand [for] it. Beef is plenty yet, & cheap. This was branded corned beef, but our Quarter Master must know after that he gets beef, not horse flesh. We have one of the most abominable men for Captain1 – a perfectly heartless man and ignorant as a mule, in fact, as abstinent. Not that he & I have had a word of quarreling, but his conduct towards his men in general & the sick [in] particular, together with his ignorance, is not sanctionable by the most charitable, & certainly should expel him from office. Miles2 wonders why he does not get a letter & [he] is well and doing well. We have no money paid as [of] yet, & I am so accustomed to an empty purse [that] I do not want any. You will become discouraged by trying to get rich from storing wheat. Why should it be so low? Think Ed must feel his manhood, [being] kept up alone with a cradler”. Had a letter from Frank last night. [He] is well, though excited in regards to this war. No more time to scribble [any] more.

Love to all Hubert

P.S. Thanks to Grandma for her kind note, shall write to her soon.

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1 Captain Moses A. Funk, of Company H would resign soon after this letter on September 7, 1861.

2 Private Miles Jones, also of Company H

 

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Saturday Morning, [July 27, 1861]

All well. [I] mailed you a paper – not much in it but of interest or importance. The panic has nearly subsided and I am glad it has happened in one view. Our final victory will be hastened, will [have] less expense of means & loss of life. Notwithstanding, the evil committed by Gen. McDowell is inexcusable. Impetuous fool hardy commanders ought carefully to be avoided. He was commanded [to] wait until Gen. Patterson’s reinforcements had joined his division before proceeding from Centreville, which would have been Monday night, yet the victories passed had been gained so easily [that] his ambitious disposition pressed him on, contrary to Gen. Scott’s order – the result has been shown. Good often results from [an] evil act, and in this instance the improvement commenced in the various departments connected with the campaign is noticeable, some of which had become very slack. Fresh Regts. are daily pouring in, & reports of new ones forming in all sections. Has the Jonesville Light Guard left for Camp yet? “Fifty enlisted Monday night there”, are any of those from Litchfield? Do you see Mr. Watson’s people ever? Ask them if Whitney received a letter from here. My best respects to them & Mr. Weston. Jerry Warner it seems, is in Ohio, “an accountant in a dry goods store”. What wages does he receive? How does Miss Aldrich progress with her school? – by the way, does she inform you of any preparations being made for any marriage? What has become of Miss Helen Skidmore, her name is never mentioned, can’t Edward tell? The note designed to be in Lafa’s letter I send in this, also two or three receipts [that] I came across. They may be useful sometime – especially that simple one for putrid sore throat for Libbie.

Love to all,

H. D. Smith

 

 

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Camp Mansfield July 30th/ 61

Dear Parents & all,

Some of our unfortunate boys are to leave us tomorrow for “Home, sweet home”, John Pittwood1, Ira Murdock2, & our wagoner, John Warren3 . Thinking the opportunity a good one to send a few lines to you, I improve it – not that any news will be written, but a token by the way of a friend, & brother soldier, always seemed to bring the parties nearer than when sent through [an] unfeeling mail carrier. The health of our company is improving. Could we spare a few weeks or days even in the enemy’s country, all would become well and rugged, judging by the effect produced upon our invalids during the recent short visit there. Change of scenery and occupation, with the great change in diet – substituting fat-bacon & poor beans, for plenty of fresh beef, pork & chickens, molasses, honey, meal flour – plundered off secessionist, [has] infused new life through them. If I were to pass an opinion as to the nature of their complaints, home-sickness would include the most [of them]. Were you ever troubled with it? You know how disagreeable it is, and as Grandma remarked about the toothache, makes one “one sick, soul and body”. It has not attacked me, and [I] mean [that] it shall not. War seems to be at a stand point for the present, although this morning we heard that Fortress Monroe had been taken, but no confidence is placed in the report. Our “gallant first”4 left for good old Mich. yesterday afternoon. One hundred and eight of their Regt. are unaccounted for, unless [they were] left on the battlefield. A good deal of questioning is made in our Regt. about our being held for three years by the government. When sworn into the United States service at Adrian, the act was illegal, the President having no power to muster them for a longer term than ninety days. Congress not having ratified the call for three years enlistment at that time. [That] makes us free, except as Michigan Soldiers. The majority of the boys swear they will not take the oath again, being Mule ridden by our officers, and State, by unfulfilled promises, [that] they are tired of. That we are, & have been misused is undeniable – but to talk about being starved, etc. is false. Nearly all are fleshing up and we do not begin to have the rations allowed us by the United States regulations, and it seems childish, if nothing else, to complain as they do, [they] swear they will not remain in service, never will join again, this, that, and the other thing, etc. So long as my services are needed, nothing will prompt me to leave. Would like well to return on a visit [home], but then I had no idea of such a pleasure [was possible] sooner than one year [of service], at least when we parted, and two short months are not yet expired. Possibly this castle building, excitement, & these threats are useless, though I think not. Please do not mention it abroad, lest the anticipations of Mothers meeting their sons, about the middle of August, lack wholly the participation. Lafayette is well and very fleshy, [he] had a great appetite through his whole illness, which he indulged freely – eating too, the most unwholesome food, pork & grease. This is confidential – but he is one of the most thoughtless, careless persons, I ever knew, and so very sensitive and envious, why, ’tis really laughable to hear him talk about the “slights” he experiences. I have borne with him, looked after, limited, advised, and as a last expedient, talked rather plainly to him. Any one unwell, I am willing to wait upon to my best ability, but Pa knows as well as you, that too much carelessness and heedlessness by a well person is provoking. Do not think we are on distant terms, such is not the case. Ed, I do not blame you for “using plain English” last winter sometimes. Miles is well. [I feel] sorry for him. He looks so doleful when other boys rejoice over letters from home, and he without any. Tell Mrs. Jones to write, [tell] his Father also. Have you been obliged to pay postage on any of my letters? News has been received that our friends have had to do it & on [postally] Franked envelopes. Do not do it – a gouged game is [being] played somewhere. By the Independent, we see a very melancholy accident happened in town – the drowning of those little boys. Have you [got] your wheat all secured under shelter? Any breaking up to be done this fall?  How did your pasture do for so much stock? Hear nothing from Roach do you? I have written to Streight concerning the matter. Libbie is well? Why is she so silent? Libbie, tell me what the matter is. You & Edward write me soon, Pa too.

Love to all H. Smith

 

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1Private John Pittwood, also of Company H

2Private Ira Murdock, also of Company H

3Private John Warren, also of Company H

4The First Michigan Infantry (The original regiment signed up for ninety days of service)

 

 

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Camp Union, Virginia

Saturday Sept. 14th/ 61

Dear Edward,

Last evening, while our whole Brigade were out behind our entrenchments waiting the advance of our foes, a real natural, and interesting letter from you, & a good long one from Mother and Libbie, were handed me. Quite a skirmish occurred between the Pickets, and ours were driven in. Quite a number of houses & barns [were] shelled and burned by their guns, and our officers pretended fears of being assailed by them, so we were all compelled to sleep there by our arms. It was funny, as one officer said, to see five thousand men lying there on there muskets, where only a few hours before they were at work, never dreaming of their situation then. But thus it is in war. I have seen no fears expressed here that drafting soldiers would be resorted to. Should be ashamed of our “United North” if that proves to be necessary. As you say I would rather be a “Cavalry Man” than Infantry soldier, yet it is more dangerous and laborious. [I] think you would make a very good one, as you are fond of a horse, and such are good horse-men generally. Still Edward, there is but little prospect that you will be either, in this war. But do all you can to put down all secession sentiments and southern sympathizers at home. Let the resolutions passed at your indignation meetings be strong, and then enforce them. Did Mr. L P. Warner have anything to offer at Sand Creek that night? Let Uriah Murdock know that the wishes and principles of the North are sacred, and are to be respected as such. I almost wish such Murdocks & Lockwoods were here with us. Targets would soon be made of them, without the permission of Law, only as exasperated soldiers [who] are a “law unto themselves”. You inquire how I spend my time: It is about as you supposed, only I do not consider that being a Picket Guard worse by any means, than drilling, or working on our entrenchments. Our pickets occupy a very responsible stand when on duty, and [it] causes them to feel that dignity and manhood which the position must inspire in a true soldier. I cannot give you a very accurate description of our forts, etc., but will try and draw a rude diagram to represent the form.

First a fortH. D. Smith letter dated 9-14-1861 (C a)

1 The level of the ground.

2  A step of four ft.

3  Top of step and [it] sustains the foundations of the cannon

4  Top of embankment about six feet wide and the guns are set down so as to [be] on a level with it, and so arranged to be turned either right, or left, as necessity demands.

5  The trench 14 ft. wide and ten deep.

Solid earth. The sides in are lined with thoroughly packed sod. The front, or entrance side, is guarded by picket posts ten feet high and six or eight inches in thickness, the sides [are] hewn so as to meet closely, forming a tight wooden wall with port holes to shoot out from.

Breastworks are in this form. We stand in the trench to load: step up on 1st step with our foot on the second, fire from over the top, fall back and load while the rear rank performs the same. The steps are all well sodded and look very nice.H. D. Smith letter dated 9-14-1861 (D a) The particular names for theses various steps, slopes, & etc. about the fort and the other, I have not yet learned, so please do not show this to anyone. Ed, you have some prospect of trying camp life it seems, provided Mother gets Miss Kelly to keep house while she is gone. Now I should think you would like to have her, for she could invite on your behalf, the young “sisters” of Sand Creek, Miss Martha, and a host of her young friends. Why, you would have all you could do, and I am afraid the farm & stock would have to take care of themselves. To think of staying with her alone, is enough to make a bachelor of you, notwithstanding your Phebis & Ellas. If you stay alone, how I would love to be a guest [for] one or two days! Wouldn’t Ma’s cupboard down [in the] cellar be emptied of all that suits the “palates taste”? [I’m] sorry [that] your leisure time is so scarce for reading, writing, etc. Who is the author of your works? How many apples did you have? Who is director – Skidmore? Are you designing to sow your cornfields? [I] must go to work now, so good bye. Love to all, and write often as you can.

Yours H. D. S.

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Fort Woodbury

September 15th / 61

Dear Mother,

I have just returned from company and regimental review and inspection, and now instead of attending Episcopal Service, I will write a few lines and enclose [this] in Edward’s [letter]. Last night while on parade the Adjutant read the order [by] Gen. McClellan calling “a small fort thrown up and built by the 4th Mich. Regt. by the name of Fort Woodbury”, so that instead of writing from Camp Union, we address you from a more honorable station.

Fort Woodbury

This engraving of Fort Woodbury in September of 1861, was printed on letterheads and envelopes used by some of the men in the regiment during the war.

Our Col. [then] made some very appropriate remarks, stating his surprise of the honor shown him – the name being solicited by the Regt. unbeknownst to him. In Mr. Bartlett’s last letter you will find all the news I could give. The reason the disloyal troops are permited to occupy Munson’s Hill – the place west of us – and which displeases many who are too willing to advise, and find fault because their advice is not practiced, is just what I should have given. Our foes have tried to surprise our guards at Chain Bridge and last Friday night our Pickets around Munson’s Hill were routed and had a skirmish, the enemy throwing their shells & balls in all directions – burning a number of houses and barns, among which were Mr. Hall’s and all his buildings. His house is laid down on that map I [had] sent you. Quite a number were killed and wounded of our men, but none from our Regt., although Lieut. Hadley1 had a very narrow escape. “Mr. {General Benjamin] Butler’s achievement was indeed a brilliant one”, and his career has been flattering so far, but [General John C.] Fremont is filling his cap with laurels now. His proclamation in reference to the enslaved has won the praise of all whose praise is worth having. He and Gen. McClellan will be extolled by historians. Long may they live as true, and others imitate their loyalty and soundness of principles. Their Motto seems to be, “Wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” Last evening, Mother, the first prayer meeting and the first extemporaneous prayers offered in our Regt. were issued from our Captain’s tent. Capt. Doolittle2 is the only christian Captain in our companies. Elder Strong3 appears to be improving in his sermons since his return from home. A reformation I hope has commenced in our camp for there is great need of it. [I] had a letter from Emily last night. Short but affectionate. [I] hope you will have a pleasant visit. Think it will be exceedingly lonesome for Edward to remain alone so long. Would like to be so situated as to be his guest [for] a few nights. I did not send any money by Capt. Funk. [I] did not think it safe, had I wished to. [I] shall send twenty dollars when we receive our Govt. pay, by procuring a check. Pa may do as he thinks best about it, also with the wheat. I shall send a gold dollar

1861 U.S. One dollar gold piece obverse

1861 U.S. One dollar gold piece obverse

1861 U.S. One dollar gold piece reverse

1861 U.S. One dollar gold piece reverse

to Emily tomorrow, and one to Libbie, to buy stationary & stamps. That fruit I guess will come out right. Simon knows where the remainder is, and he may do what he pleases. But if another supply was to be forwarded, I should prefer not to have so many partners, or stockholders rather. Let the Hadley’s corner vicinity act as they please. What makes it so sickly in Litchfield? Gen. McClellan orders hot coffee to be drank by all soldiers immediately in the morning after rising to prevent malarious influences.

Love to all, Hubert.

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1First Lieutenant Simon B. Hadley also of Company H

2Captain Charles Doolittle of Company H

3Henry N. Strong, chaplain of the 4th Michigan Infantry until his resignation on July 20, 1862 due to the death of some of his children back home in Michigan.

 

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Hubert wrote this letter to his comrade, Sgt. Asher LaFleur, of the 4th Michigan Infantry, who had been wounded in the fighting at Laurel Hill in May 1864.  Sgt. LaFleur probably owed his life to Moses A. Luce who won the Medal of Honor for his actions on that day. According to Luce, “A light wind suddenly broke the fog in front of us, when we were hastily ordered forward without any supports and were immediately observed by the enemy, who opened fire upon us from their picket line and also from their artillery. Charging rapidly toward the enemy and receiving a fire of canister and grape from their cannon, the greater portion of which, however, passed over our heads, we broke through their picket line, and paying no further attention to them pushed on to the foot of the main breastworks of the enemy. At this point, the musketry of the enemy opened upon us with terrible effect.”

Five of the seven men Luce was commanding were hit, and the assaulting column fell back in disorder. He later heard a cry for help from Sgt. Asher LaFleur, a friend who lay near the Confederate positions with a broken leg, bleeding profusely. “I kneeled down and told him to get his arms about my neck and get on my back, I remaining on my hands and knees. Then rising, and in a stooping position, I carried him rapidly to the rear of our line,” Luce wrote.

LaFleur later became the mayor of Hillsdale, Michigan.

 

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Hillside Home
Sunday, September 25, 1864

My dear Asher,

“Surprised” as you imagined and gladly disappointed was I to receive yours of the “23rd” from Detroit yesterday. Though you forgot to mention the no. of the ward, I hasten to respond hoping it may reach you. How very hard it must have been for you on the way. I hope you found many “good Samaritans” to assist a wounded brother. Did you enjoy your stay in Harrisburg? Of course she was not informed of the superior attractions of one maiden — gentle and fair, fresh and lovely as the summer rose — dwelling on the rural suburbs of Litchfield?

When learning of your condition so near home, my first impulse was to start immediately and see the noble and true friend of my affections. But dear Asher, if my excuses seem selfish and worldly, they were strong ones for me to delay what I would so gladly do now. I had promised myself and another party better than myself to visit them on the beautiful prairies of Illinois long ago. Yet when I arrived home having and harvesting were fully come. Help being so scarce, I relinquished the fond anticipation ’till that busy season should be o’er.

Then I was persuaded to take the care of the farm upon myself and so much I found to do, I extended my promised visit to the last of August. That time found father rather unwell and preparations for seeding must be made. So I wrote an apology and promising to come the first thing after seeding on my honor. Shall finish that this week if it does not rain too much. Now Asher, when I tell you this friend is no other than “Miss Nellie” — the romantic and dear correspondent of mine for over two years in the army, you will not censure me for thus neglecting your dear self.

How sad to think of another amputation. Yet I have been convinced that it would be necessary. Have felt that your leg was never treated in a skillful manner [and] that had it been, you would now be walking upright and gracefully on two legs again. And have feared it might so heal as to forever trouble you in wearing a corked limb. I have seen many “stubs” thus healed over where the owner could not use an artificial leg until another amputation had been performed. I hope and pray yours may recover all right without it. But on no account would I have it healed over unfitted for the pressure of a patent foot. Amputated again or not, I am bound to have you soon at home. Here I know you will recover faster than under the care of Hospital nurses. (This sheet is blotted over most confoundedly bad. I cannot ask you to excuse it).

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