Letters Home Series: Civil War Era Manuscripts from the Collection

Adirondack Journal

The Adirondack Museum Library owns more than 600 linear feet of manuscript material. Included in these vast holdings are the Juliette Baker Rice Kellogg papers. This collection consists largely of correspondence to Juliette Baker (1842-1931); better known as “Julia” to her correspondents. Julia lived in and around Minerva, NY her entire life making this collection of letters an important source of information on the lives and times of early Adirondack settlers.

Julia’s pen pals included many friends and family members that were fighting in the American Civil War. These letters give great insight into the psyche of the soldiers that penned them. Their dreams were simple: to return to the pleasures and normalcy of everyday life. The soldiers that wrote to Julia were looking for news from home in order to escape the drudgery and hardships of life in the camps.

This and the next letter were written to Julia by Cyrus A. Smith. The first is dated January 5, 1865.

Friend Julia
I suppose you will be very much surprised at receiving a letter from this place. But whether you will or not I have commenced I am going to carry it out although without your consent. So you will please excuse me for being so impudent if impudent I am.

But perhaps if you knew who it was or is that is writing you would think nothing of it. I suppose you recollect that 2 years ago a young chap was up in the Boras River hunting grounds and while there was in company with you a number of times. I will not tell my name at present. I was thinking today where I was 2 years ago when the thought struck me that I might write to you if for nothing else but to pass away the spare time that drags so wearily in camp.

Since I last saw you I have seen a great deal of war. I enlisted in a good company I have got along so far alright and hope to get out as well as I am at present. How is Mary Meade and all the rest of the fun loving folks. Also your sister. I have forgotten her name. Well as ever I suppose. Now I have an idea that you would like to know my object of writing so I will tell you it is this. Fun mutual improvement and perhaps something more after I get out of this cruel war business which will be in a short time. Come now Julia drop a line or two to a fellow once in a while to relieve me of the monotony of Camp Life. Hoping to hear from you soon I will close. From a Friend. Address C.A.S. Company K 2nd U.S. Artillery Fort Federal Hill Baltimore Maryland. My love and respects to all. P.S. Write and tell me what is going on up in the northern wilds. As ever your friend C.A.S.

Dated Fort McHenry Feb. 21st, 1865 Monday Morning

Friend Julia
Yours of the 3rd is before me very unexpectedly. I received it yesterday and will answer today. Since I wrote to you I have been in Troy and different places North. I started 3 weeks ago I got back yesterday having been sick on my way. Your letter has been in the Company for a long while back and as I was not here consequently was not answered before. I am hardly fit to sit and write this morning but will do my best as I hate to let a letter lay around without answering. When I wrote I did not expect to get an answer but was happily disappointed. Speaking about different young chaps being at the north. Perhaps you will recollect me when you hear my name and perhaps you will not but I will tell you my name at all events C. A. Smith is my name. If you do not recollect me I do not know where your memory has gone. I was well acquainted with your father and often had some good times with him. So Mary Meade has changed her name has she. What name did she like better pray tell me. Hope you don’t think of changing your position in life for a while at least (do You). Louise do you say the young lady’s name is or Lois which. She too you say has left for a home of her own well there is nothing like it in the world. I am sorry to hear of your father’s death. What in the name of common sense are you and your mother doing up there with no one to take care of your farm or have you got hired help. Surely you must be very lonesome so far away from the world in general. I can see in my minds eye what kind of a place the Boreas River Section must be with no one to talk to and no friend within 3, 4, or 5 miles. Does Mr. Stephens live where they did 2 years ago? And if they do do you see them? How are they all getting along. I declare I am so weak and tired I do not know what to do but I am going to tuck it out and finish this letter. You say you hope that I am a good soldier. All that I can say I have been trying to be for a long while have a couple of good marks to show for it I do not yet feel discouraged but say with many others down with the Traitors and up with the Stars. Neither did I vote for McClellan but was among those that were the means of sending him out of the United States by voting for the Rail Splitter. I suppose you have heard that McClellan has gone to Europe have you not? Well I think I have done justice to your letter and will now close by asking you to excuse all mistakes I has writing on account of sickness on my part. Since I wrote we have moved from Federal Hill to Fort McHenry so you may direct to McHenry if you write again.
Yours truly Cyrus A. Smith Co. K 2ND US Artillery

This letter from Albert M. Shattuck is undated:

Dear friend I now take my pen in hand to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well and injoying good health at present and hope these few lines will find you same and all the rest of the folks. I am a sloder now and ben ever since last fawl I was in the redgement about fore months and did duty and while we was on picket one nite we was surrounded by the rebs and taken prisoner and have ben in the perole camp ever since we was taken the 5 day of January the talk is now hear that we are exchanged but dont now surting yet I had letter from Lonses folks the other day and they was all well if I had not inlisted I should of ben out there again this winter but I thought that I would go and sea if I could help uncle sam a little he finds plenty rebs to kill hear in stead of dear well Julia I dont think of much more to write this time please write as soon as you get this and tell me all the nuse you can think of tell me how many dear your father has killed this winter tell me what your father thinks about this war tell me if you have any boes now or not and if you are marred or not and so forth. It has ben a long while since I hurd from you you must excuse all my stakes I dont think of much more to write this time. Mi letter is short this time but Il try and do better next this is truly ures Julia baker from a friend Albert M. Shattuck Direct your letter Camp Carroll Maryland Annapolis 5th N York Cavalry Co 36

And finally, from a David Walker:

Dated Camp Graim Sep 3, 1861, Washington East Virginia, New York to the vt tiers 22 ridgment in Cair of Captain Omsha(?) Company F
Dear friend I avail my self with the oprtunity of writing you a few lines to let you know that I am yet live and well at present and hope that thease few lines will find you injoin the same blessing. We air in campt near the potomac river whair thair is about one hundred and ten thousand men and still awating for more. I must tel you a litl about how we fair we have bread and beef and bacan and rice and beans and what littl corn and potatoes we git on uncal Sam… Today we can hear the cannon and musket roar among the pickets to morrow we have got to go out on picket. I have had for shotes at the rebels and have cild one. It is a vury hard thing to shoote a man in cool blood but we haft to do it or we wold git shot ourselves. I wish I had your rifel hear and then I could take a longer shot at them Mostly I wold be vury glad to have you hear to go with me out on a scout to morrow. It is like huntin deer to hunt thease chaps. No more for this time. From your friend David Walker. Give my respects to Mr and Mrs. Baker and Juliet Baker and litel Jan an tel Jan… that I am afrad I never shal come back agin to ciss hur agin. David Walker You must write to me as soon as you get this. Give my respect to all folks in your naber hood.