Monthly Archives: March 2014

1863: William J. Syms to DeWitt Clinton Sage

DeWitt C. Sage in later years

DeWitt Clinton Sage in later years

This letter was written by William J. Syms (1819-1889), a munitions supplier in New York City in business with his brother, Samuel R. Syms. The content of the letter pertains to the supply of cartridges for Navy and Army pistols as well as Sharps Rifles.

Sage wrote the letter to DeWitt Clinton Sage (1836-1902), a cartridge manufacturer during the Civil War who resided in Middletown, Middlesex County, Connecticut. DeWitt was the son of Barzilla Doud Sage (1806-1853) and Elizabeth P. Yale (1812-1861). About 1864 he married Emma C. Ives (1842-Bef1900).

DeWitt was only 16 when his father died but he carried on the brick-making business of his father for six years before selling it to pursue a career in manufacturing cartridges. The business was initially profitable but the short supply of raw materials during the war resulted in the production of cartridges that could no longer be produced for the price he quoted in his contracts. By the time he got out of the business, he was $30,000 in debt. Somehow he managed to follow this business with one of manufacturing headstones for the new national cemeteries. He eventually got into the brick manufacturing business on Long Island and became quite successful.


300 Broadway, New York, [New York]
January 19th 1863

Mr. D. C. Sage
Middletown [Connecticut]

Dear Sir,

Yours of 17th is at hand saying that you had sent the 50 Sharp’s Rifles the day before. They are not yet arrived here. Our telegraph ordering you to complete the Army first should not have prevented the shipment of the 100 Navy if they were already made. If they are now on the road with the 50 Sharps’ we think they will be accepted although we have orders this morning to send no more Navy until further orders, but to hurry up the Army. They say make them but do not send them down. We will ascertain exactly whether and when they will take them as soon as you are near completion of the Army.

oldie_zpsea25b68bWe should not be surprised if orders had been given for some millions of cartridge and we could have obtained them if you had at all met previous engagements. Your failures on small orders has prevented our getting the large ones. We advised you to crowd on hands to make 35 or 50 daily when you had orders for 800, but you did not do it. As soon as some Army size come down, we will try again for orders, but dare not go to the office before. Send us a list of all the cartridges you now have on hand. We may sell some and also the account of caps short.

Yours respectfully, — W. J. Syms & Bro.

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1862: Charles A. Legg to Parents

Charles A. Legg

Charles A. Legg

This letter was written by Charles A. Legg (1840-1921), a soldier from Auburn, Worcester County, Massachusetts. He was the son of William Lysander Legg (1814-1889) and Emma Augusta Howard (1821-1888). After the war, Charles married Alice Letitia Haleyn (1836-1897).

Charles enlisted in Company B, 3rd Massachusetts Rifle Battalion, in May 1863 for three months. In September, 1861, he re-enlisted in Company C, 1st Massachusetts Cavalry. He was promoted to Corporal in August 1863 and to Sergeant in May 1864. He was mustered out of the service in January 1865.

When Charles wrote this letter, elements of the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry were engaged in fighting at South Mountain west of Frederick, Maryland, just two days before the deadly Battle of Antietam. Most of the unit had been guarding the Cumberland Canal for the first couple of weeks in September following a 17-day sea passage from Hilton Head to Alexandria. The toilsome passage left many of the men — and particularly their horses — in no condition to wage war with Lee’s invading army. In these lines, scribbled to his parents from Frederick, Maryland, Charles probably captured the sentiments of most Union soldiers after witnessing setback after setback, leaving him to “tremble” for his country’s fate.

Charles’ younger brother, William Howard Legg (1841-1863), also served in Company C, 1st Massachusetts Cavalry. He died on 9 February 1863 at Potomac Creek, Virginia.


Frederick, Maryland
September 15th 1862

I have an opportunity to send this letter so I will write you a few more lines to inform you where I am. We left our picket post on the [Cumberland] Canal yesterday and marched to this place 25 miles. We arrived here just as the church clock was striking eight o’clock. How familiar it did sound. It is the first one we have heard for nearly a year. It awakened many pleasant recollections, I assure you. All I can say is we are here. How long we shall be, I don’t know. We have been fighting for 3 days. We are told that we are whipping them badly. The fight is amongst the mountains. It is just one week ago since the Rebels passed through this place. They took everything they could lay hands on.

William H. Legg

William H. Legg

I have not seen [my brother] William as yet but they say he is near here. I hope so. I want to see him badly.

This is a pretty place of 10,000 people but I must close hoping that you will write soon. Direct to Washington D. C.

I remain your loving son in the army, — Charles A. Legg

If you could enclose half a dozen postage stamps in your next, I should be much pleased.

I tremble for the future of our country. Look at what past things have arrived through the treachery and imbecility of our commanders, our splendid armies of Virginia & the Peninsula have been surely retreating until now we are once more told that they are where they are now considered safe, under the protection of the thirty forts that surround the Capitol, and who is to blame for our defeat in Virginia?

Pope was put in command. He issued high-sounding orders &c. In fact, he went up like a rocket and come down like a stone and we are told he has been released from his command here and sent to one in the West. He should have been sent to the Devil! Another villain is McDowell. [Our] government kept him in command until his treachery could no longer be concealed, then he is relieved. Oh, how long will this state of things be permitted by the People. Why will they not rise in one voice [and] say that there shall be but one policy, one aim in view, and that [being] the speedy settlement of this struggle.

How long — Oh how much longer — shall Whiskey, red tape, and politics rule? Will the northern people wait until Washington is taken or the free states invaded? Or will they look into this thing before we are informed here (but I don’t know how true it is) that the Rebels have invaded Pennsylvania and also that they have blown up the arch bridge on the railroad at the Relay House near Baltimore. Perhaps it is the only thing that will wake up the North — to invade it. If it is so, I hope it will be done quickly. Something must be done soon or to the Devil we go. I should like to say more but I have not time today.

Spared & Shared 21

Saving history one letter at a time.

Spared & Shared 20

Saving history one letter at a time

Notes on Western Scenery, Manners, &c.

by Washington Marlatt, 1848

Spared & Shared 19

Saving History One Letter at a Time

Recollections of Army Life

by Charles A. Frey

The Civil War Letters of William Kennedy

Co. B, 91st New York Infantry

The Glorious Dead

Letters from the 23rd Illinois Infantry, the 111th Pennsylvania Infantry, the 64th New York Infantry, and the 14th Pennsylvania Cavalry

Cornelius Van Houten

1st New Jersey Light Artillery

Letters of Charley Howe

36th Massachusetts Volunteers

Sgt. Major Fayette Lacey

Co. B, 37th Illinois Volunteers

"These few lines"

the pocket memorandum of Alexander C. Taggart

The Civil War Letters of Will Dunn

Co. F, 62nd Pennsylvania Volunteers

Henry McGrath Cannon

Co. A, 124th New York Infantry & Co. B, 16th New York Cavalry

Civil War Letters of Frederick Warren Holmes

Co. H, 77th Illinois Volunteers

"Though distant lands between us be"

Civil War Letters of Monroe McCollister, Co. B, 6th OVC

"Tell her to keep good heart"

Civil War Letters of Nelson Statler, 211th PA

Building Bluemont

The Origin of Bluemont Central College

"May Heaven Protect You"

14th Connecticut drummer boy's war-time correspondence with his mother

Moreau Forrest

Lt. Commander in the US Navy during the Civil War

Diary of the 29th Massachusetts Infantry

Fighting with the Irish Brigade during the Peninsula Campaign

"Till this unholy rebellion is crushed"

Letters of Dory & Morty Longwood, 7th Indiana

"I Go With Good Courage"

The Civil War Letters of Henry Clay Long, 11th Maine Infantry

"This is a dreadful war"

The Civil War Letters of Jacob Bauer, 16th Connecticut, & his wife Emily

Spared & Shared 16

Saving History One Letter at a Time

Lloyd Willis Manning Letters

3rd Massachusetts Heavy Artillery, Co. I

The Yankee Volunteer

A Virtual Archive of Civil War Likenesses collected by Dave Morin

William Henry Jordan

Co. K, 7th Rhode Island Infantry

No Cause to Blush

The Bancroft Collection of Civil War Letters

William A. Bartlett Civil War Letters

Company D, 37th Massachusetts Infantry

The John Hughes Collection

A Virtual Archive of his Letters, 1858-1869

The Civil War Letters of Rufus P. Staniels

Co. H, 13th New Hampshire Volunteers

This is Indeed A Singular War

The Civil War Letters of Henry Scott Murray, 8th New York Light Artillery