1863: Dudley E. Gale to Albert Gale

How Pvt. Dudley Gale might have looked

How Dudley might have looked

These letters were written by Pvt. Dudley E. Gale (1844-1916), the son of hat-maker Albert Gale (1808-1871) and Martha T. Frost (1814-18xx) of Salisbury Point, Essex County, Massachusetts. At 17, Dudley enlisted in Company L, 3rd Massachusetts Cavalry in November 1861 for three years. He was married to Agnes Ellen Morrill  in January 1866.

From the first letter we learn that Pvt. Gale was part of an escort conveying Confederate prisoners to New York Harbor to be held at Governors Island. The 12 October 1863 issue of the Boston Daily Advertiser reported that “the Evening Star brought 161 rebel prisoners [taken at Port Hudson], said to be on their way to one of the forts in the [New York] harbor. Confederate prisoners on Governors Island were held in barracks at Fort Jay or in Castle William.

Before the war, Dudley assisted his father as a hatter; after the war, he became a carriage maker.


Governors Island
New York Harbor
October 13th 1863

Dear Father,

You see that we have got settled at last with no chance to get away without swimming and the weather is most too cold for that. I almost froze last night. I wish myself back in Louisiana if we are to have no furloughs and I don;t think we are. You have received that letter that I sent on the 11th I suppose. I will begin where I then left off.

We left the Evening Star about 7 o’clock and were marched to the New York State Soldier’s Depot on Howard Street close to Broadway. While there we had the best of food and good clean beds to sleep in. On Sunday the officer that had charge of us came to see us and told us that we were to have furloughs the next day so that night nothing was talked about — only our furloughs. I don’t see why he should deceive us so except it was to keep us from running away taking French Leave.

Early on the next morning I went and bought a jacket and pair pants to go home in as my old is pretty threadbare. I also bought 2 pairs drawers as the evenings and mornings are pretty cold. I had also found out by looking over the directory where Charles Folsom’s Office ¹ was I intended paying him a visit as soon as I could get my new clothes on but when I got to quarters I found the men all in line and waiting for stragglers like myself so I had to postpone my visit.

Well I fell in with the rest not knowing where we were going to without it was to get our furloughs. The first thing we knew was that we were onboard a steamer bound for Governors Island. Here we are and here we are likely to stay until they get ready to send us to New Orleans, which I hope will not be long without they give us furloughs. While in New Orleans I thought everything was cheap as dirt in New York but I find that excepting eatables that we have to pay just as much. Some bought shoes and had to [pay] the same as is asked at New Orleans. I priced some shirts and found the same price. The drawers that I bought were the same and clothing of all kinds. Apples I thought I could get as many as I could eat for 2 or 3 cts., but the apple peddler sell 2 for 5 cts. the same as New Orleans — perhaps a trifle cheaper. Pies the same as New Orleans.

We are living in tents here — the first I have lived in for over 4 months. How I wish myself back to my company instead of being kicked round this way — one day here and another day somewhere else. If we only have as pleasant a trip and as good fare back as we had coming, I won’t complain/ Some say, but I don’t know where they get their authority, that we are going back in the Evening Star which sails on Saturday.

We here find our old friends, the Rebel Officers. I guess they find the fare a little different from New Orleans and on the steamer accordingly to their talk. While on the boat their conduct was very gentlemanly and talked with us with all the freedom of old friends. I don’t want to send this until I am sure it will go safe as I intend to send $10.00 with it. But I will close for present. It is too soon to send another letter. I shall try to get a pass to go to the City and call on Charles Folsom if we stay here a few days. The money I spent in not wasted for it will save me from drawing the clothes off the quartermaster and make my final settlement bigger.

Friday, October 18th

I will now finish this and send it because I think we are as likely to stay here for a short time as we are to go away and I want to hear from you dreadfully. You know it is almost 2 months since I heard from home and I don’t know whether you live in Salisbury or California. I want you to write just as soon as you get this. We have a regular post office here on the Island with a list of letters stuck up so we can see whether we have a letter or not, so you can just direct it to Governors Island, New York Harbor, and I shall get it.

A great many think that we shall not go back to New Orleans at all but do garrison duty in the forts in the North. Wouldn’t it be nice if I should be sent to the new fort building on Plum Island? Fort Warren or Independence would do but I had rather go back to the South and serve the remainder of my time out with my company after having a furlough. It is impossible to get off the Island without swimming as the Col. in command who is a regular will not sign any passes. We have nothing to do here — only eat, drink, sleep, and attend roll call. It is too bad that I am as near you and can’t go to see you, isn’t it? I shall expect a letter from you on Monday.

I shall risk sending ten dollars $10.00 in this. I think there is no doubt but what it will go as safe as if sent by Adams Express. You see I spent $12.75 for clothing and send you $10.00 which will  leave me only $3.25 of my 2 months pay. I’m sure that isn’t very bad, is it? I hope we shall stay here long enough for me to receive a letter. Don’t think of coming to see me until you hear from me again. But I can’t think of anything more to write. I hope you and all the folks are enjoying as good health as myself at present. To be sure, I do not feel as young and active as when I enlisted. No soldier can who has seen active service as our company saw summer before last and last winter. While in the hospital I could reach round my arm above the elbow with my thumb and little finger and now I can’t reach round with my thumb and middle finger by 2 inches. But I will close.

Give my love to all. Excuse bad writing. If I do not get a letter Monday, I shall feel very anxious. Tell [my sister] Esther and Mother to put in a few lines. Good bye for the present.

Your affectionate son, — Dudley

¹ Charles H. Folsom (1828-18xx) was a hatter in New York City.


New Orleans [Louisiana]
November 1st 1863

Dear Father,

I know you must be anxious to hear from me. Therefore, I will write a few lines to let you know that I am still alive and kicking. You see that I am back to New Orleans again after an absence of 27 days. I have reason to think that my last letter to you which I wrote while on Governor’s Island was miscarried. If it was, I am $10.00 the loser for I enclosed that sum within having no chance to send by Express and afraid I should spend it if I did not get it away soon. Either my letter or the one you wrote in answer was miscarried for I never got an answer although I said for you to write as soon as you got mine. I suppose you received the letter I sent while just on the point of leaving the Evening Star so I will commence there and give an outline of my adventures till now.

We we left the Evening Star a little after dark and proceeded at once to the New York Soldiers Depot where soldiers are lodged and fed while staying in the city either on furlough or discharged. It is a first rate place with every convenience one could ask for — good food and plenty of it, nice clean beds, good bathrooms, &c. Well we stayed there that night and also the next, it being Sunday and they did not remove us. On that day we were told by the Officer in charge of us that on the next day (Monday) we were all to have furloughs to go home. Why he should deceive us so I can’t tell unless it was to prevent us from taking french furloughs which we had every opportunity to do and which a great many would have done had they known how it was going to turn out.

Well early on Monday morning I went and bought me a jacket and pair of pants, 3 pair of drawers, which cost $12.75. The clothes I wore were not fit to go home in. I had found out by looking over the Directory where Chas. Folsom’s office was and I intended making him a call if I had time as it was not a great ways from the Depot. When I got back from buying my clothes I found the men all in line ready to go so I hurried and fell in too thinking of furloughs all the time. Well, instead of going to the Depot to take the cars for home, we were marched down to the wharf where a steamer was in waiting to take us to Governor’s Island. Was not we sold? We went to Governor’s Island and remained there till we finally embarked on board the steam transport Merrimack  for New Orleans. It was impossible to get off the island on a pass. A Col. of regulars was in command there and he thought no more of a volunteer than of a dog and would not give us a pass on no condition. We went there on Monday and remained there till the next week Thursday, and then we embarked for New Orleans on Friday. I wrote to you enclosing $10.00 and told you to write me back as soon as you received it as you must know I was anxious to hear from home, not having received a letter for 2 months. But although I watched the mails till the very hour of leaving, I was doomed to disappointment.

Well as I said before, we got on board the Steamer Merrimack for New Orleans where we arrived yesterday morning early, making the passage in 8½ days. It was by far the most miserable 8½ days to me that I ever had for I was seasick all the time. O, I would not live those days over again for considerable. She is a propellor and the way she did roll was a caution to sea sick folks. I don’t believe I ate 3 miles while on board but I am all over it now and as well as ever.

We are now stopping at the cotton press in the city where we have good quarters. I shall seize the first opportunity to get to my company. I am almost ashamed to go I have been away so long but I am sure it is not my fault. I should have been there as soon as I came down the river if I could have got there but I’ve wrote all that before. Today is Sunday. I shall try and get a pass to morrow and go and see Frank and if he has not got some letters for me, I shall not know what to do.

I wat you to write and direct Magers Cavalry, 3rd Massachusetts, as before, Port Hudson, La. But I don’t know what more to write. I’m sorry you did not get that letter for you must have been anxious to hear from me. But I hope you got it and it was yours that miscarried instead of mine. Please write now and make up for last time. Give my love to dear mother and sisters and tell them all to write and be patient for 1 year and 7 days then hurry for home. Be sure and write every week.

From your affectionate son, — Dudley E. Gale

P.S. Tell cousin Mary I want her letters as bad as ever.


New Orleans [Louisiana]
November 26th [1863]

Dear Father,

I write these few lines to let you know that my travels are not yet over for I’m bound to Texas in the next boat that leaves for Brownsville. I expected to knave day before yesterday but was too late as the boat had just gone when we got to the landing. I suppose that you will want to know what brings me to Texas. I’m going to recruit for the 2d Louisiana Cavalry. Capt. Tenney, a Lieut, another soldier (sergeant) besides myself are going. Let me begin back 2 or 3 days.

Capt. S. Tyler Read, Co. A, 3rd Mass. Cavalry

Capt. S. Tyler Read, Co. A, 3rd Mass. Cavalry

Today is Thursday. Well on Monday last, [S. Tyler] Read — who is now Major — told me that I was going to my company and to get ready. Well I got all ready but no order came so on the next day in the forenoon, he (Read) and the Capt. of Company C came to me and wanted me to consent to be transferred to Co. C, 2d Louisiana, with the rank of Orderly Sergeant and serve 3 years longer but I was no such a fool and told them so. In the afternoon Read came again and wanted me to go to Texas recruiting for the 2d Louisiana so rather than stay with that regiment (2d Louisiana), and for a change, I consented. So here I am. I’ll have a chance to see the country anyway.

I am sergeant now by the order of Capt. Tenney. If ever I return to my company, I’ll have to take off the stripes but I begin to think I shall never go back. When you write again, direct to Co. B, 3rd Mass., Care of Capt. Tenney. I can’t think of any more to write so good bye for now.

From yours, affectionately, — D. E. G

Dudley E. Gale
Co. B, 3rd Massachusetts Cavalry
Brownsville, Texas
Care of Capt. Tenney


About Griff

My passion is studying American history leading up to & including the Civil War. I particularly enjoy reading, transcribing & researching primary sources such as letters and diaries. View all posts by Griff

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