These two letters were written by Albert T. Freeman (1842-1890), the son of Roxbury tailor, Joseph M. Freeman (1800-1870) and Clarissa Codner (1804-1870) of Morris County, New Jersey. The Freeman’s had three other sons besides Albert: Hiram C. Freeman (b. 1839), Amos Goble Freeman (1842-1898), and Oliver S. Freeman (1845-1901). Hiram was married in 1864 to Sarah Ann Norman (b. 1842). Amos was married to Margaret Isabella Banghart (1840-1902) in 1872. Amos served in Company C, 4th New Jersey Infantry, and was mustered out on 17 August 1864 after three years.
Albert served as a private in Company K, 6th New York Independent Battery. He enlisted on 2 December 1861 to serve three years. He was wounded and captured at Brandy Station, Virginia on 9 June 1863, and paroled 20 June 1863 at City Point, Virginia. He mustered out of the service on 2 December 1864 at New York City. [Military record also under named Alfred F. Freeman.]
After the war, Albert earned a living as a merchant. His obituary, published in the 5 February 1890 New York Herald, claimed that he was of the old firm of Terhune & Freeman, dry goods merchants of Newark, New Jersey. He resided at No. 32 Wakeman Avenue in Newark when he died on 4 February 1890 at age 49.
The first letter was written on the eve of the Overland Campaign in May 1864. Albert had just returned to his regiment — the 6th New York Independent Artillery — after a visit home. The second letter was written from Washington D. C. where he appears to be employed, perhaps partially disabled, while awaiting his military discharge. He speaks of the lingering pain from the wound he received while in the service of his country.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Near Brandy Station, Virginia
May 1st 1864
My Dear Brother,
I received your letter yesterday and now I must try and answer it. I have been getting along first rate since my return from home. Today I went over to see Amos as before. I found him away from camp this time, gone out on inspection. He returned in about an hour and a half and I remained a couple of hours after his return. He is looking first rate and in excellent spirits.
This day has been a beautiful one — just enough breeze to cool the air and make it pleasant. After my return, we had our supper — bread & butter, and ham and coffee. I washed up the dishes, got me some ink, and am now setting down to write you. Frank and Tom Thorn ¹ have just started for the Battery, Frank intending to remain until tomorrow night. The battery moved Friday from near Warrenton.
We moved from our winter encampment last Wednesday and pitched our tents on the side hill opposite, and are very comfortably situated. We were living in a wall tent, but they have cut down transportation so much that we could no longer carry our tent, and so we cut it down and carry only the roof which we pitch the same as the shelter tents are pitched. Our stove which we had in the tent we have now out of doors. the weather is so warm now that we don’t need any fire in our tents — only it might be a little while mornings and evenings.
They seem to be accumulating stores here for an advance, and the orders to the Commissaries are to issue fifteen days rations; and there are immense numbers of cattle at the station. They drive them out every day to feed them or graze them.
But whether the army will make an advance soon or not is hard to say. And then will it be successful — that is the great point. Much depends upon its success. If defeated, it may lead to negotiations and finally to a compromise. Or a defeat might unite the northern mind and so fire their hearts that they would be willing to continue the struggle. The future is only known to Him who knows all things, and can guide us all.
From home I learn that Mr. Goldsmith Crownin and Isaiah Meeker were ordered — or whatever they call it. Mr. Merritt declared when it came to the pinch, if he had not run John Youngs would have been elected and they would have had one good man. Maggie McCord, ² writing to me a few days ago, said the other two would have done as well if they too had declared. Write soon. I can not find anything to write about and so I will close.
Very truly yours, — Albert T. Freeman
¹ Thompson (“Tom”) Thorn was the same age as Albert and enlisted at the same tim in Company K, 6th New York Independent Battery. Like, Albert, he was also captured at Brandy Station on 9 June 1863 and paroled at City Point, Virginia, on 13 June 1863. He mustered out of the service on 21 June 1864 at New York City.
² Maggy was probably Margaret Lucy McCord (1843-1899) of Randolph, Morris County, New Jersey. She married Elias Drake Hugg (1844-1923) in 1876.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
376 H. Street, Washington D.C.
August 27, 1864
My Dear Parents & Brother,
My box beat the letter of Amos’ by a couple of hours, both arriving this afternoon — the one brought in by the expressman, the other by our letter carrier. I found everything all right in the box. The first thing four nice apples which I would like to know from which tree they came, if from any of ours. The razor strop I concluded would injure my razor, and I bought a new one this evening. The socks are very nice and arrived just in time or I would have had to buy a pair of poor ones at an exorbitant price or wear woolen ones from those I have soiled. My watch when I opened it looked up in my face with a good natural air as though rather glad to get back to its owner and have a chance of going to work again. Long enough idle, I fancy, since last winter, and now keeps up its accustomed tick, tick, tick with a cheerfulness very becoming to it.
My coats I think have grown smaller, I think, since work by me three years ago, or I or the fashions have changed, for they both look as though they were ashamed to be seen on the street from their scant pattern. I thought in making up the list, of the drab one, and remembered its small sleeves and thought I would not wear it, so I did not put it down.
I am rather disappointed with your letter, Amos. I had expected you would tell me something about your arrival home, what father and mother said, and a thousand and one little things about how you found things at home, after your 3 years absence. You must recollect that I have written you long letters. I remember one or two when you first went away from home when I told you everything I could think of because I thought it would interest you and now the tables are turned. You must write a little longer letters than you are accustomed to. And what I want you particularly to write about is your visit — if you should make one — to Hiram. I want to know all you can write about his wife. I’m not intimate enough yet with her to call her either “Sarah” or sister. I expect you’ll all laugh at me for this this my wish expressed, and the last sentence. I’m laughing myself, but I don’t care. If I was home, I should see and judge for myself. No need to ask anyone to tell me, but I am not, and there is where the shoe pinches.
Dear Mother, do you feel any better now [that] one of your boys have come home from the wars. Didn’t I use to tell you so and you would not believe me and I did not believe it myself exactly. But one is safe now if he didn’t go and enlist again or get married — a little less deplorable alternative — I judge now-a-days at the prices of everything, and the other I guess is in no great danger of getting shot, leastwise by the rebels. And I don’t feel as though I ever would for my limb feels yet the effect of the old wound. Today it has been quite troublesome. The continued sitting fatigues me and renders it painful, giving me a dull throb, often enough to kep me in mind of its existence.
I did wish you could have stayed with me that night, and yet I thought at the time, that if you went on with the others perhaps you would have less trouble in settling up in Trenton than if you went on there alone. Did you get your discharge all right and do you think it made out correctly. Be careful you don’t lose it. If you go away from home, you might to have it with you for these rascally detectives are laying in wait in all places and can tell a returned soldier intuitively. Be careful if asked about yourself and not show it or give it into their possession for, this class of fellows are wholly unscrupulous, caring nothing either for any one’s co,fort or safety if they can make $30.00. Some cases of arrest came through my hands of citizens arrested in northern cities and hurried away to prison without any hearing, of course not before a social court, and often without seeing a Provost Marshal to Washington, robbed out of $30.00 and after being sent all over creation to find their regiment, get clear perhaps. Don’t let them get you on the same tack.¹
As you see by the date of my letter, I have got another boarding place. I found Mrs. Bannerman’s [boarding house] ² so far from my work as to be extremely inconvenient, and by a happy chance met an old friend, an acquaintance of Sloatsburg, who told me he thought I could get board at this place. I came right up and had an interview with Mr. [Seth W.] Kipp, ³ who seemed disposed to leave it all with his wife, a pleasant little lady. She said the room of which the Dr. spoke to me was rented to a young man who had expressed a desire to have a room-mate and she thought, with the Dr.’s recommendation, he would be pleased with me. I asked for an introduction but the young gentleman was out, and I made an appointment to call the next P. M. at 6 o’clock for I wanted to see him before I made any agreement to room with him, though they spoke very highly of him. I called next day afternoon and found him in, and to be a very pleasant young fellow. Recently from the West, and college, he looks the student. I like him very much thus far, though he has not been with me hardly as a room-mate. One of the other lodgers whose wife is away on a visit and who occupies a larger room than ours invited him to room with him during his wife’s absence, and the weather being so warm, he thought it would be pleasant for us all.
Tomorrow is Sunday and I expect to go to church, but not where I went last Sabbath — Dr. Gurley’s [Church]. It is very crowded and I want to go where there is more room. News tonight of the fight at Ream’s Station of the Weldon Railroad and though the loss of life is heavy, yet I think the “situation” cheerful. The Union never was stronger “my boy,” as Orpheus C. Kerr says, than now. Will fight it out yet, if we have gone to writing to do it, if the people at the North will only keep up a little courage. Don’t they begin to feel uneasy about the draft again. I should think they would. The fifth of September gives them precious little time to find substitutes.
But I guess I have written enough. I won’t read my letter for fear I shall tear it up. Write when you receive this. There, that is Irish enough, is it not? And give me the news. With love to you all. I am your affectionate son & brother, — Albert T. Freeman
Sunday morning. Dear Brother. You don’t know how nice and fresh I feel this morning with a white shirt on. I begin to feel something as of old, and with my watch on, white handkerchief in my pocket. It’s really delightful. ‘Tis a beautiful morning with the sun shining so brightly and such a splendid breeze. You did not forget the pin cushion, did you brother.
¹ Albert is warning his brother Amos to be sure and carry his discharge papers with him to prove he is not a deserter. Bounty hunters were paid $30 for each deserter brought into military authorities.
² Mary A. Bannerman’s boarding house was located at 447 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D. C.
³ Seth Whitney Kipp (1832-1873) kept a hotel & restaurant at the corner of 9th and F Streets opposite the Patent Office in Washington D. C. He was married to Mary Elizabeth Brewer (1843-18xx) in February 1860.