These pages were written by Corporal Hiram C. Barney (1831-1908), Company H, 21st New York Cavalry. Hiram enlisted at Troy, New York, on 14 October 1863 for three years. He was mustered out of the service on 28 June 1866 at Denver, Colorado.
Hiram was married to Mary White Norton (1828-1908), the daughter of Elijah Amandor Norton (1798-1881) and Sarah White (1799-1869). I have not been able to find any information about Hiram’s parents though from these pages we learn that Hiram had a brother named Andrew with whom he did not correspond.
Hiram and Mary resided in Rochester, New York, before the war where Hiram was employed as a shoe maker. After the war, the Barney’s moved to Delavan, Illinois. By 1900 they had relocated to Chicago.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Camp of Instruction, Washington D. C.
Tuesday, 10 o’clock A.M., November 24, 1863
My Dear Wife,
I intended to have written you yesterday but my being placed on guard duty as corporal of the guard precluded the possibility of so doing. I was on 24 hours from 8 o’clock A.M. to 8 o’clock A.M.
There were five prisoners in the guard house; three of them for desertion, one for being drunk on dress parade, and the other for making a thrust at the warden of the hospital with his saber.
Guard duty over and it being my turn to do the house or tent work, I first commenced to wash the dishes and next to arrange the blankets &c. and sweep the floor. After this went to the woods a few steps distant and got four good dry sticks of wood from a wood pile and cut them up. We are just as warm as you could please and with the A tent, we manage to keep quite comfortable. I think I wrote you a description of our camp. I wrote Mr. Hellems a letter giving a description of our camp. I will give you some idea of it and represent the shape of the tents better than I did in his letter. The following first are the tents, the second the street, and the last the picket line for horses.
The first two tents are represented built up with logs about three feet high and the awning fastened to them which makes a spacious apartment. The third is built of boards in place of logs. The fourth is the tent built right upon the ground. The fifth is what is called a weather or shelter tent and are just such as we had at our old camping ground. One has to get down upon his hands and knees to gain an entrance. Very humiliating, I can assure you. The A tent which we have are 8 feet one way and 7 feet the other and 9 feet high.
We have a swing shelf over our head made of poles upon which we can lay a great deal of things. It was said we should receive our horses today but have not seen anything of them yet. We have received our saddles and have blankets and Colt pistols and are now ready for the horses.
There are twenty tents for our company in one line. We occupy the second tent as you will see in the engraving, next to the Orderly’s.
We have good water a few steps from us. Received an allowance of molasses the other day and crackers. The boys call them hardees. We have plenty to eat. Have one loaf of fine bread ahead of my rations; also 16 crackers and some molasses. The tea came very handy for last night I had the headache severely. Made a good strong cup and in a little while after was all right.
Our little stove works to a charm. It cost us $4. I think I informed you in my last that [Henry] Morgan was going to send his sister $100. Just after I had sealed the letter, he told me he had sent word to his sister that she could draw fifty dollars out of the bank for herself. I think he also wrote his uncle to the same effect — to let her draw the money.
Soon after I arrived here, I told him how pleased she was at receiving the $25 from him. He said he should send her more. I think she will get considerable money from him while he is in the service.
The boys are all signing the payroll in the orderly’s tent for their government monthly pay.
Last Friday went to Maj. [Charles C.] Otis’ tent to sign a receipt for my State Bounty. He said I would get it in a week or ten days. It would be sent by Express. Capt. [James S.] Graham’s and Lieut. [William H.] Joslyn’s wives are expected in camp in a few days.
An order was read at dress parade last evening forbidding all leud women and prostitutes from hanging around the camp. A good order. Many of our men have lowered themselves to the very lowest condition of humanity by their connection with these whores. They have been found in some of their tents. We are in hopes that this order and the presence of the officer’s wives will work a change in the men for the better.
Give my love to Mrs. Barton, Rell & Elly and reserve a portion for yourself. Write me all the news.
4 o’clock P.M. The companies are receiving their pay. Have not got to us yet.
Yours ever. Love to you, — Hiram
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
[Mid-March 1864, in Virginia]
You ask have you ever written to “Andrew” and add “if so, I never want you to write to me again” you might also subjoined, I never will speak to you nor have anything to do with you in any shape or manner. I have never written to “Andrew” and besides, do not intend to. He has lost all claim upon me to call him brother and I do not wish to have anything to do with him. I should think as much of writing to the man in the moon as to write to him and should feel myself righteously punished is after writing him, you should put your threat into execution.
Oh! I was so glad to get dear Ella’s little letter. It was so full of love. I could not keep the big tears from coursing down my cheeks while reading it. Tell her to write her pa again. He will write her again in a few days.
We are under marching orders to return to our old camp at Halltown. I like it better here although our old camp is a good one. Our duty while here has been light. I have not done anything for the last three years — only Corporal of the Stable Guard one night. Got up at 2 to relieve guard.
Thinking it might be interesting to you and [Henry] Morgan’s ¹ friends to know how he was captured, I have taken the pains to gather the following facts:
There were three in the party who were captured; they saw two persons about ¼ of a mile from our main column who were dressed in the uniform worn by our soldiers who beckoned to them to come where they were. There was a flock of sheep near them. When our boys got to where the two persons were, they demanded them to surrender at once but one of them foreshowed fight after the other two had surrendered, and if they had stood out might have captured their deceptive captors. Morgan was always relating deeds of daring but when brought to the scratch, was found wanting. Had they remained with the column as they ought, they might have been with us today, and their capture is only traceable to sheer carelessness.
I would like to have yours and Ella’s photograph when I send you some money. Have wished many times I had them.
One of our boys had pity on me, I suppose, and the other day throwed a photograph into my tent at my feet. It was a soldier’s wife and her little boy standing by her side. Yes, you did hear me say my ironing was not done. I have learned to economize and think when I get home you may work outdoors and let me do the housework. Do my own washing and as well as I could get it done.
Your very kind invitation to take dinner was received too late to accept and I think you was aware of the fact at the time or you would have given me timely notice. I should have been pleased to have you take dinner with me today. What do you think I had? Don’t think you can guess? Well I will tell; beef steak and warmed up potatoes, bread, hardtack, soup, and apple sauce. I should like to have had some of your chicken pot pie and rice pudding.
Near Halltown, Virginia
March 20th 1864
Here I am back again at our old camp. Reached here yesterday afternoon. Been gone two weeks today. Have a private horse which the Captain gave me. It is the one Sergeant Moody had and sold and for which he was reduced. You will naturally ask why did you leave your new camp so quick for. General William W. Averell thinks — or thought — he had force enough without us.
You will direct your letters as before — Washington D. C. On our march I had the honor of carrying the colors. They were handed me by the Captain. A non-commissioned officer always carries them, I believe. The colors are called guidon and made of silk and fastened on the end of a pole. I will draw one. [Drawing]
I am Corporal of Headquarter Guard to day. Thought I must come to my tent and finish this letter so as to have it ready to mail in the morning. I am well and have not had occasion to use any of my care medicine yet and am thankful for it. Have used my pain killers only once. The free tea has been my best medicine.
I hope you are all well. Write soon. Write soon as you get at Rochester. Sergeant Wetherbee sends his best respects. I will send you some money so you can get to Rochester.
Love to all. Yours ever, — Hiram
(A kiss for you and Ella)
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE
Camp Stoneman, D. C.
I am seated in my tent writing on a book. I am keeping a diary and will copy from it.
Started from Rochester at 8:30 P.M. for our camp at Troy, New York; arrived there about 10:00 A.M. Met with a warm reception. Lieut. Porylen with the men he had with him in the camp went to the depot to receive us but missed us as we came across in the ferry and marched about two miles to camp.
October 14. Detailed as Corporal of the Guard from 9 o’clock A.M. to the same hour next day. There are three reliefs with a sergeant and corporal to each. Our detail went on at 9 o’clock, being the first and remained on two hours. The next went on at 11 o’clock for two hours, and the third at 1 o’clock. Then came our detail again and so on through the 24 hours — two hours on and four hours off. We put six in the guard house for trying to run the guard and other offenses. Went around several times to see if the guard were doing their duty and also tried them by asking them for their sabers, &c. &c.
October 17. Went to town 10 o’clock A.M. in company with Corporal [Artemus] Weatherbee & Private [William] Morgan. Lieut. Col. [Charles] Fitzsimmons ² saw us as we were going into a store and ordered Corporal W. and myself to arrest a deserter who was in a wagon nearby but before we could get under headway, he saw us and put the whip to his horse and was soon out of our reach.
Returned to camp at 3 o’clock P.M. and was at once detailed with one Corporal and two Sergeants with 10 men to go to town to arrest deserters. Arrested three men and in returning to our camp, met the Battalion on their way to take the cars. Started from Troy at six o’clock P.M. Reached New York City at 4 o’clock in the morning, Sunday the 18th, and at 10 o’clock A.M. we were underway for Camp Stoneman, D. C. on board Government Transport Constitution. Nearly all the men were more or less seasick. I escaped without feeling at all sick. We had a very calm sea.
October 19. Corporal of Guard board Constitution.
October 20. Arrived at our camp at 7 o’clock P.M. Was left behind about two miles where we landed with three men to guard commissary store. About 11 o’clock one of our officers came down with two government wagons to take us and the stores to camp. Slept on the grass with out blankets and shawls under and over us and in the morning awoke feeling tip top. Thus far I have felt first rate and think soldiering will agree with me.
October 21. At 9 o’clock A.M., our regiment was ordered to strike their tents, form into line and march about one mile to our new grounds. Arrived at our new encampment.
We receive 35 more of the government bounty next pay day with our monthly pay.
¹ Henry Morgan — Age, 22 years. Enlisted, October 1, 1863, at Troy; mustered in as private, Co. H, October 14, 1863, to serve three years; captured, February 6, 1864, at Charleston, Va.; died of disease, September 15, 1864, at Andersonville, Ga.; prior service, in the Third New York Artillery.
² Charles Fitzsimmons —Age, 28 years. Enrolled, September 18, 1863, at Troy; mustered in as lieutenant colonel, September 18, 1863, to serve three years; wounded at Ashby’s Gap, July 19, 1864; mustered out, June 25, 1866, per Special Orders Nos. 8 and 13, Headquarters district of the Platte; prior service as major in Third New York Cavalry. Com- missioned lieutenant colonel, November 20, 1863, with rank from September 18, 1803, original; colonel, November 28, 1865, with rank from September 9, 1865, vice Tibbitts, mustered out; not mustered.