1863-64: Charles William Hobbs to Louisa J. Richardson

Unknown Sgt. in 13th New Hampshire

Unknown Sgt. in 13th New Hampshire

These thirteen letters were written by Corp. Charles William Hobbs (1844-1924) of Company I, 13th New Hampshire Infantry. Charles was the son of Moody Hobbs (1809-18xx) and Elizabeth P. Spofford (1815-1863) of Pelham, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire. In 1863 Moody Hobbs was a State Senator, a Selectman, surveyor and a lawyer without a license. He was Pelham’s leading citizen.

Charles married Sarah Abbie Jane Sleeper (1849-1925) in 1870. His obituary was published in the 22 April 1924 issue of the Boston Herald: “Charles W. Hobbs, a native and life-long resident of Pelham, died today, nearly 80 years of age. He was a civil war veteran and had been state commander of the Grand Army. He is survived by his widow and seven children.”

Charles wrote the letters to his friend, Louisa Richardson (b. 1846), the daughter of John & Louisa Richardson of Pelham, New Hampshire. She married Winfield S. Hughes in 1878.

Some of the letters were written from Columbian College Hospital on Fourteenth Street in Washington D. C. — within easy walking distance of the U.S. Capitol. The central building of Columbian College was a large structure for classes and boarding up to 100 students. Commandeered by the Army, the main structure squeezed over 800 men into the wards.


1862 Letter

1862 Letter

Addressed to Miss Louisa J. Richardson, Pelham, New Hampshire

Camp Chase, Virginia
Sunday, October 12th 1862

Dear Louisa,

Here we are encamped on the sacred soil of “Old Virginia” and are enjoying ourselves as well as can be expected in such a miserable place. We had a splendid time coming on till we left Philadelphia and from there we didn’t have so splendid a time. Our ride from Norwich to Jersey City on the steamboat was splendid but some of the rides in the freight cars rather annihilated the pleasant feelings about the boat ride. We took the steamboat the first night after leaving Nashua and git to Philadelphia the second night and had a splendid time there and got to Washington the third night and had a splendid time there sleeping on the ground among the hogs — or not exactly among, but they were all round us. Slept as sound there, however, as I ever did at home.

Washington is a dull place I should think by what I saw of it. When we got to Baltimore, the negroes began to show themselves and of all the infernal-looking beings — they beat them all. If half a dozen of them get round a person, they will change the lightest day to the darkest night. To all appearances, charcoal is a light-colored substance compared to the color of these niggers.

Thursday we took our line of march to Arlington Heights, passed the rebel Gen. Lee’s former residence, and got to our stopping place about 8 o’clock when we rolled up in our blankets and tried the hard ground again.

Friday we moved our camp about half a mile & pitched our tents and slept under cover Friday night. There are thousands upon thousands of troops encamped in the hills round here and a hot time of it the rebels will have when they take Washington.

I used to think Pelham was a rather dull miserable place but I don’t see it so now. I shouldn’t mind being in Old Pelham for a few minutes just at the present time. We have got to drill 8 hours today (Sunday) and are to have 40 rounds of cartridges dealt out. We are in Gen. Casey’s Brigade and they say his brigade is under marching orders. I hope it is.

If you can read this letter, you can do better than I can. I am writing as I lay on the ground with my old knapsack for a table. A good many of the boys are homesick or are sick of war — I don’t know which. I ain’t very far gone that way yet but I will own I should like to see some of the Pelham people and the first one I should want to see would be a certain friend of mine (or I hope she is my friend) who lives not far from where this letter will go. Now, Louisa, I want you to write me a good long letter and I want you to excuse this one for there are so many talking and running round that I can’t write as I feel. I don’t expect I could write anything very interesting & I know I can’t now so I must close.

Write soon, and I remain your humble ‘soger feller’ — Charlie

P.S. Direct if you write to C.W. Hobbs, Co. I, 13th N. H. V.’s, Washington


1863 Letter

1863 Letter

Addressed to Miss Louisa J. Richardson, Pelham, N. H.

Columbian Hospital, Washington
March 22d 1863

Dear Louisa,

I thought I would write to you today as it is some time since I wrote. I got a letter from you a day or two ago that was sent to the regiment and was sent to me from there. It speaks of another letter you wrote and had had no answer. I never got that letter at all so you couldn’t expect me to answer it.

I thought you had got mad at me for something and wasn’t going to write anymore but I had a letter from Nell and got a good jaw for not writing to you so I thought I would write but I think you can’t read this for the ink is good for nothing. In the letter that I got from you, you said that you was at Lawrence and supposed that I would be surprised at the postmark and would be wondering who I had got a letter from. You must think me foolish if I don’t know your handwriting by this time. I can tell it as far as I can see it, but I shan’t know it long if you don’t write to me pretty soon for I shall forget how it looks without I look at some of my old letters.

It is a splendid day here and I am glad to see the sun again. It is warm enough plenty and it was cold enough yesterday plenty. How did your candy scrape come out? I wish I never had got to go through any worse scrape than a candy scrape. There is more fun in having a candy scrape in the evening than there is in having a picket scrape such as we used to have “over the river.” Grand quotation.

In the letter that I had from Nell, it seemed as if Bill T. and Geo. B. (poetry) were quite intimate — same as S. Y. L. and Clarence G. used to be. Nell is a queer girl. She has too many “strings to her bow” to have any of them good for anything. What think you? Don’t tell her I said so though.

I should like to drop into Old Pelham for an hour or two just to see if you would know me. I guess you wouldn’t.

This hospital was formerly a college and was owned by a lot of Southerners — Jeff Davis included — so we are occupying Reb property.

I hear you have got some new neighbors. How do you like them? So little Katie is gone. I can’t see what you will do.

Where is Kate Garrigan now? I haven’t heard from her since she left our house. Do you know where she is? You must write me a good long letter as soon as you get this (now do).

There is no news to write as you have found out by this time. Now 2 o’clock P.M. The thermometer stands at 60 degrees in the shade so you can tell that it is pretty warm for this time of the year.

Write soon and long. Yours truly, — C. W. H.



Addressed to Miss L. J. Richardson, Pelham, New Hampshire

Columbian College during the Civil War

Columbian College (in background) during the Civil War

Columbian Hospital, Washington [D.C.]
April 15, [1863]

Dear Lou,

I received your letter this morning and will begin an answer this afternoon. A very interesting letter it will be too. You needn’t take any hints from me for I don’t know enough to give a hint. You think I had ought to be whipped by you for not writing to Nell. Well if you or Nell or both of you can whip me, all you have got to do is to come on. I’m ready for you. Aint this a beautiful, delicate sheet of note paper — just the right size to send to a lady on, don’t you think so?

We have had a number of very fine pleasant days but today it is an awful, mean, horrid, rainy day.

Now I didn’t say I hoped you would break your neck but I said that I came near getting a whipping for asking you about that boat ride. But I ain’t afraid of you now — that is, not a great deal. I hear that my name is put down to do duty round the Hospital as he thinks I an’t able to go to the field. Well, I guess he is right there, but he won’t keep me a great while after I am able. I am tired of staying in a hospital.

We enjoy ourselves here pretty well but there isn’t the excitement that there is with a regiment in the field. I thought before I came here that almost any place was better that the regiment, but I have changed my mind. The nurse on this ward is a nice, lively woman — always having some fun going on and the boys are all such lively fellows and we have some good times. The doctor is calling us to supper and I won’t write any more now. Well, I have been to supper and brought up the sick men’s supper and gave it to them and now I will write a little more. Wouldn’t you like the kind of rations we get? Hardly, I think.

It has been rainy all day today but it looks a little as if it might clear off tonight. I hope it will for it is awful dull here this dull weather.

You needn’t be afraid of my finding fault with your letters and I don’t want to say anything about their being long for you can’t write a letter that is too long if you try. I want you to try every time you write though. And as for reading and copying, don’t do it for if you dislike to read over your own letters as bad as I do mine, you never would do it. It is something I won’t do so we are alike on that. If you follow my example as to the length of letters this time, you will write a long one.

You think I had ought to be whipped for the letter I wrote Nell but if you had seen the one she wrote to me, you wouldn’t say I do it justice nor half either. She did write the awfullest letter that ever I saw in my life. Well, I anoint afraid to write just what I think and more too to her. Well if she is my cousin, she is a nice girl and don’t want to have her get ____ me in earnest. Enough, you will say, and I think so too. Write soon and long, yours as ever, — Charles H.

Afternoon, April 16th

I didn’t have time to finish this yesterday and this forenoon they were whitewashing and cleaning my room so I could’t write. I guess you will wish something would hinder me from writing any more.

There is a great time here now. They are giving the whole house a “spring cleaning” and I shall be glad when they are done. I have broke my best pen and I am writing now with one that is just as good as a white pine stick and no better.

How would you like to go to a party at Anna Gage’s again? I remember of having a good time there on more than one occasion. I wonder if “Old Tige” has fell into “Beaver Brook” since last Spring. Is it in remembrance of the famous boat ride that you and the “Sleeper girls” took once on a time that you call it the “dear old brook?” Wasn’t it fun to draw that boat up stream. I remember once I hoped you wouldn’t. Either I made a mistake in writing it or you did in reading. Why just think how anyone would look with their neck broke and then it couldn’t be good. Won’t you & Nell have good times if you have to work as hard as you can and then be half starved. That would be very pleasant. I can imagine how you and Nell would look if you had to work real hard and then go without your supper. Wouldn’t I like to see you about that time.

What are you going to do down at Reading? (Keeping school?) You rather come down on me about doing nothing. I have all I want to do and shall have till I am able to go to my regiment in watching with sick and dying men. That is some work but no so very pleasant. You at home may think that only those in the field are doing anything for the contribute if you could come into some hospital, you would see that there is something to do there as well as in the field.

There has three men died this ward since I came here — one of them from my regiment, and one from it in the next ward. He belonged to my company. There is enough to do here but I don’t like to do it.

There is no more notice taken after men’s dying here than there is a killing a fly at home or not much more at any rate. You say Mr. Merrill has gone now. There is one thing for certain, that is I never liked him. I don’t know the reason but it seemed to me had too much “blarney.” Well I suppose I shall get a good thrashing for that so far as you can do it with a pen. Well, I an’t afraid of you so long as you can’t reach me with a stick, but if I was within your reach, I’d surrender the first thing.

___  just came up from supper a little slice of bread since lasses and tea was the bill of fare. I wish you could drink a cup of the tea they have here. It is made out of meadow haying awful poor at that. I can’t drink it. I just wish O. was where he had ought to be if there can’t a letter go through the P.O. without his reading it. Now for myself, I don’t care but it ain’t very pleasant to have all a fellow’s letters read for the edification of the whole town by him. I suppose he can tell just how many letters I have wrote to you and how many you have wrote to me. Well, if you go to Reading, our letters won’t have to pass through his hands. That’s some consolation, ain’t it? But I reckon I shan’t have a chance to write many letters to that place for you won’t stay there long. That is my opinion and you see if I an’t about right.

It is raining still and I guess it never will quit. I have been all over the Capitol and Smithsonian Institute and saw some very handsome sights. I wish you was here to go see them with me. I am sorry you have been sick and am glad you aren’t dangerously so but I am afraid you will be homesick before you have been away from home a week. Now write and tell me if you ain’t homesick and be sure you tell the truth.

Miss Snow, the nurse, just looked in and said give my respects to her. Says I, “I will.”

Now write something odd for me to tell her, won’t you? I wish you could see my room. It is about 3 feet long and 6 inches wide — more or less. They call it a dormitory. You know it is in a college.

Write soon. From your friend, — Charles



Addressed to Miss Louisa J. Richardson, Pelham, N. H.

Columbian Hospital, Washington [D. C.]
[Friday] June 5th 1863

Dear Louisa,

I received your last two letters in due season and I will write you a few lines now. It took me very much by surprise to hear of my Mother’s death. I didn’t know that she was sick till I heard that she was dead. I can’t hardly believe that it is true. Well, I hope she is better off than she ever was before.

Yesterday I got a pass and went to see Eddie Burnham. ¹ Went in the first place to Alexandria and up across the country to the camp where he is. Sidney Lyon ² went with me. In the first place we got a pass to from the Provost Marshal of Washington to visit Alexandria and there got a pass from the Provost Marshal of Alexandria to visit the camp. We went out there and found him all right. Then we went back and staid all night at Alexandria and came up here this morning.

This afternoon, Sidney started for home. He has got his discharge. I suppose there will be no harm to tell of it as he will be at home by the time you get this. He wanted me to keep still about his going home as he wanted to surprise his folks. I expected you would be at Reading at work before this time. Weren’t you going?

I had a letter from Nell some time ago and I think I will wait a few days before I answer it the same as she did. It has been quite pleasant here for some time but it looks now as if it would rain.

I wish about 40 times a day that I was with the regiment ³ but I can’t go as I know of. I am in hopes to get a chance to go. I don’t like the name of staying around the hospital when I am well and I am pretty well now. I tried to get the doctor to let me go a few days ago but he said he couldn’t.

Thank you for your kind letter. I can’t write much more this time. Write soon and a good long letter.

Your friend as ever, — Charles W. H.

¹ Edwin S. Burnham enlisted in Co. I, 13th New Hampshire, at age 21 on 20 September 1862 at Pelham.

² Sydney J. Lyon enlisted in Co. I, 13th New Hampshire, at age 18 on 23 September 1862 at Pelham. He was discharged for disability at Washington D. C. on 25 May 1863.

³ At the time this letter was written in June 1863, the 13th New Hampshire Regiment was encamped at Camp Bowers between three and four miles from Portsmouth, Virginia.


Addressed to Miss L. J. Richardson, Pelham, New Hampshire

Columbian Hospital [Washington, D. C.]
July 20 [1863]

Dear Louisa,

I received your letter in due season and must beg your pardon for not answering it before but if you knew all the circumstances, I know you would grant it. The next time I will do better.

It is quite a pleasant day but it has been rainy & unpleasant for some time. The 4th [of July] passed off here very well. We had speeches, singing &c. in the day and fireworks in the evening. The soldiers not contented with the fireworks they had been through amused themselves by firing rockets and other kinds of fireworks at each other and on the whole we had quite a lively time. But we didn’t have as many plays as we did last year over to Island Pond. I thought of Island Pond and of some of those that were there a good many times on our Hospital 4th. Was there any celebration in town on the 4th or was everything quiet?

There seems to be something of a stir at the North on account of the draft and I am expecting to hear of a row in Pelham. I should like to see a few in that town have to come out here and fight for their country.

I have been trying to get sent to my regiment but the doctor wouldn’t let me go so I have had to stay but I will go soon — that is, as soon as we get paid off. I have said a number of times that I expected to go (and so I did) but now I say I will go and we’ll see how it turns out.

I hope you had a good time this 4th and I want you to write to me and let me know how it was. I have been quite sick for some time but am better now & that is what has kept me from writing for so long a time. Now Louisa, don’t you keep me waiting for a letter as long as I have kept you for if you do I shall be almost mad and if you are just vexed on account of my not writing, I’ll make it all right when I get home. A good deal of consolation, ain’t it?

It is getting to be about the time of year for you to take one of your famous boat rides on Beaver Brook. If you do take one this year, you must let me know of it and give me the full particulars of your adventure.

A lot of the Invalid Detachment have gone to Philadelphia & New York to enforce the draft and a number from this hospital with them and I didn’t know but what they would stick me in with them and send me off but they didn’t.

I suppose Sidney Lyons is getting along well and will you tell him that I wrote to you and wanted you to tell him that I was expecting that letter from him that he promised me? You need not tell him without you are a mind to. That is kind in me, isn’t it?

Do you ever hear from Ed & Will B or don’t they write home any often than I do.

I got a letter from Nellie the same day that I got yours & she told me that Josie Bright was sick. Is she any better now? Tell Nellie that I am going to write to her soon. I don’t see as there is anything interesting in this and I don’t think of anything more so I will wind up.

Now write to me as soon as you get this and I will answer your next in good season. Write a long letter. You can’t write too long a one for me.

Yours ever, — Charles W. H.



Addressed to Miss Louisa J. Richards, Biddleford, Maine
Care of Stephen Everett, Esq.

Columbian Hospital, Washington [D. C.]
August 15th [1863]

Dear Louisa,

I received your letter in due season and will try and write a few lines to you today. You say that you heard that I was coming home. Now what puzzles me is how anyone should get up such an absurd story. I shan’t go home till my time is out, you may be sure. You think I had better come home and see if I don’t get well in a few days. I know I should but that don’t help me any about going home. I can’t go without I desert and I don’t want to do that for I don’t think being shot, or to have to work on the Rip Raps with a ball & chain on my leg would be good for my health.

I think you must be in a very pretty place by your description of it. I think that it must be a prettier place to spend the summer than what Reading would be. You and Nell, I am afraid, didn’t make much by your summer’s work there, did you? I am glad that you took up with my advice and didn’t go there to work.

I suppose that you have pretty hot weather where you are and if it isn’t hot here, I don’t know what hot weather is. It seems too hot to move. It is pretty hot this morning but not quite as bad as it has been some days. Ever since the first of this month it has been terrible hot & a good many times I have wished I was in a Christian country for all this heathenish hole. But it does no good to wish. All I can do is take things as they come.

I was in hopes to have been with the regiment a month ago but just as I began to feel well enough to go, I was taken down again and as soon as there is any such thing as getting there, I shall go so as not to get cheated out of it this time.

You say you think you would know me if you should see me but I think you wouldn’t for I am about as fat as a shark just now. You might call me skeleton as well as anything else, but if I could get out of the wilderness I would be all right.

Is the horse that you brag so much about any better to drive than Mr. Couilliard’s used to be? I suppose now if you take a horseback ride that your father don’t have to go ½ a mile or a mile after you so as to get you home.

When do you think the war will wind up? I think the war for the Union is near an end. I don’t know how long the soldiers will have to fight for the nigs but what I fight for them will do them a good deal of good.

Write soon as possible and I’ll answer as soon as I get to the regiment. I said in my last that I would go now. I say I will if I can.

Write soon. Yours as ever, — C. W. H.


1863 Letter

1863 Letter

Addressed to Miss Louisa J. Richardson, Pelham, N. H.

Camp Gilmore near Portsmouth, Va.
September 15th 1863

Dear Louisa

I will write a few lines to you to let you know that I am still alive and  you will see by this that I have arrived at the haven of my hopes — that is the regiment. Well I am with it and I am glad of it. It seems almost like getting home only not half so good.

I got a letter from you about a year ago, I should think it was. At any rate, it was just before I left the hospital and I have not had a chance to be where I could write to you and stand any kind of a chance to get an answer. I have been through Washington Convalescent and Distribution Camp, from there to Alexandria, then down the Potomac to Point Lookout where we left some of our boatload, thence down the Chesapeake Bay to Fortress Monroe where we went over to Norfolk, by the wreck of the Merrimac and the Rebel Battery at Craney Island that so much was said about at the beginning of the war.

Crossed over to Portsmouth that night and stopped there till the next forenoon when I came up to the regiment which is about 3 miles from Portsmouth and have been pretty hard at work shoveling and shopping since then. We are busy building roads, fortifications, and felling the trees to get a good range for the cannon when the Rebels come.

We have to work like dogs all the time and live worse still. Probably by the time we get these works done, we shall have to leave them and go and build some others somewhere else and let the “nigger” soldiers put their precious bodies behind our entrenchments.

I found most of the boys pretty well when I got here. Willis Burnham is pretty well used up and Frank Butler has been taken sick since then. Frank has the Diphtheria they think but he is gaining now.

This is interesting looking writing and also an interesting letter but I will try and do better the next time.

I heard that you had got home from Biddleford and was going to school the rest of the fall.

I do wish this war would ever wind up so the poor cripples and all of the rest of the soldiers could get home among human beings. I won’t write anymore now but wait till I hear from you. Write as soon as possible. Excuse this for I won’t read it over to see if it is right or wrong.

Yours as ever, — C. W. Hobbs

Direct to Norfolk, Va.

P. S. September 15th

Dear Lou,

I did not send this as soon as I expected but intend to send it in the morning. Frank Butler is some better Will B. is about the same as he has been. Myself the same. Write soon. Yours, — C



Camp Gilmore near Portsmouth, Va.
October 8th 1863

Dear Lou,

Your letter came to me on the 1st and I will begin an answer to it now. You hadn’t ought to scold about my not writing to you for what good was it to write. I didn’t know where you was, or where I should be the next day. In about 2 weeks I was in as many different stopping places as there are days in the week and what was the bother, didn’t know when I was going to change. Will Burnham by this time is at home enjoying himself, I hope. If he don’t enjoy himself while he is at home, he never had ought to have the chance to again. He won’t be as anxious to get out here as he was last year, I reckon.

Pleasant weather now and lots of it. Could spare a little if anybody wanted any.

Conscripts or substitutes came to the Regiment last Sunday and it took all the old men that were here to keep them in camp that night. Quite a number of them have deserted already and some of them are under arrest an in the guardhouse now. ¹ One fellow, they say, has enlisted 6 times and has about $2,000 with him that he has got as different bounties. He says he don’t want to enlist but once more. Well I don’t want to enlist but once more and I think I shan’t enlist for more than 2 more — 3 years in the service.

I should kind of like to enlist in the Home Guards. That is about as good an organization for soldiering as these. It is good fun to be a soldier and board and lodge at home but it ain’t quite as pleasant here. Still I can stand it good if I am only well. But if a fellow feels a little sicj, he thinks of home — or at any rate, I do.

A little more than a year ago I saw you last. That was at Nashua as we started for Washington. Well, I have seen some strange and hard sights in this short time and I suppose I have changed some. Still anyone that ever knew me would know me now, but if I stay out here 3 years, there will be some that won’t know me I guess.

“When this cruel war is over” is the day I am looking for. Won’t there be rejoicing on both sides when it is settled up? But there don’t seem to be as much chance of its closing as there was last year at this time. They might just as well come to some kind of terms now as any time for they have got to come to it on both sides if it ever is going to be settled. One thing is certain — fighting never will settle it.

This regiment seems to be intent to put down this rebellion by chopping and shoveling and now most of them are at work building houses for the officers. I should laugh is we should move just as the Colonel gets his house done. He is having a house built 36 feet long and 28 feet wide and they have spent heaps of labor on it and it ain’t half done yet. The houses are built of logs hewed out in nice shape and our camp looks like a busy village just at present. Carpenters, masons, &c. at work building their houses and chimneys.²

Well, if you can make anything out of this letter, you will do well. Write soon as possible. Yours, — Charles

P. S. You must excuse this kind of paper and envelope but they are all I can get now. — C

¹ A diary entry on 4 October 1863 from Camp Gilmore by a member of the 13th New Hampshire states: “Conscripts to the number of one hundred and eighty-one arrived today and are distributed so as to bring every company up to eighty-five men…Only eleven of those coming today are natives of New Hampshire; the others are from almost every nation on the globe.”

² A diary entry on 5 October 1863 from Camp Gilmore by a member of the 13th New Hampshire states, “Log houses going up all over the plain — hundreds of them — winter quarters. Last night the subs [substitutes] were exceedingly boisterous and half the regiment were needed to keep them in camp and to preserve the peace…” October 17: “Col. Stevens’ house is very spacious and well furnished.”



In this letter, Charles gives a great description of the punishment administered to soldiers in the regiment who were being disciplined for their rowdy behavior. This was meted out primarily to “subs” or or conscripts who had recently joined the regiment and were described by Charles as “some of the worst men I ever saw.”

Addressed to Miss Louisa J. Richardson, Pelham, New Hampshire

Camp Gillmore near Portsmouth, Virginia
October 27th 1863

Dear Louisa,

I received your letter in due season and will write you a few lines this afternoon.

It is a warm, pleasant day — almost too warm to be comfortable this afternoon. But the nights are cold enough to make it all up. I suppose that it is pleasant at home now and I would like to be there to enjoy this fall but that is impossible.

There are so many gone from this company now that there is no chance to get a furlough if a fellow should try and I haven’t any inclination that way yet. Two went from this company on 12 day furloughs this morning and there was 3 already gone so there is no chance for any more at present. I don’t see but what you will have to be disappointed (if it would be any disappointment) about seeing me this fall.

I am sorry to hear that Will B. don’t get any better for I was in hopes that it would do him good to go home. I guess he told some hard stories about my health since he has got home. I allow that I am not very well but I an’t so sick as he would make me out.

I think by your own accounts that if I was to go home I shall lbe likely to find you with a broken neck for you seem to talk as though you was trying to break your neck with that horse of Mr. Wm. C’s. I don’t wonder that your Father says you and Nell will get your necks broke for it is dangerous enough to trust you together afoot to say nothing about getting onto horses.

How do you two get along with Mary R. this fall? Are you as good, attentive scholars as ever?

fretWe are having great times with our “Subs.” They get drunk and get to fighting or some such “deviltry” every day and then they take 4 or 5 of them everyday and fasten logs of wood to their legs and they have to drag them till they get tired out. Yesterday they had one fellow with a barrel on for a coat and a log tied to each leg and he had to travel from 9 in the morning till 5 in the afternoon and if he hadn’t been mightily tough it would have killed him. Most of them are so tough that they can’t be killed. We had before they came a steady, quiet regiment, but now we have got anything but that. There was some of the worst men I ever saw amongst them and a very few good men.

I would like to be at home a little while this fall but I don’t hardly dare to think of it for fear that it will make me homesick. I ain’t at all homesick now and never have been but that don’t make out but what I should like to go home. Still, on some accounts, I should not like to. But enough of home. I quit there and what is more, I ain’t likely to be till my time is out if I live that long.

You will find this interesting, I’m sure, but there is no news to write and I won’t say anything about Frank Butler or Deacon S. this time. Write soon and long and I will try and find some news for my next letter.

Yours ever, — Charles W. H.



Camp near Portsmouth, Va.
April 18th 1864

Dear Louisa,

In my last I said I was going to write to you as soon as I got the regiment and now I begin this. I got here a week ago tonight and the next night we started out on a raid and were gone till Friday. We marched like fury all the time we were gone and by the time we got back, we were a sore set of boys. ¹

Had quite a time coming on here. Got among a pack of thieves and cutthroats and lost some of my things and was some afraid of losing my life for awhile.

We have orders to leave here tomorrow morning and I suppose we shall go to Yorktown and then off towards Richmond.

I wish we could get orders that we should go home. That would suit me full as ell. I never was so mad at anything as I was to think I could have no chance to see you when I was at home. If I had thought it would have been so, I wouldn’t have gone home at all. But everything was against me then.

Well, in some over a year more, I shall be at home again, I hope, and when I get out of this, if anyone catches me letting “Uncle Sam” get me in his clutches, I want them to tell me all about for I shan’t know anything then. They seemed to have great times in Pelham now days and when I went home I went down to the Hall one night and they had a dance as usual to wind up with. It looked natural but it wanted one more face to make it seem like old times. I wonder if we shall ever see any of those good old times again such as there was once? I shall know how to prize them if ever I get home again.

It is fine warm weather here — just nice spring weather — and the evenings make me think of nights “long ago” when you and I used to wander on the banks of Beaver Brook. Now things are changed. You are in the “busy city” and I am far, far away on Virginia’s sacred soil.

In your letter you asked if I remembered the night when I said this war would cost some of my blood. I do and I though so then and think so now, and I expect to be shot this summer but not killed. I have not punished the folks in this world enough yet so I think I will live awhile longer yet. We tried hard to have a fight last week on our raid but we couldn’t catch anybody to fight against us.

We marched 30 miles one day after them. It don’t seem very large to look at (30 miles) but come to go over it, it seems an awful ways.

I don’t hardly know whether to expect an answer to this or not, but I hope I shall and shall look for one till it comes, so write soon and keep me out of suspense.

I wish tonight I might take a ride with you even it it was only to carry Nell home rather than take a walk with Col. Stevens and all his reg’s. I can’t say I like to walk the way I am now — that is, obliged to. It does very well if a fellow only has his choice. Write soon as you get this and if you don’t get letters pretty fast after that, you may think I am amongst the missing.

Direct to me, Co., Regt, &c. Fortress Monroe.

Accept this with much love from Charles H.

Excuse mistake for I have not time to look this over. Yours as ever, C. W. H.

¹ A diary kept by a member of the 13th New Hampshire states that the men were transported by rail to near Magnolia Springs where the disembarked and marched to near Suffolk where they camped. On the 13th of April, they marched into their old campground at Suffolk and stayed there until April 14th when they marched thirty miles with the 23rd and 27th Massachusetts, and the 8th Connecticut, and about 1,700 cavalry. On the 15th of April, they ewre taken on the railroad back to Camp Gilmore at Portsmouth.


1864 Letter

1864 Letter


Camp 13th New Hampshire near Petersburg, Va.
May 18 [1864]

Dear Louisa,

I received your last letter about 2 weeks ago but have not had time to answer till now for we have been fighting about all the time since then and I am thankful that I am able to write now for since then a good many of our boys are beyond writing.

We first went to [Yorktown] from Portsmouth, staid there about two weeks, then took transports, came up the James River, landed at a place called Bermuda Hundred, came here, went out and had a fight a week ago last Saturday, came in and went out again Monday, had another fight, came in Wednesday, went out again Friday and kept fighting till yesterday. Now we have orders to move again and I must stop.

May 23d. Dear Lou. We had to leave and I had not time to write since for the rebs have made a number of attacks on our works and we have to look out for them. One night it was 4 times that we were turned out to repel their attacks. We are at present pretty well fortified and they will have to work hard to drive us out. They occasionally stir us up by throwing a few shell into our camps, but they have not hurt any of our regiment since we have been here.

It was a week ago today (that was last Monday) that we had a pretty hard fight with the Rebs [Battle of Drury’s Bluff] and our brigade gave them a good thrashing but they drove our men on the right of us and we had to fall back. They charged on us 3 or 4 times 4 columns deep but we gave them such a fire that they had to fall back. Our company took 13 prisoners that day. ¹

The Saturday before we were out skirmishing (our company) and had quite a lively time with the Reb sharpshooters. They pelted us hard as we crossed an open field but we were none of us hit. Then we came to some woods and then according to skirmish rules, each man took a tree or stump and watched for them. It is rather exciting business to stand behind a tree, look out to see a reb, and have a bullet plunk into the tree in front. But then it would be our turn to him a crack while he was loading. We were in plain sight of the rebel fort near Drury’s Bluff and when we were skirmishing, were within rifle shot of it.

We have had quite a turn at fighting for the last 2 weeks and I must say I want to see no more of it. We have been under fire 8 days and only lost some 60 men in the regiment. You may want to know who we are under so I will tell. We are in Burnham’s Brigade, Brooks’ Division, Smith’s Corps (the 18th) under Butler.

Enough of war. I wish there was no such thing known. All I want is to get home in safety. Then if I go to war again, I shall do so with the expectation of getting shot. Charlie Philbrick ² (Lucy’s brother) of the 3d had an arm shot off in one of our fights. We have lost none of our company.

You can’t think how much good your last letter done me. It made me feel more like fighting the rebs than ever before. I have seen enough of their works to make one feel rather ferocious towards them. I saw them set the woods on fire where our wounded lay and then fire on us when we went to take them out. That is hardly civilized warfare.

I am too tired to write anymore now so I must close. Write as soon as you can and, if God spares my life through this campaign and I get to a quiet place once more, I will write oftener. But at present you must excuse me if I don’t write so very often. Still I think I shall write as much as you can read. Write soon. Yours as ever, — Chas. W. H.

Direct to Fort Monroe.

¹ A diary kept by a member of the 13th New Hampshire states that the Rebels charged them “three times in rapid succession, each time with three lines of battle — a column six ranks deep — in long, dim, gray lines, with bayonets fixed; a whole rebel Brigade dashing directly upon the front of the Thirteenth at once, and yelling in half impenetrable fog more like bloodhounds than like men. It is  these unearthly yells that make troops nervous sometimes; but they shake no nerves among the men of the Thirteenth this morning; though we stand but one rank deep, we feel sure that we can hold these noisy fellows back, and are going to do it.” 

² Pvt. Charles W. Philbrick (1842-1915) served in Co. F, 4rd New Hampshire Infantry. He was mustered out of the service on 29 September 1864 due to his disability and filed for a disability pension on 17 October 1864. He was the son of Jonathan Philbreck and Olivia Wyman of Pelham, Hillsborough, New Hampshire. For decades after the war, he was a resident of Lowell, Massachusetts, and employed as a messenger at the State House.



Addressed to Miss L. J. Richardson, No. 3 Pemberton Corp, Lawrence, Mass.

18th Army Corps Hospital
September 10th 1864

Dear Louisa,

I will write a few lines to you now as I feel a little better and I want to let you know that I am alive and likely to remain so.

You have probably given up expecting a letter from me but I have not given up writing although it would appear that I had. This is the first letter I have wrote for a month so you must excuse my not writing to you before if you can. I got a letter and paper from you I can’t remember when, but I know I got them, and for a while we had so much fighting &c. to do that I couldn’t get time to answer it, and then we moved to this place (near Bermuda Hundred) ¹ and I was taken sick and have not been able to write at all till now — and I can’t hardly write now. I am getting better every day and shall be well in a little while. I have had a kind of malaria fever, the Dr. says, and it has left me pretty weak. Almost all of the boys have been sick and it came my turn at last. I was in hopes I was going to get through but I got pulled down at the last end.

I can’t write much more now for it has tired me about out writing this much. Write soon and long and I shall be able to write by the time I get a letter from you. I don’t know if you can read this but weakness & sickness must be my excuse.

Write & direct to the Co & Regt same as usual.

Yours as ever, — Charles W. Hobbs

¹ The 13th New Hampshire spent near two months in the front line trenches before Petersburg before moving into Gen. Butler’s fortification north of the Appomattox River on the Bermuda Hundred lines in late August. 



Addressed to Miss Louisa J. Richardson, No 3 Pemberton Corp., Lawrence, Massachusetts
Postmarked Boston, Massachusetts

Gallops Island, Boston Harbor
May 20th 1865
Dear Louisa,

I am going to write a few lines this morning in hopes of getting one of your kind and interesting letters.

I am sick of this being banged around from one place to another without any object [except to] only bang a fellow around. I am lonesome — moreso than I have ever been before since I came into the army. I miss those letters that I used to get from you and I do hope you may take pity on me and write me soon as you get this.

I have wished to get one of your letters but I have been expecting to go away from here every day but there is no show of getting away. O how I do want to get out of this. If they would send me to the regiment, I should be satisfied, but there is no show for that and I am in hopes to get out of this some time.

I don’t know where to direct to you but I will direct it to Lawrence and run the risk. I hope you may get this and do please write for you can’t think how much good it does me to have a letter from you.

When I have been almost disheartened I would get a letter from you and it would seem to give me new life and it seemed easier to do my duty when I thought there was someone who took interest enough in me to write such kind, cheering letters.

Now Lou, you must pardon me for my neglect of writing to you but I should have written but I did not expect to stop here any length of time, and besides, I did not know as you would care about my writing to you. But I will write and if you answer, that is all I care for.

Isn’t it good this winding up of the cruel war? Such a glorious thing has not happened before for a long time. When all the soldiers are home that went from our town, won’t there be a joyful time? I suppose Mr. Woodburr’s folks have started for the West by this time, haven’t they? I have not heard one word about them since I came away and in fact, from no one else.

I will send you in this a little specimen of the seaweed that is plenty round Galloups Island. That is the only thing that is plenty with one exception and the fewer of them the more comfortable it is. I won’t mention any name for them — perhaps you can guess.

We are in sight of Boston and can see Bunker Hill Monument very plain.

Now Lou, I do hope you will write to me as soon as you get this and if you do I shall get your letter before I go away from here. If you write to me, direct to Gallops Island, Boston Harbor, Mass. Goodbye. Ever yours, — Charles W. Hobbs

I’ll send the seaweed on the paper that it was pressed on as it won’t come off very easy without tearing. Write soon. — Charles


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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