This letter was written by Pvt. James (“Jim”) Andrew Hodsdon (1840-1869) of Co. K, 25th Maine Infantry. Jim was the son of Andrew Hodsdon (1811-1899) and Rachel York (1811-1878) of Pownal, Cumberland County, Maine. He survived the war but died of consumption in July 1869 at the age of 28.
The 25th Maine Infantry was organized in Portland, Maine and mustered in September 29, 1862 for nine months’ service under the command of Colonel Francis Fessenden. The regiment left Maine for Washington, D.C., October 16. Attached to Casey’s Division, Defenses of Washington, to February 1863. 1st Brigade, Casey’s Division, XXII Corps, to April 1863. 1st Brigade, Abercrombie’s Division, XXII Corps, to July 1863. Served garrison duty in the defenses of Washington, D.C., October 18, 1862 to March 24, 1863. Moved to Chantilly, Virginia, March 24, and on picket duty there until June 26. (Temporarily attached to XII Corps, Army of the Potomac.) Moved to Arlington Heights June 26, then ordered home June 30. The 25th Maine Infantry mustered out of service July 10, 1863. Some of its members later joined the 30th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment.
Pvt. Hodsdon wrote the letter to his cousin, Hannah Elizabeth Hodsdon (b. 1843), the daughter of Ezekiel Hinckley Hodsdon (1817-1897) and Elizabeth Esther Prince (1819-1879) from Falmouth, Cumberland County, Maine.
May 29th 1863
I now seat myself under an old oak tree in the beautiful wood of Va. to endeavor if possible to write you a few lines but I guess I can’t for I am about played out for something to write. (I am afraid I commenced on too high a key for I see I have fallen off considerable from the commencement.) I am well and as ugly as ever. Oh, I forgot to mention that I got your letter of the 17th in due season. I always commence at the wrong end of a piece of work. I expect if I were going to get married I should commence at the wrong end — i.e., engage the minister before I did the — well you know what. There is no need of my mentioning it here.
You asked if we were in the fight [at Chancellorsville]. No, we are further from Fredericksburg than we were when at Washington and more than that, Hooker has now but three-year regiments in his army.
I hear [there] was a sad axerdant [accident] happened on our picket line the other day. While a man (belonging to the 27th [Maine] Regiment) was drawing a charge from his gun, it went off shooting the rammer, ball, ball screw, and four feet of rope through his body. He lived twenty-four hours, then died. ¹
I am much obliged to you for the paper and envelope although I had a plenty. I suppose you meant alright. If you did not, I shan’t take any offense from it. Please excuse this very bad script for you know I was always a little below par.
Write again soon.
Yours truly, — Jim
¹ There were a total of 949 men listed on the muster rolls for the 27th Maine. During their service, the regiment lost nineteen men by disease and one was killed by the accidental discharge of his musket. The soldier’s name was Pvt. Seth M Sylvester (1835-1863) of Co E., a 28 year-old married farmer from Sanford, Maine. He was married to Mary Abby Ricker in November 1859 and had one daughter, Flora Etta Sylvester (b. 1861). Height: 5′ 7 Eyes: Bl Hair: S Complexion: F — Killed in musket accident, 28 May 1863. He is buried in Jacobs Cemetery in Sanford, Maine.