This letter was written by Henry K. Pancoast (1844-1912), the son of David G. Pancoast (1819-1891) and Sarah Stiles (1823-1868) of Millville, Cumberland county, New Jersey. Henry enlisted in September 1862 at the age of 18 in Co. B of the 25th New Jersey Infantry—a nine month regiment. I could not find a discharge date for Henry but we know that he spent considerable time away from the regiment, having contracted both the measles and typhoid fever while in the service [see—1863: Somers T. Champion to David G. Pancoast].
The regiment left its camp at Beverly on Oct. 10, 1862, and arrived at Washington on the following day. Going into camp at Capitol hill, it was assigned to the 2nd brigade of Casey’s division, consisting of the 27th N. J., 12th and 13th Vt. and 12th Mass. battery. Col. Derrom being placed in temporary command of the brigade. Acquia creek was reached on Dec. 8, the regiment crossing the Potomac in transports from Liverpool Point, and on the following day proceeding directly to Falmouth, where it was assigned to the 1st brigade, 3d division, 9th army corps. It took a conspicuous part in the battle of Fredericksburg and met with a loss in the conflict of 9 killed, 58 wounded and 18 missing. It also participated in an engagement near Suffolk in May, 1863, in which the behavior of the men was most admirable, the loss of the regiment being 2 killed and 9 wounded. That was the last fight in which the 25th was engaged.
Addressed to Mr. David G. Pancost, Millville, Cumberland County, New Jersey
Postmarked Washington D. C., November 4
November 3, 1862
Dear father and mother,
It is with pleasure that I attempt to write you a few lines to inform you that I am well except my eyes and they are sore. I had the measles but I am well of them except a cold. I have not got my discharge from the hospital yet but I put up in my own tent. Eli, he has got the measles. He has gone to the General Hospital in Washington. Bill, he is there yet. He got cold on the measles so they say. I have not seen him since we come here.
We have moved twice since we left Beverly. We are a moving on towards the enemy. They say that there is a heavy fight on hand and I expect we will be as reserves. The Colonel [Andrew Derrom] ¹ says that we may move on a ways but he says that we will move back here again. He says that we will take up our winter quarters here. We moved here a Saturday and there was ninety thousand men went on to Bulls Run. There is where the fight will be, so they say. I don’t know anything about the Twenty-fourth [24th New Jersey] but they say that they are at Chain Bridge. There has six or seven died in their regiment, so they say. There has none died out of our regiment yet. It has been lucky so far.
There has been a great revival in our regiment. Eli and Will Davis and Will Hand has got religion and several others out of our company. Our regiment has had the praise so far of being the best one that has ever come through Washington yet and the boys wants to keep their name up.
We have a good doctor in our regiment and a nice chaplain. You said that Wesley Adams sent home his certificate. We have not got ours yet but we have been mustered for our pay and expect we will get paid off in the course of a week or two. I expect we will get the certificate then. I will get mine when the rest get theirs.
We are in Virginia. It is a hilly part of the country here but it is a nice place here where we are encamped. It is right down cold here today but it is none too cold for the time a year. I told you that I would not have the measles hard and so I did not unless I get a cold on them but I guess I won’t.
Well I guess I have no more to tell you at present but still remain your son, — Henry K. Pancost ²
Direct as before.
¹ The 25th New Jersey was commanded by Col. Andrew Derrom. The regiment participated in several engagements including the Union loss in the Battle of Fredericksburg and the inconclusive Siege of Suffolk. Despite the losses, Derrom was cited by several of his superiors for exemplary engineering and bridge-building assignments, although ironically his name now appears in Civil War databases incorrectly as “Andrew Derron.” [Wikipedia]
² Note that Henry signed his name “Pancost” and directed the letter to his father in the same way. However, Henry’s military records and the family cemetery records spelled his name “Pancoast.”