This letter was written by 19 year-old Pvt. James R. McCarrick (1842-1910) who enlisted in Co. I, 34th New York Infantry in June 1861. James’ military record [NY Town Clerk’s Register] states that he participated “in the Seven Days fight on the Peninsula, 2nd Bull Run, and the two battles of Fredericksburg” though another record indicates he had been hospitalized since September 1862 before he was discharged for disability in April 1863.
James was the son of wagon-maker John R. McCarrick and Mary F. Horton of Pulteney, Steuben county, New York. One other family member, Naomi H. McCarrick (1845-1918)—James’ younger sister, is also mentioned in the letter.
Later in life, James worked as a stone mason. By the time of the 1890 Veteran’s Schedule, James had contracted “phthisis”—pulmonary tuberculosis. Miraculously he survived another 20 years.
Curiously the letterhead of this letter bears the pre-printed heading of the 69th Pennsylvania Irish Volunteers. Pvt. McCarrick must have picked up this stationery while the two regiments served together in Gen. Charles P. Stone’s Division earlier in the year.
[Note: This letter is from the collection of Joseph Maghe and is published by express consent.]
Camp on York River
May 10th 1862
It is with pleasure that I write to you today. We moved about 5 miles yesterday and camped. I wrote home to [sister] Naomi yesterday and today I thought I would write to you. I am still well and doing well and I hope this may find you the same.
They hain’t much sign of any fighting now as I can see. They had a fight to Williamsburg and our men whipped them and took 13 hundred prisoners. I tell you, they had it strongly fortified to Yorktown. I should like to know where they would stand [to fight] if they couldn’t stand there. I don’t know where they will stand. It is rumored that [it will be] Richmond but I can’t tell for certain but I hope it is. I think that we will be home by next fall by the ay the thing is a going now.
McClellan was in that fight at Williamsburg and he had two horses shot from under him. I tell you, he is the man for me. You tell them men that don’t like McClellan because he didn’t march his men into Yorktown that they had better come down here and see if they would like it. I think they would sing a different tune.
They had a battle on the Peninsula the other day and our men got cut up pretty bad. There weren’t many white soldiers among the rebels. They was most all Niggers. They cut the throats of our men that was wounded and everyone that comes in camp they hang right up.
There hain’t much news in camp now. I think that I will be home to drive that colt next winter—at least I hope so. The boys are all swell and in good spirits but Perk. ¹ He don’t feel very well.
I sent home $15 and you can put it out on interest if you are a mind to and I can have it when I get home. Write and tell me if you did and who you let have it. Write as soon as you can. From your son, — J. R. McCarrick
To his father John R. McCarrick
¹ Possibly Charles O. Perkins who died of disease at New York City in October 1862.