This letter was written by Abner G. Hill (1840-1911) who enlisted on 3 August 1861 at Honesdale, Pennsylvania as a private in Co. B, 50th New York Engineers. He was later transferred to Co. F in November 1861 and promoted to corporal and sergeant. He re-enlisted in February 1864 and was promoted to artificer in October 1864. He mustered out of the regiment in June 1865 at Fort Barry, Va.
Abner was the son of Alpheus C. Hill (1812-1904) and Almira Gillet (1813-1869). In his later years, Abner resided in Tioga Center, Tioga county, New York and served as the postmaster. He contracted cancer and took his own life in 1911 at the age of 71. His brother Joel Gillet Hill (1845-1919) served in the 15th New York Infantry.
Abner wrote the letter to Warner Preston Knight (1846-1885), the son of Richard Knight (1810-1882) and Cassandra Lakin (1812-1847) of Equinunk, Wayne county, Pennsylvania. Warner married Henrietta M. Hoxie in 1872.
Addressed to Mr. Warner P. Knight, Equinunk, Wayne county, Pennsylvania
Washington D. C.
50th New York [Engineers]
October 30th 1861
Your letter was received some days ago but I have not had time till today to answer it. Today I have not been doing much—only grading our street. I am getting to be a good soldier, I know, for I can shirk as good as the best. I was always inclined to laziness a little but now I am a little more so than ever and I had just a leave die as to go out and work for an hour or two.
When I wrote to you before, we were in Virginia but we have kept advancing until we have got clear back to Washington. I think we shall soon drive the rebels out if we make a few more such advances.
We have been taken out of the third brigade of Infantry and as we suppose, for the purpose of making an engineer regiment of us. But whether such is the case or not, I can’t say yet but probably we shall be accepted as such. We have a very pretty place here for an encampment—only a few rods from the Navy Yard—and we have a fine view of the Potomac for a considerable distance both above & below us. The Maryland shore, which is right opposite of us, makes me think of home some. It looks so like the shores of the Delaware along below the Gap.
We are having very pleasant weather only it is rather cool nights. I dare say the nights are as cold here as they are up there, but it is very war, and pleasant in the daytime. I have no news to write so you must not be disappointed if you don’t get any. But I’ll write a little of everything to fill up the sheet.
There is one thing certain—that if we are accepted as an engineer regiment, we shall not have much fighting to do so I think we shall all return home again. I should like to be home just long enough to eat one meal of buckwheat cakes and molasses and I think I could die contented. The next time you eat “pancakes,” just think of Abner who perhaps is sitting on the ground somewhere with his tin plate & cup & spoon, and a piece of bread and no matter what else he has to eat, is perfectly contented and as happy as a “clam in the mud.”
Sometimes we have a plenty and more than we can eat, and other times a little enough and not enough. But we never complain, or if we do, it is only for a few minutes and then it is all right again. But I fare full as well as I expected.
I have no doubt, Warner, that you feel very bad on account of your girl’s going away and I pity you from the bottom of my heart. But keep a still upper lip, warner, and you’ll come out all right yet. They are a couple of pretty girls, Warner, and not to be sneezed at. Parker Company have not got here yet, I guess. I have not heard anything of them. I think Alma Calder will have a “Bully” school (excuse the word, Warner, but it is so common a saying here that I don’t know what else to say) and if you go, you must be a good boy and keep your nose clean.
Direct your letters the same as usual. We have not got our pay yet but it is said that we shall have it this week with out fail. I hope so for we want it bad enough. Then I can write and pay my postage and be as independent as a “hog on ice.”
Write as soon as convenient and much oblige your friend, — Abner G. Hill
N. Y. 50th Regt., Co. F, Capt. Gilbert