This letter was written by William Dalzell (1823-1863)—a native of Ireland—who enlisted at the age of 38 to serve three years in Co. C, 142nd New York Infantry. He was mustered in as a first lieutenant on 29 September 1862 but died of disease on 24 August 1863 on Folly Island, South Carolina. He is buried in the Beaufort National Cemetery, Section 4, Grave No. 166.
The 142nd New York Regiment, left New York on October 6, 1862, and served in defense of Washington, D. C., from October 1862, until April 1863; took part in the siege of Suffolk, Virginia (April 16-May 4, 1863); the siege of Battery Wagner, South Carolina (August 9-September 4, 1863); and the bombardment of Fort Sumter (August 17-23, 1863).
Lt. Dalzell wrote the letter to his wife, Elizabeth (“Lizzie”) Caroline Stone (1823-18xx). The couple were married in 1844 in Charlestown, Massachusetts. A collection of 52 letters written by Lt. Dalzell to his wife Lizzy are archived in the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library at Emory University in Atlanta, GA.
[See also—1863: William Dalzell to Elizabeth (Stone) Dalzell written on 4 January 1863 from Camp Davies, Upton Hill, Va.]
Addressed to Mrs. William Dalzell, Waddington, St. Lawrence county, NY
Camp Howland near Cloud’s Mills, Va.
March 8, 1863
I will write you a short letter this afternoon so I can send those rings to the children. They are made of bone and will not stand very hard knocking. Ella’s is clim but made from good bone. It is quite a business with the boys. I have seen quite a handsome penholder made out of bone and slides for neck ties.
It rained this forenoon but this afternoon is very pleasant and warm. This morning the birds was singing beautifully and it was quite spring-like. I was officer of the day yesterday. Got relieved this morning. I am still in command of the company, [John D.] Ransom is on court martial [duty]. Colonel [N. Martin] Curtis has gone home on thirty days furlough. I think he will get married before he comes back. He seems to think we will stay in this department for a long while—we may stay all summer where we are. If we stay in the Department of Washington, I would like to stay in the camp. We have good water and it is high, dry ground, and would be very pleasant in summer.
I wish I could spell as well as you. I would give one hundred dollars if I could. I can write a great deal faster now than when I left home. When I try, I can write a very good hand, and if I could spell good, I could write a good letter and would write a great many more letters than I do. I have considerable writing to do. How did you like the outside of the last letter? I thought it would please the children. It is so seldom that a soldier sees a woman. It is hard to have them look right or left.
I hope you will have a chance to send my things soon for I would like my boots. If they were not made, I would get a pair here. Still I am not very bad off.
I wrote a long letter to father this week. It will please him. I will write to Sarah Ann this week. I will try and get a furlough in the spring if we stay where we are. I don’t know as I can get one but I will try—and try again.
I am glad to see how the minds of the men at the North has turned in favor of putting down this rebellion and England goes in with us—that is, the working class of England. That is what will tell. The thing must be fought out and the rebels put down. I think there will be a call this spring for six hundred thousand more. I would like to see it finished next summer so that we could all go home next fall. I think if the North is united, it will be done.
I am going to Alexandria tomorrow to get some old stumps taken out. I know it will hurt but I must stand it. We get along very well boarding ourselves. We live well and I don’t think it will cost more than eight or nine dollars per month to live. We can get ham for ten cents per lb., potatoes one dollar per bushel, sugar 12 cents, but butter is high. We have paid 40 cents for it from the sutler but we will get it for less at Alexandria.
Little Robert D. Powers ¹ is helping to do our cooking—that is, I help him sometime. But we can do things up brown. We have got a good cook stove that I bought from a farmer the first day we came to this camp. There was a number after it. When I went to his house, they were cooking at it. I expected he would ask five or six dollars for it. I asked him what he would take for the stove. He said he thought it was worth seventy-five cents. I handed him a dollar and took the stove. We can bake potatoes in about twenty minutes but if we move we will have to leave it behind the same as we do a great many other things every time we move.
I wrote very fast. Don’t it look as if I did? When I commenced I thought my letter would be short but I think I will be able to fill it up with sense and nonsense.
J. Burdick ² is not very well. I wish he was at home for he is not good for much here. But you need not say so. Don’t say that I said so, This will do for this time. Goodnight all my precious ones. Kiss Frank for his pa. Your husband, — William
Take good care of the baby. The rain is spattering on our tent again tonight. We are getting our spring rain now.
¹ Robert D. Powers enlisted at age 18 in Co. C, 142nd New York Infantry. He deserted on 9 August 1864 on the expiration of his furlough from Folly Island, South Carolina.
² Jared B. Burdick of Waddington enlisted at age 18 to serve three years in Co. C, 142nd New York. He was wounded in action on 20 May 1864 at Bermuda Hundred and mustered out in June 1865.