These three letters were written by Collins Moulton Chadbourne (1837-1864), the son of Nathan Chadbourne (1793-1860) and Betsy Hooper (1800-1865) of Waterboro, York county, Maine. Colins was 23 years old when he enlisted as a corporal in Co. I, 1st Maine Cavalry on 31 October 1861. He was promoted to sergeant prior to being wounded and captured at Ground Squirrel Bridge, Virginia. He was taken to Andersonville prison where he suffered indescribable horrors only to be released in such poor condition that he died in the hospital at Annapolis, Maryland, on 22 August 1864. Serving with Collins in the 1st Main Cavalry was his brother Paul Chadbourne (1834-1886), who enlisted as a 1st Lieutenant but was promoted to Captain of Co. I when Capt. Cowan resigned his commission in December 1862.
Collins wrote all three of these letters to his older brother, Darling Huntress Chadbourne (1826-1886). “D. H.” was married to Elizabeth J. Hamilton and had at least three children. He was a farmer until 1863 when he relocated to Lawrence, Massachusetts, to work as a machinist in one of the factories. Sometime after 1870 he returned to Maine.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Addressed to Mr. D. H. Chadbourne, Waterboro Center, Maine
September 23, 1862
Undoubtedly you will be sorry to learn that I am in the hospital; yet, it is even so. I have been here 2 weeks & am quite smart now. When brought here I had a right smart fever but the doctor threw it off and you can bet your boy that I didn’t hold on to it when it went for it wasn’t a very pleasant feeling. I should soon regain my strength if I had anything to eat. All I have is white bread (which is the same as rice bread) & tea. This I have 3 times a day. I got out today & brought some cheese and now I guess I shall got it. Of late I have received letters from home quite often which I can assure you is pleasing. The last received was from Mellie.
I was pleased to hear you were getting along so finely with the farm [and] that the crops look so well & promise so bountiful a harvest. Would like to have some of the apples to eat about now for I reckon some of them are pretty good. Peaches are very plenty & when I am with [the] army, get just what I want.
It seems they have had some hard fighting since I have been here. Am sorry I could not have been there. I suppose it is all for the best. I don’t know whether Paul was in the engagement or not but think he was. The best news I have heard for a long time is that they are drafting in Maine. I guess it will make some of them scratch their heads! I would like to have the privilege of drafting the quota of Waterloo. Wouldn’t it do me good?
I suppose you have seen Capt. [Louis O.] Cowan ¹ and learned all about us. I wish he was here in some of these battles! I think it would be quite a sight. We look for him back soon. I have not see Lorenzo Hooper yet.
I find I am getting tired & will close by asking you to write soon & let me know who was drafted and all about it. My love to your wife and the whole family.
Yours respectfully, — Collins M. Chadbourne
¹ Capt. Louis O. Cowan was a 48 year-old editor when he enlisted in Co. I, 1st Maine Cavalry in September 1861. He resigned his commission in December 1862 on account of ill health.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
Camp Bayard, Virginia
Near Belle Plain
April 5, 1863
Some of the boys say it is the “Sabbath Day” and if it is, I will still adhere to my old practice—viz: write all my letters on this day. It don’t make but a little difference when I write for I can write one time as well as another.
Today Paul & myself are enjoying the best of health which I think we know how to value. We have been looking very anxiously the past week for a letter from some of you but up to the present time have been disappointed. As our mail comes in tonight, I think without a doubt one of us shall receive a letter.
Last night it commenced snowing about dark & continued through the night with unrelenting fury. It was a severe, cold storm—the wind being northeast. It has faired away this noon but continues cool. One of our horses that was picketed to the line perished with the cold this morning. It was very much such a storm as we had one year ago this time. I think it rather cool for the Sunny South! However, the snow will disappear by night & I think it will be warmer after this.
I expect you watch the papers with an anxious eye to see if we are not doing something in the way of fighting as we are fighting men! I think the “Army of the Potomac” will do something or attempt it as soon as the traveling will allow of it. I think the army is in a good condition to move & every soldier is anxious to try their strength on the other side of the river. We have perfect confidence in Joe Hooker as our leader & believe that we shall ere long meet the enemy.
Corporal Leonard Webber ¹ left here yesterday morning for Biddleford on a furlough. He thought if it was good sleighing, he should go to Waterboro by the way of our house. If he should do so, I told him I knew you all would be glad to have him call. If he does not, you could see him by calling at his Mother’s in Biddleford.
Paul received the box that the women prepared for us. It was detained so long on the way that the eatables were about spoiled but the socks & gloves will do good service. Tell them we were pleased to receive the box & what articles had not spoiled & think it all for the best that the pies & cakes were in just as bad a state of preservation as they were for we might hurt ourselves eating them, or one of us might got hurt seeing who should have the last piece &c. &c.
You wrote to Paul that you thought you should go West or somewhere this spring. If you leave Joseph, he will have to get some good hand sure. If your health would admit of it, I hoped you would remain with him but if it will not, why of course we cannot ask you to remain. Write how & give us all the news. Love to all, — Collins
(Sunday Eve, 8 o’clock)
I have waited for the arrival of the mail & was pleased to receive a letter from Mellie written one week ago today. She writes that Mother is not very well. Hope as spring advances her health will improve.
Tell Mellie I will answer it soon. I forgot to mention that had it been pleasant today, our Brigade would have been reviewed by the President & Gen. Hooker. Great disappointment!! Nothing more this time.
P. S. We expect to be paid off this week. Government is owing us 5 months pay. Yours affectionately, — Collins
¹ Leonard Webber was a 22 year old “manufacturer” in Biddleford when he enlisted in September 1861 in Co. I, 1st Maine Cavalry. He rose to the rank of sergeant before mustering out in June 1865.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE
At Home [Waterboro, Maine]
February 7, 1864
I guess you will be somewhat surprised to hear from me at Old Waterboro but then strange things will happen sometimes. After waiting so long a time for my furlough, it arrived. I received it last Monday & started Tuesday. I traveled day & night & arrived at home Thursday night at dusk. Found the folks all enjoying the best of health and of course looking for me, although they knew not when I should come.
I left Paul & all the rest of the boys right smart. I was very anxious to get home and did not make any stop at any place, I wanted very much to see you & family but thought I would not call until my return to the seat of war, which will be the last of the month. I have not been round any as yet. Have not see Harriet and family or Lizzie.
We are having about a foot of snow & it is first rate sleighing. I intend to improve it as soon as I can get rested.
Monday, 8th — We had so much company yesterday I could not finish this letter & now I will try it again. Harriet & family were over yesterday & spent the day. Lizzie & family are here today. All are well & doing well. As I said before, I shall call to see you on my return; think Nellie will go to Boston with me when I go. [Brother] Joseph has gone to Portland today. It is so nice sleighing they have to improve it day & night. Mellie or some of them received a letter from you a few days since.
Hoping to see you soon when I can tell you my war stories better than I can write them, I close. Please remember me to the family. Yours truly, — Collins M. Chadbourne
[to] D. H. Chadbourne