These five letters were written by Charles Frederic Brayton (1843-1916), the son Shubael F. Brayton (b. 1812) and Mary M. Bunker (b. 1820) of New Bedford, Bristol county, Massachusetts. Charles was working as an apothecary in New Bedford when he enlisted to serve 9 months in Co. E, 3rd Massachusetts Infantry. Though he was a private, he apparently was detailed to assist the regimental surgeons in the hospital applying his apothecary skills in treating the ill soldiers. He mustered out with the regiment in June 1863 but later re-enlisted in the 15th Massachusetts Infantry and was promoted to sergeant before mustering out in June 1865.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Camp Richmond ¹
November 30, 1862
I improve the opportunity by writing. We have just come in from Regimental Inspection by the Colonel. It takes about 2 hours to go through the routine, musket, knapsack, haversack, and canteen. It is the only thing I dislike in the military life for I only have Sunday to clean up for I am busy the rest of the week. My opinion is that I had not ought to go on inspection but then that is the orders, and obey orders if you break [ ]—that is my motto and so far I have had an easy time of it by doing what I thought was right.
I am still in with the Quartermaster and go down the railroad every day or every other day. I shouldn’t wonder that I was employed for the rest of the 7 months. I expect the regiment will be broke up. Company I—that is the Fairhaven company—is going up to Plymouth which is about 160 miles from here. There is a report that we are going to do guard duty down to Morehead City or Beaufort but I don’t know how true it is. At least we have not been joined to any brigade and the rest of the 9 months troops have been put in brigades but you must not make up your mind as it being true. Anyhow we have the poorest muskets of any regiment out here and that is the only reason I have for breaking up the regiment and guarding these towns. There is any quantity of rumors in camp. To tell them all, it would take 3 or 4 days to write it all for every one that comes in the tent has a new rumor.
We are looking every day now for the mail. It was due 3 or 4 days ago. The Pay Master is supposed to be aboard the vessel and that is what makes the boys look so anxious for the steamer.
We had a splendid dinner Thanksgiving. We had 6 turkeys, 6 geese, 5 chickens which cost us $20 and a beautiful stew we had. It tasted as good as any I ever had to home. Anyhow, I had 3 plates full. You may laugh because they made a stew out of them. It was the only way we could cook it conveniently. I suppose you was thinking that we had nothing but hard bread and meat. Thanksgiving is made a holiday in the army—at least Major Gen. Foster gave the orders for services in the morning and pleasure in the afternoon so we had no drills during the day. At the close of the afternoon we had a mock Dress Parade. The sergeant major acted as colonel. The quartermaster sergeant as lieut.-colonel. and sergeants as captains and lieutenants in our company. E____ ___ was captain. Jim ___son was lieutenant. The officers was spectators and said that we done better than on the regular Dress Parade. In the evening we went and serenaded the captain [John A. Hawes] and he called us in and treated to apples. We generally have taps at 8 o’clock but being a holiday, [ ] the next camp to us the 44th Massachusetts. There was one company that raised $100 for a dinner. As a general thing, the whole regiment had a great dinner. Tables spread and invited their officers in to dine with them. In the evening they had a dance and kept it up till 12 o’clock. Our Colonel, Lieut.-Colonel, and Major had an invitation over. I had as good a time Thanksgiving as I ever had to home.
It is reported that 2 more regiments have arrived at Morehead City. I expect they are going to get a large force and then attack G____ton or Wilmington. I see by the papers that Gen. McClellan has been superseded by Gen. Burnside. I am afraid he has got more than he can take care of. He will find that it is not so easy to handle 150,000 men as it does 15,000 men although I hope he will do something. It is reported from Southern papers that Fredericksburg is taken. If it is, they will soon attack Richmond.
I have just come in from Meeting. The Meeting holds about ¾ of an hour. Mr. [Charles A.] Snow is a young preacher but is pretty smart. Capt. [George R.] Hurlbut attends all the meetings and talks in the prayer meetings. I saw at the Meeting Capt. Bailey of the Millinotset [?]. He is in here with apples, [ ] &c. from [ ]. I wrote to grandfather Thanksgiving night. I wrote 7 pages to him. I gave him an abstract of things around here. The next time you write, I wish you would send me his address so I may know whether I direct them right.
Charles Tobey ² sends his respects to you. Remember me to all enquiring friends and send me some postage stamps every time you write. You must excuse the writing for I try to give and abstract of things that occur during the week. From your son, — Charles F. Brayton
¹ Camp Richmond was named after the commanding officer of the 3rd Massachusetts Infantry, Col. Silas P. Richmond.
² Charles H. Tobey was a sergeant in Co. E, 3rd Massachusetts. He was from New Bedford. He later served in the 58th Massachusetts Infantry.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
December 7, 1862
Another mail arrived this morning and I received a letter of the 30th which I now answer. Every Sunday morning we have to go on inspection which is 10 o’clock and lasts about an hour. After that there is nothing to do till Dress Parade which is at ½ past 4. You say that I ought to write a little every day but if you was here you would think different for we drill about 5 hours a day and what little time there is we take to clean our muskets. Those we have to keep as clean as a pin for if the Capt. should find any dirt, we would be sent to our quarters to clean them but if I am in guard or picket, I may get a few moments to write a few lines. And another thing, there is not much news out here. The 3-year boys say that they don’t write so much as they did when they first came out for the very reason that there is no news of importance out here.
I am sorry to hear that Grandmother is so slim. I am afraid that she will not stand it long by the way you write. Give her my respects and tell her I will try and write to her.
How does George B. look with a beaver on? I had a letter from Martin and he said that he wore a beaver. If I was to home, I should have to wear one so to be in style.
Walter was up to camp yesterday. He is 2d Lieut. of the company. Lieut. Lary has resigned and Walter will probably get the commission in 3 or 4 weeks. Their Colonel has resigned and the other officer will be promoted and expect Capt. Hart will be Major. If so, Walter will be 1st Lieutenant. He wished to be remembered the next time I wrote. Fred Maxwell ¹ just came in the tent with a pipe in his mouth. He sends his respects and says he likes war first rate. By the way, I have not got to smoking yet. I think I stand it pretty well when most every one in the tent smokes.
I suppose it is pretty cold with you now. It is with us. Last night was the coldest night we have had since we been here. Ice made over an inch thick which is pretty cold for this place.
Give my respects to the folks on 2d Street and also to Grandfather the next time you write. Give my love to the children and Aunt Sue, and all enquiring friends and I must close for it is time for our regular bake beans.
From your son, — Chas. F. Brayton
¹ Frederic T. Maxwell [Maxfield] was a private in Co. E, 3rd Massachusetts Infantry. He was from New Bedford.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE
April 6, 1863
Hearing that the mail closes this afternoon, I thought I would drop a few lines.
Well all I can say my health still continues good and also my appetite so that I can eat my own ration of roast beef and potatoes, such as we had for dinner yesterday.
The weather with us today is warm and pleasant. This morning when I arose, it seemed like a morning in May, but before, since the month came in, it has been cold, the wind blowing all the tie and seemed more like March than April. I think now that we will begin to see warm weather.
Yesterday George Allen (the Ward Master) and myself thought we would go down and hear Mr. Stone preach, the chaplain of the 45th Mass. He preached in New Bedford at the time the Conference was at the Stone Church. So he had to carry 3 men to the hospital and then we went to Church as we supposed to hear Mr. Stone. Well he had just given out his text as some one came in and asked him to tell the 3rd [Massachusetts] to report to their quarters for they were under marching orders, so George and myself took our caps and started double quick. As quick as we got to camp, everything was in confusion for we were to start in an hour with 3 days rations.
Dr. [Alfred A.] Stocker and Hospital Steward got ready and left for Dr. [Woodbridge R.] Howes and the “Apothecary” to look after those left behind. The regiment started at 5 o’clock for Foster’s Wharf to board transports but when they got there, they had to wait ¾ hour (military necessity) for the transports were not ready just then. A “Dispatch Boat” arrived from Gen. Foster at Little Washington, so the regiment had orders to return to their camp where the “Boys” arrived at ½ past 6, much pleased with their Expedition. Today the regiment is under marching orders to be ready to move at a moment’s warning with 3 days rations cooked and 7 uncooked, but at the same time we may not start at all. If the regiment does go, it is doubtful whether I go or not for Dr. Stocker generally goes, and Dr. Howes stays behind, and when Dr. Howes is left behind, I stay too.
Every regiment in Newbern is under marching orders. I had considerable “Business” this morning at morning call. We had 90 cases, and I tell you I had to “fly around some.” If I had as many prescriptions to put up to home, I should be doing a “big business.” Yesterday we had only 30 cases so you can see what the idea of an Expedition will do. If I was some of them, I would be ashamed of myself. There is one thing I can say—that I never missed a day’s duty while I was with the company. The Major is well and sends his regards to you.
Fred Maxwell just came in and sends his regards. Also Charles Tobey. Give my regards to Aunt Sue and the family. Also to the 2nd Street folks.
So goodbye for this time from your only son, — Chas. F. Brayton, Co. E, 3rd Regt. Mass. Vol. M., Newbern, North Carolina
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FOUR
May 3d 1863
I now improve the time by writing and also let you know how I am getting along. Well my rheumatism has got out of my legs into my feet, and there it has stopped. For how long, I can’t tell you. My feet and ankles are so swelled that I can’t wear my boots so I am wearing the carpet slippers that Phebe gave me. I don’t know what I should do without them.
My feet don’t ache only when I walk so Dr. [Woodbridge R.] Howes has stopped me from attending the morning call and makes me lounge on the bed. Says if I walk on them, it irritate them so he wants me to keep as still as I can, and he thinks I shall soon get over it which I hope I shall. I have lost 10# of flesh, but Dr. Howes says I will gain it again as soon as I get rid of the rheumatism.
I hope to hear that you are all well for I think the family has had their share of sickness.
The weather with us today is very warm indeed. I am sweating like rain while writing here. It is as warm as a day in August, but I think we shall have a thunder shower before night. It looks that way now. I never heard such thunder up North as they have out here.
I don’t think that we will go on another Expedition—our time is so near out—and besides, they are placing the 3 years troops in summer quarters. Some are up to Little Washington; others are guarding the railroad from Newbern to Morehead City, and that looks as if there were not much to be done till next fall, for the Rebels can’t march in hot weather any better than we can.
There has been another Expedition up the railroad. Some of the troops were left at Coir Creek, and the advance went within 10 miles of Kinston. Took 2 batteries and 100 prisoners. This is the report but whether it is true or not, I don’t know. I had a few lines from George Coffin last week. He says they have a beautiful camp side of the railroad and also a cool breeze from the ocean. They are encamped at Carolina City. The city is composed of one Meeting House, 3 houses, 1 store and 2 barns. That is what they call a city out here.
Lieut. Kieth was well and wished to be remembered the next time I wrote to you. Charles Tobey is well and healthy and sends his regards. Remember me to Mary and Susey and to all the family and to all enquiring friends. From your own son, — Charles F. Brayton
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FIVE
May 6, 1863
As the mail closes at ½ past 11 I will try to get a few lines in.
I have just got through with the morning call so I have not much time to write in. Yesterday I had 1 letter from Aunt Sue and last night another mail arrived and I had one from you and 1 from Grandfather. I shall answer his this afternoon. I don’t like the way the mails go. The steamer say will get in tonight and tomorrow at 11 o’clock it goes again which don’t give us much time to write in.
Well I suppose you are anxious to hear from me. I have got over my rheumatism and went on duty this morning the first time for 3 days. I shall get along nicely now, I guess, if I take good care of myself. I am not very stout yet but I am gaining every day and so is my appetite. Dr. [Woodbridge] Howes says he’s got me “all right” and time will bring me where I was before.
He had quite a laugh when I told him what you wrote about medicines—especially “calomel and [?]” for that is something that I have not seen since I’ve been apothecary. It is something that we do not use.
Out time is out the 23rd day of June. That is what came to the Colonel from Washington but whether we will leave here before or after the 23rd, I can’t tell but the talk seems to be that we will leave before the 23rd.
I am surprised to hear that you have not received the money from the [?] for I thought you received it some time ago. I don’t see why the Bedford Office don’t pay if the other offices have.
The weather with us is very warm so that yesterday down in the city the thermometer was 105 in the shade. It is so hot that we have drill from 7 to 8½ in the morning and from 4 to 5½ in the afternoon. So you see they have to take the cool of the day to drill in.
Give my regards to the family and all enquiring friends. You must excuse me for not writing more for I only had ½ an hour.
John Barnett is getting along nicely but I don’t think he will get home before the middle of May. Goodbye for this time.
From your only son, — Chas. F. Brayton