1861-62: Newell J. Waterbury to Family

Headstone of N. J. Waterbury

These five letters were written by Newell J. Waterbury (1840-1862) who enlisted in the 9th Independent Wisconsin Light Artillery. The battery was organized at Burlington and mustered into the service on 27 January 1862. They did not move to Camp Utley until mid-March and go to St. Louis until the 20th. In St. Louis they were equipped with a battery of six guns. The battery was sent to Fort Leavenworth and equipped for duty on the plains where they were utilized guarding wagon trains. While stationed at Ft. Lyon, military records reveal that Newell drowned on 8 August 1862 in Bent county, Colorado, just days before the battery was ordered back to Denver.

Newell was the son of Levi Waterbury (1818-1867) and Harriet Northup (1821-1896) of Lenox, Madison county, New York. Siblings mentioned in these letters include Mary Waterbury (1843-1911), Sarah Ann Waterbury (1847-1899) and Charles B. Waterbury (1849-1924).

The first two letters were written at harvest time in 1861 from Union Grove, Wisconsin, where Newell worked for his mother’s cousin, Osro Sidney Northrup (1834-19xx). Osro was married in 1858 to Harriet Goldsworthy.


Union Grove [Racine county, Wisconsin]
September 16, [1861]

We are well as usual this morning and hope this will reach you enjoying the same blessing. I received your letter Saturday. I was glad to hear from you. I have not found a place yet for I have not tried. I am at work for Osro [Sidney Northrup] and expect to work for him a month. It is dull times here and not much work for anyone to do. I think it will be best for you to stay where you are. It will be very difficult to get along here. I think that I shall come back in 2 or 3 months. If you can get a place towards Syracuse or Rochester for 2,500 free from encumbrance, and if Uncle Enoch [Boughton Northrup] will let us have about $1,500 and take a mortgage on the land, I will come back and try and help pay for it and then we will all be together if we do not have to go to war.

Stephen started this morning. He wanted to know when I would meet him. If they begin to draft, I want you to let me know as soon as possible for if either [of us] has to go, I shall go. I have told you what I thought about coming out here. We can get some things here a little cheaper but most things cost as much here as there. Write and let me know what you [do] about getting a place there as soon as you can. I do not think Mary had better come out here unless you all come for I think she would be homesick if she could not come home once in 2 or 3 weeks for there is not much to see around Uncle’s—only the folks to work and once in a while a train of cars and once in a while a wagon. Not more than half as much travel here than there.

I guess I will go to Nathan’s and Polly’s before a great while. If I come back, I guess I shall come that way and so see what I can of the country. Love to all, — N. J. Waterbury



Union Grove [Racine county, Wisconsin]
September 20, 1861

It is getting towards night. It has been a rainy day. I have not done much today U thought I would write a few lines once to let you know that I am here yet but such a day as this has been makes me think of Old Ridgeville when it comes a rainy day. When I was there I used to [visit] some neighbors but here I am not acquainted enough to run around much. Went to the Racine county fair yesterday. It was at the grove. It was the last day of the fair. There was one military company on the ground and several recruiting officers. The company drilled some. They [were] not uniformed yet for they had not been at the rendezvous yet. I had a talk with one of the recruiting officers. He said he was going to open his books today at Burlington 12 miles from here [and] wanted me to come and see him Monday. It is to be [a] flying artillery company. I think some of going in the company unless I hear that they are drafting or are a going to in York State for I had just as soon go from here as there. I do not [want] to go as a drafted man from any state for I should like to have a choice in what company I go in. I had rather go in the artillery than infantry.

Our folks must not feel hard about my going. I know they would rather not but there are a great many that think so. But many of them say if I was young or some other thing for an excuse, I would be in a short time. And if Father will promise to stay at home, I guess I will go and serve in my country’s cause. I have not heard of their buying volunteers out here yet. Tell Freeman I shall look for a letter from him to an answer to the one that I wrote to him. Perhaps some of the rest think I might write to them but can’t write all the time for this is the [first] that I have written this week. I could write more if I was not at work by the month providing I could get the material to do it with. I should like to have as many write as feel disposed but I will not agree to answer them all in one day or week. I expect that when I write a letter that foes to Ridgeville, that all will hear that want if it is not directed directly to them individually. I will write some one there before I leave the state. Write soon.

From your brother, — N. J. Waterbury

P. S. If I come back, I should like to have Father get a place if he can.



November 5, 1861

I am well at present and hope this will reach you enjoying the same blessing. I finished husking corn for [Uncle] Osro one week ago today. He had three hundred and seventy-sen bushels, It was three weeks husking. I worked three weeks for him by the month for twelve dollars per month.

Stephen lost one of his horses last week. I received yours and Uncle’s letter last Monday. I was sorry that you was so unwell [and] hope that you will be better soon. I received the letter that you and Uncle Joseph wrote before Uncle’s folks got home. I sent a paper to you last Thursday or at least put it in the office that day. There was two primers in it for Lillie. When you write, tell me whether you got it.

I came here yesterday and was sworn into the service of the Randall Battery of Flying Artillery. [We] drilled this morning for the first [time]. It is a good company. We have got a good captain. [He] was from York state, received a lieutenant’s commission in the Utica Artillery. I heard him say yesterday that if he wold not have as good a company as went from this state, he did not want to go. Good in morals, There are some professors of religion in the company. It is not full as yet. We are quartered in a building so it is warm enough at present. Probably we shall be here four or five weeks yet and perhaps all winter. The captain is going to Madison to see about blankets and other things the last of this week or first of next. I hope that you will not feel as though I did not want to see you or any of the rest of the folks for I should be glad to see you all. [I] do not want you to feel discouraged [that] I did not come home to help you but perhaps I can help you some where I am. I shall send the [money] to pay that note as soon as I can and as much more as I can.

We are formed in line before our quarters and marched to our boarding hall for we go in and sit down and eat what we want for we do not have any rations in this state. The privates get two or three dollars in addition to the government’s pay for single men and married men gets five dollars in addition to the government’s pay. [Our] post office address will be Burlington, Racine county, Wisconsin.

This will be the best way to direct:

Newell J. Waterbury, Burlington, Racine Co., Wis., Randall Battery

I will send my address to some of the boys so they can write to me if they are disposed to.



Headquarters of Randall Battery
Burlington [Racine county, Wisconsin]
December 22, 1861

Dear Parents, Brothers & Sisters, & Friends,

Sabbath afternoon [and] it is by the Providence of God that we are preserved and to Him we owe the preservation of our health and strength of body and mind four our lives are in His hands and He can very easily destroy us at His pleasure. One of the soldiers preaches in the day quarters this afternoon. His name is Edward Funk. He has studied for a German minister. Part of his discourse is going to be in German so I thought I would stay in our sleeping department and try and write some. The company occupies the upper floor or chamber just as you please to have it of two buildings for sleeping about twenty in one place and from thirty to forty in the other. There are stoves in both places. We generally stay in the quarters where we sleep when we are not drilling.

I received the letter from Father and Mary the tenth and one from Albert the 29 of November, one from David and Freeman the 17th December, and Sarah’s yesterday and one or two more that I have not answered as yet but intend to before long. I have so many letters to write that I hardly know what I am going to write when I sit down to write for it seems to me as if it was the same thing over. But when the folks get tired of reading, let me know and I will wait a few months before I write again. But I shall try and answer all the letters in the course of time. I do not get time to write every day. I have something to do most every day.

December 23, 1861

I went to Uncle’s the fourteenth and stayed until the sixteenth. Osro and Harriet come here to mill so I rode out here with them. They stayed at Mr. Fisk’s over night and went back the next day. They were all well then. Aunt said she would foot [?] my socks for me if I would get some yarn and send it to her. Uncle has finished three pair on sleds and sold them since he got home. He was making a jumper when I was there. They had a donation to Uncle. I [left] the thirteenth for Mr. Dickinson’s. They keep up their Sabbath School this winter. They have quite a large [attendance] this winter. I went to the Methodist Church to meeting in the afternoon. They have had meetings two or three times since it was dedicated. It is quite a large church for the place. I have my washing done at Mr. McKensey’s. I pay from 4 to 5 cents apiece. for washing. He is head cook in the mess house. I help wait on the table most of the time since I have been here and help wash the dishes part of the time. We have more dishes to wash in one day than you do in one week.

You wanted to know what we had for Thanksgiving. We had four stuffed turkeys, 5 or 6 chickens, bread and butter, cheese and potatoes. We had a very good dinner generally. I thought of you at home. There is not a day passes but I think of the folks at Ridgeville. I should like to be at home Christmas and New Years for I think I could spend one day in talking—especially if it was not too long. Perhaps some of the young folks would take time to come and see me and perhaps spend an hour or two in asking questions. Perhaps I should come if I had my uniform and pay from the State if I could get a furlough to come. I am in hopes we shall get our uniforms soon. Perhaps we shall know something about it when the Captain gets back from Madison for I guess he has gone to see the Governor about the uniforms. If I should not come home, perhaps I will send my picture after I get my uniform for the folks say the one I have got here does not look like me.

I have got Mary’s and Sarah’s and Charlie’s picture with me. I should like to [see] the others. Sarah wanted to know where my things were. They are at Osro’s—what I have not got here. I was in hopes I could send my things home before now but do not know when it will be so I can. Am in hopes it will be before long.

We had a good exhibition last night. I had a part in the performance. We acted the piece called “Paddy the Piper.” The house was well filled. We got it up in about a week getting it up. I meant to send for the [rural ?] for you and should if I had the money here. If you do not send for it, I will send for it for you when I get the money. I have not took up all my wages for I thought perhaps I might lose it or spend it foolishly so I left it with Osro. I don’t know as I shall get money enough to pay that note but will send part of it if you want it. Sarah said you had caught one mink. I hope you will catch enough to pay for your flour if no more. You must excuse me if I have wrote the same think over for I have been some time writing this for I have wrote about two pages this morning the 24th of December.

— Newell J. Waterbury



Randall Battery
Burlington [Racine county, Wisconsin]
February 19, 1862

Dear Father and friends one and all,

I received your letter with those pictures the twenty-third of January and was very glad to get the pictures as well as the letter. I should be glad to see the original.  That one of Lillie’s is a good picture. She looks quite cunning, whether she was or not.

We are not discharged. I shall send some money home when we get our pay which I guess will be the first of March. I should have sent some before but I have not received any for military service as yet. Then I want the girls and Charlie to get their pictures taken and send them to me and I intend to send one or two home with my things when we leave the state should we have the good news come for us to go for it would be such to the most of us.

That was not Stephen’s picture with mine. It did not look more like him than a black sheep does like a white one. I guess that Stephen [Adam Northrup] and [his brother] Amzy [Lewis Northrup] ¹ will send theirs when I do mine. I went to the [Union] Grove last Friday and came back on Monday. The folks were well there. There has been several deaths from the measles in that vicinity. There has been a general time of having them. We have not had many cases in the company—none fatal. It numbers  at present time ninety or more—I do not exactly know. I heard a statement read the other night that all the Wisconsin armed troops was ordered to Cairo and the unarmed to St. Louis. If that is so, probably we shall go to St. Louis which I am in hopes is [so] and before long, though the sooner the better if they want us to help them. If not, I hope they will pay us and let us go. Then I will try and do something else.

Aunt Ann said that I might write that Uncle had not got a place for you if you was coming here to work some place. You ought to be here as soon as the middle of March and before if possible. I received a letter from Uncle Joel [Northrup] today, one from Freeman Monday, and the one that you, Mary, and Charley wrote the 31st of January. I have been looking for one from Albert and the girls and one from David also for if I am not mistaken, they all owe me a letter and don’t think I shall write too many of them much oftener than they do to me. Perhaps they think it is a good while before I answer them. If I write every one individually, it makes me about 15 or more letters for me to write to their one to me. But I intend to answer them sometime as long as money holds out. When you write again, let me know how it is about those notes.

— N. J. Waterbury

¹ Brothers Stephen Adam Northrup (1837-1912) and Amzy Lewis Northrup (1839-1863) were born in Lenox, New York and came to Racine county, Wisconsin with their parents about 1856. Their father was Ira Benedict Northrup (1810-1891)—a cousin of Newell’s mother.


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