These three letters were written by Dugald Cameron White, Jr. (1840-1921), the son of Dugald White and Diana Wheeler. “Cameron” wrote the letters to his wife Eliza A. Phoenix (1842-1914), the mother of his infant son, Lewis (“Lewy”) White (1864-1882), while serving as a private in Co. D, 13th New York Heavy Artillery. According to the state’s muster roll abstracts, Cameron was drafted on 13 July 1863 when he was 23 years old. He was not discharged from the service until July 1865. His muster roll indicates that he was a farmer by occupation.
The regiment left the State in detachments, the 1st Battalion, Companies A, B, C and D, leaving October 5, 1863; it served as infantry and heavy artillery in the Departments of the East, until it left the State; and of Virginia and North Carolina; the 1st and 2d Battalions in the defenses of Norfolk and Portsmouth, Va., and Newbern, N. C.; the 3d Battalion as a coastguard on board vessels of war along the Atlantic coast. Company C served at Fort Hamilton, New York harbor, from September 12, 1863, to October 5, 1863; Companies A and H as siege artillery in the 3d Division, 18th Corps, Army of the James, from May, 1864, at, and in the forces for the defense of, Bermuda Hundred, Va., from January; 1865; Companies I, K, L and M in the Naval Brigade, Army of the James, from July, 1864.
June 28, 1865, Companies I, K, L and M, and the men of the other companies, whose term of service would expire before October I, 1865, were, under the command of Colonel Howard, honorably discharged and mustered out, the companies named at Norfolk, Va.; the men remaining in service were transferred, June 27, 1865, those of Company E to Companies B, C and G; of F to Companies A, C and D; and of H to Companies A and B, leaving in existence five companies, A, B, C, D and G, which were, July 18, 1865, transferred to the 6th N. Y. Volunteer Artillery, second organization, as Companies H, I, K, L and M, respectively.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Addressed to Mrs. Eliza A. White, Gaines, Tioga county, Pennsylvania
Fort Ringgold, Virginia
June 12th 1864
My dear Eliza,
I will now improve this opportunity of writing a few more lines to you to let you know how I am a getting along at the present time. I am enjoying myself first best considering where I am. I am a long ways from those I love but I think the time will come and not a great while first when I can be with my friends and at home too and the time can’t come any too soon to suit me for you know I am a home boy myself—when I am at home, anyway.
We are still at Fort Ringgold. We think we may stay some time yet. This is not one of the healthiest places I ever was in. There is quite a lot of our company sick. I had another short turn of bloody dysentery but I have got it nearly cured now.
My dear Eliza, I have not had a letter from your honored self in nearly two weeks but I think I shall get one this afternoon. I wrote to Mary this afternoon. I got a letter from you since I have from her. Eliza, I am bound you shall hear from me as often as you want to so I write two or 3 letters a week for the last 2 or 3 weeks so that you could hear from me often. How do you like that? If you do not, I will not offend any more. This is a small threat but I can’t help it. I shall fill it through and would if it was twice as large but I guess it will go in a pinch.
My own dear wife, how I would like to see you this evening. I think you would get some fine kisses from me if not more. Well, I did not get a letter from you this afternoon as I hoped to but I may get one tomorrow. I will wait patiently until the time comes and see how it is. I will not write any more until then. Good evening.
My dear Eliza, I begun this some time ago but got a letter from you saying that you was going to our house the last of that week. Well, I did not finish it until I heard from you. Well, this afternoon I got a letter from you and Mary saying that you had arrived at Shoney. I was glad to hear that your health was some better than it had been. My health is not very good today for I came off guard this morning and I am sleepy and have a headache. Eliza, I hope you will enjoy yourself where you are there and I think you will. Eliza, I sent two letters to you to Pine Creek that you could not of got before you came away for I sent one one day and the other the next so I think you did not get them. Eliza, I think I shall be home by winter if this law passes that they are trying to pass for no drafted men to serve more than one year. If that passes, I shall be home by spring. Anyway, I think this war is a going to close soon.
Everything looks like it now. Eliza, butter in the City of Norfolk is 75 cents a pound. Eliza, they say here now that we will not get paid until next pay day. We ought to have been paid over a month ago. It will soon be time for pay next time in the course of a month. Well, Eliza, give the boy four or five good kisses for me. Eliza, I must close this. Excuse this short and miserable letter and want you to write soon and write a good long letter to your old chum. This from your ever true, — Cameron D. White
To Eliza A. White. Write soon, my dear.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
Fort Hazlett, [near Norfolk,] Virginia
December 15th 1864
My own dear Eliza,
How glad I was to get another letter from you today. I was as much pleased as a boy with a new top. It had been some time since I had got a letter from you. I had wrote several to you since I got one but I got a nice one tonight, I tell you.
Well, my dear, I am still well as usual and was very glad to hear that you and Lewy were better for my dear Eliza, you do not know how much I do think of you. I could not live without you, no way you could fix it.
I am still where I have been for some time. Oh how I would like to see you this evening. I think you would get kissed.
Eliza, did you get the letter in which I asked you to send me Josh’s address for I lost it and would be much obliged to you if you would be so kind as to send it to me once more so I can write to him again. Eliza, you said that they gave you fits about that picture that I sent you and about her being on picket with me. I did not say she was on picket. Her father called for a safeguard on her property and the General sent 6 men there to guard her farm and house and chose me to go once a day to the home to see that the guard was all right. That was all there was of it and as to the girl, she is called as nice a girl as there is in the country around here. Eliza, I am glad you are a sensible woman for do you think I would be mean enough to be running with a girl and a married man and then send my wife her picture? No never. I have too much man about me for that yet. Eliza, I never saw the woman I would give your little finger for yet and I think I have an honest and virtuous wife and I am bound to be as much as a man and I have been too—in thought and actions—and shall always continue the same. Let the others say what they may to the contrary.
Eliza, we look for pay every day and we must get it soon. And if we do, just as soon as I get mine, I will send you $20.00. And if it was not for paying up the last of that 100 to Pa, I would send it all to you. But I shall soon have that finished. Eliza, I do not know whether you get all of my letters or not for I directed some of them to Gaine and some of them to Marshfield for the last letter I got from you before this you said you was going up the river in three or four days and I have wrote two since besides this one and directed them to Marshfield. And when I got your letter today, I find you are on Pine Creek. You must call for them if you want them but I have wrote so many lately that you will get sick of them. Eliza, do you suppose I would write to anyone I did not love as I am writing to you now. Here I sit with the paper on my knee writing by candle light but all the letters I get from you will get answered very soon after I get them. Eliza, you must excuse this poor writing and bad spelling and poor composing and write soon and often to your ever true Cameron. I would write more if the sheet would hold it but I guess you have got enough of my simple letter for once so I will close for this time. Write soon if you please. This from your Cameron D. White
To Mrs. Eliza A. White
Pleasant dreams to you always.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE
Addressed to Mrs. Eliza A. White, Gaines, Tioga county, Pennsylvania
Postmarked Portsmouth, Virginia
Fort Hazlett, [near Norfolk,] Virginia
May the 9th, 1865
My Dear Eliza,
I will now improve this opportunity of writing a few more lines to you to let you know that I am still alive and well and hope these few lines will find you the same and all the rest of the Pine Creek folks. Eliza, you will see by the heading of this letter that I am still a soldier and in Virginia yet, but I hope to soon leave it. The most of the officers think we will be discharged very soon but there is a few of them that think or say they think we will be kept until fall. But my opinion is the same it was before.
Eliza, what has become of Dell. Carsall? I have not heard anything from her in a long time. Dell was a good-hearted girl but I do not think she looked any of having spunk enough. Miss Benner, I suppose, still lives? Eliza, your home must be lonesome without Lucy. She was a lovely girl. I should miss her, I am sure. I thought a good deal of her because she looked so much like you. Mira must be quite a large girl by this time. Two years makes some difference in a girl of her age and how is it with Eliza since I saw her last? Has she grown any? She must be quite a large girl for I saw her weigh marked at 144—quite a heavy little girl, I think. How I would like to see her. I do not know as she wants to see me but I am sure I want to see her and hope I shall soon have the privilege.
Do they keep the meeting up on Pine Creek yet? Does John preach yet? I hope he does and will continue to do so for he can do a good deal of good. I have not heard a good sermon since I have been in Virginia. I have heard several different preachers preach or pretend to for they could not preach. The reason why the most of them are here is because they were not smart enough to make any sensation at home and thought they would try their luck in the army. They thought some of them can.
Eliza, does your Father live his religion right up to the schrach [?] as he used to. Eliza, I think if there ever was a Christian, your Father was one. We have mustered for 4 months pay and they say we will get paid by the 24th of this month. If we do, I shall send you some more as soon as I get it. Eliza, did you get the last 2 dollars I sent you? I sent it since I sent the 26 and have never heard whether you got it or not.
Well Eliza, this is the 3rd letter I have written to you since I received one from you and I will never write another one to you until I get one from you. Eliza, I am ashamed to write so many letters but I will not offend in that way anymore and I think you will be very glad of it for such a letter as this is enough to make a dog strike his Father. Kiss Lewy for me as many as 700 times and oblige me much. Write soon if you [will] and good long ones too. So goodbye for this time. Give my love to all. This from your [husband], — Cameron D. White
To Mrs. Eliza White