These two letters were written by Englist emigrant Joseph Appleyard (1836-1864) who enlisted on 12 August 1861 as a private in Co. D, 4th New Hampshire Infantry to serve three years. A few weeks before his term of service would expire, Joseph was killed in the fighting at Deep Bottom, Va. on 16 August 1864.
From Joseph’s letter, we learn that his brother, Richard Appleyard (1838-1873), lived in Holderness, Grafton county, New Hampshire, where he worked as a mechanic. Richard later relocated to Lowell, Massachusetts, and worked in the mills. The Massachusetts Vital Records only tell us that Richard’s father was “Unknown” and his mother’s name was Hannah. Richard and Joseph probably emigrated to the United States together.
The first letter was written from Morris Island near Charleston, South Carolina. The second letter was written from near Petersburg, Virginia, about a month and a half prior to his death.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Morris Island, South Carolina
December 28th 1863
Mrs. B. Gerrish,
I used to board with you and when I left you I promised to write and let you know how I prospered. When I left you, I was going to Holderness, New Hampshire. I stayed with my brother till I enlisted to come out in the 4th Regt. New Hampshire Volunteers. It will be three years the 12th day of next August. We have been in South Carolina most all the time. We have been through the siege on the above named Island. We have seen hard times, I have been very lucky—had good health all the time. We have got about eight months longer before my term of enlistment expires.
We are within three miles of Charleston, South Carolina. We can see the church steeples and a number of the larger buildings. The rebels do not fire so much as they used to. They fire a little every day. We have been having some very stormy weather out here. One of the monitors sunk. I presume you have an account in the papers. You will have seen and account of the Iron Sides and three monitors being entangled in the rebel network. This is a falsehood got up by the rebels. Most of the obstructions have been washed out of the channel by the late storm.
Sumter I have been with ¾ of a mile of what once was a beautiful fort but now it is nothing but a mass of ruins and most level with the water. A few days [ago] a soldier was shot for desertion.
I presume things are altogether different now in South Berwick. Do you ever hear from that old man that [boarded there] while I was with you? He was going to England. I hope you are doing well. If the Lord spares me, I hope to see you again. I will close for the present. Give me reports to all the folks. Write soon and accept the same yourself.
Direct [to] Joseph Applegarte, Co. D, 4th Regt. H. H. V., Morris Island, S. C.
To Mrs. B. Gerrish
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
Near Petersburg, Va.
July 9th 1864
You will probably think that I did not receive your letter but I did on Morris Island, South Carolina. I left Morris Island, S. C., May 19th 1864 and stayed at Hilton Head, S. C., two days and then went aboard the steamer Arago and went to New York, stopped at the Soldier’s Home, visited the Barnum Museum, also the Central Park, also other places of note. Had a good time while there. I was there three days and took a boat for Fort Monroe, Va., and from there I went up the James River to Bermuda Hundred. Then I had to march four miles to the Convalescent Camp. My regiment had just started for White House, Va. They stayed there a few days [and then] came back to where I was [and] encamped. They stayed one night and started for Petersburg, Va., and they assisted in taking the outer works and were gone two days and came back to Foster’s Plantation [8 miles above City Point] and about the 10th of June I got to my company and was glad too.
June 23rd we started for Petersburg. We had to march about ten miles. The roads were very dusty. We have to carry everything. I tell you, I was tired.
We are within two hundred yards of the rebels now and have been since the 23rd of last month. Since we came here, we have had one man wounded and two killed in our company. It is dangerous for a man to show his head. I have had some narrow escapes. Two bullets were fired through my tent. A shell burst yesterday so near to me the concussion hurt me for a few seconds. One piece of the shell struck one of the boys canteen he had strung across his shoulder. The canteen saved his life. There are a number of such cases that I could mention but these will suffice for the present.
You remark in your letter which lay before me about me giving thanks to God. I do give thanks to God and have put my trust in Him and I find He has been a source of great comfort. I did not re-enlist, and my time will be out in September ’64. I hope and pray that the Lord may see fit to spare me. These are serious times and dangerous bullets and shell are coming all the time. The 3d, 11th, 12th and other New Hampshire Regiments are near us. I must close hoping this may find you well.
Accept of my kind regards, — Joseph Appleyard
Co. D, 4th New Hampshire Vols., Washington D. C.
To. A. Gerrish