1863: Robert Prindle Knapp to Charles Albert Knapp

These letters were written by Robert Prindle Knapp (1845-1931), the son of Thomas G. Knapp (1814-1893) and Adeline Prindle (1819-1900) of Goshen, Orange county, New York.

Robert enlisted on 15 November 1862 at Goshen to serve nine months in Co. H, 168th New York Infantry. According to the Civil War Muster Roll Abstracts, Robert was a farmer by occupation when he enlisted, had black eyes, dark hair, a fair complexion, and stood 5 feet 4 inches tall.

This 168th New York was commanded by Col. Wm. R. Brown and their encampment near Yorktown was named “Camp Brown” (consistent with dateline of letter) in the days before and following the attack on Williamsburg by Confederate Brig. Gen. Henry Wise’s Legion on 11 April 1863. That attack resulted in the destruction of some camp and garrison equipage of the 5th Pennsylvania Cavalry and a small amount of hospital stores in Williamsburg.

Robert wrote the letter to his cousin, Charles “Albert” Knapp (1847-1931), the son of Virgil S. Knapp (1820-1888) and Emily Else Gale (1821-1876) of Goshen, Orange county, New York.

Robert’s Letter with tintype of Pvt. Ezra L. Purdy of Co. E, wearing the uniform of the 168th New York Infantry—a 9 months unit

Letter 1

Addressed to Albert C. Knapp, Goshen, Orange county, New York
Postmarked Old Point Comfort, Va.

Camp Brown
Yorktown, Virginia
April 11th 1863

Cousin Albert,

I take my pen in hand to let you know that I am well and I hope these few lines will find you the same. When you write, I want you to let me know where you are agoing to move. If I get home sound this time, I am a going to enlist again. We have good times down here. I received your letter tonight.

They was a fighting to Williamsburg today. They commenced at day break and it lasted till 10 o’clock this day. The rebels commenced and our men burnt the city. Our men fell back about 4 miles into a fort which is called Fort Magruder. We did not lose a man. We was ready for them. This fighting was about 8 miles from where we are encamped.

I only weigh 144 pounds now.

Some of our men went out in a scout the other day from the fort and they went across the York river and they burned quite a good many buildings and they got 150 sheep, 200 head of cattle, and a lot of horses from the rebels and they are very close to us—the sheep and the cattle and the horses is. We have to guard them. We went to the fort this morning and we expected to have to fight. No more at present. Yours Albert, from Robert

There is two very nice peach orchards very close to where we are encamped. There is 17 acres in one and [in] the other there is about 10 acres. They have been out in blossom one week. No more today. Goodbye.

Letter 2

Headquarters 11th Army Corps
Cannon Run
August 21, 1863


I take my pen in hand to let you know that I am not well at present but I hope this will find all of you and Uncle William’s folks well. I have not heard from you in some weeks. We are guarding the railroad that is called the Orange & Alexandria road, It is a very nice place where we are stationed. Our company is alone and the rest is further on down. We have good times now while our company is alone.

Milk is scarce down here and they charge 10 cents a quart for it. One in awhile we draw soft bread. We have drawed it today. Our water is not very good to drink. The ground is red and the water is colored and it is not very cold for the weather is so warm.

John Golder is well. He does the Colonel’s writing and he is after his whiskey today. Everything is very high down here. If they were so high up there, I don’t know how the folks would get along. I think some of them would starve to death.

How does the colts get along? They must look pretty good now. Some of the apples must be getting good in the orchard, I have had some down here and I have had ripe peaches—all that i could eat of them. When we get short of rations, then we go and get some off the farmers. If they wouldn’t sell us anything, we would go and take anything that we could get. Sometimes we would get sheep and fowls and hogs.

No more at present. I have sent you a map. It is the names of Company H and one for Uncle William. I will send them the same time that I send this letter. I will put in fifty cents for some postage stamps. You get them for me and send them in the next letter.

— Robert Knapp

[to] Albert Knapp

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