1862-65: Henry Clay Beckwith Letters

A post-war Image of Henry Clay Beckwith

These letters were written by Assistant Engineer Henry C. Beckwith (1839-1885), the son of David Beckwith (1793-1860) and Eliza Rathbone (1796-Aft1865) of Chesterfield Post Office, Montville, New London, Connecticut.

Beckwith entered the U. S. (Regular) Navy on 27 June 1862 as the Third Assistant Engineer as was assigned on 15 July 1862 to the USS New Ironsides, a large wooden “Ironclad” launched in May of 1862. He was promoted to Second Assistant Engineer on 7 November 1863 while on the New Ironsides and reassigned to the USS Yantic on 22 July 1864 at the same grade. He served onboard that vessel until June 5th 1866 when he accepted an assignment at the US Naval Academy for a year. He later served on the USS Saco and the USS Franklin where he was promoted to First Assistant Engineer. Ill health forced his to retire from active service in 1873 and he was placed on the Retired List in 1876. Died of consumption on 12 July 1885.

All the letters were written in the South while on duty in Hampton Roads, Newport News, Charleston and Fort Monroe.

After the war, Henry married Lucretia (“Lou”) Clara Merwin. He was buried in Amenia, Dutchess county, New York.

The USS New Ironsides (foreground) in Charleston Harbor


U.S.S. New Ironsides
Hampton Roads, Virginia
October 13, 1862

Dear Mother,

Imagining that you would have no objections to receiving a letter from me provided that it is written in a manner that you can read it—-ah, see my pen begins to go much better already. It is a rainy day, Oh well, say you then, you can write a long letter most certainly. I can, but not a bit longer on that account. The days are all alike to me in this respect & I came near saying in all respects but I am one of those who are willing to give every man every institution its due. We do have religious service on board on Sunday but as far as my observations extend, I am free to say that I don’t think that they amount to much. Great good may result from them & most certainly I hope that it may be so. We have the same duties to do on a Sunday that we have any other day which are not usually very tedious when laying under banked fires as we are at present. But sometimes at sea we see little different times. I mean by banked fires that they are piled up with coal & lays in smothering state but can be raked & in a few minutes will become a good fire. When running, we burn 25 tons of coal per day. Under banked fire, [only] 4 tons. Our engines are sixteen hundred (1600) horse power—that is, they will draw as much as 1600 horses like “Old Tom” on level ground, up or down hill.

I find that we have on board only 450 men and 31 officers at present. I think I told you that we had 500 men. I think that we did at first but the remainder ran away. A sailor will run away if you but give him a chance. They are bound to do it as soon as they set their feet on shore provided that a man with “Brass buttons” is not around. Then if he attempts to do the same, he is very apt to get caught up. Some of them of course are trustworthy but many are not.

We are still laying in the same place that we were when I last wrote & expect to stay for some time to come but the length of time, time only will determine. We arrived here the 27th ultimo & strange to say I haven’t set foot on land since. No, I haven’t since the 23rd ultimo. Sometimes for twenty-four hours I don’t see daylight. I have been writing all the time since we arrived here & by candlelight at that. We are obliged to do almost everything by the said light such as writing, studying, eating &c. &c. In fact, our quarters are just about as dark as our cellar without a light. Oh! it would be a rich treat if I could spend a few weeks at home just about now, provided—yes, provided I need not say what you already know—that I was very bitter against hard physical labor & strange to relate a change of climate does not appear to erase this peculiar disease in the least. And I tell you the plain truth as sorrowful as it may be, it would in the course of time come to light. I think the case incurable.

I am so cut off from the world that I can’;t imagine what you are doing at home—pears & peaches must be gone, apples from the trees. But I imagine that there are plenty “down cellar with the cider.” I would not mind—-oh look here, I forgot myself. I would mind just as well but what I intended to say was that I would not have any objections. Corn, I think, must be “cut up” by this time but I am not quite sure on this point but I am quite sure that it all right. I cannot go up to East Haddam this fall after chestnuts, don’t you think so. I begin to realize it but don’t mind. I will make it all up when I do come home.

Oh! I must stop writing very soon to go to quarters—that is, to arrange ourselves in the proper position for battle. I, you know, am classed with the non-combatants. Am in the same general class as doctors from the fact that I am not obliged & not expected to do any fighting. When I spoke of quarters on the opposite page, I meant our room in which we stay the most of the time which is about 12 feet by 9. I would [pay] $10 per month if I could have one all to myself with good windows in it but such luxuries are unknown to us on board ship. In fact, no officer in the ship except the captain can read either a book or paper on the Quarter Deck—one at first very naturally says that is very hard—over and above exact; but this is a man-of-war and that is a fair sample of the rules of the U.S. Navy. And after a person has fairly examined them—has given them a fair investigation in view of the discipline that we should have in our Navy & the investigation is very apt to overlook such a small thing, but withall we have some good times but at the same time, there are certain bounds set and we are obliged to stay with them.

I have neglected thus far to tell you that I am exceedingly well but I presume that by this time from the tenor of my writing you have come to the conclusion that I am not very sick. In fact, I never enjoyed better health in my life than at present. Remember me to my friends. I am your son, — Henry


U. S. Frigate “New Ironsides
Off Newport News [Virginia]
November 7th 1862

Dear Mother,

I again seat myself to let you know of my welfare. Yours of a late date came duly to hand. We are laying at the same place that we were when I last wrote but since then I have been on shore. I did not put a foot on land from Sept. 23rd till last Sunday but it was my own fault if it was anyone’s. I might went on shore but I did not try. Some of the officers go ashore quite often for the purpose of shooting quails & if I had a gun, I think that I should try the same but most unfortunately—or fortunately—-I have not one.

I am enjoying excellent health. My mess mates say that I am “growing fat.” I am sure that I am not losing any of my former proportions.

The weather appears very cold here at present but I suppose that it is owing in a great measure to my employment which in the summer is quite a warm berth but in the winter the engine room is quite a favorite resort not only for the engineers but other officers of the ship find their way hither. Yesterday we had a slight fall of snow which is a very rare occurrence in this latitude at this time of the year but what is more singular we have not had any frosts yet. The trees are as green as in mid summer.

Sunday, November 9th

You will notice from the fact that I commenced this letter several days before I finished it that I am busy about something—such is the case. I am very busy studying my employment which is very necessary that I may become a successful engineer. We have had a terrible storm at this place. Snow fell for several days in succession & at the same time the weather was exceedingly cold for this place & this season of the year. For several days we could not get ashore to get provisions which we are accustomed to get every day fresh. We have salt or rather sea stores enough to last some time but for some reason we cannot relish them while fresh stores are attainable.

Mary in her last letter says she thinks that I am homesick but such is not the case. We are having splendid times here & I am enjoying myself extremely well. I cannot deny but that I would like to see my friends at home but I could not stay in Chesterfield any length of time. I would like to stay a few days and then be off again. I have lived so much excitement since I last left home that it has become almost indispensable to me.

I wrote to Josie Latimer several weeks ago but have not received an answer. I suppose that long ‘ere this he was gone South. If so, I know that the time will come when he will be sorry that he enlisted. I can imagine what the soldier is obliged to endure but I must say that I am not anxious for the realization. On Newport News—-a place close to which we are now laying—Gen. McClellan once had had the whole of his army headquartered.

I have not any news to write except that very probable that I shall not have any money to send home this month from the fact that I am in want of a Naval overcoat & expect to get one. Yours son, — H. C. Beckwith


U.S.S. New Ironsides
Off Fortress Monroe, Virginia
January 9, 1863

Dear Mother,

I expect that we shall leave here tomorrow but our destination to me is unknown. I expect that we shall turn up somewhere in good time.

I am well with the exception of a bad cold but I anticipate nothing serious from it.

I have about $200 which I could spare as well as not but I don’t like the idea of trusting it by mail & as you are all in “comfortable circumstances,” I will keep it.

I send by mail a picture of the “New Ironsides” which I wish you to have nicely framed & if per chance I am not to return more to Chesterfield, trim it in remembrance of the same.

No more at present. Good night. Your affectionate son, — Henry

CDV of the USS New Ironsides


U.S.S. New Ironsides
Off Fortress Monroe
January 11th 1863

Dear Mother,

We did not go to sea yesterday as we anticipated but expect to do so without fail today. The last mail has gone ashore but I write this with the expectation of sending it ashore by the pilot off Cape Henry. We are now nearing Cape Henry consequently I must bring this short epistle to a close.

The weather is very fine and calm & we expect to make a prosperous voyage. We are going to Port Royal, South Carolina, which will take us five or six days to run.

I expect that we may see some fighting but the rebels have nothing that can stand one of our broadsides. I feel as secure as if I was in a strong fortress. But one thing is certain—that we shall do no fighting for months to come & when we do, I expect that it will be a mere petty affair. I hope that all will be for the best & I remain as ever your affectionate son, — Henry

P. S. Send me 50 ct. in stamps.

Direct to Asst. Engineer, H. C. Beckwith, U.S.S. New Ironsides, Port Royal, S. Carolina

“Via New York”


U.S.S. New Ironsides
Off Charleston, South Carolina
February 2d 1863

Dear Mother,

We arrived off this place and are now laying here on the blockade. I am as well as usual which is exceedingly well. You may know by this that I am in a great hurry which is owing to the fact that the mail leaves ship in about ten minutes. I expect that we shall lay here for a long time. I received a letter a few days since from Mrs. Merriam. Did you receive my picture of the New Ironsides? Please write soon.

Direct to Asst. Engineer. H. C. Beckwith, U.S.S. New Ironsides, Off Charleston, S. C.

“Via New York”

I am your affectionate, — Henry



U.S.S. New Ironsides
Off Charleston, South Carolina
February 21st 1863

Dear Mother,

Your very kind letter of the 28th ultimo. came duly to hand. I was exceedingly glad to hear that you were all well & you may rest assured that I was glad to hear that you had been to New London & made such a long visit but on the contrary I was very sorry to learn that it was under such sad circumstances. Sarah will mourn greatly her loss but such is the great drama of life. Our dearest & most precious gifts are taken from us. At times it seems that all the ties which bind us to earth are cut & we are left by ourselves to wander like the restless current through darkened space. But there is a “home for the weary.”

I hope that you & Mrs. Merriam will not miss of your visit to Hadlyme. Oh! if I could only be at home about two weeks now, I would awaken your ideas. I would show you how to visit. I think it must be that you don’t know how or if you do, you don’t put your knowledge to any practical use. I have been from home now almost seven months & during that time I have not seen a friend except those which I have made during the said time. I will write to Maria & tell her that you are certainly coming but it must be very cold with you at the present time. Oh! I wish that you could experience such weather for one week as we have here at the present time. You would wish that the South had been your native place. It is so calm, warm & salubrious below in our Department. We presume summer heat nearly all the time. But the climate is much colder here this winter than it usually is. Sometimes there are flowers in bloom in the open air here every month in the year & flowers here are genuine worthy of the name—no imposition or counterfeit. The wild flowers here are far superior to any cultivated ones at the North.

I had also heard that Eliza Rathbun had been sick [and] was obliged to leave her school but had again returned. By the way, we are remarkably well on board of this vessel—only one death has occurred since we have been out & that was not from any disease but an accident. As for myself, I don’t believe you ever saw me so fleshy as I am at the present time since I was a small boy. Tis true, I am in favor of living well but it is not my wish to live so expensive as we do. Our expenses for food is about one dollar per day for each member of the mess.

David Thompson you say thinks of staying another year. He has paid all his rent, I suppose. Well if he can get work, he can get waste, he can make a good thing of it but as it is, I see no prospects of getting cotton for at least six months to come & not even then unless we humble ourselves to recognize a “Southern Confederacy” which I think our government will hardly do. I was very glad to hear that Elder Tefft was to stay another year. I shall be at home to hear him again before that time expires.

Charles Wickwire, Maria says, is going housekeeping soon. Well I wish him much joy as I do all married persons. Good steady souls. I wish I could be as contented but I am afraid that that time is past but may not be. I have seen the time when if I had some pleasant employment on shore I had as soon be there as anywhere, but at present, give me the life of a sailor. I at first was afraid of the deep blue sea but since it has been so parental to me, I pass without a murmur its former chidings to my race by. I wish that you could look in upon me sometimes when vessel rolls so much that I could not lay in my berth without holding on at the sides which is often the case—or when we cannot keep anything on the table. You would think that I had  a very hard time. I doubt not but that you would advise me to come home. Ah! such things did annoy me, but not now.

Did you get your picture taken when you was in New London? You did not say. I cannot send any money from here except at my own risk. The express will carry money but at the sender’s risk.

You wish to know what my salary is. $850 per year or about 70 per month. My expenses far exceed what you imagine. My dress, I suppose, you would call extravagant. Direct as before. Write soon & I remain your affectionate son, — Henry


U.S.S. New Ironsides
Charleston Harbor, South Carolina
April 11th 1863

Dear Mother, Brothers & Sister,

We made an attack on Charleston the 7th instant & neither shipped or was whipped & no one on board of this ship was either killed or wounded.

I should have written before but I considered it a very trivial affair. Consequently you will please pardon me for the neglect. I will not give you an account of the fight for I consider it an insignificant thing. We were truck only 49 times during the whole & I am of the opinion that none of their shot were more than ten inch.

Yours dutifully, — Henry

N. B. Direct as before. Find enclosed $10.


U.S.S. New Ironsides
Off Morris Island, South Carolina
August 15th 1863

Dear Mother,

I am enjoying excellent health & myself generally although the weather is rather too warm for comfort. I am just in the mood to write a good long letter. Would that I had something to write about but I have  nothing of interest to write. My letters [read the] same as did a Yankee’s writing home from out West: viz “Dick is dead. Corn has risen. Your son, — Bill” This you see was very brief but probably expressed all that he had to say. Tis true he might have communicated the diseases that affected Richard & what he said in his last moments but he considered comments useless. The same in reference to the corn. He ought to have specified what the price of corn was before it rose and after the same but he merely gave the fact and then left the subject. I said I was a going to imitate him.

I am well. Your affectionate son, — Henry

P. S. Write soon. As this letter contains much value in imitation, I wish that you would be very careful to not show it to anyone who might use it to the detriment of our cause. Of course I don’t mind it being shown in the family. — H

P. S. If this letter does not come to hand. Write immediately and I will try and get a “furlong” to discover the cause of its absenting itself. — H. C. B.

P. S. If I had any more time & anything to write about, I would write a longer letter. yours &c. — H.


U. S. S. New Ironsides
Off Morris Island
October 8th, 1863

Dear Mother,

Charleston has not been occupied by the Union forces and consequently I am not on my way home. Everything is progressing well here & the general health of the fleet is excellent—mine unsurpassed. Very probable I have letters from you on the way for I have not received any for several weeks. I went on shore a few days since—the first time since the 1st of February which was about eight months. A new life for me & a steady home—something which would do many a young man much good. We are inactive too much to suit my taste. Those “hard times” which everyone was so fond of encouraging  me on to my duty of hurrying me in my wild career I have not as yet encountered & from what I have already seen, I place them far, very far in the distance. I have not seen the time for the past twelve months when I wished myself out of the service.

The weather is now delightful & our mess sets as good a table as many Northern hotels. We have all the vegetables that the passage from Philadelphia will afford.

The weather must be getting cool at the North by this time. It must be most time for the huskings to commence but where are the young people to attend them? There are a plenty of girls, I suppose, but the young men are minus. There are the veterans of the Gallant 26th. The 6th Connecticut is here and has done excellent service but I hope that soon their services will be no longer needed & they permitted to return home. The rebellion is without a doubt in a close corner and in my opinion must soon die out.

I heard from Miss Fox a few days since through the instrumentality of a friend. I received a letter a few days since from Edwin Chahman who is teaching in New Jersey.

Your son, — Henry C. Beckwith


U.S.S. New Ironsides
Off Morris Island, South Carolina
November 30th 1863

Dear Mother,

Your very kind letter of the 16th instant came duly to hand & if I had time and anything to write about, I would try and answer it but unfortunately for me I have neither.

I am as well as usual. Much obliged for the minute description of affairs in the matrimonial department. How soon do you think that something will transpire that will startle the whole state (of matrimony)? How soon do you think that there will be a grand advance & something decided to be done? Find enclosed $10 & I remain your affectionate son, — H. C. Beckwith

P. S. If I had time & space I would tell you all about the New Ironsides, the Monotors, Fort Sumter and the big cannon balls that we fire at the Rebs but I have not the time and you must pardon my shortcomings. — H

P. S. If I had more ink and it was cooler here, I would tell you about those 440 lbs. shot being large enough for a person to ride on but under the present (I don’t mean past) existing circumstances, I shall be under the absolute necessity of disposing of the subject as previously. — H

P. S. You will instantly discover immediately on inspecting this manuscript that my scribing surface is limited in view of which I write F I N I S – H


U.S.S. New Ironsides
Off Morris Island, South Carolina
March 3rd 1864

Dear Mother,

Your kind letter of a late date came to hand a few days since. I am very much obliged for the postage stamps. Your letter contained sad news indeed but I see that the casualties are not confined to those that go to war. Many, very many, that stay at home in the midst of health and enjoyment are suddenly launched henceforth bidding adieu to all earthly things/ The death of Edward Latimer was extremely sudden & sad. He had served his country a long time in a subordinate capacity & patiently waited his reward. He received it. But on the morn of enjoying the same, that hard-hearted, merciless destroyer of death took him from it. Hen gave his life for his country. Under the present circumstances, he met with the noblest of death & the name  of each such true patriot should be enshrined in letters of “living gold.” Mr. Latimore’s family, I know, must be deeply afflicted. I was glad to learn that Mrs. Oliver Chapman bore up so well under her afflictions. She is one of the best of women. You all can but sympathize with her deeply. Mr. Johnathan Rogers’ family, I see, has also cause to mourn the loss of one of its members.

I am as usual enjoying excellent health. Where is Mr. Jesse Maynard? You said that “Mr. Raymond came and paid the Esqr. Chapman note.” I do not understand. What Raymond & what Chapman do you have reference?

Does the people in Chesterfield appear to become materially less? I should think that they church would appear almost deserted—there have so many gone to different parts of the country and so many to their long home.

What does David Thompson pay for the factory this year? And what is he making?

Where is Josie Latimer? Have the Bishop girls sold out yet? Are both the Morgan girls married?

Mary told me of Emmaline’s marriage. It amused me very much indeed. I wish that Ester would also pick up a kind husband. Is Ann Latimore staying home this winter?

I would enjoy being at home a few weeks very much indeed. I have just received a letter from cousin Augusta Stevens. She is also one of my model women. She writes a very cousinly letter. Find enclosed fifty dollars $50. Write soon & have your photograph taken for me the first opportunity, will you? I remain your affectionate son, — Henry

Have your photograph taken with your bonnet & cloak or shawl, mantilla—at any rate, in your walking or riding dress. This ship is in just as good fighting condition as she was the day that she started from Philadelphia.


U.S.S. New Ironsides
Off Morris Island, South Carolina
May 9th 1864

Dear Mother,

No doubt but that you are somewhat surprised for my long silence. I have been waiting to hear from you but the mails are still delayed by the Government (I suppose) & it is very uncertain about this reaching you soon but I feel that I want to write & consequently shall gratify my desire.

I suppose that you are all very busy farming—plowing, I believe, is the work of this season of the year.

There is a rumor afloat that this ship is coming home this summer. I only hope that it will prove true. I shall enjoy seeing you so much. I may be detached if we come North. I may remain attached to this ship still but in either case if we come North, I shall come home for a few days. But to tell the plain truth, I hardly think that we shall come this summer.

The stoppage of the mails indicate warm work on the Potomac. I hope that the indications are true & that long ‘ere this Richmond is ours.

The weather is getting quite warm in this latitude. The thermometer in the engine room stands at 90º which is about the coolest place in the ship in mid summer. We are obliged to stand heat that is seemingly unendurable—but a person can become accustomed to endure a great deal. I suppose that there are a plenty of Soldiers Aid Societies & like associations in vogue throughout the country at the present time. Hope that they will be amply sustained & render our brave soldiers the aid that they are worthy of.

Josie Latimer is a clerk in an Insurance Office in New York City. I know this to be a fact & whoever reported to the contrary was either misinformed or meant wrong.

I commenced a correspondence with cousin Augusta Stevens some six or seven months ago but as yet have received but one letter, I think that my last must have gone astray.

How does my little niece grow? John will be obliged to burry to catch up with Joseph. I presume that he is making “good time.” Has Henry Tinkler been heard from lately? If so, where is he?

You have my Album, I believe. Don’t let it get soiled or my cabinet of minerals in my chamber get scattered for I prize them highly.

Write soon. It will come to hand in good time. Find enclosed $20. I am your affectionate son, — Henry

[Addressed to Mrs. David Beckwith, Chesterfield, Conn.]

U. S. S. Yantic
Opposite Fort Delaware
August 19th 1864

Dear Mother,

I have been detached from the New Ironsides & attached to this ship. I am very much pleased with the change. The New Ironsides was a very large & effective vessel. This is a wooden gunboat & of the smallest class—is a very fast & pleasant ship. I was suited when I was ordered to the Ironsides & am now pleased with my situation. The Chief Engineer of the Philadelphia Navy Yard applied for me to come to the Yard with him in which case I would have been ashore all the time but I did not want to come & was not slow to express myself against it & I was finally ordered on board this vessel.

We started from Philadelphia on this vessel on the 13th inst. on a trial trip. We have been cruising up to the present time along the Jersey coast, the southern shore of Long Island, Block and Nantucket Islands. We are now on our way to Philadelphia where we will arrive tomorrow where we expect to remain 10 days or a fortnight & then we expect to make our final departure on a cruise.

I was enjoying myself very much when we left. I hope that I shall be able to get ashore three or four days when we get up.

I received a letter from Maria Comstock a week or two since. Charlie has gone to Washington. She was well.

Opposite Chester, Pa.
On our way to Philadelphia
August 20th 1864

This morning we got underway at 5 A. M. & are now on our way to Philadelphia where we expect to arrive about 9 o’clock. Why hain’t you or Mary written? It has been a long time since I heard from home. There may be letters waiting for me in Philadelphia.

I went to New York on the 3rd inst. to see Josie Latimer & cousin H. R. Cone. Joseie was not at home and consequently I spent all the time that I could stay—which was one day—with cousin Helon. I had a very pleasant time. Cousin Helon & wife went up to Central Park with me where we enjoyed ourselves very much. He has an excellent family of which he may well be proud.

Hoping to hear from you soon, I remain yours affectionately, — Henry

P. S. I want to write to Josaphine Way—cousin Nathan’s daughter, but I am not sure how to spell the name. Let me know if this is the way to spell it.

Direct to 2nd Asst. Engineer, H. C. Beckwith, U.S.N., No. 126 Pine Street, Philadelphia

August 20th A. M. We have just come to anchor off Philadelphia Navy Yard


U. S. S. Yantic
Delaware River
Opposite Newcastle
September 9th 1864

Dear Mother, Sister & Brothers,

We are on our way to “Woods Hole” which is on the coast of Massachusetts near Nantucket. We are going there for the purpose of protecting the shipping at that place against attacks of rebel pirates. We have no idea how long we are to remain there.

I received a letter from you a week or two since for which I am greatly obliged. The New Ironsides is still North but expects to leave in a few days for her station “off Charleston.” She was expecting to go to Mobile but under the circumstances of Farragut’s success she will not be needed. This is my second trip since I returned from home. I have been enjoying myself very much in Philadelphia for the past few weeks. I just began to get acquainted & now I am obliged to leave—it is too bad but fair, I suppose. I preferred going to sea & I have my choice & I have no right to complain.

I am enjoying excellent health which has been my fortune since I left home with the exception of a few days. I am very well suited with my ship but not with the place that we are going. We probably shall not have much fighting to do but it will be dreadful cold for us. I have not seen any cold weather since I. left home. I prefer warm weather & fighting to cold weather & no fighting. I could stand cold weather before I left home but I cannot anymore.

I am sorry to learn that Mrs. Chapman is going to leave Chesterfield. Tell her that according to promise, I will send her my carte-de-visite but at the present time I haven’t any.

How do the folks at home feel on the subject of the draft?

I don’t know how to tell you to direct my next. You will be under the necessity of waiting till you hear from me again which will be as soon as we arrive at our destination.

I remain yours affectionately, — Henry


U. S. S. Yantic
Woods Hole, Mass.
September 30th 1864

Dear Mother,

We leave this place next Sunday for the “Sunny South.” I am very sorry that we leave so soon. When we left Philadelphia on the 9th inst., I was enjoying myself first rate. I had formed sufficient acquaintances to keep me making calls all the time. I left all that & came here. For about ten days ew would not allow visitors on board & our whole time was occupied preparing the ship for receiving the same. We finally got the ship ready & the people came in swarms. We returned the calls on shore & had splendid times. I have spent some money within the past three months but none foolishly. I have seen more of society within the last three months than I ever did before in my life. I consider my time ^ the required money well spent. I shall not be able to send any home before the last of next month & I am not sure that I can then. I shall be under the necessity of purchasing a uniform overcoat and at the present time a good one costs one hundred and ten dollars ($110).

The people are my kind—especially the young ladies who are also very pretty and intelligent. I have a great many with whom I am acquainted & am enjoying myself A No. 1. I was very much opposed to this place for awhile but I have changed my opinion most decidedly.

I was very sorry to learn of the death of Mrs. J. Latimer. She must be missed both in society & the church. She was a sincere Christian and beloved by all who knew her. Mr. Latimer must feel as if he were left alone in the world.

The New Ironsides is still in Philadelphia. I am glad that I am not attached to her. I am surprised that I came off her in such good health. This ship is far more comfortable than she was.

We are ordered to Fortress Monroe to await orders. I hope that we shall go to the Gulf of Mexico. We received orders for there once but they were revoked. I am very much in favor of warm weather, I wish that the Dept. would send us to New London.

Find enclosed two carte-de-visites of myself—one for Mrs. Oliver Chapman & one for yourself. I would send one to Mary but I have not one to spare at the present time, excepting of course the enclosed. I don’t see why you don’t write oftener. There is but one of the family away from home. If there were a dozen or fifteen to write to the case would be different.

What do you think of my picture? Please give the enclosed for Mrs. Chapman to her the first opportunity. Also give her my compliments.

Have you had your carte-de-visite  taken yet? I presume that you have not had time. I will give you some time. Take the first ten days of next month for the purpose. Remember me to all inquiring friends & I remain, your affectionate son, — Henry

Direct to 2d Asst. Engineer, H. C. Beckwith, U. S. N., U. S. S. Yantic, Fortress Monroe, Va.

P. S. Please answer this immediately that I may have a letter on our arrival at the above-named place. Yours, — Henry


U. S. S. Yantic
Fortress Monroe
October 23rd 1864

Dear Mother,

Your most kind letter of the 16th inst. is just to hand. It was very interesting. You will see by the heading of this that we are at the present time at Fortress Monroe, Va. although since writing my last we have been. to Beaufort, N. C. twice, off Wilmington, N. C. once, and to Gosport Navy Yard once. You see that I am on a ship this time that has some speed. We have steamed more since I left home than we did all last cruise. I should not be surprised if we remained in this Squadron all winter.

I was glad to hear that Aunt Vesta and Huldah had been to see you. I hope that ere this you have returned their visit. I was also most highly gratified to learn that you did so far forget your usual routine of duties as to go to camp meeting & I sincerely hope that you will continue to do so. Pray tell me what is the use of your working so hard? I was very sorry to learn that Uncle Norris was sick. You must go up and see him. Cannot you afford two days—one to go to Mr Patten’s & one to see Uncle Norris? Please remember me to them all. Give my love to Mrs. Patten. I do think that she is a model woman of there are any.

By the way, I sent to carte-de-visites of myself to you from Woods Hole, Mass.—one for yourself & one for Mrs. Chapman, but you did not mention it. Did you receive them? I received a letter yesterday from cousin Maria Comstock containing the sad intelligence that cousin Maria Shepard was dead. It was sad news indeed. She was so good, kind, and affectionate. She was a bright ornament to the family & society. I shall miss her very much.

Charles Comstock (Maria’s husband) is a hospital in Philadelphia but I did not have a chance to see him. I don’t know whether he was wounded or sick otherwise. I was enjoying myself very much when we left Woods Hole, Mass. It took some time to get acquainted which being accomplished I was perfectly at home. You were speaking of hustings. I was expecting to attend some in Woods Hole but I am sorry to say that I am disappointed & that sadly. I was also expecting to display my ability on skates but in this respect I was also doomed to be disappointed. This is a cruel world so full of disappointments.

You seem to be downhearted about the time that you closed my last. I was sorry to discover that such was the case. You say that you almost tremble when you think of me. Why do you tremble when you think of me? So you think that I am contracting bad habits? Spending my money, &c. &c., or are you fearful that I may be injured inn battle? If the latter should happen, do not mourn for me. I am engaged in this war because I believe that it is right & just in the sight of God & man that the rebels should be put down. They must be conquered or we cannot be recognized as a nation. Shall I in after years when this country is again enjoying peace & prosperity be pointed at with the finger of scorn & of me have it remarked, “There is an unmarried, able-bodied young man that did not deprive himself of any comforts for that which he is now enjoying his life,” is my choice. I enjoy it and now please don’t worry on my account. I may be safer here than I would be at home. Within the past three years I really believe that a greater percent of the young men that remained at home in Chesterfield have died than those that went away.

Your affectionate son, — Henry


U. S. S. Yantic
Off Fort Fisher, N. C.
March 18th 1865

Dear Mother,

Yours of the 1st inst. reached me yesterday. I was much obliged for your kindness in writing & for the news which it contained. I do not think that Mr. Potter did right in selling without first consulting with you under the circumstances that you had been so lenient with her. We are often repaid in this manner for kind deeds but it should not deter us from so doing.

I am glad to learn that you had bought the Oliver Chapman place but am sorry that I haven’t any money at hand to send you. I have over $400 (four hundred dollars) due me or will have at the end of this month which I have let accumulate on the Paymaster’s books from the fact that I do not like to send money by mail. If there was an express office handy, I would send home nearly all of it. Yes, I think that the Patten farm brought all that it was worth. What a great change there will be when I again visit Chesterfield. Does Samuel Strickland hire or take the place on shares?

I was sorry to learn that Henry Tinker was still unwell. It seems too bad after what he has done for his country that he should be afflicted.

In the same mail with this I send a letter to Miss Fix directed to Chesterfield & if she is not in Chesterfield will you see Mrs. Warren & tell her & I presume that she will have the kindness to send it to her. I don’t know her present address which is the reason why I send it to Chesterfield but as she was there when you write, she may be there still. Give my regards to Mrs. Warren, Sarah B___, & Hattie Warren.

You say that Emma has a beau. Well I hope that he is a good fellow for she is a nice girl if I was ever acquainted with one.

What a miserable being that Gilbert Warren must be if he has a particle of conscience remaining his chief aim appears to be to make mankind miserable.

I was sorry to learn that you had not been visiting more this winter. I hope that you will make a radical change & visit a great deal next summer. My address remains the same as when you last wrote. Hoping that this will find you all well which is my present happy lot. I remain your affectionate son, — Henry

Screen Shot 2020-04-29 at 10.43.59 AM
A post-war CDV of Henry C. Beckwith

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