This letter was written by Alfred (“Ally”) Reynolds (1845-1862)—the 17 year-old son of Hatter Daniel Reynolds (1803-1878) and his wife, Susana Reber (1825-Af1907), of Danville, Montour County, Pennsylvania. Alfred mustered as a private in Co. H, 93rd Pennsylvania Infantry in October 1861. This letter is one of some thirty letters written home by Private Reynolds from the time of his enlistment until his death on 31 May 1862 at the Battle of Fair Oaks. The regiment mustered at Camp Coleman in Lebanon, Pennsylvania and then moved from Lebanon to Washington City via Baltimore in November 1861.
A few excerpts of his letters from that collection follow:
“…the time is near at hand when I will be once more among the loved ones I left so far behind for a few more victories like that at Fort Donaldson will soon bring the war to a close & establish once more a Union that cannot be severed”
In March 1862 the regiment moved to Camp Tennally and he wrote of two losses:
“The one was the loss of our band. They got tired of playing in the army so they went home. We miss them a good deal on dress parade & guard mounting but still I guess we will to get used to doing without a band. The other loss was exchanging our old Belgium guns for Springfield muskets which pleases us very well but we had a hard time a getting them. On Tuesday last we marched to the Washington Arsenal for to exchange our guns the distance being 7 miles. We had a hard march of it as we went down & back in about 6 hours the distance being 14 miles & we did not stop over ½ hour through the whole march & when we got to camp we received orders to march the next morning at 7 so we began to think they wanted to kill us right away but before 9 o’clock the orders were countermanded & we not a bit sorry.”
By May 1862, the regiment was on the move in McClellan’s Peninsula Campaign. They participated in the fight at Williamsburg en route to the Battle of Fair Oaks. Below are two excerpts from Reynolds’ final letter, dated May 28th, three days before his death:
To his mother— “we had hardly got our suppers when we were ordered out to where we were in the afternoon & stand picket, so out we went & we lay all night within about 50 yards of the Rebs. Early next morning we heard them a leaving, so we advanced about 1 ½ miles where we are still laying there no Rebs near. Some of our boys went to a house near us & they got talking with and old woman & she sayed that Gen. Johnston was to take breakfast with her on Monday morning but got in such a hurry to leave that he forgot it, but she says that 12 cavalry men came along & ate the breakfast that she had prepared for the general & after they had eaten they took her husband together with a lot of chickens & pigs, as many as they could carry & then left…..The likeness you sent me looks very natural but I would sooner see the original. I would like to have Annie’s in a smaller plate so I can carry it in that pocket book that Harriet gave me….I subscribe myself, your affectionate son, — A. Reynolds”
To a brother: “We are encamped not more than 3 miles from a large force of the Enemy…we are out on picket & have been out since Sunday night…..we expect soon to have some hard fun. Yesterday we received 20 extra rounds cartridge which we have to carry in our pockets for our knapsacks have been taken back about five miles. I now close by subscribing myself, your affectionate brother– A. R.”
November 24, 1861
As I have a few leisure moments, I thought I would give you a short description of our journey from Lebanon to Washington City. In the 1st place we left Coleman on the 20th and went as far as Baltimore. All along the road we were greeted with cheers. We slept in the cars on Wednesday night. On Thursday morn about 5 o’clock we left the cars and marched about two miles to another station where we got our breakfast which consisted of bread, cake, ham & coffee. But I almost forgot to tell you that we had 3 days rations in our haversacks.
When we marched through Baltimore we were greeted with cheers everywhere with but one exception. There were two men & a darkey standing at a corner as we passed when one of the men said to Gumbo, “Helloo Colonel, there goes your uncles,” & if our boys would of dared to, they would of raised a muss right away. I tell you, it was a hard pill to swallow. It would not slip down like your Indian vegetable pills used to.
But I am getting off my subject. At about 9 o’clock we left Baltimore to Washington. It was strung full of camps put there for the purpose of guarding the railroad. We reached Washington about 5 o’clock in the evening. We then marched into the Soldier’s Rest—a building about 300 feet long & about 50 wide—where we put our knapsacks off & then we marched 3 companies at a time into the Soldier’s Retreat & got our supper which consisted of corned beef, bread, & coffee. And then we went back into the Rest where we quartered for the night.
In the morning we got breakfast which consisted of the same fare as the supper. The buildings are situated about 450 yards from the Capitol on the same street. In the morning about 11 o’clock, we left for our quarters which is about 2 miles from where we quartered the night before. When we got to our camp, there was a great time a pitching our tents. While we were busy at work, who should come along but Col. Brown & Christ. Woods. They had been on a visit to the city & heard of us and so they thought they would come & see us. Their regiment is quartered about 13 miles from us on the other side of the Potomac. They said their boys were all pretty well. There is a company of Rhode Island boys encamped on a hill close by & if we go up there, we can get a good view of the Potomac & of the city. We could see the vessels a sailing on the river.
As the candle is very near out, I must bring my letter to a close. I am very well at present and hope the family are all the same. Give my love to all of my Danville friends. I close by addressing myself your affectionate son, — A. Reynolds
N. B. Give Anny a kiss for her Ally.
N. B. Do not address me before I write to you again for we expect to leave Washington in a few days as we are only waiting for our arms.