1861: Edwin Freeman Morris to Charlotte (Beman) Morris

This letter was written by Edwin Freeman Morris (1841-1862)—a Boston clerk when he  enlisted on 30 April 1861 as a private in Co. D, 13th Massachusetts Infantry. He went missing and was presumed killed on 30 August 1862 at Second Bull Run.

Edwin was born in Alden, New York, the son of Warren Josiah Morris (1814-1896) and Nancy Estabrook Freeman (1820-1841). Edwin’s father remarried Charlotte A. Beman (1828-1876) in 1844 and it was Charlotte that raised Edwin and to whom he addressed this letter. Edwin also refers to “Georgie” who was his much younger step-brother, George Beman Morris (1850-1925).

This letter was written on Christmas day in 1861 from the regiment’s encampment near Williamsport, Maryland.

This oil on canvas painting is described as “a scene of the 13th Regiment Massachusetts Infantry” done in 1865 by Corp. Henry Bacon (1839-1912) who served in Co. D with Edwin F. Morris. It depicts the regiment at Camp Jackson near Williamsport, Maryland, during the winter of 1861-62. The red blankets are a unique characteristic of the regiment. So are the men, who were noted for their neatness, their health, their manners and their high standing in society.


Williamsport [Maryland]
December 25th 1861

Dear Mother,

Edwin Freeman Morris, Co. D, 13th Mass.

I wish you a merry Christmas. Also Merry Christmas to Father and Georgie. I received your letter and Georgie’s melanotype this morning and was very glad indeed. Georgie looks well and as natural as ever and old dog Frank looks posted by his side. The picture that I sent was taken in my fatigue clothes just as I was called out to go into a fight up to Dam [No.] 5. I will have it taken again in full uniform and sent it home before long. A member of Co. F is an artist and has a regular daguerrean saloon in camp.

Christmas among soldiers sounds natural but seems different. Holidays with a soldier are unknown. Here I am among a thousand men in a camp covering half an acre of ground and surrounded by a guard. No man is allowed to pass out without a pass signed by his Captain and the Colonel. His daily routine of life is daily drills, standing guard, and sleep and liable to be called out at any time of day or night to fight the enemy. Government gives to our company today for Christmas dinner stewed beans and burnt at that.

The houses that we live in are the Sibley tent which are round and conical. They are capable of covering 21 men if they all lay spoon fashion with their feet piled up in the center. The tent is supported by one pole in the centre, the lower end resting upon a tripod underneath which we have a little sheet iron stove which affords us a little comfort.

New England Thanksgiving was held on the 21st of November last. Hardly a man in the regiment what received a box of goodies to eat from home—roast turkeys, chickens, rich cakes, puddings, sauces and mince pies was the bill of fare of which I enjoyed my share which were delicacies indeed.

I will now give an instance of Maryland cooking. This morning the boy in our mess brought 4 roast turkeys which a lady brought in for sale. The first on being cut open was found to contain a crop full of corn. The second was undone. The third had a gizzard unopened. The 4th [was] stuffed with hashed potatoes and a rag which probably come from a sore finger. Mince pies are another specimen. First a little hashed beef. second hashed potatoes, and crusts of bread, a few raisons (no seasoning &c.) mixed with water and placed between two “what I call” cold griddle cakes. Price 15 cents “Delucius.” Apple and pumpkin pies are about the same.

Marylanders on an average are a homely and ignorant set. Man, woman, and child swear and chew tobacco. Their language partakes of the nigger dialect. Very few females wear hoops and I don’t believe there are 10 girls older than 20 that have got teeth in the front part of their mouth. I will someday write and give my observations on farming and agricultural productions, their implements and manner of working them. It may look curious to you but I notice these things and indeed I cannot help it.

Since my last letter, we have had a skirmish with the enemy at Falling Waters. Co. D began the ball and held their ground until every rebel was out of sight. The rebels call this regiment Yankee sharpshooters and hate us awfully. They swear that every one of us they take prisoner will never go home alive. But not one have they taken yet. Col. Leonard has under his command 24 cannon, 14 of which are present in our camp. They make quite a formidable appearance.

Please direct your letter to Williamsport instead of Washington D. C. &c.

— E. F. Morris

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