This letter was written by Corp. Levi Miller (1836-1899) from Fort Marion, St. Augustine, Florida, to a friend back home named Orville.
Levi was living with the Berry family and working as a shoemaker at Strafford Corners, Strafford county, New Hampshire when he enlisted in Co. A, 7th New Hampshire Infantry in October 1861. He served until May 1864 when he was discharged for disability. After the war he married Sarah Ann Babb (1836-1923).
In the 1880 US Census, Levi is enumerated with his wife and two daughters in Strafford where his occupation was given as “farmer” though there is a curious notation in the disability column of the census record indicating that Levi was “wounded in the army.” This injury is corroborated by the 1890 Veteran’s Schedule where Levi claims he was shot in the right hip.
The New Hampshire Historical Society has another of Levi’s letters in their collection that was datelined from Fort Jefferson, Florida on 21 May 1862.
For another letter by member of Co. A, 7th New Hampshire, see 1862: Charles Franklin Stevens to George Henry Stevens.
Fort Marion, ¹ Florida
April 11, 1863
Not having much to do & being on the sick list too, I think I will try & scribble a few lines in answer to your letter than I received a week or two ago but the boat did not stop long enough for me to answer then so I will try & do so now. I spoke of being on the sick list. I have been unwell for a few days but am getting better now. I shall be on duty again in a day or two.
I have not got much news to write so you won’t get much of a letter but never mind. You can read it sometime when you have nothing to do. I think you was a little hard on me in your letter to think I had changed my mind. I have not changed—only I will never vote for a man that goes in for freeing the negroes now. That is so because I think they are better off where they are & I shall continue to think so until I see something to convince me that I am wrong.
Well you say you have got whipped this year in Strafford. Orville, never mind that if the state has gone alright. That is the main point. I hope you have got some some men to do the town business. I see that Congress has passed a Conscripts Act to take all men between such & such ages. Please tell me when you write again what you think of it—that is, if they will stand it. I have heard it rumored that they intended to resist. I think it will be foolish for them to try that.
I suppose that you have heard of this—that five companies of our regiment has left here for some other port. I do not know where they have gone but I expect to Charleston. ² I do not write this because I know for I do not but that is what I think. I hope out troops will be victorious there for I want to hear of the downfall of that detestable place—the hot bed of secession. Almost two years since the first fun was fired on Fort Sumter & we have heard today that our gunboats have gone up by Fort Sumter & lay between that and the city. That is what [news] a Catholic Priest brought to our picket lines today. Hope it is so but I do not take much stock in it myself. I do not believe much until I see an official report of the General Commanding & then I believe it.
Since those 5 companies went away, our duty has been pretty hard. We have to go on guard about every other day. I don’t believe the companies that have gone will come back here again. I think we shall follow them but how soon, I can’t tell. It is quite amusing to hear the stories that they have had agoing since the other companies went away. One day it would be that we was agoing to be attacked by a thousand men & so many pieces of artillery, & then it would be something else, & I think that some of them was scared. I have not been frightened a great deal yet. There was a deserter come in here the other day & said there was 15 hundred men & 18 pieces of artillery agoing to attack us the next day but we have not seen them yet.
Since Tobias come out of the hospital he has been to work in the cook house. He was out after some cabbage that he bought the other day & he met with an accident. As he was cutting them up, his knife slipped & he cut his hamstring about half off but he is getting along nicely now. He sends his respects to you and Mr. Sloper’s folks.
We are having very fine weather here now. The trees have all leafed out & it looks like summer north. We have corn that was planted this winter that is 3 feet tall. What do you think of that for the Sunny South—famous land that it is? Well, Vess, I am thankful for one thing—that is that the war is not in the North as it is here & that I know that my folks or friends [do not] suffer as I have seen them suffer [here] since I have been in Florida. I was on picket a short time ago & there is a woman that lives just outside of the lines & she comes to me after we had eat our dinner & asked me if I had anything left—that I would give her anything that I had thrown away. We had some hard bread left & we threw away & I picked it up & gave it to her & she gave it to her children & I should think they had not anything to eat for a week by the way they ate that. She said all that she had in the house to eat was two quarts of meal & she did not know where she was agoing to get any more. Corn is worth $5.00 a bushel in rebeldom. Tuff, ain’t it?
I should think by some of the letters that I get from home that they was all agoing to get married. They say the boys are stringing the girls right up. Well, I don’t blame them. I expect by the time you get this, you will have begun your spring work. We are what you might call gentleman loafers—have to wear white gloves & wear blacked boots. We had ought to have a little darkey to black them for us but we have not got one yet.
April 13th & I have returned to duty again. We have been firing the big guns today. We made some first rate shots. It made my head snap like the Devil when the old thing went off.
April 14th. Well, the boys have got back again but the news is not much. Probably you have heard before now so I won’t say anything about it. Foss is well & so is the rest of the Strafford boys. Well, I think I have wrote enough this time so I won’t write anymore. So now good luck.
From your friend. My respects to all the folks, — Levi
Please write soon.
¹ Constructed by the Spanish beginning in the 17th century, the Castillo de San Marcos was renamed Fort Marion when Florida came into possession of the United States in 1821. At the outbreak of the Civil, Fort Marion was seized by Florida and soon was part of the Confederate defenses of the state. On March 11, 1862, Fort Marion and St. Augustine was surrendered to to the United States and remained in U.S. possession throughout the remainder of the war.
² On 29 March 1863, “Colonel Putnam, with five companies, was ordered to join the expedition against Charleston, which left Hilton Head about the 1st of April. The movement proving a failure, the detachment of the Seventh returned to St. Augustine, after an absence of about two weeks, when on the 10th of May it was ordered to Fernandina, two companies being put in garrison in Fort Clinch, and the remainder being employed on fatigue and picket duty.”