The following three letters were pulled from the pension file of Enoch C. Dow (1842-1863), the son of Orchard Cook Dow (1806-1894) and Jane Crocker (1810-1886) of Stockton Springs, Waldo county, Maine. Enoch had at least twelve siblings though not all of them survived to adulthood. Two of his siblings are mentioned in these letters—Wealthy J. Dow (1831-1879) and Orchard Cook Dow, Jr. (1835-1905). It’s unfortunate that so few of Enoch’s letters remain for his penmanship and the composition of his letters are clearly above par for the average enlisted man and are a testament to the public schools of Maine.
The 1860 Federal Census recorded Enoch C. Dow as a 17 year-old “Mariner,” living with his father, Orchard Dow, his mother Jane, and 6 siblings in the seacoast town of Stockton Springs near the mouth of the Penobscot river in Maine. When he enlisted as a Private in Co. E, 19th Maine Infantry on the one-year anniversary of the First Battle of Bull Run, he was described as standing 5 feet, 6 inches tall, with blue eyes, brown hair, and fair skin. By December, 1862, he was promoted Corporal, and then Sergeant on March 30, 1863.
These three letters, datelined from Falmouth, Virginia, in March, April, and May 1863, coincide with events that preceded the Battle of Chancellorsville, during the opening stages of the battle, and again after the battle as Lee’s army prepared to steal a march into Maryland and Pennsylvania on the unsuspecting Army of the Potomac.
Enoch’s service ended at Gettysburg where the 19th Maine saw severe fighting on both July 2d and July 3rd—on the former day, in a counterattack that aided in shoring up the Union defenses on Cemetery Ridge, and then on the 3rd, advancing against Pickett’s men at a critical moment in the action, where its colonel reported, “I lost very heavily.” Close to one half of the 439 officers and men he took into action were killed or wounded. As a Philadelphia female volunteer nurse at the 2d Corps hospital noted in a letter to her brother, ” a great many Maine boys are here, especially of the 19th Maine, which was terribly cut up.”
Among those lost was Sergeant Dow, mortally wounded in the hand, head and leg, probably on July 3d. He is buried in the Maine Plot of the Soldiers National Cemetery, Section C, Grave 12.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Camp near Falmouth, Virginia
Thursday, March 12, 1863
I received a letter from Wealthy last Monday stating that you had received the little sum of money which I sent home. I suppose you have disposed of it ere this in some manner, If not, you can do with it as you see fit. Keep it for your own use if you need it. If not, let Orchard have it.
Times here are a little more exciting at the present than they have been for a month past. Quite a force of the rebs have crossed over the river about 8 miles above here and a heavy force is all ready to follow them. ¹ Our orders are to be ready at a moment’s notice for we are liable to be attacked or called on at any moment. It’s now 9 o’clock and I think if we are not called for before I get this letter wrote that after I do, I shall undo my blankets and lie down, let the consequences be what they may. But I don’t think there is any danger of an attack tonight but I think they will stir us up before many days or we shall them. They may get a warm reception by coming over on to this side—even as warm as they gave us if they are not pretty careful how they carry salt.
The roads are pretty good now so that artillery can move and do pretty fair business. The weather seems to be more pleasant than it has been along back—not quite so wet and cold. However, it is pretty cold some days yet—especially the nights.
I wonder what the people think about the Conscript Law—that it will have a good effect and put an end to the war or create more nearer home? I kinder think it will make trouble myself but it may not. People at the head of this war are supposed to be learned men and capable of doing their duty but I believe some of them make terrible wide mistakes either purposely or accidentally.
I’m glad that I come when I did so that Old Abe can’t have the privilege of dragging me out as he will some of them. I suppose Henry Shute’s boys ² will all be sick and lame if there is a draft—or go hide somewhere so to get clear. I would like to see Nathan Hichborn, ² Ed Partridge, † and Otis Harriman and such like out here in the ranks. I should be willing to stay five years for the sake of keeping them here.
Well, my candle is about burnt out and I guess I shall have to quit writing—or scrabling just as you are a mind to call it. I’ll write again soon if we have any trouble with those rebs.
So good evening, Father
— E. C. Dow
¹ Rumors of a Confederate crossing of the Rappahannock appear to have been false. In a report to Maj. Gen. Butterfield, Aeronaut Thaddeus Lowe wrote on 12 March 1863: “I ascended early this morning from a point near Falmouth but was unable to discover any movements of the enemy on the roads or near any of the visible fords. All the camps around Fredericksburg remain quiet as usual. At about 8 o’clock I discerned working parties throwing up earth a short distance to the right of the city on the low land; also in the woods on the first ridge. I then moved my balloon some three miles up the where where I can get a fine view as soon as the high wind now prevailing ceases.” The following day, 13 March, he also reported: “Between 5 and 6:30 o’clock this morning, both balloons ascended, one near White Oak Church and the other about three miles up the river. No movement of the enemy was visible at that time.”
² Henry Shute (1802-1876) was a neighbor of the Dows in Stockton Springs. He was married to Nancy Flanders (1813-1869) and they had at least nine children, their five oldest being military age sons—Henry Edmund Shute (1834-1912), Isaac Hariman Shute (1837-1900), Samuel Shute (1839-1912), Alphonzo Shute (1841-1911), and George Alvin Shute (1844-1882). It appears that only Samuel served—probably drafted into the 8th Maine.
³ Nathan G. Hichborn (1818-1874) was a prolific shipbuilder, who produced schooners and barques on the waterfront in the bustling town of Stockton Springs. He ran for governor of the state of Maine in 1869 on the temperance movement’s platform but failed to win the office. His Italianate home in Stockton Springs was built in the 1850s. We can infer from Enoch Dow’s letter that Hichborn, as well as the other citizens, were either outspoken opponents of the war or “stay at home” patriots who were unwilling to risk life and limb for their country.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
Camp near Falmouth, Va.
Wednesday, April 29th 1863
Sister Nellie [Ellen (Dow) Harriman],
As I have not written to you for some time, I thought I would just drop a few lines this evening informing you that we are all well. Also that the whole army is on the move excepting our division which is doing picket duty at the present time. We shall not be likely to advance until the picket line is broken up which will not be until our folks get across the river and give them battle. Our troops seem to be moving up to the right mostly to cross at some point there. I understood that our cavalry crossed at Kelly’s Ford yesterday and the report today is that they have got in the rear of the enemy and are doing finely. If that is the case, I think we will show them what yankees can do between now and next Saturday night.
The battle has already begun although not much has been done at yet towards it. There was a little fighting at Kelly’s Ford yesterday and some more this morning whilst our troops were crossing here at the centre but they didn’t make much out of it for they hardly knew that our men were coming before they were over the river. ¹ The way they surprised them was by the men carrying the pontoon boats down to the river instead of hauling them as they usually do—not making but a little noise in the operation (and it being foggy and dark). ² They got their boats into the river before the rebel pickets knew or discovered what they were up to. They tried terrible hard to get into their rifle pits but the damned yankees—as they call them—threw the shells into their ranks so fast that they couldn’t come it so they broke and run like sheep for some old building where they could get out of sight. I believe there was only two wounded during the skirmish of our men but I reckon they had a few dead ones to bury by the appearance of things.
There is some fifteen thousand infantry and a number of batteries across here at the centre and it looks like there would be warm work tomorrow if not before. But the battle will be over and the victory decided by the time you receive this without doubt. There is many a poor fellow soldier that never will see the sun sink behind the horizon again. I may be one of that number. However, we will not think of that but trust to greater power.
Tell Father that we were paid off yesterday four months pay so there will be $32,00 I received at the town treasure for him to collect.
Excuse this for it was done in a hurry. And tell somebody to write if they know how for I haven’t received but one letter from home for three weeks. Write as soon as you can. Goodbye until I write again, Nellie.
—Sergt. E. C. Dow
¹ Hooker began sending Union troops across the river at Fredericksburg on the “misty, foggy” morning of 28 April 1863 but according to the diary of Isaac Lyman Taylor, 1st Minnesota Infantry, who’s regiment was encamped in direct view of the Confederates from across the river, they were ordered to remain inactive and give no hint of a forward movement. His diary gives the 29th as cloudy with some rain in the afternoon. He also added that day, “We hear occasional cannonading down river. It is reported that Sedgwick’s Corps (6th) has crossed below.”
² Maj. Gen. Segwick’s after action report, submitted on 7 May 1863, confirms the hand carrying of the pontoons: “All the troops camped that night without fires behind the heights, and concealed from the observation of the enemy. During the night the pontoons were carried to the river by hand, at the upper crossing, and shortly before daylight Brooks’s division of the 6th Corps crossed in boats, Russell’s brigade taking the lead and receiving the fire of the enemy’s pickets and reserves. The enemy’s rifle pits were immediately occupied, and three bridges were rapidly laid, under the direction of Brigadier General Benham.”
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE
19th Regiment Maine Vol.
Near Falmouth, Virginia
May 30th 1863
As an opportunity offers, I will endeavor to write a few lines as I wish to inform you that a small sum of money is on the homeward route. We received two months pay yesterday so the amount on the road is $16.00. But how about the last payment of four months? I never have heard whether you received it or not but [in] all probability you have for its been a month since the payment was made and that’s thousands of time for it to go in. I wish whoever writes next would just mention if it has been received for I should like to know if it has or it has not. Hereafter I shall send some by mail as I shall receive $17.00 a month and if I keep it with me I shall lose it or fool it away so I will send it home and then if I should want a little, I can send home for it by mail. Then if Johnny Reb should take me prisoner, he would not get the green-backs which he is very fond of—Ha, Ha!
The report is that the rebs are evacuating here but whether there is any truth in it or not, I don’t know. Their camps are plainly visible all along on the crest of the hill as far as you can see but the report from the balloon ¹ is that no one is to be seen in or about those camps. If such is the case that they have left, we shall know it and be in pursuit of the rascals before they get a great distance, If they are leaving here or intend to leave, their destination probably is Richmond for that is the only noted place that they have got to fly to.
Gen. Grant will soon have them out of Vicksburg if he has not already. Then what Gen. Grant don’t take prisoners will be for skedaddling to Richmond to make a stand there. But I don’t see how they are going to live in Richmond if their supplies are cut off as it is said they are. They cannot stand it a great while, that’s certain. But this cutting off supplies, I don’t put much confidence in.
Old Abe ought to raise about 600,000 conscripts and arm and equip them. Then we would get the rebs all into Richmond, surround them, and starvation would bring them to terms mighty quick. That’s the way to do it.
Believe I have written all for this time so goodbye. I am respectfully your son, — Sergt. E. C. Dow
¹ This may be one of the last references to an observation balloon being used for surveillance of the enemy positions and movements. By this time Thaddeus Lowe had resigned from the the Balloon Corps citing differences with Captain Comstock who was put in charge of the reassigned air division. By the time of this letter, the Balloon Corps was being run by the Allen brothers. By August, the Corps had ceased to exist.