1863: John C. Westervelt to Family

These two letters were written by Capt. John C. Westervelt (1818-1870) of Co. D, 22nd New Jersey Infantry—a nine months unit. The first letter was written to his son Jasper Westervelt (1844-1887) who served as a sergeant in the same company. The second letter was written to his wife, Leah (Hopper) Westervelt (1817-1890) of Washington, Bergen county, New Jersey.

Both father and son took part in the Battle of Chancellorsville in early May 1862. While there are no records of their injuries to either during this battle, both men were consigned to hospitals in the following weeks: John to Seminary Hospital at Georgetown and Jasper to the General Hospital at Acquia Creek, Virginia. Several of their letters are preserved at the New Jersey Historical Society (see Guide to the John C. Westervelt and Jasper Westervelt Letters, 1862-1863)


Seminary Hospital
Georgetown, C. C.
May 14, 1863

Dear Son,

I received your letter of May 12th yesterday afternoon and was much pleased to find that you had received—and are still receiving—our letter and especially the letters of the 29th and 30th of April with the money enclosed to use it to the best advantage. Enclosed in this one you will find a few stamps. I have to sent you many this time for I see by your letter that there is a report there of sending the men away—some, that is; those that are fit—to their regiments and the others to Washington and in that case it would not be safe perhaps to send too much by letter just at present.

You asked my advice in relation to speaking to the doctor about being transferred to Washington. I would not speak to him until you see what they are going to do about this report. One thing you want to be careful for and that is to play off weak—especially about the legs and back—and be careful to play your points well. From what you stated in your letter the other day in relation to throwing away your cane on the reception of our letters. I take it that you are still using one in walking about. Keep using it and when it comes to an examination, tell the doctor that you are not fit to march, making it appear at the same time that you wish you was.

And in case you should get sent to Washington, apply to be sent to Armory Square Hospital which would bring you the nearest to me and especially now, for you will recollect that I stated in one of my letters to you the other day that we had orders to take board at some private house and which we did yesterday afternoon. We are now boarding at Washington 377 Nineteenth Street, and from what I have found it a very good place—$6.00 per week. We had to pay 5.50 at the hospital. I, Lieut. Titus, and Lieut. Brooks of the 27th Connecticut have one room together. We have to report every other day at the hospital.

Direct your letters as usual. We will get the, there everyday. Inform me in your next what is done about your business, No more at present. I am about the same—wanting rest. Yours as ever, — John C. Westervelt

Written in a hurry.


Seminary Hospital
Georgetown, D. C.
May 23rd 1863

Dear wife and ever respected Mother,

It is with much pleasure that I again take my pen to talk a little with you this morning for that at present is yet the only way that we have of conversing together yet I trust with a little more patience and good courage (of which I possess considerable more than I did at one time) be able to make known to each other our pleasures and sorrows in a manner more agreeable and in each others presence. I had yesterday quite a treat again in the way of letters and I can assure you that I appreciate such treats for they are a solace to me. I received one from you dated May 20th and was much pleased to find the heading all right which is that you are still in good health and may it be your blessed privilege to continue so.

I also received two letters from Jasper yesterday dated May 20th and 21st which headings I also found to be right for he informed me that he still continued able to take his rations regular and in good earnest. He also informed me that he was still employed in the capacity of nurse and expected to be until his time was out, let that be when it would. Yet he don’t appear to believe much in the idea of staying until the 22nd but at the same time rejoices to think that it is only a little longer and by a little good courage, will be able to get through 22 days more.

And I also received one yesterday from Lieut. [Walter H.] Rumsey dated May 19th giving me some information from the regiment which I was very inquisitive about and he informed that Co. D was getting along finely with the exception of Sergt. I. D. Bojert who had been complaining some but was improving and would soon be around again. And he also informed that it was highly necessary to be in good health to stand it on account of the heat and especially at nights in the small shelter (or rather dog coop) tents. He stated in his letter to me that there was nothing decisive known in the regiment yet when out time would be out but the general opinion was that we would be kept until the 22nd. He also stated that Quartermaster Gen. [Lewis] Perrine from Trenton had been down to Washington to find out from the War Department and had been told by them that 9 months after our time of mustering into the United States service. We know that to, provided we had been mustered legally. He had understood to. Some of the Hackensackers had been down to the Governor to see if he could not call us home on the first of June but knew nothing more about it.

I am still improving slowly. Yours as ever, — John C. Westervelt

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