These three letters were written by William Fraser Wood (1843-1864), the son of John Wood (1804-1873) and Rachel Martine (1804-1883) of Clarkstown, Rockland county, New York. William was 18 when he enlisted on 16 September 1861 in Co. G, 48th New York Infantry. He was a corporal when he died on 26 September 1864 at Annapolis, Maryland, from wounds that he received at Drury’s Bluff, Va., on 16 May 1864.
His Muster Roll Abstract profiles him as a 6 foot 2 inch carpenter with dark hair and brown eyes.
William wrote the letters to his sister, Sarah Elizabeth Wood (1832-18xx) and her farmer husband, John Livingston Van Houten (1834-1902) of Nyack, Rockland county, New York. William mentions their two children, Ellis Van Houten (b. 1859) and Carrie Van Houten (b. 1861). He also mentions his older brother, Garret Smith Wood (b. 1838).
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Addressed to J. Livingston Van Houten, Nyack, Turnpike P. O., Rockland Co., New York
Fort Pulaski, Georgia
February 16th 1863
My Dear Brother and Sister,
Yours of January 31st came to hand last night. And I now take advantage of the opportunity to answer.
I am still enjoying unusual good health for the time of year and climate taking in consideration the state of weather which is extremely stormy with very thick heavy fogs.
I am happy to hear that Smith is safe in his new home. As I have received no answer from him for several weeks I will wait awhile before writing.
I received the edition of Hardee and am happy to state that I nearly know every word but there is still another edition necessary—Instruction of Officers & School of Battalion—which I intend to learn thoroughly and then see what I can do towards promotion.
The wax comes useful for sealing purposes. I am sorry that your going is so uncertain as you might go visiting with wagon & get stuck or go with sleigh and come home with bare ground. I am happy to hear that pony Prince stays in good health.
Well, having finished one page looking over Livingston’s communication, I turn my sheet and your letter and now commence to answer Sarah’s.
Sarah, you say you are lazy. I am glad you are as you can write long letters containing the latest news. I see that you have your usual smash ups in sleighing as you broke down once. Did you get tumbled out in the snow? It is so long since I have seen any large quantity of snow that I hardly know how it looks.
I see by a letter from Mother that my former friend little Josey Van Orden is laid in his grave. It makes me feel bad but so it is everybody must go when his term on earth is expired.
By your letter you say you suppose I think that Carrie is a baby yet. I allow I should hardly expect to find a little lady after a few years absence but you must make some allowance for a soldier in the army. There is but little room for improvement. In the army, there is chance to learn to suit ourselves to circumstances, but there is little use for a mechanic or a highly educated fellow if you have officers like ours. Since coming to this army, I have learned more of people than I knew from history or before from personal experience. Now, for instance, here is an old Greek or Irishman down here talking of business of which I know as much of as himself and rather more. He is a reduced Sergeant so now we can talk to him on the same footing.
A flag of truce went last night to Savannah but was not accepted so another started this morning. It is for the purpose of taking some women to Rebel lines that uses our troops obnoxiously at Fernandina, Florida—they having broken their oath of allegiance here. We are exposed to heavy winds, there being nothing to break it off so if a fellow gets wet, it often gives him a severe cold or stiffness or some such thing.
Well, having been obliged to lay this aside on the 16th on account of being detailed on some duty, and being detailed for guard on the 17th, I now take my pen in hand on this the 18th, it being the first opportunity. Yesterday was payday. We received 4 months or in other words, $52.00. I intend to retain my money this payday—only sending for what I want. Besides, I wish to go to Hilton Head to get my picture taken for all hands. It is a laughable affair—a payday in the army here—and there you will see a lot of men standing or sitting. In fact, in almost every position, counting out and handing over the Green Backs, marking out accounts on paper with pen & pencil.
This morning commenced with a hard rain but now it is clear and fine with one exception—that is, our parade is under water as usual.
As soon as I can get a pass in and signed, I will go to the Head on purpose to get my picture taken so that you can look on my features on paper if not on myself in person. As I know not how long it will be before I will again visit the North, I wish you would see if my big brother, Mr. G[arret] S[mith] Wood, received an order from me for some goods and if so, if he intends to ship them as I wish to know so as to send cash for them.
Communications from home are full of complaints of a character that it makes me feel bad to read the letters received for over 6 months and since Smith left, they get worse. Complaining of Smith as a card player &c. The fact is, I know not what to make of such letters so I intend to wait till I get another before answering any.
My friend A[be] Clark ² is well as usual. He sends his respects. This morning after I came off guard, I called in his place of residence to speak of old times. He then showed me some pictures received from home & spoke of little Ellis asking me if I thought I would know the youngster. Abe spoke of the way Ellis used to stand and look at him. Has he that habit yet? I have not answered J. E. House’s letter yet as I have been short of stamps for one thing and a little lazy for another.
After I send my photograph, I would like you to send me those of your family—your own & Liv’s included.
Grandma sends a few lines in mother’s letter. What has become of A. C. Brady, Jun. I have not received an answer to one I sent him.
I send a specimen Green Back in this wishing to exchange for an equal allowance of postage stamps. Please send stamps. 18 three-cents, rest in one cents.
Yours &, — Wm. F. Wood, Co. G, &c.
¹ According to the diary of William B. Howard of Co. F, 48th New York, the flag of truce went up on the morning of 16 February 1863. A woman and two children were being sent into Savannah.
² Abram Clark was 26 years old when he enlisted in Co. G, 48th New York Infantry on 16 September 1861. He rose to the rank of sergeant before mustering out in July 1865.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
Headquarters 48th N. Y. I.
Fort Pulaski, Ga.
August 29th 1863
Dear Sister & Brother,
Yours of August 14th reached me some 20 minutes ago at exactly 15 minutes to 3 P. M. so you will see how prompt I am at answering. It is the first letter I have received from home in a long time. One also came to me from Smith. He says he left the N. Y. E Co. and was working in a ship yard.
That last picture I sent you was a better one than the first—only a soldier has no business to have his picture taken with his cap off. I direct George L. Gurnee, West Haverstraw, Rockland Co., N. Y. (in lower left hand cover) In care of Robt. T. Gurnee, Benson’s Corner (in two lines). They always go straight that way.
We have no chaplain. The Rev. Strickland resigned. He was used rather roughly by the officers. Saturday has been my day for guard for two or three Sundays and is today so I come off tomorrow morning and a man coming off guard generally feels pretty well played out. I know I are, and as far as religious meetings, we have not heard of any for some time. Our Col. Mr. B. Barton decided that Lieut. Tantum was unfit for carrying on the service because he did not put on airs, so it done away with the meetings. The officers that were Christians—or acted like them—were generally men; the others hogs.
Does Ellis remember me?
You spoke about mosquitoes. O! if you had such a crowd as we have here, you would not know what to do. I have a good net, but they will crawl in through some corner and fly up under the bottom of the net alongside the bunk.
I lately wrote to J. E. Rouse at Albany, N. Y. My letters have been few & far between. I know not what makes it so. But so it is. In the last month, I have written some 30 letters and only got 7.
I seen a description of a tornado in the Amenia Times—a Dutchess Co. paper. It says the farm belonged to a Mr. Barnes. It thought it was the Goose farm from the way it was described.
So you have once more commenced writing to the Gondy family. I also would like to write a few letters there. Both to Brinckerhoff De Clark and the Gondy’s. Please send the addresses to me. My correspondence is not 28. I think I can afford to add a few to my list. I had heard of father’s having the diarrhea but did not think it would lay him by for so long a time. How is the business getting along? I would like to hear. Since Smith has left, I know pretty well how it has been carried on, about as it used to, on a slow, sure plan. Rather too slow and sure to pay good.
I have yet some 10 months to serve and then I will one more visit Rockland for a time. I know not how long as I will if I like the service follow the war through till its end.
Did the riots visit your part of the county? I hear nothing of you.
I wish you would write to George often and try to get him brought up a little different from the way his father was. I must close. In my next I will tell you how I like the place we move to next Tuesday—Tybee Island
Give my respects to all friends. Direct as usual.
I remain your affectionate brother, — Wm. F. Wood, Ft. Pulaski, Ga.
Put the letter “G” in big style so as to be easily seen.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE
Hilton Head Is., South Carolina
November 18th 1863
My dear sister,
Yours of November 8th was received this evening and it has put me in excellent spirits hearing from home and friends once more. Lately my letters are few & far between and I know not what to make of it.
As you have seen by the heading of this letter that our company has left Tybee, I will tell you a little about our move. Late at night on the 12th a steamer arrived off the Tybee Battery loaded with troops and when it communicated with us we found it was two companies of the 48th sent to relieve G & I. So we had orders to pack up ready to start at 8 A.M. I was on guard so I went to the shanty and commenced. We knew we were to be relieved but did not think it was so soon. All things was in readiness for packing and I had my things packed that night and our extra clothing was packed in a large box. We intended to haul our things to the landing that night but could not find the horses so it was put off till morning.
As soon as relieved the next day, the old guard was sent to the wharf to load the steamer. We did not leave the wharf till 3 o’clock so we did not arrive here in time enough to disembark so we lay in the steamer all night. When we passed the gunboat Unadilla we received three roaring cheers from her crew & officers which we returned. They did not like to see us go. She has a fine set of men on board.
We was put on guard here. I was in a steamer and we had no tents till late on the third day. The second night here I was on boat picket. The third I had for sleep and the fourth I was on police guard. So tonight I have for sleep but where I will be tomorrow night I can’t say. We have only four in a tent so it makes it right for sleeping. We have a lot of conscripts in the regiment but they are not fit for duty. They are what is called a Rum looking set we have.
I must close. My respects to all. From your affectionate brother, — W. Fraser Wood
For directions look to the head of letter.