1865: Martin Van Buren Doty to Cousin

This letter was written by Martin Van Buren Doty (1832-1884), the son of Christopher Doty (1788-1857) and Lucinda Hyde (1794-1894) of Hornellsville, Steuben county, New York. Martin was married in 1854 to Elizabeth Lamphear (1837-1894).

Martin and his older brother, Franklin (“Frank”) B. Doty (1831-1865) served together during the Civil War. Both brothers initially served in the 23rd New York Infantry where Frank rose to the rank of Captain and Martin to First Sergeant. They both later reenlisted in the 179th New York Infantry when it was formed in April 1864. Frank was commissioned the Lieutenant-Colonel of the regiment while Martin rose in rank from Hospital Steward to 1st Lieutenant of Co. C, and finally to Captain of Co. B. He was breveted Major when he was discharged from the service.

In this letter, Martin informs his cousin (unidentified) that Frank was wounded in the 2 April 1865 assault on Petersburg but that he was expected to live. He did not. Frank died three days later from the gunshot would to his chest that felled him from his horse. Joseph Robinson, surgeon of the 179th New York, later wrote that Lt. Col. Doty died at the “Jones House” in Petersburg. Could this have been the Peter Jones Trading Station at the corner of North Market Street and Grove Avenue in Petersburg? It was apparently used alternately as a prison and hospital during the Civil War. Another home on W. Washington Street in Petersburg built by Peter Jones in 1763 that was called “Folly Castle” may have also been used as a hospital.

[See also—1864: Franklin Benjamin Doty to Helen Fowler Finch].

Martin Van Buren Doty’s letter of 2 April 1865 and his CDV


Before Petersburg
April 2, 1865

Dear Cousin,

Through Frank’s request, I write you. Today we have fought one of the hardest battles of the war and Frank was wounded while charging at the head of his regiment. His wound is a very painful one but it is the opinion of the doctors that, with good care, he will recover. The ball appears to have affected the lungs and still remains in him but I have known several cases similar to get well. If he should get worse, I will inform you.

Before this reaches you, Petersburg will have been ours. But oh! at such a sacrifice. I am so very tired (not having slept much in the last forty-eight hours) and heartsick, I cannot write more at present.

Yours truly, — M. V. Doty

This excerpt from Frank’s Pension File was written by Joseph W. Robinson, Surgeon of the 179th New York. Robinson states that Frank’s mortal wound was inflicted by a “ball shot from a gun of the enemy passing through his thorax on the 2d day of April 1865.” He further states that Frank died “at the Jones House in Virginia on the 5th day of April 1865.”



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