This letter was written by Roswell H. Ryan (1837-1902), the son of Smith R. Ryan and Jane A. Rockwell of Oswegatchie, St. Lawrence county, New York.
Roswell enlisted as a corporal at the age of 25 on 30 August 1862 in Co. E, 142nd New York State Volunteers. Enlistment records indicate he stood 5 feet, 8 inches tall, had blue eyes and brown hair. He gave his occupation as “carpenter.” For the last two years of his service it appears that Roswell was detailed to the Ambulance corps.
Camp Davis [Defenses of Washington D. C.]
142nd Regt. N. Y. S. Vol.
December 21, 
I received your letter last Thursday with $5 in it and was glad to hear from you, it being the second one that I have received. I am much obliged for the money and am in hopes that we will be paid the first of January.
In your letter you wrote that the Battle of Fredericksburg was going on and that the news was good. But alas! it has turned out as bad as bad can be. It is the worst defeat that the Union army has had—men led right to the slaughter. It makes us all heartsick and wish that we were out of such an army. I believe that the officers of the Government and officers of the Army are corrupt from the highest to the lowest officers. Such things can’t last long. The Union is going to the bad with such a state of management as was had at Fredericksburg. The army will probably go into winter quarters now looking at each all winter.
There is probably from 10 to 15,000 killed and wounded on our side and not more than one third of that number on their side. How long will such works as that last? I suppose till money men are all gone. They want a cleaning out from President to the very lowest man that has anything to do with this war and commence anew or else quit.
We are all well here and have no doubt but we will stay all winter. The weather today is quite cold and tonight it is agoing to be very cold. It is just dark now. I am writing by the fire from the chimney or fireplace.
Capt. [William] Wheeler & Lieut. [Hiram J.] Goodno have gone to Alexandria today and I am writing this in their tent. I received a letter from George Clark yesterday. Hoping that this letter will find you all well, I bid you adieu. My love to all.
Your affectionate son, — R. H. Ryan