1864: William Henry Broughton to William S. Broughton

This 1864 letter was written by Lt. (later Capt.) William H. Broughton (1846-1882) of the 16th Maine during the siege of Petersburg in the days immediately following the Battle of the Crater. Lt. Boughton enlisted in Co. D on 14 August 1862 at the age of 16. During the regiment’s first major battle (Fredericksburg) later that year, he undertook heroic actions in the wake of the decimation of his regiment, functionally taking leadership of the remnants of his entire company. Shortly following the battle, on 31 December 1862, still at the age of 16, he was officially promoted to 2nd Lieutenant. ¹

Broughton’s Fredericksburg exploits are briefly described in the 16th Maine’s published history, written by Maj. James A. Hall in 1886 (available as free text on the internet).

William was the son of William S. and Frances Broughton of Portland, Cumberland county, Maine.

[Note: This letter is from the personal collection of Richard Weiner and is published by express consent.]

Lt. Wm. H. Broughton’s 1864 Letter with his image.


Camp of the 16th Maine Volunteers
August 3, 1864

Dear Father,

Although I wrote to you a few days since I will write a few lines as I am going on picket tonight.

Since the assault on the 30th, everything has been as still as death. I fear, however, that the Rebs are up to snuff. Indeed, I almost know what they are doing. They are undermining one of our forts. Our troops are digging now to intercept it. The fort I speak of is on our right about half a mile from us. It is also reported that they are undermining another one on the right of this but they will be foiled, you can rest assured.

Banquettes are platforms built up on the inside of a fort for the infantry to fire over the parapet.

Capt. Pennell, 16th Maine Vols.

Capt. Pennell is present but sick in Division Headquarters. He will resign as quick as he can get his papers fixed up. Don’t let this be known publicly.

Love to Mother &c.

From your son, — William H. Braughton

P. S. Hope you get a lithograph of our winter quarters. I ordered one to be sent to you.

¹ I have shown William’s age as 16 at the time of his enlistment in spite of the fact that a copy of his Maine Birth Record indicates he was born on 4 August 1845. Many other sources suggest that he was actually 16 at the time including a letter that William sent to his Father on 10 January 1863 in which he wrote that, “Today is my birthday…” Most likely William was actually born on 10 January 1846. It may have been that William claimed his birthdate was just prior to the enlistment date so that he might enlist at 17—the minimum age allowed for a soldier to enlist with his parent’s permission.


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