1864: John Henry Holt to Rev. Samuel George Willard

This letter was written by English emigrant John Henry Holt (1829-1914) who enlisted as a private in Co. F, 10th Connecticut Volunteers. John was a shoemaker in Willimantic, Windham county, Connecticut, when he enlisted. He was married to Eliza Rollinson (1837-1903) in 1857 and had two young children when he enlisted—Sarah Holt (1858-1932) and John H. Holt, Jr (1861-1934).

The 10th Connecticut Regiment Infantry was one of Connecticut’s most successful civil war regiments, compiling an exemplary record of service in the Union Army. They saw action in the coastal campaign during the early years of the war, which culminated with the siege of Charleston. The 10th went on to fight the trench battles of Richmond, earning praise from Union generals and Ulysses S. Grant. The 10th was active at the war’s very end, when they blocked Robert E. Lee’s attempt to escape from Virginia. And, the 10th was present at Appomattox Court House when Lee surrendered to Grant. All told, the 10th regiment fought in twenty-three battles and at least as many skirmishes.

Holt wrote the letter to Rev. Samuel George Willard (1819-1887) who was the pastor of the First Congregational Church in Willimantic, Windham county, Connecticut.

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John Holt’s Letter with image of unknown Union Private

TRANSCRIPTION
Addressed to Rev. S. G. Willard, Willimantic, Connecticut
Postmarked Old Point Comfort, Va.

Yorktown, Virginia
April 29th [1864]

Rev. S. G. Willard, Pastor and Friend,

Your very kind and welcome letter of April 5th was received last night by me. Your letter would have been received before now but we left Augustine before your letter got there.

We left [St.] Augustine 2 weeks ago on Monday next and landed here on the 25th. We had a good time in coming down although I was sick some little. We came down on the steamer Mary Boardman. I must say that I did not want to leave Augustine. I have never been in any place in the South that I like so well as [St.] Augustine. The people told us that there never was a regiment there before that they loved and respected as much as ours. When we left the dock, the band was playing, the gun port fired a salute, the ladies waved their colors in their hands and the cheers was kept up until we got out of sight.

We are now on the sacred soil of Virginia and we soon expect to be on a [march] for Richmond. And if the rebels should make a stand in this state, we shall have some hot fighting. But it is my belief that as soon as Grant has got his army ready to move, they will draw him into the very gates of Richmond but his main army will have gone to some other state—-say North and South Carolina. This will be done to prevent a defeat for Lee must know that he cannot stand before such an army as we have got before them. If they should make a stand, they can hold us in check for some time and make a great slaughter. And as for me, I have faced danger before in all forms and shapes and I can face it again if duty calls.

I am glad to hear that you are prospering in raising money for a new meeting house and it is my earnest and sincere prayer that you may continue to be so. I have got but 5 months more to serve in the army and if my life is spared, I can then return to my family in peace. The 7th Regiment C. V. is here. The 8th C. V. is on the other side of the river. The first Connecticut Battery is here. I think the veterans has been having a great time at home for most of them has come back without money. And by what they say themselves, they have been drinking very hard. But this is not all. Some of them has come back unfit for duty and are now on the doctor’s hands.

This will perhaps be the last letter I shall write to you for some time so goodbye for the present. From your humble servant, — John Holt

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