1862: Clinton DeWitt Earnest to Wallace W. Earnest

This letter was written by Clinton DeWitt Earnest (1843-1920) who enlisted as a private on 24 October 1861 to serve three years in Co. A, 89th New York Infantry on 25 October 1861. Clinton took a bullet in the leg on 15 December 1862 at the Battle of Fredericksburg and was discharged on 21 March 1863 after 17 months service. He still had the bullet in his leg when he left the service. [Muster roll sometimes carries him as “Ernest.” I used the spelling of his gravestone.]

Clinton was the son of John J. Earnest (1817-1898)—a carriage maker—and Lucy A. Smith (1818-1883) of Wayne, Steuben county, New York. He wrote the letter to his older brother, Wallace (“Wall”) William Earnest (1839-1911) who was married to Phebe Ann Clark (1840-1926). Wallace enlisted in Co. B, 141st New York Infantry in August 1862 for three years but served only 9 months before being discharged.


Roanoke Island [North Carolina]
May 18th 1862

Dear Brother and Sister Phebe,

Your kind letter of the first of May and the 4th was duly received and was glad to hear from you all and to hear that you was all well and doing well and hope that when these few lines reaches you, that you all will be the same health.

It is Sunday morning and I have just been out on Sunday morning inspection and I thought I would answer your letter. You wanted me to write all about the fight. I have wrote all about it three days after I came back and probably by this time you have got it and you will know all about it.

There was two companies of our regiment went up to Elizabeth City yesterday and they got six rebels—one of them was a spy. The boat will take them to Newburn this afternoon. Probably the spy will be shot.

We had a hard rainstorm last night and it was bad in our tents for they leaked like fun but it is warm today and pleasant. You wanted to know whether I had my coat gave to me or not. I had to pay eight dollars for them. You wanted to know whether my shoes and stockings was all wore out or not. They’re almost. I was looking for my box and thought that mother would send me a couple of shirts. You said that Father would not let you send the box. Well I don’t care. Let them go. But I want you to send me a box of things for hard crackers don’t go very good. [     ] and Phebe, you send me a box that will weigh about thirty-five pounds and if Father don’t want to send it to me, you take some of that money and pay the Express and when I get my pay, I will send you some more. Now don’t fail to send it for I have been looking for it and found out that you weren’t a going to send it for Father would not let you because we would move from here soon. Tell him that we are stationed here to guard this island and we won’t leave here till we leave for Washington.

Redden Wolverton from Tyone ¹ got a box last night and it came through in a week and it was nice too, I tell you. Now Phebe, if you will get me a nice box, I will make you a good present and will send it to you. Now don’t fail to send it for I want something from home once more. If you will wrap everything up good in paper and don’t pack it when it is warm for it will mold. Tell Mother to send some things. Send about ten pounds of butter and a little dried fruit and a few [  ] and if you will, if you will send me some [   ] both [  ] good and dry, the butter in a pail. Tell Mother that I would like to have her send me a pocket handkerchief and a neck handkerchief too and a couple pairs of stockings and some thread and needles and some yarn and a couple of shirts. And if you can get some maple sugar, if you will  [  ]. Don’t fail in sending it and send their likeness that I wrote about.

You wanted to know what the land is here [   ] it is on. This island is about 25 [   ] and on mainland about 40 across. You wanted to know whether I had seen any good looking girls since I left home. I ain’t seen a good looking girl since I left Washington. You wanted to know whether I had had my old hat [?] since I left home. I ain’t for there ain’t any here but niggers now. Wall, write all about the farming and all about things around there. Give my love to Father and Mother and Grandfather’s folks, and Mr. Clark’s folks and to Joe and wife and kiss the children for me. My love to you all in full, to you and Phoebe and mothers and fathers in full now. Tell Mother not to worry for I will take good care of myself and will get back in a few months al right for we are a giving it to the rebels like fun now.

Don’t fail to send that box and pack it good. So goodbye till next time from C. D. Ernest to my dear Brother Wallace and Sister Phebe Ernest in full.

¹ Redden [Reading] Wolverton (1839-1899), was the son of Aaron and Edith Wolverton of Tyrone, Schuyler county, New York. Redden enlisted as a private in Co. A, 89th New York Volunteers. He was promoted to sergeant prior to being mustered out of the service three years later.


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