This letter was written by Corporal John Baker of Co. D, 82nd Pennsylvania Infantry. Little is known of John Baker. The regimental roster indicates he deserted on 11 December 1862. He may have been the umbrella maker (b. 1836) who lived in Philadelphia’s 16th Ward with his widowed mother, Mary Baker, an immigrant from Ireland.
Corporal Baker wrote the letter to Catharine A. (Arick) Hatton (1836-1887) of Philadelphia, the widow of Sergt. Thomas Lamon Hatton (1831-1862) who served in the same company. Sgt. Hatton was mortally wounded at the Battle of Malvern Hill on the last of the Seven Days Battles outside of Richmond on 1 July 1862. He was transported to a Washington hospital where he died on 5 July 1862.
After her husband’s death, Catharine remarried with Hugh Hatton (1832-1911), Thomas’s younger brother.
Camp in Downsville, Maryland
October 16, 1862
Mrs. C. Hatton
I take this present opportunity of writing these few lines to inform you that your ever welcome letter dated the eighth of October was received and I was very happy to hear from my poor companion’s family. I am happy to hear of your husband was thought so well of in Philadelphia. God knows that his company miss him. I have spent many a sad hour since he has departed from us. It was a sad blow to us, Mrs. Hatton. I know not what time some of us may be laying in a soldier’s grave.
We have been in two fights since poor Tom has departed from us. God has been merciful to us. We lost three in the Battle of Sharpsburg.
Mrs. Hatton, we cannot get home to attend his funeral this month. The rebels keep us so busy to follow them that it would be impossible for us to get off. God knows the boys would dearly like to come home to attend his funeral. You must not think hard of us for not coming. God knows we would dearly like to come.
Mrs. Hatton, I did not get to see the Captain [Theodore H. Peters]. He is not in camp at present. He has been away nearly a week on a court martial case so I could not get to see him when I wrote these lines. I shall speak to him as soon as he comes back to camp. I am glad that the captain will tend to your husband’s affairs. If he did not, I would.
Dear Mrs. Hatton, I must close. The mail is going. Excuse these few lines and my lead pencil. I have no ink. I must close. Write soon.
Truly your friend, — John Baker