1862: Peleg Franklin Benson to Elisha Thomas Benson

These two letters were written by Peleg Franklin Benson (1834-1862) who enlisted at the age of 27 as a private in Co. D, 18th Massachusetts Infantry on 16 May 1861. He died of disease on 17 November 1862 at Washington D. C.

Peleg was the son of Asa Benson, Jr. (1794-1875) and Sarah Shaw (1796-1865) of Middleboro, Plymouth county, Massachusetts. He wrote the letter to his half brother, Elisha Thomas Benson (1824-1890) of Providence, Rhode Island.

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Pvt. Benson’s letter with painting of 18th Massachusetts infantryman wearing the French Chasseurs uniform awarded to the regiment for their drill precision.¬†

Addressed to Elisha T. Benson, Providence, R. I., No. 22 Thayer Street
Postmarked Washington D. C.

Camp Barnes
Hull Hill, Virginia
January 1862

Dear Brother,

You may doubtless think that I have forgotten you but that is not so. I wrote you a letter sometime ago and have received no answer. Doubtless you did not receive it so I thought I would try once more. Well here I am still in Old Virginia and things remain the same as they did when I last wrote to you. As to news, I do nor know as I have any. You are doubtless as well possessed in war matters as I am if not more.

As to fighting, we have not seen any yet and as things look now, I do not think we shall very soon if we do at all. The 18th Massachusetts Regiment is considered one of the best in the Grand Army of the Potomac. This may be owing to the strict military discipline we are under as you will see. The American citizens of France made a present to the United States—a whole outfit for three regiments to be given to the three best regiments in the army and the 18th Massachusetts was one of them. I wish you could see the uniform. It consists of one dress coat, one jacket, one pair of pants, one pair of shoes, two gaiter leggings, one cloak, one leather hat with black plume, one cap, and other things too numerous to mention. I tell you, we look gay. We do not wear them only on special occasion.

Our tents are nice bell-shaped, large enough to accommodate 16 persons.

Well, enough of this. I will try to think of something more to write. As to my health, tis good. I do not know as I ever enjoyed better. We have been reminded of death of late. Death has entered one company and taken one that [was] loved by all. He died of the typhoid fever.

I had a letter from Sarah last Sunday informing me that they was all well at home and I hope that this will reach you and find you all in good health. It seems a long time since I saw you. I have now been in the army 6 months.

Uncle John and cousin Joseph encamp in sight of ours. I saw them last Sunday. They are all well. I now must close my letter. Tell Ella that I think of her often and wish I could see her. Give her my best respects and to all the folks (this is a family letter).

Tell Mary to write. Write as soon as you receive this. Please to excuse this writing for my pen is poor. Do goodbye from your absent brother, — P. F. Benson


[partial letter—most likely different that the previous one]

…You think I saw Uncle John J. Jones, cousin Joseph Tinkl__ and V. Smith and others that I knew. They were the last ones I expected to see. Who won’t come next?

I do not know as I have wrote you what General we are under but doubtless you know. It is Gen. McClellan. He reviewed us a number of times. He is a dine-looking man.

I will write what we have to eat as well as I can. We have fresh meat 3 times a weeks and sometimes oftener and salt meat the same. Beans and pork once and sometimes twice a week and we have good warm bread every day. We have it 3 times a day. We also get rice, hominy, and sugar, tea and coffee all we want to drink. We have one meat cook always, one pork and beans. We have beaf this way [illegible]. We have dug 2 holes in the ground and brick them up so we can put the kettles in them, set the stove over them. They bake first rate so they taste as good as they do at home. We have a good cook. We do not draw all our rations so we make a ___ and take some other things. We have got one barrel of flour and one of molasses and 50 pounds of dried apples. This is something new so I expect we shall have some extras. I have not seen the time yet that I have had enough to eat. I am enjoying good health.

I must now come to a close. I hope you will excuse this writing and spelling for if you could be here and see what time I have and accommodations, you would not blame me for writing it as I have to write 2 or 3 lines at a time and then run. All I have to write on is a paper. I have no table to write on.

Dear Brother, I have gone over some outlines of a soldier’s life. The soldier’s life is a hard life but I am not sorry that I have come. I feel that I an engaged in a holy cause. Although deprived of the comforts of life, I feel that I have a friend to lean on in time of trouble. Yes, Jesus is my friend. But you do not know how much I still have temptations on all sides.

Give my love to all my friends. I will close hoping you will excuse this letter. I will try and write as often as I can. With much love, — P. F. Benson





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