These letters were written by 19 year old Albert A. Kingsley (1843-1916) of Co. E, 5th Massachusetts Infantry. He enlisted in August 1862 and mustered out with his company on 2 July 1863 after nine months service. He later enlisted in Co. L, 2nd Massachusetts Heavy Artillery.
Albert was the son of Henry A. Kingsley (b. 1805) and Sarah Baker (b. 1810) of Nantucket, Massachusetts.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Newbern, North Carolina
November 22, 1862
As mail closes at 7 o’clock tonight and we have not got to drill this afternoon, so I will write you a few lines. I looked for a letter when we returned from our march but I was disappointed. We took about a hundred prisoners on our expedition [“Tarboro March”]. We arrived here Monday night and we had orders to march on Thursday morning. We went from here to Washington City by water which is a hundred and twenty miles from here. We arrived there Friday night and stayed there until Sunday morning waiting for the artillery to join us as they went by land. The brought a rebel with them. I saw him, horse and all. He was bareheaded and he looked rather tough.
We was down into line Sunday morning before daylight and started on our march. There was about seven thousand of us under the command of General Foster. We marched till night when we run across some rebels. The 44th was in the fight. Two men killed and a number wounded. We laid back in the woods expecting to be called for every minute but was not needed. We laid down about two o’clock that morning, then we started on after them but we never caught them after that night. The inhabitants [in and around Williamston, N. C.] had all left their farms. Some of the time we camped outdoors and some of the time in houses. I have not got time to tell you all about it so I will let that go.
We are all well here but two. George [S.] Fisher is sick. He is better this afternoon. Charles Kimbal is very sick. He is in the hospital down in the city. I think he is homesick more than anything else. I am well. I expect when I get home I shall have to have a table all to myself for I eat like a hog. I suppose by the time you get this, you will have a dead hog as it is about Thanksgiving. How does C. get along with the ducks and turkey. We expect to have a oyster supper for Thanksgiving.
I suppose you are having some cold weather there. The weather here is about like summer there. Have you heard from Martha since I left? I must write to her. Mother, I wish you would write to me oftener and tell me all about the folks. Send me a paper once in awhile. Henry [G.] Harriman had three today. We all had enough reading. Don’t wait for me to write. I shall write as often as I can.
I had a pass to go out the other day. I went into the city and got some apples and cherries. We are a going to have hasty pudding and molasses for supper. We have to find it ourselves as there is 18 of us in our tent and it cost two four cents apiece for two meals. We have had some ___. We like it first rate. Well, I am getting short of paper so I must close. Remember me to all the folks that I know. Give my love to C and take a good share of it yourself. Direct to Newbern, North Carolina. Accept this from your absent son, — Albert
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
Newbern [North Carolina]
January 1st 1863
Dear Mother & Sister,
They say the mail is a going out tonight so I will write you a few lines and wish you a Happy New Year. Today is rather windy. We have not had any snow yet. We have had some rain. We have not got to drill today. We are going to have beef steak for dinner. We have lived well here for the last week. Benjamin Wyman and Frank [A.] Wall and Ezra Morse, George [S.] Chamberlain, and [S.] Augustus Davis have all had boxes. We all have a share in them. Their things came first rate. Tell Mrs. Taggert that that apple tart was good.
How do you get along for wood and other things? We have not got paid off yet. They owe us for four months pay. I suppose you will get some as soon as I shall. If you send me another box, I want you to send me some paper, We have to pay as much again for it out here as you do there.
Tell Cotter that Toll was up here to see me Christmas. That is the first time I have seen him. I thought I had found him the night we was at Kinston. I found his company but he was not there. He started with us but had to come back. Aaron was up here to see me the other day. He is well.
I suppose you have heard all about our expedition under General Foster. We like him very much but we like our Colonel [Peirson] best. He gives us all the holidays there is. Well, we have had a good dinner. We are a going to have boiled rice for supper and molasses.
Mother, if you send me another box, I want you to send some donuts and cake. I think the boxes will come quicker now than they did before. Do you hear anything from Nat? I suppose he was in that big fight of Burnsides [at Fredericksburg]. I want to know how they all do over to Milford. How does Jim get along? Give him my respects and ask him how the pig is. Tell him we have some good times out here and if he don’t believe it, to come out and see. Tell him I saw Bill Sanford this morning. He came up here. He is in the 5th Rhode Island regiment.
Is there any more married since you wrote last? I suppose there is. There is a good chance for a fellow to get married out here to a black girl if he likes the kind. I don’t. And what is more, the pigs are all black and finally everything is black.
Give my best respects to Mrs. Holbrook and tell her that I think I have been a good boy. I have not seen them shot down and I have seen them run and hide behind stumps and cornstalks but did not give us a chance to fire at them. You say that E. Daniels and E. Hartshorn sent their love to me. You did not say whether it was he or she but I will send my love to them. The boys have got back from the city. They say there is a lot of troops come into the city. We think it is for winter quarters but do not know.
Well, I must close for this time hoping to hear from you soon. Give my love to all the folks and accept from your son, — Albert
Good night. I think you have got pork enough to eat for awhile.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE
Newbern [North Carolina]
March 15, 1863
I received a letter from you last night and was glad to hear from you. We have had lively times here since last Friday night. We were eating our suppers and an order came to fall in for a march. We done so and was on our way in less than twenty minutes. The rebels came on to our pickets about eight miles out and we went up there to see them. We got there about 9 o’clock. Everything was quiet. We formed into line of battle and waited till morning when we expected they would make another dash but they did not come. It was very cold and we got no sleep.
At sunrise we started and went about a mile further where we supposed they were but did not have much time to stay there for a man came after us from here and we had to come back. The rebels showed themselves the other side of the river. The 92nd New York Regiment is encamped over there. The rebels thought they could scare them. They give them half an hour to leave and the Colonel of the 92nd told them to pitch in and they did but did not make out much for our gunboats very soon let them know that they was not asleep [even] if it was early in the morning and there was sharp work for awhile.
We got back here about 11 o’clock. We stacked our arms on the parade ground. The Colonel told us that we should have time to work up and get something to eat and to be ready to fall in at a moment’s notice. He gave us all some whiskey. The rebels showed themselves on the bank of the river once but could not stand the shells from our gunboats. It is all woods other there. Nothing was heard from them after what to our firing but our gunboats shelled the woods all day. Everything is quiet now but we expect to be attacked at any time.
It is very warm and pleasant here today. The peach trees are in blossom. I must close now for the mail is going now.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FOUR
Newbern, North Carolina
Sabbath day in Camp
March 22, 1863
I suppose you have heard of the attack on Newbern before this time and waiting to hear how it came out. Well, it’s alright so far. I told you in my last letter that we went out to meet the rebels about 8 or 10 miles to a place called Deep Gully. So we did and it used us up more than anything that we have done for it was cold and we could not have any fires. So we kept up all night expecting to have a warmer time in the morning but was disappointed for the rebels did not come. We went about a mile farther and then we started for Newbern for we could hear the guns and now there was fun here. But we did not have to fire a gun for our gunboats give them all that they could care of and a little more.
Just as we got in here, they brought three of the 92nd New York across the river that was wounded. I guess that was all that was hurt. They stood their ground and the rebels had to go back. They said they was a going to attack us on three sides but they haven’t done it yet. However, it was very lively here for a few days but all quiet now. But we don’t know how long it will be so.
We are having a hard storm here now. It has rained for the last 4 days. I have not seen Aaron for some time for he has moved from here on account to see if they could break up that disease among them. That disease is called the congestive chills. They are taken with a very bad headache. There was one fellow taken down with it in our company a week ago last Monday night and he died Friday morning. He was from the cape and a fine fellow too. Thought a great deal of by all that knew him. But he was not born to be shot. There has been the least sickness in our regiment of any that are here. We have a first rate campground. It is entirely surrounded by water. We have to build a bridge to get out. The boys are all well now except a few that have got bad colds.
Some of the boys have gone to church this afternoon. There are 4 churches in the city. We have a chance to go every Sunday. They have great ones. Tell Cotter when you see him that Toll is at Plymouth. The 25th has gone there now so there isn’t but two regiments left of our brigade now. There was some talk about our going there but I believe we are not going. There was a great talk about it heard that General Foster wanted us to stay here but Col. Keho has the command of the brigade didn’t want to go without us. I don’t know as it is true but that is the story. We hear a great many stories here—some of them are true and some are not. We are all happy when the mail comes in for we all expect a letter but some get disappointed and they they are blue enough. It is not one more than another for we all like to get them for it helps to pass away the time. We have a lot of reading here for everyone in the tent have papers and books sent to them of all kinds. But sometimes we get out and have to write. I received that letter and paper and was glad to get them and also a letter from George and Martha. They are well. She said she expected to hear from you soon. I suppose she has before this.
We have not been paid off but once since we enlisted. We don’t think much of that. I shall send it to you as soon as I get it. How does C get along? We are all waiting for the time to come when we can see our friends again. The time rolls away day after day. It seems but a day since the first of March. I suppose you are aware that tomorrow is my birthday. It is so if it don’t rain. Old enough to be a good boy, ain’t I? How do they feel about coming to war? I guess it will make some of them wink but they have got to come. Do you hear anything about Mr. Bill? We have heard 2 or 3 times that he was dead but I did not believe it. I hear that Jim’s family has increased to a little girl. He is in luck to have a girl for they don’t have to go to war. There is no knowing when this war will end.
William Tilton told me about Sophia’s baby. He saw it in the paper. He is better off. She can not wish it back. Since then he has heard that his little girl has died. If you have got my last letter you will notice that I stopped rather short. I had to for I did not have but five minutes to close in. I suppose you’re at home now so I want you to write often and tell me all the news. I have not anything more to write this time. Remember me to Jim and Abner. I would like to hear from them anytime. Tell Mrs. Taggert that I am still thinking of her.
Give my love to C and take a large share yourself. From your son, — Albert
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FIVE
Newbern [North Carolina]
May 5, 1863
I received your kind letter this morning and also one from George. I was glad to hear from you for I had begun to think that you had moved out of town or was sick for we have had three mails here before this and I did not have a letter from you. It is war, here to write or to do anything else. We had a short drill this morning. The mail goes at half past 11 and I thought I must write a few lines to you to let you know that I am well.
We went on 4 tramps last month but did not fire a gun to a Reb. We saw some on our last one. We was gone five days. We got home the first day of May. We took a May walk of about three miles to the railroad. We rode 18 miles on the cars to Newbern. There was about five thousand of us—quite a May party. We picked some May flowers and had a good time. There was no girls with us. Tell Mrs. Hartshorn that I am much obliged to her for her kind offer for it relieves my mind very much. I would like to know how old she wants to have her. We expect to be at home some time next month. We hear a great many stories out here but we don’t believe them.
William Tilton was here this morning. His regiment has just got back from Plymouth. Toll Cotter was with us on the last march. He is well. I have not heard from Caron yet. One of our company that went off returned last night. They are all here now but one.
It seems that they have not given up getting married there yet. There is a wedding there tomorrow I believe. The flies are so thick here than we talk of getting a nigger to keep them off. I suppose you have got that money by this time. Give my love to C and take a share yourself.
I remain your son, — Albert