These letters were written by Sharp Baxter (1816-1881) of Vernon, Sussex county, New Jersey. Sharp and his wife, Mary Quick (1822-1878), were the parents of John Henry Baxter (1845-1863) who enlisted in Co. F, 27th New Jersey Infantry in September 1862. John Henry died of typhoid fever in late January 1863 at Acquia Creek, Virginia.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Newton [New Jersey]
September 5, 1862
For value received, I promise to pay to John H. Backster the sum of twenty dollars without defalcation or discount. — Sharp Backster
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
North Vernon, Sussex county, New Jersey
September 11, 1862
I last night returned from Port Jervis. The stage driver at Deckertown brought the rumor that the troops left Newark soon—probably on Wednesday last. I telegraphed to you from Port Jervis to see if it was so but got no answer. Was extremely glad on returning home to find a letter from you. Albert Bloom leaves for Newark on Sunday morning. He will arrive in Newark about Monday. Goes by way of S___town. We will send you a change of underclothes by him as it is the first opportunity. I suppose you should have other clothes besides underclothes. We will send them if we can.
I want to come to Newark as soon as I can and see you before you leave for other quarters. I have much anxiety for fear your health may not be good enough for a soldier’s life. Also that evil associations may mislead you. Oh, if you would refrain from evil influences, do not make particular friends or associates of the profane or the absence or of those who gamble. You are away from the care of father or mother but our prayers are for your welfare. May God protect you. I am still of the opinion that you needed more age and judgement to enter upon a campaign. Your duty, I think, was to stay and assist me on the farm. We often can do as much for our country by attending to our duty at home as by fighting its battles.
Your mother is getting well so she begins to work. The rest of us are all well. If you can get along in camp without being carried away by bad influences or forming evil habits, it will be remarkable and greatly to your honor and credit. Let not the instruction you have received be in vain. I want you to have a pocket bible to read it everyday.
Cromwell soldiers were praying soldiers. They were industrious at home and brave on the field of battle as were many of the Revolutionary soldiers. But oh! the camp is too often a school of vice and youth do not resist the evil, but are led away with all bad habits and evil doings. I hope and pray you may avoid evil associates as much as possible attend well to you duty improve your mind during leisure and above all be impressed of religion of prayer and seeking the Savior.
Your affectionate father, — Sharp Backster
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE
North Vernon, Sussex county, New Jersey
September 11, 1862 — Thursday evening
I hasten to answer your letter by Heady. I sent you one by mail this afternoon or it goes by mail tomorrow. I also sent you a package of clothes by Heady instead of A. Bloom as I told in the other letter. The reason I sent you the dispatch was that the stage driver from Deckestown brought word that your company left Newark soon. I want to come to Newark before you leave. You may be liable to be robbed of your money while in camp or some of your clothes while sleeping. You cannot be too cautious among strangers.
If Daniel [Bailey] comes up soon, send your bounty by him and the note you can leave with someone in the neighborhood or send it to me.
I hope you will be aware of immoral influences and evil applications and improve yourself during leisure hours although a private study the tactics and other books also as far as convenient. But I wish you to have a picket bible and to read it daily. Be careful whom you make your associates, although treat all civilly and respecting. I must urge you not to pass your leisure hours in idleness or folly but to improve them, read the bible mush as possible, attend the preaching of the chaplain. Let not the instruction you have received at home and in the Sabbath School be lost. Youth when away from home should look up to their heavenly Father, pray for His guidance, and His mercy. If they throw off all restraint, if they become profane and wicked, ruin is before them. But if they are impressed with a deep responsibility of their situation and give heed to conscience which is the voice of God, and improve their time and talents, a high destiny is before them. They must be patient and attend to all their duties in the proper time and whether they have one talent or ten, they will reap their reward.
It is getting late. I am fatigued by the labors of the day so I must close. I would say we are all well. Your Ma is getting smart. I have no hired hand and much hard work to do. We send you the following clothes. One coat & vest, one shirt and two collars, pair of pantaloons.
Yours affectionately, — Sharp Backster
Excuse my beginning on the wrong side of the sheet as I was in a hurry.
P. S. You must have your photograph taken in the clothes you wore from home and send it home the first opportunity. — S. Backster
Elmira sends her regards or love, she said.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FOUR
North Vernon, [Sussex county, New Jersey]
December 21st 1862
Not receiving any letter from you on Friday last which was the regular mail day, nor any from you since you left Camp Seminary, I am of course anxious to hear from you. Letters were received from [your cousin] Charles Backster [Baxter], Nicholas Ryerson, and others of your company, but none from you. I have no doubt yours means of writing is difficult when you march, but I was in hopes you would carry some paper, stamps, and envelopes with you and write a few words when opportunity offered. I do not look for a long letter or an account of the campaign as we get that in the papers, but write how you are getting along and how your health is. I should have sent you a pair of boots, some flannel underclothing, and other articles but did not know whether it was best under the circumstances as some of the soldiers had wrote home not to send anymore boxes until they were encamped again and others positively said that it could not be sent to you as all the means of transportation to Fredericksburg was occupied by the government.
I am anxious to hear from you and I wish you to write and let me know how you fare and how your health is. I am afraid you have had some hard experience. I should have sent you some personal comforts in addition to those I did send, but for the reason of your moving and the uncertainty of your getting them. I suppose it would be more interesting to you to hear how things are going on at home than any remarks I may make about the Battle of Fredericksburg. We are all well. Cold weather has fairly commenced. I have my grain part thrashed. The Singing School and District School are going on and both well attended. There is prayer meeting held once a week in the neighborhood and they do not indeed forget to pray for all of you who are absent from us in the army. I hope the prayers will be answered. I hope the grace and peace of mind may be vouchsafed to you all. You have obeyed the call of your country and gone forth to battle against traitors—those who who destroy the best government in the world. I hope you will obey a higher call. Be assured there is a higher call from Him who spoke as never man spoke from Him who was made an offering for sin, from Him who ever liveth to make intercession for us. He it is whose right it is to rule, whose Kingdom is not of this world. But you have the bible. You hear His word preached, and I hope you will confess His name, and own Him as your Redeemer.
I shall be glad to have a letter from you stating all about your health and faire and how you endure your hardships. If your health fails, let me know it. I am afraid your feet are not in condition to endure hardships. I can take you out of the army as you are under eighteen and will do it if it is liken to ruin your constitution.
Yours affectionately, — Sharp Backster