This letter was written by 39 year-old Philadelphia boot fitter Henry (“Harvey”) Marshall—a native of Ireland—who served as a wagoner in Co. H of the 114th Pennsylvania Infantry (“Collis Zouaves”). Harvey enlisted in the regiment on 22 August 1862. The regiment wore a distinctive Zouave uniform, adopted from the elite Algerian troops, and the social background of its members distinguished the 114th from other regiments.
At the time of the letter, Harvey was recuperating in the Prince St. Hospital, Alexandria, VA, from wounds received on 3 May 1863 during the Battle of Chancellorsville. The day previous to his being wounded, the regiment had moved south toward Catharine’s Furnace to harass the tail of Jackson’s flanking column. On May 3, they shifted back toward Hazel Grove, sent in to replace Thomas Ruger’s brigade. Here’s how author Don Pfanz described the action:
Ruger’s men had gallantly turned aside several Confederate thrusts that morning, but it was now running short of ammunition. As they advanced, the men of the 114th came under a heavy fire from Confederate infantry protected by earthworks. The Zouaves charged the works and using only bayonets drove the defenders back. Meanwhile, the rest of the brigade was not faring so well. Determined assaults by Stephen D. Ramseur’s and J. H. S. Funk’s brigades forced Graham’s brigade back, including Collis’ men, who were compelled to relinquish their hard-won trenches….
In his letter, Harvey expresses his irritation to his family for not writing or visiting him with the threat, “if you don’t answer this letter immediately, I shall stop all correspondence with you. I am tired of your fooling now. I mean what I say and no fooling…”
The terrible and ironic fact for Harvey is that his angry words were most likely the last his family every heard from him. The transmittal envelope was actually postmarked the day after he died, on July 10. Harvey was buried in Section A, Site 884, of the Alexandria National Cemetery.
[Note: This letter is from the private collection of Richard Weiner and is published by express consent.]
Addressed to Mrs. Mary Marshall, No. 3, Gaffeny [Gaffney] Avenue, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania ¹
Prince Street Hospital
July 3rd 1863
My Dear Wife & Children,
It is with pleasure I improve the present opportunity of addressing you. I am gaining slowly and hope these few lines will reach you in good health.
Really I am astonished that you can not write to me in four or five days. Tell me if [it] was not $30 instead of $20. I sent all I had and was astonished to hear that you had received only $20 of it.
I think if I keep improving as I have for the past two days that I shall be able to be up some in two or three weeks. What is Jacob ² doing or you that you don’t write sooner or what is Jacob doing that he don’t come and see me? It’s mysterious. I’m sure you have money enough to come. I am sure he could help nurse me.
If you don’t answer this letter immediately, I shall stop all correspondence with you. I am tired of your fooling now. I mean what I say and no fooling—whether dead or living. No more at present.
Yours with respect. From your loving husband till death, — Henry Marshall
P. S. Prince St. Hospital 163, Alexandria, Va.
¹ The 1863 Philadelphia City Directory lists H. B. Marshall, “bootfitter,” with a residence at 3 Gaffney Ct. Also listed is Jacob Marshall, a “waiter.” with a residence at 625 Ronaldson.
² Jacob Marshall (1847-1916) was Harvey’s oldest son who later worked as a hatter in Philadelphia.