Military Resource Center
William S. Saint, Jr.
Delavan Bates was my great, great uncle. He was raised on a farm near Otsego, New York. Following the outbreak of the Civil War in April 1861, he joined the 121st New York Volunteers in the Union Army. He participated in virtually all the important battles of the Civil War, including Gettysburg, Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg (where he was taken prisoner), and was regularly promoted until he became a Brevet Brigadier General atthe end of the war. Notably, Bates served as Colonel of the 30th United States Colored Troops. In this capacity he was wounded in the head on July 30, 1864 while leading a charge at the famous "Battle of the Crater" near Petersburg, Virginia. His heroism on that day earned him a Congressional Medal of Honor.
At the end of the war, Bates tried his hand as a merchant and storekeeper in Salisbury, North Carolina. He later returned to New York where he married Lana Ann Green on January 2, 1870 in West Richmondville. He died on April 18, 1902 [correction: December 19, 1918] leaving five children.
Delavan Bates wrote regularly to his father, Alpheus, and the following 77 letters comprise what remains of that correspondence. The letters indicate that Bates was better educated than most of his peers and portray him as a committed, pragmatic and somewhat stoic soldier. His commentary ranges from dispassionate observations on the suffering and tedium produced by war to eloquent personal vignettes and brotherly admonishments directed to his twin younger sisters, Valerie and Valetta. Interestingly for such an educated man, he routinely employed two different spellings in signing his name.
For those who wish to appreciate Bates' personal accounts within the larger context of the war itself, I heartily recommend Bruce Catton's historical books on this great struggle, particularly A Stillness at Appomattox.William S. Saint
Camp of the 121st New York Vols
May 8, 1862
It is with a sad heart that I pen a few lines to you to inform you of the painful intelligence of your son Delavan Bates. He is among the missing of our regiment. We went into a hard fought battle three miles west of Fredericksburg on Sunday last about 5:00 pm. We were compelled to retreat and Delavan came out with me and we were rallying the men to resume the fight. I cannot find anyone who saw him fall and I think he was wounded and taken prisoner. My lst Lieutenant Butts said he saw him limp as he was coming out of the woods so he may have been wounded in the leg. I have done all that I could to find out where he is or whether anyone saw him but I am unable to learn anything concerning him. I will say that none feel more deeply his loss than I do as I have never met with a friend that I thought as much of as Delavan Bates.
I hope and trust we shall hear that he is safe from all harm. Delavan has a valise here with clothes which will be sent to you.Your attentive servant,
J. S. Kidder
September 5, 1862
We have just settled down for good and got things arranged so that we have everything convenient. Everything I say by which I mean all that is necessary to live comfortably. This is the first time I have wrote to anyone since I left home except on business. I shall write oftener now.
We left Mohawk Saturday, August 30th about noon, arrived at Albany at 5:00 pm and took tea there, everything being furnished by a society organized for the relief of soldiers. Went aboard the boat at night. Had good lodgings, reached New York Sunday morning about 10 o'clock, went up to the barracks which are opposite the Astor house at which place the officers were invited to stop.
We stayed here till Monday morning then crossed the ferry and took the cars at Jersey City for Philadelphia and reached there about 6 o'clock. Had a splendid supper furnished by the Union relief society. Took the cars for Baltimore about midnight and arrived there Tuesday forenoon. All quiet in the city although no doubt there are quite a number of secessionists there. A good many have gone South. Had lunch and supper here furnished by a Union Society as at Albany and Philadelphia.
Took the cars about midnight for Washington, about four regiments go through daily the railroad agent said. Reached Washington Wednesday morning, had conversations and started on foot for our home for the present, Fort Lincoln. It is four miles northeast of the city toward Maryland and very likely the place where Washington will be attacked if ever from the Maryland side. The fort is merely a breastwork thrown up with a ditch around and some brush, mounting twelve 32 pounders, one howitzer, one rifled cannon, and one Passagun making 15 pieces in all. There is also besides the artillery company 2 companies of infantry in tents near the fort and our regiment which is about 4 rods from the fort. I like the location first rate. We can see the Potomac in the distance, 3 or 4 other forts also, the city being surrounded by 40 or 50 of them. The ground was owned by a Secesh (secessionist). He has splendid orchards and everything nice around but the soldiers are fast ruining the place.
The night before we came a band of guerrillas were within 1 1/2 miles of the fort. A Rebel flag is flying in sight. I think Pope will fall back in this fort before long. McDowell is considered a traitor.
I am well satisfied with the business. I went down to the city yesterday. Lots of wounded soldiers are brought in every day. No one knows how long we are to stay here. We may stay a month and may not a week. One regiment that came in last week were in the fight this week. The boys are all ready but need a little more drilling. They are very anxious to go down and destroy the village where that Secesh flag is flying.
My clothes you may sell if you have a good chance and get what they are worth. My coat cost about $13.00, vest 3 or 4, pants $4.00, hat $1.75. If not you can wear them. If you write, direct to Lieut. D. Bates, Co. I, 121st Regiment, N.Y. Volunteers, Washington, D.C.
Camp Schuyler, Mohawk
August 21, 1862
I have obtained the position of 2nd Lieutenant. We have orders to leave here for camp of instruction next Monday. I cannot therefore get home before we go. If you can, I would like to have you come out Saturday or Sunday and fetch my trunks. Tell Mother to take everything out and put in all of my fine shirts and collars, two towels, all the military books in my bookcase and Bible, 2 pair woolen and 2 pair cotton stockings, razor, razor strap, lather box, clothes brush, and necktie.
I expect to get pay Friday for money paid out getting the boys here, but if I do not I shall have to get some money somewhere else for a short time to pay for my uniform, and if you can fetch out $50.00 with you I would like to have you. I like it first rate and have slept in a tent every night since I came. Tell Sloan if you see him before you start to send out the bounty money for the boys want it before they leave. Start early and you can drive through easy enough in a day. I think we shall leave G.R. Sage for Chaplain.Delavan Bates
Near Williamsport, Maryland
September 22, 1862
As you no doubt have heard of the battles that are being fought around here, and probably anxious to know whether our regiment has been engaged or not, I write to you again. Although Franklin's Corps and Slocum's Division of which we form part have been in several engagements, we have been left behind every time. The nearest we have been to a fight was at Burketsville where we lay behind a knoll over which the enemy fired a few shots andshells, while the Sharpsburgh fight was in progress we were at Crampton Gap six miles distant guarding that place. We lay under a (?) one, night. Dell Gaylot accidently shot himself in the hand. He was dreaming, as he explained, that the rebels were coming and his gun went off.
We are now about 10 miles north of Sharpsburgh. Saturday night we commenced marching at midnight, the report being received that the rebels had crossed into Maryland again. We were hurried right through, I was officer of the guard that day and had to bring up the rear. I guess there was as many as 10 or 15 fell out of every company, could not stand it marching so fast. We marched till 5 o'clock Sunday morning and I think I could have kept up till noon at the same gait. The rebels had crossed and drove in our advance but the report is now they have crossed back again. I think they do it on purpose to bother McClellan, first crossing here and then there, keeping his troops running up and down the river to drive them back.
You see by the papers that they were terribly defeated in the great fight last week, perhaps they were but they took their time crossing the river and the next day one of our brigades crossed in their rear and were driven back on a double quick. Both armies suffered severely and what advantage was gained was on our side as they were compelled to fall back but the papers as usual will be about everything in regard to the war.
The 121st has been very fortunate thus far for a number of new regiments have been rushed right into the thickest of the fighting. The 126th was at Harper's Ferry during that fight and were all killed or taken prisoners. Orange (?) Wright is lieutenant in his company and has command of it now, there being no other officer in the company. Orlando Bruce is wounded in the head, not dangerous, John Wilting died in the hospital a short time ago. That company has but 21 men fit for duty now. There is no telling when we will be called into action and for my part I don't care how soon but I do not think we shall until we are better drilled unless the army is badly cramped. If I get shot I don't want you to -go to the trouble of sending for my body. It is all nonsense. It will do no good. It can return to its native dust as easy and as well in Dixie as anywhere.
Old soldiers say the army will have to go into winter quarters in six or eight weeks when winter commences on account of the mud. If we do not get into a fight before then I do not believe we shall at all for I think this affair will surely be settled before Spring. I cannot believe the people will stand it any longer losing men by the thousands and money by the millions, for no one knows what as the end appears farther than it did in the beginning.
You need not feel uneasy or worry at all about me. I knew all I should have to endure before I came. We have had what I call easy times so far although a great many find fault already. I shall not write often as we are situated, and you need not expect it as long as I am doing well until we get settled where we have more convenience, then I will write to all. Tell all that are expecting letters the same. If I get shot you will hear immediately. If wounded or anything unusual turns up or if I am in a battle I will write. When I do not write, you may feel contented, everything is well.
I would like to be home occasionally to see you all and enjoy some of the luxuries that I never before fully appreciated such as a straw bed. I wouldn't mind the feathers, pudding and milk, a good stream of water to go to sometimes, a little applesauce, good fresh bread, potatoes, etc. Yet I am satisfied, have plenty to eat such as it is, crackers, coffee regular, beef, rice, beans, and mixed vegetables, dried for soup occasionally, and sometimes we have an opportunity of buying bread, potatoes, apples, peaches, cakes, cheese, chickens by paying very near their weight in silver. I sleep well, never better, and am well and more than all that content. Tell Ellen I remember her good advice but have got in the wrong place to put it all into execution. Sundays are unknown here. In every other respect the army is very moral. Tell Carlton, Clarence and Orion I would send them something but there is no chance. If I live to get home I will fetch a present of some kind if they are good boys. Tell Ursula I would like to take tea with her next Sunday afternoon if circumstances would permit. Tell Valetta and Valerie to be good scholars, attentive to their studies. That advice though is useless for I know they will but tell them to write so that I can see whether they are improving or not. Write all about what they are doing , what mother is doing, and Father, if the hops are picked, how the peaches are and everything you can think of. Tell Carlton to write too. Give my kind regards to all inquiring friends. Tell all that letters will be thankfully received, that they are not forgotten because I do not write to them but it is for want of means and opportunity as I don't like to write with a pencil.
The boys that came with me are all well except a few who by imprudent eating have bad stomachs or diarrhea. David Bushnell and Treat Kemp have volunteered to stay in the hospital at Burketsville and take care of the wounded. I wrote to you before in regard to my clothes, if you did not receive the letter I think Father had better wear them out unless you can sell them for all they are worth. Write as soon as you received this that I may know it went through safely. I have not received a letter since leaving home. Did not expect any until I wrote so you would know where to direct which I did about three weeks ago. Send all letters to:Lieut. D. Bates
Company I, 121st N.Y. Volunteers
October 25, 1862
Camp near Bakersville, Maryland
You may send me a little money by the next mail if you can. Not over ten dollars for I would not risk a larger amount in one letter and perhaps you had better put that in two. Please write also if you have paid Ezra Bushnell the 30 dollars I had of him. Pay day ought to come the last of this month but no one expects to get anything for some of the old regiments have been without for five or six months.
Everything in camp as usual. Lieut. Davis from Company A died a few days ago and quite a number of privates though none that came with--except David Bushnell, Charles Wilsey, William Bruce, N. Berner, Ben Fannin (?), George Durling and Eli Powers are in the hospital but are getting better.
Gen. Slocum has been promoted so you may direct to
- D. Bates
- Co. I, 121st N.Y. Vols
- Bartlett's Brigade
- Franklin's Corps
- Washington, D.C.
In Hospital Camp near Burksville
October 29, 1862
Don't be scared to see my letter dated here, I will explain all. I have had the camp distemper of course with all the rest, and got down quite weak and a day or two ago we had a hearty cold rain storm. Many of the boys were taken down with the fever, and I was very badly threatened. I concluded the best policy was to go immediately to the hospital, have the fever broken in its early stages and take a thorough cleansing and then I believe
I can live down here this winter without any trouble. If I should get danguay (?) or anything of that kind I will write be assured. As it is I consider myself lucky in getting here as I did, for the regiment left with three days rations the next day after I came and although I was feeling very weak I should have undertaken to keep up with the rest and the result a complete failure and a severe attack of some disease.
I have not learned where the boys are going although I think they have crossed the river where we have been out picketing before to make a reconnaissance in force to see if the rebel pickets have any support. They did not go alone, a number of other regiments went also.
This hospital is on a small elevation called Mt. Moriah. There is one church and a large school house. I am in the school house. It is very comfortable. Has a fire, etc.D. Bates
November 6, 1862
When I last wrote to you I told you I was stricken with the fever and should have to go to the hospital a short time. The regimental hospital had no medicine and so I was sent to Hagerstown to the general hospital. Here I found things just the same. I received one pill in two days. I telegraphed for you but guess you did not receive it and am now glad you
did not for I and Lt. Van Horne have succeeded in obtaining a place at a private house in the village where we have the best of nursing and good medical treatment. You need not feel worried about me for I shall fare just as well as though I was at home. You need not send me any money until I get well enough to need it when I will write.
Answer this as soon as you can. Direct:
- Lt. D. Bates
- Hagerstown, Maryland
- In care of Rebecca Maxwell
- Hagerstown, Maryland
- November 27, 1862
Here I am yet in Hagerstown on Thanksgiving Day. The weather is splendid, not a particle of snow, middling cool. The sun shining brightly and 1, myself, feeling very nice. I shall not go out today as I have a slight attack of the jaundice, nothing serious. I am getting real strong since I got over the fever, should probably have been stronger if I had not went down to Washington so soon, but I am glad I went for I got my pay for two months by going, over 200 dollars, which I do not know when I should have got without going down and this will pay all I am owing and some beside. Those berries you sent me were splendid. They are the first I have tasted since leaving home. Mrs. Swartz, a real old lady where I am boarding, stewed them for me. Mrs. Maxwell where I was when I had the fever and Mrs. Swartz both have been very kindto me, doing as much as anyone possibly could for me, except you. I gave Mrs. Maxwell 20 dollars for I have no doubt she saved my life. The doctor only charged me $4.25 for five visits in which he broke the fever and nursing brought me up. I know you must worry yourself a good deal about me. Now for my sake don't any more, I have enjoyed myself first rate ever since I left home except a few days on the march and about a week when I was in the hospital, but I never got downhearted or discouraged a particle. When I get home, and I surely expect to get thereagain, I am going to stay. So make yourself as contented as you can till I come. You know I always wanted to go away from home to see the world, and especially for the last few years. Now I am away and am perfectly satisfied that there is nothing away from home that will satisfy a person's desires any more than at home. Even in Washington where I stayed three days I saw nothing that would entice me to stay rather than be with you at home.
Tell Valetta and Valerie I was much pleased with their letter, and think they improve in their writing finely and I did not discover a single mistake in the spelling. They must write often now they have commenced for letters from home can not come too often and they can write easier than you or father. I don't know when I shall join my regiment, not until I am perfectly well though. Father wanted to know about the officers, I like them all first rate. Our new Colonel is worth four like Franchot and Major Olcott is just as fine a fellow as you ever saw. Our Capt. John S. Kidder from Morris is a real nice clever man. I messed with him alone for the last weeks before I went to the hospital . The Major is thinking it most too familiar with the Sergeants to have them with us. Leroy Neale done our cooking and I think it cost us as little for board as any officers in the regiment, the Captain being very economical.
I found my trunk when in Washington and got what things I had in it that I needed, but those drawers and stockings come first rate for I should have had to buy some drawers without them.
Now do try and be contented until I get home and don't grieve yourself to death about me.
I have not really suffered a particle since leaving home and before I go to the army I shall get such things as I need for my comfort. Tell the children to answer this right away, that I may know you have received it, and whether father received one from me last week.
Registration, December 12, 1862
I did not intend writing to you this week as I have written but I have made up my mind to leave next Monday (December 15th) for the I am getting tired of laying around with nothing to do and I wish also to stop at Washington a day or two and as Congress will not probably be in session during the holiday I concluded to go next week.
I feel perfectly well, can stand it to walk around the city all day, have a good appetite and I think if I get another blanket or two can stand the cold, although I expect it freezes middling hard on the Rappahannock. The Army is doing nothing at present and nobody knows when it will. I heard some time ago that Capt. Kidder was sick and if he is, I ought to be with the company the last of this month any way to make out the muster roll for pay, which is done every two months.
I shall not write again probably until I reach the Regiment unless something happens that I do not start next week. Direct your letters to:
- Lt. Bates
- Co. I 121st N.Y.V.
- Brooks Division
- Washington, D. C.
To Valetta and Valerie,
How are you this winter. I have not had but one letter from you. Ellen said you were busy drying apples. That is right, help each other all you can. That cake of maple sugar I guess Valerie sent for Valetta sent hers when I was at Camp Schuyler. It tasted so good when I was getting well.
Write again, that was a first rate letter. A good deal better than the first one I wrote. Since I left home I have seen a good many new things: railroads, canals, cities, villages, armies and other things too numerous to mention. If you will look on the map you can see where I have been. From (?) to (?),Schoharie, Schenectady, Albany, New York City, Jersey City, Newark, Elizabeth Town, Princeton, Trenton, Philadelphia, Chester, Wilmington, Elkton, Havre de Grace, Baltimore, Washington, Georgetown, Rockville and along up the Potomac to within about 10 miles of the Pennsylvania line. There we stayed about four weeks when I was taken sick and was taken to this place five miles from Bunsgetain Monday I shall go to Washington and from there to Fredericksburgh on the Rappahannock River.
Be good girls, learn to work, and remember your brother.Delavan
Camp near Falmouth, Virginia
December 22, 1862
I started from Hagerstown December 16th with a squad of convalescents 17 in number which the hospital surgeon wished me to take along. We stayed at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania the first night, Baltimore the next, arriving in Washington the 18th where we remained waiting for transportation until Saturday noon when we left for Acquia (?) Creek--remained there over night--Sunday took the cars for Falmouth and found my regiment encamped three miles south of that place, having had a very pleasant trip.
As I reached the brow of the hill back of Falmouth I could see the rebel camp fires all along the side of the hill beyond Fredericksburg, where also those terrible batteries are placed which cut our armies to pieces at the late battle, and which many of our men consider almost impregnable. Our regiment lost 4 killed and 12 wounded. Our company lost none, but Henry Caryl came very near being wounded, a spent ball striking his arm but not breaking the skin. Harm Bruce and William Boorn were taken prisoners on the march through Virginia, they having fallen behind the army. They have been paroled and sent to Annapolis, Md.
Gibson Deling and Scobdell are here well. I gave them those mittens and socks. Silas Waterman is in the hospital at Washington. William Bruce is about well enough to join the regiment. Charley Wilsey, Joseph Darling, Cyrus Wescott, Peter Serril, Austin Teal, George Pierson, etc. are well. Humphrey Berner is at Fredrick, Md. in the hospital. John Wilsey and William Griggs have deserted.
The boys are looking healthy and have things quite comfortable, so that they do not suffer any. The weather is not very cold at present, no snow. We do not know what we shall be ordered to do next. Probably nothing for a week or two.
While at Washington I went into the capitol, heard a member from Maryland make a speech in the House of Representatives on the presidential proclamation. The Senate was not in session. I also visited the Navy Yard, Smithsonian Institute, etc. I received a letter from mother forwarded from Hagerstown last night when I arrived. Tell Valetta and Valerie I think they improve very fast in writing. I am feeling well as ever.Delavan Bates
- January 10, 1863
- Camp near Falmouth, Virginia
The Grand Army of the Potomac yet lies inactive on the banks of the Rappahannock. The repulse at Fredericksburgh seems to have thrown such a chill over the anticipations of our leaders so that they do not know what to do next. We are very comfortably situated, having cabins built up with logs about four feet high, then placing our tents over and banking up the outside. Having a fireplace inside and plenty of wood, we have no trouble keeping warm. The weather is very mild, not cold enough to wear an overcoat much of the time. We drill a little every day and Col. Upton says we are improving very fast. The orderly sergeant of our company has been promoted to 2nd Lieutenant and is to be transferred to another company, there being a scarcity of commissioned officers in some on accounting of sickness and resignations. I think that is doing pretty well, Company I furnishing officers for the rest. His name is James Cronkhite of Milford, a smart fellow too.
Jerome was over to see me a few days ago. He is looking very healthy, is orderly sergeant and will probably be promoted before too long. The boys that are here are well. Silas Waterman is at Washington yet, I have not heard from him lately.
I send you some cotton balls in a newspaper. It grows about 15 inches high, the stalks looking somewhat like beans with the balls on top and branches. The land looks miserable having been cultivated a great deal of it years ago but now all covered with little pine bushes. My health remains good. I am contented yet with army life, but do not think I should like to follow it as a profession. Write soon all the news and whether you received my commission which I sent by Ezra Bushnell. I had forgot all about it until a few days ago.Lieut. D. Bates
Co. I, 121st N.Y. Vols
- Camp 121st N.Y. Vols
- Near White Oak Church, Virginia
- February 14, 1863
We have received our pay today up to December 31st. I received $205.24 and send you a check for $200 which I wish you to take care of for me until I want it. I have $50.00 yet that I received in November which I think will pay my expenses till next pay day.
My health remains good and I weigh heavier than ever before. We are yet in camp about five miles south of Fredericksburg where we shall probably stay two or three weeks at least. Where the next attempt will be made by the Army of the Potomac towards subduing the rebellion no one can tell. The 9th Army corps has gone down to Fortress Monroe.
The weather is mild and pleasant. There is not much sickness in our regiment at present, except with the measles. Gephamiah Foot of Milford died with them in Company "I" which I guess is the only case that has proved fatal. Joseph Darling died a few days ago with the liver complaint. Silas Waterman is in Washington yet. I have not heard how he is lately.
The boys are all feeling first rate today. Most of them received from 40 to 50 dollars, this being the first money they have received since leaving New York.
What is the feeling in regard to the war in the North now? Do they intend raising more troops in the Spring and renewing the conflict with renewed vigor? Or do you think conciliation will be tried? I see Gre7eley talks a little in favor of foreign intervention but I suppose he is of little consequence nowadays.
Write as soon as you receive this that I may know you have received the check.Yours,
121st N.Y. Vols
Tuesday night, April 28, 1863
Packed up everything and started on our spring campaign at 3 o'clock p.m. Marched to within a mile of the river. The roads and fields full of troops in every direction. We cross our Division, one mile below Fredericksburgh. Bartlett's Brigade is to cross second in the boats. Two corps cross above the city, one below us, and one corps with the remaining divisions of ours are in reserve.
We started at midnight, marched to the river, found the engineers hauling the pontoon boats to the banks and our batteries in position. Just before daylight everything is ready. Russell's Brigade jump in the boats and are rapidly pushed across, no noise yet from the other side. What can the rebels mean? Are they waiting to sweep the whole brigade to destruction? It is so dark we cannot see the opposite bank. The first boat touches the shore. When a dozen rifles crack at once, we are just discovered. It is a complete surprise. The men from the boats spring up the bank to the rifle pit on a double quick. And we on the other side drop to the ground but the firing soon ceases. The rebel pickets retreat and form a line of skirmishers about half a mile back losing one Lieutenant and five men prisoners. They killed two men of ours in the boats and wounded five men and one Colonel. The boats re-cross as soon as possible and Bartlett's (ours) and Kingsley's (?) Brigades go over forming a line and advancing to within sight of the rebels and halt awaiting the result at the other points. It is now daylight. Heavy firing is heard below. Our men there are repulsed. The light brigade in the reserves are going in that direction on a double quick. Hark! they are there. Cheer after cheer arises, they are charging, another loud cheer, they are across, the rebels retiring. The fighting is done for today as the right will have to march down fifteen miles before they reach the enemy. Tomorrow will tell the story.
Thursday Morning, April 30th
All quiet. It rained considerable last night. Our men throwed up a long line of rifle pits in front of our pontoon bridge, which were laid down yesterday as soon as our division had crossed. We hear a rumor that the crossing above was successful. Hooker himself being there with 50,000 men.
No fighting through the day, except with artillery. The rebels shell our men on the left who were digging rifle pits.
Friday morning, May lst
The 121st were on picket last night and will be today. No excitement on the line. It is a splendid morning. Virginia presents a different aspect altogether on this side of the river. It is the finest country I ever saw. Large tracts of flat land with hills in the distance. Beautiful mansions, some standing and others in ruin. One the (?) near our lines must have cost at least 50,000 dollars. The woodwork is burnt up. The walls are of very heavy stone and it was surrounded with park, lawns, walks, shrubbery, everything desirable for either (?) or taste. We can begin now to form an idea of the residence of a southern gentleman.
Page -2 - Letter of: April 28, 1863
A rumor has just been received that our cavalry have secured the communication between here and Richmond. If so the rebels are in pretty close quarters.Yours,
- Annapolis, Maryland
- May 25, 1863
I am again under the Stars and Stripes and where I hope to hear from home once more. I wrote you while in Richmond but did not expect an answer until I was sent north. You no doubt have read and reread the many accounts of the battle where I with many others were captured and hurried off to a southern prison so I will not try to describe it but only give a faint outline of my travels.
April 29th at daybreak our division crossed the river one mile below Fredericksburgh without much opposition. We lay on the opposite bank until Sunday May 3rd when we advanced and engaged the enemy below the city while Newton's division and the light brigade stormed Maryes Heights behind the city. In the afternoon we took the front pursuing the retreating foe toward Chancellorsville expecting of course to meet Hooker and finish the contest by annihilating the Rebel Army. But instead of meeting him we at Salem Church five miles from Fredericksburgh met a strong detachment of the enemy sent by Lee to reinforce those we had driven from the city and check our advance. They halted in a piece of wood which surrounds the church and met us Indian fashion behind the trees. We advanced to within 10 rods when they opened one of the deadliest fires I ever saw. We continued advancing however until we reached the church, the rebs giving way from tree to tree. Here we were halted and ordered to commence firing. We done so.
If we had went on I think we would have cleared the wood but the minute we stopped the men fell faster and faster until at last the right commenced falling back and then the whole line went like sheep and the rebs after us yelling like devils. I with a good many others from the Division was taken. I heard the next day that our regiment lost 216 killed, wounded and missing. Captain Wendell, Lt. Doubleday and Ford were killed. Capt. Arnold and Masher and Lt. Upton wounded. Several bullets went through my coat and haversack but thank heaven none hit my person. I was taken about a mile to the rear where we stayed all night and I learned that Jackson had out- flanked and defeated Hooker, thus leaving us at his mercy at Fredericksburgh after it had been so gallantly taken. Monday was marched down to Spotsylvania courthouse and Tuesday to Guiney's (?) Station. Here we remained until Friday when we took the cars for Richmond and at night was safely lodged in a large tobacco warehouse called after its owner Libby prison.
We were treated well as prisoners could ask to be treated. On the 23rd I was paroled with about 100 other officers, took the cars for city point via Petersburgh. Got aboard a flag of truce boat, went around by Fortress Monroe and reached here this morning thankful enough. I do not know how long it will be before we will be exchanged. Not long, however. I want you to write immediately that I may receive an answer before ordered away. How you all are and what's the news and also whether you received the check I sent you the day we started from camp and if you can find out whether Dave Thurber received the one I sent him for the boys. Direct to:Lt. D. Bates
121st N.Y. Vols
- May 26, 1863
This heavy marching is using the men up again this summer and I have come to the conclusion to stop here a short time until I recover my strength and appetite which have both been diminishing very fast for some time. I had a very severe time getting here being so weak. In fact have been obliged to ride in an ambulance for two days previous. I am again threatened with a fever but trust a few days rest and nursing will bring me out of it. If I do have the fever again, I shall say good bye to war for I have seen about enough of that. There is a female nurse here who is very kind so don't worry. I will write often as I can.
Do not put on the regiment but direct toLt. D. Bates
Mansion House Hospital
- Fairfax Station
- June 17, 1863
The army of the Potomac, as you are by this time no doubt aware, is again obliged to fall back to the Potomac River to defend the free states from rebel invasion. Our Corps started on the night of the 13th of this month withdrawing what force we had on the south bank of the Rappahannock with the utmost secrecy to prevent the rebs left in Fredericksburgh from, attacking our rear. We passed through Potomac Station on the Aeynia (?) railroad, Stafford court house, Dumfries to Occoynan (?) destroying everything that we could not bring with us. One million dollars would scarcely cover the loss of the army on this retreat.
We are to continue along up the river and perhaps have our summer campaign in Maryland and Pennsylvania. It is useless to try to do anything towards putting down this rebellion until we have a General competent to meet General Lee. Here we have laid all winter with a force double his at least, gained a position where he was obliged to come out of his entrenchments and attack the main body of our army behind breastworks, and then we were badly defeated. And now as soon as our army is about equal to theirs, Lee starts north and crosses the Potomac first. I did think when we crossed the river the last of April with the odds so much in our favor that there was no chance for Lee, but he has proved himself the first general of the day. The South has unlimited confidence in his abilities, have entrusted him with the whole military power of the Confederate States and no one questions any of his acts. I stand the marching first rate. A few blisters on my feet is all the inconvenience I feel. We march from 15 to 20 miles per day. The roads are very dusty. The weather sultry. I received some letters from you when I reached the regiment. They come here instead of going to Annapolis.Delavan Bates
- July 4, 1863
- Bivouac near Gettysburg
The army of the Potomac is all here. Also General Lee's army. We have been fighting two days. The rebs had the advantage the first day, but yesterday we repulsed them on every side taking a large number of prisoners. We have troops coming in all around and expect to destroy them without fail this time. Our regiment has not lost any yet having been engaged in supplying batteries. Others have lost heavily. General Reynold (?) and Ward are dead. Bicker (?) and Howard wounded.Delavan
- July 21, 1863
- Near Snickers Gap, Virginia
I received your letter of the 12th and also one from Ursula of the 11th. We are wending our way down the old track again where our army passed last fall. We shall not push Lee very hard, I think, until the conscripts are received. Capt. Galpin has gone with a squad to fetch enough to fill our regiment. I would like to write a good long letter describing some of the scenes of the march but cannot until we get in camp somewhere and get rested out. My health as a general thing has been good but you know of course a person anywhere will have a day or two of indisposition now and then. Virginia is suffering tenfold that she ever did before. The soldiers steal and plunder everything they can lay their hands upon and night before last a splendid barn was burned where we camped. I can't like this way of doing business. Private property should be respected the world over. The rebs I know did in Pennsylvania but that does not justify us who have plenty of victories (?) of our own. We crossed the river on the morning of the 19th near Berlin below Harper's Ferry. The men are very hopeful of an early close of the. war since the victories in the Southwest.Delavan
- August 8, 1863
- Alexandria, Virginia
I received your letter but as I wrote to Cecilia the same day have not answered you till now. I got discharged from the hospital as soon as I got through taking medicine and am now boarding at a private house. I could not relish the food at the hospital. They are strong Secesh where I board but they nurse me first rate and I am gaining strength fast. We had some pork and beans for dinner the other day which tasted the best of anything I have had to eat in a month. They never cooked any before but one of the other boarders, a Yankee from Massachusetts who is at work in the commissary department in the city, showed them how to cook them. Very few Southerners ever eat any beans. We have also plenty of garden sauce, cucumbers, beets, etc. and in the streets can get huckleberries, blackberries, apples, pears, peaches, etc.
A majority of the folks are Secesh but they have got broke under so they are no trouble. I shall join the regiment next week. I think the army will lay still some time as great numbers of troops are being sent South. George St. John's regiment passed through day before yesterday. Direct your letters after this, also tell Ellen and Ursula too, to;121st New York Volunteers, 6th
Army Corps, Washington, D.C.
- Camp, 121st N.Y. Volunteers
- August 31, 1863
Your letter of the 25th of this month is received, also one from Ursula which I answered the day before it arrived. Tell her to write again.
We remain in camp yet at New Baltimore, five miles north of Warrenton in Tangier (?) County. Our trip to Charleston did not come off much to my disappointment for I would like very well to go a little farther south before winter sets in for I find the cold is not afraid to come down as far at least as the banks of the Rappahannock where we stayed last winter. Even now the nights are chilly enough to need two heavy woolen blankets over one's self while sleeping in a good tent. Notwithstanding, the days are very warm and pleasant.
We were on picket three days last week. Our company was stationed on the road to Gainesville about three-fourths of a mile from camp. Had five posts, from 30 to 40 rods apart, connecting with other companies on the right and left, allowing no one to pass without leave from Gen. Bartlett, Wright or Meade. This is to prevent the enemy's obtaining any knowledge of our location or numbers or other information that might be of service to7 them. We had a very good time out there, as we could send out to the inhabitants nearby and purchase milk, butter and garden sauce as much as we wished.
We were not disturbed by any enemy but were called to arms one morning just before daybreak by a sentinel who was rather timid and imagined he saw a line of battle approaching which however proved to be some bushes moving in the wind and an old gray horse walking behind them. There are no regular southern troops near here, but Moseby and White have about 700 guerrillas scattered around between here and Alexandria who we. have to be on the alert for. Lt. Col. Olcott went out yesterday with 100 men on a scouting expedition about Thoroughfare Gap but did not find anybody but citizens. Col. Upton has gone to Washington sick. Has got the fever.
The health of the regiment is good, there being only eight in the regimental hospital now and only one death has occurred since my return. My health remains good and I am very near as strong as I was before my sickness. I am not troubled with the camp distemper, have not been since we were at Bakersville, Maryland a year ago this fall.
The whole brigade attended divine service yesterday (except those on the scout) at Brigade headquarters. The chaplain of the 5th Maine preached. Our chaplain (Sage) has resigned and gone home, got tired of the business I suppose. We had a very good Methodist sermon and with the music of the brigade brass band and also the bands of the different regiments (we have four in the brigade) made the afternoon pass very pleasantly. Our band has one bass drum, half a dozen small ones, and four fifes and is considered the best in the brigade. We have music for everything, music telling us when to get up, music telling us when to go to bed, when to get breakfast, when to eat dinner, when to clean the streets, when to drill, when to stop drilling, when to go to church on the Sabbath, and when to come back. All is told us by drum and fife.
Letter of August 31, 1863
I wish you could be down here some morning to hear the reveille beaten, or at a review. You would almost wish you were a soldier too, to hear them play Yankee Doodle, Hail to the Chief, the Village Quick Step, the Wrecker's Daughter or the White Cockade. The last you probably used to hear when you were a boy, as it is an old tune.
My promotion was made by Gov. Seymour on the recommendation of Col. Upton. All promotions are made in this way in New York troops, either on the recommend of the commanding officer or the influence of political friends. No elections are held.
I shall have money enough to last until next pay day, I think. If I should not, I can borrow which will be safer than to have any sent by mail. Most of the boys would rather lend their money than to carry it themselves, when they do not send it all home.
You have been very fortunate to get your summer's work along so well. Is Tommy with you yet? If he is not, you had better get some boy even if you have to pay 8 or 10 dollars a month to stay with you all the while. You are situated now so that you can live easy as you choose, and you must for you have worked hard long enough.
Ursula wanted to know about my clothes. I have plenty of al1 kinds .
I guess the draft will come pretty close in Worcester. I see the quota is over 50 including exempt cases which is calculated at one-third. I hope they will be sent down to help fill the 121st. I would like the fun of drilling some of them.Delavan
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