1863 Letter by Sergeant Gedney K. Richardson, 44th Massachusetts - Newbern, North Carolina - "Washington I Am Afraid Will Soon Have Reasons to Fear its Own Army"

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1863 Letter by Sergeant Gedney K. Richardson, 44th Massachusetts - Newbern, North Carolina - "Washington I Am Afraid Will Soon Have Reasons to Fear its Own Army"


Item No. 7145403

An interesting and long soldier letter written by Sergeant Gedney K. Richardson of the 44th Massachusetts Volunteers. Writing from Newbern, North Carolina, Richardson discussed conditions as he settled into his new surroundings. The men of the 44th had enlisted for nine months, and there was some commotion when news circulated in the camp that nine month enlistments would be extended to two years (it didn’t happen). He further discussed his belief that the politicians in Washington shouldn’t interfere with military concerns, lamenting the removal of Generals McClellan and Burnside. “Washington I am afraid will soon have reasons to fear its own army,” he wrote. Richardson filled the remaining pages with interesting details about army life, picket duty, a box from home, and a black servant crudely named “Snowball.” It reads, in full:

Camp Stevenson
Newbern Feb 13 1863
18th Army Corps

Dear Carrie,
I have finished writing to father and will try now and see what I can do for you. I am afraid my endeavors to fill two sheets will fail but I will do my best and trust you will be satisfied. Everything since we arrived in Newbern has gone on just the same as before we left until yesterday when we had a thorough cleaning out of barracks, ordered by the inspecting surgeon. Everything conceivable we turned out into the company parade and then a thorough brushing and sweeping operation was gone through with, and the things returned. The men did not like it much although they were very good natured about it.

You seem to feel very anxious about our green barracks and doubtful whether the fever is not as dangerous as bullets. I think not now for we have had them whitewashed which will probably smother the greeness of the wood. I will let you know how the fellows felt about not going on the expedition if I ever have an opportunity of holding a conversation with you again.

Now I happen to think of it, is it not this spring that we are going to take up our beds and walk from No 18. It would be pretty good form to come home and go into a new house. I think I should like it very much if it was only in a good situation. Is there any prospect of a change?

The more I think of it the more it strikes me what a queer life a soldiers life is. We live in perfect doubt as to what we shall do the next moment and the strongest of all don’t seem to care. You would be surprised if you saw how quick we can get ready to move and how quickly we can settle ourselves into comparative comfort. Give me an hours notice and I am all ready to move and another hour I am settled.

There was quite an interesting little affair occurred yesterday when Senator Wilson’s act in congress about the 9 mo. men staying two years, got removed. About camp we all became quite incensed and it became very amusing. They all declared we would go home. If anything of that kind occurred I should put in strong and expect you to help me get a commission in one of the old regiments, but all such fears are groundless.

I was thinking today and the more I reflect the more I am convinced that this rebellion never can be put down so long as congress undertakes to govern the movements of this splendid army. When McClellan took command there never was such an army in existence in the world but now they are gradually losing confidence and becoming more and more demoralized. When eighty officers are discharged for speaking disrespectfully of their commander, what can the men be. Washington I am afraid will soon have reasons to fear its own army. Why do the citizens of the north allow such quibbling and fault finding as is going on in the congress about our commanders. Christian language can hardly express my contempt for it and it makes me mad that it is allowed. Why did McClellan resign? Why did Burnside resign? For no reason but for the interference of those cursed politicians. And them other ones who are spoiling the army and ruining its concerns. It is of no use to talk anymore about it but it is strange that the people of the north have so much confidence and call so promiscuously on men to volunteer. They cannot possibly see the result and the want of some military head.

I shall have the privilege of voting when the next president is elected and I should like to cast my vote for some military man, say McClellan.

I wish I had been in Boston to have participated in his reception. He is my “beau ideal” of a man and I am glad Boston was so magnanimous.

I spoke in fathers letter of receiving two from you. They were splendid long ones and I feel as if I must write I don’t know for how long to repay you.

Yesterday afternoon I saw Mrs. Peabody and Dr. Lothrop. I was with Mulliken and I first saw her on dress parade down town. I could not keep my eyes off of her. She is the best looking lady I have seen down in these parts and it did me real good. I saw her again with Miss Messenger in front of “Headquarters” listening to the band which was playing before the Colonel’s. We had for supper that night with Jim Walker buckwheats and soft biscuit and I tell you they were good. As Frank Emmons says Newbern is not the place for ladies situated as you would be if you came with Mr. Emmons.

The money which you sent me could not have come at a better time. It was just what I wanted to pay a few little debts which I was obliged to contract and I have now got $5 in hand which will last me until I get paid off again. Your postage stamps also will go into use immediately. When do you intend to send along those photographs? I am in a great hurry for them.

I suppose your mind as well as mine will be relieved when I tell you that I have written to the office. Not quite so elaborate however as they would have been if I had followed your instructions but I guess it will do. Don’t call me anymore the 180 pounder only 175 now. I was weighed down town yesterday and 5 pounds less is quite encouraging.

You speak in your letter about the Misses Tremlet and that reminds me of Louisa H & Harry constant in his correspondences. I do hate to think of their engagement for I believe he is a perfect devil.

I forget whether I spoke of Charley H trouble or not in my previous letter. If not I will not enlarge upon it. But my opinion of him is not as good as it used to be. I still say as I said in Readville that I would not be in any other company in the Regiment than that which I am in. It is the best in every respect. If it has not the best captain it has the best Lieuts. and Sergts.

Saturday evening
I suppose you are passing the evening rather differently from what I am, perhaps mending or entertaining some visitor. You have no Charley H to call on you however who takes his place? I am sitting at a rickety old table with fellows all about me talking and it is not an easy matter to write but you can be the judge of my success.

This morning I went with thirty men to do picket duty with 24 hours rations and shelter tents and soon became quite comfortably settled and was enjoying myself very much when the adjutant rode up and said a Pennsylvania regiment would soon relieve us. I was quite disappointed and about 2 o’clock marched back and got ready for Sunday morning inspection. Our darky “Snowball” went with me and he was quite a help in making fires & I think he quite likes me he says so at any rate.

I received your box yesterday which came by the “Augusta Dinsmere” and everything was very acceptable. Grandmas jam was splendid we tried it for supper tonight and all pronounced it fine. The books were greatly appreciated except “Thirteen months in the rebel army” which I have read and like very much and those monthly books issued by the Christian association which I guess I shall present to the hospital. I don’t know what you will say when I tell you that it was over shirts that I wanted and not under shirts. I don’t know but what I wrote before that under ones I lately bought some of Lieut. Howe which I like better than those you sent. He swears I shall keep them for the present and then perhaps send them home when you can change them for something else. If you send me any more tobacco don’t send me “Grand Seal” but the “Green Seal” or “Green and Red Seal”. Father did not read the letter correctly when I sent for it before. I have a great plenty for the present.

I am sorry to be obliged to tell you that Frank Hopkinson is dead. He died night before last at two oclock of congestive fever. I am glad to hear that Kitty Wells is so well as to come down stairs although I had no idea she was so sick. Give my love to her and her brother and all her friends are well.

Dr. Lothrop is going to preach tomorrow downtown and I think I must hear him.

This is doing better than expected and I will conclude wishing you a good night sweet reprose &c.
Your paper you will see by my envelope has arrived and I admire to look at it it is so clean.

Ask Macy the prospects of a Commission.

The letter spans some twelve pages on stationery measuring about 5” x 8”. It is in very good condition with minor toning. There are creases where it was originally folded, along with some very minor separation along some folds. Includes original stamped cover with February 17 Newbern postmark.

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