Collection of 3 Letters by Captain Horace G. Whiting, 25th Massachusetts Infantry & 2nd Ohio Heavy Artillery - Fredericksburg & Kentucky Content, Including Tender Letter to Child

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Collection of 3 Letters by Captain Horace G. Whiting, 25th Massachusetts Infantry & 2nd Ohio Heavy Artillery - Fredericksburg & Kentucky Content, Including Tender Letter to Child

475.00

Item No. 8772595

A wonderful collection of three letters written by Horace G. Whiting, who served in two theaters; as a corporal in the 25th Massachusetts and a captain in the 2nd Ohio Heavy Artillery. Whiting, a clerk from Milford, Massachusetts, wrote the first letter in December 1862, just prior to the Battle of Fredericksburg. He was evidently serving on assignment away from his regiment at General Burnside’s Army of the Potomac headquarters, likely as a staff clerk. He wrote that he had “been through the Maryland Campaign, have seen fair and foul weather, have feasted and have ben nearly famished, have seen war but have not heard of peace, been through two bloody battles, but have come out unharmed. The shot and shell flew around us at South Mountain and Antietam, but none came just right to hit us.” Then at Falmouth, Virginia, the Army was preparing to cross the Rappahannock River and into Fredericksburg just two days after the writing of this letter. Angered by miscues in the upper echelon of Union Army command, specifically the tardiness of pontoon bridging materials, Whiting then wrote a lengthy and sarcastic rant about the “‘true patriots’ and ‘great men’” in Washington, who he perceived as contributing greatly to the suffering of the soldiers:

If you want to know just how we feel every night, just you take some sheets, get two uprights and one “center pole,” some pins—wooden ones—and pitch your tent in some good muddy place. Clay soil is the most popular out here. Get one blanket—that’s all the Regulations allow—and an overcoat, put a few boards under your head, instead of a knapsack. You are supposed to have an outfit now, after eating 3 hard breads, a piece of pork or “salt mule,” drinking some clay-water coffee and thanking “the Lord for this little bite, pity it hadn’t been more,” you “allow” that you will “retire” and think over a few things.

The letter ends abruptly at the end of the last page, suggesting the letter had an additional sheet or sheets that are lost to history. The letter does include the original stamped cover preprinted, like the letter itself, “Head-Quarters, Army of the Potomac.” Whiting also gave an artistic touch to both the letter and the cover, making for a very attractive piece. The letter measures about 7 3/4” x 9 3/4” and is in very good condition, with light toning and creases where originally folded. Some separation along the center fold, but not particularly delicate.

The second letter was written in September 1863 from Bowling Green, Kentucky. “You see that my “roving” has not stopped yet,” he wrote, “and I commenced it more than 3 years ago, for I like it very much. New scenes, new faces and adventures.” Whiting had just two weeks earlier been commissioned Captain of Company C, 2nd Ohio Heavy Artillery, and had recently arrived at his new post, where he was to command the forts in the area. He added, “I am here in command of 141 fine men. All good large men too, and when I write again I will tell you “all about it.” I mean the town and everything else.” The letter is written on just one side of a 7 3/4” x 9 1/2” sheet with minor toning and creased where folded. This is the one letter out of the three that lacks a cover.

The final letter is a tender one, written to “Nell,” a child of his friends the Litchfields of Globe Village. From the Galt House in Louisville in late September 1863, Whiting wrote that he had received a letter from Nellie. “Allow me to salute you as my ‘superior officer,’” he played, “as I shall have to give up that you have worn ‘shoulder straps’ longer than I have. You deserve a command in the Army, and as I am on my way to Columbus, Ohio, I think I must speak to the Gov[ernor] about you, so that he can give you a Commission.” Writing of the happenings in Kentucky, he wrote he was “very pleasantly situated at Bowling Green and have command of all the Forts in the vicinity, acting Major, having five companies under my command, and such a bother as it is too. I am not large enough to do so much, and am going to give it up soon. I am the senior or ranking Captain in the regiment, which entitles me to take command until we get some Majors.” This letter is written on four pages of a 5” x 7 3/4” stationery sheet. It includes the stamped cover addressed to Helen Litchfield and decorated with all sorts of doodles.

Transcript of first letter:

Head Quarters, Army of the Potomac,
Camp near Falmouth Va, Dec. 9, 1862.

My Dear Pliny:
It is now more than two months since I received your kind and most welcome letter dated Nov. 2d. At this time I am on the same ground that I was last August. During the interval I have been through the Maryland Campaign, have seen fair and foul weather, have feasted and have ben nearly famished, have seen war but have not heard of peace, been through two bloody battles, but have come out unharmed. The shot and shell flew around us at South Mountain and Antietam, but none came just right to hit us. The nearest that I know of any coming to me was a piece of shell that wounded my horse’s hoof while I was on his back.

We are again, I say, on our “old ground,” but in our front is in “obstacle” in the shape of many thousand Rebels, strongly entrenched behind numerous breastworks and in the woods behind the town of Fredericksburg, but tomorrow or the day after we hope to be able to walk over into the town, as the weather now reminds one forcibly of New England at this season of the year, and we don’t propose to take “Winter Quarters” in tents, for you at home have no idea how much less comfortable it is out here than at home reading the “latest War news,” and abusing our good Generals, and wondering why they don’t do this and that, how “I would do it if I was General” &c. Why don’t they go ahead? Why wasn’t the pontoons ready for Burnside to cross? Why didn’t Meigs send Burnside stores! Why—”because”! If you want to know just how we feel every night, just you take some sheets, get two uprights and one “center pole,” some pins—wooden ones—and pitch your tent in some good muddy place. Clay soil is the most popular out here. Get one blanket—that’s all the Regulations allow—and an overcoat, put a few boards under your head, instead of a knapsack. You are supposed to have an outfit now, after eating 3 hard breads, a piece of pork or “salt mule,” drinking some clay-water coffee and thanking “the Lord for this little bite, pity it hadn’t been more,” you “allow” that you will “retire” and think over a few things. Well! It is a little cold, but you are a Soldier and you are supposed to take everything as it comes, so you mustn’t mind if it is rather cold “around the edges.” You have no right to wish you could be at home with “live geese” under you and many nice quilts and comforters over you. In fact, you wouldn’t be home if you could for isn’t it all for the “cause.” Aren’t the authorities at Washington doing everything to put an end to the War? Don’t they all harmonize like a “happy family” in the Departments? Are not Halleck and Meigs “true patriots” and “great men”? What if they are all opposed to having the gallant Burnside conduct the campaign on Military principles and be “let alone” when he knows and they don’t? You know you have the cheering prospect of going home “at the end of the War” You can stay till you are grey. You can go without pay for 6 and 8 months. You can know that there are suffering ones at home that want the money that you have fought for, but haven’t got. and you know that you are only one amongst 300,000 men that are in just your situation. You get completely drenched before morning with rain You have “Guard” duty on the morrow. Toward morning the rain “turns to snow.” Your shoes are full of water, but you don’t mind that for it’s been so before. During the day the frozen ground becomes nice and soft. You often take a “slide” during the time you are walking your “beat.” You have been long in the service, are a good soldier, have suffered under the idolized McClellan and by some jealousy at Washington, he is removed. But you have one equally respected and the gallant Burnside is presented to you as your present Commander. Hasn’t “Little Mac” recommended him as being in every way worthy to succeed him? Didn’t he say “stand by Burnside as you have stood by me”? You have willing hearts and ready hands. You have worthy and gallant leaders. You want to go on, nay demand to be led to deeds of valor, but no favorable answer comes back for a “forward move.” But “Burn” won’t stand it any longer and come what will of it, he will go ahead “on his own hook.” See if he don’t too.

Something is wrong somewhere. “A screw is loose,” or may be. Beg pardon if these are your toes—the radicals are determined that no move will be made until after the 1st of January 1863, at which time they trust, and undoubtedly will demand, that the President will be weak enough [letter ends abruptly—likely a second sheet is missing]

Transcript of second letter:

Bowling Green Ky
Sept. 8th 1863.

Dear Pliny:
Again I am in “active service,” again “in the field,” and pretty near “the front.” You see that my “roving” has not stopped yet, and I commenced it more than 3 years ago, for I like it very much. New scenes, new faces and adventures.

I was going to wait till I had visited the Mammoth Cave before writing to you, but not knowing how long I might have to wait, I think “now is the time.” I received “marching orders” from my Colonel to proceed to Bowling Green and garrison one of the Forts in this vicinity. At 5 o’clock on the 3d inst. to start at 4 the same evening. At 4 the Company property was all started and at 8 the men left the Barracks, started for Louisville at 10 P.M. and arrived at L[ouisville] at 12 1/2 P.M. on Friday. Sunday A.M. at 5 we started for this and arrived at 3 P.M. And how are “you” B.G. Well Pliny I am here in command of 141 fine men. All good large men too, and when I write again I will tell you “all about it.” I mean the town and everything else. This is to remind you that you “owe me one” and, for you to congratulate me that I am, with love to all, Yours Truly
H. G. Whiting
Capt. Co. “C” 2d Ohio Heavy Artillery
Bowling Green Ky

A kiss for Nellie.

Transcript of third letter:

Galt House
Louisville Ky
Sept. 30th / 63.

My darling Nellie:
Your nice little note, in company with your Pa’s letter, came through without breaking, and I am very much obliged to you for thinking of me.

Do you know that you made the best pun that I have heard for a long time! Well you did and I enjoyed the most hearty laugh that I have for many a day.

Allow me to salute you as my “superior officer,” as I shall have to give up that you have worn “shoulder straps” longer than I have. You deserve a command in the Army, and as I am on my way to Columbus, Ohio, I think I must speak to the Gov[ernor] about you, so that he can give you a Commission.

Will you have it in the Infantry?

What a pity
About your kitty.

Now can’t you make me your “Poet Laureate” after such a brilliant display of my practiced genius!

I am very pleasantly situated at Bowling Green and have command of all the Forts in the vicinity, acting Major, having five companies under my command, and such a bother as it is too. I am not large enough to do so much, and am going to give it up soon. I am the senior or ranking Captain in the regiment, which entitles me to take command until we get some Majors.

I had a pleasant ride from the Green to Louisville yesterday and we met a number of the 33d Mass. boys that I know and they are going to join Rosecrans. Genl. Hooker is in command of the 11th Corps. I never saw such romantic scenery while traveling on the cars as from here to Nashville. All the time one is seeing something new and interesting. When I am in Mass. again I will tell you “all about it.”

I am going to the Mammoth Cave in about two weeks and shall have a “heap” to tell you in my next letter, and so you must excuse this dull one till “next time,” for I have eaten such a big dinner that I am uncomfortably large and can’t think of half that I would like to. So with a lot of kisses and ever so much love to you, and regards to all my friends
I have the honor to be
Most Respectfully
Your devoted friend
H. G. Whiting

To “Nell”

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