August 1864 Letter by Corporal Edwin H. Holbrook, 42nd Massachusetts Militia (100 Days) - "The people are Union here only because they dare not be any other way"

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August 1864 Letter by Corporal Edwin H. Holbrook, 42nd Massachusetts Militia (100 Days) - "The people are Union here only because they dare not be any other way"

120.00

Item No. 2201940

An interesting August 1864 letter written by Corporal Edwin H. Holbrook of the 42nd Massachusetts Militia, a 100-day regiment that performed guard duty around Washington, D.C. in the summer and fall of 1864, freeing up other troops to move south to the Petersburg Front. The 42nd included many men of the nine-month 42nd Massachusetts that had served in 1862-1863. In this letter, Holbrook described the journey by sea from Boston to Alexandria, noting the landmarks seen on the voyage up the Potomac River. He was proud of having “the very high honor to be appointed a Corporal and detailed as a clerk to write in the office of Lieut. Stockbridge, Judge Advocate.” He wrote that he enjoyed life in the army, but that Alexandria was “a very dirty nasty place. The people are Union here only because they dare not be any other way.” The letter reads:

General Court Marial Rooms
Alexandria Virginia Aug. 5th 1864.

Dear Cousin Emma
I rather think you will be surprised at receiving a letter from me dated from this city. I enlisted on Wednesday July 20th in Co. B, 42nd Regt Mass. 100 days men. We were mustered into the service on Friday and on Sunday morning at 4 o’clock we [were] called up and ordered to pack up at 5 o’clock. We took cars for Boston. We marched across the city to Battery Wharf. We found two steamers which were to convey us to Washington D.C. We had a very pleasant voyage. We were four days upon the water out of sight of land. On the evening of the fourth day we sailed into the Potomac River and never did land look so beautiful to me before. Most of the boys from Medway were sick, but I had the good fortune not to be. I enjoyed my sail up the Potomac very much. We passed by Point Lookout Hospital, Fort Washington, and Mt. Vernon, the home of General Washington, which [is] a splendid place. We arrived at Washington about noon. We came off the boat and stayed about 3 hours and then went on board again and sailed down to Alexandria, which is about six miles down the river from Washington. We are now encamped about half a mile out of the city on a high hill near Fort Ellsworth. We have got a very fine regiment. It numbers about 900 men. We are said to be the best company in the regiment. I have had the very high honor to be appointed a Corporal and detailed as a clerk to write in the office of Lieut. Stockbridge, Judge Advocate. I like [it] very much so far. Time passes very quickly. Alexandria is a place of about 1600 inhabitants. A very dirty nasty place. The people are Union only because they dare not be any other way. I have about made up my mind that there is no better place to live than old New England. How are all our friends up in Vt, though I am not known but by a few. I wish to be remembered to them all. That big house is about done. So I hear. (Ahem) I hope it will suit the occupants (ahem) possibly in course of one hundred years I may call round see it. Have you heard from East Medway very lately? If you have any time I wish you would write to me as a letter looks pretty good to a soldier. Please excuse the bad writing as it is dark. There is only one light in the room and there are five of us writing around it. This is very genteel size of paper to write to a lady upon, but it is the best I can get. I must now close as the Judge has ordered the lights out. Write me a good long letter right straight off. Direct to
Edwin H. Holbrook
Co. B. 42d Regt. Mass. V. M.
Alexandria Va

The letter was written on the front and back of a large sheet of paper measuring about 7 3/4” x 12 1/2”. It is in excellent condition with minor foxing and toning. Creased where it was originally folded.

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