Archive of 30 Letters Relating to Sergeant Abram Draper, 1st Delaware & 4th Delaware - Died of Disease, 1863
Archive of 30 Letters Relating to Sergeant Abram Draper, 1st Delaware & 4th Delaware - Died of Disease, 1863
Item No. 1440448
An interesting collection of 30 letters, several on decorative patriotic stationery, related to Sergeant Abram Draper of the 4th Delaware Volunteers. Draper first enlisted in the 3-month 1st Delaware, which guarded railroads for the entirety of its enlistment. From Havre de Grace, Maryland, on June 28, 1861, Draper wrote, “We have returned to this place on the account of a rumor that the big boat was to be burn but if it is done there will be less citizens in Maryland than there is at present. The colonel said in publick that we were the only company that he would trust here on the account of the others getting drunk so much and being disorderly.” On July 25, Draper wrote, “I believe we are here at Havre de Grace yet I do no know how long we shall stay. Enclosed you will find five Dollars which I send to you. We have not got paid much yet only the first half month. Just enough for to by tobacco, sugar, and a little paper…. Do not fail to write. If you folk at home know what a pleasure it is to get letters here in camp…. You must excuse the short letter as I am on guard duty and have to finish this on my knee.” Even guarding railroads was not without its moments of danger. On July 28 he wrote:
As this is sunday I think I will scribble a few lines to you. Perhaps you may think I had better be at church but there are two very good reasons why I do not go. The first is I am on the sick list… the other reason is I have a large seat in the whole of my pants… The soldiers are coming and going every hour in the day. There was a man shot down the road the other day. The ball entered his foot. t was an acident some of the soldiers were firing salutes out of the cars and one ball hit him more or less acidents happen every day in the army. I have seen soldier enough pass here in twenty four hours to fill the road from Newark to Christiana…
Draper’s enlistment was up in August and he sat out the winter of 1861/62. By late spring, however, he had reenlisted in the army as a sergeant in the 4th Delaware Volunteers. He continued to send letters to Anna, including several love letters and original poems. But the monotony of guard duty seemed to be getting to Draper. From Perryville, Maryland, in October he wrote to Anna about his homesickness:
Though it has been scarce two weeks since I left home yet it seems an age to me. I scarcely can tell the reason but it is a fact that in times past I could be absent from home months ayes years and not want to get back, but now I cannot be absent one week without wanting to get back, but why this should be so I cannot tell, for you say that I don’t care any thing about you yet you know it is the easiest thing in the world to be mistaken however bad as I want to get home I cannot for I have to work hard every day and what is worse I have not got a cent to my name, with the exception of the one you gave me to keep which I have yet, and always shall keep unless I lose it.
By November the 4th Delaware had moved to Alexandria, Virginia. He wrote home to Anna:
We left Wilmington last monday after noon and got here tuesday night about eight o’clock when we stacked arms and lay down to sleep in the open air. You would laugh to hear the boys talk about what a hard time they had gone through. There is a great many troops here and they are coming and going all the time. I don’t think we shall stay here long. I have been out to see the boys in some of the forts round here. There are several very fine fortifications within a few miles of us. We are within sight of Alexandria, Fairfax seminary, and munsons hill, all of which you have often heard Stansburg and me talk about. We can see Washington by going a short distance up a hill just in front of our camp… The rebbels drew in the picket away down below somewhere I don’t know precisely where as I did not enquire particulars, but at any rate the long role was beat in the forts about here and such a talk as the boys had the next day would have made you think that Jeff [Davis] and all his army was in Washington…
Later in the month the regiment made another move to nearby Camp Sam Casey. On November 26 he wrote:
Camp Sam Casey Nov 26th 1862
Caseys division 3rd Brigade in defense of Washington
1st reserve army core, Brigadier A. H. Grimshaw Com.
…You will be pleased no doubt to hear that we are building winter quarters. We shall no doubt stay here this winter Colonel A H Grimshaw has been appointed brigadier Gen of the 3rd Brigade, Caseys Division, of which our reg forms the right. I suppose C C Tevis will be Colonel. Maj Lemotte Lieut Col, which will be a good thing for the regiment, as they are both well drilled men. There is to be a board of examination the first of Dec to test the qualifications of the commissioned officers and I think that several of them will go up the spout for I know it to be a fact that not one half of them can handle a company in the simplest battalion movements.
We heard heavy firing on the upper potomac yesterday but do not know what it was for it is reported that a company of rebel cavalry crossed in to Maryland yesterday. Probably that accounts for it….
In a December 7 letter Draper wrote about the construction of winter quarters and the fireplace he built in his tent, greatly increasing its comfort. Despite settling in for the winter, rumors of impending battle still circulated through the camp. He also wrote that his brother, Hiram, attempted to locate and visit him, but was unable to find the camp (sadly, more about this missed meeting later). The letter reads, in part:
Tomorrow we are all going out about 15teen miles towards Bull run on picket duty. We shall be gone four days from camp. It is expected here that we are on the eve of a great battle. How soon it will come off none can tell. I see by my brothers letter that two of my nephews are in the army. They are the sons of my oldest brother and youngest sister. It rather please me to hear him talk about trying to get a living making hats. He has one of the largest hat establishments in the town where he lives and I don’t believe he has done a days work in ten years. When he was hunting for me last winter if he had inquired for yank draper he would have found me in no time.
We were out on picket the other day and one of our men rather deserted or was captured, we do not know which. We found his cartridge box but his gun and himself were missing. There is not as much sickness in camp as might be expected. We have not been payed yet but expect it every day.
Whilst I am writing this the distant boom of cannon strikes upon my ear, but down here that is nothing strange. But its too rapid to day for practice. I reckon they are shelling the pickets some where on the line. I am glad to hear that Johnny is better. Give my love to him and strength and matter and all enquiring friends there and hold there go another crack from that rifle parott [Parrott Rifle]. I know it by the sound. They are shooting away pretty lively somewhere…but I must close.
Yours till death.
A. H. Draper
On December 15, he wrote about the regiment’s move to a new camp. He also wrote that he was able to hear the rumble of guns from the Battle of Fredericksburg:
…We have moved our camp from Camp Casey to Camp Vermont. Said camp is located about two miles below Alexandria. We have a very nice camp here but how long we shall enjoy it no one can tell. We received marching orders last night but they were countermanded. We are about 4 miles from the picket lines. We stay out 4 days at a time. We could hear the firing at Fredericksburg part of the time when the wind was fair it sounded like the low distant ruble of incessant thunder. The fight has been an awful hard one. We have lost more men than we did at Antietam.
As December drew toward a close, the regiment was busy preparing for yet another move. They believed they were to be shipped to Fortress Monroe. On Christmas Day, he wrote:
Camp Vermont Dec 25th / 62
As this is christmas I shall commence this letter by the time honored salutation of a christmas gift. I am as well as usual with the exception of a head ache. I have just came in from picket duty on which I have been for four days. I should not have written so late to night but we are all packed up to move to morrow morning at 6 AM. We are going to Fortress Monroe. I wrote you a letter last week but have not recd an answer. I suppose you did not get it. We have not moved once since I have had any letters from you. I got Johnys letter. I am glad to hear that he has been promoted. Capt [Andrew J.] Williams got a letter to night from Alesia. He say you sent your love to me and him. He says tell his folks not to send him any thing untill they hear from him again. The captain is not at all well. He has not done duty for some time. I don’t think he will stay with us long. He will have to go home or die. If you answer this direct your letters to fortress Monroe Va. Write as soon as you get this and tell if you read my last letter. I have not much to write. You must excuse this as every thing is in a hubbub. Give my love to all enquiring friends from you affectionate and loving husband
A. H. Draper
Anna you asked me in you last letter what I thought of it. Well I think its very nice. Cheer up my love cheer up. Don’t let your spirits go so down.
Good by love
No signs of pay yet
I will write as soon as we land. We take boats at Alexandria.
Fortress Monroe was not to be in the cards for the 4th Delaware. Instead they were sent to Gloucester Point on the York River opposite Yorktown. While he discussed Captain Andrew Williams being very sick, this letter, written on December 28, would be Draper’s last letter to his wife:
…We left camp Vermont on friday morning and arrived at Yorktown on Sunday night. We thought when we started that we were going to fortress monroe but on the way down we recd orders to go to Yorktown, but eventually landed at Gloucester point to reinforce it as they expected an attack there. We are encamped right opposite Yorktown under cover of her guns. I am as well as usual although a great many of the men are on the sick list. Capt Williams was very sick coming down, but is a little better. We had a very nice trip down the river but the boat was so crowded that we had to sleep on the decks at night with the tobacco spit about two inches deep and rain enough to keep us from being dry. We have a very nice camp here but how long we shall be allowed to enjoy it I cannot tell. You said you were agoing to send me some things in a box with Capt Williams. I am glad you think of me but I am afraid you will need all you have without sending it to me, for there is no signs of our being paid yet and I know you must be sadly in need of things necessary to sustain and make life comfortable. As for us soldiers we are not expected to have many of the comforts of life. We have lovely weather down here. It is comfortable without a coat any time in the day but I expect it will be very disagreeable here when the rainy season sets in. We have sibley tents here stockaded which makes splendid quarters.
Draper was soon sick in the hospital suffering from typhoid fever. On January 10, 1863, the 4th Delaware’s Chaplain William Fries, wrote a letter to Anna. It reads in full:
Gloucester Point Va
Jany 10, 1863
Mrs Annie M. Draper
Your husband wishes me to write to you that he has been sick for 3 weeks & is now in the hospital at this place where he is kindly cared for & has every thing to make him comfortable excepting home. He is not dangerously ill and I think that care and patience will bring him right in a few days. He was able to sit up this morning and drink some tea, but he has no appetite for anything else. His complaint I think is a heavy cold on the breast with some jaundice which seems to be the prevailing disease in this part of the country. We think we shall remain here all Winter. If so we will be highly favored as we are in a wealthy location with good water and plenty of oysters & other good things.
Don’t be uneasy about Mr Draper. If he gets worse I will let you know.
With much respect
I am your friend
Wm. H. Fries
Chaplain, 4th Regt Del. Inf.
Draper’s condition worsened and he passed away on January 22. Robert Willey, Draper’s brother-in-law, received this very cold telegraph from Captain Williams:
Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Rail Road
Yorktown Jan 22nd 1863
To Robt. A. Willey
A. H. Draper died this morning. Send metallic coffin six (6) by twenty-two (22).
A. J. Williams
Capt. Co A 4th Del. Reg’t.
Williams, who was personally known to both Abram and Anna, followed up with a detailed letter sent to Anna the same day:
Head quarters Camp Gilpin Near York Town Va
Jan 22th 1863
Friend Anna, with sorrow I will have to inform you that your companion has paid his last debt to Earth and has gone to his Long home. He took sick about 2 Weeks ago. He went to the hospital on the 9th of this month with the yellow Janders [jaundice] and taken cold and then he taken the typhoid fever which he had the very worst kind and would be Better one day and worse the next untill the Doctor had no hope for him. I visited him every day. He wanted me to promise him to send him home if he died, which I shortly did and I can’t do it would you send me down a metallic coffin or a box lined with metallic for I can’t get transportation without he is embalmed, which is impossible to have done here. The Col thought that I had better telegraph so I sent to York Town and sent word which you will get before you will get this letter. I have got a very good pine coffin for him which I will have to bury him in until hear from you. I would like for Stansburg or his father to come down for Draper wanted me to send him home if it cost all of his wages. He has over $100 coming to him and $75 bounty. The Col says that it will cost 30 dol. to send him by express, but the Company will pay that so that you will only be to the expense of burying him. He is worthy of being sent for. He has been a faithful soldier to his country and to his regiment, for he had of course the good feelings of all of his comrades. The last words he said to me was to write to Anna and tell her that I will be home sometime this winter on a pass. He died very easy. I stood by him untill the last. The Chaplain visited him often and talked with him and I hope it may be our happy lots to meet where there is no war, no parting of friends, but where there is joy and peace forever. Dear Anna you have my sympathy I assure you and not only mine but all the Company and I hope you will try and bail up under the stroke for it is a stroke to us all. You will write to me immediately and I will give you all of the particulars as soon as I can.
The coffin or box should be 6 feet by 22 inches across the box.
Yours Truly Capt Williams
PS Dear Anna before I got this letter to the office I received one from you which stated that you had sent 3 letters and had not received answer. I assure you that he never received them for I got the mail every night. I have written you two letters since he has been sick and have not received any from you untill to night. You wanted to know whether he got the things that you sent him. He did get them but did not enjoy them. I got him all the little things I could that he needed. The hospital is very comfortable. He had the very best of care for the Col attending to him as well as the Doctor I believe they both done the very best they could. His clothes was kept clean for we have plenty of contrabands to do the washing. Well Anna if you think that you will not be able to send me a metallic coffin you will telegraph to me immediately. Anna I can not say any more at present.
Your Friend Truly
Capt A. J. Williams
Give my love to my friends when you see them. Good night.
Direct to A. J. Williams Co A 4th Regt Dela Infantry Camp Gilpin near York Town Va
Also included in the collection is this January 24 letter from Abram’s older brother John, to brother-in-law Robert Willey. In this heartfelt letter, John expresses regret at having missed that meeting with Abram the previous winter, when he was unable to find Abram’s camp. The letter reads:
Middletown New York
Jany 24 63
Mr. Robt A Willey
I have just recd your dispatch announcing the death of my Brother Abraham. I have answered by telegraph and now write you more fully by mail. I can not leave my family at present or I should try to visit his family and assist in the discharge of those last sad duties that we owe to our fellow man.
It does not matter to me where the body lies so that I know that it has had honorable treatment & respectable internment. We have no family vault or ground in which our dead are buried. Besides Abraham, six members of our family have died & lie buried in four different places. So I do not wish on my account to have the body moved unless it has not been properly buried.
I wish you would write me as soon as convenient & give me all the particulars you can about his death and burial.
I feel very guilty and regret very much that I did not persevere in my efforts to find him last winter. I shall be able to leave home in three or four weeks, & then if his wife thinks proper to have the body removed I will come down and assist her in whatever she wishes.
Please give to his wife my heartfelt sympathy in this her time of trouble. I would that her husband might have been spared to her, but if he must go he has the proud consolation of knowing that he died doing his duty in a just & holy cause.
As for me I feel that I could resign him with a great deal less pain if I could only have seen him again before his death. It is a long long time since I have seen him and to believe that I shall never see him again seems almost impossible. I can not forgive myself for not seeing him when I was so near him.
He spoke in his letter about his wife Brother. I conjecture that you are the brother. Am I right?
Please write as soon as convenient & give me all the particulars you can. My wife joins me in my best respect to Mrs Draper.
From Camp Gilpin, Captain Williams wrote a follow-up letter to Anna on January 25:
Mrs Draper, I have just received your letter stating that you would like me to write how Sargt was cared for. I assure you that he was attended to the very best manner that I could. I saw after all of his wants. But for no purpose his time had come and his master called him to his long home away from you and me both, but I expect to meet him in a better world than this… I have had him buried in a grave yard about 1 mile from camp. I drest him in his uniform which looked very nice. I had a head board put up to his grave to mark him. There is 3 of our men fays side by side and if any of the folks come down after him and I am not here they will come to York town and then across to Gloucester point and inquire where the Fourth Del Regt was, that is if we are not here and you will now up the river untill you come to a graive yard where you will find him.
The collection comes bound in a three-ring binder. Of the 30 letters and documents included, 4 are war-date letters from Draper while he was with the 1st Delaware Infantry in the summer of 1861. 10 are war-date letters written by Draper while a sergeant in the 4th Delaware + 1 undated letter. 3 January 1863 letters about his death from Draper’s captain and chaplain are included, as well as the telegraph announcing Draper’s death, and 3 sheets of original poetry written by Draper to Anna.. 8 letters dated 1859-1865, mostly letters to Abram from family, round out the collection. The letters are in various condition from good to excellent. Most of scattered foxing and toning. Some show some separation at the folds, but they are the exception. Also included are eight of the letter covers addressed to Anna.