JULY 1861 UNION SOLDIER LETTER — PVT. SAMUEL B. WALKINGTON, JR, Co. “I”, 2nd NEW JERSEY [GETTYSBURG REGIMENT]

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Item Code: 2021-114

Dated “Washington, DC / July 27th 1861.” Addressed to “Dear Parents.” 4 pp. in ink on unlined paper w/colored patriotic vignette in upper left corner. Exhibits fold- marks, else VG and entirely legible.

Samuel B. Walkington was enlisted and mustered as a private in Co. “I”, 2nd New Jersey Infantry, 5/30/1861. He was promoted to Corporal 10 /01/1862 and to 1st Sergeant, 6/1/63, and is also listed as a POW (date and place not stated (paroled). Discharged at Trenton, NJ, 2/28/1865.

The 2nd New Jersey Infantry was mustered in July 1861. After serving in the Defenses of Washington, it was engaged in McClellan’s 1862 Peninsula Campaign and was engaged in most the major campaign and battles of the Army of the Potomac, including Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, and were attached to Sheridan’s forces in the 1864 Shenandoah Campaign before reverting the Siege of Petersburg and being present at Appomattox. During service the unit lost 96 killed and mortally wounded and 69 by disease for a total of 165.

Written shortly after the 1861 Battle of Bull Run, this letter treats of 2nd New Jersey camp life while serving in the defenses of Washington. Given Pvt. Walkington’s comments on the camp vittles, in this early phase the boys were eating quite well. Text:

“You folks at home seem to overrate our hardships greatly, we have gone through nothing yet that any reasonable man should grumble at. It is true we had a forced march of fifty miles the other day, and that our fare during that time was none of the best, still we had enough for ourselves and some to spare to some of the poor fellows who had been in the battlefield all day [referring to the Battle of Bull run]…

I [will] tell what we have generally. In the first place we get a loaf of bread about the size of a bakers six cent loaf every day, for breakfast either fried beefsteak, or fired ham together with as much coffee as we want. For dinner we have either fresh or corned beef, or vegetable soup, and to make it go better we often go out and gather tomatos or green corn, which taken together you must allow makes no very mean dinner. For supper, coffee and bread, and sometimes rice or beefsteak, suffices to keep us from going hungry to bed. We can get blackberries in any quantity here, and I generally manage to eat about a quart a day.”

Still and all, while the food is plentiful, he would appreciate some tobacco—“If you hear of any one coming out here with whom you send anything, you might send me a pound or two of smoking, and a little chewing tobacco, although you need go to no trouble about it as I can get it here of a littler worse quality, and by paying a little more for it…”

Solid early-war camp letter from a private of the 2nd New Jersey. In protective sleeve. [JP] [ph:L]

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