SEPTEMBER 1863 UNION SOLDIER LETTER—BREVET BRIGADIER GENERAL ISAAC DYER, 15TH MAINE INFANTRY

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The letter below is one of a series of 27 letters written by Colonel Dyer to his wife Lydia between August 31, 1862 and August 11, 1865.

A resident of Skowegan, ME, 42 year-old Captain Isaac Dyer was placed in command of the 15th Maine in August 1862 and received his appointment to replace Colonel Worder in September--his appointment to Lt. Colonel (and eventually Colonel) being made official, Dec. 12, 1862. He then commanded the unit through the remainder of the war, and received a Brigadier’s Brevet for meritorious service, March 13, 1865. Resigning from service, Sept. 13, 1865, he returned to Skowegan, lived to age 92 and was buried there in 1913. His 15th Maine served in Louisiana & Florida, participating in the 1864 Bermuda Hundred. During service it lost 5 men killed and 343 by disease for a total of 348.

Isaac Dyer was a well-educated, highly articulate correspondent and a shrewd judge of men and events. In this letter—[Dated “New Orleans Sept. 20 1863—4 pp. in ink on lined paper, 9.75 x 7.75”—Exhibiting fold-marks, else VG}—Dyer writes of incidence of sickness among his troops and counsels his wife against thoughts joining him in New Orleans. Excerpts as follow:

This is a cool day and it has been quite cool for several days. My men who are sick I hope will now recover. If I only had a good Surgeon I should have a less member on the sick list. I am heartily sick of nondescripts but I don’t see prospect of improvement. It is terrible hard to get any thing done in that direction. KI have lately looked after the sick considerable and I assure it is cheering to see the men brighten up as they hear the sound of my voice inquiring about them.

You must not repeat this as I will look as though I was flattering myself. I state this for your information that my know that I am not quite a heathen yet although exposed to many deleterious influences. My ambition is not for my own glory but to take the best possible care of my men. The sick list has been quite large for the last few weeks and I have been surprised to see how hardened and indifferent officers and men are in many instances. I was so chagrined I ordered a man to buy meal and make gruel for all who were sick and wanted it and such a sense of gratitude you never saw expressed as those men expressed it to me. Our Surgeon is an honest man but has no force of character, or in other words no executive ability. He seems to be afraid of spending dime for fear will cost the government something while the government is loosing thousands by this course of proceedings. (But this you can keep to yourself).

About your coming out here I hardly know what to say. I should like to see you but our stay here is so uncertain I don’t know what to think about it. I should not want to leave you to the tender mercies of the wicked and I could not take you along with me in moving. If I sure of stopping here I could manage matters finely, but that is hardly supposeable.

If you had some one to come with you I could go home with you when occasion required. I should feel contented about it. But then again it costs from 8 to 15 dollars a week for board so no one would want to stop a great while. It is easier coming by sea than by the way of Cairo. So it is said by those who have been both ways. I propose however to go home by the way of Cairo if I can when I go if ever. It looks as though the Brigade I am in was destined to look after New Orleans. You ask if I am going to act Brig. Genl. any more, don’t expect to at present. Neither do I expect to be made a Brig. Genl. It takes a great deal of small talk to get those positions which I can never use. So give that up at once

I was going to send you an Alligator to carry to the Fair but I see I am to late. I suppose you would like to carry some fancy article…/ Kiss for albert/ Ditto for Lydia.”

Fine collectible. Excellent letter home from the admirable Colonel of the 15th Maine. In protective sleeve. [JP] [ph:L]

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