The Civil War Letters of Hubert Dwight Smith of Litchfield
John Mosher of Arizona got an surprise when he opened his mail to find a box from a stranger in Florida. The woman who sent it had “rescued” it from a garage sale just as a storm was approaching. In it she found old papers and Civil War letters written by Hubert D. Smith of Litchfield. Unbelievably, she also found enough clues to know that John Mosher was a distant relative of Hubert’s. The Moshers were preparing to sell their house and just couldn’t take the box of treasures with them, so they contacted the Hillsdale County Historical Society to see if we wanted them. Did we! John provided us with a priceless bit of Hillsdale County history that can now be shared.
The letters span from May 30, 1861 to Sept. 15, 1861 and follow Hubert’s progress from training at Adrian College to preparations that led to the 1st Battle of Bull Run to Hubert’s dismay at the disaster it turned out to be. Hubert, age 23, enlisted with his friends as a sergeant. They were in the Fourth Michigan Infantry, company H. He was discharged at the expiration of his term of service at Detroit, MI on June 13. 1864.
There’s also a letter from a Confederate soldier that was found on the battlefield by a cousin of the young lady who would become Hubert’s wife.
At the beginning of the Civil War, both President Lincoln and President Davis thought it would be only a matter of months before it was resolved. This led, on the part of the Union, to enroll volunteers for 90-day enlistments, a move that contributed to the defeat of the Union forces at Bull Run in July of 1861. Other volunteers enlisted for three years, including Hubert D. Smith (4/29/1838-8/30/1905) and several of his friends from Litchfield on June 20, 1861 in Adrian, MI,. They were mustered June 20, 1861. In his letters Hubert mentions these young men who were assigned to company H of the Fourth Infantry:
Miles Jones, age 18, who was missing in action at Mechanicsville, VA on June 16, 1862. He was discharged for a disability on Mar. 13, 1863 at Fort Monroe, VA;
Jesse L. Hadley, age 21, who was discharged for a disability at Miner’s Hill on Dec. 18, 1861;
Ira Murdock, age 24, who was discharged for a disability in Washington, D.C. on July 29, 1861;
Morley S. TenEych, age 18, who was discharged for a disability at Fort Woodbury on Sept. 24, 1861;
John Pitwood, age 18, who joined company D, Engineers & Mechanics, as a musician on Oct. 22, 1861 in Marshall, who was mustered as an Artificer (a non-commissioned officer or enlisted man who was a skilled craftsman or specialist of some kind or a member of an armed forces service who is skilled at working on artillery in the field) and who was discharged at the expiration of his term in Atlanta on Oct. 31, 1864.
(Hubert may have mentioned these boys because he was charged with caring for the invalids.)
and Simon B. Hadley, age 35, who was a 1st Lieutenant and who resigned from the Fourth Michigan Infantry on Dec. 11, 1861 to go on to serve in the 4th Cavalry and eventually to become Acting Assistant Quartermaster of the 2nd Division, Cavalry Corps. He mustered out in Nashville, TN on July 1, 1865.
The Battle of Bull Run was the first major battle of the Civil War. After the attack on the Union garrison of Fort Sumpter on April 12, 1861 by Confederate forces led by Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, there was a public outcry to march on the Confederate capital of Richmond, VA to bring an early end to the rebellion. Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell wasn’t so sure that was a good idea. His forces weren’t adequately trained and he, himself, although a graduate of West Point, had little command experience. With assurance from Pres. Lincoln that the Confederate forces were equally green, McDowell reluctantly planned the attack.
The idea was to mass the Union troops in Centreville by July 17, 1861 … but the volunteers weren’t quite with the program and it took longer for them to gather. The “march” proceeded in stops and starts, with soldiers wandering off the route to pick apples or berries or just to take a nap. Hubert’s letter of July 17 relates how the boys enjoyed a fine treat of blackberries that they discovered beside the road.
After the troops Hubert marched with arrived at Centreville, he recounted a skirmish there on July 19. A Union reconnaissance to test the Confederates resulted in the defeat of the Union troops. (In this letter he also describes his astonishment at seeing two women who were soldiers and another who was acting as a nurse … the former with disapproval and the latter with compliments for her appearance.)
Gen. McDowell was wringing his hands at all the delays because he knew time was not on his side as the Confederates, led by P.G.T. Beauregard, had a chance to get in place. With his 90-day soldiers at the end of their enlistment he felt an even greater sense of urgency. He appealed to them to stay just a few days longer, but they were done with the war and marched back to Washington to be mustered out.
Hubert didn’t participate in the Battle of Bull Run. Early in July he had been assigned the care for the baggage that accompanied the troops. He was left in camp with the invalids to guard it during the battle, but he had plenty to say about the retreat of the Union troops in his letters of July 24 and 27.
edited by JoAnne P. Miller
transcribed by JoAnne P. Miller and Darin Sheffer
(Hubert is in training camp in Adrian, living at the college; he tells a story about a soldier who has gone from company to company so that he can get food—and then ends up being ridden out of town on a rail; he complains about the food, colorfully and at length; the role of Negro soldiers is one of support, not as fighters)
Adrian May 30, 1861
Dear Mother Father & all
Last night I was on guard all night which excuses me from drill this forenoon & I am glad that I may have an opportunity to write home. The Tecumseh Hudson & Grosvenor Guards formed ranks at the depot and marched nearly two miles to our quarters at the College escorted of course by the citizens. There we were divided into families of sixteen and shown our rooms which are very large including a closet large as your bedroom. The rooms are all furnished with light ___ straw beds & each soldier has a horse blanket. These cool nights we all suffered from cold. My shawl is just what I need. Yesterday the Monroe company arrived. They have their uniforms & muskets. Three fire companies led them through the city to our camp (which is called Camp Williams. That company have tents, without the accommodation of beds. Our regimental companies are all here, though we want fifty or a hundred to make up the 1000 needed. When all are out on parade we would look quite like an army, had we our suits and arms. A fine company, physically better, I am afraid, than morally. Yesterday P.M. we were all sworn into service for three years if needed, & should bear examination. About ten of Hillsdale, one of Hudson, one of Sturgis, and one of Jonesville companies would not take the oath. That from Jonesville was at once recognized, as one Orville Cady, who enlisted first in the Monroe, then in the Tecumseh, Hudson, Hillsdale, & finally the J. Company, staying about a week in each of the four, boarding on the people. He enlisted in ours the morning we started. Our soldiers concluded to make a sample of him, so after groaning him out of the field they run him as fast as he could go down main street, hurrying him w/ every step with the toe of their boots. Just before entering town he was seized, made to straddle a sharp rail, hold up his hands & had a free ride through broadway on double quick time. This was all done without the officers sanction. I was very much against it yet I do think he did not receive his just deserts harsh & humilliating as it was. Cady is bout 80. More for board. We are made as comfortable as possible, yet if the Captain would allow me I would have him my own board, at my own expense, rather than eat in that hall. Aboard shantie, large enough for three tables & six rows of seats, design to seat six hundred — tin plates, spoons, & cups & knife & fork, nasty half cooked beef, pork, potatoes & beans & a corps of 30 Negroes for cooks, & 40 waiter boys, coffee resembling rain water & vinegar mixed, & you have our breakfast & dinner with the exception of bakers bread & butter, that goes very well, & I have eat nothing else. I cant, I do not complain. I know they do as well as they can perhaps yet I would like food so long as my eyesight remains good that is not full of Niggers hairs & all other kind of uncleanliness. Were there no alternatives between this & starvation, I could relish it, but it had not come to that yet, though it may. And then this smell arising from the kitchens, as you pass by is preferable to Leobelia for an emetic. Layfaette & I try each day noon to march into the woods & read part of the Bible & some of the ___ & analyses. By so doing we help one another & Layfa looks up to me for some cause, for advice & protections. I shall try & not to give wrong advice. Our officers think we may be called away in three or four weeks & stationed in Fort Monroe, south of Virginia, I believe somewhere. Mother, I see my lines are falling down, so I shall stop for the present. I have been writing in the woods about quarter of a mile from college. Last night J.M. Gregory lectured in the college I wanted to go but ‘duty on guard’ hindered me. Good-bye to all. Write me & direct H.D. Smith Grosvenor Guards Adrian, Mich.
(I saw Libbie)
(writing to his sister Libbie, Hubert tells of the trip to Washington, D.C.; Harrisburg, PA described; speculation about the importance of battles in the next couple weeks, with Pres. Lincoln and Gen. Winfield Scott wanting to put down the rebels quickly; Hubert was assigned to be in charge of the baggage—a quartermaster-type duty)
Washington July 2nd/61
Dear Sister Libbie
How strange it would have sounded one year ago to have been told I should address you from the Capitol of our then, “glorious republic.” The cold jealous city of Harrisburg we left yesterday morning (Monday) at six o’clock on board a cattle train for W. Our reg’t. was said to be the best appearing one that had passed through Harrisburg & yet we could not have more coldly received and all on account of the jealousy of that dutch state. The whole appearance of the city indicate the natural propensities of those people. No dooryards, poor unpainted buildings though well streaked up with whitewash - the fronts facing & lining old, dilapitated, sidewalks with every third house having a lager beer shingle over the door. The city is very prolific in one thing - that of raising children. So many on every street & doorstep you have no idea of, and all want to be kissed, and bade goodbye by the soldiers. I had made up my mind that handsome young ladies were scarce in H. but at our dress parade through main streets Sat. evening I was obliged to reverse my conclusion. Similar & unaffected they all appear. I had a very pleasant time Sat. in the family of one — Mr. Fullem, a bookseller. While calling at his shop his daughters twelve & fourteen their ages, invited me into their sitting room & as they appeared like Jim Joseph ____ the invitation was gladly accepted. Their father is superintendent in the sabbath school of the Presbyterian Church. Sunday we were drilling most of the time with our arms, preparing for our march through Baltimore. The reason such abominable cars were sent us was on that account. as many first class cars had been smashed by brickbats & balls on that route that all soldiers from Harrisburg to B. are carried on such trains. We left B. at seven P.M. were well used by the people. Our Col. was fearful of an attack and probably would have been troubled some had not all the commission police have arrested that day & put under guard & unionmen installed in their place. Good for Baltimore. About four miles from B. we halted for two other trains to pass us, but after waiting some three hours our Col. & officers began to be alarmed, suspicious all was not right. Insantly every soldier was ordered to load & be prepared. The night you remember was dark and rainy yet all our men were calm & courageous. At twelve the trains passed all right. At about one we arrived in Wash. It had rained considerably through the night, making the streets wet & muddy. Are camp for this day in an empty — brick building untill we get our tents up. Took a stroll with Leafa before breakfast around the Capitol & grounds. will describe them more fully after viewing them again. Have just had a call from Jasper ____. Seems very cordial & has taken us around the city somewhat. He is a soldier & also a clerk in the _____ office. Call Leyfa Cousin which rather astonished him. It is the opinion of most that the next two weeks will witness our hardest battles. The President & Scott are determined to put down some of the rebels strongest holds immediately. Should we be in the actions, which probably we shall, it will be an honor to our state & ourselves. ’Tis rumored that our Mich. reg’ts. are to remain as Home Guards in Wash. - the highest post of honor we could have. I am ordered to attend our baggage so must “halt” though reluctantly. direct to Company H. Mich. Volunteers 4 Reg’t. & my mail will follow us. Love to all
Hubert D. Smith
(unfortunately the bottom third of this four-page letter was ripped off, leaving us wondering what we have missed; orders were received to move on to Alexandria; illustrating what frustrated Gen. McDowell, there was unauthorized blackberry picking; the next battle for Richmond was expected to be hard, so Hubert and another went out for a good breakfast for the troops—plundering a henhouse and milking the cows of a secessionist woman who had given up farming to deal in “Negro Stock”; Hubert may have felt a little guilty about his stealing from her because he justified it as being in the army regulations; Hubert stayed behind with the invalids while the rest of the company went to attack the rebel battery in Fairfax)
Camp Blackberry, Richmond Plantation
July 17th 1861
Dear Mother. Yours & Libbie’s letters long expected were duly received. Glad to learn you all were well at home. I am quite well, but tired out with care & work. Nearly all of regiment have been severely troubled with summer compaints as I wrote you. Are recovering now. friend Lafa has been unwell for more than a week — first with the same difficulty, but for the last three days it has assumed a chronic inflammation of the bowels. appears better this morning. It pleases me to be able to wait upon our invalids, and for some time have had plenty to do. Lat Sat. we had orders to leave Camp Mansfield early next morning for Alexandria. The news was joyfully received by all, and Sunday morning all was bustle, striking tents, packing knapsacks & c. After that was over we had a round at target shooting to assure us our arms were all right. My musket made the second best shot. At nine o’clock we left four our destination, marching about two miles to the wharf & taking passage on board of couple steamboats, captured of the rebels. Were landed in the desolate city of Alex. — about one oclock P.M.
(the bottom third of the first page was gone)
where the boys had to form again in order and make a five mile march out of town to our camp, near Fairfax Mill that our brave “first” captured. It was a hard days work for all. Having charge of the baggage of our company it was dusk before I left the wharf. Our tents pitched on the old plantation of Squire Richards, now covered with thorns, briars, & weeks. Blackberry bushes surround us, well loaded with fine ripe fruit, which is a luxury we are truly thankful for & appreciate, judging by the amount picked. Did wish you all could have been with us Monday. we went half a mile out, into a field, covered with these low kind, & such large ones & in such abundance too you never saw. They have given up tilling this plantation & the lady owning it raises “Negro Stock” — it being more profitable. Her husband is now in Washington, a prisoner of war, & she has one son in the army at Richmond. Monday evening we were told to cook three days rations as we were to leave in the morning — forming into a brigade in company with our first, & march — take Fairfax Courthouse & then Manassas Gap, where they expect the hardest battle
(the bottom third of the second page was gone)
is to be fought on Virginia soil. Wishing to give our company a good breakfast C. Hadley & myself armed ourselves with revolvers & went on a foraging expedition. Called first at this secession lady’s hen-house, found it barred against “traitors” with a lock on the door, but chickens we went for, & chickens we would have so notwithstanding the lights in the darkies huts we broke open one of the windows & in entered Mr. Hadley standing outside to take the plunder. We took three large fat turkeys & six hens. leaving nothing but one old hen turkey with a small brood of young ones. On our way back we found some cows, & you know milk adds much toward making a good cup of coffee Ed. Tripp E. Todd & I went back to milk ____ ____ . The boys gave me credit for “buying” milk, & will have the chance to do so again. I have no fears at all going out even alone with such trips & it certainly is right according to the army regulations, then take into consideration the poor fare number of our sick & it looks to me like a duty — In the morning the boys provided with only a blanket thin rations & ammunition started on their work
(the bottom third of the third page was gone)
death to traitors — victory & honor to themselves, appreciating good spiritis. The sick were left behind to guard the tents & baggage. Thirteen of us were left, myself being the only well one among them. for me to stay behind was the hardest thing I have done, but “acting” as a wagoner I had to submit. It was all I could do to find one to detail as guard in the daytime, & then when five were called upon at night it seemed hard to make sick one do such duty. But the boys saw the necessity of it and acted bravely doing all they could. I went for one, making the third night, running I have been up beside working hard as possible through the days — Lieut. Hadley shook hands with all the boys speaking words of cheer to them on leaving. We have not heard directly from them only through the report brought us by a Iowan who went with them yesterday. He said they had discovered the rebels battery at Fairfax & had sent out regiments to surround them designing to close upon them last night. We have heard no firing of artillery yet & probably the report is not true. Twenty thousand passed yere yesterday for Richmond. How I do want to join them. — News just received that the battery had been taken without a single shot being fired — the soldiers running. Six good pieces were taken, & our boys are beyond Fairfax. Good. In looking this over many mistakes have been made I am ashamed to send. How can one write, half asleep, with others talking to them?
(the bottom third of the fourth page was gone)
(this would have been July 24, 1861 because it was a Wednesday; events that led up to the Battle of Bull Run; he is dismissive of others who are fearful; Hubert’s strong tie to the land is reflected in his observation of the soil and the planting done near Alexandria, as well as his questions about farming at home in Litchfield)
Wednesday P.M. 17th/61
Tell Mrs. Jones Miles was tickled enough to receive her note. had written before to his Father & I saw the letter mailed. He does not appear excited at all but courageous. Last night many of the boys were afraid of an attack upon our Camp and to have been so nervous as they through fear, cowardly fear. I had nearly as leif suffer death. We were in a precarious situation to be sure to resist successfully even a few well men yet I could not make myself believe any danger need be apprehended. Our Captain Crane left in charge of those remaining was quite sure of trouble and express himself to the boys which was wrong I think He might have cautioned them without expressing his own candid fears, if such he had. Edward you will wait some time am thinking untill you see my name under a letter to the Independent. Hadley has been trying to have me write but quite a number of boys at every new move we ask write to the Editor and I can see no use for more & then again it looks as if you wanted to see you name in print. And not untill can write Statue” without the r will I attempt it certainly. How careless I am becoming in penmanship & alas in spelling. To sit, lay down or any other posture with so many around I do not feel like taking, but to use the stature for statue I can not excuse myself.
Who was that letter from advertised for one in the Independent? Is wheat very low with you?
Then it seems Ranch has left Canada. What I was fearful he might do when I wrote. His not answering my letter & from what I gathered from ___ TenEyck portended some design not altogether fair on his part. As it is I shall write to Mr. Streight — was in hopes Father had got enough from him to pay Burchard & Smith anyway.
The soil around here is a very light sandy loam. The streets are laid out with no regard to sections hardly but to suit the convenience of the landowner. fences are torn down the hedges grown up & extending some two or three rods in to the field on each side. Solomon describes the condition of these old plantations when speaking of the fields of the slothful. No grain grows here of any consequence. Alexandria is fully as desolate woful appearing a place as described. Nearly all the farmers have left. Fields & gardens have been planted & the planters left, — make good the “Scripture” one shall sow & another reap & our soldiers are reaping these verdant spots by letting their horses in & c. —
The Sergeant Major of our Brigade has been in camp in reports 25,000 men, federal troops, near Manassas Junction & 100,000 rebels, says ’tis a sight to behold — will not be much blood spilt, can be taken without. In all appearance the war will be ended in a short time. Hoping to hear from you soon. I will stop sending love to all
(Hubert is near Centreville and heard a battle from that direction, which is the skirmish that took place on July 18; a lieutenant passing their camp reported that the Union troops were routed and needed to leave their battery; also passing their camp was another regiment that included three women, two as combatants and one as a nurse)
Friday MorningJuly 19th
Reports of a brisk skirmish at Centreville a place six miles this side of the Junction. We know they met with resistance there because the firing of the cannon we distinctly heard at our camp. Some of us counted 250 rounds of cannon in forty-five minutes. Brisk work that for a small battery so the reporters say that is at Centreville. A Lieut. came through this morning who was there and said our men were badly cut up and had to beat a retreat being unable to take the battery but that I think cannot possibly be the truth. We probably shall leave here today. Am anxious to do so. Day before yesterday some ten thousand passed our camp on their way to the Gap among one company marching by the side of a Lieut. was a lady dress nearly in uniform with the rest carrying her knapsack, haversacks, gun, & c. In another was a lady dress in bloomer costume with her regimentals on. In a wagon belonging to the same regt. was a third, a real handsome, robust & young, going as nurse for the sick. It was stirring to witness their patriotism, yet female friends of mine I would rather have exircise theirs in some other way. If they wish to go with the hospital I should not object so much but to shoulder arms & fight in the ranks is unnecessary. Be of good cheer, keep up courage & the Ruler of Armies will soon enable us to drive the enemy from the field.
(a truly eloquent account of the Battle of Bull Run and its confusing aftermath; Hubert, kept from the battle by his responsibility to stay with the invalids, feels strongly about thebattle and retreat; a glimpse into the demonizing of the “enemy” in order to make him less human and the Union’s cause more just — a process that was also necessary for the Confederates)
Washington D.C. July 24 /61
A dishonorable retreat (as I view it) finds our Reg’t. encamped on its old quarters on Meridian Hill. You of course have heard many flying reports of that hard battle last Sunday, and I know you must feel anxious, as all friends must feel to know whether their sons, brothers & friends were among the missing or wounded, and especially as the New York dailies gave our gallant 4th a compliment undeserved — by saying we “were in the thickest of the combat and did the best work of any in the field.” Had we but been there, no doubt the praise would have been merited. A part of us were at Fairfax Station — the rest still back at Camp Blackberry with our invalids & baggage. At seven oclock Sunday morning the first shot was fired at Bull Run — the contested place — and near Manassas Junction. The booming of cannon was distinctly heard by us in quick succession through the whole day untill five P.M. when the order to retreat was given, and hastily obeyed. Not because our troops were frightened — but it was useless to undertake to drive the enemy from their stand. That the South have a great advantage of being on their own soil it is useless to deny. Having their masked batteries stationed on those Virginian hills entirely concealed from view renders it impossible for our troops to advance without being mowed down. That was the cause of their victory Sunday. Three of those batteries were so situated as to open fire on three sides the instant our men aligned themselves in batte array made it useless to attempt it and we being in the vally to approach near enough for our artillery to do much was out of the question, so that the Infantry were the only ones to defend upon. Discouraging as were the circumstances braver men never handled arms, then the Fire ____, Maine 4th, New York twenty-sixth, & our own first Reg’t. About ten in the evening the soldiers began to pass our camp bound for Alexandria, and the road was filled untill noon the day following. A melancholy sickening sight, as they presented in the morning I never want to witness again — soldiers hobbling along with only one arm, hand, leg, or mangled bodies in some form. One man had his face all shivered to peices, — ’tis hard — said he to me — but I have a brave heart that death itself cannot make to know fear.” All along the road, soldiers fatigued with the march & weakened by the loss of blood had lain down to die, unless perchance some good samaritan should pass along and take them in. On one wagon were four dead bodies lashed on dangling — But why undertake a description! — ’tis what we expect in war. At midnight our Regt. were ordered to leave their stations for Washington. At sunrise we commenced tearing down our tents and piling them on wagons already loaded too heavily for the teams, and by three o’clock P.M. we had the last ready for Alexandria, where we arrived at five, and unloaded for the night.
I then mounted a horse and rode right to the long bridge in search of our Reg’t. & returned, wet completely through — it having rained all day. Next morning I found teams and transported our “goods” over to Washington — found our men awaiting us all in good spirits having met with no misfortunes except Jake Pitwood had accidentally shot his thumb off close to his hand. He will soon return home. — The fears anticipated, or the circumstances connected with this retreat, probably I do not fully understand, yet it does seem like a cowardly affair retreating farther than Fairfax thus giving back fortifications already won of them so easily, and now while I am writing, our stars and stripes which we hoisted over Centreville, Fairfax Station & Courthouse have been demolished and the reble snake banner floats in their stead, and if Scott suffers the Flag nailed to the rebel’s pole over the Hotel in Alexandria to be rended by them. I cannot but give vent to my execrations against the affair. My blood would be freely given and thousands of other young men’s rather than to see the last daring act of noble, truly loyal Ellsworth torn and trampled by those Cainish Devils. I think it never will be although it is hourly expected that place will be invaded by them. The three months volunteers are going home soon their time having transpired & Pres. Lincoln has ordered two hundred & fifty more. When the South gain another victory it will be many years hence like the one just achieved.
Yet according to the reports they lost more men in this than we, 2,000 killed on their side & 1,000 on ours is the lowest estimate now given. Of all barbarians those damnable traitors are the most barbarous. To give an instance — one poor wounded soldier of ours unable to crawl off, asked an officer for a drink of wataer — & the reply was “after I let my sword drink of your blood” & and thrust him through. Does History record parallel acts like that, among a professedly Christian nation? — and that was only of hundreds of similar cases. — Lafayette is quite poorly — What the matter is I do not know but he feels weak — Ira Murdock is very poorly — will return home probably. I had a letter from Geo. Skidmore last night & said it “took nine days for a letter to reach you, mailed at ____ city. Why it should be so I cannot divine, as we receive yours the second day, & I do not think you get one quarter of the letters sent — at least answers do not come — Found a paper for me last night — an Indt. wish I had each number. Prospect now is that our Regt. will be stationed in the Navy Yard here. You would like that would you not Mother as we will not have to fight probably? No more at present. Your affectionate Son.
(Hubert waxes poetic in a letter to his mother before assuring her that they eat beef, not horse meat; a complaint about their captain and comment about his lack of pay)
July 26th /61
Last evening as the gentle dews of heaven were falling upon the parched soil of Meridean Hill, cooling the atmosphere, making nature glad and beautiful — our social natures were enlivened by friendly missives from near and dear friends who were anxiously waiting to know if their sons were yet spared and your long kind motherly letter was received like a sping in the desert by the thirsty traveler. If a week passes without a letter from home it seems an age especially when two or three are sent from me. One reason of so long delayance in our reaching you, must be that they are delayed here for want of time to frank them, & after this I shall endeavor to procure stamps. I mailed you a long letter yesterday as I know how anxious you would be to hear the position of our Reg’t. last Sabbath and its maneuvers since. — Your “box” will be very acceptable indeed. Don’t you think we had Horse beef dealt us for our ration of corned beef. Now I am not going to stand it. Beef is plenty yet & cheap. This was branded corned beef, not horse flesh. We have one of our most abominable men for Captain — a perfectly heart less man and ignorant as mule — in fact, as obstinate. Not that he & I have had a word of quarreling but his conduct towards his men in general & the sick particular together with his ignorance is not sanctionable by the most charitable & certainly should expelt him from office. We have no money paid as yet & I am so accustomed to an empty purse I do not want any. We will become discouraged by trying to get rich from storing wheat — Why should it be so low? Think Ed. must feel his manhood — kept up alone with a candle. Had a letter from Frank last night. is well though excited in regard to this war. No more time to scribble now. Love to all
P.S. Thanks to Grandma for her kind note, shall write to her soon.
(this probably was written on July 27, 1861, after the rout of Union troops at the 1st Battle of Bull Run; Hubert raged about the loss and blamed Gen. McDowell; forming and reforming of new regiments was occurring, including one from Jonesville; Hubert inquired about the latest news from Litchfield)
Saturday Morning. All well. Mail you a paper — not much in it but of interest or importance. The panic has nearly subsided and I am glad it “has happened in one view. Our final victory will be hastened with less expense of means, & loss of life. Notwithstanding the evil commited by Gen. McDowell is inexcusable. ____ fool hardy commanders ____ care to be wounded. He was commanded wait untill Gen. Pattersons reinforcement had joined his division before proceeding from Centreville which would have been Monday night yet the victorious passed had been gained so early his ambitious disposition pressed him on contrary to Gen. ____’s order — the result has been shown, Good ____ ____ from evil ____ and in this instance the improvement commenced in the vaious departments connected with the campaign is noticeable. some of which had become very slack. — Fresh Reg’ts. are daily forming in, & reforming of new ones forming in all sections — Has the Jonesville ____ Guard left for Camp yet? “Fifty enlished Monday night there” — are any of those from Litchfild? Do you see Mr. Watson’s people ever, ask them if Whitney received a letter from him — My best respects to them & Mr. _____. — Jerry Warner it seems is in Ohio “an accountant in a dry goods store” What wages does he receive? How does Miss Aldrich progress with her school? — by the way does she inform you of our proeparations being made for any Marriage? What has become of Miss Helen Shadmore, her name is never mentioned — can’t Edward tell?
The note designed to be sent in Leata(?)’s letter I send in this also two or three receipts I came across. They may be useful sometime — especially that simple one for ____ sore throat for Libbie.
Love to all
(a better food source gained by plunder is helping the boys feel healthier and more positive; the original military draft for three months and the desire of the government to keep the soldiers for three years led to grousing and grumbling; Hubert’s friend Lafayette had been ill and was grumbling a lot, and Hubert was a little tired of it)
Camp Mansfield July 30/1861
Dear Parents & all, Some of our unfortunate boys are to leave us tomorrow for “Home, sweet home” — John Pitwood ________ _________ John Warson — Thinking the opportunity a good one to send a few lines to you I improve it — not that any news will be written, but a token by way of a friend, & brother soldier, always carried to bring the parties nearer, than when sent through unfeeling mail carrier. The health of our camp ___ is improving. Could be after a few weeks or days even in the enemy’s country, all would become well and rugged, judging by the effect produced upon our invalids during the recent ____ wasn’t there. Change of scenery and occupation with the great change in — substituting fat-bacon for beans, and for plenty of fresh beef, port & chickens. Molasses, honey, ____ flour — plundered of seccessionist infused new life through them. If I were to pass an opinion as to the nature of their complaints, home-sickness would include the most. Were you ever troubled with it? You know how disagreeable it is and as ____ remarked about toothache makes on “one sick soul and body,” —It has not attacked me, and mean it should not,. — War seems to be at a stand point for the present, althought this morning we heard that fortress Monroe had been taken, but no confidence is placed in the report. Our “gallant first” left for good old Mich. yesterday afternoon. One hundred and eight of their Reg’t: are unaccounted for, unless left on the battlefield. a good deal of questioning is made in our Reg’t. about our being holden for three years by the Government. When drawn into the United States service at Adrian the act was illegal — the President having no power to muster them for ninety days, Congress not having ratified the call for three years inlistment at that time. Makes us free except as Michigan Soldiers. The majority of the boys swear they will not take the oath again Being ____ ridden by our officers and State by unfulfilled promises, they are tired of — That we are, & have been misused is undeniable — But to talk about being starved & c is false. Nearly all are fleshing up and we do not begin to have the rations allowed us by the United State Regulations, and it seems childish if nothing else, to complain as they do, swear they will not remain, in service never will join again, this, that, and the other thing, & c. So long as my services are needed nothing will prompt me to leave. Would like well to return on a visit, but then I had no idea of such a pleasure, sooner than one year at least, when we parted and two short months are not yet expired. Possibly this ____ building excitement & these threats are useless though I think not — Please do not mention it abroad less the anticipationof Mothers meeting their sons about the middle of August, lack wholly the participation. Lafayette is well and very fleshy. had a great appetitie through his whole illness which he indulged freely — eating too, the most unwholsome food, pork & grease. This is confidential — but he is one of the most thoughtless, careless persons, I ever knew and so very sensitive and envious, although really laughable to hear him talk about the “slights” he experiences, I have borne with him, looked after him, limited, adored and as a last expedient, talked rather plainly to him. Any one unwell, I am willing to wait upon to my best ability, but Pa knows as well as you, that too much carelessness and heedlessness by a well person is provoking. Do not think we are on distant terms, such is not the case. Ed. I do not blame you for “useing plain English” last winter sometimes. Miles is well. Sorry for him — he looks so doleful when other boys rejoice over letters from home, and he without any. Tell Mrs. Jones to write, his Father also. Have you been obliged to pay postage on any of my letters? News have been received that our friends have had to do it & on franked envelopes. Do not do it — a gauged game is played somewhere. By the Independent we see a very melancholy accident — happened in town — the drowning those little boys. Have you your wheat all secured under the shelter? Any breaking up to be done this fall. How did our pasture do for so much stock? Hear nothing from ____ do you? I have written to _____ concerning the matter. Libbie is well? Why is she so silent? Libbie tell me what the matter is. You & Edward write me soon. Pa trys
Love to all H.D. Smith
(in a letter to his brother, Edward, Hubert tells about a skirmish where civilians’ homes and barns were burned by the fire of the guns; he replies to a letter Edward sent to him in which Edward must have talked about a meeting at Sand Creek where sympathy for the southern cause was expressed; he explains how he spends his days and includes an involved description and a sketch of what the entrenchments look like; Hubert teases Edward about what he might do while their mother was visiting elsewhere; he mentions that “Miss Kelly” would be keeping house for Edward while their mother was gone — this could be Miss Agnes Amanda Kelly, who married Hubert)
Camp Union, Virginia
Saturday, Sept. 14th/61
Last evening while our whole Brigade were out behind our intrenchments waiting the advance of our foes, a real natural and interesting letter from you & a good long one from Mother and Libbie were handed to me. Quite a skirmish occurred between the Pickets, and our’s were driven in, quite a number of houses & barns shelled and burned by their guns, and our officers pretended fears of being assailed by them, so we were all compelled to sleep there by our arms. It was funny, as one officer said, to see five thousand men lying there on there muskets while only a few hours before they were at work, never dreaming of their situation then. But there it is in war. I have seen no fears expressed here, that drafting soldiers would be resorted to. Should be ashamed of our “United North” if that proves to be necessary. As you say I would rather be a “Cavalry man” than Infantry soldier yet it is more dangerous and laborious. Think you would make a very good one as you are fond of a horse, and such are good horsemen generally. Still Edward there is but little prospect that you will be either, in this war. But do all you can to put down all Secession sentiments, and southern symthizers at home. Let the resolutions passed at your indignation meetings be strong, and then enforce them. Did Mr. L.P. Wasner have anything to offer at Sand Creek that night? Let Uriah Murdock know that the wishes and principles of the North are sacred, and are to be respected as such. I almost wish such Murdocks & Lockwoods were here with us. Targets would soon be made of them, without the permission of Law, only as exasperated soldiers are a “law with themselves.” — You inquire how I spend my time: It is about as you supposed only I do no consider that being a Picket Guard, worse by any means than drilling, or working on our intrenchments. Our pickets occupy a very responsible stand when on duty, and causes them to feel that
dignity and manhood, which the position must inspire in a true soldier - I cannot give you a very accurate description of our forts & c. but will try and draw a rude diagram to represent the forms. First a fort //. The level of the ground. 2 a step of four ft. 3 top of step and sustains the foundations of the cannon 4 top of enbankment about six feet wide and the guns are set down so as to on a level with it, and so arranged to be turned either right or left, as necessity demands. 5 is the trench 14 ft. wide and ten deep. 6 solid earth The sides in are lined with thourghly packed sod. The front or entrance side is guarded by picket posts ten feet high and six or eight inches in thickness, the sides hewn so as to meet closely forming a light wooden wall with port holes to shoot out from. Breastworks are in this form We stand in the trench to load; step up
on 1st step with our foot ont he second fire over the top fall back and load while the rear rank performs the same. The steps are all well sodded and look very nice. The particular names for this is various steps, slopes & c. & c. about the fort and the other. I have not yet learned, so please do not show this to anyone. — Ed. you have some prospect of trying Camp life it seems, provided Mother gets Miss Kelly to keep house while she is gone. Now I should think you would like to have her for she could invite in your behalf the young “sisters of Sand Creek, Miss Martha and a host of her young friends. — Why you would have all you could do and I am afraid the farm & stock would have to take care of themselves. To think of staying with her alone, is enough to make a bachelor of you, notwithstanding your Mebis & Ella’s If you stay alone how I would love to be a guest one or two days - wouldn’t Ma’s cubbord down cellar be emptied of all that suits the “potatis taste”? Sorry your leisure time is so scarce for reading, writing & c. Who is the author of your works? How many apples did you have? Who is director Skidmore? Are you beginning to sow the cornfields? Must go to work now so good bye. Love to all, and write often as you can.
(the 4th MI petitioned to change the name of Camp Union to Camp Woodbury to honor their colonel; a battle at Munson’s Hill that killed many; references to (Benjamin?) Butler, (John?) Fremont and Gen. McClellan and their good reputations; sending money home)
I have just returned from company and regimental review & inspection and now instead of attending Episcopal Service I will write a few lines and enclose in Edward’s.
Last night while on parade the Adjutant read the order Gen. McClellan calling “a small fort thrown up and built by the 4th Mich. Reg’t. by the name of Fort Woodbury” so that instead of writing from Camp Union we address you from a more honorable station. Our Col. made some very appropriate remarks, stating his surprise of the honor shown him — the name being solicited by the Reg’t. unbeknown to him.
In Mr. Bartlett’s last letter you will find all the news I could give. The reason the disloyal troops are permited to occupy Munson’s Hill — the place west of us — and which displeases many who are too willing to advise, and find fault because their advice is not practiced.
(in the space between two lines Hubert says, “is just what I should have given”)
Our foes have tried to surprise our guards at Chain Bridge and last Friday might our Pickets around Munson’s Hill were routed and had a skirmish the enemy throwing their shells & balls in all directions — burning a number of houses and barns among which were Mr. Hall’s and all his buildings. His house is laid down on that map I sent you. Quite a number were killed and wounded of our men but none from our Reg’t. although Lieut. Hadley had a very narrow escape.
Mr. Butler’s achievement was indeed a brilliant one; and his career has been flattering so far but Fremont is filling his cap with laurels now. His proclamation in reference to the enslaved has won the praise of all whose praise is worth having He and Gen. McClellan will be extolled by his ____ . Long may they live as true and others imitate their loyalty and soundness of principles. Their motto seems to be “Wise as serpints and harmess as doves.”
Last evening Mother the first prayer meeting and the first extemporanious prayers offered in our Reg’t. were issued from our Captains tent. Capt. Doolittle is the only Christian Captain in our companies. Elder Strong appears to be improving in his sermons since his return from home. A reformation I hope has commenced in our Camp for there is great need of it — Had a letter from Emily last night, short but affectionate. Hope you will have a pleasant visit — Think it will be exceedingly lonesome for Edward to remain alone so long. Would like to be situated as to be his guest for a few nights.
I did not send any money by Capt. Funk(?). Did not think it safe had I wished to. Shall send twenty dollars when we receive our Gov’t. pay by processing a check. Pa may do as he thinks best about it, also with the wheat. I shall send a gold dollar to Emily tomorrow, and one to Libbie to buy sationary & stamps. That ____ I guess will come out right. Simon knows where the remainder is and he may do what he pleases, but if another supply was to be forwarded I should prefer not to have so many partners or stockholders rather. Let the Hadley’s corner vicinity act as they please.
What makes it so sickly in Litchfield? Gen. McClellan orders. hot coffee to be drank by all soldiers immediately in the morning after rising to prevent malarious influences.
Love to all, Hubert
(this letter—from a Confederate soldier to his sweetheart—was in an envelope with this note from Agnes Kelly: “This is a rebble letter found on the battle field by my Cousin Dixon Kelly when he came home he gave it to me”; in the letter the Confederate soldier, whose signature cannot be read, talks of his dismay at being separated from his sweetheart and gently chides her about being seen with another man; how similar to Hubert’s letters this one from Hubert’s supposed enemy is in its distress at being away from home, separated from loved ones and having to endure difficult conditions)
editor’s note: Agnes Amanda Kelly (2/2/1846-2/17/1924) married Hubert Dwight Smith on April 25, 1865
Camp Clifton January 29/1862
Yours of the I forget what date, came duly to hand and I hasten to reply. I should have answered it earlier, but you will know how very negligent I am. I should not be so, but the truth of the business is, I am nearly crazy on this infernal war Subject idea of having to enlist again in April I am tired of the dam thing, it bores me to death. The Idea of my being seperated from you longer makes me tremble but as my old friend Claudius Thompkins says war is war any way you take it married or single. I wrote Dr. Dussett long letter last week beging him to get me another furlough, but have not reced an answer as yet; hope however to hear from him soon in reference to the furlough and nothing else as he sometimes Jokes very hard I hear from reliable source that you promise me when I left home. I am forced to believe you have somethng in view which you have disclose to mention, suppose for and instant I were guilty of such conduct. You would be in for ___ing ___ high as ___ Women remind me very much of the Irishman’s Pig you wish to catch them, they are not to be found. This suits your case very well, excuse me, but its more than true. Not Dolphin, but the ___true. I suppose you have herd of the great fight in old Kentuck. The reb’s completely routed so much for____ _____ it is suppose he had several gallons of old ___ hay on hand at the time of the fight, which caused us to run. Same old thing going on over here shooting cannons nor harm however on either side. the weather here for time has been dreadful; Mud six feet deep and the earth seems to be getting softer & softer. I think the World will come to and end soon if things go on as they have been for some time past. The Bible is being fulfill. in conclusion I would say my eyes are getted blinded and can not see my way. Concequently I”ll close, remember me kindly to sister Fanny. answer this immediatly after its reception and even believe me to be your affectionate Lover
(signature not readable)
Kised as before