JOSEPH DONNELL EATON (1838 – 1916) enlisted at 18 as a private
in Co. I, 1st Maine Cavalry, in October 1861.
He was wounded and taken prisoner with a couple dozen other members of
the regiment at Louisa Court House on May 2, 1863, exchanged a couple of weeks
later, and rejoined his company in September. The 1st Maine was involved in a
number of significant battles, including Brandy Station, Second Bull Run, South
Mountain, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, Shepherdstown, Sulphur Springs,
Mine Run, Richmond and Cold Harbor.
In the 3 pp, 4 ¾ x 7 ¾, letter to his father, from Camp Penobscot, December 17, 1861, Eaton makes a significant mention of the infamous Mason and Slidell affair, which was celebrated by all Union supporters. Mason and Slidell were would-be CSA ambassadors to Queen Victoria and Louis Napoleon. They succeeded in running the blockade. Their vessel was boarded by Lieut. Fairfax and 40 men under protest from the English. Mason and Slidell were delivered to Gen. Wool at Fortress Monroe and their plan to secure support from the English and French was thwarted. Nice cover is included with Eaton’s artwork of two hands, arrows drawing them together, a flag and his initials.
“I received your letter this evening & was glad to hear from you & I have an opportunity to night to write...I am very sorry to hear that you have been unwell & hope you will not go in the woods this winter to work as you have always done for you can get along without doing so—for if you want to get in logs you can hire men very cheap—but if you don’t get in much stuff this winter you can live without it. I hope this war will be settled up in a short time & then there will be a chance to do something but now it is not safe to risk much with most any business man. You think that the war progresses very slow but I think it is progressing toward a close very fast if no other nation sits in against us. England’s present stand in regard to the Mason & Slidell case looks like war but I think if Administration takes a firm stand not to give the Traitors up it will blow over. I see by today’s journal that the Burning of Charleston is confirmed—it appears that it was burnt by the negroes. This Regiment has orders to leave for Portland Friday but it will not leave till some time next week. We shall go South by water from Portland. We have improved very much in drilling and ours is called the best Regiment of Calvary that has been raised in New England. There is four Regiments encamped here and the whole number of soldiers in Augusta 4,240. The governor a few days ago received an order from the Sect. of War that no more troops would be needed from Maine & if the Cavalry was not sworn in to service to disband it. But it could not be discharged without cost the government 100 dollars bounty to each man which would amounted to 120,000 dollars. How long we shall stop in the State is more than I can tell. There is no snow here but it is quite cold. We get along very comfortably. If we go South I hope to get a chance to make more pay as there will be many changes after we leave here...Yours truly, J.D. Eaton”
In excellent condition. A wonderful letter from this important battle regiment with strong content.
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