The 4th New Jersey Infantry Regiment was organized at Trenton, NJ, on April 27th, 186, for three months. The regiment was honored by a visit from President Lincoln. Most of the first three months were spent guarding the bridge over the Potomac and the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. After being reorganized, the regiment saw action in many major battles, including Gettysburg, Seven Days, Gaines Mill, Malvern Hill, Bull Run, Second Battle of Bull Run, Fredericksburg, Antietam, Chancellorsville, Wilderness, South Mountain, Petersburg, Appomattox and the surrender of Lee and his army. The reorganized 4th was mustered out on July 9th, 1865, at Hall’s Hill, VA.
Meanwhile, the 6th New Jersey Infantry Regiment was formed, which was made up of many soldiers from the 4th.
Offering a total of 20 letters, of which 14 were written by George W. Hill, who mustered into K Co. of the 4th on April 27th, 1861, and the remaining six are home front. While research indicates he mustered out on July 31, 1861, his letters extend well beyond that date clearly indicating that he remained in the army. One of his letters is written from Camp Casey, dated October 27th. This was one of many Union encampments in Arlington for defending the national capitol. Camp Casey was in operation from 1862-1865 and became an important terminus for African American regiments in Northern Virginia. The dateline on his letters switch to the 6th Regiment in late February of 1862.
The letters are written to family members and nearly all are 4 pp, approximately 40 pages total, some on patriotic stationary and a few with covers. Hill writes of the Seven Days Campaign and having to leave their dead on the battle field. He states that a “bum shell” cut one soldier in half. “General Hooker took pity on the Jersey boys.” He also writes of the Seven Days Campaign and the Battle of Yorktown. His letters begin their conclusion on April 29th, 1865, when he writes about the war coming to an end. “We received a dispatch from Gen. Grant stating that Gen. Joseph Johnson had surrendered...The assassination of the President in Washington has caused somewhat excitement in the army but I hear they have the caught the man that done it. I hear that Sherman’s army is to be disbanded at Harpers Ferry.”
There are six additional letters – five to Hill – from the home front. It’s unclear for whom the sixth is intended. The salutation is “Dear Cousin.” These letters clearly illustrate communities planning for the war effort. “Beverly & Burlington folks are drumming up all the men they can find and holding meetings every day to take more volunteers...[many] have already gone.
The Hill letters begin on June 10th, 1861, as we find Hill and his regiment guarding Washington, DC.
In small part, "Arlington Heights, June 10th, 1861...there is no talk of any fighting yet we have not received any money yet...Sometimes I don't get nothing to eat. Then I go and buy myself some cakes and...writing paper and tobacco...There is from 90 to 120,000 troops in and around Washington...It is my turn to go on guard duty day and night -- 2 hours on and four off. There is today talk of us going to Richmond..."
*Arlington Heights, June 19, 1861. “...I got the boys provision that Mrs. Graythorn sent to me and when I opened it I discovered a package that said out to George W. Hill sent to him by his grandmother...There was a little fight night before last. We had a parade out on the large field. There was 9 regiments there and among them was one of the Ohio regiments and after the parade was dismissed they started for their encampment and they were attacked before they reached their quarters. I learned since I heard their report of the guns. It was about one o’clock at night. I had just went on guard...There is no talk of us moving. Some of our brigade moved last night. I don’t know where they are gone to. There is talk of an attack tonight. If they don’t attack tonight, we will...get behind the breast works...I was in Washington yesterday. I was all through the Smithsonian Institution...”
*Arlington Heights, July 11th, 1861. “...Very sorry to hear that Jake has enlisted. He will be sick of it [in] three months let alone three years. He is very foolish for doing so...”
*Camp Casey, Meridian Hill, Oct. 27. “...Today is Sunday and we just had inspection of the guns and knapsacks. Tomorrow we are going on a grand review of all the troops on this side of the Potomac...I am perfectly satisfied more than I was at first...It was a sad affair about Colonel Baker getting Killed. That is the regiment the Beverly boys are in...We have got a splendid brass band in the Burlington Band. It arrived here last night. It makes the boys feel more like soldiers. Our company got the praise this morning for having the cleanest guns...When you receive my money, you and mama, will you make me two shirts and two pair of drawers...for I want to wear two shirts this winter if we get gold...I will send you my picture for there is a man on the ground that takes them for 50 cts a piece...We are to be reviewed by McClellan and staff...”
*Headquarters, Hookers Division, Dec. 15th, 1861. “...Last Sunday, we was out on picket guard along the Potomac River. The Beverly Boys are all well. We are all in one tent and we have got things fixed nice. We have got fire place made in our tent and bed steads built up off the ground...We signed the payroll today and will get paid off in two weeks...”
*Rum Point, Jan. 7th, 1862. “I got the box of things which came to me safe enough with the exception of a few of the pies were mashed. The jar of pickles were broke but I enjoyed my chicken and other things...If you would write in your recent letter that some of the family was very sick and wasn’t expected to live, I would show the letter to Cap. Burling and no doubt...he would give me a furlough to come home. I seen Jim Caldwell and he told me he was coming home on a furlough. The regiment that he belongs to is only a half a mile from ours...Never think that I have forgot my home...I have a doting grandmother, an affectionate uncle and a loving sister...God forbid that I should turn traitor to my home. I can see...my sister is penning a few lines to her only brother that has gone forth in the defenses of his mother country to protect her rights...It is early in the morning...The boys are building log houses to live in and when finished will be warm...”
*Provost Guard, Port Tobaco, MD, Feb. 11, 1862. “...Sorry to hear that you was so disappointed concerning me not sending any money home. I was afraid to send it from here for fear it might be miscarried and so I gave part of it to the Lieutenant to keep for me till next pay day which is close at hand...I will send you money...I was very sorry to hear that you had no work...Sister...don’t write such a distressing [letter]...any more for it makes me feel so very [bad] that when I lay down at night I can’t sleep...I heard that it was not safe to send money. The mail goes in by Stage...I was very sorry to hear of Walter’s death. It surprised me very much. I told him of Consumption long ago but he did not believe me...”
*Camp 6th Regt NJ Vols, Feb. 28th . “...The 6th Corps is on reconnaissance and the remainder of the Army is under marching orders ready to move at a moment’s notice...By this time you have seen some of the boys from Co. F and perhaps talked with them. I have no duty to do. I am down working for Gen. Mott [Gershom Mott, a commander in the Eastern theater]. There is 8 men left left in Co. F. I am acting First Sergt of them...”
*Shipping Point, Virginia, April 20th . [Battle of Yorktown] “...We are now about five miles from York Town. There will be a very hard fight at this place. The rebels have a very strong force at this place. If you don’t hear from me for a while don’t be uneasy for I heard that all the letters was going to be stopped until after the fight. I don’t know how long it is...We expect to move every hour today to proceed on closer to York Town to throw up Beast Works. They have been firing at one another...for two or three days wound some on both sides...The attack will be made next week some time...It is now Sunday night and it is raining...I am sitting in my tent. Just room enough to turn around. We have little tents made to carry in our knapsacks. Two men in a tent...Each man can carry half a tent...We have nice man for our Captain...Jacob Van Riper. We are going to move again tomorrow morning, up nearer York Town. I just want you to get the Burlington dollar paper and read the letter in it from Company F [from our boys]...wrote to the editor...It will let you know all the particulars of our move from Rum Point. There was 1400 men on one [boat] 5 days...”
*Camp on the James River, July 6th, 1862. [Seven Days Campaign] “...Since you last heard from me last there has been some very mysterious movements with our army before Richmond. This retreat commenced on last Sunday and we just arrived two days ago...The evacuation commenced at 12 o’clock last night while our regiment was on picket within 500 yards of the rebel pickets. If we had known what was going on how do you supposed we would have felt...I will write you all about it...The enemy followed us down all the way the river and [we were] ready to fight them at any point. Fighting every day for a week...We had to leave our killed and wounded in the hand of the enemy. I suppose you have read it in the paper before...but I could tell you many things more than the papers stated that we did not lose a man out of our regiment. The Fifth lost 2. A bum shell cut him in half. General Hooker took pity on the Jersey men. We did not get in to where the bullets flew. We was supporting batteries all the time, but we was exposed to the bum shells...We had to lay on our bellies all the time. The fight would commence about 2 in the afternoon and last til dark and there we would stand in line of battle til 12 in the night and then start up at a rapid pace toward the James River for 4 hours and form another line of battle and wait for the rebels and they would not be long showing themselves...They got the worse of the bargain. In fact, they say so themselves. Now they have went back to Richmond and we are very comfortable encamped in the pine woods...”
*Camp Harrisons Landing, August 9th, . “...We have had a pretty long march since you heard from me last...We marched til 2 in the morning and laid down and got about an hour sleep and aroused up and marched about 8 miles further...where the last days fight was fought. On our retreat, we was drawn up in line in front of the rebels cannon to make a charge and they saw us too soon and left and I was glad for it for if they had stayed, they would have killed great many of us Jersey men...We stayed 2 days and left...about 2 on a full run for they were after us in large force and by four different roads...” Damp staining affecting several sentences.
*Encamped near Petersburg, VA, June 29, (1863]. “...There has been some very hard fighting going on since I last heard from you and some long fatiguing marches. There is some prospect of us laying still for a month or two unless the rebels make a move. I think you can expect some hard-fought battles...I suppose you have heard of Charley O Bryan being killed and Bill Amay also...”
*Burkesville Station, April 29th, 1865. “...We received a dispatch from Gen. Grant stating that Gen. Joseph Johnson had surrendered [Johnson was in North Carolina and surrendered on April 23, 1865.]...The war is over now. No more bloodshed. [Robert E. Lee surrendered on April 9, 1865.] What a blessing that is but think how many thousands there are who lay beneath the sold. We must not for them. The assassination of the President in Washington has caused somewhat excitement in the army but I hear they have the caught the man that done it. I hear that Sherman’s army is to be disbanded at Harpers Ferry. If Jake gets home before I do, tell him wait for me and him and I will have a time together to tell you the gods truth. I am troubled in my mind very much to think that here I have been in service three long years and expect to be discharged without the first red cent and not a stick of clothes to put on my back...But thank God my life is spared, my limbs are whole...I have been court martialed but still under arrest. No one said anything against me to do me any harm so I don’t think it will be much...” Very fine letter. Some damp staining near the center left and bottom margin affectin a few words, and one small folds tear.
*U.S. Christian Commission, including biblical quote, “For God so loved the world”, 3d Division Hospital, June 28th, 1865. “...The talk is we start the 8th of July [for home]. We would have been home before this if we could get transportation...There was a happy meeting the other day as I was laying in my bed and had just turned over and who should I see buy my dear brother in law Jake. I was so full that I could scarcely speak to him. It was a joyful meet. He stayed with me all afternoon and had a good talk about home and old time. He looks as hearty as a buck...and here is poor me nothing but a bunch of bones and not got ambition enough to move...I think that I will be at home in less than a week...The sergeant of my company come over to see me last night and he told me that the Lieutenant of my company was going to see what he could do for me...”
Letters to Hill illustrate a community fully ready and willing to support the war.
*Beverly, July 7th. Beautiful patriotic stationary with a cannon and flag entitled “Latest Compromise:” “...I wrote a letter a month ago and have not received an answer. I fear that you are unwell. We had a very great 4th here in Beverly. There was nobody drunk...There was a nice party at Henrys...We had a company of Artillery here at Beverly...The papers does not say anything about you boys...There is 8 girls knock up in Beverly...George W. Adams”
*Progress, May 17th, 1861. Fine patriotic stationary The Union and the Constitution with a poem entitled “Our Country’s Flag.” “...We are all enjoying very good health up here and I hope that this letter may find you enjoying the same...Beverly & Burlington folks are drumming up all the men they can find and holding meetings everyday to take more volunteers...[many] have already gone. I also seen Edward Nelson who told me that he enlisted in the Beverly company. The divers from Delanco have left here. Also within a few days...John Kriner & Harry Kriner & Cooper Woodington & George Bactes so I assure you that it makes this place quite lonesome...Our Union must and shall be preserved...Miss Kate Faber” Staining, foxing, fold tears.
*Beverly, May 29th, 1861. “...Jacob has work now. At this time. It is hard times here. We are all well...in health but not in mind...We heard of your midnight march last Thursday night and of your taking Alexandria and we hear that your regiment is on Arlington Heights surrounded with the enemy. But we hope that God will stand by you and spare you to get home to see us...There won’s be many boys left here...George Adams...told me last night that would go with the rest if it was not for his dad’s farm for he went he would have to hire some one in his place...He told me last night he would be at our meeting tonight to sign his name either for reserve or active...The members of the Catholic Church in this city have raised a flag above them...Jacob A. Canning” Nice diagram of hand drawn soldiers and a flag at the bottom.
*Beverly, June 6th, 1861. “...We all feel sorry for you today on account of this hard rain...We hear the account of no fighting for several months ...We still live in the hope that you may return home safe...The death of Senator Douglas has caused great morning here and the flags are all at half masked...” Not signed but complete and clearly written by Jacob A. Canning.
*Beverly, June 13th, 1861. [This letter is to Edmund Packer from Martha Craythorn. “...Mother sent you a box of provision to be shared between the Beverly boys...Father paid for the freight...The fishermen sent you the cigars. Mrs. Austerz sent you the gingerbread, cheese, dried beef and a small loaf of bread. Leonard Soby sent you the pipes. Mother sent you the puddings and a loaf of bread, pound cake...Give my love to George Hill...”
*March 1, 1865. “...Sorry to hear that you have had so much trouble...” Much community news. Written by Than E. Armstrong.
The letters have expected wear with folds and toning. Notable differences are stated within the descriptions. A fine set of Civil War letters.
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