• Civil War Letters: Soldier Blames Drunken Generals for Losses at Malvern Bill, Rebel Sharp Shooters

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    The 16th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, made up of companies recruited in Middlesex County in April and May 1861, was ordered to assemble at Camp Cameron, North Cambridge, on July 2.  It took part in the Battle of Oak Grove on June 25.  In the Seven Days fighting, the 16th was heavily engaged at Glendale, June 30, losing its commander, Col. Wyman. The regiment lost heavily in the 2nd Battle of Bull Run.  At Fredericksburg, it suffered a notable loss in the death of Chaplain Fuller, who was about to depart for home but went into the fight and was killed.  The 16th suffered serious losses at Chancellorsville on May 3, 1863.  At Gettysburg, it suffered heavily while defending the line of the Emmittsburg Road.  In late 1863, the regiment participated in the Mine Run Campaign and spent the winter in camp near Brandy Station.  The regiment was also engaged at the Wilderness on May 5 and 6, 1864, and at Spottsylvania on May 10th and 12th, where it suffered heavy losses.


    EDWARD C. DARLING enlisted as a Private and was mustered into E Co., MA 16th Infantry on July 12, 1861.  He was transferred on April 14, 1864, to the Veteran Reserve Corps and was mustered out on July 1, 1864.  Offering a seven -letter archive, five written by Darling and two by his daughter, with highlights about the Union Army losing at the Battle of Malvern Hill because a drunken general was not following orders. Darling laments that “our young men were slaughtered” because of drunken officers.  He reports that seven officers were so drunk that they couldn’t perform without being helped.  He describes the Battle of Fredericksburg as the most terrible battle he has ever seen.  Darling reports that the Union is respecting the rebels’ property and, consequently, enabling the rebels in battles against the Union.  “There was a house where the sharp shooters of the Rebs were picking off our men and General Car went to the other General to have it demolished but it was not done and they were allowed to shelter themselves and pick off our men.”  Darling also writes of too many “rascally traitors connected with this war.”  His daughter Emeline writes him, hoping he was not in the Battle of the Wilderness.   At the end of the war, Darling’s wife, Mary, divorced him. The plea is included.  Darling’s daughter, Emeline, also filed for divorce and her plea is included as well.  We also include a list of rations included and four covers, making this a well-rounded archive.  Transcription follows.


    3 pp, 7 ¾ x 9 ¾, (in pencil), Army of the Potomac, Harrisons Landing, VA, August 8th, 1862, to his daughter, Nelly.  In small part, “…You talk of moving to Lynn [MA] but I can see no use of moving…it only makes expense for nothing. I expected by what Emeline wrote that you would have had the barn moved up…Your mother had better get Mr. Patch to sell it for her.  I don’t know when we shall get paid off again as it is now going on the fourth month since we were paid off…I sent my overcoat to Boston by Mr. King of the Band, with a tent in it for the children to have pitched in the grove above the spring…You will see what kind of houses we have to live in. One of them [tents] has to accommodate two and sometimes three, but they are the worst for the sick as they are very hot when the sun shines. We only stay in them nightly and when it rains but the sick have to stay all the time. Eldridge is well and Henry has gone home. My health is good…If you have the tent pitched, you will want two crutched sticks about 4 feet long for the end and then a pole little longer than the tent to go from one crutch to the other…and then pin it on each corner, and one at each end to tie the ropes to about two feet from the tent. Perhaps some of the returned soldiers have used them and will put it up for you…I hear that Mr. Homan talks of enlisting but tell him to stay where he is until there is less drunken officers…We lost a splendid victory [Battle of Malvern Hill] two days since in consequence of a drunken general not doing as he was ordered.  It is outrageous that our men are slaughtered as they are in consequence of drunken officers. When our soldiers went out this week to capture a lot of rebels, I am told that there was 7 officers in one regiment so drunk that they could not go without help.  And this is a fair sample of the officers of the army as far as I am acquainted. And we shall never succeed until the officers think more of the cause and less of their rum.  Yours affectionately, E. C. Darlin…”


    One page, 5 x 7 (in pencil), Fairfax Seminary, near Alexandria, VA, Oct. 9th, [18]62, to his daughter, Nelly, in part, “…I am going to try tomorrow to send the bundle. If not, I shall send it the first chance.  Tell your mother that if she can make anything out of the grey overcoat that I sent home for Lou, she can do it.  Write me if my blue overcoat ever come.  We had orders last night to cook two days rations and get ready to march, but when and where, I don’t know…”


    2 pp, 5 x 8 (in pencil), Camp Near Falmouth, VA, Dec. 23d, [18]62, to his daughter, Nelly, “Having a few moments to spare for the first time since the battle [ Fredericksburg, fought December 11-15, 1862], I will write a few lines to let you know that I am well and safe, although that was one of the most terrible battles I have seen during the war. What our next move is to be, I am unable to divine. But I hate to think of moving back until Richmond is ours; at any rate, I would be willing to risk my life once more if there is any chance whatever. But it seems to me that this war is a perfect humbug, the way that it is carried on.  And as long as we respect the property of the rebels…in order that it shall not be molested, we must expect nothing but slaughter and suffering for our men as long as that state of things last.  There was a house in front of where we was, where the sharp shooters of the Rebs were picking off our men, and General Carr went to the other General to have it demolished but it was not done and they were allowed to shelter themselves in it and pick off our men as they pleased.  There is too many rascally traitors connected with this war, that are making big pay and to sum it up in a nut shell, it is a Damned Humbug…Tell Uncle Jim Eaton that he was one of the lucky ones for there is any amount of suffering among the boys…”


    3 pp, 5 ¼ x 8, (in pencil), Brandy Station, VA, Dec. 29th, [18]63, to Emeline, in part, “…You say in your letter that you hope that I won’t reenlist and I will say that you need not give yourself any uneasiness about that as I shall not do it. I have told them so…I could make more money to come out here without enlisting…The bounty would be no object to me. It might be well enough for Charley to reenlist…I was sorry to hear that grandfather has left us, but I suppose that he is better off…I cannot learn the exact location of John Henry Hone, but he is somewhere within 5 or 6 miles of here and I will try and find out where he is…Uncle Ned…Did Josie & Lou get their gold pieces…”


    2 pp, 5 x 7 ¾, (in ink), Brandy Station, VA, March 15th, [18]64, to Emeline, “I have sent home two lots of money, and as yet, I have not heard from either of them. I sent eighty-seven dollars at one time and two hundred and seventy-five at another. Two hundred to deposit and 75 for the family, and I would like to know if has been received…I have been expecting a letter form George Currier for some time but I have looked in vain. What is Clark doing about the land…Have you found the dog? I have had a letter from Henry this week and he is in Washington. I have left the place that I have been cooking at for the last year, as the work was too hard for me. I am now in the Hospital for a few days and what I shall do then, I have not made up my mind. I have plenty of chances as soon as I am ready to go to work and that will be soon as I can for I want to be earning as much as I can before I come home…Yours affectionately, E.C. Darlin…”


    2 ½ pp, 5 x 8, (in ink), Saugus [MA], May 15th, 1864, Emeline writes to Darlin, “…We all hope you are not in this awful battle [Battle of Wilderness]. I hope you won’t let anything that Mother wrote give you any uneasiness as she was wasn’t in a very good humor when she wrote…There was some men come in the house but the dog is sufficient to master as many as can come and I see no danger in living in Saugus myself.  I remember when we lived in Lynn. Once in a while some rowdies would make us a call…”


    3 pp, 4 ½ x 6 ¾, (in ink) Indianapolis, July 7th, 1874, Emeline writes to Darlin, “…Extremely hot and dry here, the record on heat…the hottest weather they have ever had…I suppose you are having a nice time and a good run of trade…We had quite an accident coming out here…The car wheel broke down but fortunately we got out of it unhurt…Indianapolis is a very pretty city…a population of over one hundred thousand…”


    Also included is a short hand-written list of rations and two pleas for divorce. Darling’s wife, Mary, filed for divorce on March 13th, 1872, alleging that Darling deserted her. The plea for divorce and the summons alerting Darling to the pending divorce are included as a four-page document. A divorce plea, filed by Emeline L. Darling Farrington against her husband Otis Farrington, accusing him of adultery, is also included.


    Typical folds, toning, but very readable.


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