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    Union Soldier's Archive of Charles L. Taylor, Company K, 16th Connecticut Infantry. An extensive archive of approximately 150 letters relating to Charles Lyman Taylor, including at least 115 from Taylor to his wife, Hattie, along with some other miscellaneous correspondences and Taylor's own record of his life from 1851 to 1905. The letters to Hattie are all war dated, written from August 1862 to June 1865, most are four pages in length and measure approximately 5.25" x 8.25". The majority are accompanied by their original transmittal covers. The other letters and documents are of various sizes. Also included in the archive is a small album of photographs, with two portraits of Charles Taylor and many other members of the Tuttle family.

    Taylor (1837-1909) was teaching school in Bristol, Connecticut, when the Civil War broke out and continued in that pursuit during the first year of the conflict. He enlisted at the age of 24, and was mustered into Company K, 16th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry on August 24, 1862. Just days after he was mustered into Company K, he married his sweetheart, Harriet Tuttle, on August 26. Taylor served as a sergeant and then a private with the 16th Connecticut Infantry, before becoming a clerk at Division Headquarters in New Bern, North Carolina.

    Taylor decided to enlist in late July 1862, and Hattie was distraught at the news. However, Taylor wrote to comfort his wife, writing on August 28, "...it makes me glad to know it was written with your heart so strong & brave. It requires no considerable presence of mind to think of and speak of you as my wife, I have known you too long and well to have it seem strange to do so." Just weeks later, The 16th Connecticut participated in the Battle of Antietam on September 16-17, 1862 and suffered heavy losses, with more than 200 men captured. Taylor escaped unhurt, but the Company lost their well-liked Captain, Newton Manross. Writing to Hattie after the battle on September 18, 1862, Taylor's feelings of loss and fear are perceptible: "Some of our men are going home with our captain's body. He was killed yesterday, the only one of our company we know of, some wounded none seriously as we know. We were in a hot fire. I came out unscathed, thank GOD. I am well. Be brave and strong my Hattie. Trust in God, one feels the need here of prayer and trust..."

    After only a few months in the service, it became apparent that Taylor was not enjoying his life as a solider. Many of his letters to Hattie speak of how much he misses her and of how weary he is of camp life and battle. A letter dated December 25, 1862 reads, "Your letter so good, kind and trustful are oases in my soldier life, being so pure and [illegible] in contrast with the selfishness and coarse language one is compelled to meet with constantly here, as nothing else can do. One gets so accustomed to the matter mentioned that it is not always noticed, but sometimes when one stops and considers it, one gets heartily sick of soldiering." Another passage from August 23, 1863 of the following year reveals that his feelings had not changed, despite his knowing that he fought for a worthy cause:

    "There is no mistaking war here. The sight of military camps, of men dressed in uniform, the gun, sword, and cannon, earthworks, forts and obstructions, and sound of fife and drum, and the tone of command, being all together common and universal. All this means war. And now and then comes the weary march, when the spade and axe are laid aside for the time. And then the battle, the crowning day in war, when is heard the whistling of bullets, and rushing of shot and shell, following the cracking of the rifles and thundering of cannon. Infantry, cavalry and artillery pushing on, then the line of battle, the skirmish. Men falling here and there, wounded or dead, thus it sums up. All this I have seen, heard and been through and am not pleased therewith, more than I expected. Indeed I am tired of it, and waiting the day when I shall be relieved...I do not regret the past. It has been endured in a just cause, and I have been enabled to go through it well and unharmed, and have hopes for a not long continuation of separation from friends."

    Although unhappy to be separated from his loved ones, Taylor did have some interesting encounters with the Confederate army while stationed across the river from them at Fredericksburg. In an undated January 1863 letter, Taylor writes that "Tuesday we went on picket duty, as a regiment, opposite Fredericksburg a short distance from the opposite bank behind a hill, by going up which I saw rebel soldiers, as curious to see us as we them in their streets." And a short time later, on January 20, Taylor details having actually interacted with the enemy: "while on picket duty with the regiment, last Sabbath, opposite Fredericksburg, a short distance from the river, our guard being along the river and thereabouts same as before...our men sent across the river to the rebels apples, coffee, Hartford Times, Tribune and Springfield Republican. They succeeded after some considerable effort in returning a Richmond Examiner, by means of little boats from boards with paper sails."

    By the summer of 1864, despite General Ulysses Grant's army being bogged down in Virginia and suffering heavy casualties, Taylor was optimistic about the Union's progress. He was happy with the leadership Grant and Sherman were providing, and hoped that a quick end to the war would return him to his wife. A June 10, 1864 letter reads, "The news from Grant and Sherman continues to be favorable for us. We have good reason to be encouraged by the success of the Army of the Potomac, now we have papers here to the 4th inst. The latest I have heard was the rumors of a general engagement near Mechanicsville one week ago tonight, resulting in our favor and capturing 18,000 prisoners, and Butler had been again attacked and repulsed the rebels. If matters proceed as successfully through the season as they have thus far, we have a good prospect of having something to rejoice over next thanksgiving day. Do you suppose any two individuals would rejoice more than we over the end of this rebellion? I long for it to come that I may fold you close to my heart and tell you how dear you are to me, and be happy with you daily with me in our home. And when you awake at night, dreaming of me, you may find it not all a dream, that I am with you and can 'fold your arms about my neck and nestle down close beside me' as close as you wish. I should be very happy to have you, to have you near."

    By early 1865, Taylor was looking forward to the end of the war and the return home. Like the rest of the Union, he celebrated General Lee's surrender at Appomattox, but the celebrations in the North were to be short lived. Following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, Taylor wrote his wife on April 23, 1865, "Our prospects are bright and a great deal has been done within a few weeks, but glad as I have been for this, I have not had my feelings stirred so much by it, as I have by the regret for the loss of President Lincoln by assassination. I feel that we could spare him least of any one in the counsels of the nation, and too he is cut down at the hour of victory, not living to finish the work up, nor enjoy the result. I had rather not had to hear of Grant's success for some time, than this. I think there is reason however to think that President Johnson is sensible of his responsibilities, and by the aid of all the members of Lincoln's cabinet, will prove equal to the emergency, but hardly think the rebels will fare so well under him."

    Condition: The letters in the archive have the usual folds but most are in very good condition. Light toning, soiling, and usual wear. Some folds have caused weaknesses and some small separations have occurred in places. Overall very good.


    More Information:

    The 16th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry was organized in Hartford, Connecticut, under Colonel Francis Beach on August 24, 1862.  Soon thereafter, the regiment moved to Washington, D.C. and was attached to the 2nd Brigade, 3rd Division of the 9th Army Corps, Army of the Potomac.  Within weeks, the 16th Connecticut participated in the Battle of Antietam, which took place on September 16-17, and lost 43 men, 163 wounded, and 204 captured or missing.  The regiment was subsequently involved in the Battle of Fredericksburg at the end of 1862.  After spending 1863 in Virginia, the regiment moved to North Carolina in 1864, where it was stationed at Newbern and Plymouth. Plymouth was under siege by Confederate forces from April 17-20, which resulted in the surrender of the town and the capture of many in the regiment.  The regiment was mustered out at Newbern on June 24, 1865.

     

    Taylor was present at the Siege of Suffolk with the 16th Connecticut. He wrote to Hattie on April 25, 1863, conveying both the monotony he felt along with the ever-present sense of danger. In part:

     

    "I am still here not far from camp, behind the breastworks. Have had my gun loaded two weeks to fire on rebels. Have as yet seen no occasion. Most have merely fired their guns during this time on account of their being wet as it has been rainy a good deal since we have been out. Our shelter has been made of rubber blankets fastened one end on the breastworks the other supported by stakes, picking up hay to lie on.we were called into line suddenly and marched with a large body of soldiers against the rebels on what I should call a reconoisance [sic]  in force. Our company and two others on the left of our regiment were deployed as skirmishers. When not far from the rebels, in the woods and Dismal Swamp, we proceeded a way until it was impossible to go further on account of swamp.seeing no rebels but hearing our infantry and theirs in reply. The cracking of rifles and roaring and scraping of our artillery and the crashing of their shot through the woods, in the direction of the rebels, which I believe made a charge into a woods.as near as I can ascertain our regiment had one killed by a shot through the head, and some eight wounded. I don't know as I was in much danger, though I heard the whizzing of bullets and schreeching [sic] of the rebels shell nearby. Saw no wounded or killed. "

     

    As Taylor's service in the army continued, he came into contact with a unit of African American cavalrymen who were fighting for the Union. Prior to 1863, the U.S. government had not wanted to recruit black soldiers. Taylor wrote on March 12, 1864, while stationed near Portsmouth, VA, "There has been too much going on the past week.The Rebels left last Sabbath, but reappeared via Suffolk again on Wednesday. On that day a fight occurred between the 2nd U.S. Colored Cavalry and their forces. Our cavalry was on a reconnoisance [sic] in two parts when they met them. One was nearly surrounded and fought its way back. They fought them until they brought up their Infantry and Artillery. The loss of the colored cavalry was 7 killed and 8 wounded. Col. Cole comdg them killed the commander of their cavalry who fell dead from his horse. Many of the 13 missing, had horses shot, took refuge in the swamp and are coming in."

     

    In mid-April 1864 Taylor, who was still working as a clerk for Division Headquarters, was ordered to rejoin his regiment in Plymouth, North Carolina. Fortunately for him, he was still in transit when the garrison was taken by the Confederates after a siege. The garrison surrendered and Taylor's regiment were taken prisoners and sent to Andersonville. Taylor had a lucky escape, and wrote to his wife, who he knew would be concerned about him, ".thinking very likely you may hear of the affair at Plymouth, and be unhappy for fear of my safety. We are lying in the Sound about twenty miles from Plymouth which we fear is in the hands of the rebels, and the 16th Conn. Vols. except one Co. 'H' which is at Roanoke Island. I am not certain of this latter fact, as I have not seen the Co. but presume I shall before sending this.when we met the 'Berry' we first heard that Plymouth was attacked, that the rebels had made some three assaults on one or more of the forts there and been repulsed. I had a comfortable rest that night on board the boat on the floor. Next morning the 'Massasoit' arrived from Plymouth, left there the evening before, stated that some two or three hours the fore part of the night the firing shot and shell from gun and batteries on both sides was necessary. Our forces had been skirmishing all day. The rebel force.approached so near one of the forts in one of the assaults that our men used hand grenades. They must have suffered severely in their assaults, in the face of the shot, shell and grape shot from our forts...The name of the rebel general was not known."

     

    As the Presidential Election approached and as Lincoln campaigned for a second term, Taylor found that his wife had become disillusioned by Lincoln. Some within the North had grown weary with the war and with Lincoln's attempts to preserve the Union and believed candidates such as McClelland or Johnson would be better. Taylor, however, was still a strong supporter of Lincoln and wrote this terse letter back to Hattie, who had expressed her wish to vote for Johnson. Dated August 25, 1864, it reads, in part: ".you write of taking tea with Uncle James, and very likely he may have been getting off some of his queer illustrations against the administration, and then you request me very dubiously as to its result - 'not to vote for A Lincoln'. Were you living with me, I think your views on politics might change. It's a plain case to me how to act. As it is my little wife, I am glad you can't vote."



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    25th Thursday
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