Description[Civil War]. Archive of Letters from Hattie W. Taylor to Her Husband Charles L. Taylor, Company K, 16th Connecticut Infantry. An extensive archive of more than 250 letters by Hattie W. Taylor to Charles L. Taylor, along with 213 cancelled postal covers and related materials.
Hattie Taylor's letters to her husband, Charles L. Taylor of the Company K, 16th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry, date from June 26, 1860 to June 19, 1865, several days before Taylor was mustered out of service. Written from West Meriden, Bristol, and Unionville, Connecticut, Hattie is well educated, and her letters are unusually insightful when relaying local and national news.
In an October 14 letter from West Meriden, Connecticut, Hattie wrote about interest in town concerning the upcoming presidential election: "The people here are 'Wide Awake' for political meetings, torch light processions, and the election of 'honest old Abe' etc." Subsequent letters indicated that her then fiancé Charles Taylor was teaching school in Bristol, Connecticut, when the Civil War broke out and continued in that pursuit during the first year of the conflict. Hattie expressed fears about the possibility of her fiancé being drafted into the service. In a January 2, 1862 letter she asked him if "they have been 'drafting' any in Bristol, and are you one of the number?....I endured an agony of fear and pain, lest you were to be summoned to the war immediately....I sincerely hope you will not be drafted."
Taylor decided to enlist in late July 1862, and Hattie was distraught at the news. She pleaded with him to change his mind in a July 28, 1862 letter. "Oh! My Charlie have you put down your name? Was there no voice to stay your hand - if anything has happened that is not written - that you have not enlisted. I beg you don't do it please. I have been trying so hard to be your brave Hattie - write to me-talk to me-say something to me to make me strong for this trial if indeed it must be borne....Is it too late to give up going? Don't tell me it is-but that you will stay with me for it seems as if it would kill me by inches....Stay with me-do not leave me-erase your name -forget all about it. She eventually resigned herself to her new husband's plans, stating in an August 9 letter that "I am brave and stronger now....I have placed all my trust in my Heavenly Father and I believe he will care for you...we shall be both be better for the sacrifice made for 'our country.' You are in the right, God is with you-your course in noble, manly, heroic." On July 26, two days after Taylor was mustered in Company K, 16th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry in Hartford, Connecticut, Hattie wrote urging him to try "every means of getting a furlough....Tell Mr. [Captain Newton] Manross you must come." To help with the furlough, Hattie enclosed a personal note to Captain Manross requesting that he "use you influence on obtaining a furlough for Mr. C. L. Taylor, that he may come to Bristol to-night. It is very necessary that he should be here. And you will have the prayers and blessings of his friends. Excuse the liberty I take in thus addressing you." It is not known if Taylor got his furlough or if he passed Hattie's note on to Manross. Hattie and Charles married on August 26, 1862.
The 16th Connecticut participated in the Battle of Antietam on September 16-17, 1862 and suffered heavy losses, with more than 200 men captured. On September 23, Hattie wrote to her husband that she thanked God "that he was spared-that from out that terrible battle you came unscathed." She also mentioned that she felt "more encouraged regarding the end of the war. President Lincoln has issued a proclamation that after the first of January all slaves are to be free-so I think we may hope that God will give us success." Captain Manross was killed at Antietam and Hattie wrote of his funeral in a September 29 letter. "Mrs. Manross is nearly crazy -God pity and help her....Capt. B. Darrons company came out from Hartford to attend Capt. Manross' funeral-also his class from Amherst & the Free Masons. The flags were hung at half mast & a general feeling of sadness prevailed." With Manross' death still on her mind, Hattie begged her husband in an October 4 letter not to accept any promotion that would put him in harm's way: "this letter is to beg and pray that you will not accept the office of Orderly or any promotion where you will be exposed to more danger than you are now-don't. I pray you-for my sake don't. I am satisfied to have you just as you are and the orderly is obliged to be in front." Taylor did not receive the promotion.
While some in the North were opposed to Lincoln's preliminary Emancipation Proclamation and fighting a civil war to free the slaves, Hattie Taylor supported the abolitionist cause. As she wrote in a December 7, 1862 letter to her husband, "God is on the side of right and if we obey him he will deliver us. Sometimes I think we at the north are suffering full measure for all that the poor oppressed black at the south has for years suffered. I believe their day of deliverance is at hand and when that comes peace will come too. You see your little wife hasn't changed her abolition principles." By March 1863, the early optimism concerning the war had given way to pessimism and, in some quarters, anti-war activities, in Connecticut. In a March 1 letter, Hattie wrote that people "are expecting another draft and there are long faces. Patriotism seems to have gone by-people are discouraged. Secession democrats here have had and still hold their secret meetings. I wish every soul of them was down South. It is a downright shame that such things are tolerated." A week later, she was still condemning the copperheads, as well as being critical of the Union Army: "we can see no immediate prospect of peace, but these miserable 'copperheads' (I wish they were all in rebeldom) are trying their best to help the rebels as you will see by the Press I send you weekly-and our armies are doing nothing (I'm thankful the 16th Reg. are not) at present." Hattie did like Union General Benjamin Butler but had harsh words for Secretary of State Seward. In a May 20, 1863 letter she claimed that "I like such a man as Gen. Butler, when he says a thing, he will do it and he is for having this infernal (big word for me) rebellion put down at all hazards. He knows what he wants to do or what wants doing and that is more than can be said of some. I wish Mr. Seward was in Fort Lafayette [a Civil War prison] or some other place, than where he is now. I guess I will stop for wishing does no good, but if I had the power he would be missing till this war was over and some other ones too."
Occasionally Hattie reported on military and political events. For example, on July 7, 1863, she reported on the celebration in West Meriden, Connecticut, resulting from the Union victory at Vicksburg. "This afternoon the news of the surrender of Vicksburg was received. And it has been a time of rejoicing. All the bells in town were rung, shop whistles blew, all the flags were flying and people greeted each other with smiling faces. Some swung their hats in the air, and a feeling of hope filled all hearts." Learning that the Union victory of Gettysburg was accompanied by large numbers of casualties, she expressed her views regarding the outcome of the war in a July 12 letter to her husband. "Oh! That this cruel war was ended, but the clouds are breaking-already we can see through them the blue sky of peace-yet we know there is much more to be done yet-many hard battles to be fought ere the end comes-but we have great reason to be encouraged. Oh! I do hope our rulers may see and realize that only in justice can peace come to us. When we unconditionally give freedom to every downtrodden son of Africa then I believe the starry banner of our country shall float over a land of peace-and home of the brave." In her next letter, dated July 14, Hattie mentioned the New York draft riots and again expressed her negative opinion of copperheads. "Drafting has commenced and it makes many long faces. In New York it is being resisted by a mob-several lives have been lost, buildings burned-the telegraph poles cut down-rail road torn up-Harlem river bridge burned. A regular copperhead demonstration. It is reported they are fighting there to-night. How dreadful it is, but I hope these traitors at home will be attended to in earnest." Five days later she wrote of an expected draft riot in Meriden, Connecticut. "There is every expectation of it and every night when I retire to rest I know not but before morning I shall be awakened by the cries of a mob in our streets. The loyal citizens have formed themselves into companies for the defense of our town-they drill every morning and evening and have minie' rifles."
In April 1863 Taylor was reduced from the rank of sergeant for an unknown reason and in August of that year appointed a clerk in division headquarters, which pleased Hattie. In an August 18 letter she wrote that she was pleased that "you have such a pleasant position-just such a one as you wanted isn't it? and you won't have to go into battle at all will you. Now you will be away from all those rough fellows in camp. I have been thankful every hour since-and hope you may have such a situation so long as you remain in the army."
Taylor did get home on furlough around Thanksgiving 1863. Weeks after his return, Hattie, who taught school children in Connecticut, contemplated going to Virginia to teach freed slaves. Writing to her husband on February 2, 1864, Hattie responded to his less than enthusiastic response. "I judge from the tone of what you write concerning me becoming a teacher of contrabands, it does not exactly meet with your approval. What first made me think of it was a remark of Aunt Cretias, that if she was not married she would go down and teach them. I do not suppose it would be very pleasant but it would be doing good and I don't think I am doing much good here....Thus end my thoughts of being a 'contraband' teacher or rather a teacher of contrabands."
In mid-April 1864 Taylor, who had been working as a clerk for Division Headquarters in Newbern, North Carolina, was ordered to rejoin his regiment in Plymouth, North Carolina. Fortunately for him, he was still on his way there 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. Hattie's letter of April 27 expressed relief that her husband had escaped capture. "Yesterday I could scarcely bear the agony of suspense in my heart. I could not write as usual last evening for the regiment and Plymouth were in the hands of the rebels....What should I do if you were in the hands of the rebels. How could I bear it. To think you were so near and yet escaped....When will this cruel war be over, oh, when. I think the rebels are too wicked either to live or die-they act as if possessed of evil spirits."
By the summer of 1864, with General Ulysses Grant's army bogged down in Virginia and suffering heavy casualties, President Lincoln was re-nominated for a second term. On June 12, Hattie wrote her husband concerning Lincoln's precarious political situation. "I suppose you have before this, read Mr. Lincoln's re-nomination for the presidency and expect to vote for him. I wonder if he will be elected. Oh! I hope this war may be ended soon-almost four years and the end not yet." Despite the growing number of casualties resulting from Grant's movement against General Lee's army, Hattie was confident in Grant's abilities, as she stated in a June 21 letter. "I think Grant is the man for whom we have so long been looking to lead the Army of the Potomac, and he will eventually take Richmond but what a sacrifice of life." Nevertheless, she still held General Benjamin Butler in high regard, especially after reading James Parton's 1864 book, General Butler in New Orleans. In an August 2 letter she wrote that she was "reading Parton's 'Life of Butler' - it is very interesting. I had no idea he had done so much-he stands high here than ever in my estimation. Would that we had more like him."
By the end of the summer of 1864, Hattie, despite her abolitionist leanings and her negative attitude towards copperheads, had turned against President Lincoln, no doubt due to the stalemate in the war and the mounting casualties. In an August 16 letter to her husband, she begged him not to vote for Lincoln's re-election. "I am going to ask you not to do something-perhaps you won't like to have me speak of it. But please do not vote for A. Lincoln for our next president. I beg you will not do it darling. He is not the man we need. I know you differ from me regarding it....I cannot bear to have you vote for him." Not that she would vote for the Democratic nominee, former General George McClellan. Writing to her husband on August 30, Hattie revealed her choice for president. "I see it as no use trying to influence you in politics but I shall feel very badly if A. Lincoln is our next president. General Butler would be my choice. Oh! I wish I could vote."
By early 1865 Hattie looked forward to the end of the war and the return of her husband. As she indicated in a February 4 letter, she was not favor ending the war with an unjust peace, though she did welcome the passage of the 13th Amendment by the U.S. House of Representatives on January 31. "What do you think of the present 'peace movement"? I do not like the way things are being managed-much as I desire peace, let it come on a right basis-in justice or not at all, and let the traitors suffer the penalty of their crime. But it is glory enough for one week that the amendment of the Constitution is passed and slavery is abolished from our land. Thank God for that." In a February 21 letter Hattie cheered the retaking of Fort Sumter by Union forces and expressed hopes for severe retribution to Confederates. "The flags are all flying here to-day because our glorious banner again waves over Fort Sumter....I wish Gen. Sherman would not leave one stone upon another in the city of Charleston-but let it be forever waste-an example to all traitors and traitorous cities." When the Confederate capital Richmond fell on April 3, 1865, Hattie joined other Northerners in celebration. She wrote to her husband on April 4 of her happiness that "the rebel capital is taken....So long looking for this and now it has come. I can scarcely realize it....I saw in last night's paper that 'staid New York merchants hugged each other' and every one was almost wild with joy." A week later she celebrated General Lee's surrender to General Grant at Appomattox. "Only think of it! Richmond ours and Lee with his army surrendered!-such rejoicing was never seen before I'm sure. I was so glad I almost cried for joy-we hung out our flag...we could hear bells and gongs all around."
The celebrations in the North were, of course, silenced by the assassination of Lincoln. In an April 18, 1865 letter to her husband, Hattie expressed her emotions of sadness mixed with anger. "It seems so sad to think Mr. Lincoln is dead. There is mourning everywhere-any 'copper' that dares express joy is silenced. Traitors have added the last drop to their cup of iniquity and it is running over. I hope they will receive no mercy....It seems sad to see black crape fluttering from the door knobs all along the street. They rode a man on a rail in Chipping hill for saying he ought to have been shot four years ago." In an April 30 letter Hattie informed her husband that she sought retribution. "I hope all implicated may be brought to justice. Gens. Lee, Johnson, Breckinridge, Jeff Davis and all those leaders ought to be hanged!! They have slain their ten thousands and deluged our land in blood. Justice demands it...there is no mercy pleading for them in my heart-but justice, stern justice to traitors-and copper's too-demands a fit punishment for this treason." She was optimistic about President Andrew Johnson, especially in handling the Southern traitors. On May 9 she wrote that "I have a great deal of confidence in President Johnson. He has a good deal of the Andrew Jackson spirit that I like to see, when rebels and traitors are concerned. Decision and justice-I hope justice will be measured out to them to the brim."
The archive also includes a letter from Hattie Taylor to Captain Newton Manross; a letter from Louise Taylor to Hattie Taylor; 5 letters from Louise Taylor to her brother Charles L. Taylor; 3 letters from Mrs. Samuel Taylor to her son Charles L. Taylor; one letter from Uncle Orrin to Charles L. Taylor; 2 letters from unnamed correspondents; and 1 carte de visite, 2.5" x 4", , by William A. Terry, Bristol, Connecticut, of Mrs. Samuel Taylor, Louise Taylor, and Hattie Taylor.
This is an extraordinary archive of letters that provide a glimpse of the life of a spouse of a Union soldier and the home front during time of war.
Condition: The letters in the archive have the usual folds but most are in mint to near mint condition.
Charles Lyman Taylor (1837-1909), a school teacher from Bristol, Connecticut, served as a sergeant and then as a clerk in Company K, 16th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. He joined the 16th Regiment and was mustered in on August 24, 1862 in Hartford, Connecticut, and was mustered out on June 24, 1865 in Newbern, North Carolina. On August 26, two days after he was mustered in, Taylor married Harriet Tuttle (1840-1899).
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.
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