DescriptionUnion Soldiers Letter Group (12) by Private Coleman Tilden of the 43rd Massachusetts Volunteers. Twelve letters, totaling more than 70 pages, generally written on bifolia measuring 5" x 8"; written during the months of November 1862 through June 1863, all but one is written from New Bern, North Carolina. Coleman Tilden, Jr. enlisted on September 6, 1862 as a private in Company H, 43rd Mass. Volunteers, and was mustered out on July 30, 1863. All of his letters are addressed to his parents and are long narratives blending his longing for home with anecdotes of his daily life, including some battle content. What follows are excerpts from a few of his letters.
Writing from New Bern, North Carolina in a letter (8 pages) dated December 28, 1862:
"...you want to know who is in the tent with me...taking them as they live in the tent. First come Tufts, then McKenzie, Harlow, Rackliff, Wylie, Corporals Adams and Coburn, Carruth brother of Sumner [who was then lieutenant colonel of the 35th Mass. and future brevet brig. gen.] and the one that I sleep with I call him my wife then Tilden, Morrill, Richardson...Judkins, the tall man, who made our seventeenth man has not been seen since...the day we started for Newbern. He is among the missing whether killed or taken prisoner or skedaddled no one knows... we were in the most dangerous position...we were alone right in the midst of the enemy...they could have come upon us in force and taken us all or killed us all if they had known our force. The companies out as skirmishers say...if we had staid there till morning we should have been attacked...we were in a small open field...with woods...we were miles away from any help...I felt as though I had as best be somewhere else, but I did not say anything and I guess I should have done my duty. It was a pretty hard sight to see the men fall out on the march...was awful hot, almost suffocating...I did not in all the march fall behind...once in a while I would go ahead...our company was without a commissioned officer for two days. They were not able to keep up...Orderly Sergeant Edmunds had command of the company...next time we shall know better what to do...I kept in good spirits...when the other boys were grumbling and growling ... I went to church this morning and heard an excellent discourse by our chaplain [Jacob M. Manning]... he is not afraid to talk to the officers. He tells them their duty as well as the men. He was hard on them today on account of some of them using profane language on the march...that march...took the starch out of the officers...most of them have got darkies for servants and so had nothing to carry... tell Si that though our battles were not on quite as large a scale as the ones he was in. I have seen a little of what it is. The rebels are hard looking specimens of humanity, but they will fight. They have no uniforms and are armed with everything from a flintlock shot gun to a Springfield rifle...tell Sammie I was going to send a little nigger boy home to him for a Christmas present, but he was afraid he should freeze so I think I will wait till summer...P. Clapp is color sergeant and John Prouty is one of the color corporals..by your own affectionate babe, of only 172 1/2 lbs, Coleman..." The original transmittal cover is present.
Another letter (7 pages) dated March 3, 1863 reads, in small part: "...our chaplain [Jacob M. Manning] furnished us quite a joke the other day. He took a gun and went out shooting right in front of our camp and about one hundred and fifty yards off...we was out on dress parade when we heard the report of a gun and a bullet whizzed right over our heads. The colonel immediately ordered a file of men with a corporal to go and arrest the man. When they got to where the man was who was it but our chaplain...they obeyed orders put him under arrest...and carried him to the colonel. He fired at a duck in the creek and the ball skipped on the water and came over our heads so that is not his fault. It was lucky none of us were hit...you ought to have seen him come in... yesterday we had orders that not a single man should leave camp as an attack on New Bern was expected...there is a placed called Little Washington about thirty miles from here...it is possession of our folks...the rebs made an advance on the place, reinforcement were sent for and Gen. Foster started with them...they have been surrounded and...there has been a strong north wind...it has blown the water out of the river...the gunboats cannot get to their assistance. A large number of troops have been sent up there...we have heard heavy firing for two days since...which we suppose are the gun boats shelling the woods. Last night the gunboat Hunchback, that carries a hundred pounder was sent up there...Gen. [Thomas J. C.] Amory [colonel 17th Mass.] himself brought the orders...he is the only general in Newbern now all the rest are at Little Washington...he is to act as major general...he has put Col. [Charles L.] Holbrook in command of this brigade...Col. Holbrook has been busy ever since we got the orders posting himself up all the places round here...they say the place cannot be taken. Scouting parties...report no rebels round, but our generals are wide awake...our folks at Little Washington are victorious and driving the rebs in every direction...the 44th are up towards Little Washington now, so..." The original stamped transmittal cover is present.
A third letter describes an expedition to Rocky Run during the anniversary of the1862 battle of New Bern on March 14-16, 1863. In part: "...marched eight miles to relieve the 25th on picket...I will go back...and...tell you about the attack. There were four Co's of the 25th doing picket duty on the road to Kinston. The outer picket was at a place called Deep Gully...ten miles from New Bern. Our folks had thrown up...breastworks there behind which they could stand and fire...they had also mounted a Quaker gun...the rebs came down Friday afternoon with artillery and cavalry...the commenced with...artillery on our pickets. Those four Co's kept them off for four hours. At last the rebs made a charge to take our quaker. They let up a great yell and charged in...our pickets then retreated two miles to another gully called...Little Gully...at this place the rest of the 25th with two twelve pounders and some cavalry came up and they made a stand. It was a splendid place for a fight, but the rebs wouldn't come any farther...in the morning...we with the other regiments were sent up there, but at that time the rebels made an attack on the other side of the Neuse river on the camp of the 92nd New York. It was feared that the rebels were going to attack Newbern so we were sent back and the 25th had orders to hold out as long as they could and then retreat to the city...the enemy might drive them in but could not get into the city...the 25th staid there all day without any trouble. The enemy trying to coax them up to Deep Gully...at dark we relieved the 25th...the 25th had had whiskey rations given out to them and if they wasn't happy then I never saw anyone that was. Some were too far gone...to be happy, they have taken too much...our company has the advantage...by being color company. When pickets are sent out...the color Co. is the last...and it is also the last Co. sent as skirmishers...about eleven o'clock that night the 46th came to reinforce us...the scouts brought in word that the rebels were falling back...we marched five miles more to a deep gully...our artillery was brought up and placed on each side of the road and the 43rd were drawn up in line of battle on one side of the road and the 46th on the other...in the position...we could have kept ten thousand men off...the cavalry with one of our Co's were sent down the road...to get the rebs to attack us, but they retreated out of sight...expeditions have been sent all round, seven regiments going...to Pollocksville...they were seven drafted regiments. I don't believe much confidence is placed in them...the 43rd, 45th and 51st were sent up there ...now the 43rd and 46th were sent after the rebels this time...our regiment was complimented very highly by Gen. Amory...it was a sort of reconnoissance in force by the rebels to see what we were doing...when the 'Tigers' advanced the rebs left...Coleman." The original stamped transmittal cover is included.
Condition: Generally very clean with flattened folds and even toning. Most of the letters include their original transmittal envelope.
Other letters in the group include:
A letter with telling about an officer losing his right foot after "carelessly holding his pistol." 4 pages, "on board Steamer Merrimac, Nov. 14, 2 o'clock morning ." In part: ".the ship rolls a great deal.we have had a long passage owing to being obliged to keep our convoy in sight.we passed the light house on Cape Hatteras last evening.it is awful warm soldiers.sleep right on deck.we saw a very large steamer in the distance supposed to be the U. S. Steamer Vanderbilt formerly of the New York line.we were stowed away on board here. It was awful while we lay in that storm.we were just like hogs.it is better they having taken out about three hundred of the Forty Sixth.our quarter master shot himself through the foot [1st Lt. Henry A. Turner, right foot amputated on Nov. 15, 1862] by carelessly holding his pistol.and will probably be obliged to go back to Boston. The boys did not have much pity for him. Mr. Howard did not tell me you tried to come to see me.I want to get ashore. it is not my element on the water. I could not be a sailor for anything. This is the ninth night we have been aboard this vessel.about five too many. I stay on deck most of the time.your affectionate son, Coleman Tilden, Jr." The original stamped transmittal cover is included.
A letter with content about training and good commentary regarding future commanders. 8 pages. New Bern, N. C., Nov. 23, 1862. In part: ".we went on guard.with loaded muskets.friday morning the guard fired at a target.the three best shot to be excused from guard the next time.mine did not go off and I had to draw the charge.it being so damp it having rained all the time we was on guard.stood two long hours while we were inspected by Brig. Gen. Avery and staff. We stood at shoulder arms one half the time.last night there was two guns discharged and the long roll sounded.across the river.they say there is rebels within eight miles of us.the remarks of our chaplain today was on our duty, to God, our country and our families.we were given twenty rounds of cartridges.most eve man in camp has had a vomiting spell, but no one knows the cause of it.I was taken, it came on in about, but I didn't vomit. Everything was well in half an hour.we have been brigade with the 17th, 23rd, 45th regiments under Colonel Amory [future bvt. brig. gen. Thomas J. C. Amory] of the 17th acting Brig. Gen.I do not care about having you say anything about what I tell you of our officers, but our colonel is nothing but a stick, a regular slow coach. He has got his wife in Newbern.we have scarcely seen him since we came.and has no life or energy.I saw Lieut. Col. [John F.] Fellows [17th Mass. Vols., POW Batchelder's Creek, NC, 2/1/64] and Colonel [John] Kurtz [23rd Mass.].on brigade drill. Colonel Fellows looks much grayer than he did at home.this afternoon on drill we were the poorest drilled regiment on the field. The forty fifth. we looked like old veterans.by the time we go home instead of being called the Tiger regiment will be called the fizzle regiment. It has been a fizzled so far.I have visited Newbern for the first time.your affectionate son, Colman."
A letter about his tent mate, General Sumner Carruth's brother, whom he calls "his wife." 5 pages, on patriotic stationery; New Bern, Jan. 16, 1863. In part: ".in my tent we have got a good set of men and we get along well together always in good humor.no quarreling or disputing. Sumner Carruth's [who was then lieutenant colonel of the 35th Mass. and future brevet brig. gen.] brother sleeps side of me. We put our blankets together and sleep under them. I call him my wife. I like him much. He is not like Sumner, but is just as good a fellow. He belongs in Andover. We have but very little swearing in our tent there being but one or two who use such language.Mr. Roger reads a chapter in the bible almost every night. He is a man that everyone in the company respects.we have not such a large company for duty as we had when we started from Readville a good many being detailed for other duty.Mr. Fisher as armorer, Lovejoy as his assistant.Scott for assistant hospital steward.private Leech for Ambulance Corps.it seems as though if they want a man for anything they always came to Co. H.on a march some of them have to go with the company and fight with the rest of us. On this expedition we shall be under command of Lieut. Colesworth as capt.tell Sammie we are almost ready to send for him.and drum.he can drum better than the boys that are here. We have the poorest drum corps in the whole army.Coleman." The original stamped transmittal cover is included.
A letter bemoaning the lack of respect received by the 43rd Mass. Four and a quarter pages; New Bern, [N. C.], Mar. 25, 1863. In part: ".the boys are beginning to be a little mad because nothing is ever said about the 43rd. The papers seem to be full of letters about the 44th and 45th, but never a word about the 43rd.we have no letter writers in the regiment to lie about it. We are just as good a regiment.as they are and have done just as much and in fact more.yet folks at home would not know there was any 43rd.at first it was very laughable to read their big stories, but now it is getting "played out". They try too hard to get glory at the expense of other regiments.Coleman."
A letter describing his regiments role in supporting a battery during an artillery duel. Two pages, New Bern, [N. C.]; Apr. 10, 1863. In part: "We had just got home from our expedition having been gone three days instead of ten.it was a short march, but a very hard one. The hardest we have seen.about nine miles from here we had a heavy artillery skirmish and the 17th and the 43rd were sent into the woods to support the battery. We were under a heavy fire for over an hour when we left. The shells burst around us very think, but we.[had] no one hurt. The 17th had about six wounded.I have not had [but] twelve hours sleep since I left Newbern.it has been a rather singular expedition.Coleman." The original stamped transmittal cover is included.
A letter describing the capture of Hill's Point by joint Union Naval-Army Forces. Four pages, "Hills Point, [Virginia], on Picket in woods one mile from camp, Apr. 22, 1863." Content concerning the opening of the rebel blockade of the Nansemond river above Suffolk, Virginia by a fleet of Union gunboats under the command of R. T. Renshaw at Battery Rodman and Hill's Point, on April 16, 1863: ".I told you that the gunboats had been shelling the batteries.the rebs skedaddled and the next morning the transport Eagle.brought three companies of the 44th down here.towed them up to the battery and we landed and have been here ever since. It was a tremendous strong fort and was filled with bombproof so that while our gunboats were shelling the battery the men could get under cover.it was impossible for the gunboats to shell them out.Gen. Foster went down from Washington to Newbern to head an expedition himself and not trust to Spinola again. He started an expedition and it arrived here Sunday but the rebs had flown.the three companies of the 44th left here.our three companies are left here alone. The rest of our regiment is at Little Washington.our folks intend to hold this place now and a gang of darkies are at work here throwing up breastworks. We have got two guns mounted and will have more as soon as the darkies get more done. The gunboats lay right out in the river.and with their help two two hundred men could keep any quantity of rebels off.some of our regiments run the blockade. After it was thought that the enemy had left volunteers were called for to land in a boat to reconnoiter. Five of them volunteered and started. Just as they were ready to land a party of rebels fired at them and killed the chief engineer [Acting 3rd Asst. Engineer Thomas Mallahan] of one of the gunboats [USS Ceras] and wounded mortally, I believe, one of our man [Francis M. Tripp] a private in Co. E. [He survived his wounds.] It has been awful hot ever since we landed.our troops had no fighting at Blount's Creek this.time, but they had a chance to see the works there. It was a strong place and would have been hard to take.but could have been easily flanked.Gen. Foster would not have given up the fight if he had been there.that expedition to Charleston did not amount to much.the 23rd Mass. was among them. It is a noble set of men.the best regiment there is in Newbern.the rebels in North Carolina got desperate and thought that they might as well do something so tried & take Washington but it was a failure.they are a long ways off now.they also went around the country pressing men into the service. They got a great number from round here.every single regiment around here are down on the 44th on account of the way they talk and act. They do not take a very good way to make friends. " The original stamped transmittal cover is included.
A letter about the high regard his colonel is held in, another loss suffered, and the draft. Seven pages, New Bern, [N. C.], May 11, 1863. ".our colonel favors us in every way he can. I never saw the beat of it. When we came out here every man was down on him. They thought he was just nobody at all. Now there is not a man in the regiment, but what fairly love him. every man places perfect confidence in him. They would all go wherever he would lead them. Col. Codman of the 45th wants to go into a fight and his men say he would sacrifice every one of them to get his name up. Our colonel is no such man. He wants to take as many men home as he can.a new order was read from Gen. Foster.the order read that as a great many of the men wanted to go to church Sunday and.some order must be observed. It was ordered that every Sunday.the regiment should be drawn up in line and those who wanted to go to church to give in their names and the church they wanted to attend and then be put into squads under the charge of a non-commissioned officer who was to see that they went to church and came back safe.this morning we had to dress up, dress coats, sloes blacked and go out on the parade ground.but no Gen. Foster must have us go through a great parade.[Wednesday morning on picket].I am on picket about a mile and half from camp.on the other side of the Trent river.it takes about thirty five men from the regiment every day.the post I am on.is an inner post right at the junction of two roads.we have.to examine passes and stop all persons whose pass is not properly signed.there are two men and a corporal besides myself on this post.there is a report.that the Army of the Potomac have had another great battle and again been defeated. I hope it is not so. They seem to meet with very poor success there. I suppose, if Hooker has been defeated that they will try to get another new general. That seems to be the way in Virginia, a new general after every battle.that Virginia army must be about killed off.when are they going to begin the draft.they would need the men now.all those nine months men going out of service will make a big hole.there is eight nine months regiments from Mass. here whose time expires in a very short time. They have either got to draft the men pretty quick or else they have got to take them away from other places to send here.Coleman." With the original stamped transmittal cover.
A letter about unorthodox drill maneuvers, visiting the Merrimac and his opinions about his officers. Six pages, New Bern, [N. C.], May 17, 1863. ".yesterday our brigade was reviewed by our division commander General Palmer. We made quite a fine sight.for the first time we took our fight position in line, the right of the brigade. There has been a great deal of dispute about it between our colonel [Holbrook] and the colonel [Codman] of the 45th, but it has been decided in our favor.we are the first regiment in the first brigade of the first division, department N. C.on an expedition our regiment will be in the advance.it is.[a] more dangerous place than any other.those in advance [don't] always have to do the most fighting. Every morning we have a battalion drill.according to Hanover's tactics. It is awfully silly. Capt. Hanover.drills us as though he was a battalion and.has tactics which no one in the world ever heard of.I should like to talk just as I feel about the officers of the 43rd, but I have made it a rule not to.while I am in the service.if I ever get home, I can say what I please. As long as you talk in praise of them it is all right, but if you say any thing against.them and they find out they can come down on you as hard as they please.I am here in a new place.to do guard duty at Gen. Amory's headquarters . I applied to the captain for a chance to go and here I am.each man goes on.[duty] at the front door of the general's house.we do not have to take our gun, but dress up in our best with boots blacked and our belts with bayonets.the captain picked the men. They said that they ought to be detailed as their names come on the rolls.but the captain sent who he pleased. You told me.that you visited the Merrimac.our company were in.the hold under the main cabin some twenty feet below deck.imagine half of the men sea sick and vomiting, an awful storm raging and everything so dark and gloomy and new to us and you can imagine a little how we got along.Coleman." The original stamped transmittal cover is included.
A letter about the court-martial of an officer for cowardice. Seven pages, New Bern, [N. C.], June 7, 1863. ".the 44th.always talk a great deal about their Tarboro march.they will keep still now. One of their officers was court martialed for cowardice on that occasion and an order was read.from Gen. Foster which did not speak very well of the 44th for its action that time.there has been a new cavalry regiment arrive here, the 12th New York.they are going to get a large force of cavalry here and are also fortifying the place strongly so that it can be held by a small body of infantry.they can [the cavalry] go scouting round doing a great deal of damage and bothering the enemy.which the infantry cannot do.the 43d regiment is called the Tiger regiment.it is the nature of tigers to growl so this one is going to growl a little.every one here worked their hardest against us even Gen. Amory done all he could to prevent us from going first.our field officers are the ones to blame for all this trouble. If it had not been for them the regiment would have been filled a great while before it was.there is one person in Massachusetts by the name of Andrews that will never be governor of the state again if the nine month soldiers can help it. He and that drunken general of his are the cause of our time being reckoned so.it will not be a cheerful set.when the 43d gets home.Coleman." The original stamped transmittal cover is included.
A letter about being weary of being cheated by his officers. Seven and a half pages, New Bern, [N. C.], June 16, 1863. ".there is a great change of opinion about our officers all through the regiment. Some who were liked best are now disliked the most and some have changed the other way. Most of the company officers are doing their best to get the regiment home, but the field officers do not seem to trouble themselves.Capt. Soule of Co. F made out a list of questions.and sent them to [General] Amory.the questions proved too much for him to answer so he did not reply to them, but instead sent a printed circular to the regiment saying that to prevent ill feelings on the part of the men that on a requisition being sent in by the captains.on behalf of the men.the Co's would be furnished with transportation in season that each Co. could get home to be sworn out in nine months from being mustered in..well the requisitions were made out but out colonel would not sign them. If the boys aint mad then there's no such thing as getting them mad. The next day the colonel made us a speech and said he wanted us to go home as a regiment.I cannot begin to tell you the feeling of the men on the subject they feel awfully about.we have got twenty five men detailed.to work on fortifications.Coleman." The original stamped transmittal cover is included.
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