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    Union Soldier Lewis Foster Archive of over forty letters spanning the period 1862 through 1868, the bulk of which date between 1863 and 1864. Lewis Foster was a youth of sixteen when he enlisted in the Union army and mustered in as a private in Company "C," 138th Regiment New York Infantry at Conquest, New York, on September 8, 1862. Lewis apparently lied about his age when enlisting as is indicated in a letter from one of his aunts to her sister four days after his enlistment. When speaking to one of his officers, "He asked how old he was, and I told him you said he was 16, and he said if that was the case you had better keep still, unless you wanted to get him into worse trouble...Lewis told him he was an orphan, and that he swore he was 18 years old, and that false swearing would put him into state prison." The regiment was taken directly to the nation's capital at Washington to serve garrison duty for its defense. On December 9, however, the regiment was converted to artillery and on December 19 was reorganized as the 9th New York Heavy Artillery. Over the course of the next year, the 9th would remain in defense of Washington. The majority of the early letters discuss things such as camp life, local news, etc.

    In May 1863, the regiment was moved to the site of Fort Foote, on the east bank of the Potomac River, which was in the process of being constructed as extra defense for the capital. The regiment remained until May 1864 where it joined the Army of the Potomac on Grant's Overland Campaign. Now on the move and nearer the front, Foster begins to see "...lots of wounded soldiers...," but recent reports indicate that "...Grant is whipping Lee all to pieces...it is reported that Lee is wounded." Like all young soldiers, he expresses hopes the 9th will get to fighting soon and within ten days, he gets his wish. The regiment sees action at North Anna, Bethesda Church, and at Cold Harbor. With a lull in the fighting (at Cold Harbor) after nearly two weeks, he writes that"...there is no fighting today [June 12, 1864]...Col G was not in the fight at all there was three or four of out Cos that laid back to support a Battery." By July 22, he is recovering from an illness at a hospital in Philadelphia.

    By November, Foster was back in the field with a promotion to corporal and conflicting reports about the next destination for the regiment: "Nov. 22d, 1864...We have all kinds of Reports in Camp Somedays our Whole Corps is going to Petersburg Some days our division is going to Gard [sic] the new Railroad between Winchester and Harpers Ferry." The regiment was moved days later to assist in the siege of Petersburg where "Our Regt has to furnish 200 men of the Fort every night and one hundred has to stay at the Breastworks all night...," but "...hasnt done any Picket Duty in some time." The 9th assisted in the assault on the city of Petersburg which resulted in its subsequent fall and was present one week later at the defeat and surrender of General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Court House. Corporal Foster returned to Washington, D. C. and mustered out of the army in July 1865.


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    April, 2013
    11th Thursday
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