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    Description

    Walter H. Richards [KIA Drewry's Bluff] Archive. Binder of letters and diaries related to Corporal Walter H. Richards who enlisted on September 19, 1861. He was assigned to Company A, 25th Regt. Massachusetts Infantry, re-enlisted in 1864 and was killed at the Battle of Drewry's Bluff on May 16th of that year. The regiment took heavy casualties in the last years of the war with 154 enlisted men killed and 169 enlisted men succumbing to disease. Richards occupation was a clerk and, by his own admission, he lied about his age (15) when enlisting.


    The first diary is unbound, neatly written on small and large format bifolium stationery, covering the entire year of 1862 and is 58 pages in length. The diary for the year 1863 is written similarly and contains 76 pages (single and double sheets in both sizes). The 1864 diary is written in pencil in a small (2 3/4" x 5") memorandum book of the period. The last entry is dated April 24th when the writer ran out of room. Whether he continued it in another book is unknown. The writing in the 1864 journal tends to be very light and a good deal is not legible. Many of the entries deal with an extended furlough visit to his hometown of Worcester, Massachusetts.

    There are 52 letters written by Richards to his mother & sister, dated November 5, 1861 to April 17, 1864, along with twenty-three transmittal envelopes with stamps removed. There are also nine war-date letters from Richards' mother to her daughter and a love-letter to the daughter from an admirer. The locales of the letters include: Annapolis, Newbern, Pamlico Sound, Roanoke Island, Plymouth, Newport News, Portsmouth and Camp Wellington/Gettysville. The vast majority of the letters were written from Newbern.

    Some excerpts from the diaries:
    " [September 8, 1861] ... the order to charge was given... the Rebel left there fort and started for there barracks eight miles from the Battery. we followed them up and they surrendered. we took 500 prisoners captured there fort... [February 12th]... met the coward Robinson some of the boys hissed him. [February 14th]... Pat Cronin a member of Co. E was drummed through the streets of Newbern and then drummed out of the service for being a coward at the battle of Newbern. his head was shaven and buttons torn off. [November 21st]... An expedition went up the river last night and captured 20 prisoners Rebel Cavalry. our men came upon them before they were up and the Rebs thought a large force had surrounded them as they surrendered without any show of resistance. [December 17th]... two regiments of Rebels came charging through the woods expecting to capture two batteries which were stationed on the field but we double shoted the cannon with grape & canister which drove them into the woods again. [February 14th 1863]... Played a Match game of Base Ball against the 46th Mass Regt. Game commenced at 12.45 ended at 3.30. Fourteen on a side. 25th Regt 50 tallies. 46th Regt Tallies 1. Had a very pleasant game. [March 13th]... the Rebs opened upon [us] and fired some fifteen shot than the rebels came on with a charge. they thought we had a Battery. we had a small brestwork thrown up and a Quaker Gun... we then retreated about a quarter of a mile where we turned into the woods. [August 1st]... Corp. Clark of Co. E was shot by a sentinel of the 27th Mass. He was down town and being under the influence of liquor was arrested and escaped but was shot before he reached camp, died in about ten minutes. [April 19, 1864]... Re-enlisted for three years. Great excitement among the boys about enlisting. 51 enlisted. Boys getting ready to go to Yorktown." Richards participated in numerous skirmishes during this period, although none of the engagements were of long duration. He was arrested on more than one occasion and court-martialed for various minor infractions, having to do hard labor at Fort Totten. He seemed to be adept at foraging and managed to obtain ample food beyond standard army fare of coffee, hard tack, "Salt Horse" and "Salt Junk". When not performing guard or picket duty, or participating in dress parade, he wiled away the time playing cribbage and euchre. He also played in numerous inter-regimental baseball games while stationed in Newbern.

    Inasmuch as the letters cover the same period as the diaries, we will only comment on a few examples, as the subject matter repeats itself. The on-line catalog will picture two of these, the most significant of which is a 10-page letter written on February 15, 1862 describing the amphibious assault on Roanoke Island. "This morning the gunboats commenced bombarding the Fort. we soon came so near we could see the bombshell as they burst in air. the fort was set on fire three different times... There was twenty eight small row boats hitched on behind us as soon as we stopped the row boats put for the shore...The row boats did not all touch the shore so we were obliged to jump into the water so that our feet were soping wet... Out of our Regt there was five killed on the field and two died since and forty two wounded.... [the rebels] were carried off as soon as they were killed. it was an awful sight to see them carry off the wounded and hear them groan... when we were fighting some of us were standing in a swamp up to our knees in mud and water... We took 3000 prisoners. there is only one company in the whole lot that has got uniforms that is company from the first families of Virginia... they are called the Richmond Light Infantry Blues. they are smart intelligent looking fellows. the rest are dirty and half of them cannot write there own name. The roughest looking set are the Ben McCullock Rangers from Louisiana. they are tigers at fighting.... [July 20, 1862] ... I see that Worcester has voted to give all the recruits that enlist $100.00 extra. I think that is a big vote. why dont they give us that enlisted that. [October 19th] ... Some of the boys went down town to a large Negro meeting. I had been once which satisfied me... of all the yelling at a camp meeting the negro can beat them."


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    December, 2015
    12th Saturday
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