Four letters from a private in Webster's BrigadeCivil War Union Soldier's Group of Four Letters Written by Private William Hazen Noyes, Co. E, 12th Mass. Vols. Daniel Webster's son was their first colonel. Four letters, totaling 16 pages, 5" x 8". All four letters have good content as follows:
In a four page letter to his mother written over the course of two days on October 29 and 30, 1861, Noyes gives a detailed account of the Battle of Ball's Bluff and includes a crudely drawn map: "Camp near Darnestown, ...recd...a journal from Henry Johnson with the report of the battle at Balls Bluff. It is very near correct but from all accounts...the loss on our side is stated smaller than what it is. Almost all the officers in the 15th & 20th Regts were killed or wounded...it was poor generalship from some one. Gen. Stone...all he had to carry reinforcements was 3 small boats & 1 larger ferry boat. They had to cross onto an Island & then to the other side. Then they had to march up a hill almost perpendicular & they had to fight or fall or run down that hill into the river or stand there & be cut up...the troops fought bravely. The officers were picked off from Rebel sharpshooters in the trees. Here is a sort of explanation of how it was [Noyes draws his map here.] After they saw that they were over matched & saw that they could not make a stand they run down the hill & rushed intuit he boats & sunk the large one...a great number were drowned. The 19 Mass. was on the Island to reinforce the others, but were not needed. Gen. Evans (Rebel) told Col. Hinks that if [he did not] leave the Island that they would shell them. Hinks commenced digging entrenchment's & planted two pieces then they told him if he did leave they would shell him. That night they left, but no shells & no one hurt. The Rebels captured two pieces & turned them on our troops...[and captured] the colors of the Tammany Regt. 42nd N. Y. V.). The papers say Banks has got possession of Leesburg, it is no such thing nor has he been only across the river...we are sent back near where we were before the fight..." Second sheet has a scalloped edge affecting a few letters, with a strip of paper loss at lower corner affecting Noyes last name. Original stamped transmittal cover is included.
In a letter dated November 26, 1861, Noyes writes home about the arrival of a father on Thanksgiving Day to take his son's body home. In part: "Camp near Darnestown ... ...we went to our old camp ground at Muddy Branch...we also visited...the burying ground of the 12th Regt. Mass. Vols. The only ones that have died since we have left home. One was killed & 2 died in the hospital. A piece of board had neatly inscribed the following '12th Mass. Vols., Webster Regiment here lies the bodies of Private [Isaac] Peck [accidently killed 9/23/61] of Co. I of Stoughton, Mass. Private [Oliver] Younger, Co. K, Gloucester, Mass. Private Edward Mc Mahon, Co. E, Randolph, Mass.' The bodies of Younger & Mc Mahon are taken up & sent home. Mc Mahon's father arrived here Thanksgiving day to take his son's body home which he done...there was heavy firing this noon in the direction of Edward's Ferry & it is reported that there has been fighting there & that batteries are being sent there..." Usual mail folds, with a few light ink stains and toning on first page.
Writing on Jan. 5 and 6, 1862, Noyes relates the debate amongst his fellow soldiers regarding release of James Mason & John Slidell: "Camp Hicks, Frederick, [Maryland] ...most of the men in camp that know anything of National affairs regard the delivering up of Mason & Slidell with satisfaction. There is some that do not know any thing...think that they ought to have kept them at all Hazards. I am satisfied...they have begun a stable for the horse...it is reported by some that we were to take the cars for some point as Mc Call was near Leesburg, Rosencrans near Winchester & Banks on this side...a few days ago Gen. Banks reviewed us on dress parade, the first time that any great military officer has done so. Gen. Rosencrans was in Frederick a few days ago"
The last letter in this group is written from "Cantonment Hicks" [Frederick, Maryland] and is dated Feb. 16, 1862. In part: "...the boys are all encouraged at the successes of the Federal arms. The success of Gen. Burnside's Expedition, the capture of Fort Henry, the battle of Mill Spring or Somerset, the taking of 3000 prisoners...at Roanoke Island...I here enclose a heart made out of a man's arm before we went to Muddy branch the 34th New York were stationed there & some of their men were attacked...& two men...were killed. One was shot through the head by a rebel officer with a revolver. He was found & another body with his head cut off & hung on the bushes. Some of Co. E went across the river & saw this & they cut the head off of the other man & found the ball in his head they also took one of his arms & brought it across the river. The bones in the arm were made into rings, hearts, crosses...if he [the man carving the rings] had (ten times as much bone) he could have sold it...I got this. The scull Lieut. [Charles G.] Russell [KIA Gettysburg, July 1, 1863] took & said he was going to send it to New York...if I am not mistaken there were other bodies buried there, but these two lay out & were all rotten. Captain Saltmarsh has been to Washington...they told him there that the war had just begun...he is going to leave the Regt & get an appointment in the Navy. [Saltmarsh received an appointment as lieutenant in the US Marine Corps in June 1862 and served in the Corps until 1871] ...there has been quite a commotion in the Regt on a request to have 30 men detailed to go on gunboats somewhere [they would become the Brown Water Navy of the Mississippi]..." Very clean, with flattened folds.
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