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    Union Soldier Charles Chase Letter Archive consisting of over fifty letters spanning the years 1861 through 1864. Charles Chase was a twenty year old clerk working in Boston in 1861 when his older brother told him of his plan to enlist in the Union army; Charles vowed to follow suit. Having reneged on his decision, Charles, in a letter dated November 7, 1861, chides his brother for backing out and confesses that he is still contemplating enlistment: "It would be much more pleasant to go as an officer than as a private but I never would accept of a commission unless I was posted, better go into the ranks and fight ones way up. I havnt [sic] given up the idea of going yet...'All quiet' continues to be the report from the Potomac Army. wish they were ready to moove [sic] but McLellan [sic] knows his business..." On July 22, he enlisted in Co. "D," 23rd Massachusetts Infantry, on July 22, 1862, against the wishes of his parents. On August 3, he wrote to his sister: "I hope soon to be off for the war, if the surgeon passes me I go..."

    Four months later, Chase wrote again, this time having tasted combat at the Battles of Kinston and Whitehall: "Before receiving this you will have learned of the recent battles in N.C. I was in two of them, the bulletts [sic] flew thick and fast but I was spared. We fought three battles and had two smart skirmishes and drove the enemy every time. The battle of White Hall was one of the most severe ones ever fought in N.C., it was short but severe..." In January 1863, the 23rd Massachusetts was sent on an expedition to Charleston, South Carolina. In an undated letter (probably written while on expedition circa 1863) to one of his siblings, he comments on the upcoming fight: "The coming struggle before Charleston will be a hard one, the Rebels have Fts Sumpter [sic]& Moultrie and many earth and some iron batteries. We shall send some heavy shot against Ft. Sumpter, 15 inch balls...I think it will be something such a fight as we had at N. Orleans, the navy will do the work."

    Writing to his brother later that summer, on July 11, 1863, he has heard rumors of the Union victories at Vicksburg and Gettysburg: "Good war news today...Vicksburg is said to be our[s] with from 15 to 20 thousand prisoners...It is also reported that Lee has been defeated [at Gettysburg] with heavy loss but I await the official returns." Around the same time, he wrote a second undated letter (circa July 1863) where he comments on the presence of black troops: "You speak of our being down on the black soldiers. There has been a great prejudice against them but it is growing less every day, that they are not cowards...Our commanders are greatly to blame...In every Dept. hundreds of Negroes have been living on the Govt. and doing nothing while the soldiers have had much hard work...They saw the negroes loafing about ...and learned to despise the whole gang...we did not stop to consider that it was more the fault of commanders than of the negroes...I wish to see them treated like human beings but I don't like them as a class. Many of the women and some of the men are strong secesh, nothing pleases them more than to get hold of some good Reb news and then lingo it off to our soldiers..."

    The 23rd spent the winter of 1863-64 in Virginia and by May 11, 1864, he was near Petersburg: "For some days we have been engaged nearly every day...Our brigade has been in the advance and two of the Regts have lost quite heavily. Our Regt. has been in its place all of the time but has not encountered so heavy a fire as the others - our loss has been a few wounded...All quiet at the point up to this time...we are waiting the movements of Grant and Lee." Eleven days later, "Below Richmond," the enemy was "...in our front in full force..." The two armies were heading for one of the bloodiest battles in American history: the Battle of Cold Harbor. Unfortunately, Charles Chase fell at Cold Harbor less than two weeks later, June 3, 1864, during some of the heaviest fighting of the engagement.

    This is a fascinating archive packed with detail. A must have for the Civil War collector.


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    8th Saturday
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