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    Union Soldier Letter Archive of Cyrus H. Wesson, 51st Regiment, Massachusetts Infantry. Approximately 50 letters from Wesson to his wife and children, dating from November 27, 1862 to July 15, 1863. There are approximately 14 loose sheets or bifolia that are undated, but numbered in the top left corner. The majority of the letters are also numbered in the same fashion, and the overall style of the correspondence is similar to that of a long format journal. The letters report on daily activities in camp, including picket duty; movements of the regiment; and the days left in his enlistment. An interesting glimpse into the daily life of a Civil War soldier.

    After enlisting in Worcester, Massachusetts, Wesson and his regiment moved to Boston and then on to New Bern, North Carolina, where the 51st Massachusetts was attached to the 1st Brigade, 1st Division, Department of North Carolina. In June 1863, the regiment moved North to Fort Monroe, Virginia, Baltimore, Harper's Ferry.

    Wesson records very little fighting in his letters. However, on December 12, 1862, he recounts a close encounter with the enemy. Wesson's regiment participated in an expedition to Goldsboro and met resistance from Confederates in the area. Wesson writes that he did not know "how far we have footed it today...the advance have had some skirmishing. They have kild [sic] some two or three and we have one wounded but not badly."

    After the Goldsboro expedition, things quieted down in camp New Bern. There were rumors of Confederate activity. In a letter written over three days, January 25-27, 1863, Wesson writes about what he has heard: "I understand that there was a scurmis [sic] about five miles from here and that our troops took about sixty prisoners but how much truth there is in the story I cannot tell but the rebels have got something to do before they get Newburn. I do not know how many troops there is in and around Newburn but there will be a fight if they undertake that."

    In his letters home, Wesson often states that "I do not find much to write about" and thus concentrates on his daily activities, the weather, and the descriptions of the local geography. Some of his fellow soldiers complained about the lack of progress of the war and he writes about these criticisms of the management of the war in a letter composed on February 12, 1863: "You can hardly think how some men talk out here about things. They are so sick some say that it will be impossible to get any more men to take the place of the nine months men and there is nothing done and that the Fedrils [sic] have not done anything and if they were at home they would not come if they could get one thousand dollars...there is a great deal of fault found with the management of the war and I think that there is a fault some where but I do not know where there has been some change but for the better or the worse I do not know. Some came out here for a good time and make money and see the country but as things have turn they could have made more money at home....I do not doubt that some thought that they could get a discharge and go home...we have some in our company that I wish were at home and if I could help them to thare [sic] discharge I would do it."

    On April 2, 1863, Wesson writes to his wife of a false alarm of an enemy attack the night before. Concerned that the news she might hear may be inaccurate and that she might worry, he attempted to set the record straight: "...last night we were called out about eleven o'clock. You will hear about it but I will write something about it and then you can or will know that I am here now. About eleven or a little before...I heard a horseman come in pretty good speed and stop at the Corl. quarters and soon the cry was the rebels were coming down upon us but we thought it was a fools day and did not start with that speed that we should but the Sargent...came way and the other down the railroad and our Co. were left to guard the Col...about two o'clock the cavalry came in but could not find any body or any tracks of any body. They had rode about twenty five miles...you will want to know what that we made out of all this. Well we make out that the picket that made the alarm was either afraid or was mean."

    Beginning in June 1863 Wesson began to write often of going home as his discharge date approached. He also spoke of recurring sickness in camp. In a letter dated June 22, 1863 from Camp Wellington, Newbern, North Carolina, Wesson recounted how sickness had affected the 51st Regiment: "I do not think that half one half of the men are fit for duty....We have some over twenty in the hospital at New Bern and Beaufort and thirteen now on the sick list and that is not all that are not fit for duty. I do not think that we can but muster forty five men fit for duty...the measles have use us the worst but I should think that they would have an end sometime if not before."

    On July 9, 1863, when the 51st Massachusetts was near Baltimore, Wesson and his fellow soldiers were ordered to search houses in the area for arms: "The Col. Came and gave us our instruction and it was that the Reg. was assign the deletice [?] duty of searching the houses in Baltimore and did not we have a hard time of it....I had three men with me and it was up stairs and down cellar and into every place where we thought were any arms and there were a good many picked up that day....I felt watching over a man and peeping into every corner and every drawer turning this upside down and plus upon their closet that trunk, this box and some would say that they did not like to have their dresses tramblest [sic] over and the answer was that this is our duty and you will comply and generally that was enough."

    Cyrus H. Wesson (1821-1898) was born and died in Worcester County, Massachusetts. He enlisted in the Company B, 51st Regiment, Massachusetts Infantry in Rutland, Massachusetts, on September 30, 1862 and discharged on July 27, 1863. His last rank was sergeant. The 51st Regiment, Massachusetts Infantry was organized in Worcester, Massachusetts, on September 25, 1862 and mustered out of service on July 27, 1863. Engaged in battles of Kinston, Whitehall, and Goldsboro (North Carolina). The regiment lost 44 men in the Civil War, all to disease.

    Condition: All of the letters, most on bifolia ranging in size from 4.75" x 6.75" to 7.5" x 9.75", are written in pencil. With areas of fading and the appearance of dampstaining. Most of page 2 of a letter dated May 20, 1863 is missing, and a quarter of an undated May 1863 letter is missing. Overall condition of most of the letters is good.


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