This letter was written from New Orleans by 47 year-old Pvt. Josiah Plummer Lovejoy (1815-1904) of Company G, 14th Maine Infantry. The men of Company G were mustered into service in December 1861 for three years. Lovejoy, however, was discharged for disability on 1 October 1862 after only 9 months of duty. It isn’t known whether he was with his company at the Battle of Baton Rouge in early August 1862. He may have already been weakened by disease and hospitalized. It is recorded that 332 men of the regiment died from disease during the war. In honor of the men of the 14th Maine who died at the Battle of Baton Rouge, Herman Melville offered the following poem:
Afar they fell. It was the zone
Of fig and orange, cane and lime
(A land how all unlike their own,
With the cold pine-grove overgrown),
But still their Country’s clime.
And there in youth they died for her–
For her went up their dying prayers:
So vast the Nation, yet so strong the tie.
What doubt shall come, then, to deter
The Republic’s earnest faith and courage high.
Josiah was the son of Frye Lovejoy (1776-18xx) and Lucinda Poole (1780-1859). He was married to Harriet Atwood Wilkins (1820-1900).
Addressed to Mrs. Josiah P. Lovejoy, Norway, Maine
New Orleans [Louisiana]
Sunday Eve, June 8, 1862
My Dear Wife,
I thought as some of our boys were coming home, I would not write but little for they can tell you more news in five minutes than I can write in a week. We expect to be paid tomorrow and if so, I shall send you some money by some one of them.
I am well as can be expected. I have been here just two weeks today and I have not drunk one drop of water yet. All the water that is used or drank in the city comes out of the river. Comes in iron pipes. The citizens do not drink it no more than they would arsenic. Our boys that drink it makes them sick. I drink sometimes the Raspberry Cider which costs a pigeon [?] per glass but it is death to a man that drinks ____ here, that is so. I mean Northern men.
I hope it will be so that I can come home before long. If I could hear from you once in a while, I should feel better. It has been a good while since I have heard from you. My thoughts are at home all the time. I have a very easy time. They give me a Darky to wait on me, get wood and water and clean my dishes. And we have good quarters now.
I can tell you the mosquitoes is awful here. We are poisoned with them. It makes us sore and looks as if we had the small pox.
Well I must close by saying good night. Bless you in all your undertakings and at last call us all home to dwell together. This from your love, — J. P. Lovejoy
One word more.
June 18. As Mr. [Amos F.] Noyes ¹ is going home, he says he will go and see you and tell you the whole story. We was paid yesterday. $52 dollars each and I have sent $30 to you. Mr. Noyes will you how 15 is to come and I shall send you a little more by him. I want to keep money enough in case I am sick for the sick is cared for about as much as our hogs are and no more.
A. Davis is dead. ² Died the 12th and I think we all will be dead soon if we do not got North soon. I send you a present by Noyes or [Henry] Tucker. ³ It is a Pont money with some in it. – J. P. Lovejoy. Goodbye Love.
¹ Amos F. Noyes, 1st Lt., Co G, 14th Maine; Capt., Co H, 14th Maine; Capt., Co B, 32nd Maine. During the summer of 1864 he commanded the 32nd Regt.
² Alvin Davis, Co G, 14th Maine (Died in New Orleans)
³ Henry Tucker was mustered as Corporal of Company G, Fourteenth Maine, December 12, 1861, and was discharged for disability June 30, 1862.