1863: Sarah Ann Adams to Charles H. Adams

How Sarah A. Adams might have looked
How Sarah A. Adams might have looked

These three letters were written by Sarah Ann Adams (1808-1897), the widow of William P. Adams (1814-1856) of Hollis, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire. Sarah wrote the letters to her only son, Charles H. Adams (1844-1930), of Company E, 15th New Hampshire — a nine months’ service regiment.

The regiment arrived in New Orleans before the end of 1862 and moved from Carrolton to Camp Parapet, Louisiana where they remained until May 1863. Charles received a severe wound in the hand during the siege, assault, and capture of Port Hudson before returning with his regiment to New Hampshire about the first of August, 1863. The regiment lost a total of 161 men during service; 27 enlisted men killed or mortally wounded, 134 enlisted men died of disease.

Charles married Sarah Maria Pierce (1851-1934) in November 1876. He was a carpenter by trade.


1863 Letter


Hollis [New Hampshire]
Sunday, January the 11th 1863

Much Beloved Boy,

I take my pen to inform you that I am as you can expect. I have had a very bad cold but it is better. I have everything to make me comfortable that heart can wish but your beloved company and that I miss very much. Saturday and Sunday is the worst.

We have beautiful weather for the season. We had a snow storm last night but it rained and carried all off. The ground is bare as summer. That makes it very convenient for me to go about which I do considerable. I walk down to the center often and see Little Ben wife which I like much. They all send their love to you. Ben says look out for your health and be careful of the dew. Put on your over coat and let them laugh that wants to for they can’t die for you.

I have called on Mrs. Conant twice and she made me a present of five pounds of fresh pork. She sends her love to you and says she hopes you come home and live to be a man. William says you have prayers for your return. The boys miss you. I have received 3 letters from you since you left New York and I have wrote two before now. I wrote December the 5th and sent you ten dollars. I wrote January 7th and sent you some stamps so you could write to me. It’s all the comfort I have.

You wanted to know about the the things. The ducks are all alive and fat as pigs. So is Sambo and Philes. I have got thirteen chickens. I have __ed  Luke and Amanda. John is at Richersons yet to work. He here today fixing his traps to catch a fox on your old bed. He says he misses you more than he should. All the folks in town [say] come home for God’s sake. He sends his love to you and says he take care old marme. O, how I want to see you and talk with you. Tears almost blind me. I don’t know as you can read this.

Mr. Lund’s folks are all well. Cord says she knows Charley will come home again for she knows that you can shoot better than the rebels. They all send their respects to you. Mrs. Lund says Frank remembers you night and morning to God in prayer. The neighbors are all well but Kilburn Perkins has broke his foot. I have told you all I can of now but one thing — Jewett Colburn is Deacon. May God be with you. This from your dear mother, — Sarah A. Adams

My pen is worn out.


Letter 1

Addressed to Charles H. Adams, Co. E, Fifteenth New Hampshire Volunteers, Camp Parapet, Carrollton, New ORleans, Louisiana, Banks Expedition

Hollis, [New Hampshire]
Sunday, March 8th 1863

Darling Son,

I received your letter last evening although the snow is nearly three feet and drifted mountain high today and is still snowing very rapidly. It begin about eleven o’clock yesterday. It is good weather for town meeting next Tuesday.

I was very glad to hear from you and that you are so healthy and I hope you will have your health until you see Hollis. It is a long time since you left me and I think of you a thousand times a day. I count the days for your return. O, if I live to see you once more, that is all I ask to make me happy in this world. You never shall leave me while I live.

My health is very good, I guess. I am as fat as you. The ducks are fat as pigs and have laid five eggs the hens lay. I sold three and half dozen eggs this last week. I got a new water pail. Tea is one dollar a pound in these “good old Negro times” as old Joel Hardis says.

Mr. [Ichabod F.] Lund received your letter February 26th. They was very much pleased to hear from you and to have you write to them. Mrs. Lund wrote to you the 28th.

I wrote March the 1st. Henry wrote a letter to you. I put it in mine. The neighbors are all well except Mrs. Cortiss. She looks very unwell.

There has been three dances in the town hall. They [have] the Lyceum every Tuesday and political meeting at night. Norman Howe’s ¹ and Charles Fletcher’s ²  remains was buried yesterday at two o’clock.

John is at the center. He says he is going to town meeting to vote against the negro men. He says you must tell Dan Smith he has been hammering all winter. He has not been fishing but once. Then he caught five pickerel but this spring he will give them hell. He wants you to write how you like the negro girls. He says he wishes you was on old rocky ponds hills.

I want you to give my love [to] John Burges and tell [him to] write to me. And Dexter Ferley to do the same. Jewett Colburn want you [to] write to him. They all send their respects to you. I think if your breach troubles you much, you had better try and get your [medical] discharge, if you can. You must go to your surgeon and see what he says about it. I wish you could. O, how long the time seems to me since you left home. I have wrote seven letters to you — one every week.

Sambo and Phyllis sit by the stove warming their feet. It is snowing yet.

This from your affectionate and lonely mother. I shall love you until death does take me away. This is No. 7.

— Sarah A. Adams

I shall write and tell you about town meeting.

¹ Corporal Norman Rideout Howe (1839-1862) died on 15 August 1862 in Beaufort, South Carolina. He served in Company H, 7th New Hampshire Infantry.

² Private Charles Henry Fletcher (1833-1862) died on 10 August 1863 in Beaufort, South Carolina. He served in Company H, 7th New Hampshire Infantry.


1863 Letter

Addressed to Mr. Charles H. Adams, Co. E, Fifteenth Regiment, New Hampshire Volunteers
Camp Parapet, Carrollton, New Orleans, Louisiana, Banks Expedition

Hollis, [New Hampshire]
Sunday, March 29th, 1863

Affectionate son,

My pen is poor, my ink is pale, but my love to you will never fail. I understand your regiment is agoing to reenlist again but don’t you, for God sake. If you do, it will kill me. If you only knew how I count the days for your return you never would punish me so and how glad I am when night comes to think that you [have] one day less to stay. Oh, if I can live to see you again you had better believe that they never get my consent for you to go to war again. The devil comes, they can’t draft you because Old Abe has exempted a poor widow’s only son. Joseph E. Smith told me so last Friday. I rode down to see Mrs. [Catharine] Cortiss with him. He thinks you will do better as wages is so high they are offering from 18 to 20 per month to work in a farm. Mr. [Ichabod F.] Lund says he depends upon your helping him do his haying. They are all well and send their respects except Mrs. Cortiss. She is confined to her bed and don’t sit up any. I call her very sick indeed. I am afraid she never will be well again. She sends her love to you, She don’t talk but little, it hurts her so.

Mark Willoughby’s wife [Anna Maria White] has got a daughter [named Cora Mabel Willoughby]. It was born 24 of March. Old grandsire Colburn is very sick. [Jacob] Mark Austin’s little boy [Charles] is dead. It wasn’t sick but eight hours. It had fits. Amanda has been sick but she is some better. They have had a party. George Parker was there. Mrs. [Emily] Lund says that he kiss Martha and she told me tonight to [write] you and tell you not to be jealous of him.

We have hard weather. It has been very cold until last Tuesday. It was fine until Wednesday night. That was a dreadful [storm]. It thundered and lightened dreadfully. It struck the Nashua house and tore it almost to pieces. It broke all the glass out the windows but pane lights, tore up the floors and ceiling. There was not anyone killed.

I begin again and tell you about the weather. Yesterday it snowed and part of today. It’s over shoes. The going has been very bad. The snow was deep, then all mud, and now snow. I don’t know I shall get out. I am lame. My corn on my toe has festered and I hobble about like Aunt Jonas but Lilly is here. She says she can take care of [our cats] Sambo and Phillis. Mrs. Whitman came up the other day and Merlis Nichols and Lilly. They left here to stay a week. She is was poor as a crow. She says you must come home. She wants to see you before her mother comes after her.

I suppose you want to know what John is doing. He is sawing wood and has been all day. He says he has not fired the old gun but once since you went away and then he like to killed old Scribner. He says he voted right at March meeting. The blacks felt bad. Old Joel eat all the tobacco he could get hold of. My health is good as ever. I am well. Don’t worry about me. I have planted the tomatoes.

John says kill all the damned Rebels and cussed negroes. Kill them all and come home.

I must close this from your mother. When I see you, I shall kiss you a week. — Sarah A. Adams

This is No. 10

John sends you this lock of his hair. Where did you get that little book. I read it this morning. Write as soon as you get this and tell your mother all your troubles. I shall feel better.

Editor’s Note: 25 Letters to Charles H. Adams were sold on e-bay in January 2014. Most are briefly transcribed here for additional reference:

January 11, 1863–“Much Beloved Boy . . . I take my pen to inform you that I am as you can expect . . . the ground is as bare as summer . . . I walk down to the center often and see Little Ben wife . . . Ben says look out for your health and be careful of the dew put on your over coat and let them laugh that wants to for thay can’t die for you . . . made me a present of five pounds of fresh pork . . . I have received 3 letters from you since you left New York . . . I wrote Dec the 5 and sent you ten dollars I wrote Jan 7 and sent you some stamps . . . the ducks are all alive and fat as pigs so is sambo and philes I have got thirteen chickens . . . John is at Richersons yet to work he here today fixing his traps to cetchs a fox on your old bed he says he misses you more than he should . . . O how I want to see you and talk with you tears almost blind me . . . says she knows Charley will come home a gain for she knows that you can shute better than the rebels . . . “

Jan. 27, 1863—“. . . it is three months this day since you left me. Oh how fresh it is in my mind that sean never will be forgotten by me while I live . . . the folks say I am all alone but I have a nough to eat and drink and a good fire to keep me warm . . . I often see you in my imagination mending your close and stockings I dream of you and a good talk with you about things but when I awake I am all alone and it makes me sad but I count the days when you will come home if your life is spared your time is half out the first day of next month . . . now for news Mr. Thomas Brown is married to Hatty Lovejoy . . . Luther Proctor has got a boy in eight months . . . there is going to be a levee at the town hall . . . for the 15 regiment benefit don’t put all you get in your eyes . . . John is at the center yet he caut a fox at your old bed one carried off trap and so he lost it . . . rained in torrents . . . it would please you to see the duckys play in it they could not stop to eat . . . I laugh until it made me cry, but now it snows very fast . . . Joseph Eastman has sold five acres of wood between here and pools barn to William Wallis for three hundred and seventy five dollars . . . Ben Shattuck has bought ten acres of Cap. Wm. Hale and give one thousand dollars . . . Luke Hale has let his mill to Mr. Perkins of Nashua he lives where Center did and has Andrew for agent . . . Mrs. Stephen Longay is dead . . . Nat Wright is dead he died thanksgiving day they have sent for his remains to be sent home . . . she wants you to tell us how a Rebel looks . . . I want you to be a good boy and take of your health and keep out of bad company . . . “

Feb. 22, 23, 1863—“O how I wish that Sunday was as it used to be that you was at home with me how much comfort I should enjoy but alas I am alone except the cats . . . it will be a happy day if God spares our lifes to mete again on earth I am afraid you will have the fever again . . . do not expose yourself to dew . . . it is easier to keep well than to get well . . . I suppose you know that Nathanial Wright is ded his body has ben sent home and was buried last Sunday I suppose that Norman Howe and Charles Fletcher remanes will be brought into town soon . . . write and tell me if you have ennything to eat Dexter Farnley wrote to his Grandfather Colburn that he had to eat stinking meat and mouldy bread I know that you cannot stand that no how Mrs. Pond told me that Frank sed that all the drink you had was river watter . . . John went fishing Friday and got six Pike all four pounders one had fore holes through his body made with a spear last fall. John says if the rebels are half as tough you had better come home for you can’t kill them devels . . . Amanda says that government is agoin to make you all reinlist when your time is out but don’t you do no shush thing for if you do you will kill your Mother I should rather live on bread and watter all the days off my life . . . I suppose you would like to know how little Charles A. Kemp get along in the war he was wounded the 12 of August the ball struck him in right eye went through his nose into his mouth took out all his teath on the left jaw he is in the hospital in Maryland . . . “

March 11, 1863—“My Dear boy it is with a aching hart and a trembling hand that I set down to write theas few lines O how my harte aches for you in your afflictions I feel all a mother can my hart bleads while my tears flow I hear that you attempted to run away but they caught you and brought you back that for your punishment you have got to carry fifty pounds off iron on your back while on duty Mrs. Frank Pond told John so last night but John says he don’t believe it he says it is done to torment me . . .I will tell about town meeting the democrats carried every thing Col Stilman Spalding moderator, Rubin Bawlding representative Enoc Tuanley first select man Wm. A Trow second Perry Eastman third the niggars got beat in twenty five majority I must close this from your afflicted Mother . . . I want you to tell me how it is for I know you will tell me the thruth.”

April 13, 1863—“ . . . I received you letter dated March 23 it came the soonest that I ever had one it came in 12 days some has been 20 days coming . . . them that made the war may fight it . . . I hear dredful news just now that half of the fifteenth regiment was taken prisoners when I was riting to you God onley knows my feelings if my poor boy is a prisoner my harte will brake al hope is gonn of seeing your dear face again when God onley knows I must close for the tears blind me . . . I won’t send you enny money for if you are a prisoner it will never reach you . . . I know what you sed when you bought your revolvers that you never would be taken a prisoner so I think you are dedd but if you are living anser this soon . . .”

April 21, 1863—“I should have sent you the letter I roat last week but I thought if you was taken you never would git it but I hear that it is not so and I feel better this pen cannot tell how I felt and I am so glad to hear that you have your liberty . . . it rained last Wensday night and Thursday in torrents it carried of all the bridges T Browns Bahanan and Alpheus Shattuck and I don’t know how menny more . . . John has got this ship out he went fishing last night and got 2 eels 3 pouts 6 four pounders 26 suckers and one musk rat . . . Mis Pond did not say that you tried to run away she sed that she heard so but I don’t want you to have enny fuss with the soldiers she says that Frank never sed enny thing about you now Frank Wood . . .”

May 12, 1863—“ . . . there is not but thirty fore more days until the fifteenth of June then you will starte for New Hampshire . . . if you have enny money look out for them Manchester fellows for you know what sort of chaps they bee they would steal enny ones eyes if they could get a chance for a dollar keep a good look for them and say nothing to no one . . . John has planted . . . I have been spearing twice Amanda went with John and I we got twelve pke eleven suckers one eel two pouts . . . Mrs. Cortiss has been raising blood again so that it keeps her very low I am afraid that she wont live through the summer . . . Charles A Kemp has got home very weak and low what is left of him so folks say he never will be good for nothing again . . . the hens act as though the devel was in them to be in the gardeing . . . the ducks do not trouble me enny thay go to thare work in the morning don’t return until night ketching frogs is their employment . . . Sambo is gone gunning but Phyllis has to take care of her little family of one kitty . . . you sent a little book and a flower you sed you had no money I sent you two dollars April 27 and fifty cents in post stamps I have received sixteen letters cince you left new Hampshire I have sent you fourteen with this . . . John sends his love to you and says get out of this scrape as soon as can and don’t get into another such a damed one . . . I was very much pleas to think that you sed you wont a going to reinlist you are a good boy . . . “

May 24, 1863—“ . . . glad to hear your health was so good excepting a cold I was sorry to hear that you had to take off your undershirts for fear you wold be sick . . . I want you to take good care of your health for if you don’t there is no one that will and I cant come to take care of you and if you was sick it would worry me death but I hope for the best I know that you are in the hands of God and that he is able to take care of you as he did when you was on the ocean in the mist of upheavals and storms and that he has sed he will be a father to the fatherless . . . is not but 22 days to the 15 of June and then I hope you will start for the Old Granite State . . . been very warm for a few days back the treas have beene out very fast the cherry treas was as white as sheat the apple treas have blossom very ful . . . Mr. Wallis has given me wood enuff to last me two months if I will picket up . . . I was very glad that you had sind your money over to me but I shant get it until your time is out and then we shal have it all to a time . . . john thinks that you did the best thing you could for your know them Manchester chaps and the . . . they would steal your mony if they could get a chance if thay had to nock you down to do it . . . John wants to know if you have the old knife and says that you must bring home a little negro girl to keep off the mussquitoes for thay are very thick . . . I saw that the 16 has been in an ingagement Dexter Farley roat home that he flung away his blanket and run for dear life when the Rebels was after them . . . “

June 9, 1863—“ . . . alas I am doome to disappointment instead of your come to your Mother arms I hear that you was call to the field of battle I heard yesterday that the 15 regiment was at port Hudson oh this pen can not describe my feelings . . . I don’t know but that you are wounded writhing on a bed with pain and no Mother hand to administer to your wants Oh had I the wings of a dove . . . if was not for hopes the harte would brak . . . I dare not look in the news papers for fear I shal see your name there . . . the garding is looking first rait . . . I have got six little ducks and ten little chicks . . . I went fishing election day and caught 5 pike as many as John . . . Mr. Lun and John went down to long pond and caut eleven pike and two turtles one waid 23 pounds . . . John sends his respecks to you and says he won’t beleave one word that he hears for there has been so menny lies but what you say this is from your poor afflicted and widowed mother, Sarah A. Adams”

Letters from Charles’ friends written during the War:

March 16, 1863—From Henry Spalding telling results of Town Meeting, the return of the Second Regiment, only 89 left, and advising Charles to stay with his regiment, that he’ll save some Cider for him.

March 29th, 1863—From J.E. Wright, wishes that he had enlisted with Charley because now there is going to be a draft, doesn’t want to be drafted, reports on Democrats carrying elections, is writing with “a shitin old Pen”, asks how are all the Hollis boys in the regiment.

April 12, 1863—From Mr. and Mrs Lund—illness of the mother, new minister coming to the Sabbath school, tell of a party where her son got sick from too much popcorn, cider, apples and kissing girls, of Charles Emerson in the 27th or 28th Mass Regiment, “Freeman Marshall died week before last. Death comes here as well as in the army. Sarah Sawtelles (Uncles wife’s girl) intended was brought home from New Orleans dead a few weeks ago, he belonged in Mont Vernon a very excellent young man. She felt very bad about it and dresses in deep mourning for him.” “We got your miniature, but mother says she wants to keep it while she lives, then Calvin may have it.” Speculation in every thing, prices high. “Am very sorry you have so poor a chaplain, of all things a chaplain ought to be a good man, one that seeks the good of his fellow men. The officers should be the best of men. Of what denomination is he.” “I guess George would like a darkey to wash his hands, for he does not like to very well. You must get Martha one and Mrs. Spalding . . .” Tells a story of a poor horse.

April 30, 1863—From E.J. Colburn. Health well, working at the farm and at the lumber mill, reports on big flood in Hollis and on the doings of Generals in the war. Expects to be drafted soon. A long, well-written letter.

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