This letter was written by 30 year-old Pvt. Augustus Luke Holbrook (1834-1911) to his brother Cyrus. August accepted a state bounty and enlisted in Co. H, 14th New York Heavy Artillery on 5 January 1864. This letter was written less than a month later from Fort Hamilton in New York Harbor where Augustus was laid low with fever and ague [malaria].
From the New York State Draft Registration we learn that Augustus was a married shoemaker residing in Chateaugay, Franklin county, New York, in June 1863. We also learn that he had formerly served in the 5th Vermont Infantry and claimed to have been discharged at Harrison’s Landing following the Peninsula Campaign. Readers may remember that the 5th Vermont is said to have suffered the heaviest loss of any company from the state, and at the battle of Savage Station (June 29, 1862), the regiment is said to have suffered the heaviest loss in killed and wounded of any one regiment in a single action. A review of the 5th Vermont roster reveals that Augustus was a musician in Co. C from 12 September 1861 to 9 August 1862 when he was discharged for disability.
Augustus was the son of Nathaniel Holbrook (1809-1881) and Cynthia Hill (1817-1881) of Isle La Motte, Grand Isle county, Vermont. He was married to Roxana Priscilla Hall (1837-1892) on 17 December 1854.
When Augustus re-enlisted in 1864, he was described as 5′ 8″ tall with blue eyes, brown hair, and a fair complexion. His enlistment was credited to Clinton, New York. Though he described his health as “poor,” Augustus managed to fulfill his term of enlistment and mustered out of the service with his company at Washington D. C. on 26 August 1865. After the war, Augustus and Roxana relocated to North Bend, Dodge county, Nebraska.
Augustus wrote the letter to his brother-in-law, Cyrus Holcomb (1824-1907) — the son of Samuel Holcomb (1799-1869) and Martha Knapp (1798-1851) of Grand Isle, Vermont. Cyrus married Alameda Celeste Hall (1832-1883). Cyrus had moved from Grand Isle, Vermont, to Chateaugay, Franklin county, New York, in 1859.
Fort Hamilton [New York Harbor]
January 28th 1864
I have written to Roxana with regard to the disposition of the money I have sent home and would have written the same to you but I have got the fever and ague so there is only a short time every other day that I am myself at all. I want you to assist her according to our understanding before I left and when I get over this and through this shaking machine, I will write more to you.
We have not received our state bounty yet and if Beman tries to press you for the payment of that $25, take it out of the money that she gets from me. But I want Stoughton to have as near five hundred as possible and when we get our state bounty, you can pay the small debts and make up the five hundred to Stoughton.
Cyrus, don’t let Roxana know that I have got the fever & ague. I told her I was not very well but did not tell her more. I don’t want anyone to let her know anything about it. I sent a check of $175 to Roxana by Shepard. She will have to go to Plattsburgh herself to get the money. Would like to have you go with her and have her get their pictures and send me. Write me all about how you and Roxana get along moving as soon as you get through. I am very anxious to hear from home but you will have to be content with [not] hearing from me very often for every other [day] I am as good as a poking machine.
Cyrus, my health is poor but my spirits are as good as ever. I must close in order to get this into this day’s mail, Give my love to your family and Sam’s and tell them I will write to all of them as soon as I am able.
Respectfully yours &c., — Augustus