November-December 1862 letters

Camp Allen  Suffolk Va Sunday Nov., 9th  1862

Dear Old Folks at Home,

          I received your kind letter of the 26 & was very glad to hear from & that you was enjoying yourselves so well.

          To day finds me all right & full of piss & vinegar & I hope this may find you all the same.

          It is some cold here to day on account of @ little flury of snow we have just been having but is about gone now & the sky has the appearance of fair weather once more.  I am getting very well accustomed to soldiering & think when I get out of this I shall come home & make you all a visit & then perhaps go & join the Regulars.

          Jim (Rhodes) is all right except @ little mad  the Orderly detailed him on fatigues yesterday & again to day & you had better think Jim’s back come up when he read his name this morning & he said to the Orderly “Why in hell don’t you put me on twice a day”  but he went over to the Fort & he went @ swearing.  our orderly is @ queer fellow he put a some on duty twice to others once & I am glad that I have got such an officer as I have although low and yes I don’t have any work to do unless I choose.  There is not as much sickness in camp as usual  I suppose it is on account of the cool weather 15 being all that have died.        

  I received a letter from Ed (Coe) the same time I got yours he was well & was cooking for the company  he was at Fairfax Court House & expected to go to Centerville the next time they moved.  Last night I got a letter from Ben & Charlie Fenton  also a paper  Westfield. 

 I suppose Seymour  is Govenor of N.Y. & the Democrats seem to carry the day. Well I hope they will do the fair thing but I am afraid he will be for carrying out what he says in his speeches. 

 I suppose you know all about McClellans advance he has the whole army of the Potomac  are advancing toward Richmond & it is the opinion of our officers that one more battle will decide the cause  whether we are agoing to be free or are to be governed by rebs or not.  I heard one of the officers say the other day that we should all be to home by Spring but as to being true I cannot tell but I hope it may be so.

We have got some of the best fellows to tent with there is in the co. Elijah Thompson is one of the best fellows  always good natured, full of fun & willing to do what is right  his brother is also a good fellow. Merts (Elijah Thompson) has been about sick for the past week but when he is well he is ready & willing to do anything that is right. Our house is quite warm & cozy the worst trouble is that it is so much better than the others have that they all crowd in ours to warm. The Capt was down last night & he thought we was quite comfortable. As it is getting cold here I wish you would make me @ pair of mittens with @ fore finger and send them to me if you have @ chance & I don’t care if you send @ pair of socks. Ben Fritts is agoing to have a pair of boots sent him & perhaps you might send them with his boots but don’t put yourself to much trouble for I can get along without them someway.  if you do send them write my name on each.

          Geo. Eddy’s father came here last night to see Geo.  I have not seen him yet but Geo said that his folks supposed he was dead for they heard he could not live. I think I have done pretty well a scribbling this time so I will end.  Write often & write all the news there is.


Yours Truly

Robt L. Coe

P.O Address,                                          to

Co. H, 112th Regt., N.Y.S.V.                   B.S.& E. Coe





On September 22, 1862 President Lincoln had issued the preliminary proclamation…on the first day of January . . . all persons held as slaves within any State, or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free." President Abraham Lincoln, preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, September 22, 1862.


The soldiers awaited the announcement that would come….President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, as the nation approached its third year of bloody civil war. The proclamation declared "that all persons held as slaves" within the rebellious states "are, and henceforward shall be free."

Despite this expansive wording, the Emancipation Proclamation was limited in many ways. It applied only to states that had seceded from the Union, leaving slavery untouched in the loyal border states. It also expressly exempted parts of the Confederacy that had already come under Northern control. Most important, the freedom it promised depended upon Union military victory.

Although the Emancipation Proclamation did not immediately free a single slave, it fundamentally transformed the character of the war. After January 1, 1863, every advance of federal troops expanded the domain of freedom. Moreover, the Proclamation announced the acceptance of black men into the Union Army and Navy, enabling the liberated to become liberators. By the end of the war, almost 200,000 black soldiers and sailors had fought for the Union and freedom.

One instance of President Lincoln’s hesitance to free the slaves, was the issuance of General Order #11 by Department of the South Commanding General Major General David Hunter: 

Hilton Head, S.C., May 9, 1862.


The three States of Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina, comprising the Military Department of the South, having deliberately declared themselves no longer under the protection of the United States of America, and having taken up arms against the said United States, it became a military necessity to declare them under martial law. This was accordingly done on the 25th day of April, 1862. Slavery and martial law in a free country are altogether incompatible. The persons in these three States, Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina, heretofore held as slaves, are therefore declared forever free.

Major-General Commanding

Ed. W. Smith, Acting Assistant Adjutant-General."

NOTE: General Orders No. 11 as issued by Major General Hunter was immediately annulled by President Abraham Lincoln, stating he had exceeded his authority.


Camp Allen, Suffolk, Va., Dec 2d 62


         Dear parents   It is with great pleasure that I sit down to write you @ few lines in answer to yours of the 23d which I rec’d last Friday.  I was glad to hear from you.  I also rec’d @ letter last Friday stating that you had started @ firkin of sundries to James & me & I had concluded that I would not write you until I rec’d the firkin.  some boxes came last night  one for Geo. Eddy which started the same day that you shipped the firkin for me but the firkin did not come but I learn that there is @ great many boxes at Norfolk & on account of sending so many troops, forage & provisions on the cars that they do not have room for boxes & c.  I shall look for the firkin to night.

          thinking that you might want to hear from me before I get the firkin I thought I would write you a few lines.

I am well & right side up with care & hope this will find you all the same.

          It is raining to-day. the boys in our regt. have nearly all gone out on picket  the reason of this is they have to do picketing for the 6 Massachusetts who have gone to Black Water  Day before yesterday 2 regts infantry 1 of cavalry with 8 pieces of cannon started for Black Water & the purpose of driving the rebels from @ battery which they had planted on this side of the river.  well they have just came back (cavalry) bringing with them 24 prisoners  6 horses 60 stand of arms & @ machine called the “Rocket Battery”.  this battery is @ curiously invented machine made so that it can be moved very quick; it can be used with great advantages.  the same battery was taken from our men on the Peninsula under mcclellan.

I saw the prisoners with my own eyes & of all the sights that I ever saw this took the premium.  they were dressed in old rags & hats  some with white coats on  others with citizens clothes  each one having a different suit on.  as they passed our boys would holler out. ‘hello you damned secesh prisoners, what in hell you hear for’ but they were mute. one Lieutenant took 6 he killed some & wounded some  they said he took after one & run his sword through his back  they did not expect he would live.  About half of the prisoners taken were wounded.  the talk here is that there is about 12,000 troops at Norfolk & if that is true probably the rebs will have to skedaddle from Black Water & Petersburg.  the bridge that this regt destroyed when they first come here has been rebuilt: this looks as if something was going to be done.  I hope so & that done quickly.

          we are all anxiously waiting to hear what congress is about to do & also to read the president’s proclimation which has been kept so secret.  day before yesterday the 173d regt Pa (drafted) came here & camped nearby when they went past they would inquire where the barracks were  the boys told them they would find all the barracks they wanted in digging forts; they looked down hearted for they expected to have barracks to stay in, but they were greatly disappointed.

          I think that you have some great times up there getting those young people all married off.  French Creek & Mina has taken @ vomit I guess & I think “That’s whats the matter”.

          since I got well I have felt as good as I ever did in my life & am well satisfied with camp life.  It does not seem much like N.Y.  it is a level country  not @ hill to be seen  & when it rains the water will stand in pools all over as far as you can see.

There is no news to write & I guess I will bring this to @ close.

please write upon the receipt of this, all the news, good, bad or indifferent.    

          Hoping to hear from you soon  I remain your most affectionate son.


                                                                   R.L. Coe

Giving love to every body.


Robt L. Coe

                             To B&S Coe

          An artist from Jamestown is making @ shanty & when he gets it done you may look out for @ scare crow.



RL Coe

Our firkin came tonight



Suffolk, Va., Sunday Dec. 7 1862


Dear parents,

          I rec’d your letter last night & seeing you was worrying so much about me I thought that I would write & let you know that I am not dead yet.

          Dec. 7th finds me all right & full of piss & vinegar & hope this may find you the same.

          It is very cold here this Sunday morning the coldest weather we have witnessed in old Virginia.  last night was an awful cold night  it froze the ground as hard as @ rock. we have just changed quarters for @ short time; we have moved to ft. Mcclellan -  about ½ miles from here - & taken the place of the 92 N.Y.V. who have gone with 6 or 8 other regt’s on a reconnoitering expedition to what place I do not know as they were under sealed orders & had orders not to open them until the 2d day, they went in the direction of North Carolina.  It seemed almost like leaving home to leave our shanty just as we have got everything arranged to order; but we got into @ good tent where we are now.

Jim  & I have stole away from camp and come over to our old tent built @ fire and gone to writing letters.

We rec’d the firkin & you may bet we was thankful for it; we filled ourselves up to the brim. the mittens fit well & in fact every thing was all right.  tell Mrs. H.P. Fenton that apple butter is excellent & is just what we need to eat with bread; I don’t know how I shall ever repay her for her kindness, but I thank her again & again.  Tell Aunt Polly I thank her & will remember her in her old age. the sock tell Mary that those preserves & berries tasted good & reminds me of the many good vietrials I have ate there & she knows that they were rec’d with thanks. 

It appears that you are getting skeert about me  afraid that I am going to die  don’t worry yourselves for my time hasnt come yet & I shall live as long here as I would in Grab Gut.

          You wanted to know whether I went to the Hospital or not  I did not go  I had as good care taken of me as could be under the circumstances.  about our captain  he is an old pauper driver & is hated by everybody  I think we shall send him south to drive slaves.  this pen & ink makes me mad & cant think anything nor write anything as it ought to be & so I will dry up.

          Write often & all the news.  give my love to all friends reserving @ goodly quantity for yourselves.                                                            Yours & c.


O shit what writing



Camp Suffolk, Va.  Sunday Dec. 14 . 62


          Dear parents,

                   I rec’d yours of the 7th inst,  last night I was glad to hear from you & to hear that you was well & enjoying yourselves.  I am well & tough but @ tired from the effects of @ trip to Blackwater.  I have for the first time heard the enemy’s guns & heard their shells whisl through the air.  I will tell you, Last Wednesday at 10 minutes before 1 o’clock we started for Blackwater with about 10 other regt’s & 2 regt’s cavalry with about 12 cannon  the roads being good we marched about 10 miles & marched into an empty cornfield, built fires & prepared our supper which consisted of “hard tack” & coffee.  I wish you could have been there to see the fires  it was one of the most beautiful sights I ever saw: - just imagine 2000 fires @ burning all at once in an empty field.  it was sport to see the rails fly; no one can imagine what @ vast amount of property an army will destroy in so short @ space of time, until they can behold it with their own eyes.  we stopped here, perhaps, an hour when we started part of the troops going the road that leads to Franklin where the regt went before & the remainder of us taking the road that leads to Zuni @ town about 20 miles above Franklin.  well we marched about 3 miles when we were brought to @ halt by bad roads; we had pontoon bridges for crossing the river; we soon halted, perhaps an hour then we started & did not have much trouble after this stopping once in @ while to rest.  I will not tell you any more about the journey, only that we marched all night  reaching Blackwater about day break.  here we separated leaving only 3 regt’s infantry 1 of cavalry & 6 piece of Howards battery, one of the last in the service.  the remainder going up the river to Zuni  we marched down the river about @ mile when 2 companies of the 13 Indiana regt crossed over in a boat finding a breast work of the enemys about 20rds from the river.  they commenced firing.  the enemy were only about 30 strong but were in breast works with port holes so that our men could not hit them.  When the firing commenced the battery was planted on the bank of the river & at once sent shells down upon the enemys works but of no avail.  next we were ordered to the bank of the river being about 40 rods from where the rebs were but the other side of the river being low and trees intervening we could not see the works.  While we were here the pontoon bridges were put down: all at once we heard an awful yelling & we soon heard that the Indiana boys had charged bayonets on the rebs & captured 1 captain 1 sergeant & 11 privates.  they looked savage dressed in citizens clothes  not one having @ uniform on.  Owing to the advantage they had & being sharpshooters they would pick our men off whenever they could see them.  a few of the 6 Mass had went across the river & one of the rebs placed his hat on top of the earth works & @ lieutenant taking it to be @ reb head shot it, of course it fell   when the lieutenant thinking he had shot him stepped out from behind the tree & the instant he did so the same reb sent @ ball through the lieutenants heart killing him instantly.

Everything being quiet & our forces on this side of the river what should we hear but the booming of cannon & the shrill shrieking sound of the shell as it hit harmlessly @ few rods behind us; at this our battery opened @ tremendous cannonading on them & we were brought in position facing the enemy.  a heavy cannonading was kept up for about ½ an hour when our battery silenced theirs  the enemy got very good range on us the first time the shells bursting overhead & all around us  one burst to the right of our regt tearing the leg off from one of the Indiana boys & cutting @ horses leg smooth off    the boy lived about 3 hours.  a piece of shell burst over head & one of the pieces came down about 5 feet from me burying itself in the ground so that we could not dig it out with our feet  another passed over just above company C striking only @ few rods behind making the earth fly & bounded along as playfully as could be.  There is something about the shrieking of a shell that is not very pleasent  especially when they are flying & bursting all around.  After the rebel battery was silenced orders came for us to return  for what purpose I know not  but I presume we accomplished all that we were ordered to; finding out the strength & position of the enemy I dare say they had & heavy force back & the reason they did not fire upon our men when across the river was that they intended to draw us over  but I guess our general “smelt it out”

We marched back & were joined by the other troops who meanwhile had been shelling Zuni & burnt it to the ground & tearing down the railroad bridges.  I will not describe our march back only that we reached home the 3d day at half past 10 o’clock @ tired set of boys.  our loss was about 6 killed  & 6 wounded  I don’t know as this was correct for I have heard different reports; the enemy had 3 killed in the breast works & whether any was killed at the battery I don’t know but I presume there was for it is reported that one of their guns was dismounted.  The sight of the wounded & dead is not @ very agreeable sight but if worse comes to worse here is who is in.  The troops that went to Franklin I have not heard from yet.

          Good news have come from Fredericksburg, Burnside has driven the rebs out of the city & burnt most of it  the great battle is soon to be fought.  It is very warm & pleasent weather here now & it seems almost impossible for you to have sleighing.

I received postage stamps enough. You must excuse this poor writing for my pen is poor & desk is rough.  Write soon. Give my love to all enquiring friends.

                                                                   Truly yours

                                                                             Robt L. Coe


Flags (6).gif



Copyright 2005, 2006, 2007 © - Do not copy or redistribute information on this site.