April - May - June 1863 Letters

Robert is transported to the Hampton Hospital near Fort Monroe from Camp Suffolk when Longstreet attacks, and seiges the Union Garrison at Suffolk, Va.

Hampton Hospital Apr 2 1863


Dear parents   probably you began to think this time that I was either dead or forgotten you   but I am still alive & often think of my friends in Chaut.  I have been having a run of the typhoid fever.  I was taken the 24 of March   was taken to the hospital & had began to get better when the rebs attacked the place  The order came for all the sick to be sent to Fortress Monroe  The day we started it rained.  The cars we rode in were old freight cars & crowded full  it made hard to get a chance to lie down on the hard floor  when we got to Norfolk we took the boat which was about as bad only not quite as much yaw to it.  This ride put me back a good ways but I am getting so that I feel quite like myself again.  One thing that has made me worse  I have ague chills but the Dr has succeeded in breaking them up.  We are about a mile from Fortress Monroe  There was about 300 came here from Suffolk   night before last some more came here  I donít know how many  One boy from our company did since we came here   he had the diptheria about 3 months ago & never has got over it  he didnít speak aloud  he choked to death.  I suppose you have heard all about the attack at Suffolk  I presume as much I have  all I have heard is what I have read in the papers  the only ones hurt in the 112 that I have heard of is our orderly sergeant, Tucker (Charles H. Tucker), & Corp. Baker (Albert Baker) of Co E both killed.  The rebs are still there & fortifying within gun shot of our guns  I donít know what our men are thinking about letting them fortify themselves right under their nose.  I donít know but the rebs will take the place yet.  You spoke about Ros (Coe) writing to me  I have recíd no letter from him  The last letter I got from Ed (Coe) was in Dec.  I donít know where to write to him now.  Mother you spoke about a furlough  it is almost impossible to get a furlough except in some urgent cases.  one can get a discharge about as quick.  I guess I have written about enough.  Write as soon as you get this.


From your son          Robt

P.O. Address

Hampton Hospital

Near Fortress Monroe


Care  Dr Mcclellan


The 112th New York is attached to the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, 7th Army Corps, to July, 1863.

Robert is still in the Hampton Hospital and talks of cousin Roswell Coe in the Vicksburg Campaign, not knowing that Ros had been killed May 12th, Battle of Raymond, Miss.

Hampton Hospital May 27

          Dear friends Ben & Mary

                    It is with the greatest pleasure that I take my pen in hand to write you a few lines in reply to yours of the 17 inst.  I was glad to hear from you again.

                    To day finds me still in the hospil but about well  I am getting tired of hospital life but if nothing happens I shall soon be out of it.

Last night we had some new recruits. If so they may be called some near a hundred sick & wounded came up on a boat from Suffolk some are pretty bad off.  They say that they have had a hard time out to the Blackwater  They the troops was expected back to Suffolk last night  I heard that about 23 in our regt had been killed & wounded  Probably by this time Vicksburg is ours this mornings papers state that Grants center column is a mile from the place& the 2 armies a mile & a half.  He has taken about 6000 prisoners & 74 pieces of cannon so says the papers.  I would like to hear from Ros  I am afraid he is seeing rough times his corps has done the hardest fighting so far that is if hes is in McPhersonís corps which I suppose he is.

Night before last we had quite an exciting time.  The nurse that was up from midnight took 24 dollars from a man & took it out door & suppos hid it; but that man happened to wake up & see him but being paralised, he could not do anything nor speak but commenced making an awful noise & waked up all in the ward; but by the time we had waked the nurse had got back.  I understand that his sentence is to go to his regt, rather easy punishment that. 

Ben, how come on the conscription excitement I suppose they will soon be through enrolling as I see they have commenced on Long Island.  I hope that this will bring some of the copperheads to their senses as William lighams sentence has him

Well I shall have to bring this to a close for want of something to write.  Write soon. My love to you all.

From your friend, Rob

Still in the hospital, Bob recognizes the blessings of good health.  He is worried about Ros, and with good reason.  The muster rolls for Roswell state he was removed from the field to the hospital, mortally wounded and never heard from again. 

There was a period of time during the winter, that the families of the soldiers could visit them in camp.... if of sufficient rank, and the enlisted soldiers in the hospital.  Robert seems upset that his father (Birdsell) is considering coming to Hampton Hospital.

Hampton Hosptl. May 29  (1863)


Dear parents,

          Once more I take my pen in hand to write you a few lines.  I have just recíd a letter from you & one from Melissa; I was glad to hear from you & more than glad to learn that you all are enjoying good health which I deem one of the greatest blessings that a person can have.  I have been to the door to day for the first time, you may think by this that I am not well yet: but I am quite well   the only trouble being weakness  but I can soon master that,  now that I can walk; this is just as I am & have always endeavored to tell you how I was for I feel as if it was my duty.

          The weather here is very nice.  we have not had any rain in a long time.  Corn & potatoes are up 9 or 10 inches.  I had some ripe strawberries nearly a week ago.

There is not any news of importance to write you about  the only news there is, is what we read in the papers  which of course you read.  At last accounts Vicksburg was not taken.  Pemberton had sent a flag of truce to Grant saying that he would surrender the place on condition; but Grant sent back that it would be an unconditional surrender or none at all  The conditions Pemberton would surrender on are that he would have all arms if he (Grant) would let him out unmolested.  I think that Vicksburg will be in our possession within the next 10 days if not already.  I am anxious to hear from Ros for I am afraid he is seeing hard times.  His corps has done the hardest fighting thus far  I hope that he will go through all right  Last Tuesday night a boat load of sick & wounded soldiers came here from Suffolk about 130 in all.  There are six in this ward one of them lays beside me with the fecice & he is one of the biggest babies I ever see:  he is not very sick but makes more fuss then they all did when the ward was full.  he is a good laughing stock for the boys.  they are making fun of him most of the time.  I have not had a letter from Jim since I wrote you before  I donít see what is the reason.

I hear that the regt came back to Suffolk night before last  they have been out 18 days.   You spoke about me coming home  you need not look for me, & father I donít want you to think about such a thing as coming after me for it would be all useless & further  Dr.  Mcclellan has put a stop to it.  Write soon. Hoping that these scratches will find you all well  Iíll bid you good bye & stop.

Your son  Robt

Bob knows how sick he and the men have been from camp disease.  The 112th has seen men die daily from many afflictions, and Bob is concerned about the boys in the Vicksburg campaign.

Hampton Hospt., June 6 63


Dear friends,

          Yours of the 1st was recíd last night & it was with the greatest pleasure that I read the same.  I shall have to tell you as usual I am still at Hampton but am almost ashamed to say it for I think I have been here long enough.  You speak about my not going to the regt until I felt myself fully able; as to that you may rest assured that I shall not go until I am perfectly able to do duty.

We are having some splendid weather here now.  I suppose you are having warm & pleasant weather by this time.

          There is not any news to write  nothing going on that would interest you.  War news is not as good this morning as for a few days back.  It appears that Grant has fallen back & is going to fortifying.  I was in hopes that he could take Vicksburg by spring & not live around the war camps & have the boys die off by disease.  Banks is getting in the rear of Port Hudson whether he will accomplish much time will decide.  I heard a little from Jim last Wednesday he was in the hospital  he said he had a touch of rheumatism & a cold on the lungs but was when he wrote about well.  Tell Charlie Fenton I havenít had a letter form him in 3 or 4 months  I should think by what you (mother) spoke about fathers going to Mayville that it was on some important business.  I have my thoughts about it but perhaps it is not right.  I have hope to hear next time what it was for. Mother you never, I believe, said anything about your legs;  I would like to know how it gets along.

Next time you write I want you to tell me about your cattle sheep & how many  also the bees crops & c. & in fact about everything on the farm.  If I am in the army I often think about what is going on at home.

Well as I can not think of anything to write I will stop.  Excuse this simple thing  & hope for better.

Write soon. My love to you all.

                                       Your son

Robt. L. Coe


Hampton Hospital

Near Fortress Monroe

(Ward 3)               Va

Care of Dr  Mcclellan


                             R.L. Coe


Bob tells of General Lees move north, that Lee is carrying out his threat to take the war into the northern states this summer. 


Hampton Va Saturday morning June 27 1863

Dear friends,

          It is with pleasure that I take the opportunity to address you once more.  I recd a letter from you yesterday.  Well, June 27 finds your son still at Hampton taking lessons as usual. I think he will graduate by fall if not before.  The weather is good now  we have just been giving a Ďright smart rainí cooling the air so that it is very comfortable.  I shall have to tell you as I have every time before that there is nothing to write that would interest you.  You thought that if you was here you could find enough to write about but I think you would be disappointed.

Yesterday I walked the farthest I have since I came here.  I went down to the wharf which is about Ĺ mile from here.  I wish you could see the negro huts between here & the water, the land is completely covered with them.  the size of them is about 8 or 10 feet square & built of shakes: shakes are made out of pine trees, they are about Ĺ inch thick & 8 ft long so you can imatine something how the city looks.

Hampton across the river or bay has been a beautiful town, the buildings are or was principally bricks but now it presents to the eye nothing but a mess of ruins  it being destroyed by the rebs at the breaking out of the war  It was the residence palace of Col Mallory the rebl col that was talked so much about one year ago.  Last night I heard that all the troops had left Suffolk to burght the town, but I hardly believe it yet  I hope it is true.  In my last I said the 112 had gone to Yorktown with the others, but I found it to be a mistake; Fosters brigade and Corcorans Legion have been there all the time  I suppose to guard the place till they remove all the government property.  The troops that went from there was at the White House, near Richmond thursday morning.  The excitement here caused by Lees move continues as usual.  Lee is carrying out his threats;  that he would carry this summers campaign into the northern states & I dont know but this move will be the best thing that could happen for the union by the time Lee takes Washington or Baltimore the people at the north will get their eyes open & will see that political fighting will never bring the war to a termination.  Washington though, I think is safe enough for the present.  You wanted to know what kind of Drs we had here. Well I will tell you first, Dr Mcclellan  has charge of the whole thing. He is Assistant Surgeon General U.S.A. & is cousin to Geo. B. Mcclellan; next comes Dr White the examining surgeon; his business is to examine for discharges & next we have Drís who attend to the sick.  They are all good surgeons & are well liked  Capt Palmeter came from the Fit to see me. I expect a letter from him this afternoon.

No more this time.  Write soon Good Bye

R.L. Coe


All Right


We have new potatoes now.  A boat load of sick came here having some whare between 30 & 40 of the 112 came in brigade. Suffolks this morning before sunrise they came towards Portsmouth.


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