April - May 1864 Letters

The Great Lakes Steamer The Maple Leaf has transported the entire baggage of the Brigade that has left Folly Island to Jacksonville.  The Regiments in the Brigade were the 112th New York, 169th New York, and 13th Indiana.  When the Maple Leaf arrived in Jacksonville March 30, 1864 a small amount of cargo was off loaded, and before the remainder of the Brigades gear could be removed, the Maple Leaf was ordered to take a unit of cavalry to Palatka about 70 miles up the St. Johns River.  A few men of the 112th were ordered to go on the trip to guard the Brigades gear and cargo.  On the return trip from Palatka, the Maple Leaf struck a torpedo and sank immediatly.  Almost everything the Brigade owned was lost.  The Company books, all Officers uniforms, swords, gear, accoutrements, most only ended up with what they had on their backs. 


Jacksonville  Fla  Apr. 3d  1864.


Dear parents,

          It is with the greatest pleasure that I seat myself this pleasant Sabbath to inform you of your sons general good health.  This 3d day of April 1864 finds R.L. Coe still in the land of the living & all right, the other boys are well.  I have recd no letter from you for 2 weeks  the mail has not come for this week or last week yet  I probably shall hear from you then. I have written you every week since we came here. 

The weather is very fine here at present being not very warm.

All the men that remained at Folly when we left have come on to the regt with all the goods that was left, though the goods are a dead loss; when the boat came here it was loaded with cavalry which were going up the river 50 miles so the goods were not taken off the boat excepting a few express boxes  but a guard was put over them to guard them up the river & back: on the way back when 14 miles above she run on to a torpedo which sunk her immediately.  5 men were killed & all the baggage lost.  All the co books of the regt & all of the officers clothing was lost.  The 13 Ind sutler lost all his goods & 2000 dollars in money.  All the tents for the brigade were lost.  The most of my loss was a dress coat.  Fortunately for Jim & I the express box which you sent come on the boat & was taken off here  so that we are all right.  All the things in the firkin kept the very best with the exception of the butter.  The sausage that lay on top of the butter moulded & scented nearly half of the butter so that it is not very good.  The fruit cake was as good as ever only a little dry  the dried apples & berries are nice  the vest is a good fit & takes my eye exactly  Jim & I are just fattening now.   I was on picket yesterday had a fine time.  Last night the alligators kept up a continual bellowing all night similar to a yearling bull calf  they are plenty enough & large ones too.  Yesterday the 169 went up the river on a scout  they found 2 companies of gray backs  attacked them; the 169 had 5 wounded.

I must tell you about our new stove we have got a new co (army) stove which cost 60 dollars  it is a splendid affair  it has large tin boilers & a baking apparatus   we had baked beans for dinner  the first I have had since I left home.

I am anxious to hear from the armies east, & west  it is about time for the Spring campaign to begin.  I am in hopes that Gen. Grant will push things ahead now that he has command.  What is the opinion about who will be our next president  the general opinion in the army is that Old Abe will be elected now that the soldiers are allowed to vote.  Well I must bring this to a focus.  Write often.  Good bye.


                Robt L. Coe


For the present address your letters to Jacksonville  Fla.




Jacksonville Fla Apr. 10th 1864


Dear parents,

          Again I seat myself for the purpose of informing you of your sons good health

This Sabbath we find your son Robt in the best possible condition   I never was as fleshy in my life as I am at present.

The health of the regt generally is good; there is not but 2 or 3 cases of sickness in the whole regt.  John Springer is quite unwell though he is not confined to the bed.  Jim is on guard duty to night  he is as healthy as usual.  Eb Skellie was here a short time ago  he is all right   Eb has not seen very hard times he was not on the Peninsula march nor the Blackwater marches he was in a fort.  Bill Skellie is fat & tough as a bear.  In my last I said that I had not heard from you in some time; the mail came just after I had sealed the letter   I recd 2 letters from you   one of the 13th & the other of the 20th Mar.  Everything is quiet here at present  nothing of importance has recurred in some time.  I dont think there will be an attack made here  at least there is nothing that looks like it now. By the Bye  you seem to think that I have not a very good opinion of negro soldiers; you are mistaken  I think that they can stand a third more hardships.  All I have against them is that I don’t like to be in there company.   In my opinion there will be a regular army of colored troops after the war.  Our chaplain (Hyde) has gone home on a furlough.  I wish you could see him over  he is the most perfect man I ever saw, always so kind & pleasant to every one  he is the pick of the whole org.. every man in the regt thinks there is no one like Chaplain Hyde.

We have had fresh beef twice since we came here  it is not very good. The story is that they killed 14 head of cattle & the whole weighed 1000 but I guess it is not quite as bad. We have 5 men out of our regt driving? up cattle; and butchering.  You wanted to know what we did with our stove when we left Folly. They were all left there & when the baggage came  the stoves were brought along. But they were all lost on the Maple Leaf. Blackberries are 1/3 grown size already we shall have ripe berries in may.

I have written about everything of interest & hope you will excuse this. I have not been more than 4 hours writing it. My best respects to all inquiring friends Hoping to hear from you soon  I remain as ever your affectionate son.

Robt. L. Coe


This blow is the blow of the tulip or Cotton wood tree, its bud is out.

Good Bye


The 112th New York is attached to the 2nd Brigade, 3rd Division, 10th Army Corps, Army of the James, Dept. of Virginia and North Carolina, to May, 1864.

The 112th is back in Virginia. Robert sees an army being assembled he knows must be for the fight to take Richmond.  I think he's seen enough of war....he's offered the opinion that maybe the Southern Confederacy should be recognized if the army that is about to march on Richmond fails this time

Gloucester Point,  Opposite Yorktown Va

                    Apr 27th 1864


Dear parents,

          I now seat myself to let you know how & where I am.  Well this day finds me in the very best of health & spirits.  I wrote in my last that there was prospects of our leaving Jacksonville Fla.,  we started from there the 21st & arrived here last night.  We are now on the oppisite side of the York river to Yorktown Va., called Gloucester Point  it is a very handsome place, good water & c.  There is a large army concentrating here  I know nothing about how many  only that as far as I can see there are camps, & troops coming all the time. 

There is 29 batteries of light artillery  or 174 guns.  Richmond must fall this time, if it cannot be taken with the army that is about to march on to it  I think they ought to acknowledge the Southern Confederacy, don’t you?  I cannot tell you much about things here for I have not been here long enough to find out.  We had a nasty trip coming here  the boys were awful sea sick & worse than that a good many were drunk:  one fellow they was going to put in irons & he got away from the officers & climbed the mast of the ship 100 ft high  they loaded a gun & was going to fire on him  Gen Foster told him again to come down & he concluded he would.  I never want to go on another salt water trip as long as I am in the service.

You need not be alarmed about my…..about all things I dispise that the most I recd yours of Apr 10 before we left Jacksonville.  I shall have to be brief with this as our camp must be fixed &c&c.  I will write just as soon as we get things arranged &c. 

Hoping you will excuse this I close.

Address yours to Yorktown Va.

          Yours affectionately

Robt L. Coe


The 112th New York is attached to the 2nd Brigade, 3rd Division, 18th Army Corps, to July, 1864.

           Glouster Point Va.,  May 1st 1864


Absent friends,

                    It is with the greatest pleasure that I take this opportunity to inform you of my general good health & c.  I wrote you the next day after our arrival here, but very brief.

Today is Sunday the first day of May. it is raining some.   My health is excellent as is also the whole regt.  we are in good condition for marching, which we shall have to do soon.  Everything is being got in readiness for the move about to commence!  All things that we do not necessarily need on the march have been turned over to the quartermaster.

Yesterday we had a grand review & muster of all the troops on this side of the river.  it was the hardest review I ever was on.  We had to go out in heavy marching orders, everything we had  shelter tents & all,  then muster lasted from 10 till 11 o’clock  then at 12 we marched about a mile & was reviewed by some petty brigadiers  then had to wait till half past five when Gen Butler came & reviewed us again.  “Old Ben” is a queer looking old fellow but understands his….  

I don’t know but it is all right to take men out for 6 to 8 hours with 50 lbs on their backs without letting them rest.  I am willing to do anything that is reasonable & right but as to making us ………………………………….was not what I enlisted for. 

I tell you this war is carried on in to popular a scale  if some of our officers who wear stars & stars could be put on the same grade with a capt., the war would be brought to an end much sooner, there would not be as much object in prolonging the war.  I don’t want you to think that I am entirely discouraged for I am not  I believe there is some good generals that want to see the war end & the union restored & if only such could lead our army that we now have we could crush the rebellion in 3 months if not sooner. 

I have just read the Herald of the 29th  it has but little news.  the rebs are concentrating a large force at Richmond & c.  Richmond must fall  the soldiers are all eager for the trying struggle to come  if our army is successful at Richmond the war will virtually be ended.  If you do not get a letter from me very regular for a while you need not think strange for we shall be on the march & will not have much opportunity.  Address your letters to Fortress Monroe Va.  112th Regt  N. Y. Vol.

We are in the 2nd brigade 3rd division 10th army corps.  Brigadier R.S. Foster in command of the brigade;  the regts in the brigade are the 8th Maine  13th Indiana  169th N.Y. & the 112.  the 8 & 13 are veteran regts.  Write often & I as often as convenient.

Robt L. Coe



In the field May 8th 1864


Absent friends

          I now seat myself to inform you of my wherabouts & c.  We are stopping at present on the road from City Point to Petersburg about 4 miles from Petersburg. We started from Yorktown the 4th   the whole force then came this way.  there is two army corps  the 10th & 18th  we are in the 10th.  Yesterday we advanced 2 miles toward Petersburg & encountered the enemy in force  a brisk skirimish commenced which lasted about 3 hrs.  Our regt was on the left & was not engaged though there was some wounded in 2 regts of our brigade  the 13th Ind & 9th Maine  the 9th Maine has been put in our brigade in place of the 8th Maine.  The exact loss I cannot state but there must have been quite a number.  Maj. General Butler & Gilmore have both been here. whether Butler is going to take the field in person I cant say  the men have all confidence in him.  Never did I hear such cheering as when he passed by.  I understand that the 18th corps is at our left & that there is a large force in our rear and that you may look out for a grand thing soon.  Our regt yesterday drove the rebs & succedded in burning a railroad bridge & destorying the communications between Petersburg & Richmond if this railroad is held it will be a hard blow to the rebs for it cuts off their communications with N. Carolina & Richmond.  I have not time to write much.  I will write often if there is any chance to send letters:  Address your letters to Co H 112 N.Y.S.V. Fortress Monroe Va

Hoping these few ill written lines will find you all well  I close.

Affectionately yours

               Robt L. Coe


This was the last letter in the collection preserved by Birdsell, Sarah, and Emma Coe.  Robert Was killed June 1st 1864 in Cold Harbor, Va.

collecting the dead from Cold Harbor april 65 (2).gif

Collecting the dead at Cold Harbor April 1865 Library of Congress photo 

unburied dead near Cold Harbor (2).gif

Unburied dead near Cold Harbor  Library of Congress photo

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