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50th Massachusetts Infantry - Soldier's Burial at Sea

Item LTR-8934
January 7, 1863 William G. Hammoind
Price: $245.00


Original Civil War soldier's letter. 4 pages, written in period pencil.

Onboard the Barque Guerilla at sea
Wednesday, January 7th 1863

Dear Parents,

Here we are bound for Ship Island or New Orleans. We started from Hilton Head last Thursday, the first day of the month. (By the way, I wish you a Happy New Year.). we are in a fine vessel and a good sailer she is – a government vessel. She has got bunks between decks. Captain took a vote of the three companies to see whether we wanted bunks or not. The other two companies voted to have them and we did not so they are stuck between decks, all crowded up, and we are in the lower hold with plenty of room with a nice floor built for us. It is much better.

The day we came aboard we were being mustered in for our pay. It was Wednesday. We were in line with everything on for inspection, while we were there, orders came for us to go aboard the Barque. So, we had to go to quarters and strike our encampment. We got aboard the middle of the afternoon and settled down for a fortnight or three weeks. It is fine weather – warm and pleasant. I am sweating like a beaver now in writing to you. We have had head winds ever since we started, but very pleasant day and night. The moon is splendid at night. The boys are enjoying themselves as well as they can.

I was sea sick for 3 days. It was awful, I tell you. I should like to get ashore first rate but the winds won’t favor us. It is all for the best. It makes our time fly. Our time is most half gone. I tell you what it is – I shall know how to appreciate home when I get there. You will never hear me say a word about the grief at home. We fare pretty rough here but I can stand it and am satisfied. As I can say that I have had a hand in the war in years from now.

I hear that Banks has taken Butler’s place in New Orleans and Butler and his troops have gone North. My opinion is that we shall not do any fighting. As it will be so hot while we are there. I long to get some letters from home. So as to find out how you are and how everything is getting along. I should like to hear some news in regard as to the war and get some papers. I wrote to Ed Rowell while we was at Hilton Head and sent a little note to Hattie. Has Foster or Ed Rowell gone to sea yet?

Gulf of Mexico

Tuesday, January 13th

Dear Father,

We are still on the water and are likely to be here for a few days longer. We have had fair winds for a few days past and if they continue, we should probably reach Ship Island in a day or two, where we will get our orders. We shall have to take in water there. We passed Tortugas Island at sundown night before last and I have seen a shark and a very large turtle. It is very warm here.

I witnessed a very sad scene last Saturday. It was a burial of a man at sea. He was a sergeant in Company E of South Reading. His name was Green. He leaves a wife and one child at home. He died very suddenly Friday night. He has been sick for some time. On Friday, he was taken vomiting and the boys thought that he was sea sick. And so, no attention was paid to him and at night he died and was carried on deck and laid out and covered with the American flag. In the morning, he was buried. He was sewed up in his blanket and carried amidship and laid on a shutter. And the boys collected around and the burial service was read by Captain Putnam and a Psalm hymn sung by boys and a prayer made by Captain Barnes of Company K, after which another hymn was sung. And while they were singing, the body was cast to the mighty deep. It was a very sad sight to see and I hope I shall never see another scene like that. There was a few dry eyes. It seemed like Sunday the rest of the day. The boys did not seem to care about doing anything.

I forgot to say that six of our company have been detailed as sailors – Charley Gardner, Ed Symonds among them. They will get extra pay probably.

The boys are making themselves contented. Some are writing, some are mending their clothes, others are making rings out of wood and bone, others are reading and playing cards and laying around everywhere – even up in the fore and main top. We won’t be good for anything for a month after we get ashore. We have laid still so long without exercise that we are weak and lazy.

W. G. Hammond