Letter written by Private Samuel Wolcott of Company F, 7th CT Volunteer Infantry, to his mother, from Hilton Head, SC. Wolcott writes of his consuming patriotism, and the fact that thousands of Union soldiers are currently in the field while he is separated from his regiment with little to do. He writes that he would be ashamed to remain where he is until his term is over, and is instead choosing to go to the front and fight. Wolcott writes a small anecdote about a friend of his who carried the Connecticut state flag through the field and kept it safe despite a charge made to capture it. Wolcott believes that “none but cowards will shrink from bearing their part,” and he plans to move on the first of the following month.
Office Com[missioner] of Musters
Hilton Head, S.C. June 12, 1864
My Dear Mother:
Your letter of the 5th ult. is before me; it having been received at twenty minutes past ten a.m. yesterday. Am glad to know that you have returned safe and well after your journey.
The napkin rings that I sent in the box were poor ones and I did not think it worthwhile to send them in particular to anyone. If I have a chance before leaving here, I will get a dozen nice ones and send you. And now I want to write you a short essay on – I don’t know what, unless it is patriotism. I think when I was home you were telling me of a woman who had sent five sons to the war, and felt very sorry that she had but no more
to send. I guess you have forgotten her.
Now, just imagine me, a soldier here away from my regiment, with hardly anything to do, and in good health, while the thousands of Union soldiers are marching, working, and fighting almost incessantly amid the clayes [clays] of Virginia. Have not they friends at home who sympathize with them and would, if possible, shield them from harm? Is their interest in the country greater than mine? Or, am I better than they? But, you say I may get shot if I go there. Are there not thousands of the best men in the country exposed to the same danger? And will not the same God watch over me there as here?
I do not believe that I am a coward. If I am, I shall find it out in Virginia. And the sooner I know it the better. I should be ashamed to remain here until the expiration of my term, and then to return to Connecticut with the other boys, many of which
could name a score of fields where they had met the foe and with honor to themselves and cause. But if I were questioned, what should I say? No, mother, instead of telling me to remain here, tell me to go to the front and there help achieve our liberties. And when the war is over, or my time expires, you will not be ashamed to greet me, knowing that I shrank from no duty. Yesterday I received a letter from one of the boys of my co. (Wallace E. Norton). At the date of his letter, May 29th, he had been in four engagements since he landed in Virginia. In the last one, a corporal, he carried the state flag, the staff of which was shot in two in his hands, and a charge made upon it to effect its capture. But he bore it safely from the field. And think if he lives to see the end of the war he will soon forget that day[?] As a partial reward for his bravery they made him a sergeant
and doubtless there are hundreds of others as brave as he, who in doing their duty are bringing honor for themselves. Not that the honors won by the few make up for the maughling [mauling] of the ma[n]y. But when the work is to be done, I think that none but cowards will shrink from bearing their part. And believing this, I should go to Va. on the next boat if I could. But I cannot get away, and shall have to remain here until the first of next month, when I will write to you, if well, from the regt. Now don’t borrow unnecessary trouble about me, nor ask me even to avoid the dangers which as a soldier it is my duty to share.
Saml. W. Wolcott
Samuel W. Wolcott, from Salisbury, CT, enlisted in Co. F, 7th CT Volunteer Infantry on October 17, 1861. In December 1863 he re-enlisted, and served until his death at Deep Bottom, VA on August 16, 1864 (just 60 days after this letter). The 7th CT suffered severely at this engagement, losing 7 killed, 25 wounded, and 4 prisoners.
Wallace E. Norton, from New Haven, CT, enlisted on August 29, 1861, was promoted corporal January 1, 1863; sergeant May 20, 1864; and Quartermaster Sergeant September 13, 1864. He survived the war, and was mustered out July 20, 1863 at Goldsboro, NC.