Letter by Private Zebulon P. Ryder of Company I, 11th PA Cavalry, to his mother. Ryder describes how busy he has been since many soldiers re-enlisted and were given furlough. He claims he will not be able to easily get a furlough but will be home to stay in August. He expresses displeasure with how the African American soldiers were given “equality with the whites.” Ryder references an event from picket duty while in Suffolk, VA about a month earlier when rebels had captured 7 from their regiment. The night before they left Suffolk, Ryder and a few others discovered that Confederate pickets were staying at the Pugine House. Ryder and his comrades attempted to capture the soldiers, but were interrupted when more Confederate troops arrived. Ryder proudly mentions the two geese that he is fattening up for Christmas.
Camp Getty Dec 15th/63
I seat myself to write you a few lines and I hope you will excuse me for not writing sooner as I did not have time for thay have kept us a going all the time lately as thare is a gret meny of the boys that has Reenlisted home on a Fourlough. I reaceived my farthers letter dated the 5th but I was out on picket about 15 miles from Camp and had no CHance to answer it as i Just got back yesterday and was not in Camp but 4 hours when I was sent with a dispatch to a place in North Carolina called Caratuck [Currituck] with a dispatch it is [40/90?] miles from here I was a Rideing all last night and did not get back untill 8 oclock this morning so you can think I am prety tired although I am well an I hope you and all the famaly are the same i reaceived that note my farther sent from Gen Butler but did not shew it to the Colenell as it whould be no use now as thare is so meny Boys home on a fourlough now that I could not get one very easy and if nothing hapens I shall be home in August to stay and I can easy stand it untill then I guess and when I get home you can not drive me in
the Service for the Negro is soldier enough now whith out haveing the whites in to help them I think it is the most and the meanest thing to Government ever done whas to put Negros on Equality with the whites which they are a doing down here and I hope you or none of my freinds sympathises with them for if you only here 1 quarter as much about them as I did you whould not. While I whas sent on picket thare whas and Old lady named Ryder Claimed Relationship with me she said she was my Cousen her folks she said lived at Sag Harbor but wether she is or not I do not know but still I would not be fool enough to say she was not as I was used so well I borded thare the day I was out thare and she dose just as well as if she had bin my Cousin she has bin down here 30 years but I forgot what her farthers name whas but she had a brother named John who whas out this side of Suffolk last month doing picket douty whe was thare 15 days and thare whas orders for some of us to go in Suffolk for the week before who came thare the Captured 7 of our Regt with 8 horses and 2 wagons but the night before whe came away
thare was 7 of started and whent up as it was Raining prety hard and the night was dark whe thought thare whas no danger and our Rations whas prety scarce whe thought whe would press a few chickens. whe crost a small stream Caled the Jeraco Canall on a Raft whe got thare about 11 oclock and when and seed a few of our frends that whe got acquainted with while our Regt whas Camped thare and they used us first Rate so well that whe thought thare was something up so whe met a negro and questioned him and he said that pickets was stationed at the Pugine house and whe had beter leave and whe thought so two and as whe whas a comeing away whe spied 5 of them a seting in a house takeing it so laysay whe thought whe would try and capture them so drawing our Revolvers whe whent up to the door and knocked and soon as the door whas open when made a Rush in and be fore thay had time to thinck and gt thare arms whe ordered them to surender wich thay done with out showing any Resistance for thay seen it was no use whe got thare arms and whas a marching them away when whe
heard more of them coming down the Road and whe knew whe had to leave so whe took the 5 muskets and left but not before whe had fired the muskets off at them and 3 shots a piece from our Revolvers and they Blaced [blazed] at us but whe whas behind the House and it was so dark thay did not hit any of us but I thinck by the way thay yelled whe must have hurt some of them but you may be shure whe did not stay long to see and whe knew thay would not folow us as thay did not know how many men thare whas of us whe Ran about 2 miles and then whe got as meny chickens and geese as whe could cary and started for head quarters some one fired a shot and shot one of our boys in the arm but not enough to do him any harm as it only grased him I have got 2 of the geese now fatening them up for Christmas, when you see Ruth ask her why she dose not answer my letter as I would like to here from her very much, give my love to all inquiring friends and write soon
from your Affectionate son
excuse my scribling for I am sleepy
Zebulon P. Ryder was born in New York City. He enlisted in Company I of the 11th Pennsylvania Cavalry on August 3, 1862 at around 16 or 17 years of age. He was first assigned to duty in Suffolk, Va. with his company, and survived the war, being discharged May 16, 1865. At some point he moved west to Tennessee, married, and worked as a farmer. He died February 26, 1909 of pneumonia in Buena Vista, TN.
Another letter by Zebulon Ryder, dating from 3 August 1862, can be found at Spared Shared. Be sure to check them it as well!