Letter – Madison Cannon, 10 June 1864

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Letter written by Captain Madison M. Cannon (soon to be commander of 40th NY Infantry) to Adelia Babson. He is writing from the headquarters of the 1st Brigade, 3rd Division, 2nd Army Corps, near Cold Harbor, VA, and describes the dangers of Grant’s Overland Campaign. Both armies are facing each other on the bank of the Chickahominy River, though there have been no real engagements yet, just occasional firing from the sharpshooters. Cannon writes that the Union army was recently reinforced, and has not suffered as many casualties as the Confederate army. They recently received a shipment of goods from White House, VA, and he has procured bottles of alcohol which he will soon share. Cannon remarks on a photograph he is sending to Adelia, and writes that the thinks of her often. He concludes with a short poem.


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Head Qrs. 1st Brig. 3d Div. 2d A.C.

Near Cold Harbor, Va

June 10th 1864

My Dear Adelia

I have been daily expecting to hear from you, but each mail arrives without a single word from Pigeon Cove. Delia, if you knew how much your letters are prized – and how much encouragement they contain, to one situated as I am, you would not delay I know you would write oftener, and good long letters, with words of cheer to drive away despondency.

     Both armies are now facing each other on the North Bank of the Chickahominy River about 8 miles north East from Richmond. Our lines are very close to the enemy, and at some points the works are about 50 yards apart. There has been no real engagements for the past few days, but the sharp-

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shooters on both side keep firing, at intervals, as any object attracts their attention. We are approaching their works by means of parallels and I understand that we have already mined two of their redoubts, mounting some 15 guns each, which will be blown up when the proper time arrives. The weather has been very fine and favorable to our movements, but as we proceed farther south in the direction of the Peninsula, we find water very scarce and very bad.

Our Army is larger today than it was the day we started from Brandy Station, having been heavily reinforced. Our losses have been very great, but I think are not as heavy as the enemy’s, who have lost many prisoners.

We have just received a stock of goods from our mess from White House – and while I am writing a bottle of W– sits directly in front of me and on the floor of my tent lies 3 Doz. bottles of Porter – so you see we have some

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of the luxuries of civilization. My friend Lt. Gilder [1st Lt. William H. Gilder, Jr., Co. H] has just come in and we are about to take the sun’s altitude through the bottom of a tin cup.

     I received a letter from Ben, but he has not sent any of my pictures. I also heard of his being in Orange County on a visit to the Brook’s. He told me when I was in New York that he intended to spend the summer at or near P.C. [Pigeon Cove] – even if he had to close his store. How I would like to accompany him. But that cannot be, so Delia we will wait patiently until next winter. Lt. Halsey [1ST Lt. William F. Halsey, Co. D] was quite severely wounded in the charge of the 12th May [Spotsylvania], but is now home and getting along very well. The major [Emmons F. Fletcher] has returned to duty. Oh, Delia how thankful I feel, after passing through so much danger, in being permitted to escape.

     I enclose the only picture that I have received of the new ones which Ben praises so much. It has become soiled, but when Ben sends the others I will send you one

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you must get some taken, for the last you had was not as good as it might have been. Don’t forget. You will see quite a difference in the style of this Picture. – I think it very good.

     Delia you ask if my thoughts turn to you during the march. – Yes – Delia I know you do not doubt my sincerity – It is for you that I am willing to sacrifice all, except my honor. Rest assured you are not forgotten.

        “Nay, thou art now so dear, me thinks

         the farther we are forced apart,

         Affections firm elastic links,

         But bind the closer ‘round the heart.”

     I must now close as the mail is about leaving. Write soon and often – & remember me to Emily.

                         Yours with much love, 

M.M.C                  


Madison M. Cannon enrolled as a corporal in the 1st NJ Infantry, Company I, on May 21, 1861. Following service in the first Bull Run campaign, he was discharged for promotion to 2nd lieutenant on August 11, 1862 in Company G, 40th NY Infantry, the famous “Mozart Regiment.” Cannon was made 1st Lieutenant and adjutant October 14, 1862, and promoted to Captain of Company E, Feb. 24, 1863. Due to the mustering out of many 3 years’ officers in July 1864, Cannon was rapidly promoted to Major, September 6, 1864, Lieutenant Colonel September 15, 1864, and Colonel September 16, 1864. Despite his participation in many heavy battles, including Bull Run II, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg (wounded & cited for gallantry), and the Wilderness, he survived the war and is frequently mentioned in the Official Records. It is believed he later married his sweetheart, Adelia Babson, of Pigeon Cove, Mass.