Letter – David Norton, 31 August 1861

2015.002.168

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Letter written by Captain David Woodman Norton of Company E, 42nd Illinois Volunteer Infantry, to his father, from Camp Douglas. Norton describes the recent elections in the regiment, and names the new officers. He was offered the captaincy of three different companies, and the 1st Lieutenant position in two others. Norton is now the captain of the “Cass County Guards.” He is well liked by the men, but known for being a strict officer, and he writes that he is proud of himself for working his way up the ranks so quickly. He writes that the previous captain of his new company did not command the respect of the men, and he intends to work hard to make the company great.


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Camp Douglas

Aug 31st 1861

My Dear Father

Our Regiment was organized yesterday by the election of Capt. W.H. Webb U.S. Army, as colonel, David Stuart Chicago as Lieut-Col. & G.W. Roberts, Chicago Major. We have now three fine field officers and aught to make a name if we ever get onto the field.

The companies were organized the day before yesterday and I was elected Captain of the “Cass Co. Guards” – a compy I never before had any connection with. I was offered the captaincy of three different companies and the 1st Lieut in two others. – so you will see I have a great many friends in the Reg. and they say I am the strictest officer on the ground too. I think I have worked my way up pretty well since I first en

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listed at the fall of Ft. Sumter. I was made 2nd Sergeant of the first company I joined and have been 2nd & 1st Lieut, and am now Captain. By Monday or Tuesday I shall have 101 men, good & true, in my company.

Col. Stuart was our first choice for Col. but he declined in favor of Capt. Webb, our mustering officer.

The Comp’y I now have had has been almost without a capt. for the man who had the position was unable to command the respect or obedience of the men. They begin to learn that they must now obey, whether they respect or not, their captain They have the reputation of being the “hardest” comp’y in the camp now, but I intend to make them second to non in a few weeks. I have a great deal to do, but I intend to do it. They already acknowledge that my commands are not to be slighted with impunity, for no disobedience has or will escape its punishment.

Give my love to all and tell

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them to look in the papers for my name whenever the 42nd Ills. Reg. or Douglas Brigade gets into the field.

I heard from Joshua a few days since but have not yet had time to reply.

Haskells folks are all well or were when I last heard from them.

Write soon. In Haste

Your Affect. Son

“Capt” D.W. Norton

Camp Douglas

Chicago Ils.


Major David Woodman Norton was born 31 January 1838 in Chelsea, MA. He had two other brothers (Joshua and John) who also enlisted and served in the Union Army. He enlisted with the 1st Zouave Regiment of Chicago and was then promoted to 2nd Lieutenant of the 42nd IL Infantry then Captain on July 22, 1861. He eventually joins Major General John M. Palmer’s staff as acting Assistant Inspector General. He was killed in action near New Hope Church, GA on June 2, 1864 during the Atlanta Campaign.

Letter – David Norton, 22 August 1861

2015.002.167

Hi-resolution scans of the full document can be made available for a fee. Please see our Image Request page for details.

Letter written by Captain David Woodman Norton of Company E, 42nd Illinois Volunteer Infantry, to his father Joshua Norton, Jr., dated August 22nd, 1861, from Camp Douglas near Chicago, Illinois. Norton has recently been promoted to captain, and was presented with a sword, belt, sash, and an undress uniform. Norton has immense support from the men in his company, which he says makes all of his hard work worthwhile. He writes that he has spent most of his time in camp, usually drilling squads. He concludes the letter by writing that he must “fall in” with his company for the regimental drill.


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Camp Douglas

Near Chicago Ill Aug 22nd /61

Dear Father

Your last was gladly received. I feel in better spirits than when I last wrote you for since then I have had a sword – belt – sash & an undress uniform presented to me. Mr. Haskell and some other friends of mine subscribed and paid for the above articles for me. I have had good luck in another respect too – I am a Captain of one of the Companies of this Regiment. The Company is not quite full but is fast filling up and the men all tell me that they shall elect me as captain. One of the privates told me that if I could take every man in the camp who wanted me for Capt. that I should have a company of at least 500 men. That make me

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feel as though all the hard work I have done for this Regiment had not been wasted. The Col. appointed me over the company I now command and told me that he would rather see me a captain in his Rep. than any other man in the Camp. Wasn’t that a compliment from my Col.? I guess I begin to feel a little proud. I have hardly been out of the camp for 3 weeks and am always at work drilling squads.

I saw Haskell’s family last week they were all well.

We cant tell when we shall leave camp for the field. I must not write any more now as I must “fall in” my comp’y for the regimental drill. I will write again as soon as I have any thing new to tell you.

Give my love to mother & the rest and write as often as you can.

Your Affect Son

Capt. D. Woodman Norton

Douglas Brigade Chicago Ill.


Major David Woodman Norton was born 31 January 1838 in Chelsea, MA. He had two other brothers (Joshua and John) who also enlisted and served in the Union Army. He enlisted with the 1st Zouave Regiment of Chicago and was then promoted to 2nd Lieutenant of the 42nd IL Infantry then Captain on July 22, 1861. He eventually joins Major General John M. Palmer’s staff as acting Assistant Inspector General. He was killed in action near New Hope Church, GA on June 2, 1864 during the Atlanta Campaign.