Letter written by Sergeant David Woodman Norton of the “1st Zouave Regiment of Chicago,” to his father Joshua Norton, Jr., from Chicago, IL. Norton comments on his brothers’ recent decisions to enlist. Norton is a 2nd Sergeant of Company E, but feels that he should have a higher rank. His colonel however, shows favoritism to the older members of the Zouave Company. They have orders to go to Cairo, IL, which Norton describes as “the most important post to be held west of Washington.” Norton inquires after his mother, saying that she should not be worried about her sons, as they will all return safely and with honor. Norton mentions a package of letters he would like returned to their sender, Miss Mary T. Dodge, if he dies in the war. He also asks his father to get him a commission if he can, as Norton feels he would do well in any position.
Chicago April 29th/61
I received your letter some days since and was not at all surprised to hear that Joshua and John had enlisted in the glorious cause of our country.
I am 2nd Sergeant of Comp. E. Zuave Regiment of Chicago. I should have had a higher rank but for the favoritism shown by our Colonel to the older members of the Zuave Company. As it is I have a great deal of the work of drilling the men thrown upon my hands. We have got them into pretty good marching drill and have begun teaching the manuel
of Arms. Our uniforms are not done yet, thought we expect to get them in two or three days.
We are under order to leave for Cairo or to go into camp to night or to-morrow. I hope we may go to Cairo, as that is the most important post to be held west of Washington, and we may expect some hard service there for the south must come there to get food or starve. Three Companies of our Reg. are there now.
I am glad that John was with the 1st Reg. that saw service Was he hurt at all? Has Joshua gone yet? What are the numbers of their Regiments? Mine is the 1st Reg. of Zouaves.
Mother must not feel badly to part with her sons in such
a cause as ours, even if she should be called upon to part with any of them for this life. She will meet us all again where there are no wars! But she must not expect to lose any of us. We shall all
be come home safe and with honor. If we have any good fighting I mean to have a rank higher than at presant, if there is one to be had by doing one’s duty.
I have left my trunk in care of Mr. Haskell. If I don’t return I should like to have a package of letters you will find in it returned to the writer. – Miss. Mary T. Dodge Dodgeville Wisconsin
When you write to me send the letters for the presant, to care of Box 2555 and address to Sergeant DW Norton Comp. E. Zouaves Reg. Chicago, I will write again as soon as I get time and a chance. I am
not quite a novice, in military matters. Don’t forget if you can get a chance to get me a commission, that I feel sure that I can fill any office I should be likely to get, if perseverance and application are of any a/c [account].
Write Soon and tell the others to do so too. Give my love to all and write soon to
Your Affect. Son
D. Woodman Norton
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.