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.
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
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
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
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.