Letter – David Norton, 31 August 1861

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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 – Silas Burdick, 22 November 1861

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Letter written by Corporal Silas G. Burdick of Company C, 85th NY Volunteer Infantry, to his cousin Joel A. Crandall, from Barracks No. 4 in Elmira, NY. Burdick writes of good times in the camp; he is eating plenty of rations and is “hearty as any pig.” The regiment has orders to go to Washington, D.C. Burdick describes the upcoming election for company officers. Hiram C. Miller will be captain of this regiment, and Rufus Scott will be captain of a new company. Burdick mentions that they will soon be receiving new rifles, and briefly writes of William P. Maxon of the 23rd NY Regiment. He describes how the previous night he was corporal of the pickets, and how they had fun putting drunk men in the guard house.


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Barracks No. 4 Elmire Nov 22nd, 61

Cousin Joel

I hope you will be willing to decipher my scribbling Well and hearty as any pig. I am able to eat my rations as well as any one in the regiment We are having great times here now. We have orders to go to Washington next Monday yet we do not expect to get away before a week from then, some predict not till, January. There has been a considerable excitement in relation to our election but it is all settled now We do not have our election till next week. H.C. Miller is to be Capt Yet there is to be a new company raised Which Rufus Scott

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is to be Capt; There is 14 men to leave this company to help make the new company. I hope this thing will all be settled to the satisfaction of every one Now I would like to step in and see you all an hour or so and get some more apples & kiss the Girls once more We shall get our Rifles before we leave here. There were orders this morning. Well now you see there is so likelyhood of our doing some good for our country William P Maxson belonging to the 23rd regiment was here but a short time ago, he is a noble looking fellow. I suppose you have all all your work done and have nothing ot do except going to see Jenny & take care of

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of your sisters. I wish you would my best wishes to all the girls I was Corporall of the pickets last night. That is nice business all any one has to do is to station the Gaurd and then he can go and lay down or go out and have some fun running the gaurd, They cannot put one in the gaurd house who is corporal. We have some fun putting [???] drunken men in the gaurd house They put in two last night. One of them was so dead drunk that he did not know enough to know his own name There are a good many drunken men in Capt Kings Company

I must end my scrawls for this time. So good luck to you

S.G. Burdick

JA Crandall


Silas G. Burdick enlisted as a private in Company C, 85th NY Infantry on September 2, 1861 at Geneva, NY, aged 19. He re-enlisted as a veteran on January 1, 1864, but was captured with many of his regiment at Plymouth, NC on April 20, 1864. He was confined as a prisoner at Andersonville, GA, but was among the fortunate who survived and was mustered out on June 9, 1865 at Elmira, NY.

Letter – Samuel Keeler, 24 October 1864

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Letter written by Corporal Samuel B. Keeler of Company I, 4th NJ Infantry, to his brother Clifford, from a camp near Strasburg, VA. Keeler writes that he sent a description of the battle from the 19th [Cedar Creek] in a previous letter. The battle was hard, but the Union came out victorious and he was unharmed. Keeler thinks highly of General Sheridan, and writes that he is proud to be in Sheridan’s Army. He is confident that Lincoln will be reelected President, in spite of what the Copperheads have been saying. He comments on friends, including some in the 15th NJ Infantry, and family members back home, including one whom Keeler has just discovered is a Copperhead.


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Camp near Strasburg Va

Oct 24/64

Dear Brother

Your welcome letter came in Company with Annies. I was very glad to here from you. There is not much use of my tilling you about the Battle we had on the 19th as I told Annie all about it in her letter. you would like to know weather I came out safe or no. well I came out all safe, and I am Thankful for it. I don’t see how every one can come out a live in some of the battles we have. the Battle of the 19th was a very hard one for a while. but we soon got the best of the Rebs and run

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them back a gain. we wound up the Fight by a Grand Victory on our side. the last we heard of the Rebs, they was goin up the Valley as fast as they could. I don’t think they will be back again very soon, if they do we will do the same thing to them. we can Whip [Confedederate General Jubal] Early every day his men will not Fight when we get them on the run. that morning they drove us back we fought every step of the way. they drove us about three miles, but just as soon Sheridan came up and said they would have to go back where they came from. we all knew then that things was right. Sheridan had bin to Washington and he we [was] just on his way back that day. if he had of bin he[re] in the morning, Early would not of flanked us

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you say I ought to be Proud I am in Sheridans Army. I am Proud of it. there is no Army that has don as well as this Army here before the Army in the [Shenandoah] Valley has always bin Whipped untill Sheridan took Command. Annie says in her letter that Pap got my Check for 200.00 Dollars, so you are beting all of your money [on] Uncle Abe are you. you had better keep your money in your Pocket. the same time your money is safe. Abe will be elected again just as shure as you live. let the Copperheads say what they Pleas a bout the Administration. and Abe will be re-elected in spite of them. The report is that Abe is down here at Sheridans Head Quarters now. if he is not here I think he is a coming in a day or t[w]o. Ben Peterson better mind

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how he goes about Pemberton [NJ?] some of the Copperheads will get a hold of him and Kill him yet Emma told me in her last letter that there was a flag from our House to Lippencotts I heard a bout that turn out in the city Mag Anne told me about that. Emma told me that Hogat gave you a Revolver. 15.00 dollars is a good price for it. you had better sell it. that will be so much towards buying your new suit of clothes this Winter. I am glad that Charley has got his papers [discharge – Charles Keeler, Co C, 3rd NJ Infantry]. tell him I say that is the tickett to Vote. tell Cheeks I did not know that he was a Copperhead befor. I am very sorry to here it. tell him I say he must vote for Old Abe. how do General

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Taylor vote. – I hope for Honest Old Abe. I saw in the paper how the election went in them states. the Stamps came all right. your letter was mailed on the 13th I received it on the Afternoon of the 21st. I knew that Gaskill was a Copperhead. I never told you that his son George [George Gaskill, enlisted as a substitute in Co. B, 15th NJ Infantry] was down here again. he is in the 15th Regt. in our Brigade. I have not saw him since the Battle. I will go over to the 15th and see if he was wounded or killed, so his folks will know about him. I will go before I send this letter. has Billy Bryan [Co. A, 15th NJ Infantry] got well of his wound yet I guess he is all right for Old -Page 6-

Abe. I have saw them circulars you speak about Clifford, you speak about that Hat I don’t think I gave it to you. I know I told Morris to take it home with him one night to keep you from getting it. you are rather young fer a High Hat I think. I have just bin over to see George Gaskill. He a live and well. he wishes to be remembered to you all. I will bring my letter to a close for the want of some thing to say. give my love to all, and Answer soon.       

From your Affect.

Brother Samuel B Keeler


Samuel B. Keeler, from Mount Holly, NJ, enlisted on August 17, 1861 as a private in Company I of the 4th NJ Infantry. He was promoted to corporal April 1, 1863, and 1st sergeant on March 1, 1865 (transferred to Co. A). He was cited for “bravery and good conduct” by Lt. Colonel Baldwin Hufty, 4th NJ Infantry, in the Battle of Petersburg (attack near Fort Fisher) on April 2, 1865 [see OR’s 1-46-1-930]. He was mustered out in July 1865.