Letter – David Norton, 25 October 1861


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WARNING: This letter contains racist slurs. We neither support nor condone the use of such language and have therefor decided to censor the words out of consideration for our readers.

Letter written by Captain David W. Norton of Company E, 42nd IL Volunteer Infantry, to his mother from a camp at Warsaw, MO. Norton describes the march from Jefferson City to Tipton, which was made difficult by rough road conditions and previous rainy weather. They marched to Warsaw with General David Hunter’s division and are intending to join General John C. Fremont’s army. Norton mentions that Fremont’s and General Franz Sigel’s armies are in pursuit of General Sterling Price, and he hopes that his own company may see some action when they catch up. The countryside is pleasant, but “shows plainly that the curse of slavery hangs over it.” He mentions that the towns are deserted, with only a few Germans remaining. Norton concludes by saying that the marching agrees with him physically, and that he is well-liked by his men.

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Camp at Warsaw Mo.

Oct 25th 1861.

Dear Mother

I have not had a moments time to write you since we were at Jefferson City. We marched from there to Tipton a distance of about 60 miles over the roughest roads I ever travelled. At Jefferson City we had twenty-five wagons in parts and one hundred & fifty mules – all untrained given to our Regt. as they ran. We had to make wagons of those parts and teams of those wild mules before we could march from Jefferson City. It took two or

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three days to catch and break the mules and then we loaded on the march. We had the roughest roads to go over I ever saw. The hills were very steep and the road gullied very much by the heavy fall rains. After we got to Tipton we rested one day and then marched with Gen. Hunters division for this place to join Gen. Fremonts Army. We arrived here yesterday, and shall probably march on after Gen. Fremont who is still some fifty miles ahead. The distance from Tipton to Warsaw is between 80 & 90 miles and we marched it in four days over rough

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roads which I call good marching for green hands! There are some 15000 men in our Division & 27000 under Gen. Fremont himself. Gens. Fremont & Sigels are close behind Gen. Price and will undoubtedly bring him to a halt by the time we overtake them & then we may hope to see lively times. It is the hope of a fight that makes our boys travell so well. We out march some Regts that have been in the field ever since May. Gen. Hunter paid us the compliment of putting us third in his Column after the first days march. The first day we were the last Regt. in the Column.

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The Country we have been marching through is as fine as any I ever saw, but it shows plainly that the curse of Slavery hangs over it. Every Farm shows that ******* are a curse to the country. Every village we passed was quite or nearly deserted. A few Germans only remaining. This part of the state is all secession and if it dont curse the day on which secession was born I am much mistaken.

I am hearty and fat. This hard marching agrees with me. My men think they have got the best Capt. in the Regt. I take good care of them when sick and make them fly round pretty lively when well. They say that their Captain

[letter incomplete]

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 – Louis P. Di Cesnola, 10 March 1863


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Letter written by Medal of Honor winner Colonel Louis P. DiCesnola of the 4th NY Cavalry, to New York Congressman Erastus Corning, from Willard’s Hotel in Washington. DiCesnola writes that he has been restored to his former rank and position, and will retake command of the 4th NY Cavalry as he has lost command of the brigade given to him by General Franz Sigel. However, DiCesnola says he plans on resigning soon, as he did not receive the “full justice” he is entitled to from Secretary Stanton. DiCesnola implores Congressman Corning to find military employment for him under Governor Seymour, as he has very little money left. DiCesnola suggests that he be put in charge of instruction at a large military camp due to his years of experience instructing officers in the army.

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Willard’s hotel Washington

                                 March 10th 1863

Hon. Erastus Corning, M.[ember] C.[ongress]

     The order restoring me to my former rank and position has been at last printed & is published today or tomorrow. With what aching heart I return to my regiment – few persons can appreciate it! I tried ever to do my utmost in well deserving from my adoptive country, and the rewards I received from the administration I may say were nothing but kicks. I am going to take command of my regiment again, as I lost the permanent command of the brigade Genl. Sigel gave me having been disbanded & put in several other divisions. It is impossible for me to continue in the service[,] as tho’ I have been restored I have not received from the administration that full justice I was entitled, and Secy. Stanton says “it is all he can do.” I am therefore going to the regiment with a broken heart – to stay there some weeks and then I shall resign as it is incompatible with my character to continue.

     I am poor and the little money my wife had I have freely spent it in recruiting, so I may say I am going to be a beggar out of service if you do not assist me in getting some military employment under Governor Seymour. I heard of a large camp of instruction is going to be formed. If that is true, I could be of

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some good as I can truly boast I know and can impart instruction in the U. S. military tactics, cavalry, artillery, & infantry as any of the West Point professors, as I have instructed more than 800 officers now in the army. The commander of a camp of instruction or another similar military command would suit me well and put me in a position of doing good to the noble cause I fight & fought for.

     If I fail in getting any other employment I shall then turn farmer and live an independent life.

     I thank you most heartily for all the kindness you always showed me, and be sure I shall never forget them as long as I live. I remain as ever with the greatest respect.

                        Your most obt. servt.

                          Col. di Cesnola                          4th N.Y. Cavalry

Louis Palma di Cesnola, was born June 29, 1832 in Rivarolo, Italy into a noble family. He served in the Italian army as a non-commissioned officer in the 1850’s. As an immigrant with military experience, he was commissioned as major of the 11th NY Cavalry on Sept. 11, 1861, and was promoted to lieutenant colonel. He was appointed colonel of the 4th NY Cavalry Sept. 11, 1862. Under Major General Franz Sigel he was given brigade command in General John Pope’s Army of Virginia, but in early 1863 his brigade was disbanded (the basis for this letter). He only commanded the 4th NY Cavalry during the Chancellorsville Campaign. Although briefly restored to brigade command (1st Brig., 2nd Div., Cav. Corps), in the reorganization of June 14, 1863 di Cesnola lost his brigade once again to Judson Kilpatrick, and reverted back to command of the 4th N.Y. Cav. On June 17, 1863 at the Battle of Aldie, VA, an altercation occurred between di Cesnola and Kilpatrick. Di Cesnola’s  protests over being bypassed and superseded by his junior, was interpreted by Kilpatrick as insubord-ination. He placed di Cesnola under arrest, taking his sword from him, as was the usual procedure. The 4th NY Cavalry in support of di Cesnola, refused to obey Kilpatrick’s order to charge until he was released from arrest. Kilpatrick released him from arrest and ordered him to attack Fitz Lee’s VA cavalrymen, strongly posted in front. Although badly outnumbered, and a “senseless order,” di Cesnola led the forlorn charge. His horse was shot from under him, and he was wounded by a saber slash on the head and a rifle ball in his left arm. Captured on the field by Privates Wade and Scruggs of the 2nd VA Cavalry, di Cesnola was eventually sent to Libby Prison following his recovery. Paroled March 21, 1864 and soon  exchanged, di Cesnola rejoined the army but was not promoted. Frustrated, di Cesnola resigned Sept. 4, 1864. He received the medal of honor post war for his service at Aldie, and died Nov. 20, 1904.