[Baltimore, Md.; various locations in Louisiana; and Alexandria, Va. April 24, 1861 - August 4, 1864]. Seven letters, totaling pp., plus two unrelated letters. Old folds, minor wear. Overall very good. Item #WRCAM55677
An interesting Civil War archive of seven letters by Lt. Col. Joseph Stedman, giving Stedman's account of his activities and experiences in the war. The letters provide a unique and detailed perspective; as a private in the 6th Massachusetts, Stedman served during the arrest of the Maryland Legislature. He then raised a company for service with the 42nd Massachusetts and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel. The letters include detailed accounts of skirmishes in Baltimore, troop movements during the arrest of the Maryland Legislature, the Battle of Galveston, and more battle content from the Trans-Mississippi Theatre. Most of Stedman's letters are addressed to his father, mother, and sisters, with one addressed to his wife. The letters are fully transcribed, ripe with legible and relevant content. Stedman's letters begin with his service in Washington, D.C. and Baltimore. Stedman writes his first letter from Annapolis, recounting the difficulties of landing there due to the "depth of water which our Team Boats drew." He then moves to Washington, D.C. and in a letter of April 29, 1861, notes that he and his fellow soldiers "started in regular order and had not proceeded far before we all loaded up for fear of an attack in the dock from the secessionists....I should have said that the rebels on the line of the road had torn up the track the week before and some of the troops had only the day before we started relaid the lines...." The regiment also encounters a train wreck in which "the engine and one of the cars had run off in returning from the junction. As only the engineer and fireman were on no one was injured." He gets to camp, and is very tired, writing that "as an attack was expected that night from the secessionists we had strong guard posted around the field and as there were over 2000 men on the field we did not feel very much afraid of seeing the enemy that night." Stedman's next letter, dated May 19, 1861 from the newly- renamed Camp Butler at Annapolis Junction, details recent tensions in Baltimore and camp developments: "Since I wrote you last our reg. has been to Baltimore and spent a few days and our company while there performed quite a feat [seizing] 2700 stands of arms and this in the face of an immense mob, ready to attack them if the leaders had not been kept in check by the police and the police owed to do their duty by fear of the guns of Ft. McHenry and the two regmnts encamped on Federal Hill. One week ago and the next morning we found some of the guard were frightened on some day, post or something and mistaking it for an enemy fired, thus alarming the whole camp. In the night, if a gun is fired it is a signal to rush to arms and the drums immediately beat and the men are all around and form in line ready for the worst. As you can see these false alarms break up our rest but they must all be needed otherwise when a real alarm is given we might be caught napping and thus all killed....Yesterday our new uniforms came from Mass and we came out in them today for the first time. They are a dark gray suit throughout and the reg made a fine appearance in this new costume....I rec'd my workout today as a Sergeant in Co. B which makes me a non commissioned officer and does not subject me to as much labor as a private. I have the whole co. in charge nearly every day while on Co. drill." Stedman's next three letters emanate from Louisiana in 1863, where his regiment had been sent to provide support at the Battle of Galveston in Texas. Arriving in Galveston more than a week after the battle, and after returning to Camp Mansfield in Carrollton, Louisiana, Stedman provides a long account of the skirmish: "I know you will be very anxious to hear from me at this time, especially as some reports have gone to the North, concerning the battle at Galveston, which are untrue....I will state that we started for Galveston on Saturday the 10th inst in a fine large steamer and all promised well for a pleasant trip. We did not proceed down the river that night as we expected to, for the captain of the boat heard that all was not right at Galveston and we waited until morning and then the captain and I proceeded to the city and on arriving there we heard that Galveston was taken by the rebels; the first report was that all of the 42nd there were murdered in cold blood and without mercy, but before we returned to the boat I saw General Brooks and he told me that the affair was not as bad as it was first reported....The adjutant was in the fight and gave me a fair account of it. Col. B. with three companies landed at Galveston on Christmas day and took up their quarters on a pier running out from the shore. There was to be a gun boat light on each side of them and in this way they supposed themselves sage. About half past the a.m. January 1 the rebels commenced an attack on them by land and on the gunboats by water. After nearly 5 hours fight they succeeded in taking the Harriet Lane (one of our best gun boats) and about the same time the commander of the squadron blew up the flag ship, the Westfield and then a flag of truce was raised by the rebels followed by one on our side. During the battle on the water our troops on land had been attacked by a force of between 3000 and 4000 men. The rebels planted cannon so to destroy the building in which was Col. B and the men, but he led them out through a back entrance and ordered them to lie down behind some timbers which they did and then commenced to fire on the enemy. There was a narrow passage of two planks which supported our men on the pier from the rebels on the road and as the rebels attempted to cross our men drove them back by the destructive fire they poured upon them. At the time the flag of truce went up a boat was passing the wharf and Col. B hailed it and sent the Adjutant onboard one of the gun boats to see if they would not come up and take off the three companies. Just as he got on board he looked back and saw the rebels surround our men and march them all away as prisoners of war. When he left none had been killed and only about twenty wounded. As they were all taken away as prisoners, he remained on board and was afterwards put on the Saxon where the quartermaster was, he having gone on board the day before for the purpose of going to N.O. with dispatches for Gen. Banks. The Texan then proceeded to N.O. and reported the state of things to the Gen. We do not know what kind of treatment our men will receive, but we fear not the best that prisoners of war should have." A few months later, Stedman writes from Gentilly, Louisiana, to his sister, Loreta. He writes positively of New Orleans: "The air is fragrant with orange blossoms and a ride in a pleasant day is delightful. I often wish some of you could spend a few weeks in New Orleans at this season for I know you would enjoy it much....The contrast is quite striking to us who have always been accustomed to Northern winters...." Stedman then reports on troop losses for his unit: "Yesterday we had a funeral in our camp. I wrote Abell Allen of Co. G (one of the paroled prisoners) had been sick for two weeks and died on Saturday morning. A metallic coffin was procured and his remains have been sent home. This is our first funeral since leaving home. Two died on the way from Houston and one was kicked in battle thus making 4 in all that we have lost. But young Allen is the first one that has died in Camp." Stedman writes next to his wife from Lafayette Square in New Orleans on June 23. After more than two years of war, Stedman expresses a weariness, but a hope for conclusion. He decries the "uncertainty of war!" He also reports on a recent skirmish by his unit that came to be known as the Battle of LaFourche Crossing, part of Taylor's Operations in western Louisiana: "When I arrived here I found that all the troops in the city had left for the Lafourche country, so called, which is between here and Brashear City. A large body of rebels had suddenly appeared and were threatening our troops in that vicinity and Gen. Emory had sent all the troops he could possibly spare from his command to their assistance. Lt. Col. Stickney of the 47th Mass C Vols. had commenced at Brashear City and he had also turned out with between 200 and 300 men to keep the rebels from destroying the railroad because if this was destroyed all communication with N[ew]. O[rleans]. would be cut off. But he did not arrive in season, and the track was torn up for quite a distance - Sunday Lt. Col. Stickney made a junction with Lt. Col. Lowtelle of the 26th Mary. Vols. and Sunday P.M. a severe engagement ensued. Cols. Stickney & Lowtelle had between 400 and 600 men and 12 pieces of artillery and opposed to them was 3000 rebels, many of them cavalry. The fight lasted one hour & twenty minutes. On the left of the line was 200 men of my regiment, 50 men of Co. B and the balance from other companies in the regiment....During the battle was lost 8 men killed and over 30 wounded in all, the rebel loss was much larger. I saw Col. Lowtelle this P.M. and he said our men did nobly. Co B. has had its first battle and I am proud to hear good reports of it. Col. Cahill of our Brigade is now in command and he has recd reinforcements and is prepared to give the rebs a good sound thrashing." Stedman also details the current Siege of Port Hudson, which would culminate about two weeks later in a Union victory that reclaimed the Mississippi River for the North: "There has been a fight also up at Donelsonville with a view to take the battery there and thus obstruct our free passage to & from Port Hudson....Port Hudson yet holds out. We hear that the final assault occurs tomorrow. It is to be led by Gen. Weitzel and 2000 men - they are called 'The forlorn hope.' God be with them and give them success. They will be supported by the balance of the army. It is said that Gen. W. has had 20000 men sent him by Grant. I hope it is so, for he sadly needs them." The last letter by Stedman here emanates from Alexandria, Virginia over a year later. Stedman reports being "encamped about a mile out from Alexandria, west of the City and on the easterly side of 'Shooter's Hill,' so called. From our camp we have a good view of the City of Alexandria and of several miles of the Potomac River, and from a point higher up the hill we can see a portion of the city of Washington. The camp is built of log huts covered by shelter tents so that the men are made quite comfortable." The other two letters here are unrelated to Stedman's service, and were sent to members of his family. Joseph Stedman's correspondence holds much of interest, especially for the content related to the Battle of Galveston and the Battle of LaFourche Crossing. Little survives reporting either battle. Plus, Stedman's regiment was present in Baltimore during a turbulent time in its history, which included the arrest of the Maryland Legislature. An interesting archive of Civil War letters.