I hope everyone will read this story and enjoy it as much as I enjoyed finding this "tree". But don't get too enthused. I am having all sorts of problems with it, as explained. --Allan L. Davidson, May 14, 2000
Update to Story - 3 July 2000
Update to Story - 23 October 2000
by Allan L. Davidson
This story has its beginnings in the late summer of 1862 when my great-grandfather, John Robertson Hoy of Bovina, N.Y. answered President Lincoln's call for volunteers in the war to preserve the Union. When he enlisted Aug 26, 1862 and marched off to war Oct 10, 1862 with Company E, 144th Infantry Regiment, N.Y. Volunteers, he was thirty-one years of age and left a wife and three children under the age of five, at home. J.R. Hoy and his wife had eight children in all. Their first born, Mary, became my grandfather, Douglas Davidson's wife. She died in childbirth in 1883 and my grandfather went to California for a few years. He returned six years later to take J.R. Hoy's fifth child Margaret, to be his second wife and my grandmother.
I myself served in the Army Air Force in World War II, and in the Air Force during the Korean War. If I had had a wife and small children at home, I would have had second or third thoughts about enlisting. Having neither a wife nor children at those times, I was not faced with that problem. My father, H. F. Davidson, served valiantly with the US Marine Corps in the trenches in France during World War I. When World War II broke out, I distinctly remember talk of his re-enlisting for service. Although, in all the years that I knew my mother and father, I never heard a cross word between them, it is my strong belief that my mother put the kibosh on that idea.
Back to my story. When my father enlisted in the Marines in May of 1917, he was sent to Parris Island, S.C. for boot camp and then to the marine Base at Quantico for a couple of months before going to France. To quote from my father's diary, the Nov 11, 1917 entry reads "Pete Wood and I took a hike to Dumfries and found an old pyrite mine. Near the mine was an old beech tree with the names of J.R. Hoy and J. Murray carved in bark. Pete and I put our names on the opposite side of the tree." Now, what are the odds of finding your grandfather's name carved in a tree 400 miles from home? Fast forward to 1987.1 had heard the story of "the tree" but when my father died in Aug 1987, we found in his possessions a hand drawn map of the location of this tree. The instructions on the map were: "From Dumfties follow the bed of an old narrow gauge railroad-rails and ties removed-to an old mine dump-cross brook and follow dirt road, back past two shacks, until it fords creek and find tree in right opposite corner." Somewhere there is a photo taken of my mother and my father's mother beside this tree, taken probably in the early twenties. My father and mother were married Oct 5, 1921. A couple of clues lead me to believe that my father's map was drawn at, or near, that time. First and foremost, the map was drawn on a piece of scrap paper (true to our Scottish roots) with the date 1919 on the reverse side. Secondly, the instructions refer to an "old mine dump". My research tells me the mine was operational from 1885-1919.
For ten years I wanted to determine if the tree is still in existence. My thoughts were, if Mother Nature hadn't gotten the tree, probably civilization had. For a few years, I tried to work through the Marines at Quantico. Every time that I wrote to them it took about six months for a reply. They showed a polite interest, but no action.
In Sept of this year (1997), I was in Falls Church, VA for my 484th Bomb Group Association's annual reunion. My mind told me that this was the closest I would ever get to Quantico. So Sunday afternoon, after the close of the reunion, I drove down to Quantico (about 35 miles). I spent an hour or so in the Marine museum; and located the building where my contact, Col. Puckett, has his office. I checked in at a local motel and proceeded to read the local phone book. (Not much of a plot, but quite a cast!) In the front of the book was a street map of Dumfries. I saw on the western edge of town a street named "Old Mine Road". Here was a good clue.
Consequently, Monday, instead of going to see Col. Puckett, I went to the Dumfries Police Station. There, a Lt. Charles Reid showed a great interest in my father's map. He is a life-long resident of Dumfries and had family members who had worked -and some died-in the old mine. He wanted to go with me on the search, but couldn't get away. He sent me to see Joe Caplin who has a tourist trap-"Old Mine Ranch", on Old Mine Road; a petting Zoo for the kids and horseback trail rides. In fact, one of his trails follows the old railroad bed. We followed this for about half a mile to the old mine dump, and crossed Quantico Creek on stepping stones without getting our feet wet. Just like crossing the Little Delaware River in the summer time. We headed back downstream. The old road and two shacks my father referred to are no longer in existence. In a hundred yards we came to a spring run into Quanlico Creek. I couldn't decide whether this was the second creek referred to or not. In crossing this "creek" all we could find was a stand of old pine trees and almost impassable briar bushes. Not a beech tree in sight!
I was about ready to give up, conceding to time and nature, but Joe encouraged me on, telling me that we were then on Prince William Forest National Park land; and to go talk to the Park Rangers. This I did. Jacque LaVelle, a park ranger, found an old topographical map made early in this century, which showed the old dirt road and the two shacks; and more importantly, the South Fork of Quantico Creek about four hundred yards downstream from the bramble bushes I had been in earlier. The park rangers graciously took me in a four-wheel-drive vehicle down a private park road to near the confluence of the South Fork and Quantico Creek. At a point about seventy-five yards upstream on the South Fork where there was a faint semblance of an old road, we forded the South Fork-again on stepping stories. And there was "the tree" in front of us, right where my father's map said it was! Nothing succeeds like success! My ingenuity never ceases to amaze me.
Time has made the carvings all but illegible. You can pick out a letter here and there by stretching the imagination to see what you want to see. After all, the carvings are 135 years and eighty years old. But I am confident that we found the right tree. At least, I will always think we did! Many have asked if I, in turn, carved my name in the tree. My response; "Not very likely with two park rangers standing behind me. They take a dim view of people carving up their trees." I suppose I could have gone back later and done the dastardly deed; but that would have been as smart as the kidnapper who wrote his ransom note on his own letterhead.
If any of you readers ever head south on 1-95 and would like to see this phenomenon, about thirty-five miles south of Washington D.C, take exit 150, go west about 150 yards to park entrance on the right. The tree is about a mile from the Visitor's Center, on the south bank of the South Fork of Quantico Creek, about seventy-five yards upstream from its confluence with Quantico Creek near the Birch Bluff Trail. I trust the park rangers will give you the same courtesy and help that they gave me.
In an attempt to verify J.R. Hoy's presence in Dumfries, I obtained a copy of James Harvey McKee's "Civil War Record of the 144th Regiment N.Y. Volunteers Infantry". It is an interesting book of 378 pages; however, it left me with more questions than answers. The more I get into history, the more I understand what lawyers mean by "preponderance of the evidence." Chapter XXVIII is a comprehensive itinerary of the 144th from its inception in September 1862 to its disbandment in July 1865. To summarize: From October 12, 1862 through April 15, 1863, they served in various positions in the southern defense perimeter of Washington D.C. including about six weeks in Camp Cloud's Mill near Alexandria, VA, which is l5-20 miles north from Dumfries.
April 16 they moved by boat from Alexandria, VA to Norfolk and the siege of Suffolk. July 11, 1863 they returned from Yorktown, VA to Washington as reinforcements for the Battle of Gettysburg (which was already over). From Pennsylvania, they chased General Lee back into the Shenandoah Valley and ended up in the Warrenton, VA area for about a week, leaving from Catlett Station, August 6, 1863. Catlett is about 15 miles west of Dumfries. August 7 the regiment left Alexandria, VA again by boat, for Folly Island, S.C'. The 144th spent the remainder of the war in the coastal areas of South Carolina, Georgia, and Northeast Florida and were headquartered on Hilton Head Island, S.C
Even though I can't place J.R. Hoy in Dumfries, per se, he was within "striking distance" in Camp Cloud's Mill, and also in Catlett, VA. My paternal grandfather was the last of thirteen children and was born in 1851; so was too young to serve in the Civil War. However, he had three brothers who served in the Union Army. George Davidson enlisted July 4, 1861 in the 72nd Regiment of the N.Y. Volunteers and served a three- year enlistment, returning home unscathed. John Davidson enlisted October 23, 1861 in the 89th Regiment of the N.Y. Volunteers. He was wounded May 3, 1863 at the siege of Suffolk, VA, was discharged, and died from those injuries exactly one year later, May 3, 1864. Thomas Davidson enlisted August 30, 1862 in Company C 144th Regiment NYV and was killed instantly at the battle of Honey Hill, SC November 30, 1864.
And as a postscript, I have learned that the J. Murray who carved his name along with my great grandfather, in the tree at Ouantico, died in the post hospital on Folly Island, S.C. in September 1863.
Problems with story explained:
It appears that finding the tree was the easy part! Placing my great-grandfather in Dumfries is the daunting task. My first source told me that J.R. Hoy enlisted in Co E 144th NW 26 Aug 1862; So I went with that as I wrote the story. Even though I couldn't place him in Dumfries, per se, the Regiment was within twenty miles on two occasions- Camp Cloud's Mill for about six weeks, and Catlett Station, VA, for matter of a few days. The first bomb shell hit when I found out from two reliable sources-- the Delaware County Clerks office and a copy of his discharge from a 90 year old grandson -- that his true enlistment date was either 26 Aug or 3 Sept 1864, take your pick. With that bit of information, my story started to fall apart. Putting J. Murray, Co E, 144th (died Folly Island, SC hospital 18 Oct 1863) with my great-grandfather, J.R. Hoy (enlisted Sept 1864) in Dumfries,VA, became impossible. Throw in the fact that the 144th moved from the Washington area to SC in early Aug 1863, where they remained for the duration; and you can see my dilemma!
I can come up with only one scenario that fits all the facts. We know that Lt. Col. Lewis of the 144th headed a recruiting party back to Delaware County in the summer of 1864, to get replacements for the 144th. My great-grandfather was one of the new enlistees. They returned overland, (at least as far as Dumfnes), before boarding a ship for Hilton Head. While camped out near Dumfries, he found J. Murray's name carved in the tree (before the movement of the 144th to the South and his death in 1863) and carved his name with it. I know it sounds far fetched, but the only other thing is to call my father a liar, and I'm not ready to do that.I know there was a tree that he found in 1917, and again in 1927. My brother found the pictures that I mentioned in my story and, true to my mother's habit, they were dated June 1927. And I am 99% sure that by following my father's map, I found the same tree in 1997. I guess the true question is: What exactly were the carvings on the tree and, how did they get there? God only knows and he ain't tellin'. You can see carvings all over the tree but they are no longer legible
I would be happy if I could at least verify J.R. Hoy's presence in Dumfries.Can anyone help me out with shipping records in the Dumfries area between 3 Sept and 25 Oct 1864, or any other pertinent records?? Another clue that I am trying to follow up on-- In that 1864 enlistment, the Walton (NY) band enlisted as a body for duty as the Regimental Band, and to quote from Mckee's History of the 144th, "...supplied with new and approved instruments which they had procured at Dodsworth on the way down." I cannot find Dodsworth in any shape or form anywhere. They arrived at Hilton Head 3 Oct 1864 on board the transport Blackstone.
Update 3 July 2000
One of the problems that I was having, that I didn't mention because it was too complicated, is as follows: On the back of the picture of my father and his mother standing beside the tree, dated June 1927 by my mother, was written, J.R. Hoy and Wm. Murray. It was clear to me from my father's shaky hand that it was written closer to 1987 than 1927. I had my brother check Dad's 1917 diary and he confirmed that it said J. Murray. My feeling then was, a 1917 diary would be more reliable than the memory of a ninety year old man. What a colossal blunder that was! And it resulted in a convoluted scenario that even to me sounded impossible.
In my mail a couple of days ago, I received from my brother Ed, copy of the following letter that he had run across recently written by our father to his mother written at Quantico, VA dated 11 Nov 1917. Allan L. Davidson, 3 July 2000
Transcription of letter from H.F. Davidson:
On Letterhead of Army and Navy Young Men's Christian Association
Sunday night, Nov 11, 1917
I have two letters to answer tonight as I got your Friday's letter this Morning. Pete and I have been off for a walk all day, we started right after breakfast and did not get back until suppertime. We went over to the town of Dumfries, six miles from here. It was built the same year as Jamestown, (don't think they have built much since) so is one of the oldest places in the country. From there we went on about three miles farther to a pyrites mine. The mine shaft, they told us there, goes down 1700 ft. We went through a ploughed field and noticed pieces of different colored flint laying around. I just remarked this would have been a good place for the Indians to get flint, when Pete leaned over and picked up an arrowhead. So we started to look around and inside a half hour we each had a pocket full of them apiece. They were nearly all white flint; we each brought about half a dozen in with us. I have one that is pink.
Then we came across an old family graveyard, that was kept up in fine shape. The oldest grave was 1686, and the latest 1810.
Next we ran across an old mill with a great big old fashioned overshot wheel, and the gear wheels inside had wooden cogs. It also had the hooper(?) and great big granite millstones.
On the way back we ran across several old beech trees, all carved up with names, put on a long while ago. I found one that had J.R. Hoy, W. Murray, and about fifty more names on, but those were the only two that was legible. I put HF Davidson right over the Hoy and Pete put P.P. Wood, U.S.M.C. on the other side of the tree. This is just about half way between Washington and Fredericksburg on ground that was fought over during the Civil War. Was it possible that grandfather was in this section and that that might have been his inscription? Was there a W. Murray in his company or regiment? It seem a strange coincidence that I should run across it so many years later, if it is his, so far from home, and in uniform too.
The weather has been fine here, warm and clear in the day time, but cold at night. You certainly must have had some rain there to make such a flood at this time of year when the water is usually so low, and no snow to melt. We have had no rain now for four weeks. No, I didn't get a chance to vote at all, but you know I certainly would have voted for both suffrage and prohibition if I had the chance. There is such a hub-dub going on around that I can't think of anything so I may as well stop. I wish father a happy birthday, and many returns. I hunted yesterday for a remembrance, but couldn't find even a suitable postcard.
Lots of love,
Note from Allan Davidson
I gladly take back my statement "I guess the true question is: What exactly were the carvings on the tree, and how did they get there? Only God knows and He ain't tellin'. " I guess The Good Lord is trying to teach me some humility, for Dad's letter certainly goes into it in detail.
So now our scenario is this; (and a lot more plausable). Sgt. William Murray came with Col. Lewis in the recruiting party in the summer of 1864. (William Murray, from Delhi and J.R. Hoy may have known each other previously). They traveled over land on the way to Hilton Head,SC, at least as far as Dumfries, where they made camp and did the carving then. The area where the tree is located is only about a quarter mile from the old Telegraph Highway, the main north-south road in those days. The perfect place to make camp and wait for the boat to Hilton Head.
It is very likely that they were traveling with the Walton Band; so now I am concentrating on finding out when and where they boarded the transport Blackstone which delivered them to Hilton Head 3 Oct 1864. It should be infinitally easier to track the band than one individual. I will keep you posted of an further developments!
Another thing that leads me to believe that it was William Murray rather than J. Murray, comes to light in his letter home dated 13 Apr 1919. His original diary was in his sea bag with all other personal effects which the Marines mandated he leave with them for safe keeping when they first went into the trenches. (Never to be seen again). He got another and reconstructed it from memory. This diary was lost on the battle field. Then after the battle of Soissons he started keeping notes in a third and, as he says in this letter, "It is nothing more than mere notes so I think I'll get myself a good notebook and go over it all and fill it in to a sort of a story of my life as a Marine." So you can see, what I believed to be his true diary from enlistment on, was actually a third edition composed by memory and notes. And what a memory it was!! When my father died in 1987, someone compared it to burning down the library. Hopefully I'll get to the true story in time.
Allan L. Davidson
Update 23 October 2000
This past summer (2000) I made two trips to Delaware County and during those visits, I spent countless hours pouring over the microfilms of the newspapers available for the later half of 1864. What I was trying to find were clues to help me prove, or disprove, my scenario of J.R. Hoy and William Murray' s presence together in Dumfries. What I did find was interesting enough to pass on to you, but unfortunately, did little to substantiate my case.
I found the following three items in three separate papers. Although the text is almost identical in each, you will note that the listing of the recruiting party members in not entirely the same. Which leaves open the possibility, I suppose, that William Murray was indeed a member of the party, even though his name does not appear. Another possibility is that he was home on leave and traveled back to Hilton Head with the recruits. - Allan Davidson
- - - - - -
The following notice appeared in the Bloomville Mirror dated Aug 30, 1864.
From the microfilm files in the Churchill Library. Stamford, NY:
Now is the time to enlist, and the 144th N.Y. Vols. is the Regt. in which to enlist. This Regt. is now acting as Heavy Artillery, and doing garrison duty at Hilton Head, SC, with good quarters, good rations and easy duty. The Regt. will be changed to Heavy Artillery, if their numbers are increased to 1400. The quota of Delaware County will more than fill the Regt. to that number, and we are getting men from other counties. But, there is room for all, as the maximum of a Heavy Artillery Regt. is 1800. For particulars inquire of : Lt Col. J. Lewis, Delhi, Capt. Marvine, Walton, Lt. Lewis, Hancock, Sgt. Mayhem, Andes, Sgt. McPherson, Hobart, Cor. Hathawy, Tompkins, Cor. VanValkenberg, Walton, Cor. Telford, Meredith, Cor. Beardsley, Franklin, Cor. Gould, Hancock, Cor. Johnson, Griffen's Corners, Cor. Wilcox, Davenport, Cor. Jones, Masonville.
Offices at Norwich, Chenango Co. and Delhi, Delaware Co.
Those enlisting in the 144th N.Y.V., will receive the same bounties, and be accredited to the same towns that they would be otherwise.
JAMES LEWIS, Lt Col. 144th NYV,
in charge of recruiting party.
* * * * *
The following notice appeared in the classified section of The Delaware Republican and Visitor dated 20 Aug 1864. From the microfilm files in the Churchill Library, Stamford, NY.
If you wish to pass a year pleasantly in the military service, enlist in the 144th N.Y. Volunteers. The Regiment is at Hilton Head, S.C., doing garrison duty, and is likely to remain there in its next and last year with good quarters, good rations and easy duty. (I wonder how many of the new recruits thought about these promises as they marched on Honey Hill three months later!) For further particulars inquire of: Lieut. Col. James; Lewis; Capt. M. W. Marvin, Co B; Lieut. W. B. Lewis, Co F; Sergt. Wm. Mayham Co E; Sergt. E. McPherson, Co H; Corporal E. Hathaway, Co A; Corporal G. VanValkenberg, Co B; Corporal Thomas Telford, Co C; Corporal Wm. Bradley, Co D; Corporal Wm. Gould, Co F; Corporal Wm. Johnson, Co G; Corporal A.J. Wilcox, Co I; Corporal F. J. Jones, Co. K.- Who are now in the county on recruiting service. Offices at Delhi, Delaware County and Norwich, Chenango County.
A few good Musicians wanted for a Brass Band. If you enlist in the 144th NY Volunteers, you will receive the same bounties and be
accredited to the same towns as you would otherwise be.
James Lewis Lieut. Col.144th NYV
in charge of recruiting party.
Delhi, Aug 20, 1864
* * * * *
The following appeared in the classified section of The Delaware Gazette dated Aug 20, 1864.
From the microfilm files of the Cannon Free Library, Delhi, NY.
Attention Recruits !
IF YOU WISH TO PASS A YEAR PLEASANTLY IN THE MILITARY service, enlist in the 144th N. Y. Volunteers. The Regiment is at Hilton Head, S.C. doing garrison duty, and is likely to remain there during its next and last year with good quarters, good rations and easy duty. For further particulars inquire of:
Lieut. Col . James Lewis;
Capt. M.W. Marvin, Co B
Lieut. W.B. Lewis, Co F
Sergeant E. McPherson, Co H
Corporal E. Hathawy, Co A
Corporal G. Vanvalkenberg, Co B
Corporal Thomas Telford, Co C
Corporal William Bradley, Co D
Corporal William Gould, Co G
Corporal A.J. Wilcox, Co I
Corporal F.J. Jones Co K
who are now in the county on recruiting service. Offices at Delhi, Delaware County, and Norwich, Chenango County.
A few good MUSICIANS wanted for a Brass Band. If you enlist in the 144th N.Y. Volunteer, you will receive the same bounties and be accredited to the same towns as you would otherwise.
James Lewis, Lieut. Col. 144th N.Y. Vols. in charge of Recruiting Party. Delhi, August 20,1864
* * * * *
The following three "letters to the editor" were exactly what I was looking for. Letters home describing how the soldiers got from here to there. But here again, unfortunately, even though one letter in particular went into minute detail, the clues I was hoping for were not there.
A couple of explanatory notes. Hart Island mentioned in a couple of letters, is located in the western end of Long Island Sound, just off Sand's Point. Camp Distribution was located on Robert E Lee's plantation and I believe the present day site of Arlington National Cemetery. - Allan Davidson
- - - - - -
The following letter appeared in The Bloomville Mirror dated Oct. 18, 1864.
From the microfilm files of the Churchill Library. Stamford, NY
Camp Distribution near Alexandria, Va.
Sept. 24, 1864
Dear Mirror- I will give you a brief description of what I have experienced since I enlisted. We left Norwich on the 12th, in wagons to Chenango Forks; then went by railroad to Jersey City; then by ferryboat to New York; there we staid all night, and slept on the soft side of a board, without any overcoats or blankets; next morning went to Hart's Island in a boat; this was the toughest hole I ever got in. Our rations were a small piece of bread, one piece of meat, and a cup of poor coffee. On the 16th, we took transport to Fortress Monroe; reached there the 19th; next day went up James River to City Point; staid there till the 22nd; then went back to Fortress Monroe; on the 23rd went by transport to Washington, and from there came to this place. This is the best camp I have been in as we get good rations, and can buy milk for 10 cents a quart. I don't know when I shall reach the 144th Regiment, perhaps before the war is over; but I know one thing, that is if I had not enlisted, I would not. When the year is up, you may count me out of the play, whether the war is ended or not. Money is the thing, and anyone can see it with his eyes half open.
We were at City Point about two days, and we only had rations once, and that was coffee, sugar, raw pork and hard tack. There was one negro regiment there and they got soft bread and good fresh meat, and tents to sleep in, and we had to sleep on the ground for two nights. We expect to start for Hilton Head tomorrow.
[The only man in the 144th Regiment roster that comes close to J. T. V. B. is Jacob VanBuren who enlisted in Co. H at age 22 years, Sept. 1, 1864]
* * * * *
This letter appeared in the Delaware Republican and Visitor dated Oct 15, 1864.
From the microfilm files of the Churchill Library Stamford NY
Headquarters of the 144th N.Y. Vol.
Hilton Head S.C. Oct 3d, 1864
Friend Sturdevent- Thinking a history of our trip from Norwich here might interest you, I will try to give you some idea of it. We left Norwich Monday morning Sept 5th, about four o'clock AM- Our conveyances were not sumptuous, but as good as could be obtained off-hand for nearly two hundred men. At Chenango Forks the train was so taken up with other passengers that we had to wait till an engine could run down to Binghamton and bring back cars for our accommodation. At last we got under way, and reached Binghamton about half past four or five o'clock that afternoon.
We lay in the depot all that night and about there all the next day, hoping that the next would be the train to take us on to New York. But night came, and the news that we could have a train or some passenger cars the next morning at two o'clock. But the man who had us in charge said that we should have one good night's rest, at any rate, and so he took us to the loft of the Merserean House, where we slept soundly on our blankets -soldier fashion- until morning, when we took a train at last, and started for New York, which place we reached about half past five that afternoon, Sept 7th. The quarters there were roomy and large, clean and well ventilated. Food good and in abundance-bread, beef, coffee, soup, and potatoes.
The next morning we took the steamer 'John Romer", for the "Draft Rendezvous" on Hart Island, where we staid till Saturday morning, Sept 10th, when we took the excursion steamer "Naushon", (on which by the way, I have had one or two very pleasant excursions of another kind.) out into the deep water of the sound, where our boat, the transport "Varum" of Mystic, Conn. lay at anchor waiting for us. We soon crawled on board through a trap door, and made ourselves as comfortable as possible. Steam was up, and we were soon under motion down the Sound for New York, which we reached just after dark and anchored down near Staten Island about nine o'clock in the evening, where we staid till daylight, when we started in the rain which had come up in the night and was coming down then smartly. About noon we lost sight, of land and saw no more of it until the next day. Some of the boys were sea sick, as there was some wind with the rain, and the old vessel rocked considerable, if not more. I, fortunately, was an exception to that rule, as I didn't feel it at all on that trip. It was grand to see the sun when it came out about 3 PM. and it cheered the boy up wonderfully to see it once more. At night it looked so strange to have a look down at the setting sun, and in the morning when it was rising to see its shadow above us. Soon after sunrise, land was seen and about ten o'clock Monday morning we landed, or rather stopped at Fortress Monroe, then took up our course for City Point, which we reached about sundown, after passing several places of interest, made so by the present war. Harrison's Landing, and the scene of the conflict between the first two Ironclads, the Monitor and the Merrimack, past the wrecks of the Congress and the Cumberland, sunk by the rebel monster, the later of which, what was left above the water, has been carried off as mementos of her glorious end, sinking with the stars and stripes at her mast head. The Congress remains partly in sight, a dismantled hulk washed by the muddy and turbulent waters of the James, Often we would meet or pass loads of soldiers, and then the cheers, would be almost deafening as we called back and forth to our "cousins", or rather "brothers", for they too are Uncle Sam's boys.
At City Point I saw Gen. Grant twice, Once in the evening on a steam tug, and again the next day on shore at City Point, He dresses very plainly, looking more like some old farmer than a Lt. Gen. of the United States. In the afternoon he came on our boat, after we had been on shore, and embarked on the Cumberland for Alexandria. This time I did not see him, but he told some of the boys that he wished they were for him, but hoped "God would bless them where ever they went.'
We had a very pleasant sail down the river, and about nine o'clock anchored for the night. The night was clear and cold - colder I think than our Delaware County nights. But our being out of doors may have brought some difference about that. The sunrise the next morning was, I think, the most beautiful I ever saw. It rose over the distant hills, through the thin fleecy clouds, touching them with light, until they shone like burnished gold; and the day king looked in reality as if borne on a golden chariot. That day was pleasantly passed on Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac, after we left the James. About two o'clock the next morning we dropped anchor at pier 3, Alexandria, in sight of the Capitol at Washington, and the Marshall House in Alexandria rendered (in)famous by the murder of the lamented Ellsworth. In the morning we marched 3 1/2 miles to Camp Distribution situated on Lee's (Robert E.) plantation, a very good use of Rebel property [Site of the present day Arlington National Cemetery] This was Thursday, We had good quarters and good rations here, and a pleasant time. Were here joined by some of our boys who left New York Sunday P.M., Friday, and on Saturday morning about 4 o'clock, we started for Alexandria, where we took the "Starlight" for Hilton Head. - a slow boat but on the old principle of "slow and sure." The pilot lost his way once or twice, but blundered onto a gunboat and was set right, and landed us here Thursday, Sept 22 at 4 P.M. A thirstier lot of boys would be hard to find, as the water on the boat was from the Potomac, and four days old at that. But that was soon fixed or forgotten when our friends began to crowd around us. We had a good supper and the next morning felt like a new set of men.
Everything here is very pleasant. No one has any reason to complain at anything. The boys are full of life and will stand by "Old Abe and The Flag" while they live and have a chance. Nor will they soon forget good old Delaware County.
Yours truly, (?) H.
* * * * *
This letter appeared in the Delaware Republican and Visitor dated Oct 29, 1864.
From the microfilm files at the Churchill Library, Stamford, NY
Bay Point, S.C.
Oct. 18, 1864
Editor Republican- Having a few leisure moments at present, and thinking perhaps a word from a late recruit might be acceptable, I concluded to drop a few lines, giving you a few short particulars of my campaign thus far in the U.S. service. I little knew before I left old Delaware of the crooks and turns through which I should have to pass before reaching my journey's destination. After arriving at Hart Island, N.Y., I was fortunate enough to remain there about two weeks, and most of the time in suspense. As soon as I arrived there I was duly informed that substitutes had not the power to choose their organization which to serve in, and that being about "my size," I was some what interested in the matter, a natural consequence. However, I was not to give up so easily, at least would make one attempt, and that to make an application there to be assigned to the 144th Regiment. We had been there but for a short time, however, when we received the welcome news that Lt. Col. Lewis was on the island, and by his influence and ready aid a request was made and approved by the commanding officers of Hart Island and sent on to the War Department to be granted or refused as they saw fit. The request was made for about a dozen who were anxious to get in the 144th. Well, after remaining several days, we received news that said request was granted and that a certain few of us were assigned to the 144th N.Y.V., which news, I assure you, was far from being unacceptable. Shortly after the receipt of this request, perhaps one or two days, we were ordered to leave for our Regiment. We were soon aboard the boat ploughing through the water toward New York, where we took transports and soon were heaving off for big water.
We had been aboard but a short time before we learned that we must take a trip up the James River to City Point, Va. This again left us in a quandary as no reason could be given for our going in that direction. At last the Captain of the boat informed us that we were to be left at City Point to be taken into Grant's Army. We were not very much frightened, however, for each one had his opinion, and one was as good as the others. We finally arrived there about dark, slept on deck all night, in the morning were marched up to camp, had roll call once or twice, sat on our knapsacks until about four o'clock P.M., when we had orders to take the boat again, this time bound for Alexandria.. Here was another small trip out of our way, but concluded that it was all military, we made up our minds to rest contented, let them take us where they would, After two days ride on the water we arrived at Alexandria the morning of the 27th ult. We had scarcely reached camp before we learned that a good number of the 144th boys were there, We were soon able to testify to the fact, as we gained our liberty and were thick among them in a short time. We received first rate fare while at Alexandria, and, in fact, did not care to leave so soon, anxious as we were to get to the Regiment. However, we could not stay but a short time,, and on the morning of the 29th of September, we took transports again, this time for Hilton Head, S.C. After a hard and tedious ride of four days and nights on the water, we arrived at Hilton Head, S.C., Oct, 3rd. Several were quite worn out with sea sickness, but are improving since their arrival on land. As with myself, I was not sick enough for my own benefit, and have had to stand a short siege since I've been on land, but am just improving now with the rest of them. We found the boys usually well, and natural as chips. Co. C, which has had command of Bay Point, about three miles from Hilton Head, has been ordered back to the Regiment. They are now making preparations to move.
A great number of late recruits of the 144th have been assigned to the First Engineer Corps, N.Y. Vols., now stationed at Hilton Head. They are apparently satisfied, and some are well pleased with the change. We are all anxiously awaiting the return of Col. Lewis, but thus far have had to wait in vain.
J.W.H. Co. C 144th N.Y.V.
[J.W.H. is likely James W. Hine who enlisted Aug 11, 1864 at age 19]