1st New York Mounted Rifles – Letter from Henry C. Smith – “Head Quarters Army of the James” – INCLUDES A DRAWING OF THEIR LOG HOUSE

Henry C. Smith enlisted at Canaan, New York on August 18th, 1862. He served in Company I of the 1st New York Mounted Rifles. This 4 ½ page letter, the last part being on half a sheet, is written in both ink and pencil (no doubt he ran out of ink). Henry starts the letter on Monday evening November 21st, 1864, but does not have a chance to finish it until Thursday morning – Thanksgiving. Henry is writing home to his sweetheart, Catharine G. Cooke in West Stockbridge, Mass. Either he or Catharine had preprinted envelopes made up… probably to ensure that he would write! The envelope has a fine “OLD POINT COMFORT, VA. NOV. 25” postmark. Catharine docketed the top of the envelope, “1864, Nov. 21 Old folks at home”. That is the name that Henry wrote on the enclosed drawing of their cabin! Framing the enclosed drawing up with the envelope and letter makes a great display. The drawing measures 2 inches by 4 ½ inches.

Here is the content:

• “Head Qrs. Army of the James Monday evening Nov. 21st /64. My Own Dear Catherine, I was quite disappointed today at not receiving a letter but suppose I must lay all the blame on the naughty mail agents for this sad disappointment because it would be preposterous to suppose even for a minute that such a darling girl would be guilty of such an awful misdemeanor.”

• “We have been singing all of the evening until now (8 o’clock) and as the boys have returned to their places of abode leaving me with nothing to do, only read or write.”

• “The latter of which I preferred to do for mutual improvement of course. It commenced raining last Friday night and has continued up to the present time to rain without cessation, and today it has poured down almost in torrents.”


• “I think it will clear off cloudy tomorrow and turn into a settled rain. I enjoy it very well having had nothing to do since the rain commenced. I HAVE A DRAWING OF OUR LOG HOUSE, SUCH AS IT IS WHICH I WILL SEND YOU JUST FOR THE NOVELTY OF THE THING.”

• “General Butler arrived here at 10 o’clock last Friday, and also Gov. Andrew who rode around the lines to see the sights immediately on arriving. Yesterday I could do nothing, only stay in quarters all day. What a beautiful chapter ours was yesterday, so full of encouragement, promises, and everything that would make us happy.”

• “Thursday Morning 4 o’clock Katie, I am very sorry that I have been delayed so long in answering your letter which I received on Tuesday evening, but just at that time my box of good things from home arrived and soon after I was obliged to help guard some prisoners down to Bermuda Hundreds and did not get back until nearly 12 o’clock.”

• “Yesterday I was on duty and did not get in till 11 o’clock. But now you must praise me for getting up so early to finish the letter before the mail starts.”

• “We had a light snow squall night before last, but ten minutes afterward could see nothing of it. The ground is frozen quite hard this morning.”


• “We are anticipating a very grand dinner today and by the way I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving. Don’t you wish you had some of our cake or don’t you wish you were a soldier so that you could have turkey gratis for dinner? We shall dine in style today.”

• “Katie you must scold Briden for me when you write to her for she has not answered my last letter yet. Can’t we continue some method of punishment for her? She certainly will get it if she don’t attend to her duty better. Dearest Katie, I am afraid that you will sit up so much that you will be sick too, won’t you? Don’t forget to tell me how your Cousin gets along when you write again. I must not forget to compliment you for giving me such good fortune through the remainder of my life, but you know that I believe in Fortune Telling as you believe in Dreams, that it always goes by the contrary. Yet if my fortune should be very good in future, I shall say that you are just the girl for me.”

• “Have you ever seen any of our Military Telegraph cable? If not I will send you a piece. I shall write you again in a few days. Don’t you think I am having to print very nicely? Good bye my dearest. Direct to Henry C. Smith, Cavalry Escort, Head Quarters, General Butler, via Fortress Monroe, Va.”

#L746NY.11-21-64 Price $195