Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Wooster Guard Arrives in New Haven - April 1861

This is the first letter written home to his wife Anne Augusta "Gussie" by Private Horace Purdy of the 1st Connecticut Volunteer Regiment and contains much more details than his journal entries.  The company has just arrived in New Haven by train from Danbury and is awaiting other units to join them.  At this point they have not yet been mustered in.  Purdy's letter reflects the excitement and uncertainty new recruits on both sides must have been feeling at this point.  Purdy also has a another reason for justifying his enlistment to his wife, guilt. At this time Anne Augusta is several months pregnant with their first child.

Another uncertainty reflected in this letter is equipage, especially weaponry.  Many of these militia units and early regiments were initially poorly equipped and there was a shortage of firearms in many cases, and many that were available were simply older smooth bore flintlock muskets that had been altered to percussion.  Some units did receive more modern Sharp's rifles and in some cases companies nearly mutinied when given the older musket's rather than the Sharp's (Tyler, 1872:29).  Although Purdy mentions in this letter that his company was going to be equipped with Sharp's rifles, they were later provided Springfield rifled muskets instead (Swift, 1965).  The 1st Connecticut Regiment did have two Rifle Companies, equipped with Sharp's rifles, but the rest of the unit was armed with muskets.

New Haven Saturday Apr. 20th 1861

New Haven Hotel

Dear Gussie and all the friends,

We arrived here last eve at 6 PM. We were met at the depot by a portion of the N. Haven Greys and escorted by them to our quarters which are excellent. We have good beds, plenty of food and that which is good. In fact we have no reason for complaint. The citizens met us in great numbers with prolonged cheers. Danbury has the honor of being first in the field, or rather first at rendezvous. We will be in the first regiment from Connecticut and by being first at rendezvous we will probably be at the head of the regiment. I feel proud of Danbury, we shall not only live long in the hearts of our own townsmen, but in the hearts of the people of the whole state. We were greeted at Bethel by a large concourse of people and the firing of cannon with a grand display of the stars and stripes. One man came into the cars at Wilton Station and enlisted. Six did the same at Norwalk, they could not wait for the people of Norwalk to move. We came into New Haven with 78 men, all in good spirits. The hardest task was to get away from Danbury.

I wore through my white gloves shaking hands. I thought I had got (through) when I left home but when we marched into Concert Hall there to see our dear Father G. to pray for and with us I was nearly overcome.

Two companies are expected here from Hartford today, and two more from Bridgeport next Monday. Our examination by the surgeon will probably be merely a formal one, and I think that it will be exceedingly doubtful if I am home sooner than three months. I cannot desert my company in this time of need. My heart is with and for my country, and my trust is in God. I am far better pleased with being with my company in the discharge of my duty to my country with the assurance that you are well cared for, than I should be to be home with those faint-hearted ones who have been members of the company and have not the courage to take their places in the ranks to defend their country's flag. To stay at home would bring poverty to our door for there will probably be nothing to do and I should not receive the sympathy of the people, and perhaps my country would suffer for the want of my service. Now I know that I am doing my duty. I would like to be with you. My heart is in Danbury. My home and friends are dear but my country is also. I believe that God will defend the right and in him do I put my trust.

I room with our Captain and Lieutenants and orderly Sergeant and Geo. Allen which makes six in three beds. Capt. Wildman was presented with a splendid Bible from Mrs. L.S. Wildman as we left home and he has requested his roommates to have a chapter read in it every night, and I hope that soon prayer will also be established in his room. I shall do what I can to have it done even if I have to be chaplain myself.

We are armed with Sharp's breech-loading rifles with sabre bayonets. They are superior to our muskets which we have had although they were excellent. It has not yet cost us a penny and it probably will not. I have given away all of my paper except for this. The prospects are now that we shall leave for Washington sometime next week. We are to be fully armed and equipped, overcoats and all. And those who have uniforms will be allowed for them. The whole expense of our outfit is to be had by the state. We expect to be inspected today. Our company is now on the Green for drill and I must join them.

1 o'clock PM. I have had a good dinner and am now in our quarters five stories high, the whole floor was given up to ourselves. The weather is fine and all hands are fully good. Gussie, keep up good spirits and all will be well. We saw one secession flag between Norwalk and Bridgeport, all hands expressed their indignation at it, some by saying they would like the opportunity to pull it down. A large concourse of the citizens came to our hotel about 9 o'clock last night headed by a brass band and the American Flag to serenade us.

We are now called on the Green for drill and it is nearly time for Gregory to go, I send this by him. He goes home to raise another company. He will return if elected Lieutenant Colonel of our regiment as he expects. Good bye. Pray for me.

Yours in love,


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