1861: Isaac George Campbell to Joseph G. Thompson

This letter was written by Pvt. Isaac George Campbell (1838-1912) of Co. G, 34th New York Infantry. Isaac enlisted at Newport on 1 May 1861 to serve two years. He was promoted to a corporal on 2 December 1861 and to a sergeant a week later. He was wounded on 30 June 1862 at White Oak Swamp, Va., but recovered and mustered out with his company on 30 June 1863 at Albany.  In January 1864, Isaac enlisted in Co. F, 16th New York Heavy Artillery and served until 1 May 1865.

According to the 1855 State Census, Isaac G. Campbell was the adopted son of John Campbell (1809-1888) and Harriet McAllister (1820-1894) of Newport, Herkimer county, New York.

In the 1865 State Census, the Henry W. Thompson family lived nearby to the Campbell family residence in Newport. Henry may have been related somehow to the letter’s addressee, Joseph G. Thompson—most likely the husband of George’s sister (biological or adopted).


Addressed to Joseph G. Thompson, [?]

Camp Jackson
Seneca Mills, [Maryland]
October 1, 1861

Dear Sister,

I received your last letter in due time but have been so busy that I have not had time to answer it before. I was happy to hear that you were all well. I am enjoying the best of health and so are the boys in general.

I have no news to write that will be of interest to you. It is all War—War—War. The rebels riddled the buildings all to pieces that were quartered in at the Great Falls. They commenced firing about daylight on Sunday morning and threw 10 solid shot but no shell. One man on our side had his gun bent almost double by a shot while [in his] hands. One side of his face has turned black. He was the only one hurt. If they had shelled them, it would have been a different affair. The cowardly traitors retreated as soon as our battery came in sight. The rebels directed their course up the river. We expected to get some shot from them this morning. Shot is [of] no account by the side of shell when fired into and encampment. We could have returned their compliment with shot or shell from our brass beauties but it is now noon and we have seen no sign of the sneaks. I guess they won’t trouble us for they have had a taste of our shell and found them full of meat—but not of the sweetest. ¹

We have had one man ² killed, 2 men wounded, ³ and 4 taken prisoners by the rebels. They were scouting on the Virginia side when wounded and taken.

I must cut this letter short this time for the mail starts at one. I have written to have our folks deliver the trunk when called for. I want you to take my shawl and best coat and overcoat home with you. I received a letter from Wisconsin last week. Mr. Bass says he wants to keep my money another year. Father holds the Note. I shall have it renewed as soon as I get it straightened. I will let you know. Give my love to all the children and Sim. So goodbye this time.

From your brother, — Isaac G. Campbell

Direct as before. Goodbye.

¹ The “brass beauties” may have belonged to Battery A, 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery who were at Seneca Mills at the time. They were reported to have been equipped with James brass rifle guns.

² Thirty year-old Oliver Perry Darling of Co. B, 34th NY Infantry, was killed at Seneca Mills, Md. on 16 September 1861.

³ Twenty-three year-old William R. Bailey of Co. H was wounded on 1 September 1861 at Seneca Mills, Maryland. I don’t see a second soldier wounded at Seneca Mills by the date of this letter unless Joseph W. Kershaw is counted; he was accidentally wounded there in 6 August 1861. Curiously, in less than two weeks from the date of this letter, Hiram Burke of Co. B. “stabbed and cut” Lawrence Rooney (also of Co. B) in the abdomen during a drunken brawl, resulting in Rooney’s death and Burke’s dishonorable discharge and confinement in the Montgomery county jail where he awaited trial for murder.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s