This letter was written by 36 year-old Pvt. Francis W. Baker (1825-1903) of Co. G, 24th New York Infantry who enlisted in May 1861 and served until May 1863.
At the time of the 1860 US Census, Francis was employed as a “day laborer” and was enumerated with his wife Amarilla Zoviah (Richardson) Baker (1822-1900), and three children in the Town of Richland, Oswego county, New York. Their three children included Francis Howard Baker (age 9), Clayton (age 7), and Coral (age 2). Francis was a native of Connecticut; Amarilla of Vermont.
Addressed to Mrs. Amarilla Baker, Richland Station, Oswego County, New York
November 8, 1861
I now sit down to write a few lines to you to let you know that I am alive and well with the exception of a bad cold which I [hope] will not last long for it is not a very good feeling when one has to do his duty. I hope these few lines may find you and the children all well and enjoying yourselves as well as you can under the present circumstances. You say you would like to have me with you. I should like to be with you all as well as you would like to have me. Would I not like to see you and my little shavers as well as any man living would like to see his family, and I hope and pray to God that I yet may and that before long. And if I don’t or do, you need not let what thankful says trouble you for if I am in bad company, I know how to take care of myself and I am true to my family yet.
I hope I shall send you my money the next pay day in some way. I don’t know how. You said you thought I might have kept it to come home with and see you. Oh, how I could get the chance, I would do it, although I might be thought foolish, but I should not. But you must not set your mind on that for there is not much chance for a soldier to get a chance to go home and I don’t until I come home for good. But I shall send you the money the next pay day. That is only about one month from now. I guess you can get along until then. I would not let the committee know how much money I got if I were in your place. I shall write a letter to them. I was a going to write to them but Lieut. Corse told me he would write and when he got his answer, I could write if I wanted to. So I am waiting. I don’t know what they will say to him.
The things you sent by the Captain have got here safe and suit me first rate. I thank you very much for the vest and am very thankful to Belle and Mrs. Wells and Mr. Roberts’ folks for the gloves. Tell them so when you see them. Mrs. Elmira Douglas sent me a little pillow and two towels and some maple sugar and some papers and some black raspberries. We had some of them for supper and they were good cooked as they were on our little sheet iron stove in our tent. It was more than I expected to ever have here and I shall write and tell her how glad I was to get them. Mrs. Rufus Salsburg put in some of them too and I thank them very much.
I shall have to write fast for it is after nine o’clock and the officer has just been along and hallowed, “Lights out!” but I will try and finish this so to send it in the morning by Mr. Baldwin—a man that has been here on a visit and is going to start home in the morning. He will leave it at Richland Station.
You wanted me to tell you where John Beecher was killed. It was in the City of Washington. I don’t think it was in any such house but in the street. I don’t see what anybody wants to write home such stuff for it don’t [do] any good. Even if it was so, it would not do any good, but cause a great deal of pain to his family. ¹
I did get a letter from Dewitt but have not had time to answer it. I have got five or six letters I ought to write but can’t get time. We don’t have much time—only nights and then we are so tired and lazy to write. But I am a going to try and write them this week if I can. You must write as often as once a week.
Tell Howard I thank him for his letter and hope he will try again. I thank Coral for her present and Clayton, I thank him for being a good boy for I know he is. I can’t write anymore this time so goodbye and God bless you all. This from your loving husband, — Francis W. Baker
¹ The regimental history/roster indicates that John Beecher (1829-1861) of Sandy Creek, Oswego county, was 32 years old when he enlisted in Co. G, 24th NY Infantry. He died on 19 November 1861 “of wounds received in an affray at Washington D. C.” In the “Late Local News” of the Evening Star (WDC), on Page 3, the following notice was posted: “Death—Last evening John Beecher of company G, 24th New York regiment who was stabbed and otherwise injured while looking on at a melee in Marble Alley last week, died at the Fifth district school house hospital from his injuries. His remains are to be sent to his family in New York today.” Beecher was married to Mary Dennison (b. 1831) and they had two children living at the time of his death. Despite the statement in the newspaper notice, Beecher’s remains appear to have been interred in Washington D. C. at the US Soldiers & Airmen’s Home National Cemetery, Site F 1242.