This letter was written by Corp. Eben Peck Wolcott (1844-1863) of Co. E, 28th Connecticut Volunteers. Eben was the son of William Albert Wolcott (1810-1879) and Susan H. Peck (1812-Aft1870) of Lakeville, Litchfield county, Connecticut. Eben contracted disease during the siege of Port Hudson and died on 28 August 1863. Eben’s older brother, Samuel W. Wolcott (1842-1864) was killed in the fighting at Deep Bottom Run in Virginia in August 1864 while serving with the 7th Connecticut Volunteers. [The Manuscript Colletcion at Florida State University has a letter written from Samuel to his brother Eben, dated 26 May 1863] Eben wrote the letter to his sister, Josephine Darline Wolcot (1850-Aft1930).
The 28th Regiment was the last Connecticut regiment organized under the call for 9-month volunteers. It was composed of only 8 companies: five from Fairfield County and 3 from Litchfield County. Stamford men in the regiment numbered 188.
The 28th Infantry began gathering on September 15, 1862 at Camp Terry in New Haven and was in tents and barracks for about two months. On November 15, the 28th was mustered into the service and three days later left New Haven by boat headed for New York City. November 19, the regiment went into camp at Centerville, Long Island. Their encampment, called “Camp Buckingham,” was at the Centerville Race Course which was enclosed by a high board fence with only a single entrance that was securely guarded. The 28th was camped with the 23rd, 24th, 25th, and 26th Connecticut regiments. On November 29, six companies of the regiment boarded the steamer Che Kiang with a group from the 23rd regiment under the command of Col. Charles Holmes of Waterbury [to go on the “Banks Expedition”]. The two 28th regiment companies not on board joined the regiment later after a difficult passage by steamer. The Che Kiang sailed from New York December 3, 1862 and after a very difficult voyage, weathering a terrible storm off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, the ship reached Ship Island, Mississippi December 12, 1862.
On Board the Steamboat
Seven o’clock P. M. [18 November 1862]
I have not the greatest convenience to write that I might have but I thought that I would write tonight & I might have a chance to send it ashore in the morning for we will not leave the boat tonight. I had just got into my bunk to get my boots off & fixed to write when the boys came running down saying that we were passing the Great Eastern ¹ so I jumped out & run up to see but we had got so far ahead of her that I did not see much to tell how she looked. I don’t know but I got the worth of my money for I got my feet pretty wet. She has been anchored in the harbor for over two months. She is out of repair. It is about 8 miles from New York.
The boat has just stopped for some reason or other. It may not be a going any further tonight. We got ready to start about half after twelve this noon. We got on board about quarter after two. We had a pleasant time going down to the boat. It rained yesterday pretty hard & soldiers have to keep out of the way as much as possible so we marched in the middle of the road. The mud was pretty thick & pretty plenty. My knapsack was pretty heavy at first but I got along pretty well. I put my shawl into George Bushnell’s ² trunk. I thought I would carry it to New York for I can send it home in someone’s trunk when we leave here. I sent my trunk home this morning. I will send the key in this letter.
I have been rather lucky than most of the men for there is not bunks enough for all. There is not over two hundred in all so the rest have to stay on deck & lay around on the floors. I got a letter from [ ‘s] brother after I got on board. Some of the boys went to the [post] office when we came down.
I suppose you know where we are a going. I see that the baggage is marked Center Ville, Long Island. I know not how long we will stay here. It will probably be some time. I guess I will go to bed & see what the morning fetches around.
I had a very good night’s rest. I got up at 4 o’clock this morning & went on deck for there is so many on board that the air is not the best that it might be down in the hole. We took up anchor at six this morning & started for New York. They say that we anchored 8 miles from the city. Have been on deck. There is not much to be seen. We have just a narrow passage where the land is not over 10 rods from the boat. I want to go up on deck & if I have time, I will write more. — E. P. Wolcott
¹ A notice in the New York Tribune of 11 December 1862 states that the repairs to the Great Eastern were nearly completed and she was expected to resume her trips to between Liverpool and New York City shortly. Soldiers frequently commented on seeing this unusual attraction. One such soldier was Benjamin C. Lincoln of the 39th Massaschusetts who wrote, “We passed the Great Eastern anchored in the East River as we neared the City.” [Letter of 9 September 1862]
² George Bushell served as a private in Co. E, 28th Connecticut Volunteers. He was also from Lakeville, Litchfield county, CT.