1865: Elnathan Whitfield Burge to his Aunt

This letter was written by Elnathan Whitfield Burge (1846-1924) of Bristol, Ontario county, New York. He enlisted on 17 December 1863 as a private in Battery H to serve three years. He mustered out with the battery on 26 September 1865 at Washington D. C. HIs military record indicates he served in the battles of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, North Anna River, and most all of the battles around Petersburg up to the surrender of Lee at Appomattox.

Elnathan was the son of Silas Burge (1816-1902) and Ann Taylor (1817-1858) of Bristol. According to the muster rolls, Elnathan stood 5 ft., 8 inches tall, had grey eyes and brown hair. He was a farmer by profession.

Union soldiers making gabions


Camp near Patrick’s Station, Va.
February 1, 1865

Dear Aunt,

I have just received your letter with the money in it all right and I was glad to hear that you were well. I am well at present and I will tell you what my work has been and is at present. I am building gabions ¹ to put in a fort that we are building near here. It is to be a half a mile long and is to mount heavy guns and our regiment is doing the inside work and those than can make the best gabions are set at work a doing this and we make one for a day’s work and I generally get through time enough to write a letter which I am now doing. I have been out to make a gabion today and when I came in, the Orderly came to me and said that there was a letter for me and I went and got it I knew it was from you as soon as I looked at the writing. And now I will take the time that is laid before me to answer it.

I do, as a general thing, answer all the letters that I receive soon after I get them and in this way I can inform all of you how I am getting along. I have received two letters lately from [my sisters] Victoria and Ida. They were both well and Victoria sent me her likeness in a round case and it was a very good one too.

There has been several appointments of non-commissioned officers in our company and among these are George H. Bullock [Battery H] for corporal and to rank as such from January 2, 1865, and I think he is worthy of the appointment for he is a likely fellow and a good soldier. I reckoned that you was mistaken about Edward Wilder being married for I have had so many letters from home that I thought they would say something about it if he had been.

It is expected that there will be a move before great while for everything looks like it here now for the Sixth Corps is under marching orders and the Fifth Corps also. I saw Harvey [P.] Wing—the one that use to work at Deacon Ingraham’s. He is in the 26th Michigan Regiment [Co. E] and I saw Harvey Gardner [4th NY Heavy Artillery, Battery L] last Sunday. He was well and had received a box from home.

You must excuse my mistakes and make the best of it for I am in a hurry. So goodbye.

From E. W. Burge,

Co. H, 4th New York Heavy Artillery, Washington D. C.

¹ Gabions (pronounced gey-bee-en) Cylindrical wicker baskets which were filled with rocks and dirt, often used to build field fortifications or temporary fortified positions. 

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