This letter was written by 23 year-old Judson Hewitt Gibson (1838-1919) who enlisted on 22 May 1861 at Hammondsport in Co. I, 34th New York (the “Herkimer Regiment”) to serve two years. He mustered in as a private and was promoted to corporal in April 1862. He mustered out with the company on 30 June 1863 at Albany.
Judson was the son of Ira Gibson (1796-1884) and Harriet Coryell (1796-1846). At the time of the 1860 US Census, Judson was enumerated in the household of his parents and his occupation was given as “boatman.” Judson’s parents appeared to be without much property and his father, in his sixties at the time, worked as a “farm laborer.” After the war, Judson worked as a “Mine Dresser” in Pulteney; later as a farmer.
Judson wrote the letter to his older brother, George Gibson (1817-1898), who was married and the owner of his farm in Pulteney, Steuben county.
Surprisingly, though an infantry regiment, Judson writes of being mounted and going on a scout where he and five other mounted soldiers chased a rebel for some distance.
Addressed to Mr. George Gibson, South Pulteney, Steuben county, New York
Postmarked Georgetown, D. C.
August 11, 1861
I thought I would let you know that we was all well and in good health at present and I hope that these few lines will find you the same. The letter that you sent with Capt. King I got it yesterday. It is the first letter that I have had since I left Camp Kalorama.
We came to guard the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal to keep the rebels from tearing it away. We are one side of the [Potomac] river and they are on the other side. One of the boys in our company went across and got a boat and fetched it across to our side. The rebels do not trouble us much yet but they can if they see fit to. But we have not much tried to yet till last Tuesday night we had one of our guards shot through the leg right below his knee. It was one of Co. B men. We all fell out in one minute but we did not see no-one. I thought that we would have some fun then but we got slip up on it. It did not break his leg.
But we have lots of fun here nights with mosquitoes. They are plenty now and I have heard so much about Maryland—it was so nice a country—but you travel smother land everyday there. We do hear there is no one lives here but a few negroes and they don’t live—they stay around.
You want me to give you a description of this place. It would be hard work to do it for it is nothing but hills and rocks here. And you wanted me to let you know how far from Harpers Ferry. It is about 40 miles from Harpers Ferry and about fifteen miles from Washington and about ten miles from Fairfax Court House. And you spoke about coming out here this fall if we stay around Washington. You must come if you can come and see how a soldier lives. We had lots of cake sent from Hammondsport to us, and cheese, but I have got hardened to our fodder. I did not care for it. Some eat so much it made them feel sick but gave me the brick—as we call them—to eat. We can soak them all night and they will be so we can eat them in the morning.
You spoke about sending butter here but we could not keep it. It would be all oil before it got here and we have been so long without butter it would not come handy to eat it now.
We have had two visitors from Old Steuben since we have been here. They came with Capt. King—Charles Champlin and Baker. You spoke about the colt. I wish she was three or four years old and I had her here to chase the rebels with but if we ever get in a fight, I will get a horse or do [ ]. There was six went out on a scout last Wednesday and on our way home we come in sight of a man on a horse. He was about a mile ahead and he see us a coming and he run his horse hard as he could and we after him but our horses was tired about out and we did not take him. He had a fresh horse. It was just before dark so I [page missing]
Charles is well and in good health and he hopes these few lines will find you the same. And give my love to all the gals that us on that land of bluff fort. So goodbye till the next time.
Three cheers for the red, white, and blue, the stars and stripes, which we fight for now. The end.
Direct your letters to Washington D. C., 34th Regiment N. Y. S. V. Care of Capt. King, Co. I, J. H. Gibson