1863: George A. Davis to Uncle

This letter was written by George A. Davis who served in Co. D, 42nd Massachusetts Volunteers—a nine months service regiment. The 42d Regt. Mass. Vol. Mil. was one of the new militia units raised to fill the quota of Massachusetts under the call of Aug. 4, 1862, for 300,000 men to serve nine months. Its nucleus was the newly organized 2d Regt. Maw. Vol. Mil. As there was already a 2d Regt. Mass, Vol. Inf. in the service, this new unit was named the 42d Regt. in order to avoid the duplication of numbers. The regiment was recruited at Camp Meigs, Readville, Brig. Gen. R. A. Pierce being commander of the camp. The various companies were mustered in between Sept. 13 and Oct. 14, 1862, while the field and staff were not mustered until Nov. 11. Under command of COL Isaac S. Burrell the regiment left, Nov. 21, for Camp Banks, Long Island, N. Y., where the expedition for Louisiana was being organized. Here on the 3d of December it took transports for New Orleans.

According to the regimental record, Pvt. George A. Davis of Co. D was away from the regiment—-sick at home in Roxbury, Suffolk county, Massachusetts—starting on 21 November 1862. He did arrive in New Orleans until May 1863.  From this letter we learn that Davis was on detached service in New Orleans working in the Provost Marshal’s Office, and that after he mustered out, he remained to work in the Customs/Treasury Department as a civilian.

TRANSCRIPTION

Office of Provost Marshal General
Department of the Gulf
208 Carondelet Street
New Orleans, [Louisiana]
October 22, 1863

Dear Uncle,

You may have been disappointed at not meeting me with my regiment on its return to Boston. But events beyond my control detained me. I applied for an order to relieve me from detached duty when I learned that my regiment was to return home. But Gen. Bowen was unwilling to have me go and being in Military Law like a bull in a crockery store—to use the expressive language of Capt. [Charles Cooper] Nott ¹ ([grand-]son of [Union College] President [Eliphalet] Nott)—he thought to keep me here without any further orders. And when he went to New York to visit his home a short time since, he told me to remain where I was until his return. But his successor—Col. [Edward Griffin] Beckwith, an old officer, knowing propriety in the case—immediately relieved me; accordingly I was mustered out of service here October 15th 1863, having been mustered into service October 14, 1862. Maj. [Benjamin Rush] Plumley, Mr. [George Stanton] Dennison—Special Agent of Treasury Dept.—and others urged me to remain promising me a favorable situation.

I shall remain here for the present and probably until Spring. My duties will be connected with the Revenue Dept. By the way, most peoples duties are now-a-days, I believe.

My plans for study have been so broken that I am compelled to alter them entirely although I shall never abandon them entirely. My last letter from home tells of health & speaks encouragingly of the coming harvest.

Military movements in this dept. seem slow but the course is steadily gaining and attentive observers see prosperity glimmering in the future. But it is a rugged way. Many a poor man falls on the passage. Few can say with myself that they left the 9 month’s campaign as sound as when they entered it. For this my good fortune, I am truly grateful.

Please write  me if you find leisure.

Your affectionate nephew, — Geo. A. Davis


¹ Capt. Charles Cooper Nott (1827-1916) was a captain in the Fremont Hussars, was in the 5th Iowa Cavalry, the 131st New York Infantry, and the 176th New York Infantry. He rose to the rank of Colonel during the Civil War.

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