1863-65: William Dockendorf to Family

These eight letters were written by William Dockendorf [or Dockendorff]  (1844-18xx), the son of Thomas Dockendorf [1802-1883] and Sarah Gray [1813-1900] of Windsor, Kennebec, Maine. William served in Co. C of the 1st Maine Cavalry from March 1862 until he was discharged in March 1865. He was promoted from private to corporal in July 1863, and to sergeant in 1864.

This photograph of William Dockendorf is from post-war years, probably in the 1880s.


Camp Bayard
Stafford Co., Virginia
February 15th 1863

Dear Mother,

I received a letter from you and Estelle this morning and I was very glad to hear from you and to hear that you was well and I wish I could say the same although I am doing pretty well considering the chance. I am not able to do any duty yet. I can’t ride at all and if I am ever able to ride a horse again, I shall do well. The won’t give me my discharge yet but I guess they will get sick of keeping me after awhile and send me home for I have done all the duty that I ever mean to in this regiment. So don’t worry any about me for I shall come out all right yet. I have pretty good quarters to stop in and have enough to eat and you get along about as well without me and I am drawing pay all the time just the same and I think am doing about as well here as I should be at home although it would be more pleasant to be at home.

Father wrote that you was getting along better this winter than you ever did before. I am glad to hear that. You get along better when I am away for I am not at home to eat up all the profits. But never mind that. When I can get home now, I shall come.

I wrote to Susan the first of this month and directed to Windsor and put in one dollar for post stamps. We have been paid four months pay and it is about time that you got the money. They owe me most four months more. James was over here the other day and stayed all night. He was pretty smart. He brought over some down east victuals—some that you sent by Mister Chapman. I mean to go over there and stay a week if I can.

You wanted me to write where to direct—where to send a box to me. You had better not send one for perhaps I shall not get it—at least not until it was all spoilt. There is a lot of boxes for this regiment in Washington that have been there for months and there [is] no way for them to get them so I think you had better not send any yet awhile. Perhaps they will make some provisions to send them to us.

Capt. [Robert F.] Dyer has gone home on furlough for fifteen days. He left here yesterday morning. Perhaps some of you will see him. I don’t know whether I shall try to go for so short a time or not. If I do, I shan’t be able to get away for some time yet unless Fran will let me have his chance but I hardly think he will for he wants to come as bad as I do. It will cost considerable too and I don’t [know] but what it will be more than we could afford. It will cost at least $30.00 and that will be more than we can afford. By the way, perhaps you can send me some things by Capt. Dyer if he will fetch them but don’t put yourself out any to send me much. Put in some white bread and butter and like of that, but don’t go to any expense to get anything nice.

I shall write to Susan soon. I don’t think of anything more to write now that is of any consequence. Give my love to all the folks that I know. So goodbye. From William

William Dockendorf, Co. C, 1st Maine Cavalry, Washington D. C.


Camp Bayard
Stafford Co., Virginia
February 22nd 1863

Dear Father & Mother,

I thought that I would write you a few lines today just to let you know how I am getting along. My health, I think, is improving some [and] I should soon be on duty again. I received a letter from mother the other day and was very glad to hear that you both enjoy such good health this winter but I am sorry that you worry so much about me. I am not half as bad off as you think I am.

Mother thinks that I am not able to come home but it’s not quite as bad as that. I could stand it a half dozen times if they would only give me a chance to try it. I cannot get my discharge yet and must be contented to stay until they get ready to give it to me and don’t want you to worry anymore about me for I am just as well off here perhaps as I should be at home. And besides, I cannot always be at home with you for you know we cannot afford that and I might as well be here as anywhere. As long as I have got work for a living somewhere, I can content myself anywhere as I [am] earning something to make you comfortable. I want you to be comfortable [even] if I am not.

Mother said she wanted to see one of her boys. I think she will have that privilege before long for one of [the] boys was over to his regiment yesterday, but did not see him. But the boys in his company told him that James was coming home in a few days. I am very glad to hear that for I don’t think he [is] fit to be out here. He is not tough enough for a soldier. So when he gets home, you must make him answer for both until I come and that won’t be more than two years from now at the longest. But I hope that they will settle up this unholy war before many months and then there will [be] a great many Fathers and Mothers made glad.

I had a letter from Aunt Hannah yesterday. She was well when she wrote. I have not had a letter from Susan for two weeks. I should like to hear from her. By the way, what kind of weather is it in Windsor today? It is quite winterish here today. It [was] snowing here last night and it has snowed pretty much all day today. It seems  like down east to see snow for we don’t get much snow here. It is all mud this time of year.

Send me something to read if you have it. It will help to pass away time. I don’t seem to think of any more to write just now so I close, ever remaining your affectionate son, — William Dockendorf


Camp Bayard,
[Stafford Co.] Virginia
March 2nd 1863

Dear Brother [James],

As one of our boys is going over to your regiment and Francisco to write to George, I thought I would put in a few lines to you just to let you know how I am getting along. I have got most well now. I shall soon be on duty again. Learned by the way of one of our boys that was over to your regiment that you was sick with the measles. I hope that you have got better by this time. He also said that you were going to have a furlough when you got to go home. I hope it is so. If you get home, you will get your discharge when you get home. Tell the folks that I shall be there in the course of a couple of years. You must go and see some of the girls for me.

Fran talks of going home on a furlough and perhaps I may be lucky enough to get one in the course of a few months. I don’t seem to think of much to write. I have a letter from Susan nigh before last. She was at home but she said Grandfather Gray was very sick. They do not expect him to live and I should not think strange if he did not for he is getting old. I don’t know whether you can read this or not for I wrote in a hurry. I don’t think of any more to write now so I will close.

From your brother, –William Dockendorf

[to Mr. James W. Dockendorf, Co. G, 19th Regt. Maine Vols.


Camp of the 1st Maine Cavalry
Four Miles from Nowhere
November [??, 1863]

Dear Mother,

I have at last got an opportunity to write you a few lines to let you know that I am yet alive. We have had a very hard time this fall but I hope it is about over for this fall for I am about played out myself. I am on the sick list for the first time this summer but I hope I shall not have to stay on long. There is a great many sick. They have been banged around so long that they are completely worn out. It would not be necessary for me to give you the full particulars of our fall campaign but we have lost a great many men. We are getting to be but a handful now. There is not more than three hundred left all told.

The weather is very pleasant and warm. I hope we will go into winter quarters soon. I don’t think it would be of any use to fight any more this gall until we get the army filled up.

I received your letter this morning. I was very glad to hear from home again. It has been some time since I have written home for the reason that I could not get a chance to write, and if I could, I could not get any paper for it has been impossible for sutlers to follow us round and therefore we could not [find] anything to write with. But today I made out to borrow a sheet of paper and envelope and so I thought I would try and write you a little.

You must [not] worry so much about me. I shall live just as long as I should if you was not worrying about me all the time.

We are laying between Warrenton and the Rappahannock river but I don’t know the name of the place and I don’t know as it has got any. I would like to go home and see you all and get something good to eat. All we have to eat here is salt pork and hard bread and I am getting about tired of that. I am going to write to Susan as soon as I can get a chance. I want you to write to me as often as you can. You must not be particular about waiting for Sunday before you can write but write whenever you can get a chance. You must remember that all the pleasure a soldier has is when he gets a letter from home.

I don’t have much news to write anyhow. I got a letter from [brother] James the other day. It was written the night before he was going to sail. I am going to write to him as soon as I can. I am going to send home for some shirts and stockings soon. I suppose Father has got my last allotment by this time. We have been mustered again for pay. We will get paid again in the course of two or three weeks.  I hope you are getting along comfortable this fall. I hope you have got enough to last you through the winter. Do you intend to live where you are this winter?

But guess I will have to close for this time. Write as often as you can and I will do the same. Give my love to Father and the girls and keep a share for yourself. Write often.

From your son, — William

I want you to send me your pictures. I had James’s and Susan’s but someone stole them from me. — William


Camp near Warrenton, Virginia
March 6th 1864

Dear Mother,

As I have not written to you for some time, I thought I would write you a few lines to let you know that I am well and hope this will find you the same. I received a letter from [brother] James some three days ago. He wrote he was going to start for Washington the next day after he wrote so he must be there by this time. He did not write me what kind of a chance he had got but I suppose he has got something better than a private. He is foolish for enlisting unless he did.

The talk here is that Baker’s Cavalry is coming out here with us. I hope it is not so for I don’t think that James can stand it out here. I am very sorry that he enlisted at all but if he does not have to come into the field, it will not be so hard. His bounty will be quite a help to you. I don’t know but I ought to enlist again [as a veteran] and get a bounty. What we both would get would be quite a help to you but I don’t know but what three years will be enough for me. It has been just two years today since I enlisted. I have only one year more to serve and if I get through that as safe as I have the past two, I think I will try some other way for a living. I don’t look for so hard a time next summer as we had last although it is hard to tell what will happen.

Hugh Judson Kilpatrick

There is bit a few of our regiment here. They have all gone with Gen. [Hugh Judson] Kilpatrick down into Rebeldom. He went with the intention of going into Richmond but I believe he did not succeed. He did not have force enough with him but he destroyed considerable rebel property. I would liked to have gone with them. Our company was on picket so I could not go. Perhaps it is as well for me for they are having a pretty hard time.

I have not much news to write this time so I shall have to close. I want you to write as soon as you can and let me know how you get along. Tell Father and the girls to write as often as they can. Give my love to all and keep a share for yourself.

From your affectionate Son, — William Dockendorf


Lighthouse Point, Virginia
July 22, 1864

Dear Mother,

I now seat myself to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well. I hope these few lines will find you enjoying the same blessing. I have been very fortunate this year so far as I have been blessed with good health.

My shirt came this morning. I was very glad to see it. I had begun to think someone had taken it for their own use rather than send it to me, but it came alright. It is splendid weather now. We have had quite a rain but it has cleared off very fine and cool. We have been cleaning up for inspection this morning—the first one that we have had since we left winter quarters.It is quite a job to keep our arms in order while we are marching so.

I got a letter from [brother] James this morning. His health is quite good. He wrote they were under marching orders. He did not say where they were going. Probably he won’t know until he gets there. We never know where we are going. All we do when we get orders is to pack up and wait for time to show where we are going.

I hope we will get paid off soon for the most of the men want money pretty bad. I suppose you would like a little at home. I shall have some to send home when we get paid again for  you know they raised our pay. My pay now will be, I think, $20 or some say $21. That is better than $13. I shall make a good winter’s work this winter if they don’t let me go home this fall with the rest of the old boys. If I stay until they go home, I would not say much against staying through the winter. The regiment’s time is out in three months from yesterday. They are looking for the time to pass away. Some of them would like to hurry the time a little if they could. They are so anxious to get home. I can’t blame them much. Most of them have not been home since the regiment left. Though I would like to go home myself as well as anyone else, but I know that it is of no use to fret. I can’t go until my time comes and that is growing shorter every day. It will soon pass away. Three years is a long time to look ahead but to look back, it is but a short time. It does not seem to me that it is two years and four months since i was at home, yet it is so.

Three years ago the first battle of the rebellion was fought. I thought the last one might be fought today. There is cannonading at the front today. Gen. Grant is bound to keep at them until he knows who is master.

I suppose you intend to live where you are this summer. Perhaps it is best for you if you like the place. I hope you and Father don’t have to work too hard this summer for I want you to get along as easy as you can. I don’t think there is any great necessity of your working very hard. I suppose you keep a cow yet. I wish I had some of her milk. I have not had a drop this year but that won’t wean me if I ever get a chance to get any now.

My sheet is getting full so I will close by sending my love to all of you. From your affectionate son, — William Dockendorf

[transcribed by someone else; no scans of the originals available]


Cavalry Depot
City Point, Va.
January 8, 1865

Dear Mother,

I received your letter tonight. I have just come in from the front. I went out Friday and stayed two nights with [brother] James. He has got to be sergeant now. I am glad to see him get up. I hope he will get higher before long. I think I shall go home before I enlist again so you need not worry anymore about that. I am not coming into the service again without I have a good chance to make some money. You need not think I am coming out again for nothing. I have a great mind to go to the regiment again and stay the rest of my time. I can enjoy myself better there than I can here. It was always my place with the regiment. That was what I enlisted for and I don’t mean that anyone can say that I have not done my duty like a soldier. I enlisted for three years and I am going to serve my time out to a day.

I think that everything looks very prosperous now. If you would look at things as I do, you would talk different from what you do. You don’t look at the matter in the right light. If you had been where I have been for the last three years, you would think differently from what you do now. You think because I am out here that I don’t have a chance to see or know how things are going on in the world, but I have a chance to find out more than perhaps you are aware of. I see as many papers and as many different ones as you do at home so I can tell very well what is going on in the world, even if I am in the army.

We are looking for the pay master here now soon. I hope he will come for you must want some money by this time. It has been some time since you got ant money from me, but it is not my fault. It does not really seem possible that my time is so near out. I can hardly believe it when I think that in two short months, I will be at home again. It doesn’t seem possible that I have been away from home three years. It does not seem so to me but it only lacks about two months of it now. I have changed some since then but not so much as you might imagine. After all, I am as noisy as ever. You will be glad to have me leave again after I get home.

I believe Will Hewitt is out here now—at least his company has arrived—but I don’t know whether he is there. I am going over to see tomorrow if I am not too busy. [Brother] James  got a letter from you while I was there and also a pair of socks. He wrote too while I was there. You will likely get it before you do this. I want you to write me all about how you are getting along for I want to know a little what is going on at home. Give my love to Father and he girls and write soon.

From your affectionate son, — William Dockendorf

[transcribed by someone else; no scans of the originals available]


Cavalry Depot
City Point, Va.
February 11th 1865

Dear Mother,

Your kind letter came this morning. I was glad to hear from you again and to hear that you was well. My health is good for me. Hope it will continue so, while I stay here anyhow.

I have not seen [brother James] since I wrote last. I presume he is well though or I would have heard something of it. I don’t think that I shall be able to get up to see him again until I go up to be mustered out, for I cannot leave now as well as I could. One of the hands that was here has gone home on a furlough—started today. Probably you will see him for he said that he should call and see you if he could, His name is [Benjamin O.] Barrows—belongs in Camden. He is a sergeant of [Co. F in the D. C. [Cavalry] and a very nice man.

I am glad father has found a farm. I hope he will get one of them. If he does get a good one, I shall be pretty likely to stay at home next year if no longer.  You need not look for [me] under a month. I will let you know when I start. My boy has left me. He was not such a boy as I would want to take home. If you can find a good boy, take him.

Major [Benjamin Franklin] Tucker ¹ has lost his little girl. She was about four months old. Mrs. Tucker came out to stop the winter but they will go home now and take the child with them. It is rather hard for them. The Major feel very bad.

I have nothing more to write this time but will write again soon. Write as soon as you can.

From your affectionate son, — Wm. Dockendorf

¹ Benjamin Franklin Tucker (1831-1906) was promoted from Captain of Co. B, 1st D. C. Cavalry, to Major on 3 September 1864. He was married in 1856 to Melissa O. Leighton (1838-1912). Their daughter, Virginia Melissa Tucker died 7 February 1865—one day short of her 1st birthday—at City Point, Virginia.

Believed to be William Dockendorf and his sister Estelle Dockendorf, ca. 1865. Both tintypes are displayed in embossed cartouche sleeves. These images were sold with the collection of Dockendorf family letters and represented to be family members.

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