This letter was written by Henry Erastus Richmond (1822-1896), the son of Billings Richmond (1789-1880) and Susan Wiley (1796-1870), of Churchville, Monroe county, New York. Prior to the Civil War, Henry worked in his father’s carding and cloth-making establishment, took up blacksmithing and wagon-making, went to the California gold fields in 1850, and came back to take up farming and dabble in the nursery business. He married Harriet Smith (1824-1896) about 1845.
In August 1862, Henry served as an officer in Co. G, 140th New York Infantry until he resigned his commission (January 1863) due to poor health. Several months later, however, Henry again re-enlisted as an officer in the 11th New York Heavy Artillery and was subsequently (October 1863) transferred to the 4th New York Heavy Artillery. He was serving as a lieutenant in Company I when this letter was written though he was later rose in rank.
It is curious to note Richmond’s observation that the “gentlemen’s agreement” between confederate pickets and their white union counterparts did not extend to the black union pickets.
[Note: This letter is from the collection of Richard Weiner and is published by express consent.]
Camped in Woods about 3 miles South of Petersburg, Va.
June 28th 1864
My Dear Harriet:
Your paper with valuable contents came to hand yesterday & I hasten to send one of the sheets & envelopes back with my many thanks for such kind remembrances. I was completely out of all stationery & would have written you Sunday 26th could I have borrowed the necessary material. Brother Charles ¹ was present making me a visit in our wildwood bower—which we now occupy for our house—when your paper was received. He made us a visit of about 5 hours, took dinner, & after the visit returned to his regiment, 104th, about ¾ of a mile distant from us. He has been returned to his regiment by especial request of its members. He is in good health & wishes to be remembered to Father, Mother, & all the relatives—sends the kindest greeting to all.
Sunday after about 3 days rest, our Battalion was ordered to report to General [David B.] Birney, 1st Brigade, 2rd Division, & 2nd Army Corps for duty, which temporarily takes us from the Artillery Brigade. This is in consequence of General [Winfield S.] Hancock being absent from the Corps & Birney being in command of the same. Birney & Col. [John Caldwell] Tidball don’t agree very well & hence his disposition to break up the Artillery Brigade. Tidball says his regiment will be got together when Hancock gets back. The 2nd Battalion is also detached & in Birney’s Division. Sunday night we went out with the brigade & worked until daylight Monday morning, putting up breastworks. Monday we rested & today at rest.
The weather has been extremely hot but last night we had a shower & the weather is much changed for the better. We are camped in the woods & have nice shady bowers to step in. There is but little fighting now—the lines are being strengthened & firmly placed around the doomed town, which is certain to fall. By common consent the pickets do not fire upon each other & our days & nights are passing in almost undisturbed silence. Yet the picket firing between the “Rebs” & Negroes still keeps up night & day—both cracking away at every opportunity.
We are usually well & hope the same blessing of health may be enjoyed by you all. How is Hanford & what is he doing? Addison sends $2 for you to distribute as you think proper between all for the 4th [of July]. Also a $1 note for Billy to look at. I heard from Jenny & Sarah yesterday by the doctor. Will Sarah spend the 4th at Churchville?
Harriet, why don’t you write oftener? I want to hear from you all once or twice a week certain. Has Leonard called lately at the disbursing office to look for our recruiting documents? I hear that King—our sutler—is to be home soon. If so, I will try & get 1 month’s pay from him & send you. We both would like to spend the 4th [of July] with you & our relatives, but must accept our good will for the deed & remember us to Father, Mother, brothers & sisters & relatives in general in kindness & love. Hoping as ever for the continuance of health & happiness to you & our children & for our safe return to you, believe me as ever in love & fidelity. — Henry
N. B. Direct as ever, 1st Battalion Artillery Brigade, 2nd A. C., Co. I, 4th N. Y. V. Hy Arty [Co.] I
Harvey to write me & I will try & answer.
¹ Charles Hubert Richmond (1840-1904) was Henry’s youngest sibling. Charles married Jane A. Smith (1842-1927) in August 1861 and resided in Livonia, Livingston county, New York prior to the Civil War where he earned his living as an allopathic physician. In August 1862, Charles volunteered his services as a surgeon in the 104th New York Infantry. He remained the the regiment until they were mustered out on 17 July 1865 near Washington D. C.