This letter was written by Corp. Lionel Stanley (1841-1904) of Co. H, 53rd Pennsylvania Volunteers. Lionel enlisted in October 1861 and wrote this letter from Harrison’s Landing on the James River following the unsuccessful Peninsula Campaign. He was wounded in his side by a piece of shell and left on the battlefield at Bristoe Station on 14 October 1863 whereupon he was taken prisoner and held at Andersonville Prison until 19 November 1864 when he was exchanged. [His prison record at Andersonville states the was “held at Andersonville and survived”—his capture site being “Auburn, Va.”]
Lionel was the son of English emigrants, Thomas Stanley (1800-1868) and Anne Stowe (1803-1880). After the war, Lionel married Ellen Elizabeth Beck (1844-1922)—the younger sister of Thomas E. Beck (1841-1900) who was the recipient of this letter. Thomas and Ellen Beck were the children of Jacob Beck (1790-1871) and Susanna Haas (1794-1848) of Northampton county.
Harrison’s Landing, Virginia
Sunday, July 27th 1862
I have just finished dinner and come out in the woods to find shade but leaving my pen, I will scribble a few lines with the pretty pencil I found on the battlefield of Fair Oaks. Your kind letter came to camp this morning while I was with the regiment on inspection and I take the earliest opportunity to answer it. I also received one from brother George at the same time. I was much gratified to learn that the crops were so good.
One of my comrades who was wounded at Fair Oaks has just returned from home (Columbia county). He looks well and represents times as being dull up there. News with us is scarce, nor do we know when we will leave here. But I suppose we will not advance till we receive reinforcements. I hear that troops are to be placed in the field for 9 months and one year which in my opinion is a foolish idea as that, I think, will not be sufficient time to settle the dispute. I have no doubts about me respecting the number to be raised as thousands would rather enlist for a short period in order to see whether they would like the business. I hear accounts of great war meetings in all parts of the North and hope that our freemen will prove themselves worthy of such a country as the United States.
You gave a good account of your rambles on the 4th [of July] and I was pleased to hear that you enjoyed yourself so well. My comrades & myself have some good times swimming and diving in the [James] river which is wider than the West Branch considerably. There are a good many gunboats in the river here such as the Galena, Monitor, Stepping Stones, Matanzas [Maratanza] &c. The rebels are making gunboats at Richmond and they think they can drive us from here. Let them try! Burnside is at Newport News.
Last Wednesday [23 July 1862] our (Sumner’s) Corp was reviewed by General Sumner & McClellan. Next day there was a review of Heintzelman’s Corps &c.
We were paid a little more than a week ago and expect 2 more months pay this week as the paymaster is here. Everything is dear here so that I generally prefer sending most of my money home to paying 4 or 5 [times the] price for things here.
The sun is very warm so that I do not feel much like writing. You will therefore look over mistakes of all kinds. Write soon as this comes to hand and please inform me how many are enlisting from the valley &c. After giving my love and respects to all inquiring friends, be assured this is from your old comrade &c.
— Lionel Stanley to T. E. Beck, P.P.
P. S. William and myself are well and some tell me I look stouter than I ever did. I asked John High why he did not answer you. He speaks of doing so. — L. S.