1864: Josephine Elizabeth (Bottum) Bunnell to Damaris B. Bunnell

This letter was written by Josephine (“Josie”) Elizabeth (Bottum) Bunnell (1844-1936), the daughter of Charles L. and Angeline Bottum. Josie was married to Mark J. Bunnell (1838-1917) who first enlisted in May 1861 as a sergeant in Co. B, 13th New York Infantry and served three months. He then enlisted for two years in the same regiment, as 1st Lieutenant in January 1862. By July of 1862, he had been promoted to Captain of his company. In August 1862, he was wounded and reported missing in action at Second Bull Run.

Josie wrote the letter to her sister-in-law, Damaris B. Bunnell (1833-1916), the daughter of Dennis Bunnell (1807-1885) and Mary Baker (1811-1881) of Dansville, Livingston county, New York.

After the Civil War, Mark Bunnell relocated to Washington D. C. where he was employed as a clerk in the Treasury Department.


Addressed to Miss D. B. Bunnell, Dansville, Livingston county, New York
Postmarked Washington D. C.

April 11th 1864

Dear Friends,

In your letter you made some enquiry as to my whereabouts. In reply I think Capt. Bunnell sent word that I would answer for myself in the way of a letter. Sufficient time has elapsed since then to admit of your having forgotten the promise, or at least to have given up the letter. Now as it is some little time since I have heard from you, I came to the conclusion that you have been waiting for the promise to be fulfilled that had been made in this direction.

I had promised to write to so many I actually did not know who to write to first. I have put it off from time to time until I am almost ashamed to write now. I cannot sit down any time as I can at home and write a letter. I thought today I had delayed writing so long, I would write anyway. The longer I delayed it the longer it would be before I received one of your good long letters. I have wanted to get a letter from home but could not blame anyone for not writing. Mark has several times admonished me that I had better write so as to leave you no further excuse for delay. Now if I had once thought you were looking for a letter from me with sufficient seriousness to admit if its being a cause for delaying your writing, why dear I should of sent two or three ‘ere this.

My journey here was not the pleasantest in the world. I found the passage from Elmira [New York] to Baltimore very pleasant — more so than I had expected. We had to stay in Elmira the first night and what a night it was to me. There was so many soldiers and so much noise the whole night long, I did not sleep that night. But the next day got just one wink of sleep — such sleep as may be found in the cars. We reached Washington about midnight the next evening after a long and tedious journey. But the scenery was beautiful. I viewed it by moonlight and pronounced it superior to anything I ever saw. All through the farmers were at work in the fields plowing and sowing grain. I thought I had left all the cold, bad weather North, but it was only pleasant for a few days. The next Tuesday it commenced snowing and raining together. It kept it up the most of the week. Indeed it has thus far. It has been a very unpleasant month. They say they have had worse weather last month than they have had in all winter put together.

Capt. Brunnel has moved to two or three different camps since I came on. Sherburne Barracks [on Carroll Hill] was such a beautiful place but he left it and went to Capitol Hill. Was there only a few days before he had orders to move up to Seventh St. Barracks where he is _______. How long he will be at this station is as uncertain as a soldier’s life. He had just engaged rooms for us the day before he was ordered for Capitol Hill. It was directly opposite camp. I still remain at Mrs. Bigelow’s and probably will until he becomes permanently settled. Mrs. Bigelow was sick when I came but not confined to her bed as she has been since. She has not been off her bed since I have been here until her husband died. Through his illness she was not able to see him. When she did see him, he was in his coffin. Indeed this was a sad house when he died. His son came on from Boston to attend the funeral. He was here long enough to settle up his father’s business and return last Monday evening. He is a practicing physician in Boston and it was necessary that he should return immediately. I think if he had stayed, Mrs. Bigelow would [have] been able to gone out.

Miss Susie Moore was married last Wednesday to a Dr. Collins, formerly of New York but now a resident of Washington. If it is cold and stormy outside, it is all honey and sugar inside. I don’t believe they know that a drop of rain has fallen since last week Tuesday — the day before they were married. It was a beautiful day, they say, of the wedding. After the wedding, we all or a few of us went up to the Capitol to hear [George D.] Thompson, the English abolitionist.

Capt. [came] over with me last evening. We went to church and heard a splendid discourse from Dr. [Byron] Sunderland. “It was splendid. I don’t know what he said but it was so good.”

I have been disappointed today. I intended to go to the Capitol today but I went to camp this morning and did not get back until they had gone. They are having a great time in Congress today,  I have just heard. Miss Sharpless was telling me they used the most insulting language she ever heard and didn’t know but it would lead to blows they were so enraged. It was so crowded from the Senate chamber to the House, it was almost impossible to get to the street. ¹ I lost a good deal by not going but what is my loss is your gain for if it had not been for this disappointment, I perhaps wouldn’t have written you today.

Tomorrow evening [12 April 1864] is the last reception at the Presidential Mansion. We are all going and expect to have a gay time. I hope better success will attend our visit this time. We had just a good joke played on us last Tuesday evening [5 April 1864]. It was noticed in the paper the day before that it would be the last reception so we concluded to go — rain or shine. The gentleman had a carriage sent around and we went. All the time the rain poured in perfect torrents but we thought, what of a little rain. But we were in a closed carriage and felt none of it. As we got opposite the [President’s] House [we] beheld nothing, not even a sentinel was to be seen, so we concluded not to get out of our comfortable quarters just to see Mrs. Lincoln — it was raining too badly. If we had looked at the paper that day, we would [have] seen that it was postponed on account of the inclemency of the weather.

I saw it announced in the paper next day [6 April 1864] the President and family [were] at the theatre that evening. ² They attend the theatre quite frequently. I went a while ago [and] saw The Seven Sisters played. ³

Speaker [Schuyler] Colfax has receptions every Friday evening. He gives his last one next week [22 April 1864]. I want to go to the last one if possible. We intended to go awhile ago but our plans were frustrated a little. I went out in the afternoon to purchase a pair of white kid gloves to wear in the evening and before I got home, I lost them and I thought I could not afford to pay another two dollars for a pair that day so we did not go.

I hope Capt. will be able to go with us tomorrow evening. And how much I would like to have you here to go with us. I think of you every time I go out and wish you were with me so much. Mark gets but very little time to go. I miss him very much but he cannot be relied upon I have found since I have been here.

Excuse the length of this letter. It is hastily written and badly composed. This very thing has kept me from writing you before.

My best love to Father and Mother. Tell Mother that little package she provided me with the day I left home tasted better than anything I have had since. Oh for a taste first of her lips, then of her ginger snaps.

Father says he is going to pinch me, is he? I know what for and I deserve it. But I’ll wager my head that when he sees me, he will forget to pinch.

Luna said in Seel’s letter that that letter she got from me was extra nice [and would like another. If she thinks so, please ask her to answer it. I am just dying to see what “Little seed” as Seel calls it, but if ____ is three month’s old if he calls it by that name, it’s Aunt Jane will take it in hand. I am sorry it isn’t a boy. I would like to send it a “bit.”

And Matie I can truly say I have not seen since she had the measles, bless her heart. I do want to see her. Tell her she must not forget the letter she promised to write before I came away.

Acol [?] next to the best man that ever was has written to me and over looked my weakness and forgiven my negligence.

Dem, you deserve a great prize for receiving this letter and perusing its mutilated contents. May you have strength to go through with it. Bare my best wishes to all the friends. I want to say write soon but forgive me.

— Josie

¹ On 8 April 1864, Alexander Long, a prominent “Copperhead” from Ohio who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from March 1863 to March 1865, gave a speech in favor of abandoning the war and recognizing the Southern Confederacy. This speech did not go over well with Republicans who attacked Long with heated speeches on the 11th of April. The debate was finally ended with a resolution to declare Mr. Long “an unworthy member of the House.”

² According to The Lincoln Log — a daily chronology of the life of Abraham Lincoln, the President and Mrs. Lincoln visited Grover’s Theatre to hear Friedrich von Flotow’s romantic comic opera Martha; or, The Fair of Richmond sung by the Arion Society with the Grand Orchestra from the Academy of Music, New York. [Evening Star, 6 April 1864, 2d ed., 2:1.]

³ The Seven Sisters played at Grover’s Theatre during the week of 14 March 1864.


Griff View All →

My passion is studying American history leading up to & including the Civil War. I particularly enjoy reading, transcribing & researching primary sources such as letters and diaries.

1 Comment Leave a comment

  1. The following comment was left under my “contacts’ page wrt this letter: Josephine Bunnell’s father was my second great grandfather. I was so excited to find this letter from Josephine, and to actually see her hand writing. Do you have any connections to any members of her family or to other documents from her and Mark’s life? Thank you for posting this letter. —- Carol Schmidt


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