This letter was written by Pvt. Lewis Josselyn (1842-1944) of Co. K, 38th Massachusetts Infantry. Lewis was a shoemaker like his father when he enlisted at the age of 20 to serve three years. He was mustered out of the service on 30 June 1865 at Savannah, Georgia.
In the 1860 U.S. Census, 17 year-old Lewis was still residing at the home of his parents, Cyrus Barker Josselyn (1814-1898) and Elizabeth Barker Bates (1811-1885) in Hanover, Plymouth county, Massachusetts.
When this letter was written in early December 1863, the 38th Massachusetts had just moved into the camp formerly occupied by the 31st Massachusetts near Baton Rouge that was called “Camp Banks.” Cos. A and K were detailed as provost guard and had quarters in the city.
Addressed to Mr. Cyrus Josselyn, West Hanover, Massachusetts
Postmarked New Orleans December 16, 1863
Baton Rouge [Louisiana]
Friday eve., December 11 
Dear Mother &c.
I will now write you a few words for I have not written to you this week, I believe. I wrote to Barker though Sunday which is about the same. After I had finished my letter to Barker, I went out with some more of the boys to arrest some deserters from the rebel army that had come through the lines. They are willing to take the oath of allegiance and came in for that purpose to get clear of being conscripted, but for some reason or other they are not allowed to take the oath and are kept in jail.
I wrote to Barker that I would not write much about how we are situated but let someone (which was Frank) tell you just how we get along. Frank ¹ started from here a week ago last Monday on a sixty day furlough. He was to start from New Orleans last Friday night so John Lane said so. By this time he must be most home. We did not write he was coming for we thought we would let him surprise you a little.
I got your letter No. 22 and a paper yesterday. I see by it you are all well and so are we, and likely to be unless those rebels they say are out here make an attack on us. I hear there is five thousand about here but that is hardly enough to take this place [even] if one of the regiments have gone from here. The 31st Massachusetts Regiment left here this week to go to New Orleans to be made cavalry of. I heard yesterday that they had to go out with a flag of truce from Port Hudson to get Colonel [William Logan] Rodman‘s body that is to be sent home. He was buried but a little more than a mile of the fort and it seems the rebels are pretty near there.
You wrote about Bill Phillips’ picture. I think he does look full as well as a soldier as he did a citizen. He was in here day before yesterday to see us. He is quite well. We was paid off again last Sunday but I guess I shall not send any home. I shall not yet anyway. But I must close for tonight and write again when I get a chance. But you must not expect me to write oftener than once a week. I do not have much of any chance to write that I am sure of not being interrupted. Since I have been writing this, we had to turn out and go to the further end of the city to stop a rumpus. But when we got there, the bird had flown, and we came back without the birds. So you may not be disappointed if you do not hear from me oftener than once a week.
¹ Possibly Francis (“Frank”) T. Sheldon of Hanover. He was discharged for disability on 26 January 1864.
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.