1863: Reuben Noble DeLaite to Brother

This letter was written by Reuben Noble DeLaite (1827-1863). In the 1850 Maine census, Reuben was living with his family in Letter C Range 1, Aroostook County, Maine. In the household were Reuben (32), Susan (25), Charles (8), Clarence (5), and Frank (1).

According to “Massachusetts Town and Vital Records, 1620 – 1988,” Reuben and Susan Angela Kenney (1834-1911) were married in Lawrence, Massachusetts on 19 January 1851. Reuben’s parents were Lewis DeLaittre (1793-1867) and Hannah Noble (1793-1840). Susan’s were listed as Samuel and Polly (Jones) Kenney of York county, Maine.

According to “U.S. Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles” Reuben enlisted into Co. G, 15th Maine Infantry at 34 years old. His residence at that time was Fremont, Maine. He enlisted on December 20, 1861 as a private but was promoted to a full corporal. Records state that his rank out was Sergeant. He died at the regimental hospital in New Orleans on October 6, 1863 according to the “Adjutant General’s Report.” Susan claimed his pension on December 23, 1863.

TRANSCRIPTION

Camp Parapet, Louisiana
July 2nd 1863

Dear Brother,

I will write a few lines to you today to inform you of my health and of my whereabouts. Our regiment left Barrancas [opposite the entrance to Pensacola Bay] one week ago last Sunday, June 20th, [aboard the steamship Crescent] and arrived at New Orleans Monday night. We had a hard time coming over as it was rough and we were all seasick. We came aboard Saturday so we spent two nights on board with no room to lay down or sleep. When we got to New Orleans we received orders to land opposite Algiers to go out on the railroad 50 miles to Lafourche Crossing where our folks with a small force had been attacked by a large Rebel force from Texas and had cut the railroad beyond them. We were piled on to platform cars and arrived at daylight next morning. We had no sleep that night. We found our folks all right having entrenched themselves and repulsed the Rebels handsomely, and now we formed a line of battle of 800 infantry, 70 cavalry, and four pieces of mounted artillery and went after them. ¹ They retreated to Thibodeaux about 7 miles. We followed them to that place but could not induce them to fight us. They left their wounded there and their dead half buried and skedaddled. We came back to the camp at night, very much done out. They day had been one of great heat. We lay on our arms on the wet ground that night, having left our knapsacks and blankets on the wharf at Algiers.

Next day we went up the road to try to repair the bridges they had destroyed and reestablish communication with Brashear City which was one object of our expedition. But we found the railroad cut in several places and a party of the 26th Massachusetts Regiment, while repairing a bridge, was fired into by Rebels in the swamp and five badly wounded. At this time we got the news that Brashear City was taken by the Rebs that morning. It was 40 miles above us. We had heard heavy firing all the morning, but to help them was out of our power. The whole Rebel force was reported to be 6,000 with 20 pieces of artillery, and they were now together advancing on us. We was 150 all told — infantry and cavalry with five cannon. We commenced with a will to make our position strong by entrenching [but] at 4 o’clock we got orders from Gen. Emory at New Orleans to get ready to leave the place that night as he had started three trains after us. At 10 o’clock at night we heard the first train coming which dispelled all fears of our communication being cut below. At 12 o’clock we got off with everything and arrived at Algiers at 10 next morning [the 25th]. We crossed the river [to New Orleans] and [eventually] quartered in the Custom House.

We found a mail from home for us there. I got two letters. I opened one and read till I found that they were all well but I could read no more, but my eyes closed in sleep and I knew no more till next morning. On my back on a stone floor with no blanket, I lay and slept 36 hours. It was the first rest we had got for five days and nights. I believe that is what they call active service — and it was.

If we had remained at Lafourche Crossing, the Rebels would probably have taken us but it would have cost them very dearly. The next day (26th) we were ordered back across the river and were sent seven miles up the road at a canal bridge where we stayed three days. At 12 o’clock Monday night, we were ordered across to this old place, Camp Parapet. We don’t know how long we may stay here. There is but little force here besides us. The country is full of Texans. They are bound to do all they can while Banks is so tied up at Port Hudson. I have stood this hard siege very well but the weather is very hot. I hope we shall rest a few days. The regiment is in good health. They are a different set of men to what they were last year at this time. I am in hopes to be better than I was last summer.

Why don’t you write to me? Direct to New Orleans, La. We got a mail yesterday. I got a letter from [sister] Hanna only 12 days old. Give my love to all and receive this from your sincere brother, — Reuben N. DeLaite


¹ The combined command consisted of the 15th Maine, 9th Connecticut, a Massachusetts cavalry detachment, and five pieces of Grow’s New York Battery. 

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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.

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