1864: John DeLaite to Maria (Jewell) DeLaite

This letter was written by John B. DeLaite (1819-1881), the son of Lewis DeLaittre (1793-1869) and Hannah Noble (1800-1840). John wrote the letter to his 2nd wife, Maria E. Jewell (1835-1924) with whom he married in December 1860. His first wife, Rachel Bacon Folsom (1830-1860) died in 1860 leaving him with four young children after six years of marriage.

John enlisted as a private (later promoted to corporal) in Co. F, 1st District of Columbia Cavalry (which absorbed 1st Maine Cavalry).


Division Hospital near Petersburg, Virginia
December 14th 1864

Dear Wife,

I take this opportunity to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well and would like to hear that you and the children are well also. I have not heard from you for 4 weeks and am anxious to hear from home. I suppose that it is cold at home. it is cold here for a Southern State. I have been [on] three trips from here to City [Point] with wounded soldiers and was out about all night but I am having a better time than I should with my regiment to stand picket this winter. If I stay all winter here — I do not know that I shall stay here all winter — but I think I shall.

How are you getting along this winter alone? I hope well. I often think of you there cold days & nights and wish that I could be at home with you. I have been in hopes that I should get a chance to come home this winter but I am getting discouraged about it. I don’t know as I shall get home this winter. The cavalry has just come in from another raid on the weldon Railroad where they was gone 5 days. They lost about 35 men killed and wounded. They was very successful. They destroyed everything on the road where they [rode]. The railroad is completely destroyed for 20 miles.

I had to nurse 7 of the wounded here until they was taken to City Point. It is hard work to nurse the wounded. They are so sore all the time. Poor fellows, I pity them and do all I can for them. And a man that does his duty in the hospital has a hard place for he is on his feet all the time. I have not had one good night’s sleep before last night for nearly 4 weeks and I try to do my duty to them all the time. There is a great many wounded on picket on our cavalry line this fall by bushwackers. They fare hard when they fall in the hands of our boys. They shoot the ….[paper torn] ….will destroy everything that they come to and that is all the way that they can protect themselves from the bushwackers.

I should like to be at home with [you] and the children today. It would seem like civilization. But as I cannot, I will try and be reconciled to my lot for my time is growing shorter all the time. One year is most gone, wife, and I am spared and who knows but that I shall get to come home again with you. I am anxious to see you again…[paper torn]

[Signature missing]


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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