1864: Letters to Horace Eden Sampson

Horace E. Sampson & wife Mary

Sgt. Horace Eden Sampson was the son of Eden Sampson (1820-1890) and Lydia Soule (1817-1860). Born in 1845, he was just 16 years old when he enlisted in Co. E, 18th Massachusetts Infantry. After 12 months fighting with McClellan’s Army of the Potomac, he was captured on 27 June 1862  at the Battle of Gaines Mills and sent to Libby Prison and then Belle Isle at Richmond. His ordeal as a prisoner took a toll on his health. After he was exchanged, Horace spent three months recuperating at Hampton Hospital. He was discharged from the service and sent home in October 1862.

By July of 1863 Horace felt well enough to re-enlist, this time with the 2nd Massachusetts Heavy Artillery, Co. C. Because of his education and previous service, he entered as a sergeant and eventually became the chief clerk in the Adjutant General’s Department. The 2nd Massachusetts Heavy Artillery spent much of the War in North Carolina, where Horace succumbed to bouts of ague that caused him continued health problems throughout his life, including debilitating fever sores. The performance of his duties was commendable and he was twice offered lieutenancies but as these promotions would have required him to leave the 2nd Mass, he declined them.

After the war Horace married Mary Cushman, of Duxbury, MA in 1872.  They remained on the South Shore of Massachusetts, eventually settling in Hull, where Horace operated a livery business.  They had one daughter, Camilla, born in 1878.

Horace E. Sampson died in 1917 and is buried in the Village Cemetery in Hull, MA. His Civil War letters are part of the Cushman Family Collection at the Drew Archival Library.

See — Sgt. Horace E. Sampson: A Ladies Man


Addressed to Sgt. Horace E. Sampson, 2nd [Massachusetts] Heavy Artillery, Fort Heckman, Morehead City, North Carolina
Postmarked Duxbury, Massachusetts

This letter was written by Polly Sampson (1799-1878) to her grandson, Sgt. Horace E. Sampson of the 2nd Massachusetts Heavy Artillery. Polly was the wife of Eden Sprague Sampson (1797-1878) of Duxbury, Plymouth county, Massachusetts.

Duxbury [Massachusetts]
January 17th 1864

Dear Horace,

I have been thinking for a good while I would write you but thinking I could not write anything interesting so I have not written you. But I’ll assure you one thing — that is, I think a great deal about you, although I have not written before. We received your letter December — I have forgotten the date — and sent it to your father in South Bridgewater. I suppose he has written you before this. He is to work in the [cotton] gin [manufacturing] works ¹ — a good chance for him this winter. He went the next week after Thanksgiving and hasn’t been at home yet.

You wrote in your letter you had fine weather out where you are. We have had it quite cold here this some time — ever since the last of November — but it is getting to be rather milder now.

I am sorry to write you [of] the death of Alvah Swift. He died with the diphtheria Friday night. The funeral is to be tomorrow afternoon. He is a great loss to his father and all of us here. He was a good boy — there’s no mistake. I hope this will find you well. I think you  are in as good a place as we can expect by what you write us. I am glad for you. If you was here, you might be drafted. We don’t get many volunteers. We are having War Meetings almost every night but don’t get many volunteers. The town has raised quite a sum of money to buy men to go. I don’t know what they will do finally. I hope they will not have to draft. You see they don’t have so much courage as you.

Par and myself are alone this winter. We have a good many callers or we should be rather lonesome. Ellen and Katie are staying to Pembroke this winter. Ellen was down there four weeks today. All of the family are well as far as I know. Clara is boarding in East Boston. Mary and her folks have been here and made us quite a visit. There isn’t much news a stirring. Frank Wadsworth is married and Lydia [  ] and gone to New York to board. Capt. Soule was here a few days ago. They were all well. Priscilla [Soule] is away with Louisa [Soule] this winter.

What do you think about the war, Horace? Does it look any like coming to a close? I wish it would for my part. I told William Swift what you wrote about his writing you. He said he would but he has gone away now to Newton to work. I can’t think of anything more now.

Excuse my writing and spelling. I don’t know as you can find half this. If you should be lucky enough to get this, answer it soon and I will be much obliged.

From your affectionate grandmother, — Polly Sampson

If you should be paid, I hope you will send home all you can spare. You may depend it will [be] saved for you. Par sends his respects to you and often speaks about you. Goodbye for this time.

¹ The Eagle Cotton Gin Company in Bridgewater, Massachusetts. 


Addressed to Sgt. Horace E. Sampson, Co. C, 2nd Regt. Heavy Artillery, Fort Heckman, Morehead City, North Carolina
Postmarked Bridgewater, Massachusetts

This letter was written by Eden Sampson (1820-1890) to his son, Sgt. Horace E. Sampson of the 2nd Massachusetts Heavy Artillery. Eden’s wife Lydia Soule (1817-1860) had passed away four years earlier. He wrote the letter from Bridgewater, Massachusetts, where he had been since December 1863 working in the Eagle Cotton Gin Company.

Bridgewater [Massachusetts]
April 15th 1864

Dear Son Horace,

I received your letter of April 4th the 10th and was much pleased [to] hear from you. I am glad that you have been so fortunate as to get such a good situation. You did not write how much pay you get. C. Whitten tells me that the Adjutant General is entitled to 2 clerks. He says if you are detailed, you at least will get 40 cts. per day extra pay.

I see by the Journal the death of your Commander Father this week, William Ticknor of the firm Ticknor [&] Field Publishing House in Boston. Joseph Goodspeed has lost his little Jim that use to be in the office so much. Gershom W. Witherell ² has lost both his boys last week. Most all the children in our neighborhood are dying off. Mr. [Charles] Latham is in a quick consumption. He won’t live but a short time [he died on 20 April 1864]. I can’t write much news this time. Mr. Wild has gone home. He will come back tonight. He may bring some news.

Duxbury has filled her quota all but 5 on all the calls that has been made. I suppose they have got them before this time. This April the first. This is the first pleasant day we have had for 4 weeks. The wind has been out every day for weeks. It has not been in during that time. I thought it never would come in again.

The folks are all well in Duxbury. Henry Lewis Sampson ¹ is married last night. Walter Freeman is in Ballad’s Saloon in Plymouth. I see there’s to be a large fort built on Gurnet [Point] this summer called Fort Andrew in honor of the Governor and Fort Standish on Saquish Cape.

George Winsor [Windsor?] has left Duxbury [and] taken up residence over to Kingston [Massachusetts]. They have paid off the town debt last year. He thinks his tax will be less than it would be in Duxbury. I hope he never will come back. He is a damned old Copperhead. He made a speech in town meeting [in which] he said the town of Duxbury was bankrupt; they had no credit in Plymouth; they could not get a dollar of money out of Plymouth Bank. Gershom B. Weston [said] to him he was a liar. That set the hair [and] old George shook his cane in his face [and] told him to repeat them words again. Weston did it [again] except cool as a cucumber. That made him so much the worse. Weston Freeman says they had plenty of fun at the town meetings.

I have been here since December 8th. I have worked every day [except] Christmas and Fast day. Please write me how much pay you get. You ought to get for that the same as 2d Lieutenant which is pay and rations — $100 per month if you volunteered. I suppose you won’t get anything for it. You don’t stand a chance for promotion where you are now. Please write me all the particulars of your situation. Write as often as you can for I like to hear from you often.

I was very much pleased [with] your last letter that was wrote in good style of business hand. If I could write like that, I would write every week.

Everything is very high and still going higher. Gold [was] $1.89 the 13th; the next day it fell 16 cents. There is so much paper money, speculators go it strong. There will be a crash amongst them yet. Uncle Henry sold off his horses and carriages. He works in his shop harness making all the time.

I should like to go to Duxbury but I don’t like to go without I could stay one or two days so I shan’t go at present if the folks are well. I wish I had some news to write that would interest you. The Rev. Lemuel Harlow is dead. The funeral was last week in M. E. Church in Duxbury. He was brother to Ivory and Arad of East Boston. Please excuse bad writing and spelling but I must close for I can’t write anymore this time. I suppose you hear from Duxbury often. Mr. F. goes home once in 5 or six weeks — that’s all I hear from Duxbury. If you want to hear from your old teacher, write him. He would be proud of a letter from one of his old scholars. I am very well and hope you are enjoying the same great blessing.

From your affectionate father, — E. Sampson

Please direct same

Eden Sampson in care of Capt. Asa E. Copeland, Bridgewater, Mass.

Good morning for this time. Look out and take good care of your health. Don’t get fever and chills stuck on to you for it will be hard to get rid of.

¹ Henry Lewis Sampson (1828-1899), the son of shipwright Nathan Sampson and Waity Wadsworth. He was a post master in Duxbury and later became a self-employed musician.  In 1864 he married Mary Janette Sampson.  Together they had four children: Nathan, Henry C., Jennie D. and James W.

² Gershom W. Witherell (1820-1869) and Lydia Weston Holmes (1828-1909) lost their two sons, Frank A. Witherll (1852-1864) and Gershom Parker Witherell (1860-1864) within a week of each other in April 1864; they both died of diptheria.

George Winsor (b. 1790)



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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