Inventory of the Benjamin M. Linsley Letters:
12 Dec. 1862-6 Aug. 1863
Private Benjamin M. Linsley, a soldier from Connecticut, served (1862-1863) in Company A, 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, Army of the Potomac. On 4 Dec. 1862, Benjamin Linsley's company left Fort Trumbull, Conn., boarding a boat called the City Of New York at New London, Conn., along with a group of deserters under arrest, who were landed in Jersey City. After landing in New York, Linsley's company took a boat the next day for Governor's Island, arriving at Fort Columbus, N.Y. By then Linsley suffered from sick stomach and severe pains in his head and neck. From Fort Columbus on 17 Dec. Linsley went by troop train to Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C., finally reaching Aquia Creek, Va., where he met up with his brother, who had been made a clerk in his regiment. Benjamin Linsley began his correspondence from camp near Falmouth, Va., which he reached with the sick and wounded by 20 Dec. 1862.
Linsley lamented General Henry W. Halleck's conduct during the recent Battle of Fredericksburg (12-15 Dec. 1862), a Union defeat under General Ambrose E. Burnside, and his own invalid condition which had so far prevented his from seeing any battle action. Linsley addressed all of these letters to his friend, Mrs. Lucy G. Palmer at Suffied, Conn. In Mar. 1863, Linsley recounted nursing his brother through a severe fever in the field hospital at Falmouth. His brother, who served with the U.S. Army's 10th Connecticut Volunteers under Brigadier General John Gray Foster in the Goldsborough Expedition of 1862, had earlier also been slightly wounded in North Carolina at the Battle of Kinston on 14 Dec. 1862. After he recovered, Linsley's brother rejoined his regiment for further action farther South.
Linsley himself fought in the Battle of Chancellorsville (1-3 May 1863), vividly describing the night crossing of the Rappahannock and Rapidan rivers on 27 April 1863, the confusion of the Confederate entrapment of the Union forces under General Joseph Hooker, Burnside's replacement, and Hooker's retreat back across the Rappahannock (6 May 1863). After this experience Linsley was again marooned in the hospital with neuraligia. During this time he observed camp life intently and wrote and impassioned letter deploring the lack of a statesman and military leader for the Union army, who could be as inspirational as George Washiington was for the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War.
By 6 Aug. 1863 Linsley was moved to McKinnis Hospital in Baltimore, Md. From there he reported that it had been more than two months since they all departed the camp at Falmouth, Va. marching to Warrenton Junction. Linsley had contracted, and was recuperating from, his own bout of typhoid fever. He had fallen out of the long summer march to Warrenton, Va., and, finally, stricken seriously ill in the intense heat, was taken from Ashby's Gap, Va. by train to the military hospital at Baltimore.
These six letters, dated 12 Dec. 1862-6 August 1863, are from Benjamin M. Linsley to his friend Mrs. Lucy G. Palmer in Suffield, Conn. Each letter is written in ink on both sides of a single folded sheet, except for the first one, which is on two folded sheets, sewn together in the center with cloth thread at some point after they were composed. All are addressed by Linsley from the camp near Falmouth, Va., where his regiment, the 14th Infantry of the Army of the Potomac was based, except the last one, which is addressed from McKinnis Hospital in Baltimore, Md., where Linsley was sent to recover from typhoid fever.
In the letters, Linsley comments on the failure of the Union army to obtain substantial victories ever since the Union defeat at Fredericksburg; inflated prices for postage stamps and sutler's goods; the despair he feels at the poor treatment in general of the sick in military hospitals, not only by medical personnel but by fellow soldiers; strategies for obtaining better food and bedding for his brother while nursing him through a severe fever, probably typhoid; the need for statesmen of moral standing more like George Washington than the much clamoured for "little man" George MacClellan; the trials of long marches in either rain and mud to cross the Rappahannock and Rapidan rivers, only to retreat back over them after the battle of Chancellorsville, or the intense heat of marches toward Warrenton Junction, Va., from which Linsley was transported with the sick and wounded to recover from typhoid himself in McKinnis Hospital at Baltimore; the desperation of deserters being taken to their punishment; the immoral behaviour of men in camp; the need for more good chaplains like Clay Trumbull of Hartford, Conn., who served with his brother's regiment of Volunteers; and perhaps, more poignantly, the eerie sound of drums during funerals for the many soldiers who died in camp from sickness in their poor living conditions.
The letters are now each encased in a clear plastic sleeve. A one page report from the Nartional Archives and Records Administration is included with the first letter. This NARA report (2 July 2001) replies to a request made by Professor Dale Baum of Texas A & M University in April 2001 to locate and make a copy of Benjamin M. Linsley's pension documents packet, stating NARA staff could not locate the materials. Baum had listed Linsley as an enlistee of the U.S. Army in Company A, 1st Battalion, 14th U.S. Infantry.
Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Received from Professor Dale Baum of College Station, Tex. in 2001
Processed by Aletha Andrew in January 2002.
Detailed Description of the Letters