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[EXTENSIVE ARCHIVE OF OVER TWO HUNDRED FIFTY LETTERS FROM HATTIE W. TAYLOR TO HER HUSBAND CHARLES DURING THE CIVIL WAR AND HIS SERVICE IN THE 16th CONNECTICUT INFANTRY]
Bristol, Unionville, West Meriden, Ct, 1865. 256 letters of varying lengths, most a single sheet, with 213 envelopes. 217 letters housed in two three-ring binders, with remaining letters still folded in envelopes. Previously folded, and an occasional area of staining, but overall fine. A fascinating and comprehensive collection of over two hundred fifty Civil War-era "home front" letters from a Connecticut woman, Hattie W. Taylor, to her husband, Charles, who spent most of the conflict as a part of Company K of the 16th Connecticut Infantry in the Army of the Potomac. Taylor seems to have been well-educated, and her letters are engaging, insightful, and full of interesting information and strong opinion regarding both local and national affairs. The letters begin in June 1860, and a small portion of them relate to the period in which Taylor was engaged to Charles before they got married in the middle of 1862 and he enlisted in the Union army. She eventually resigned herself to her new husband's plans, stating in an August 9 letter that, "I am brave and stronger now.... I have placed all my trust in my Heavenly Father and I believe he will care for you.... We shall be both be better for the sacrifice made for 'our country.' You are in the right, God is with you - your course is noble, manly, heroic." The 16th Connecticut participated in the Battle of Antietam on September 16-17, 1862, and suffered heavy losses, with more than 200 men captured. On September 23, Taylor wrote to her husband that she thanked God, "That he was spared-that from out that terrible battle you came unscathed." She also mentioned that she felt, "More encouraged regarding the end of the war. President Lincoln has issued a proclamation that after the first of January all slaves are to be free - so I think we may hope that God will give us success." Another local soldier, a Captain Manross was killed at Antietam and Taylor wrote of his funeral in a September 29 letter: "Mrs. Manross is nearly crazy - God pity and help her.... Capt. B. Darrons company came out from Hartford to attend Capt. Manross' funeral-also his class from Amherst & the Free Masons. The flags were hung at half mast & a general feeling of sadness prevailed." While some in the North were opposed to Lincoln's preliminary Emancipation Proclamation and fighting a civil war to free the slaves, Hattie Taylor supported the abolitionist cause. As she wrote in a December 7, 1862, letter to her husband: "God is on the side of right and if we obey him he will deliver us. Sometimes I think we at the north are suffering full measure for all that the poor oppressed black at the south has for years suffered. I believe their day of deliverance is at hand and when that comes peace will come too. You see your little wife hasn't changed her abolition principles." By March 1863, the early optimism concerning the war had given way to pessimism and, in some quarters, anti-war activities, in Connecticut. In a March 1 letter, Taylor wrote that people "are expecting another draft and there are long faces. Patriotism seems to have gone by-people are discouraged. Secession democrats here have had and still hold their secret meetings. I wish every soul of them was down South. It is a downright shame that such things are tolerated." A week later, she was still condemning the copperheads, as well as being critical of the Union Army, writing that, "We can see no immediate prospect of peace, but these miserable 'copperheads' (I wish they were all in rebeldom) are trying their best to help the rebels as you will see by the Press I send you weekly-and our armies are doing nothing (I'm thankful the 16th Reg. are not) at present." Taylor did like Union General Benjamin Butler but had harsh words for Secretary of State Seward. In a May 20, 1863 letter she claimed, "I like such a man as Gen. Butler, when he says a thing, he will do it and he is for having this infernal (big word for me) rebellion put down at all hazards. He knows what he wants to do or what wants doing and that is more than can be said of some. I wish Mr. Seward was in Fort Lafayette or some other place, than where he is now. I guess I will stop for wishing does no good, but if I had the power he would be missing till this war was over and some other ones too." Taylor reported vigorously on local reaction to military news. On July 7, 1863, she relayed the celebration in West Meriden, Connecticut, resulting from the Union victory at Vicksburg. "This afternoon the news of the surrender of Vicksburg was received. And it has been a time of rejoicing. All the bells in town were rung, shop whistles blew, all the flags were flying and people greeted each other with smiling faces. Some swung their hats in the air, and a feeling of hope filled all hearts." Learning that the Union victory of Gettysburg was accompanied by large numbers of casualties, she expressed her views regarding the outcome of the war in a July 12 letter: "Oh! That this cruel war was ended, but the clouds are breaking - already we can see through them the blue sky of peace - yet we know there is much more to be done yet- many hard battles to be fought ere the end comes-but we have great reason to be encouraged. Oh! I do hope our rulers may see and realize that only in justice can peace come to us. When we unconditionally give freedom to every downtrodden son of Africa then I believe the starry banner of our country shall float over a land of peace - and home of the brave." In her next letter, dated July 14, Taylor mentioned the New York draft riots and again expressed her negative opinion of copperheads: "Drafting has commenced and it makes many long faces. In New York it is being resisted by a mob - several lives have been lost, buildings burned-the telegraph poles cut down-rail road torn up - Harlem river bridge burned. A regular copperhead demonstration. It is reported they are fighting there to-night. How dreadful it is, but I hope these traitors at home will be attended to in earnest." Five days later she wrote of an expected draft riot in Meriden, Connecticut, "There is every expectation of it and every night when I retire to rest I know not but before morning I shall be awakened by the cries of a mob in our streets. The loyal citizens have formed themselves into companies for the defense of our town - they drill every morning and evening and have minie' rifles." In the summer of 1864, with General Ulysses Grant's army bogged down in Virginia and suffering heavy casualties, President Lincoln was re-nominated for a second term. Despite the growing number of casualties resulting from Grant's movement against General Lee's army, Taylor felt confident in Grant's abilities, as she stated in a June 21 letter. "I think Grant is the man for whom we have so long been looking to lead the Army of the Potomac, and he will eventually take Richmond but what a sacrifice of life." Nevertheless, she still held General Benjamin Butler in high regard, especially after reading James Parton's 1864 book, General Butler in New Orleans. In an August 2 letter, she wrote that she was, "Reading Parton's 'Life of Butler' - it is very interesting. I had no idea he had done so much - he stands high here than ever in my estimation. Would that we had more like him." By early 1865, Taylor looked forward to the end of the war and the return of her husband. As she indicated in a February 4 letter, she was not favor ending the war with an unjust peace, though she did welcome the passage of the 13th Amendment by the U.S. House of Representatives on January 31: "What do you think of the present 'peace movement'? I do not like the way things are being managed - much as I desire peace, let it come on a right basis - in justice or not at all, and let the traitors suffer the penalty of their crime. But it is glory enough for one week that the amendment of the Constitution is passed and slavery is abolished from our land. Thank God for that." In a February 21 letter, Taylor cheered the retaking of Fort Sumter by Union forces and expressed hopes for severe retribution to Confederates: "The flags are all flying here to-day because our glorious banner again waves over Fort Sumter.... I wish Gen. Sherman would not leave one stone upon another in the city of Charleston - but let it be forever waste - an example to all traitors and traitorous cities." When the Confederate capital Richmond fell on April 3, 1865, Hattie joined other Northerners in celebration. She wrote to her husband on April 4 of her happiness that: "the rebel capital is taken.... So long looking for this and now it has come. I can scarcely realize it.... I saw in last night's paper that 'staid New York merchants hugged each other' and every one was almost wild with joy." A week later she celebrated General Lee's surrender to General Grant at Appomattox. "Only think of it! Richmond ours and Lee with his army surrendered! - such rejoicing was never seen before I'm sure. I was so glad I almost cried for joy - we hung out our flag... we could hear bells and gongs all around." The celebrations in the North were, of course, silenced by the assassination of Lincoln. In an April 18, 1865, letter, Taylor expressed her emotions of sadness mixed with anger: "It seems so sad to think Mr. Lincoln is dead. There is mourning everywhere -any 'copper' that dares express joy is silenced. Traitors have added the last drop to their cup of iniquity and it is running over. I hope they will receive no mercy.... It seems sad to see black crape fluttering from the door knobs all along the street. They rode a man on a rail in Chipping hill for saying he ought to have been shot four years ago." In an April 30 letter Hattie informed her husband that she sought retribution: "I hope all implicated may be brought to justice. Gens. Lee, Johnson, Breckinridge, Jeff Davis and all those leaders ought to be hanged!! They have slain their ten thousands and deluged our land in blood. Justice demands it... there is no mercy pleading for them in my heart-but justice, stern justice to traitors-and copper's too- demands a fit punishment for this treason." She was optimistic about President Andrew Johnson, especially in handling the Southern traitors. On May 9 she wrote that, "I have a great deal of confidence in President Johnson. He has a good deal of the Andrew Jackson spirit that I like to see, when rebels and traitors are concerned. Decision and justice - I hope justice will be measured out to them to the brim." Approximately a month later, Charles had mustered out of his unit and returned to Connecticut. An extensive and exhaustive collection of correspondence that provides tremendous detail of a New England home experience of the Civil War.
      [Bookseller: William Reese Company - Americana]
Last Found On: 2017-09-20           Check availability:      Biblio    

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