Part 1; In Hospitals Around Washington

Long View of Harewood Hospital Complex

Harewood Hospital, an early hospital complex in Washington, where both Albert Liscom & James Ramsey spent a great deal of time waiting for a discharge.

Table of Contents



This special Section of the website, “Thirteenth Massachusetts Volunteers” is created to feature some specific soldiers' stories that don't fit neatly into the chronology of the regiment.  It focuses primarily on the letters of 5 soldiers and their experiences in and around the city of Washington, D.C., (either in hospitals or serving on detached duty) between September 1862 and October 1863.  Along with the soldiers' experiences, these pages attempt to create an outline of the city's character during the war; both militarily and culturally.  There are 3 pages to the section. 

Page 1 features the letters of Albert Liscom, Company C, & James Ramsey, Company E.  Both were in Washington hospitals immediately following Major-General John Pope's Summer Campaign of 1862.  Both were seeking an honorable release from the service for health reasons.  Liscom's health was completely broken down, and Ramsey was wounded in the thigh.  Both received their discharge but under different circumstances.  Ramsey's came pretty quick, but Albert lingered in the hospital for months.

Page 2 tells the little known story of Camp Convalescent.

For a year and a half, Private George S. Cheney of Company E, wrote letters to the Roxbury City Gazette, under the pseudonym "Azof."  Beginning in September, 1862 he sent a series of gloomy dispatches from Camp Convalescent near Alexandria, VA.  The letters continued into January, 1863.  The camp was established in the late summer of 1862 for three purposes.  First, as a camp for convalescents, too sick to return to their regiments, but not sick enough to occupy a hospital bed;  second, as a holding camp for stragglers, and third, as a place for recruits to gather before being distributed to their respective regiments.  The camp was in chaos during its early existence and many soldiers sent there suffered for the governments lack of preparedness.  The convalescents suffered the most.  Eventually order was established and a well run camp was founded.  On Page 2 of this section, Cheney's 11 letters are posted along with the "official history" of the camp, transcribed from the 1st & 2nd issues of the camp's own newspaper, “The Soldiers Journal,” established February, 1864.

Page 3, focuses primarily on the letters of  William H. H. Rideout, of Company B.  Rideout was supervising a team of workers in the Quarter Master's Department in Washington.  William was known as a ladies man throughout his life, and his letters to a girl back home, reveal a developing romance.  Private John Noyes travels through Washington on two separate occasions provide additional color and commentary.

Interwoven amongst these pages are visits to the theatres and public buildings of Washington, with references to its hotels,  attractions and surrounding environs.

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What's On This Page

Albert Liscom's letter collection is housed at the Army Heritage Education Center in Carlysle, PA.  In 2012, I visited the facility and made digital copies of each letter, (though at least one page was missed).  For several months at home I made transcriptions of the material.  His letters are indeed  noteworthy for descriptions of life in camp and on the march from the regiment's organization, through September, 1862.  A substantial number of the letters were written at the time presented here, when Albert, his health entirely broken down, tried to obtain an honorable discharge from the service.  His letters are divided into two parts on this page.  In the first part, he writes from Washington D.C. area hospitals and camps.  In the second batch of letters, he writes from “National Guard Hall” General Hospital on Race Street,  Philadelphia, where he was moved in early November, 1862.   Albert received an honorable discharge from the volunteer service on  January 30, 1863.  During the long wait, he counsels with his Father about whether to take "French Leave" and go home for a visit, or to remain in the dreary hospital and wait for the army bureaucracy to run its course.  With a suit of clothes sent to him by family, he occasionally slips into town to socialize with friends and visit the theatres.

The letters of James F. Ramsey are already well represented on this site.  Ramsey served as a volunteer soldier from the earliest days of the war, when he joined the "Tigers" [2nd Battalion Boston Militia] in the Spring of '61 to help get Fort Warren in Massachusetts Bay ready for service.  When Ramsey could not get a position in the 12th Mass, where most of the Tigers went, he found an opening in the ranks of the Roxbury Rifles and subsequently joined the 13th Mass., Company E.  James was wounded in the thigh at the 2nd Battle of Bull Run.  His copy of the 13th Mass Regimental History, “Three Years in the Army,” remains in the family.  It is inscribed by its author,  Charles E. Davis, Jr, to James Ramsey, who remained on the battlefield of Bull Run for a week before receiving medical attention.  The few letters posted here are a coda to his military career.  The letters and family photographs were provided to me by Mr. Don Gage, a descendant of James.

PICTURE CREDITS:   All images are from the Library of Congress digital images collection, with the following exceptions:  Liscom & Dearborn Reed Organ was found at an antiques auction site named "Liveauctioneers" Dec. 6, 2012 auction;  Pictures of James F. Ramsey and the Ramsey family are from Mr. Don Gage, Ramsey's descendant;  “B&O Railroad Station” from author "Steven" at:  “Civil War Washington, D.C.” the post  “B & O Railroad Station,” posted October 4, 2011;  W.B. Moses Furniture Store/Avenue House Hotel from John De Ferarri's blog "Streets of Washington", W.B. Moses & Son, posted Nov. 15, 2016;   Actress Maggie Mitchell by Napoleon Sarony is from Dr. David S. Shields & his Broadway Photographs site, www.broadway.cas.sc.edu; Lt. Joseph Colburn, , Lt. Oliver C. Livermore, Major J.P. Gould and Company C group shot, with Bill White, 22nd Mass., are from various Civil War artifacts dealer websites. ALL IMAGES HAVE BEEN EDITED IN PHOTOSHOP.


The following sites were invaluable in researching this page.

Civil War Washington; for the article, “B & O Railroad Station, New Jersey Avenue and C Street NW,” posted Tuesday, October 4, 2011.  [civilwarwashingtondc1861-1865.blogspot.com]

Streets of Washington; “W. B. Moses & Sons” by John De Ferrari, posted November 15, 2016.  [Many other articles at this site were very informative.]   bloghttp://www.streetsofwashington.com/2016/11/wb-moses-sons-once-washingtons-largest.html

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Introduction to the Liscom Letter Collection

I first learned of the existence of Private Albert Liscom’s letters through the 13th Regiment Association Circulars.  In Circular # 33 Albert’s 45 year old son Charles, wrote a letter to Walter Swan, who was then Secretary of the Association.

Dedham, Mass., Sept. 12, '20

Comrade Swan:     I am reminded of a former offer of mine to prepare something relative to the part taken by the 13th at Bolivar Heights and Dam No. 5, and the rather lively engagements there in October and December, 1861.  The history of the 13th does not give any details of these scraps, but in a way I think they were of some importance, for those engaged got probably their earliest training and experience in real battle conditions during these fights and gave the enemy something to chew over.

...My father seems to have been quite a letter writer and sent frequent and newsy letters home, with much attention to detail.  He sent home some 91 letters in all, from Aug. 6, 1861 to Jan. 25, 1863, although the latter part of the time he was confined in hospitals, due to breakdown in health in 1862, just before 2nd Bull Run Battle." 

Charles S. Liscom.

A page from one of Albert's letters

I discovered that these letters were present in the collections of the Army Heritage Education Center in Carlisle, PA.  In the year 2012 I accessed the collection, and took digital photographs of the letters.

Albert's cursive is very fine, and many of the letters are written in pencil almost too light to see.  Using Photoshop to darken the letters was essential in interpreting some of the writing, but it is still difficult.

At right, a page from one of Albert's letters.

I've counted 73 letters and some letter fragments.  (Albert's son claimed there were 91 letters in the collection, so some appear to be missing).  There are about 3 or 4  more letters in the collection that are not written by Albert. Two are signed by Aunt Eliza, one by an Uncle William, one by a soldier named Frank, also in Co. C, (which describes the battle of Bolivar Heights) and an unknown note to 'father' dated 1857, signed Jacob.

During his campaigning Albert had some serious health problems.  In this letter to his father he describes some of his ailments:

Letter Excerpt, Waterloo, VA, July 19, 1862

  “For a long time my teeth have troubled me a great deal.  I find it impossible to live on army rations.  I have to live on such light stuff as I can buy or cobble up myself and it is rather surprising to me how I live on what little I eat, about all we have for rations is hard bread & coffee for breakfast & supper, for dinner we have salt junk boiled fresh beef or fried beef and once in a great while baked or stewed beans, very often there is no dinner at all, this is the way we live day after day.  I have long ago given up trying to eat salt junk, boiled beef I cannot

eat, and the beef steak I do the best I can with to get the juice and You may ask what I live on, well I hardly know myself.  Corn starch, rice molasses cakes, crackers & cheese, stuff that does not amount to much except to take away the money very fast without warranting good health to follow.  I have got about discouraged trying to live in such a way, my teeth are so far gone that I can hardly bite off a piece of soft bread.  There is not two teeth in my head that I can use, that come square together.  the only tooth that is of any service to me in biting, I expect every day will break off, it is more than half gone now, it is the one next to the eye tooth on the right side.  I cannot chew at all on the left side, my teeth are all broken off even with my

gums from the left side including the eye tooth and following round to the one next the eye tooth - (which has a large cavity in it) on the right side, there is nothing but the hollow stump)  The two teeth running back from the eye tooth on my left side are more than half decayed in fact I have not a whole tooth on my upper jaw.  I have not had any drawn out, all that I have lost - have broken off.  Do you wonder at my feeling hungry?”

According to Albert's letters, he tried to keep up with the regiment, until they reached Thoroughfare Gap on August 28, when he got so lame he could not keep pace.  His knee bothered him, but he claims that was not the cause of his leaving. 

  He would have a hard march August 18, two days after his last letter home (before he arrived at the hospital camp where he wrote the first letter presented here).  He could have rested somewhat, 3 days during the artillery duel at Rappahannock Station August 20 – 23, when  the regiment was not on the move.  On the 23rd – 28th, Albert would have had lots of marching to do.  Considering his condition as outlined in his July 19th & 29th letter, its commendable that he kept up as long as he did.

July 29, 1862

Company C, 4th Battalion Rifles, Boston.

Camp ______                    Waterloo

July 29th  1862.

Dear Parents & Sister
            It was with pleasure that I received your letter of the 24th I received it on Sunday.  I very well understand your letters and am glad that you do mine.  As to my thinking that you did not wish to have me come home, I never had any such thoughts.  I know how you feel about it, for I had the same feelings myself.  I did not wish to return home and have people say that I wanted out of it, But I have made up my mind that if it is possible I

p. 2.

shall get out of it as soon as I can and as I am now situated,  I shall feel perfectly justified in doing so.  I do not believe it is right for me to stay here and be half starved all the time, this is not altogether owing to poor teeth as the other boys can testify.  We are not provided with food sufficient to satisfy a well mans appetite.  You speak of my getting a furlough but that is impossible.  no more furloughs are given.   I think it very doubtful as to my getting my discharge, but never the less I shall try it in a few days at any rate,  it will probably take some time for they are bound to hang on to a man until the last minute, it is easy enough to get into the service.

p. 3.

But almost impossible to get out of it, they do not consider what is best for a man, but seem to think they have a perfect right to gauge a mans life out at their pleasure, and that if they do give a man his discharge it is all done as a favor, all this I know for I have seen it.  In my last letter I wrote you that I thought my knee was getting better; but for a few days past, it seems to be as bad as ever .  I went up to the doctors this morning, but I got very little satisfaction from him,  he did not exactly tell me that nothing was  the trouble with it, but I saw plainly that he felt so, however he ordered a blister which I put on and now there is a blister

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all over my knee.  I shall be obliged to go to him once more to have my knee attended to after the blister is taken off, also to get excused from duty tomorrow, then I should have done with him, for I do not think that with his disposition, he will do anything to help me.  One thing in regard to my knee which is to my dis advantage, it does not show anything   apparently it is as well as the other, it never has been the least swollen this of course makes it look doubtful.  As soon as I find out the effect of this blister, I am going to see the brigade Surgeon, and lay my case before him.  I dread it, but I hope for the best.   Please excuse a short letter this time.  Yours with a great deal of love

From Albert

[Written across the top of this page upside down]:

P.S.  Everything is all right & quite here,  Do you remember a year ago to day, I rather think I do   A

NOTES:  I think Dr. Allston Whitney was  brigade surgeon.  His performance after the Battle of Cedar Mtn. gained for him a reputation as a most skillful surgeon.

  The camp at Waterloo, was crowded into a small hilly area where there was barely enough room for the brigade to camp.

Albert probably got to Haymarket with the regiment on August 28, then possibly even to Thoroughfare Gap that afternoon.  He probably lost the regiment during their hasty retreat from the Gap towards Grovetown, in the evening.  The fact that the regiment was closely pursued by Rebel cavalry coming from the gap corroborates his story as told in his September 7 letter.  (The Rebel Cavalry got all his belongings).  From Haymarket or so, he must have made his way to Alexandria on August 29.

By the time the following letters were written, he was incapable of hard service in the field.  He was trying to get an honorable discharge, for which he would have done anything short of desert.

The Liscom Family & the Reid Family

Liscom Dearborn Name Plate

 Albert's father, Levi Liscom was a piano maker who had years of experience making quality instruments with a Concord, New Hampshire firm called Dearborn Brothers.  Documents show Levi Liscom entered into a partnership with David M. Dearborn in 1853, with various other partners occasionally coming and going.  An early profile of the company says, “Both of these gentlemen have had an extensive experience in the manufacture of musical instruments.  Mr. Dearborn originally commenced business as a maker of bass and double-bass violins but when melodeons and seraphines were introduced, and in a measure superseded the use of the viols, he turned his attention to the manufacture of them exclusively.    Mr. Liscom,  …for twenty-five years had been a practical piano-forte manufacturer, both on his own account and in some of the largest and best-known establishments in the United States.”

Albert’s letters suggest the piano-forte industry fell on hard times when the war broke out, or at least his father did briefly, and  considered forming his own company.  Some interesting quotes:

“what kind of a job Father has got and what is his work, that he gets such low wages?” —  January 26, 1862.  (An envelope from the collection suggests Mr. Liscom was working for the Lows Piano Manufacturing Company of Boston at this time).

“I was glad to hear by Fathers letter that there is a prospect of getting something from Dearborn.  I hope it may turn out favorable.  You say you have some thoughts of setting up for yourself.  I do not see why it would not be a good idea, for I think you can do it and certainly do better than you are doing now, besides having a place of your own.  You say there are a number who want to go Into company with you but I think  you would do better alone.  I think to that the Pianos could be sold at private sale which would be much better than selling at auction.  If you can see your way clear I hope you will make a stake.  You say your patterns are all perfect and I think there is no reason why you cannot make as good a Piano as any other manufacturer.”  — February 9, 1862.

Whether or not his father opened his own shop is unclear, but by March 20, Albert commented that he was glad father had such a good position and was doing well.

Dearborn and Liscom Reed Organ

An internet search produced a few items relating to the Dearborn-Liscom company along with a picture of one reed organ bearing the company name.  Levi Liscom seems to have prospered in his craft.  Levi and his wife Mary had two children, Emily, born 1833, and Albert, born 1836.

Levi plays a prominent role in Albert's plans to leave the service.  As soon as he learned of his son's predicament, he traveled to Washington, to see things for himself.  Judging from the content of the letters, he wanted his son to get out of the service and come home as soon as possible.

The Reid family also figures prominently in the letters below.  Albert's October 3rd letter mentions “Herbert” whom he references throughout his correspondence.  Herbert is Herbert A. Reed, Company A.  A scan through the Massachusetts Adjutant General's roster of the 13th MA, reveals two men named Herbert in the regiment.  One is Herbert Reed, (b. January 8, 1839) whose family worked in the same industry, as the Liscoms; the manufacture of  pianos. 

In the October 19 letter, Albert once again mentions seeing Herbert, on Friday October 17.  Together they went down to the train depot, where Albert says he met,  “Mr Reid & two or three others that I know.  I found Mr Reid first rate,  says his health has not been so good for a long time.  They expected to go into camp about a mile from the depot,  when I came back.” 

Herbert Reed's father is Joshua T. Reid, age 56, a soldier in the 10th Massachusetts Battery, which mustered into service in September, 1862.  The unit left Massachusetts for Washington on October 14th. On October 17th, the same date Albert and Herbert went to the train station, the 10th Mass. Battery was assigned to Camp Barry, the defenses of Washington. 

From Albert's letters it appears the two families were well acquainted.  Herbert, and Mr. Reid are frequently mentioned.  Joshua T. Reid had two sons serving in the 13th Mass., Herbert A. Reed, age 23, and Edgar C. Reed age 16.  Edgar joined the 13th MA, company A, as a recruit, in August 1862, about the same time his father enlisted in the 10th Light Artillery.

Eddie was too young for the service and was having a difficult time in Company A.  In a letter to his father, dated November 27, 1862 from Stafford Court House, Eddie wrote,

“...Herbert advised me to go into company C  [Albert Liscom's company]  and I wish I had then but Company E is the company I want to be in and if I can help getting into it I will...”

Eddie's father Joshua, wrote a letter to Colonel Leonard in an attempt to help Eddie get his transfer. 

Massachusetts rosters list the name as Reed, but the father in his letter to Col. Leonard spelled the name Reid.  More about Edgar Reed can be found on this website here:  Eddie C. Reed.

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Letters of Albert Liscom, Part 1;  Sept. & Oct., 1862

September 7, 1862

The first letter presented here is written from Post Camp near Fort Ellsworth in Alexandria, Virginia.  Page 2 of this section describes the history of this camp.

Post Camp Va
Sept 7th /62

Dear Parents &  Sister
                I suppose you feel worried about me, and I take the first opportunity I have had to write for about three weeks, we were then near the rapidan river.  I suppose you know that our regt, have been fighting, but I have not been with them in any battle.   I have not been with the regt. For about a week I was obliged to fall out one day while on the march, my knee troubled me and I got played out so that I could

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not keep up.  I tried to catch up with the regt but they were mixed up with so many troops, and were moving about so fast that I lost track of them.  I got about sick trying to find the regt and on Saturday  the day of the big battle, I lost all my things everything except what I had on my back, the rebel Cavalry took after me and I had to take to the woods and lost every thing I owned,  I had to borrow this sheet of paper so I could write to you and let you know that I am all right, although feeling somewhat played out;  I intend to join the regt as soon as I feel better, and

p. 3

can find out where the regt are.  I am stopping at this camp with quite a number of our boys who came here when I did.  This is a camp situated just outside the city of Alexandria.  Soldiers who are not able to keep up with their regt come and stop until they do feel able to join them.  I am getting along first rate, and I hope soon to hear good news from you.  I have not heard from you for some time in consequence of our mails being stoped but I expect I shall find letters when I get with the regt.   I have not time to write anymore now but will write

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again just as soon as I get a chance

Please excuse these few hurried lines and accept a great deal of love
        From Albert

Print of the Soldiers' Rest, Washington D.C., by Charles Magnus, circa 1864.  Albert Liscom stopped here for two days when in Washington, before moving to Mount Pleasant Hospital.  Note the capital dome is finished in the print.  It would not have been so in 1863.

Soldiers Rest, Washington D.C.

September 19, 1862

Twelve days after the last letter, Albert is a convalescent at Mount Pleasant Hospital.  He remained here into early November.

Mount Pleasant Hospital
Washington D.C.
Sept 19 (or 16)  /62

Dear Parents & Sister
        You may be somewhat surprised and perhaps worried to see my letter dated from a hospital, but I hope you will not feel uneasy for there is not the least cause for it.  I came here not because I was really sick but I was unable to go to my regt and keep up with them.  They are not having any harder times now than we  have had, but I got run down and require a resting spell.  Perhaps you know that there has been an order passed

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That if any soldier is not able to keep up with his regt and able to make forced rapid marches, he is sent to the hospital to rest up, therefore there are a great many at the hospitals who cannot be called sick, only played out, or in other words their trouble is general debility, which is my case, if I was at home I should be about the streets, but I do not at present feel strong enough to bang about with the regt.  I came here last Friday afternoon with three others from the 13th  it is a very nice comfortable place, good care, and everything a man can ask for who is sick and away from home.   The doctor comes around every morning

p. 3

He left me some pills to take, and I am getting along tip top.  I want for nothing.  I hope when Father reads this letter that he will not take it into his head to come out here for I tell you again I am not sick, and like as not by the time he could get here, I may be with my regt, and then it would be impossible for him to find me.  When I last wrote to you  it was from post camp Alexandria,  from there I came over here to Washington.  I stopped two days at the Soldiers retreat, and then, came here, this is about a mile from the City.  I am quite anxious to hear from you for a number of weeks.  I expect there are letters for me

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at the regt. but I have had no chance to get them.  I have not been with them since the day they had the fight at Thoroughfare gap.  Please answer this letter the same day that you receive this, and please enclose five dollars, $5.00 for I have not got a cent and I want to get a few things  before I go to the regt for I have as I told you lost everything.

Please enclose one of the green backs as I may be bothered with a Mass. bill.  Please write as soon as you receive this and I may get it before I leave here if not it will be sent to me

            Address  A. M. L.
                    Mount Pleasant Hospital

 Please accept these few
lines with a  great
deal of love and best wishes
        From Albert.

There are many photographic views of the Mount Pleasant Hospital Complex, which includes Harewood Hospital.   Both Albert Liscom and James Ramsey were here.

Mount Pleasant Hospital

September 23, 1862

Mount Pleasant Hospital
Washington Sept 23rd/62

Dear Parents & Sister
        It was with great pleasure that I received your kind and welcome letter of the 18th.  It really seemed good to hear from home once more, to know that you are all well.  I am still at the hospital but getting along first rate.  I feel a great deal better than when I came here and I mean to stay here as long as I can and get recruited up.  I should like very much to see you, but as for a furlough that is out of the question, and as for my discharge I think it would be useless to apply

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for it now   perhaps by an by if the war looks like being brought to a close, it will be easier to get a discharge, and I shall be on the look out for any such chance.  As for my knee, that had nothing to do with my coming here although it was one reason why I fell  out on the march.  I have not hurt it the second time, it only troubles me on long marches.  Everything is neat & clean here plenty to eat, and a good bed, iron bed stead about eighteen inches high and two feet wide, white sheets and white counterpane,1 and clean white shirt and draws to wear   There are ten wards and 25 or 26 beds in each ward, beside as many more outside in tents.  I am greatly obliged to you for

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your kind wish to send me a box, but there is not certainty of my getting it and I do not think it worth while.  I got the Arnica2 & Stockings, but lost them with my knapsack when chased by the rebels.  I cannot tell anything about Herbert3 I have not seen him nor his wife.  The letter which you sent to King St Hospital, I wrote for yesterday and may get it, those sent to the regt I hardly expect to get.  I am very sorry indeed that I did not see Mathew if I had known he was here,  I would have walked 20 miles rather than not seen him, if it had been so that I could, give my love to him and his boys, tell him that probably at the time he was looking for me at Alexandria, I was about

half a mile outside the town at Fort Ellsworth the camp called post camp.  I heard yesterday that there was only about 160 of our regt left less than 20 of them are killed all the rest are wounded or sick.  I received the five dols all right it is all I want at present.  I expect to draw my pay of our pay master as soon as the pay rolls have been sent to him from the regt.  Everything which I lost will be made good to me by government as I shall report them lost in action. If I had time before the mail goes I would write more.  Please excuse these few lines and accept a great deal of Love From Albert

P.S.  You can direct one more letter
to me here.  I expect to be here long
enough to get it.  Direct the same as
    the other                         Albert

1.  Counterpane is a coverlet.
2.  Arnica is a medicine used to treat sprains & bruises, made from plants of the same name.
3.  Herbert A. Reed, 13th MA, Company A.

Letter Envelope; September 27, 1862

The envelope pictured goes with the letter below.  The address is Mess Mary F. Liscom, No. 16 Carver Street, Boston, Mass.

Letter Envelope, 9-27-1862

September 27, 1862

Albert dated this letter Sunday, Sept. 27, but the 27th was actually Saturday.  Perhaps he wrote it on the 28th.  In this letter, Albert's father, Levi Liscom had gone down to Washington to check on his son.  He took a room in a private home near the hospital owned by a  family named Brown.  Mrs. Brown became fast friends to the Liscoms, and Albert hereafter would frequently visit her home.

Washington Sept. 27th/62
Sunday Noon

Dear Parents & Sister
                I will drop you a line to day to let you know that we are both tip top & enjoying ourselves as you may well suppose.  As to myself I am beginning to feel like myself again.  I have the rheumatism some which troubles me most in my knee than anywhere else, that is it troubles me more to walk, my left knee troubles me more now than my right one which is the one I thought I injured, but I am

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satisfied now that it is the rheumatism which has been troubling me and if it does not get better, I shall not probably join my regt for the present.  This morning Father and myself went out to Fort Massachusetts, about two miles from here, we have been back about an hour and we are now seated in the chamber of a private house we are only a few hundred yards from the hospital.  Father is stopping here so that he can be near me and to save going back and fourth to the city.  I did not write yesterday as we went down to the city early in the morning hired a horse and buggy and went to ride and did not

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get back until late.  Father is perfectly well, and enjoying himself hugely, his back is a great deal better than when he left home, he has not yet set a day to start for home but will start the first of the week.  I want to send some money home by him and I shall get my pay in a day or two.

You may not hear from me again until you see him at home, it wont do for me to write everything now if I should he will have nothing to tell you when he returns.

Accept these few lines with a great deal of love

From Father & Albert

October 3, 1862

In this letter Albert again mentions his friend Herbert Reed. The inference from the letters is that Albert and Herbert are planning to take “French Leave”  and go home without an official pass.  Several 13th MA soldiers did this at various times during the war, usually after recovering from wounds or being paroled from captivity.  It could be a risky venture. Herbert would go through with it.  Albert did not.

Washington Oct 3d /62

Dear Parents & Sister
                I am Downtown this morning and thought I would drop a line.  I am the same as when Father was here when I left him at the Depot I went and took the coach and got back to the Hospital all right.  Everything here is just the same.  I hope Father returned home all right and in good spirits.  Herbert* is all right – Accept this with lots of love from Albert

                Love to all

*Herbert Alanson Reed, age 23, 13th MA, Co. A

Pictured below is the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Depot in Washington, D.C. as it appeared in the late 1800's.  It is very likely this depot Albert mentions in the letter above, where he parted from his father.

B & O Railroad Depot, Washington, D.C.

Undated Letter

This slip of paper is not dated, but it is filed between letters dated October 3rd 1862 & what looks to be October 8. [?]  The look of the paper suggests it was sent Oct 3rd.

                Up in Herberts room

    Dear Father 
    I write this letter in hope to hasten your sending the box which I wish you would send as quick as you can after receiving this note.  don’t send any eatibles more than I can eat right up, fast if I conclude to start on a french furlough.  I shall probably start in the next train after I receive the box  Enclosed you will find a note from Herbert please hand it privately to his wife.*  It is for her to send his coat and pants in  the same box with mine.

Please forward immediately.
P.S. In haste Albert
If the box is sent before you –

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receive this then never mind, it will be all right   You must not make up Your mind to anything for present like as not it will all fall through


*Herbert A. Reed was married to Julia Eliza Edgerly Allen on July 23, 1861.

October 8, 1862

By this time, after his father's visit to Washington, D.C., Albert's  family seem determined to help him leave the service, or at least get him home to recuperate.  Albert himself was conflicted, in that he did not want to be perceived as a deserter.

Mount Pleasant Hospital
Wednesday Oct 8, /62

Dear Parents & Sister
            I have been expecting every Day to hear from you but have not yet received any letters.  I have thought however that perhaps you were expecting something would turn up and had not written on that account.  There is nothing new here.  I suppose you received my letter asking you to hurry up the box.  I shall be looking for it now every Day.  You have probably seen Herbert before this.  Tell him I received both his letters.

p. 2

I was over to Browns Sunday — eat Dinner — and spent most of the Day there.  I went over again yesterday afternoon. —

I am happy to say that I have just received your letter of the 5th also the one containing the bill.  I have been over to Browns and left the bill and am in hopes to get the box tomorrow.  I am very happy to hear from you and to hear that Father arrived home safe.

I understand perfectly well the meaning of Fathers letter.  I know just how you feel about the matter I have very much the same feelings that you Do except in regard to getting through this does not trouble me

p. 3

at all.   I hardly like the idea of going home & having to come back again in a few days   I might get there and back without being missed here even if I was — probably all they would do with me would be to send me to the regt when I got back here, and I do not want to go to the regt as long as I can get out of it.  I have thought perhaps it would be better for me to keep quiet here and be sick and perhaps something might turn up for my benefit —  however — if I find I have got to go to the regt., I think I shall see home first.  I cannot make up my mind what to do —

Take French Leave?? October 9, 1862

In this letter Albert receives a box from home containing civilian clothes.  He kept the clothes at the house of his friends, the Browns, who lived close to the hospital.  He met the Brown family when his father staid there  during his visit to Albert.  Perhaps the plan was to use the clothes to get home, but Albert was by this point hoping to get home permanently with an honorable discharge.  The decision whether or not to go, caused him a great deal of worry.  His friend Herbert did go up to Massachusetts for a short visit.

Washington Oct. 9th /62
Thursday Evening

Dear Parents & Sister
                I am seated at the table in Mr Browns house.  Mrs Brown invited me to stop to tea and as I wished to drop a line to you she  offered me the accommodations.  I came over this afternoon and found the box with every thing all right.  the clothes look good.  I can tell you I was tempted to put them on and start. — but as I said in my letter yesterday I think

p. 2

it will be better to wait awhile and see if I cant do better.  If I should visit home,  it would be very hard for me to come back again perhaps I might conclude to throw aside blue pants, for good.  this I do not want to do if I can help it,  I want to get out of it honorable if I can, and I mean to try and see what I can do.   I do not think you will be disappointed at my decision.  I have thought of it continually and it has worried me considerable to decide what, under the circumstances, it was best to do.  As to my getting through without being suspected, that does not

p. 3

trouble me in the least.  but there are other things to think of, things that have been before mentioned.  So as I said before I think I will keep quiet for a while.

I am not at all Disappointed that you did not send more eatibles, it is just as well the cake is very nice, and is just as good as more.  I do not think it will be worth while to send another box, at least not at present, for there is no knowing what may happen.  Let it all rest for the present.  If nothing happens I am going to Dress up Saturday  and spend the day about town, with Mrs Brown

p. 4

And Evvie.  I am glad Herbert got through all right. I am sorry to disappoint him but I guess he will have just as good a time nevertheless.  I shall be obliged to close this now as it is time I was back to the Hospital,

So I will bid you good night
        Yours with love
                From Albert

P.S. Write soon and often

Letter, no date, Probably October 9, (& sent with the letter above).

Dear Parents & Sister
                        I would rather no one but yourselves would read such a letter as I have written this time.  At least be carefull  who it is that reads them — for it would not do for it to get to the regt that I had got a citizens suit of clothes — and was enjoying myself about town.  I don’t care who knows it — if it does not get to the regt.  I don’t know as there is any danger — but I thought I would mention it and you can act accordingly.  I do not of course think anyone would willingly blow on me,  but a word might be dropped carelessly.  Lizzie or Bill Stoddard might be just the one, in writing to Will.  I think you will understand my meaning so enough of this.

    Write soon to

October 16, 1862

After receiving his suit of civilian clothes from home, Albert traveled downtown with his friend Mrs. Brown on Monday the 13th.

Mount Pleasant Hospital
Oct 16th 1862

Dear Parents & Sister
            I will now write a few lines in answer to your kind letter of the 11th,  which I received yesterday.  Your letter of the 29th I received last Saturday.  It had probably been to the regt.  the Co & regt were crossed out with a lead pencil.

Everything is about the same here.  I feel about the same as when Father was here   I have the rheumatism so that I cannot walk a great ways without being very lame, Cure All Tonic Advertisementthe Doctor ordered me some tonic But the greater part of it goes through a knot hole in the floor.

p. 2

it don’t seem to do me any good.  I have complained of a pain in my chest and the other morning the doctor told me to come up to his room and he wanted examine my chest.  I went up and he examined my lungs,  he did it very thoroughly and pronounced them perfect,    that was all that was said at that time & I came back to my tent.  I do not know why he took a notion to examine my lungs,  for I have never complained of them,  but perhaps he thought the pain might come from them.  It will be some time before I can accomplish anything here if I do at all but I keep hopeing and trust I may succeed.  I think it is best to keep quiet here for the present.  I wrote to

p. 3

You last week Wednesday acknowledging the receipt of the box which was all right.  I thought you would get my letter Saturday,  but I suppose you have got it before now.  It has been quite unpleasant here for a few days past.  Sunday morning it was so uncomfortable here that I went over to Browns and stayed there until Monday morning,  then I came over and reported to the doctor and then went back again and dressed up and went down town with Mrs Brown, rode down and back in their barouch we did not go anywhere particular,  we called at one house,  and I  had an introduction to two youn’ ladies (poor style) but — passable for this country.  Evvie was quite pleased with her book.  It is

p. 4

rather dull here for me,  nothing to do, nothing to read.  I hardly know what to do with myself.  I did not feel very well yesterday and I ly here on my bed  all day reading  a book that I picked up.  But staying here is better than being with the regt while I feel as I do now for I am in no condition to march,  or stand this cold wet weather out on the ground,  and I never mean to do it again if I can help it.  I have seen enough of such a war as this is,  and I am going to spend the rest of my time in trying to get out of it.   I will close these few lines now as I don’t think of anything more this time  Accept this with Love from Albert

P.S. Please write a few lines often
    Much love to all friends

October 19, 1862

Pictured is the interior of one of the wards at Mount Pleasant Hospital where Albert went to recuperate from his rheumatism.  His overall physical condition was never great, and he couldn't recover the physical strength necessary to return to the regiment for active service in the field.  In this letter he states two cylindrical stoves were installed in his hospital tent.

Interior, Mount Pleasant Hospital

Albert once again mentions his friend Herbert, and also this time Mr. Reid, Herbert's father.  Mr. Joshua Reid was serving in the 10th MA Battery which left Massachusetts on October 14, and had just come to Washington.  Thus the discussion of his health and going into camp. 

Albert's Hospital pass, mentioned in this letter, dated October 17, 1862 is pictured below.  The 13th Mass comrade that wrote it for him is probably Chester Adams Bigelow.  More about Bigelow is given after the letter.

Washington Oct 19th /62

        Dear Parents & Sister
                I am sitting at the table in Mrs Browns house.  I came over here this morning to see if the box had come but it has not come yet. I think it must be at the depot but it had not been taken to the delivery office when Mrs Brown called there last Evening.  I think she will get it when she goes down tomorrow.    We have had some unpleasant weather lately but it is a splendid day here.  We have got two small cilinderacal stoves

p. 2

put up in our tent, they were put up yesterday on trial.  I guess they will work very well.  Everything goes on here just about the same.  I get no better very fast,  but without any joking I have got the rheumatism so that it troubles me considerable.  I cannot walk a great ways without being quite lame.  I received  yours of the 12th last Wednesday.  I was glad to hear from you and to know that you agree with me in my decision.  I received  yours of the 14th Friday.  With the orders for the box.  Yesterday I received the Yankee nations and a daily paper, from Evarts,  in the paper, I saw his name as one of the

p. 3

Albert's Hospital Pass, dated Oct. 17, 1862

    drafted, he had marked it with ink.  I advise him to get clean if he can.  Friday morning I was much surprised on being called out of the tent, to find Herbert.

I hardly thought he would ever come this way again.  I went down to the depot with him and found Mr Reid & two or three others that I know.  I found Mr Reid first rate,  says his health has not been so good for a long time.  They expected to go into camp about a mile from the depot.  When I came back,  I left Herbert at the depot,  he had not decided what to do, but thought he should make up his mind that night,  he thought he would try and see me the

p. 4

next day,  or write me a line and let me know his decision, but I have not heard from him yet.   The day I went down with Herbert,  I went without any pass.  I went into the Patent Office Hospital to see a friend who used to belong to our regt.  he has now got his discharge,  and has got the situation of ward master in the Hospital, he wrote me this pass but I did not have to show it.  Please write soon and tell me all the news.  I can not think of anything more now so I will close.  Please remember me with kindest regards to all friends and accept this with much     Love from


Old Patent Office Building

The huge Patent Office Building is pictured here in a  lithograph print (dated between 1865-1869) by E. Sachse & Co.  During the war the second floor of the building was used as a hospital.  It was there Albert met his 13th Mass fellow soldier Chester Adams Bigelow, who wrote out the pass pictured above.  Today, this building houses the National Portrait Gallery & The Smithsonian American Art Collection.  Sometime in the 1930's, the monumental stairs on the south portico were lopped off so the city could aesthetically widen the street to accommodate more traffic.

Chester Adams Bigelow, Company H

Checking the roster alphabetically, Chester Adams Bigelow, Company H,  is the only soldier with initials “C.B.” who included his middle name, Adams, in his moniker.  Not only do his initials match the signature on the pass, his record states he had a position as Ward Master in a hospital.  Albert seems mistaken in that Chester Adams Bigelow had already obtained a discharge.  More likely he was officially on detached service.  This is because Bigelow’s name is among those of the regiment listed as captured at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863.  His record from the book “History of Dover, Massachusetts,” 1896; gives a bit more detail on his service than the information stated in the regimental history:

Chester A. Bigelow, musician, age eighteen, Company H, Thirteenth Infantry, Massachusetts Volunteers; mustered in Feb. 24, 1862, three years’ service;  transferred July 14, 1864, to Company I, Thirty-ninth Regiment;  taken prisoner at second Bull Run, exchanged the following January; again taken prisoner at Gettysburg, July 1 1863;  did not serve in Thirty-ninth Regiment, as he was appointed ward master in hospital.  Discharged Feb. 23, 1865, expiration of service.

Additional information on Chester A. Bigelow, from Dover town histories states that he was an eighth generation descendant from John Bigelow, the Puritan ancestor, and that four of his ancestors served in the Revolutionary War.  Chester married Emma Eliza Howe November 1, 1868, and resided in Wellesley, Mass., where he died March 3, 1915.  They had no children.*

Notes:  *A History of Dover Massachusetts; by Frank Smith; 1897, Dover, Mass. published by the town.
Genealogical History of Dover, Massachusetts; by Frank Smith, 1917, Dover, Mass. published by the town.

October 26, 1862

In this letter Albert meets up with two friends, Sam and Frank, about a mile from the Capitol, but I cannot determine their identities.  In the next letter he mentions visiting Sanborn.  Perhaps they were all in the 10th Mass. Light Artillery, with his friend Mr. Reid.  The battery was deployed at Camp Barry, defenses of Washington.

Mount Pleasant Hospital
Washington Oct 26/62

Dear Parents & Sister
                    It is Sunday morning once more and a rainy disagreeable day,  how are you all at home, there is no news here, everything goes along about the same.  I do not get any better of the rheumatism, dyspepsia &c.  the Dr. keeps me supplied with medicine every day   it is a tonic,  bitter as gall, it is to take a table spoon full three times a day.  I do not say much to him mornings, except when I am out of medicine,  then I generally tell him how I feel.  I told him yesterday all how I felt and he told me about as much as that he could do nothing for me to help the rheumatism,  he

p. 2

said that was the hardest thing to cure.  If he thinks so all right as long as he thinks that way,  he will not be likely to send me to my regt. I do not know how I shall turn out, but I hope all right.   I went down town Thursday (in citizens clothes) and found Sam & Frank,  they were encamped about a mile from the Capital.  I found them both first rate.  Sam is in the band – he played I think an alto horn.  I spent three or four hours with them very pleasantly.  Sam said his wife was in Lowell going to spend the winter there.  I think he said at No 21 Corporation block  They have got a little boy, or girl  I forget which, three months old, seventeen pounds.  The boys said they were expecting to march

p. 3

I came back to Browns & had a tip top dinner, finished the remainder of the chicken,  pickles,  bread butter & jelly,  cake & lemonade.  I received yours of the 20th last Wednesday, was glad to hear that you were all well.   I would have been happy to have seen Mathew, and am very sorry that he was called home under such circumstances.  Please give my Compliments to Mr & Mrs Barnes oft.  and in my behalf,  congratulate them in their present happiness and bright prospects of the future. Soft snap.*

Are the boys who are drafted coming out,  please keep me posted on who are drafted,  and if they come out.  I have not seen or heard anything of Herbert since I left him.    With much love to You & all other friends   I am as Ever - Albert

*[These words look to be soft snap; which means a post or job requiring little time or effort.]

Return to Top of Page

A Visit to the Theatre

Visiting the theatres in Washington was a great pastime for soldiers when they were in town.  In the next two letters Albert describes two such instances.

Avenue House Hotel

This building was once the Avenue House Hotel mentioned in the following two letters.  It is here Albert met Mrs. Goff, before attending the theatre, and where he stayed for the night afterwards.  In 1869 furniture dealer William Bernard Moss purchased the building to house his expanding business.

Undated Letter

Although this first letter is undated, I placed it before the letter dated October 29, which describes another visit to the theatre.  I believe the following account was his first visit as he writes, “It is the first time I have been anywhere in company with a lady since I left Boston.”

NOTE:  The slip of paper on which this letter is written was filed between a letter dated Oct., 1864, from Aunt Eliza, and a letter from his Uncle.  Obviously it is out of place in the Liscom letter archive.   I placed it around late October, 1862.  As he mentions visiting friends Sam & Frank while downtown, in his October 26 letter above,  my guess is Albert attended the theatre on October 23, 1862.

Winslow Homer illustration "On Furlough"

After I left — Sanborn I started for home.  I had to pass by the Avenue Hotel — and as Mrs Goff had asked me to call — I thought I would stop there a minute — I found her in.   I apologized for calling so soon after her invitation — but it was uncertain when I should be down again and I thought I would call and see if it was decided when we should go to the Circus* as we had all hands?  talked of going some night — this week,  I  got up to leave but she  invited me to stop down all night — and we would go to the Theater and see Miss Maggie Mitchell  the play was Fanchon.  I concluded I would stop.  I went  down to tea with her; and then we went to the Theater.  I saw five of our boys there who recognized me, but I did not care for anybody.  I had as stylish a looking lady with me as there were in the house and I felt as independent as anyone.  It is the first time I have been anywhere in company with a lady since I left Boston.  We got back to the Hotel at past 11 — I knew the clerk there, and he gave me a bed — there was another bed in the room which he said a Captain would occupy.  I turned in and left the gass burning for him but he did not come — and it burned all night.   I got up early and came home and was here all night when the Doctor came round.  Accept this with much

Your Albert
(Love to all)

*Probably James Nixon's Circus.  See Nov. 5th letter.

 Actress Maggie Mitchell & Fanchon the Cricket

Maggie Mitchell was an American actress and Fanchon the cricket was one of her favorite roles to play.  The actress is pictured as the character in a photograph by Broadway photographer Napoleon Sarony.  Click to view larger. [From Dr. David S. Shields,"Broadway Photographs"  www.broadway.cas.sc.edu]

Maggie Mitchell (1832-1918)

Maggie Mitchell as Fanchon

The petite, always youthful, comedienne Maggie Mitchell began her stage career with walk-on roles while still a child.  At the age of twenty-one, she had an extended engagement in Cleveland that precipitated a “Maggie Mitchell craze” in that city and led to her first starring tour of the regional theaters.  Mitchell did not achieve national celebrity, however, until 1861, when she appeared in the title role of Fanchon, the Cricket — a light, sentimental comedy adapted from a story by George Sand.  Her sprightly performance captivated audiences and critics alike and brought her overnight stardom. Mitchell continued to play the role of Fanchon for the next twenty-five years and counted Abraham Lincoln, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow among her many admirers.

 Summary of the Plot:   Fanchon the Cricket (1862) a play by Charlotte Birch‐Pfeiffer.

Fanchon (Maggie Mitchell) is a sharp‐tongued, wild, and somewhat mysterious young country girl whose mother long ago deserted her and who has been raised by her grandmother, Old Fadet, a reputed witch.  Because she is poor and they fear she too may be a witch, Fanchon is shunned by the villagers, including the relatively well‐to‐do bourgeois Barbeauds. Even when she helps the Barbeaud son Landry  locate his missing twin brother, Didier, Landry is reluctant to seem grateful.  But with time Landry discovers Fanchon's basic common sense and goodness and proposes to her, only to discover she will not marry him because his parents, especially the haughty, strict Father Barbeaud, are dead set against her.  However, she has come to love Landry, so she sets about winning over his stern parent and soon succeeds. Landry then learns that while his bride‐to‐be may have magic powers, she will be a rich lady when Old Fadet dies.

The play was one of several dramatizations of George Sand's La Petite Fadette.  Mitchell, who served as her own producer, apparently used the Birch‐Pfeiffer version, which she altered to suit her special talents.  Her “Shadow Dance” and the scene in which she wins over the older Barbeaud were among the most famous theatrical moments of the era.  Mitchell returned to this play for over twenty seasons.   George Clinton Densmore Odell [Author of The History of New York Stage] has written, “As Jefferson's Rip Van Winkle, Kate Claxton's Louise in The Two Orphans, and Mrs. G.C. Howard's Topsy, Maggie Mitchell's Fanchon the Cricket was for years and years a household word in America.”

Encyclopedia Brittanica adds that Mitchell obtained the rights to the play early on, which earned her a considerable estate.  She retired from the stage in 1892.

[Mitchell Biography from Wikipedia. Summary of plot from Answers.com]

Grover's New National Theatre

Grover's Theatre, Washington, D.C.

October 29, 1862

In this letter Albert describes another visit to the theatre.  This time to see actress Pauline Lucille Western, (1843 - 1877) who played  Lucretia Borga.  Miss Western is pictured in the role.  Once again Albert's friend gave him a free room for the night at the Avenue House Hotel.

Mount Pleasant Hospital
Washington Oct 29 /62

Dear Parents & Sister
               I am most happy to acknowledge the receipt of your kind letter of the 26th received this morning.  I am happy to know that you are all well.  There is nothing new here.  I am getting along the same as usual.  It was a splendid day here yesterday and is quite pleasant to day.  I went down town yesterday morning with Mrs Brown we got back about two O’ck. And had dinner.  After which I was anxious to go down town again it was so pleasant, I wanted

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Actress Lucille Western, as Lucretia Borga

To go to some place of amusement.  The day that Mrs Goff was up to Browns we spoke of going down some evening and all go together to some place of amusement.  Mrs Brown said she would go last evening if Mr Brown would go but he was not inclined to go — so I went down alone.   I went to the Avenue House and found Mrs Goff and a young lady with her a Miss Thomas from Dedham Mass a very agreeable young lady.  They said they would be pleased to go.  I went into town with them after which we went into the parlor and I there had an introduction to a Mrs Thomas widow lady, she is connected with the Mass –

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Relief society here in the city.  Also an introduction to a Judge Johnson — she wishes to make one of the party.   Mrs Thomas declined going as she had been out all day and was quite tired.  So we four went together to Grovers Theatre To see Miss Lucille Weston play Lucretia Borgia — the after piece was the loan of a lover.   We had a fine time.   Got back to the Hotel between eleven & twelve.  The clerk who I am aquainted with, gave me a room & had to myself which cost me nix.  I had a tip top time and got back early this morning all right.  But I don’t think I will spin this yarn any longer.  I do not think of anything more now.  Please remember me to all friends and accept this with best wishes From Albert

Actress Pauline Lucille Western

Pauline Lucille Western, actress, b. in New Orleans, La., 8 Jan., 1843; d. in Brooklyn, N. Y., 11 Jan., 1877. She made her first appearance on the stage with her sister Helen as a “change artist” at her father's theatre in Washington, D. C., and traveled extensively with her in this country.  They were known as the “Star Sisters,” and their principal play was the “Three Fast Men.”  In 1858 they appeared at the Old Bowery theatre in New York.  On 11 Oct., 1859, she married James Harrison Mead. In 1859 or 1860 she appeared at the Holliday street theatre in “East Lynne,” achieving her first success.  In 1861-'5 she traveled with a combination troupe, playing Nancy Sykes in “Oliver Twist,” with Edward L. Davenport as Bill Sykes and James W. Wallack, Jr., as Fagin.  In 1865 she played in Philadelphia, appearing in “Eleanor's Victory,” “Lucretia Borgia,” “Jane Eyre,” “The Child-Stealer,” “Mary Tudor,” “Cynthia,” besides the two plays already mentioned.  She appeared in the principal theatres in the United States, and at the time of her death was playing at the New Park theatre, Brooklyn.  Her sister Helen Western, was one of the 5 actresses whose photographs were found on the body of the assassin John Wilkes Booth at the time of his death.

October 30, 1862

Mount Pleasant Hospital
Washington Oct 30th/62

     Dear Parents & Sister
                  I send you my picture which I had taken yesterday afternoon. I don’t know how Siss will like it – perhaps I might get a better one to try again.  I did not sit but once to get this I had no idea of having it taken until a few minutes before I went — my comrades James & Benj’in were going to have theirs taken and wanted me to go so we went to a shanty close by and had them taken.  If you do not like this one — I will try again.  There is nothing new here to day.  Please write a line often

Yours with much love

P.S. I wrote to you yesterday morning / Albert

Letter, November 5th 1862

Albert mentions a trip to Nixon's Circus, Saturday, November 1, with his friend Mrs. Brown.

Circus Poster illustration

James M. Nixon's Circus performed regularly in Washington D.C. every afternoon and evening at 7th and Pennsylvania during 1862, but in December of that year, Nixon divided the company and established a theatre in Alexandria.  The company consisted of gymnasts, acrobats, horse riders, and clowns.  In May 1863, one of their tightrope walkers named Miss Josephine Devenier was servely injured when she fell seven feet to the ground.  In December 1862, the circus featured “Pete Jenkins” — a performer "dressed as a rube” who would stumble about the ring to the merriment of the audience. [Source:  Clowns and Cannons:  The American Circus During the Civil War, by William L. Slout.]

Mount Pleasant Hospital  
Washington Nov 5th /62  

Dear Parents & Sister
                 With much pleasure I received yours of the 2nd this morning I am happy to hear that you are all well and getting along so comfortably.  I am glad that you went to hear our Chaplain.  I wanted you to hear him, but was afraid you would not hear of it. I did not know of it until after the lecture had been delivered.  I should like to have heard him

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the same.  I do not see my prospect yet of anything.   I think I shall go down town tomorrow and have three teeth out.  I have not been down since last Saturday, then I went to the circus with Mrs. Brown.  You spoke of my coming home Thanksgiving, it would give me great pleasure to be with you, and if I could get my discharge I should be with you, but it is of no use to think of a furlough, and as I am now situated,  I could not come home on a french  without making trouble.  I get my pay just the same, and I am content to wait here if I can make anything of it, and it remains to be seen whether I can or not.  Yesterday afternoon I had a call from Mr. George Hastings of Concord, and Mr. Sargent.  Mr. Hastings wife came with him as far as —

p. 3

  Philadelphia.  I was quite happy to see them.  they did not stop but a few minutes as they were looking after N.H. solders

I have not been over to Browns since Saturday.  I think I will go over this afternoon.  Remember me to Bill Clough, and tell him I should have written to him but I was unable to write for so long a time that I thought he might have left his place and I did not know where to address a letter to him.  If you see him, tell him to write to me.  I do not think of anything more now, how you will excuse a few lines

Please remember me to all inquiring friends.  And accept much love  Your Albert

Soon after this letter was written Albert was moved to a hospital in Philadelphia.  His story will continue from there,  following James Ramsey's letters below.

Return to Table of Contents

Letters of James Ramsey; After 2nd Bull Run

James Ramsey's service is well represented on this site.   Ramsey's descendant Don Gage was one of the first descendants of 13th MA soldiers to share a letter collection with me.   Ramsey was wounded at the regiment's first major engagement, 2nd Bull Run, after two weeks of grueling marches and scanty rations.  After the battle James laid on the battlefield for a week, a prisoner in Rebel hands, until the Confederate army marched away and left the wounded prisoners behind.     Federal authorities sent ambulances and doctors to the field.  Many were private contractors.  They transported the wounded to Washington D.C. hospitals.   The following letters chronicle the honorable end to James'  volunteer military service.

September 9th 1862

Company C group shot, Thanksgiving, 1861

Pictured left to right, are, Walter Callender, Frank H. Mann, William F. Stoddard, Joseph Halstrick, (center); then, Albert H. Sheafe, George H. Smith, John Foley, (seated);  Seth W. Johnson and Charles A. Gardner.  Members of Mess 3, Company C, taken at Williamsport, MD, November 21, 1861.  James Ramsey mentions Hallstrick & Gardner in the following letter.

 Harwood Hospital Sept – 9th 1862

                Dear Mother
                             This is the first opportunity I have had to get any word to you since the battle of Saturday and I suppose you are worrying yourself on my account having seen my name among the wounded prisoners from Manassas, but  I see no cause of it   my wound is only a flesh wound in the leg above the knee   there is a good prospect of my being around soon.   I came from Bull Run Sunday the 7th  having been a prisoner eight days  I am reliesed on parole   I do not know what they are going to do with us    I hope they will send us home,  I suppose they will send us to Annapolis as soon as we can be removed.  I am out of money and would like to have some as soon as I can get it    Father might send some of  my money to me as soon as I know where I am to stop   I will send  him word as soon as I find out  but you can write to me now and direct your letters

        Jas. F. Ramsey
        Care of Surgeon
        Harwood Hospital

Send a sheet of paper an envelope and stamp

I am comfortably situated and have every thing I want  I believe Joe Halstrick is wounded   I have heard nothing of Charley Gardner   I have not seen the regt since the battle.   I had fired three rounds and was just raming down the fourth when I was struck.  I turned and left the field and was helped to a house about a mile from the field where I stayed till last Sunday.  Sunday after the battle I was taken prisoner  the rebels treated us kindly.  I can not think of any more to write you this time    feel easy my wound does not pain me.

        Give my love to all       Kiss Hugh for me
                                                        From your

PS  There is a Boston woman just came in our ward she came out Thursday as nurse  she gave me a lemon   she is scotch most of the nurses are scotch.

Mount Pleasant, or Harewood Hospital, Washington, DC

Harewood Hospital

September 19th 1862

                                                Harwood Hospital  Sept. 19th  1862

                                           I am getting along nicely my wounded leg is as good as the other    I can walk easy.   I am trying to get home and hope I will succeed.  I hope mother will get my letter as it will set her easy   I do not know as my name was in the papers as I was taken Prisoner by the rebels, and treated very kindly by them.   Dr. Stevens is here  he dressed my wound and if you send me any money direct it in his care   you might send me a $5 treasury note if you can spare it.  I cannot think of any thing more to write   I possibly may be home in a fortnight or so

                                               Give my love to all
                                                       Kiss Hugh for me

                                         From your son

      Harwood Hospital
Care of Dr. Stevens         Washington. D C.

Hospital Surgeons and Stewards, Harewood Hospital

Hospital Surgeons and Stewards, at Harewood Hospital, Washington, D.C.

September 21st 1862

                                                            Harwood Hospital  Sept 21 1862

      Dear Mother
                                           Your last letter amused me very much although I was somewhat disappointed in its not containing much news as it is now about two months since I have received a letter from any one  I learnt the Boston news through Dr Stevens who had been very kind to me since I have been here.   Yesterday he made me a present of a pair of pants a pair of slippers and white socks so that I can make quite a respectable appearance.  I can walk almost as good as ever the doctor looked at my wound this morning and said I would be able for duty soon  but I cannot go back to my Regt  until exchanged and there is a slight prospect of my spending a month at home  but don’t be too sure of seeing me.  I will try and get a furlough as soon as possible    We have been treated kindly since we have been here, but I cant say much of the treatment I received the week I was on the battle field not by the rebels but by our own doctors.  But that is in the past.  At present I am getting along nicely although I feel as though I would be more contented at home.  To day it is quite pleasant we have had pleasant weather since the battle of Bull Run.  I hope it will last some time yet.

   I have not seen any boys I know   I heard that Joseph Halstrick was wounded and somewhere in Washington  I am going to try and see him as soon as I hear where he is.  I cannot think of any thing more to write at present    Give my love to all  kiss Hugh for me   from your son

Direct Jas. Ramsey.
    Co E 13th Regt  Mass Vol.
    Harwood Hospital
    Washington D. C.

PS.  Write soon    I received an envelope directed to me from Boston by father but on tearing it open found it empty.

September 25th 1862

James Ramsey is pictured below in a post war image.   In this letter he complains about poor treatment and the different rules for officers and enlisted men.

                                 Harwood Hospital
                                         Sept 25th 1862.

Postwar portrait of James Ramsey

Dear Father
                                  I received your letter with money this morning and am thankful for it as I had to beg papers and stamps to writ with besides other little things that I needed very much but now I am all right and stand on my own footing.  You spoke of Mother’s and Georgie’s letters neither of which I have seen but I received one letter before this besides the envelope and I do not see where the other two could have gone.  In your letter you say you are afraid something will happen to prevent my coming home    I am afraid so to although the government has no claims on me other than a citizen although the paroled prisoners are sent to Annapolis (one of the tyrannical acts of the government) besides the shamefull treatment of the wounded for instance, the surgeons cut off limbs merely for practice and to get the medical students hands in the business, also the short allowance of food another thing, in the hospital I am in I have only seen one officer out of some three thousand souls   they all being sent to their homes as they are superior beings )  When I was paroled at Bull Run I asked Gen Pryor of the rebel army if going to Annapolis to drill recruits was not breaking my parole   he said it was and that no one could stop me from going home and remaining till exchanged he said the government had no more to do with Me than they had if I were in a southern prison  so it wont look strange if I get home some day.  Another thing when I was in the hospital at Bull Run all the officers were sent off first in the ambulances while the degraded privates remained to be removed in government wagons, a shame on such a government to allow such transactions.  The officers are only kept from using the men rough in the field by the feer of their lives.  When this war is over the officers can be distinguished by the pecular color over the eyes.

You must not think that I write this because I am put out for not succeeding  in getting a furlough for it is the truth and can be testified to by all of the wounded in the tent with me, one thing we are treated well by citizens they bring us little delicacies such as peaches, grapes and cake  There is a  sister of charity in the hospital   God bless her  for the kind attentions she pays to the wounded  only for her I do not know how we would be treated by the head doctors.  To day it is quite pleasant which is lucky for us as we are in tents although the rain cannot get to us.  I do not know how long it will be that I will have to stay here  I would like to be transferred to a Massachusetts hospital  I don’t think it would take long  to get well.  I cannot think of any thing more to write at present.

There is a Jacob Ramsey in the hospital and if mother directed to J F. Ramsey I can see where the letters went to    the best way will be to write my first name in full as you do

               Give my love to all

Kiss Hugh for me
                            from your son

October 5th 1862

This is the last letter in the family collection of letters that James sent home while in the service.  He probably went to the Convalescent Camp at Annapolis, or perhaps he obtained permission to go directly home.

Harwood Hospital
Oct 5th 1862.

Dear Mother
            I am getting along finely and expect to go to Annapolis the first part of next week so you need not write to me again untill I give you notice.

I got your letter with the dollar in the other day it had been sent to the regiment first that is why was so long coming.  I also got Georgie’s letter, so I think I am all right about my letters.  I have seen quite a number of our regt since I have been here

Yesterday I was down in Washington and saw the biggest part of the city I ever saw the dust was so thick in the streets that I could not tell wether they were even paved.  It is a regal one horse town.  I saw Lieut. Talbot of the 33d regt  I went up to him and said “how do you do Mr Talbot” it was a poser  he looked a minute and said “is this you Jim”  he said he hardly knew me  I had grown so.  he asked me about father and the regt.  I cannot think of much to write about.

I have written to Joe Halstrick and received an answer, also to cousin Anna.  To day it is quite pleasant there is a brasing breeze* which is quite refreshing.

Give my love to all 
      Kiss Hugh for me   
   from your son James

*A bracing breeze is a stimulating or refreshing breeze.

Letter of Recommendation for the Navy

James F. Ramsey received an honorable discharge March 27, 1863. Two gallant officers wrote a letter of recommendation for James to Massachusetts Governor John Andrew when James showed an interest in joining the navy.  Lieutenant Joseph Colburn, wrote the letter and Major J.P. Gould endorsed it.

Roxbury, March 6th 1863.

This may certify that Private James F. Ramsey Co. E 13th Regt. Mass. Vols. was severely wounded in the thigh at the battle of Bull Run, Aug. 29th 1862, while doing his duty in the ranks of his company.

J. Colburn Lieut. Cmg.
Co. E. 13th Mass. Vols.
At home on leave of Absence.

1st Lieutenant Joseph ColburnMajor Jacob Parker Gould

1st-Lieutenant Joseph Colburn             Major J. P. Gould

To His Excellency John A. Andrew
Gov. Mass.  


                           The bearer James F. Ramsey formerly of Co. E. 13th Regt. Mass. Vols. wishes to be recommended for a position in the U.S. Navy, such as he may be capable of filling.

I take pleasure in recommending Mr. Ramsey to our Excellency’s favorable notice.

He was a good and faithful soldier while in the ranks of his company, was wounded at the battle of Bull Run and honorably discharged the service in consequence of said wound.

Very respectfully,
Your obedient servant,
Joseph Colburn
Capt. Co. E. 13th Mass. Vols.

J.P. Gould Maj.
13th Mass Vols.

Epilogue - Post War Summary

It appears James never served in the navy and his military career ended with the 13th Mass. when he mustered out in March, 1863, at age 21.  Sometime after the war James married Ella Francis Whitmore who was ten years his junior.  They lived in Boston until 1876, when James and the whole family moved west to San Francisco.  About a year later in September 1877 they returned to Massachusetts and settled in Melrose.  In February, 1890 the family moved to Dover, New Hampshire.

James Ramsey Family, circa 1890
Pictured left to right, Ella Ramsey, (wife of James) James F. Ramsey,  Herbert "Hugh" Ramsey, [Kiss Hugh for me] Alaric Ramsey, Bertha Ramsey on edge of porch, Cora Ramsey and Margretta "Gretta" Ramsey;  all brothers and sisters to James.  Best guess for the date is sometime before 1890, as Bertha was close to marrying Chester Greenleaf that year.

Charles Davis, Jr. inscribed James's copy of the regimental history, "Three Years in the Army" with a note stating James, like Davis, remained on the Bull Run battlefield for a week before receiving any medical attention.  Davis's horrible ordeal is described on this website in his article "Manassas to Boston."

Between 1889 and 1916, J.F. Ramsey attended all but a few of the 13th Regiment Association reunion dinners in Boston.  In September, 1922, James again took his family west to settle in Redondo Beach, California.  He died there in 1927.  His wife Ella died 3 years later in 1930.  The two are buried side by side in Inglewood Park Cemetery.  His descendant Don, tells me that most of the family pictured in the photograph above remained in Southern California where they had families of their own.

Descendant Don Gage who shared the letters and photographs of James with me, says he remembers meeting the children of Hugh Ramsey & Gretta Ramsey as a young boy in the 1950's.

Return to Top of Page

Albert Liscom Moves to a Philadelphia Hospital

Albert's letters continue here, through January 1863.  He transferred to a hospital in Philadelphia in early November, 1862.   With short notice on Tuesday, November 11, he packed up his belongings and boarded the noon train for Philadelphia.  He arrived in that city the next day, November 12, 1862.

Letter November 13, 1862

General Hospital U.S.A. Race St.
Philadelphia Nov. 13th /62

Dear Parents & Sister
                                You may be somewhat surprised to know that I am in Philadelphia.  I was a little surprised myself when I knew that I had got to come here, the first notice that I had of it, the Sergeant came into my tent Tuesday morning before I was up, and told me to report at the office at eight oclock.  I knew there was a lot of men to be sent here, and supposed I was one of them.  I went over to Browns and told them it was to  send my  clothes back

Philadelphia National Guard Building on Race Street

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(to box them up) and send them to you.  We left Washington, about noon, and got in to Philadelphia about eight the next morning, we, then went into a receiving Hospital close by the Depot, there we had breakfast and about two oclock we were all sent to different Hospitals here in the city.  I was sent here, and from all that I hear, it is the best one in the city.  It is a splendid place in a large building which was built for an arsenal for the National Guards.  I am in a large hall which holds 159 beds, there is another hall above this which I suppose is as large as this, the rooms below are used for dining room and kitchen.  I think I shall

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like here much better than in Washington.  I was the only one out of our tent who came, although there was about twenty ambulances full, left our Hospital, besides a lot from other Hospitals.  We had to ride in freight cars with straw to ly upon, we had rather a hard night of it.  I was not acquainted with anyone, but on the way I got acquainted with a young man who lives here in the city, only two squares from this Hospital, his Father who is a wholesale dry goods merchant here in the city, was in last evening, and I had an introduction to him his name is Pfleger/Pflager, [?] he invited me to call at his house, his sons bed is next to mine.  I am

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glad I have got here, for I know I shall like, better grub, am right in the city, good chance to get acquainted, can have a pass every day, from ten to six to go where I please.  The Doctor is coming now, so I will close as I want this to go this morning.

        Yours with much love


General Hospital U.S.A.
            Race St. Philadelphia

Write soon.

National Guard's Hall

National Guard Building, Philadelphia, 1950's.

The National Guard's Hall at 518-520 Race Street, where Albert was interned, was still standing in the 1950's;  Although it is not as picturesque as when new.

The Library of Congress website writes the following about the hall:

“The National Guard's Hall (also called the Armory of the National Guards) was one of the focal points in Philadelphia during the Civil War.  Occupied for a time as a United States army hospital, it was also the destination point of military parades, the scene of much patriotic speechmaking, and the welcome and dismissal point for troops either on furlough or gatherings, but was occasionally the scene of lectures, fairs, concerts, balls, and various meetings.  According to its dedication orator, Colonel John W. Farney, this hall was “one of the finest military edifices in our Union, and the only one ever erected by a single volunteer company...a temple of the citizen soldier...” ”

The building with all its memories was demolished in June, 1959.

From his letter, Albert was quartered on the second floor of the 3 story building, pictured below.

National Guards Hall, Philadelphia, 2nd Floor

The caption of this Library of Congress picture is, April, 1959, Interior, Second Floor, the “Grand Salon” looking south. Albert Liscom's hospital bed was on this floor with 158 others.  The first floor of the building was used for dining.

November 20, 1862

General Hospital U.S.A.
Race St. Philadelphia Nov. 20 /62

Dear Parents & Sister
                  I guess you will think by my letters, that my time is pretty well occupied out of doors so that I do not spend much time in writing, back. I am out a  greater part of the time, it seems pleasant to have the liberty to go about the city every day.  I am with  George Pfleger every day and as this is his home he is well acquainted with the city so that it makes it quite pleasant for me.  I have been to his home two or three times his father & mother are very pleasant people they have a married daughter who

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is at home sick with with [sic] a fever, so that I do not like to go there much now.  Yesterday after dinner, I got my pass extended until eight oclock and I went with George up to his parents, spent the afternoon there and took supper there, there is no one in the family but his Uncle (who is a doctor) his wife, and a child about two years old.  I had a pleasant  time and got back here at 1/2 past 7.  I cant know as I can tell you much about the city now it is very much like all other cities.  The other day, I went into the State House, and into the room where the declaration of independence was signed.  It has rained every day this week except Tuesday so that we could not go about much, but the

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first pleasant after noon we are going out to Girard College.  George can get a pass for us to go all through the building.  Sunday forenoon we went to Church and in the evening all who wished could go out to meeting, we went to a prayer   meeting first, and then up stairs in the same church, and heard a sermon. They give the soldiers the best seats in the house.  I am getting along here very well. although my health does not seem to improve.  I am still disabled with the rheumatism but have said nothing to this doctor about my teeth, but inclined to do so in a few days.  I broke off another one last night  I forgot to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 14th received

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Yesterday.  I think I have now received all the letters due me.  I am not able to tell you anything about Bazin* more than that his Father is a tailor, and lives in Charlestown. I have heard him speak of Portsmouth, and think his folks used to live there.  Tell Emmie I will answer her letter as soon as I find anything to write about.  I do not think of anything here for news. Is there anything in Boston.  Write and tell me all the items. Please accept this for this time

    With best wishes and
                                 Love From Albert

    Love to All

NOTES:  *Bazin Co D, is Savillian E. Bazin; age, 24; born, Dover, N.H., occupation:   paper-hanger; mustered in as priv., Co. D, July 16, 1861; musterd out, Aug. 1, 1864; residence, Boston. (served the whole 3 years – from the regimental roster in 3 years in the army etc. –BF, April 4, 2013.)

Independence Hall, Philadelphia

Independence Hall

November 23, 1862

General Hospital  U.S.A.     
Philadelphia Nov. 23, /62

Dear Parents & Sister
                    I am happy to acknowledge yours of the 20th received yesterday morning  I am glad to hear that you are all well.  I wish I could step in this morning and see how you all look.  I wonder if you had your baked beans, brown bread, and coffee this morning, if you did, I should like to have breakfasted with you, for we had nothing here but tea, and bread & butter, this is the breakfast every morning, though we generally have coffee in the morning, for

p. 2

dinner, we have meat, soup, and bread, for supper tea, bread & butter, and some times applesauce.  I do not pretend to eat any meat, and I am getting rather tired of bread & butter.  As long as my money lasted I got along very well, but now I am broke, and I am obliged to ask you to send me $5.00 in your next letter, for I see no prospect of getting paid here and it is not very pleasant being in this place without money.  I get along about the same, but I cant tell how it will turn out, the Doctor does not say much, he comes round every morning and evening but does not say much to a man unless

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he is pretty sick.  I cant say that I like him, neither have I any reason to dislike him.  I may like him better when I see more of him.  I have not been round much the past week it has been rainy all the week.  I have been wanting to go out to Girard College, but it has been too unpleasant.  I think we will go tomorrow if it is pleasant.  The sun is out quite pleasant this morning.  Sam & Frank, are at camp Chesapeake, about seventeen miles from Washington, on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal.  I do not think of anything more worth writing about now. I want to get ready to go to church if I can get

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out before inspection.

When Mary writes to the Rutley's(?) pleas give them my kindest regards and tell them I have not forgotten them, nor the pleasure which I have enjoyed in their society.  Remember me with kindest regards to all friends and accept these few lines, with much love

        From Albert

              Please send the money as soon as you receive this

Philadelphia,  December 4, 1862;  Trying to get a discharge.

General Hospital U.S.A.     
Philadelphia Dec. 4th 1862     

Dear Parents & Sister
                                I am happy to acknowledge yours of the 30th received Tuesday.  Glad to hear that you are all well.  It is the first thing I always think of when I receive a letter from you, are you all well?  I can be very well contented as long as I know you are well, and getting along comfortably at home.  I am getting along here about the same.  I am not near as lame at present as I was and I feel considerable better than I did, of course I do not tell the Dr. so, when he wants to know how I am

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Sinsister looking doctors

I am no better.  I hinted to him the other day about my discharge, but he did not encourage nor discourage me in regard to it, the next morning at inspection, he showed me to Dr Burpee head Dr in charge, and at Sunday morning inspection by the Surgeon General, the Dr spoke to him about me, they did not say before me what they thought as it is not their style of doing things, but I am pretty well satisfied, they think I should have my discharge, whether they will give it to me or not  is more than I can tell.  Three of the boys started from here last night for home, one of them had the bed next to mine, two of them belonged in the

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Same place in Indiana, the other belonged in this state.

I have tried to find that Mr Wilkins but cannot do so.  I looked in the directory but did not see the name where their place of business was on sixth or seventh St.  What is his first name?  his business?  Is he in business for himself?  I do not know as I can tell you anything about the city.  I don’t see much to write about.  I go about alone most of the time.  There is no danger of getting lost here.  I can tell where I am all the time and go anywhere about the city

My love to cousin Ann, and all others, And accept these few lines with much love From        

December 5, 1862

By early December,  Albert was weary of lingering in hospitals waiting to get a discharge from the service.  He expresses some of his frustrations in this letter.  He also references his friend Bill White, a 1st Lieutenant in the  22nd Mass. Vols. who had recently obtained his discharge. Bill is pictured below.

General Hospital U.S.A.
Philadelphia Dec 5th /62

Dear Parents & Sister
                            I received yours of the 30th & 3d  Yesterday afternoon, and will now write a few lines in acknowledgement of the same.  I wrote to you yesterday, and cannot think of anything new to write to day.  I wrote to you yesterday all I could in regard to my getting my discharge.  You mentioned about writing to him yourself in regard to it and I think it would be a very good idea, and might have considerable

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influence.  You must write a pretty strong letter and something that will be likely to enlist his sympathies.  You can tell him that my Parents are getting old, and that my Mother especially worries about me a great deal, but you can paint all that sort of thing up to suit yourself, only daub it on well.   I hardly know what you can write, but I guess that among the lot of you, you can write him a very good letter.  1st Lt. Bill White, 22nd Mass VolsI cannot find out what my Dr’s first name is, but it makes no difference.  You can direct to Dr. Wells, Ast. Surgeon  U.S.A.  Race St. Hospital Phila. P.A.
Do not send the letter through

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me.  You can copy it with a pencil, for I would like to know what you write to him.  You need not let him know that I know anything about your writing to him.

I think Den. Fuller is getting along quite rapid, he is welcome to it; as for me I aspire to nothing now, but my discharge.  If Bill White has got out of it, I am glad of it.  Please remember me to him & wife. Also all other inquiring friends.  I don’t recollect that Mr Dame you speak of.

I will not stop to write any more now as it is dinner time, so good by with much love From       

December 9, 1862

General Hospital U.S.A.
Philadelphia Dec. 9th  1862

Dear Parents & Sister
        I received your kind letter of the 7th this morning and I will now try and write a few lines in answer to it.  There does not seem to be anything new here, nothing that I can write about for news, everything here is about the same in doors, and out.  I am in doors most of the time, it is cold and uncomfortable being out, and there does not seem to be any where in particular to go, loafing about the streets is played

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out.  I do not think I should make a regular loafer, only a volunteer.   Last Thursday Eve, there was a Festival given in Sansom St hall, it was to raise money for the benefit of this Hospital.  The tickets were one dollar each.  I do not know how much was taken.  I was in the hall in the afternoon & saw the tables, it looked quite nice, they had everything to eat that was nice.  There was a lot of cake left over that was not out, we had it here Yesterday eve.  We were all called down into the dining hall at 7 ock, the table was set as for supper, and at each place there was a piece of cake, an apple and a cup

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of cider.  That was our Festival.  Sunday Eve, about thirty of us went to church with Mrs Hammett (The lady who has all the over seeing of the kitchen, and dining hall.)   When we came back, they gave us all a piece of cake.  I could not help laughing to myself at the idea, it put me in mind of little children receiving a bit of cake from a Parent for good behavour.   We had a snow storm here about the same time you did, it turned to ice, and now the walking is quite slippery, and the weather, quite cold.  I will not stop to write any more now, as I want this to go this afternoon.  Kind regards

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to all friends
                  Yours with a great deal of love From Albert

December 12, 1862

General Hospital U.S.A.
Philadelphia Dec 12th  /62

Dear Parents & Sister
            Yours of the 10th has just come to hand and I now hasten to answer it.  I think your letter to the Dr is all tip top, but allow me to suggest three slight alterations.  First in regard to the time that I have been enlisted. You know that I enlisted the first of May consequently I have now been soldiering nineteen months.  I have told the Dr. as I do all others, that it is nineteen months since I enlisted.  You might write this.  It is now

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nineteen months since he enlisted, and during that time he had endured the fatigue and exposure to which he has been subjected without complaint.

All you will have to leave out in your letter will be, He has endured the fatigues and exposure to which he has been subjected for thirteen months.  How will that answer?

As to my teeth, I have not had any extracted, all I have lost have broken out, three have broke since I came to the Hospital.

And as to my eating meat, I do not pretend to eat any.  The above three slight mistakes which you can easily alter, are all that is not just

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right.  It don’t amount to much, only it contradicts statements which I have already made.

I do not think of anything new for news, everything is about the same here.  I am about the same as usual.  My back was quite lame yesterday, but it is considerable better to day.  It is a splendid day here, how is it in Boston?  I will not stop to write any more now, as I want this to go this afternoon.

Please excuse these few lines From Yours with much love
From Albert

P.S.   Mrs. Hammett is just going through the ward with a basket of apples and Oranges.  She just give me an Orange.
I cant tell the Doctors first name

December 20, 1862

Albert comments on soldiers he knew from Concord, NH, who were killed or wounded at the battle of Fredericksburg.  His father had worked in Concord for many years with piano-forte manufacturer David Dearborn.

General Hospital U.S.A.
Philadelphia Dec. 20 1862

Dear Parents & Sister
                    I was beginning to think that I should not get any letter this week, but last evening the expected and welcome letter came.  I was very glad to hear that you were all well.  I suppose you are wondering why you do not hear from me, as I have not written this week.  I have been expecting every day to hear from you,  besides there has been nothing for me to write about, and I don’t like to write unless I have something to write

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about for I was afraid  you will think my letters are short and dry, but at present I don’t feel much like writing long letters unless I have something to write about, And every thing here seems to be about the same.  I am getting along about the same.  I do not seem to improve any here.  I stay in the house a greater part of the time.  I do not care to be loafing about the streets in the cold, and I do not want the Dr to think that I am able to run all about the city, so I keep rather quiet.  I do not think it best to urge the Dr. too hard

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and have said nothing to him to help.  I do not know what he thinks in regard to my case, or what effect your letter will have.  I will keep quiet until the first of January unless he says something to me before, then I shall let into him.

I am obliged to you for the stamps also the paper, which you sent to me.  I get the papers here when I feel like reading the War news, which is not often.  I saw Newcomb’s name in the paper, also Capt Stuartson(?) was alive Crane of Concord killed.  I believe he was Major in the 6th  Arty.[?]  I never hear a word from my regt.  I suppose they

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were in the fight.  If you see a paper with anything in it about them please send it to me.

Please excuse these few lines with a great deal of love Your

January 4, 1863

In this very interesting letter to his cousin, Albert sums up his thoughts regarding time spent in the army as a volunteer.

General Hospital U.S.A.    
Philadelphia Jan. 4 1863

Dear Cousin Hannah
            I was quite happy to receive yours of the 25th. I am glad  you did at last find time to write to me, for I had made up my mind that I had received my last letter from you, but I suppose there is one at least who has more claim upon your time than I have, so I suppose I must not complain.  How does he like soldiering?  I reckon he finds it some different from home and its attractions. 

Best if we always live at home

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and are never deprived of its comforts and blessings,  we should never know how to fully appreciate them.

    If I should be fortunate to get home again I shall never regret that I joined the Army.

You all seem to talk as though you thought I was coming home before long, but that is yet uncertain, at least as far as I know.  I am waiting patiently to see what will turn up.  I have nothing to do now but loaf, (which is rather tiresome work) and make myself as comfortable as I can, situated as I am.

But there must be an end to this before a great while, and to that end I am looking

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hopeing it will be for my benefit.

The bells are ringing for Church this morning and it reminds me of home.  I would like to go to Park St this morning and see how the place and people look.  Is there room for me in the pew or shall I have to sit on the window seat? 

If I could get out this morning I would go to Church here, but we always have inspection Sunday morning and I do not get our passes until to late, the Churches are not open in the afternoon only for Sunday School, we cannot get out now to the evening meetings as there has been

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an order issued lately that no Soldier should be allowed in the streets after past 7.  But there was an exception last Sunday evening about eighty of us from this Hospital went to the Opera we had a complimentary ticket, there was two or three hundred convalescents soldiers there from the different Hospitals.  Wednesday evening we had a temperance lecture here, after which we had a treat, each one got a piece of cake, an orange, and an apple, the treat was very good, but the lecture was as dry as any other temperance lecture.

But I reckon my letter is about as dry as that lecture, so I will close before it comes to a crisp.  Excuse this an accept much love

    From your Cousin

Photo:  Passaic Class Monitor Lehigh

Pictured below is the Lehigh in the James River, early 1865.

Passaic Class Monitor Lehigh on the James River

Ironclads Sangamon & Lehigh

This next letter is interesting as Albert mentions going to the Philadelphia Navy Yard, [Chester, PA] to get a view of the Monitor.

The success of the original Monitor in combat with the Virginia, March 9, 1862  caused the government to order several new ships built from designer John Ericsson’s plans.  The 10 new Passaic class ironclads would incorporate design improvements suggested by Commodore Joseph Smith, who had served on the board that supervised the building of the original Monitor.  Two of these new vessels, the Sangamon and Lehigh were built by Reaney Son, & Archibald at Chester, PA.  The “Sangamon” was launched Monday, October 27, 1862.  The Philadelphia Press reported the launch on Wednesday, Sept. 29th:    “Orders have been received by the contractors to prepare her for her crew and guns as speedily as possible.  The Lehigh, sister ship to the one launched, is rapidly approaching completion and will be ready to be floated in a few days.”  

Several weeks later work was still being done on the Sangamon.  On December 16 the Press reported,   “She was launched very recently, and will be completed in about four weeks from the present time.  …On Tuesday last the gun-sides were being introduced to the turret.”

The date of Albert’s letter, suggests he was at the Navy Yard on Saturday January 2nd.  At first I thought he saw the Lehigh being floated, but the Lehigh wasn't  launched until Saturday, January 17, 1863, two weeks after Albert’s visit.

January 5, 1863

The date of this letter is a bit hard to read on my reference photo.  Still I am convinced it is dated Jan. 5th.  If so Albert was at the Navy Yard on Saturday the 2nd.  I had thought Albert went down to the Philadelphia Navy Yard to see the launch of the monitor Lehigh on Saturday, January 17 but clues in this and other letters suggest that is not the case.  I thought perhaps the Lehigh was "floated" before its launch date, but no information was available to support this guess.  The Sangamon seemed to be still around, so perhaps that is the Monitor he referenced in this letter.  — Of course, Albert is more concerned with getting his discharge.

General Hospital U.S.A.       
Philadelphia Jan 5? / 63

Dear Parents & Sister
        I felt that I must write a few lines this morning in acknowledgement of yours of the 28th, but I hope you will excuse a few lines this time as my head aches this morning and I feel very little like writing.

There is nothing new here.  I don't think of a bit of news of interest.  I went down to the navy yard Saturday forenoon an saw the Monitor.  I could not get very near

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as she was lying out in the stream.  She was to sail in the afternoon.

Yesterday was quite a pleasant Day here. I took a walk in the afternoon and came back pretty well played out.  I feel rather weak, but I lay it most to poor living, and being here in the hospital with nothing to do.  I think good food and the right kind of exercise would soon bring me up.  As to my Discharge I can tell nothing about that at present.  when I get my Descriptive list, then I expect to hear something deffinate, As it is necessary for me to have that in order to

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get my Discharge.  I expect it was sent with me from Washington and I have good reasons for thinking that it is now at the medical directors in this city, but they do not appear to be in any hurry to send it in to this Hospital but I suppose I shall hear from it sometime.

We have been mustered in here for pay, but when we shall get it is more than I can tell.  I am in no hurry for it for if I do not have it; I shall not spend it;  there is is four months pay due me the first of January.

Hopeing this will find you all well I close with much love From Albert.

January 1863 [no date specified]

Letter sent from home usually reached Albert in Philadelphia in 2 days time.  Using that as an average, this letter was probably written on the 7th or 8th of January.   Pictured is 1st-Lieutenant Oliver C. Livermore, 13th Mass. whom I think was Acting Adjutant for the regiment at the time of Albert's letter.

General Hospital U.S.A.
Philadelphia Jan. 1863

Dear Parents & Sister
              I received your welcome letter of the 4th yesterday noon, also one from Mrs Brown in which she says she has sent the box.  she sent me the receipt which I send to you in this letter.  She sends her regards to Father, and says they would be pleased to have a line from him occasionally.  I think they took quite a liking to Father, and no doubt would be pleased to see him again.

I was quite surprised to Lieutenant Oliver C. Livermore

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learn by your letters, that I have been mistrusted as a deserter, as soon as I read your letter, I sat down and wrote to Lt. Livermore,  giving an account of myself,  and this morning I got the Dr to add a line certifying that I was regularly admitted here as a patient.  I requested an answer to know if my explanation was satisfactory.  I suppose of course they know where I was, but I suppose my long silence has given rise to suspicions that I had sloped, but I think my letter with the Dr’s signature will quiet all suspicion.  I wrote to you Monday and told you all I could think

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of (which was not much) and there has been nothing new since. It don’t seem much like winter here, we have very pleasant weather most of the time.

I am obliged to Alice for Charlies picture, which I think is very good.  I will take good care of it;  and if it is wanted before I return it, You can let me know.  I will write to Charley soon.  You crossed out N.C.   Via  N.York what for ?  do you know whose brigade he is in.

Please write his address again.  I will close now as I have got to go down to the medical directors to see about my descriptive list.  Yours with much love

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Albert Liscom's war-time letters end here. His son said the last letter was dated January 25, 1863.  He officially obtained his discharge on January 30.  [The roster incorrectly dates his discharge June, 1863.]

Albert married a girl from Philadelphia, Marietta A. Arlin on March 29, 1864.  Perhaps he met her while he was recuperating at the National Guard Hospital.  Marietta did not live long and passed away before six years had passed by.   In 1873, Albert married again.  With his second wife, Florilla T. Chapin, age 28; they had two children, Lottie who was born June 6, 1874, and Charles Sutton Liscom, born August 3, 1875.  It was Charles who wrote the letter to the 13th Regiment Association in 1920, and offered to transcribe his father's war-time letters. 

Sadly, Albert's 2nd wife died young at age 33 on November 27, 1877, when his children were ages 2 & 3.  In 1878 Albert took a 3rd wife, Mary, last name unknown, born about 1836.  Mary lived a long time.  She passed away after 1920.

  A few letters in the collection that aren't Civil War related suggest Albert continued successfully in his father's business.

The next bit of information I have for Albert is this notice that was published in the very first Thirteenth Regiment Association Circular, November 21, 1888:

Comrade Albert M. Liscom, of Company C, has been confined for years in his house, 635 Tremont street in this city, by a painful disease, which has prevented his presence among us, - though his mind has been and is as clear and bright as it ever was.  He was a good soldier, of whom it is a pleasure to speak, and the love and regard which has prompted so many thoughts of the old regiment during his illness, I know will be heartily reciprocated by all.  Some may be prompted to drop him a line.  A few kind and cheering words now will make his burden lighter, and send a ray of sunshine into the sick-chamber, where he has so long been a patient sufferer.

Chas. E. Davis, Jr.  Boston, Nov. 21, 1888.

Albert Liscom passed away 10 months later on September 26, 1889.  He was 51.  His father Levi Liscom, survived him by two years, and passed away July 28, 1891 at age 83.

Albert's son Charles never married, and he too passed away at the relatively young age of 55 in 1930.  But Albert's daughter Lottie married and had a child, Marion Attwood, whose descendants may well continue to this day.

The Reed Family

The Reid family was more long lived.  Joshua, the father died in 1886 at age 80.  He is buried at Milton Cemetery, Milton, Massachusetts.

Herbert Alanson Reed, 13th MA, Company A, married Julia Eliza Edgerly Allen on July 23, 1861, just before the regiment departed for Maryland.  He continued in service with  the regiment for 3 years.  Soldier Warren H. Freeman of Company A, mentions in a letter home, May15, 1864, “Herbert Reed was wounded in one of his fingers about ten days since.”  Herbert mustered out with the regiment August 1st 1864.

He and his wife Julia had two daughters, Alice and Florence, born in 1867 & 1877 respectively.  Julia died in 1879 at age 40.  Herbert married Florence G. Black, two years later.  They had one child, another daughter, Mary Lucy Reed, born in November 1882, but she only lived one month.   Two years later daughter Florence died at age 16, on Dec. 22, 1894.  Herbert lived a long life and died in 1921, at age 82 and is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery, Medford, Mass.  His 2nd wife Florence lived until 1937, age 80.  Daughter Alice died in 1957.  All are buried in Oak Grove Cemetery, Medford.

Edgar C. Reed, 13th MA, Company A, had some emotional troubles when he was in the service.  He enlisted at a very young age, and fellow soldier Warren H. Freeman, in the same company occasionally commented on young Edgar's lack of pluck as a soldier. Still Edgar managed to muddle through his service and mustered out with the regiment, August 1st 1864.   He worked as a piano-turner after the war.  Edgar died at age 40, of tuberculosis at an insane asylum in Boston, October 28, 1886.

Next up:  The History of Camp Convalescent

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Page Updated May 28, 2018.

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" I have seen enough of such a war as this is,  and I am going to spend the rest of my time in trying to get out of it."