Following the American Civil War Sesquicentennial with day by day writings of the time, currently 1863.

Leverett Bradley: A Soldier-Boy’s Letters (1st Massachusetts Heavy Artillery.)

Fort Bunker Hill, D. C, Aug. 11, 1865.

Dear Family:

It is with the greatest pleasure that I take my pen to inform you of our immediate muster out of service. Although you will probably get the news from the papers long before this reaches you. Although the duties will not devolve upon me to make out the rolls, I feel it my duty to all that I should render my whole assistance, having full as good knowledge of Company affairs as any person. I flatter myself that Old Co. B will not be in the rear in completing the rolls, which are expected back this evening. And then! Won’t pen, ink and paper have to take up? I feel much that Col. Shatswell selected me as one to remain, although at the time I felt much mortified. I told him so yesterday. He is highly pleased to find matters turning out as they are. We shall carry two sets of colors, the old tattered ones and the new ones with sixteen battles inscribed upon its silken folds! I shall box up all my clothing, books &c. and try to get it along as company baggage; but if not successful shall forward by ex. Can’t some of you meet us at Boston, when we first arrive, and have a woolen blanket with you for me to take to Readville in case I am unable to get my box along; for I expect it will be cooler than here. Imagine my feelings at the present moment, waiting patiently for the rolls to come so as to begin to write myself “out of service”! I feel sorry for those that have deserted; it must be a severe blow to know we are coming home soon. I shall do all I can in trading, as an excellent opportunity offers itself. If a better chance offered to get horses home and I was a little better judge of horse flesh myself, I should, I think, try to trade a little.

With love to all, I remain the same                                                 Lev.

1st Sergt’s Office. Co. B 1st Mass. H. A., Fort Bunker Hill, D. C,
Aug. 6, 1865.

Dear Friends:

Your last found me in tolerable good health. I am now fairly at work in my new duties. I assure you it is a different thing to have two strange companies, old soldiers at that, with the old Company to handle, from what it was before. I contend that the 1st Sergt’s position at present in the four companies is the hardest position in the Regt.; but so far I am doing finely. Four years ago yesterday, I left the old parental roof for the first time, for a commencement in life. At other times people might say I chose a very dangerous life; but a desire to be a soldier had got possession of me and I actually believe if I had not been allowed to come at that time I should have come on my own responsibility soon after. How fortunate I have been during these last four years. I have suffered but little from sickness. The hardships have been severe, to be sure, for the last year; but life has been spared. I look back at times and think how I suffered a year ago from long marches, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, and shudder at the thought of a repetition of the scenes.

A great many of the boys have acted foolishly since pay day by deserting; you have probably seen some of them. A man must be crazy that would act so. I feel as if I would like an honorable discharge after serving faithfully almost four years. I should like to know well what kind of business it was you would like me to go into, if I got a discharge. Money making of course? I should advise Jerry to give way and let George visit Washington, and shall urge his coming; he has never travelled and if he could possibly be spared I think he ought to take a short trip this way. Perhaps he has struck higher and prefers to visit Saratoga or Niagara Falls! The 3rd Regt. has not been consolidated yet; they are waiting the arrival of a company from Richmond. We all hope the consolidation will never come off. Hard feelings are beginning to exist between the two Regts. already. We are expecting daily to lose our colors, now in Washington, having the names of the battles we were in printed on it, as the guard has been discontinued. Some of their companies will probably have the honor of carrying the Colors. Perhaps it is n’t rough, but we can’t see it in that light! We are in hopes that Col. A. will be sent back to the Regular Army and N. promoted; then we would have our show at every thing.

Aug. 7. I wish it were so I could get home soon and then all take a short trip to the beach. We never went to but few places as a whole family. I board out now; about eight of us draw our rations and have a woman to cook for us, and with a few bought articles we live tolerably well. Report says we are going soon to some other station. I can see no necessity of staying here, as there is no armament.

Love to all.                                        Lev. Bradley, Jr.

Fort Morton, Va., July 16.

Dear Friends:

I am beginning this letter under adverse circumstances, for we have just rec’d an order to be ready to move immediately back to Fort Smith, where all the Cos. of the regt. are to concentrate. It is beautifully situated here. We have just got everything going smoothly, our Co. being here alone, so still, and we feel vexed at having to go back. I visited Washington last night; went to the theatre, and liked it.

There is a guitar in my window which the wind is playing splendidly. My mind is nowhere today. Regts. pass here every morning on their way home. We are all in hopes our turn will come soon.

This letter contains all the news I can collect; but at that in a consolidated form.

Love to all from                                L. Bradley, Jr.

Fort C. F. Smith, Va., July 2, 1865.

Dear Friends:

The men like it here, for the duty is much easier. We relieved some of the N. Y. Arty. Three companies are in a barrack, draw rations and mess together. I never felt it so warm. Nearly every afternoon I sit and let the perspiration drop from my chin; a very agreeable occupation. Some of the regts. in our old corps had a row yesterday, refusing to do duty. I don’t know how they came out in the matter. I should like to be with you the coming fourth. I know nothing for us to do but sit still and think of what a good time you are having. We have a fine view of Washington, Georgetown, Chain bridge and the upper Potomac. One man is allowed to visit Washington daily. The boys have got up a new game of cards, played like muggins; but the one that is beaten has to allow the rest to give him three raps each, across the nose; it leaves a very peculiar tingling sensation after the operation and makes any amount of sport. D. has been reduced to the ranks for abusive language. Jerry will tell you about the man the men have been under. We were mustered for pay by Maj. H――1. The men are improving in looks greatly. Putting on our fortification airs now, Sarvy!

Much love to all,

L. Bradley, Jr.

Monday Morning. Had for breakfast one cup of coffee and one slice of bread. I assure you, we fat on the living!

[On July 11 he was 19 years old.—Ed.]

Fort Ethan Allen, Va., June 25, 1865.

Dear Friends:

Four years ago yesterday, this Co. left the pleasant village of Methuen, for Fort Warren; there to be drilled and disciplined for war. Some went out of pure patriotism and others out of curiosity, they knew little of war; but they all had drawn a picture of it in their minds and I think their conclusions fell far short of the mark. For my own part, I feel glad that we were ordered from the forts about Washington. What I have seen and learned, money cannot buy. But to think that we have lost so many of our brave comrades by this cruel rebellion (many of them friends of mine) is enough to make all cry ” Peace” and no more ” War.” I thank God I was allowed to pass through so many bloody scenes. Life seemed of but little importance to me; but I never yet gave up and who knows but that was the reason I was allowed to live? I shall send you a copy of Genl. Pierce’s Order. We were a favorite regt. of his. The 5th Michigan ami 1st Massachusetts H. A. have fought side by side in many a battle and I have often heard the Genl. say “two better Regts. could not be found in the service.” We were always taken when an object of importance was to be obtained, and they always showed themselves true soldiers. The work of mustering out veteran troops has begun; we think we should have gone if we had remained in the Corps. The weather has been terribly hot the past week, but the flies are not so bad since the food has been moved into the mess house. Bed bugs are as bad as ever, I cannot sleep in my bunk, but take a couple of chairs and like it much better. I earnestly hope, Jerry, that you will succeed in getting into the naval school, if you have made up your mind. You must not let father work so hard; just take command and have discipline in the house hold. Give my love to all. Hoping to help you gather the harvest this fall,

I remain,                                          L. Bradley, Jr.

Fort Ethan Allen, Va., June 18, 1865.

Dear Family:

Your last rec’d. It does seem as if the flies would eat me up!!! and as for bed bugs, we caught them by the peck this afternoon. We relieved the 6th Penn H. A. I went to work, white washed my room and scalt the bunk; but from the rest I got last night should say that there are bed bugs yet. Lt. Col. Shatswell is Commanding the Brig, but our Regt. is at present the only one in it; he is entitled the same however to a staff and orderlies. I know you would not expect me to write if you saw how the flies trouble me, so will close for now, or go into spasms.

L. Bradley, Jr.

Camp 1st H. A., June 4, 1865.

Dear Family:

We had inspection this morning. I had command of the Co. We have got a new State Color, a perfect beauty! We are waiting for a new national one from the government. The old ones, that stood the brunt of so many battles, are now almost in shreds and have been packed up ready to transmit to Adjt. Genl. of the state soon; if we are not soon to go home, in which case we shall carry them. The review of the corps came off. It was not as severe as we expected. Genl. Hancock looked admirably and rec’d cheers. The 6th Corps’ Artillery is coming in now, on a road to the left of us; the horses look played out, leaning against each other for support. Everyday we hear cheers in some camp regiment whose time is out in Oct. and now about to start for home. Candle light parades are beginning to be a great feature of military and camp illuminations. The scenes are beautiful to look at, but not so agreeable to participate in, grease not being an ornament to clothes. Clothing has just come, so I shall have to make larger letters or write faster to finish up. If it is a scrawl, my thoughts are all there, which is all that is required.

With love to all,                                                Lev. B., Jr.

I presume that it is proper that you, Lizzie, should give away my photographs.

Camp 1st Mass. H. A., May 29.

Dear Family:

Your last was rec’d. The great review has passed, it was a beautiful day. The Regt. was composed of six companies. I was the left guide of the color Co.; many were the remarks about our tattered banners. The ladies kept their handkerchiefs going all the time. I should have thought they would have got tired by night. The streets were crowded full to over flowing. The absorbing topic is when are we to be discharged? Jerry, I hear stories of your flirtations out here. George, now you are 21, you should make your appearance with a tall hat, cigar in your mouth, a fighting dog under your carriage; try and keep up to the times; wait till I get home and then there will be no chance for you, better get married now. News is so scarce with us that it is hard to make up a letter. The boys sleep most of the 24 hours.

As ever,                                               Lev.

Camp 1st H. Arty., Near Arlington Mills, Va.,
May 24, 1865.

Dear Family:

I have hardly kept my promise about writing; but I hope you will excuse me, for we have slept most of the time since we got into camp. We lay on a ridge right near the old mill, a mile from the road in a splendid oak grove. It has rained for three days and we hope that it will clear before tomorrow; for on Tuesday we are to be reviewed in Washington. We all dread the march, for it will be a long one and if it should be hot, many will faint. We have begun making out the muster rolls for the men whose term of service expires before Oct. 1st. If you should hear the stories that we have in camp you would laugh out right. One day, they are favorable for the recruits, and the next, for the veterans. Now Mother I hope you will feel easy about me, at least for the present till we hear what they intend to do with the veterans. We draw soft bread every day now and vegetables are more plentiful than at the front. George Frye [the cousin who was taken prisoner] has got back to the regt. now, looking finely. The country along the road has changed a great deal and it is lined with sutlers’ shanties. Some of the 4th “Heavies” have been up here; they look as if they had been playing soldiers for a while.

A year ago I was enjoying myself at home among friends and relatives. It does seem as if I never felt happier till I heard that the regiment had lost such numbers. I was shown the very tree where George Bricket and others sat under a few hours before that awful fight [the Wilderness]. I should have gone to the ground itself; but we were moving on another road, until it made a junction with the main road, three miles from the battle field. The thunder is beginning again; we were caught in that terrible one, just after leaving Falmouth. The trial of the assassins is developing a great many important facts which the government intend to take advantage of. I wish they would bring Jeff to Washington in the same clothes that they caught him in.

With much love to all, I remain as ever,

Levehett Bradley, Jr.

Camp 1st Mass. H. A., Near Burksville Junction, Va.,
April 26, 1865.

Dear Family:

Yours of the 19th has been rec’d. Yesterday was a holiday with us, opening with a salute of thirteen guns, and a gun every half hour during the day, with a National salute of thirty six guns at sunset. We were paraded at 10 A.M. and the orders of the Sect’y of war and Lieut Genl. Grant were read to us. All the men are dissatisfied, stopping here in camp. The army of the Potomac is without an enemy in front, and we lay here waiting orders. I think that the views of President Johnson are very different from what the late old Abe’s were, in regard to the settlement of this great rebellion for which so many lives have been sacrificed. I favor the former’s views, i. e., “Treason is a crime and must be punished.” I hardly think the war worn veterans would be satisfied unless it was done. Genl. Lee must be made an example of immediately and all other Generals in our hands, particularly those who have ever meddled with politics, should suffer their fate. I can’t bring my thoughts to believe that we are soon to go home: but our minds are at ease about fighting. We are expecting good news from Genl. Sherman, but yesterday’s paper had particulars of his negotiation, which has lowered him in my estimation; but “Old Useless” himself has gone down to North Carolina to run the machine. The sun is hot enough to cook coffee in the open air. It is nearly a year since I went home on my veteran furlough, and how many scenes of strife and bloodshed I have since passed through. I had a small idea of the army then; but now I think I can well say that I have been through the mill. F. P., who left us last fall when there was fighting, has returned with Capt’s bars. I assure you he was not welcome amongst those who had done their duty at the front to the present time. I was witness to a big nigger fight last night. They were passed round through the crowd in a hurry. If you have any old magazines about the house, please send them to me, as reading matter is scarce.

Respectfully yours,

L. Bradley, Jr.,
1st Sergt. Co. B.