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

War Letters of William Thompson Lusk.

The following was found scribbled on a sheet of paper in the handwriting of William T. Lusk, evidently a copy of a letter written by Gen. Daniel Tyler:

“I ask the acceptance of this resignation. Capt. Lusk has been in most of the battles including the First Bull Run, from Beaufort to the death of Major-Gen. Stevens, whose Staff he was on from the date of Gen. Stevens’s promotion to his death. Capt. Lusk, so soon as he heard of the occupation of Maryland Heights, left New-York City, came to Point of Rocks, and walked to Harper’s Ferry, and volunteered for duty at a moment when I was much in need of his services, and to make him available I recommended him for the appointment of Asst. Adjt. Genl. and he was appointed accordingly, with the expectation that when the prospect of fighting at that point was over, his resignation would be accepted. Under the circumstances, as Capt. Lusk is on the point of commencing a professional life in the City of New-York, I ask the acceptance of his resignation, knowing that there never will be an emergency like that at Gettysburg and Maryland Heights, that Capt. Lusk will not be found at the front.”

Headquarters Del. Dept.,
Wilmington, Del.,

Aug. 17th, 1863.

My dear Mother:

The month is rapidly passing away, and I am awaiting impatiently the time of my release. Meanwhile I do not mean to pine, but am trying to enjoy myself the best way possible. For instance, Saturday evening, took tea with the Bishop. Yesterday, dined with the Chief Justice. Now we are making arrangements to get up a steamboat excursion to Fort Delaware — a little private party of our own to return some of the civilities that have been paid us. We (Ned and I) mean to have all the pretty girls. Mrs. LaMotte, a charming lady, is to play matron, and I think will have a tolerably good time. So you see, as I said before, we don’t pine, still I shall be glad when I shall be at liberty to return home. Have just finished reading Mrs. Fanny Kemble’s book on plantation life. By George! I never heard anything to compare with her descriptions. They make one’s blood run cold. Though told with great simplicity and evident truth, compared with them Mrs. Stowe’s book is a mild dish of horrors. In this State of Delaware I believe there is a larger proportion of extreme Abolitionists than in Massachusetts. People are tired of being ruled by the lottery and slave interests which heretofore have locked hands together. Gen. Tyler is an unconditional man. When one protests his loyalty, the Gen. always asks him if his loyalty is great enough to acquiesce in the emancipation proclamation, and according to the answer, “Yes” or “No,” he is judged. Uncle Tom, I fear, wouldn’t stand much chance here. I had a few lines from Alfred Goddard a day or two ago. He seems to be well pleased with his position on Gen. Harland’s Staff. The letter you enclosed to me from Harry Heffron had all the latest news from the 79th. They have suffered much in following up Johnston in Mississippi from want of water, Johnston leaving in every well either a dead horse or a mule. Agreeable! They are now, however, on their way to Kentucky and rejoicing. McDonald is on Gen. Parke’s Staff. I believe my handwriting grows daily more unformed. How I have degenerated from the example Grandfather Adams set us. However, I have to write fast and sacrifice beauty to utility.

Best love.



Headquarters Del. Dept.
Wilmington, Del.,

July 28th, 1863.

My dear Mother:

That I have not written you more punctually, the enclosed carte-de-visite must be my excuse. At last I have fulfilled my promise, and I trust the result may prove satisfactory to you. The carte was promised last Thursday, but only furnished yesterday. “There’s a twist to your nose” says the ingenuous artist, while taking his preliminary surveys. “Perhaps you fell down once, and injured it.” I answered mildly that I had no recollection of such a catastrophe. “Well,” he says, “it isn’t straight anyway.” Then adding with a sigh, “There are very few things that are straight in this world.” I suppose that this philosophic photographer is right.

After all I am going to be present to-morrow at Horace’s wedding. There really is so little doing, that I feel as though I could absent myself for a couple of days with propriety. The General says “All right,” so I shall go on to-night at 11:30. You have not written whether it is your intention to be present. It would be a great pleasure to me if I should find you among the guests. Never mind, Fall is near at hand, and my stay in the army is hastening to an end. I have much leisure time to read, and as it is long since I have had such an opportunity, I am indulging myself in books with a vengeance. My previous visit to New-York was merely to vary a little the monotony of Wilmington life, by the excitement of the mob-rule then prevailing in the former city. I there met Charley Dodge, who was serving as Chief of Cavalry on Gen. Wool’s staff. Charley contrived to give me some little employment, but all I did was not much in amount.

I dined a few days ago at _____’s. _____is a capital good fellow, but painfully lazy and objectless. Much attention and kindness has been shown us since we have been here by the Union people. Unionism means something in a slave state. The most violent secessionists would not venture to express half the disloyal sentiments that one hears from pretty good Union people in Connecticut. The Union people here, from their position, are forced to take such strong ground as to make the sentiment of New England seem cold by comparison. Much love.

Most affec’y.,


Headquarters Del. Dept.

Wilmington, Del., July 20th, 1863.

My dear Mother:

You have heard before now, I suppose, that I was in New-York a few days last week. I saw Horace then, but the excitement of the riots excluded all other topics of conversation.

Lilly was kind enough to write me a letter, which I shall gladly answer, as I have time enough now to remember all correspondents that remember me. If nothing else, I have abundant opportunities to read and write. After the draft has been enforced in this State, the necessity for Martial Law will probably have passed away. Then I hope either to have more active service, or to get relieved altogether. My summer experience will lead me to enjoy with the greater zest the coming winter.

Gen. Tyler has behaved most handsomely I think, for when he was ordered to Maryland Heights, it was with the understanding that he was to have an important command, if not that of the Middle Department itself. But the loss of Milroy’s Army, the advance of Hooker, and consequent assignment of French to the Heights, the troubles in Baltimore, one and all operated to break up all plans, and to leave him in his present position. I have not heard him utter, for all, a single word of complaint, though necessarily his position must be very irksome to him.

Aunt Maria, Uncle Phelps and Nellie were in New-York for a few hours while I was there, but I did not know it until it was too late. Mr. _____, who lives opposite my Uncle’s, sent for me to come and see him. He proposed that I should take charge of a patrol to protect their part of the town. I turned to young _____.and suggested that he would make one of the patrol. “No,” says the young man, “but I’ll furnish a porter from father’s store as a substitute.” Indeed thought I, with such heroic youths, there is no need of doing anything here. I can let this part of the city take care of itself.

Your affec. Son,


[The Draft Riots In New-York City]

Longview, Enfield, Conn.,

July 14th, 1863.

My own dear Son:

I received your last letter on Saturday, and rejoice in your health, and in your resolve to relinquish the use of tobacco. I have no doubt your flesh will increase, and that you will be benefitted by the change.

The terrible riot in New-York is at present engrossing our thoughts. The blacks seem to be peculiarly obnoxious to the excited mob; I suppose you have seen that they have burned the Colored Orphan Asylum. The draft commenced yesterday in Hartford. All was quiet through the day, but some anxiety seems to be felt lest the example of New-York may produce an evil effect to-day. They have tried to obtain a few companies of Regulars to preserve order (from New Haven) but they cannot be spared. Aunt Sarah, Nellie and Tom were to return to New-York to-day, but they dare not until the disturbance is quelled. The telegraph wires are all cut, and I fear we shall have no papers. The Times and Tribune offices are torn to pieces. We are all sad enough. God is merciful, may He speedily help us, and deliver us from our troubles.

Cousin Henry is wishing for, and looking for, a Dictator, the sooner the better. Capt. Nichols has gone to Vicksburg with Col. McKaye, to inquire into the condition of the Freedmen. You have no idea how unreasonable the lower class (of Irish particularly) are in this vicinity. Their feelings have been so wrought upon by unprincipled men. The leader in the N. Y. riot was a man from Virginia, who harangued the multitude and counselled resistance.

A telegram has just arrived from your Uncle Phelps at Saratoga, saying Nellie and Aunt Sarah must not return to-day. Dr. Grant leaves in ten minutes, so good-bye. A longer letter next time. God guard you, my own dear, dear son, is my constant prayer. All send love, and I am


Your loving


Headquarters Delaware Department,

Wilmington, Del., July 10th, 1863.

My dear Mother:

I know I ought to be thankful in my present pleasant position, but somehow or other I was not born to enjoy sinecures. Doing nothing makes me very fretful. I had a capital good time while on Maryland Heights, feeling well repaid for my trip thither, but after leaving, I have been bored to death with the ennui of city soldiering. To be sure we are feted, and take our places among the Princes of Delaware, still, my dear mother, it was not for this I left home, and I cannot, with all the idle time on my hands, avoid regretting the pleasant summer plans we had arranged in old Conn. It is six years since I have strolled about the streets of Norwich the whole summer long. Norwich was never more beautiful than now. So I suppose I feel disappointed at being so peacefully employed at the seat of war. Still here we are, General and Staff—persons of distinction—Ahem! I am on hand in case I am called for. I don’t owe my position to Gov. Buckingham, and I expect to get home to my studies in the fall. Good things, all of them! Besides this, I am raising whiskers. I am reading Kinglake’s “Crimea.” I have given up smoking. Think of that! You see, at first, when I found there was little to do, I smoked vigorously to pass away time. But when the cigar was smoked, there was an end to the amusement, so I then determined to break off smoking altogether, and, to make it exciting, I kept a handful of cigars in my pocket so that the temptation might be frequently incurred. Whenever I longed for a fragrant Havana, I would take one in fingers, and then sitting back in my chair, reason philosophically on the pernicious effects of tobacco. On reaching the point of conviction, I would return it to my pocket unlighted. This, you see, has afforded me a very excellent pastime.

Occasionally Bishop Lee’s benignant face shines upon us. Everyone worships the Bishop here, and how he deserves it, you know well.

Am very sorry for Capt. Nichols. The opposition is a mistake. However, I should as soon think of breaking my heart for a Bedlamite Hag, as for one who rejected me on the grounds of prudence. So perhaps Nichols is not so unlucky as he thinks himself. Now that I have practically abandoned military life, I have a fancy Gov. Buckingham made a mistake in persistently ignoring my claims to promotion. I fancy I would have done him more credit than some of his appointments. This may be vanity.

Written in haste

with affectionate intent,

W. T. Lusk.

Headquarters Delaware Department,

Wilmington, Del., July 7th, 1863.

Dear, dear Cousin Lou:

I said I would write you so soon as the full purport of the good news was ascertained. And now that it has all broken upon us, although my heels are where my head ought to be, I will try and fulfil my engagement as coherently as possible. We have had the dark hour. The dawn has broken, and the collapsed confederacy has no place where it can hide its head. Bells are ringing wildly all over the city. Citizens grin at one another with fairly idiotic delight. One is on the top of his house frantically swinging a dinner bell, contributing thus his share of patriotic clamor to the general ding-dong. Bully for him! How I envy the heroes of Meade’s Army. It would be worth while to die, in order that one’s friends might say, “He died at Gettysburg.” But to live to hear all the good news, and now to learn that Vicksburg has surrendered, is a little too much happiness for poor mortal men. I can laugh, I can cry with joy. All hysterical nonsense is pardonable now. Manassas, twice repeated, Fredericksburg and Chickahominy! Bless them as the cruel training that has made us learn our duties to our country. Slavery has fallen, and I believe Heaven as well as earth rejoices. Providence has tenderly removed that grand old hero, Jackson, before the blow came, that the one good, earnest, misguided man might be spared the sight of the downfall of a cause fanaticism led him to believe was right. Slink away, ye copperheads to your native slime, and there await until in Hell is ready the place your master has prepared for you! There, Oh Fernando, go reign in torment to all eternity! These enthusiastic citizens of Wilmington, not content with bell-ringing, have taken to firing cannon, and the boys, to help matters, are discharging pistols into empty barrels. The people in a little semi-slaveholding State, when not downright traitors, are noisily, obstreperously loyal, to a degree that New England can hardly conceive of. My letter must be short and jubilant, I cannot do anything long to-day.

Just dance through the house for me, and kiss every one you meet. So I feel now. Good-bye.



Maryland Heights, June 20th, 1863.

My dear Mother:

I left Baltimore this morning in company with Mr. Starkweather (who will bring you this) and Dr. Carlton, formerly of the 18th C. V. The cars took us as far as the Point of Rocks, and from there we were obliged to proceed afoot. Frightful stories of rebel cavalry along the route were prevalent, but we reached Harper’s Ferry in safety, finding that the only dangers were those conjured up by the foolish fears of some of Milroy’s scared troops. The distance from the Point of Rocks was about twelve miles, so I feel a little tired to-night. The General gave me a most cordial welcome and assured me my services could be of great use. I am to be installed at once into my old position of A. A. General, and trust I may be able to perform the duties of the position satisfactorily. Ned looks well and finds plenty to do. I have never seen General Tyler looking in better health. I think the responsibility imposed upon him does him good. He has been doing a great deal since here, and feels happy at really accomplishing something more congenial than attending courts-martial. I am well, doing first rate, and am very glad to serve at this time. Have not been here long enough to understand much about the military aspect of affairs.

Most affec’y.,


Coleman’s Eutaw House,

Baltimore, June 19th, 1863.

My dear Mother:

Here I am in Baltimore in safety, neither able to go forward, nor willing to turn back. As yet, all communication with Harper’s Ferry is cut off, but the position Hooker now occupies is such as will enable him soon to include the Ferry within his lines, so I am stopping quietly at the Eutaw House, but almost momentarily expecting to hear from Col. Piatt that the cars will once more be in running order. Probably this will be before the day is over, and I trust I may be able to be of some use. Don’t be alarmed, though, I am not going to attempt anything Quixotic, so, if the opportunity does not soon come, I shall return, and proceed to Simsbury.

I have nothing special to say, beyond wishing to set your mind at rest. The 7th Regiment arrived here yesterday, and makes a fine appearance. Will soon write a more interesting letter, to be dated either from Maryland Heights or Simsbury.

Good-bye. Love to all.

Very affec’y.,

W. T. Lusk.

[Request for a Pass from the Secretary of War, Permitting Lt.-Col. Lusk to Return to the Scene of Conflict]

Office of the District Attorney of the United States, For the Southern District of New York.

New-York, May 4th, 1863.

Honorable Montgomery Blair,

My dear Sir: This will introduce to you Wm. T. Lusk, Lt.-Col. of the “Blair Light Infantry” now organizing in this city. Col. Lusk can’t rest easily here while the battle is raging around Fredericksburg. He therefore desires to reach the battlefield, that he may tender his services as Volunteer Aide, so long as active operations continue, and then return to his duties here. With this motive, he desires a pass from the Sec. of War, to the scene of conflict. Col. Lusk has been two years in service, was for a long time Aide to the late Gen. Stevens, has been in many battles, and I believe he loves to fight. He is a gentleman in character and culture, and a soldier by practice and experience. If you can aid him to obtain the pass he desires, I shall be very much obliged.


Your Obedient Servant,

Ethan Allen.

Mr. Watson would oblige me by favoring the wishes of Col. Lusk.


M. Blair.

P. H. Watson,