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1863 October: “One remote from the Army can form but a faint idea of how this war is conducted. The papers are not at all reliable on any thing”

October 8, 2013

Unfortunately an ink spill blots out the date on this letter, but we know that the 19th Wisconsin Infantry was stationed at Newport News from “the middle of August” “until the 8th of October” in 1863.  It was hard reading Captain Albert A. York’s handwriting for the first time, and there are several words we could not make out, indicated with [__].

York, from Taylor’s Falls (Minnesota), became the captain of Company B, 19th Wisconsin Infantry on September 12, 1862.  The men in Company B were primarily from the La Crosse area, although there were several from northwest Wisconsin.¹  Like the river towns of Hudson and Prescott, La Crosse had many Minnesota men who crossed over and joined Wisconsin regiments, and the 19th was no exception.

The original letter is in the W. H. C. Folsom Papers (River Falls Mss S) in the University Archives and Area Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.

Newport News, [Va. Oct. _ 1863]

Friend Folsom,

                          Your letter of the 24th [__] came in due season — I assure you I was glad to once more see a scratch from your pen.  It is good for sore eyes.  We are expecting soon to hear that the Stars and Stripes are again waving over Sumpter [sic], Wagner & Charleston.  The last named place is getting a tast[e] of that Patent Hell fire in the shape of shells from Gilmore’s Guns [Quincy A. Gilmore]—well let her burn the Devil has made it his home for some years past and a little extra fire may be needed to purify the modern Sodom and I think many of them will repent in dust if not ashes.  But their repentance day will be like many others always to [sic] late.

This war must and will continue untill [sic] the people are brought to there [sic] senses so long as we have such rotten and corrupt men all elected through political figuring so long will this war last.  I blame these political humbugs, they are responsible and should be made to answer for it if the men who represent the people are not responsible for there [sic] acts we have no government.

My motto is hang them it matters not what party he belongs to if found publicly preaching politics for that is Treason and they who talk it ar[e] traitors I repeat hang them, let us rid ourselves of them and our country is free.  If you please we will call them teachers of political treason.  They are easily found in all parties seeking for office.  They are the ones that should be in the front of the Battles but nary a one of that class do you find in the army, the[y] are in some safe corner somewhere stealing from the government.  Republican party that is the party for me sais [sic: says] one, another says I am a Democrat that is the party.

I say away, away with your parties for there [sic] foundation is corruption and r[_]tenny and the side that gets ahead and cecures [sic] the influence of the Devil is the one that is sure to win.  But I am glad to see the change that is going on in the Army [_] d[_]pise the one that claims to be a party, man we are for the  [__].

I have just rec’d the papers for holding an election in my company but shall return them with nary a note.

You say that in Minnesota they all want to be Maj. Generals well if that is the case I do not want any thing to do with them.  I long since learned they elected there [sic] officers without reference to merit or worth & have no refference [sic] to military.  Will you please inform me whether in counting the No. from that county my name was recor[d]ed if I have been credited to that Co.  I want to know it or to the State.  What do you think about my going into the Regular Army.  I have a good chance but am obliged to remain five years.  That is what I dislike, it is a long time to be absent from my family.  The position is a good one and the pay is good.  I can get a Maj. commission.  Cannot make up my mind yet what to do whether to go or not.

I should judge you thought I had particular refferance [sic] to your place in regard to destitute families but I had no refferance [sic] to any particular location.  I thought then and think still it holds good generly [sic].

One remote from the Army can form but a faint idea of how this war is conducted.  The papers are not at all reliable on any thing.  Things which transpired under my own observation was basely falcified [sic] by the reporters.

Remember me to all
. . . . . .A. A. York
Capt Co B 19th Regt W. V. [Wisconsin Volunteers]

1.  Ole O. Bagne, drafted from Rush River; James E. Carter, drafted from Pepin; Claus Stoltenberg, from Pepin; Hiram Wilson, drafted from Pleasant Valley — all four were originally in Company I but were transferred to Company B on May 1, 1865.

Albert A. York letter of October, 1863, from the W. H. C. Papers (River Falls Mss S) at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls University Archives & Area Research Center

Albert A. York letter of October, 1863, from the W. H. C. Papers (River Falls Mss S) at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls University Archives & Area Research Center

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