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This letter was written by Henry Short Montgomery (1841-1914), the son of Daniel Montgomery (1806-1894) and Mary Short (1804-1890) of East Pharsalia, Chenango County, New York. Henry enlisted in August 1862 for three years as a corporal in Co. F, 157th New York Infantry. He was promoted to a sergeant in April 1863. Not long after he received a very serious leg wound on 1 July 1863 at Gettysburg and spent months in a hospital before finally being discharged from the service at David’s Island, New York on 1 September 1864. Though the leg was never amputated, the wound left Henry badly crippled.
Though Montgomery mentions the Union defeat at the Battle of Fredericksburg, the 157th New York Infantry did not participate in that senseless assault on Mayre’s Heights. They did participate in the Mud March, lost 98 in killed, wounded, and missing at the Battle of Chancellorsville, and lost even more heavily at the Battle of Gettysburg. At Gettysburg, the 157th was commanded by Colonel Philip P. Brown, Jr., who was wounded on July 1. It brought 431 men to the field, losing 27 killed, 166 wounded and 114 missing, including Lieutenant Colonel George Arrowsmith, who was killed on July 1.
Henry was married to Sarah E. Blood (1847-1919) in March 1871 and was occupied as a grocer ager the war.
Addressed to Mrs. Mary Montgomery, East Pharsalia, Chenango County, New York
Camp near Aquia Creek, Virginia
Thursday, December 25th 1862
I take my pen in hand this A.M. to let you know that I am well where I am & to wish you Merry Christmas this A.M. I have just been to the Surgeon’s call with the sick. I was detailed by the Orderly to go & see who were excused from duty. There was 9 from our camp. Otis was there & was excused. The diarrhea is his greatest trouble. [William W.] Woodward & [J. Wellington] Boynton are well.
We marched back near Stafford Court House the next day after I wrote to you before & the next day we marched to this place 4 or 5 miles & camped. That was a week ago today. Our brigade is all that is here. Where the rest of the Corps is, I do not know. Our Colonel [Philip P. Brown, Jr.] told us to go to work & build up shanty’s as though we were going to stay all winter as we might & we might not stay more than 8 or 10 days. So we have been very busy at work or I should have written before.
The fight at Fredericksburg was a defeat or a repulse.
I think this is a desolate country here — but few inhabitants — mostly woods. We camped on ground where another regiment had camped before. Took their logs & stuff & built us some log houses & put our tents over them. Built a fire place which makes quite a house. We went to an old house & got some brick and some boards, nails, & the weather has been pretty cold. It was cold while we was on the march. It is warmer now. Today it is cloudy & looks like rain. We have not had but a very little stormy weather.
Our camp has been on picket once since we came here & expect to have to go again soon, but that is not a hard job by any means. I tent now with [Abram] D. Ferris, George W. Hills, [O.] V. Tefft, [William W.] Woodward & [J. Wellington] Boynton. Timothy D. Taylor ¹ that I tented with before is dead. He went to the hospital before we left Centreville & he died the 20 in Washington [of] fever, I believe. He leaves a large family in Smyrna — needy too. He has one son here in this camp.
It has not froze any here in several days. It does not seem much like Christmas. I never had time fly so fast before. I got a letter from you the next day after I wrote to you before containing an envelope & four stamps. They are very acceptable. And last Friday I got a letter from you & a pocket diary from Burroughs. Your letter had 2 stamps which makes 11 that I have received.
We do our own cooking now — each one for himself or for the tent. We like it better. We live well for soldiers. I have not got any of my things yet. We are not permanently settled & we have not sent after them. I think we shall soon have a chance by the quartermaster. There is all sorts of rumors about the war & peace proposition but you can not tell anything about camp rumors. You will get the news long before we do here.
Put in an envelope every time for they are high here. Write often & if Father does not pay Abner & Powell, you can get what you want for your comfort & I shall do the same. We have not drawn any pay yet. Expect to in January. I am not out yet. I will write when I want some. Stay where you are if you can & make yourself comfortable. I never felt better.
I must close. Give my respects to all inquiring friends.
Your affectionate son, — H. S. Montgomery
¹ Timothy Davis Taylor (1821-1862) was 41 years old when he enlisted at Smyrna, New York in August 1862. He died of typhoid fever on 20 December 1862 at Washington D.C. Timothy was the son of Francis Taylor (1793-1877) and Sevalla David (1795-1853). He was married to Almira Robbins in 1844 and had eight children at the time he enlisted in the service. His oldest son, James Burdett Taylor (b. 1844) served in the 157th New York Infantry also.
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