Pvt.:Brooks, Calvin M. b. St Lawrence Co., New York; 25; carpenter; single; blue eyes, brown hair, light complexion, 5' 4 3/4" tall, resided Platteville; Enlisted April 22, 1861. Mustered out June 28, 1864.
The brief description we find in Muster Rolls does not tell us much about the Boys of '61. In this instance we are very fortunate as a great grand nephew of Pvt. Brooks, John Wayland, email@example.com has contacted us offering to share Calvin's letters to his sister. The generosity is great and we will all be in his debt. James Johnson, Webmaster
"It was not practicable to take a military company under John Callis for Grant County's quota on a 1st Call (April 15, 1861 from Lincoln, the next day from Gov. Randall) as many were not ready to leave on short notice so it fell to towns to furnish a quota of the volunteers in proportion to its population, and this was not looked on as a duty, but claimed as a right by several towns. There was a hum of eager excitement in every town. There had been many claims to the honor of being the first man in the county to enlist, but as enlistments were going on simultaneously in all the towns, it was impossible to decide the question. In Plattesville the honor was given to Calvin M. Brooks...."
"History of Grant County, WI", Holford, 1900
2nd Reg. Wis. Vol. Co. C
Boscobel (in training) the ladies of the company presented to the company a banner with
the motto: "Lead is King, Not Cotton" They left Boscobel May 5th and went into
camp at Madison"
They were the Grant County Greys, the uniform of the time being the grey of West Point Cadets.
Click above for larger image
"I have the original letters written to his sister. Some are beautiful with drawings of soldiers on them, and sometimes little inspiring poems printed on them......They have never been seen outside our family. Calvin was not educated, and the letters are full of words that are not spelled correctly, but his heart is strong." John Wayland
(to contact Mr. Wayland with comments or questions write: firstname.lastname@example.org
As most of you that have dealt with original period letters, spelling was not standard for much of anyone and grammar rules were a thing of the future. The letters that will be shared are an individual's view of his service and in conjunction with newspaper reports and battle histories found throughout this site, begin to flesh out a picture of the time and place.
ALL SPELLING AND PUNCTUATION IS THAT OF THE AUTHOR EXCEPT FOR WHAT IS IN BRACKETS [ ], WHICH ARE MY COMMENTS. IN THIS LETTER (BUT NOT IN MOST OTHERS), I ALSO ADDED PERIODS AFTER THE SENTENCES TO AID IN THE READING. I AVOIDED THE USE OF "SIC" AFTER MISSPELLINGS FOR THE SAME REASON, SINCE THERE WERE SO MANY OF THEM. J.T.W. Jr.
LETTER ID NUMBER:
ENVELOPE ADDRESS: Miss Abbie Jane Wells, Lebanon, N.H.
LETTER DATE: July 6th (no year, but must have been 1861)
FROM: Calvin M. Brooks
TO: Abbie Jane Wells (#319)
OTHER PERSONS MENTIONED: Capt. McKee, his commander
GENERAL SUBJECT: The train ride from Wisconsin to Washington DC, and the crowds of support on the trip.
CONTENT: At the top right of the first page is written "1st page", and each page thereafter is numbered with a single digit. Underneath is written "Arlington Heights, July 6th". The body is as follows:
"My Dear Sister: I take this time to write a few lines to you. a mid the noise of a camp it is no small job whare one is expecting to bee called evry minut him self for him to colect ideas a nuf to write eny thing with sense so you must excuse the still [skill?] and other defects wich may apear in this episel. my sister I will try and write you a scetch of our jorney hear and a pooer scetch it will bee to for I am not capable of doing the subgect justic. we started from Madison [Wisconsin] on the 20th of June a mid som hart stiring sceans of friends parting never to meet a gan. it is a sad sight but wee ware soon releaved from it. the cars moved on and wee reached Janesville a bout noon whare we stoped and took a lunch that the people had prepard for us and and [sic] assembeled to see us eat and hear our band. after stoping a short time moved on and reached Chicago at night whare all ware a live to receav us but we could not stop long. our bagag [baggage] was son changed and we formed in line and marched from one depot to the other and got abord and moved on and that nights ride will bee remberd by some a long time. al a long the rout people had stayed up to cheer us on our way with brass bands plaing hail Columbia and other national airs and prety girls with boquetts of flowers and many good wishes interspersed with many sweet kisses and hops for our return met us at evry place where we had time to receiv them. arriving at tolleado [Toledo, Ohio] early in the morning took a hasty breakfast and left with out any ciramonia. but riding threw ohio that day was long to be remembered for I never saw people so roused up a bout any thing in my life. I can not discrib it. they met us with all sorts of demonstrations of joy. it was a very warm day and some ware runing with watter and lemonade while others ware waving flags and firing guns singing jumping and hurrahaing and wishing us godd speed and a saif return. arriving at Cleavland a pirfect ovation awated us thair. wee left the cars and marched with music to the beautiful park formed in aline nearly half way round in two ranks in open order facing each other and the ladies assisted by a co [Company] of home gards pased threw betwen our ranks with basketts of food and pails of coffee and lemonade which was very acetabel [acceptable]. but all earthlly things must hav an end and so did that and wee ware forst to go but I can not be to minute [not sure of this word ...possibly "too minute", meaning "too detailed"] this time for I shal wery you [bore you]. we pased on to pitsburg from thair to Haris burg stayd one day and pased on threw Baltimore. It was mid night when we pased threw thair. we had expected trouble but pased threw with out eny. some ware cheering for Jef Davis and others for the stars and strips which we cared [carried] floating right threw and our band playing yankey doodle and our soldiers keping step with bayonettes fixed and shining in the moon light. it was a sight that made the cheears for Jef [Davis, the Confederate President] apear like the school boys whisel in the dark to kep his corag up. [They were expecting trouble in Baltimore since the Sixth Massachusetts Reg. had clashed with a mob of Confederate sympathizers there on April 19th.] well we pased on and got to Washington by day light and stayed thair one week and then com over hear. more next time. good by dear sister, from your brother Calvin. P.S. direct your leters to Washington 2nd Reg. Wis. Vol. Co. C. in cair of Capt. Mc Kee. C.M. Brooks"
COMMENTS: The envelope and lined note paper inside were apparently some sold or given to the men by their regiment. The envelope has a picture of a soldier at attention in full dress, and underneath is printed the following:
"A Cheer for the stripes and the stars,
A song for the land that bore us,
And away to the camp ---
With a soldier's tramp,
And a rousing Union chorus."
At the top of the envelope is printed: "Grant County Greys, 2d Reg., W.S.V."
And immediately underneath that in quotes: "Lead is our King, not Cotton!"
The stamp has been removed from the envelope. On the letter inside is a color drawing of a sailor with a U.S. flag and an eagle behind him, with one of his hands on a cannon and another holding a sextant. Printed underneath is:
"A Union of lakes, and a Union of lands,
A Union of States none can sever,
A Union of hearts, and a Union of hands,
And the flag of our Union forever."
The stationery and the crowds of public support indicate that this was the beginning of the war, when the Union thought that it would take less than 90 days to lick the Rebels. Calvin was a volunteer as there was no draft early in the war. He probably joined in June, as he later in other letters says that he was looking forward to being released in June, 1864. Lincoln was inaugurated on March 4th, and on May 3rd called for 42,034 three-year volunteers. The First Battle of Bull Run, which Calvin was in, came on July 21st, two weeks after this letter was written.
NOTICE: Abigail Jane Wells Brooks was my great-grandmother, and Calvin Brooks was her brother. I have these original letters. Permission to use the content of these letters anywhere must be requested from me.
John Terrill Wayland Jr.
Click above for larger image
LETTER ID NUMBER: 1861-8a
ENVELOPE ADDRESS: Miss Jane Wells,
Lebanon Center, N.H.
LETTER DATE: Aug. 3rd, 1861
FROM: Calvin M. Brooks
TO: Abigail Jane Wells
OTHER PERSONS MENTIONED: Freeman, Warren, Miras, Caroline
GENERAL SUBJECT: The Battle of Bull Run, which took place on July 21, 1861
"Ft. Corcoran, Arllington hights [Heights...near Washington]
I take this opetunity of sending a few lines to you hoping that they will find you enjoying life beter than I am at present. your dear leter of the 14th inst. found me in the most trying circumstances the worst time and the most dishartened that I ever was in my life. it reached me just as I reached the above place in our retreet from the bloody fild of bulls run. it was raining very hard and we had no shelter and I had to hold my cap over your leter to read it. but it was very acceptable and gave me fresh corage to do and endure grater hardships if need bee than ever. but I am beter off now we have got our tents and I take hart agan to write my friends as I find that we ware not so badly beaten as we might have ben. I would like to write you the particulars of that day but I hav neather space or time but be assured that I done no deed that I am a shamed of. we fought aganst fearful odds and aganst grate disadvantage in evry respect and as for our officers I hav but litle to say. but this much I will say that I hate to made the material for block heads to lern the art of war with. but enuf of this. those that led us in to that scrape are gave up eather resigned or supersecded and I bleave we hav beter ones now and I bleave I can face the enemie just as bravly as ever al tho I know what it is now. I have seen my friends shot down I hav seen the dead dying and wounded al around me. I hav stood whare the balls ware flying thick and fast and did not turn my back untill my captane ordered me to and then I had to take another shot at them the rebels and then load and fire back at them as I walked of the field. when I speek of officers I do not mene our company officers but field officers for our capt and lieut behaved bravly. our lieut was lost and our capt stayed with us to the last.
I hav not heard from freeman [their brother] since he enlisted and I do not know whitch Reg he is in and so do not know whare to look for him but supose that he was in the three month Reg
Warren [their brother] wrote to me som time a go. he had not lerned of my enlistment and was making plans for the future that it will interfear with. Miras did not enlist and I have not heard from him or Caroline since I left Wis. [unknown relationships]
and now dear sister I must bid you fare well. hoping son to be with you to enjoy that kis that you promised me
from your loving brother
COMMENTS: Calvin has come through one of the most famous battles of the Civil War. The Battle of Bull Run (also called Manassas) was one of the first major battles of the war and was fought near Washington, DC. The Northerners thought that the war would be over quickly and were so confident that many sightseers from Washington showed up in their carriages and their fancy dress for the Sunday battle. Several Congressmen and Senators were present (and one was captured by the Confederates and sent to Richmond). The Confederates completely routed the Union soldiers, many of whom were three month enlistees with no experience and little stomach for battle as their enlistments were expiring. (Calvin was in for 3 years) It was commonly thought that the war would be won by the North inside of 3 months and many enlisted for that time period. Calvin tells his sister that he did nothing to be ashamed of in the battle. There was much publicity in the newspapers (correspondents were present, of course) about how the Union soldiers fled in panic, along with the civilian sightseers. The Confederates captured a large supply of weapons and ammunition that were dropped by the Union soldiers as they fled. Many Union soldiers did not stop until they got to Washington, DC. 25 miles away and they caused much consternation when they began arriving on the streets, quite disheveled. Women rushed from their houses to feed the weary men. Calvin was absolutely right that the officers were to blame. Historians say that the men on the line as a rule fought bravely, but that leadership was sadly lacking among the Union officers.
Bruce Catton writes, "There is nothing in American military history quite like the story of Bull Run. It was the momentous fight of the amateurs, the battle where everything went wrong, the great day of awakening for the whole nation, North and South together. It marked an end of the ninety-day militia, and it also ended the rosy time in which men could dream that the war would be short, glorious, and bloodless. After Bull Run, the nation got down to business." Catton also writes about the battle, "For men who had never fought before, and who had been given no training of any real consequence, the Northerners and Southerners who collided here did a great deal better than anyone had a right to expect. A good many men ran away, to be sure, but most of them stayed and fought, and the struggle was a hot one."
I think that the 2nd Wisconsin troops stayed in there and fought, from what Calvin says. There were 2,896 Union and 1,982 Confederate killed, wounded or missing. This is where General Barnard Bee said to this troops to rally them, "There is Jackson standing like a stone wall! Rally behind the Virginians!" From then on he was known as "Stonewall Jackson".
John T. Wayland Jr.
LETTER ID NUMBER:
POSTMARKED: No envelope
ENVELOPE ADDRESS: No envelope [But was probably Lebanon, N.H.]
LETTER DATE: Oct 17, 1861 [written on letter]
FROM: Calvin Brooks
TO: "My Dear Sister" [Abigail Jane Wells, age 18]
OTHER PERSONS MENTIONED: Warren [brother, who has family out West], Freeman [brother]
GENERAL SUBJECT: Calvin is ill in camp.
My Dear Sister
excuse my long silence. I have been unwell and cold [could] not write before and can hardley sit up now but I will try and write you a few lines. we hav moved twice since I last wrote you so I am now out of the naborhood of my Vt [Vermont] friends. I did not hav time to enquire out your friend. I had a leter from Warren dated Oct 5th. he had got home. I guess he did not stop in the east at all to see eather you or mother but put rite out west to his family. well we cant blame him for he is poure and wants to save all he can for his family. yet I was in hops that he wood stop and see mother. I hav heard Freeman yet I dont know what has becom of him. I was twenty six the 19th of Sept. I am now in the prime of life probly but the life I hav led and am now leading will sone make an old man of me or any one else. my hand trembles so I can write no more thise time but will do beter when I get well. I am geting beter now very fast. I hope this will find you well. Good by from your brother Calvin Brooks"
COMMENTS: Calvin gives his birthdate, which is 19 Sept 1835. Abby was adopted by the Wells family, hence a different last name. Some early unknown calamity broke up this family. Warren was probably one of the 90 day enlistees at the beginning of the war, who got out and went back to his family.
LETTER ID NUMBER:
POSTMARKED: Washington [date and stamp have been cut off the envelope]
ENVELOPE ADDRESS: Miss Abbie Jane Wells, Lebanon, New Hampshire
LETTER DATE: March 20th, 1862
FROM: Calvin Brooks
TO: "My Dear Sister"
OTHER PERSONS MENTIONED: Burnside [Union General], McDowell's Division, Warren and Freeman [their brothers].
GENERAL SUBJECT: Life in a military camp.
I will now prosede to write a few lines to you in the midst of this confusion. yours of the 16th came to hand to night. what a contrast with this wild sean [scene] was that dear little misiv. yes dear sister I am now in one of the wildest seans that you can imagin. the bright camp fires light up the sean for miles. yes as far as the eye can reach and away in the smoky distance the Capitol loomes up like som of our old mountains in Vermont. its out-line just visable. what a sean for a panter. and numerous bands of music fills the air with stranes of marshel music whilst the holowing of teamsters lowed conversation of soldiers and sentinels chalang al make up a stron dine and noys. [strains of marshall music whilst the hollering of teamsters, loud conversation of soldiers, and sentinels challenging all make up a strong din and noise.] good newse has reached us today from Burnside and the west and the camps are a stir with excitement and we expecting to move our selves before long. in fact we hav ben on the move for the last ten days. we hav not had to fight any but fighting is not al the art of war. [Calvin will get more than enough of fighting before his enlistment is up.] I now belong to McDowels division. what we are to do time will tell.
Oh Sister I wish you were hear to look upon this sean with me but that can not be. it is no place for one so gentel as you to stay but if you could only see and then retire like som of the rich ones do. twould be such a sight for you. [It was common for rich people to come out in their carriages and look at the battle preparations. many were caught up in the retreat from Bull Run and hindered the military retreat. Rich men paid poor men to take their place in the military and it was perfectly legal]
we do not hav al the comforts of home hear as you can imagine when I tell you that we hav to cary al our things in our napsacks tents and al. our tents consist of a pease of lining [linen] cloth about six foot square with buttons and button holes and evry man has one and when we camp two or more go in together and form a tent. thair is six hear with me tonight. al the rest besides me are asleep and I am siting hear on a bunch of dry leavs writing to my sister with a candle in my tin cup with my hankercheif raped [wrapped] round it to keep it up and my portfolio [writing pad] in my lap. no desk no chair or stool but thank kind provedence I am not beholden to these and can write without them. the noys has subsided since I began to write for the reason that it is geting late and has comensid [commenced] to rain but I guess that it will not hurt us any. our tents keep it off
fear not sister you hav one brother that will never forget you if the rest do. but I do not supose it is because they do not lov you that they do not write. Warren has a hard time of it. he has not succeded as well as could be wished. he would like to hear from you I hav no dout. Freeman I do not know what to think of him. I hear that he is out west driving stage but do not know his adress. he might write to Warren's folks if he was a mind to but he is a strange boy. I do not lik the bussness he is in. tis too rough.
but I must close. giv my best wishes to your father and mother and except this from your loving brother Calvin"
COMMENTS: Calvin is soon to get into plenty of fighting (see later letters). In another letter [1866-10], the known mother of Calvin and Abbie, Martha Hines (Hinds), talks of Freeman's death by drowning and says that two of her children had gone to a watery grave. In an earlier letter [1854-9], Martha says that Abbie's brother Albin [?] was drowned in Oregon, so we know who the other was. Martha, in her 1866 letter, then says that she has only two children now, and Abbie has but one brother, Calvin.
LETTER ID NUMBER:
POSTMARKED: June 9, 1862, Washington D.C.
ENVELOPE ADDRESS: Miss Abey Jane Wells, Lebanon, New Hampshire
LETTER DATE: June 2nd, 1862
FROM: Calvin [Brooks]
TO: Abigail Jane Wells, his sister, age 18
OTHER PERSONS MENTIONED: his former Capt. McKee; McDowell's Construction Corps; Frank Leesley's Pictorial; General Banks's defeat.
GENERAL SUBJECT: Written while on active duty with the Union Army during the Civil War at this point in an engineering corps.
"On the Mannasses Gap [?] Rail Road near [unreadable word...looks something like "happy"] Creek Station Va. Dear Sister. I once more have time to address a few lines to you and hasten to do so. I am well but very weary working night and day as hard as possible for the last month. I am on detached servis building bridges. it is hard labor and atended with some peril in advance of the main armie we witness some stiring seans [stirring scenes]. Hastning from one point to another as we ar needed to prepair for the marching of the armie. we number about one hundred and fifty men. we are caled McDowells construction corps and are composed of the best mechanicks of the armie. we built a Rail Road bridg at Fredricksburg in one weeks time that was six hundred and fifty feet long and sixty feet high. the drawing of it is in Frank Leesleys Pictorial a specimen of northen ingenuity. the news of Banks defeat has reached you before this. his defeat is what has caled us hear. I am in hops that we shal capture the whole rebel gang in these parts before long. you need not be surprised to hear that they are al captured at any time fore there is a heavy forces hear and it is hardley posable for them to escape now yet they may for thair is many a slip betwen the cup and the lip. this is a butiful fine morning. the shower of last night has past away and left the air clear and fresh and the serounding seanery is pictuerest and butiful in the extreem. mountains in the distance look blue and hasey and the hills nearer by ar dressed in thair livlest green. herds of cattle are roaming about in perfect liberty thair owners having left them and the marching of troops has left the cuntry bair of fences. at this moment the booming of canon coms disturbing the quiet of the morning and I must close and get ready for any immergence [emergency]. I am away from my Reg. now and do not have a very good chance to get my mail in fact do not know whair I shal mail this yet but you can direct your letters as you always hav with the exception of (in care of Capt. McKee) that you may leav out for he is promoted. and now I must bid you good by hoping to hear from you soon and will try to write often myself. from your brother, Calvin. thair is a battle going on close by. I will write soon."
COMMENTS: "Banks defeat" refers to the defeat of Union Major Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks at Winchester, Va. by Stonewall Jackson on May 25, 1862. See The Terrible Swift Sword by Bruce Catton, page 198 and 301. Catton says that Banks was "a former member of Congress and former governor of Massachusetts, a good Republican but a soldier whose military capacities were wholly untested." Stonewall Jackson had gone deep into enemy territory for the daring strike against Banks. The Union forces tried desperately to capture Jackson before he could escape, but could not do so. McDowell is Major Gen. Irving McDowell, indexed in the same book. He was Commander 1st Bull Run; Army of the Potomac Oct '61-Apr '62; Army of the Rappahannock commander, Apr-June '62; Army of Virginia (corps) - 2nd Bull Run; relieved, Sept. '62. Apparently Calvin served with him throughout his tenure. "Frank Leesley's Pictorial" refers to Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, a popular Northern paper which had many artists on the front. Quite a few of the drawings are found in the American Heritage Picture History of the The Civil War, 1960, which I have. At the following web site: http://www.secondwi.com/catand.htm it says, "While in this camp Co.s D and F of the Second are detached with the construction corps to assist in repairing bridges, the enemy making us plenty of work. They engage us in good honest labor." Calvin had this assignment for a short time and then returned to battle.
LETTER ID NUMBER:
POSTMARKED: Unreadable. It is in an envelope, but it is doubtful that the letter belongs with this envelope as the letter is written in pencil and the envelope is addressed in ink.
ENVELOPE ADDRESS: Miss Abbie J. Wells, Leabanon, N.H.
LETTER DATE: Sept. 21st, 1862.
FROM: Calvin M. Brooks
TO: "My Dear Sister" assumed to be his sister, Abigail Jane Wells
OTHER PERSONS MENTIONED: Warren, "your Henry, father and mother"
GENERAL SUBJECT: His fatigue and relief for having come through the battle of Antietam, Sharpsburg, Md. on Sept. 17, 1862.
"It is with much plesure that I find time to adress [written in old-fashioned method as "adrefs"] a few lines to you. I am still well except I am very much fatigued we have had a very hard time of it. we have fought one of the hardest battles that the world ever saw and the enemies is defeated and drov from Md. [As in his address, this looks like "Me" rather than Md.] to give you the details of this fight is beyond my power and would be to bloody and sickning to be interesting. the engneer corps that I did belong to has ben broken up six months a go. I left a full company of as brave fellows as ever sholderd a muskitt in defence of thair cuntry numbering about one hundred. now they muster but ten men for duty. the rest are either killed wounded or sick in the hospital. out of my five mats [mates he had sent her a picture of with him earlier] but one is left hear. three are badly wounded and one has ben a prisoner. I had a letter from Warren [their brother] the other day. he is quite well and doing well.
I wish to say one word or two about you marrag engagement and that is be careful. it is a life leaf. you are quite young. be guided by your father and mother [adoptive parents]. if they are satisfyed I hav no more to say. I am to much of an old batch [bachelor] to advise any one on that subject.
It is so dusty hear that if I was writing with ink I should not kneed any sand [In those days, when using ink, sand was shaken from a container similar to a salt shaker to dry the ink before folding the letter...Calvin makes a joke about this] and so uncomfortable you must excuse the shortness of my leter. give my best wishes to your henry [her fiance] father and mother [her adopted parents, the Wells]. this from your most loving Brother
COMMENTS: We can forgive Calvin, as I hope his sister did, for forgetting that Abbie's birthday was the day after this letter was written, considering the battle that he just went through. Calvin has come through a terrifying experience and was lucky to be alive and apparently unwounded. Bruce Catton in his book, Terrible Swift Sword, p. 452-457, says that "This war saw many terrible battles, and to try to make a ranking of them is just to compare horrors, but it may be that the battle of Antietam was the worst of all. It had, at any rate, the fearful distinction of killing and wounding more Americans in one day than any other fight in the war . . . It was a headlong combat, unrelieved by any tactical brilliance, a slugging match in corn fields and woodlots and on the open slopes of the low hills that came up from the brown creek (Antietam Creek) . . . American soldiers never fought harder than they did when they fought each other on September 17 on the outskirts of Sharpsburg . . . (when it was over) nearly 23,000 men had become casualties . . . The soldiers themselves knew only that they had been in a terrible fight. The battle had had a strange spectacular quality, because most of it was fought out in the open where everybody could see it . . . A Pennsylvanian said the battlefield was 'a truly sickening and horrible sight,' and added: 'No tongue can tell, no mind conceive, no pen portray the horrible sights I witnessed this morning. Of this war I am heartily sick and tired.'" The Union artillery punished the Confederate lines severely, but in the end both sides retreated without a clear victory. However, General Lee's army was never again the same, and this was the beginning of the end for the Confederacy.
LETTER ID NUMBER:
POSTMARKED: No envelope. This letter was found in the same envelope with letter 1863-1.
ENVELOPE ADDRESS: No envelope
LETTER DATE: Dec. 17th, 1862 and Dec. 21st, 1862
FROM: Calvin M. Brooks
OTHER PERSONS MENTIONED: Warren (their brother)
GENERAL SUBJECT: Calvin is weary of war and has just come from the hard-fought battle of Fredericksburg, which the Union lost.
"In Camp of the 2nd Wis.
My Dear Sister
perhaps man neaver tryed to write a dear friend
under more difficulties than I do at present. If you ware out of doors and evry body else
you could hav some idea of what this is hear. we hav had an other hard battle and I am yet
I received your letter with your weding card and should hav hastened to congratulate you long eare [?] this had an oportunity appered. if it stormed when you wrote it I can assure you that it stormed when I received it and the next day it was an iron storm in which many a poor fellow breathed his last. many a sister has the los of a brother to morn
this war has gon to far. the privats that hav the work to do are tierd and sick of it men on both sids want to see it settled. I was over with the rebels after the battle and it seams so strang to hear them exprefs them selves perfectly frendly. no diffrence between us worth fighting a bout. it is ony polatisions [politicians] that keeps it up.
my dear sister I must bid you good by. giv my best respects to your husband and al your friends. I would like to write more but can not write often sister and I will do the best I can. if we go in to winter quarters I can write oftener.
from your Brother
C M Brooks
P S we hav been paid of [off]. I received 78.00 dollars monthly pay and 36 extrey I sent 100.00 dollars to Warren. I do not know as thair is any thing you can send me unless it is postage stamps. I can hardly get them hear"
"Dec 21st. 1862
Since writing the last page of this sheet we hav
marched 10 miles. I had no chance to send it of [off]. to day I received yours of
the 17th inst.
you must not despair at my long delays or short letters for it is no easy task to write hear and not evry day that one can write.
but hope on thair will be an end some time to this horable war and then I hope to enjoy life a little whille.
good by. be a good wife and make your husband hapy
COMMENTS: Calvin enclosed this letter inside the January letter as he never had the chance to mail it off with his being on the march. This must have been a depressing Christmas for him. It sounds as if Calvin had seen a lot of comrades die and he did not expect to live much longer himself. He is telling her good bye. Calvin had come through the Gainsville (Brawner's Farm) battle on Aug 28, 1862, up until then, "one of the bloodiest battles of the war." Then Antietam on Sep 17, 1862, which was "even more horrible." "The Second Wisconsin went into battle with 150 men, and lost 91. For the bravery and endurance shown by the 'Iron Brigade' at this battle, General McClellan pronounced them equal to the best troops in the world! This was a great compliment from one who had seen the best armies of Europe." Then came the battle of Fredericksburg, Dec 12-15, 1862. Calvin's despairing attitude is certainly understandable.
LETTER ID NUMBER:
ENVELOPE ADDRESS: Mrs. Henry E. Cole, Lebanon Center, N.H. [this was the new name for recently married sister Abbie.]
LETTER DATE: January 1, 1863 [last digit very difficult to read]
FROM: C.M. Brooks
TO: Not named, but was Abigail Jane Wells
OTHER PERSONS MENTIONED: Mr. and Mrs. Wells
GENERAL SUBJECT: Calvin talks of the Confederate soldiers being not much different from his Union brethren. He is getting sick of war.
"A happy new year to you my dear sister.
I hope you will excuse my long delay in writing to you in consideration of the circumstances in which I am placed. this winter campaigning in Va. is not quite so easy as it might be. if som of them writers for northen papers had to com out hear and fight they would not be quite so anctious for activ forward movments that they write so much a bout. it is a very difrent thing the writing and proposing plans back thair in thair easy chairs and comfortable ofices than the exicuting of them hear a mong the hills and mud of old Va. and I am quite tierd of thair writing about things that they know nothing a bout.
at the battle of Fredricksburg our brigade was not in the hardest of the fight. we ware on the extreem left which was not quite so hotly contendd as the wright. al tho not so hard it was a very disagreable place being very much exposed to the enemiesy canon which is the most disagreable part of a battle whare one can not fight back. after the fighting was over thair was a flag of truce and I went over to the rebels to hear what they had to say. I find they are as tierd of it as we are and looking forward with as much anxiety for peace as we are. no one can realise the sin and horror of this war untill they hav seen both sides and altho I do not loose sight of the grate principles involved I am tierd of this cold blooded slaughter of men with whome one could liv with out a word of dificulty. it was a great mistake [word missing due to hole in paper] to supose them al villans or fools. i some times think thair are more honest men a mong them than thair is in the union armie. perhaps it is because I see more of the [unreadable word] in our armie that makes me think so. thair is one thing cirtain. the prospect for conquering them at present looks very dark. dark defeat stares us in the face on evry hand. it is a trying time. has this great republick so sined that it must crumble and fall before its noble capitol is compleeted. I hope not. I hope some thing will yet save us from ruin. our president seems to be al wright [word missing due to hole...probably "but"] sadly lacking for generals in the field. I hav tryed to send you a letter twice be fore. I would put it in hear al tho it is not worth reading. giv my respects to Mr. and Mrs. Wells [Abbie's adoptive parents] and your husband.
I remain your loving brother C.M. Brooks"
COMMENTS: The letter is written in pencil and is badly faded. I am afraid that it will not be readable before long. Most of Calvin's letters from the field are in pencil, but the envelopes are in ink, which is curious. Perhaps he had the company clerk address the letters for him, as the handwriting on the envelopes in much fancier than his writing. This letter confirms another battle that Calvin was in . . . the battle of Fredericksburg. What he describes fits accurately what is on "http://www.secondwi.com/frederic.htm" which says that the brigade "occupied a very important position, on the extreme left a change in position during the battle exposed the brigade to heavy artillery fire, but their range was inaccurate." For a description of this battle, see Bruce Catton's Never Call Retreat , pp. 12-24. Catton says it "turned out to be a top-heavy Confederate victory, and Lee's only regret arose from the fact that the beaten Federals were able to get back to their own side of the Rappahannock after the fighting ended". It is therefore easy to understand the pessimism of Calvin coming out of this battle. Lee had about half the men of the Union side, and still only used half of his men in the battle, as he was defending well fortified positions in the hills. The Union suffered 12,000 casualties, the Confederates less than half that many. Catton says that "What made the battle so tragic, to Northern eyes, was that heroism and endurance had been so prodigally displayed and so miserably wasted." Catton writes in another book, The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War, p. 270, that President Lincoln approved Gen. Ambrose Burnside's battle plan of taking Fredericksburg, but said, "It will succeed if you move very rapidly; otherwise not." When Burnside arrived at Fredericksburg, heavy rains prevented him from crossing the river and he had to wait four and a half days for pontoons bridges to be built. Meanwhile, the Confederates were fortifying their positions until they were impregnable. Burnside foolishly kept to his plan and failed. This was his only battle, and he was removed from command by the president. An aside...Burnside had tremendous side whiskers (see photo p. 272 in above book). These are known to this day as "sideburns" in a take-off on his name. See the previous letter 1862_12, which was written right after this battle and apparently enclosed in the same envelope from what Calvin says.
LETTER ID NUMBER:
LETTER DATE: Feb. 24th, 1863
FROM: Calvin M. Brooks
TO: "My Dear Sister", presumed to Abigail Jane Wells Cole"
OTHER PERSONS MENTIONED: General Reynolds, General Wadsworth [Brigadier General James Wadsworth, a wealthy Republican who was designated Military Governor of the District of Columbia], General Merideth, General McDowell [Major General Irving McDowell, see comments under letter 1862-6], Freemont [Major General John Charles Fremont], Freeman and Warren
GENERAL SUBJECT: Calvin writes to his newly married 19 year old sister who apparently is still living with relatives but planning to set up her own household in the near future. She coyly asks her 27 year old brother if he has any girl friends and he replies that he has none. Calvin is getting cynical about the war and sees it as being fought by the working classes for the benefit of the upper classes.
"In camp of the 2nd Wis. Near Bell-plains, Va., Feb 24, 1863.
I received yours of the 1st. Inst. It came like a sunbeam in to my otherwise chearlefs [cheerless] tent making my hart glad and causing me to forget for the time being the hard ships of a soldiers life. you wish that I was thair to enjoy the privlage of going to church with you; not more sincearly than I do fore it is a privlage that I can not enjoy hear. altho we hav preaching hear some times I can not enjoy it for evry thing that serounds us hear speeks of strife and wickedness. we are somond [summoned] to the church by the sound of the drum [can't read the next word looks like "eaven"]. O how I dislike the sound of a drum. talk a bout the inspiering notes of a fife and drum. it sounds very well in romance but not in practis. you think of going to house keeping in the spring. I wish I could be thair to peep in and see how you manage it. but I am not uneasy for I hav great respect for Mrs. Wells and I think she traned you a bout wright. so if you are not a dull scollar you will get a long first rate and no fear of that. but I should like to know something about your circumstances and what your prospects are for beleav me I am much interested in the well fare of my sister. "but I guess you will think this a strange letter and that I am meddling with that that is none of my busness."
I belong to ____ Renols, [Reynolds] corps first, Gen. Wadsworth first division, Gen. Merideth 4th brigade at present but they change so often that I can hardly keep track of them myself.
McDowell was in Washington the last I knew of him tending to his trial which came out al wright for him. I think more of him than a great many do and Freemont to. I wish they were both in the field whare they could do som good.
I do not expect to get out of this before one year from next June [meaning 1864, as opposed to "this June", meaning 1863. Calvin was on a three year enlistment]. what the final end will be I can hardly tel and still it seams almost like doubting the goodness of God to doubt our cause. that I am fighting on the side of liberty and wright I hav no doubt. that this war is a war of the rich aristocrats of both north and south against the laboring clase and consequently aganst al free and equal in stations I am thurily convinst. they talk a bout reconstruction with New England left out as well talk of reconstructing the family circle with the Mother left out. but things look brighter than they did a while ago.
but about that one question of yours [about] any one dear to me by ties of lov. no, none nearer than my sister. mine has ben a rough roving life but little in the society of wimen and a poor hand to make lov at that. [not referring to sexual ability, but to courting ability in this victorian age.] so I am hart whole yet. but I will have to begin before long or liv an old bachelor for which I am well fited after this life of soldering.
I hav not heard any thing from Freeman [their brother] yet. I hav a letter from Warren [their brother] about once a month. I guess he will write to you if you will get him started. he has had so much trubel [trouble] that he don't like to write to any one. excuse a poorly written letter.
COMMENTS: The command structure over Calvin matches the command written on http://www.secondwi.com/fitzhugh.htm which states that the brigade "was now attached to the First Division, General Wadsworth, [and] of the First Army Corps, General Reynolds." Calvin and the sister to whom he is writing had a hard time of it as children, both put in separate foster homes.
Calvin Brooks, the author of this letter is her brother and he was born Sept. 19, 1835; he was age 27 when this was written. Abbie was born Sept. 22, 1843 and married Henry Ebenezer Cole between Sept. 21, 1862 when Calvin wrote her as a single woman just turning age 19 (see letter 1862-9) and the letter of Dec. 17, 1862, when he addressed her as a married woman.
LETTER ID NUMBER: 1863-12
POSTMARKED: Dec. 20, 1863
ENVELOPE ADDRESS: Mrs. H.E. Cole, Leabanon, N.H.
LETTER DATE: Dec. 18th, 1863
FROM: C.M. Brooks
TO: "My Dear Sister", who was Abigail Jane Wells.
OTHER PERSONS MENTIONED: Their brother, Warren, Henry [Abbie's husband], Mr. and Mrs. Wells [Abbie's adopted parents]
GENERAL SUBJECT: Calvin grieves over the loss of his comrades in arms. He is lonely and asks for mail. He worries that their brother Warren has enlisted. Calvin has just returned to his unit, after nearly six months of recovering from wounds he got at Gettysburg.
"In Camp of the 2nd Wis. near Kelly's Ford, Va.
I hav got back to my Reg. once
more after an absence of nearly six months.
I hav not heard from you in so long a time that I hav realy forgoten when it was. I hav ben on the mov so much that I supose your letters hav not reached me.
Warren has enlisted. I do not know what he could be thinking a bout but probaly he was in rather hard circumstances. I do not think he will stand it very long in the field. it has interfeard with my plans very much but I shal soon make new ones.
two of my comrads hav died. [The following description must refer to a photograph that he sent her of himself and his buddies] the one that is siting down with me and the corpral that is pointing off in the picture. one is badly wounded in hospital. one is discharged. one is a prisoner in Richmond and I alone am left in the Reg. [He is the only one of the buddies in the picture who is left in the unit.] yet we as a body hav ben more fortunate than the rest of the Reg. will evrage [average]. we hav not quite six months longer to stay in. [They all enlisted as a group.]
Sister I hope you will write as often as posibal for this is a very disagreable camp and so many of my comrads has gon that I feal quite lonsom hear this winter and I do not expect to hear from Warren as often as I formily did.
Please to write me whether Henry has got any money that I sent him or not. giv my best respects to Mr. and Mrs. Wells and much lov to you and Henry.
I remain yours as ever"
COMMENTS: Henry had sent Abbie's husband some money . . . whether to help them out or to have him hold it for him until his discharge is not known. Calvin's location, Kelly's Ford, is mentioned on p. 141-143 of Bruce Catton's Never Call Retreat. It crosses the Rappahannock River. There was a battle there in the Spring of 1863, apparently before Calvin returned to this regiment.
LETTER ID NUMBER: 1864-1
POSTMARKED: No envelope
ENVELOPE ADDRESS: No envelope
LETTER DATE: Jan. 20th, 1864
FROM: C.M. Brooks
TO: Dear Sister [Abigail Jane Wells]
OTHER PERSONS MENTIONED:
GENERAL SUBJECT: Calvin does not speak of the war in this letter.
"In camp of the 2nd Wis near Culpeper Va.
I received your letter last night. also one a bout a week a go and I received my box the day be fore I got your letter discribing it and your wish that I might be enjoying it was fully realized by me for I can asure you that I am enjoying it to the fulest extent and am very thankful for it. your wish that I might keep it al I did not quite comply with but shared it with my comrads but shal not loose any thing by it for they are getting boxes to and they shar with me. thar was a plenty in it sister and I shal get a long til spring well a nuf now so you kneed not send any more
I hope you will get through with your trials and trubel and liv to be a hapy mother which is a bout the best wish I can make you under present circumstances.
I hav recived no letter from mother since I wrote to you a bout thair going out west. I wrote to them as encoraging a letter as I could if they are bent on going out thair. I shal do the best I can to make them comfortable and hapy but as you say it is quite an undertaking for such old people to go so far and they ma get of the notion be fore they get redy to go but thair is no teling what ma happen in that time.
I hav recieved no pay as yet and do not know when I shal get it now for the government has let this pay day run by and I ma not get any money untill next pay day so I shal hav to disapoint you a gain. but I shal not always be obliged to wait on goverment oficals for money. but if I get paid of soon I will send you some but I can not tell how soon that will be.
giv my respects to Mr. and Mrs. Wells and my thanks to them for those nice dryed appels and dought nuts. and much lov to you and Henry.
I remain your affectionate brother"
COMMENTS: It is interesting that Calvin would be having to send his married sister money. Henry and Abby must have been on hard times. Calvin mentions their "trials and trubel", so I guess this was the case. This was generous of Calvin as he was only a year from getting out of the army and staking a claim out west, which takes money. Possibly he was paying her back for the costs of some of the items she sent him. Calvin settled out in the Dakota Territory upon discharge, probably getting some land free from the government based on his service. His mother and stepfather may have been planning to go out there and live with him, but he was not encouraging it. Their health was poor and the life on the frontier was very difficult. They did not go with him, and I don't believe they ever visited him either.
LETTER ID NUMBER:
POSTMARKED: Washington D.C. Apr [year unreadable]
ENVELOPE ADDRESS: Mrs. H.E. Cole, Lebanon, N.H.
LETTER DATE: April 17th, 1864
FROM: C.M. Brooks
TO: Abigail Jane Wells, his sister
OTHER PERSONS MENTIONED: General Wadsworth. Mr. and Mrs. Wells.
GENERAL SUBJECT: Calvin gives some brotherly advice to his sister, who is a new mother.
"In camp of the 2nd Wis. near Culpeper, Va.
My Dear Sister
I received a letter from you and Henry last night which was very welcom as it brough such good newse. I congratulat you upon your good success. I had feared for you and am glad that you are safe through with your first great trial. The duties of a mother are now upon you. the power over your son's future destine rests in a great mesure with you and your husband. excirsise that power so that your son in future when he goes into the world ma be proud of you and you of him. fathers and mothers of-times to litly [often times too lightly] think of the duties they owe their children. thair place in society rests in a great degree with the influence cast about them at home. make it a happy one. one that will be remembered with pride in future years. one that ma have an influence for good in coming trials and temtations. one that will speak to the iner soul in the [unreadable word] moments to com. with a mothers wining tones that they may not far from wright. [With mother's tones of the way to win, they will not stray far from the right way] a mothers love is a al powerful influence and it should be a guiding star to goodness greatness and wright.
sister excuse me if I write in bad tast and do not be angry. remember that I have not had as good a chance as some. my time is most out hear [his time is about up in the service] and al tho I feal as much intrest in the cause as ever I shall be glad when I can turn and leav it. the spirit is willing but the body is weak. our old General Wadsworth says the boys have been in for a long time and are geting [next word is unreadable...looks like "cute" and may mean "acute," saying they were acute to the cause]. but dont know how he can spair us when our time is out. he probly remembers fitz-hues crossing [Fizhugh's Crossing] last spring where his favorite brigade failed him and he caled on us to go a cros [crossing] which we did and he made us the first brigade in the first armie corps. but the first corps is broken up now and we are in the fifth corps. the first corps lost over twenty thousand men at Getisburg including one of the best Major Generals in the armie. give my best wishes to Mr. and Mrs. Wells and kiss the little one for me. With many wishes for your helth and hapiness I remain your most loving brother, C. M. Brooks. to Sister and Brother Cole."
COMMENTS: This letter was written in the field and with such poor ink that it has faded to the point that it is very difficult to read; a few more years it will be impossible. It is apparent from this letter that Calvin was in the battle of Fitzhugh's Crossing. He was wounded in the battle of Gettysburg and was out of service for nearly six months. I am not sure who his new nephew is. The only child of Abigail Jane Wells (22 Sep. 1843 to 8 Jul 1908) and Henry Ebenezer Cole (22 Jul 1835 to 14 Jan 1915) that I have record of is my grandmother, Ella Louise Cole (8 Dec 1876 to 11 Feb 1925). Perhaps he did not live. Abigail Jane Wells was adopted as a child by Lyman Wells and Fanny Perry Wells. Apparently Abbie's original name was Brooks, and Calvin is her older brother. The Brooks family must have been broken up by death or some other calamity.
LETTER ID NUMBER:
POSTMARKED: No Envelope
ENVELOPE ADDRESS: No Envelope
LETTER DATE: Apr. 4th, 1865
FROM: Calvin M. Brooks
TO: "My Dear Sister", presumably Abbie Wells
OTHER PERSONS MENTIONED: Mariam (unknown); Freeman [their brother].
GENERAL SUBJECT: Calvin's arrival and setting up of his homestead in the Dakota Territory after his three year enlistment in the Civil War. He may have been given homestead land in reward for his faithful service to his country in this war. He is still single at this point, but was married by May of 1869.
CONTENT: At the top right of the first page is written "Elm Grove, D.T." and under that "Apr. 4th, 1865", and "My Dear Sister". The body of the letter is as follows:
"I am at home at last. after years of
wandering I find my self in my own house at last and I cal it home. yet it lacks many of
the acompanyments of a home and I some times feal very lone-som. but then I work it of and
do the best I can. "I acknowledge the recipt of a letter from you after a long
time." [Don't know why this sentence is in quote marks;
possibly an inside joke] I am a fraid if I take your advise that I never shal
get me a wife. did it never ocur to you that a man might be placed in circumstances such
that he would not be acquanted for any great length of time with any one girl; how would
you do under such circumstances. perhaps you will say not to marry at al but then you know
what a disagreeable thing it would be to be keeping house and hav the neighbors coming in
and no woman to do the agreable. especialy when the mothers of marragble daughters com in
and say "why Mr Brooks you ough to get you a wife to tend to things". well you
know I can not deny the truthfulness of their sage remarks and that leads to unplesent
explanations which I do not like. Well the truth of it is thair is no one to blame buy my
self yet I can not help it now.
I must describe my place to you. to begin with it is in Dakota Terytory a bout fifteen miles from sioux city, Iowa, and one mile from the Misissouri river. the country is pirfectly level for a bout thirty miles this side of the big sioux river. in fact the whole of the teratory between the two rivers for forty miles up from the lowest point is one perfect level. the banks of the rivers are thickly timberd with cottenwood elm mable oak and some other woods leaving a butiful prairy between the two belts of timber with the blufs rising higher further back on the other sides of the rivers. my clame is out from the main timber a bout half a mile. thair is a grove of elm of a bout ten ackers in the middle of it which maks a hansom building place and the rest of the one hundred and sixty ackers can be plowed or mowed as one ma chose. we mow hear al together with mowing macheans. I have got in a bout five ackers of wheat and am beginning to plow for my corn. the season is very erly hear this year. it ma seeme strange to you how I can put in crops the first year but thair is a bout thirty ackers of my land that has ben yused for corn land by the Indians and is in first rate order.
but this is a nuf of this to you. uninteresting subject. I had a letter from Mariam the other day. she is marrid a gain. she did not state what her man's name was. she lives in Loyd Richland Co. Wis.
I also had one from Freeman. he is at New Orleans on board a gun boat at present. dose he corespond with you? tel Henry [Abby's husband] he must write to me once in a while at least and you must write as often as you can remember. this is a new cuntry out hear and one some times gets lone-some so far a way from old friends.
this with many good wishes to you al. hoping it ma find you al in good helth and hapy.
I remain your loving brother
P.S. direct your letters to Elk point D.T."
COMMENTS: Elk Point, South Dakota can be found on modern maps in the most Southeastern corner of the state, close to Sioux City, Iowa. At the time the author wrote this letter, it was not a state, but "Dakota Territory", after the Dakota Indians. Calvin was apparently living in a smaller settlement called "Elm Grove", near Elk Point. There is a Calvin M. Brooks who later shows up as a Dakota state legislator one term. Then, a few years later there is a Calvin M. Brooks who shows up in Sioux County, Iowa. It is not known if it is this Calvin, or perhaps his son, a Junior. I am still trying to find descendants of Calvin.