1862: Pvt. James Francis Russell, 9th NY Cavalry, to his siblings

Image of James Francis Russell in later years. Courtesy of George Russell.

Image of James Francis Russell in later years. Courtesy of George Russell.

I found this letter offered for sale on ebay in March 2011 and transcribed what I could. It was written by 22 year-old James Francis Russell (1840-1926) to his brother and sister in Wyoming County, New York. Russell was the son of Levi Russell (1813-1896), a farmer, and Mariah Baldwin (1818-1844). Levi and Mariah had two other children besides James prior to her death; they were Caroline Russell (1837-1912) and William Henry Russell (1842-1864). It is to these two biological siblings that I presume the letter was written. Russell’s father remarried and had several more children.

Russell enlisted in Company I of the 9th New York Cavalry. According to regimental history records, Russell enlisted on 5 October 1861 at Pike, New York. He was appointed Corporal on 1 September 1863, and he re-enlisted on 20 December 1863. He was captured by Mosby on 15 November 1864 and taken to Libby Prison on 1 December 1864. He was paroled on 20 February 1865 and discharged 21 June 1865 at Elmira, New York.

Arms carried by the 9th NY Cavalry

The skirmish referred to by Russell in this letter involved a detachment of the 9th New York who were escorting a quartermaster supply wagon train being led by Lieut. Erotus Wilder. Near Haymarket, Virginia, the train was attacked by some 200 confederates in the 2nd North Carolina cavalry on 18 October 1862. According to a Confederate report of the skirmish that ensued, “the work was short and quick — the whole party bagged in a few moments. One Lieutenant and 26 privates were made prisoners, and three killed; seven wagons with quartermaster and commissary stores were taken; also, two contraband (runaways), twenty splendid horses, twenty-four mules, twenty-five sabers, twenty-seven army repeaters, and the same number of breech-loading rifles.”

James Russell’s younger brother, William Henry Russell, also served in the Union army. On 14 December 1863, William joined Company B, 2nd New York Cavalry Regiment. Less than a year later, he was killed at Hatcher’s Run, Virginia.

The author, James F. Russell, was born 14 March 1840 in Phillipstown, Putnam County, New York. In 1873, he married Marana Whitney and had at least two children: Jessie M Russell (1874-1946) and George H. Russell (1878-1935). James Russell died 21 June 1926 in Perry, Wyoming County, New York and is buried in Glenwood Cemetery.

Letter by James Francis Russell, 9th New York Vol. Cavalry

TRANSLATION

Centreville, Va.
October 25th 1862

Dear Brother and Sister,

I have just received your kind letter and I take this operuneity of answering it for fear that it would be a good while before another would present itself as we are under marching orders all of the time. I am well as usual and hope that these few lines will find you all the same.

Russell’s Gravestone

Since I wrote to you last we have had hard luck in our regt. Had a detail of 30 men with one Lieut. to guard a provision train to a place called Hay Market. They reached the place safe about 2 oclock Saturday morning. While feeding there 500 North Carolina cav. took all of the train and all of the men but five. Three more was wounded, but not dangerous, two in the shoulder and one got cut with a saber in the back of his head. This train was sent out with rations for our brigade, which was out on a scout. Have seen a good many wounded, but never had such feelings as I had when our own boys was brought in to camp wounded.

You wanted to know what I think of the war. I will tell you, but you may think that I am a secesh — but I cannot help that. If they wait to fight it out, peace will not be made for another seven years. And another thing is the South will not give up until every man is gone. I think if this war is closed, the North and the South will have to give in a little and make a compromise of it and then let it go. I have got so I don’t care what come or which side come out the best if they will settle the matter and let me go and be free once more.

[Your brother] – J. F. Russell

A cavalry skirmish


4 responses to “1862: Pvt. James Francis Russell, 9th NY Cavalry, to his siblings

  • Richard Robert Russell

    I am the Great Grandson of James Francis Russell. I came across this article strictly by coincidence and found it fascinating. I would like to e-mail it to other family members or get your site for them to correspond directly with you. Hopefully you can help me out with this. Ricard Robert Russell

  • George Russell

    Most interesting. We have extensive information on James Francis Russell and would be glad to share.
    George Russell

  • Griff

    I’m pleased that this letter was useful to you and members of your family who are all descendants of James F. Russell. If you have a photograph of him that I can use in conjunction with this letter, I’d appreciate your sending it to me.

  • George Russell

    We have a number of photos showing James F. In later years. Not sure how to get them to you but would be pleased to try. Thanks for your amazing communication.
    George Russell
    Bakersfield, Calif

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

The John Hughes Collection

A Virtual Archive of his Letters, 1858-1869

The Civil War Letters of Rufus P. Staniels

Co. H, 13th New Hampshire Volunteers

This is Indeed A Singular War

The Civil War Letters of Henry Scott Murray, 8th New York Light Artillery

The Letters of James A. Durrett

Co. E, 18th Alabama Infantry

Spared & Shared 15

Saving History One Letter at a Time

The Civil War Letters of George Messer

Company F, 107th Illinois Volunteer Infantry

Jeff's Prayers are as Effective as Abe's

The Civil War Letters of George S. Youngs, 126th New York Vols

Soldiering is a Very Uncertain Game

The Civil War Letters of Lemuel Glidden, Co. K, 145th Indiana Infantry

Tough as a Pitch Pine Knot

Letters of John Whitcomb Piper, 4th Massachusetts Heavy Artillery

An Honorable Peace

The Civil War Letters of Frank B. Knause, 6th Michigan Infantry & Heavy Artillery

Looking for a Rebel to Give him a Pop

Letters to & from Sgt. John Henry Ward, 93rd PA Inf

Civil War Letters of William H. H. Kinsey

Co. H, 28th Illinois Infantry

Spared & Shared 14

Saving History One Letter at a Time

The 1863 Diary of Thomas Wilbur Manchester

A Rhode Island Soldier in the American Civil War

The Daniels/Stone Digital Archives

A Collection of Family Civil War Era Letters & Ephemera

Spared & Shared 13

Saving Civil War History One Letter At A Time

Spared & Shared 12

Saving history one letter at a time

Dear Nellie

Civil War Letters of Thomas L. Bailey

Homefront Letters to Mark Rankin

Co. B, 27th Massachusetts Vols.

These Troubling Times...

The Civil War Letters of William H. Walton, Co. B, 3rd New Hampshire

Reluctant Yanks

The Civil War Letters of Joseph F. & B. Franklin Orr, Co. F, 76th Ohio Infantry

Hunting rebels as a dog would a fox....

The Civil War Letters of George W. Scott of Co. I, 46th Massachusetts (Militia)

The Civil War Letters of William Hunt Goff

Company H, 24th Massachusetts

The Charles Wetmore Broadfoot Letters

Aide de Camp to Gen. Theophilus H. Holmes

Spared & Shared 11

Saving History One Letter at a Time

Billy Yank & Johnny Reb Letters

Civil War Letters Transcribed by Griff

To the Front

The Civil War Letters of David Brett, 9th Massachusetts Light Artillery

Dear Jack

Letters received by Dr. John William Crapster O'Neal

For the Union

Civil War Letters of William Freeland, Co. F, 132nd New York Infantry

I shall be Willing to Suffer

The Civil War Letters of Marquis Lafayette Holt of the 3rd New Hampshire Infantry

"Shall the Union be Preserved?"

The Civil War Letters of William Henry Hodgkins -- Co. B, 36th Massachusetts

The Civil War Letters of William Busby

A Private in Co H, 20th Iowa Vols

Diary of Henry Knox Danner

The Civil War Experience of a Private in Co. K, 30th Pennsylvania Infantry (1862-1864)

Franklin S. Twitchell

Co. B, 13th Connecticut Infantry

The Civil War Letters of Henry E. Mumford

A Colored Soldier of Co. B, 29th Connecticut Infantry

No Babies Play

Letters of Joseph Hazen, Co. F, 20th New York Cavalry

I Long to See You Again

The Civil War Letters of Willis McDonald, Co. F, 17th Connecticut Infantry

I stood in my tracks

The Civil War Letters of Benjamin F. Hulburd, 7th & 2nd Vermont Infantries

This fight will tell the story

Letters by Harlan P. Martin, Co. E, 123rd N.Y.V.

The Rebecca Breidenstein Collection

Letters addressed to Rebecca by both her first & second husbands during the Civil War

The Smoke of my Rifle

A small collection of letters by Capt. Augustus Alonzo Hoit of Co. G, 8th Maine Infantry

Trumpet of Freedom

Civil War Letters of Cyrus E. Ferguson -- a soldier and bugler of the 15th Iowa Infantry

The Bowdoinham Letters

Civil War Letters addressed to the Brown Family of Bowdoinham, Maine

"I am for war, till slavery is dead"

The Civil War Letters of Jerome Bonaparte Burrows, Captain of the 14th Ohio Independent Battery

"All glory to our flag -- and to those who defend it!"

Seven Civil War Letters by Col. Augustus Abel Gibson

"Mother, don't worry about me"

The Civil War Letters of Caleb & John B. Chase, 3rd & 9th Minnesota Infantries

%d bloggers like this: