Letters of  Sergeant-Major Thomas Martin

He was born at Newbridge, Ireland, November eighteenth, 1842. Enlisted into the Seventy-sixth Regiment New York Volunteer Infantry, from New York Mills, Oneida Co., N.Y., as a private in Company B, in November, 1861. He was a young man of energy of character, and his gentlemanly deportment and bravery soon won the esteem of both officers and men in the Regiment. He was promoted at different times, until he was made Sergeant- Major, and was recommended to a Lieutenantcy. He was ever ready to perform his duty.

At the fearful but glorious battle of Gettysburg, in the hottest of the fight, after Major Grover had fallen, and when annihilation was staring the brave Regiment in the face, Sergeant-Major Martin was struck by a ball which entered his arm and side. Our troops soon fell back, and the ground was occupied by the enemy. As some of our men, taken prisoners, were passing over the field that night, they heard the voice of the Sergeant-Major calling for water. It was given him, but as he drank the cooling draught, it flowed from the wound in his side. After lingering twenty- four hours he died.

He was conscious he could not live; told his comrades he was willing to die for his country, and requested them to inform his parents. He breathed his last towards morning, July second, 1863. His comrades buried him where he fell and died, and then wrote his father, as he requested them. John C. Ross, Esq., of Utica, shortly after visited the fated field, and removed the body to the rural cemetery at New York Mills, where, amid the scenes of his childhood, the brave hero sleeps until the resurrection morning. No better record can be left of this young hero, who arose from private to Sergeant-Major, with a recommend for a commission, than the letter written to his parents the spring before his death. See the letter dated March 14th, 1863.

The above biography of Thomas Martin was published in HISTORY of the SEVENTY-SIXTH REGIMENT NEW YORK VOLUNTEERS, by A. P. Smith, 1867.


The following letters were found in the National Archive, Washington, D.C. in Agnes Martin's Pension File where she claimed to be supported by her son Thomas Martin while he was a member of the 76th New York Volunteers. In her application she states that he husband Thomas Martin, Sr. died March 3rd 1873 leaving the following children:
John Martin born Dec. 27th, 1850
David Martin born March 7th, 1853
Robert Martin born June 26th, 1856
Maggie Martin born July 1st, 1860

On May 3rd of 1875 the family was residing in Bala, Riley County, Kansas.

As part of the pension file the following letter was written by Agnes Martin:


Bala, Riley Co. Kansas
July 8th 1875

To Commissioner of Pensions

Sir:

The Soldier Thomas Martin referred to in my application for Pension was my Stepson and I had no thoughts of denying it nor have I aney wish to deny it now and I am and do consider and feel from the depths of my heart that I was and am his Mother. after my Marriage and untill he joined the army I gave him my care and love and as he grew from childhood to youth no Mother could love and idolise a Son more than I did him this. I know from actual experience because I am the Mother of four other living children and my love for this one was true and this all by the wish and approval of his Father. I do so consider him my Son before God in every respect except that I did not bring him into the world.

I used to think that I could not get a pension on this account but last Spring one of my neighbours had a little book and in that are the Statements who may receive pensions and thare it States that if the child is acknowledged by the parents and other sections showing clearly that it was not necessary for a Son to be actualy born of his mother to entitle her to a pension. the pamphlet is issued by one Pritchards a pension agent at Indianapalis Indiana. this man got it and wrote some to Mr Richards concerning him as he wishes to apply for one. I supose you have the same pamphlet in your office and can refer to it.

I have been a long time very poor and in great want. we have spent all our hard savings trying to make a home out here the drouth and grasshoppers and my husband being nine months sick. I have lost nearly all I ever had. I am an old woman in very feeble health and it is these facts alone that have driven me to apply to you for a pension.

I would not deceive you not in one thing though I should never get a pension from the time we landed in this Contrey we let no one know but he was my own childe and that was his own wish but my own relations knew it and let it out at his death but I can asure you it was for no gain that we kept it Still.

now Sir I will esteem it a great favour if you would inform me if it was aneybody in this vacinity that has been medling with my affairs to you without your request with a view to injure me for I would like to know if I have as mean a secret enemy here. I have over fifty letters here that we received from him while in the war and not one of them are adressed to his father there all adressed Dear Folks unless the ones that came to me alone of which these too are a Sample

Yours respectfully
Mrs. Agnes Martin
Bala, Riley Co., Kansas


Camp near Potomac creek Va Nov 23

Dear Folks

I received your last on the 17th inst I would have answered sooner but it was impossible as we were on the march then and have been ever since. You will see by the heading of this that we are encamped near where we were about 7 months ago, then Hugh and I slept side by side and thinking little of the changes that would take place in a few short months. A week ago I passed within 4 miles of the field of Gainsville but was unable to visit the place.

It is Sunday and we are encamped for a few hours about 9 miles from Fredericksburg waiting for supplies. I received both your last letters and answered the other while we were at Union. I wrote a few days ago to Mr Campbell.

It is very difficult for me to write to you must not be alarmed at your letters not being answered promptly. My health is as good as ever and I like my place well. Walcott resignation has reached here and been accepted Crandall has returned to the regt. he wants me to come back to the company as orderly sergt. saying if I do he will try and get me a commission before long as he thinks Fox will never be able to come back, as he is getting worse. I have not give him an answer yet, but think I will fo. I would certainly go if it was not for carrying a knapsack. I received yesterday two papers form Charley Hoag one of them was the Observer. I was very glad to get it as we received no papers here. I also got one a week ago today from John Ross. I would like to have papers sent.

In the Observer I saw the charges against McClellan. The principal charge was that on the 5 of Oct he was ordered to follow the enemy and give him battle, McClellan said that he had no horses for his Cavalry no clothing for men. Hallack said he had. Now I joined the regt. on the 10th and I must say it was a shame to see men that have done for the country what they have done look as they did. I will mention one case I could many.

Shortly after I was appointed Quarter Master Sergt. an orderly Sergt. came to me and one that had been in every fight with Pope and in Maryland and asked for shoes. I said we had no shoes, he pointed to his rent with travel and not worth carrying and said I hope in God McClellan will not move untill I get shoes He was no worse than any other. Finally on the 21st the clothing came. They had not been on 2 hours when we started and all was then anscious to go to Richmond. We were making rapid movements toward Richmond when he was taken from us and Burnside place in command. I will do as well as I can under him, but I have a great deal to say if I wever get of this war.

I am very glad that Horatio Seymour is elected Governor and Frank Kernon Congressman. I want to see a change in the government I am growing more and more convinced every day that the republican party can not govern this country. What a change in the tone of Old Abe now and there was when he fell on his knees and asked or rather said to McClellan You are the only man can save the nation. He saved it and by his delay.

Letter not signed.


76th N.Y. Vols
Jan 14/63

Dear Folks

I am entirely well again and am doing my work as though nothing had happened. We have been paid as you perceivd on receiption of this letter. You are no doubt surprised at so small a sum but the reason is this. We are entitled to 8 months pay up to the first of January but there have only paid six months we will perhaps get the other soon if so I will send home 30 more dollars as I draw 20 dollars per month for the last two months and only 13 for the other time, but I hope before long to draw $110 one hundred and ten dollars per month.

I have been told through a confidential friend that my name is before or soon will be before Horatio Seymour for promotion at least if Col Wainwright does not do it. I want you to and I will by and by give you the place I want you after you give this money out to let me know how your accounts stand. Give Campbell 25 dollars and you will have 29 for your own use. I hope soon to send home some more make your accounts out in this form

Due Mr--- 00 Due --- 00

this is after you pay or make your your calculations of paying out this money and also state when your pay comes and how much you will have

Write as soon as you can and give me your Cash directions for I have a letter written for him and cannot send it This check you can cash anywhere Direct as before

Very truly yours
Tom

In your next if you possibly can send me Maggies Photograph in your letter I have Jim Roberts sent to me last Sunday he can tell you all about it.


THE COMMANDING OFFICER OF THE 76TH REGIMENT OF NEW YORK VOLS
TO ALL WHO SHALL SEE THESE PRESENTS, GREETINGS

Know Ye, That reposing special trust and confidence in the patriotism, valor, fidelity and abilities of THOMAS MARTIN I do hereby appoint him SERGEANT MAJOR of the 76th Regiment of NEW YORK VOLS in the service of the UNITED STATES, to rank as such from the 19th day of JAN one thousand eight hundred and SIXTY THREE He is therefore, carefully and diligently to discharge the duty of SERGT MAJOR by doing and performing all manner of things thereunto belonging. And I do strictly charge and require all Non Commissioned Officers and Soldiers under his command to be obedient to his orders as SERGT MAJOR And he is to observe and follow such orders and directions , from time to time as he shall receive from me, or, the future Commanding Officer of the Regiment, or, other Superior Officers set over him according to the rules and discipline of War. This Warrant to continue in force during the pleasure of the Commanding Officer of the Regiment for the time being. GIVEN under hand at the Head Quarters of the Regiment at PRATTS POINT VA this THIRD day of FEBRUARY in the Year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and SIXTY THREE.

By the Commanding Officer Wm P Wainwright Commanding the Regiment

H Carpenter 2nd Lt. Actg Adjutant of the Regiment.


Hd Quarters 76 New York Vols
March 14 1863

Dear Parents

I have just received yours of the 9th inst and was very glad to hear that you were well and as I suppose yet at work but I am not at all pleased with its tone. You seem very uneasy of my situation perhaps it is my fault for using some words in my last that I might have left out and yet have express the same meaning you seem to think I am very fearful of my destiny and that I can never see you again, but I can very candidly assure you such is not the case. I never had any more hope than I have at present I look on this in exactly this sight.

Every man was born for some purpose and if it is my lot to leave earth on the battle field, I can only say as did Burns Lord give me grace to endure it. For should I stay at home and see others fighting that I might enjoy privileges equal to them. I should be a coward indeed and in after life I would have a conscience more guilty than Cains. Should I remain at home at times like the present and find security only in the blood of others I would be a coward indeed. No for rather would I die, or be crippled for life, for in after life I will ask no greater honor than to have it said of me that I now belonged to the army of the Potomac. Should it be my happy lot to survive this rebellion my friends and companions can only be the manly volunteer. (( Think not that I dread a coming battle glad would I be could we be a united people without again meeting in deadly contact. But such cannot be so I at present wait my fate very calmly)) be that as it may I beseech of you give yourself as little concern as possible attend to your family they need all your thoughts and thinking can do them good it can do very little for me ((if you had another son capable of bearing arms my advice to him would be, come on! and if it they brother fall, avenge his enemies, not stand back and hear his blood calling for vengeance ))

I am daily growing more rabid as I think of the rebellion and of the noble slain. I have long since forgot to call the rebel states "wayward sisters" it is to mild a term the only way that I can give utterance to my felling is Traitors Die. Be not uneasy about me I say again, for I have a duty to perform and I will endeavor to perform it, come what will.

I am very pleased to learn that Mr. Campbell is soon to write, I have long been looking for a letter from him, and have many times been disappointed at finding none.

I also wrote to Lieut Walcott about three weeks ago, but as yet have received no answer. I can assure your letters are very welcome in camp they raise a person's mind from the dull routine of camp duties and carry it back to all the pleasing recollections of the past, for a soldiers life is in a measure like that of the bachelor, finds pleasure only in the recollections of bye gone days at least the most pleasure is there.

There is nothing new to communicate we are living well John Balis and Dorset Case are back well. Tell Mr Balis that if ever he sees John he will find a much changed boy, for a better boy, a more manly lad, is seldom found.

As for Case he is well, I will

(note the letter is not complete - on last page was name Thomas Martin, New York Mills)


76 New York Volunteers
March 31, 1863

Dear folks

Enclosed you will find a Warrant for me as First Sergt I made it out here to send it to Col Green to sign which he did and Returned it with a letter

You will please preserve the two warrants

I am well had started a letter for Mr Campbell but have been summoned to attend a Court Martial and have not finished it

Write when you receive this, there is nothing new here. I would write a longer letter but have some business to attend to

Yours very truly
Tom


76 N Y Vol
April 20 1863

Dear folks

We have just received our pay I send you $40.00. There is about $ 60.00 due me yet that I cannot draw this time. Use this if it reaches you I am very well, we have not marched yet. Give me a prompt answer as I will be uneasy to hear from it as some have been lost Write on receipt of this

Very truly yours
Tom


Head Quarters 76 NY Vols
April 26th 1863

Dear folks

Your last letter reached me last evening and I was very glad to hear from you that you was well and that work was still going on briskly. You have perhaps received my last letter with the Draft of $40, before this. I am somewhat anxious to hear from it as I understand the mail has been broken open between here and Aquia Creek about the time that I sent my money.

In previous letters I spoke of moving soon. We have not moved yet but are ready to move at an hours notice. We carry on our backs 8 days rations, in previous marches the men never carried more than 3 days. I would take from this that Hooker intends to make a dash somewhere. May we be successful

If you have not sent the report of the committee on the conduct of the war yet you need not send it as I have it in the Tribune. You seemed to feel very hard against Gen Cocrane I hope by this you will have heard the correct statement of the affair

We have had a great deal of rain for the last 3 or 4 days but today it is very warm My health is good my weight is 165 lbs. My hair is long and as thick as it ever was In fact I feel as well as I ever did I have no news to write so you will please excuse this short letter

Tell Mr Campbell that I received his letter, but cannot answer for a few days Send me some stamps Write on receipt of this

Very truly yours
Tom


Head Quarters 76 NYV
May 3rd 1863

Dear Folks

Your last has just reached me. we are now drawing pay 2 months I send $ 22.00. I expected 23 dollars that I cannot draw. I am well, first rate we are under marching orders. Mr Harvey was with us all day yesterday. Enclosed you find the Photograph of one of our Captains John W Young Co K 76 NYV

The mail is going I will have to close Send me some stamps More in my next

Very truly yours
Tom


76 New York Volunteers
May 31, 1863

Dear Folks

I penned you a few lines a few days ago with $22.00 enclosed. I hope you have already received it. When I write you short letters you must remember that it is because I have little time to spare and not that I am afraid of my words, so today, having a little time to spend I pen these lines to inform you that my health is excellent that we are having splendid weather and enjoying ourselves firstrate. Since we recrossed the river we have had but one days rain the remainder of the weather being very warm.

I have been out through the country the last few days and been very much pleased with the look of the country. The trees are loaded with little peaches, and flowers bloom in every garden. The army looks well now, after our heavy march.

Just a month ago today we were under pretty heavy firing about this time. I saw one shell burst in Ricketts men that day and until a day or two ago I knew not what damage it had done. When Mr Harvey and I visited the Fits Hugh House hospital I saw a young fellow about my age. Very intelligent and handsome, with his right leg amputated above the knee and right arm above the wrist. He told me that same shell killed his Captain and Lieutenant. There were several others there some missing arms others legs. Mr Harvey visited all of them and before he left prayed.

We had but three wounded although the regiment had two or three narrow escapes. We have quite an addition to our regiment from the 24th 22nd and 30th Regiments who have gone home, making us now with 615 men all told. I received your papers with the account of the boys returning home. I have no doubt they had a splendid time.

I have no doubt it mortified many of your citizens to hear them cheer for McClellan and Porter, but I consider them perfectly right. Porter was to them as a father and their history and their fame is connected with his, he was their leader in some of the most stupendous battles the world ever saw, and for a moment forgetting his faults, I am glad to hear them cheer.

The memory of McClellan is indeed dear to them, for all that ever has been gained by the Army of the Potomac was under his generalship. The movement of Hooker was executed most splendidly, but he failed to accomplish that whereunto he was sent. He had an army superior in number to any that McClellan ever had, and when they say that it was the storm that defeated him, it was all moon shine, for his plans of retreat I have reason to believe were formed 10 hours before we retreated, and there were no more indications of a storm then, than there are today. But I trust that in the next move we will be successful for I believe Hooker has the welfare of country at heart.

I have been very much interested in reading the speech of Gerrite Smith. He carries the right ideas and it would be well for the country and all the Copperheads and Republican Doeheads with the democratic peace makers were of the same principles Enclosed you will find a Photograph of Gen Tom Thumb and Lady for Maggie give it to her and tell here I sent it because she sent me her picture Jay Rowland has perhaps given you General Abner Doubledays Photograph. His history as yet very few knows but before the war is settled the country will all know the man that fired the first gun from Fort Sumpter

Tom

Write soon with some stamps


Head Quarters 76th N.Y.Vols
Near Fits Hugh House Va.
June 7th 1863

Dear Mother

Your last letter reached me night before last. I could not answer sooner, as we wee under marching orders, and are yet ready to start at a moments notice, the 6th Army Corps are over the river and advanced over the first line of the Enemy's works as far as the Bowling Green Road. At times yesterday there were considerable skirmishing and we have taken several prisoners, as yet we have not found the enemy in force, there are various rumors here, about the positions of the enemy nothing definite is known.

This is a time of terrible suspense. Are we conquerors at Vicksburg there will be no doubt of success here, but if defeated there, we can hardly expect victory here. The siege of Vicksburg is not as rapidly progressing perhaps as is pleasing to some of our northern people, but I tell you war, successful war, cannot be pushed as rapidly forward as inexperienced persons would suppose.

Here the enemy are inferior to us in nothing except implements of warfare, and in those they are very well supplied. In courage and soldierly like conduct they are equal to any army ever raised. I am growing daily to respect the Rebels for their courage and soldierly like conduct, for with a very few exceptions they prove themselves "Great Braves". Most of their Generals are as good ever commanded an army.

I received all the papers sent me and was very glad. The night I received your letter I also got one from J Roberts. A few days previous however I received a "Morning Hearld" with the marriage. I saw no reason to doubt it for I was well aware that Agness would accept the first offer that presented itself. I received a letter from James Rowland last night. Was glad to learn that the mill was going to start and that my Dad was to be watchman it is a good clean place, besides the time is divided off so that I believe it to be healthy. The wages I suppose are as usual $ 7.00 per week as concerning David I think that if he learns nothing at school, it is the best thing that you can do to put him at work for it certainly does no person no harm to work in a mill for a certain length of time and I believe it is the best time while they are young.

You have perhaps received my letter with the money Mr Harvey was over yesterday. Before this reaches you we will perhaps have moved.

Write when convenient and believe me T C

Very truly yours
Tom


76th New York Vols
June 18th 1863
Near Gilford Station Virginia

My Dear Mother

Your last, reached me as we were just leaving camp, on the 12th. I wrote a few lines from Centreville which were necessarily short.

On the 12th we started from our camp below the City of Fredericksburg where we had been encamped for nearly six weeks, or ever since the Chancellorsville battle, we have had no rain since the 5th of May, so you can form some idea of the heat, at about 3 oclock of the 12th we halted to see the execution of a deserter. When we arrived at the place where the prisoner was to die, we were drawn up in a hollow square. Apart from the rest of the collection of people the prisoner and a minister were engaged in conversation, he was a very fine looking young man about 25 years of age and was well dressed, while they were thus engaged a party of twelve men, were being instructed only a few feet from him, how to take his life, they both kneel, they are engaged prayer. Silently the soldiers march up unnoticed by either the prisoner or minister under directions of Gen Wadsworth and when they both rise twelve rifles are pointed at him they have finished prayer the minister shapes his hand and says a parting word and the prisoner is seated on his cofin his eyes bandaged, and his fine broad chest uncovered, the officer in charge takes off his hat the soldiers aim, he drops his hand and crash goes every piece, with a bound the prisoner jump from his cofin, falls back, and is no more, forward march, and we move on.

The first day just as darkness was setting in we encamped at Deep Run. After four or five hours sleep we were again on the march, the day warm as usual, after a very heavy march we encamped at sun down at Bealls Station on the Alexandria and Orange Rail Road, all 5 in the morning we started for Warrenton Junction. We traveled until sundown, but no halt was ordered, midnight saw us still on the march, and the morning at 7 Oclk found us resting for an hour for breakfast at Manassas Junction. After breakfast we started for Centerville when we arrived in the afternoon. Yesterday morning we left there, as we thought for Alexandria, but shortly after starting took a different rout. yesterday was the most oppressive day of the march, and they marched us without mercy. I saw no less than a dozen Sun Strokes some of which died and some I think can never recover.

I stand it very well, have a good appetite can eat raw pork and hard crackers with anybody and although , I get very angry with the unmerciful marches under such a sun yet I am all right again when I get rested

The rebels they say are about 12 miles from here and it is supposed by almost every body that before 48 hours we will meet them the movements of Hooker are a mystery to all here for we can see neither head nor tail, however all may yet work out

Write as Soon as Convenient and believe me to remain

Very truly yours
Tom


These letters were transcribed by B. Conrad Bush, 1940 Reading Road, West Falls, NY, 14170; e-mail Bushresear@aol.com; from original letters found at the National Archive, Washington, DC.


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- Last Updated December 26, 1999