Letters of John Bertrand Spencer, Co. G

John Bertrand Spencer, born March 2, 1844 was age 17 when he enlisted October 14, 1861, at Cortland, NY in Captain Aaron Sager's Company G, 76th New York Volunteer Infantry. He was mustered in for three years as a private. He was five feet eight inches tall, light complexion, brown eyes and a farmer at enlistment. He was discharged for disability from pneumonia, October 23, 1862 at Philadelphia, Pa.

The following is taken from his mother's pension application: While the regiment was located at Cortland, NY he with many others, was smitten down with measles, so that he could not leave when the regiment left. He gained it, however, at Albany and went on and was able to do camp duty and drill. When in Washington he was in the hospital a few days with mumps, then recovered, and enjoyed an active soldier's life. 

While in Fredericksburg, in July, he was again prostrated by the hands of disease, (Diarrhea and typhoid fever - the former became chronic). His regiment was called and he, with others who were ill, was taken to Falls Church and then to Philadelphia, to the hospital. His mother joined him at Falls Church and did all that she could to save her boy. 

Dr. I. Lukins, Arch St Philadelphia, a friend of the family, obtained a permit to have him removed to his residence, the hospital physician occasionally calling, and in October, when all hope of his recovery was gone, the mother was permitted to take her son to her home at Blodgett's Mills, NY. He was taken there on a stretcher and continued to fail till he passed away November 22, 1862.

Eveline R. Tisdale and Ephraim K. Spencer were married February 24, 1842 at Blodgetts Mills, Cortland County, New York by Rev. Nathan Racon. They had two children; John Bertrand and a daughter Mary E. born May 12, 1850.

Rikers island 
Jan 23, 1862

Dear father 

we have got our pay and having a chance to send it I will improve the opportunity my pay amounted to $33.96 I will send $33.00 you can take it and use it. we were paid to the first of January 

tuesday we embarked on 2 steamers and a barge and sailed out here about 8 miles from New York we got here about 2 o'clock P.M. it was very cold and we found no fire some of the boys suffered with the cold that night but I slept wearing that quilt and 3 blankets over me yesterday we got our stoves and coal and are now comfortable

the island we are on is about 2 miles around and shaped some like a wheel we are near the entrance to long island sound there are vessels in sight all the time 

each man has to wash his own dishes our rations are good we do not know how long we shall stay here I must close I have not received any letter since I left Albany give my love to all 

Direct to New York city Co G 76 Regt N.Y.V. 

from your son 
J B Spencer

Feb 12th 1862

Sister Mary as I have not got anything else to do I thought I would write to you 

I have got over the mumps and am now living in a tent on Meridian hill the reason it is call so there is a large stone on the hill from which longitude and latitude is reckoned there is about ten thousand men encamped on the hill our regiment is encamped in a piece of woods but we have got it pretty well cleaned up to keep fires with we have got a small stove in each tent and draw our rations and cook them our selves we draw bread pork potatoes beans rice sugar and molasses 

we manage to live pretty well there is four of us in a tent we have got a floor to our tent we got some straw to fill our ticks with to day we have slept on the floor before the day the regiment came here there was about an inch deep of snow on the ground they pitched their tents and slept on the ground I guess they did not sleep very warm I was at the soldiers home till sunday 

I went down to the capital sunday morning the dome is not finished yet it will be a splendid building when it is finished Henry Ward Beecher preached there in the afternoon and I should have went and heard him but I had to be out of the city before 5 o'clock so that did not have time 

we had a first rate place at the soldiers home there and old negro waiter that had been a slave all is life till last July he has had ten children sold south he said that when the union troops retreated at Bull Run he relocated too 

we got our guns day before yesterday and to day we have been drilling with them they are short rifles with saber bayonets we have got all of our equipments now the weather here now is about as it is in the spring when it is breaking up last night we had little flury of snow but is all gone now if we had not been on Rikers Iland I should think we had poor winter here but it is good compared with that 

I have not received but one letter since we came to Washington Rufus Smith got a letter night before last they did not write any thing about you they wrote that Ida was dead I have not heard whether Uncle Orlando's folks have gone home or not our folks have not wrote anything about Bub lately. I would like to hear how he was getting along I have not (heard) anything about Grandpa and Grandma either I would like to hear from them you must write me a letter and send me all the news I hope this will find you all as well as I am from 

your brother 

Fort Slocum 
May 19, 1862 

Dear Friends 

having an opportunity to write to you this morning I will improve it we received our pay the day after I wrote to you last for two months we received the box you sent the same day as the things were all in good order I had not had an apple before in about a month the next day friday we got another two months pay I am going to send $40 home by A.P. Smith who is going home wednesday 

Chapen is going to send $40 and Foot $20 Mr Smith is going to get a check for the whole amount for Mr. Merrick as it would be less trouble than to get a check for each one separate when he gets there Mr. Merrick will draw the money and pay you $40 we have had several men away since we have got our pay there are seven missing of our company now one of them is Zelo Williamson son 

We have got a captain at last Lieut Sager has been promoted J L Goddard is our first Lieut and Thomas Simms second Lieut Lieut. Col Shaul has resigned and Major Livingston is in command of the regiment the boys all wish Col Green would return and take command again 

We have at last got marching orders to march tomorrow morning our tents are to be left standing where they are we do not know where we are going but the general impression is that we shall join McDowell I supose the reason of our going is that they could not take Richmond without the 76th the boys are anxious to go 

I suppose the next news you hear from us the 76th will be covered with glory our only regret is that Col Green is not in command Lieut Van Slyck has bee appointed Quarter Master in A. P. Smith's place who resigned 

We have some notion of sending home some of our clothes that we donat want to carry if we do I shall send home my under shirts the weather is so warm now that we do not want many clothes on I presume we shall sweat some when we come to marching I suppose you have heard before now of gen Hunters proclamation freeing the slaves in South Carolina and Florida if the Government sustains him in it it will be just the thing I hope it will I want you to write as soon as you get this letter Direct to Washington and i guess I shall get it as soon as I know where we are going I will write and let you know give any love to all always remembering to keep a share of it yourselves 

J B Spencer

Tuesday morning May 20th

We are not going to march today We shall go Thursday if the order is not countermanded 

the long roll was beat last night and our arms all inspected those that were not efficient were exchanged for others I guess Charles will not go with us his feet trouble him a good deal I will enclose a specimen of a rebel treasury notes I will write again as soon I have a chance 

J B Spencer

May 25, 1862

Dear friends

When I last wrote you I wrote that we were going to march in a short time We started from fort Slocum thursday morning and marched to Fort Massachusetts where we joined the rest of the regiment and marched to the city it was a very warm day and before we got to the city we were about whipped we stayed at the wharf until about half past 3 o'clock when we started for Acquia Creek on the steamer Hugh Jenkins We reached Acuia Creek landing about eleven o'clock at night we landed and laid down on the ground rolled up in our blankets and went to sleep 

when I woke up it was after daylight I never better in my life We stayed there till two o'clock P M we then marched to a place about midway between Acquia and Fredericksburg it rained all night when I woke up in the morning I was soaking wet yesterday we marched to this place we got to this place about one o'clock PM last night we got tents enough to shelter our company we got some boughs and made our selves quite comfortable to day it is warm and pleasant 

I am on guard have been detailed to go to the city to guard the railroad and bridge the rebels are about six miles from here they skirmish with our pickets about every day the 23rd regt is encamped about a mile and a half from here Foot saw Richard Simpson yesterday we are in Doubledays brigade Ords Division 

the talk is now that we are going to stay in Fredericksburg as provost guard we dont know anything certain about it yet if we dont do that we shall probably advance to Richmond within a few days 

I suppose there is about eighty thousand men with McDowell I dont think there will be much of a fight between here and Richmond the latest news we have had from McClellan he was within 5 miles of Richmond and expected to attack it within a day or two 

if he does not succeed we shall probably see all the fighting we will want we are the advance regiment of our brigade and if we have a fight you may count us in dont know whether I can send this letter or not if you get it write immediately direct to Washington 76 regt Doubledays brigade Ords Division 

J B Spencer

June 19, 1862

Dear Friends 

It has been some time some time since I have received a letter from home I received the last one two weeks ago to day I answered it the next day I received a letter week ago last tuesday from Uncle Orlando it was written two weeks ago last sunday he wrote that he received a letter from you the day before he wrote 

the day after I wrote to you last a pontoon bridge was put across the river and a week ago monday McCalls division Pennsylvania Reserve Corps left here for Richmond Genl Reynolds the Military Governor of the city went with his brigade and Major Livingston of our regiment was appointed in his place 

last monday the second Wisconsin regt relieved our regt and we are now encamped about a mile east of the city the Major is Military Governor of the city yet our whole regt is together again yesterday we had a battalion drill we were drilled by Major Doubleday of Genl Doubledays staff he said he agreeably disappointed in the regt that we were better drilled than he supposed 

we was encamped on a high hill Kings Division is encamped below us down towards the city from where we are we are in sight of the blue ridge mountains Polydore was in here just now he is well he is our new boy, now Chapen got a letter from home last night he says he will answer it in a day or two 

my health has been good since we left Washington I have heard that Charles was geting his discharge he may get home before you receive this one of our company who went home when we were on Rikers Island got back a few days ago has got his discharge and is going home again in a few days 

we have had some pretty warm weather here and some quite cool I think there is more changes in the weather than there is at home you must excuse this writing as the best writing desk I have got is a knapsack I want you to write often no more at present from 

Yours Truly 
J. B. Spencer

June 27

Camp near Fredericksburg

Dear Mother 

I received your letter last Saturday and should have answered it sooner but Chapen was going to write so I thought I would wait a few days 

since I wrote last we have been drilling about four hours a day company drill in the forenoon and battalion drill in the afternoon 

We have got another colonel his name is Wainwright he has been an officer in the 29th N.Y.V. I have not seen him yet the majority of the regt would rather had Col Green come back as to the controversy between Grover and A. P. Smith I think Grover has made an --- of himself he is not liked here as well as he was at Cortland 

last monday night we had the hardest shower we have had this season it (rained) all night about as hard as it could the water raised in the river and took of all the bridges again we had only just got the railroad bridge finished tuesday the 23rd regt come in and encamped about 80 rods from us I was down to their camp day before yesterday I saw Richmond and Clinton Ball they are both well they have been 125 miles since they left here they did not see the enemy while they were gone they think now that they will stay here a spell 

our company is getting reduced some in number 7 men ran away last monday one sergeant three corporals and three privates they were some of the best men in the company one of them I have tented with since I came out of the hospital last spring I have not made up my mind to run away yet and dont think I shall very soon 

this morning one of our boys was shot in the leg in a piece of woods a few rods from camp I think he shot himself though he says he did not two boys in company I were accidently shot with a pistol yesterday neither of them was seriously hurt to day 

we are drawing blouses our dress coats are to be sent to Washington this looks as though we were going to march there is now 4 brigades lying here I dont see the use in so many troops lying here doing nothing but I suppose it is strategy we have about come to the conclusion that strategy is a big thing but we cant see it if they would level every such town as this to the ground and go on instead of leaving so many men to guard it the war would have been ended before this in my opinion the weather has been quite warm for the last few days we are all well write often 

J B Spencer

Camp Hammond near Falls Church 
August 12, 1862

Dear Father

When I wrote home last I wrote that I was not very well but I expected to be around again in a day or two but I did not get any better and last Saturday the regt had marching orders and I with seven others of our company not being able to march were left behind without any tents being told that there would be wagons sent after us in a short time 

instead of this about dark the Surgeon came along and told us that if we would take our knapsacks and carry them to the depot about a mile and a half and get there by six o'clock in the morning we would be sent to Alexandria where we would be taken care of if not we would have to stay where we was we concluded to stay where we were rather than do that so we laid down on the ground and tried to sleep but I did not sleep much well 

about 4 o'clock in the morning the Surgeon came and took ourselves and luggage to the depot where we waited till ten o'clock three hundred of us were crowded in to box cars and started for Acquia Creek when we left Fredericksburg the whole country around there was covered with Burnsides troops as soon as we got to Acquia Creek we went on board the steamer Highland Light here we expected to get something to eat not having had anything since Saturday noon but we were disappointed we finally started for Alexandria about 12 noon 

We reached Alexandria at 4 as soon as we got there we went on board the cars again without anything to eat and stayed there till after midnight when we first got in to the cars it was terrible hot not a breath of air stirring in the city and about 20 packed into each box car like a lot of hogs we finally came on the Falls Church where we stayed in the cars about two hours longer and then came on here to Camp Hammond the US general Hospital we got here about 3 o'clock in the morning when we got here one of the nurses distributed a lot of crackers among us this was the first food that had been furnished us since Saturday noon the tents were all full and they had put up some more tents accommodate us we finally got in about 4 PM 

the way it is arranged here the tents are all laid out in the style of a camp they have long hospital tents each man has an iron bedstead with a mattress and sheets and what blankets we want we have plenty of good wholesome food also which is something we have not always had indeed quite a variety I feel considerable better to day after having a good sound sleep last night I am in hopes that I shall be able to join the regt before long it seems quite like home here there is 3 of our company in the same tent and one of the nurses belongs to our company 

I will have to stop as I have a chance to send this to the P O write as soon as you receive this and direct to me U S general Hospital Camp Hammond Washington D C Co G 76th NYV 


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 March 11, 2001