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1862 Letter Camp Douglas Il Union Private On Parole Writes Home To Mother For Sale
Traveling the Paper Trails of American History
"Mother I feel the most like a man tonight that I have done since I left home Let me tell you why."
(See below for scans)
3 1/2 page letter written by Pvt. William Hunt Tilden at Camp Douglas, near Chicago, on October 19, 1862, and mailed at Chicago to his mother Sarah Hunt Tilden at Palmyra, NY. Pages measure approx. 7 3/4" x 9 3/4".
William writes, "Mother I feel the most like a man tonight that I have done since I left home Let me tell you why." He explains that he went to the city [Chicago] this morning to go to the Episcopal Church and attended Trinity Church ("the finest one I was ever in in my life."). He describes the church service and how pleased he was and then asks if he did wrong in taking the Sacrament. He explains, "I well know that I am in the midst of a great many vices. I am compelled to heer oath after oath all the time that I am in camp...My prayer to God is that my example may be a benifit to my companions...it may be the last time I shall ever have the opportunity of taking the sacrement on earth..." He writes, "I will not say any more about comeing home for at one time we are on the point of going home and the next thing we heer of is that we are going back to the Fery." He explains that he received a letter from his wife asking what kind of clothing he needed and replies, "I would like a good shirt to use as a dress up such a one as I borrowed today to ware to church it is wollen without any collar..." He also requests "one pair of wollen stockens will fix me for winter." Some of the soldiers have shared their food with him and he "would like very much to return the compliment." He adds, "One of the greatest treasures you could send me in the shape of any thing to eat would be one of those paint pales full of good fresh butter."
William Hunt Tilden (1836-1863) was born at Palmyra, NY, the son of William B. Tilden (1799-1865) and Sarah Hunt (1797-?) in 1826. His father was a tinsmith and hardware merchant. William married Emily Allen in 1858, at Independence, MI. After her death he married Elizabeth Johnson at Seneca Falls, NY, in 1860. On August 9, 1862, William enlisted as a Private in Company A, 111th Regiment, New York Infantry. His unit participated in the Battle of Harper's Ferry September 12-15, 1862, and surrendered there on September 15. The unit was paroled on September 16 and arrived in Camp Douglas on September 28. Tilden and his unit remained there on parole status, awaiting the completion of prisoner exchanges, until December 1862. He was ordered to Washington and then particpated in the Gettysburg Campaign beginning June 25. He was killed in action at the Battle of Gettysburg on July 2, 1863. See National Park Service military records website, New York in the War of the Rebellion (1912), and Annual Reports of the Adjutant General of the State of New York 1893-1905 (digitized by New York State Library). For more information on the Tilden family, see A History of Ontario County, New York, and Its People (1911) and The History of the Descendants of Elder John Strong (1871).
Camp Douglas was established in 1861 as a Union training camp. Confederate POWs began to be sent there in February 1862. Many of the POWs suffered from poor food, substandard shelter, disease, and unsanitary conditions. Most of these prisoners had been transferred by September 1862 when paroled Union prisoners, captured at the Battle of Harper’s Ferry, began to arrive. The Union parolees endured many of the same poor conditions as had the Confederate POWs and there were mutinies, escapes, and riots. The parolees were gone by December and Camp Douglas once again became a POW camp in January 1863.
Postal History: 26mm blue Chicago CDS with bullseye cancel on 3 cents Scott #65.
Condition: Envelope has been opened on the right, has ragged edge, soiling, and age toning. Letter has some age toning and foxing.
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1862 Letter Camp Douglas Il Union Private On Parole Writes Home To Mother: $126