These six letters were written by Daniel Donahue (1844-1907) of Freshkill, Staten Island, New York. He enlisted as a private in Co. K, 145th New York Regiment, on 11 September 1862 at Staten Island, to serve three years. He was transferred to Co. F, 107th N.Y. Regiment on 9 December 1863 when the 145th disbanded. Daniel’s signature clearly shows that he spelled his name Donhue though company records spell his name either Donahue or Donohue.
Private Daniel Donhue was wounded in the face during the action on 25 May 1864 at Dallas, Georgia, though he recovered and was mustered out with his company on 5 June 1865 near Washington, D.C. On the engagement at Dallas, Major Baldwin of the 107th N.Y. Regiment wrote:
“On Wednesday afternoon the 25th inst., the 107th went into action with 1st Division, 20th Army Corps…It was the fiercest encounter our brave men ever met with, the rebels having the advantage of breastworks, and although I state with pride, that we drove the rebels into their works and held the ground taken, and fought until every round of ammunition was exhausted, not only in each man’s cartridge box, but also in those of our dead and wounded–it is with the greatest anguish that we look at the fearful loss of life and wounding of the brave and war-worn officers of our noble Regiment. May the God of battles shield us from a like disaster again.”
Donhue was only in the service about a month when he wrote the first letter from Sandy Hook — a military camp to the east of Maryland Heights on the north shore of the Potomac River a couple of miles downriver from Harpers Ferry.
A pension record filed in New York State in 1890 reveals that Daniel Donahue eventually married a woman named “Hetty J.” Donahue. Nothing more was found.
Addressed to William Taylor, Marshland P.O., Staten Island, Richmond Co., New York
Headquarters, 145th Regiment New York Vols., Col. Allen, Company K ¹
Camp Sandy Hook
October 13th 1862
You have perhaps expected before this time to get a letter from me, but having to perform a good deal of duty every day, kept me off of writing till now.
After leaving Staten Island, we went direct to Washington, were inspected there by the President, and left then for Frederic City, the Capitol of Maryland, where we encamped for 3 or 4 days and that too right in a rebel camp which they only had left 2 weeks previous to our coming. From here we started for Sandy Hook, but one mile distant from Harper’s Ferry where we are now in camp and are going perhaps to stay here for some time yet.
I, for my part, like the Soldier’s life pretty well and I think all the other Staten Island boys are very well satisfied also. If they only would give us a little more to eat than they do — certainly not enough for a person that has to do so much work as we have.
Yesterday we were for the first time out on Picket duty and took quite a good many prisoners — that is, not of the rebels, but of our own soldiers as nobody, not even a General, is allowed to leave our camp without a pass.
The weather is considerably warmer here than it is by us about this time [of] the year and will we only wish that we are not going to have a very severe winter.
How long we are going to stay here we do not know yet. It may be for a good while yet although nothing is sure as we might be ordered to another place at a moment’s notice. All the neighborhood is crowded with soldiers and you do not see any other person than a soldier. Provisions are very dear here and some things you could not get at all, even if you would like to pay four times as much of its worth.
Now, my dear William, please give my best respect to your brother as well all my friends about Freshkill and do me the favor to write to me soon and tell me all the news on Staten Island.
Your true friend, — Daniel Donhue
Company K, 145th Regiment
2d Brigade, 1st Division
12th Bank’s Army Corps
Sandy Hook, Maryland
FOOTNOTES FOR LETTER ONE
¹ The 145th New York Volunteers — the “Stanton Legion” — was recruited principally at New York City, Hempstead, Oyster Bay and Staten island, was organized at Staten island and here mustered into the U.S. service on September 11, 1862, for a three years’ term. It left the state on the 27th and was immediately assigned to the 2nd brigade, 2nd (Greene’s) division, 12th corps, which was stationed in the vicinity of Harper’s Ferry until December, when it moved into Virginia and made its winter quarters at Stafford Court House. The regiment was heavily engaged at the battle of Chancellorsville, then in Williams’ (1st) division, 12th corps, losing 5 killed, wounded and missing. Lieut. W. H. Poole, the only commissioned officer killed in action, fell in this battle. Its loss at Gettysburg was 10 killed and wounded. It then followed with the Corps in pursuit of Lee until the Rappahannock was reached, and was present at the battles of Williamsport, Md., and Robertson’s Ford, Va. The 145th was disbanded on Dec. 9, 1863, when the men were distributed to the 107th, 123d, and 150th regiments. During its service as a separate regiment it lost by death, 1 officer and 14 enlisted men killed and mortally wounded; 35 enlisted men died of disease and other causes, a total of 50.
Addressed to William Taylor, Marshland P.O., Staten Island, Richmond Co., New York
Fairfax Station, Virginia
Sunday, January 19th 1863
I received your letter dated December 19th 1862 and would have answered it sooner if we had not so much work lately that a fellow was really glad when night came and could go to roost.
We marched from Bolivar Heights about the 1st of December last year and stopped at the above-named place just a month ago today. Ever since we have been here we had to drill pretty hard and I can say they used us fairly up.
We struck our tents last night but are not going to start before tomorrow morning. Where to is a secret so far yet everybody thinks that our destination is North Carolina. Probably they march us as far as Alexandria and from there we will go by steamboat. Any how, we are glad to leave here as this place is not a healthy one — the ground being very damp which has caused a great deal of sickness among our soldiers and especially our camp have suffered considerably.
Last Sunday we buried John Monamaren (black Jack) who used to work with you and quite a number of our camp are in the Hospital at present though four of them returned today.
I suppose you have a nice time on Staten Island now — anyhow, a better time than we have. When you write to me, let me know all the news as I like to hear something from all of you. I certainly would be very glad if I could eat some of that nice pork of yours but I think I have to wait till next winter hoping & wishing that the war might be over by that time.
Please write soon and direct your letter to Washinton D.C. or elsewhere.
Your friend, — Daniel Donahue
Addressed to Mr. William Taylor, Richmond, Staten Island, New York State
Camp near Aquia Creek
Tuesday, March the 16th, 1863
I now sit down in my little shelter tent to write and let you know that I am well and hope these few lines will find you the same. All the rest of the boys are well except Henry Stillwell has been sick in the hospital but he is getting better.
We had inspection this morning at 10 o’clock. It was snowing quite fast then but it has turned to rain. The weather is quite warm here.
We have been encamped here about one month but we do not know how long we are going to stay here. Ever since we have been here we have been to work building forts and digging rifle pits and sunken batteaux, but we are done building forts and rifle pits mand our Brigade has been set to cutting the woods down. There is only three regiments in our brigade; the 145th NY, the 60th NY, and the 3rd Maryland.
I received your kind letter on the 20th of February and was glad to hear that all the folks was well. You said in your last letter you heard that I was shot on picket. Where in the world did that report come from I would like to know very much.
There was quite a snowstorm on the 22nd of February.
This is my own writing. Please excuse this writing. I will try to do better another time. Give my best respects to all the folks. Write soon.
I remain yours truly, — Daniel Donahue
Addressed to Mr. William Taylor, Richmond, Staten Island, State of New York
Friday, May the 15th, 1863
Camp near Stafford Court House, Virginia
I got your letter a day or two ago and was glad to hear that all the folks were well. I am well and hope these few lines will find you the same. Dear sir, since I wrote to you before, we have had pretty rough times. We crossed the Rappahannock on May the first and we marched to Chancellorsville. We encamped for the night and had pretty hard skirmishing next morning. The Rebels were only feeling for us. They found out that we had more men than they expected for, so they sent for reinforcements and attacked our right wing. The 12th Army Corps was on the right wing and the 11th on the left wing. They attacked our right wing but the boys of the 12th Corps returned the fire and they were forced to fall back. They then attacked the left wing and the Dutch niggers threw down their arms and run away in the wildest confusion without firing or receiving a shot. Our regiment belongs to the 12th Corps.
I saw David Cortelyou † on Sunday after the fight was over and he looks well. He was on horseback when I saw him. There was a great many killed and wounded in our Regiment. There was nine in our Company K, four or five of which were Staten Island boys & one of them Jacob Ellis ¹ [and] Cornelius Dissosway ² — both from Tottenville.
We lost our Brigadier General. Our Brigade was all cut to pieces. ³ This is the first battle we have been into and the next one we go into there will be nothing of our Regiment left. I came out of it without even a scratch. This is all I have to say at present so goodbye.
— Daniel Donohue
Give my best respects to all the folks. Write soon. Direct to Washington D. C. or elsewhere. 145th Regt. N.Y. Vols.
FOOTNOTES TO LETTER FOUR
¹ Pvt. Jacob C. Ellis (1845-1888) of Co. K, 145th N. Y. Vols., was severely wounded at the Battle of Chancellorsville on 3 May 1863. He was discharged for his wounds at Philadelphia on 8 December 1863. Jacob was the son of Cornelius Ellis (1823-1905) and Mary Joline (1824-1886) of Westfield, Staten Island.
² Corp. Cornelius Dissosway (18xx-1863) of Co. K, 145th N. Y. Vols., was killed at the Battle of Chancellorsville on 3 May, 1863. He was the oldest son of Gabriel Dissosway (1808-1879) and Catherine Cole (1809-1889) of Tottenville on Staten Island. Cornelius was married and had at least two children at the time he was killed.
³ The 145th New York was brigaded with the 20th Connecticut, the 3rd Maryland, and the 123rd New York (2nd Brigade) in the First DIvision of Gen. Henry Slocum’s XII Corps.
The brunt of the Battle of Chancellorsville fell on the XI and XII Corps; and yet amid all the rout and confusion of that disastrous battle the regiments of the XII Corps moved steadily with unbroken fronts, retiring at the close of the battle without the loss of a color, while the corps artillery, after having been engaged in the close fighting at the Chancellor House, withdrew in good order, taking every gun with them. In this campaign Slocum’s troops were the first to cross the Rapidan River, and the last to re-cross the Rappahannock River. The corps at this time contained 30 regiments of infantry, with five batteries of light artillery, numbering in all 19,929 present for duty. Its losses at Chancellorsville amounted to 260 killed, 1,436 wounded, and 1,118 missing; total, 2,814. The hardest fighting and heaviest losses fell on the brigades of Brig. Gen. Thomas H. Ruger and Col. Charles Candy. The divisions were commanded by Generals Williams and John W. Geary.
Donahue claims they “lost” their Brigadier General at Chancellorsville. There were no Union Brigadier General’s killed at Chancellorsville so he must have meant they lost him to some other cause. The Brigadier General of the 1st and 2nd Brigades (which included the 145th N.Y.) was Joseph Farmer Knipe (1823-1901). Knipe had been wounded earlier in the war and was said to be suffering a bout of malaria at the time of the Battle of Chancellorsville. As a result, Knipe temporarily left the army and returned to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, following this battle.
† David H. Cortelyou served as a Sergeant with the 6th N. Y. Cavalry at the Battle of Chancellorsville. He received a wound in 1864 and eventually retire from the Army in 1870.
Addressed to Mr. William Taylor, Marshland, Staten Island, New York
January 14th 1864
Wartrace, Tennessee ¹
I now sit down to write to let you know where we are and what we are doing. I am well and hope these few lines will find you the same. As I told you in my last letter that our Regiment was going to be consolidated into the 107th N.Y. Since I wrote to you before, it has taken place and our old Company K has now put into Company F, 107th. All the non-commissioned officers has been discharged and has started for home but I hear that they were stopped at Nashville and that the 145th was going to be reformed. I do not know if it is true.
The guerrillas are perty thick around here. They are taking our fellows off post every night.
I think the war will soon be over. The Rebels are deserting by the regiment and coming into our lines. I tell you what hurts the rebs, the men that has been fighting against them are all enlisting over again for three years.
I have no more to say at present so I must bring my letter to a close. Please give my best respects to all the folks. Write soon.
Direct your letters to:
Daniel Donahue, Co. F. 107 N.Y.S. Inf.
FOOTNOTES TO LETTER FIVE
¹ “Wartrace [Tennessee] was a small station on the railroad, and consisted of a depot building, a dozen houses, a couple of general stores where goods were sold or bartered for produce, a blacksmith shop and a church. It was a primitive community, and typical of the rural districts of Tennessee in the 6o’s.” A water supply and the bridge over the Duck River near Wartrace were closely guarded by Union troops in early 1864. [Source: The Dutchess County Regiment (150th NY)]
Addressed to Mr. William Taylor, Marshland, Staten Island, New York
Camp of the 107th Regiment
April the 20th 1864
Mr. William Taylor,
I received your kind and welcomed letter of the 10th on the 16th and was glad to hear that you were again well. I am well and hope these few lines will find you the same. I am very sorry to hear that all the Staten Island folks are having such bad luck this Spring but it is the same all over. All the negroes has had the small pox all this winter but none of our boys has them. I have not been sick a day since I left New York. So you may see that I have been very lucky. As a general thing, our boys are very healthy. The only thing that the boys has is what they catch off those ladys that live here and I can tell you that there is a great many of them. It is not here alone but it is the same way all over the States.
You say that you were getting ready to make garden but that it was so stormy that you had to stop. The weather here is the same way today. It is very warm and tonight the ground will be covered with frost.
Our Staten Island boys have been punished more since they have been in the 107th than they were in the 145th. The Captain ¹ of our company has had two of our boys walking the street for two days for refusing to do extra duty. I pity the captain if he ever lives to go home with our boys for I will bet they will hammer him. The old fool could not find anything else to do so he had to go to work and reduce the best sergeant we have got in our company but he has done nothing to me yet and, what is more, I will not give him the chance. I never have been punished since I enlisted.
I have no more to say at present so I must bring my letter to a close. Write as soon as you have leisure. Please give my best respects to all the folks. Good bye.
Yours truly, — Daniel Donahue
Please excuse my writing for I cannot do any better at present. If you please, tell me in your next letter where J. G. O’Dell lives. I do not want to know because I care nothing about him.
Direct to Daniel Donohue, Co. F., 107th Regiment, Wartrace, Tennessee. 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, 12th Corps.
FOOTNOTES TO LETTER SIX
¹ I believe the Captain of Co. F at the time was Capt. John Forrest Knox (1836-1864) who was later mortally wounded on 25 May 1864 at Dallas, Georgia. This was the same engagement in which Donahue was wounded. Know was the son of Philander and Mary Chapin (Smith) Knox. He was from Steuben County, New York.