These nine letters were written by William Henry Turner (28 January 1838 — 27 May 1864), the son of Moses Turner (1815-1893) and Sarah Ann Bloomfield (1816-1902) of Rahway, Union County, New Jersey. Like his father, William (“Bill”) Turner was a mason before the Civil War.
Bill Turner enlisted on 15 June 1861 as a Private in Company K, 6th New York Independent Battery which became part of the 9th Regiment, New York State Militia [see regimental history in footnotes]. Bill’s enlistment was for three years. He was promoted to Corporal on 1 September 1861, and as a Sergeant on 21 December 1863. Company records state that he was wounded in action on 6 May 1864 during the heavy fighting at the Brock Road in the Battle of the Wilderness (Virginia). It was here, on the road leading south out of the Wilderness to Spotsylvania Court House, that Hancock’s 2d Corps was driven late in the day by Longstreet’s 1st Corps.
Sgt. Bill Turner was transported by ambulance and ship with other wounded soldiers from the battlefield in Virginia to the wharves in southwest Washington, D.C. where they were offloaded and taken to the Armory Square General Hospital on the National Mall. Unfortunately for 26 year-old Sgt. Turner, he died on 27 May 1864 from complications following the amputation of his leg.
I have only found one other source of letters on the internet written by a member of this unit. Two letters written by artificer Franklin Moore in 1862 can be found at: Union Letters.
Addressed to Mr. William Taylor, Marshland, Staten Island, [New York]
Rahway [New Jersey]
March 11, 1861
I am very glad to know that you have not forgotten me and still think me of sufficient importance to be informed of the changes in your affairs.
I hope you will never have cause to regret the step you have taken, but on the contrary, will have reason to rejoice at the good luck attending you. I think you have made a very good choice for to my judgement Miss [Emeline] Egbert had every quality necessary to make a good wife for any man.
I had some thought of going to see you during the Holidays but as there was plenty of sport here at the time, I remained at home.
We have work at present which will keep me from visiting anywhere until Spring opens when I think the trade will be dull.
I am glad to hear concerning the Blossom as I feel considerable interest in since the 4th I spent on the Islands.
Do not be surprised when I tell you that I am no nearer be[ing] married now than when you was here so you can judge how near that is.
Times never was more dull in this town than there are at present. As you know, this place depends a great deal on the Carriage Business, which during the present existing state of the country is completely used up.¹
You must come and see us and you may expect to see me before the summer is ended. Give my regards to all who enquire and my best wishes for the prosperity and happiness to Mrs. Taylor.
Yours forever, — William H. Turner
FOOTNOTES TO LETTER ONE
¹ The largest carriage manufactory in the state of New Jersey was located on Main Street in Rahway. The John C. Denman & Co. made carriages primarily for the Southern Market — a market that was abruptly disrupted by the secession of the Southern states from the Union. A year earlier, the Rahway factory on Main Street had already suffered a severe financial setback when it was destroyed by an arsonist. These events no doubt combined to make business “dull” and put a lot of laborers out of work.
Addressed to Mr. William Taylor, Marshland, Staten Island, New York
Camp Cameron ¹
July 4, 1861
Thinking perhaps you had forgotten me, or did not know my location at present, I thought I would send you these lines to awaken you to the fact of my existence.
Your thoughts must be greatly occupied by other things or you have intentionally forgotten that there was such a person as Bill Turner. I suppose you infer from the heading of this letter that I am no longer a mason, but have become that most noted of all characters — a soldier.
The trade was dull at home, in fact, no business thrives at present, so my duty and inclination leads me to volunteer my services during the war. As I am free from all such ties as kind [keeping] you at home, you cannot be surprised at the step I have taken.
I have stayed in Camp most of the day so it has been quite dull, or would have been but for the letters I had to read and to write and a large basket of provisions I received from home yesterday which kept me eating frequently.
We live very well and do not work very hard as yet as our pieces ² have not arrived in camp yet. Our Company is light artillery, so you see I do not handle muskets, but a piece that will kill at 4 or 5 miles.
Give my regards to your wife and to your sister and also to all others with whom I am acquainted.
Direct your letter if you reply to:
W. H. Turner
9th Regt., N.Y.S.M. ³
Direct as I have stated and it will reach me.
Your friend, — Wm. H. Turner
FOOTNOTES TO LETTER TWO
¹ Camp Cameron was located on “Georgetown Heights” in Georgetown, Maryland.
² This unit was equipped with six “James Rifles” originally. In March 1862, all six James Rifles were replaced with 3-inch ordinance rifles. In October and November 1862, the battery received additional horses, equipment, and individual weapons, refitting it as a 6-gun horse artillery battery to support the cavalry (the battery’s mission for the rest of the war).
³ Mustered in: June 15, 1861, as Company K of the 9th militia, later 83rd regiment of infantry. Company K served with its regiment until August 25, 1861, when detached. Designated 6th battery: December 7, 1861.
This battery was recruited at Rahway, N. J., and organized in New York City as the Artillery Company, K, of the 9th Militia, later 83d Infantry. It was mustered in the service of the United States June 15, 1861, to serve three years, and left the State, under Capt. Thomas B. Bunting, the next day.
It served with its regiment until August 25, 1861, when it was detached, and December 7, 1861, it was designated by the State the 6th Battery. At the expiration of its service, the men entitled thereto were discharged and the battery continued in the service. July 21, 1864, it was increased by the transfer to it of the enlisted men of the 10th Battery.
It served at and near Washington, D. C, from June, 1861; in Stone’s Division, Army of the Potomac, from July, 1861; in Banks’ Division, from October, 1861; in Hooker’s Division, from November 23, 1861; in the 2d Division, 3d Corps, Army of the Potamac, from March, 1862; in the Artillery Reserve, 3d Corps, Army of the Potomac, from June, 1862; in the Artillery Reserve, Army of the Potomac, from December 2, 1862; in the 1st Brigade, Horse Artillery, with 2d Cavalry Division, Army of Potomac, from March, 1863; in the Artillery Reserve, Army of the Potomac, from December, 1863; in the 1st Brigade, Horse Artillery, Army of the Potomac, with the 2d Cavalry Division, from March, 1864; in the defenses of Washington, D. C., 22d Corps, from June 6, 1864; in the 1st Brigade, 1st Division, Cavalry, Army of the Potomac, Middle Military Department, from September, 1864; with the Army of the Shenandoah from October, 1864; and in the 22d Corps, from April, 1865.
Commanded by Capt. Moses P. Clark, it was mustered out and honorably discharged July 8, 1865, at Hart’s island, New York harbor, having during its service lost by death, killed in action, 6 enlisted men; of wounds received in action, 2 enlisted men; of disease and other causes, 9 enlisted men; total, 17.
Addressed to Mr. William Taylor, Marshland, Staten Island, New York
July 20, 1861
I received your letter of 7th inst. in due time but up to the present moment have had no opportunity to answer it.
When I wrote to you we were encamping at Camp Cameron with nothing much to do in the day time but eat our meals and write letters. But now, I am placed far differently. We have travelled near two hundred & fifty miles since then directly in the Enemy’s Country with a prospect of a brush with them.
Your letter came on from Washington and met me at Martinsburg, Virginia, where we had taken quarters with the Regiment to which we belonged. We remained at Martinsburg one day when our Division commanded by General Patterson moved forward and stopped at a place called Bunker’s Hill where we stopped one day and then continued the march to this place where we are quartered at present.
On our way here, it was supposed we would have a brush with the Rebels who it was stated were posted strongly on the route. We even planted our Battery at one time with the expectation of firing a shot or so at the Rebels but contrary to our wishes, the Rebels retreated as fast as we advanced.
This town is strong for secession — so much so that even the women of the place proclaim their sentiments to us as we pass the street. The afternoon of our arrival in this town, the women of the place had their heads out of the windows boasting to our boys of the courage & bravery of the Southrons and of their determination to fight to the bitter end.
It would do you good to see the mason work done in this part of the country; almost everything is built of logs or stone — even the chimneys are built of stone which is something I have never seen before. This part of the country is no place for a mason as there is no house being built here nor has there been for some time. In fact, you would think the people were deserting the town if you was to judge from the old and ancient look that the town wears.
Our Division numbers 33,000 men which is quite an army and is quite sufficient to operate in this section. I think I[ve] written sufficient for this time so I will draw this letter to a close.
Give my regards to your wife and the blossom and tell the latter that I am glad she yet remembers me as I do most assuredly remember her. If I return safely, I shall come and see you as I expect to call and see all my friends if I get back.
Yours friend, — William H. Turner
Addressed to William Taylor, Esq., Marshland, Staten Island, New York
Rahway, [New Jersey]
March 2, 1863
Friend William Taylor,
I received your letter of the 22nd and was glad to hear from you and hear that you are well. In your letter you did not say “Me and my wife and my baby are all well” so in your next letter I shall expect you will tell me all about it.
My visits to see you has not been as often as they should have been but you must forgive me in these days of trouble and sorrow although we have often thought of you an spoke about you. You speak of William Turner, my son, so I will tell you where he is. He is in Bramhall’s Battery in the war fighting for his country and for the Union. He was in the Battle of Williamsburg and the Battle of Malvern Hill and the Seven Day Retreat in front of Richmond so you can see he has had to fight as well as to be a soldier. I shall be glad when he gets home again and we are together once more.
You spoke of it snowing very hard on Sunday. So it did here with us and you said you did not go to Church that day but I hope that you will make the Church of Christ your home here below and find your home in Heaven at last when all this service of life is past.
We are all well at present, thank God, and hope these few lines may find you the same. Our love to you and wife. Although we have never saw her, we hope we shall in time. Write as soon as you can. I would like to hear from you. We often look at your picture on our mantle and think of you.
Rahway is almost dead. She is struggling for life but I think she will rise again when the war is over. Write to my boy and comfort him all you can. I know he would [love] to hear from you. — [Moses Turner]
Directions for you:
William H. Turner
Bramhall’s 6th New York Independent Battery
Army of the Potomac
Near Hope Landing, Acquia Creek
Camp Bramhall ¹
March 22, 1863
Your letter of the 13th arrived a few days ago. I was both surprised and pleased to hear from you as it is a long while since you have written; in fact, I never expected to hear from you again by letter as I supposed the correspondence had become irksome to you & therefore you had drop it by leaving my last letter unanswered.
Since we last met, I have passed through many scenes of danger & hardship; more than once I have faced the bullets of the enemy and as yet escaped injury from them. Only two days ago, our Battery returned from a trip to the neighborhood of Culpepper where we found the rebs and did some fighting. We lost one man killed and two horses disabled. The Cavalry that was with us lost quite a number killed & wounded.²
Many changes has taken place since I last heard from you; then we only had two guns & afterwards was made a full mounted Battery of six pieces. Last Fall we were made a Horse or Flying Battery and now are used almost entirely in connection with Cavalry. Before we were called a Mounted Battery and generally operated with Infantry.
We have served under many Generals. At first with Patterson, then Banks, Stone (now called traitor), ³ and afterwards Hooker. We were with Hooker throughout the Peninsular Campaign and he has no stronger supporters in the Army that the 6th N.Y. Battery. When we came out Bunting was our Capt.; he was dismissed [from] the service as incompetent. Bramhall was our next Capt., and he left us a few weeks ago. No better officer ever commanded a Company or one who was better liked; but we had to part with him as his affairs at home demanded his presence and now we will soon have our 1st Lieut. J. W. Martin as Capt.
When I enlisted, I did not think this war would last more than a year; and now I have spent nearly two years in service and yet cannot see the end any nearer. Sometimes I am led to think it is the fault of our Generals — many of whom have been appointed from other considerations besides their fitness for the position.
I am spending the best years of my life here and if all the efforts now made should fail to crush this Rebellion, I shall curse the day I enlisted. But if we succeed in ending this war to the satisfaction of the North and ourselves, then I shall never regret that I was a Volunteer, but on the contrary, proudly refer to it in after life.
I hope the coming Summer will make a great change in the aspect of affairs and if possible terminate the war. This country is a complete mud hole; but it can’t be much else when it storms every other day.
I am glad to hear such excellent news concerning the blossom. You may rest assured that I shall never [forget] those with whom I spent such a pleasant time on that memorable July 4th.
There is a slight change necessary on the directions you send. Direct as follows —
6th Indpt. N.Y. Battery, Care of Lieut. Martin, Reserve Artillery, Army of the Potomac.
Now that you have again opened the correspondence, I hope you will continue to write. My regards to all those who know me.
Your friend, — Wm H. Turner
FOOTNOTES TO LETTER FIVE
¹ Camp Bramhall was located on the south bank of Aquia Creek, two miles from its mouth — not far from Hope Landing. The 6th NY Independent Battery was bivouacked here about four weeks in late March and Early April 1863, just prior to their participation in the Battle of Chancellorsville.
² Turner is referring to the 17 March 1863 Battle at Kelly’s Ford on the Rappahannock River between Farquier and Culpepper Counties in Virginia. In this battle, the 6th N.Y. Light Artillery was attached to Brig. Gen. William W. Averell’s Cavalry Corps and played a significant role in the engagement that has been called “the first real, and perhaps the most brilliant, cavalry fight of the whole war.” For the first time in the war, Union cavalry held their own against Jeb Stuart’s legendary horsemen. [Source: Lt. Joseph A. Chedell, 1st Rhode Island] Battle Records in the National Archives reveal that the cannoneer killed was Richard H. Paxton of Patterson, New Jersey. A diary kept by Private George Pickens states that Paxton was “killed by a solid [artillery] shot instantly.” [Source: Three Years a Soldier, by George Perkins; edited by Richard N. Griffin]
³ General Charles Pomeroy Stone (1824-1887) was wrongfully blamed by politicians with whom he differed for the defeat and loss of troops at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff in October 1861. In February of 1862, he was arrested, accused of treason, and imprisoned, but he was never brought to trial.
Addressed to William Taylor, Esq., Marshland, Staten Island, New York
Camp Near Brooke Station
May 13, 1863
Yours of the 5th reached me a few days ago soon after we had returned from the trip across the River.
The past three weeks have been a busy time with us; we were continually on the move, going from one point to another. Sometimes we were at the Front, then we would go up the River to some Ford and then again return to the rear of the Army.
On the afternoon of the 2nd ¹ we were engaged with the Rebs. We were in such a position and the Rebs were so strong on our Front that we were in some danger of losing our Battery. But we poured in such a fire of canister that Johnny Reb could not stand before us and had to fall back. We lost two men killed and four wounded. And two of the men wounded worked on my gun so you perceive the bullets were flying near me if they did miss.
This advance of Hooker’s was not a decided success. I believe it would have been but for the heavy reinforcements that Lee received from Richmond. Owing to the severe storm that preceded the advance prevented our Cavalry Expedition from operating as soon as expected. If Stoneman had been a few days sooner, I believe his cutting the communications would have been more to our advantage.
But it is some consolation to know that we did better than Burnside, and if the Army had numbers as many now as it did when he advanced, we should never have returned. This is my opinion.
In all the fighting we were enable[d] to meet the Rebs at every point with Artillery and thus their loss was far heavier than ours. Artillery was never used to better advantage in this Army than on the late field.
Since the battle, a great many two-year men have gone home and soon the nine-month men will leave; so our army will be small to what it should be & consequently will not be able to accomplish much.
The weather is unusually warm — too warm to be pleasant.
My regards to the wife &c. Write soon and oblige.
Your friend, — W. H. Turner
FOOTNOTES TO LETTER SIX
¹ William is describing the role of the 6th N.Y. Independent Battery during the Battle of Chancellorsville in the Wilderness. On the afternoon of the 2nd of May, the 6th, with others, helped to stem the tide of Stonewall Jackson’s Flank attack which nearly destroyed the Federal forces.
Catlett’s Station, Va.
September 28, 1863
How is it that I have not heard from you lately! Is it because you have suddenly become tired of the correspondence or does your business prevent you? I have been lead to ask the above questions by the absence of letters from you. From the fact that you wrote to my parents for my address, I suppose you wished to hear from me occassionally; now if you wish me to write, you must write yourself as I never do all the writing myself.
At present, we are on duty with a Brigade of Cavalry guarding a bridge on the RR just below the Warrenton Junction. This duty had been performed heretofore by the 11th Corps. Now that Corps & another has been sent off to Tennessee or elsewhere.
I doubt much if the army does much this winter or fall as troops are being sent away and no advance made. The condition of Rosecrans now is the all absorbing topic and no doubt every effort is being made to assist him.
I am too busy to write more at present. Hoping to hear from you soon. I remain your friend, — Turner
Near Warrenton (Virginia)
November 4th 1863
I received a letter from you some time ago but not until I had written you twice. It is very strange that so many letters never reach their destinations and especially so that letters between soldiers and their friends should be lost.
I have been prevented from writing you sooner by the eventful times of the past few weeks, and even now my opportunities are none too great.
During the late movement towards Centreville, this Division (Gregg’s) of Cavalry was the rear guard following in the rear of the 2nd Corps & was engaged every time they were. Still we received no credit but it was all given to the 2nd Corps. We were fighting all one day besides being on the march every night. Lately we have been doing pickett duty along the river as far down as Bealton & Rappahannock Station. At the latter place, the Rebs have quite a force on this side.
Winter is fast approaching us and as yet no signs of quarters. These cool nights make one desire something more than canvass shelter without fire. But I hope that with this month, we’ll end active operations for the season and the Army settle down to wait for Spring — at least I hope so,
I see another draft is in prospect but suppose it does not trouble you much. There is many persons at home who (rest of letter missing)
Brandy Station [Virginia]
December 9th 1863
Yours of the 17th reached me a few days ago; also a package of papers for which favor accept my thanks.
The late moves of the Army across the Rapidan prevented me from receiving our mail for a long time, so when it did come, it was too large to answer immediately. For instance, I received fifteen letters. Besides, as we are not in quarters yet for the winter, it is only at midday that we can write comfortably.
The late move severely tried the endurance of the soldiers. From the time we crossed the Rapidan until our return, we did not have one (good) night’s sleep and for three nights we did not sleep a wink. Besides, the weather was extremely cold, so you may be sure that it was far from agreeable to us to be on the march at such a time.
On the 26th when you was eating your “Thanksgiving Dinner” we were marching through the Wilderness (the scene of the 11th Corps disgrace). I thought how different my time would be employed if I had been at home that time. But such is the luck of a soldier and I must be content. Only six months from the 15th and I will be at home with you. Then I can refer to these scenes and neither do I think I shall regret being an actor in them.
On the 27th, we were engaged at New Hope Church ¹ and luckily escaped without having a man or horse killed or wounded. The cavalry brigade with us [Gregg’s] was not as fortunate; they had several hundred (casualties). This is the 8th time we have been engaged this year and so (far) our losses have been 3 killed, eight wounded, and thirteen taken prisoner, besides losing a great deal of horses. After the 27th we were continually moving from place to place wherever an attack of the enemy cavalry was expected, but at no time did we meet them. When the Army fell back, we covered the rear. Were on picket a few days at Culpepper Ford and then moved down here.
Taylor, we have seen rather hard times, suffering from the cold and but for our foraging propensities, we would have suffered for hunger. But we made free with the hogs, sheep, and poultry of the farmers and so lived well. The infantry did not live as well as we owing to strict orders against foraging.
Having a great many letters to write, I cannot give you a long one fully describing our trip, so I will close with the promise of more fully relating these scenes when I meet you at home after my time of service expires.
Your friend, — W. H. Turner
P.S. Direct your letter to Martin’s 6th NY Ind. Battery, Horse Artillery, Army of the Potomac
FOOTNOTES TO LETTER NINE
¹ Payne’s Farm and New Hope Church were the first and heaviest clashes of the Mine Run Campaign. In late November 1863, Meade attempted to steal a march through the Wilderness and strike the right flank of the Confederate army south of the Rapidan River. Maj. Gen. Jubal A. Early in command of Ewell’s Corps marched east on the Orange Turnpike to meet the advance of William French’s III Corps near Payne’s Farm. Carr’s division (US) attacked twice. Johnson’s division (CS) counterattacked but was scattered by heavy fire and broken terrain. After dark, Lee withdrew to prepared field fortifications along Mine Run. The next day the Union army closed on the Confederate position. Skirmishing was heavy, but a major attack did not materialize. Meade concluded that the Confederate line was too strong to attack and retired during the night of December 1-2, ending the winter campaign.
The fighting began near Robertson’s Tavern between the Confederate divisions of Major Generals Jubal A. Early and Robert E. Rodes, and Major General Gouvernor K. Warren’s Union Second Corps. The fighting continued throughout the day, as both sides awaited the arrival of reinforcements. Meanwhile, three miles to the south, Brigadier General David M. Gregg’s Federal cavalry clashed with Major General J.E.B. Stuart’s Confederate horsemen near New Hope Church on the Plank Road. Both sides fought a holding action until about 2:30 p.m. when Major General Henry Heth’s Confederate division occupied the key high ground west of the church. A short time later the men of Major General George Sykes’ Union Fifth Corps arrived and pushed Heth’s division off the hill, occupying it themselves. Meade ordered Sykes to hold his position until the entire army was ready to attack.
|1861||Jun-Oct||Stone’s Division, Army of the Potomac||Marched to Washington, DC under Capt. Thomas W. Bunting’s command.|
Co. K detached from NY 9th Militia on Aug 25.
Battles: Pritchard Farms, MD; Point of Rocks, MD1861Oct-NovBank’s Division, Army of the PotomacBattles: Bolivar Heights, VA; Ball’s Bluff, VA1861-62Nov-MarHooker’s Division, Army of the PotomacCo. K designated 6th New York Independent Battery Light Artillery on Dec 7.
Walter M. Bramhall formally assumes command Feb 5.1862Mar-Jun2nd Division, III Corps, Army of the PotomacAll six James rifles replaced by six 3-inch ordnance rifles on Mar 20.
Battles: Siege of Yorktown, VA; Williamsburg, VA; Fair Oaks, VA; near Dispatch Station, VA; near Fair Oaks, VA1862Jun-DecArtillery Reserve, III Corps, Army of the Potomac Battery refitted as 6-gun horse artillery battery Oct-Nov.
Battles: Seven Days’ Battle, VA; Malvern Hill, VA1862-63Dec-MarArtillery Reserve, Army of the PotomacJoseph W. Martin assumes command c. Feb 16.1863Mar-Dec1st Brigade Horse Artillery, Army of the PotomacBattles: Kelly’s Ford, VA; Chancellorsville, VA; U. S. Ford, VA; Brandy Station, VA; Uppersville, VA; Gettysburg, PA; Fairfield Gap, PA; Emmitsburg, MD; Old Antietam Forge, MD; Harper’s Ferry, WV; Halltown, VA; Shepardstown, VA (twice); Sulfur Springs, VA; Auburn, VA; St. Stephen’s Church, VA; Bristoe Station, VA; Mine Run Campaign, VA1863-64Dec-MarArtillery Reserve, Army of the Potomac 1864Mar-Jun1st Brigade Horse Artillery, Army of the PotomacBattles: Wilderness, VA; Spotsylvania Court House, VA; Sheridan’s raid to James City, VA; Totopotomoy, VA; Cold Harbor, VA1864Jun-SepXXII Corps, Army of the PotomacOriginal troops completed their enlistments & replaced by troops from 10th NY Ind. Batt’y
Battery refitted as 4-gun horse artillery battery (12-pounder Napoleons) early Jul1864-65Sep-AprArmy of the ShenandoahMoses P. Clark assumes command Feb 15.
Battles: Tom’s Brook, VA; Cedar Creek, VA; near Newtown, VA1865Apr-JulXXII Corps, Army of the Potomac
About the commanding officers:
- Captain Thomas W. Bunting: Enlisted as Captain 6/15/61, discharged 1/23/62.
- Major (Brevet) Walter M. Bramhall: Enlisted as 2nd Lieutenant 6/15/61, promoted to Captain 1/23/62, brevetted Major in the summer of 1862 (while Acting Commanding Officer, Artillery Reserve, III Corps, Army of the Potomac), resigned 2/3/63.
- Captain Joseph W. Martin: Enlisted as Private 6/15/61, commissioned Lieutenant 6/20/61, promoted to Captain 6/8/63, mustered out 2/15/65 (the end of his term of service).
- Captain Moses P. Clark: Promoted from Sergeant to 2nd Lieutenant 9/1/61, promoted to 1st Lieutenant 2/1/63, promoted to Captain 3/65.