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Charles Eliphalet Walbridge, Three Letters, March and May 1863, to George Walbridge

Three letters, 1863, augment the Civil War papers of Charles Eliphalet Walbridge (1842-1913), an officer in the New York Volunteers. Walbridge, a former Buffalo hardware clerk, served in the Union army both in the quartermaster service and as captain of Co. H of the 100th New York Regiment. After leaving the service in late 1865, he made a brief private venture into the mule train and freight business in war-ravaged South Carolina.

The new items are wartime letters Walbridge wrote to his brother George in March and May 1863; since much of the material previously acquired by the South Caroliniana Library relates to conditions in late 1865, the new letters add to the papers' historical significance. Writing from St. Helena and Folly Island, Walbridge discussed the pros and cons of remaining as captain of his company or moving to a quartermaster post. His remarks are historically pertinent in view of the key role he later assumed. In June, Gen. Israel Vogdes appointed him chief quartermaster of the district of the Stono, and he became responsible for transportation and supplies during the operations against forts Wagner, Gregg, and Sumter.

Walbridge's stint at Port Royal coincided with the federal land auctions. "Government has lately sold the plantations in this vicinity for taxes," he reported on 16 March; "they are subject to be redeemed within one year by having the purchase money and 15% interest refunded. After that time the title is good. Plantations of 800 or 1000 acres with fine buildings &c, sold from $1000 to $2000. I believe none brought more than $2000."

The letter continues-"Last night Lieut. Weidensaul...and I took a ride of 8 miles up [St. Helena] island & back. We went into two churches, both of which are very pleasantly situated in the woods. We got into the first by a window, and found an organ in good condition, and the Bible in the pulpit just as it was left, there was also a handsome marble font in the church. The second church is in use; it was decorated with wreaths of evergreen, and on the gallery opposite the pulpit the inscription in evergreen, `His people are free'-From which I judge that the `Gideonites' run the church; I think I shall try and go there next Sunday to attend the service. These `Gideonites' so called, are persons who come from the North, of course mostly from New England, to educate the darkies. There are a good many ladies among them."

"I have not yet had an opportunity to visit the Montauk," his next letter advised. "The Keokuk arrived today; I want very much to go on board of her....It is a pretty difficult thing to get on board of the gunboats; one has first to find a boat, and then get rowers."

Within a few weeks he joined his company on Folly Island. "Something must be going on in Secessia this afternoon," he wrote on 1 May. "I can at this moment hear a brass band with a bass drum, playing gaily. It sounds very plainly."

"We have been here (detached) over a week; the duty has been very light. I merely put a guard around the camp from sunset to sunrise, and do not have to throw out any outposts. The men were pretty well jaded out when we came up here, but they are now in fine spirits; two or three of the boys, (there are several in the company not over eighteen) are now playing horse in the street, carrying each other on their backs &c." Walbridge feared that his family's anxiety had been heightened at a time when his company was under orders not to send letters north in consequence of their participation as advance picket during the 7 April bombardment of Ft. Sumter, an unsuccessful attack by gunboats during which the Keokuk was sunk.

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