Sixty-three letters, 1861-1864, written by James Himrod, who enlisted in the Forty-eighth New York Volunteers on 24 August 1861 with the rank of corporal, describe the movements and activities of his unit, the nature of camp life, and his feelings about the course of the war.
The collection begins with Himrod writing to his family from on board the steamship Empire City in the Chesapeake Bay on his way southward and with an assurance from their commander that “we will be home for our New Year’s dinner.” Well over half of the correspondence in this collection, however, is datelined from either the sea islands of South Carolina or Ft. Pulaski near Savannah, Ga. Himrod wrote from Daufuskie Island on 6 March 1862 that the unit “has a little job on hand to take Fort Pulaski,” which fell to Union forces the following month. His unit would pull garrison duty at the fort until the following summer, when they returned to Port Royal and participated in the movement against Battery Wagner on Morris Island in mid-July. A letter dated 23 July 63 informs Himrod’s brother William that he was “virtually in command” of his company due to the extensive casualties sustained by the regiment. Included in the letter is a list of officers killed and wounded.
Himrod wrote on 20 April 1864 to his niece telling her that he expected to be promoted to first sergeant and that the regiment would be “ordered North.” His next letter, 7 June, finds him a lieutenant “In the Field near Chickahominy,” Va., engaged in a “continuous series of Battles or attacks & repulses.” Hospitalization from an unspecified illness prevented Himrod from seeing action with his unit at the battles of Cold Harbor and Petersburg during the summer months of 1864.
In a particularly interesting letter dated 3 October 1862 Himrod expressed his jubilation over “the late [Emancipation] proclamation of Abraham,” issued 22 Sept. 1862, asserting it a “glorious Christian act” and “the only salvation of our Country.” He feared, however, that the southerners “like the Egyptians of old...will harden their hearts and by War try to maintain their accursed institution.”