James William Foley Papers, 1862-1868
| Manuscripts Gifts 2006 | Front Page 2006 | Previous Issues | Friends of the Library |
Fourteen letters, 1862-1868, written from Edisto Island and Hilton Head, South Carolina, and Camp Cadwallader in Philadelphia to Levi Kirk in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, document the Civil War service of James William Foley, a private in Co. K, 97th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. | Manuscripts Gifts 2006 | Previous Issues | Endowments | Friends of the Library |
The first nine letters, written from coastal South Carolina, describe the hardships endured by Foley and his fellow soldiers but also reflect his contentment with the life he has chosen. In a letter of 18 August 1862, Foley describes the oppressive heat that led to a number of deaths in the regiment and caused a suspension in the unit’s drilling regimen. A letter of 6 September 1862, written after his return from picket duty on "Greyham’s plantation," complains primarily of the large number of "muscetoes" [i.e. mosquitoes].
By October of the same year the effects of yellow fever were being felt among the men, and in a letter of 6 October 1862, Foley noted that "thear is a great many sick in the Regiment." Regimental histories indicate that virtually the entire regiment was moved from Hilton Head to St. Helena in mid-October in an attempt to escape the ravages of the disease. Despite the fact that he underwent such privations Foley seemed to enjoy his life as a soldier. In the 6 September 1862 letter he notes, "I like soldiering so well by this time I have a great mind to joyn the Regular army."
The 97th Pennsylvania saw very little active service while stationed in South Carolina though it was moved to Folly Island in April 1863 as part of the 10th Corps in anticipation of participating in a joint land/sea attack on Fort Sumter. However, the attack was abandoned after naval bombardment of the fort by nine Union gunboats proved unsuccessful. Foley’s 17 May 1863 letter describing these events evidences his loyalty to the men serving with him in the 10th Corps and his resentment over their treatment in New York newspapers, "it must be remembered that we coud not muster a force of more than 12,000 men… and with that force we went nearer to Charleston than McClelan went to Richmond with over 100,000. Send us the Right kind of officers and the Soldiers will do thear part."
Records indicate that Foley was discharged on a surgeon’s certificate while stationed at Fernandina, Florida, on 9 December 1863. Evidently he did re-enlist as the next four letters in the collection were written from Camp Cadwallader in Philadelphia during the winter of 1864-1865. The final letter in the collection, dated 8 January 1868, is written from Camp Hatch, Texas, where Foley, now a sergeant, was stationed as a member of Co. D, 4th United States Cavalry.