Charles L. Hewitt Papers, 1862-1863
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A gift to SCL Manuscripts Division announced in 2008
Six letters, 25 January 1862-15 November 1863, of Union soldier Charles L. Hewitt are addressed to his parents, John and Eliza Hewitt, of West Winsted, Connecticut. Hewitt, born in 1844, was a member of Co. E, Seventh Connecticut Infantry. | Manuscripts Gifts 2008 | Previous Issues | Endowments | Friends of the Library |
Between December 1861 and April 1862, the unit was engaged in fatigue duty building batteries for the reduction of Fort Pulaski. It was during this period that Hewitt wrote home in a letter datelined 25 January 1862, “Jan 27[.] last night we had an alarm[.] 2 of the enemys gunboats came within 6 mile and one half of us and turned and went back to savanah[.] we all turned out[.] they drove our pickets in but did not fire on them[.] our gunboats are lieing but a short distaince from us[.] we expect that they will go by here for savanah today.”
Two days later, he added, “our gunboats have arrived and are now between Fort Paloskie and savanah[.] yesterday they attacked several sesech gunboats going by and burnt and sunk one of them[.] the rest escaped[.]” He also detailed the contents of a package that he was sending home by way of a returning comrade. Among other items, the box contained “two English papers that I got out of a house on Bulls Island belonging to Seabrook,” presumably the home of Archibald Hamilton Seabrook. During operations on James Island in June 1862, Hewitt wrote home on the 20th, informing his parents about the food available to the soldiers: “we have Hard tack and Coffie[,] Beans[,] Rice[,] salt meat and once in a while fresh Beef[.] But now we have got our pay we can buy sweet Crackers[,] raisins[,] Butter[,] Ham and Tobacco[.]” He also told them that “Charlie Gilbert is Wounded and a prisioner in the hands of the rebels[.] the Co sent him to day $16˝ and 2 shirts and a pair of Drawers[.] they was sent up with a lot of other things from other regs in under a flag of truce[.]” These two letters were written on stationary embossed with the likeness of Gen. Winfield Scott.
During the summer of 1863 the Seventh Connecticut Infantry participated in the siege of Fort Wagner on Morris Island, S.C. On 5 August 1863, Hewitt wrote to his father that “our forces are building batteries on this Island for the reduction of Sumpter[.] we have the Same general [Quincy Adams Gillmore] that took Poloski here and I think we will get Sumpter and Charlestown[.] the 10 conn reg is to [be] here with us and I hear that the 8th[,]11th and 21st conn regts are a comeing[.] our nearest batteries are within a mile and five eights of Sumpter and our camps are within 5 miles of Charlestown and I hope that before a month has gone by we shall be nearer[.]” He also mentioned to his parents that “we have got 2 regts of Mass troops here[,] Negros[,] and they make the best of Soldiers[.]” On 25 September 1863, Hewitt was still on Morris Island and wrote home in an attempt to placate his mother who worried about his behavior: “tell Mother that we don’t Steal[,] but any think that we can find laying around loose belongs to the one that gets his hands on to it first...a soldier would fare pretty hard if he didn’t do as others do[,] that is confisicate any thing that he comes acrost that he wants[.]”
The last two letters were written from St. Helena Island where the unit was drilling for boat duty. On 15 October 1863, Hewitt wrote to his father that this was a new drill, one he was unsure about, and that the boats worked with paddles instead of oars. He offered his thanks for the box he received, in which he found cake, white and maple sugar, paper, dried fruit, tobacco, pepper, a havelock, a towel, stockings, tea, peppermints, and shirts. Of the shirts, Hewitt wrote, “I guess you thought I had grown some since I came away from home by the size of them shirts[.] they was rather big but I can make them go very well[.] they will keep me warm this winter first rate[.]”
A month later, he informed his parents that he received their letter but had been unable to reply as he was on Folly Island without pen or paper, “but we have once more arrived at St Helena and for good this time[,] I guess[,] for we brought our boats back this time[.]” He told them, “we have been drilling in boats for the purpose of landing so that we can land in regular order[.] but our boats are not good for much[.] they are not made right and there is some talk that it has played out although we have got the boats yet[.]” He told his father of new recruits just arrived: “the whole regiment is here and last night we had an addition to it of a hundred conscripts which the boys don’t think much of for we have to have double the guard on it[. It] doesent make much difference with us[,] only the extra guard duty[.] the boys are cursing the conscripts[.] they are a hard looking set[.] it wont do them much good to try to get a way[,] for if they do try the boys will shoot them as quick as they would a reb[,] for they are down on them[.]” He also inquired of his sister: “is Marietta agoing to see will if he aint sick[?] I should advise her to keep away from a lot of Soldiers for I suppose they are all like our boys and I wouldent have a sister or wife of mine come here to see me for any thing[.]”
Hewitt mustered out 12 September 1864 and returned to Connecticut where he worked as a carpenter and farm laborer, raising two children with his first wife, Jennie, whom he married about 1868, and two more children with his second wife, Charlotte, whom he married about 1880.