These letters were written by James Albert Hudson (1841-Aft1920), son of Frederick Hudson (1814-18xx) and Maria Bogert (1819-Aft1900) of Rockland County, New York. At least two of Frederick’s sisters married Blauvelt’s — hence the cousin connection between the Hudson and Blauvelt families.
At age 20, James enlisted on 5 August 1861 to serve three years in Co. H, 1st New York (Lincoln) Cavalry. He mustered out of the service at Harpers Ferry on 18 August 1864 after three years.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Headquarters 1st New York Vol. (Late Lincoln) Cavalry
Camp Kearney near Alexandria, Va.
February 3d 1862
Excuse me for not writing at length before. My only reasons for my long silence are that I could not find time, or opportunity before. This may sound strange to you, but I’ll guarantee that after soldiering a month in Old Virginia mud, you would think it more reasonable. It may seem to you like willful neglect but let me assure you that it was not, as I have always considered you as a true and sincere friend and have more than once received advice and assistance from you. Let the past pass, I will endeavor to make up for it in the future.
For the last three or four weeks, we have enjoyed all the pleasures of living out of doors, in mud and slush, several inches deep in and about our camp, and nearly knee deep in the roads. At times it has been nearly liquid and at others, thick and sticky enough to answer every purpose for a boot jack.
3 P.M. The mud is at last hidden from view by a covering of snow about 3 to 4 inches thick. The snow commenced falling at reveille this morning and although it has fallen rapidly ever since, only a few inches of it has formed on the ground. Yet owing to the liquid state of the mud, we have not had any fighting yet and it is utterly impossible to move now for the roads are impassable. Most of the soil about here is a stiff yellow clay, apparently almost worthless for farming purposes.
Our camp faces the east. At our right and about one half mile distant is the Little River Turnpike. On our left at the same distance is the Leesburg Turnpike, both of which terminate in Alexandria, which is directly in front of us.
On our right at the distance of a mile is the Bull Run (here called Four Mile Run) creek. It is a beautiful little stream of water, in most places shallow, and about the size of the Hackensack at Turkeys. The water is beautiful and clear, and during the day last fall and early winter, we used to fill our canteens with it, and use it for cooking also. But now we have plenty of water nearer. This creek runs through a beautiful valley a mile in width, bottomland one quarter of a mile on each side of the stream, fertile and apparently it has been very well cultivated.
At the lower end of the hill forming the other side of the valley stands Fort Lyons — an impressive bank of earth mounting some pretty heavy guns. This fort contains 17 acres of land on this side of the valley and opposite Fort Lyon stands Fort Ellsworth at a distance of ½ a mile directly in front of our camp. This fort is surrounded with a dry ditch and on the inner side of the ditch the top branch of trees are firmly placed in the bank and the branches trimmed up leaving a barrier of sharply pointed sticks to be surmounted by a storming party after they have cleared the ditch and before they can reach the walls of the fort which is built in such a shape that a couple of mute, black sentinels are constantly watching the brush making it rather a dangerous job to take the place by storm.
There are two more large and apparently strong fortifications within a mile to the rear of our camp. We are pretty well fortified here and if the rebels wished to take a walk up this way some of these fine mornings and the forts could not stop them, they certainly could never cross any of the roads near our camp for King Mud is there in all his pain.
Accept our thanks for those apples which you so kindly sent us on or just before Christmas. We spent the holiday very pleasantly in our tent and eating apples from our native country gave us no little pleasure on that occasion.
Jim [Potter] is detailed from the company and at work with the regimental farrier, but still tents with us. We are all well.
Never have I enjoyed better health than I do at present and I may say the same thing of the rest. I have gained 22 lbs in weight since I left home — my weight now being 144 lbs. Jim weighs 135 lbs. John’s weight is doubtful as our scales won’t weigh him. Salt hoss agrees with us. sleeping on the ground ditto. Keeping regular hours, ditto, ditto. We are expecting new tents soon. Ours begins to get the worse for wear. We received new uniforms a few days ago and as our old ones are not worn out yet, we are pretty well supplied in that line. We have water-proof blankets (lined with woolen) for our horses now and they add greatly to the comfort of the poor creatures. Write me the news.
I remain respectfully yours, — J. Hudson
My address is Co. H, Lincoln Cavalry, Camp Kearney near Alexandria, Va., care of Capt. J. K. [Joseph K.] Stearns
Jim sends his love to grandmother & Rosanna. Remember me to all enquirers. — Hudson
To: J. H. Blauvelt & Family
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
January 23rd 1863
Dear Coz & Family,
Snow, hail, rain, slush, and mud. This is the way the winter is passing out of doors. I ndoors it is much more pleasant. Driving the quill all day in a comfortable office, after which succeeds evening parties, balls &c. But these things can’t last long. On Monday next, I expect to rejoin my company at Winchester. I saw Bro. Lem ¹ and the rest of the boys in the Sixth a few days ago at the Ferry (Harpers). All in good spirits.
There is nothing of much importance going on here that we have heard of lately and probably no movement of importance will take place here until this mud dries or freezes up.
I received your letter with pleasure a few days ago. I had begin to think you intended to repay me for my neglect last summer. I have not see [James] Potter since its receipt, but wrote to him that all was right. I shall thank you in his name for your kind attention to the wants of his mother, and take the responsibility of requesting that you continue so doing, at his expense, and your trouble. This I know will be approved by him, but he shall speak for himself as soon as I get to Winchester.
You are having exciting times at Albany, I see by the papers. I hope the Governor will soon show a little firmness and put an end to this rioting. If not, Uncle Abe will have to take the matter in his own hands, put the state under martial law, &c. Times appear to be growing worse & worse. The changes (Political) that another year will develop can hardly be conjectured. If the same honest motive actuated the rulers & our army officers that actuates the rank & file of our army, all would soon be well. The prospects at present look rather gloomy. Traitors in our most loyal states are getting bold. The trial is becoming severe, but I have as yet no fear as to the result.
I received a very welcome letter from Uncle David Bogest a few days ago. He is the right kind of stuff.
Uncle John, I expect, still remains unchanged. I saw in the columns of the Journal an account of the death of Uncle Abram Blauvelt. ² It was a sad affair. Hannah Sulhemus is, I suppose, still unmarried. Let her wait patiently. Ministers will have good paying business for some time after the war ends. Some are patronizing them here even now. “In Union, there’s strength.” Shall I bring a Southern Damsel home with me? Talk quick. Very respectfully yours Etc. — Hudson
Co. H, 1st N. Y. Cav., care of Capt. J. K. Stearns, Winchester, Va.
Remember me (us) to Uncle Billy, Grandmother, and the rest of my friends. I meant to add Rosanna but I have directed this to the Blauvelts which certainly includes her.
¹ Lemuel Hudson (1844-1863) was a private in Co. K, 6th New York Heavy Artillery. He died on 26 March 1863 at a hospital in Harpers Ferry.
² Abraham C. Blauvelt (1794-1863) died on 13 January 1863. He was the son of Cornelius Johannes Blauvelt (1750-1840) and Maria Tunis Smith (1757-1839) of Rockland County, New York.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE
March 30th 1864
The boys have at last arrived & [James] Potter informs me that you are expecting a letter from me. I have all along been expecting one from you in reply to a note enclosed with my picture. However, here goes. (I can’t very well find a more agreeable task, although I seldom get at it.)
I wonder what on earth is to become of me & my brother bachelors. Our ranks are getting thinned rapidly by desertions to the state of matrimony from which we have no power to recall them. This state has lately become the asylum of 3 of my tent mates. It’s getting high time to enter into a treaty by which we may stay the approaching catastrophe, and preserve at least some small part of our lately powerful order. To you (as a refugee who has long been in the strange hostile land), I apply for advice. Use your influence, appoint delegates, and we will treat with them with a view to amicable adjustment. If mild measures fail, then will we come down in our wrath, seize an equal number of hostages & occupy this willful state of your adoption.
April 1st 1864
I have been obliged on account of a rush of business to lay this over for a couple of days, but, the time is not all lost as I have now an item or two of news to insert.
The boys have gone out on a scout. We had a fall of 7 inches snow 3 days ago but now it has all disappeared and the streams are boiling over. Half the pontoon bridges at Harpers Ferry was carried away last night. I had intended to go out with the boys today but I returned from up the Valley 4 days ago & my horses back is quite sore. I had the luck to capture a notorious scout of the enemy — a Lieut. of [John D.] Imboden.
It has been raining nearly all day. About 400 Negro soldiers — the first I have seen — arrived here this afternoon. They are a hearty & quite intelligent looking batch. Their object here is, I imagine, to recruit as we have no infantry, beside them, here now. We have a pretty large cavalry force here now & as soon as the weather gets a little settled, we anticipate a little amusement. The last part of my term bids fair to be lively & we hope we will not be disappointed.
All fools day has passed off quite lively & officers who have the ill will of the boys, had led a horrible life for the last 12 hours.
April 2d, P.M.
The boys have not yet returned. At daylight this A.M., snow was falling, but soon it changed to rain & it is still falling at intervals.
Our Mokes ¹ have gone up the Valley as far as Charlestown & intend to proceed to Berryville & Winchester for the purpose of picking up recruits. They will no doubt succeed well as the Valley still contains lots of Darkies.
Well, its about my bed time. Good night. Very respectfully &c., — Coz Jim
I’ve been having lots of fun with the married men lately. N. B. I found a pretty girl away up the Valley the other day. Caught her lover & sent him to Camp Chase. Guess I’ll have to supply the place.
Remember me to Grandmother & Uncle Billy. I am very sorry that I did not see Grandmother but the time passed away so quickly that she is not the only one whom I missed & hope to see sometime next summer. — J. A. H.
¹ Clearly this is a reference to Black infantry in the federal service but I have never seen the term used before.