Scott Hann recently alerted me to the presence of a letter written by Oliver Case in June 1862. The letter is currently available for sale and the complete transcription can be viewed at The Excelsior Brigade.
Oliver wrote this letter on Friday, June 6, 1862 while in camp at Newberne, NC during a time that the historian of the 8th called “a period of rest and refitting.” During March and April of 1862, the 8th saw its first combat action as a part of General Burnside’s offensive against Confederate forces at New Berne.
Oliver addresses the letter to “Dear Friend” with no real clue as to the identity of its intented recepient. He indicates that he is writing this letter in response to a letter received from his friend on the 27th of May 1862. He thanks his friend for providing details of other campaigns that Oliver and his fellow soldiers were not privy to in their camp. Oliver also tells of a division review by General Burnside that occurred during the previous week of May 25th and a brigade drill for the day he is writing the letter that is cancelled due to rain.
Oliver goes on to describe the conditions in the camp:
Our encampment here is the pleasantest in the division and under the strict security rules which are now adopted, I think it can not fail to be as healthy as any other in this region. The surgeon has ordered whisky and quinine to be dealt out each day to the men to keep off intermittent fever so prevalent in these latitudes.
It’s also clear that Oliver has a least some touch of homesickness. His regiment was afforded the opportunity to spend time in the city of Newberne and it reminds Oliver of his home state of Connecticut:
The city of Newberne is one of the pleasantest cities I ever was in. It resembles New Haven as far as the large shade trees are concerned. But in one thing it is deficient, that is in large clocks or splendid residences and in fact the buildings would not compare favorably with those in one of our towns.
Oliver closes the letter with news of the promotions and transfers of officers in his company:
Lieutenant W. P. Marsh has been promoted to Captain of the Company F. I can tell you our company felt bad to lose him as he was thought of very much by his men. Orderly William J. Groatch has been promoted to Lieutenant and is just the man for the place. He was presented with a sword by the company the same day he was promoted.
This is another wonderful glimpse of the person of Oliver Cromwell Case. The big question remains as to whom this letter is written. It would be easy to speculate that this letter may have been written to Miss Jennie A. Hartford who had her name written in Oliver’s Bible. Certainly, there is no romantic tone to this letter, but it may be that his relationship with Jennie was simply a friendship at this point.
Whatever the case, Oliver and the 8th CVI would depart the environs of the North Carolina coast headed for Newport News, Virgina and then Fredericksburg, Virgina. Just over 3 months after writing this letter, Oliver and the 8th would enter Maryland headed for the town of Sharpsburg.