Oliver Returns to the 8th CVI

The next available letter in the Oliver Cromwell Case collection at the Simsbury Historical Society is from January 26, 1862. The internal evidence of this letter seems to indicate Oliver has written at least one other letter to his sister Abbie during the seven day gap since the last letter. Acknowledging the limitations of the postal system created by the operational situation of Burnside’s Expeditionary Force, Oliver writes that he is batch processing several letters with different dates for Abbie “thinking you would like to receive letters of different dates although at the same time.”

Whatever the situation with a possible missing letter, this letter finds the young Soldier still at sea albeit aboard a new vessel. Oliver had arrived off the North Carolina coast aboard the hospital ship “Recruit” but has now been transferred to the steamer “Chasseur” to rejoin his comrades from Company A, 8th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry along with companies D, F and I in preparation for the coming invasion. He also reports on the other companies in the regiment:

The rest are aboard of a bark and a schooner; I think four companies upon the former and two upon the latter.

His seeming ambivalence about the reunion with his companions may indicate that he provided commentary to Abbie in an earlier letter that is lost to posterity.    

General Burnside is continuing to build and prepare his army for action against the Confederate fortifications along the North Carolina coast. Stormy weather has hampered the gathering of the fleet in Pamlico Sound and several ships have been lost. Oliver confirms that the rough weather has continued to batter the fleet:

Today is the first fair day since our arrival and for the last week we have had a terrible storm at time endangering many of the fleet by causing the vessels to drag anchor and to smash into each other. For the last three or four days there has hardly been a time but what there were two or three signals of distress to be seen flying but of course no relief could be given them until after the abatement of the storm.  

Like most of the Soldiers in Burnside’s expedition, Oliver is longing to go ashore.

It is four weeks today since I came on board ship and I am now finally very anxious to again place my feet on “terra firma” although we enjoy ourselves quite well on ship board.

In this letter, Oliver also returns to one of favorite subjects…the Zouaves. As previously posted, I believe he is referring to the 53rd New York Infantry again in this letter.

I do not know whether the Zouaves are lost or not – certain it is they are not in; such things are kept from us. I think they are sent somewhere else to garrison some fort already in our hands, because they dare not trust them in an engagement with their officers for they have sworn revenge upon them. This is only my opinion.

For those interested in the culinary arts of the Civil War period, Oliver’s letter offers a glimpse of the types of food that the Soldiers enjoyed while aboard the ship.

Eatables are brought from the Sutlers boat but are held at rather high prices; apples $.05 to 10 cents each, figs .02 to .05 each, raisins $.20 per pint, [?], Oysters, Turkey Peaches, tomatoes etc. in quart cans from $1.50 to $2.00, Current, Plum, Rasberry, Grape, Pear and Strawberry jellies $1.50 to $2.00, sweet crackers $.15 per dozen and everything else in the same proportion.

In typical fashion, Oliver closes the letter with questions about happenings and people back home in Simsbury.

Is Mr. Stockwell living? I heard a short time since that the Dr. had given him over. Alonzo wrote me that he was going to move in the spring. I think he will do well to keep Public House…Is Mr. Holbrook going to leave Tarrifville? I have heard so somewhere. I have forgotten where.

The deaths of Henry Sexton and Duane Brown continue to weigh heavy on the young man’s mind and it’s clear that he is concerned with the impact on their families.

How do Mr. Sexton’s people take Henry’s death? How do Mr. Brown’s people take Duane’s death?

Knowing how important it will be to the family’s ability to bring some closure to the death of their husband and son, Oliver is concerned about the disposition of Sexton’s remains. He asks Abbie a question that is movingly prophetic regarding the circumstances of his own future death and burial.

Have they sent to Annapolis after his body?

Nine months later, Job Case will not just send for the body of his son, but he will personally go and recover his remains from fields near Sharpsburg, Maryland to ensure that Oliver returns home. Did Abbie share Oliver’s concern for the disposition of Henry’s remains with her father? Did this influence Job Case’s decision about his son nine months later?

Sadly, according to my research, Henry Sexton’s wife attempted in vain to locate his body in Annapolis.

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