September 1863: "...it is just a year ago to day since we left Mass..."

By Amanda Loewy, Intern

Letter from Andrew Linscott to Jacob and Lucy Linscott, 6 September 1863

Letter from Andrew Linscott to Jacob and Lucy Linscott, 6 September 1863

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    On 6 September 1863, Andrew R. Linscott, a young soldier from Woburn, Massachusetts, wrote to his parents about life as a soldier in the 39th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. After declaring he does not “feel like writing,” Linscott goes on to pen four pages discussing topics ranging from his own health and weight, to his opinion of a letter written by President Abraham Lincoln, as well as his hopes for a successful fall campaign and a quick end to the war.

    Andrew Roscoe Linscott was born in Wilton, Maine, on 6 March 1844 to Jacob and Lucy Ann Ross Linscott. The family moved to Woburn, Massachusetts, when Linscott was six years old. He attended school in Woburn and was working as a clerk in a general store in North Woburn when the Civil War began. Linscott enlisted in the 39th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry in July of 1862. He served with that unit until the end of the war, mustering out of service in June, 1865.

    At the time he wrote this letter, Linscott and the 39th were positioned near Rappahannock Station, Virginia, where the regiment would see its first major action in November of that year. Linscott’s letter offers insight into the life of a soldier serving in a reserve unit.  His boredom with his post shows through as he catches his parents up on regimental gossip and thanks them for corresponding with him so frequently and sending him newspapers and care packages.

    Turning to political matters, Linscott declares that he greatly enjoyed reading Lincoln’s “letter to the Springfield Convention.”  This letter, addressed to Lincoln’s friend James C. Conkling, was meant to be read aloud by Conkling at a 3 September 1863 rally in Springfield, Illinois, to which Lincoln was invited but could not attend.  Lincoln was upset to learn that the letter had been leaked to the press and published widely in Northern newspapers before the Springfield event. Yet Linscott’s reflections on the letter, stating “I don’t see how any Union man can find fault with it” as “his words are so very simple and common that no one can mistake their meaning,” and Linscott’s prediction that this letter will “make him thousands of friends for he speaks not of party and party platforms but Union and the Constitution and how they may best be restored” (page 2) may have assuaged Lincoln’s fears had he read them.

    From political matters, Linscott moves onto discussing one of a soldier’s biggest fears: death in battle. Although his own regiment had seen very little action in its first year of service, suffering minimal casualties, Linscott reveals his fears as he informs his parents of the death of Herschel Sanborn, a soldier from Woburn who was killed in the Battle of Gettysburg, while fighting with the 13th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.  Reminding his parents that Sanborn “took dinner at our house one Sunday,” (page 3) Linscott reassures both his parents and himself by stating that Sanborn is the only classmate of his that has been killed in the war.

    Linscott closes the letter hoping that “a year more may see us all at home again” after the war has been “settled as it should be” (page 4).  The 39th participated in many battles throughout 1864, including the battles at Spottsylvania and Cold Harbor. After assisting with the siege of Petersburg, the 39th was one of the Union regiments that pursued Lee’s army through Virginia in the spring of 1865 until the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse.  Linscott returned to Woburn after the war and became a school teacher. He married Mary Hall Ryder in July 1867 and together they had six children.  Andrew R. Linscott died in 1926.

    Sources for Further Reading:

    This letter is contained in the Andrew R. Linscott papers. Letters in this collection include descriptions of camp life, furloughs, marches, and Linscott’s participation in several battles in the latter half of the war.

    Cutter, William Richard, ed. Historic Homes and Places and Genealogical and Personal Memoirs Relating to the Families of Middlesex County, Massachusetts. Vol 2. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1908.

    Lincoln, Abraham. The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Edited by Roy P. Basler. Vol. 6. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1953, 406-410.

    Click here to view a transcription of the letter from Lincoln to James C. Conkling at the University of Michigan website.