By Susan Martin, Collection Services
The Frank Irving Howe, Jr. family papers here at the MHS include a wonderful series of Civil War letters by Howe’s grandfather Moses Hill (1823-1862). Hill served in the 1st Company of Massachusetts Sharpshooters, or “Andrew Sharpshooters,” during some of the worst fighting in Maryland and Virginia in 1861 and 1862. He wrote most frequently to his wife Eliza, but also to their two children, Lucina and George, affectionately known as “Sis” and “Bub.”
Moses, a stone mason of Medway, Mass., was 38 years old when he enlisted in August 1861 and began his service at Camp Benton, Md. His health was good, and he wrote contentedly about life at camp and proudly of the men of the 1st Company:
I am well and we live very well. A beter company never went into the army, the Smartist & largest lot of men I never saw….I think the Governer is proud of the company. It is cald Andrews Sharp Shooters. He says we can have any thing we want….I think camp life will suit me firstrate.
The company was “composed of Lawyers school masters, schollars, clearks, Laboring men, black legs, machinests, and most every thing else.” They fought well at Ball’s Bluff and Edwards Ferry, but Moses didn’t expect the war to last long and hoped to be back in Medway by spring. In November, with Thanksgiving approaching, he urged his wife Eliza to enjoy the holiday without him. He tried to do the same, but with little success:
They have a kitten in the cooks house, and last night when I put my men on guard, I sat by the fire alone and she came and play’d with me and it made me think of home….I belieave I never was so long away from home before.
By December, Moses began to realize the war would last much longer than a few months. He missed his family terribly, but was determined to do his job the best he could. On Christmas eve, he wrote a letter to his 13-year-old daughter Lucina:
I wish I was at home to see you all and hug and kiss you and bub but I think it is better for me to be here to give you better suport and to serve my countery. I pray the National Troble will close soon. Then I hope I shal be with you as long as we live….Kiss bub for me and Mother to, and tak as meny for yorself as you are a mind to.
On 3 Jan. 1862, the Andrew Sharpshooters left Camp Benton via the C&O Canal. I’ll be blogging more about Moses Hill right here at the Beehive, so stay tuned!
*Eliza Ann Arnold Hill and Lucina Maria Hill [photograph], [ca. 1855], Photo 1.570, Massachusetts Historical Society.